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.

Major broadcast companies including CBS, Viacom, and WarnerMedia say they are pulling ads by e-cigarette makers, as concerns over growing teen use of the products and the hundreds of cases of illnesses linked to vaping continue to mount.

Sarah Thomas, an American ultramarathon swimmer, has just completed a swim that no other human on the planet has ever accomplished.

The 37-year-old from Colorado plunged into waters off the shore of Dover, England, in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Her goal: swim across the English Channel.

Then do it again.

And again.

And again.

Thomas completed the final leg of her swim at around 6:30 a.m. local time Tuesday in just over 54 hours— the first person to cross the channel four times without stopping.

Juanita Abernathy, the widow of civil rights icon the Rev. Ralph Abernathy and one of the last surviving architects of the modern civil rights movement, died Thursday. She was 87.

She died at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta from complications related to a stroke, family spokesperson James Peterson tells NPR. Funeral arrangements are still being finalized.

"She was the last remaining major organizer" of the civil rights movement, according to a statement from Peterson.

Updated 4:41 p.m. ET

Husband-and-wife murder suspects who overpowered their guards as they were being extradited from New York to Arizona and managed to elude the law for weeks have finally run out of road.

At a news conference Thursday, David Gonzales, the U.S. marshal for Arizona, says the arrest of Blane and Susan Barksdale is "obviously a big relief off our shoulders."

Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

The U.S. Coast Guard says it has rescued the fourth and final crew member from an overturned car carrier vessel in waters off the coast of Brunswick, Ga., after reporting earlier in the day that all but one had been pulled to safety.

In a tweet Monday evening, the Coast Guard's 7th District Southeast, located in Miami, tweeted that "All crew members are accounted for. Operations now shift fully to environmental protection, removing the vessel and resuming commerce."

Rescue crews are searching for four crew members of a cargo ship that overturned in the early hours of Sunday morning off the coast of Brunswick, Ga., approximately 80 miles south of Savannah.

There were 23 crew members and a pilot aboard the Golden Ray when the 656-foot carrier became disabled in St. Simons Sound, according to the Coast Guard.

Twenty people on the vessel were rescued.

Mike Pompeo, the nation's top diplomat, took to the Sunday news talk shows to defend the administration's cancelling of a secret summit between the leadership of the Taliban and the president of Afghanistan. The meetings had been set to take place at Camp David days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State, said it was the president's idea to hold the talks at the presidential retreat in Maryland, adding it was a "perfectly appropriate place" to do so.

The Trump administration says a deal between California and four carmakers to improve fuel efficiency may be illegal. The Justice Department has also launched a probe to see whether it violates antitrust laws. Together, the moves raise the stakes in a months-long standoff over efforts to weaken a key Obama-era climate rule.

Britain's House of Lords endorsed a measure Friday that would block Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to leave the European Union next month without a deal in place, giving final approval to a bill the House of Commons passed earlier this week.

The House of Lords' passage was widely expected after the bill won approval in the House of Commons on Wednesday. The legislation now proceeds to royal assent — a formality that will result in its becoming law.

Updated 2:25 a.m. ET Friday

The scope of the calamity that Hurricane Dorian brought to the Bahamas is becoming clear, as rescue workers reach devastated sections of the island chain. The official death toll now stands at 30, but that number is expected to rise sharply in the coming days.

Dorian is now a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, lashing the southeastern coastline of the United States. It remains dangerous, despite being downgraded from the Category 5 rank it carried into the Bahamas.

Updated at 9:18 a.m. ET Wednesday

Hurricane Dorian is crawling along as a Category 2 storm after spending more than a day thrashing Grand Bahama Island, where at least seven people are reported dead.

The core of the storm will "move dangerously close" to the coasts of Florida and Georgia throughout the night and into Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Updated at 2:15 a.m. ET Tuesday

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis says at least five people have died in the Abaco Islands, where Hurricane Dorian made landfall Sunday as "the strongest hurricane in modern records" to hit the archipelago.

Minnis described the hurricane as a "historic tragedy" that's brought "unprecedented and expensive" devastation to Abaco.

Loved ones of Jessi Combs, a well-known racer and a host of the popular science-themed television show Mythbusters, are speaking out days after she died attempting to break her own land speed record. She was 39 years old.

"I have never loved or been loved by anyone as much as this amazing woman," Terry Madden, a member of Combs' team said in an Instagram post. "She was the most amazing spirit that I have ever or will ever know."

Updated at 3:18 p.m. ET

Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson announced Wednesday that he will be resigning from his Senate seat at the end of the year. Isakson has been battling Parkinson's disease and cited health problems for why he's stepping aside with three years left in his current term.

In a tweet on Wednesday, the senator said it has been "the honor of a lifetime" to serve the residents of Georgia.

Three people turned themselves in to police Monday to face criminal charges in connection with the deaths of a dozen patients at a South Florida rehabilitation facility days after Hurricane Irma in 2017.

A fourth person was arrested by authorities in Miami-Dade County.

Those charged all worked at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills when the storm knocked out a transformer that supplied power to the facility's air conditioning system.

A federal judge Friday ruled the longtime friend of the Dayton, Ohio, gunman who killed nine people and injured dozens of others this month, must remain behind bars ahead of his trial.

AT&T, Sprint and Verizon and nine other telecommunications companies teamed up with attorneys general of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia to announce a new pact to eradicate a common scourge in America: illegal robocalls.

Updated at 2:15 p.m. ET

With their hopes fading that lawmakers in Washington will pass new gun safety measures, young activists from March for Our Lives have their own plans on how to stem gun violence.

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.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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.

Jeffrey Epstein, the wealthy financier and sex offender, is due back in a New York court Thursday. Epstein is expected to learn from a federal judge whether he will be granted bail or has to remain behind bars as he awaits trial on new sex crimes charges involving underage girls.

Lawyers for Epstein argue their client should await trial at his multimillion-dollar Manhattan mansion on house arrest. Prosecutors argue the well-connected money man is a flight risk, adding if he's not detained, Epstein's victims could be subjected to "harassment and abuse by the defendant."

Residents of South Florida expressed relief that President Trump's Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is resigning his post. The Friday announcement was seen as "a victory" by those still angered by Acosta's handling of a 2008 sex crimes case involving wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Acosta is a former federal prosecutor in South Florida. This week he had been under renewed and intense scrutiny stemming from the deal under which Epstein pleaded guilty to lesser sex crimes and served 13 months in county jail, with work release during the day.

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.

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