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Archive for April, 2021

A Russian streamer whose girlfriend died after being locked in athe cold during his livestream ws sentenced to 6 years in prison, according to reports

stas reeflay youtube livestream death
Valentina “Valya” Grigoryeva reportedly died after Stas Reeflay left her outside wearing underwear in below-freezing weather. 
  • Stanislav Reshetnyak was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in Russian prison.
  • The Russian streamer left his girlfriend outside until she succumbed to hypothermia.
  • Content creators are taking part in dangerous stunts known as “trash streaming.”
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
  • Stanislav Reshetnyak, a Russian streamer who goes by Stas Reeflay online, was sentenced to six years in prison after he appeared to force his girlfriend outside in the cold, where she died of hypothermia, The Moscow Times reported.In the livestream of the incident from December 2020, which Insider obtained footage of, Reshetnyak’s girlfriend Valentina Grigoryeva was only wearing underwear when she was seemingly forced onto the balcony. He later appeared to realize that she wasn’t breathing and called medics, who told him that she died.

    “My bunny, what’s up with you?” Reshetnyak said while still streaming, after carrying Grigoryeva back inside, The Sun reported. “Guys… No pulse… She’s pale. She is not breathing.” After the stream, an “urgent investigation” began, according to The Mirror, and Reshetnyak was placed in custody.

    According to The Moscow Times, the 30-year-old was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Tuesday by the Moscow region’s Ramensky City Court. According to TASS, a state-owned media network in Russia, Reshetnyak will be sent to a “maximum security prison colony.”

    Though the creator was streaming on a different platform at the time, he had a presence on YouTube, where clips from the graphic stream continued to circulate. A YouTube spokeswoman told Insider in December, “We’re shocked to learn of this tragic incident,” and that “this kind of graphic content is not acceptable on YouTube.”

    Reshetnyak participated in the “trash streaming” trend, sometimes called “thrash streaming,” that’s become hugely popular online in Russia. According to The Sun, the “depraved nature of stunts” allows streamers to make money through donations and viewer interaction.

    In March, a live stream on YouTube showed a woman being “drugged” and “sexually assaulted” in her home in Russia, The Sun and Russian media reported. A 60-year-old man in Russia died in February after reportedly drinking 1.5 liters of vodka during a stream, according to Russian outlets previously cited by Insider. These streams have caused Russian lawmakers to address the trend.

‘Jeopardy!’ contestant ‘horrified’ over racist hand gesture accusation, condemns white supremacy

Jeopardy! contestant Kelly Donohue had many viewers outraged this week after he flashed what some interpreted as a white power symbol during the show’s introduction. Now, Donohue is insisting it was a “terrible” misunderstanding.

In a Facebook post, Donohue said he’s “horrified” over accusations he made a racist hand gesture. “I absolutely, unequivocally condemn white supremacy and racism of any kind,” he wrote on Thursday.

“People who know me personally know that I am not a racist, but for the public at large it bears repeating: I am not a racist and I reject and condemn white supremacy and all forms of bigotry for the evil they are. It’s shameful to me to think anyone would try to use the stage of Jeopardy! to advance or promote such a disgusting agenda,” he added.

More than 450 former contestants wrote an open letter demanding an apology for the hand gesture making it on-air and urged producers to make sure such a thing, intentional or not, never happens again.

“A recent contestant has caused concern among Jeopardy! viewers for two separate occurrences, and we as former contestants feel the need to speak out against the messaging that these choices communicated — either intentionally or unintentionally — by the contestant Kelly Donohue and, implicitly by association, the producers of Jeopardy!,” the letter, which was posted to Medium, begins.

Kelly Donohue, who was on a three game winning Jeopardy! streak, sparked backlash after allegedly flashing white power symbol.
Kelly Donohue, who was on a three game winning ‘Jeopardy!’ streak, sparked backlash after allegedly flashing white power symbol. 

On Tuesday, Donohue made a gesture with his hand that appeared to resemble an upside-down “OK” sign. The Anti-Defamation League previously classified it as an official symbol of hate. Donohue, who was on a winning streak, said in a now-deleted Facebook post the gesture indicated “that he had won three games.” (On previous episodes, he gestured with one finger and two fingers to indicate prior wins.)

Donohue says he deleted the initial post “because the comments were more than I could bear.”

“During the taping of my fourth episode, I was simply raising three fingers to mark my 3rd win. There was nothing more I was trying to indicate,” he adds. “I deeply regret this terrible misunderstanding. I never meant to hurt a soul and I assure you I am no friend of racists or white supremacists.”

The letter from former contestants on Wednesday claimed the gesture “was not a clear-cut symbol for the accusations three.”

“He held his thumb and forefinger together with his other three fingers extended and palm facing inward, and he tapped his chest. This, whether intentional or not, resembled very closely a gesture that has been coopted by white power groups, alt right groups, and an anti-government group that calls itself the Three Percenters,” the letter reads. “Regardless of his stated intent, the gesture is a racist dog whistle.”

The former contestants noted outrage on social media and expressed concern the symbol was broadcast.

“Most problematic to us as a contestant community is the fact that Kelly has not publicly apologized for the ramifications of the gesture he made. If something has been misconstrued, an apology and a total disavowal of any connection to white supremacist doctrines is called for. We saw that gesture air on television,” the group says.

They also noted how Donahue used a slur against the Roma people on Monday’s episode.

“We cannot stand up for hate. We cannot stand next to hate. We cannot stand onstage with something that looks like hate. We are ashamed to be associated with brands and identities that suffer the taint of hateful statements and actions — particularly if they go unchallenged by those at the top,” the contestants add.

“We know that contestants sign morals and ethics-related agreements when they prepare to appear on the show, and we would ask the production team to evaluate this situation within that framework. We would like to know whether a sensitivity and diversity auditor is involved in the show’s writing. Finally, we hope to see changes made so that future mistakes of this magnitude never make it on air,” the letter says.

What We Know About the Killing of Brown in North Carolina

A memorial outside of the home of Andrew Brown Jr., who was killed by sheriff’s deputies, in Elizabeth City, N.C., on Monday, April 27, 2021.

The killing of a 42-year-old Black man in coastal North Carolina by sheriff’s deputies is being scrutinized by state and federal authorities, and Gov. Roy Cooper has called for a special prosecutor to take over the case from a local district attorney.

Last week’s fatal shooting of the man, Andrew Brown Jr., while he was apparently driving away from deputies who were trying to execute drug-related search and arrest warrants, is drawing a lot of attention, coming so soon after the shooting deaths of Adam Toledo, 13, in Chicago and Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, in Columbus, Ohio.

Anger and frustration are mounting as Brown’s family, backed by public officials, seeks the release of the body-camera footage of his final moments, and as the names of the officers involved have not been released.

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Here’s what we know about Brown’s death:

What happened?

Just before 8:30 a.m. on April 21, deputies with the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Office, dressed in tactical gear, drove down a residential street and arrived at a home in Elizabeth City, video footage shows. Moments later, several shots were fired at Brown. (The video was obtained by WAVY, a Virginia-based television station, through a public-records request.)

A 20-second snippet of a deputy’s body-camera footage was released to Brown’s family and their lawyer, who called it an “execution.” A private autopsy, paid for by his family, showed that he was hit by five bullets and killed by a shot to the head.

The family’s lawyer said Brown was sitting inside his car, hands “firmly on the wheel,” when gunshots were fired. He did not appear to be holding a weapon and was driving away as the police continued shooting.

But the local prosecutor said the footage showed that Brown was trying to escape and that his car struck deputies, who then began shooting.

Have the police explained why they opened fire?

The Pasquotank County sheriff said deputies had been executing an arrest warrant on felony drug charges, but he did not reveal how many deputies were on the scene, how many of them opened fire and how many rounds were fired. The shooting is being investigated by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

The local version of a SWAT team, accompanied by deputies from another agency, was executing the arrest warrant when Brown was shot, the authorities said. Only a small share of officer-involved fatalities occur in these raids. But in a country where 4 in 10 adults have guns in their homes, they are the most combustible, and the police often use major shows of force to take these actions.

Brown’s family was told that no drugs or weapons had been retrieved from the property or the car, their lawyer said last week. And their legal team has not yet seen the search warrant that officials say was being executed at the time of the shooting.

Why hasn’t the body-camera footage been released?

In North Carolina, police body-camera videos can be released to the public only with a judge’s approval. Anyone may request the release of a video, although some stakeholders can object to its release or ask for sections to be blurred, said Frayda Bluestein, a professor of public law and government at the University of North Carolina.

The sheriff said he wants body-camera video made public, and the county lawyer has filed a petition for the release of the videos. On Tuesday, Cooper, a Democrat, also called for the video’s release. A group of media outlets, including The New York Times, also petitioned for its release. But a judge Wednesday declined to release the footage, agreeing with a prosecutor to delay its public airing for at least 30 days.

Although some body-camera footage is released almost immediately, it’s not unusual for there to be a delay in the release.

What happened to the officers involved?

In an office with 55 full-time deputies, seven have been placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting. The names of those involved are not publicly known. At Wednesday’s hearing, a lawyer for the deputies said the killing was justified.

The FBI on Tuesday announced that it was starting a civil rights investigation into the shooting by the agency’s Charlotte field office, which will work with federal prosecutors and the civil rights division of the Justice Department.

What has the reaction been in the community?

Elizabeth City is a historic town of about 18,000 people in the northeast corner of the state. Its mayor and its police chief are Black, as are 50% of its residents. There have been peaceful demonstrations there since the day of the shooting. Residents have been demanding that body-camera footage be released to the public. On Tuesday, though, officials in Elizabeth City and surrounding Pasquotank County established curfews from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.

“I feel like we are targeted,” said Councilman Gabriel Adkins, who was wearing a “Black Lives Matter” shirt while speaking at a City Council meeting last week. “I’m afraid as a Black man walking around in this city, driving my car down the road, trying to make sure that I’m driving the speed limit, trying to make sure that I wear my seat belt, trying to make sure that I do everything right, because I don’t want an officer to get behind me.”

What can we expect to happen next?

The state bureau of investigation will continue its inquiry, and the findings of an official government autopsy could be publicly released.

A funeral for Brown will be held Monday in Elizabeth City, with the Rev. Al Sharpton delivering the eulogy.

President Biden picks dandelion for Jill, Twitter swoons

President Biden stopped to pick a dandelion flower for First Lady Jill Biden before boarding Marine One to Georgia on April 29. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
President Biden stopped to pick a dandelion flower for First Lady Jill Biden while enroute to Georgia on April 29. 

President Biden was photographed picking a dandelion flower for first lady Jill Biden, proof that their love still blooms.

On Thursday, while the couple walked across the Ellipse, a public park south of the White House, to board Marine One to Georgia, the president stopped to pluck the flower from the ground and hand it to his wife of four decades. When they reached the plane, he placed his hand on her lower back, guiding her up the steps. Footage of the tiny token was posted to social media, where users praised the president for “never forgetting to show your spouse every day how much you love them” and for the “refreshingly normal” moment. “It’s the little things that keep a marriage going,” tweeted one person.

To mark Biden’s 100th day in office, the first couple traveled to the Peach State to visit former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter, the longest-living presidential couple, and will appear at a drive-in rally near Atlanta. President Biden also has trips planned to the U.K. and Belgium in June, the same month he marks his 44th wedding anniversary.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden kiss goodbye outside the White House in January 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Tom Brenner)
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden kiss goodbye outside the White House in January 2021.
Then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and Jill Bide n kissed during a campaign rally in 2019. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and Jill Bide n kissed during a campaign rally in 2019. 

The first couple is not timid about showing PDA, even on the job. They’ve been photographed stealing kisses on the campaign trail, at the inauguration and during presidential events. “I adore her. I’m going to sound so stupid — I was saying the other day, when she comes down the steps and I look at her, my heart still skips a beat,” the president, 78, said during a November interview with CBS Sunday Morning.

Last year, the president gushed about his wife on their wedding anniversary writing on Instagram, “…I’m forever grateful you agreed to spend the rest of your life with me. I love you, Jilly!”

But love is clearly contagious, as illustrated in a viral moment starring second gentleman Doug Emhoff, who blew kisses to Vice President Kamala Harris, his wife of six years during Biden’s first address to Congress on Wednesday. With Harris positioned alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — a win for feminism which President Biden acknowledged by saying, “It’s about time” — Emhoff enthusiastically waved and blew kisses to his wife.

5 arrests made in Lady Gaga dognapping case

The Los Angeles Police Department has arrested five people in connection to the shooting of Lady Gaga’s dog walker and subsequent theft of her pups. One of the people taken into custody was the woman who ultimately returned the two French bulldogs in hopes of collecting a $500,000 reward.

“This was a brazen street crime that left a man seriously wounded,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement on Thursday. “We have alleged very serious charges in this case and have faith that justice will be appropriately served as this case unfolds in court.”

James Jackson, 18; Jaylin White, 19; and Lafayette Whaley, 27, were charged with one count each of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit robbery and second-degree robbery. Jackson also faces one count each of assault with a semiautomatic firearm and a felon carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle. White faces one count of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury.

Ryan Fischer was shot in the chest while walking Gaga’s three dogs on Feb. 24. (One dog was able to escape and return to Fischer, who was subsequently rushed to the hospital with serious injuries. He was hospitalized a second time and had portions of his lung removed.

Two other people were arrested — Harold White, 40, and Jennifer McBride, 50 — and charged with one count each of being accessories after the crime. Harold also was charged with one count of possession of a firearm and McBride faces one count of receiving stolen property.

McBride is the one who turned the dogs over to police unharmed — presumably for the hefty money offered by Gaga for the pups safe return. According to TMZ, the LAPD believes Harold recruited McBride to drop off the dogs, and claim the $500,000 bounty. (The money was reportedly never paid per the recommendation of the police, who suspected it was a setup.)

Fischer has documented his grueling recovery on social media. He thanked Gaga for her “support throughout this whole crisis to both me and my family.”

“But your support as a friend, despite your own traumatic loss from your kids, was unwavering. I love you and thank you. And now? A lot of healing still needs to happen, but I look forward to the future and the moment when I get bombarded with kisses and licks (and maybe even an excitement pee?) from Asia, Koji, and Gustav,” he wrote.


Japanese man arrested after dating 35 women at the same time in bid to ‘get birthday presents’

Takashi Miyagawa was apparently caught out when the women joined forces to create a victims’ association  - SoraNews24
Takashi Miyagawa was apparently caught out when the women joined forces to create a victims’ association – SoraNews24

A Japanese man has been arrested after reportedly dating more than 35 women at the same time.

Takashi Miyagawa, a part-time worker, is being investigated for allegedly defrauding dozens of women by pretending he was serious about each of their relationships and receiving hundreds of pounds worth of gifts from them.

He was apparently caught out when the women joined forces to create a victims’ association after discovering his extensive infidelity and reported him to the police, according to local media.

Among the claims is that he gave each woman a different date for his birthday, ensuring a constant stream of gifts throughout the year.

One 47-year-old woman reportedly thought his birthday was on February 22, another aged 40 was told it was July, while another 35-year-old believed his birthday was in April.

In total, he allegedly received around 100,000 yen (£668) worth of gifts from the women, including a £200 suit.

The women discovered his extensive infidelity and reported him to the police - SoraNews24
The women discovered his extensive infidelity and reported him to the police – SoraNews24

Miyagawa, from the Kansai region, allegedly began his dating spree while working for a marketing company selling shower products.

He is accused of targeting at least 35 single women through his work, allegedly pretending to each that the relationship was serious and saying he wanted to spend his life with them.

A report by MBS News included photographs apparently showing Miyagawa with women in different locations, such as a park and restaurant.

Police are reportedly investigating to find out whether any other women were taken in by the alleged serial dating scheme.

The story elicited mixed responses online, with one reader commenting that “He’s an awful person, but I envy his time-management skills,” according to SoraNews24.

Man charged in LSD road rage shooting that injured toddler denied bail

A 25-year-old man charged in the shooting of 22-month-old Kayden Swann on Lake Shore Drive has been denied bail.

Video Transcript

LIZ NAGY: Kayden Swann is now out of the pediatric intensive care unit, which is huge progress for the toddler who just two weeks ago was in a medically induced coma. Now tonight, police say they have the man who shot him. Police say Deandre Binion was the enraged driver who started swerving in and out of traffic on Lakeshore Drive and firing his gun late on a Tuesday morning, April 6th. One of those bullets hit one-year-old Kayden Swann in the head. A gracious, good Samaritan rushed the bleeding toddler and his grandmother to the hospital, and as he did, police say Binion sped off. Quiana Farr said at the time, she couldn’t forget the shooter’s face.

QUIANA FARR: I know where he was. I didn’t know it is a– I haven’t slept in two days. I can’t sleep. I can’t close my eyes. It’s like a nightmare. It repeats over and over.

LIZ NAGY: That haunting memory helped police in their investigation.

BRENDAN DEENIHAN: This is just a complete stranger to her, but she was extremely cooperative with us. She gave us a great description, so we were eventually able to put somebody in a photo array. And then she does pick him out.

LIZ NAGY: This is the second time charges have been filed in this case. Earlier this month, police arrested Jushawn Brown on a weapons charge. He was driving the car with the young boy and his grandma riding with him.

JUSHAWN BROWN: When I pulled off to get away from him, that’s when he started shooting. Shot about five times.

 Jushawn, did you fire your gun?


 Not once?


LIZ NAGY: Investigators are now corroborating Brown’s account and say it was only the other driver Deandre Binion who fired shots. Doctors say Kayden Swann continues to recover. Tonight, police say the man who shot him is now facing multiple attempted murder charges.

Delivery drivers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. It’s gotten worse.

Just before Christmas last year, Willy Solis, a 42-year-old residential construction worker-turned-delivery driver, was hired to take a late-night $100 bottle of cognac to an apartment complex in Denton, Texas. Once Solis found the apartment, he met a stocky man who gave a name that not only didn’t match the ID he showed, but it also wasn’t the name of the person who placed the order. Confused, Solis called Instacart’s phone support line.

Solis said that that angered the customer and his three male friends and that they ordered him to hand over the cognac. Even though he had qualms about it, Solis, under the direction of the Instacart supervisor who was still on the phone, gave them the bottle.

Solis sped off in his 2018 Nissan Sentra before the situation escalated. It wasn’t the only recent time he had felt unsafe. Solis, who has worked for DoorDash, Shipt, Grubhub and other gig economy companies, said he also delivered to an apartment in Haltom City, outside Fort Worth, where a female Uber Eats driver was murdered in January.

Solis said that since then, he has stopped working after 9 p.m. and has considered carrying a gun. But he fears that if he violates gig companies’ rules not to carry firearms, he could risk losing his job.

“I’m very fearful every time I go out,” said Solis, who makes $800 to $1,000 a week before expenses and taxes. “I don’t want to lose my life over a $100 bottle of cognac or a fast food order.”

Willy Solis is an Instacart driver in Denton, Texas. (Nitashia Johnson / for NBC News)
Willy Solis is an Instacart driver in Denton, Texas. 

Solis is one of 15 gig economy workers who spoke with NBC News and said they feared for their safety as violence against the industry has spiked during the coronavirus pandemic. Police in several major cities, including Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., say carjackings and car thefts, particularly against gig economy drivers, rose during the pandemic.

Some drivers say that despite the companies’ best efforts, they are changing their hours, avoiding certain areas and even carrying weapons, like wasp spray, Mace, Tasers and firearms, to protect themselves.

“As the danger grows more and more, that’s what’s pushing me more towards the possibility of doing it,” Solis said about carrying a gun.

It’s a pattern that especially affects minorities working in the lower-paying jobs, said Veena Dubal, a professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, who has extensively researched the taxi industry and the gig economy.

“A lot of these workers are subordinated racial minorities, and they are likely to bear the brunt of physical violence, because they are in public doing this kind of work,” she said.

The problems have become widespread enough that the major tech companies have been stepping up to address them. Uber recently instituted safety measures to protect drivers, including more verification requirements for people who set up accounts with gift cards or other anonymous payment systems.

DoorDash spokesperson Campbell Matthews said in an email that the company is “deeply troubled by reports of increased crime” and that it intends to add an “emergency assistance button into the Dasher app to help connect Dashers to emergency services.”

In a statement, Grubhub spokesperson Grant Klinzman echoed Matthews’ remarks, saying the safety of the company’s drivers “is our top priority” and that the company was “ready to support law enforcement investigations … as they take steps to address the unacceptable spike in vehicle thefts.”

Lyft spokesperson Ashley Adams said that the company considers safety to be “fundamental” and that “we are working closely with law enforcement to help keep drivers safe.”

Instacart expressed similar concerns but said it hadn’t “seen an increase in carjackings or assault towards shoppers.”

“We take the safety and security of the entire Instacart community very seriously,” Natalia Montalvo, a company spokesperson, said by email. “Shoppers have many resources available to them to ensure their safety and protection while shopping and delivering on the Instacart platform.”

Rising crime

The attacks on drivers, which appear to have started last year, may be part of a larger trend of a rise in violent crime in major cities, according to research in November by the Police Executive Research Forum.

Chicago police found that there were 424 carjackings from January through March, more than double the 198 carjackings the same time last year. In San Diego, carjackings more than doubled last year, to 97, from 44 in 2019. In Minneapolis, carjackings also more than doubled, to 97, in the first three months of the year, compared to 39 in the first three months of last year. In Washington, carjackings more than quadrupled in the first quarter of this year from the first quarter of last year, to 102.

Such growth has happened elsewhere, too. In Cincinnati, 38 vehicles were stolen from Jan. 1 through March 20 in the “CUF” neighborhood near the University of Cincinnati. Emily Szink, a police spokesperson, said “many of those cars were left running and were delivery drivers,” estimating them to be two-thirds of the 38 reports, or about 26.

But the spikes aren’t universal: Police in Sacramento, California; Phoenix; Lansing, Michigan; and Dallas say they haven’t seen such rises. It isn’t clear why some cities are experiencing more of this type of crime than others.

Even before the rise in violent crime against gig workers, being a delivery driver was identified as one of the most dangerous jobs in America — typically as a result of traffic accidents — according to an analysis last year of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.

Last month alone, several high-profile events shook the gig worker community. In New York City, Francisco Villalva Vitinio, a DoorDash delivery worker, was killed after he refused to give up his e-bike, which he needed for work, to would-be robbers. Authorities said Mohammad Anwar, 66, an Uber Eats driver, died at the hands of two teenage girls who investigators said used a stun gun on him in Washington. Days earlier, in Chicago, Javier Ramos, an Uber driver, was shot in the head and killed; police said his killer was a passenger he had picked up after 3 a.m.

Child kidnappings

On Feb. 6, Jeffrey Fang, 39, a DoorDash driver in San Francisco, left his silver Honda Odyssey minivan running while he made a delivery — leaving inside his 4-year-old daughter and his 2-year-old son, who speak only Mandarin. When he returned, he found a strange man sitting in the driver’s seat.

Jeffrey Fang's mini-van was stolen with his two young children inside as Fang tried to make a DoorDash delivery this past February. (Nina Riggio / for NBC News)
Jeffrey Fang’s mini-van was stolen with his two young children inside as Fang tried to make a DoorDash delivery this past February. 

Fang said he dragged the man, who he said snatched his cellphone, out of the car and chased him on foot to get his phone back. Fang lost the man, ending up a short distance away. When he returned, he discovered that his minivan had been stolen with his children inside. (The children and the car were recovered hours later, unharmed.)

“There are a lot of things that people need to know,” Fang said, speaking of gig work in general. “It’s not simple, and it’s at times dangerous.”

Small-town America isn’t immune. In Rapid City, South Dakota, a 20-year-old DoorDash driver named Danielle — whose last name is being withheld as she fears reprisal from the company — said she has felt unsafe.

Danielle's two-year-old is a passenger when she works as a DoorDash driver. (Danielle)
Danielle’s two-year-old is a passenger when she works as a DoorDash driver. 

She said that last month, when she was making a delivery with her 2-year-old son in the back, five men surrounded her car. As she sped away with her son in the back, “they tried opening my car doors and banging on my windows.” The incident left her shaken, and she said she is thinking about buying a handgun, which she isn’t legally allowed to do until her next birthday.

“I would feel a lot safer taking my son with me if I were carrying,” she said. “In a time of need, I will be able to use it and defend myself and my son.”


Early on the morning of March 23, Javier Ramos, 46, an Uber driver, was found shot in the head in Chicago’s Lawndale section, less than 8 miles north of Midway Airport. Police rushed him to a hospital; he was pronounced dead just over four hours later.

Lenny Sanchez, a longtime ride-share driver and labor organizer based in Chicago, tweeted the next day that Ramos had “tried to fight off his attackers.” Ramos appeared to have been left for dead, having been run over by his own car, seemingly after a struggle.

Since the beginning of the year, Sanchez and the Independent Drivers Guild, a union, have been sounding the alarm online and at in-person rallies about carjackings of gig drivers in Chicago. He said many drivers he has talked to are scared and have changed how, where and when they work. Some gig workers are considering taking stronger measures.

“Drivers are brandishing their weapons to us. A lot of them are arming themselves,” Sanchez said.


While Sanchez applauded Uber’s new efforts this year to keep drivers safer and said his group is seeking additional safety measures, he worried that Lyft drivers in Chicago and elsewhere face renewed threats, pointing to the recent killing of a Lyft driver in St. Louis.

He said he thinks Uber’s changes have had an effect. “We know it won’t be perfect, but we would like to see more, and we would like to see Lyft do more,” he said. “We are seeing the criminals switch over to Lyft.”

Lyft didn’t respond directly to Sanchez’s claim. Adams, the company spokesperson, said by email that it was “working to proactively identify” accounts that “we determine to be high-risk.”

“In doing so, we look at a variety of account attributes, including the use of anonymous payment methods, which are more frequently linked to fraudulent accounts,” she wrote. “Actions we take include temporarily and permanently deactivating accounts, as well as requiring additional validation before being able to order a ride.”

Hortencia Ramos, Ramos’ cousin, said her family has been devastated by his death, particularly his 9-year-old daughter. She described Ramos as an “entrepreneur always looking to set an example for his daughter,” an observant Christian and someone who had a daily fitness and workout routine.

She said her family has been very disappointed with how Uber has handled her cousin’s death; she said no one from the company had reached out to even offer sympathy, much less anything more substantive.

Jodi Kawada Page, an Uber spokesperson, said in a statement: “We are deeply saddened by this news. Our thoughts are with Javier’s loved ones and we’ve reached out to the family to offer our support.”

Law enforcement efforts

Law enforcement agencies have been stepping up. Chicago police have expanded a “vehicular hijacking task force” with state and federal agencies. Since the beginning of the year, Chicago police have published 30 news releases describing indictments of carjacking suspects, including those alleged to have targeted gig workers. The police department has even published two-page flyers in four languages — English, Spanish, Polish and Chinese — explaining how victims should respond to minimize harm.

Similarly, the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington reported a steady increase in carjackings, as well. In 2019, there were 142; last year they jumped to 345. There were 47 carjacking-related arrests in the first three months of this year, compared to just two during the first quarter of last year.

Police have put out flyers alerting people to the dangers of leaving their vehicles running while making deliveries.

“Over the last few months, we have worked to partner with delivery companies to get the word out to their drivers,” Kristen Metzger, a police spokesperson, said by email.

The early efforts by police departments seem to be resulting in change. Last month, Cincinnati police even put up electronic signs to remind drivers to “Lock Car & Take Key,” among other safety messages.

“Thefts of delivery driver vehicles left running have started to trend downwards, which means our messaging is working,” Szink, the police spokesperson, said by email.

Longer consequences

But gig workers who have been victims may need more time before they feel safe again. Back in San Francisco, Fang has been taking a break from gig work. After the harrowing kidnapping of his children, supporters raised over $100,000 through GoFundMe, and DoorDash donated several thousand dollars to his family directly.

Jeffrey Fang (Nina Riggio / for NBC News)
Jeffrey Fang

Still, Fang remains fearful of going back to work. During his time as an Uber driver, he said, guns were pointed at him multiple times. Nowadays, he carries a Taser in his car.

“Prior to the Taser, I had a knife in the car, but that was stolen,” he said. “Especially after the February 6 incident and the spate of anti-Asian violence, I’m looking into getting a firearm.”

When the pandemic hit and passenger rides largely dried up, he switched to food delivery, because he thought he would make more money and it would be safer.

“I felt it was OK to take the kids, even though I knew it was a risk, but I had no child care, and I felt the risk was minimized,” he said, adding that he tried to stick to wealthy neighborhoods. His car and his children were taken in Pacific Heights, one of San Francisco’s richest areas.

Jeffrey Fang (Nina Riggio / Nina Riggio for NBC News)
Jeffrey Fang 

Fang said he would like DoorDash’s and other companies’ leaders to consider the needs of working parents, particularly those who feel the need to drive at peak evening dinner hours.

“If they’re getting paid six figures with ergonomic furniture and break rooms and all that — if you ask me, how about setting up child care service for dinner hours, like 4 to 10 p.m.?” he said. “So the driver can drop them off? For a billion-dollar company, that shouldn’t be too costly.”

COVID cases are suddenly falling in 4 hard-hit Northeastern states. Does that mean herd immunity is on the way?

Eager to know when parts of America are finally approaching herd immunity against COVID-19? Then pay close attention to what’s happening in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Triggered by reopenings and fueled by the rise of more contagious variants, COVID numbers suddenly shot up across all four states last month. But then, just as suddenly, cases began to plummet right at the start of April — and they’re still plummeting today, even as restrictions are being lifted.

Could this swift reversal — which occurred despite rising mobility and mixing — herald the local onset of something like herd immunity (that is, the point when the virus starts to run out of unprotected hosts to infect)?

People walk by a sign for both a Covid-19 testing clinic and a Covid vaccination location outside of a Brooklyn hospital on March, 29 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A person walks by a sign for a COVID-19 testing site and a COVID vaccination location outside a Brooklyn hospital in March.

“I do think this pattern is significant, and the leading factor is the combination of natural immunity from infection and vaccine-induced immunity,” says Yahoo News Medical Contributor Dr. Kavita Patel, a Brookings Institution health scholar and a primary care internist. “Between the two, you’re starting to cover the majority of the population in these states. We’re progressing toward herd immunity kind of by hook or crook.”

We may never actually know when a particular state (or the U.S. as a whole) crosses the herd immunity threshold, which experts describe as the point when 75 to 90 percent of a particular population is protected by antibodies. For one thing, true herd immunity — the goal of getting so many Americans vaccinated that COVID-19 can never spread again — is probably unattainable; vaccine demand is declining, hesitancy persists in certain pockets of the country, variants keep emerging and most of the rest of the world remains unshielded by prior infection or immunization.

But there’s another, more immediate way to look at what vaccination and natural immunity have the power to do, together: end the emergency of the U.S. pandemic, reduce COVID-19 to a manageable risk and let normal life resume even before 75 percent of a particular population has been fully dosed.

This is not to say that the pandemic isn’t still raging across the country. “I do not think we are even close to real herd immunity,” Howard Forman, a professor of public health at Yale University, tells Yahoo News.

To his point, cases continue to rise in states such as North Carolina, Oregon and Nevada — and on Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said his state, which was also hit hard last spring, is “seeing the beginning of a fourth surge” that is “starting, unfortunately, at a higher level than where the other waves started from.”

Still, “the more people who are immune,” Forman explains, “the less steep the inclines.”

Patel agrees. “We’re not likely to get to ‘zero COVID,’” she says. “But it’s like a dimmer switch. When you have about 30 percent immunity, you start to see cases go down. At 50 percent, you start to see precipitous drops. And certain pockets of the country seem to be getting there first.”

Which is where New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut come in.

People prepare to be administered the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine at the Northwell Health pop-up coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination site at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center in Staten Island on April 08, 2021 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
The Northwell Health pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center on April 8 in New York City.

The stats are suggestive. The daily average of new COVID-19 cases increased by 79 percent in New York during the last week of March. In New Jersey, it increased by 59 percent between Feb. 21 and April 1. In Connecticut, it increased by 99 percent over the last three weeks of March. And in Massachusetts, it increased by 64 percent over the same period.

Yet since the start of April, average daily cases have declined by 46 percent in New York, 29 percent in New Jersey, 30 percent in Massachusetts and 40 percent in Connecticut — even as rules on bars, restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses have been getting looser and looser.

Testing across all four states, meanwhile, has hovered around the same level for months, suggesting that the actual number of infections is falling, as opposed to just the number of infections being detected.

The question is, why now?

In theory, if New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut were progressing toward herd immunity, two factors would be contributing: immunity from prior infection and immunity from vaccination.

The reason it’s tempting to see the recent downturn in cases across these four states as an early sign of emerging population-level protection is that all four of them boast some of America’s highest levels of both.

They were hit hardest, for starters, by the pandemic’s first wave last spring, suffering the highest death and hospitalization rates in the country. At the same time, testing was scarce, so case counts — though also higher than anywhere else in the U.S. early on — could capture only a tiny fraction of the number of residents who got infected, survived and emerged with some degree of natural immunity. Then all four states experienced sizable winter surges, just like the rest of the U.S., expanding that existing base of protection.

Medical workers tend to a patient at a Brooklyn hospital that has seen a rise in coronavirus-related cases on December 15, 2020 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Medical workers tend to a patient at a Brooklyn hospital in December. 

At covid19-projections.com, Youyang Gu, an independent data scientist trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spent much of the first year of the pandemic using a data-driven approach with a layer of artificial intelligence to forecast the virus’s trajectory. Gu stopped updating his true infection estimates on Feb. 21, but at the time, he estimated that 38.9 percent of New Jerseyans, 34.5 percent of New Yorkers, 26.4 percent of Connecticuters and 26.3 percent of Bay Staters had already gotten COVID.

Some other states — namely the ones with low levels of mask wearing and lax restrictions — have seen higher rates of infection; South Dakota (47.5 percent as of Feb. 21) comes to mind.

But few other states have also administered at least one vaccine dose to as many of their residents as New York (44 percent), New Jersey (47.4 percent), Massachusetts (50 percent) and Connecticut (50.3 percent), on top of such a large existing foundation of natural immunity.

It is the combination of these two kinds of immunity that could be at least starting to starve the coronavirus of vulnerable people to infect and depressing case counts across four of America’s previously hardest-hit states, even as they’ve continued to phase out official mitigation measures and combat more contagious variants.

Meanwhile, the march toward immunity may be getting an additional boost, experts theorize, from the particular politics and demographics of such states. All states, for instance, gave older Americans early access to vaccination; younger adults qualified only recently. Yet while vaccination rates among seniors have been relatively consistent regardless of their partisan leanings, that’s not the case among non-seniors.

According to a New York Times analysis, the rate of full vaccination for older adults in Republican-leaning counties is just 5 percent lower than the national average. But the rate for younger adults in those same counties is 18 percent below average. In other words, bluer states such as New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut are likely vaccinating younger Americans at a higher rate than redder states — and last year younger Americans accounted for more than 70 percent of the virus’s spread, according to a study by Imperial College London’s Department of Mathematics.

A woman squints as she receives her second dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at the mobile Covid-19 vaccination clinic,run by Hartford Healthcare at Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church's McGivney community center in Bridgeport, Connecticut on April 20, 2021. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
A woman receives her second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a community center in Bridgeport, Conn., on Tuesday. 

“Elderly people are being vaccinated at a relatively high rate no matter where you are, but getting younger people vaccinated (versus older) is underrated in getting this under control,” Forman says. “Vaccinating 18-to-40-year-olds has a much bigger impact on cases than vaccinating the same number of 65-to-90-year-olds.”

Likewise, Patel believes that the specific demographics of more urban communities may also be working in favor of immunity.

“Poor Black and brown communities got hit harder in all these regions, which means they have a higher level of natural immunity,” Patel says. “So even though they’re not getting as much vaccine, that helps. Then we’ve got the whiter, wealthier communities [in big cities] getting vaccinated at a really high rate. You do the math, you add them up and you get a lot more people with immunity. It may actually be a better demographic formula for getting to herd immunity than the mix in some smaller rural areas.”

To be sure, other forces might be at work here as well. Warming weather and seasonality likely play a part. So does the fact that New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut have kept their public mask mandates in place; that simple precaution, combined with commonsense behavior like not gathering indoors, unmasked and unvaccinated, probably acts to further slow the virus’s spread among the shrinking number of residents who still don’t have any immunity.

But unlike previous declines, this one doesn’t seem to be happening because people are changing their behavior and taking more precautions. They’re taking fewer, yet cases continue to fall. Something else seems to be exerting downward pressure on the virus.

In this photo made Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, Kavita Patel poses for a photo in Creve Coeur, MO. (Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)
Dr. Kavita Patel in Creve Coeur, Mo., in 2017. 

It would be premature to claim that herd immunity has arrived in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts or Connecticut. And declining infections certainly don’t mean these states are anywhere near “zero COVID” or that they ever will be. Vaccination is still critical, and medical experts continue to advise that everyone able to get vaccinated should do so as soon as possible.

But April’s sudden, simultaneous downturn in cases across four states with some of America’s highest combined levels of immunity is a sign of progress — and a glimpse at what might lie ahead in communities that keep their foot on the gas.

LA police shoot dead man wearing body armor in Hollywood

Police said they shot dead a man wearing body armor who reversed into a patrol car on Sunset Boulevard

Los Angeles police said on Saturday officers shot dead a driver wearing body armor who had reversed into a patrol car in Hollywood.

The officers were responding to a call when a car pulled in front of them on Sunset Boulevard, hit the brakes and backed into their vehicle, the LA Police Department tweeted Saturday.

“The driver of the car exited, was wearing body armor, & had his right hand concealed behind him,” LAPD tweeted.

“He moved toward the (officers) who had exited their patrol car. He counted ‘3, 2, 1’ & began to move his arm to the front of his body, at which time there was an OIS (officer-involved shooting).”

The man was hit by gunfire and pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Famed Sunset Boulevard was temporarily blocked off to traffic. A body covered in a white sheet was lying on the road next to a black vehicle with a shattered driver’s side window, photographs of the scene showed.

Force Investigation Division detectives, who investigate police-related shootings, were at the scene conducting interviews and gathering evidence, LAPD said.