Things That Matter

Toddler Nikolette Rivera Was Shot And Killed In Philadelphia While In Her Mother’s Arms In Their Home

Philadelphia is mourning the loss of young Nikolette Rivera, 2, in the wake of her tragic death Sunday. At 3:30 p.m., the toddler was in her Puerto Rican mother’s arms in their Kensington home when an unidentified gunman with an AK-47 unleashed seven shots into the home. Nikolette was shot in the back of the head in her living room. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Her 24-year-old mother, still unidentified, was shot in the back and on the right side of her head. She’s currently hospitalized and in stable condition. A 33-year-old contractor hired to clean carpets took a bullet to his stomach. He remains in critical condition.

Ballistic evidence is pointing to a connection between the Rivera household shooting and another that occurred 8 minutes prior that has left an 11-month old baby a quadriplegic. 

Nikolette was “la luz de la casa,” her recovering mother told Telemundo.

Credit: @MattPetrillo / Twitter

“I am devastated without my daughter, but I have two other children for whom I have to be strong. My Nikolette was a star, the daughter every mother wanted to have, was my doll. She was the light of the house, that of her father and brothers,” Nikolette’s mother told Telemundo. Family members remember Nikolette as a fashionista who aspired to be an actress. Her mother said that Nikolette always stole the spotlight wherever she went–she was that mesmerizing. 

She already had her Halloween costume picked out, never to be worn.

Credit: @DeniseNakanoTV / Twitter

Nikolette was going to be a baby yellow shark for Halloween. Instead, members of the community are saying she’ll be an angel instead.

Nikolette’s abuela and siblings survived the attack.

Screenshot. Digital Video. Telemundo. 22 October 2019.

“They took my granddaugther,” Carmen Ortiz, Nikolette’s grandmother told Telemundo through tears. “Ella murió. Mi princesa, mi única princesa,” Ortiz cried over the death of her princess granddaughter. Carmen was inside the house along with Nikolette’s two siblings. They survived without any physical harm.

The community has rallied behind the Rivera family, bringing pink and white balloons to a vigil at Nikolette’s home.

Credit: @KYWNewsradio / Twitter

Family and friends gathered at the house Nikolette lived and died in to release a hundred pink and white balloons in memory of “la luz de la casa.” Neighbors are calling for an end to the madness. Vecina Leslie Navarro tweeted that she was lost in the Kensington neighborhood at the time Nikolette was killed. “I saw this on the news I cried for her & her family & I pray for this city when you can’t even sit in your HOME  with family & live in fear of a stray bullet!” she tweeted. “My deepest heartfelt condolences to her family! #stopthemadness #NikoletteRivera” Bill Kinkle tweeted “seeing all the pink and white balloons around the neighborhood broke my heart today. #notonemore #nikoletterivera”

Police Captain Jason Smith has verified that the family was targeted.

Screenshot. Digital Video. Telemundo. 22 October 2019.

“We can say that that specific house was the target of the shooting,” Captain Jason Smith said. “The gunman used an assault rifle and detonated the weapon at the entrance door and the windows. We recovered seven bullet casings in front of the residence.” 

Those bullet casings seem to match that of another shooting that occurred seven blocks and five minutes apart from the Rivera shooting. That shooting has left an 11-month-old baby in extremely critical condition. He was shot four times – in the head, chest, and pelvis – while in the backseat of the family car. If the baby survives, doctors expect him to have lost all use of his arms and legs.

Officials are calling on citizens to offer their help to identify the gunman with a $30,000 reward for information leading to arrests.

Credit: @MattDeLucia / Twitter

Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenny hosted a press conference after a weekend of gun violence directed at babies. “We had a horrible weekend with all this armed violence,” he said. “We need the help of the people because we cannot do this alone and the federal government to stop the flow of weapons in the city.” Acting Police Commissioner Christine Coulter added, that “this could not continue happening, the fact that children were impacted by armed violence in a car and in their own home, It breaks the sense of security and we can’t live like this. There has to be someone who saw who committed these acts and we need to stop them.”

Rest in Power, Princesa Nikolette.

READ: ‘Hamilton’ Star Miguel Cervantes And Wife Kelly Cervantes Share Touching Posts About Daughter’s Death

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More Information Has Come Out About the Man Who Senselessly Shot a Young Woman While She Was Walking Her Dog

Things That Matter

More Information Has Come Out About the Man Who Senselessly Shot a Young Woman While She Was Walking Her Dog

Photo via bella_joy_gardens/Instagram

On June 10th, 2020, a senseless crime was committed. 21-year-old Isabella Thallas was shot and killed while she was out walking her dog with her boyfriend, 26-year-old Darian Simon. Simon, who was shot as well, survived.

Almost immediately after Thallas lost her life, the police were informed of the murderer: 36-year-old Michael Close, who lived in the same building as the couple.

Michael Close had shot the couple from his window with an AK-47. Thallas died almost instantly.

Close was quickly arrested and charged with first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault, and possession of a high-capacity magazine during a crime.

But questions piled up as to why Close committed this crime in the first place. Why did he target the couple? Was the murder pre-meditated? How did this unstable man get his hands on an AK-47?

As the police put the pieces together, the motive was shocking. According to Close, he shot and killed Thallas because her dog defecated in the alley behind his unit.

The story he gave police lined up with Darian Simon’s version of events as well. Simon says that he and Thallas were walking their dog together behind their building. Simon commanded the dog to “poop” when he heard Close yelling at him from the window above them.

“Are you going to train that f—ing dog or just yell at it?” Close allegedly yelled out the window at them. When Simon bent down to pick up the dog’s feces, that’s when Close open-fired out the window. Simon was able to run away with wounds to his lower body. Thallas lost her life.

According to Close’s girlfriend, the man had been mentally unwell for a long time.

He had been diagnosed with depression as well as a personality disorder but refused to seek help. He frequently abused drugs and alcohol after being sober for three years.

The murder of Thallas was a culmination of a tumultuous night where he had been drinking and arguing with his girlfriend for hours. Thallas just happened to be the person who was at the receiving-end of his outburst. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

And recently, some more disturbing information has come to light about Thallas’s murder.

According to Denver Police, the gun that Close used to murder Thallas was taken from his friend, police officer Sgt. Dan Politica.

The close friendship between a police officer and an unhinged murder is, understandably, drawing questions from the Denver community.

The Denver Police Department confirmed that Close and Politica were “close friends”. Thalla’s mother, Anna Thallas, appears to have even more information on the friendship.

“They’re best friends. Life-long best friends for over 20 years. They grew up together,” she told 9News Denver.

Anna Thallas is angry and frustrated that the Denver police aren’t conducting an internal investigation.

The DPD argues that Sgt. Politica did nothing wrong. Thallas points to his failure to report the rifle missing until after her daughter was missing as a massive red flag. It is also worth noting that Politica has a history of violence and disciplinary actions by the DPD.

According to phone records, Close texted Sgt. Politica before the murder complaining about a dog in his neighborhood. After he murdered Thallas, he left Politica a voicemail saying he “really f—-d up bad.”

“That man should be stripped of his uniform,” Anna Thallas said. “Had that officer acted in his capacity and the oath that he took to serve and protect and was a responsible gun owner, Isabella might still be alive. My daughter might still be here.”

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The Florida Law That Resulted In Trayvon Martin’s Death Is About To Be Expanded In A Big Way

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The Florida Law That Resulted In Trayvon Martin’s Death Is About To Be Expanded In A Big Way

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Florida already has one of the nation’s most far-reaching “Stand Your Ground” laws but the state’s governor wants to take it a step further: allow people to shoot looters and anyone suspected of rioting or being part of a mob.

DeSantis says the move is in response to an increase in crime across the state and to the ongoing nationwide protests that have resulted in occasional property damage and violence.

However, most experts agree that laws like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law should be weakens or eliminated, since evidence shows that these laws can actually lead to an increase in violence and homicides.

Florida’s governor wants to expand the state’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.

Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis (Republican) is looking to amend the state’s “stand your ground” law, to make it one of the nation’s broadest. His amendments to the legislation are part of his “anti-mob” legislation, which are supposed to target people accused of illegal acts during riots and looting.

But critics rightfully worry that expanding the already dangerous law, would empower people to use violence and deadly force during chaotic and tense confrontations at protests.

The timing is also suspicious, considering the move is coming as part of an aggressive agenda following months of large-scale racial justice protests across the country.

Under Florida’s current law “a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if … he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

DeSantis wants to expand this law to include “criminal mischief that results in the interruption or impairment of a business operation; arson that results in the interruption or impairment of a business operation; and any other felony.”

Democrats are already pushing back strongly against the proposed amendment.

Credit: Saul Loeb / Getty Images

Legislators, attorneys and others call DeSantis’ proposal “racist,” “dangerous” and “extreme.”

In a recent Miami Herald article, Denise Georges, a former Miami-Dade County County prosecutor who had handled “Stand Your Ground” cases said, “It allows for vigilantes to justify their actions.. It also allows for death to be the punishment for a property crime — and that is cruel and unusual punishment. We cannot live in a lawless society where taking a life is done so casually and recklessly.”

In the same article, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, said the governor’s draft bill “sounds like an invitation to incite violence.”

The law gained national attention following the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Credit: Ted Soqui / Getty Images

In 2012, Trayvon Martin was killed by a man who claimed the “Stand Your Ground” defense and his story shocked the country. The 17-year-old teen was unarmed and chased by George Zimmerman which resulted in a physical altercation.

Although Martin was unarmed and not guilty of any crime – he was returning home from a quick walk to a convenience store – his killer was found not guilty thanks to the state’s strong “Stand Your Ground” law.

So-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws are becoming more common across the country.

Nearly three dozen states are “stand your ground” states, including 27 which have explicit laws saying so. They have been expanded over the past ten years as more states follow Florida’s lead.

A 2018 RAND Corporation review of existing research concluded that “there is moderate evidence that stand-your-ground laws may increase homicide rates and limited evidence that the laws increase firearm homicides in particular.” In 2019, RAND authors indicated additional evidence had appeared to reinforce their conclusions.

And although Florida’s legislature remains firmly in Republican control following this year’s election, it’s unclear whether DeSantis will find a sponsor for his proposed amendments.

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