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Wednesday
Jun212017

Eric Garner's family 'frustrated' by slow pace of federal investigation

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The family of Eric Garner -- the New York man who died after he was placed in a chokehold by an NYPD officer -- said they were "frustrated" by the lack of resolution in the federal investigation into Garner's death, which remains ongoing nearly three years later.

"Once again, we’re gonna be playing the waiting game," Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon after the family met with officials from the Department of Justice in Brooklyn.

"We came here today for answers, but evidently, we are still without knowing whether we are going to get justice or not," Carr said.

Garner died in July 2014 after he was placed in a chokehold by NYPD Officer David Pantaleo during an arrest for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.

In the witness video of the incident, the 43-year-old can be heard saying, "I can't breathe." The phrase later became the slogan for protests demanding justice for Garner's death.

One of the attorneys representing the Garner family, Jonathan Moore, said the family met with two veteran prosecutors in the Justice Department's civil rights division, "both of whom have a long history of prosecuting police officers in various venues throughout the country."

During the meeting, the family had a "frank discussion" with the officials, in which they expressed "deep frustration" at the slow pace of the investigation, Moore said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said the DOJ officials stressed to them that "the case is still active and being seriously investigated." The family is "absolutely" still seeking a criminal conviction in Garner's death, he said, but they were not given an indication on when a resolution would be made.

Department of Justice spokesman Devin O'Malley issued a short statement regarding the meeting.

"As is common with an ongoing investigation, agents and prosecutors from the Department of Justice are meeting with the family of Eric Garner today," he said. "There are no new major announcements regarding the matter."

In 2014, a grand jury on Staten Island decided not to indict Pantaleo in connection with Garner's death, meaning the only potential criminal charges against Pantaleo would come from the pending federal investigation.

In order to convict in the federal civil rights case, prosecutors will need to prove that the officers willfully violated Garner's constitutional rights.

Sources close to the investigation have told ABC News that federal prosecutors believe it is tough to prove an obvious violation of Garner's civil rights, even though he died in custody. Instead, they believe that Pantaleo could have been indicted on a manslaughter or reckless endangerment charge if he had been tried on state charges.

Pantaleo was suspended from the police force following the incident. The NYPD will not decide whether Pantaleo should remain on the force until the federal criminal inquiry is complete.

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

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Wednesday
Jun212017

Jurors in Bergdahl case will be quizzed about Trump

3drenderings/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Attorneys at a pre-trial hearing Wednesday for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl discussed a questionnaire that could be given to potential jurors to determine whether they have been influenced by President Donald Trump's past critical remarks about the former prisoner of war.

During last year's presidential campaign, Trump referred to Bergdahl as a "dirty, rotten traitor" and a "bum," among other terms, on numerous occasions as he decried the exchange of five Guantanamo Bay detainees brokered to free Bergdahl as part of his regular stump speech.

The sergeant disappeared from his post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held for almost five years before his release by the Taliban. He was charged in 2015 with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, the latter a military crime that carries a potential life sentence.

The judge handling Bergdahl's case previously ordered lawyers on both sides to develop the questionnaire for possible jurors.

Bergdahl's defense developed 16 questions about voter status, who panel members voted for, how they feel about Trump, if they are aware of and how they feel about his statements -- suggesting that those with strong views about the president would be unfairly biased. Prosecutors contended that a vote for Trump doesn’t necessarily indicate that they know about his statements concerning Bergdahl.

Judge Col. Jeffery Nance said he agreed with most of the 41 total questions on the panel questionnaire and that he is "making tweaks" to the list. He indicated that he intends to release the questionnaire to get it to panel members by next Tuesday. They would then provide their answers and the attorneys will decide whether they would like to ask more questions in writing or have potential jurors testify in voir dire.

Prosecutors additionally argued Wednesday for the ability to present witnesses at the sentencing phase of the trial who contend that the search for Bergdahl caused harm to the search party. Nance previously prohibited the testimony at the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial, saying that it would unfairly influence the jury.

Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch, a retired Navy SEAL, appeared in court in support of the prosecution to testify about his SEAL task force that attempted a search for Bergdahl in 2009. Hatch was shot in the leg during the mission and eventually needed 18 surgeries that forced his retirement from the SEALs. He testified that his team would not have been on the mission if they weren’t searching for Bergdahl, and that hostage rescue situations are more dangerous than regular missions.

Nance has not yet ruled on whether Hatch's testimony will be admissible during the sentencing phase of the trial. The next pre-trial hearing in the case is scheduled for July 27.

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Wednesday
Jun212017

Teen killed after leaving mosque was 'loved by so many people,' imam says

Furtseff/iStock/Thinkstock(STERLING, Va.) -- At a funeral in Sterling, Virginia, Wednesday afternoon, for a 17-year-old girl who police say was killed this past weekend after she left her mosque, Imam Mohamed Magid said the slain teenager was "so loved by so many people."

Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, is in custody for the homicide of Nabra Hassanen of Reston, Virginia, after he allegedly "became so enraged" that he hit her with a baseball bat, the Fairfax County Police Department said Monday. Road rage was the alleged motive behind the slaying, police said.

Police said the incident occurred at about 3:40 a.m. Sunday, when a group of teenagers was heading to an overnight event at a mosque. Police believe one teen on a bike began arguing with Martinez Torres as he approached the group in his car.

The suspect "then drove his car onto the curb as the group scattered," the police said. "Witnesses say [Martinez] Torres caught up with them a short time later in a nearby parking lot and got out of his car armed with a baseball bat and began chasing the group. [Martinez] Torres was able to catch Nabra [Hassanen]. His anger over the encounter led to violence when he hit Nabra [Hassanen] with a baseball bat."

Police said Martinez Torres took Hassanen in his car to Loudoun County, Virginia, and the teenager's body was found in a pond in Loudoun County later that evening. According to her autopsy, Hassanen suffered from blunt force trauma to the upper body, police said.

At the service, Imam Magid said the community is grieving.

He said the slain teenager was "so generous, so bright, so beautiful, so energetic, so giving, so caring."

In Washington, D.C., hundreds of people attended a vigil Tuesday evening, according to WJLA.

While the Fairfax County Police Department said Monday there is nothing to indicate this was a hate crime, explaining that "it appears the suspect became so enraged over the traffic dispute it escalated into deadly violence," WJLA reported that a speaker at the D.C. vigil Tuesday said, "We're not going to let Fairfax County police tell us that this was just a case of road rage."

CAIR said Wednesday it is representing Hassanen’s family and has "called for a thorough investigation of a possible bias motive in the case."

The police's statement on Monday added, "If during the course of this ongoing criminal investigation, information or evidence later surfaces that would indicate this was hate-motivated, detectives would certainly ensure appropriate charges are filed."

At an emotional press conference Tuesday outside of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Mohmoud Hassanen Aboras, the victim's father, fighting back tears, said, "We have to love each other. ... We are human beings."

Martinez Torres is charged with murder and being held without bond, police said. Martinez Torres, who appeared in court Monday by video conference from jail, has not entered a plea, said Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond Morrogh. His public defender, Dawn Butorac, declined to comment. On Monday ICE lodged a detainer on the suspect, ICE spokesperson Carissa Cutrell said. He has no prior encounters with ICE, Cutrell added.

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Wednesday
Jun212017

Otto Warmbier's family objects to autopsy

Xinhua/Lu Rui via Getty Images(CINCINNATI) -- The family of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died just days after North Korea released him from prison in a coma, declined an autopsy, leaving his cause of death a medical mystery for now.

The Hamilton County Coroner's Office in Ohio examined Warmbier's body after the 22-year-old University of Virginia student died on Monday.

"The family's objection to an autopsy was honored, and only an external examination was performed," the coroner's office said in a statement Tuesday night.

In addition to the external exam, the coroner's office reviewed Warmbier's medical records from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and AeroMed Management Group, the air ambulance service that helped evacuate him from North Korea's capital where he had been detained for nearly 17 months. The coroner's office also had "extensive conversations" with Warmbier's treating physician at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, according to the statement.

"No conclusions about the cause and manner of Mr. Warmbier's death have been drawn at this time as there are additional medical records and imaging to review and people to interview," the coroner's office said in its statement. "Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Mr. Warmbier at this time of their tragic loss."

Warmbier was medically evacuated from Pyongyang and flown to Cincinnati on June 13. He was then rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. North Korea claimed that Warmbier slipped into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill shortly after his sentencing.

Warmbier was arrested at the airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster from a restricted area in January 2016 while visiting the country on a sightseeing tour organized by a Chinese-based company. After a one hour trial in March 2016, he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

At a news conference on June 15, Warmbier's father revealed that President Donald Trump called him a day earlier to ask about his son and the rest of his family. Fred Warmbier said Trump, who was "very candid" during the telephone call, told him Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other U.S. officials worked hard to negotiate his son's release.

Fred Warmbier told reporters the North Korean regime deemed his son a "war criminal" and "brutalized and terrorized" him during his detainment.

At the same news conference, doctors from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said Warmbier suffered from injuries related to cardiopulmonary arrest and was in a state of unresponsive wakefulness. They said scans showed extensive loss in all regions of Warmbier's brain and they found no evidence of botulism.

"This pattern of brain injury is usually seen as result of cardiopulmonary arrest where blood supply to the brain is inadequate for a period of time, resulting in the death of brain tissue," Dr. Daniel Kanter told reporters at the news conference.

Kanter said Warmbier was breathing on his own at the time and his vital signs were normal, but he could not speak or move voluntarily.

"He shows no signs of understanding language ... He has not spoken. He has not engaged in any purposeful movements," he said. "He has profound weakness of contraction in his arms and legs."

According to Dr. Jordan Bonomo, Warmbier had "no fractures to the bone and has minor blemishes on his skin. We see no evidence of an acute or healing fracture."

Warmbier died six days after he returned home.

"It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died," his parents wrote in a statement Monday.

"Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible," they said.

The Warmbiers added that they are "at peace" and "at home."

The funeral service for Warmbier will be held Thursday morning at Warmbier's alma mater, Wyoming High School in Wyoming, Ohio, and will be open to the public, according to a release from the funeral home.

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Wednesday
Jun212017

Funeral expected Wednesday for Muslim teenager murdered in Virginia

iStock/Thinkstock(FAIRFAX, Va.) -- A funeral is set for Wednesday for a 17-year-old Muslim girl from Virginia who police say was murdered this past weekend.

Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, is in custody for the murder of Nabra Hassanen of Reston, Virginia, after he allegedly "became so enraged" that he hit her with a baseball bat, the Fairfax County Police Department said Monday. Road rage was the alleged motive behind the murder, police said.

Police said the incident occurred at about 3:40 a.m. Sunday, when a group of teenagers was heading to an overnight event at a mosque. Police believe one teen on a bike began arguing with Martinez Torres as he approached the group in his car.

The suspect "then drove his car onto the curb as the group scattered," the police said. "Witnesses say [Martinez] Torres caught up with them a short time later in a nearby parking lot and got out of his car armed with a baseball bat and began chasing the group. [Martinez] Torres was able to catch Nabra [Hassanen]. His anger over the encounter led to violence when he hit Nabra [Hassanen] with a baseball bat."

Police said Martinez Torres took Hassanen in his car to Loudoun County, Virginia, and the teenager's body was found in a pond in Loudoun County later that evening. According to her autopsy, Hassanen suffered from blunt force trauma to the upper body, police said.

The teen's funeral is set to take place Wednesday afternoon at the teenager's former mosque, All Dulles Area Muslim Society, in Sterling, Virginia, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said.

In Washington, D.C., hundreds of people attended a vigil Tuesday evening, according to ABC affiliate WJLA-TV.

While the Fairfax County Police Department said Monday there is nothing to indicate this was a hate crime, explaining that "it appears the suspect became so enraged over the traffic dispute it escalated into deadly violence," WJLA reported that a speaker at the D.C. vigil on Tuesday said, "We're not going to let Fairfax County police tell us that this was just a case of road rage."

The police's statement on Monday added, "If during the course of this ongoing criminal investigation, information or evidence later surfaces that would indicate this was hate-motivated, detectives would certainly ensure appropriate charges are filed."

Martinez Torres is held without bond, according to police.

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Wednesday
Jun212017

Death penalty is 'expressed intention' for Georgia inmates

iStock/Thinkstock(WRIGHTSVILLE, Ga.) -- A Georgia judge said Wednesday that the death penalty is the "expressed intention" for inmates Donnie Russell Rowe and Ricky Dubose, who were on the run for over 48 hours after one of them shot and killed two correctional officers.

A Putnam County judge did not grant bond for the men. Their next court date was set for Sept. 18.

Rowe and Dubose were on a transport bus on June 13 when they allegedly breached a protective gate, reaching Baldwin State Prison officers Christopher Monica, 42, and Curtis Billue, 58, at the front of the bus. The inmates allegedly disarmed and killed them both, officials said. It was unclear which inmate shot and killed the two officers.

The prisoners, armed with the officers' weapons, then allegedly carjacked a nearby vehicle and spent over 48 hours on the run.

They were captured in Tennessee on June 15 after leading police on a high-speed chase.

Rowe and Dubose were cellmates and friends in prison, and may have planned their escape; however, the bus ride on June 13 was unscheduled, officials said.

At the time of the shooting, 31 other inmates were on board the bus, which was en route to a diagnostic facility when the escape took place. Those inmates provided assistance to investigators, officials said.

Rowe was serving life without parole for armed robbery, the department of corrections said, and Dubose was serving a 20-year sentence for armed robbery.

The Georgia Department of Corrections said in a statement that the slain officers "were known for their unwavering commitment to their job and their love of family."

Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Gregory Dozier said, "Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of two of our officers, who are our family."

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Wednesday
Jun212017

Video shows runaway bus careening down NY street backward

WABC-TV(NEW YORK) -- Dramatic video captured by bystanders shows a runaway MTA bus rolling backward down a Brooklyn, New York street and hitting parked cars early Wednesday morning.

ABC station WABC-TV reported that just before 1 a.m., the bus operator parked and exited the bus on Palmetto Avenue in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. The empty bus then began rolling backward, hitting cars and slamming into a fence in front of St. Paul's Lutheran Church on Knickerbocker Avenue, according to WABC.

The MTA employee was not injured, but WABC reported that one man who was changing a tire on the street during the incident jumped out of the way when he saw the bus. He was taken to Wyckoff Hospital to be treated for minor injuries. According to WABC, he was not hit by the bus.

What caused the bus to roll away is still under investigation, according to WABC.

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Wednesday
Jun212017

Parents, newborn among six killed in 25-car pileup in New Mexico

iStock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- A Phoenix couple and their newborn daughter were among six people killed in a massive pileup near the border of Arizona and New Mexico on Monday, according to police.

Jose Elias Caraveo-Serrano, 30, Susana Caraveo, 29, and their 6-month-old daughter, Julissa, were killed in a 25-car pileup on Interstate 10 West while traveling home from New Mexico, according to ABC’s Phoenix affiliate KNXV-TV.

Caraveo was a second-grade teacher at Desert Spirit Elementary School in Glendale, Arizona.

Jill Badcock, a fellow teacher at Desert Spirit Elementary, described Caraveo as a "young sweet soul" who brought “sunshine” wherever she went.

"She was always my little Miss Sunshine," Badcock told KNXV Tuesday. "It’s such a tragedy, for not only the community but for educators, for her friends ... It’s unbelievable.”

A GoFundMe campaign for the couple, who would have celebrated their second wedding anniversary on Tuesday, had raised more than $7,000 as of early Wednesday.

Twenty-five vehicles -- 18 commercial motor vehicles and seven passengers vehicles -- were involved in the crashes, which resulted in six fatalities and a number of injuries, according to the New Mexico State Police.

The other victims were identified as Jose Manuel Clemente, 77, Maurella Clemente Munoz, 38, both of El Paso, Texas, and Josefina Silva, 47, of Escondido, California.

Officials with the New Mexico State Police said the collisions stemmed from a dust storm that brought high winds and limited visibility to the area.

Other fatal accidents in the Phoenix area have been attributed to dust storms in recent years.

"It's a topographical area in which the winds come through where there's nothing that can be done to prevent it," New Mexico State Police spokesman Carl Christiansen said on Tuesday. "It's never easy. It doesn't get easier each time."

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Wednesday
Jun212017

Police searching for suspect who killed teen during apparent Craigslist transaction

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- Miami-Dade police are looking for the suspect or suspects connected to the death of a 19-year-old student athlete who was shot and killed on June 14 during an apparent Craigslist transaction, police said.

Brian Brown, 19, was shot around 3:04 p.m. local time, according to police. Relatives told ABC affiliate WPLG-TV that Brown, who graduated high school a week before his death, was shot three times in the back over what they believe to be a Craigslist transaction.

According to WPLG, relatives said Brown advertised video games and a Play Station on Craigslist to sell. They said he went to go meet the person who was supposed to buy the items from him when the shooting happened.

The teen's dad, Craig Brown, told ABC News that his son's girlfriend was with him at the time of the incident. Brian Brown's girlfriend drove him to Jackson North Medical Center before he was transferred to Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

Brian Brown, who played football, had received a full scholarship to Merced College and was excited to head off to school after recently going dorm room shopping, his dad told WPLG. He was expected to leave for school in California on July 1.

"He was getting ready for it, staying in shape, and everyone, his teammates, friends, everyone was talking about it. He was ready to go," Craig Brown said.

Craig Brown described his son as a very lovable person and told WPLG, "I can say at least 200 to 300 people have come here to hug me and told me what a great kid he was, and how much love he just had for everyone."

"I don't know how I'm going to live without Brian," the teen's mother, Landcy Brown, told WPLG.

Detective Robin Pinkard told ABC News that as of Tuesday afternoon no arrest has been made in the shooting death of Brown and that they "are still seeking assistance from the community."

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 305-471-2500 or Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. A cash reward up to $3,000 is offered for anyone with information leading to an arrest.

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Tuesday
Jun202017

Dashcam video from police-involved shooting of Philando Castile released

Ramsey County(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Dashcam video from the fatal shooting of a black man by a Minnesota police officer was released by officials Tuesday, days after the officer was acquitted in the man's death.

Philando Castile, 32, was shot several times by St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is Latino, in July 2016 after Castile was pulled over with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and Reynolds' 4-year-old daughter in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, a suburb of Saint Paul. Reynolds live-streamed the aftermath on Facebook Live. Yanez has since been fired from the police force.

The 10-minute video, which was released by Ramsey County in Minnesota, shows Yanez driving behind the white sedan Castile was driving before pulling him over.

Yanez approaches the car and says, "Hello, sir," to Castile, who responds, "How are you?"

"Good," Yanez replies, telling him that the reason why he pulled him over is because the brake light to the car is out. He then asks for Castile's license and insurance while another officer stands on the passenger side of the car.

Castile hands over a piece of paper to Yanez before he says, "Sir, I have to tell you: I do have a firearm on me."

"OK. Don't reach for it, then," Yanez says to Castile as he appears to reach for his own weapon. "Don't pull it out."

As Yanez says "Don't pull it out" a second time, he grabs his gun and points it inside the car, firing multiple rounds. Reynolds can be heard screaming inside the car as the shooting occurs.

Yanez then orders her not to move before saying "f---" multiple times.

Reynolds' young daughter, who was in the backseat of the car at the time of the shooting, then exits through the passenger side, and the other officer on the scene picks her up and carries her out of view.

As Reynolds explains that Castile was reaching to get out his ID, Yanez says, "I told him not to reach for it."

Yanez then radios for help, and once additional officers arrive minutes later, they pull Castile's body out of the car and attempt to render aid.

Once the ambulance arrives, Yanez can be heard off camera, breathing heavily as he says, "He had his grip a lot wider than a wallet, and I don't know where the gun was. He didn't tell me where the f------ gun was."

The video was played during Yanez's trial. Yanez was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter last Friday and the city of St. Anthony announced that day that Yanez had been fired.

Prosecutors claimed that Yanez did not see the gun and acted unreasonably while the defense argued that Yanez saw Castile's hand on the gun, which he had a permit to carry, the AP said.

Defense attorney Earl Gray said that the "verdict was correct" and that the "jury worked hard." Another defense attorney, Thomas Kelly, that while Castile's death was a tragedy, he is "satisfied" with the verdict and "relieved" that the trial is over.

After the verdict was announced Friday, Castile's family addressed the media, applauding the efforts of Special Prosecutor Don Lewis and his team.

"I don't know what more could have been done," said Castile family attorney Glenda Hatchett. "I am disappointed. My heart breaks for this family. My heart breaks for this nation."

Philando Castile's mother, Valerie Castile, said she was "mad as hell" with the verdict and called Yanez a "murderer."

"The system continues to fail all black people," she said.

She continued, "I am so disappointed in the state of Minnesota. My son loved this state."

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