NRA reelects embattled leader Wayne LaPierre as group’s CEO

The National Rifle Association board of directors unanimously reelected Wayne LaPierre as its chief executive officer.

LaPierre was re-appointed Monday after a weekend of barb-trading between LaPierre and the group’s president, Oliver North, over allegations that LaPierre engaged in self-dealing as the organization’s leader. New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating the NRA’s nonprofit status after The New Yorker reported the allegations against LaPierre.

North was replaced Monday by Carolyn D. Meadows, who had served as the second vice president of the NRA and as vice president of the NRA Foundation board of trustees.

The vote was held at the NRA annual meeting in Indiana. It was reported earlier by American Rifleman, a publication operated by the NRA.

James, a Democrat and a vocal supporter of gun safety laws, said her office issued subpoenas to the NRA as part of a probe into the organization’s nonprofit status. James, who took office in January, had promised during her campaign to investigate the NRA. In an interview with Ebony magazine, she called the group “a terrorist organization.”

— Bloomberg News

St. Louis police officer accused of killing colleague pleads not guilty

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis police officer accused of fatally shooting a fellow officer in January pleaded not guilty Monday to the charges against him.

Nathaniel Hendren, 29, appeared Monday before St. Louis Circuit Judge Thomas McCarthy at the Carnahan Courthouse. He was accompanied by his lawyer Talmage Newton IV in the courtroom where he waived formal reading of the indictment.

Hendren was charged in January with involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action after police say he fatally shot off-duty officer Katlyn Alix during the early morning hours of Jan. 24.

A St. Louis grand jury indicted Hendren on the same charges Thursday.

After Monday’s brief hearing, Alix’s supporters walked through the main lobby of the Carnahan Courthouse shouting, “Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up! Justice for Katie!”

Hendren’s next court date is scheduled for June 17.

Hendren was on duty the night of the shooting, but he and his partner were at his home outside of the area he was supposed to be patrolling. Alix went to the home as well, and was killed when she and Hendren took turns firing a revolver loaded with one bullet at each other, charges say.

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Jury deliberates fate of ex-Minneapolis officer charged in Damond killing

MINNEAPOLIS — Jurors deliberating the fate of a former Minneapolis police officer charged with fatally shooting Justine Ruszczyk Damond are debating two versions of the 2017 killing that reverberated around the world: an officer who acted recklessly when he fired at a woman who had called 911, and one who used his training to stop a possible threat to him and his partner.

The prosecution and defense delivered heated closing arguments Monday before the jury of two women and 10 men received the case against Mohamed Noor about 2:15 p.m. CDT. Jurors, at least six of whom appear to be people of color, will be sequestered while they weigh the charges against Noor — second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

“This case has tragedy compounded on top of tragedy,” Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy said in her closing arguments. “(Damond is) gone because she was tragically and violently gunned down by a police officer she called for help … “

Defense attorney Thomas Plunkett slammed his hand on a podium at the start of his closing argument, dramatically re-enacting the moment he said Damond slapped Noor’s squad car, startling him and his partner, Matthew Harrity. She appeared at Harrity’s driver’s side window and raised her right arm, Plunkett said, prompting Noor to shoot.

“If there had been a gun in that hand, Mr. Noor would be a hero … instead we have a tragedy,” Plunkett said. “But what we don’t have is a crime.”

The attorneys’ final appeal to jurors came after four weeks of trial, three of them with testimony. Approximately 61 witnesses were called, and evidence that ranged from fingerprint analysis to graphic police body camera videos showing Damond gasping for air in the final moments of her life.

— Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Islamic State leader al-Baghdadi appears in video for first time in 5 years

AMMAN, Jordan — Islamic State’s long-pursued leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, made his first video appearance in almost five years Monday, vowing to continue the battle against the U.S. and its allies in a propaganda video released to social media.

In the 18-minute video, al-Baghdadi, appearing healthy if grayer, repeatedly extols the “steadfastness” of militants and says that even though Islamic State has lost territory, “jihad is ongoing until the day of judgment.” He later praises the attackers in Sri Lanka who killed more than 250 on Easter Sunday and rejoices that Americans and Europeans were among the dead.

Titled “In the Hospitality of the Emir of the Believers,” the video depicts a slow-speaking al-Baghdadi addressing a group of what are presumably his lieutenants, with a Kalashnikov rifle and an ammunition belt laid casually at his side.

He begins by congratulating what he described as Islamic State’s holy warriors for holding out in Baghouz, the tiny eastern Syrian hamlet that was the last remnant of Islamic State’s once sprawling caliphate before being overrun by a U.S.-backed offensive last month.

The fighters there, al-Baghdadi said, proved Islamic State’s militants would surrender the lands they control only “over their corpses and body parts.”

With the loss of Baghouz, al-Baghdadi continued, “the battle today is one of attrition and stretching out the enemy.” He called on fighters to “attack their enemies and bleed them,” whether in manpower, military, economic or logistical capabilities.

The speech marks al-Baghdadi’s first video appearance since 2014, when he first walked up the steps of the Great Nouri Mosque in the city of Mosul, Iraq, and declared himself caliph.

— Los Angeles Times

After 30 years on throne, Japanese Emperor Akihito to bow out

TOKYO — Japanese Emperor Akihito is to relinquish the Chrysanthemum throne Tuesday, ending his 30-year reign in the country’s first abdication in about 200 years.

The government is scheduled to hold a ceremony at the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo at 5 p.m. to be attended by about 300 people, including other imperial family members, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Cabinet ministers.

“Ever since ascending the throne as emperor and to this day, I have spent my days praying for peace in the country and for the happiness of the people and thinking about my role as the symbol of the state,” the 85-year-old emperor said at an event in February, marking the 30th anniversary of his accession to the throne.

“I have been able to fulfil my duties thanks to the people of Japan, whose symbol of unity I take pride and joy in being,” he added.

The emperor and Empress Michiko will become emperor emeritus and empress emerita following the abdication, the Imperial Household Agency said.

The couple will not attend a second ceremony Wednesday, which will mark 59-year-old Crown Prince Naruhito’s ascendance to the throne.

The imperial succession will mark the beginning of a new era for Japan, which lays claim to the world’s oldest monarchy.

— dpa