CDC advisory committee to vote on Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11

sshepard/iStock

(ATLANTA) — A committee of independent experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to vote Tuesday whether to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for children 5-11, checking off one of the last boxes in the authorization process.

If members of the committee vote to recommend use of the vaccine, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky is expected to then issue a recommendation as soon as Tuesday evening, the final step in the process, which would allow the first shots to be administered as soon as Wednesday morning.

But vaccinations are not expected to kick into high-gear until Nov. 8, when the White House says Pfizer’s pediatric vaccines will be more widely accessible across the nation.

About 15 million doses are expected to ship out over the next week. The majority, about 10 million, will be available at pediatrician’s offices, children’s hospitals, community centers and mass vaccination sites. About 5 million doses will go to pharmacies.

Many parents are anxious to protect their children after the delta surge over the summer led to increased cases and hospitalizations among kids. Though the variant is not more deadlier, it is more transmissible — and because kids are unvaccinated, the variant rocketed through schools and camps.

The most recent data from Pfizer’s clinical trials found that the vaccine for children ages 5-11 was nearly 91% effective against symptomatic illness.

For kids, the vaccine will be given at a smaller, one-third dose.

The vaccine also appears safe. The company says none of the children in clinical trials experienced a rare heart inflammation side effect known as myocarditis, which has been associated with the mRNA vaccines in very rare cases, mostly among young men.

Last week, all of the efficacy and safety data was reviewed by a panel of experts at the Food and Drug Administration, which then voted nearly-unanimously to authorize the vaccine.

Though there was some debate at the FDA advisory meeting about the potential side effects for children ages 5-11, though none were experienced by any of the 3,100 kids ages 5-11 in the trial, the panel decided any the potential risk was worth the benefit.

Then, last Friday, the vaccine was authorized by FDA acting commissioner Janet Woodcock.

Whether parents will embrace the vaccine for their kids is still a question. In an October poll, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about a third of parents with kids ages 5-11 were willing to vaccinate their kids right away, while another third wanted to “wait and see.” The figures represented a slight uptick in vaccine acceptance among parents of elementary-school-aged kids since July, but they have stayed steady since September.

Woodcock told reporters on Friday that she hoped parents would quickly see the benefits.

“We certainly hope that as people see children getting vaccinated and being protected, being able to participate in activities without concern, that more and more people will get their kids vaccinated,” she said.

And she emphasized the urgency of preventing the conditions that can come with COVID diagnoses in kids.

“As a parent, if I had young children this age group I would get them vaccinated now. I would not want to take the risk that they would be one of the ones who would develop long COVID, who would develop multi-system inflammatory syndrome or have to be hospitalized from from the virus,” Woodcock said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Jesse Jackson hospitalized while protesting at Howard University with students

Alex Wong/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson was hospitalized after he fell while protesting poor campus living conditions with students at Howard University on Monday.

Jackson, 80, has joined demonstrators several times since the protests started on Oct. 12.

In a tweet, Howard University said: “While meeting with various administrators, including Dr. Wayne Frederick, Rev. Jackson sustained an injury upon entering the Blackburn Center. Our thoughts and prayers are with Rev. Jesse Jackson and his family at this time.”

The university said Jackson was taken to the hospital by a university administrator and was later joined by Frederick, who is the university’s president.

This is the third time Jackson has been hospitalized this year. In February, Jackson was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery, and in August, Jackson was hospitalized for a breakthrough COVID-19 case.

Students at the HBCU are sleeping outdoors in tents to protest “poor” and “unlivable” conditions in the college dormitories. Students told ABC News that the residential buildings are plagued with mold, insect and rodent infestations, leaks and flooding.

The Howard University Division of Student Affairs acknowledged in an email to students that select residence halls have been affected but claimed the problems were not widespread.

Deja Redding, a Howard University graduate student and director of racial justice student group The Live Movement, explained to ABC News what’s been taking place on campus.

“There are students whose belongings were lost, or have been destroyed by floods, by mold, by all types of insufficient living conditions and it’s hurtful,” Redding said. “Even if you’re not the person who is experiencing that, just listening and taking it in, with us being a community, it’s very hurtful to hear.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 live updates: CDC panel hours away from vote on Pfizer vaccine for kids

peterschreiber.media/iStock

(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 747,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Just 67.9% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Nov 01, 8:28 pm
Major pharmacy chains to offer Pfizer vaccine to children 5-11

Several major pharmacy chains told ABC News they are gearing up to offer the Pfizer vaccine to 5- to 11-year-olds within days of its approval by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency is expected to give the green light as early as Tuesday night. If approved, roughly 28 million children would be eligible for the mRNA vaccine.

“We expect to be able to provide vaccinations for this age group shortly after November 3,” Rite Aid said in a statement.

Walgreens said in a statement that, “appointments will open as we receive supply to stores, beginning this week.”

A spokesperson for CVS said the chain will share more specifics about its vaccine rollout once the authorization is made, and will provide customers with information on its website.

“We have played a prominent role in administering third doses to the immunocompromised and authorized booster shots, and are prepared to expand vaccine eligibility to ages 5-11 as soon as authorized to do so by public health agencies,” CVS said in a statement.

Nov 01, 4:33 pm
Details on vaccine mandates for businesses expected in coming days

A federal rule on vaccine mandates for businesses will be released this week, according to the Labor Department.

The rule will require employers with 100 employers or more to mandate the vaccine or weekly testing. It also will require large businesses to provide paid time off to workers to get the shot and recover from side effects from the vaccine.

The department said in a statement, “On November 1, the Office of Management and Budget completed its regulatory review of the emergency temporary standard. The Federal Register will publish the emergency temporary standard in the coming days.”

It’s not clear when the rule will take effect.

President Joe Biden first announced the rule in September and it’s since been making its way through the regulatory process.

Nov 01, 3:52 pm
Pediatric cases continue to decline

The U.S. reported about 101,000 child COVID-19 cases last week, marking the eighth consecutive week of declines in pediatric infections since the pandemic peak of nearly 252,000 cases in early September, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

The rate of pediatric hospital admissions is also declining.

Approximately 45.3% of adolescents ages 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to federal data.

Severe illness due to COVID-19 remains “uncommon” among children, AAP and CHA said. However, AAP and CHA continue to warn that there is an urgent need to collect more data on the long-term consequences of the pandemic on children, “including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”

Nov 01, 3:15 pm
What to expect at Tuesday’s CDC panel meeting on vaccinating young kids

An independent CDC advisory panel will convene at 11 a.m. Tuesday to debate and hold a nonbinding vote on whether to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for the roughly 28 million kids ages 5 to 11 in the U.S.

The CDC panel is expected to vote around 4:15 p.m.

If the panel decides to move ahead, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky must sign off on those specific recommendations, which would likely happen Tuesday evening.

No pediatric vaccinations will start until Walensky gives the green light. If that happens Tuesday evening, shots could start going into younger children’s arms beginning Wednesday.

The White House has purchased 65 million Pfizer pediatric vaccine doses — more than enough to fully vaccine all American children in this age group.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Dia de Los Muertos offers healing for COVID-19 victims’ Latinx families

iStock/Cavan Images

(NEW YORK) — This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, many Mexican Americans will find solace in celebrating Día de los Muertos.

The holiday, which is celebrated from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, is meant to honor loved ones that have passed away. People do so by setting up ofrendas, or altars, for those they’ve lost.

When she set up her ofrenda this year, Destiny Navaira included a photo of her grandmother, whose life was cut short by COVID-19.

The glossy photo stood among paper marigolds, teal sugar skulls, candles and even beef jerky for her cousin, who also died.

Navaira’s grandmother Consuela Llamas died from COVID-19 in December 2020. It was her who taught Navaira about the tradition behind the ofrenda, and the belief that it is a way for ancestors to come back from the world of the dead to visit their families for a few days.

Navaira said she is excited to celebrate Día de Los Muertos this year because it is also her grandparents’ anniversary and their spirits finally get to celebrate with family on Earth.

She said she found the process of making an altar for her late loved ones healing.

“I couldn’t invite my grandpa and not invite her, because she wouldn’t have it!” Navaira joked.

The native San Antonian recalled how her abuela spent two weeks on a ventilator before passing away, and her uncle Joe Navaira spent a month fighting for his life in a hospital bed. She’s not alone. Over half of Latinos living in the U.S. this year said that they know someone who has died from COVID-19, according to Pew Research.

“I’m angry that my family and I’ve lost family members, but at the same time, things happen in the world and all we can do is to make them better,” Navaira said.

In the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, Church of the Epiphany will celebrate Día de los Muertos with a community ofrenda. The church has been setting up a community ofrenda since the early 1970s to honor members of the community and Chicano leaders like Cesar Chavez and Sal Castro.

“There’s pain, and there’s celebration, and there’s memory,” said the Rev. Tom Carey of the ceremony.

Members of the community are invited to write the names of their late loved ones on a scroll and share their stories. Churchgoers will speak the names of the dead followed by cries of “Presente!” or “Present!” in English.

Along with a community altar, the church set up one altar made by students at Lincoln High School, one by the neighborhood council and another to honor those who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Due to COVID-19, the church did not have its Día de los Muertos celebration in 2020. This year, it will have COVID-19 precautions in place.

“We want to really honor our culture and our customs and we don’t want them to disappear,” said Rev. Richard Estrada from the Church of the Epiphany. “We continue to celebrate our tradition on our heritage.”

Navaira said she’s spending this holiday surrounded by the music her Tejano legend uncle, Emilio Navaira, taught her.

She also has advice to help her non-Latino friends who’ve lost loved ones find peace.

“Take advantage of the time they have here with the people who they love while they’re here on Earth,” she said. “It’s important to talk about death as part of life. Yes, it’s sad. Yes, it is devastating that somebody literally isn’t in your life anymore because they are not physically here. But if you’re able to keep them alive, to do their favorite things, to tell stories of them, to have memories, even just a picture? I think that that can offer such peace to somebody who’s truly grieving somebody.”

 

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Robert Durst indicted on murder of first wife, Kathleen

iStock/nirat

(NEW YORK) — A grand jury indicted Robert Durst on a second-degree murder charge Monday in connection with the 1982 death of his first wife, Kathleen Durst.

Westchester County prosecutors charged the real estate heir with murder last month, shortly after he was sentenced to life in prison for the 2000 murder of his assistant, Susan Berman.

Robert Durst allegedly murdered Berman because he feared she would disclose details of Kathleen Durst’s death, investigators said.

Kathleen Durst’s body has not been located, despite numerous searches, since her disappearance on Jan. 31, 1982 in South Salem, New York. Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah said her office’s cold case bureau has been working diligently on the investigation into her death for over 10 months.

“For nearly four decades there has been a great deal of speculation about this case, much of it fueled by Robert Durst’s own highly publicized statements,” Rocah said in a statement. “An indictment is a crucial step in the process of holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions.”

A warrant by the Westchester DA’s office has been issued for Robert Durst’s arrest. His attorneys couldn’t be reached for immediate comment.

The 78-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 and was put on a ventilator, according to his attorney Dick DeGuerin. He was discharged from the hospital last week and transferred to a California prison’s medical facility.

Robert Durst appeared frail during his murder trial in Los Angeles and sat in a wheelchair during his sentencing.

 

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 live updates: Kids’ shots not widely available until Nov. 8

iStock/koto_feja

(NEW YORK) — As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 746,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Just 67.9% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Latest headlines:
-What to expect at Tuesday’s CDC panel meeting on vaccinating young kids
-Kids’ shots not widely available until Nov. 8
-Biden tests negative after White House press secretary contracts COVID-19

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern.

Nov 01, 4:33 pm
Details on vaccine mandates for businesses expected in coming days

A federal rule on vaccine mandates for businesses will be released this week, according to the Labor Department.

The rule will require employers with 100 employers or more to mandate the vaccine or weekly testing. It also will require large businesses to provide paid time off to workers to get the shot and recover from side effects from the vaccine.

The department said in a statement, “On November 1, the Office of Management and Budget completed its regulatory review of the emergency temporary standard. The Federal Register will publish the emergency temporary standard in the coming days.”

It’s not clear when the rule will take effect.

President Joe Biden first announced the rule in September and it’s since been making its way through the regulatory process.

ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett, Anne Flaherty

Nov 01, 3:52 pm
Pediatric cases continue to decline

The U.S. reported about 101,000 child COVID-19 cases last week, marking the eighth consecutive week of declines in pediatric infections since the pandemic peak of nearly 252,000 cases in early September, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

The rate of pediatric hospital admissions is also declining.

Approximately 45.3% of adolescents ages 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to federal data.

Severe illness due to COVID-19 remains “uncommon” among children, AAP and CHA said. However, AAP and CHA continue to warn that there is an urgent need to collect more data on the long-term consequences of the pandemic on children, “including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”

ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Nov 01, 3:15 pm
What to expect at Tuesday’s CDC panel meeting on vaccinating young kids

An independent CDC advisory panel will convene at 11 a.m. Tuesday to debate and hold a nonbinding vote on whether to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for the roughly 28 million kids ages 5 to 11 in the U.S.

The CDC panel is expected to vote around 4:15 p.m.

If the panel decides to move ahead, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky must sign off on those specific recommendations, which would likely happen Tuesday evening.

No pediatric vaccinations will start until Walensky gives the green light. If that happens Tuesday evening, shots could start going into younger children’s arms beginning Wednesday.

The White House has purchased 65 million Pfizer pediatric vaccine doses — more than enough to fully vaccine all American children in this age group.

ABC News’ Sasha Pezenik

Nov 01, 2:19 pm
US case rate appears to be plateauing

After six weeks of steady declines, the nationwide case rate appears to be plateauing, according to federal data. In recent days, the daily case average in the U.S. ticked up slightly to 69,000 cases per day, which is a 37% drop in the last month, but higher than last week.

In recent weeks cases have been creeping up in states including Alaska, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin, according to federal data.

Alaska currently has the country’s highest infection rate. Puerto Rico, Florida and California have the lowest.

ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Olympian’s widow gives birth to his daughter via IVF

iStock

(NEW YORK) — At the time Australian Olympic snowboarder Alex Pullin died in a spearfishing accident last year, he and his partner, Ellidy Vlug, were hoping to become parents, according to Vlug.

Now, nearly 16 months after Pullin’s death, Vlug has given birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter she named Minnie Alex Pullin.

Vlug gave birth to her daughter on Oct. 25, 2021, according to a photo of the newborn she shared with her followers on Instagram.

Pullin, who was Australia’s flagbearer at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, was 32 when he died in July 2020 off the coast of Queensland.

In June of this year, Vlug shared on Instagram that she was pregnant with their child via in vitro fertilization (IVF).

“When my love had his accident, we all held onto hope that I’d be pregnant that month. We’d been trying for a baby,” she wrote. “IVF was on our cards but it wasn’t something I ever imagined I’d be tackling on my own. Bittersweet like none other, I’ve never been more certain or excited about anything in my entire life.”

“Your Dad and I have been dreaming of you for years little one. With a heart wrenching plot twist in the middle, I am honored to finally welcome a piece of the phenomenon that is Chump back into this world!” Vlug wrote at the time.

Vlug shared her pregnancy journey on social media, writing about how her friends have supported her as she both mourned Pullin and prepared on her own to become a mom.

“My friends literally deserve a medal for the way they have shown up for me the past year,” she wrote in an Oct. 14 post, later adding, “I feel so grateful and lucky to be bringing Chumpy’s daughter or son into this love bubble.”

 

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Ballot question asks Minneapolis voters to consider replacing police department

iStock/Oleksandr Filon

(MINNEAPOLIS) — The future of the Minneapolis Police Department may be decided on Tuesday.

A ballot measure is asking voters if the city should amend its charter to replace the police department with the Department of Public Safety, which would take a “comprehensive public health approach.”

The new department could include police officers, but there wouldn’t be a required minimum number to employ. The MPD had 588 officers as of mid-October and was authorized for up to 888, according to The Associated Press.

The charter amendment would replace the police chief with a commissioner nominated by the mayor and approved by the City Council. By state law, the charter amendment would go into effect 30 days after it passes.

“​​It’s a vote for us to all reimagine public safety and to move away from the type of systems that have not produced safety for all communities,” said Rashad Robinson, a spokesperson for Color of Change PAC, which organized in support of the ballot measure.

City Council member Jeremiah Ellison told ABC News that the police department would become a division of law enforcement within the Department of Public Safety.

“Question two is about are we locked into our current system of public safety, this police only model,” he said. “Are we locked into this model, that’s what voting no does, or do we have an ability to transform public safety into the future? That’s what a yes does.”

While supporters of the charter amendment connect it to the calls for police reform that followed George Floyd’s killing last year, opponents, including those who want reform, have said the measure is ill-defined and crafted without enough community input.

“We skipped over a lot of steps that would normally happen when you’re bringing about a change of this magnitude, and people are being sold a proposal that has no plan attached to it,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a Minneapolis civil rights attorney and activist. “There’s no certainty of what this new department will actually look like, how it will function and whether it will actually address the underlying public safety issues.”

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo similarly criticized the charter amendment at a press conference on Wednesday.

“It will not eliminate tragic incidents between police and community from ever occurring in our city,” he said. “It will not suddenly change the culture of the police department that has been in existence for 155 years.”

Voters appear divided. North Minneapolis resident Tallaya Byers said that she supports the public safety charter amendment because she feels current police officers aren’t trained to handle certain situations, like those involving people who use drugs or have a mental illness.

“It will bring an element to where they can identify and analyze situations, to where people are not seen as such a threat,” Byers said. “For me, it’s going to help the police officers do their job, analyze situations, have a conversation. It’s that simple.”

Teto Wilson, a North Minneapolis resident who owns a barbershop, said that he plans to vote against the ballot measure because proponents haven’t elaborated on how it will affect people of color.

“I think policing needs to be radically reformed, and they’re proposing this charter amendment like it’s a radical change to policing, but how can you say that you haven’t told us what that means,” he said. “What’s going to be in this Department of Public Safety?”

He added: “They have not told us what it would look like other than, you know, we’re gonna have mental health workers that are going to show up on calls. I can’t see how that’s going to solve our problems.”

Some council members have pushed back on claims that they haven’t explained the proposal thoroughly. Council member Phillipe Cunningham tweeted in August that the city attorney advised council members to not engage on an outline of the ordinance that would explain the functions of the proposed Department of Public Safety because it could be seen as advocacy.

“A charter change is supposed to be as barebones as possible,” he said. “You’re not going to put a bunch of details that might need to be flexible in the charter, you’re going to put a skeleton language in the charter.”

Ellison added that amending the charter would not reallocate funds. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the most recent police budget approved was $164 million, with an additional $11 million accessible if approved by the City Council.

Wilson said he was worried neighborhood crime may increase with fewer officers. Armstrong mentioned a similar concern.

“Many in our community feel as though we have already been underserved when it comes to having to call 911 or receiving an adequate response when there is a crisis,” she added.

Robinson, the Color of Change spokesperson, said that the charter amendment gives the city more tools for approaching public safety issues.

“The community has been doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result,” he said. “This is putting something new on the table and hoping to build some new ways of really bringing about safety and bringing about justice.”

But Armstrong, a local organizer, pushed back on that idea.

“It’s a false dichotomy between voting ‘no’ and keeping things the same, or voting ‘yes’ and agreeing to this new public safety charter amendment,” she said. “Really, we should have had a community engagement process. We should have had evidence-based practices and we should have had options in terms of what kind of structure, you know, the MPD should become, versus being boxed into voting ‘no’ or voting ‘yes.'”

ABC News’ Zachary Kiesch and Briana Stewart contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Kyle Rittenhouse trial, Ahmaud Arbery case both expected to hinge on video

ABC obtained video

(NEW YORK) — Two trials over killings that have garnered national attention are now going on simultaneously and legal experts said they expect both will hinge on video evidence.

Jury selection in the trial of 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who is accused of killing two white people and wounding a third during a protest over the police shooting of a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, began on Monday.

At the same time, jury selection is ongoing for the trial of three white men accused of chasing down and killing Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was jogging in Brunswick, Georgia.

Opening statements in both cases could commence by the end of this week.

Chris Slobogin, a law professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and director of the school’s Criminal Justice Program, told ABC News that he is not aware of two major murder trials such as these occurring at the same time.

Although the allegations are vastly different, video is expected to play a major role in both trials.

“The prevalence of video in this day and age has made many criminal cases much different than was the case 10, 20, 30 years ago,” Slobogin said.

But Slobogin said the video evidence does not necessarily mean a slam dunk for prosecutors in either case.

“Visual evidence isn’t necessarily the truth in the sense that there are a lot of different angles to any given event and the only angle you’re getting when you have video is the angle that the camera was pointed from,” Slobogin said.

Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of his alleged crimes, is claiming he used deadly force because he was being attacked by a mob and feared for his life.

The Antioch, Illinois teen Rittenhouse, has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide and attempted first-degree intentional homicide. He has also pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possession of a firearm by an individual under the age of 18.

Rittenhouse, according to his attorneys, answered “his patriotic and civil duty to serve” when an online call was put out by a former Kenosha city alderman for “patriots” to take up arms and help protect lives and property in the city against looting and rioting that occurred in August 2020.

Angry protests broke out in Kenosha after a police officer there shot Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, multiple times in the back, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. The local district attorney declined to charge the officer after he was cleared in an investigation by the state Department of Justice.

Rittenhouse, who is white, is accused of using an AR-style semiautomatic rifle to fatally shoot two men, Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, during an Aug. 25, 2020, protest in Kenosha. He is also accused of shooting and severely wounding another white protester Gaige Grosskreutz, 27.

“We have a situation where a 17-year-old boy, who is not even legally able to carry a weapon, was allegedly in town to protect property that did not belong to him. That’s extraordinary,” veteran Michigan defense attorney Jamie White told ABC News. “Clearly, he (Rittenhouse) was under some form of assault when you look at the video in an acute sense. But when you look at the entirety of the situation, he just should not have been there.”

The Arbery case

In the Arbery case, the defendants Gregory McMichael, 65, a retired police officer, his son, Travis McMichael, 35, and their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, are accused of trying to make a citizens’ arrest when Travis McMichael allegedly shot the unarmed Arbery three times with a shotgun, killing him.

Travis McMichael is also expected to claim self-defense, arguing the use of deadly force was justified when the 25-year-old Black man violently resisted a citizens’ arrest under a law that existed at the time. The pre-Civil War-era law that was repealed in May primarily due to the Arbery killing gave civilian vigilantes the power to arrest someone they “reasonably suspected” of trying to escape from a felony.

Gregory McMichael, according to his attorneys, claims he thought Arbery, who was jogging past his house, matched the description of a neighborhood burglary suspect. Both he and his son allegedly brandished firearms while chasing Arbery in Travis McMichael’s pickup truck that prosecutors allege had a vanity plate featuring a Confederate flag.

Bryan recorded a cellphone video of the confrontation that partly captured Travis McMichael shooting Arbery during a struggle and is expected to be the key evidence prosecutors plan to present at trial.

Bryan’s lawyer claims he was just a witness to the incident, but prosecutors alleged he was an active participant in “hunting down” Arbery. Prosecutors also allege that Bryan told investigators he overheard Travis McMichael yell a racial slur at Arbery as he lay dying in the street, an allegation the younger McMichael denies.

Prosecutors say the evidence will show Arbery was just out for a Sunday jog when he was allegedly murdered.

All three men have pleaded not guilty to state charges of murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment stemming from the Feb. 23, 2020, fatal shooting in the unincorporated Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick.

The three men were also indicted on federal hate crime charges in April and have all pleaded not guilty.

“We have men who had no property interest in the home where the deceased was apparently trespassing at the worst-case scenario and ended up shot to death,” said White, the Michigan trial attorney, referring to a home that was under construction Arbery was caught on surveillance video leaving empty-handed just before he was killed.

‘I just shot somebody’

Video evidence expected to be presented in the Kenosha case could prove favorable in the defense of Rittenhouse, Obear said.

“You know the old saying, a picture speaks a thousand words, a video speaks a million. Having watched the videos, I think it’s very apparent exactly what the defense argument will be: ‘You just have to watch the videos,'” Obear said. “He’s basically naturally in a position where he would seem to be defending himself with people approaching him in that manner.”

Cellphone videos played at earlier court hearings, partly captured two confrontations the teenager was involved in. In the first, Rosenbaum allegedly followed Rittenhouse into a used car lot and confronted him in an attempt to disarm him before he was shot to death, according to a criminal complaint. As Rosenbaum lay on the ground, Rittenhouse was recorded in a video running away while allegedly calling a friend and telling them, “I shot somebody.”

Defense attorneys have cited what appears to be the muzzle flash of a gun in the video before Rittenhouse fired his first shot.

Other videos recorded after Rosenbaum was shot show people chasing Rittenhouse down a street and him apparently being hit by Huber with a skateboard and falling to the ground. The video shows Rittenhouse allegedly shooting Huber, who apparently tried to take his gun away and firing at Grosskreutz, who investigators said was armed with a handgun. Grosskreutz suffered a severe wound to his arm when he tried to grab Rittenhouse’s rifle, prosecutors said.

The videos prompted then-President Donald Trump to comment on the Rittenhouse case in August 2020, saying it appeared he was acting in self-defense.

“He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like,” Trump said during a news conference. “I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed.”

A number of conservatives and gun-rights advocates rallied to Rittenhouse’s defense, contributing to his defense fund and putting up $2 million to cover his bail.

Judge’s controversial ruling

During what was expected to be the final hearing before the Rittenhouse trial begins, Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder made a series of rulings that White said appeared to help the defense.

Schroeder ruled that defense attorneys can refer to the two men who were killed and the one wounded as “looters” and “rioters,” but barred prosecutors from referring to them as “victims” or even “alleged victims” during the trial, saying they must be called “complaining witnesses” or “decedent.”

The judge also granted the defense permission to call an expert witness in police use of force, even though the testimony will pertain to a civilian’s use of force.

“We do see the judge already acting in a way that could be arguably biased,” White said.

But Obear said much is being made over what he described as a “pretty standard” ruling.

“No one is a ‘victim’ until there’s an adjudication of guilt and the prosecutors like to throw that term around as if it’s a prejudged sort of situation,” Obear said. “But it’s a loaded term. When people hear the term victim it naturally conjures sympathy.”

Both White and Obear agreed that allowing the defense to call an expert on the use of force is a “huge win” for Rittenhouse.

“I think that what Mr. Rittenhouse did on this occasion is so extraordinary that to allow a third party to come in and make commentary about that from a legal point of view is certainly going to be powerful and probably will persuade the jury in one way or the other,” White said.

Obear added, “If this all has to do with what was going on inside of Kyle Rittenhouse’s mind the only way to solve that question is to let a jury decide this.”

“What possible reasonable resolution could there be here? We’re talking about homicides and his position is, ‘I didn’t do anything wrong, and self-defense is an absolute defense,’” Obear said. “If that’s correctly posited to the jury, they’ll find him not guilty, and he’ll go home.”

Will Rittenhouse take the witness stand?

Legal experts interviewed by ABC News were split on whether defense lawyers should put Rittenhouse on the witness stand.

“This is a case where I can actually see the defense prevailing here without putting him on the stand,” Obear said, citing the video evidence.

But White believes Rittenhouse should testify.

“He’s a child … and anytime you can present someone who’s vulnerable in that kind of way it’s going to benefit the defense from the standpoint of a jury,” White said.

Slobogin, however, said that if Rittenhouse testifies, he runs the risk of opening the door for prosecutors to raise broader questions about his actions and intentions.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Why experts say gun violence rose in 2020, amid pandemic lockdowns

iStock/Bytmonas

(NEW YORK) — The U.S. was gripped by two public health crises in 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic and a historic rise in gun violence.

Even as cities locked down, people retreated into their homes and life was seemingly put on pause last year, 2020 still marked the deadliest year for gun violence in at least two decades, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There were more than 19,400 homicides involving a gun and accidental fatal shootings — a 25% increase from 2019, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive. Gun suicides reached 24,000 last year, matching the year prior.

Experts say it’s not easy to identify one precise reason for the rise in gun violence.

Rather, 2020 was a turbulent time that presented COVID-19 concerns and economic downturn as well as a racial reckoning that rocked communities in multiple ways, including massive protests and civil unrest.

It also was a time when an estimated 23 million guns were purchased — a 65% increase from 2019, according to Small Arms Analytics, a consulting firm that tracks gun sales. It is unclear if the increase in gun purchases was linked to the increase in gun violence and research is split on the connection generally.

The violence unfolded across the country, big and small cities alike. Overall, 57% of 129 law enforcement agencies surveyed across the nation by the Police Executive Research Forum reported an increase in gun homicides from 2019 to 2020, according to the January 2021 report.

The agencies serving the biggest cities reported a 75% increase in firearm homicides in 2020 compared to 2019, and all surveyed agencies also reported a nearly 70% increase in nonfatal shootings.

Colorado mother-of-three Ana Thallas’ life changed forever amid the pandemic when her daughter Isabella was fatally shot while walking her dog with her boyfriend in a Denver park on June 10, 2020, just two days after her 21st birthday. Her boyfriend was shot twice by the suspect but survived.

The Denver District Attorney’s office said that Michael Close, 37, allegedly got into an argument with the couple “over a command they used to have their dog defecate,” and he opened fire with an assault rifle.

“I never thought my daughter would be slaughtered mid-morning walking a dog in the middle of the city,” Thallas told ABC News. “This pandemic has created fear within people. Just having to be secluded, cooped up and isolated contributed to the mental health crisis. Fear turns into anger, and the anger turns into violence.”

2020 was a ‘perfect storm’

Dr. Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said 2020 was the “perfect storm” of conditions where “everything bad happened at the same time — you had the COVID outbreak, huge economic disruption, people were scared.”

At the same time, after-school programs and violence disruption programs were greatly restricted, plus 2020 was an election year, during which gun purchases tend to rise for fear that the new administration will change gun policies, Webster said.

“It’s particularly challenging to know with certainty which of these things independently is associated with the increased violence. Rather it was the ‘cascade’ of events all unfolding in a similar time frame,” he added.

For instance, as kids moved to at-home online learning due to school closures and many parents either lost jobs or had to work remotely — all while grappling with financial stress and social isolation — there was gun violence in some of their homes.

From March to December 2020, unintentional shooting deaths by children rose 31% over the same time in 2019, resulting in 128 gun deaths, according to the Everytown #NotAnAccident Index.

Unsafe storage likely played a role, experts say. A January study by the University of California, Davis violence prevention research program found “more than 50,000 Californians said they had started storing at least one of their firearms in the least secure way — loaded and not locked up,” Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz, an assistant professor with VPRP who led the study said. “Approximately half of those respondents lived in homes with children or teens.”

People changed how they stored guns based on “fear and anxiety and pandemic-induced uncertainty about the future,” the study found.

But storing a firearm unsecured is a massive risk, Kravitz-Wirtz said, especially for unintentional shootings and suicide. Approximately 60% of gun deaths are suicides according to CDC data.

Although preliminary CDC data shows that overall suicides in the U.S. slightly decreased in 2020 compared to the year prior, gun suicides still surpassed 24,000, just as they did in 2019.

Another way gun violence played out in homes was through domestic violence incidents.

A study entitled “Firearm purchasing and firearm violence during the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.” analyzed data from March through July 2020 and found that excess firearm purchasing was associated with an increase in firearm injuries from domestic violence in April and May, “particularly during the early months where social distancing was at its highest point,” said Julia P. Schleimer, the main author of the report with UC Davis’ violence prevention research program. The authors say that linking firearm violence to civil unrest and other factors during summer of 2020 had to be studied further.

The pandemic led to an 8% increase in calls for domestic violence services in March, April and May, the initial three months of the pandemic, in 14 large U.S. cities, according to a study published in Journal of Public Economics.

The Domestic Violence Hotline also received the highest incoming volume in its history, with over 636,000 calls, chats and texts in 2020, including a 19% rise in callers experiencing the use or threat of firearms last year, according to the organization.

The pandemic may have put many people in a vulnerable situation as research shows that access to a gun makes it five times more likely that a woman will die at the hands of a domestic abuser, according to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.

Impact on Black and Latino communities ​

An analysis of nine U.S. cities found that over 85% of the increase in gun violence from 2019 to 2020 was in predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

These groups had to deal with the converging crises in 2020: coronavirus and gun violence. They were already disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, with Black and Hispanic people nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19, according to CDC data.

At the same time, Black people are 10 times more likely to die from gun homicide than white people, according to an Everytown analysis of the CDC’s Underlying Cause of Death database. In 2019, Latino people were nearly twice as likely to be killed by guns than non-Hispanic whites, according to a study from the Violence Policy Center.

In the pandemic, these groups also were disproportionately affected by job loss and financial strife compared to white households, according to a summer 2020 poll by NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Further, these more than half of all Black, Latino and Native American workers hold essential and nonessential jobs that must be done in person, compared to 41% of white workers, even as many jobs went remote out of safety precautions, according to a December 2020 report by the Urban Institute.

John Donohue, a Stanford University law professor who studies gun violence, said time periods of stress are associated with more shootings.

“It does seem that the dislocations of the pandemic were in neighborhoods that were more vulnerable to both the economic insecurities and just pressures of a more stressful life,” Donahue said. “The pandemic was a major disruption.”

Kravitz-Wirtz told ABC News that the violence was concentrated “in neighborhoods that have experienced systemic racism and disinvestment.”

The closure of community centers and suspension of many violence prevention organizations also led to “destabilization that can really create the conditions for violence to emerge,” she added.

As gun violence played out in homes and communities, law enforcement also faced challenges responding to crime due to COVID-19 concerns and tensions with the public.

Donohue said civil unrest and police played a role in the storm.

Officers couldn’t be “as effective in stopping crime,” because they were responding to protests around the country in 2020 decrying racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death by Minneapolis police, Donohue said.

Several police agencies also reported they scaled back proactive enforcement due to the pandemic, such as making fewer traffic stops and suspending gun buyback programs, the Police Executive Research Forum said in their January 2021 report.

“You had police departments overtaxed in response to COVID because their officers were getting sick. Then you had the George Floyd murder and ripple effects from protests and then often violent response by law enforcement,” Webster said. “There is a clear connection between trust in police and community safety, all of this takes a toll on public safety.”

Increase in gun ownership

Researchers at the UC Davis violence prevention research program issued a statewide survey in July 2020 that asked respondents specifically if they acquired a gun due to the pandemic as well as their concerns about violence in the health crisis. They found that an estimated 110,000 California adults acquired a firearm in response to fears stemming from the pandemic, including 47,000 new firearm owners, according to the January study.

The survey respondents who bought firearms mainly did so for protection, with 76% saying they were concerned about lawlessness, 56% about prisoner releases and 49% that the government was going too far due to changes during the pandemic.

One in 10 residents surveyed also expressed fear that someone they knew may intentionally harm someone or themselves due to pandemic losses including losing a loved one, job or housing.

Experts are split on whether the stunning rise in gun purchases will fuel future firearm violence.

While there is a broad field of research that provides evidence that gun availability increases the risk for firearm violence, 2020 is unique in that other compounding factors are at play.

Last year’s trends have already continued into 2021, with over 31,000 gun violence deaths recorded, according to Gun Violence Archive data, and over 27 million background checks initiated so far, according to National Instant Criminal Background Check System data.

Schleimer, who studied firearm purchases and firearm violence in 2020, said it’s possible that increased firearm access and continuing stressors could “result in an increased risk of firearm violence moving forward.”

The US can ‘shift the trajectory’

Donohue, though, forecasts some of the violence could taper off with the end of the pandemic.

“As the pandemic recedes, you’ll get some restoration of normality,” he said. “But we still are going to have to contend with the politicians, growing power of weaponry and its increasing availability and tensions between the public and the police — all unhelpful for restricting crime.”

Kravitz-Wirtz said there’s been “positive momentum” to reverse the pandemic’s trend of gun violence. But she warned that root issues of inequality need to be addressed through “thriving wage” jobs, housing security and youth empowerment programs especially in Black and brown communities.

“There’s a real opportunity now,” Kravitz-Wirtz said. “We can really shift the trajectory that we’ve been experiencing in positive directions if we can follow through on the data-informed and community wisdom-informed strategies.”

On a national and state level, there have been efforts to mitigate gun violence. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced federal strike forces in five major cities to take down gun trafficking corridors over the summer, and President Joe Biden unveiled several executive actions to combat the rise in shootings. The administration has also allowed coronavirus relief funds to be used for community violence intervention.

In Colorado, Thallas helped get the Isabella Joy Act passed in honor of her daughter. It requires gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement within five days of realizing the weapon is missing. The Denver Police Department said the shooter in Isabella’s case had taken a rifle from a friend’s home without their knowledge or permission, CBS Denver affiliate KCNC reported.

Thallas is now calling for the act, which went into effect last month, to be implemented nationally.

“Unfortunately I don’t see an end to this [gun] epidemic. Encouraging responsible gun ownership would be more realistic,” Thallas said. “It’s our family that pays the life sentence with Isabella’s death. Don’t doubt this couldn’t be you. Be proactive, not reactive.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.