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Monday
Mar202017

Weeks before a student and teacher went missing, another teen reported seeing them kiss

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(CULLEOKA, Tenn.) -- Nearly two months before a high school student and her former teacher went missing, they were alleged to have been seen kissing by another student in the teacher's classroom.

The school district investigated the allegation, removed student Elizabeth Thomas from teacher Tad Cummins' class and said the teacher would be reprimanded. But the district said it was unable to confirm from available evidence that the kiss occurred.

Tennessee authorities are now asking for the public's help in their hunt for Cummins, 50, who is accused of kidnapping 15-year-old Elizabeth last Monday, March 13, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said. Neither Elizabeth nor Cummins has been in touch with their families, authorities said. Cummins is believed to be armed and authorities say the teen is "in imminent danger."

It was Jan. 23 when one of Elizabeth's schoolmates reported that as she was walking into Cummins' classroom she saw Elizabeth and Cummins kissing, according to a Jan. 30 school district investigative report.

"It wasn't like a make-out kiss, just a peck on the lips," the student said in a written statement quoted in the school district's report.

The student told another schoolmate about what she said she had seen that day. The schoolmate said the student was "freaked out" by the alleged incident, according to the school district report.

The next day, the student took a different schoolmate with her to confront Cummins about what the student said she saw, the report said. Cummins allegedly told the students that he was "a father figure to Beth" and that he "saw her as a close and best friend," the report said.

The student reported what she said she had seen to school administrators.

The school district's investigative report said Elizabeth said Cummins had never kissed her nor made her feel uncomfortable.

"She looks at him like a friend and counselor who knows how to calm her down when she is experiencing anxiety," the district report said. "She stated students hang out in his classroom a lot."

Elizabeth also said that "she has gone to church with [Cummins] a few times but mainly hung around his wife," the report said.

Cummins also said no kiss took place, according to the district report. Cummins said Elizabeth is "a really good friend" who would go to see him “when she needs someone to calm her down," the report said. He said he loves his wife and would never cheat on her, the school report said.

The Jan. 30 school report determined that it "could not be confirmed" the alleged kiss happened. The report said, however, that Elizabeth would be removed from Cummins' class and that "Cummins will be reprimanded in regards to his duty to uphold his professional responsibility and behavior."

An attorney for Elizabeth's family claimed in a Feb. 6 letter to the district superintendent that the teen's father was never alerted by the district about the alleged incident and found out about it on Jan. 31, more than a week after the kiss allegedly happened, when sheriff's deputies called to ask him questions.

The lawyer's letter also suggested that the teen was communicating with the teacher through her cellphone. "Upon inspection of her cellphone the two are also having telephone communications," the attorney's letter said.

Although the district said it couldn't confirm the alleged kiss happened, the report said Elizabeth would be removed from Cummins' class and that she should be "instructed to bring anxiety issues to the school administration and guidance counselors."

The report also said "Cummins will be reprimanded in regards to his duty to uphold his professional responsibility and behavior as a teacher."

A subsequent letter from the district to Cummins on Feb. 3 stated that Elizabeth was in the teacher's classroom that day, which the letter said violated a previous order by the district.

Three days later, on Feb 6., the district wrote a letter to Cummins telling him he was suspended without pay immediately "pending an investigation."

Cummins was fired Tuesday, one day after he and Elizabeth went missing.

The school district did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Today Cummins is wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said that Cummins "may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom [the teen] ... in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her."

The teacher's wife, Jill Cummins, made an emotional plea to her husband at a news conference Friday, urging him to turn himself in.

"I had no idea my husband was involved with anything that has led to all this. My heart breaks for the family of Beth Thomas,” Jill Cummins said. “Please do the right thing and turn yourself into the police and bring Beth home.”

An Amber Alert has been issued for Elizabeth, and Cummins has been added to the state's "Top 10 Most Wanted" list, authorities said.

The TBI said Saturday it has received about 250 tips from 24 states, which it called a low number.

"Cummins may have taken her, frankly, anywhere," the TBI said in a news release Saturday.

"Nothing investigators have learned about Cummins or his intentions for the young girl since issuing the AMBER Alert calms the imminent concern for Elizabeth’s well-being. In fact, it only heightens it."

Elizabeth's family said in a statement, "We ask that you continue to share Elizabeth's story and to immediately notify law enforcement if you think you may have seen her. You can be Elizabeth's eyes, her ears and her voice. Your information or tip may be what leads to get this child home. As a family, we are focused on one thing and one thing only -- Elizabeth's safe and quick return."

Cummins is described as a white man with brown hair and brown eyes. He is 6 feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds. He may be driving a 2015 silver Nissan Rogue with a Tennessee license plate number 976-ZPT.

Elizabeth is described as a white girl with blonde hair, hazel eyes. She is 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing leggings and a flannel shirt.

Authorities are asking that anyone with information call 1-800-TBI-FIND and that anyone who sees a car with Tennessee license plate 976-ZPT call 911. A $1,000 reward is available for information leading to Tad Cummins' arrest.

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Monday
Mar202017

Brother makes plea to missing teen allegedly kidnapped by her former teacher

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(CULLEOKA, Tenn.) -- The older brother of a Tennessee teenager who was allegedly kidnapped by her former teacher is pleading with his sister to come home.

James Thomas, 26, told ABC News he'd like to send a message to his 15-year-old sister, Elizabeth Thomas, who has not been seen since last Monday, March 13: "If you're listening, I do really wish you'd just call someone. It doesn't have to be me, it can be anyone. Just let us know you're OK."

"We really miss you," he said. "Please, please come home."

Tennessee authorities are asking for the public's help in their hunt for Tad Cummins, 50, who is accused of kidnapping Elizabeth, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said. Neither Elizabeth nor Cummins has been in touch with their families, authorities said. Cummins is believed to be armed, and authorities say the teen is "in imminent danger."

The Bureau of Investigation said Saturday it has received about 250 tips from 24 states, which it called a low number.

"Cummins may have taken her, frankly, anywhere," the investigative bureau said in a news release Saturday.

Cummins is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with Elizabeth while he was a teacher at her Culleoka, Tennessee, school; he has denied the claim.

A Maury County School District investigative report said a student walking into Cummins' classroom on Jan. 23 saw the teacher kissing Elizabeth. The district completed its report on its investigation of the incident a week later, on Jan. 30.

But the Thomas family attorney said Elizabeth's father was never alerted by the school and that he found out about the alleged incident on Jan. 31, more than a week after the event purportedly happened, when sheriff's deputies called to ask the father questions, according to a letter from the family's attorney to the school district’s superintendent.

From the date of the alleged incident to the issuance of the Jan. 30 district report, Cummins was still teaching at the school, and Elizabeth was still in one of his classes, according to the district report.

The district said in its report the kissing allegation "could not be confirmed from the evidence presented." It said Cummins and Elizabeth denied a kiss took place and that the teacher said Elizabeth is "a really good friend" who comes to see him “when she needs someone to calm her down."

Although the district said it couldn't confirm the alleged kiss happened, the report said Elizabeth will be removed from Cummins' class and she should be "instructed to bring anxiety issues to the school administration and guidance counselors."

The report also said "Cummins will be reprimanded in regards to his duty to uphold his professional responsibility and behavior as a teacher."

A subsequent letter from the district to Cummins on Feb. 3 stated that Elizabeth was in the teacher's classroom that day, which the letter said violated a previous order by the district.

Three days later, on Feb 6., the district wrote a letter to Cummins telling him he was suspended without pay immediately "pending an investigation."

Cummins was fired last week on the day after Elizabeth was allegedly kidnapped, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said.

The school district did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

James Thomas said the allegations of the teacher's kissing his sister had left him in disbelief.

"It was something that surprised me greatly because a lot of my friends went [to that school] and spoke highly of Mr. Cummins," he said.

James Thomas said his father "is devastated ... He's not been himself ever since."

James Thomas said he is protective of his little sister, Elizabeth. He describes her as vocal, athletic and social.

"She kind of kept us all together," he told ABC News. "It's hard to live without her; she was such a vocal part of the family."

An Amber Alert has been issued for Elizabeth, and Cummins has been added to the state's "Top 10 Most Wanted" list, authorities said.

Cummins is wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor, authorities said.

Cummins' wife, Jill Cummins, made an emotional plea to her husband at a news conference Friday, urging him to turn himself in.

"I had no idea my husband was involved with anything that has led to all this. My heart breaks for the family of Beth Thomas,” Jill Cummins said. “Tad, this is not you. This is not who you are. We can help you get through this ... Your family wants their poppy back. Please do the right thing and turn yourself into the police and bring Beth home.”

Cummins is described as a white man with brown hair and brown eyes. He is 6 feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds. He may be driving a 2015 silver Nissan Rogue with a Tennessee license plate number 976-ZPT.

Elizabeth is described as a white girl with blonde hair, hazel eyes. She is 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing leggings and a flannel shirt.

Authorities are asking that anyone with information call 1-800-TBI-FIND and that anyone who sees a car with Tennessee license plate 976-ZPT call 911. A $1,000 reward is available for information leading to Cummins' arrest.

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Monday
Mar202017

Colorado wildfire 50 percent contained, hundreds evacuated

iStock/Thinkstock(BOULDER, Colo.) — A Colorado wildfire that forced hundreds out of their homes on Sunday has been 50 percent contained, authorities said.

The fire near Sunshine Canyon in Boulder, Colorado — just west of the downtown area — scorched about 63 acres of land and forced the evacuation of 426 homes as authorities worried that erratic winds could cause the fire to spread further, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management said Sunday.

As a precaution, another 836 homes were placed on a pre-evacuation list amid worries that the blaze could flare up due to strong wind gusts overnight, emergency officials said.

There were no known injuries or homes lost as of early Monday morning, the Boulder Office of Emergency Management said.

Boulder County Sheriff's Cmdr. Mike Wagner said the area has "a very social trail network," leading authorities to speculate the fire could be “human-caused.”

"At this point, we’ve been able to rule out things like lightning strikes or weather related, downed power lines, things like that. That causes us to speculate that it’s human caused, manmade," Wagner said during a press briefing on Sunday. "In the general area where that fire was reported to us by Sunshine Canyon and Timber Lane is a very social trail network. A lot of people are in and out of there."

The fire began before early Sunday morning near Sunshine Canyon and Timberlane, emergency officials said.

Wagner said fire officials would remain at the scene overnight to attack hot spots and possible flare-ups.

He said people in the pre-evacuation zones should be prepared and ready to go at any time as the fire’s status could change due to windy weather overnight.

"The plan is to keep the mandatory evacuation zone in place," Wagner said in a video posted on the Boulder Office of Emergency Management’s Facebook page late Sunday.

"The forecasts is a little concerning. There’s a potential wind event at around midnight. It is very volatile there and there’s a lot of complicating factors that go into a fire operation overnight," he said.

The Boulder Regional Communications Center said it received a call from a man at around 2 a.m. local time who said he noticed flames on the side of a mountain, according to the Boulder County Sheriff’s office.

Multiple fire departments, including the Boulder Rural Fire Protection District, the Boulder Fire Department, and the Sheriff's Fire Management Program, fought to contain the fire.

Officials said a shelter at the East Boulder Community Center would remain open overnight in case of additional evacuations.

Mark Sandercott, who was forced to evacuate, told ABC News affiliate KMGH that he feared of losing his home.

"I thought, for sure, we were probably going to lose the house," he said. "I grabbed my backpack, grabbed the most essential things that I thought I needed, and some water and just left."

The blaze is currently moving south, according to KMGH.


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Monday
Mar202017

Baltimore police search for suspect in firebombing that killed two and injured six

iStock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) — Authorities are searching for a suspect who is wanted in connection to the firebombing that devastated a home, leaving two people dead and six others injured, according to the Baltimore Police Department.

The fire occurred early Saturday morning, and police said that the two who were killed were both teenagers, and among the injured are a 4-year-old and an 11-year-old. One adult is also in serious condition after jumping from the top floor of the home in an effort to escape the fire, police said.

"We know that this was a deliberately set fire," Baltimore P.D. Public Information Officer T.J. Smith said Saturday. "And the individuals that were inside the home were apparently targeted."

Smith added that there was a non-fatal shooting in the area on Thursday, two days before the fire broke out. Smith said investigators believe the two incidents are connected.

Smith said that five of the six who were injured have been released from the hospital, including the 4-year-old and 11-year-old.

The suspect has been identified by Baltimore police as Antonio Wright, 26. Wright, described as 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes, is wanted for murder.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting the BPD with the search and offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to Wright's arrest. Combined with the BPD’s reward of up to $2,000, authorities are offering a total reward of up to $12,000 as a part of their effort to arrest Wright.

"Bad guys on the street will tell you," Smith said, "they will tell you kids, elderly, women are off limits. ... The suspect didn't care who was in that house."

"We could be here talking about eight dead people, including a 4-year-old and an 11-year-old," Smith said.

BPD Commissioner Kevin Davis said at a news conference Sunday that, "for a person to plan to commit this act it takes pre-meditation, it takes planning.

"Then he has to have the fortitude to go ahead and throw two Molotov cocktails inside an occupied row home in our city," Davis added. "That's absolutely unacceptable to Baltimore.

"Antonio Wright is public enemy number one," Davis said. "We've caught every other public enemy number one and we intend to catch Antonio Wright."

Davis said they don't have any "hard set criteria" for what classifies a criminal as "public enemy number one," but added that they use that term for "acts that shock the conscience."

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Sunday
Mar192017

Girl battling cancer granted wish of seeing 'A Dog's Purpose'

iStock/Thinkstock(VOORHEES, N.J.) -- A 12-year-old battling cancer was granted her wish of seeing the inspirational film, "A Dog's Purpose." Brooke Mulford also got a visit from the golden retriever who stars in the film.
Mulford has been battling cancer since she was diagnosed on January 5, 2009, which just so happened to be her mother's 40th birthday.

Amy Mulford, a single mother from Voorhees, New Jersey, initially knew something was wrong with her daughter when she began limping.

"I asked her why she was limping and she said, '[Our dog] Bailey jumped up on me and hurt my knee,'" Amy Mulford recalled to ABC News. "It made sense."

But after a three-hour road trip, Brooke Mulford couldn't straighten her legs and couldn't stand when getting out of the car, her mother added. So she was rushed to the emergency room where doctors diagnosed her with stage four neuroblastoma.

Despite six rounds of chemotherapy, surgery, two stem cell transplants, and radiation, Brooke Mulford's cancer spread to her spine, which doctors discovered December 5, 2012, her mother said.

And although her prognosis at times improved, in January it took a turn for the worse. "She had a massive spread throughout her whole body," Amy Mulford, 48, detailed.

Since having surgery on January 30 to remove a tumor that had grown in her brain, Brooke Mulford has been hospitalized at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Mulford said.

"She was admitted for the pain. It was just getting worse and worse," her mother said. "It's just about trying to get her comfortable. She's not been able to walk for three weeks now. She can't stand anymore."

Brooke Mulford was granted wish of seeing inspiration film "A Dog's Purpose" and even got a visit from screenwriter Cathryn Michon and the film's star dog, Trip.

But Brooke Mulford recently got a break in her painful days after she was granted her wish of seeing "A Dog's Purpose," a film adaptation of W. Bruce Cameron's 2010 novel of a dog who finds his purpose by being reincarnated.

After her mother shared her wish on Facebook, many people contacted the film's production company, Amblin Entertainment. Still, one of her social media friends, Marcie Aron, was connected to Cathryn Michon, the screenwriter for the film and Cameron's wife.

The two not only sent a personalized copy of the novel and T-shirts promoting the film, but Michon visited Brooke Mulford in the hospital on March 11.

"Bruce and I admire Brooke for having such grace for all she has had to endure," she wrote Saturday on Facebook of why she visited the hospital. "She is brave and kind and the world is better for her being in it. That's why everyone was so inspired to grant her request."

But there's more. Brooke Mulford along with her family were able to screen the film complete with movie popcorn.

"She was just so excited," her mother told ABC News of her daughter's big day. "We watched the movie and it was so beautiful. She was just so moved by it, we all were."

And Trip, the golden retriever who stars in the film, along with his handler Jennifer Henderson surprised Brooke Mulford.

"The fact that so many people came together to make this happen for her was just incredible to me," her mother said. "She’s gone through so much in the last eight years, but really in the last couple months."

Amy Mulford noted that since her cancer spread, her daughter has suffered from nightmares and panic attacks.

"It's been really hard to see her that way. She's in so much pain," she continued, "and then we get to see this movie that she wanted to see so badly and then to get to meet the dog from the movie ... it was the best day we’ve had in so long.

"It’s what my heart needed," Amy Mulford added.

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Sunday
Mar192017

Former teacher may have planned alleged abduction of teen: police

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(COLUMBIA, Tenn.) -- The Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old former student may have planned the abduction in advance, according to police.

The student, 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas was last seen around 7:30 or 8 a.m. Monday at a Shoney's restaurant in Columbia, Tennessee, where she had been dropped off by a friend, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Her former teacher, Tad Cummins, 50, is allegedly shown on surveillance footage from a gas station near the restaurant at about 8:30 a.m. filling up his silver Nissan Rogue, the car in which authorities believe he is traveling in with the teenager.

Cummins, of Columbia, Tennessee, is wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor, authorities said.

He is believed to have two handguns, and Elizabeth is considered to be "in imminent danger," the state investigative bureau said.

"What scares us about Mr. Cummins is he's sort given up his life at this point," Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland told ABC News. "The girl is just 15."

Rowland said the teacher may have decided to take Elizabeth and leave in the wake of his being spotted earlier this year allegedly kissing the teen student.

Jason Whatley, an attorney for Elizabeth's father, Anthony Thomas, told media this week that another student saw Cummins kissing Elizabeth on Jan. 24.

Both the Maury County Public Schools and the Maury County Sheriff's Department investigated the incident.

School officials said in a statement that the health sciences teacher at Culleoka Unit School was initially suspended and then dismissed as a result of the district investigation.

"The district does not tolerate any manner of behavior that is alleged in this incident and will take swift action to remove parties from school campuses who are involved with investigations of this type," the statement said.

Sheriff Rowland said his department's investigation of the incident is still pending.

The sheriff said Cummins may have begun plotting to leave with Elizabeth after he was suspended from his teaching job.

"That's how it started," Rowland said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation also said in a news release that Cummins "potentially planned this abduction prior to Monday."

He “may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom this vulnerable young girl for some time in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her,” the bureau said.

Sabrina Gallup, a manager at the Shoney's, where Elizabeth was dropped off Monday morning told ABC News by phone that Thomas had no connection to the restaurant beyond that of a potential customer.

She said the girl's disappearance has left people in the community of Columbia, Tennessee, unsettled.
"Everyone's keeping an eye out," Gallup said. "The entire town is looking out for her right now."

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Sunday
Mar192017

Louisiana sheriff's deputy shot and killed in the line of duty

iStock/Thinkstock(BATON ROUGE, La.) -- A deputy from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office was fatally shot late Saturday night while conducting an investigation into a an alleged rape, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office and Louisiana State Police said.

Today, a news release confirmed the identity of the slain deputy as Sgt. Shawn Anderson.

"Sgt. Shawn Anderson died following a struggle in which shots were fired," a statement from the department read. "He and another deputy had responded to a business as part of a rape investigation."

Anderson was conducting the investigation near a barber shop in East Baton Rouge, and struggled with the shooting suspect before being killed, police said.

"At approximately 11:00 p.m. two East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s deputies entered the Classic Cuts business at 16040 Hatteras Ave. in reference to a rape investigation," police said in the news release, "While inside the business, deputies struggled with the suspect and shots were fired."

The deputy was taken to Ochsner Medical Center following the shooting, and he was pronounced dead there, according to police.

A procession of law enforcement vehicles took his body from Ochsner to the East Baton Rouge Coroner's office shortly after 2 a.m., according to the Times-Picayune newspaper.

"It's a tragic night for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office, one of our deputies has been shot and killed," East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said at the press conference. "Right now Sheriff Gautreaux is with the family. We are focused on working with the family, praying for the family and making sure our deputies have the help and support they need."

Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish and the City of Baton Rouge Sharon Weston Broome, also at the press conference, said "this is certainly a tragedy for the community."

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted about the incident, calling it a tragic event.

The Louisiana State Police, who were contacted shortly before midnight to investigate the shooting, are leading the investigation into the Deputy's shooting.

Police noted that Anderson drew positive attention in his community in part for helping to deliver a baby on the side of the road last year.

He was presented the Life Saving Award in 2010 for saving the life of a woman on Old Mississippi River bridge, and recognized in 2014 for serving more than sixty high risk warrants in 2013 as a part of SWAT with no injuries or shots fired, police said.

He joined the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office in 1999, police said.

This particular sheriff's office is no stranger to tragedy.

Three law enforcement officers were shot and killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in July 2016 in an incident that was described as an ambush style attack. One of them was a member of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Department, and the other two served with the Baton Rouge Police Department.

Brad Garafola, 45, of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Department, was shot and killed by the attacker, after going to help two fallen officers, ABC News reported in July.

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Sunday
Mar192017

Individual driving 'suspicious' vehicle detained near White House

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A man arrested after driving up to a Secret Service checkpoint near the White House on Saturday night has been identified by police as Sean Patrick Keoughan, 29, of Roanoke, Virginia.

Keoughan was driving a car that had been reported stolen out of Roanoke, according to an incident report from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C.

The suspect allegedly late Saturday night pulled up to a vehicle-entry post near the White House in a 2017 Chevrolet Impala with an Indiana registration, according to the police report.

When he got out of the car, he told an officer, "There's a bomb in the trunk," the police report said. As the man was taken to the ground by an officer, he said, "This is a test."

No bomb or other hazard was found in the car, authorities said Sunday.

The suspect was arrested for alleged false bomb threats and unauthorized use of a vehicle, the police report said.

The Secret Service in its earlier statement said, "On March 18, 2017 at approximately 11:05 pm, an individual drove a vehicle up to a Secret Service checkpoint located at 15th Street and E Street NW."

"Upon contact with the individual, U.S. Secret Service Uniform Division Officers detained the individual and declared his vehicle suspicious," the statement said. "In accordance with proper protocols, Secret Service personnel increased their posture of readiness."

It was the second security-related incident near the White House on Saturday.

President Trump was not in the White House at the time of the incident. He and his family are at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.

Earlier in the day, a man was detained after hopping over a bike-rack barrier along the north fence of the White House, sources familiar with the incident told ABC News.

The person did not make it over the White House fence, sources said. Sources said he wanted to deliver a letter to someone in the Trump administration.

The man was identified Sunday by police as William Bryant Rawlinson, 58, of Silver Spring, Maryland.

And on March 10, an intruder scaled a White House fence. The Secret Service said Friday that last week's intruder was on the grounds for approximately 16 minutes before he was arrested.

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Saturday
Mar182017

Meals on Wheels donations surge after White House budget proposes funding cuts

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) – Meals on Wheels, a non-profit program that serves senior citizens around the U.S., has seen its online donations surge since President Trump’s administration released a budget proposal that could result in funding cuts for the organization.

The White House released its proposed budget early Thursday, and during the course of that day, online donations to Meals on Wheels were 50 times the usual daily total -- $50,000 compared to the typical daily rate of $1,000, Jenny Bertolette, vice president of communications for Meals on Wheels America, told ABC News.

The increased giving has continued. By Saturday afternoon, Meals on Wheels had received just over $100,000 in mostly small individual gifts since the proposed budget was released, Bertolette said.

She said the group is particularly gratified by people vouching publicly for the value of the Meals on Wheels network, which through a network of 5,000 programs in the U.S. serves nearly a million meals per day. Each year, 2.4 million older Americans, including 500,000 veterans, are served by the program.

“What is most valuable to us is the fact that so many people are speaking out in support of this public-private partnership and demanding that Meals on Wheels remain a funding priority,” she said.

The Meals on Wheels network receives its funding from a combination of state and local funding, private donations and other resources. Bertolette said 35 percent of its funding comes from the Older American Act Nutrition Program. That program's funding could be affected by the White House's proposed cut of about 16 percent to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The exact size of any possible cut to Meals on Wheels is unknown, but White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said, "Meals on Wheels sounds great. Again, that's a state decision to fund that particular portion, to take the federal money and give it to the states, and say, 'Look, we want to give you money for programs that don't work,'" Mulvaney said.

In addition to the proposed cut to Health and Human Services, Trump's budget proposal would eliminate Community Development Block Grants, a $3 billion program that is provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and which some communities use to supplement Meals on Wheels and provide safety checks for the elderly. Both agencies provide funding for Meals on Wheels, although its main source of funding is the Older Americans Act overseen by the Health and Human Services Department.

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Saturday
Mar182017

Two brothers who live 1,000 miles away reunite in heartwarming viral video

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) – Brothers Adam and Aaron Davis are the best of friends.

Still, they're now separated by more than 1,000 miles after Adam, 19, moved last August to Dallas, Texas, from their home in Columbus, Ohio, to study psychology at Southern Methodist University.

"Ever since I moved ... he's always asking me, 'Hey, when are you going to come see me?'" Adam recalled to ABC News.

He and his 9-year-old brother Aaron have bonded over their love of basketball. In fact, Aaron is part of a little league and he's always asking his older brother for tips.

He sends me different videos of him playing basketball and will ask, 'Hey, what do I need to work on?' and I'll give him advice," Adam said.

But when Aaron asked a week before Christmas if Adam could return home for the holiday season, he couldn't make it happen.

"The plane tickets were really expensive," Aaron said, adding that they were more than $500.

So instead he planned to come another time to surprise him. It just so happened that their spring breaks matched up this year, but Adam wanted to keep his Tuesday arrival a secret.

"My mom picked me up from the airport, and we come home and I stay in the garage," Adam recalled. "My mom goes inside and tells Aaron to 'Go to the garage to get the groceries out of the car,' and when he comes out, he sees me and he loses it."

A video of the brothers reuniting has gone viral on Twitter after Adam shared it. More than 20,000 people have retweeted the heartwarming moment, with more than 47,000 people liking it.

"It was very joyful," Aaron told ABC News of the reunion, adding that he was "really happy."

The brothers now are enjoying their spring break together, watching basketball and playing the game at home.

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