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Thursday
Jan162014

California Arson Suspect Arrested 11 Fires Later

fotokon/Thinkstock(SAN JOSE, Calif.) -- A man suspected of torching at least 11 structures in San Jose, Calif., in the past week was arrested Wednesday night, authorities said.

Police did not provide the suspect's name or information about his arrest, saying authorities are still conducting follow-up investigations and interviews.

"At approximately 8:10 P.M. tonight the San Jose Police Department's Covert Response Unit (CRU) located and arrested an adult male suspect in connection with the arson fires," according to a police news release.  "The suspect will be booked into the Santa Clara County Jail."

Police plan to announce more details at a news conference later Thursday.

Numerous surveillance videos had captured a person walking near the fire scenes, and police released a sketch of a person of interest.  Many of the targets were old houses, a warehouse and a church.

Before the arrest, the San Jose firefighters union offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan162014

Assault Charges Filed Against Alleged NM School Shooter

iStock/Thinkstock(ROSWELL, N.M.) -- Felony assault charges have been filed against the seventh-grade student accused of Tuesday's middle school shooting in Roswell, N.M.

The accused student, Mason Campbell, has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to documents filed Wednesday at the Chaves County Fifth Judicial District Court. The charges are third-degree felonies. He is accused of using a shotgun to fire three times in the gym before classes started on Tuesday morning at Berrendo Middle School, striking an 11-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl.

Wednesday, the accused shooter's family released a statement saying they are "heartbroken" over the incident.

"We are horribly sad over this tragedy on so many levels," the accused student's parents and grandparents said Wednesday. "We are praying that God will be with everyone who has been affected. For all of the anguish that many suffered yesterday, our family offers our heartfelt condolences and remorse in words that we cannot fully express."

The family said it "will cooperate in all ways with law enforcement."

 

Police said Wednesday that Campbell may have planned out the attack, sawing off the stock of the shotgun and possibly warning some classmates as he entered the school.

According to police, one bullet hit the ceiling, one hit the floor, and the other was fired into the bleachers area where the two students were seated.

New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas said Wednesday that police executed search warrants overnight, searching the boy's school locker, home, and the duffel bag he used to bring the gun to school.

The gun belonged to his parents, but Campbell sawed off the handle of the gun to make it more like a "pistol grip" weapon, and loaded it with three bullets.

Kassetas said there is some indication that the boy verbally warned "select students" about the attack as he arrived at the school.

Kendal Sanders, the 13-year-old girl who was struck, is in stable condition with injuries to her arm. The male student, who was shot in the face and neck, is in critical condition. His identity has not been made public.

Police said the district attorney is still working on charging the boy. Campbell is currently being held at a psychiatric hospital.

Authorities declined to answer questions about a motive Wednesday, but knocked down reports Tuesday night that the suspect targeted the 11-year-old boy.

"When the incident occurred, the victims were random," Kassetas said.

Kassetas reiterated that police were looking at social media accounts and other forms of communications as part of their investigation.

The shooting began and ended within 10 seconds, according to police. After he heard two shots fired, eighth-grade teacher John Masterson convinced the suspect to put the gun down and his hands up, police said. The boy was then apprehended.

Kassetas said that an off-duty state police trooper, Lt. Gary Smith, was dropping his child off at the school when the shooting occurred and helped apprehend the boy.

 

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan162014

Is Your Kid Safer Inside or Outside During a School Shooting?

Rich Legg/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The 12-year-old boy accused of firing a shotgun at classmates in his New Mexico middle school this week is in many ways an atypical school shooter, according to an ABC News examination of news stories about school shootings over the past year.

At 12, the boy is the youngest person accused of a school shooting in the past 13 months.  But he is unusual in other ways, too.

Academics and law enforcement agencies have yet to complete official analyses of school shootings in 2013.  ABC News has compiled a list of 21 shootings from January 2013 to January 2014 in which a gunman entered a campus armed or with the goal of committing murder.

These shootings took place on campuses across the country from elementary schools to universities.

In a majority of the cases studied, attacks took place outside, in the afternoon and with a handgun.

The accused 12-year-old who injured two students at his school in Roswell, N.M., used a shotgun and launched his attack inside the building just as the school day was starting.

In all 21 cases, the shooters were males.

Here’s ABC News' breakdown, by the numbers:

WEAPON USED:

  • Handgun, 9
  • Shotgun, 3
  • Rifle, 2
  • Unknown, 7

SEX OF SHOOTER:

  • Male, 100%

SCHOOL SETTING

  • Elementary, 1
  • Middle, 3
  • High School, 9
  • College, 7
  • K-12, 1

FATE OF SHOOTER

  • Arrested, 12
  • Suicide, 7
  • Fled, 1
  • Killed, 1

LOCATION

  • Indoors, 8
  • Outside, 13

ENROLLMENT IN SCHOOL

  • Current Student, 13
  • Non-Student, 5
  • Unknown, 3

TIME OF DAY:

  • Morning, 7
  • Afternoon, 9
  • Evening, 5

AGES:

  • 12 years old, 1
  • 15 years old, 2
  • 16 years old, 3
  • 17 years old, 2
  • 18 years old, 2
  • 19 years old,1
  • 20 years old, 1
  • 21 years old, 3
  • 22 years old, 1
  • 23 years old, 2
  • Older than 30, 3

These figures track with the FBI’s findings about mass shooting incidents in general, released this month.  The government found 61 percent of all active shootings involve handguns, 15 percent shotguns, 18 percent rifles and 6 percent were unknown.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan162014

NH Hobby Hypnotist Charged with Molesting Subject

Concord Police Department(CONCORD, N.H.) -- A woman said she pretended to be under a hypnotic trance as a hypnotist allegedly molested her and she later reported him to police, according to authorities.

A warrant for the arrest of Thomas Goodness, 59, of Concord, N.H., was made public this week partly to encourage others who may have been abused to come forward, police said.  Goodness was charged with a misdemeanor, simple assault for allegedly touching and kissing the woman while conducting a hypnosis session during which police said he assumed she was under his trance.

Goodness, who has not entered a plea, could not be reached for comment.

“She pretended and went along because she didn’t know what else to do. She didn’t know what Goodness was capable of, so she played along with it as best she could.” Lt. Timothy O’Malley of Concord Police told ABC News.

The arrest warrant states that the alleged incident occurred on Aug. 27, 2013 and alleges that Goodness told the woman to touch herself sexually, that he touched her breasts and genitals, and that he kissed her multiple times while he believed she was hypnotized.

The woman waited two days before going to police and on Aug. 30, 2013, detectives executed a search warrant at Goodness’ home, according to police.

“As a result of the statements made by the victim and the evidence recovered during the search warrant, probable cause was established to arrest Goodness for multiple counts of sexual assault.  A warrant was issued on Jan. 13, 2014 and the suspect turned himself in to police,” police said in a statement Tuesday.  Police declined to discuss the evidence.

A statement by the Concord police states that Goodman is not a professional hypnotist, but rather a self-proclaimed “hobby hypnotist.”

The woman initially went to Goodman in February for help with a particular disorder she suffers from, police said. She sought out his assistance again in August when she experienced a relapse, according to police.

Goodness is free on a $6,000 bail and is set to appear at the Sixth district court division of Concord on Feb. 10.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan162014

Why Are Endangered Tortoises Being Defaced?

Courtesy Turtle Conservancy(NEW YORK) -- Some of the rarest tortoises in the world are a hot commodity on the black market for their unique golden shells, which can sell for tens of thousands of dollars.

In an effort to obstruct poachers, conservationists have made the bold move to carve into the shells of the tortoises, protecting the animals by making their domes less attractive.  The branded shells also make it easier for authorities to trace them if they are stolen.

“Endangered tortoises and turtles are facing a real threat, and we’re hoping that this will be an effective tool to keep them safe,” Eric Goode, the founder and president of the Turtle Conservancy, told ABC News Thursday.

Years of hunting have caused near extinction for many tortoise species, so sanctuaries and zoos are using identification marks -- including laser inscribing, tattoos and engraving -- to hinder poachers and discourage collectors from paying a great deal of money for the animals.

Since the conservancy began putting the branded tortoises back into the wild in 2011, the shells have not come up in the black market, which officials believe is a good sign.

The Turtle Conservancy’s Behler Chelonian Center in Ventura County, Calif., has been working with ploughshare tortoises among others which originate from Madagascar.  Their goal is to engrave the shells of both the ploughshares in captivity as well as those living in the wild.

“Because there are so few of them left, no one really knows how many are in the wild,” said Goode.  “We estimate that there are between 100 to 300 [tortoises] and that they only occupy about 10 square miles.”

Some of the endangered tortoises can sell on the black market for upwards of $40,000, so they are considered a gold mine for those who find them.

“Engraving their shells is not dissimilar to cutting off a rhino horn to make them less attractive to poachers,” said Goode.

The process of engraving on turtle and tortoise shells can sometimes hurt the animal so the researchers at the Turtle Conservancy work hard to engrave as superficially as possible.  Goode described the process like pressing on a fingernail.

“It probably doesn’t feel comfortable for [the tortoises], but we don’t drill deeper than the keratin layer of the shell,” said Goode.  “As long as we don’t hit the bone of the shell beneath the keratin layer, the tortoise is okay. I believe the period of discomfort is worth it to save the animal’s life.”

Turtles and tortoises predate dinosaurs, having lived on planet Earth for over 250 million years.  However, they are slow, passive animals and not the best at evading hunters and poachers.

“These reptiles are survivors, but they are helpless to some extent.  It’s our job to work to protect them and we are doing everything we can to keep them safe from poachers,” said Goode.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan162014

Gunman, Two Others Dead in Indiana Supermarket Shooting

Alex_Schmidt/Thinkstock(ELKHART, Ind.) -- Three people, including a gunman, are dead following a shooting late Wednesday night at an Indiana grocery store, authorities told ABC News.

The shooter was pointing a gun at the head of a third person, believed to be a store employee, when police arrived at Martin's Super Market in Elkhart, Ind., State Police Sgt. Trent Smith said at a news conference early Thursday morning.  The gunman was then killed by Elkhart police.

Several rounds were fired in the store, both from police and the shooter, Smith said.

"It's a huge crime scene.  The areas where the shootings happened in the store are basically from one end of the store to the next.  There were several rounds fired in there," Smith said.

One victim is a female store employee in her late teens or early 20s, while the other victim is a woman believed to be in her 40s, Smith said.

The shooter, in his late teens or early 20s, entered the store with a semi-automatic handgun and a large knife, Smith said.  The victims were found about 10-12 aisles apart.

Police aren't sure if the shooting was random or targeted.  Police have not released the identities of the victims or the shooter, who authorities say lived in the area.

Police are hopeful that surveillance video will help them better understand the shooting.

"We do have a lot of things to look at as far as video surveillance," Smith said, noting that state and city police also are interviewing witnesses.

Martin's released a statement on Facebook, writing, "Thank you to our community for your thoughts and prayers tonight.  We will comment further when we can do so responsibly and appropriately."

Smith said police are in the process of putting together search warrants and will have another press conference later Thursday morning.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan152014

Senate Panel: Benghazi 'Attack Could Have Been Prevented'

STR/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- The attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, in 2012 could have been prevented if the State Department had acted on intelligence reporting about terrorist activity in Libya, according to the findings from a Senate investigation released Wednesday.

Testifying to the House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday, former Sen. Joe Lieberman, who authored the first Senate report on the attack in 2012, said the Obama administration was more focused on al Qaeda and not on local extremists groups.

The White House has not debated the Senate Intelligence Committee's bottom line: that there was not enough security in place in Benghazi to protect the American buildings. But the administration has not gone so far as to blame the State Department or to call the four American deaths preventable.

“We have been crystal clear that there was no specific information that a threat was coming,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Wednesday, “and also that we don't believe -- we have nothing to indicate there was significant pre-planning.”

Read the full report here.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan152014

Did Weird 2013 Weather Track with Global Warming?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The United States was hit with seven weather and climate catastrophes costing $1 billion or more in 2013, but caught a slight break in the overall number of tornadoes. Overall, it was a wet and warm year for much of the U.S., according to government records.

Last year 109 people were killed by severe storms, heatwaves and tornadoes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. Despite several damaging tornado outbreaks in 2013, last year actually had the fewest number of twisters -- about 900 -- since 1989.

“There’s several ingredients that have to come together for these large-scale events to happen and those ingredients didn’t come together very often during 2013,” said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist with NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. “We did have a cooler-than-average spring,” Crouch said during a conference call with reporters. “That could be a factor in the below-average tornado activity.”

Severe drought plagued the West in 2013, and continues into 2014. California recorded its driest year ever, with 7.38 inches of precipitation, more than 15 inches below average, NOAA said. Firefighters in the Golden State are now on high alert thanks to hot, windy weather.

“One of the important water supplies is mountain snowpack, and most mountain locations in California have less than 25 percent of average snowpack,” Crouch said.

In contrast, 10 states in the Northern Plains, Midwest and Southeast had one of their 10 wettest years on record. Both Michigan and North Dakota had their wettest years ever recorded, NOAA said. As for temperature, NOAA scientists say 2013 was above average in the lower 48 states, tying with 1980 as the 37th-warmest year on record. Winter, summer and fall were all warmer than average, with spring coming in cooler than average, NOAA said.

Climate scientist Deke Arndt says overall, 2013 was a relatively “benign” year for weather extremes compared with previous years. But he says climate scientists are “very confident” about climate impacts that are already happening as humans continue warming the planet. The average temperature of 52.4 degrees Fahrenheit exceeded the previous century’s average, the agency said.

“We expect to see more ‘big heat’, or stronger, more frequent and longer-lasting heatwaves as the world gets warmer,” said Arndt, who works as the chief of the climate monitoring branch at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

“We expect to see more ‘big rain’ in the form of the biggest events getting bigger. We would expect to see fewer big cold events. And we are indeed seeing that in the data,” he said.

These are 2013′s billion-dollar disasters, as tallied by NOAA:

  • Southeast severe weather (hail, tornadoes, wind) event on March 18.
  • Midwest / Plains severe weather (hail, tornadoes, wind) on April 7-11.
  • Midwest / Plains / East tornadoes on May 18-22.
  • Midwest / Plains / Northeast tornadoes on May 27-31.
  • Colorado floods on Sept. 10-16.
  • Western drought / heatwave from March to September.
  • Late-season Ohio Valley tornado outbreak on Nov. 17.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan152014

NM School Shooting Suspect May Have Warned Friends, Cops Say

iStock/Thinkstock(ROSWELL, N.M.) -- The seventh grade student accused of bursting into his school gym Tuesday and opening fire with a shotgun on his fellow classmates may have warned his friends to stay home that day, according to police.

"We have preliminary information that possibly some of the students were warned by the individual prior to the shooting not to go to school," said New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas during a news conference Tuesday night.

According to police, the boy walked into the school's gym Tuesday morning before classes began at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, N.M., and began shooting. He injured a 13-year-old girl, Kendal Sanders, and a 12-year-old boy who has not been named by authorities.

The suspect has been taken to a psychiatric hospital following the shooting, authorities said.

Sanders is in stable condition with an injury to her arm, but the boy is in critical condition with facial and neck injuries, police said.

Authorities are still searching for a motive to the shooting, and knocked down reports Tuesday night that the suspect targeted the 12-year-old boy. Police said Tuesday that they were "looking at social media outlets and the different forms of communication these kids use to talk to each other."

Kassetas said that the boy used a 22-gauge shotgun with the gun's wood stock sawed off. They have obtained search warrants for the boy's home, school locker, and belongings, Kassetas said, but they still do not know where or how the boy obtained the weapon.

The shooting began and ended within 10 seconds, according to police. After he heard two shots fired, eighth grade teacher John Masterson talked the suspect down from firing any more shots and convinced him to put the gun down and his hands up, police said. The boy was then apprehended.

Kassetas said that an off-duty state police trooper, Lt. Gary Smith, was dropping his child off at the school when the shooting occurred and helped apprehend the boy.

The suspect's family is expected to make a statement Wednesday.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan152014

Americans Split Evenly on Legalizing Marijuana

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Forty-nine percent of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll support legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Almost exactly the same number, 48 percent, are opposed.

Support for legalization is numerically at a new high in ABC/Post polls, albeit only by a single percentage point from its level slightly more than a year ago, and up dramatically from its lows in the mid-1980s and well into the 1990s.

At the same time, strength of sentiment continues to weigh against the weed. Thirty-six percent “strongly” oppose its legalization, more than the 28 percent who strongly support it.

This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds several sharp contrasts on the issue among groups, notably by age, political party identification and ideology.

See PDF with full results, charts and tables here.

Americans 65 or older are half as likely to approve of legalization as are those age 18 to 64 -- 27 vs. 54 percent. And 59 percent of the elderly disapprove strongly. Support peaks among 18  to 39 year olds, at 59 percent, including 37 percent who strongly support the idea.

In partisan terms, 57 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of independents support legalization, compared with 37 percent of Republicans. Adding in ideology, the range stretches from 69 percent support among liberal Democrats to 28 percent among conservative Republicans.

This poll finds few differences across other groups, including by race, education, sex, region or the presence of children in the home.

Other polls in the past year have varied on views of legalization, with support ranging from 45 to 58 percent, indicating that attitudes on the issue may be unsettled, and perhaps particularly sensitive to question wording, as public policy on the issue evolves. As it has since 1985, the ABC/Post survey asks if Americans “support or oppose legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.”

Twenty-three states have decriminalized possession of marijuana or allow its medical use, and Washington and Colorado have legalized its sale and possession of one ounce or less for personal use.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone Jan. 8-12, 2014, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,011 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y.

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