Virginia Tech on High Alert After Report of 'Shots Fired'

Virginia TechUPDATE: The campus lockdown has been lifted, officials announced at an afternoon news conference.

(BLACKSBURG, Va.) – Two people, including a police officer, are dead after a shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech, and students are being urged to remain indoors as officials search for the gunman.

“Shortly after 12 p.m. today, a Virginia Tech Police officer stoped [sic] a vehicle on campus during a routine traffic stop in the Coliseum parking lot near McComas Hall,” campus spokesman Mark Owczarski said in a statement Thursday. It was during that traffic stop that the police officer was shot and killed, Owczarski said.

“Witnesses reported to police the shooter fled on foot heading toward the Cage, a parking lot near Duck Pond Drive. At that parking lot, a second person was found. That person is also deceased,” Owczarski said.

“Everyone should seek shelter or stay where you are," Virginia Tech's website said earlier Thursday.

The university’s website described the suspect as a “white male, gray sweat pants, gray hat w/neon green brim, maroon hoodie and backpack.”

“Status of the shooter is unknown,” Owczarski said. “The campus community should continue to shelter in place and visitors should not come to campus.”

On April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho opened fire on the campus, killing 32 students and faculty before turning the gun on himself.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Lauren Scruggs Tragedy: Propeller Accident Victim Takes First Steps

ABC News(DALLAS) -- Lauren Scruggs' recovery from losing her left hand and damaging her head and face after walking into the propeller of a small plane is progressing quickly -- so much so that she's walking with the help of a physical therapist.

The model and fashion blogger walked down a hall on Wednesday at the Dallas hospital where she is being treated, according to her family. Halfway through her first walk since she was struck by the propeller Saturday night, Scruggs said the number 30. When her parents and twin sister asked what she meant, the 23-year-old said "steps." She had been counting the whole time.

Scruggs had just landed with a girlfriend after viewing Christmas lights from above in a small prop plane piloted by a family friend. Peter Wasserman and Luke Dixon are the two paramedics who responded to treat her after the accident that severed her hand and sliced the left side of her face and shoulder when she walked into the propeller.

"I could hear her as soon as I got out of the ambulance, so I was thinking maybe not that bad. ...I mean, hey, she's awake," Wasserman said. "Then we got over there and saw the extent of her injuries. It was one of those things that kind of just takes your breath away."

The veteran paramedics say they have never seen injuries like Scruggs'. They said that as they lifted her into the medical helicopter, they didn't have much hope.

"We knew her airway was OK, she was talking to us, answering our questions," Dixon said. "So it went to immediately to controlling her bleeding. That was our number one priority in trying to stabilize her."

"We honestly didn't expect her to survive," Wasserman said. "The extent of her injuries, the lacerations she had to her head, the skull fracture. …We thought for sure there would be significant brain damage. I was praying as soon as I got there."

Doctors treating Scruggs at Dallas' Parkland Hospital caution that the young woman is still at risk for infection, might still lose her left eye, and will almost certainly not have her model good looks again.

For her family, however, and the men who helped save her, that she's talking and now walking is nothing short of miraculous. Dixon said he is paying attention to Scruggs' recovery.

"A lot of times you don't find out what happens to your patients," he said. "In this instance, with such a significant injury, it's nice to know she's doing considerably better."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


NTSB to Investigate Helicopter Crash Near Vegas That Killed Five

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LAS VEGAS) -- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced early Thursday morning it has launched an investigation into a helicopter crash near Las Vegas Wednesday that killed all five people on board.

The chopper, operated by Sundance Helicopters, was on a sightseeing tour of Hoover Dam about 30 miles away from Las Vegas Strip, when it went down around 5 p.m. in the mountains surrounding Lake Mead.  Officials confirmed that all passengers were killed.

As National Parks Department spokesman Andrew Munoz explains, the scene of the crash is very remote, making it difficult for rescue and investigative teams to reach the site.

"The area itself is rugged...mountains and there's no easy access in by vehicle," Munoz says.

For its part, the NTSB will use a team of 12 members to look into the crash.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fast and Furious Scandal: DOJ Official Faces Heat, Eric Holder to Testify

Sen. Charles Grassley. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, demanded on Wednesday that the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division resign over the controversial Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' gun trafficking program known as Fast and Furious.

Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer has provided inaccurate statements and information to Congress on Fast and Furious, which allowed thousands of weapons to flow into Mexico.

ATF officials say they hoped to track the guns to their ultimate destination, and then make arrests.  Instead, many of the guns were used in crimes, including one that was used in the murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

In recent months, ongoing Congressional investigations have focused on what senior Justice Department officials knew about the program. Attorney General Eric Holder -- who some accuse of misleading Congress about his involvement in the scandal -- is set to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday to testify again about it. Emails prove Holder was far more involved -- and for far longer -- than he previously admitted.

Last Friday, the Justice Department withdrew a Feb. 4, 2011 letter that was sent to Sen. Grassley that asserted that ATF did not let guns walk into Mexico.

Breuer has said that he was not involved in the review or drafting of the letter sent to Grassley’s office --despite emails showing that he was aware of the initial inquiry from Sen. Grassley and sending drafts of the letter to his personal non-government email account.

“So imagine my surprise when I discover from documents provided Friday night that Mr. Breuer was far more informed during the drafting of that letter than he admitted before the Judiciary Committee.  In fact, Mr. Breuer got frequent updates on the status of the letter while he was in Mexico.” Grassley said on the Senate floor.  “If you can’t be straight with Congress, you don’t need to be running the Criminal Division.  It’s time to stop spinning and start taking responsibility.  I have long said that the highest-ranking official who knew about gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious needs to be held accountable.”

In a statement, Justice Department Director of Public Affairs Tracy Schmaler said, “Assistant Attorney General Breuer has acknowledged his mistake in not making -- and therefore not alerting Department leadership to -- a connection between the allegations made about Operation Fast and Furious and the unacceptable tactics used years earlier in Operation Wide Receiver.  He has acknowledged that mistake to Congress and to the Attorney General, who continues to have confidence in Assistant Attorney General Breuer’s ability to lead the Criminal Division.”

According to a CBS News report, documents show ATF authorities sought to use U.S. weapons found in Mexico -- guns it allowed to flow over the border -- as justification to stiffen gun laws in the U.S.


Oklahoma Couple Weds at Starbucks

Starbucks Corporation(TULSA, Okla.) -- A Tulsa, Okla., couple whose love story started over a cup of coffee looked no further than their local Starbucks when it came time to tie the knot.

“We fell in love over conversations of coffee,” bride Eva McCarthy Capparello said.

The bride and groom, Carmine Capparello, said “I do” this week at their favorite Starbucks, which moved out the displays to make room for the bridal party and 50 guests.

The couple met on a dating site in 2008, but for two years built a friendship online, trading emails and messages. It wasn’t until the spring of 2010 that they met in person -- for coffee, of course -- and clicked.

“We were friends. We would meet up for coffee, talk and talk for hours and hours over coffee,” Eva Capparello said. “We hung out like that until we just fell in love.”

The store, located at 51st and Harvard in Tulsa, closed for the occasion and gave the bride free reign to decorate.

“They took the artwork off the walls and we put up some of our own photos. They moved the displays out,” Eva said. “We still wanted it to be a Starbucks, but with a personal touch of ours.”

Even though it was Starbucks, the bride didn’t skimp on details, choosing to wear the traditional white dress, have a 10-person bridal party alongside them and feature an impressive cake. For the father-daughter dance, they headed out to the parking lot.

“It was amazing,” she said. “It was intimate, comfortable, everything we wanted.”

The newlywed coffee lovers took off for Destin, Fla., for their honeymoon Wednesday morning. Before they left on their road trip, they shared their first official cup of coffee as a married couple.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jerry Sandusky Under Arrest; Lawyer Working to Post $250K Bail

Centre County Correctional Facility via Getty Images(BELLAFONTE, Pa.) -- Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested and jailed on Wednesday in the wake of new sexual assault charges filed against him by a grand jury.

Sandusky was handcuffed and taken out of his home by state police and brought to an arraignment before a judge in Centre County, Pa., for the new charges, which include assaulting two boys involved in his Second Mile charity.

Sandusky was taken to Centre County Correctional Facility for processing and will remain there until bail is posted.  His attorney, Joe Amendola, said he is getting paperwork together to try and post bail by Thursday morning.  Bail was set at $250,000, cash, although the prosecutor had asked for $1 million.  If bail is posted, Sandusky is not permitted to step onto Penn State property and will be monitored electronically.

Amendola told ABC News that he had no knowledge of the charges ahead of the arrest.

"I'm very disappointed that I didn't even get a courtesy call that new charges had been filed.  I had to find out from the media," Amendola said.

The new alleged victims came forward in the wake of the earlier allegations against Sandusky, including 40 counts of child molestation, for which he was charged on Nov. 5.

According to the state attorney general, both men met Sandusky through the Second Mile charity, were plied with trips to football games, and were abused by Sandusky in his home.

One of the accusers, now 19 and identified as Victim 9, met Sandusky at a Second Mile swimming event when the boy was 11 or 12, according to new information in the grand jury presentment.  Sandusky asked for his phone number, which he then used to ask the boy's mother if he could spend more time with the boy, and then proceeded to pick the boy up from school and take him to Sandusky's home for sleepovers.

At the Sandusky home, the boy said he was forced to stay in the basement at all times, and was even brought his meals there by Sandusky and told not to leave.  Sandusky allegedly sexually assaulted the boy in the basement bedroom numerous times, including forcible rape.  The man also testified that Sandusky would take him to a hotel in State College and assault him in the pool and jacuzzi there.

The other victim identified in the new allegations, now in his mid-20s, says Sandusky met him through the Second Mile when he was 10 and invited him to his home for a Penn State football game.  Sandusky then started a pattern of abuse that included wrestling with the boy and then pulling his pants off and performing oral sex on him, according to the testimony.

The man said Sandusky also groped him in the campus swimming pool before playfully throwing him above water.

The new charges against Sandusky include involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, and corruption of minors.  They will be included in an already-scheduled preliminary hearing on Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal No Longer Facing Death Penalty

David J. Sams/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- Mumia Abu-Jamal is off death row for good.

The former Black Panther was convicted of the December 1981 slaying of a white Philadelphia police officer after Abu-Jamal's brother was stopped for driving down a street the wrong way.

His case became a cause célèbre over the years for death penalty opponents who have insisted that Abu-Jamal was innocent of the murder.  The death row inmate, whose executions were put off in 1995 and 1999, helped lead his own movement from his jail cell.

On Wednesday, Seth Williams, the district attorney for Philadelphia, decided that Abu-Jamal will no longer face capital punishment but instead will spend the rest of life behind bars without the chance of parole.

Williams contends that the punishment meted out to Abu-Jamal was just but that carrying out the execution had become too arduous, especially after a judge ruled earlier this year that Abu-Jamal was entitled to a new sentence hearing because instructions presented to a jury in 1982 may have been flawed.

Maureen Faulkner, the widow of slain police officer Daniel Faulkner, also said that she no longer had the fortitude to see Abu-Jamal pay for his crime because of the physical and emotional toll the efforts have taken on family members.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Girl Posted on Facebook During 7-Hour Welfare-Office Standoff

AbleStock/Thinkstock(LAREDO, Texas) -- A 12-year-old girl whose mother shot and critically wounded her before killing herself made several cryptic posts on Facebook during a nearly seven-hour hostage ordeal at the Texas Department of Health and Human Services office in Laredo.

"May die 2day," Ramie Marie Grimmer wrote on Facebook at 7:50 p.m. during the Monday-night standoff.

"i'm here for you guys. No reason to be afraid," Nancy Harrop, who the girl listed as her grandmother, replied.

"Im bored," came at 10:34 p.m.

Eighteen minutes later: "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhahhhhhhhh."

And finally, at 11:28 p.m.: "tear gas ..."

Rachelle Grimmer, 38, pulled a gun on the welfare office supervisor, Roberto Reyes, and her two children out of her frustration at being denied food stamps. The office's other employees were able to safely evacuate the building, according to the San Antonio Express.

A SWAT team surrounded the building, and officers communicated with Grimmer throughout the ordeal.

But at midnight -- shortly after Grimmer hung up on police -- three shots were fired, causing the police to storm the building.

Rachelle Grimmer was pronounced dead at the scene, while Ramie and her brother, Timothy, 10, suffered critical head wounds and were transported to University Hospital in San Antonio, according to the San Antonio Express.

Grimmer's outburst was reportedly triggered after years of getting rejected for state assistance in various states, the newspaper reported. The family had recently moved to Texas from Ohio.

Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, told ABCNews.com that Grimmer hadn't been rejected -- she had just received a notice that her case was closed, since she did not provide all of the necessary documentation during the department's 30-day time frame.

"She absolutely could have applied again," Goodman said.

Neighbors said the Grimmers lived in a trailer about six and a half feet wide and 16 feet long.

"The children went barefoot to accompany her. They went four times, and four times she was denied. She was desperate, because she had nothing to feed her children," neighbor Oscar Luis Cuellar told the Laredo Sun. Goodman said employees at the Laredo office were struggling to cope in the aftermath of the shooting.

"They're very badly shaken. They go into this business because they want to help people," she said. "Even though it was processed according to our procedures, it does not comfort them at all."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Denver Cops Call Occupy Protesters ‘Hippies,’ ‘Civic Center Yahoos’

Natalie Behring/Getty Images(DENVER) -- The Denver Police Department apologized Wednesday after revealing officers exchanged text messages that referred to Occupy Denver protesters as “retards,” “hippies” and “civic center yahoos.”

In one of the texts sent using a car-to-car messaging system, dated Nov. 4, an officer responds to another about the growing size of the crowds, writing: “yup. but they claim to be peacefully protesting. I say we just baton the people who start to incite everyone. the rest who are peaceful, let em stay lol.”  

In a message from Oct. 13, officers discuss problems that might arise from protesters getting kicked out of Denver’s Civic Center Park: “probably little problems from the ‘real’ protesters, but the grungy hippies and the usual civic center yahoos will more than likely be a problem.”

Another officer wrote on Nov. 12: “This occupy s**t has got out of hand because this liberal administration has allowed them to.”

On the same date, one officer even boasts about setting up a Twitter account to harass Occupy Denver protesters: “a few of us set up a twitter account to harass the ‘occupy denver’ people … a video was posted with the [motorcycle] mc offcr a few weeks ago who’s bike was pushed … totally incriminating the guy and all the protesters were demanding on the video being taken down. was pretty funny. i love watching idiots make a fool of themselves … doesn’t get any better.”

Another officer refers to protesters as a "buncha occupy denver retards."

In a news release, the Denver Police Department called the behavior “inappropriate,” but noted “many Denver Police Officers have endured months of having to leave their families to come into work, giving up their days off and silently tolerating hours of taunting and abusive actions by some protestors.”

The department is taking steps to “remind all officers of our expectations,” Lt. Matt Murray, a police spokesman, said in a news release.

The messages were released, the statement said, “in a desire to be transparent to the people we serve.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Police Reportedly Find ‘People’s Court’ Missing Mom’s Cellphone

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Police have reportedly found a cellphone belonging to Michelle Parker, the Florida mother who went missing the day her dispute with her ex-fiance aired on The People’s Court.

Matt Morgan, an attorney for Parker’s family, disclosed the discovery to WFTV, ABC News’ affiliate in Orlando, Fla.

Few details about Wednesday’s reported discovery of the phone were immediately available.

Parker, 33, has been missing since Nov. 17, the day she and her fiance, Dale Smith, 40, were seen on The People’s Court airing their dispute over a $5,000 engagement ring.

Police have called Smith a prime suspect in Parker’s disappearance, though a court awarded him custody of the twins the former couple had together.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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