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STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | Hurricane Laura, pushing ‘unsurvivable’ storm surge, makes landfall in Texas and Louisiana … Former New York assembly speaker begins serving prison sentence … Idaho House votes to revoke Covid emergency declaration.
Police arrested a 17-year-old from Illinois in connection with shootings that killed two men and wounded another during a protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, charging him with intentional homicide. Authorities said the men were shot Tuesday night near a gas station that became the site of tension between people protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, on Sunday and a group of what Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth called “vigilantes.” When asked why police didn’t arrest Kyle Rittenhouse, who is white, at the scene, although videos appear to show him approaching police with his hands in the air and carrying a semi-automatic rifle, Beth said maybe officers were distracted by the commotion or radio traffic. “I can picture all kinds of reasons,” he said. Rittenhouse was arrested on Wednesday at his home in Antioch, Illinois, about 30 minutes away from Kenosha. Several videos of a male in a green t-shirt with a long gun circulated on social media, including one that showed the person being chased in the street, falling to the ground, and then turning and firing his gun multiple times at people in a crowded street.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice on Wednesday provided a few details about how Blake was shot, saying in a news release that he was shot seven times in the back by Officer Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha police force. In bystander video of the shooting, an officer can be seen grabbing Blake's t-shirt as he attempts to get into an SUV and then firing his gun at close range. The DOJ said Blake had a knife on the driver's side floorboard and no other weapons. The agency would not respond to questions about if any officers knew about the knife before the shooting.
In protest of the shooting of Blake—family members say he is now paralyzed—the players with the Milwaukee Bucks team refused to play in a playoff game on Wednesday. The National Basketball Association then postponed other games. Subsequently, professional baseball players with the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds also voted to not play their game on Wednesday. Gov. Tony Evers authorized sending additional Wisconsin National Guard troops to Kenosha on Wednesday, while President Trump authorized sending an additional 2,000 guard troops. It is unclear whether the state will accept the federally authorized troops. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Chicago Tribune; Washington Post; NBC Chicago]
‘UNSURVIVABLE’ STORM SURGE | Urging people to quickly leave coastal Louisiana and Texas communities, the National Hurricane Center on Wednesday warned that increasingly powerful Hurricane Laura would drive “unsurvivable” storm surge from the Gulf Of Mexico miles inland, swamping whole communities. Weather forecasters projected the storm would push surge as high as 20 feet, accompanied by 150-mile winds. “In my five years as governor I don’t think I’ve ever had a press conference where I’m trying to convey the sense of urgency I’m trying to convey right now,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. The storm landed in Cameron Parish, on Louisiana's coast, at 1 a.m. The state spent the day busing people from Lake Charles to New Orleans and Baton Rouge, while preparing more than 3,000 National Guard troops to deploy for search and rescue operations. Several residents interviewed by The Advocate in Calcasieu Parish, where the city of Lake Charles is located, said they were evacuating for their first storm or despite usually staying for hurricanes, as they were so worried about the intensification of Laura. Hotels in Baton Rouge had almost filled up by midday. But local officials estimated 150 people had decided to ride the storm out in coastal Cameron Parish, which Edwards said "is going to look like an extension of the Gulf of Mexico for a couple of days." In Texas, the storm poses the most danger for communities along the border, like Port Arthur and Beaumont, with less of an impact expected in Houston, said meteorologist Dan Reilly with the National Weather Service. A shelter for evacuees in Austin filled up Wednesday morning and state emergency officials said they were trying to get more hotel vouchers. Volunteers deployed to Chambers County, along the Gulf, to help once the storm barrels through. “We know the drill,” said one member of an Austin-based water crew. [The Advocate; Texas Tribune; Houston Chronicle]
PRISON SENTENCE | Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Wednesday started serving a more than 6-year federal prison sentence, which he had avoided starting to serve for years after his 2016 corruption conviction. Silver was convicted in 2016, but was allowed to remain free during appeals. He was convicted of helping pass legislation for developers who paid a law firm that then paid Silver. [Associated Press]
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT | Kansas City officials are looking at revamping economic development tax breaks that in 2018 cost the public school system $2,000 per student for a total of $28 million. The proposal under consideration by the Missouri city’s council would require school systems to sign off on tax exemptions before they are approved. [KCUR]
IDAHO EMERGENCY | After a debate that featured one member of the Idaho House accusing hospitals of inflating Covid-19 statistics, the state House voted 48-20 to approve revoking Gov. Brad Little’s disaster declaration over the coronavirus. House members who objected noted that without that declaration the state will not be eligible for some FEMA funds. On the same day, Ammon Bundy, best known for his standoffs with the federal government over protected national land, was arrested on a trespassing charge at the Capitol, along with a group of others, for refusing to leave a room. He was arrested again on Wednesday and banned from the Capitol grounds for a year. [Idaho Statesman]
Laura Maggi is the managing editor of Route Fifty.
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