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Wednesday
Apr242019

Delphi girls' double murder: Police explain mysterious change in person of interest sketch

Indiana State Police(DELPHI, Ind.) -- The Indiana State Police is now clarifying why the first sketch of the person of interest in the mysterious Delphi double murder looks so different from the man in the new suspect sketch released this week: they are two different people.

The man seen in the initial person of interest sketch -- who was believed to be in his 40s or 50s -- is not currently a person of interest in the case, police said Wednesday.

Investigators want to the public to focus on this different, younger man pictured in a new sketch released Monday. The suspect is believed to be between 18 and 40 years old, but may appear younger than his age, police said.

This young, unknown man is being sought in the killings of eighth-graders Abby Williams, 13, and Libby German, 14, who were killed on a hiking path on Feb. 13, 2017.

The shocking crime has devastated the residents of Delphi, a tight-knit community of nearly 3,000 people.

The killer is believed to currently or previously live in Delphi, work in town or visit on a regular basis, Indiana State Police Superintendent Douglas Carter announced Monday.

"We believe you are hiding in plain sight" and even "may be in this room," Carter said at a news conference.

"We likely have interviewed you or someone close to you," Carter said.

Delphi residents "should reflect back on people they know in the community that look similar to the sketch released on April 22nd, especially if that person has changed their appearance since the murders," state police said in a statement on Wednesday.

This new suspect sketch "is representative of the face of the person captured in the video on Liberty German’s cell phone as he was walking on the high bridge" the day of the crime, police said.

In 2017, police released a grainy image from Libby's phone showing someone on the trail the day the girls went missing. On Monday, police revealed a new, brief video clip showing that suspect walking on the bridge near where the girls were last seen.

"When you see the video, watch the person's mannerisms as they walk," Carter said Monday. "Do you recognize the mannerisms as being someone you might know?"

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Wednesday
Apr242019

17 students from an Ohio high school earn perfect ACT scores

Cincinnati Public Schools(CINCINNATI) -- A perfect score on a standardized test is an accomplishment worth celebrating.

Walnut Hills High School in Ohio found 17 reasons to celebrate.

Cincinnati Public Schools announced in a press release that 17 students from the school achieved a perfect score of 36 on the American College Testing, better known as the ACT, a test commonly used for college admissions.

Eight seniors and nine juniors at the school received the flawless score. An additional 23 Walnut Hills High School seniors received a near-perfect score of 35 out of 36, according to Principal John Chambers.

Tarah DeSousa, a media communications strategist from ACT, told ABC News that around two-tenths of one percent of students that take the ACT generally earn a 36 composite score on the exam.

The ACT is divided into sections for reading, mathematics, English, and science, with each section receiving a score between 1 and 36 and the test-taker receiving a composite score. ACT reported that the average composite score for the class of 2018 was 20.8.

The seniors, who earned the perfect score, plan to attend the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University, Tulane University, and Rhodes College, with one student studying abroad in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh, the school district said.

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Wednesday
Apr242019

California bans racial discrimination against employees with natural hairstyles

iStock(LOS ANGELES) -- California has joined other states in ending racial discrimination against people with natural hairstyles such as braids, twists and afros.

On Monday, the Senate passed the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair), which will ban discrimination against employees based off their hairstyle.

The bill was initially passed by Los Angeles Senator Holly J. Mitchell, who recently said in a speech, "A Google image search for 'unprofessional hairstyles' yielded only pictures of black women with their natural hair or wearing natural braids or twists."

She continued, "Although disheartening, not very surprising."

Toward the end of Mitchell's speech, the importance of the bill was apparent and passed unanimously with a 37-0 vote to move forward to the State Assembly.

Mitchell shared the news of the CROWN Act approval on Twitter, and many people were proud to see forward progress. One person wrote, "We hope this is the beginning of the end to racial discrimination based on hair in this country and around the world."

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Wednesday
Apr242019

16 alleged child predators used social media to lure kids for sex throughout New Jersey

Evgen_Prozhyrko/iStock(NEWARK, N.J.) -- Sixteen men were arrested on Wednesday in New Jersey where a statewide crackdown by multiple state law enforcement agencies on child sexual exploitation was called, "Operation Home Alone."

The men — including a Ridgewood, New Jersey, police officer, a high school teacher at the High School of Computers and Technology in the Bronx, New York, and drivers for Uber and Lyft — were charged with luring and attempted sexual assault for allegedly using popular social media sites to identify children to groom for assault.

The men were really communicating with undercover investigators posing as children as part of a sting operation that New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said highlighted “a new breed” of child predator.

“In the past child predators used to stalk children at playgrounds, at school yards, at shopping malls. Now they lurk on social media,” Grewal said a news conference announcing the charges.

Prosecutors said the men — ages between 28 to 55 — used social media websites, chat apps and gaming apps including Kik, Skout, Grindr, Tinder, MeetMe, Adam4Adam, Fortnite, Minecraft and Hot or Not to engage with underage boys and girls.

NJ Office of the Attorney General

Once chatting began, the undercover officers identified themselves as underage girls or boys that were 14- or 15-years-old. Despite that information, the men allegedly continued the conversations about sex and made arrangements to meet the “children” for sex.

“One of the unfortunate consequences of the internet is the potential opportunities created for the depraved members of our society to prey on vulnerable victims,” said FBI Newark Special Agent-in-Charge Gregory W. Ehrie.

The accused sexual predators, like Police Officer Peter Tuchol Jr., teacher Kevin Roth, traveling minister Roger Arroyo and dental hygienist Dariush Ghamarnezhad, were variously charged with second-degree luring and attempted sexual assault on a minor, third-degree debauching morals of a child. Prosecutor said, if convicted of the second-degree charges, they face between five to 10 years in prison with a fine of up to $150,000.

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Wednesday
Apr242019

Flash flooding, severe storms threaten Texas, Gulf Coast

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A slow-moving storm system drenched Texas overnight with some areas getting as much as a half a foot of rain and causing flooding, stranded cars and water rescues.

Also, this storm system produced damaging winds of close to 70 mph from Abilene to Fort Worth, and tennis ball-sized hail in western Texas from Midland to Abilene.

A line of strong to severe storms was moving through central Texas on Wednesday morning, with flash flood watches issued for the area.

As this storm system slowly moves east on Wednesday, the severe weather threat will shift south and east into San Antonio, Houston and even eastern Louisiana.

The biggest threat on Wednesday will be damaging winds close to 70 mph, large hail and a threat for several tornadoes. The tornado threat on Wednesday is higher than Tuesday, especially from Houston to the San Antonio and Austin areas.

By Thursday, the storm system will move into the central Gulf Coast states with New Orleans and Biloxi, Mississippi, in the bull's-eye.

The biggest threat will be damaging winds and some hail, but an isolated tornado cannot be ruled out. The tornado threat on Thursday is not as high as Wednesday.

As much as 2 to 5 inches of rain could fall over the next several days in central Texas.

In addition to the severe storms in Texas and the Gulf Coast, heavy rain expected over the next two days.

Some areas could see an additional 2 to 5 inches of rain in Texas and 2 to 3 inches of rain from Louisiana to Mississippi and Alabama. More flash flooding is possible Wednesday and into the next couple of days.

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Wednesday
Apr242019

California driver mows down eight pedestrians in 'possibly intentional' crash

iStock(SUNNYVALE, Calif.) -- A driver in California sped through an intersection and plowed into a group of pedestrians on Tuesday night, injuring at least eight people, including a 13-year-old.

The crash took place at about 6:30 p.m. in Sunnyvale, a suburb of San Jose, and about 45 minutes south of San Francisco.

A Sunnyvale police spokesperson said, according to witness statements, the driver did not appear to slow down, and hit pedestrians in the crosswalk and on the sidewalk.

"We do have witness statements that show that vehicle did not attempt to slow down or brake, and the scene itself doesn't show any evidence of breaking," Jim Choi, of the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety, said.

The driver was taken into custody at the scene.

Video from the scene showed a black sedan with heavy front-end damage sitting off the side of the road against a tree.

"It looks like it may have been an intentional act. All of that is under investigation at this time," Choi said, adding, "We know that this is an isolated event in that no one is outstanding, no danger to the community."

Multiple ambulances were called to the scene to assist with the injured patients, but the exact nature of the injuries was still unclear.

"We do know that several of the patients that we had treated on scene had serious injuries -- we just don't know the extent," Choi said.

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Tuesday
Apr232019

Militia group agrees to leave their encampment in New Mexico near US border

KVIA-TV(SUNLAND PARK, N.M.) --  An armed militia group of private citizens has agreed to leave their encampment near the U.S.-Mexico border after officials expressed concerns about them brandishing weapons on public property.

"They decided it wasn't worth the fight," Sunland Park, New Mexico, Police Chief Javier Guerra told ABC News on Tuesday.

Members of the group, which calls itself the "United Constitutional Patriots," were seen using military-style attire and firearms to detain dozens of migrant families last week. Video of the encounter was shared widely on social media.

The group has remained camped out near the border in New Mexico and plans to leave the area Wednesday morning, Guerra said.

The group's leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, was arrested Saturday after he was charged in a criminal complaint with being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in the District of New Mexico.

"Pointing a weapon at an unarmed individual is assault," Guerra told reporters in Sunland Park on Tuesday. "Now that I know there was an ex-felon over there, it does bring worry to me."

Federal officials also issued a warning to militia members over the weekend.

"Interference by civilians in law enforcement matters could have public safety and legal consequences for all parties involved," a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official said in a statement.

Private citizens have organized along the southern border for years in attempts to stop immigrants. A group known as the Minuteman Project coordinates volunteers looking to spot and report people that they believe to be crossing into the United States illegally.

"It's our job to support law enforcement, not to be law enforcement," said Howie Morgan, a Minuteman Project leader.

Despite public warnings from federal and local officials, Morgan said that their group only reports what they believe to be illegal activity.

CBP did not respond to follow-up questions from ABC News about border agents' interactions with civilians offering unsolicited help and members associated with United Constitutional Patriots could not be reached for comment.

Hopkins, the group's leader, allegedly said the that United Constitutional Patriots had also plotted to assassinate Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, according to a 2017 criminal complaint.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico declined to comment further.

Hopkins will appear in court next week and, if convicted, faces up to 10 years in prison.

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Tuesday
Apr232019

Bodycam video released in shooting of unarmed woman near Yale University

Connecticut State Police(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Newly released body camera video has shed new light into an officer-involved shooting in New Haven, Connecticut, that’s prompted protests.

Stephanie Washington, 22, was shot in the torso on April 16 in New Haven when an officer from the neighboring town of Hamden and another from Yale University unleashed a barrage of gunfire on the red Honda Civic that her boyfriend Paul Witherspoon was driving, authorities said.

The shooting unfolded at about 4:20 a.m. after Hamden police responded to a call of an attempted armed robbery at a gas station in Hamden, according to state police.

A car allegedly matching the description of the one leaving the scene of the attempted robbery was spotted on Dixwell Avenue in New Haven, state police said. Police stopped the Honda Civic that Washington and Witherspoon were in.

In the video, Witherspoon opens the door and within seconds, his hands go up and he is shot at by police. He was not struck.

The Yale officer did not have his dash camera or body camera on. The Hamden officer turned his body camera on just before the incident.

Commissioner James Rovella said “There were indications that he was told to open the door… or come out with his hands up.”

A surveillance video obtained by ABC News shows another vantage point – again appearing to show Witherspoon being shot at by police while his hands are in the air.

“I thought I was already dead because he pointed it right at me,” Witherspoon told ABC affiliate station WTNH-TV in New Haven.

Investigators said Washington, who was in the passenger’ seat, was shot in the torso. She is now in stable condition at a nearby hospital.

Rovella said there was "no gun found."

The officers involved claimed the driver made an abrupt movement and ignored commands.

In response to the incident, hundreds of Yale students have called for the two officers who fired their guns to step down.

Both officers have been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Connecticut State Police and the Connecticut State's Attorney's Office. The officers have not commented on the incident.

Rovella said he has many concerns about how this case was handled.

The state’s attorney is continuing their investigation into the shooting.

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Tuesday
Apr232019

Brothers implicated in Jussie Smollett 'hoax' attack sue the 'Empire' actor's lawyers

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images(CHICAGO) --  The two Chicago brothers who claim Jussie Smollett paid them to help stage what police deemed a "hoax" attack filed a defamation lawsuit on Tuesday against the "Empire" actor's lawyers.

Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Chicago accusing Smollett's attorneys Mark Geragos and Tina Glandian of making false public statements about them during a media blitz that has damaged them both emotionally and economically. 

The lawsuit claims Smollett's lawyers continued to proclaim the actor's innocence even after prosecutors said he agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond and do community service in exchange for them dropping 16 felony disorderly conduct counts against him stemming from what a Chicago Police Department investigation determined was a false police report about a January homophobic and racist attack.

The March 26 decision by the office of Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx prompted outrage from police and then-Mayor Rham Emanuel, who called the move "a whitewash of justice." Foxx and her first assistant, Joe Magats, stressed the decision was not an exoneration of Smollett and expressed confidence that he would have been convicted if the case had gone to trial.

But the actor immediately held a press conference to continue denying the allegations made against him, saying he had been "truthful and consistent on every single level since day one. I would not be my mother's son if I was he capable of one drop of what I was accused of."

The Osundairo brothers' lawsuit claims Geragos and Glandian continue to foster the myth that the attack on Smollett was real and portrayed the brothers as the perpetrators.

"Mr. Smollett's attorneys, faced with an outraged public, did not retreat after their success. Instead, they doubled down...," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit details a litany of "false" statements made by Geragos and Glandian in media interviews, including ones with ABC, NBC and numerous newspapers. Among the statements the suit characterized as defamatory were that the brothers "criminally battered" Smollett and committed a hate crime against him, that one of the brothers donned "whiteface" on the day of the attack, that the brothers illegally distributed foreign steroids, that they committed perjury in front of the grand jury and that Abimbola Osundairo had engaged in a homosexual relationship with Smollett.

ABC News has reached out to Geragos and Glandian for comment.

Smollett's defense lawyers not only affirmed their client "was a wholly innocent victim," but accused the Osundairo brothers of leading "a criminally homophobic, racist, and violent attack against Mr. Smollett."

Geragos and Glandian, according to the lawsuit, "made these comments knowing they were untrue to distract from Mr. Smollett's farce and to promote themselves and the Geragos & Geragos Law Firm."

In a joint statement released by their attorneys at a news conference on Tuesday in Chicago, the brothers, who also go by the names Abel and Ola Osundairo, said they are fed up with the "lies" being told about them by Smollett's legal team.

"We have sat back and watched lie after lie being fabricated about us in the media only so one big lie can continue to have a life," the brothers' statement said. "These lies are destroying our character and reputation in our personal and professional lives."

"Those who know us personally know hate for anyone is not who we are," the brothers said. "We try to spread as much love and positivity with whoever we come in contact with. We will no longer sit back and allow these lies to continue. "

Attorneys for the Osundairos said at the news conference that they were taking action in federal court so that those responsible for trashing the brothers' reputations are held accountable.

"Let me make one thing clear: The Chicagoan brothers told the truth. They could have remained silent," said Gloria Schmidt, one of the attorneys representing the brothers.

Schmidt said she hopes the lawsuit will also ensure that the "lies and malice" perpetrated on the brothers, the city of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department "are met with truth and healing."

James Tunick, another attorney for the brothers, described the public remarks by Geragos and Glandian about Abel and Ola Osundairo as "scorched earth lawyering" and added that such tactics "will not play out in the United States District Court in Chicago."

Smollett told police that on Jan. 29 he was walking to his Chicago apartment about 2 a.m. when two men wearing masks attacked him, screaming homophobic and racist slurs while pouring a liquid on him and putting a noose around his neck. Smollett also told police that the attackers yelled "This is MAGA country!" an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."

As part of the investigation, Chicago police spent hours combing through video surveillance before finding images of two men walking in the general vicinity of the reported attack around the time Sollett said it occurred. Detectives eventually tracked down the Osundairo brothers on Feb. 15.

While being questioned by investigators, the brothers claimed Smollett paid them $3,500 to help orchestrate and stage the crime after he became upset that a letter threatening him, sent Jan. 22 to the Fox studio where the television series "Empire" is filmed, did not get enough attention, police said. Police said they suspect that Smollett was the letter's author.

Schmidt said the brothers, who testified before the Cook County grand jury that indicted Smollett, knew Smollett from bit parts they performed on "Empire" and because the actor had hired them to get him in top shape for an upcoming music video.

The lawsuit claims that on Jan. 25 Smollett solicited the brothers to help him stage the street attack.

"Mr. Smollett told [the brothers], in private, that he needed a favor from them: they were to help him stage a social media hoax and pretend to attack him," the lawsuit says. "Mr. Smollett's motivation was simple. He wanted his employer and the public to notice and appreciate him as a successful Black, openly gay actor. So, Mr. Smollett directed every aspect of the attack, including the location and the noose."

The suit goes on to say that “Mr. Smollett used his clout as a wealthy actor to influence [the brothers], who were in a subordinate relationship to him and were aspiring to ‘make it’ in Hollywood.”

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Tuesday
Apr232019

Kansas zoo identifies staffer attacked by Sumatran tiger

Topeka Zoo(TOPEKA, Kan.) -- A Kansas zookeeper who was attacked and badly injured by a Sumatran tiger when she inexplicably entered the animal's enclosure was identified on Tuesday as a 40-year-old wildlife veteran and "one of the most experienced keepers" at the Topeka Zoo, officials said.

Topeka Zoo officials said Kristyn Hayden-Ortega was inside the tiger exhibit Saturday morning when she was mauled by the 275-pound cat named Sanjiv.

"She is a truly remarkable member of our team," Brendan Wiley, director of the Topeka Zoo, said of Hayden-Ortega at a news conference. "She's one of those people you can talk and talk and talk about."

Hayden-Ortega, the married mother of a 3-year-old, suffered lacerations and puncture wounds to her head, neck, back and arms in the attack and remains hospitalized in Topeka, Wiley said. She was removed from the intensive care unit on Sunday and her condition continues to improve, according to Wiley.

He said investigators have yet to interview Hayden-Ortega, who has worked at the Topeka Zoo since 2001, about why she was in the enclosure with the 7-year-old tiger.

"That is what everyone wants to know. The honest answer to that is we think we understand the sequence of events. We need her to confirm that," Wiley said.

He declined to say if Hayden-Ortega, president of the Topeka chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers, was unaware that the tiger was still in the enclosure when she entered to clean it, or whether she noticed the animal and entered anyway.

"There only should be a zookeeper in that space when that tiger is secured in an inside area," Wiley added.

"We thought safety was our No. 1 focus. What happened Saturday morning, I think, shows that it wasn't, and we're going to rework processes so that things like that can't happen again," Wiley said.

He said there are no surveillance cameras inside the tiger's enclosure. A webcam nearby recorded Hayden-Ortega walking inside the exhibit dragging a water hose just before she was attacked, but did not capture the horrific event.

A zoo volunteer, according to Wiley, was standing in front of the tiger enclosure when Hayden-Ortega was mauled about 9:15 a.m. on Saturday.

"There was a zoo volunteer stationed in front of the tiger exhibit that noticed something very wrong. That was Kristyn being in the outdoor tiger exhibit and the Sumatran tiger approaching," Wiley said, offering new details of the incident.

He said the volunteer turned around and alerted a zoo staff member nearby, who ran and got the attention of an elephant keeper and then radioed for emergency response.

Wiley said the zoo was immediately closed and evacuated and a tranquilizer gun was prepared but ended up not being needed to subdue the tiger.

He called three staffers "heroes" for managing to lure the tiger away from Hayden-Ortega with food and allow emergency personnel to begin treating the injured zookeeper within 8 to 10 minutes of the attack.

"Three of Kristyn's friends responded and really saved the day," Wiley said. "That volunteer could only stand there and watch and is having difficulty processing that."

Wiley said a thorough inspection of the enclosure failed to detect any problems with its gates or fencing that would suggest the tiger had escaped from a separate locked area while the zookeeper was in the animal's exhibit.

"We were 100 percent confident in the infrastructure of that facility when we put tigers back in later that same day," Wiley said. "We have no question about the integrity of the space or the environment."

Hayden-Ortega has traveled the world teaching and mentoring zookeepers, Wiley said. She's worked with elephants in Thailand and is a renowned expert on the African painted dog species.

"She is one of our most experienced keepers," said Shanna Simpson, an animal care supervisor at the Topeka Zoo. "She's an excellent trainer for the animals and our staff."

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