Tuesday, January 31, 2017


I am interrupting my running commentary on school shootings and gun violence because the actions by the White House over the past few days are bringing us to the brink of a Constitutional crisis. The violation of individual's rights is undercutting the essence of our political life and our freedoms. First the muslims, then the Jews, then the Catholics, and then on to everyone who does not believe exactly the way the Trump and his followers believe. The following is by Heather Richardson, Professor of History at Boston College.
From Heather Richardson, Professor of History at Boston College.
"I don't like to talk about politics on Facebook-- political history is my job, after all, and you are my friends-- but there is an important non-partisan point to make today.
What Bannon is doing, most dramatically with last night's ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries-- is creating what is known as a "shock event." Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order.
When opponents speak out, the authors of the shock event call them enemies. As society reels and tempers run high, those responsible for the shock event perform a sleight of hand to achieve their real goal, a goal they know to be hugely unpopular, but from which everyone has been distracted as they fight over the initial event. There is no longer concerted opposition to the real goal; opposition divides along the partisan lines established by the shock event.
Last night's Executive Order has all the hallmarks of a shock event. It was not reviewed by any governmental agencies or lawyers before it was released, and counterterrorism experts insist they did not ask for it. People charged with enforcing it got no instructions about how to do so. Courts immediately have declared parts of it unconstitutional, but border police in some airports are refusing to stop enforcing it. Predictably, chaos has followed and tempers are hot.
My point today is this: unless you are the person setting it up, it is in no one's interest to play the shock event game. It is designed explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they cannot stand against something its authors think they won't like.
I don't know what Bannon is up to-- although I have some guesses-- but because I know Bannon's ideas well, I am positive that there is not a single person whom I consider a friend on either side of the aisle-- and my friends range pretty widely-- who will benefit from whatever it is.
If the shock event strategy works, though, many of you will blame each other, rather than Bannon, for the fallout. And the country will have been tricked into accepting their real goal.
But because shock events destabilize a society, they can also be used positively. We do not have to respond along old fault lines. We could just as easily reorganize into a different pattern that threatens the people who sparked the event.
A successful shock event depends on speed and chaos because it requires knee-jerk reactions so that people divide along established lines. This, for example, is how Confederate leaders railroaded the initial southern states out of the Union.
If people realize they are being played, though, they can reach across old lines and reorganize to challenge the leaders who are pulling the strings. This was Lincoln's strategy when he joined together Whigs, Democrats, Free-Soilers, anti-Nebraska voters, and nativists into the new Republican Party to stand against the Slave Power.
Five years before, such a coalition would have been unimaginable. Members of those groups agreed on very little other than that they wanted all Americans to have equal economic opportunity. Once they began to work together to promote a fair economic system, though, they found much common ground. They ended up rededicating the nation to a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."
Confederate leaders and Lincoln both knew about the political potential of a shock event. As we are in the midst of one, it seems worth noting that Lincoln seemed to have the better idea about how to use it."
COPY AND PASTE. PLEASE DON"T 'SHARE'. From Heather Richardson, professor of History at Boston College.


Another common theme throughout all the literature on school shootings, crime, and security, is prevention. Knowing the warning signs and acting to prevent crimes on school grounds is central to school safety. For example, the literature from one private security firm, Atlas Security & Safety Design, Inc. heavily emphasizes that school safety is best maintained through prevention. The firm’s expertise focuses on advance planning—the Appalachian School of Law apparently had no such planning. In Atlas Security & Design literature, the firm lays out the following questions in a section called “People and Security:”

Do guards patrol the grounds or challenge strangers? (The Appalachian School of Law had no security guards.)

Do you (the school) have a good working relationship with the local police? (Apparently the school did and does have a good working relationship with local law enforcement, yet the scene following the shooting was pandemonium.)

Does someone in your organization keep up with advance security technology and with the latest security-related ideas about building design? (Had the school had security built into its design, Peter Odighizuwa might never have made it into the school in the first place, much less from the second floor to the first to kill Angie.)

Are all employees screened and do you perform background checks before hiring? (How about background checks to see if your students have a record of violence and have threatened bodily harm to spouses?)

Do you have a clear statement for your security mission, job descriptions, and essential functions? (The Appalachian School of Law did not have such a statement—nor does it have one as this book goes to print.)

Do you review, update, and document your security policies and procedures? (You cannot update policies and procedures you don’t have in the first place.)

Do employees receive a copy of security policies and procedures and do they sign that they have read and received them? (Again, there was no policy.) (To be continued)

Monday, January 30, 2017


The question will haunt all of us forever is whether the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law been prevented. Some have said that is not a fair question because hindsight is 20-20, what questions are fair to ask? When there are warnings of violence and no action is taken, we have a right to ask, “Why?” When the death of innocent people occurs, family and friends left behind do have the right to know all the facts and ask, “Why?”

Violence in the home, violence in the work place, and violence in the schools should be a paramount concern to all of us. But, somehow, this concern gets lost in the aftermath of the emotions following a tragedy.

In the case of the shootings in Grundy, individuals in position of authority apparently never bothered to ask such questions. It never seemed to occur to them to ask, “Could this have been prevented; how and what can we do to prevent further tragedies like the shooting at the law school?”

No one disputes that Peter Odighizuwa had a troubled existence. As we have seen, his time in Grundy and at the law school was marked by repeated acts of violent behavior on the school grounds and in the community.

In our examination of the law school shooting, we have to consider whether it is unreasonable to ask why the school wasn’t prepared for an emergency? An Internet search based on the words, “schools, liability, security” turned up over 60,000 hits! Perhaps the most surprising was the number of private security firms who specialize in school security—from grade school through university level.

What The Experts Say

The one theme that was consistent with all these security specialists is that most violence can be prevented if schools will heed the warning signs—“Readiness, Response, Recovery.” The types of services these security firms offer include:

1. Conducting school safety evaluations;

2. Designing security programs to meet a school’s needs;

3. Formulating an operational emergency plan (including responses to intruders and weapons on campus);

4.Providing on-site security training; and,

5. Linking schools to private and public security organizations to ensure a given school has continuing access to the latest school security technologies and theories.

All of this information was readily available to the Appalachian School of Law long before Odighizuwa arrived on the scene. All of the information about these school security services was a click away on the computer. The Appalachian School of Law apparently never raised a finger to the keyboard in the interest of security.

“Laying Down the Law: A Review of Trends in Liability Lawsuits," an article by Teresa Anderson, a senior editor at Security Magazine, lists the most common areas for crime: parking lots, retail stores, schools, exterior common areas, apartments, bars, and schools. Her study was based on 1,086 reported property liability crimes between 1992 and 2001—all predating the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law. Her study further showed that assault and battery made up 42 percent of the crimes, rape and assault another 26 percent, and wrongful death accounted for another 15 percent of the crimes. Some 83 percent of liability crimes in the study were violent. Her study indicates schools are a common area for such crimes. Was the Appalachian School of Law not aware of these facts? If not, why not? The staff and faculty are highly educated and the very nature of their profession—the law—centers on crimes and bringing people to justice. Ms. Anderson’s statistics only heightened our need to ask, “Why didn’t the school have security?” (To be continued)

Sunday, January 29, 2017


My ex-wife was in New York with her brother when I received the phone call supporting and warning me (Previous post). I decided to tell her piecemeal about the warning. Her words had been prophetic—there were threats.

Within weeks of the warning, I was teaching a class at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. During that three-day course, my colleague ran an exercise entitled: “The Rate of Violent Acts Compared in States With and Without Weapons Laws.” The class was divided into two groups. One was to argue that if states had laws allowing concealed weapons, there would be fewer murders and fewer rapes. The other half was to argue the opposite.

One of the groups used the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law as an example of the wisdom of carrying concealed guns. The student launched into an emotional argument about the liberal press not printing that two students ran to their cars to get guns and help in subduing Peter Odighizuwa.

The issue was so simple for this young man. The world was either “black or white.” To carry a gun or not to carry a gun—that is all that counts. Where were the guns when they were needed to prevent three people from being murdered? How did these students’ guns prevent a young woman from walking around with a bullet in her body the rest of her life? How did other students having a gun stop Odighizuwa from having a gun and murdering three people?

He seemed to have had no idea of, nor had he given any thought to the fact that perhaps, just perhaps, there is something wrong in a society where a man can beat up his family and go out and buy a gun. The fact that innocent people were murdered, the fact that children have been left without a parent; these facts did not seem to enter into the young man’s mental equation.

What about the psychological scars on a seven-year-old girl, because her mother has been gunned down? None of these questions entered into his thinking. As long as he can run his life as if he were preparing for the gunfight at O.K. Corral—that is all that seemed to matter to him. The young man seemed to say carry a gun, shoot first and ask questions later; that is the answer to all life’s problems.

What about the events, the factors, that lead up to gun violence? Those who advocate that we all arm ourselves never look at other issues of the problem. They don’t look at the deep flaws in our society that make people so anxiety prone that they cannot function without having a weapon at their side.

Once the subject of the Appalachian School of Law was raised, I used the opportunity to raise Angie’s murder, the e-mail and the warnings with the FBI agent who was sponsoring the training. Unlike the law school, the Virginia State Police and the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Grundy, the FBI zeroed in on the e-mail.

The agent described the e-mail as having the specific signature of someone who might be a serial killer. He appeared shocked that Virginia officials had not followed up on it. The agent spent several hours with me. He said he wanted to turn the e-mail over to the unit that had handled “the silence of the lambs.” This e-mail he asserted, “Needs to be looked at by criminal psychologist—this e-mail is way beyond that of a momentarily angry response by a normal person. This could easily be the work of a psychopath.”

When I told him that the State Police had never gotten the necessary court papers to go to the server and nail down who sent the e-mail—he simply shook his head in disbelief.

“I know all about southwestern Virginia,” he said. He then asserted that the corruption—both in the public and private sectors—is an ongoing problem there. “It is ironic,” he mused, “that southwestern Virginians wrap themselves in a blanket of Christianity, patriotism, respect for the law, and self-righteousness…..yet, nearly all of them seem to hate the federal government. Their elected officials and businessmen bilk their fellow citizens out of every cent they can at every turn.” On this latter point, the FBI agent appeared to be referring to the recent “Coon Dog” scandal. The scandal centered on the arrest of sixteen of Grundy’s leading citizens, including the former chairman of the county board of supervisors on charges of accepting bribes in connection with the awarding of bribes for $7.6 million for awarding federally financed flood cleanup contracts.

“All the defendants, country office holders and contractors, as well as one FEMA employee, were involved in the awarding of contracts to help the town of Hurley rebuild after the 2002 deadly flood. The press quoted the federal prosecutor as describing the defendants’ actions as a “feeding frenzy of bribes, kickbacks and inflated contracts. … The bribes added up to $545,000.00, including expensive coon dogs.”

“So I have been told,” I responded. “When you drive through the spectacular mountains of the region you can’t help but think, never has so much natural beauty covered so much evil and corruption.”

“A good way to put it,” the agent said. “I am from that part of Virginia, I have been shot and nearly died in the line of duty for the FBI, but I don’t tell anyone down there where I work—they would disown me!”

“Their logic and ethical inconsistency sure beats the hell out of me,” that was the only thing I could say. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Here was a man sitting in front of me, a former Marine, who has put his life on the line for this country; yet he revealed that he has family and friends in southwestern Virginia—chest-beating patriots—whom he could not tell about his employment. He could not tell them that he works for the FBI.

When I turned to the warning I had received, he told me to take it seriously. The agent told me never to travel in Buchanan County or the surrounding area without a cell phone and tape recorder. He followed this up by saying that if I were stopped by the police, I should hit the automatic dial on the phone and have it programmed to my lawyer and turn on the recorder immediately.

I told him I was not overly concerned, but he again cautioned me, “these people operate by their own rules.” The FBI agent volunteered that he had relatives from the Grundy area and he knows all to well that they have their own way of handling things. He then asked me for the names of all the people I had been dealing with in connection with the shooting.

I promised to do that and have since sent him the list of names. I did use the occasion to say that the only one I considered to be a threat to me was Officer Parker—the man who was verbally threatening during a meeting in the Commonwealth Attorney’s office. I also relayed a mild concern over officer Santolla. “Why,” I asked, “would he have told Angie’s parents to make him look good, if there was nothing wrong, nothing to hide?”

The agent appeared to agree with me and said that is why he would like a list of all the officials I have dealt with. In case something should happen to me the FBI will have a place to start looking. He added that it does not hurt to have an insurance policy in case something should happen.  (To be continued)

Saturday, January 28, 2017


We had been cautioned, warned not to press our questions about Angie’s murder, not to press for answers. Privately, friends in the legal profession toll us we would only bring more grief on ourselves. These friends even raised the specter that in ways, both big and small, life will become difficult for us in the Old Dominion. Virginia’s politicians and legal professionals will close ranks to protect the law school, they warned. We have been warned that the legal establishment in Grundy has so many ties to the school and has so much invested in it that a retired coal miner and his wife, a retired school cook will never get their day in court. From Richmond, to Fairfax County, to Norfolk, to Grundy—the answers have been the same. Law firm after law firm refused to take on the law school.

The American Bar Association says there is no more fitting response to the tragedy than to continue to build a program of legal education that promotes the rule of law, opportunity, and justice.

Where is Angie’s opportunity? Where is our justice when those in charge do everything they can to keep the truth from coming out?

When the police and school failed to bring the author of the hideous e-mail justice, Angie told her family, “I guess I don’t amount to much.” You are wrong Angie, you mean everything to us and we will not let go of your memory, we will not let go of this fight for justice. On May 8th Angie should have graduated from the Appalachian School of Law—instead of attending the ceremony, we waited for answers.

Wherever you are, Angie, feel our anguish, feel our love. If you are calling our names, our hearts are answering.

I had wanted the article to appear on the second anniversary of the shooting, but on the advice of counsel I waited. In the meantime, I gave a draft to the Dales for their approval. As the time for the graduation ceremony for Angie’s law school approached, the attorney gave me the green light.

 I sent the article to several large newspapers but heard nothing. I then sent it to our local newspaper The Rappahannock Record. The article appeared as a commentary in the editorial section on 6 May 2004. Later that month it appeared on the front page of The Voice, a biweekly paper in southwest Virginia, near Grundy.

The reaction to my article was surprising and somewhat chilling. One neighbor called to say she read the article, but would not let her husband read it because “he thinks he can fix everything. He cannot fix this and it will throw him into depression.” At the doctor’s office a nurse, giving my wife her allergy shot, closed the door and in quiet tones—as if not to be overheard—expressed her sympathy.

People in Kilmarnock with whom I had done business for years, stopped looking me in face. They talked about everything under the sun in painfully evident ways to avoid discussing the shooting. The black clerk at the local dry cleaner—the gregarious young woman who had greeted me each time I went into the store—met me with a grim look and watery eyes. She would not look me in the face. Her body language seemed to say “I am so sorry. I am so sorry a black man did this.”

I wanted to tell her that the color of the killer makes no difference. Monsters come in all shapes, in all sizes, in all colors. Instead, I said nothing. There was just silence.

From southwest Virginia, I received a call from a man wanting to organize a demonstration in front of the law school. He and his wife warned us that my article had made “official Grundy and the law school look bad.” I could be on a “hit list” they said. “Be careful when you visit your granddaughter. Stop at every stop sign, obey all the traffic laws,” they cautioned. “People have a way of going to jail in Grundy and not coming out alive.” If law enforcement officials didn’t like you they would stop you and plant contraband or drugs in your car—“look over your shoulder at all times.”

It was hard for me to believe what I was hearing. It took a while for his words to sink in. I was being warned that because I was expressing myself—exercising freedom of speech—I was putting my safety and the safety of my family on the line. I started reflecting on what had happened since the shootings. Had I been unfair? Had I been dishonest? Was I overacting or being too emotional? The more I thought about the phone call, the more bewildered I became. The phone call had been a dream—but no it was not. All of a sudden I felt as if I were living a Hollywood movie—“The Pelican Brief.” I knew it was not wrong to be asking questions, it was not wrong to press for answers—answers that might help prevent another tragedy.

My words did not make the Grundy elite look bad; their actions did.

The school president’s responses to calls for security such as “you women and your hormones……nothing will happen…..you will be ok,” made school officials look bad—not my words.

The hateful harangue of a State Highway Patrolman to the man whose eight year old granddaughter has just lost her mother in the state’s worst school shooting, makes the police look bad—not my words.

The disingenuous expressions of sympathy and offers of help from the Commonwealth’s Attorney, make local officials look bad—not my words.

The condescending tone and comments of a prominent Richmond attorney to a man and woman when the mother of their grandchild has been gunned down, make the legal profession look bad—not my words.

An attorney’s callous comment to members of the victim’s family that his sympathy lies with the law school and he is sending them a check, makes the legal profession in Virginia look bad—not my words.

The off-the-record comments of many attorneys in Virginia that we would not get our day in court, that we would not get a fair trial; these words make the courts there look bad—not my words.

The fact that an innocent young woman bled to death when the hospital was less than five minutes away—makes the school and rescue officials look bad, not my words.

The arrest of sixteen public and private officials on bribery and embezzling charges, makes Grundy look bad—not my words.

I have spent three quarters of my life as a resident of Virginia. I have always been so proud to say I come from Thomas Jefferson’s state, Jefferson the father of the Bill of Rights that guarantees everyone the freedom of speech, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—the right to life!

But that was Virginia then, this is Virginia now. Today, a grandfather cannot visit his granddaughter without being afraid of retaliation for what he has written. Today, a man can murder three people, wound three others and the state will spend a fortune on him to ensure that he is treated fairly. But, when the family of the student victim asks for a copy of the court transcripts, they are charged 10 cents a page. There is something terribly, terribly wrong in Virginia.

I could not help but think, this country invaded Iraq to bring the Iraqi people freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and a multitude of freedoms we—as a nation—proclaim so loudly. Freedom of speech that some of us have difficulty finding in today’s Virginia. Did we go to war to bring Virginia-style freedoms to Iraq—I hope not. (To be continued)