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Peter Lynn, L.A. homeless agency leader, to step down

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In a major change for the team tasked with addressing rising homelessness in the region, Peter Lynn announced Monday that he is stepping down as head of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Chief Program Officer Heidi Marston will fill in as interim director during a national search for a replacement when Lynn officially leaves at the end of this month.

“Boy, these have felt like some long five years,” he said in an interview last week.I mean I have really enjoyed this, this role and this gig and I have also felt quite a lot of wear and tear from it.”

Lynn has long been the face of bad news on the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles. As executive director of the city-county agency that conducts the count of those without permanent shelter, he presented the results to elected officials and the public each year, using colorful charts of the number housed and in shelters, alongside charts of the number living on the streets.

Homelessness has increased a total of 33% during Lynn’s tenure, precipitating a public reaction that has produced millions of dollars of new tax revenue but also growing frustration with the lack of visible results.

Lynn told The Times that his decision to leave the $242,000-a-year job was partly motivated by a nearly two-month medical absence after an August auto accident left him with a debilitating concussion. The time away allowed him to see things from a new perspective, he said.

Stephanie Klasky-Gamer, president and chief executive of LA Family Housing, a services provider and homeless housing developer, said she is “really disappointed” that Lynn has decided to resign.

“I totally appreciate and understand why he is making a decision to step down. It is a really challenging position to be in,” she said. “He’s never lost sight of the humanity of why we were doing our work.”

Elise Buik, president and chief executive officer of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, said Lynn “has dedicated his life to this work, and L.A. County is a better place because of it.”

He led the effort to “build up the coordinated and integrated approach we’ve always needed,” she said. “He also helped drive the conversation about how racism is intertwined with homelessness, and he elevated our housing affordability crisis as the key headwind that we face.”

In Lynn’s most recent presentation to announce the 12% countywide increase in homelessness in 2019, for instance, he took pains to explain that even as shelter and housing programs were taking thousands of people off the streets, a crisis of housing affordability was pushing even more out of their homes.

Lynn said he has been trying to shift the public conversation from the “personal characteristics of the people who are homeless … to structural factors, like housing affordability, like lack of access to mental health, like lack of access to substance use treatment.”

Despite that, Lynn said he primarily considered himself an administrator. In a non-political job atop an agency created in 1993 by Los Angeles city and county to manage mostly federal homeless funds, his biggest challenge was pulling together a homeless services system sprawling across the county and 88 city governments.

Elected officials complimented Lynn’s work on homelessness and acknowledged the challenge of this post.

“Peter’s leadership of LAHSA came at a time when Angelenos took historic action and made generational investments in confronting the homelessness crisis,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “He served for five years, with dedication, in one of the toughest jobs — and I thank him for all he did to bring more resources to our most vulnerable neighbors.”

County Supervisor Janice Hahn echoed this sentiment.

“Peter led LAHSA through an historic expansion, from a relatively small agency managing shelters, to a multimillion-dollar organization implementing both the county and cities’ homelessness strategies,” she said in a statement. “This was never going to be an easy task but, nevertheless, he welcomed the challenge and his leadership of the agency was important, necessary and appreciated.”

Lynn took the job in December 2014, after serving as Section 8 administrator with the Los Angeles Housing Authority. He inherited a nascent project called the “coordinated entry system,” which was designed to match people on the street with appropriate shelter or housing as it became available.

That system, developed by United Way as a pilot program, had to be expanded to work with hundreds of homeless and housing agencies across the county. In 2015, under Lynn’s leadership, the homeless services authority produced its first data analysis projecting how many housing units and shelter beds would be needed to serve the county’s homeless population — then about 44,000 people.

That data analysis provided the foundation for two local tax measures. In 2016, Los Angeles city voters approved Proposition HHH to authorize $1.2 billion in housing construction bonds, and in 2017, county voters approved Measure H, a sales tax increase for homeless services.

The resulting flood of new money put Lynn in the unusual position of needing to more than triple his staff as the homeless authority hired hundreds of outreach workers, contract administrators and data analysts.

“We are five times the size that we were,” he said. “I don’t think any of us would have expected in December of 2014 that we would have this enormous support from the voters to turn out and put these resources behind these initiatives.”

Lynn said he plans to stay in the homeless field, but would like to be involved in initiatives that he sees as crucial but beyond the scope of the homelessness agency, among them mental illness and substance abuse treatment, as well as re-entry programs.

“I think America, in general, provides really poor funding … for mental health, substance use treatment,” he said. “And I will say, people are really suffering for that.”

He said he also plans to advocate for new housing models to address affordability, especially to replace the single room occupancy hotels that have all but vanished in L.A.

“To the extent that we cannot get deep subsidies,” Lynn said, “we need to think about housing stock types that will be deeply affordable.”

Times staff writer Benjamin Oreskes contributed to this report.



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13-Year-Old Boy Confesses In Stabbing Death Of Barnard Student Tessa Majors; 2 Others Sought – CBS New York

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A 13-year-old boy has confessed in the stabbing death of 18-year-old Barnard College student Tessa Majors, sources told CBS2.

Police found the 13-year-old while canvassing the area near Morningside Park. The boy was caught in the lobby of a building at Manhattan Avenue and 119th Street at around 4:20 p.m. Thursday. He was wearing clothes that matched the description of the suspect, sources said. Police arrested him for criminal trespass and during a search found he was carrying a knife.

Tessa Majors (credit: Instagram/TessMajors)

He was brought to the precinct on trespassing and weapons charges and then confessed to the murder, sources told CBS2. He told investigators he and two friends tried to rob Majors and they stabbed her, sources said.

The 13-year-old faces murder, robbery and weapons charges.

The campus, located just blocks from where the 18-year-old freshman was killed, remains in shock.

Police said Majors was stabbed repeatedly shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday near a set of stairs in Morningside Park.

She collapsed at a college security booth after the attack, and the guard on duty immediately called 911.

“The public safety officer assigned to 116th Street and Morningside Drive was at his post last night when the victim emerged from the park, and he came to her aid immediately upon recognizing that she was injured,” Columbia University said in a statement Thursday. “Reports to the contrary are inaccurate. Officers stationed at this location do not make rounds that cause them to leave their post.”

“I was devastated. First, like, knowing it was someone on my floor. That was hard enough. Then knowing it was someone I had actually seen and knew,” a first-year student named Julia told CBS2’s Christina Fan.

Julia and Gabrielle lived in the same dorm as Majors.

“She was really kind and really good at guitar. She was always a nice face to see in the hallway,” Gabrielle said.

“It’s just really hard to hear for me. I think I’m still processing,” another student said.

“The whole campus is at a loss and it’s been silent all day,” Victoria Dam said.

In a interview, Majors talked about moving to New York from her native Virginia.

“I’m going to Barnard in New York City, across the street from Columbia. It’s an all-girls school. I’m really excited about that,” she said.

Those who knew Majors growing up in Virginia said she liked journalism and was close to her family, including her father, Inman Majors, a professor at James Madison University and well known author. Her family released a statement saying; “Tess shone bright in this world, and our hearts will never be the same.”

Her friend, Chris Graham, said she was a reporter for the local paper.

“She was someone I had great expectations for. She was a talented musician, and that was her first love,” Graham said.

This isn’t the first time the area has seen violent attacks. There have been nearly two dozen incidents in the park since October 2018, including many robberies and one felony assault.

Back in April, police said a group of teens between the ages of 12-15 attacked three women on three separate occasions near the park.

“I’m going to be sure to walk my younger kids home after school. I’m not going to meet them. It’s just not worth the risk,” Morningside Heights resident Kathleen Dames said.

“You hear all these stories and think this can’t happen to me and then this happens 15 minutes after I walk by and I can’t take any classes,” Jane Caron added.

There was a significant number of police officers in the park Thursday. Mayor Bill de Blasio took to Twitter to promise students and faculty an immediate increase in police presence.

“The close-knit community at Barnard College is in shock right now. We’ve lost a young woman full of potential in a senseless act of violence,” he tweeted, adding, “I want every student and every member of faculty to know your city will be with you in the days ahead.”

Barnard College President Sian Leah Beilock sent a message to students, writing, “Tessa was just beginning her journey at Barnard and in life. We mourn this devastating murder of an extraordinary young woman and member of our community.”

“With broken hearts, we share tragic news about the death of one of our students. Earlier this evening, Tessa Majors, a first year student at Barnard, was fatally injured during an armed robbery that occurred off campus in Morningside Park.

Dean Grinage and I have spoken to her parents and Tessa’s family is en route to NYC. We are also in close touch with the New York Police Department as they conduct this on-going investigation and seek to identify the assailant in this horrible attack.

Tessa was just beginning her journey at Barnard and in life. We mourn this devastating murder of an extraordinary young woman and member of our community.

This is an unthinkable tragedy that has shaken us to our core. Please know that we are all grieving together and I am thinking of you as we process this awful news as a community.

In these difficult circumstances, it is important for us to take care of each other. The Furman Counseling Center will be open all night tonight and throughout the day tomorrow. We encourage anyone in need of support to come… In the days ahead, please know that all of our campus resources are available for you as we mourn this heartbreaking loss together. I encourage you to reach out to the following additional on-campus resources as needed… We will provide you with updates as they become available to us. Barnard and Columbia Public Safety are coordinating closely with the NYPD. We remind all students that public safety provides 24/7 escort services and students are free to reach out with any questions or concerns (212-854-6666).

To our entire Barnard community, I am in mourning with you and am here for you. Tonight and in the days ahead, please hold Tessa and her family in your hearts and keep each other close.”

Community resource groups gathered near the site Thursday with candles in hand – calling for change.

“That’s our ask, greater lighting, more patrols in the park so that we feel safer,” Iesha Sekou of Street Corner Resources said.

As part of the investigation, officers in scuba gear searched a pond for evidence inside the park. In the surrounding neighborhood and near the Barnard and Columbia campus reward fliers were posted in plain sight.

The school said counseling services will be available.

  • Furman Counseling Center: 100 Hewitt Hall, (212) 854-2092
  • Dean of Studies Office: 105 Milbank Hall, (212) 854-2024
  • After-hours psychological emergency line: (855) 622-1903
  • International SOS for students who are abroad: +1-215-942-8478

NYPD Crime Stoppers is offering a $2,500 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the investigation. Anyone with information about the deadly stabbing is asked to call its hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or 1-888-57-PISTA (74782) for Spanish. You can also submit a tip via the Crime Stoppers website, by tweeting @NYPDTips or by texting 274637.



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Sunshine on Friday but snow is on the way

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After a mostly sunny day on Friday, snow is expected to fall over the metro area most of the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

There is a 20 percent chance of snow beginning on Friday night and continuing on Saturday. But accumulation will be minimal, said Greg Hanson, a meteorologist at the NWS in Boulder.

There is a 50 percent chance of snow on Sunday that could leave a few inches on the ground, Hanson said.

But snow is expected to impact travel in the mountains this weekend.

Mountain areas were already seeing serious snowfall at 6 a.m. on Friday and in a tweet the Colorado Department of Transportation warned travelers to check cotrip.org prior to leaving home if they are heading for the high country.

Between Friday and Sunday night, a foot of snow could fall on Copper Mountain and other ski areas.

The metro area’s skies will be mostly sunny on Friday with a high near 49 degrees and an overnight low around 23. Wind gusts as high as 31 miles-per-hour are expected.

Saturday will be partly sunny with a high near 41 degrees. There is 40 percent chance of snow with less than one-half inch possible. The overnight low is expected to be around 21 degrees.



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Baltimore police sergeant charged with ‘pattern of harassment,’ state’s attorney says

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Sgt. Ethan Newberg faces 32 counts stemming from nine separate incidents.

The state’s attorney for Baltimore announced a 32-count indictment against a veteran police sergeant who allegedly engaged in a “pattern and practice of harassment and intimidation,” according to prosecutors.

Authorities opened an investigation into Baltimore Police Department Sgt. Ethan Newberg in May when he allegedly assaulted a bystander during an arrest, prosecutors said Thursday.

The incidents in question occurred between July 1, 2018 and May 30, 2019, the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City said in a statement Thursday.

“The indictment alleges that Sergeant Newberg acting beyond the scope of his authority, in a common pattern and practice, did knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully harass, detain and assault citizens who were engaged in lawful conduct for the improper purposes of dominating, intimidating and instilling fear in the citizens, in violation of the common law of Maryland; against the peace, government, and dignity of the state,” the statement said.

Newberg, who has been with the department for 24 years, could face up to 110 years in prison if convicted on all counts.

He now faces 32 counts stemming from nine separate incidents, including the May 30 encounter in which he allegedly arrested a man without legal cause, according to a 17-page indictment handed down by a grand jury.

Newberg, 49, was checking on warrant for a suspect when a bystander made a comment about the suspect being forced to sit on the wet concrete. Newberg then pursued the bystander as he was walking away from the scene and forced him into custody, according to the indictment.

When the bystander challenged Newberg’s authority to make the arrest, Newberg told him to “just go to jail and take your charge like a man,” the indictment states.

The man then asked again, “What am I going to jail for?” to which Newberg replied “Because you don’t know how to act.”

Prosecutors claimed Newberg had a history of unlawfully detaining citizens who appeared to question his conduct.

“Several of Newberg’s unlawful detentions and assaults occurred as a direct result of citizens sitting or standing idly nearby [as] Newberg was conducting other police business, causing no disturbance nor creating any threat to Newberg or his colleagues,” the indictment states. “Several occurred as citizens openly, from a distance, called into question what Newberg was doing to or with another citizen; others occurred when citizens attempted to video record what Newberg was doing to or with another citizen.”

In a another incident, Newberg allegedly arrested a man who was standing by while the officer interrogate a suspect. Newberg ordered the man to walk away and he complied.

But Newberg began to follow him, saying, “You don’t make the rules out here, we do. All I want to hear from you is, ‘You’re right.'” It wasn’t until the individual apologized that Newberg released him from custody.

As the man was being released, Newberg added: “Hey, don’t play me … You owe me … Don’t mess with me.”

In a separate case, Newberg illegally detained a man who was sitting on the steps of a house and accused him of interfering with a traffic stop, according to the indictment.

“I don’t know what your problem is. Why are you testing me? Do you know me? Have you seen me out here before? Ask around … I’m the sergeant they talk about,” Newberg said, according to body camera footage.

In all, Newberg faces 11 counts of second-degree assault, 11 counts of false imprisonment, 10 counts of misconduct in office and one count of misconduct in office by way of a common scheme to commit unlawful acts.

Newberg’s attorney, Joseph Murtha, did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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