Former Aurora chief Ziman to help DOJ investigate police response to Uvalde shooting

The U.S. Department of Justice is turning to a former suburban top cop to help it examine how police responded to the May 24 mass shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead at a Texas grade school.

Retired Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman was tabbed by the DOJ this week to serve as one of nine experts who will help the department build an independent account of law enforcement actions, identify lessons learned and best practices, and provide a road map for community safety and engagement before, during and after such events.

Police in Uvalde, Texas, have been sharply criticized for their response to the school shooting. Reports have indicated that officers waited in a school hallway for more than an hour while a teenager armed with an AR-15 rifle killed the students and teachers in their classroom.

Ziman, who retired last year and recently published her memoir, told us via text Thursday that she believes she was chosen because of her experience with the 2019 workplace shooting at the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, which left six dead, including the gunman.

"The end in mind is to investigate the entire incident and determine if lessons can be learned to apply to bettering a law enforcement response in future events," Ziman said. "It pains me to say that there will be future events, but it's not a matter of IF - it's a matter of WHEN."

Working to prevent mass shootings has become a huge part of Ziman's mission these days. She's given presentations on the subject to organizations across the country and is part of the International Association of Chiefs of Police's Mass Violence Advisory Initiative.

"This is a mighty mission and I stand ready to follow the truth no matter where it leads us," she said of her role with the DOJ inquiry. "We owe it to the families of those whose futures have been stolen."

Among the other experts on the DOJ team are retired Sacramento, California, Chief Rick Braziel; retired Virginia Tech University Director of Public Safety Frank Fernandez; FBI Unit Chief Albert Guarnieri; retired Pennsylvania State Police Major Mark Lomax; Laura McElroy, CEO of the McElroy Media Group; Orange County, Florida, Sheriff John Mina; and April Naturale, assistant vice president of Vibrant Emotional Health.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the team will develop a complete incident reconstruction; review relevant evidence and documents, including photos and video; conduct site visits; and interview law enforcement, government leaders, school officials, witnesses, families of the victims and community members.

A final report will be issued at the completion of the review, but the DOJ did not say when that's expected.

"Nothing can undo the pain that has been inflicted on the loved ones of the victims, the survivors, and the entire community of Uvalde," Garland said Wednesday. "But the Justice Department can and will use its expertise and independence to assess what happened and to provide guidance moving forward."

Carmen Navarro Gercone

Sheriff candidate off ballot

The on-again, off-again candidacy of Cook County sheriff hopeful Carmen Navarro Gercone is off again, at least for now.

A state appeals court Wednesday removed the Chicago Democrat from the ballot, ruling she lacked the law enforcement certification required under a new state law. The decision reverses a Cook County judge's May 23 ruling that put Gercone back on the ballot after the county's electoral board bounced her over the same certification issue.

Gercone has pledged to appeal the ruling, which she called "highly outrageous," to the Illinois Supreme Court.

"I am confident we will prevail," she said in a statement from her campaign.

Gercone is hoping to challenge incumbent Sheriff Tom Dart in the June 28 Democratic primary. Another Democratic candidate, LaToya Ruffin, was declared ineligible by the appellate court last week. Should those decisions hold, they leave Dart and Chicago police Sgt. Noland Rivera as the only eligible candidates on the ballot.

In the meantime, with the ballots printed and early voting already underway, voters should expect to see signs at their polling places informing them of which candidates are not eligible.

Scam warning

Lake County residents are being targeted in a scam involving con artists posing as members of the county sheriff's office, officials said this week.

Authorities say the scammers are calling residents and posing as sheriff's office employees, even using the real names of staff members.

The scammer informs residents that they missed a jury summons and an arrest warrant, a citation or citations have been issued. The scammer then attempts to instruct the victim how to purchase a "voucher" to avoid arrest, authorities said.

Neither the sheriff's office nor employees of the county's 19th Judicial Circuit will ever call a resident to request money, officials said. And they will not ask for or accept any payments in the form of gift cards, "Green Dot" cards, Venmo or cryptocurrency.

Sheriff's police say anyone who receives a call like this should hang up and, if possible, block the caller's telephone number. You also can file a report with your local law enforcement agency, they said.

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