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Thursday
Dec072017

Students, staff, teachers saved lives in high school shooting that killed two: Governor 

iStock/Thinkstock(ALBUQUERUE, N.M.) -- Several "acts of bravery" "saved lives" during a shooting at a New Mexico high school today that killed two students, according to the governor.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez did not elaborate but said staff, teachers and students acted courageously.

The suspected gunman is also dead after the shooting at Aztec High School in Aztec, about 180 miles northwest of Albuquerque, according to police.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office identified the victims as Casey J. Marquez and Francisco I. Fernandez.

No other injuries were reported, state police said on Twitter, adding that "police believe there are no other credible threats to students."

"There are a lot of questions," Martinez said Thursday afternoon, "but we have to make sure to let law enforcement do what they're good at doing and let them figure this out."

"All New Mexicans are standing with you," Martinez said. "I cannot imagine a greater pain than to lose your child particularly in such a senseless way."

Hundreds of friends and family members attended a candlelight vigil at Aztec's Minium Park Thursday night for the victims.

Officers responded to the scene in one minute or less, police said. The school was on lockdown by the time police arrived.

A law enforcement source told ABC News that police officers had to shoot through a locked door to enter the school. They ran up a flight of stairs and found the suspected shooter dead, a 9 mm pistol and multiple loaded magazines near him.

Some officers were fielding calls from their children inside the school as they responded, authorities said.

The school was then evacuated, the San Juan County Sheriff's Office said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) told ABC News that its agents were sent to the scene.

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This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Thursday
Dec072017

FBI still stumped over Border Patrol agent's death

iStock/Thinkstock(EL PASO, Texas) -- For three weeks, the FBI has been chasing down tips and leads, trying to figure out what left one Border Patrol agent dead and another seriously injured along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas.

But authorities are still stumped -- they are no closer to finding concrete answers than they were right after finding the agents at the bottom of a deep ravine, ABC News was told.

"All we have done is rule out people," one law enforcement source said.

Border Patrol Agent Rogelio Martinez died from head injuries and blood loss, while agent Stephen Garland also suffered serious head trauma. Garland has told authorities he can't remember what happened that night, sources told ABC News.

The FBI has taken over the case, and on Saturday, FBI agents thought they were onto something: A confidential "source" claimed that within a group of undocumented immigrants recently smuggled into the United States were two people who "discussed their assault of the agents," according to FBI documents filed in the case.

The FBI then identified both men -- one of them in Odessa, Texas, and the other an alleged drug smuggler in Portales, New Mexico, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the case. FBI agents interviewed the alleged drug smuggler, who denied any involvement, and searched his car, the affidavit said. But agents didn’t find anything of significant value in the vehicle, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Both men are no longer considered suspects in the case, the sources said. The alleged drug smuggler, however, has been arrested and charged with entering the country illegally, according to court documents.

Around midnight on November 19, Martinez and Garland were responding to a sensor triggered near Van Horn, Texas. They were later found in a culvert beside a road.

There was no guard rail on the road, there were no lights nearby and “zero illumination,” and there was a "sheer drop" to the bottom of the culvert, one law enforcement source said.

 "Everything we have here looks like an accident," the source said, noting that "it takes time" to make a final determination.

Addressing reporters shortly after the death of agent Martinez became public, President Donald Trump said without caveat that he and his partner had been "brutally beaten."

The National Border Patrol Council, a union representing border agents, suggested the men were beaten to death with rocks. And Texas Governor Greg Abbott offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in what his office described as a "murder."

"It's terrible," one law enforcement source said of the unfounded speculation surrounding Martinez's death. "His family doesn’t know what happened. And they believe what they’re reading."

Asked about the current status of the FBI investigation, a spokeswoman for the FBI field office on El Paso, Texas, which is handling the case, said in a statement, "The FBI is not commenting."

"The investigation is ongoing," the spokeswoman added. "We are aggressively addressing all tips and leads that come [in]."

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Thursday
Dec072017

Ex-cop Michael Slager sentenced to 20 years for shooting death of Walter Scott

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, S. C.) -- Former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager has been sentenced to 19 to 24 years in prison for the deadly shooting of unarmed black man Walter Scott.

U.S. District Judge David Norton ruled today that the former officer committed second-degree murder and obstruction of justice. The judge's sentencing decision comes after Slager, who is white, pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights offense.

Slager shot and killed Scott on April 4, 2015, while Slager was an officer with the North Charleston Police Department. Witness video that surfaced shortly after the encounter appeared to show the moment Slager fatally shot Scott as he ran away. He was fired from the force after the shooting.

Slager was charged in South Carolina with murder and pleaded not guilty. During the murder trial, Slager's attorney said his client shot Scott because he was in fear for his life. In 2016, the case ended in a mistrial. The state retrial and federal trial were expected to take place this year, but instead, in May Slager pleaded guilty to violating Scott's civil rights in federal court, ending the federal case against him and also resolving the state charges that were pending after the mistrial.

The judge's ruling today followed several days of testimony, including from Feiden Santana, the witness who filmed the shooting, and Judy Scott, Walter Scott's mother.

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Thursday
Dec072017

41 students suffer minor injuries after 3 school buses crash in Kentucky

iStock/Thinkstock(JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ky.) -- Three school buses in Kentucky were involved in a crash on Dixie Highway in Jefferson County Thursday morning, injuring 41 middle and high students, a Jefferson County Public Schools official said.

All of the students on board the three buses were taken to hospitals after the collision, according to Allison Martin, public schools communications director in Jefferson County. The students' injuries were minor, she said.

The conditions of the three drivers were unknown, Martin said, and the cause of the accident is under investigation.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


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Thursday
Dec072017

Rare snow possible in Deep South, Santa Ana winds continue in California

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A very chilly air mass is in place for most of the country Thursday, even all the way to the Deep South.

Wind chills are dipping into the single digits in the Midwest and the 20s and 30s in the East.

Snow is developing in unusually far southern areas of the U.S. on Thursday night, from just north of New Orleans to Atlanta and into Raleigh, North Carolina. Some areas could see more than 1 inch of snow. A winter weather advisory has been issued for the Deep South.

Also, heavy lake effect snow is possible from Michigan to New York. Numerous winter storm warnings, winter weather advisories and lake effect snow warnings have been issued for the region.

Some areas in western New York just south of Buffalo could see up to 20 inches of snow over the next 24 hours.

Santa Ana wind trouble

December is known to be the most common month for Santa Ana winds in southern California, but fires of the magnitude currently being seen are not that common in December.

The prime time for wildfires in California is June through October.

Winds continue to pick up Thursday morning, and are forecast to gust 30 to 50 mph along the coast and near 80 mph in the mountains.

Red flag warnings continue through Saturday for Southern California and high wind warnings continue through Friday.

Wind gusts today in the mountains could be 80 to 90 mph.

Gusty winds continue even into Saturday, with gusts reaching 20 to 30 mph along the coast and nearly 60 mph inland.

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Thursday
Dec072017

Melania Trump, Karen Pence visit Whataburger for their fast food fix

Twitter/@JRHDZV(CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas) -- First lady Melania Trump and second lady Karen Pence -- along with their motorcade -- needed their fast food fix Wednesday while in Corpus Christi, Texas, so they made a pit stop at Whataburger.

"On our way out of town, @FLOTUS & @SecondLady decided to stop in to @Whataburger for some lunch! The American chain opened its 1st restaurant in Corpus Christi, TX in 1950!" tweeted Stephanie Grisham, Mrs. Trump's director of communications, along with a photo of the women ordering their lunch.

While Mrs. Trump and Mrs. Pence, who were with Gov. Greg Abbott's wife Cecilia, stood at the counter to place their order, Secret Service personnel stood outside.

Gov. Abbott, tweeted, "Looks like @FLOTUS is Texas savvy. She & Karen Pence dined at @Whataburger today with my wife the First Lady of Texas. They are here for ongoing help for #HurricaneHarvey. @TexasFLCA #txlege #TexasStrong."

Their visit caught the attention of Whataburger, which tweeted, "Hope it was a great meal! Thanks for stopping by."

Even the Corpus Christi Police Department took notice, tweeting, "@Flotus knows a good burger @Whataburger."

And J.R. Hernandez, the chief of staff for Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, tweeted photos from the outing, writing, "@FLOTUS @SecondLady @TexasFLCA @georgepbush obligatory stop at the best burger in America: @Whataburger"

Mrs. Trump and Mrs. Pence spent the day in Corpus Christi meeting with first responders who worked on the Hurricane Harvey relief effort. They also traveled to Rockport, Texas, to meet with a family whose home was destroyed in the storm. They also visited the family’s new Manufactured Housing Unit, provided by FEMA, which will serve as the family’s temporary residence until they can move into a new, rebuilt home. The women also visited an elementary school and food bank.

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Thursday
Dec072017

Police land helicopter, chase down suspect after being flashed with laser

Pasco County Sheriff’s Office(PASCO COUNTY, Fla.) -- Two police helicopter pilots in Pasco County, Florida landed in a community center parking lot and chased down a suspect this week after he allegedly aimed a red laser at them from the ground, blinding them temporarily, police said Wednesday.

Pasco County Sheriff’s Office pilots Stephen Bowman and Tim Bullis were assisting deputies on the ground with a barricaded suspect call on Tuesday evening when the man began to flash the bright laser at them, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

“The suspect aiming the laser at the aircraft was blinding the pilot and causing a hazard while interfering with the mission of the aircraft,” the statement said. “The pilot was forced to disengage from the primary mission and address the laser suspect.”

In a cockpit video released by the sheriff’s office, the pilots said they counted a total of 10 laser beam flashes.

“It blinded us for a couple of seconds. Extremely painful,” Bowman added in an on-camera interview with ABC affiliate WFTS. "At night, low and making turns and you get struck by a laser, couple seconds and you can fall a couple hundred feet."

Bowman, a five-year veteran of the sheriff’s air unit, said there were no officers available on the ground to investigate the incident, so he landed the plane in the Portuguese American Cultural Association parking lot and did it himself.

It wasn’t long before he had arrested a suspect, Ryan Fluke, 27, for misuse of laser lighting devices.

Police said Fluke initially denied any wrongdoing, but he later confessed to the crime. He was released from the Pasco County Jail Wednesday on a $5,000 bail, according to court documents. It was not clear if he had obtained an attorney.

“He said that it was ‘for fun.’ He said that he didn’t realize that a laser can travel a long distance even though we were only about 800 feet away from him,” Bowman said.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a felony punishable by five years in jail, according to the FBI.

The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration have been tracking laser strikes since 2005 and they even launched an initiative to crack down on “lasing.”

In 2014, the bureau said it would offer up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft.
 
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Thursday
Dec072017

Drivers open fire on each other in Houston street after road rage incident

KTRK(HOUSTON) -- Two Texas residents took road rage to a new level when a minor fender bender turned into a pistol-wielding showdown that left an innocent bystander and one of the shooters injured.

On Wednesday around 2:45 p.m. gunfire erupted after two men were involved in a car crash on Houston’s busy Westheimer and South Kirkwood roads. The two drivers emerged from their vehicles and began opening fire on each other. The entire incident was captured on video by ABC affiliate KTRK, as video journalist Gerzain Garcia and reporter Erica Simon happened to be at a nearby Starbucks.

Hearing gunshots nearly 100 yards away, Garcia and Simon jumped into action, driving closer to the scene to find the aftermath of a relatively minor rear-end collision between a Jeep and a gray Nissan sedan.

Capturing the entire display on camera, Garcia said, "I thought they had stopped shooting.”

Garcia began recording after the last shot ended, but the men continued to threaten and wave the guns at each other.

After the gunfire ended, Simon recalls walking from behind the truck where she took cover, to find a woman bleeding. A bystander from across the street had been grazed in the head by one of the bullets. Simon says she attempted to comfort the woman by assuring her medical help was on the way.

An off-duty paramedic nearby helped stop the bleeding until ambulances arrived.

After arriving to the scene, police discovered one shooter had sustained a wound to the chest.

Police took both men into custody and the wounded shooter was taken to Ben Taub Hospital.

"If you get into an accident, call the police, or drive to a gas station to wait," Garcia said. "Don't start shooting at each other. A bystander who had nothing to do with this was injured. And it could have been even worse."

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Thursday
Dec072017

Southern California wildfires burn with little containment as conditions worsen

ABC News(VENTURA COUNTY, Calif.) -- Firefighters across Southern California are battling four major fires, and brutal Santa Ana winds are expected to continue fanning the flames into Thursday.

The weather is not cooperating with the hundreds of officials trying to contain the fires in the region. Red flag warnings have been extended across much of Southern California through Saturday, while high winds warnings are in effect for mountains and valleys in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Sustained winds were gusting to 66 mph at Boney Mountain in Ventura County, according to the National Weather Service. Winds could gust to 80 mph in the early hours of Thursday, causing embers to spread even more. Much of Southern California is also experiencing humidity levels in the teens or even single digits.

Authorities are dealing with four major fires, as well as a smaller one in San Bernardino, which is 100 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Thomas fire, which was the first to ignite, has already burned about 90,000 acres of land and is expected to intensify due to the increasing winds. The Skirball fire is the smallest of the wildfires currently, but its threat to heavily populated areas of Los Angeles has drawn widespread attention. The Creek fire and Rye fire also continued to burn Thursday with little containment.

All Los Angeles Unified School District schools in the San Fernando Valley, as well as 17 schools on Los Angeles' west side, were shuttered through Friday. At least 265 schools have been closed. The University of California, Los Angeles, also canceled classes Thursday due to the Skirball fire.

Thomas fire

The Thomas fire in Ventura County, the largest of the four fires, started Monday night as a 50-acre brush fire in foothills east of Santa Paula and rapidly grew to 10,000 acres in just four hours, authorities said.

It had swelled to over 108,000 acres by midnight local time on Thursday, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, which is comprised of nine government agencies, among them the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, National Park Service and United States Fire Administration.

The fire was only 5 percent contained as of Wednesday night.

There were 50,000 people under mandatory evacuation orders, according to the Ventura County Fire Department. Authorities on Thursday morning upgraded voluntary evacuation orders to mandatory for parts of Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County. Officials expected the fire to cross the county line into Santa Barbara overnight as winds continued to strengthen.

Officials were concerned about part of the Thomas fire heading northeast and threatening a nursing home in Ojai. The 25 residents and staff were evacuated as a precaution, authorities said.

Creek fire

The Creek fire, in the Kagel Canyon area above Los Angeles' Sylmar neighborhood, has scorched 12,605 acres of land and destroyed more than 30 buildings, authorities said. Evacuations of 110,000 people remain in place for the region, according to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The fire was just 5 percent contained as of Wednesday night and 1,100 personnel are currently fighting the fire.

While no people have died in any of the fires, the Creek fire was responsible for the death of almost 40 horses at Rancho Padilla, according to ABC station KABC in Los Angeles. The horses were trapped in a barn that burned to the ground as the owners were evacuated with no warning.

Skirball fire

The Skirball fire has only burned 475 acres of land so far, but its proximity to Los Angeles and responsibility for briefly shutting down the infamously crowded 405 Freeway has garnered nationwide attention.

The fire is threatening the Getty Center, a museum in western Los Angeles. Officials were focused on keeping the fire from jumping the freeway and heading east. As of early Thursday, firefighters had managed to keep it from breaching containment lines.

Authorities said six structures had been lost in the fire.

Los Angeles County declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon due to the Skirball fire in the city's Bel-Air neighborhood.

Rye fire

The Rye fire has scorched 7,000 acres in Santa Clarita, west of Valencia. The fire was 10 percent contained as of Wednesday night, the highest of any of the four fires, though many structures were still being threatened by flames, according to authorities.

However, mandatory evacuations in the area have been lifted.

Some 775 firefighters were on the scene battling the Rye fire Wednesday afternoon.

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Wednesday
Dec062017

NC county will not make ransom payment to cyber criminals who attacked public services

Denes Farkas/iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- Mecklenburg County, North Carolina will not pay “ransomware criminals $23,000 to unlock many of the county’s applications that have been frozen since Monday,” county officials said in a release Wednesday afternoon.

“I am confident that our backup data is secure and we have the resources to fix this situation ourselves,” County Manager Dena Diorio said in a statement on the county's website. “It will take time, but with patience and hard work, all of our systems will be back up and running as soon as possible.”

The statement said it would take several days to fix the problem using backup data from before the incident to "rebuild the applications from scratch." Systems involving Health and Human Services, the court system and Land Use and Environmental Services are top priority, according to the statement.

“It was going to take almost as long to fix the system after paying the ransom as it does to fix it ourselves,” Diorio said in the statement. “And there was no guarantee that paying the criminals was a sure fix.”

Earlier, Diorio said there was no indication any data had been lost or personal information compromised. She said the ransomware was a new strain called a "lockscript," which appears to have originated in Iran or Ukraine, and affected 48 of the county's 500 servers.

She said the county had reached out to the cyber-criminals, who had demanded a ransom of two bitcoins (about $23,000), through a third-party cyber-security firm and decided against making the payoff. She said the county acted quickly to shut down services to prevent the spread of the virus after it was discovered. The statement added county offices are open and affected departments are using "alternative processes" to conduct business.

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