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Tipster warned FBI school shooting suspect could ‘explode’

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Susan Stocker – Pool/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) — The female tipster close to accused Florida high school shooter Nikolas Cruz told the FBI Cruz was “going to explode,” according to a transcript of the Jan. 5 call more than a month before the shooting obtained by ABC News.

“It’s so much and I know he’s – he’s going to explode,” the woman said.

The five-page transcript of the call obtained by ABC News detailed what had been reported the FBI knew about Cruz before he killed 17 students and teachers at his former school in February. The FBI has admitted to failing to follow up on the tip called in to the FBI’s call center in January and sharing it with the bureau’s FBI field office.

The tipster also provided details about Cruz’s concerning social media activity, identifying four Instagram accounts and troubling posts, and sharing details about his upbringing, foster family and concerning behavior.

“I just want someone to know about this so they can look into it,” the tipster said. “If they think it’s something worth going into, fine. If not, um, I just know I have a clear conscience if he takes off and, and just starts shooting places up.”

On the call, an intake specialist located in West Virginia, asked the caller for information about Cruz, and whether he had made any threats of violence or “talk about ISIS.”

The tipster, whose name is redacted from the transcript but identified as an “unknown female,” said Cruz “expresses different things” on social media “and then he takes it off.”

“Just recently, now he has switched it to he wants to kill people. And then he put that on his Instagram and about two days later, he took it off,” the tipster said.

The tipster described Cruz as a violent child who killed animals, posted frequently about firearms and ISIS, and was “thrown out of all these schools because he would pick up a chair and just throw it at somebody, a teacher or a student because he didn’t like the way they were talking to him.”

“It’s alarming to see these pictures and to know what he’s capable of doing and-and what could happen,” the tipster told the FBI on the call, according to a transcript reviewed by ABC News. ”I just think about, you know, getting into a school and just shooting the place up.”

The caller, who dialed the FBI on January 5th, left her name with the FBI for follow up questions and also identified the officer she had spoken with at the Parkland Police Department, who she had given “all the information I had.”

“I didn’t know whether to call you or Homeland Security or who, but like I said … when you look into this you can make the decision as to whether you want to go further or not,” the tipster told the FBI in the call.

“I just want to, you know, get it off my chest in case something does happen and I do believe something’s going to happen,” the tipster said.

The intake specialist did not say if the agency would be following up with the caller.

The FBI has admitted to not following proper protocol after the shooting at the high school last week that left 17 people dead, and properly following up on the Jan. 5 call to the tip line.

The FBI has admitted to not following proper protocol after the shooting at the high school last week that left 17 people dead, and properly following up on the Jan. 5 call to the tip line.

“We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information received by the PAL on January 5. The information was not provided to the Miami field office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time,” the FBI said in a statement last week.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has come under fire for the episode, including from Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has called for Wray to resign over the FBI’s “failure to take action.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Officer tears up describing working school shooting while wife, son were inside

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(PARKLAND, Fla.) — A Florida police officer was overcome with emotion as he described responding to last week’s mass shooting at a high school, where his wife and son were on lockdown inside.

“It was surreal,” Coral Springs police Sgt. Jeff Heinrich said at a news conference this morning, telling his story through tears.

Heinrich was off duty on Valentine’s Day but happened to be watering the baseball field at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where his wife is an assistant athletic director and his son is a student, when the shooting happened.

Heinrich said he heard the fire alarm go off and then gunshots, but at first he thought it was fireworks. He noticed students walking to the parking lot were relaxed as if was a usual fire drill.

Then, the children started to run and scream and he heard a round of five or six shots, Heinrich said.

Heinrich said he ran toward the parking lot where the students were and found a student named Kyle who had a gunshot wound to his ankle. Heinrich grabbed Kyle and took him to the baseball area, where he said he used a first-aid kit at the clubhouse to treat him.

Kyle, while seriously injured, managed to give Heinrich a great description of what was going on and what the shooter was wearing, which Heinrich then relayed to the dispatcher, he said.

Kyle survived and remains in the hospital, Heinrich said.

Heinrich, emotional and holding back tears told reporters, “I called my wife. Luckily I was able to get ahold of her. By the grace of God my wife and my son who are on opposite ends of the school … they both heard the fire alarm and decided to evacuate.”

His wife and son found each other and were able to shelter in place together with other teachers and students, Heinrich said, crying.

Heinrich said he continued to work the rest of the day and didn’t reunite with his family until 10 p.m.

Officer Chris Crawford, a former Marine, was also among the officers sharing their stories.

Crawford said he rescued a 14-year-old boy who had been shot several times. He was trying to get the teen to where the fire department was, but the boy told him he couldn’t breathe or walk, he said. When Crawford put him down, he said he found injuries to his back, shoulder, thigh and arm.

“It’s awful,” Crawford said. “It’s as bad as you can imagine — times 10.”

Crawford also said when he knocked on one class door and identified himself, the students pushed desks up against the door and refused to let him in. Crawford said the students made him pass his ID to them and read off his ID number to provide his identity.

Crawford said his wife is a detective and he’s a father of a 2-year-old.

“I don’t want to send him to school,” Crawford said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Armed deputy who did ‘nothing’ to stop shooter was former employee of the month

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) — The armed school resource officer who officials say did not enter the school during last week’s mass shooting in Florida had received positive evaluations and feedback from his colleagues, according to his personnel file.

Deputy Scot Peterson began working at Florida’s Broward Sheriff’s Department in 1985 and completed multiple training programs, including a mandatory firearms training program and special tactical problems training program.

Peterson was named Parkland district employee of the month in May 2012 and was recognized as school resource officer of the year in 2014.

Peterson “takes pride in protecting the students, faculty and staff at his school. Deputy Peterson is dependable and reliable, and handles issues that arise with tact and solid judgment,” according to one evaluation.

An internal memo dated March 2017 said, “Peterson is a positive influence on the students, and they respect and appreciate his position.”

The 2017 memo also shows that Peterson was nominated for Parkland deputy of the year.

Seventeen people were fatally shot in the Valentine’s Day massacre. The suspect allegedly fled after the shooting but was later apprehended.

A decision to suspend Peterson was made after reviewing video from the shooting and taking statements from witnesses and Peterson himself, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel announced Thursday. Since he met the requirements for retirement, Peterson opted to resign after he was told he was being suspended, Israel said.

Law enforcement officials who reviewed the video said Peterson arrived at the west side of Building 12, where most of the killing happened. He then took up a position but “never went in,” officials said. The video has not been released publicly.

The video shows that Peterson remained outside the building for upward of four minutes during the shooting, which lasted about six minutes, Israel said. Aside from getting “on his radio,” Peterson did “nothing” while standing outside the building, Israel said.

“He should have went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer,” Israel said.

When asked by reporters to describe how the video made him feel, Israel responded with “sick to my stomach” and “devastated.”

“It doesn’t matter who went in first. It doesn’t matter in what order you went in,” he said. “What matters is that when we in law enforcement arrive at an active shooter, we go in and address the target — and that’s what should have been done.”

It is still unclear why Peterson did not go after the shooter.

President Donald Trump on Friday slammed Peterson for his response, saying, “When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage or something happened.”

“He certainly did a poor job,” Trump said. “That’s the case where somebody was outside. They’re trained, they didn’t react properly under pressure, or they were a coward. It was a real shock to the police department.”

Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said at a news conference Friday that Peterson’s actions were “outrageous” and “inexcusable,” adding, “I’ll leave it at that. I have no words.”

When asked about Peterson’s praise in the past, he responded, “I don’t care about the past, just care about the actions that he took that day.”

Runcie said there was nothing inhibiting Peterson from entering the school.

“I wish he had the same kind of courage that our teachers have,” Runcie said.

Jeff Bell, the president of Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, told ABC News that Peterson “did do a good job in terms of calling the exact location and getting units out there.”

Student Brandon Huff told the Orlando Sentinel he saw Peterson standing outside talking on his radio during the massacre.

“Two coaches went in and were shielding kids and throwing themselves in front of bullets, and he did nothing,” Huff said.

But teacher Felicia Burgin called the criticism unfair.

“There is no one that is going to tell you a negative thing about Deputy Peterson,” Burgin told the newspaper. “He was committed to our school. I don’t know what he could have done other than literally died.”

ABC News has reached out to Peterson for comment.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Father, son among four onboard missing aircraft

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Jon Kaupp(GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.) — A search and rescue effort is underway after a single-engine Piper aircraft with four people onboard went missing after departing Grand Junction, Colorado, around 10 a.m. local time Thursday, officials said.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that the aircraft was missing and issued an alert.

Jon Kaupp, the son of pilot Bill Kaupp, told ABC News that his 65-year-old father was planning to fly another son, 28-year-old Clint Kaupp, and their respective best friends west over Moab, Utah, before turning south to their destination of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The other passengers were Tim Mueller, 28, and Ron McKenzie, 66, according to Jon Kaupp.

Bill Kaupp has been an “avid” aviator for the last 10 years, said Jon Kaupp.

Search and rescue efforts are being coordinated by the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the United States Air Force.

It’s unclear if Bill Kaupp was familiar with that area of Colorado and Utah.

There was light snow and mist in Grand Junction Thursday morning, but no significant storms, according to ABC News meteorologists.

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Florida governor calls for gun sale age to be raised to 21 after Parkland shooting

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) — Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that he is going to push to raise the firearm purchase age in Florida from 18 to 21 years old in the wake of the deadly school shooting last week.

“Change is coming, and it will come fast,” Scott said.

Scott, a Republican with an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, announced the age increase as part of a series of steps he wants the state to take on gun laws, school safety and mental health.

He started his news conference Friday by reading the names of the 17 students and school staff who were killed at the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“Unfortunately, none of the plans I’m announcing today will bring any of them back, but it’s important to remember them. The 17 lives that were cut short and all the hopes and dreams that were ruined have changed our state forever. Florida will never be the same,” Scott said.

He called for the institution of what he termed a “violent threat restraining order” — similar versions of which are in place in some states. The order would allow a court to stop a mentally ill or violent person from buying a gun after a family member, community welfare expert or law enforcement officer files a request to instate the order.

“I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who has mental issues to use a gun. I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who is a danger to themselves or others to use a gun,” Scott said.

He also called for a strengthening of the restrictions that should stop mentally ill individuals from buying guns.

The age hike that would stop someone from buying a gun before they are 21 would have exceptions “for active-duty and reserve military and spouses, National Guard members and law enforcement,” Scott said.

Scott’s list of proposals also included an outright ban of bump stocks, which were not believed to have been used in the Parkland shooting but gained infamy following the deadly shooting at a Las Vegas concert in October.

He also detailed his plans to increase security precautions and training at schools. He said he will push to have more law enforcement officers at schools, suggesting that there be at least one law enforcement officer for every 1,000 students. Scott also called for a mandatory implementation of active-shooter “code red” drills at the beginning of each semester at public schools.

Scott said he and Florida lawmakers would be discussing the plans in Tallahassee, the state capital, during the next two weeks while the state government is still in its legislative session.

“I will not accept the old, tired political notion that we don’t have enough time to get anything done. Government does not have to be slow or lethargic. And when it comes to protecting our schools and our kids, we need to be swift and decisive,” Scott said.

He noted that the ideas he mentioned amount to “half a billion dollars for school safety and mental health initiatives,” and he said that “if providing this funding means we won’t be able to cut taxes this year — so be it.”

The announcement comes the same morning that some staff members returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, nine days after the shooting.

Teachers were seen hugging as they arrived back at the school in the wake of the Valentine’s Day massacre.

Staff members had the option to go back to the school Friday, and all staff is expected to return on Monday and Tuesday for planning days ahead of classes, Broward County Public Schools said.

A “variety of support services” is available, the district said.

The school district, calling this an “emotional and difficult recovery process,” is also holding a voluntary campus orientation for students and parents Sunday afternoon.

Classes for students will resume on Wednesday with a modified, shorter schedule for the week, the district said.

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School shooting victim Helena Ramsay to be laid to rest

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Ramsay Family (PARKLAND, Fla.) — Seventeen-year-old Helena Ramsay, one of the 17 people gunned down in the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at a Florida high school, will be laid to rest on Friday.

Ramsay was a “smart, kind-hearted and thoughtful person” who would have started college next year, relative Curtis Page Jr. wrote on Facebook.

“She was deeply loved and loved others even more so,” he wrote, adding, “She was so brilliant and witty, and I’m still wrestling with the idea that she is actually gone.”

According to The Orlando Sentinel, a cousin, Jamie Page, wrote online that Helena was “a genuine, beautiful and smart human being who had so much potential and the brightest future.”

The newspaper said cousin Fena Cooper posted on Facebook, “Valentine’s Day will never look the same for my family.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

California parents who allegedly held thirteen children captive return to court

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Mike Blake /Pool/Getty Images(RIVERSIDE, Calif.) — The California parents who allegedly held their 13 children captive in their home are set to return to court Friday.

David and Louise Turpin are accused of abusing their children, including allegedly forcing them to shower only once a year, shackling them and beating them routinely in some cases, prosecutors said. The victims weren’t released from their chains even to go to the bathroom, according to prosecutors.

When found, the children hadn’t been to a doctor in more than four years and had never been to a dentist, prosecutors said.

The Turpins were arrested in January after the couple’s 17-year-old daughter escaped the home and alerted authorities.

All the children except for the youngest — a toddler — were severely malnourished, prosecutors said. The eldest victim — a 29-year-old woman — weighed only 82 pounds when rescued.

The siblings were hospitalized.

David and Louise Turpin have each been charged with 12 counts of torture, 12 counts of false imprisonment, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult and six counts of child abuse. David Turpin was also charged with one count of a lewd act on a child under the age of 14 by force, fear or duress. They have pleaded not guilty.

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Stoneman Douglas teachers return to campus nine days after mass shooting

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) — Staff members returned to Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Friday morning, nine days after 17 people were fatally shot on the high school campus.

Teachers were seen hugging as they arrived back at the school in the wake of the Valentine’s Day massacre.

Friday is “dedicated to meeting staff members’ needs, with a variety of support services available on campus,” according to Broward County Public Schools.

The school district, calling this a “long and emotional recovery process,” is also holding a voluntary campus orientation for students and parents Sunday afternoon.

The district is aiming for classes to resume on Feb. 27.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

A CDC employee left work sick 10 days ago; he hasn’t been seen since

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Timothy Cunningham, 35, has not been heard from since Feb. 12, police said.

Armed sheriff’s deputy who did ‘nothing’ during Florida school shooting resigns

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Mike Stocker-Pool/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) — A Marjory Stoneman Douglas school resource officer has been suspended without pay after Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said video shows him taking up a defensive position during the shooting but never entering the school.

Israel announced Thursday that the decision to suspend Deputy Scot Peterson was made after reviewing video from the shooting and taking statements from witnesses and Peterson himself, Israel said.

“He should have went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer,” Israel said.

Peterson was armed and on campus during the shooting, Israel said. Since he met the requirements for retirement, Peterson opted to resign after he was told he was being suspended, Israel said.

Israel said the video shows Peterson arrived at the west side of Building 12, where most of the killing happened. He then took up a position but “never went in.”

The video shows that Peterson remained outside the building for upward of four minutes during the shooting, which lasted about six minutes, Israel said. Aside from getting “on his radio,” Peterson did “nothing” while standing outside the building, Israel said.

When the shooting started, Peterson was in an office dealing with a “school-related issue,” Israel said.

When asked by reporters to describe how the video made him feel, Israel said “sick to my stomach” and “devastated.”

“It doesn’t matter who went in first. It doesn’t matter in what order you went in,” he said. “What matters is that when we in law enforcement arrive at an active shooter, we go in and address the target — and that’s what should have been done.”

Peterson was named school resource officer of the year in the city of Parkland in 2014, after he had been with the school for five years, records show. According to a booklet announcing the award, Peterson had been “proven to be reliable in handling issues with tact and judgment” and was active in mentoring and counseling students that year.

Peterson was also nominated for Parkland deputy of the year in 2017, an internal memo from the sheriff’s office dated March 27, 2017, shows. He started his career with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in 1985.

The personnel file on Peterson shows he completed multiple training programs as well, including a mandatory firearms training program and special tactical problems training program.

Two other deputies were placed on restricted duty while the sheriff’s office investigates whether they “could’ve” or “should’ve” done more while dealing with the suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, amid the 23 calls they received involving Cruz or his brother since 2008, Israel said.

Of those calls, investigators feel that two cases “deserve extra scrutiny” to see if there was a policy violation by the deputies involved.

Cruz was arrested shortly after the shooting and is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He is being held in a Broward County jail.

On Wednesday, Israel announced that Broward County sheriff’s deputies would now be carrying AR-15 rifles on school grounds within the district, adding that one of the ways to make schools safer is to evaluate the number of school resource officers on campuses.

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New major storm will bring flooding, severe weather to central US

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(NEW YORK) — A stalled frontal system continues to plague much of the central U.S. with heavy rain in the south, and snow and ice in parts of the Northern Plains and upper Midwest.

A line of strong storms remains situated Friday morning over the south-central U.S. from northeast Texas all the way to southern Ohio. Heavy rain is accompanying these storms with rainfall rates of half an inch to three-quarters of an inch per hour. The threat for flash flooding is increasing in parts of Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Arkansas on Friday morning.

This stalled storm system is also bringing some snow to the upper Midwest on Friday morning with 1 to 2 inch per hour snowfall rates locally.

While the system moves to the north and east on Friday, another storm is developing right behind it that will bring a significant flood risk from Texas to Pennsylvania this weekend.

Severe weather — including tornadoes — across the lower Mississippi River Valley and significant snow from Nebraska to Wisconsin are possible.

By Saturday morning, heavy rain will be falling on parts of the Ohio River Valley, and new thunderstorms will develop across parts of Texas. Meanwhile, snow and ice will begin to cover parts of the Central Plains across Nebraska and Iowa. This slow-moving storm will move across the central U.S. this weekend.

The primary concern would be the next round of very heavy rainfall from Texas to Pennsylvania; these areas have already been hard hit this week. Nearly 4 to 5 inches of additional rainfall is possible through Monday morning, especially from Arkansas to Ohio. Significant flash flooding and river flooding could happen in the region. Rainfall rates during some of these storms, especially on Saturday, could exceed 1 to 2 inches per hour.

The only good news is that the heaviest rain will miss most of central Illinois and central Michigan — an area that was hard hit with river flooding this week already.

On the colder side of this system, additional snow is on the way for the Central Plains and Upper Midwest. An additional 6 to 10 inches of snow is expected from northern Iowa to Wisconsin and Minnesota, including Minneapolis. The snow will reach peak intensity on Saturday afternoon and evening with blowing snow likely in the cities of Minneapolis and Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Patchy ice will also be possible once again in parts of the Kansas City region.

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At least three killed in small plane crash in rural Indiana

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(ROSSVILLE, Ind.) — There were no survivors of a small plane crash in rural Indiana on Thursday night.

Indiana State Police told Indianapolis ABC affiliate WRTV that at least three people died in the crash.

The Cessna 441 plane left from Eagle Creek Airport in Indianapolis at 7:21 p.m. before crashing in a field north of Rossville, Indiana, on its way to Green Bay, Wisconsin, just 18 minutes later, according to WRTV.

“Unfortunately, when officers responded to the area near 500 West and 500 South in a field, they did find a plane that did crash. And, unfortunately at this time, there are fatalities, “Indiana Police Sgt. Tony Slocum said. “We believe there are no survivors in this crash.”

Rossville is in rural Carroll County, about 50 miles northwest of Indianapolis.

Investigators with the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board were expected to be on the scene of the crash on Friday, WRTV reported.

No one on the ground was injured.

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Construction of interim Pulse memorial begins next week

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

onePULSE Foundation (ORLANDO) — Construction begins Monday in Orlando on an interim memorial to pay tribute to the 49 people who were killed 20 months ago during a shooting massacre at Pulse nightclub, a popular LGBT venue in the city’s downtown, the onePULSE Foundation announced Thursday.

“As we move to create a permanent memorial and museum to honor the 49 precious lives that were taken, we also know the importance of ensuring the families, survivors, first responders and the community continue to have a place to reflect on what happened here,” onePULSE Foundation Executive Director Barbara Poma said in a statement.

Poma continued, “The interim memorial will provide areas to leave messages, and will include seating, shade, lighting and trees — creating a meaningful and inviting space while planning is underway.”

The onePULSE Foundation is a nonprofit organization incorporated to manage the design and construction of a permanent museum and memorial dedicated to the Pulse tragedy.

Forty-nine people were killed, and more than 100 others were injured on June 12, 2016, when gunman Omar Mateen opened fire on the nightclub. The federal trial for Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, begins March 1. She faces charges of aiding a former terrorist organization and obstruction of justice.

As part of the process of creating the interim memorial, the onePULSE Foundation will work with the Orange County Regional History Center to collect and conserve all of the artifacts, works of art, messages and other memorial items left at the site. Families and survivors have been invited to take home any personal items and messages they left at the site. Orange County Regional History Center staff will collect the remaining items on Feb. 25.

Pam Schwartz, chief curator of the Orange County Regional History Center, said in a statement that June 12, 2016, was “an historic day in Orlando’s history, and we are dedicated to ensuring that the lives taken, all those affected and the outpouring of public support are not forgotten.”

Schwartz added, “We will use the utmost care and sensitivity in preserving the items that were so lovingly created and placed here; they will be integral as the onePULSE Foundation plans the museum.”

The onePULSE Foundation reviewed and approved the interim design.

The onePULSE Foundation explained in a statement that “the iconic Pulse sign will be enhanced but not removed. A new fence will be placed around the perimeter of the nightclub itself, which will remain standing until the permanent memorial and museum designs are selected. Much of the labor involved will be completed off-site, and new elements will be installed at the site with minimal impact on the surrounding community.”

Work on the project is expected to last approximately 60 days and should end in late April, according to the foundation.

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Armed sheriff’s deputy who did ‘nothing’ during Florida school shooting resigns

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Deputy Scot Peterson resigned after he was suspended without pay.

3 nursing-home staffers charged in death of WWII veteran

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) —  Three staff members at a Georgia senior-care facility have been indicted on charges that their actions not only caused the death of a resident in their care, but that they also tried to cover up his death.

On Tuesday, almost four years to the day that James Dempsey, 89, of Woodstock, Georgia, died, former nurses Wanda Nuckles and Loyce Pickquet Agyeman as well as aide Mable L. Turner were charged in connection with his 2014 death.

According to police records, in January 2014, Dempsey, a World War II Navy veteran, entered the Northeast Atlanta Rehabilitation Center in Brookhaven, Georgia. His family told Brookhaven police that he had been having liver problems and was undergoing dialysis treatment at the center.

Relatives told ABC affiliate WSB-TV in 2015 that when he expressed concerns about staying at the center overnight, they installed a hidden camera in his room.

After Dempsey’s death, his family took the camera home and said they felt “shock” when they watched footage from that day.

“Video surveillance shows the patient suffering in respiratory distress and repeatedly calling out for help. Soon after his distress calls, the victim became unresponsive. The indictment alleges the Defendants, in varying degrees, failed to provide timely and necessary medical assistance, ultimately resulting in Mr. Dempsey’s death,” the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release Wednesday.

The District Attorney’s Office said video surveillance of the Feb. 27, 2014 incident was made public in November 2017, after the family filed a civil lawsuit against the center, alleging “wrongful death” and “negligence.” The civil suit was settled but the footage prompted a joint investigation between the DA’s office and law enforcement.

In the video revealed during a deposition in the civil suit, Dempsey can be seen lying in his hospital bed, gasping for air and calling for help six times.

According to the indictment, on Feb. 27, 2014, Agyeman “failed to call 911” when Dempsey complained about his heart, despite medical instructions in his chart stating that he should be sent to a hospital in the event of chest pain.

It also said that Agyeman and Nuckles had “started performing two-person cardiopulmonary resuscitation approximately one hour” after he’d become unresponsive, “to create the false impression that they were trying to save James Dempsey’s life.”

In a 2015 sworn deposition, Nuckles said the staff had administered CPR immediately.

Nuckles of Buford, Georgia, is charged with depriving an elder person of essential services. Turman of College Park, Georgia, faces a charge of neglect to an elder person. And, Agyeman of Snellville, Georgia, is charged with felony murder and neglect to an elder person. Each woman also faces a charge of concealing the death of another.

Grand jury warrants were issued for each woman’s arrest, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office said.

Both Nuckles and Agyeman voluntarily surrendered their licenses in September 2017, according to the state board.

Nuckles told ABC News that she has no comment on what happened and that her lawyer would not allow her to say anything to the media. ABC News was not able to reach Turman or Agyeman. The company that runs the nursing home did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

None of the women have entered a plea at this time. A trial date has not been set.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Three nursing-home staffers charged in death of WWII veteran

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) —  Three staff members at a Georgia senior-care facility have been indicted on charges that their actions not only caused the death of a resident in their care, but that they also tried to cover up his death.

On Tuesday, almost four years to the day that James Dempsey, 89, of Woodstock, Georgia, died, former nurses Wanda Nuckles and Loyce Pickquet Agyeman as well as aide Mable L. Turner were charged in connection with his 2014 death.

According to police records, in January 2014, Dempsey, a World War II Navy veteran, entered the Northeast Atlanta Rehabilitation Center in Brookhaven, Georgia. His family told Brookhaven police that he had been having liver problems and was undergoing dialysis treatment at the center.

Relatives told ABC affiliate WSB-TV in 2015 that when he expressed concerns about staying at the center overnight, they installed a hidden camera in his room.

After Dempsey’s death, his family took the camera home and said they felt “shock” when they watched footage from that day.

“Video surveillance shows the patient suffering in respiratory distress and repeatedly calling out for help. Soon after his distress calls, the victim became unresponsive. The indictment alleges the Defendants, in varying degrees, failed to provide timely and necessary medical assistance, ultimately resulting in Mr. Dempsey’s death,” the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release Wednesday.

The District Attorney’s Office said video surveillance of the Feb. 27, 2014 incident was made public in November 2017, after the family filed a civil lawsuit against the center, alleging “wrongful death” and “negligence.” The civil suit was settled but the footage prompted a joint investigation between the DA’s office and law enforcement.

In the video revealed during a deposition in the civil suit, Dempsey can be seen lying in his hospital bed, gasping for air and calling for help six times.

According to the indictment, on Feb. 27, 2014, Agyeman “failed to call 911” when Dempsey complained about his heart, despite medical instructions in his chart stating that he should be sent to a hospital in the event of chest pain.

It also said that Agyeman and Nuckles had “started performing two-person cardiopulmonary resuscitation approximately one hour” after he’d become unresponsive, “to create the false impression that they were trying to save James Dempsey’s life.”

In a 2015 sworn deposition, Nuckles said the staff had administered CPR immediately.

Nuckles of Buford, Georgia, is charged with depriving an elder person of essential services. Turman of College Park, Georgia, faces a charge of neglect to an elder person. And, Agyeman of Snellville, Georgia, is charged with felony murder and neglect to an elder person. Each woman also faces a charge of concealing the death of another.

Grand jury warrants were issued for each woman’s arrest, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office said.

Both Nuckles and Agyeman voluntarily surrendered their licenses in September 2017, according to the state board.

Nuckles told ABC News that she has no comment on what happened and that her lawyer would not allow her to say anything to the media. ABC News was not able to reach Turman or Agyeman. The company that runs the nursing home did not respond to requests for comment from ABC News.

None of the women have entered a plea at this time. A trial date has not been set.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Man who plotted his family’s murder will not be executed, governor says

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images(NEW YORK) —  The governor of Texas decided Thursday to spare the life of a convicted killer who carried out a plot to kill his parents and his brother.

About 40 minutes before the scheduled execution, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would grant clemency to 38-year-old Thomas “Bart” Whitaker. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, in a rare recommendation, voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of the “lesser penalty” of commuting Whitaker’s death sentence to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

“In just over three years as governor, I have allowed 30 executions. I have not granted a commutation of a death sentence until now,” Abbott said in a statement. “The murders of Mr. Whitaker’s mother and brother are reprehensible. The crime deserves severe punishment for the criminals who killed them. The recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, and my action on it, ensures Mr. Whitaker will never be released from prison.”

Bart Whitaker was convicted of capital murder for the shooting deaths of his mother, Tricia Whitaker, and his younger brother, Kevin Whitaker, in an attack he devised at the family’s Sugar Land, Texas, home in December 2003. Bart’s father, Kent Whitaker, was also shot during the attack, but survived.

Kent Whitaker said he has forgiven his son and became his most outspoken advocate.

“I love him. He’s my son,” Kent Whitaker told “20/20.” “I don’t want to see him executed at the hands of Texas in the name of justice when there’s a better justice available.”

Watch the full story on “20/20” FRIDAY, Feb. 23 at 10 p.m. ET

 On Tuesday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, in a rare recommendation, voted unanimously in favor of the “lesser penalty” of commuting Whitaker’s death sentence to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutor Fred Felcman, who was also the original prosecutor in the case, told ABC’s Houston station KTRK-TV on Tuesday that he was disappointed by the parole board’s recommendation.

“I guess the 12 jurors’ opinion means nothing to the parole board,” Felcman said.

“20/20” sat down with Kent Whitaker awhile he awaited the board’s decision on his son’s fate. He said that Bart has learned Spanish in prison and was teaching some inmates English, while helping others earn their high school diplomas.

“I have seen such change in him,” Kent Whitaker said of his son. “He’s been incarcerated for 11 years. That’s 4,000 days. He’s done a lot of work himself and he’s struggled hard to try to find out what it was that went wrong in his mind.”

“There’s a mental illness issue here that we still don’t quite understand,” the father added. “But he has learned how to recognize the danger points and to work around them. I want the opportunity to spend years watching him grow. And there’s so much that he can do.”

Kent Whitaker said he recognizes the horrible crime his son committed, saying, “I live with it every day… and nobody’s denying it.”

“Forgiveness is absolutely critical if you want to heal from your loss,” he continued. “It is the only way that you can get the bitterness out, and the bitterness is going to stay there and it’s going to affect your relationships in ways that you can’t even see or recognize. But it’s going to negatively affect them. I was able to forgive on the night of the shootings.”

On Dec. 10, 2003, Bart Whitaker announced to his family that he had finished his final exams at Sam Houston State University and would be graduating. To honor his achievement, his parents presented him with a Rolex watch. That night, the family went to a popular Cajun restaurant to celebrate.

Photos taken from that night show Bart smiling for the camera, but he told “20/20” in a 2009 interview that he knew at that moment that an intruder had entered their home and was waiting for their return. If everything went according to his plan, his brother, mother and father would all be dead within minutes.

“I don’t really know a better term for how I was feeling [that night], other than I was on auto-pilot. I wasn’t even aware of myself,” Bart Whitaker told “20/20” in 2009.

“I wanted them dead,” he added. “It was my idea.”

When the family arrived home, Bart, knowing what awaited his family inside, ran down the driveway, saying he needed to grab his cell phone out of his car. Kevin Whitaker, 19, was the first one to open the door and was shot in the chest, then his mother followed and was also shot.

Next, his father was wounded, too — he was shot through the right chest and arm, breaking his humerus bone.

Bart said he then ran into the house and pretended to try and catch the shooter. They wrestled a bit and then Bart was shot in the arm to make him appear to be a victim.

“It was to distance me from the guilt,” he told “20/20” in 2009. “But also I think on an internal level it was me realizing that there was no way that I could come out of this physically unscathed.”

Kevin and Tricia both died from their gunshot wounds. Kent and Bart both survived. Investigators would later discover that Bart had never graduated Sam Houston State University and was still listed as a freshman on academic probation.

When they were released from the hospital, Bart moved back home to be with his father, where they spent time together reading the Bible.

The investigation made little progress, until a man named Adam Hipp walked into the Sugar Land police station and introduced himself as a former friend of Bart Whitaker’s. Hipp told police Bart had hatched a second, previously unknown murder plot that was aborted at the last minute, but Hipp claimed Whitaker had asked him to be the shooter.

Another break in the case came in August 2005, when a man named Steven Champagne, who was Bart’s former co-worker and neighbor, went to police and confessed to assisting in the crime and provided the entire story of what happened on that December 2003 night.

Champagne told investigators that Bart had set up the crime and lured his family to dinner to celebrate his fake graduation from college. As the Whitakers celebrated, Champagne said he watched from a car in the parking lot.

Meanwhile, Bart’s roommate, Chris Brashear, hid in Bart’s SUV outside the Whitaker home. Champagne told police Brashear entered the house with the key and disabled the alarm with the code Bart had given him. Champagne said he followed the family home and parked on a nearby street and waited.

“[Brashear] said Bart’s brother had walked in first,” Champagne recalled in his confession. “And, when Chris shot him, he said before he shot him he thought he smiled. And then Chris shot his mom and then shot Bart’s dad …. And then, he acted like he wrestled around with Bart and shot Bart.”

A minute later, as he told cops, Brashear joined him in the car and they fled the scene.

“Bart said his family was worth a lot of money,” Champagne said, explaining his motivation. “He said he would give us some money — I mean millions of dollars.”

He also told police that he and Brashear had thrown a bag full of evidence off of a bridge into a nearby lake. A police dive team later found a soggy duffel bag full of decomposing evidence. Though the bag had spent two years at the bottom of the lake, detectives were able to obtain a DNA profile of Brashear on the mouth of a water bottle. The bag also contained Bart Whitaker’s cell phone.

In March 2007, a jury convicted Bart Whitaker of the capital murder of his mother and his younger brother, and he was sentenced to death. The shooter, Brashear, received life in prison without parole. The getaway driver, Champagne, was sentenced to 15 years for his role in the plot.

 Since then, Kent Whitaker has gotten remarried and has devoted his time to spreading his message of forgiveness as well as fighting to prevent his son’s execution. Kent wrote a book, “Murder by Family,” in which he tracks the pain, tears and faith that carried him through it all.

“I think that justice would be the opportunity to spend his life helping others and allowing me the opportunity to walk that road with him,” Kent Whitaker said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Student says Nikolas Cruz threatened to ‘kill’ him, sent photo of guns

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) —  Six months before Nikolas Cruz allegedly gunned down former classmates and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, he apparently texted a photo of an assault rifle, among a slew of other weapons, to a student he repeatedly threatened to kill.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News Wednesday night, Enea Sabadini said it was the one time he did not report Cruz to school officials, despite a tirade of threats and insults from him via social media. Sabadini said he didn’t take Cruz’s messages seriously at the time.

“If I was able to go back, I would have gone and reported him to police and told my mother about it,” Sabadini told ABC News.

Sabadini, who plays high school rugby, said his first interaction with Cruz occurred in August 2016. Cruz sent him direct messages on Instagram saying to stay away from his ex-girlfriend, whom Sabadini had just started dating.

At that time, Sabadini hadn’t met Cruz in person and didn’t respond to his messages.

“I was confused why, because I hadn’t had any prior problems with this person,” he said. “At first, I didn’t answer back at all.”

Sabadini said Cruz’s ex-girlfriend told him to ignore the messages, even though they included racial slurs, threats of murder and even of Cruz feeling depressed.

“you know how f—— mad iam (sic) at you,” Cruz wrote in one message. “you took my ex i been depressed.”

Still, she said Cruz was “misunderstood.” But, according to Sabadini, she added that he had been “violent and abusive” toward her.

Then one morning, a week or two after school started that year, Cruz approached Sabadini at the school to apologize.

“I think he knew where I sat with my friends in the mornings, so as I was walking toward my usual area, he pulled me aside to apologize,” Sabadini said. “I accepted his apology and everything was cool.”

Just days later, Cruz again sent hostile messages to Sabadini and threatened some of his friends.

Sabadini, who said he was “confused” by Cruz’s hostility, chose not to respond to the messages again. But he and his friends reported the incident to school officials.

It was unclear whether Cruz was ever disciplined for those messages.

Then, one day after school when Sabadini was leaving school with friends, they noticed Cruz was following closely behind. A brief confrontation between Cruz and Sabadini ensued, in which Cruz yelled at Sabadini to stop talking to his ex-girlfriend.

“We almost get into a fight, but I decide it’s not worth it and I walk away,” Sabadini said.

Suddenly, Cruz starts running toward Sabadini with pencils in each of his hands, holding them like daggers, “in a stabbing stance,” Sabadini said.

Sabadini took off running and Cruz chased him down the street, Sabadini said. He eventually outran Cruz and reported the incident to school officials, he said.

Another day at school, Cruz started a fight with Sabadini during lunch. The fight was captured on cell phone video and led to the brief suspension of both students.

“I don’t know why he came up behind me and decided to fight me that day,” Sabadini told ABC News. “I was tired of all the things he had been doing to me and my friends.”

 Sabadini said Cruz continued to send him threatening messages for a few weeks afterward and would occasionally give him the middle finger at school during lunch. The harassment finally stopped only when Cruz was expelled in December 2016, but “out of the blue” in the early morning hours of Aug. 17, 2017, the messaging attacks resumed, Sabadini said.

Eventually, the harassment stopped completely -– until the early morning hours of Aug. 17, the following summer.

In screenshots of the series of Instagram direct messages provided to ABC News, Cruz apparently curses at Sabadini, uses a slew of derogatory insults and threatens multiple times to “kill” him.

“You underground hispanic wall jumper ill (sic) will f—— destroy you,” Cruz writes to Sabadini, who is Italian and African American.

After sending the image of guns laid out on his bed, Cruz writes: “Don’t f— with me!!!!!”

 In further direct messages to Sabadini, Cruz says he “stole my ex” and that she meant “everything to me.” Cruz writes that he’s been “depressed” and “drinking” ever since, and all he can think about is “hurting” Sabadini.

This time, Sabadini responds to Cruz’s messages, saying he and the girl “broke up” in December 2016. But Cruz continues to threaten him.

“you have no idea what iam (sic) capable of,” Cruz writes.

“Iam (sic) going to f—–g kill you.”

“Iam (sic) going to watch ypu (sic) bleed.”

Sabadini responds, “F—– off I’m trying to watch YouTube.”

Cruz writes, “I will kill you !!!!!”

“I am going to shoot you dead.”

Most of Sabadini’s responses appear nonchalant with a sarcastic tone. He writes, “Hey man you should take a cold shower to calm down, I here (sic) they are refreshing.”

Sabadini told ABC News he didn’t take Cruz’s threats seriously at the time. Cruz had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School unspecified disciplinary reasons, authorities said.

“I did not really think much because he was no longer going to our school,” Sabadini said. “I just thought nothing of it at the time.”

 Months later, on Feb. 14, Cruz allegedly opened fire inside the school, killing 17 people and wounding dozens of others, with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle authorities say he legally purchased a year ago.

When Sabadini heard there was an active shooter on campus, he said he and his friends immediately knew it was Cruz.

“I wasn’t surprised,” he told ABC News.

He added that everyone who had interacted with him knew that “if anything was really to happen at the school, like a shooting, that he probably was the only one with enough hate to do so.”

Sabadini said he personally knew three of the students who were killed, and that he feels lucky to be alive.

Cruz was arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the aftermath of the attack.

The Instagram account associated with Cruz that directly messaged Sabadini appears to have been taken down.

Sabadini’s mother, Mayi Sabadini, told ABC News she believes it’s important for her son to share his story.

“Even though Nikolas wanted to kill my son, I believe he’s the 18th victim. His life is over, too. He is obviously very, very troubled,” she told ABC News in a separate interview.

Mayi Sabadini became emotional when talking about the loss and suffering of so many families, and said she can’t believe her son was sucked in by Cruz’s obsession and rage over the ex-girlfriend.

“Kids have to tell their parents about any threat, every single threat. We know that now,” she said. “There are many other troubled, sick kids like Nikolas at other schools. I feel very lucky my son is alive.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Armed deputy stood outside for minutes doing ‘nothing’ during massacre, sheriff says

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Deputy Scot Peterson resigned after he was suspended without pay.

Armed deputy stood outside for minutes doing ‘nothing’ during massacre: Sheriff says

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Deputy Scot Peterson resigned after he was suspended without pay.

Suspect in Florida school massacre questioned in November over shooting threat

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Mike Stocker-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The suspected gunman in the Florida school massacre was questioned by a police officer in November after a woman he was living with at the time called 911 to report he had threatened to use a gun on her 22-year-old son, according to records obtained by ABC News.

The report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is just the latest in a string of red flags concerning Nikolas Cruz’ volatility that law enforcement, school officials and mental health experts were notified of prior the Valentine’s Day attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 people dead, including 14 students.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s offense report from Nov. 29 shows that a woman who initially took Cruz in after his mother’s death in November, called 911 to complain that Cruz had gotten into an altercation with her son in her Lantana, Florida, home and threatened to get a gun and come back.

“[He] bought a gun from Dicks last week and is now going to pick it up,” the woman told a 911 dispatcher, according to a log of the call contained in the report.

“[He] bought tons of ammo…[and] has used a gun against [people] before,” the dispatcher’s log states. “He has put the gun to others heads in the past.”

While the name of the 911 caller was redacted in the report, ABC News has learned that, at the time, Cruz was living with Rocxanne Deschamps, a family friend who took him and his younger brother in after their 68-year-old adoptive mother, Lynda Cruz, contracted pneumonia and died on Nov. 1.

After police arrived at Deschamps’ home just after 3 p.m., her son told an officer that he had gotten into a physical altercation with Cruz, who became “upset and began punching walls and breaking items inside the home.”

The son said Cruz punched him in the left side of his jaw as he attempted to calm Cruz down, according to the report. He told the officer he punched Cruz back in “self-defense” and attempted to restrain him before Cruz bolted from the residence, the report says.

The officer found Cruz in a nearby park and described the 19-year-old as being “nervous and calm,” according to the report. Cruz told the officer he had become upset and punched a wall after losing a picture of his late mother.

“He said he was sorry for losing his temper,” according to the officer’s report.

There were no references to guns in the officer’s narrative, but the dispatch notes indicate that Cruz told police there were guns inside the home.

Ultimately, the son told police he did not want Cruz arrested and signed a “refusal to prosecute” form, according to the officer’s report. But the son expressed that he wanted Cruz to leave the residence until he calmed down, according to the report.

He said Cruz “has been going through a lot with his loss” and he “did not want him to go to jail” the report states.

The officer’s report concludes that the son and Cruz hugged to reconcile their differences, and the case was cleared with no arrest or charges filed.

Cruz moved out of Deschamps’ home around the time of the altercation and went to live with James and Kimberly Snead, the parents of a friend.

In an earlier police report obtained by ABC News, officers were called to Deschamps’ residence on Nov. 24 by her son, who claimed Cruz had possibly hidden a gun in the back yard. There is no indication in the report that a gun was found and the incident was declared “domestic unfounded,” according to the document

In documents filed in Broward County probate court the day after the Feb. 14 mass shooting, Deschamps’ attorney, Audra Simovitch, petitioned to have Deschamps appointed a personal representative of Lynda Cruz’s estate, claiming an interest in the estate “as a family friend … who is caring for a 50% minor beneficiary,” meaning Cruz’s younger brother.

Simovitch declined to comment on the probate motion. But in a court document filed Thursday, she asked a judge to allow her to see Cruz in jail and that she was retained by Cruz on Dec. 13 to represent him in the probate matter. Deschamps also signed the retainer agreement and was named as the “proposed personal representative” for Cruz and his brother, according to the document.

The Sneads claimed that Nikolas Cruz told them he stood to inherit in a few years at least $800,000 from his deceased parents’ estates, the couple’s attorney, Jim Lewis, told ABC News. Cruz’s adoptive father, Roger Cruz, died in 2004 at the age of 67.

As investigators dig into Cruz’s background, more and more instances have emerged in which state and federal officials had been in contact with Cruz or were alerted of his violent behavior prior to the mass shooting.

The growing list of warning signs either detailed by public statements from officials or public records, includes an admission by the FBI that a tip it received on Jan. 5 warning that Cruz might be planning a “school shooting” and detailing his guns, was not passed on to its Miami field office and was never investigated.

Records show the Broward County Sheriff’s Office also received 39 calls for service in the last few years regarding Cruz for a variety of disturbance complaints, including fighting with his mother. In a police report from Sept. 28, 2016, a therapist who went on one of the calls cleared Cruz, concluding he was “no threat to anyone or himself.”

A report in August 2016 by the Florida Department of Children and Family shows the agency investigated a Snapchat post in which Cruz was seen cutting his arms and was told by Cruz that he “plans to go out and buy a gun.” The agency determined Cruz “to be stable enough not to be hospitalized,” according to the DCF report. DCF said in a statement it “relies on the expertise of mental health professionals and law enforcement and these records show that DCF took the steps to involve these partners in investigating this alleged abuse.”

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Same-sex couple allegedly told they don’t ‘mirror the holy family’ and denied chance to be foster parents

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) — A Texas same-sex couple has sued the federal government, alleging they were denied the chance to be foster parents to a refugee child because they do not “mirror the holy family.”

According to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday, married couple Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin expressed their interest in February 2017 in fostering a refugee child to an official with the Catholic Charities of Fort Worth (CCFW). The group is an affiliate of the United States Conference of Bishops, which the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) contracts for some of its federal child welfare duties.

The lawsuit alleges that during a phone conversation with Donna Springer, chair of the executive committee of CCFW’s board of directors, they were told that foster parents must “mirror the holy family,” and they would not “qualify” to foster a child.

“We were both completely shocked,” Marouf told ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.

“It was hurtful in realizing there was no overcoming that barrier,” Esplin added.

The lawsuit says the couple also asked if any of the refugee children in the program might be lesbian or gay and were told that none of the 700 children served by the program are members of the LGBT community.

Marouf immediately reported to the Office of Refugee Resettlement via email that CCFW had discriminated against her and her wife, the complaint says, but she did not receive a response for nearly two months. The couple claims they haven’t received any further communication from them since, leading to this week’s lawsuit.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and HHS are named in the lawsuit.

HHS told ABC News, “We do not comment on pending litigation.” The USCCB has not immediately responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

Catholic Charities Fort Worth denies to the Dallas Morning News that the couple ever spoke with Springer — saying she “never had any contact with the couple” — but acknowledged the then-director of child welfare services talked to them over the phone. The organization also denied allegations in the lawsuit that the couple was told the agency did not have any LGBT kids among the refugee children in its care at the time.

“We do not screen or otherwise ask the children we serve to self-identify if they are LGBT,” said Katelin Cortney, Catholic Charities Fort Worth’s communications director told the local news outlet. “We train our foster families to accept children from all cultures and walks of life so they can be as prepared as possible to welcome someone new into their home.”

The couple hopes the lawsuit will allow them to apply to be foster parents to a refugee child, as well as prevent sexual orientation-based discrimination against other prospective parents, according to the lawsuit.

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Man who plotted his family’s murder will not be executed, governor says

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Bart Whitaker was convicted in 2007 of murdering his brother, mother.

School officer waited outside building for 4 minutes as killings happened: Sheriff

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Deputy Scot Peterson resigned after he was suspended without pay.

School officer waited outside building for 4 minutes as killings happened: Sheriff

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Mike Stocker-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) —  A Marjory Stoneman Douglas school resource officer has been suspended without pay after Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said video shows him taking up a defensive position during the shooting but never entering the school.

Israel announced Thursday that the decision to suspend Scot Peterson was made after reviewing video from the shooting and taking statements from witnesses and Peterson himself, Israel said.

“He should have went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer,” Israel said.

Peterson was armed and on campus during the shooting Israel said. Since he met the requirements for retirement, Peterson opted to resign after he was told he was being suspended, Israel said.

Israel said that the video shows Peterson arrived at the west side of Building 12, where most of the killing happened. He then took up a position but “never went in.”

The video shows that Peterson remained outside the building for upwards of four minutes during the shooting, Israel said.

When the shooting started, Peterson was in an office dealing with a “school-related issue,” Israel said.

When asked by reporters to describe how the video made him feel, Israel responded, “sick to my stomach” and “devastated.”

Two other deputies were placed on restricted duty while the sheriff’s office investigates whether they “could’ve” or “should’ve” done more while dealing with suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, during the 23 calls they received involving Cruz or his brother since 2008, Israel said.

Cruz was arrested shortly after the shooting and is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. He is being held in a Broward County jail.

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Missing CDC employee left work sick 10 days ago, hasn’t been seen since, police say

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images(ATLANTA) — Police are asking the public for help finding a missing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention employee who went home sick 10 days ago and hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

Timothy Cunningham, 35, went to work on Feb. 12 and left sick, the Atlanta Police Department said. Cunningham, who studied at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, works as an epidemic intelligence service officer and has been sent to respond to public health emergencies including the Ebola virus and the Zika virus, according to the CDC.

Police said it’s unusual for Cunningham not to contact his family.

Cunningham’s parents said they found his phone, wallet, car and keys, as well as his dog, at his home, reported ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta.

“It’s not the type of news you want to hear,” his father, Terrell Cunningham, said, reported WSB. “Thirty-five years old, but always your child.

“This is an appeal to the public,” Terrell Cunningham added. “We’re seeking your help in bringing Tim back safe.”

The CDC did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Anyone with information is urged to call 911 or the Atlanta Police Homicide/Adult Missing Persons Unit at 404-546-4235.

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After school shooting, breaking down the conspiracy theories facing Parkland students

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The students of Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School have had to spend the past week grieving and burying their friends and school staff who were shot during the mass shooting on Feb. 14.

They’ve also had to endure accusations that their subsequent movement is part of a larger gun-hating conspiracy.

In the days following the shooting, when the teenage students were regularly making television appearances and recounting their experiences during the shooting, some naysayers online started raising questions about the students and how polished they appeared.

Some questioned if the students actually attended the school, or if they were actors shipped to the site of the tragedy afterward at the behest of a shadow organization or Democratic groups.

Another strain of the conspiracy theories cited one of the students’ father’s former position at the Federal Bureau of Investigation as an indication that the students’ calls for gun reform were part of an effort to distract from the agency’s failures in preventing the shooting.

Student David Hogg and his father, appearing together on CNN, have since denied the claim.

“I am not an actor in any sense way shape or form,” Hogg told CNN.

“I’m not a crisis actor. I’m somebody who had to witness this and live through this and continue to have to do that. It’s unbelievable to me that these people are even saying this,” he said.

One Twitter user who raised some of these questions was Kambree Kawahine Koa, who identifies herself on Twitter as a political news contributor and has written opinion articles for the conservative news site The Daily Caller.

“It’s quite interesting that the children survivors haven’t even buried their friends, grieve, get over shock but have had the time to plan for a march, come up with a creative hashtag, get their story to all media outlets all in such a short amount time….. Democrats have planned this all. This is what they have done for decades. They think we are stupid in how they operate but actually them using children as pawns will BACKFIRE in Nov like it did in 2016. Game over,” she wrote in two tweets on Feb. 18, adding the hashtag for the event that the students are spearheading, #MarchForOurLives.

Her tweets have been retweeted thousands of times.

Former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who has been a vocal supporter of President Trump, tweeted a similar accusation on Feb. 20, pointing to liberal billionaire George Soros as the alleged mastermind.

“The well ORGANIZED effort by Florida school students demanding gun control has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it. It is similar to how he hijacked and exploited black people’s emotion regarding police use of force incidents into the COP HATING Black Lives Matter movement,” he wrote in a tweet that included a picture of Soros and destructive demonstrators standing on a car.

The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also showed some virtual support for the conspiracy theories, liking two tweets with links to stories promoting the conspiracy theories about Hogg allegedly speaking out to deflect attention from the FBI’s failures.

One government official has lost his job after suggesting that the teenagers are part of a conspiracy. Benjamin Kelly, who was an aide of a Florida state representative, told a Tampa Bay Times reporter that two of the most outspoken students, Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, “are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen,” according to a screen grab of the email that was shared by the reporter.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Kelly was first put on leave and then fired.

ABC News’ efforts to reach Kelly Thursday were not immediately successful. The Tampa Bay Times reported Kelly released a statement on Twitter before making his account private, reportedly saying he “made a mistake” and “I meant no disrespect to the students or parents of Parkland.”

The conspiracy theories were picked up dark corners of the web, including on the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. At the end of a lengthy post detailing the various aspects of the conspiracy theories, the site’s creator, Andrew Anglin, reached his conclusion.

“The most likely thing that has happened, in my view, is that this shooting happened, various lobbies were ready to use it for their own purposes, they picked out the kids who were best suited to play the roles they needed them to play and got them together and coached them for the show we are now witnessing play out across television,” he wrote.

The mounting online conspiracies prompted some, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, to speak out against the accusations. 

“Claiming some of the students on tv after #Parkland are actors is the work of a disgusting group of idiots with no sense of decency,” Rubio tweeted.

And the students themselves have continued to deny that they are so-called “crisis actors.”

“If you had seen me in our school’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, you would know that nobody would pay me to act for anything,” student Cameron Kasky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

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‘Avid gun owner’ documents ease of buying AR-15 in Facebook post to ‘shine a flashlight’

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The “avid” gun-owning South Carolina man who posted a video documenting his step-by-step purchase of a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle wanted the world to see how easy it is for the sake of transparency, he told ABC News today, a week after the deadly shooting at a Florida high school with a similar weapon.

“Just trying to shine a flashlight,” Coley Brown said today of gun purchases in his home state. “If you have nothing to hide then you shouldn’t mind having a little light shed on what you’re doing.”

After deadly Parkland shooting, deputies will now carry AR-15 rifles on school grounds, sheriff says

Brown, 49, posted the video on his Facebook page Feb. 16, detailing his transaction with a seller he found on a private Facebook group. He “didn’t get a receipt, nobody checked my driver’s license, nothing,” he said on the video.

Brown, who calls himself as pro-gun as someone can be, has a concealed weapons permit, he told ABC News. He has been hunting since he was a teenager, he added, and has a teenage son who hunts deer and ducks.

Brown is always troubled by school shootings, he said, but this one, in which 17 people died, really resonated with him because he has kids in high school.

Brown starts the video by finding a Facebook group with people looking to sell weapons. After picking the one he wanted, he sent a private Facebook message to the seller, before negotiating the price.

South Carolina gun laws state that “a resident of any state may purchase rifles and shotguns in this state if the resident conforms to applicable provisions of statutes and regulations of this state, the United States, and of the state in which the person resides.”

Facebook prohibits the actual purchase, sale or trade of firearms on its pages so Brown and the seller had to discuss price in a private Facebook message.

In less than 20 hours, Brown found the gun he wanted, negotiated with the seller and drove to meet the person and purchase the AR-15 with over 30 rounds of ammo.

Brown said his goals in posting the condensed video were to share the facts about gun purchases in his state and provide people with as much information as he could.

“I just wanted to show the truth,” Brown told ABC News. “I just saw all this misinformation on how to acquire a gun and what the laws are on guns.”

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Friend posts moving tribute on 17th birthday of school shooting victim Carmen Schentrup

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(PARKLAND, Fla.) — National Merit Finalist Carmen Schentrup would have turned 17 years old on Wednesday.

Instead, one week earlier, she was one of 17 people gunned down at her Florida high school in a Valentine’s Day massacre.

 In honor of her birthday, her friend Carmen Lo tweeted a personal message along with a series of powerful photos: notes to Schentrup on balloons, messages on a coffee mug and a birthday cake.

“Carmen Schentrup was a 16 year old senior. She had one week until it was her birthday,” Lo tweeted. “She was a National Merit Finalist and had her whole life ahead of her. She was my classmate and she was my dear friend. Happy birthday. This is for you.” 

Schentrup “was dedicated and accomplished” and “was going to change the world,” her parents said in a statement according to a post on her brother’s Facebook.

“She was quite literally a ‘straight A’ student and a National Merit Finalist (Carmen never knew this. Her award letter arrived the day after she died),” the statement said. “Earlier this month, she was accepted into the University of Florida Honors program and was exuberant to begin her college experience. She wanted to become a medical scientist and discover a cure for horrible diseases, like ALS.”

“While many people considered Carmen mature beyond her years (she recently joked people had been asking her how she liked college since she was a freshman), she was still a kid at heart,” the family said. “She was silly, playful, and huggable. As parents, we loved that she never outgrew our hugs and would hug us before she went to bed. We miss her hugs.”

“Carmen was funny, in witty and novel ways. When she got on a roll, we’d laugh until tears rolled down our cheeks,” they said.

“Carmen was strong,” they added. “When she was 12, she had major surgery that resulted in four metal rods sticking out of her leg for months. She never once complained about it and never attempted to hide the scars.”

The teen “devoured books” and also loved art and music, the family said. She played piano, violin and guitar and also sang in the church choir.

“Carmen was a dreamer,” her parents said. A few years ago, they said their daughter dreamed of visiting Germany, so she taught herself the language.

“Last summer, she planned our family vacation to Germany and played the role of translator and guide,” wrote Schentrup’s parents. “We miss seeing her make her dreams come true.”

“Carmen was blessed to have great friends,” they continued. After the shooting, the family said her friends “scoured the local hospitals searching for our little girl and stayed with us until our worst fears were confirmed. Their kindness is beyond measure.”

“To our dear Carmen, you are a bright, beautiful, young woman bursting into the world,” the grieving parents wrote. “You are an amazing daughter, sister, and friend. You fill our lives with loving memories that we will always cherish. You are a gift from God and into His arms you return. May His divine embrace now hug you so very tenderly where we cannot. We love and miss you dearly.”

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Missing boy’s father, stepmother have history of violent fights, police reports show

Posted on: February 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The stepmother of a 5-year-old boy who’s been missing since Saturday has a turbulent relationship with the boy’s father, as documented in a series of police reports obtained by ABC News.

Lucas Hernandez disappeared from his Wichita, Kansas, home around 3 p.m. on Saturday, police said. His stepmother, Emily Glass, was arrested on two charges of child endangerment Wednesday. Lucas has not been found.

Police reports show repeated instances of physical clashes between Glass and Lucas’ father, Jonathan Hernandez.

In February 2016, police were called to an apartment Hernandez was sharing at the time with Glass during an argument over a bar tab that Hernandez had paid, the report shows. Hernandez said Glass hit him in the face, but told officers he did not want to press charges because he didn’t want her to go to jail, according to the report.

After police left, the couple started fighting again, resulting in officers returning to the residence after Hernandez threatened to throw out Glass’ possessions, the report says.

Nearly two months later in April 2016, according to a police report, Glass allegedly held an ax handle while arguing with Hernandez after telling him she had been sexually assaulted by a male friend. The fight started when Glass threw a shoe at Hernandez, the report states. Hernandez had a bloody nose and Glass had bruises on the side of her head, according to the report. Police couldn’t determine the primary aggressor.

In November 2016, police responded to the couple’s apartment after a report of a loud disturbance. A report filed at the time said an officer saw injuries on the side of Hernandez’s face, which he explained by saying Glass had slapped him. Glass admitted to pushing him, according to the report, but denied trying to hurt him. In the report, police noted that a child’s table, “looked like a Ninja Turtle table,” had been knocked over in the kitchen.

In a report from December 2017, Glass told police she was supposed to pick up someone, but said she had fallen asleep with Hernandez. The identity of the person she was supposed to pick up at the location is redacted in the report. When the couple woke up, they went to the location. Hernandez’s ex — Lucas’ mother — Jamie Taylor was there and was upset, according to the report.

Glass told police she didn’t know why Lucas’ mother was at the location because Hernandez has full custody of the boy.

Glass accused Taylor of punching her, but police found no visible injuries, the report said.

Sedgwick County jail records indicate Glass was booked at 3:27 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon on two counts of child endangerment. Police confirmed that Lucas and another child were involved, but did not identify the other child.

The search for Lucas is ongoing.

Lucas’ great-aunt Sally Rasmussen told ABC News that Hernandez’s family had concerns Lucas was being abused and reported it to authorities in Kansas and New Mexico, where the family members live.

Both the Kansas Department for Children and Families and the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department told ABC News they are legally prohibited from discussing any history they may have with a particular family.

Hernandez spoke to ABC affiliate KAKE-TV about the allegations of abuse earlier this week.

“That really pisses me off. Only because it seems like it’s about something else and it’s not happening now,” Hernandez said. “Now, if you want to bring that up later that’s fine. That’s a whole separate issue. I think it’s taking away from what’s happening and I don’t appreciate it. Not from my family, not from strangers.”

He said he still believes his son is somewhere alive and he is focused on finding him.

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