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Police use anti-KKK law to arrest people protesting neo-Nazis

Faced with hundreds of demonstrators rallying against a crowd of neo-Nazis in Newnan, Georgia, authorities turned to a little-known Georgia law adopted in 1951 to combat the Ku Klux Klan.

>> Tension, arrests at neo-Nazi rally in metro Atlanta

The law, which makes it illegal to wear a mask at most public events, was cited in several of the arrests of counterdemonstrators who joined a protest Saturday against white supremacists.

And the irony was not lost upon the organizers of the counterdemonstration, who were fuming Sunday that a law aimed at weakening white supremacists was used to arrest protesters who opposed a neo-Nazi rally.

“They were trying to stop us, and we were trying to dial down the racist stuff,” said Jeremy Ortega, a 19-year-old who was among the counterprotesters charged with a misdemeanor for wearing a mask.

He said many of the demonstrators wore masks to avoid being identified and threatened by white power groups.

“We were peacefully protesting, yet they put guns in our faces and told us to take our masks off,” said Ortega, who added that he is considering filing a civil lawsuit. “It made no sense.”

State and local authorities did not comment on specific allegations of abuse on Sunday. But Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said the overwhelming security – nearly 700 law enforcement officers were on hand – helped prevent the clashes from escalating.

“Making arrests in a volatile situation is never going to be pretty,” Keenan said.

No one from the white supremacist group was arrested on Saturday, and they largely avoided confrontations with police or the counterdemonstration group. The two dozen white supremacists who attended the rally were separated from the group by an 8-foot fence – and hundreds of armed officers.

‘Remove your mask’

On Sunday, a coalition of counterprotest groups planned a vigil at the Coweta County Jail to criticize what they said was excessive violence by police.

The Huffington Post reported that a contingent of officers approached a group of 50 counterdemonstrators before the rally and demanded they remove their masks or face arrests. The news outlet wrote that officers then “grabbed those who were still masked, tossing them to the ground and handcuffing them.”

A video posted on social media by freelance journalist Daniel Shular appeared to show authorities scuffling with counterdemonstrators. Authorities demanded that the counterprotesters remove their masks, and the footage showed an officer raising his rifle at demonstrators.

“Remove your mask, or you will be arrested,” said an officer in the video, which shows a ring of demonstrators standing with their hands raised aloft. Several are chanting “hands up, don’t shoot.”

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter who attempted to report on the confrontation during the rally was obstructed by authorities.

Several other counterdemonstrators faced violations that have nothing to do with the anti-mask law.

Daniel Hanley was charged with obstruction of a pedestrian roadway after he said he nonviolently resisted a police officer who confronted him. He said he believes he was arrested because he was wielding a megaphone and leading chants against the white supremacists.

“They were trying to find any pretext to shut us down,” Hanley, 36, said of the authorities. “The moment we stepped foot there, they intimated us and strategically tried to target people.”

‘Absolutely satisfied’

State law bans the wearing of masks, hoods or other devices that conceal a person’s identity if they’re on public property or on private property where the owner has not consented. It includes exceptions for holidays, theatrical productions, civil emergencies and sporting events.

The laws have been adopted by about a dozen states, most aimed at weakening the KKK in the middle of the 20th century. The Georgia Supreme Court in 1990 upheld the state’s ban after a Klansman donned a hood on the Lawrenceville Square, citing his First Amendment rights.

The law has mostly been used to target KKK demonstrations, though it has also been employed before to arrest demonstrators who are objecting to white power groups. At a 2016 rally, the law was used to arrest eight demonstrators protesting a white supremacist rally at Stone Mountain Park.

In a strange turn, it also was invoked ahead of a press conference last year at the Gold Dome, when supporters of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle threatened to hire performers in circus masks to interrupt a rival’s event. The clowns never showed up.

>> Read more trending news 

Authorities said they were intent on enforcing that law and others as they studied how law enforcement officials handled white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 to prepare for the Newnan event.

In Charlottesville, officers remained largely passive as bloody clashes raged around them, and the event soon spiraled out of control. One person was killed and dozens more were injured in the violence.

“You have to have adequate resources and the intent to enforce the law,” Keenan said. “We had both.”

He said officers made clear to both groups that masks and some weapons were not allowed. He said authorities found an abandoned backpack with smoke bombs at one checkpoint. State law allows demonstrators to carry firearms if they are licensed; on Saturday, several were spotted sporting firearms.

“We maintained security. We would not let there be disorder. We didn’t have civil disorder, property damage. And we had just a few arrests,” Keenan said. “We are absolutely satisfied.”

MORE COVERAGE FROM AJC.COM: 

>> Reports from Newnan as the rally and counterprotest were underway

>> How social media reacted

>> In-depth look at how protest was contained 

Missing brothers found: Pittsburgh police locate 2 boys who disappeared Friday

UPDATE, 10 a.m. April 22: The two brothers who went missing Friday have been found, police said. 

Police said Amier Windsor, 12, and Robert Windsor Jr., 11, have been located. Pittsburgh police thanked all involved for their assistance in finding the boys. 

ORIGINAL STORY: Pittsburgh police are seeking assistance in finding two brothers

>> Watch the news report here

Police said Amier Windsor, 12, and Robert Windsor Jr., 11, went missing about 5 p.m. Friday.

>> Read more trending news 

According to a news release, the two brothers are known to frequent the Brookline area. 

Anyone with information regarding their whereabouts is asked to call police at 412-323-7800

Where is Travis Reinking? Search continues for Waffle House shooting suspect

A massive hunt to capture the man wanted in connection with the shooting deaths of four people at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee, outside Nashville, continues.

>> Watch the news report here

>> Waffle House shooting: 4 dead after nude gunman opens fire in Tennessee; victims identified

Travis Reinking, 29, is now on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Top 10 Most Wanted List, and law enforcement said he is armed, dangerous and hiding, WHBQ's Greg Coy reports

>> Who is Travis Reinking, the person of interest in the Waffle House shooting?

Police said Reinking returned to his apartment after opening fire at the Waffle House. Reinking, who reportedly was nude at the time of the shooting, put on pants and then ran into the woods, police said.

>> Waffle House 'hero' disarmed shooter, tossed rifle over counter

Neighbor Johnny Green said another neighbor noticed Reinking and called police. 

>> Who is James Shaw Jr., the man who disarmed the Waffle House shooter?

"My mom saw him," Green added. Coy asked, "What did she say about him?" "He just seemed weird," Green replied

>> Read more trending news 

Police said they hope the rain and cooler temperatures will draw Reinking out of hiding. Police said Reinking's options are limited because the crime and social media attention have made him an international fugitive.

>> Please visit Fox13Memphis.com for the latest on this developing story

2-year-old pelted 9 times with paintball, mother says

A mother said her 2-year-old was pelted nine times with paintballs while they were outside their west Charlotte home.

>> Read more trending news

The 2-year-old had marks all over her body after someone shot paint at her.

Paintball wars have been gaining national traction since the beginning of the year.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said it has received more than 150 calls since the beginning of the year involving complaints about paintball gun.

The mother, who didn’t want to be identified, said it was a traumatizing moment for her and her daughter.

"She was screaming so bad. She said, 'Mommy, help me. Mommy, help me,’” she said. “That killed me. When I saw her with paint all over her shirt and her pants, my heart dropped."

The mother said she found welts on her daughter’s chest, back, knees and legs.

The mother told Channel 9 that a group of men were shooting each other on her property earlier this past week.

“I heard one of them say that's their way to, instead of attacking themselves with guns, they're going to do it like that because that's how they get the anger out of them,” the mother said.

The mother said she's not against people using paintball guns to settle their differences, but it shouldn’t jeopardize anyone else's safety.

She filed a police report and days later, she said her car was hit twice with paintballs.

The police department investigated the incident and arrested 17-year-old Keon Jaquez Broughton, who is facing charges for causing a disturbance, assaulting a child and resisting an officer.

The number of complaints the police department has received involving paintball guns is growing.

Meanwhile, local paintball gun stores are seeing a rise in sales.

David Veldof, who owns a paintball gun store, believes some people are having a good time at the wrong place.

He's educating customers on smarter options, including regulated fields.

"Over the past three to four weeks, we've had a substantial increase in sales,” Veldof said. "And believe it or not, a lot of people have been going to these fields and staying off these streets."

The mother said her 2-year-old has been seeing a counselor to get over the fear of being outside she developed since the paintball incident.

The mother hopes a city ordinance is created to help curb the paintball incidents.

Loyal dog stays with lost 3-year-old overnight, police say

A family’s loyal dog stayed with a lost 3-year-old girl until search crews found them Saturday, according to police.

>> Read more trending news

Max, a 17-year-old blue heeler that is deaf and partially blind, walked off with the girl Friday afternoon. He stayed with her through the cold, rainy night until they were located about 15 hours later, more than a mile from home, on a remote part of the family’s property, according to ABC News.

"The area around the house is quite mountainous and is very inhospitable terrain to go walking in, so she'd traveled quite a distance with her dog that was quite loyal to her," Ian Phipps, an area controller with the State Emergency Service, told ABC News

The girl’s grandmother, Leisa Marie Bennett, faintly heard the child’s voice. She first found Max, who led her to the girl, who had minor cuts and bruises.

“When I heard her yell 'Grammy' I knew it was her," she told ABC News. "I shot up the mountain, and when I got to the top, the dog came to me and led me straight to her. He never left her sight. She smelled of dog. She slept with the dog. It could have gone any of 100 ways, but she's here. She's alive. She's well and it's a great outcome for our family."

For his efforts, Max was named an honorary police dog.

California couple tortured, burned Vietnam veteran as children watched, police say

A couple tortured a Vietnam War veteran in order to gain access to his financial and personal information and then took their children with them when they burned his body in a rural field, police said. 

>> Read more trending news

Kenneth Coyle, 70, a Vietnam War veteran and contractor at Naval Air Station Lemoore, became friends with Stacie Mendoza, a restaurant server who befriended him and later killed him with her husband, Jose Mendoza, according to Hanford police

"We think she manipulated that relationship to gain his trust and defraud him of money," Cpt. Karl Anderson, of the Hanford Police Department, said at a press conference. "As this relationship grew, we know that Ms. Mendoza started getting access to his bank account information and started getting money from him."

Police said Stacie Mendoza began defrauding Coyle a couple of weeks ago, but escalated the grift on April 5 and April 6, when she and her husband restrained Coyle to a bed and beat him in order to get his bank account information, passwords and other personal information, police said. 

Days later, the Mendozas loaded Coyle’s body into their car and burned it in a field as their children watched, police said. 

The Mendozas returned to Coyle’s house last week to steal more items and were questioned by property management employees. The employees were suspicious of the couple, who said the veteran had been injured and was recovering at a care home, investigators said. 

Police arrested Stacie and Jose Mendoza at a Denny’s restaurant near Los Angeles International Airport. Jose Mendoza had Coyle’s credit card and a ticket to El Salvador in his possession, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The couple was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. They are being held without bail. Their children were put in the custody of Child Protective Services.

Florida man asking for help to get back his stolen firefighter training gear

A Jacksonville man said all of his firefighter training gear was inside his car when it was stolen for the second time in just a few months.

>> Read more trending news

Anel Muratovic wants to join the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. He is just a few months away from finishing a firefighter training program at First Coast Technical College in St. Augustine.

“So close, so close. I finished my EMT last year. That was the easy part,” he said. “Fire academy, not so easy. It’s really difficult, very strenuous physically.”

He said he wanted to spend time with family on Friday, so he spent the night at his mother’s home at Azalea Ridge Apartments.

When he walked outside at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, he said, his red Volvo was missing.

“My fire uniform from fire academy is in there,” he said. “The coat, helmet, trousers, the boots, the Nomex hood.”

Muratovic said he rented the gear for $850 and will have to pay thousands to get a new set.

“I can’t do anything without that uniform. Can’t go into any fires,” he said. “This upcoming Saturday, we have a wild burn, it’s a wild land burn, and I won’t be able to participate in that and it’s mandatory.”

He said the car was recovered nearby a few days after it was stolen from the same apartment complex in January.

He showed Action News Jax the key to the car and said he’s not sure how the thieves got inside.

He said he doesn’t care about getting the car back this time. He just needs the gear.

“Let them throw it out the window for all I care, as long as I get the uniform back,” he said. “If anybody leaves a big red bag somewhere, it says, 'turnout gear' on it.”

Muratovic said he hopes someone finds the bag or recognizes the South of the Border, sugar skull and JAX stickers on the back of the car before his training on Saturday.

Action News Jax contacted the apartment complex manager to find out if there’s surveillance video of the theft.

The manager said he’s still reviewing the footage.

Melania Trump poses with Bushes, Clintons and Obamas at Barbara Bush funeral

The current first lady posed for a picture with former first ladies and past presidents Saturday at Barbara Bush’s funeral.

>> Read more trending news

First Lady Melania Trump is seen in the image, taken by photographer Paul Morse, with the Bushes, Clintons and Obamas.

Trump, who attended the funeral without her husband, is seen standing alongside Michelle Obama.

“It was my honor to travel to Houston to give my respects to Barbara Bush and the remarkable life she led as a mother, wife, and fearless First Lady,” she said in a statement. “My sincerest thoughts and prayers continue to be with George H.W., and the entire Bush family.”

Washington state man, 73, stuck in car for 12 hours after crash

Washington State troopers and firefighters rescued a 73-year-old man who spent about 12 hours stuck in his car after driving off the road near Tiger Mountain, police said Saturday.

>> Read more trending news

Eastside Fire officials said the man was in the car overnight, and that when crews arrived, he appeared to be OK. However, he was taken to the hospital for an evaluation. 

Trooper Rick Johnson confirmed that the driver may have fallen asleep before driving off the road. The car was found down an embankment but not far off the road, police said.

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