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The Fallout for Police Whistleblowers



Like many Americans, especially those on the political left, I have a distrust of the police. I’ve had several negative experiences that have left me jaded, including one in which I am the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit. My brain defaults to thinking the worst of the men and women in blue. That’s often unfair, and it’s something that I’m trying to overcome.

One thing I realized very recently was that, as in any other vocation, there are some police officers who are born whistleblowers. Like any others, they revealed the truth when they were witness to waste, fraud, abuse, illegality, or threats to the public health or public safety. That’s something to be celebrated.

It’s hard to be (or to have been) a whistleblower in the intelligence community. You become an outcast among the people you considered to be friends, among people whom you once trusted with your life. It’s not an easy transition going from one-time insider to persona non grata. But it happens, not just in the intelligence community, but among the police, too.

And in many cases, the fallout for police whistleblowers is at least as bad as it is for whistleblowers elsewhere in government.

Moses Black of the Gonzales Police Department in Louisiana is one such whistleblower. In 2015, Black, a veteran officer, reported a colleague for using excessive force on a handcuffed prisoner. An internal review board cleared the colleague, and police leaders almost immediately began retaliating against Black. He was suspended for 90 days for being late once to work.

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Police Failed to Solve a Third of Homicides of Transgender People




PRICHARD, Alabama — It’s a warm October afternoon in this Alabama town, and Tiffany Pugh is once again at the police station seeking answers to a question she’s been asking for nearly two years: Who murdered my child?

She sits patiently in an empty hallway, scrolling on her iPhone to pass the time. An image of her child, whom she named Jaheim Pugh, gazes out from her custom-made T-shirt.

Only the hum of the vending machines breaks the quiet as she waits to see if someone — anyone — will tell her what they’ve learned about that early December morning in 2020 when Pugh was shot and killed in front of witnesses at a crowded party.

She first showed up at the drab, low-slung concrete building that houses the Prichard Police Department after learning her child had been shot, not from the police, but from Pugh’s grandmother. It would be the first of more than 20 trips Tiffany would make to the police station and the district attorney’s office as she tried to make sense of how her teenager, so full of life, could be dead.

“He got shot and probably didn’t even realize, ‘Someone’s actually killing me,'” Tiffany said, her voice breaking. “His brain didn’t wrap around evil like that.”

She’s still trying to piece together what happened. 

‘Leave it alone’

Pugh was tough to miss that night, dressed in a shiny rainbow jumpsuit, glittery eyeshadow, and a long, curly wig. The party was held at a hit house — an unlicensed bar — and it was crowded the night of the shooting. Two others were wounded by the shooter and survived. One of the partygoers posted a Facebook Live video of Pugh lying on the floor after being shot.

Bella Pugh on the night she was killed

Jaheim “Bella” Pugh, with her dog, also named Bella, on December 12, 2020, the night she was killed

Tiffany Pugh

The police arrested one suspect, but prosecutors let him go. Another suspect was killed before an arrest could be made. A third man was fingered as suspicious by someone who knew him. Many in the area have heard the rumors about that night, but those who know the truth remain silent.

Carmen Dowdell, a friend of Pugh’s, told Insider that witnesses are probably scared to come forward. “You gotta understand, it was a thing called ‘snitches get stitches,'” she said.

Efforts by Insider to track down leads were often met with anxious silence. Witnesses asked not to be named, fearing retaliation.

One person who knew Pugh called a woman who had been at the hit house in the presence of a reporter to see if they’d share what happened. “I’ll think about it and I’ll pray on it and let you know,” the woman on the other end of the call responded.

“She ain’t comfortable with it, I can tell by the way she’s talking,” the person who knew Pugh said. “That’s because she was that close.”

“I have been haunted by this,” a woman injured in the shooting told Tiffany in a July 2021 text message viewed by Insider. “The people who was there when it happened side-eye me every time I go out.” When reached by Insider, the woman said, “Just leave it as is,” before hanging up.

The other shooting victim is still reeling from that night. He said the bullet that struck him in the back couldn’t be removed because it’s too close to his spine. He’s now apprehensive about talking.

“I don’t know what’s going on with the case so I don’t even want to speak on something like that,” he said. “I want to leave it alone.”

Tiffany told Insider that Jaheim went by the name Bella while out clubbing. But Pugh had a group of close friends, her “sisters,” who knew her as Bella no matter where she was. The three of them, Carmen Dowdell, 21, her cousin Ja’Koya Dowdell, 21, and their friend Jasmine Johnson, 22, are part of the queer and transgender community in nearby Mobile, where Bella lived. Since Pugh’s murder, they are more cautious and now track each other’s locations.

Ja'Koya Dowdell, Carmen Dowdell, Jasmine Johnson.jpg

Pugh’s chosen sisters Ja’Koya Dowdell, 21; her cousin, Carmen Dowdell, 21; and their friend Jasmine Johnson, 22 said they were traumatized by her death

Breahna Crosslin for Insider

“I always tell my sisters before we go see anybody or before we pull up on anybody or let someone come see us, they know that we were born men,” Ja’Koya said. “You can never say we tricked you into something, you can never say we manipulated you.”

They believe Pugh was killed because of her gender identity. 

Ja’Koya said she lost weight after Pugh’s murder and had breakdowns at work. “It was traumatizing,” Carmen said. “Every day we step out of the house, we never know who they’re targeting. So we have to be careful on where we go, because we are hated in the community.” They watch over each other because, she said, “somebody gotta live and tell the story.” 

“There’s hatred everywhere and you just have to be safe,” she said.

Still unsolved

Pugh’s friends and family aren’t the only ones left in the dark. Of the 175 homicides of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals Insider analyzed from 2017 to 2021, more than a third remain unsolved.

Most of the unsolved cases are in major cities like Baltimore, where 80% of killers remain at large, and Jacksonville, Florida, where 75% of cases still languish. But it’s not just large cities: In Shreveport, a city in northwest Louisiana with a population of 184,000, there were three transgender homicides between 2018 and 2021. They all remain unsolved. According to the Shreveport Police Department, all three investigations are ongoing. “Our investigators follow leads and evidence as it presents itself,” a department spokesperson told Insider.

Some of the cases appear genuinely complex to solve, with few leads. Marilyn Cazares, 22, was found dead of stab wounds in an abandoned house in rural Imperial County, California. Aidelen Evans, 24, was found dead in a canal in Port Arthur, Texas.

But other cases, like Pugh’s, remain unsolved despite the presence of witnesses.

In Prince George’s County, Maryland, the police have yet to arrest 27-year-old Ashanti Carmon’s killer even though officers received detailed information from her friend Zoe Spears, who said she had witnessed Carmon’s killing. Two months later, after she gave a lengthy interview to the police, Spears, 23, was also killed.

Marilyn Cazares, Aidelen Evans and Ashanti Carmon

Left to right, Marilyn Cazares, 22; Aidelen Evans, 24; and Ashanti Carmon, 27

Insider’s database of transgender homicides from 2017 – 2021

In Dallas, the police bungled the case of Merci Richey, 22, a Black transgender woman shot and killed in an apartment complex parking lot in June 2020. 

The police arrested Angelo Walker, 20, for the murder after a witness came forward claiming he’d seen the crime from his apartment window. The witness told the police Walker had killed Richey because she planned to release a video of the two of them together.

Walker spent more than a year in jail based on the witness’s claim before prosecutors dropped charges against him in November 2021. “I don’t know what happened,” Walker said in a text message. “I wasn’t there and didn’t do it.”

According to documents obtained by Insider, an earlier witness told the police a different story the day of the killing: that a homeless person who’d witnessed the crime up close described the suspect in detail, saying he had long dreadlocks and tattoos on his arms and chest.

Merci Richey

Merci Richey, who was killed at an apartment complex in Dallas in June 2020; her case remains unsolved

Courtesy of Tyeshia Rickett

Walker did not fit the homeless person’s description, according to Walker’s defense attorney, Thomas Cox. But Cox said the witness who claimed he saw Walker shoot Richey through the apartment window did. That man also had dreadlocks.

A private investigator testified during a June 2021 bond hearing that it was physically impossible for the witness who identified Walker to have seen the murder from his apartment window. And the police never found evidence of the alleged video because they accidentally bricked Richey’s phone during their investigation, Cox told Insider.

“Arguably this was another example of a transgender victim that nobody cared enough about to do a full investigation,” Cox told Insider. “As a result, her murderer walks free and my client was falsely incarcerated.” 

Insider is not naming the witness because he has not been charged.

Richey’s sister, Tyeshia Rickett, said she hasn’t heard from the police since Walker’s release. In a statement to Insider, the Dallas Police Department said the case remains open, but the department did not respond to a detailed list of questions about steps they’ve taken to solve it.

“There’s somebody out there killing trans woman and they’re still out there, so how are you just gonna drop it and not still investigate?” Rickett asked.

Back in Prichard that October afternoon, a heavyset man with graying hair and orange suspenders finally opens the door to the waiting area and asks Tiffany Pugh why she’s there. He introduces himself as Jason Hadaway, a detective for the department, and Tiffany tells him she’s here about Jaheim.

“I don’t have any updates since I wasn’t here then,” Hadaway says. He advises her to return on Friday afternoon to discuss the case with a lieutenant. 

Two days later, Tiffany is back in that empty hallway.

She waits for an hour, and no one shows up.

‘Who can you be you around?’

Pugh’s family and friends described Pugh as loud, outspoken, and funny, a die-hard Nicki Minaj fan who loved to twerk. 

During a 2017 visit to New York City, Tiffany said Pugh started belting out “Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Rey while waiting for the subway. They missed their train as commuters cheered.

“He was the life of the party; very, very energetic. He was a people’s person,” Vasante Carter, Pugh’s sister, told Insider. “Like, there’s no way you can meet Jaheim and not love him.”

When Pugh was in middle school, she told Tiffany that she was gay. They started counseling together, and Tiffany discovered her buoyant child had been bullied since kindergarten. Tiffany remembers what the counselor told her: “If the world is against him, you have to be Team Jaheim.” 

Over the years, the bullying continued: Ja’Koya said people targeted Pugh on social media, and Tiffany recalled how a kid in the high-school cafeteria threw chocolate milk at Pugh’s head and called her a “sissy.” Another time, Pugh was jumped by players on the football team. 

Despite that, Pugh was unafraid to be herself. Pugh’s signature look was bleaching her hair and coloring it wildly, in shades of blue or red. Carter said she would do Pugh’s makeup, and Pugh would steal her clothes.

from on Vimeo.

Pugh started sporting wigs a couple months before she died, Tiffany told Insider. But first she asked Tiffany whether it would be disrespectful to wear them around her. “If you can’t be you around me, who can you be you around?” her mother responded.

With her mother’s blessing, Pugh picked out a wig to wear on Halloween, and dressed up as Dorothy, a transformation she captured in a selfie.

Tiffany said she asked Pugh several times whether she was transitioning, but Pugh always said, “Well, mama, you know, I’m young.” 

Diamond Stylz, the executive director of Black Trans Women Inc. and an editorial consultant for Insider’s Deaths in the Family project, said it’s common for young people, particularly in rural areas or small towns, to feel less open discussing their transition with their family of origin than with their chosen family in the transgender community.

“That doesn’t mean your family doesn’t love you or didn’t accept you, but maybe you’re not comfortable yet saying you were going to transition,” Stylz said. “You hadn’t gotten to the point where you want to talk to them about it.”

Photos of Jaheim "Bella" Pugh on a pink poster in a room.

Pugh’s family and friends described Pugh as loud, outspoken, and funny, a die-hard Nicki Minaj fan who loved to twerk.

L. Kasimu Harris for Insider

Ja’Koya said she knew Pugh was serious about transitioning when she asked three days in a row about the doctor Ja’Koya saw for hormones. 

“It’s a respect thing,”Ja’Koya told Insider. “No matter what it is, we know what our sister is. Like, Bella is Bella. Bella is she.” 

‘It’s the house party for me’

In the days before the party at the hit house, Pugh was excited. “Sis, are you still going?” she’d ask Carter, her sister. “It’s the house party for me. I can’t wait.” 

“Whoever thought he would have been so excited to go to a raggedy hit house,” Carter said.

Terricka Gibson, the mother of Pugh’s friend Christian Riggins, said she’s attended several parties there. She described it as a trailer behind the main house. The tiny space was lined by chairs and a bar and was usually too crowded for dancing. She said she never saw young people there.

A single-story gray house on a leafy street.

The hit house in Prichard where Pugh was shot

L. Kasimu Harris for Insider

But Pugh had tight connections to that neighborhood in Prichard: that’s where her dad and grandmother live. “My brother has always been free to walk around there, just off the strength of my dad,” Carter told Insider.

Prichard is just five miles from Mobile, but people there say it feels like a different world. While Mobile is nearly 59% white, Prichard is 91% Black. Prichard was once prosperous thanks to an influx of shipbuilding and paper companies. But by the 1970s, as major employers closed their doors and white families fled, Prichard started to deteriorate. Today, the population has shrunk by more than half, to 19,000 residents, almost a third of whom live below the poverty line. 

Now many of Prichard’s houses are dilapidated and weeds have taken over the city’s sidewalks. The hit house, with its overgrown yard, is illegal, but tolerated. “Prichard basically lets stuff get swept under the rug,” Ja’Koya said. 

Still from security camera footage

Security camera footage shows Pugh leaving her mother Tiffany’s house for the last time on December 12, 2020

Courtesy of Tiffany Pugh

Over FaceTime earlier that night, Pugh had asked Carter how she looked — her sister’s glitter brightening her eyes. “Yeah, you look good,” Carter said. “All right, sis, I love you,” Pugh responded.

According to security-camera footage, Pugh left her house that night at 11:13 p.m. “Ooh, you look good!” Alfreda Pugh, Tiffany’s mother, told her grandchild before she left. Pugh gave her then 10-year-old brother Jabryson a hug, told him she loved him, and walked out the door for the last time. 

Jasmine and Ja’Koya had plans with Pugh that night. But by the time Jasmine arrived at Tiffany’s house to fetch her friend, Pugh was already gone — whisked away in someone else’s car. 

She later asked Ja’Koya to swing by the hit house to pick up Pugh.

The block was crowded, Ja’Koya recalls, with dozens of cars parked outside. Pugh’s final Snapchat video shows the busy street in the background as she smiles slyly into the camera and shows off her jumpsuit and glittery makeup. Waiting in her car, Ja’Koya saw people smoking and drinking and playing loud music, but no sign of Pugh. 

“What up sister … you headed there?” Ja’Koya texted Pugh at 3:41 a.m. Pugh didn’t answer.

“I don’t see her and she ain’t picking up, so I’m just gonna leave,” Ja’Koya thought at the time. “She’ll eventually call me back.” 

Within an hour, Pugh was dead.

Piecing it together

While Insider obtained a one-page incident report from the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office, the Prichard Police Department, which investigated the case, denied Insider’s public-records requests for its investigative files, saying, “We don’t release this information except to legal authorities and/or family of the party involved.” Yet the department also refused to provide Tiffany with any documents.

Keith Blackwood, Mobile County’s assistant district attorney, told Insider in early September that Pugh’s next of kin could come to the office to view their records. Shortly after, the district attorney, Ashley Rich, denied Tiffany access when she requested to see them.

Even without records, Tiffany has been able to piece together what she believes transpired, based on details that officers initially shared with her and information she has gathered from the community. She consistently turned any leads over to the police.

Texts between Tiffany Pugh and a witness

A text exchange between Tiffany Pugh and a woman who was shot at the hit house and survived, July 26, 2021

Courtesy of Tiffany Pugh

Marquis Parsons, the detective on Pugh’s case, told her that Pugh was in a car with a man having oral sex on the night she died, a version of events that was later corroborated by a former community-college classmate of Pugh’s, the woman who was shot at the party and survived. The woman said someone walked up to Pugh and the man in the car and “caught them.” In text messages shared with Insider, she said this second man got upset, screaming, “That’s a whole sissy.” 

Blackwood told Insider that prosecutors believe the individual who was intimate with Pugh was Jarvis Anderson, then 34, whose name was later released by the police as a person of interest.

Carter said that after Pugh’s death, scores of people reached out with tips. In one exchange, seen by Insider, Carter asked someone she knew from high school whether Pugh was killed over giving someone oral sex. The former classmate responded, “Yes and I think it’s true because this came from my uncle, he said he was there. You guys should most definitely push for a hate crime.” 

According to Tiffany, Parsons said Pugh was shot just a half hour after the confrontation at the car.

She learned fragments of what happened next from two eyewitnesses.

“The boy just ran up and shot Jaheim point blank,” the woman who was shot told Tiffany in a text. “We both fell to the floor and Jaheim didn’t get up.” She said Pugh was still breathing as she left to call the police. 

Tiffany put Insider in touch with the other shooting victim, who said there were around 20 people present at the time. He was grabbing drinks when he heard the shots ring out. People started scattering, and he realized he’d been hit in the back. Quietly praying and playing dead, he discreetly tried to call 911.

Just after the attack, he saw a man with dreadlocks, dark skin, and a rifle approach Pugh, who was bleeding on the floor. The man with the rifle said something to Pugh before walking away. 

He tried to keep Pugh calm until the police and paramedics arrived. By the time they got there — about 20 minutes later, he estimated — it was too late.

Following the shooting, another partygoer posted a Facebook Live video from inside the hit house. It shows Pugh in the rainbow jumpsuit lying motionless on the floor as voices are overheard nearby.

Antonio and Brenda Ruggs

Antonio Ruggs, Pugh’s father, and Brenda Ruggs, Pugh’s paternal grandmother, at their home in Prichard

L. Kasimu Harris for Insider

Pugh’s father, Antonio Ruggs, was at a Chevron in his neighborhood when he heard the gunshots. A few people entered the gas-station convenience store talking about what had happened: “This sissy got killed at the hit house.” Ruggs didn’t know they were talking about his child.

Earlier that year, Antonio had invited Pugh to spend a few months living with him and his mother, Brenda Ruggs, in their tiny white house behind a metal gate, less than a mile away from the hit house. Their living room is cozy, with an armchair upholstered in red velvet next to a painted ceramic lamp. 

While Pugh was there, she and her father would stay up until all hours of the night, smoking in bed, eating snacks, bonding over YouTube videos, and sharing details of their lives. Antonio learned for the first time during those talks that “there’s a lot of people that did accept him as who he was.”

“I think that’s the best thing that ever could have happened,” he said of their time together. “Like, I know it sounds crazy, but I thank the higher powers for making that happen.”

‘It wasn’t a priority’

Less than a week after the shooting, James Lee James Jr., then 33, was arrested and charged with the murder. Parsons told Tiffany that when the police retrieved Pugh’s phone, it showed that Pugh and James had known each other for some time. James turned himself in to the police, claiming he was innocent

Carter said she knew Pugh went on apps to meet men, and she guesses that’s how Pugh met the older man in the car, the one prosecutors now believe to be Jarvis Anderson. Where they live, lots of men are “DLs,” she said, “a down-low man that claims that he is straight but he really gay.”

Blackwood said James was arrested based on the testimony of one eyewitness, who claimed to have seen James shooting a rifle. The charges against James were eventually dropped, Blackwood said, after the police found that ballistic evidence from the crime scene didn’t match James’ gun. 

“The direction of the shots, as well as the caliber of the bullets that were taken out of the victim’s body, completely contradicted what our eyewitness told us,” Blackwood told Insider. “They made it impossible for James James to be the shooter in the case.”

Alfreda Pugh looking at photos of Bella

Alfreda Pugh, Pugh’s maternal grandmother, with a wall of family photos at the home she shares with her daughter, Tiffany, and her family

Breahna Crosslin for Insider

Lori Myles, public affairs director for the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office, said James would have been barred from carrying a weapon the night of Pugh’s death, given his prior history of felony charges. (He was out on bond at the time on an assault charge related to another shooting.)

But Blackwood said the Prichard Police never brought charges against James for allegedly carrying a firearm into the hit house.

Insider wasn’t able to reach James by phone, and he didn’t respond to a letter requesting comment.

Once his office dropped charges against James, Blackwood said, Anderson was developed as a suspect. 

When Anderson was first contacted by the Prichard Police shortly after the killing, his mother, Carolyn Anderson, urged him to go in. He had just been released in September 2020 from a 10-year stint in prison and was on probation at the time of the hit house shooting. The last thing he wanted was to land back in prison.

At the station, Anderson told the police he had only been at the hit house briefly before spending most of the night at a strip club. He told his mother he didn’t know Pugh and hadn’t witnessed the shooting.

“So I was assuming everything had been discussed,” Carolyn Anderson told Insider. If the police thought her son was involved, she reasoned, officers would have brought him back in. Then, in July 2021, seven months after Pugh’s death, police released his name to the local news as a person of interest. But they never apprehended him.

Tiffany tried desperately to track him down. She said she called Parsons, the detective on Pugh’s case, over 10 times with details about Anderson’s location, tipped off by people in the community. Most times, Parsons told her he was out of town or busy. Once, after Tiffany called the police, her sister spent 45 minutes at a gas station watching Anderson and waiting for an officer to arrive. None did.

“It wasn’t a priority,” Tiffany told Insider.

By October, Anderson was dead, murdered at a gas station near his mother’s home. Carolyn believes he’d still be alive if the police hadn’t publicized his name in connection with Pugh’s death. 

“My son survived 10 years in a federal prison and in county jail and in state prisons,” she said. “I’m more than sure had they arrested him, he would’ve been alive and breathing today.” 

A lack of basic police work

For years, the Prichard Police Department has been plagued by allegations of corruption. In 2001, four former police officers pleaded guilty to numerous corruption and civil-rights charges in federal court. In 2014, Walter Knight, the current police chief, was accused of obstructing justice in another case, while he was a police captain.

At left, a spare sunlight hallway; at right, a boarded up crumbing brick facade.

Left, the municipal building that houses the Prichard Police Department; right, signs of economic distress in Prichard.

Breahna Crosslin for Insider; L. Kasimu Harris for Insider

Five years later, an officer sent detailed allegations of corruption to a local news station, describing a culture degraded by bad hires and lack of training. Knight’s department has solved only one-fifth of homicides, according to the independent site Police Scorecard, compared to a national average of about half. Knight did not respond to Insider’s queries.

Pugh’s loved ones told Insider they have no confidence that detectives conducted basic police work — like trying to track down and talk to those who attended the party. Jasmine and Ja’Koya, who communicated with Pugh just hours before her death, told Insider that the police never contacted them. And Tiffany said she’s only aware of a couple people at the party who were interviewed. 

“There were so many people there,” Tiffany said, but the police “just said nobody wanted to talk.”

To her knowledge, neither Shantae Glover, who hosted the party that night, nor the witness who took the video of Pugh after being shot were ever interviewed by the police. Even though Tiffany shared photos of Glover with Parsons, he told her they couldn’t track her down.

“Usually when there is video witness evidence, they at least try to talk to the person who shot the video,” Jenny Carroll, a professor at the University of Alabama Law School, said of law enforcement officials. “It’s tremendously disrespectful to this young woman’s life that there’s not a lot of effort to track down these videos and these videographers.”

Following the shooting, another woman posted a video to Facebook alleging that a man she knew was involved. In the video, she says he is on the run and that the police need to “question him about the shooting out there in Prichard at the hit house, that boy sucked his dick and he got mad about it.” Insider is not naming him because the police never identified him as a suspect. 

Tiffany told the police about the video, but neither the poster nor the man she spoke of were questioned. Parsons told Tiffany he set up interviews with both of them, but neither showed up. 

As time went on, officers came to resent the barrage of tips from Pugh’s family. Just weeks after Pugh’s death, Parsons called Carter, Pugh’s sister, and threatened to throw her in jail for interfering with his investigation, bringing her to tears.

When Tiffany went to Ashley Rich, the Mobile County district attorney, seeking answers, Parsons called her, upset that she had gone over his head. In a text message from March 2021 seen by Insider, he appeared to blame her child for her own death.

Texts between Tiffany Pugh and Detective Marquis Parsons

A text exchange between Tiffany Pugh and Detective Marquis Parsons of the Prichard Police Department, March 26, 2021. ABC refers to the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Courtesy of Tiffany Pugh

Tiffany asked Parsons why the hit house was allowed to sell alcohol to a minor. “That place has been open before I worked here and will be open after,” he responded. “Every one who goes there including your son went by choice.”

He then told Tiffany to leave the case alone: “You only get one chance at this case and if you mess it up be prepared to live with it.”

“After he sent me that last text, I was just like, ‘I don’t know what else to do,'” Tiffany said. “If he’s speaking to me this way, what is he gonna do for the dead?”

“This case could have been solved,” Carter told Insider. “I don’t understand how it’s not.”

The Prichard Police Department did not respond to repeated queries. In brief phone calls with Insider, Parsons said he could not discuss specifics of the case, according to department policy. 

“It doesn’t matter to me what you write,” he said. “We can care less. We did our job really, really well.”

Blackwood, who was elected district attorney in November, told Insider the case remains open. He also said he’d be happy to sit down with Tiffany and show her the investigative file. But he said his office can do little to move the case forward until the Prichard Police Department produces new leads.

He said the police in Prichard lack resources and “probably didn’t interview everyone they needed to” in Pugh’s case.

“This isn’t the only kind of unsolved case out there where I think there’s more that can be done,” he said. “Once I take office and get my people installed in the investigative unit, this is a case I would love to have them take a look at and have them reopen the investigation.”

‘A real good spot in my heart’ 

Tiffany and Pugh used to spend hours just talking. Once, on a seven-hour drive to Orlando — where Pugh wanted to live when she got older — the conversation drifted to their final wishes if they died. Tiffany said she wanted to be cremated, and Pugh agreed. She didn’t want people mourning over her body, she said. She wanted a party.

So instead of a traditional funeral, they held a celebration of life, complete with a motorcade from Prichard to the ceremony in Mobile.

Ja'Koya Dowdell

Ja’Koya Dowdell with a photograph she saved of her and Pugh, her chosen sister

Breahna Crosslin for Insider

“Whatever you get on the mic and say has to be funny, because that’s what he was. He was funny,” Tiffany told the crowd, her hair colored bright red like her child used to do. 

“He was very extra and he was just so amazing,” she said. “That was my baby.” 

Not everyone was there that day, said Alfreda Pugh, Tiffany’s mother. Some family members opted not to attend. Others later told Tiffany she was sinning for keeping Pugh’s memory alive, or described Pugh’s behavior as blasphemous. 

Pugh’s chosen sisters — Jasmine, Ja’Koya, and Carmen — think of Pugh often as they continue their own journeys into womanhood. Ja’Koya was the first to transition, starting to present as a woman at the age of 16. With no transgender mentors in Mobile, she found her own way by emulating Black transgender celebrities like Laverne Cox, a Mobile native.

Jasmine and Carmen began transitioning more recently and still face down constant stares when they enter stores and restaurants. “When we were living not in our own body we were just not ourselves,” Carmen said. Today, she’s poised to become Mobile’s first openly transgender nurse.

It hurts that Pugh never had the chance to fully explore that part of herself. “She was transitioning, but wasn’t actually doing it,” Jasmine said. “We’re actually now in the process of transitioning completely.” 

Six months after the murder, Ja’Koya sent Pugh a final text: “I miss you so much sister,” she wrote. “You’ll always hold a real good spot in my heart I promise ya that I really do but rest up babe and I love you so much.”

She closed the message with emojis of a unicorn and a heart.

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US Banks Warn of Recession as Inflation Takes Toll on Consumers, Stocks Plummet




By Saeed Azhar and Noor Zainab Hussain

NEW YORK (Reuters)—The biggest U.S. banks are bracing for a worsening economy next year as inflation threatens consumer demand, according to executives Tuesday.

JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon told CNBC that consumers and companies are in good shape, but noted that may not last much longer as the economy slows down and inflation erodes consumer spending power.

“Those things might very well derail the economy and cause this mild to hard recession that people are worried about,” he said.

Consumers have $1.5 trillion in excess savings from pandemic stimulus programs, but it may run out some time in mid-2023, he told CNBC. Dimon also said the Federal Reserve may pause for three to six months after raising benchmark interest rates to 5%, but that may “not be sufficient” to curb high inflation.

The U.S. central bank last month raised rates by 75 basis points during its fourth consecutive meeting to 3.75%-4%, but it also signaled hopes to shift to smaller hikes as soon at its next meeting.

Major banks’ shares fell sharply on the day after a lineup of top bankers outlined the risks for the economy. Bank of America slid more than 4%; Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Morgan Stanley each fell more than 2% and Citigroup Inc slid more than 1%.

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan told investors at a Goldman Sachs financial conference that the bank’s research shows “negative growth” in the first part of 2023, but the contraction will be “mild.”

The lender’s investment-banking fees will probably decline 55% to 60% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, while trading revenue will likely rise 10% to 15%, Moynihan said.

“Economic growth is slowing,” Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon said at the same conference. “When I talk to our clients, they sound extremely cautious.”

In banking, the job market remains “surprisingly tight” and competition for talent is “as tough as ever,” he said.

However, some banks are cutting staff. Morgan Stanley has reduced about 2% of its workforce, a source familiar with the company’s plans said on Tuesday. The job cuts, first reported by CNBC, affect about 1,600 positions and follow workforce reductions at Goldman and Citigroup.

Elsewhere on Wall Street, the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock Inc has frozen hiring except for critical roles, Chief Financial Officer Gary Shedlin said.

“We’re trying to be a little more prudent,” he said.

(Reporting by Lananh Nguyen and Saeed Azhar in New York and Noor Zainab Hussain in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Megan Davies and Carolina Mandl; Editing by Richard Chang and Stephen Coates)

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2 More Secret CCP Police Stations Discovered in LA and New York: Report




A nonprofit group has discovered 48 new overseas police stations with ties to China’s communist regime, including two previously unknown facilities in Los Angeles and New York City.

The new findings bring the total number of known overseas police stations to 102 spread out across 53 nations.

The facilities have been used by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to carry out an illicit campaign of transnational repression, according to Safeguard Defenders, a nonprofit that published a report on Dec. 5, which updates its findings from a previous investigation released in October.

“It’s outrageous that the Communist Chinese government is exercising extraterritorial law enforcement on U.S. soil,” Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) told The Epoch Times in an email.

“It should be a top priority of Secretary Blinken and Attorney General Garland to shut down these stations to protect our Chinese-American constituents and our nation’s sovereignty from foreign encroachment.”

Malliotakis was among several GOP lawmakers who issued a letter in October demanding an explanation of the facilities’ continued existence from the secretary of state and attorney general.

The Safeguard Defenders report found that four separate police departments in mainland China helped to create the facilities, which the regime began setting up in 2016. Those in New York and Los Angeles were established in 2018, and are overseen by the Wenzhou Public Security Bureau, located in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province.

Exporting Repression

The facilities were allegedly created to assist Chinese immigrants in foreign nations with tasks that would normally be handled by a consulate, such as renewing driver’s licenses and visas.

Increasingly, however, the stations have been linked to the CCP’s United Front Work Department (UFWD), an agency that works to advance the regime’s interests abroad by spreading propaganda, conducting foreign influence operations, suppressing dissident movements, gathering intelligence, and facilitating the transfer of technology to communist China.

Most notably, Safeguard Defenders linked the stations to the CCP’s Operation Fox Hunt, a transnational scheme designed to forcibly repatriate dissidents and other targets of the regime back to mainland China to face communist persecution.

The FBI warned in 2020 that Fox Hunt was a large-scale transnational repression scheme aimed at forcibly repatriating Chinese dissidents through harassment, threats, intimidation, and outright force. In many of these scenarios, the regime attempted to play on racial and cultural loyalty to China, through which it thereby weaponized the Chinese diaspora against itself, urging Chinese living abroad to turn one another in.

Speaking at a November hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the stations were a violation of U.S. sovereignty and were being investigated.

“I have to be careful about discussing our specific investigative work, but to me, it is outrageous to think that the Chinese police would attempt to set up shop—you know, in New York let’s say—without proper coordination,” Wray said.

“It violates sovereignty and circumvents standard judicial and law enforcement cooperation processes.”

Wray did not comment directly on the legality of such facilities, but said that they were part of the CCP regime’s campaign of translational repression. The United States and 13 other nations have launched investigations into the facilities, and the Department of Justice has brought forth numerous charges against those allegedly working as unregistered agents of the CCP in the United States.

A Broad Campaign

Relatedly, the new Safeguard Defenders report discovered that a facility in Paris had directly engaged in at least one illegal campaign to compel a person to return to China, and likely assisted in 80 more. To give an impression of the scale of the effort, the report noted that the Qintian Public Security Bureau in Zhejiang Province claimed to have hired 135 overseas Chinese to assist in its mission.

The group also claims that Chinese police “persuaded” more than 230,000 Chinese “fugitives” to return to mainland China “voluntarily.” In many instances, this was done by threatening family members of the accused who still live in China with punishment.

Wray explained that Chinese communist intelligence agents, acting both in person and through proxies hired in America, systematically engaged in “harassing, stalking, surveilling, blackmailing people who they just don’t like or who disagree with the Xi regime.”

“We have seen plenty of situations … where the Chinese government, under the pretext of going after corruption, have essentially used that as a vehicle to surveil. We’ve had situations where they’ve planted bugs inside Americans’ cars.”

“It’s a real problem and it’s something that we’re talking with our foreign partners about as well, because we’re not the only country where this has occurred.”

Speaking at a Dec. 6 press briefing, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price similarly said that the Biden administration was aware of the stations and working to contend with the implications posed by the facilities both in the United States and abroad.

“Well, we’re aware of these reports,” Price said.

“Because this isn’t just a phenomenon in the United States, it’s something that we’ve taken note of around the world, we continue to be concerned about PRC transnational repression. We take this issue very seriously,” he added, using the acronym for the regime’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.

Likewise, Price said that it was unsurprising the CCP would use such facilities as a means of extending its power over the Chinese diaspora, and that such maneuvers were in line with other illicit activities committed by the regime throughout the world.

“The report describes part of the PRC’s transnational repression efforts where PRC officials reach out outside their borders to harass, to surveil, to threaten individuals around the world, including in the United States, to silence those critical of its government,” Price said.

“It’s important to note that, even though you are referring to these so-called unofficial police stations, the underlying issues that these reports have surfaced are not at all new.”

The Justice Department did not return a request for comment.

Andrew Thornebrooke


Andrew Thornebrooke is a reporter for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master’s in military history from Norwich University.

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