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Tuesday
May212019

Penn State professor with side job as Uber driver accused of kidnapping multiple women: Court records

Penn State(PITTSBURGH) -- A Penn State professor with a side job as a Pittsburgh Uber driver who was arrested this month for allegedly kidnapping two women is now accused of kidnapping a third woman that same night.

The third woman spoke with police on May 16, saying that on May 11, she was outside at a nightclub when she saw a car with an Uber decal and jumped in the front passenger seat, according to a criminal complaint filed on Monday.

She hadn't used the Uber app but gave her address and $10 cash to the driver, later identified as 36-year-old Richard Lomotey, according to the criminal complaint.

As he drove, the woman said Lomotey kept asking about her relationship status. She said she replied that "she was engaged and did not want to participate in any sexual activities with him," but claimed Lomotey held and grabbed her wrist during the ride, according to court documents.

The passenger said every time she unlocked the car doors, Lomotey would lock them, the documents said.

"They began tussling because she wanted to leave the vehicle," the documents said, and "during the tussle her shirt and bra were ripped."

She told police "she was so afraid she opened the door and jumped from the moving vehicle at an unknown location" and the car sped off.

Lomotey was first arrested on May 11 in a similar incident.

According to the criminal complaint, two women told police that, early that morning, they were getting an Uber ride home when their driver, Lomotey, ignored his GPS, instead driving an indirect route.

Lomotey allegedly asked the passengers if they were single and complimented their appearances. At one point he allegedly pulled over, locked the car and told the victims, "you're not going anywhere," according to the criminal complaint.

The victims leapt from the car, later showing police a photo of the suspect and his license plate from the Uber app, the criminal complaint said.

Lomotey is an assistant professor of information science and technology at Penn State University, according to the school website.

Lisa Powers, a spokeswoman at Penn State, told ABC News, "These allegations are deeply troubling and while we gather more information, he has been put on leave and will not be in the classroom. This is a criminal matter and we cannot comment further."

Lomotey, who faces charges including kidnapping and false imprisonment, posted bail on Monday. He is next due in court for a preliminary hearing on May 23.

It was not immediately clear if he has retained a defense attorney. Lomotey could not immediately be reached for comment.

A spokesperson for Uber did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment, but told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette his behavior was "unacceptable" and that the company is cooperating with police.

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Tuesday
May212019

Abortion-rights protesters descend on Supreme Court in wake of state bans

YinYang/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Amid an influx of abortion-rights protests converging on state capitols, town squares and courthouses across the country Tuesday, seeking to counter an onslaught of anti-abortion bills sweeping across state legislatures, a slate of 2020 White House hopefuls may join protestors on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Among the 2020 candidates expected to voice support for abortion rights in the midst of a heated political battle are Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan, who once was anti-abortion but flipped his stance as he's moved further left over the years. California Congressman Eric Swalwell is one of the confirmed speakers for the planned demonstration.

The event is set to begin at noon, as abortion-rights advocates seek to "fight back against this unconstitutional attempt to gut Roe and punish women," according to the #StopTheBans website. The slew of protests were triggered by GOP-led efforts to pass restrictive anti-abortion measures aimed at fomenting a larger battle over Roe v. Wade in the nation's highest court.

Several states are seeking to mount legal challenges to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, including Missouri, which on Friday passed the most recent ban -- state lawmakers charged ahead with an eight-week abortion ban with no exceptions for rape, incest or survivors of human trafficking. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is expected to sign the restrictive bill into law in the coming days.

Missouri followed a wave of conservative states passing restrictive abortion bans, including Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia. Lawmakers in those states approved "heartbeat" bills, which ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected -- as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Alabama's ban, signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey last week, imposes the harshest limitations of any state in the country -- a near-full ban on the procedure, not providing for any window of a pregnancy when abortion is legal.

"Across the country, we are seeing a new wave of extreme bans on abortion, stripping away reproductive freedom and representing an all-out assault on abortion access," states the event's website, which is hosted by groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood, All* Above All Action Fund, the ACLU and the Women's March. "This is Trump's anti-choice movement … and it's terrifying, particularly for women of color and low-income women who are most affected by these bans. ... Politicians shouldn't be making decisions best left to women, their families and their doctors."

Amid the the cacophony of outrage from abortion-rights groups, many among the field of 2020 Democratic hopefuls vying for the White House immediately condemned the anti-abortion efforts last week.

"It's nothing short of an attack on women's basic human rights and civil rights, and it's something women in America will have to fight against with everything they've got," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said on MSNBC.

"Access to safe, legal abortion is a constitutional RIGHT. Full stop," Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., wrote on Twitter.

"The Alabama legislature is ignoring science, criminalizing abortion, and punishing women," Buttigieg tweeted. "Instead, the government's role should be to make sure all women have access to comprehensive affordable care, and that includes safe and legal abortion."

"Republicans in AL, FL, GA, and OH are ushering in laws that clearly violate Roe v Wade and they should be declared unconstitutional," former Vice President Joe Biden shared on Twitter. "Roe v Wade is settled law and should not be overturned. This choice should remain between a woman and her doctor."

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Tuesday
May212019

18 reported tornadoes in four states as flooding, severe storms head east

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Across Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas on Monday there were 18 reported tornadoes among 124 damaging storm reports that also included grapefruit-sized hail in Texas.

Wind gusts exceeded 90 mph north of Oklahoma City as damage from strong storms was reported in western Oklahoma and southwestern Missouri.

A flash flood emergency was issued early Tuesday morning north of Tulsa when as much as 8 inches of rain fell. Flood alerts Tuesday morning stretch across seven states, from Texas to North Dakota.

On the back end of the system, snow is falling, including in areas south of Denver that saw 9 inches this morning. Parts of Interstate 70 were closed because of multiple accidents due to snow on Monday.

The massive storm that's ravaged the Plains is moving east Tuesday, with additional flash flooding and tornadoes possible in the mid-Mississippi Valley, from Little Rock into St. Louis. Large hail and damaging winds will be possible.

Over the next 24 to 48 hours, an additional half foot of rain is possible for parts of Missouri and Illinois.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May212019

Two killed in Taquan Air floatplane crash, airline's second deadly incident in a week

igorkov/iStock(KETCHIKAN, Alaska) -- A pilot and a passenger were killed in southeastern Alaska on Monday when a floatplane crashed into a harbor, officials said.

The victims were the only occupants on the Taquan Air floatplane when it crashed near Ketchikan at around 4 p.m., marking the Alaska-based airline's second fatal incident in a week.

Federal transportation authorities said the flight was a commuter flight, but didn't offer any other details on the crash.

Ketchikan officials declined to release the circumstances of the crash.

"The names of the deceased will not be released until next of kin have been notified," Ketchikan Gateway authorities said in a statement Monday. "Both individuals were brought to the Annette Island Service Unit. Good Samaritans have the aircraft in tow and are bringing the Beaver to the beach until it can be secured."

Taquan Air directed all inquiries about the incident to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash along with the Federal Aviation Administration.

The crash came exactly one week after a Taquan Air sightseeing plane collided with another aircraft over Alaska on May 13, killing six people. The FAA is investigating the cause of that crash as well.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
May212019

Police investigating tractor accident that killed 3-year-old boy in Arkansas

toddarbini/iStock(MELBOURNE, Ark.) -- Authorities in Arkansas are investigating a tractor accident that killed a 3-year-old boy.

Police responded to a call in northern Arkansas on Monday afternoon and said they found the toddler unresponsive at the scene.

First responders fought to administer life-saving efforts, but the child died a short time later, according to the Izard County Sheriff's Department.

The department said he died in a logging accident on a property in Melbourne, Arkansas, about 125 miles north of Little Rock. It did not disclose the circumstances of the accident, but it said he'd been ran over by the tractor.

Authorities have not released the boy's identity because his family has yet to be notified.

The toddler and his family received an outpouring of love on social media as county residents rushed to the sheriff's department's Facebook page to offer condolences.

"Please remember to send up prayers for the ambulance crew and first responders while remembering the family, these calls deeply affect them also, thanks," one Facebook user wrote.

"I couldn't even imagine having to respond to such a scene. Prayers for all responders, and prayers for the precious souls family," another user added.

The department's post racked up nearly 1,000 comments, reactions and shares in just a few hours.

Police did not offer details about the child's connection to the property, and the investigation is ongoing.

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Tuesday
May212019

Marine jet crashes in North Carolina, pilot ejected safely

Lance Cpl. Benjamin McDonald/U.S. Marine Corps(NEW BERN, N.C.) -- A Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jet crashed in Craven County, North Carolina, on Monday evening. The pilot ejected and was said to be unharmed, according to a Defense Department official.

The incident was under investigation.

Emergency crews were called to the crash about 6:15 p.m., Craven County Emergency Services Director Stanley Kite told ABC News affiliate WCTI-TV. He added that a fire from the crash was extinguished.

The pilot was taken to CarolinaEast Medical Center in New Bern, North Carolina, for evaluation, according to the Marine Corps statement. There were no reports of civilian casualties or property damage.

The plane was from the 2nd Marine Air Wing, which is based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina. Personnel from the air wing and the Havelock County Sheriff's Department initially responded to the scene, according to a statement from the Marine Corps.

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Tuesday
May212019

US Naval Academy 'plebes' climb greased monument to end freshmen year

Matt Seyler/ABC News(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- The U.S. Naval Academy freshmen scaled the Herndon Monument in the annual climb Monday.

The event was part of a tradition in Annapolis, Maryland, where the freshmen or "plebes" build a human pyramid and climb a 21-foot monument to replace the "dixie cup" hat with an upperclassman's hat. Finishing in one hour and five minutes, they beat last year’s time of two hours and 21 minutes.

Upperclassmen slathered the monument in nearly 50 pounds of vegetable shortening and freshmen were required to remove their shoes before they started.

"We call it the culminating event for the end of their freshmen year," said Jenny Erickson, a U.S. Naval Academy spokesperson.

The first recorded climb was in 1950, without grease. The greasy climb is a rite of passage for "plebes," or freshmen, to mark officially becoming Midshipmen 4th Class. Christian Schwein, 19, from the 27th Company, had the honor of placing the hat atop the monument this year.

According to tradition, the midshipman who gets the hat on top will become the first admiral in the class.

The Herndon Monument is named for Navy Cmdr. William Lewis Herndon, who "possessed the qualities of discipline, teamwork and courage."

Much like the monument, the climb represents the teamwork, and perseverance freshmen have to endure in the first year at the academy. In addition to their academic responsibilities, they undergo military-style training including six weeks of "Plebe Summer" which is similar to basic training in the military.

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Monday
May202019

Santa Anita racetrack loses two horses in three days, marking 25 fatalities in six months

KABC-TV(LOS ANGELES) -- Two horses died at Southern California's prominent Santa Anita racetrack over the weekend, marking 25 thoroughbred fatalities there in the last six months.

A pair of 3-year-old geldings sustained fatal injuries in separate incidents on Friday and Sunday as the embattled racetrack works and employ reforms to stem a rash of unprecedented horse deaths.

One of the horses, a male called Spectacular Music, sustained a rare injury to the pelvis while racing near the half-mile pole on Sunday, according to the track.

"The horse did not fall, but was pulled up at about the half mile pole at the discretion of Jockey Jorge Velez and vanned to receive a comprehensive evaluation by on-site world-class veterinarians," Santa Anita said in a statement Monday.

"Equine pelvic injuries are rare," it added, "and further evaluation is being conducted by the California Horse Racing Board, per protocol, to understand what could have caused this uncommon injury."

The other gelding, Commander Coil, died after sustaining a shoulder injury in a training session on Friday morning, the racetrack revealed Saturday.

"Equine shoulder injuries are rare, especially for a horse that is galloping as opposed to breezing or racing," a spokesperson for Santa Anita said in a statement to ABC News. "A comprehensive evaluation will be completed to understand what might have caused this uncommon injury."

Santa Anita Park, owned by the Canadian-based Stronach Group, postponed several races earlier this year and hired respected trackman Dennis Moore to help assess the condition on its main track.

Some experts attributed the cluster of thoroughbred deaths to inclement weather. Southern California had an unusual amount of rain this past season after many years of drought or near drought, which would have impacted the quality of the track the horses can run on safely.

"Every time it rains you seal the tracks as hard as it can get. So the water runs off of it," Clifford Sise, a veteran horse trainer currently working with 15 horses at Santa Anita and other tracks, told ABC News Saturday. "It would stop raining only three days, where you can really work on it. You need at least seven, eight days to dry out. To go to the bottom of it and the cushion and work on it. It was nobody’s fault."

At least 25 horses have died while racing or training since the track opened for the winter season on Dec. 26. The horse deaths prompted several investigations earlier this year, including a task force convened by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office and the California Horse Racing Board.

The most-recent deaths were the first ones reported since track officials introduced a new reforms last month, track officials said.

"Before this catastrophic injury, unprecedented health and safety reforms were introduced at Santa Anita Park. From April 1 to May 18, there have been 698 starters on the main track and 651 starters on the turf course without fatalities," Santa Anita said in its statement Monday.

"The Stronach Group is committed to advocating for the health and safety of horses and riders and will continue to work with stakeholders in California and nationally to drive further progress,” it added.

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Monday
May202019

Great white shark spotted in Long Island Sound for first time ever: Researchers

Whitepointer/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A great white shark measuring nearly 10 feet long has been spotted in Long Island Sound off the Connecticut shore for the first time ever, researchers said on Monday.

The great white was being tracked Monday by the ocean research group Ocearch, the organization said on Twitter.

"Be advised! For the first time ever, we are tracking a white shark in the Long Island Sound," Ocearch researchers tweeted.

The group said the shark measures 9-feet-8-inches and was spotted off the shore of Greenwich, Connecticut.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
May202019

Former military man in custody for allegedly gunning down police officer

kali9/iStock(AUBURN, Ala.) -- A former military man is in custody for allegedly gunning down an Auburn, Alabama, police officer and wounding two other officers, authorities said.

Grady Wayne Wilkes, 29, was arrested Monday morning after an overnight manhunt, said Auburn Police Chief Paul Register.

Wilkes allegedly fired at three officers when they responded to a "domestic disturbance" at the Arrowhead mobile home park Sunday night.

The shooting killed officer William Buechner who had been with the department for 13 years, said Register.

The two injured officers -- Webb Sistrunk and Evan Elliott -- are expected to recover, Register said.

The chief said this is the first time an Auburn officer has been killed during his 31 years at the department.

"This is probably the worst day of my time here. Words cannot express the loss," the chief said. "We're just trying to be there with our officers and those families right now."

Wilkes is charged with capital murder, three counts of attempted murder and second-degree domestic violence, authorities said. Prosecutors said they plan to pursue the death penalty.

Wilkes, who had been in the military for a number of years, had no run-ins with local police until the Sunday night shooting, said Register. The chief did not elaborate on Wilkes' military service.

Forty-three officers have died in the line of duty this year, down 34% from the same time period last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund.

"Three courageous young men ... went to protect us," Auburn Mayor Ron Anders said at a news conference. "We're very sorry that we have lost an officer in the line of duty. To his family, we are here with you. We will not leave you and we will stand beside you to help you get through this."

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