Brakkton Booker

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.

He covers a wide range of topics including issues related to federal social safety net programs and news around the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

His reporting takes him across the country covering natural disasters, like hurricanes and flooding, as well as tracking trends in regional politics and in state governments, particularly on issues of race.

Following the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, Booker's reporting broadened to include a focus on young activists pushing for changes to federal and state gun laws, including the March For Our Lives rally and national school walkouts.

Prior to joining NPR's national desk, Booker spent five years as a producer/reporter for NPR's political unit. He spent most to the 2016 presidential campaign cycle covering the contest for the GOP nomination and was the lead producer from the Trump campaign headquarters on election night. Booker served in a similar capacity from the Louisville campaign headquarters of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014. During the 2012 presidential campaign, he produced pieces and filed dispatches from the Republican and Democratic National conventions, as well as from President Obama's reelection site in Chicago.

In the summer of 2014, Booker took a break from politics to report on the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Booker started his career as a show producer working on nearly all of NPR's magazine programs, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and former news and talk show Tell Me More, where he produced the program's signature Barbershop segment.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Howard University and was a 2015 Kiplinger Fellow. When he's not on the road, Booker enjoys discovering new brands of whiskey and working on his golf game.

Jury selection is underway in the manslaughter trial involving a white Florida man who shot and killed an unarmed black man last year during a dispute over a handicapped-accessible parking space.

The incident involving Michael Drejka took place outside Circle A Food Store, a convenience store in the city of Clearwater and was captured by surveillance footage. It also reignited a national debate over Florida's controversial "stand your ground" self-defense law.

Drejka is on trial for the killing of Markeis McGlockton.

Updated at 9:13 p.m. ET

When Sgt. Alan Van't Land of the Colorado Springs Police Department approaches two young black men in the 2100 block of Preuss Road in Colorado Springs, he tells them he is responding to a call about a possible assault.

He says the men match suspect descriptions and he has been informed one of them may have a gun.

Volunteer sanitation crews from Florida and New York descended on Baltimore on Thursday to help remove trash and other debris from a city that President Trump has referred to as an "infested mess" and a place that "no human being would want to live."

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to turn now to NPR's reporter Brakkton Booker, who is in Dayton covering the shooting, the investigation and the aftermath.

Brakkton, thanks for being here.

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

Updated at 8:50 p.m. ET

Pedro Pierluisi has been sworn in as the new governor of Puerto Rico, succeeding Ricardo Rosselló who resigned in disgrace and appointed Pierluisi as secretary of state.

According to the island's constitution, the secretary of state is the first in line to succeed the governor. Puerto Rico's House of Representatives approved Pierluisi's nomination earlier Friday.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson made a visit to Baltimore on Wednesday and renewed his defense of President Trump's disparaging comments about the city, and reiterated his own critique of the city where he lived for more than three decades.

"There are good things in Baltimore. There are bad things in Baltimore," Carson told reporters near a recently renovated affordable housing development. "But there are problems and we can't sweep them under the rug."

President Trump gave a shoutout to his Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Tuesday during his remarks at a ceremony marking 400 years of American democracy in the historic Virginia town of Jamestown.

"We're also very thankful as well to have with us Secretary Ben Carson. Ben, thank you very much wherever you may be."

A day earlier, Carson, the Trump administration's only African American Cabinet member, was on Fox News defending the president's depiction of Baltimore as a "very dangerous and filthy place."

Updated at 5:59 p.m. ET

A federal judge in Manhattan has ordered that multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein remain confined while he awaits trial on federal sex trafficking charges.

U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman announced his decision that the 66-year-old financier be held without bail on Thursday, following a hearing Monday in which Epstein's lawyer asked that his client be placed on house arrest with round-the-clock private security guards paid for by Epstein.

The goal of the National African American Gun Association is to introduce black Americans to guns and also instruct them on how to use them.

Some see the group as an alternative to the National Rifle Association for black gun owners, but it has some notable differences. Organizers say it is a civil rights organization that aims to build community and promote self-protection.

Since its creation in 2015, the group has seen rapid growth with roughly 30,000 members and 75 chapters nationwide. Leaders expect another 25 chapters by next year.

Just days after the shooting at a Virginia Beach municipal building three weeks ago, Christi Dewar described to NPR her first thoughts as the mass shooting unfolded inside her office building.

"We were sitting at our desk and there's construction or remodeling going on, and when we heard the first shots it sounded like a nail gun going off," Dewar said.

House and Senate Democrats introduced legislation Tuesday they say will allow victims of gun violence to have their day in court.

The Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act aims to repeal federal protections blocking firearm and ammunition manufacturers, dealers and trade groups from most civil lawsuits when a firearm is used unlawfully or in a crime.

Those protections date to 2005, with the passage of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

Hours before he walked into his workplace and unleashed a barrage of gunfire that killed 12 people, the Virginia Beach gunman wrote his bosses a two-sentence email that said he was quitting for "personal reasons," according to a copy of the letter city officials released on Monday.

"I want to officially put in my (2) weeks' notice," DeWayne Craddock wrote. "It has been a pleasure to serve the city, but due to personal reasons, I must relieve my position."

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have launched a free online gun violence prevention course.
Elizabeth Fernandez / Getty Images

An attorney who became a household name prosecuting O.J. Simpson for murder in the mid-1990s will no longer represent the man accused of killing beloved hip-hop artist Nipsey Hussle in March.

Christopher Darden, a longtime litigator and former attorney with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, announced he was stepping away from the case, citing threats against him and his family.

South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress, retained control of parliament in national elections held there this week. But its grip on power eased as the party's overall share of the vote dipped from previous elections amid widespread corruption scandals within the party and a sluggish economy.

While the ANC's victory was never in doubt, the election was seen as a referendum on the party that's been in power since apartheid ended there a generation ago.

After weeks of growing pleas for her to step down, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has resigned, her attorney said Thursday.

"I am sorry for the harm that I have caused to the image of the city of Baltimore and the credibility of the office of the mayor," she said in a letter read by her lawyer Steve Silverman.

"Baltimore deserves a mayor who can move our great city forward," the statement continued. Pugh, who has been suffering from health issues, did not appear at the news conference with her attorney.

The anti-gun violence group March For Our Lives released a public service announcement Monday featuring adults learning safety protocol in case of a shooting at work.

Their expert instructor is Kayleigh, a young student familiar with lock down drills.

Twenty years ago, a pair of students killed a teacher and a dozen of their classmates at a high school in Littleton, Colo. The shooters at Columbine High School used semi-automatic weapons and sawed-off shotguns in the attack before turning the guns on themselves.

Just a few months before that shooting, the FBI launched the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to try to prevent dangerous individuals from purchasing guns.

Lawmakers in Richmond have wrapped up their 2019 legislative session, less than two months removed from a cascade of scandals involving Virginia's top three elected officials, which captured the nation's attention for weeks.

Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to wearing blackface decades ago. Justin Fairfax, the lieutenant governor, was accused of sexual assault by two women.

All three Democrats remain in office despite continued, though less intense, calls for their resignations.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announced she is dealing with health challenges and will take an "indefinite leave of absence" at the same time her office is engulfed in a scandal involving the profits from her self-published children's books.

Pugh's office released a statement late Monday afternoon saying that she has been fighting pneumonia "for the past few weeks" and that her doctors advise her to "focus on her health."

Updated at 2:58 p.m. ET

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is suing social media giant Facebook for allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act.

HUD says Facebook does so by "encouraging, enabling and causing housing discrimination" when it allows companies that use their platform to improperly shield who can see certain housing ads.

Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET

Days after three separate suicides in Parkland, Fla., and Newtown, Conn., left those communities reeling, the Senate did something rare for a GOP-led chamber: It held a hearing on gun control.

Updated at 3:57 p.m. ET

After years of criticism and multiple lawsuits alleging that Facebook engaged in discrimination by allowing advertisers to select which users could see their ads, the social media giant announced it will make changes to its ad platform by the end of the year.

As countries worldwide continue to ground their Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, aviation officials in the U.S. have been hesitant to follow suit.

The Federal Aviation Administration says there is "no basis to order the grounding of the aircraft." That's according to a statement Tuesday evening from Daniel Elwell, the acting FAA administrator.

The Democratic-led House Thursday approved another piece of legislation to broaden federal gun-control legislation. The bill gives the FBI more time to do background checks on gun purchasers. It comes a day after the chamber passed a bill extending the checks to private firearms sales.

Both measures face long odds at becoming law.

The latest bill would extend the time sellers have to wait before completing a gun sale. Like Wednesday's measure, it passed largely along party lines — 228 to 198.

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