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Thursday
Feb222018

Suspect in Florida school massacre questioned in November over shooting threat

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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Thursday
Feb222018

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

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.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Feb222018

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

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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Thursday
Feb222018

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

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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Thursday
Feb222018

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

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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Thursday
Feb222018

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

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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Thursday
Feb222018

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

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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Thursday
Feb222018

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

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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Thursday
Feb222018

Texas woman brought to tears as DOJ targets elder scams

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  A Texas woman was brought to tears at the Justice Department Thursday, as she recalled how her 82-year-old grandmother committed suicide after being scammed out of her life's savings.

"These individuals preyed on her and on her good heart. What should have been some of the best years and the last chapter of her life was taken from her. She was robbed in every sense," said Angela Stancik of Houston, her voice cracking as attorney general Jeff Sessions, acting FBI deputy director David Bowdich and other top U.S. officials listened beside her.

Stancik came to Washington to highlight what Bowdich called a "serious and growing threat" across the United States: the theft of millions of dollars from America's seniors, who are targeted and tricked by fraudsters around the world.

"That has happened far too often in this country. It is a despicable crime these people are doing. They laugh about their ability to defraud people," Sessions said at a news conference in Washington.

In the past year, more than 200 people have been charged inside the United States for committing elder fraud schemes and dozens more have faced civil actions, according to Sessions.

"These defendants allegedly robbed more than one million Americans of more than half a billion dollars," Sessions said.

Stancik pleaded with the public to "say something to anyone" if they suspect they are being victimized or know someone who is.

"It's not too late. It's not your fault," she said. "Don't be afraid to ask for help."

Stancik said her grandmother, Marjorie Jones of Lake Charles, Louisiana, "had a heart of gold, and she was everything you'd expect a grandmother to be."

Her family didn't realize that their beloved grandmother had been ensnared by a big scam until 0 days before Jones killed herself in 2010.

"When she realized that she had been defrauded, she was extremely devastated, she felt humiliated, and she had literally lost everything," Stancik said, holding back tears. "It pains me to say this, but she took her life because of this incident. The events leading to my grandmother's death have scarred my family and left us all in shock. The pain and the loss from her tragic death surrounds us all daily."

Pretending to represent a sweepstakes, scammers told Jones that she had won a big prize, and all she had to do was send in money to cover taxes and fees.

In many cases, scammers send letters in "attention-grabbing envelopes designed to lead a person to believe they actually won," said Guy Cottrell, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's chief inspector. Millions of such letters are sent around the world, according to Cottrell.

"However, no prize is ever delivered. No prize ever existed," he said. And "once the scammer starts, the demands are relentless. ... These fraudsters don't limit themselves to just lies anymore. Their efforts to keep victims in line become increasingly ruthless. They don't hesitate to threaten, coerce or resort to psychological intimidation."

Jones ultimately sent all of her money to scammers - she later had to borrow money from family members, took out all of her life insurance, and then tragically committed suicide.

She had $69 in her bank account when she died.

Last month, the Justice Department ordered all 94 U.S. Attorneys' offices across the country to each designate an "elder justice coordinator," charged with trying to "customize" a strategy to protect seniors in their districts, according to Sessions. Since then, the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, along with U.S. Attorneys’ offices, have filed cases against more than 40 defendants for their alleged role in defrauding hundreds of thousands of Americans, Sessions said.

And over the past week alone, more than 100 inspectors from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service executed search warrants in 14 locations across the country, according to Cottrell.

Now, the Justice Department is going after not just the scammers themselves but also what authorities called the "enablers," the people who help write text for the letters, the people who help print the letter, and the people who provide mailing lists for scammers to target.

The FBI and its partners are targeting a "wide range of crimes" against seniors, including Ponzi schemes, romance and lottery scams, and mass-marketing schemes, according to Bowdich.

"This is an incredibly important issue for all of us in government, and everyone in this room has family members that could be taken advantage of through these types of schemes," Bowdich told the reporters and government officials gathered inside the Justice Department.

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Thursday
Feb222018

'Selfless' off-duty Maryland officer Mujahid Ramzziddin saved neighbor's life 'by giving his own' in shooting

iStock/Thinkstock(BRANDYWINE, Md.) -- An off-duty Maryland police officer was gunned down when he "stood his ground" to protect his neighbor from her estranged husband and "saved her life by giving his own," according to police.

The estranged husband allegedly fired five times outside the woman's home in Brandywine, killing Cpl. Mujahid Ramzziddin, who was a husband, father of four, military veteran and 14-year veteran of the Prince George’s County Police, the police department said.

The female neighbor wasn’t hurt, police said.

Ramzziddin "stood his ground" and "saved her life by giving his own," Stawinski said at a news conference Wednesday.

Stawinski added that Ramzziddin, 51, was "an officer who was selfless throughout his career. Today was not the first day he demonstrated his heroism."

About 24 hours before the killing, the woman had gone to Ramzziddin for help; she knew he was an officer because he parked his marked police car at his home, police said. She had sought protection from her estranged husband through the courts for his alleged violent behavior, and the court order was in process, but meanwhile she was trying to move her belongings out of this home, Stawinski said.

On Wednesday, the officer noticed the female neighbor across the street and "approached her asking if she was OK," Stawinksi said, citing witnesses.

"She had some concerns," and the officer offered to go into her home, according to Stawinski.

Afterward, they came back outside, and that's when Ramzziddin was shot, Stawinksi said.

After the shooting, the suspect, 37-year-old Glenn Tyndell, allegedly took the officer's weapon and fled in an SUV, police said. That launched a police pursuit, after which Tyndall was killed in a shootout with police, according to cops.

Tyndell had three open warrants for second degree assault, according to police.

Stawinski called the suspect "cold and callous" and said the officers "who intervened [during the chase] are to be credited," because more lives may have been lost.

Meanwhile, a community is in mourning.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in a statement called the officer's death "an unspeakable tragedy."

Hogan ordered state flags to fly at half-staff.

"Corporal Ramzziddin was a military veteran and a distinguished law enforcement officer who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of his neighbors and community," Hogan said.

Ramzziddin had received a Silver Medal of Valor Award in 2006 for his courage engaging an armed suspect, police said.

"His memory and service will never be forgotten," the governor said.

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