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WASHINGTON –  The United States is deepening its involvement in the war against the Islamic State group after an unprecedented American airlift of Arab and Kurdish fighters to the front lines in northern Syria, supported by the first use of U.S. attack helicopters and artillery in the country. The U.S. forces didn’t engage in ground combat, but the offensive suggests the Trump administration is taking an increasingly aggressive approach as it plans an upcoming assault on the extremists’ self-declared capital of Raqqa. In addition to using helicopters to ferry rebels into combat near the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River, the U.S. also flew two Apache gunships and fired Marine 155mm artillery. “This is pretty major,” Col. Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition that is fighting the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday. He said it was the first time U.S. forces have airlifted …

PHOENIX –  The parents of a 9-year-old boy who was shot in the head in their Phoenix home put off calling 911 as they cleaned up evidence in multiple rooms of the house, police said, calling it a case that “shocks your conscience.” Wendy Lavarnia told police that her 2-year-old son found a gun left on a bed and accidentally shot his older brother Monday. Police cast doubt on her story as they launched a murder investigation involving the 28-year-old woman and her ex-convict husband, Kansas Lavarnia. Police began to become suspicious of the mother’s story when they found inconsistencies in her account and when the boy’s father showed up at the home with a crudely bandaged gunshot wound on his upper arm. The wound looked to have been punctured multiple times, possibly with a screwdriver, to camouflage the injury, authorities said. Police declined Wednesday to specify the mother’s inconsistencies or say who they think …

NEW YORK –  New York City officials are calling the death of a black man who they say was repeatedly stabbed with a sword by a white U.S. Army veteran from Baltimore, “an assault” on the city’s inclusiveness and diversity. James Harris Jackson took a bus to New York to target black men when he encountered Timothy Caughman, who was collecting bottles from trash cans, and stabbed him in his chest and back with a 26-inch sword, Assistant Chief William Aubrey said. Jackson, 28, had been wandering the streets in a long overcoat, which concealed the sword, Aubrey said. He turned himself in at a Times Square police station early Wednesday, about 25 hours after the wounded Caughman staggered into a police precinct. Jackson, who was arrested on suspicion of murder, told police that he had harbored feelings of hatred toward black men for at least 10 years, authorities said. He traveled to New York …

WESTON, Wis. –  A police officer and three other people were shot and killed when a domestic dispute at a bank escalated into shootings at three locations in northern Wisconsin, investigators said. A suspect was in custody. The shootings happened Wednesday afternoon at a bank, a law firm and an apartment complex, where officers, including a SWAT team, had a standoff with the suspect for several hours before ending in a volley of gunfire around 5 p.m. Authorities took no questions in a brief news conference late Wednesday and gave no details on the four victims or suspect. They said there was no remaining threat to the public. Jason Smith, a deputy administrator for the state Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation, said more than 100 officers were investigating and more information would be released Thursday. The violence unfolded in a cluster of small towns south of Wausau, about 90 miles west of Green …

March 22 (UPI) — A police officer and three civilians died in a shooting spree that started as “domestic situation” and spread to two other locations in northern Wisconsin, police officials said Wednesday night. The shooter was taken into policy custody, Everest Metro Police Chief Wally Sparks said at a news conference. The victims were not identified pending notification from the next of kin, including the officer. The shooting took place in small towns south of Wausau, about 90 miles west of Green Bay. At 12:27 p.m., Rothschild officers were first called to Marathon Savings Bank where they found two people shot. Then at 1:10 p.m., Wausau Police Capt. Todd Baeten said more shots were reported from the law firm of Tlusty, Kennedy and Dirks in Schofield. At 1:30 p.m., a third call came from the Aspen Street Apartments complex in Weston, Everest police said. The suspect was barricaded inside the building and he communicated …

MILWAUKEE A police officer and three other people were killed in a string of shootings that unfolded in three small communities in central Wisconsin, local media reported on Wednesday. A suspect was taken into custody by police at an apartment complex in Weston, Wisconsin, following the incident, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel newspaper reported. Weston is about 90 miles west of Green Bay. Todd Baeten, police captain for Wausau, Wisconsin, told an afternoon press conference that the incident began shortly before 1 p.m. central time when shots were reported fired at the Marathon Savings Bank in the nearby town of Rothschild. Baeten told the news conference that several minutes later a similar report was received from a law firm in Wausau before officers converged on the apartment complex. Wausau police and the Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigations declined to confirm the casualties to Reuters. (Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Additional reporting and writing by Dan Whitcomb …

A police officer and three other people were killed in a series of shootings Wednesday in northern Wisconsin that apparently began as a domestic dispute in a bank, officials said.  Everest Metro Police Chief Wally Sparks said at a news conference the slain officer was from his department and that a suspect was in custody. Sparks did not release the officer’s name or the names of the other three dead. Authorities took no questions in a brief news conference, but said there was no remaining threat to the public. We’re at a standoff in Marathon County where more law enforcement just arrived for ongoing situation. Police not providing many details. pic.twitter.com/Z3i3lwOamW — Ben Krumholz WLUK (@BenKrumholzWLUK) March 22, 2017 “I would like to send all my thoughts and ask everybody listening, Thoughts and prayers to all the victims and their families.’” Sparks said. “Please keep them in your prayers and be with our officers.” Jason …

PITTSBURGH –  A Pennsylvania karate instructor who was jailed after he was accused of molesting students is now charged with trying to solicit the murder of the alleged victims in the case. Allegheny County police said Wednesday that new charges were filed against 29-year-old Michael Scherbanic. Scherbanic was accused last year of abusing five juvenile male students of his Tang Soo Do Karate College in North Versailles (vur-SAYLZ’), just outside of Pittsburgh. He was set to go on trial in April, but police say an investigation “uncovered an elaborate criminal plan to intimidate victims, recruit witnesses to perjure themselves and obstruct the prosecution in five criminal cases.” Court documents don’t list an attorney in the new case. A message left after business hours for Scherbanic’s attorney in the abuse cases wasn’t immediately returned.

LOS ANGELES A Mexican immigrant whose daughter appealed to Pope Francis three years ago to stop his deportation from the United States requested asylum at a federal court hearing in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Mario Vargas-Lopez’s attorney argued the 45-year-old could be the victim of violence if he is deported to Mexico because of the international attention his case has received. “People in Mexico know who he is, and he might be targeted for ransom and extortion,” attorney Alex Galvez said in a phone interview after the hearing. Vargas-Lopez was granted a hearing for Sept. 18 by Judge Rose Peters. He entered the United States in 1999, his attorney said, and had worked in construction in Tennessee and California. In September 2013, he was arrested in Tennessee on a drunken-driving charge and served a six-month sentence. On his release, he was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and held in its Louisiana facility. Vargas-Lopez …

A SWAT team and other police officers are outside an apartment in northern Wisconsin as police investigate shootings at three locations. Wausau Police Capt. Todd Baeten says the shootings happened Wednesday at a bank, a law firm and the apartment where authorities remained on the scene mid-afternoon in Rothschild, a village about 90 miles west of Green Bay. Early police reports indicated two people were shot and critically injured, but Baeten wouldn’t confirm the injuries later Wednesday. He says the shootings involved “multiple scenes” and many law officers. We’re at a standoff in Marathon County where more law enforcement just arrived for ongoing situation. Police not providing many details. pic.twitter.com/Z3i3lwOamW — Ben Krumholz WLUK (@BenKrumholzWLUK) March 22, 2017 Dozens of police cars and emergency vehicles were responding after a shooting was reported in Rothschild. Wausau police say the situation was still active and has asked residents to avoid the area.    

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