INVESTIGATORS: ROPE FOUND IN WALLACE'S NASCAR AREA WASN'T HATE CRIME

UNDATED (AP) — NASCAR stood by its decision to alert federal authorities to a rope that resembled a noose found in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway, even after the investigation determined it had been there since at least last October.

U.S. Attorney Jay Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. said Tuesday an investigation determined “nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned” to that same stall. NASCAR said it was the lone garage stall with a pull down rope that resembled a noose.

Wallace is the only Black driver at NASCAR’s top level and has become a leading activist in the sport during a push for racial equality. He has worn an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt, had a Black Lives Matter paint scheme and successfully pushed NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag.

In using his voice, the 26-year-old driver has said he’s received death threats and NASCAR had assigned him at-track security.

After Sunday's race was delayed by rain, a crew member for Richard Petty Motorsports reported a noose had been found. NASCAR said it was “angry and outraged” over the “heinous act.”

The FBI sent 15 agents to Talladega for Monday’s rescheduled race at the same time the industry rallied around Wallace. In an unprecedented show of solidarity, every team member on pit road lined up behind him during the national anthem.

Roughly 48 hours after the discovery, federal authorities said video confirmed the rope “was in that garage as early as October 2019” hanging from a garage door. The rope was referred to as a noose, but can be used as a handle when closing the door.

Phelps continued to call it a noose after authorities said no charges would be filed, and held firm in that NASCAR is investigating why the rope was tied that way. He was pleased it wasn’t a hate crime directed at Wallace, but insisted NASCAR would have conducted its investigation the same way even now knowing it was just a coincidence.

CALHOUN STATUTE COMING DOWN IN S.C.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Officials in the historic South Carolina city of Charleston have voted unanimously to remove a statue of former vice president and slavery advocate John C. Calhoun from a downtown square, the latest in a wave of actions arising from protests against racism and police brutality against African Americans.

Council members approved the measure 13-0 at a late-day meeting yesterday. The resolution authorizes the removal of the statue of the former U.S. vice president and senator from South Carolina from atop a 100-foot monument in downtown Marion Square.

City officials said eventually that the Calhoun statue will be placed permanently at “an appropriate site where it will be protected and preserved.”

The vote comes a week after mayor, John Tecklenburg announced he would send the resolution to the City Council. He also took part in the vote.

“I believe that we are setting a new chapter, a more equitable chapter, in our city’s history,” Tecklenburg said, just before the vote. “We are making the right step. It’s just simply the right thing for us to do.”

Council members heard from dozens of residents for and against the statue’s removal. Councilman Karl L. Brady Jr. said he knew his support may cost him votes but that he was voting his conscience in a move he said shows that, in Charleston, “we place white supremacy and white supremacist thought back where it belongs - on the ash heap of history.”

The move comes days after the fifth anniversary of the slaying of nine Black parishioners in a racist attack at a downtown Charleston church. It also comes as cities around the U.S. debate the removal of monuments to Confederate leaders and others after the policy custody death of a Black man, George Floyd, in Minnesota.

POLICE OFFICER INVOLVED IN BREONNA TAYLOR CASE FIRED

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Louisville Metro police department has fired one of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, more than three months after the 26-year-old black woman was killed in her home.

A termination letter sent to Officer Brett Hankison released by the city’s police department yesterday says Hankinson violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 rounds of gunfire into Taylor’s apartment in March. The letter also said Hankison, who is white, violated the rule against using deadly force.

Taylor, who was Black, was shot eight times by officers who burst into her Louisville home using a no-knock warrant during a March 13 narcotics investigation. The warrant to search her home was in connection with a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.

The no-knock search warrant that allows police to enter without first announcing their presence was recently banned by Louisville’s Metro Council.

The letter said Hankison fired the rounds “without supporting facts” that the deadly force was directed at a person posing an immediate threat.

“I find your conduct a shock to the conscience,” interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said in the letter. “Your actions have brought discredit upon yourself and the Department.”

The announcement comes after Mayor Greg Fischer said last week that Schroeder had started termination proceedings for Hankison while two other officers remain on administrative reassignment as the shooting is investigated.

Sam Aguiar, an attorney for Taylor’s family, previously said the move to fire Hankison was long overdue. “It’s about damn time,” he said, adding Hankison was an officer who “plagued our streets and made this city worse for over a dozen years.”

FLA. OFFICER WHO PUT KNEE ON PROTESTER MAY FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A police officer suspended for pushing a kneeling black woman to the ground at a George Floyd demonstration in Florida is under scrutiny again after the agency reviewed bodycam footage from two unrelated incidents and referred them to state prosecutors for possible criminal charges.

Earlier this month, video of Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Steven Pohorence pushing a woman to the ground was shared widely on social media as protests against police violence and racial injustice erupted across the country. Pohorence’s shove escalated a clash in which bottles were thrown and tear gas fired. One woman suffered a skull fracture after being shot in the face with a rubber bullet.

Police Chief Rick Maglione said yesterday they had reviewed hundreds of minutes of bodycam footage and found two troubling incidents. The chief also turned the footage over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for investigation.

In one video, Pohorence appears to place his knee on the neck of a suspect who refused orders to leave a parked bus and terminal. The incident is evocative of Floyd’s death, although in this case the suspect is clearly resisting Pohorence.

In a second video, the Sun Sentinel reports Pohorence walks toward a suspect who allegedly trespassed on someone’s property, ordering him to put his hands behind his back or “I’ll put my hands on you.”

The suspect backs away with his hands raised and says he will leave, as Pohorence appears to place his hand on his gun, grabs the suspect’s shoulders and kicks his legs from under him, causing the suspect to fall. The video show Pohorence pin him down by placing his hand on the back of his neck as the suspect screams at Pohorence to let him go.

The officer has been on paid leave since June 1 while the incident is under review. He could not be reached for comment and a call to the union was not immediately returned yesterday.

A review of his personnel files shows Pohorence has been under review 67 times times for pointing guns and using force on suspects, and at least once for racial profiling. In more than 50 incidents, Pohorence pointed his gun at suspects, many for driving vehicles suspected of being stolen.

WALMART TO STOP DISPLAYING MISSISSIPPI'S CONFEDERATE-THEMED FLAG

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Confederate-themed Mississippi flag drew opposition yesterday from two big forces in the culturally conservative state: Southern Baptists and Walmart.

Walmart said it will stop displaying the Mississippi flag while the state debates whether to change the design. The Mississippi Baptist Convention said lawmakers have a moral obligation to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag because many people are “hurt and shamed” by it.

“We believe it’s the right thing to do, and is consistent with Walmart’s position to not sell merchandise with the confederate flag from stores and online sites, as part of our commitment to provide a welcoming and inclusive experience for all of our customers in the communities we serve,” company spokesperson Anne Hatfield said.

The announcements increase pressure for change in a state that is slow to embrace it. Protests against racial injustice across the U.S. are focusing new attention on Confederate symbols.

Mississippi has the last state flag that includes the Confederate battle emblem: a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars. The NCAA, the Southeastern Conference, prominent business organizations and other religious groups have already called for the state to adopt a more inclusive banner.

White supremacists in the Mississippi Legislature embedded the symbol in the upper left corner of the state flag in 1894, amid backlash to political power that African Americans gained during Reconstruction.

MLB TO RETURN NEXT MONTH WITH SHORTENED SKED

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball issued a 60-game schedule last night that will start July 23 or 24 in empty ballparks as the sport tries to push ahead amid the coronavirus following months of acrimony.

Each team will play 10 games against each of its four division rivals and four games vs. each of the five clubs in the corresponding division in the other league, according to details obtained by The Associated Press.

A team is scheduled to make only one trip to each city it visits in MLB’s shortest season since 1878.

In a twist, the sides expanded the designated hitter to games involving National League teams and instituted the radical innovation of starting extra innings with a runner on second base.

The number of playoff teams will remain at 10, though that still could change.

The trade deadline will be Aug. 31 and the deadline for postseason eligibility is Sept. 15.

Active rosters will be 30 during the first two weeks of the season, 28 during the second two weeks and 26 after that. They will not expand to 28 on Sept. 1, as originally intended this year.

With no minor leagues, teams would be allowed to retain 60 players each, including a taxi squad. Up to three players from the taxi squad can travel with a team to a game, and one of the three must be a catcher.

MLB is keeping the innovation of the three-batter minimum for pitchers, but decided to keep the injured list minimum for pitchers at 10 days rather than revert to 15, as initially intended. But the new rule remains in place that a pitcher must face at least three batters or finish the half inning.