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Pregnant woman, 2-year-old son hit, killed by driver who struck them at random, police say

Pregnant woman, 2-year-old son hit, killed by driver who struck them at random, police say

Pregnant Woman, 2-Year-Old Son Fatally Hit by Driver Who Struck Them at Random, Police Said

Pregnant woman, 2-year-old son hit, killed by driver who struck them at random, police say

Police arrested a 33-year-old man Monday on suspicion of intentionally driving into pedestrians in Jefferson City, injuring a 61-year-old man and killing a pregnant woman and her 2-year-old son, according to investigators.

>> Read more trending news 

Authorities said William David Phillips, of Jefferson City, swerved to intentionally hit Tillman Gunter, 61, while driving west on East Main Street on Monday afternoon. Police said Phillips traveled less than a mile before swerving again, striking Sierra Wilson Cahoon, 30, and her 2-year-old son, Nolan Cahoon.

Cahoon, Nolan and Cahoon’s unborn child were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, according to investigators. Gunter was taken to a hospital with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, police said.

Authorities were called around 3:30 p.m. Monday after Phillips lodged the car he was driving into a building for Sustainable Aquatics, a fish hatchery, according to The Citizen Tribune and the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Witness Bill Ray Jones told WBIR-TV he heard Phillips yelling that the “government told him to do it” as he tried to flee from the scene of the crash.

"He knew he had hit (Cahoon) and I'm sure he did because he was talking all crazy," he told the news station.

Sustainable Aquatics owner John Carberry told the News Sentinel he arrived at the scene of the crash within minutes Monday and found Cahoon and her son dead on the sidewalk.

“There was a hole in the building and one of my employees ran out,” Carberry told the News Sentinel. “She had minor injuries. She ran up to the main building, and the perpetrator ran out of the hole and ran up and some local citizens grabbed him.”

The crash ruptured several fish tanks and destroyed four fish systems, Carberry told The Citizen Tribune and the News Sentinel. He estimated about 2,000 wild-caught fish died after the crash caused more than 10,000 gallons of water to rush from the tanks.

“I just want to let the police do their job and mourn the passing of this mother and child,” Carberry told The Citizen Tribune. “It’s very sad.”

Phillips, of Jefferson City, was arrested on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder. Authorities filed an additional murder charge against Phillips on Wednesday for the death of Cahoon's unborn child, WATE reported.

In a news release, police said investigators believed "this was an intentional act of violence toward randomly chosen pedestrians.

“Investigators have determined that Phillips did not know the victims,” police said.

In an arrest warrant obtained Wednesday by the News Sentinel, authorities said Phillips told investigators “a voice told him that he needed to go kill meth addicts.”

After Phillips spotted Cahoon and her son, "He said the voice told him that the baby stroller had meth in it so he intentionally drove into (the mother and child) ... killing them both," the warrant said, according to the News Sentinel.

Records from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department showed he remained jailed Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Carson-Newman University, a Christian university in Jefferson City, told WBIR-TV that Cahoon and Nolan were the wife and son of Matt Cahoon, an assistant athletic trainer at the school.

“Our hearts are breaking for one of our own,” Carson-Newman University interim President Paul Percy said Tuesday in a statement. “We take comfort in knowing that God also feels our pain and hears our prayers. Because of this, we ask for prayers for Matt and his family now and in the days ahead.”

Officials at First Steps Preschool at the First United Methodist Church told WBIR-TV Nolan was a happy student who always gave out hugs and high-fives.

"He was a joy," the preschool’s director, Jessica Lawson, told WBIR-TV. "He would walk through the door smiling every morning."

Officials at Carson-Newman University started a fund to benefit the Cahoon family. Those wishing to contribute can donate online to The Randall and Kay O’Brien Benevolent Fund on the university’s website.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Ismael Rodriguez Lopez was shot in the back of the head inside his home in July 2017 after police in a Mississippi suburb of Memphis went to the wrong home looking for an assault suspect. Now an attorney for the city of Southaven is arguing that Lopez’s family’s $20 million federal lawsuit should be thrown out because the 41-year-old Lopez, who was in the country illegally and had a criminal record, had no constitutional protections. “If he ever had Fourth Amendment or 14th Amendment civil rights, they were lost by his own conduct and misconduct,” attorney Katherine Kerby wrote in a Sept. 4 motion. “Ismael Lopez may have been a person on American soil, but he was not one of the ‘We, the People of the United States’ entitled to the civil rights invoked in this lawsuit.” >> Related story: Police shoot, kill man while serving warrant at wrong home Lopez family attorney Murray Wells spoke out against the city’s motion during a news conference last month, according to CNN. The city’s response to the lawsuit is “absolutely chilling,” Wells said. “In an address to a federal judge in an open pleading in court, the city of Southaven has announced that it is their policy that if you are an undocumented resident of that city, you have no constitutional protections,” Wells said before pausing. “I’ll let that sink in. “You have no right to constitutional protections, meaning that storm troopers can come into your house and kill you without regard to any constitutional results or repercussions whatsoever.” Wells said the city’s position is in direct conflict with the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees through the Fourth Amendment a person’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection of the law to all citizens. In the lawsuit, Wells argues that Lopez was denied his rights to freedom from unlawful seizure, freedom from the use of unjustified and excessive police force and freedom from the deprivation of his liberty without due process. Read the lawsuit filed by Lopez’s family below, followed by the city’s Sept. 4 response. Ismael Lopez Civil Complaint by National Content Desk on Scribd >> Read more trending news  Wells said he was shocked by the city’s response to the court filing. In a Fox News segment aired earlier this month, he argued that the 14th Amendment gives all people within the U.S., whether a citizen or not, the full protection of the Constitution. “The Supreme Court has weighed on the issue over and over again and been very clear that it doesn’t matter if you’re here legally, illegally, documented, undocumented, when you’re on American soil, you get the full protection of constitutional rights,” Wells said. Jenna Ellis Rives, a constitutional law attorney, said that while not all protections apply to undocumented immigrants, Lopez's immigration status appeared to not be an issue related to his death. “I would agree that, certainly, his illegal status does not merit a direct dismissal of this case,” Ellis Rives said. “But we have to be very careful … to not say that illegal immigrants get all protections of the Constitution. We have to be very precise, because we know that anyone here who is not a citizen can be removed under immigration law. “There are some protections of the Constitution that don’t apply, but in this specific instance, this person’s illegal status does not have any bearing on the case at hand. So this should be treated, constitutionally speaking, just as if this was someone who was visiting on a visa, just like this was a citizen, just like any other case in terms of a wrongful death sort of claim.” Watch the Fox News segment below. The Lopez case is discussed about 24 minutes in. According to a 305-page Mississippi Bureau of Investigation file into Lopez’s death, which was obtained in February by Fox13 in Memphis, Lopez had twice been deported to Mexico and had returned to the U.S. without permission. CNN reported that multiple Supreme Court decisions, including a 1982 ruling on undocumented children’s right to a public school education, have found that undocumented immigrants have constitutional rights. Kerby also pointed to Lopez’s criminal record, however. Lopez was charged with domestic violence and DUI in the 1990s in Washington state, records show. “Federal civil rights are not civil rewards for violating the laws of the United States,” Kerby wrote in her motion. John Champion, district attorney for the 17th Circuit Court District, said in July 2017 that Lopez had no outstanding warrants at the time of his death. “He was not wanted for anything at all,” Champion said, according to Fox13. Wells wrote a letter the following month to the Department of Justice, requesting an investigation into the actions of the officers involved in Lopez’s death, who were identified as Southaven police officers Zachary Durden and Samuel Maze. Sgt. Thomas Jones was also present at the scene. Read that letter below.  Ismael Lopez Letter to DOJ by National Content Desk on Scribd The MBI case file indicates that, while Durden ordered Lopez to drop the rifle the officers said he was holding, none of them identified themselves as police officers. A Mississippi grand jury in July 2018 declined to file charges against Durden in Lopez’s death. Southaven’s police chief at the time, Steven Pirtle, issued a statement saying the grand jury’s decision closed the criminal investigation into the fatal encounter. Pirtle said multiple agencies, including the MBI, the DeSoto County District Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the Department of Justice had cleared the officers. “There have been inaccurate statements, inflammatory statements made about this incident that I would like to address, however, due to pending litigation, I am still not at liberty to discuss further at this juncture,” Pirtle said in his statement, according to Fox13. “This was a very tragic event. My condolences are still with his family, and my prayers are with all involved.” The wrong address Federal court records and MBI files show that Durden, Maze and Jones went to Surrey Lane the night of July 23, 2017, looking for Samuel Pearman, a man wanted in connection with an aggravated assault that took place outside a Citgo gas station in another county. Instead of going to the single-family home at 5878 Surrey Lane, where Pearman was reportedly staying, they ended up banging on the door of Lopez’s mobile home across the street at 5881 Surrey Lane. Jones, who was armed with a shotgun that night, told MBI agents that the officers did not see any visible address numbers on the home. Maze also said in his statement that he did not see any numbers on the mailboxes he looked at. Photos taken by investigators after the shooting, however, show Lopez’s street number on the black mailbox in front of the mobile home where he was killed. The mailbox for the home the officers were looking for was right next to Lopez’s mailbox, the case file indicates. Attorneys for Lopez’s family argue in the civil rights lawsuit that the officers should have been able to figure out which home was which. “Officer Maze and Officer Durden were trained on which side of the street odd number and even number addresses are on in the City of Southaven,” the family’s lawsuit states. The lawsuit also claims that Southaven police officers had been to both the Lopez and Pearman residences prior to the night of the shooting. Lopez and his adult son, Rudolpho Linares, had each reported property stolen from the home and yard, with one report dating back to 2008, according to the case file. Southaven police officers also made prior contact with Lopez just four months before he was killed, when he reported finding a neighbor dead in her home. Lopez told investigators he was worried because no one had seen or heard from her for several days, so he forced the door open with a screwdriver and found her body. Durden, who fired the shot that killed Lopez, said in his statement after the shooting that he was “doubtful about the address and decided to knock at the door with the thought that someone would answer the door and point them to the correct address,” the case file shows. Lopez’s common-law wife, Claudia Linares, wrote in a witness statement, which was translated from Spanish to English, that she and her husband went to bed around 10 p.m., just after Lopez had talked to his mother on the phone. An unknown amount of time later, they awoke to the sound of their pit bull, Coco, barking. Lopez went into the living room to find out why, while Linares looked out a bedroom window and saw police cars. “Linares said that she yelled to her husband, letting him know that it was OK, it’s just the police,” a police report states. A moment later, Linares said, she heard several gunshots. She ran into the living room to find her husband lying facedown on the floor and their dog barking in the doorway. “Linares said that she ran to her husband’s body and yelled for the officers to help her,” the report says. “Linares said all she could see was the officers’ flashlights and them yelling at her to get her dog. Linares put the dog in the master bedroom, where Maze later used pepper spray to subdue the animal as the officers cleared the home of additional threats, the case file shows. No one else was in the home when Lopez was killed. The MBI case file states that Durden and Maze, who were armed with handguns, told investigators Lopez had brandished a rifle when he cracked open the door to see who was outside. Lopez’s dog ran out of the door at that time. Maze fired his weapon at Coco, who he said lunged at him, while Durden fired four shots at Lopez. A bullet struck him in the base of his skull, killing him. State crime scene technicians found Lopez, hands cuffed behind his back, facedown in a puddle of blood. He was wearing red athletic shorts and a single Nike tennis shoe, the case file states. His other shoe was found on the floor between his legs. A Remington .22-caliber rifle was found in the mobile home, but according to a diagram in the investigative report, it was on the couch, several feet from where Lopez fell after being shot. Lopez’s body was also about 14 feet from the front door, which crime scene investigators determined had been open no more than 3 inches when Lopez was shot. They also determined that he had been shot through the door of his home. “It is unknown if the door was open or closed when the projectile passed through it and struck the victim in the base of his skull,” the MBI report states. A second diagram in the report shows four “projectile defects” caused by the bullets fired from Durden’s gun. Three of them were in the door and the fourth was in a wooden railing on the mobile home’s small wooden porch. The angles of the shots indicate Durden was standing to the right of the doorway when he fired his gun. The pathologist’s report indicated the shot that killed Lopez traveled back to front and at an upward angle. Blood tests showed he tested positive for caffeine but no other substances. Neither his fingerprints nor his DNA were found on the rifle, according to the case file. MBI Special Agent Jeris Davis wrote in his report that Lopez was shot as he fled into the interior of his home. Crime scene photos show the couch, with the rifle on it, to the left of Lopez’s body. ‘Errors that shouldn’t have been made’ A former law enforcement officer told Fox13 in February that the details of the case raise questions about any threat Lopez posed to the officers that night. “It doesn’t take a lot in crime scene expertise or investigation to see that there is something not quite right with what I am looking at,” retired Deputy Mike Collins, formerly of the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, told the news station after reviewing the case file. “Why isn’t the weapon still in his hand if he posed a threat? Instead, it’s lying on the sofa that is at least 7 feet away from where he rested.” In June, after the family’s lawsuit was filed, Collins told Fox13 the MBI findings should make the case an easy one for any judge. “These are errors that shouldn’t have been made,” Collins said. “Training and protocol could have remedied this whole situation.” All three Southaven police officers at the scene that night said they saw Lopez point the rifle at Durden before Durden, who had been with the department since 2015, opened fire. Jones told MBI agents in his statement that a porch light was on as Durden knocked on the door. The light was turned off just before Lopez’s dog bolted out the mobile home’s door. “Officer Durden activated his flashlight, which illuminated the door,” a summary of Jones’ statement reads. “Sgt. Jones could see a gun barrel extend out the door towards Officer Durden.” Jones said that Durden ordered Lopez to drop the rifle several times as Maze fired a single shot at the pit bull. Durden then fired four rounds at Lopez. After the shooting, Maze said, the officers retreated briefly for cover from any additional threats. They then went into the home and, after ensuring there were no other threats inside, began rendering first aid to Lopez, who he described as “breathing laboriously” as Maze handcuffed his hands behind his back. Lopez died where he fell after being shot. See the entire Mississippi Bureau of Investigation file on the Ismael Lopez shooting below. Warning: The document contains photocopied images of crime scene photos.  MBI File on Ismael Lopez Shooting by National Content Desk on Scribd Pirtle, who retired as chief shortly after the shooting, said in July 2018 that Maze remained on the force. Durden left the force “to enter the private workforce,” Pirtle said. Jones’ status was not immediately known. Lopez’s family’s lawsuit states that the husband and father “feared for his life and his wife’s life upon seeing two unidentified large men dressed in all black (Maze and Durden) with guns drawn.” He was trying to run to the bedroom to protect his wife when he was gunned down from behind, the suit states. “As a direct and proximate result of the actions and/or omissions of defendants, Ismael Lopez was wrongfully killed, and his constitutional rights under the United States Constitution and the Mississippi Constitution were violated,” the lawsuit states. The suit argues that Lopez’s death fit a pattern within the Southaven Police Department in which officials “permitted, encouraged, tolerated and ratified an official pattern, custom and practice by its officers of shooting first and asking questions later.” The lawsuit seeks $8 million in compensatory damages and $12 million in punitive damages, as well as $25,000 in funeral and burial expenses.
  • An administration official said that U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has formally notified President Donald Trump that he intends to resign. >> Read more trending news  Perry was traveling with the president to Texas Thursday when he shared the news aboard Air Force One. Perry had disputed reports that he was planning to leave the administration in an interview Wednesday with The Wall Street Journal. But he reportedly left the door open, saying he expected to be at the Energy Department at Thanksgiving. He gave a less definitive answer, however, when asked whether he’d be there through the end of the year. Bloomberg News reported in April that Perry was reportedly planning to leave the Trump administration.  Perry became Energy secretary in 2017.The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • The U.S. and Turkey agreed Thursday to a five-day ceasefire in Syria, Vice President Mike Pence announced at a news conference in Turkey. >> Read more trending news  Pence said military operations will be paused for 120 hours on the border between Turkey and Syria to give U.S.-allied Syrian Kurds time to withdraw from the area. 'The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours,' Pence said. 'All military operations under Operation Peace Spring will be paused, and Operation Peace Spring will be halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal.' The announcement came after a high-level delegation, including Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. Trump praised the announcement Thursday while speaking with reporters in Forth Worth, Texas. He credited his threat of sanctions on Turkey as 'tough love' that led to the ceasefire. 'This is an incredible outcome,' Trump said. 'It's a great day for the United States. It's a great day for Turkey.' Erdogan announced Turkey launched a military operation in northern Syria last week, days after Trump pulled U.S. troops out of the region. Trump disavowed the decision in statement, saying he 'made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea.' The Associated Press reported the agreement, 'essentially gives the Turks what they had sought to achieve with their military operation in the first place.' Kurdish forces were not party to the agreement, and it was not immediately clear whether they would comply. Ankara has long argued the Kurdish fighters are nothing more than an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has waged a guerrilla campaign inside Turkey since the 1980s and which Turkey, as well as the U.S. and European Union, designate as a terrorist organization. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • The next Group of Seven summit will be held in June at Trump National Doral Miami, one of President Donald Trump's golf resorts in Florida, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney announced Thursday. >> Read more trending news  Mulvaney said officials considered about a dozen different locations for the meeting, which will be held June 10-12. 'Doral was far and away the best physical facility for this meeting,' Mulvaney said, adding that a site selection official told him, 'It's almost like they built this facility to host this type of event.' The site was chosen despite ongoing investigations into whether Trump has used his office for personal gain. Mulvaney said Thursday that he was unconcerned by the appearance of a conflict of interest. He told reporters Doral was chosen partially because the site was dramatically cheaper than others officials considered. 'There's no issue here on him profiting from this in any way, shape or form,' Mulvaney said. Trump has touted his resort, saying it's close to the airport, has plenty of hotel rooms and offers separate buildings for every delegation. When the United States has hosted the summit before, it has been held in Puerto Rico; Williamsburg, Virginia; Houston; Denver; Sea Island, Georgia; and Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Tropical storm warnings are in place along the Florida Panhandle for a tropical system that doesn’t even have a name yet. Potential Tropical Cyclone 16 is currently off the coast of Mexico in the southwest Gulf of Mexico.  In recent days, meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center have increased the storm’s chances of tropical development to 90-percent as of the NHC’s latest advisory. The storm is not expected to reach hurricane strength, but it is forecast to make landfall this weekend over the Panhandle as Tropical Storm Nestor. News 96.5 WDBO spoke to the National Weather Service office in Melbourne about what impacts Central Florida could see from the storm.  Meteorologist Scott Kelly says it could impact your weekend plans. “It looks like it will mainly be a rain producer for us with some embedded strong thunderstorms.  We’re not expecting a lot of strong winds with it, although there could be some strong winds with the thunderstorms that come through early on this weekend,” said Kelly. 

Washington Insider

  • Brushing aside questions about the ethics of hosting the G-7 summit at one of President Donald Trump's own  golf properties, the White House announced Thursday that the 2020 meeting of the G-7 will take place at the President's Doral resort in Miami, Florida. “Doral was by far and away - far and away - the best physical facility for this meeting,” said Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Pressed repeatedly by reporters in a rare Q&A in the White House Briefing Room, Mulvaney gave the back of the hand to any ethical concerns. Democrats in Congress said the decision just screamed self-dealing by the President. “This is corruption in the open,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA). “Corruption in plain sight is still corruption,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA). “Unbelievably brazen. Taxpayer and foreign money funneled right to his own club as a result of a decision he is making as President,” tweeted Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY). “This is just open corruption,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ). “Congress should block any taxpayer money from going to G7 while it's at Trump's resort,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). “This is a textbook case of unconstitutional conduct,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD). “By holding G7 summit at his own resort, the President is using his office to enrich himself,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL). “This is corruption, plain and simple,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who is running for President. Outside ethics watchdog groups chimed in immediately. “By treating the G7 summit like a commercial for his businesses, inviting foreign governments to line his pockets and hold their next meeting at his Doral, FL golf course next year, he mocks the Constitution he swore to uphold,” said Constitutional Accountability Center President Elizabeth Wydra.