Category Archives: Domestic Violence and Guns

Domestic Violence Lethality Assessment

Lethality assessment is the attempt to identify the circumstances when a batterer is most dangerous by evaluating the batterer’s beliefs and patterns of violence, coercion, and control. The following information was developed by Barbara J. Hart, Esq. In Assessing Whether Batterer’s Will Kill. The assessment looks at a number of predictors. The underlying assumption is the higher the number of predictors, the higher the potential for the batterer to commit a homicide or engage in potentially lethal behaviors.

Predictors of Lethality Include:

  • Threats of suicide or homicide including killing himself, the victim, children or relatives.
  • Fantasies of homicide or suicide in the guise of fantasizing “who, how, when and/or where to kill.”
  • Weapons owned by the perpetrator who has threatened to used them or has used them in the past (the use of guns is a strong predictor of homicide).
  • Feelings of “ownership” of the victim.
  • “Centrality” to the victim (idolizing and extreme dependence).
  • Separation from the victim (this is an extremely dangerous time when perpetrators make the decision to kill).
  • Dangerous behavior increases in degree with little regard for legal or social consequences.
  • Hostage-taking
  • Depression
  • Repeated calls to the police.

Lethality assessments are more an art than a science and cannot be considered precise by any means. They are not a tool for certain prediction, but rather one for risk assessment and safety planning or intervention. Social service providers should error on the side of caution and inform their clients that any abuser can potentially be lethal.


Predictors of a Batterer with the potential to be a Murderer

The most prominent lethality assessment was crafted by Jacquelyn Cambell of Johns Hopkins University. It relies on a 2003 study that compared hundreds of homicides committed by an intimate partner to hundreds of abuse cases where the victim lived.
1. The physical violence increases in severity or frequency over the last year.
2. The victim has broken up with the offender after living together during the last year.
3. The offender is unemployed.
4. The offender has threatened to kill.
5. The offender has used a weapon against the victim, or threatened the victim with a weapon.
6. The victim has a child who is not the offender’s.
7. The offender has forced the victim to have sex.
8. The offender has tried to choke (strangle) the victim.
Rugala, an FBI profiler turned consultants says, “It’s not an exact science but their are behaviors that can help predict homicide.”

Too Many To Stop

Chicago Tribune
March 12, 2009
By Megan Twohey
Frederick Goings was charged with domestic battery for allegedly choking Angela McClinton. He was later accused of punching Susanna Cornish, sending her to the hospital. The Chicago attorney also reportedly threatened to kill a family member of Nova Henry.
Each three incidents might have signaled the Cook County state’s attorney’s office that Goings was a risk of slaying an intimate partner and deserved attention from a special team of prosecutors. Though Goings was charged six times in domestic violence cases, he was charged six times in domestic violence cases, he was never flagged for aggressive action.
Last month, he was charged with the murders of Henry and an infant daughter fathered by former Chicago Bull Eddy Curry. They were found slain Jan. 25 in Henry’s South Loop townhouse.
The case, experts say, illustrates how difficult it is to target domestic violence offenders deemed among the most dangerous. Threat assessments built into the process don’t always work in an overtaxed legal system that handles 19.000 domestic abuse cases each year in Cook County.
Launched in 1997 to identify and actively pursue the most serious misdemeanor domestic violence cases, the state’s attorney’s Target Abuser Call, or TAC, program has won high praise. Each case handled be a team of prosecutor’s, investigator’s and victim advocates.
Prosecutor’s say convictions in cases handled by the unit have soared to as high as 73 percent. Going was among those receiving the regular form of prosecution, where conviction rate is a dismal 17 percent, officials said.
Records show that only one of the six domestic abuse cases did Going’s receive court sanction, when he pleaded guilty to assault and reckless conduct for an attack on McClinton and a male companion. he was sentenced to 2 years probation.
Advocates say TAC does not have the resources to go after all the offenders tagged as potentially dangerous……the program was pursuing 30 of 90 offenders identified each week as being high risk of committing murder.
According to TAC guidelines, prosecutors should consider whether an offender has a history of domestic violence, caused injury, threatened to kill the victim or members of the victim’s family or used a gun when making threats.
I personally prefer using the word strangle instead of choke…but here is the rest.
Choking a victim is one of the most important risk factors prosecutors should look for, although there is no no strict check list……
TAC investigators visit victims within 48 hours of the reported crime, explain options for then prosecution and collect additional evidence. Unlike regular domestic violence cases, TAC prosecutors remain in charge of their cases from start to finish.
Victim advocates maintain more contact with the victim.

The couple’s 9-year-old daughter was present the morning of the shooting in what police have described as a domestic violence homicide.

Report: ‘Dirty bomb’ parts found in slain man’s home
Agency says radioactive materials recovered in home of man allegedly slain by his wife
Maine State Police Detective Bryant Jacques (left) takes empty boxes into the Cummings home on Dec. 10, 2008, during the investigation into the killing of James Cummings the day before.’Maine State Police Detective Bryant Jacques (left) takes empty boxes into the Cummings home on Dec. 10, 2008, during the investigation into the killing of James Cummings the day before.’ BELFAST, Maine — James G. Cummings, who police say was shot to death by his wife two months ago, allegedly had a cache of radioactive materials in his home suitable for building a “dirty bomb.”According to an FBI field intelligence report from the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center posted online by WikiLeaks, an organization that posts leaked documents, an investigation into the case revealed that radioactive materials were removed from Cummings’ home after his shooting death on Dec. 9.

The report posted on “>the WikiLeaks Web site states that “On 9 December 2008, radiological dispersal device components and literature, and radioactive materials, were discovered at the Maine residence of an identified deceased [person] James Cummings.”

The section referring to Cummings can be read here.

It says that four 1-gallon containers of 35 percent hydrogen peroxide, uranium, thorium, lithium metal, thermite, aluminum powder, beryllium, boron, black iron oxide and magnesium ribbon were found in the home.

Also found was literature on how to build “dirty bombs” and information about cesium-137, strontium-90 and cobalt-60, radioactive materials. The FBI report also stated there was evidence linking James Cummings to white supremacist groups. This would seem to confirm observations by local tradesmen who worked at the Cummings home that he was an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler and had a collection of Nazi memorabilia around the house, including a prominently displayed flag with swastika. Cummings claimed to have pieces of Hitler’s personal silverware and place settings, painter Mike Robbins said a few days after the shooting.

An application for membership in the National Socialist Movement filled out by Cummings also was found in the residence, according to the report. Cummings’ wife, Amber B. Cummings, 31, told investigators that her husband spoke of “dirty bombs,” according to the report, and mixed chemicals in her kitchen sink. She allegedly told police that Cummings subjected her to years of mental, physical and sexual abuse. She also said that Cummings was “very upset” when Barack Obama was elected president.

A “dirty bomb” is a type of “radiological dispersal device” that combines a conventional explosive such as dynamite with radioactive material, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Web site. “Most RDDs would not release enough radiation to kill people or cause severe illness,” the NRC says, adding that “a dirty bomb is in no way similar to a nuclear weapon” because its effects occur in a very limited area compared to a nuclear explosion.

The report noted that “uranium, thorium, cesium-137, stontium-90 and cobalt-60 are radioactive isotopes and 35 percent hydrogen peroxide is a necessary precursor for the manufacture of peroxide-based explosives. Lithium metal, thermite and aluminum are materials used to sensitize and amplify the effects of explosives.”

The report stated that the uranium component was bought online from a U.S. company that was identified in the investigation, but not in the report.

John Donnelley, an agent at the FBI’s Boston office, declined Tuesday to comment on the report. Donnelley said some FBI reports are provided to law enforcement agencies and sometimes get released to media outlets.

“I wouldn’t be prepared to speak on that,” Donnelley said. “I have no comment.”

The Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center is an intelligence gathering office affiliated with Washington, D.C., law enforcement. Telephone and e-mail messages left with the center Tuesday were not returned.

State police have identified Amber Cummings as the person who shot James Cummings. The couple’s 9-year-old daughter was present the morning of the shooting in what police have described as a domestic violence homicide.

Amber Cummings, who is staying in the Belfast area, has not been charged in the case, although the Waldo County grand jury currently meeting in Belfast could take up the matter during its session this week. While state police have acknowledged that the 29-year-old Cummings was killed by a gunshot, the results of the autopsy have been impounded, as have the search warrants executed at Cummings’ High Street home following the shooting. Authorities spent days searching the home, according to neighbors.

Lt. Gary Wright, who heads up the Maine State Police Criminal Investigation Division team working the case, declined to comment on any aspects of the case when contacted Tuesday.

“We’re not going to comment on anything,” Wright said Tuesday evening. “It’s an open homicide investigation and we’re not going to comment. That’s our standard policy.”

Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, also had no comment on the report. “This is an active, open homicide investigation,” he said Tuesday evening, “and as a result, it’s inappropriate to get into confirming or denying aspects of that.”

Maine Deputy Attorney General William Stokes also declined to comment on the report Tuesday.

David Farmer, spokesman for Gov. John Baldacci, said Tuesday that it was inappropriate for the governor to comment on an open investigation. When asked about the copy of the field report sent to him by the Bangor Daily News, he said, “At this point, I have been unable to confirm the authenticity of the documents you sent to us.”

A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ staff said there was no one able to comment on the report Tuesday night.

Telephone messages left with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were not returned Tuesday evening. Robbins, who worked on the house for a month last summer, described Cummings as an angry person who was verbally abusive to his wife. He said Cummings apparently was independently wealthy and did not work. Robbins said Cummings talked incessantly about his love of guns and his fascination for Hitler. He said Cummings repeatedly berated his wife about home-schooling their daughter. He said Cummings had a controlling personality and wanted to know his wife and child’s every move.

Cummings grew up in California and lived in Texas before moving to Maine in August 2007. Although Robbins said Cummings told him he made his money in Texas real estate, it appears that the actual source of his wealth was a trust fund established by his father, a prominent landowner in the Northern California city of Fort Bragg. An Internet search of the James B. Cummings Trust indicated that it has an annual income of $10 million.

The FBI field intelligence report was apparently first reported on by, an online magazine which covers and blogs on current events.

BDN writer Dawn Gagnon in Bangor contributed to this report.

Supreme Court Upheld Gun Control For Convicted Batterer’s

The Supreme Court upheld the broad reach of a federal gun-control law Tuesday and said that no one who has a conviction for any crime of domestic violence may own a firearm. The 7-2 decision strips gun rights from tens of thousands of people who were convicted or had pleaded guilty to an assault against a spouse, a live-in partner, a child or a parent. These crimes include not just felonies, but misdemeanors.

“Firearms and domestic strife are a potentially deadly combination nationwide,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said.

Gun-control advocates and law enforcement officials praised the ruling. On average, more than three people are killed each day by domestic partners, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. About 14% of police officers who are killed in the line of duty die in response to a domestic violence call, the group said.

Since 1996, federal authorities have turned down more than 175,000 prospective gun buyers because of domestic violence charges, according to the Brady Center. Most of them could have had their rights restored had the court ruled the other way. Tuesday’s ruling did not involve the 2nd Amendment and its right “to keep and bear arms.” Last year, the high court ruled that law-abiding citizens had a constitutional right to have a gun at home for self-defense, but it said felons could be denied gun rights.

In 1968, Congress made it illegal for felons to own a gun in the United States. Lawmakers in 1996 extended this ban to include those convicted of “a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.”

Until Tuesday, however, it had been unclear who is covered by this provision. Only about half the states have laws that make domestic violence a crime. Across the nation, prosecutors often charge offenders with an assault or battery. Two years ago, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal gun ban did not extend to state charges involving assault or battery. Randy Hayes, a West Virginia man, had challenged the federal law after he was convicted of illegal gun possession. He was found with three guns in his house in 2004. Ten years earlier, he had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery against his then-wife. Ruling for Hayes, the appeals court said this “generic battery” conviction did not count as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” and it freed him from the federal charges.

The Supreme Court overturned that ruling Tuesday in United States vs. Hayes and restored the broad view of the federal law. Ginsburg’s opinion said the ban on gun ownership extends to any person who has been convicted of any crime involving “physical force or the threatened use of a deadly weapon,” so long as there was a “domestic relationship” between the perpetrator and the victim. Congress sought to keep “firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers,” she said, but the law would be a “dead letter” in much of the nation if it were read as narrowly as Hayes sought.

Only Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Antonin Scalia dissented. They focused on the precise words of the law and said it should be applied narrowly. […]

When Police Are Offenders!

This is one lucky-smart-lady!
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, February 21, 2009

Police officer faces battery, weapon counts

A Milwaukee police officer has been charged with punching his girlfriend and threatening her with a handgun. (HIS HANDGUN)

Chou Lor, 22, faces two misdemeanors:
battery and endangering safety by use of a dangerous weapon. If convicted , Lor would face fines of up to $10,000 and up to nine months in jail on each count.

According to the criminal complaint, Lor’s girlfriend said he became angry with her while they were driving back from his mother’s house on February 15. 2009.

He pulled over, punched her in the face with a closed fist, then pulled out a gun, held it to her face and threatened her life.

When he lowered his weapon, the women took the keys from the car. Lor thought she had thrown them from the car and when he got out to look for them, the women moved over and tried to drive off, the complaint says.

But Lor returned to the car and the women drove to a police station to report the crime.

Milwaukee Police Department spokeswomen Anne E, Schwartz said Lor has been with the department for three years and has been suspended with pay in connection with the charges.

Because Knowledge is Power

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