October 13, 2022

U.S. Army soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga., Oct. 26, 2012. (DVIDS)

Military suicide rates

Three U.S. Army Rangers died at Hunter Army Airfield between July 31 and Oct. 6, and two military officials with knowledge of the situation confirmed two of the deaths were suicides.

Suicide rates among active-duty military have been increasing in the last five years, according to the USO, or United Service Organizations. Military suicides are four times higher than deaths that occurred in military operations, the group said.

At Hunter Army Airfield, the three young men, who are between 21-26 years old, were all a part of the same elite 75th Ranger Regiment. The most recent death occurred on Oct. 6, and it’s still unclear how he died, according to a military official. An obituary for the 21-year-old from Westwood, N.J. described it as a “tragic gun accident.”

The exclusive story reported by The Current‘s Jake Shore and Margaret Coker sheds light on tragic events at the Army base in recent months. Information about the deaths from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command was disclosed only after The Current reached out after receiving an anonymous tip.

Troops, veterans and family members facing a mental health crisis can call 988 or 1-800-273-8255 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line for around-the-clock emergency help (press 1 after connecting for faster access). Individuals can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for alternate ways to reach counselors.

Matthew Brodeur/Unsplash

Marijuana pardons in South Georgia

President Joe Biden made waves in the world of criminal justice last week when he pardoned people convicted federally of simple possession of marijuana.

The impact wasn’t as large as many originally thought: Nobody was freed from federal prison due to the pardon (It’s rare for a defendant to be in prison for only simple possession). For those out of prison, the pardon doesn’t clear one’s record or signify innocence, but it instead removes any penalties associated with the crime, according to the Department of Justice Office of the Pardon Attorney.

The vast majority of people charged with marijuana occurs at the state level, which Biden doesn’t have control over.

But in Georgia’s federal Southern District — which includes Augusta, Brunswick, Statesboro and Savannah — three people saw the biggest impact from Biden’s pardon, according to an official. Their only conviction was for simple possession and, as a result, their probations were concluded.

“We have identified 3 such individuals convicted in and/or on supervision in the Southern District of Georgia for that offense. All have been advised that their probation supervision was terminated, effective 10-06-22, the date of the President’s proclamation,” wrote Chief U.S. Probation Officer Suzanne Mingledorff in an email.

The pardon does make it easier for those formerly convicted of simple possession (around 6,500 in total across the country) to apply for jobs, loans, licenses, and housing.

Eric Andre speaking at a press conference related to his lawsuit accusing Atlanta’s airport police of racial profiling. (The Policing Project)

Airline discrimination?

For travelers who have flown through Atlanta’s airport, they may remember its well-attended Chick-Fil-A, efficient transit system, and smooth jazz playing from overhead speakers.

But the popular airport for the “City Too Busy To Hate” is now under scrutiny for what two Black passengers remember as an experience of racial profiling, a new lawsuit alleges.

Prominent Black comedians Eric Andre and Clayton English accuse the Clayton County Police Department’s “jet bridge interdiction program” as a means of violating Black passengers’ constitutional rights in the name of combatting drug trafficking at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

CCPD officers intercept passengers at the jet bridge, asking for identification and boarding passes, interrogate them and search through their luggage, the lawsuit claims. The agency states the searches are random, but the suit claims officers selectively profile people of color.

The lawsuit states that of stops made between September 2020 and April 2021, 56% of the passengers were Black while Black people only make up 8% of airline travelers.

Court records do not show a response yet from the police department.

Have a question, comment, or story idea? Email me at jakeshore.thecurrent@gmail.com. Have a good week.

3 Army Rangers dead, 2 by suicide, officials say

Three U.S. Army soldiers from 75th Ranger Regiment, aged between 21 and 26, have died in questionable circumstances. Military officials with knowledge of the situation confirm two were by suicide. They were based at Hunter Army Airfield.

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Where is it hardest to gain ‘compassionate release’ in America? Georgia.

Across America, 2 Georgia federal courts grant the fewest numbers of compassionate release requests to ill prisoners, according to new sentencing data.

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Camden traffic stop leads to Black passenger’s arrest, controversy

When does no mean no? An interracial couple stopped for speeding in Georgia told officers they could not search their car. Sheriff deputies did anyway — now, probable cause is under scrutiny.

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Jake Shore covers public safety and the courts system in Savannah and Coastal Georgia. He is also a Report for America corps member. Prior to joining The Current, Jake worked for the Island Packet and...