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Entries in Police (123)

Saturday
Jul132013

Florida Police Prepare for Response to Zimmerman Verdict

Photo by Gary W. Green-Pool/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- Police in South Florida are bracing for the verdict in the racially charged George Zimmerman murder trial, creating places for people to peacefully protest, monitoring social media and urging people to remain calm.

"It's a trying time for all of us. We're not sure what the verdict is going to bring but it's a great opportunity for evolution of the Sanford community," Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith said at a news conference Friday as the jury began its deliberations.

Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford on Feb. 26, 2012. Zimmerman, 29, maintains he shot Martin, 17, in self-defense, while the state argued that Zimmerman "profiled" Martin and concluded he was a criminal.

The case took on racial overtones after police declined to charge Zimmerman, who is white and Hispanic. Martin was black.

Zimmerman was charged with murder nearly two months later by a special prosecutor appointed by the state.

Because of the tension over the case, the judge initially said she will delay the announcement of the jury's eventual verdict by two hours to give police ample time to prepare for security. It's not clear if that is still the plan.

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Martin's family, told ABC News Friday that he did not expect violence.

"I certainly don't think Trayvon Martin supporters are going to be emotionally overcharged to act out in a way that's not responsible because they were very emotional when we were trying to get an arrest, and they were very peaceful, there was no violence," he said.

The jury could let Zimmerman walk free or convict him on second degree murder or manslaughter, charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life if convicted of the most serious charge.

Smith said the aftermath of the shooting had changed the "mindset, perception of what we see in our country today."

In Sanford, a town of 50,000 people, he said law enforcement has been knocking on doors, introducing themselves to people in order to foster better relations between police and the community.

In Miami-Dade County, where Martin lived with his mother, police have launched a campaign to encourage people to "be vocal, not violent" and have designated two parks where people can assemble peacefully to express their feelings.

A "rumor control" hotline, which is being staffed 24 hours a day, was launched in the county on Friday to address any problems that may arise after the verdict has been read. Authorities also said they are monitoring social media.

In Sarasota, Fla., at a news conference, Chief Bernadette DiPino encouraged people to react in a "civil and peaceful" manner to the verdict.

"When a verdict is read, not everyone is going to be happy," she said. "We are asking the public to take part in peaceful responses and speak with their mouths, not with their hands and not use weapons of any kind."

More than 25,000 people assembled peacefully in Sanford in March 2012 to protest after police initially refused to arrest Zimmerman.

"They wanted an investigation, they asked for an arrest, they asked for charges to be made and they asked for a trial. Each of those things has taken place," Smith said.

Now, he said, "there's nothing on the horizon for us other than to move forward."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun092013

Police: Santa Monica Shootings 'Premeditated,' Shooter 'Ready for Battle'

Hemera/Thinkstock(SANTA MONICA, Calif.) -- A man who allegedly killed five people in a shooting spree in Santa Monica, Calif., before being gunned down in a shootout with police in the Santa Monica College library planned out the attack, police said Saturday.

Police said the suspect, 23-year-old John Zawahri, was wearing a protective vest and carrying so much weaponry that he was, in the words of one official, "ready for battle."

"I would presume anytime someone puts on a vest of some sort and has a bag of loaded magazines as an extra receiver, has a handgun and has a semi automatic rifle, carjacks folks, goes to a college, kills more people and has to be neutralized at hands of police -- I would stay that's premeditated," Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said.

They also confirmed that the Zawahri would have turned 24 years old on Saturday and that he, along with another family member, had a connection to Santa Monica College.

Santa Monica Police Department spokesman Sgt. Richard Lewis described the suspect as being "heavily armed" and "ready for battle." Lewis said at least 70 rounds were fired in the Santa Monica Library alone.

Zawahri was carrying approximately 1,300 rounds of ammunition, in addition to a revolver and a rifle similar to an AR-15 semi-automatic in a duffel bag, Seabrooks said.

Police had responded to an earlier incident involving the Zawahri in 2006, Seabrooks said, but she could not release anything more about that incident because he was a minor at the time.

On Friday, authorities first responded to a report of shots fired at 11:52 a.m. PT and found a house on fire. Two dead bodies were found inside the home, fire officials said. Authorities said the dead bodies were related to the shooter, but they did not specify how.

Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the fire in the front room before finding the bodies, which were toward the rear of the house. Authorities told reporters they were still investigating what caused the fire.

A few minutes after noon, Santa Monica authorities started getting calls that a city bus was being hit with gunfire. Zawahri had reportedly carjacked a woman at gunpoint and forced her to drive him to Santa Monica College's campus, spraying bullets at nearby vehicles on the route.

Two people riding a city bus sustained minor injuries from the gunfire.

"When I saw the gun pointing at me, I ducked and heard the bullet whiz by," he said.

According to police, the Zawahri fired on two people in a Ford Explorer in the campus faculty parking lot. That vehicle later crashed into a block wall.

The driver was killed and the passenger was in critical condition, authorities said. The man killed was confirmed to be 68-year-old Carlos Navarro Franco, a Santa Monica College employee. His daughter, Marcela Franco was hospitalized and died of her injuries on Sunday.

The woman, who was forced to drive Zawahri to the Santa Monica College campus, was unharmed.

Once on campus, Zawahri, who was dressed in all black, opened fire at bystanders, fatally shooting one woman before he went inside a library on campus, police said. Authorities did not identify the woman who was killed by name, but said she was appeared to be white and in her 50's.

Once in the library, he initially tried to shoot students in a "safe room," according to Seabrooks. But the students were able to barricade the door.

"He continued to shoot at them," Seabrooks said. "The officers came in and directly engaged the suspect, and he was shot and killed on the scene."

Three officers engaged Zawahri according to authorities, two from the Santa Monica Police Department and one from Santa Monica College.

Authorities initially stated that the shootings left as many as six people dead, they later downgraded to five deaths, which included four victims and the shooter himself. The total was pushed back up to six when Marcela Franco passed away Sunday afternoon.

In addition to the dead, at least five people were injured, police said.

The college campus went on lockdown following the shootings as police attempted to secure the scene. Students would be allowed to return for their vehicles Saturday and other belongings Sunday. The campus was expected to reopen Monday morning at 7a.m.

In 911 calls, the shooter was described as armed with several weapons.

Elsewhere on the campus, a person of interest was taken into custody, then released when his claim not to be involved checked out. According to Lewis, the man found a duffle bag belonging to Zawahri that had magazines, a handgun and part of a rile in side. Police temporarily detained him soon after that.

Santa Monica College student Sam Luster was preparing for a presentation in the school's library when he heard gunfire.

"We didn't know what was happening until all the students at the entrance of the library started running down towards the bottom of the library," Luster told ABC News Los Angeles station KABC.

Luster took cover under a desk before moving towards an exit. He said he heard multiple gunshots near the exit.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun092013

Police Looking for Missing Navy Officer

Siri Stafford/Thinkstock(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) --  Authorities are trying to piece together where a respected Jacksonville, Fla. navy recruiter may have gone after he was reported missing 12 days ago.

Chief Petty Officer Kevin Williams, 39, was first reported missing by his wife, Vanessa, after the couple got into a fight in a mall parking lot on May 28.

In the heat of the argument, Vanessa Williams told ABC News that she walked off in the other direction, but told her husband to stay put.

"I was so mad with him, so I said 'Wait here. I'm not…I don't want to walk with you and argue anymore," she said.

But when she returned to the spot where she left him, Williams was gone, but he left his cell phone behind.

"He's a great dad, a great husband, [he's] very responsible," Vanessa Williams said.

Authorities said that Williams used his ATM card the evening of his disappearance.

While sheriff's deputies said the navy officer was last seen at an apartment complex on May 29, there has been no sign of Williams since.

"At this time, he is AWOL from the United States Navy, which is unusual since his rank is a chief," Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Lt. Robert Schoonover told ABC News.

While Williams' disappearance was characterized as unusual, police do not suspect foul play.

Meanwhile, Williams' family just wishes he would return home.

"I just wish he would come home. Things just aren't the same without him," his daughter, Journi Williams told ABC News.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun082013

Police Locate Body of Missing 15-Year-Old Girl

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(BOONE, Iowa) -- A body pulled from the Des Moines River on Friday evening is likely that of missing 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepard.

Shepard was abducted in May by Michael Klunder, a convicted sex offender who later committed suicide. Asked why Klunder was free, Gerard Meyers of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said, "That's a fair question, and I think it's being asked here in Iowa. It's probably going to be asked nationally and it's definitely going to get some attention."

Authorities received a call at about 7 p.m. from people fishing, saying that they had found a body in the river under the Kate Shelley High Bridge. According to the Des Moines Register, the body was found wearing clothing that was consistent with what Shepard was reportedly wearing at the time of her abduction.

Authorities also told the Des Moines Register that zip ties were found on the body.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun082013

Police Probe Crime Scenes, Seek Motive in Santa Monica Shootings

Hemera/Thinkstock(SANTA MONICA, Calif.) -- Authorities are investigating approximately nine crime scenes across Santa Monica, Calif. in hopes of finding answers as to why a man went on a shooting spree that left five people dead including the suspected gunman.

"(The) Incident is not a college or school shooting. It's rather a series of shootings that occurred in the city of Santa Monica and culminated with a shooting incident that occurred at Santa Monica College," Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said.

Five to seven of those crime scenes apparently involved gunshots fired, Santa Monica Police Sgt. Richard Lewis told reporters late Friday.

Authorities first responded to a report of shots fired at 11:52 a.m. PT and found a house on fire. Two dead bodies were found inside the home, fire officials said.

The suspected gunman, whose name has not been released, reportedly then carjacked a woman at gunpoint and forced her to drive him to Santa Monica College's campus, spraying bullets at nearby vehicles on the route.

Joe Orcutt told ABC News he came face to face with the shooter.

"When I saw the gun pointing at me, I ducked and heard the bullet whiz by," he said.

According to police, the suspect fired on two people in a Ford Explorer in the campus faculty parking lot. That vehicle later crashed into a wall.

The driver was killed and the passenger was in critical condition, authorities said.

Once on campus, the suspected shooter, who was dressed in all black, opened fire at bystanders, fatally shooting at least one woman and before he went inside a library on campus, police said.

"He continued to shoot at them," Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said. "The officers came in and directly engaged the suspect, and he was shot and killed on the scene."

While authorities first stated the shootings left as many as six people dead, they later downgraded to five deaths, which included four victims and the shooter himself.

Lewis suggested the higher initial count may have been caused by overlapping witness reports of the same fatalities.

In addition to the dead, at least five people were injured, police said.

They included one critically injured person whose life was in jeopardy, a person hospitalized in serious but stable condition and three people sent to hospitals with less serious injuries, Lewis said.

The college campus went on lockdown following the shootings as police attempted to secure the scene. Students were not allowed to return to campus this morning.

In 911 calls, the shooter was described as armed with several weapons and possibly a long gun or shotgun.

Seabrooks said the suspect used an AR-15 assault rifle, though Santa Monica Police Sgt. Richard Lewis later qualified the description.

"It's an assault-type rifle," he said. "I don't want to go as far as to say it's an AR-15, but that is the style of rifle it is."

Elsewhere on the campus, a person of interest was taken into custody, then released when his claim not to be involved checked out, Lewis said.

"He is not a suspect in this case," Lewis said. "At this time, we believe it is a single gunman and that part of it has been resolved."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the suspect may have been acting out in anger after a family dispute, though the investigation is still in its early phases.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
May272013

Kentucky Cop Shot Dead in Roadside Ambush

Comstock/Thinkstock(BARDSTOWN, Ky.) -- Authorities are searching for clues in the shooting death of a Bardstown, Ky., police officer who was ambushed along a highway exit ramp after leaving his car to remove debris from the road.

State police believe the debris was intentionally placed to draw someone out of their vehicle, but they're not sure whether a law enforcement officer was the target or someone else.

"I've been a trooper for 19 years and I've never seen anything like this, the level of planning," Trooper Norman Chaffins with the Kentucky State Police told ABCNews.com. The State Police are the lead agency on the investigation.

K-9 Officer Jason Ellis, 33, was on his way home at 2:53 a.m. Saturday morning when he stopped at an exit ramp along the Blue Grass Parkway in Nelson County, 10 miles from Bardstown. When Ellis began removing debris from the roadway, he was shot multiple times. Kentucky State Police won't say what the debris was, calling it a crucial part of the investigation.

Shortly after the attack, a passing motorist found Ellis, whose vehicle lights were still flashing, and called police using the radio in the officer's cruiser. The motorist described the scene as if it was an apparent traffic accident, but when a trooper arrived, it became clear that this was no accidental death.

"We have no suspects at this time, but we don't believe kids were responsible because of how calculated the crime was. The location was obviously not picked randomly," said Trooper Chaffins.

"Officer Ellis didn't even have time to remove his gun," said the trooper.

The shooting occurred in a rural area and no witnesses have yet come forward. Ellis had a dash-cam installed in his car, but it was not on at the time of the shooting.

Kentucky State Police are asking for the public's help in identifying anything that seemed unusal or out of place on the exit 34 ramp prior to the shooting.

"The smallest detail that may not seem important to a lay person may be the one detail we need to bring someone to justice," said investigators in a statement. Citizens are asked to "Text a Tip" or visit the Kentucky State Police online or email a public affairs officer.

Ellis was a seven-year veteran of the Bardstown Police Department and is the first officer killed in the line of the duty for this small agency, located about 40 miles south of Louisville. Ellis leaves behind his wife and two sons.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
May112013

Arizona Police Officer Gives Bike to Teen Who Walks Nine Miles to Work

ABC News(PHOENIX) -- For one man in Arizona, getting pulled over by a police officer might have been the best thing to ever happen to him.

Phoenix Police Sgt. Natalie Simonick, 46, was on patrol around 11 p.m., when she saw a young man walking alone in a dark and desolate area who she thought might be violating curfew.

“And I pulled over and I asked him what he was doing,” Simonick told ABC News. “He said, ‘Walking home, I missed the bus.’”

After the young man, Christian Felix, showed Simonick his ID proving he was 18 years old, the sergeant offered Felix a courtesy ride home. Then Simonick learned Felix had never ridden a bike before.

“He never had a father in his life, so he had no one to teach him,” Simonick said.

By the end of the ride home Simonick was shocked.  It turned out Felix would walk the 9 mile distance to his home from his job at McDonald’s if he missed his bus.

Simonick was impressed by the young man. “He doesn’t drink and doesn’t smoke,” she said. “He had never had any contact with police as far as negative contact.”

After that night, Simonick spoke to her husband, who said she could give Felix their extra bike.  The other members of her squad agreed to help teach Felix how to ride a bike.

“It’s really something when someone comes up on the street and offers to do a kindness for you,” Felix told ABC affiliate KNXV. “These days you don’t see anything like that.”

Last month, Felix had his first bike lesson at the Phoenix police precinct parking lot.

"Two of my officers stood on either side of him and pushed him," Simonick said. "He was a little wobbly and rode into one of the poles, but my guys were right there to catch him."

After 45 minutes, Felix was riding on his own, and he and Simonick rode together around the lot.

Since then, the two have kept in touch, and Simonick said she wants to continue to help Felix.  So what’s Simonick’s next project?

“Well he did say that he’s never driven a car before,” Simonick joked.  "First things first I’ll see how he does with the bicycle.”

As for the attention, Simonick said she just wanted to show Felix that there are people out there who care.

“If everybody could help just one person in the world like this, I think it would definitely be a better place to life.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Apr132013

Police Investigate Reddit Murder 'Confession'

Comstock/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- California police are investigating an alleged murder, confessed anonymously on the internet and brought to the authorities' attention by citizen sleuths who believe they may have uncovered the poster's identity.

The San Diego Police Department is picking up where users of the popular website Reddit left off, working to confirm if indeed a murder actually took place and if so, who is responsible, said police spokesman Lt. Kevin Mayer.

"This may be a hoax and it may be real," said Mayer. "We received a tip and our Cold Case Unit is investigating it like any other tip. It may be a hoax, but it's always a good idea to report this kind of information. Sometimes it's the one thing that breaks open a case."

The confession came in an unlikely place, a caption on a photograph of a bear. Reddit users typically admit to innocuous mistakes or misdeeds by adding text to the bear picture to create a meme called Confession Bear.

But this bear had a startling confession.

"My sister had an abusive meth addict boyfriend. I killed him with his own drugs while he was unconscious and they ruled it as an overdose," a user identified only as Naratto wrote.

Within minutes, the post went viral, with thousands of Reddit users wondering if it was true. Hundreds of others began searching for information about Naratto, looking for clues to his identity – his age, location, occupation – mentioned in other comments he had left previously.

"If I had a dollar for every time someone took me… seriously on the internet, I would be able to retire from today alone," Naratto, wrote in response to the comments and questions. "If you want to catch a murderer, get out of your house, put on some f***ing tights and go fight crime."

Users believe the clues point to a 24-year-old San Diego man, and have posted his name and photograph online.

Police said there are currently no suspects because they do not even know if a crime has taken place and therefore won't name anyone as the subject of an investigation.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Apr062013

Miss. Detective Fatally Shot by Suspect in Interrogation Room

Comstock/Thinkstock(JACKSON, Miss.) -- A detective was shot and killed in a police interrogation room when a murder suspect overpowered him before turning the gun on himself, according to investigators.

Det. Eric Smith, 40, was shot by the suspect, 23-year-old Jeremy Powell, on Thursday evening after Powell was able to take Smith's service weapon from him, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI) spokesman Warren Strain told ABC News' Jackson, Miss., affiliate, WAPT.

Powell was arrested on Thursday as a suspect connected to a murder that occurred on Monday. He was taken to the Jackson Police Department headquarters and was being questioned by Smith on the third floor, according to WAPT.

"We heard that shots had been fired," Jackson Police Chief Rebecca Coleman told WAPT. "Upon our arrival, we found the suspect is deceased and we have a police officer deceased."

The police department was put on lockdown after the shooting.

Smith was a veteran police officer who began working for the Jackson Police Department in 1995. He received the Jackson's Best Award in 2012, an award given in Jackson to city employees who go above and beyond the call of duty, WAPT reported.

"Det. Smith was an excellent officer, from all reports," Jackson Mayor Harvey Johnson told reporters. "He had just received and been recognized as one of Jackson's best and, obviously, the men and women of the police department are taking this pretty hard."

Police have not released further details on the killing and did not respond to requests for comment.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar042013

Cop’s Good Deed Goes Viral

Thinkstock/Getty Images(WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.) -- It was cold, wet and gray in Winston-Salem, N.C., when Police Officer Charlie Ziegler noticed a woman pushing a stroller in the rain.

“I went up to her and said, ‘Get in the car, there’s no reason for you or your baby to be out here,’” Ziegler told ABC News.

Ziegler’s act of chivalry last Tuesday was photographed by a passer-by and posted on Facebook and the officer has been surprised by how popular the photo has become on the Internet since, to him,  it was a normal act of kindness.

“You see someone and you just help them,” he said.

The woman and her child had only three blocks left before reaching her destination, a daycare center where she works, but Ziegler wanted to get them out of the icy rain.

Ziegler joined the police department four years ago.

“It was one of those, either do it or stop talking about it kind of moments. Right around when the economy went completely down. So I applied and here I am,” said Ziegler.

But the officer doesn’t attribute his good deed to being a policeman. As a husband and father of two young children, Ziegler says even if he was off-duty, he still would have helped the woman.

When off-duty, Ziegler works at First Baptist Church. He said that while providing security there, he often sees the woman who he helped walk by.

Ziegler’s mother-in-law, Donna Johnson, told ABC News that the act was representative of his caring personality.

“He’s just that type of person. Very helpful and outgoing, and he doesn’t want to see anyone in trouble or in need,” said Johnson.

Ziegler’s wife Rachel echoed her mom’s statement. “It’s not a surprising story,” she told ABC News. “It’s very Charlie-esque.”

Rachel Ziegler said she’s surprised by how viral the image has become.

“Last Tuesday I was actually having lunch with him and he told me that someone from the local news had contacted him and it surprised me,” she said. “You would just expect anyone to do that…to save someone from the freezing rain.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio