Shooting at Yoga studio


News & Views

Staff & Wire Reports



Police investigators work the scene of a shooting, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, in Tallahassee, Fla. A shooter killed one person and critically wounded four others at a yoga studio in Florida's capital before killing himself Friday, officials said. (Tori Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)

Police investigators work the scene of a shooting, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, in Tallahassee, Fla. A shooter killed one person and critically wounded four others at a yoga studio in Florida's capital before killing himself Friday, officials said. (Tori Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)


This undated photo provided by Leon County Sheriff’s Office shows Scott Paul Beierle. Two people were shot to death and five others wounded at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Fla., by Beierle, a gunman who then killed himself, authorities said. The two slain Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, included a student and faculty member at Florida State University, according to university officials. (Leon County Sheriff’s Office via AP)


Man says he wrestled with gunman during yoga studio shooting

By GARY FINEOUT and TAMARA LUSH

Associated Press

Monday, November 5

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A man trying to stop a shooting attack on a Florida yoga studio said Sunday that he wrestled with the attacker after his gun jammed, a move credited with giving others time to flee the rampage that killed two people and wounded six others.

Yoga student Joshua Quick spoke to ABC’s Good Morning America on Sunday and said he grabbed Scott Paul Beierle’s gun after it jammed, and hit him.

Tallahassee Police have identified Beierle as the man who posed as a customer to get into the studio Hot Yoga Tallahassee during a Friday night class and started shooting. Police said Beierle, 40, then turned the gun on himself but authorities have offered no motive in the attack.

Quick said Beierle was able to grab the gun back and then pistol-whipped him.

“I jumped up as quickly as I could,” said Quick, who had visible facial injuries. “I ran back over and the next thing I know I’m grabbing a broom, the only thing I can, and I hit him again.”

It gave some in the studio time to flee.

“Thanks to him I was able to rush out the door,” Daniela Garcia Albalat told Good Morning America. She was in the class and thought she was going to die. “He saved my life.”

Two women — a 61-year-old faculty member at Florida State University, and a 21-year-old FSU student — were fatally shot.

Dr. Nancy Van Vessem was an internist who also served as chief medical director for Capital Health Plan, the area’s leading health maintenance organization. She was also a faculty member at Florida State and a mother.

Maura Binkley, who grew up in Atlanta and was a double major in English and German, was set to graduate in May.

Beierle was described as a brooding military veteran and former teacher, who appeared to have made videos detailing his hatred of everything from the Affordable Care Act to girls who’d allegedly mistreated him in middle school. The videos were posted four years ago, and were removed from YouTube after the shooting.

Numerous disturbing details about him have emerged. He’d once been banned from FSU’s campus and had been arrested twice for grabbing women even though charges were ultimately dropped.

Beierle, who had moved to the central Florida town of Deltona after getting a graduate degree from FSU, appeared to post a series of videos on YouTube in 2014 where he called women “whores” if they dated black men, said many black women were “disgusting” and described himself as a misogynist.

A Tallahassee police spokesman would not confirm or deny the videos were Beierle’s. However, the man speaking in the videos looks like Beierle and biographical details mentioned in the videos match known facts about Beierle, including details of his military service. The poster’s YouTube username included the word “Scott,” Beierle’s first name. The existence of the videos was first reported by BuzzFeed.

A woman who filed a police report against Beierle told The AP she’s never forgotten how “creepy” he was.

Courtnee Connon was 18 in 2012 when, she said, Scott Paul Beierle grabbed her buttocks at a Florida State dining hall. She declined to press charges, however.

She learned of Beierle’s involvement Friday when a local reporter found her name in a police report and called her.

“I was totally just shocked,” she said. “Since then, I’ve been feeling a little guilt. If I’d pressed charges, would that have stopped him from doing this? How was he not monitored somehow?”

Four years after that, Beierle was arrested for misdemeanor battery after a young woman said he approached her at the swimming pool of a Tallahassee apartment complex, complemented her rear end and offered to rub sunscreen on it, records show. The woman said she declined the offer and, according to an affidavit, Beierle then slapped her on the buttocks and grabbed her.

The top prosecutor for the office that handled Beierle’s 2016 charge, William N. “Willie” Meggs, has no personal recollection of that case. However, since the 2012 battery charges were dropped, Meggs said, it would have been routine for Beierle to receive a deferred prosecution deal.

“It would not have been atypical as a first-time offender for him to get diversion,” said Meggs, since retired as state attorney for Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit. “We should have called the victim to make sure she was OK with him getting diversion.”

It’s not clear from the court file whether that occurred, and the woman didn’t respond to emails seeking comment. The AP doesn’t publicly identify sexual assault victims unless they choose to speak.

Court records indicate prosecutors agreed to dismiss the battery charge after Beierle completed a six-month diversion agreement requiring him to stay out of trouble, not drink alcohol to excess and to follow a psychologist’s recommendations.

Meanwhile, yoga teachers in the Florida capital and the country at large were horrified such a violent act could unfold in a place intended for tranquility and nonviolence.

Some teachers wondered what they would tell their students.

“As an instructor when you start every class, you ask students to close their eyes to relax, because you’re in such a safe space,” said Amanda Morrison, a Tallahassee instructor.

The safety of her students is on her mind as she prepares to teach a class Monday.

“I’m already thinking about locking the doors once class starts,” she said.

Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker contributed from Washington.

Yoga shooter appeared to have made misogynistic videos

By GARY FINEOUT

Associated Press

Sunday, November 4

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A brooding military veteran and former teacher appeared to have made videos in which he railed at women and blacks, years before he fatally shot two women at a Florida yoga studio, wounded five other people and then killed himself.

The Friday evening shooting at a busy upscale shopping plaza jolted the state capital and police said they were still searching for a motive that led to the deaths of a Florida State University student and a well-known local doctor who was a member of the school faculty.

But details about 40-year-old Scott Paul Beierle began to emerge in the hours after, including that he had once been banned from FSU’s campus and had been arrested twice for grabbing women even though the charges were ultimately dropped.

Beierle, who had moved to the central Florida town of Deltona after getting a graduate degree from FSU, appeared to post a series of videos on YouTube in 2014 where he called women “whores” if they dated black men, said many black women were “disgusting” and described himself as a misogynist.

A Tallahassee police spokesman would not confirm or deny the videos were Beierle’s. However, the man speaking in the videos looks like Beierle and biographical details mentioned in the videos match known facts about Beierle, including details about his military service. Also, the poster’s YouTube username included the word “Scott,” Beierle’s first name. The existence of the videos was first reported by BuzzFeed.

In one video, the man said promiscuous women deserved to be crucified and he suggested putting up land mines to keep people from crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.

In another video, the man who appeared to be Beierle likened his adolescent self to Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old who killed six students and wounded more than a dozen others near the University of California, Santa Barbara, before killing himself in 2014. Rodger was a self-identified “incel,” short for “involuntary celibate.”

Tallahassee police say Beierle shot six people and pistol-whipped another after walking into the yoga studio that sits on the second floor of a shopping center located near the city’s fashionable midtown neighborhoods. Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo said some in the studio showed courage by trying to stop him.

Witnesses at the shopping center described how people who had been in the studio ran away, seeking shelter in nearby bars and restaurants as shots rang out.

Police responded within a few minutes, but by then Beirele had fatally shot himself, leaving police to search for a motive and a community to wonder what prompted the violence.

“It’s a place that brings me joy and peace, and I think it’s ruined,” said Katie Bohnett, an instructor at the yoga studio who skipped her normal Friday practice to meet a friend for dinner. “This monster ruined it.”

Police said Beierle acted alone but they were still looking into what prompted the shooting. He was originally from New York, had served in the military and once was a teacher in Maryland. After his military service, he wound up attending FSU.

Kristi Malone, who had a graduate class with Beierle, said in a Facebook message that she did not interact with him outside of the classroom because of “his odd leering, inappropriate comments and general demeanor.”

“I know that myself and several of my female colleagues made a point to never be alone with him even at school because of his odd behavior,” Malone said.

Mike Orgo, who was friends with Beierle on Facebook, said he met him back in 2011 at comedy night open microphone sessions held at a Tallahassee restaurant. He said that he did not know him well but said he “definitely seemed angry and on edge.”

Witnesses told police that Beierle posed as a customer to gain entrance to the studio, then started shooting without warning. Police have not yet said what kind of gun he used. Bohnett said she did not recognize Beierle.

The two slain Friday were a student and faculty member at Florida State University, according to university officials. The department identified them as Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, 61, and Maura Binkley, 21. Binkley was a student from Atlanta who was due to graduate in May. Police said two other victims were in stable condition, and three had been released from the hospital.

Van Vessem was an internist who also served as chief medical director for Capital Health Plan, the area’s leading health maintenance organization.

Court records show that Beierle was charged by police with battery in 2016 after he slapped and grabbed a woman’s buttocks at an apartment complex pool. Records show that the charges were eventually dismissed after Beierle followed the conditions of a deferred prosecution agreement.

Beierle was also charged with battery in 2012 for grabbing women’s buttocks in a university campus dining hall. A FSU police report shows that Beierle told police he may have accidentally bumped into someone, but denied grabbing anyone.

In 2014, Beierle was charged with trespassing at FSU. He had been seen following an FSU volleyball coach near the campus gym and was told that he was banned from campus. A month later police found him at a campus restaurant.

The Conversation

Democrats can’t count on Latinos to swing the midterms

October 24, 2018

Author

Steffen W. Schmidt

Lucken Endowed Professor of Political Science, Iowa State University

Disclosure statement

Steffen W. Schmidt is affiliated with the League of United Latin American Citizens. He was born and raised in Cali, Colombia.

Democrats are ready to turn out in record numbers for November’s midterm elections, surveys show, particularly women and older voters.

But not all members of the party are as motivated.

Democrats have “a Latino problem,” according to analysis by two media outlets, Politico and The New York Times, showing that Latino turnout may be low this November.

Approximately 27.3 million U.S. Latinos can vote in November – 12 percent of all eligible voters, according to the Pew Research Center. Democrats are courting Latinos in red states like Arizona and Florida, hoping that this big bloc of voters will punish Republicans for President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies.

But the so-called “Latino vote” has always been more promise than reality. My political science research explains why Latinos won’t swing the midterms for Democrats.

Eligibility and turnout

Immigration status is one factor that limits the political impact of this group.

According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, only 44 percent of U.S. Latinos are eligible to vote, a lower proportion than Asian, African-American and white voters.

But Latino voter turnout is also generally low.

In the 2016 U.S. election, Pew finds, 48 percent of eligible Latino voters cast a ballot, compared to 65.3 perent of whites and 59.6 percent of blacks.

This year, The New York Times has found, 58 percent of white registered voters and half of black registered voters say they’re “almost certain” to vote in the midterms. But just 43 percent of Hispanic voters are as sure they’ll participate.

Some U.S. Latinos are highly likely to vote, including older voters with a college degree and Cuban-Americans.

But just one in three voting-aged Latinos under 29 voted in the last presidential election. Turnout was even lower among Latinos with less than a high school diploma.

Fully 20 percent of U.S. Latino voters fall into this low-turnout category.

Swing districts not well located for Dems

The impact of the Latino vote on Senate and House races in 2018 is likewise limited by geographic factors.

More than half – 52 percent – of all Latinos eligible to vote live in California, Texas and New York. Congressional candidates in these states already understand the power of Latino voters, who have been decisive players in at least two dozen districts since the 1980s. Candidates successfully target Latino constituents in their media campaigns and outreach work.

In four big swing states, on the other hand – Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio – Latinos make up 5 percent or less of eligible voters.

Gerrymandering of congressional districts and onerous voter registration barriers also significantly diminish Latinos’ voting power.

As a result, Latino voters may be decisive for Democrats in just a handful of races: those occurring in states with competitive districts and significant Latino populations, including Virginia, Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.

In my view, the Latino vote could help push Democrats to victory in just seven races in five states. These include Virginia’s 10th district, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.; Texas’ southwestern 23rd and suburban 7th districts; Florida’s 26th district, which includes Miami; and Arizona’s Tucson-based 2nd district.

Not single-issue voters

The assumption that Latinos outraged by Trump’s immigration policies will come out en masse to vote against his party reveals another errant assumption about this voter segment – namely, that all Latinos care about the same things.

The Latino demographic is as diverse as any other population in America. It is a mistake to think that any 27.3 million eligible voters would rally around the same issues – even Trump’s immigration policies. The facts show that Latinos vote based on the same array of factors – gender identity, profession, religious affiliation, economic class, education – as other groups.

According to Gallup, Latino voters are concerned about health care, jobs, the economy and inequality. Just 12 percent cite immigration as their primary concern.

Some Latinos, like other Americans Trump targeted during his campaign, are themselves weary of undocumented immigration. Gallup polls over the past six years find that an average of 67 percent of Hispanics have said they worry “a great deal or fair amount” about illegal immigration. That is 10 points higher than non-Hispanic white respondents and 12 points higher than black respondents.

Inaccurate polling

The truth is, we just don’t know enough about the preferences of Latino voters. Just half a dozen polls – out of hundreds – exclusively target the Latino voter segment.

And what polling is done on Latinos is often not well-designed, warn the Latino political leaders I’ve interviewed. They say that exit pollsters cannot accurately define who is a Latino and that surveys do not draw from representative samples of Latino districts.

As a result, projections about Latino voter behavior are often inaccurate.

Here’s an example: Nearly all the analysts and anchors I interviewed from Telemundo, Univision and CNN en Español before the 2016 election agreed that Trump would win very few Latino voters.

Ultimately, it appears that 28 percent of Latinos voted for Trump. That’s just shy of the average 30 percent of U.S. Latinos who usually vote for GOP candidates and a reflection of the conservative social values many Latinos hold about abortion, LGBTQ issues and big government bureaucracies.

Republicans could lose Latino support

The 2018 midterm elections will be a sharp and significant test of Latino voter behavior in the United States – even more so than the 2016 presidential election.

Back then, Trump was running for president. His anti-immigrant tirades could be passed off as campaign rhetoric.

Today many U.S. Latinos and their families feel the direct impact of his Republican administration’s policies, including a crackdown on undocumented immigrants, the inhumane treatment of Central American asylum-seekers and the legal limbo inflicted on the young immigrants known as Dreamers.

Latinos, the largest and fastest-growing community in the United States, may not win Congress for the Democrats in November. But Trump may have lost them for Republicans.

This article is an update of the story “4 reasons why anti-Trump Latino voters won’t swing the midterms,” originally published Aug. 20, 2018.

In Florida, a bitter and personal clash for US Senate

By GARY FINEOUT

Associated Press

Saturday, November 3

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Floridians could help determine control of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday as they decide whether to keep three-term incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson in office or replace him with Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Nelson has been viewed as one of the nation’s most vulnerable Democrats thanks to the formidable challenge from Scott, a multimillionaire businessman who has poured more than $60 million of his own fortune into the contest. A Nelson loss could make it difficult for Democrats to take back the Senate.

While the two men differ on a range of issues ranging from gun control to health care, the election has been more about character and competence and the candidates’ respective relationships with President Donald Trump.

Scott has urged voters to “retire” the 76-year-old Nelson, calling him ineffective and faulting him on everything from the level of federal support for the space program to the slow wait to get federal money to help repair the Lake Okeechobee dike.

“I work and he doesn’t,” said Scott. “He doesn’t do anything. I don’t know what he has done in 42 years of office.”

That message has resonated with voters such as Ed Evangelista, who attended a Trump political rally this week in southwest Florida. He recently moved to the state after living in Connecticut for most of his 70 years.

In his home state, he said he voted for Democrats and Republicans. Now that he lives in Venice, Florida, he’s casting his first ballot in the state for Scott.

“He’s been in way too long,” Evangelista said of Nelson. “I don’t care if he’s a good guy or not.”

Nelson has responded by branding Scott as a Trump follower who has used the governor’s office to pad his wealth and has ignored problems festering in the state. He has insisted Scott’s actions to cut the budgets of water-management districts and limit enforcement actions at the state’s environmental agency have contributed to the toxic algae and red tide that have plagued the coast this year. Nelson has also criticized Scott for opposing President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul.

“The campaign is about trust and integrity,” Nelson said during a campaign swing through Tallahassee with Vice President Joe Biden. “I think the choice is pretty clear. You just can’t trust Rick Scott. He’ll either change his position or he goes completely against the public interest.”

When Scott first decided to run, the contest between him and Nelson was seen as one of the marquee races in the nation, involving two heavyweights.

But that battle has been overshadowed by the governor’s race, a vitriolic contest between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum that’s been seen as a proxy battle between Trump and Democrats. Scott also spent nearly two weeks off the campaign trail to respond to Hurricane Michael, which pummeled several counties in the Florida Panhandle and was responsible for dozens of deaths.

Scott, a one-time health care executive, jumped into politics eight years ago and rode a tea party wave into the governor’s office. He promised to enact stiff new policies to deal with immigration and was a loud critic of Obama. While in office, Scott backed away from his hard line on immigration and even came out in support of Medicaid expansion, although he changed that position once he was re-elected.

The 65-year-old governor planned to make the election a referendum on Nelson’s tenure, but found himself playing defense over his own record and became the target of vocal protests at some of his campaign stops.

The governor also began widely airing a television ad promising to retain the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections for people with pre-existing conditions, even though Florida is one of the states involved in a lawsuit aimed at overturning the federal law. The governor has maintained he had nothing to do with the lawsuit, but he has not called for the state to withdraw from it.

Nelson and his allies ran ads questioning Scott’s ethics, pointing to his ouster as chief executive of health care giant Columbia/HCA amid a federal fraud investigation. Although Scott was never charged with any wrongdoing, the health care conglomerate paid a then-record $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud.

Nelson, whose long political career included a stint as the state’s insurance commissioner, has been put on the defensive this election season, as well, particularly over several public comments and statements.

Over the summer he triggered a firestorm when he said the Russians were meddling in Florida’s election system after an unsuccessful attempt in 2016. While top GOP senators would neither confirm nor deny Nelson’s statement, federal authorities told Florida election officials they saw no signs of any “new or ongoing compromises” of state or local election systems.

More recently, Nelson warned that the ongoing political strife in the nation could lead to the genocide that happened in the African nation of Rwanda, where nearly a million people were killed in the early ’90s.

Police investigators work the scene of a shooting, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, in Tallahassee, Fla. A shooter killed one person and critically wounded four others at a yoga studio in Florida’s capital before killing himself Friday, officials said. (Tori Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121711788-8ff9cf3efe0b40b4a22f5b54735f1d92.jpgPolice investigators work the scene of a shooting, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, in Tallahassee, Fla. A shooter killed one person and critically wounded four others at a yoga studio in Florida’s capital before killing himself Friday, officials said. (Tori Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)

This undated photo provided by Leon County Sheriff’s Office shows Scott Paul Beierle. Two people were shot to death and five others wounded at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Fla., by Beierle, a gunman who then killed himself, authorities said. The two slain Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, included a student and faculty member at Florida State University, according to university officials. (Leon County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/11/web1_121711788-3e4f49d589664e2ea856cd0772fb3393.jpgThis undated photo provided by Leon County Sheriff’s Office shows Scott Paul Beierle. Two people were shot to death and five others wounded at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Fla., by Beierle, a gunman who then killed himself, authorities said. The two slain Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, included a student and faculty member at Florida State University, according to university officials. (Leon County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
News & Views

Staff & Wire Reports