The Darsch Report: June 21 to 27

Armed man barges into Bexar County Elections Office

On Friday morning, June 25, a 24-year-old man, whom authorities suspect was hallucinating from drugs, barged into the Bexar County Elections Office after he had fired shots inside a nearby hotel room

According to Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar, Jouwan D. Williams Thomas jumped over the counter in the office on South Frio Street around 10 a.m. and said he was being chased. The suspect went into a secured area before a SWAT unit and other law enforcement personnel quickly arrived and apprehended the suspect. No injuries were reported.

While Thomas didn’t open fire inside the elections office, he did fire several shots of a 9mm handgun that penetrated some rooms at a Quality Inn nearby, Salazar said. No injuries were reported at the hotel. Salazar said the suspect had a high-capacity magazine in the gun and a similar magazine in the hotel room.

Salazar said it was initially believed that Thomas fired shots because of a drug deal gone bad, but it now appears that he may have been suffering from a drug-induced incident. High-grade marijuana and possibly synthetic marijuana were found in the room.

State Sen. José Menéndez was in the back of the elections office for a meeting with officials when the incident happened, Salazar said.

“They were pretty scared,” Salazar said of the election staff. “They locked down, sheltered in place. Kudos to the elections staff.”

Texan Voter Fraud

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced on Friday, June 25, that the Election Fraud Unit arrested and booked Monica Mendez into the Victoria County Jail on June 23, 2021, after a Victoria County Grand Jury returned an indictment against her on 31 counts of election fraud.

Mendez is being charged on 7 counts of Illegal Voting (a 2nd Degree Felony), 8 counts of Unlawfully Assisting Voter Voting Ballot by Mail (a 3rd Degree Felony), 8 counts of Unlawful Possession of a Ballot (a State Jail Felony), and 8 counts of Election Fraud (a State Jail Felony).

The charges relate to eight mail-in ballots in a May 2018 water district board election in Bloomington, a town of around 2,500 residents near Victoria.

According to the press release, the Texas Secretary of State referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office after Bloomington residents raised allegations of illegal voting and other election code violations. One specific concern being that about 275 people, out of a town of 2,500, tried to register as new voters using the same mailing address, according to local government officials.

Other residents of Bloomington were supposedly threatened with rent increases if they did not vote for their landlord’s preferred candidate in the local water department elections.

Miami Condo Collapse

Rescue efforts continue in the search of all those missing after Thursday’s June 24 tragedy in which a Surfside condo collapsed.

As of Sunday, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced the death toll had risen to 9, and the number of people missing was reduced to 152. “We were able to recover four additional bodies in the rubble as well as additional human remains,” the mayor said.

Additionally, although the investigation has just begun, experts who have examined video footage of the disaster outside Miami are focusing on a spot in the lowest part of the condominium complex—possibly in or below the underground parking garage—where an initial failure could have set off a structural avalanche.

Called “progressive collapse,” the gradual spread of failures could have occurred for a variety of reasons, including design flaws or the less robust construction allowed under the building codes of four decades ago, when the complex was built. But that progression could not have occurred without some critical first failure. Close inspections of a grainy surveillance video that emerged in the initial hours after the disaster has given the first hints of where that might have been.

“It does appear to start either at or very near the bottom of the structure,” said Donald O. Dusenberry, a consulting engineer who has investigated many structural collapses. “It’s not like there’s a failure high, and it pancaked down.”

US Economy

Supported by positive news from the Federal Reserve and hopes that a good infrastructure deal would be announced soon, the stock market did well over the past week. The Dow Jones increased to 34,433.84 on Friday, increasing by +1,143.76 points, or +3.44 percent over its June 18 close of 33,290.08. The S&P 500 increased by +114.25 points or +2.74 percent on Friday to a record high of 4,280.70. In addition, the Nasdaq increased on Friday by +2.35 percent.

China Announces Crewed Missions to Mars

Last week the People’s Republic of China announced plans to send its first crewed mission to Mars in 2033 as it continues to boost its space ambitions in a battle with the U.S.

Wang Xiaojun, head of the state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, outlined the country’s Mars plans for the first time this month at a space conference in Russia, according to the academy.

It comes just weeks after China landed a remote-controlled rover called Zhurong on Mars, making it the only country after the U.S. to do so.

Wang said the first step in China’s plans is to use robots to explore Mars to sample its surface and help select a place to build a base. The next stage would be to send astronauts up to Mars to build a base station there. Then China wants large-scale Earth-to-Mars cargo missions.

China has earmarked 2033, 2035, 2037, 2041, and 2043 for such missions and said it would explore technology to fly astronauts back to Earth.

The revelation of China’s Mars goals comes after a string of successful space missions. China has begun construction of its own space station and earlier this month sent the first astronauts up there. It was the first time China sent a crewed mission to space since 2016.

NASA says it plans to send humans to Mars in the 2030s.

The Texan Border

Over the weekend, nearly 100 days after being appointed by President Joe Biden to address the immigration crisis at the southern border, Vice-President Kamala Harris visited an El Paso border facility.

During a press conference, Harris touted “extreme progress” made by the Biden administration in tackling the migrant surge despite inheriting a “tough situation” due to the “disastrous effects” of the Trump administration’s border policies. 

When asked why she visited El Paso instead of areas that have been more acutely hit, like the Rio Grande Valley Sector, Harris explained that El Paso was where a number of Trump policies, like the Remain-in-Mexico policy and child separation policies, were implemented. 

This comes as more than 180,000 migrants were apprehended at the southern border in May, an increase over the 178,000 encountered in April and 173,000 encountered in March—all representing the highest numbers in years. In addition, 173,000 in March was a big increase from the 100,000 migrants encountered in February.

With or without help from the Biden Administration, Governor Greg Abbott is continuing to promote the continued building of a border wall along the Texan-Mexican border. Over the span of about a week, Texas received $459,000 in private donations for the state’s planned wall at the southern border, the governor’s office said Wednesday.

This comes after the governor promised a $250 million “down payment” in state funds for the project.

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