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Tuesday
Apr252017

Florida sheriff's deputies pull suspect from burning car after pursuit

Marion County Sherrifs Office(SUMMERFIELD, Fla.) -- Sheriff's deputies in Central Florida said they pulled a suspect from a burning car after the man led them on a pursuit.

Dash cam video from the Marion County Sheriff's Office shows four sheriff's deputies as they extract the man from an overturned van and extinguish the fire.

On Sunday, deputies received a tip that a man known by the alias "Gold Teeth" was en route in a white Dodge van to rob a home in Summerfield, Florida, the sheriff's office said in a Facebook post.

Deputies searching the area located a van matching the description at a convenience store and attempted a traffic stop when the driver, identified as 28-year-old Scott Michael Beekman, left the location, the sheriff's office said.

Beekman led officers on a pursuit while "driving recklessly and endangering other motorists in the east and west bound lanes," the sheriff's office said in the post. Another motorist attempted to block the westbound lane with his vehicle, but Beekman was able to avoid him.

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During the pursuit, Beekman swerved abruptly on Southeast Highway 467 before he struck a stop sign and a tree, police said. Beekman was trapped on the driver's side when the van caught fire, according to the sheriff's office.

In the video, two deputies "carefully advanced" toward the van with their guns drawn while another deputy walks toward the van with a fire extinguisher to deter the flames.

Deputies then broke the van's windshield and were able to pull Beekman out, police said. In the van, deputies found a loaded .32 caliber pistol and a loaded .22 caliber rifle, both located near the driver's seat.

Marion County Fire Rescue arrived and put out the rest of the fire and Beekman was taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries. He was later released and booked into the Marion County Jail, where he remains, Marion County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Lauren Lettelier told ABC News.

In a statement, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods praised the deputies for their bravery and the citizens who intervened for their help.

"The deputies involved in the search, the pursuit and the rescue of this suspect performed their duties valiantly," Woods said. "They not only prevented what could have been a major crime, but they also saved this individual’s life despite the danger involved. We are also thankful for the citizens who jumped into action to help our law enforcement. They are all heroes and we are proud to have these deputies serving the citizens of Marion County."

Beekman was charged with fleeing with disregard to safety of person or property, three counts of possession of a weapon or ammo by a convicted felon, possession of a short barreled gun, rifle or machine gun and driving with a suspended or revoked license, the sheriff's office said. It is unclear if he has retained an attorney.

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Tuesday
Apr252017

Controversial police footage shows unarmed youths detained at gunpoint in Grand Rapids

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) -- Police in Grand Rapids, Michigan, are saying they followed protocol after a video was released showing officers holding a group of unarmed black teens at gunpoint on the ground.

"Guys, get on the ground. Keep your hands out," a Grand Rapids police officer tells a group of youths in the video. "Just follow our directions and we'll be all right, OK?"

This March 24 exchange, which was caught on body camera, came after a report of a group of teenagers carrying a gun; however, police later learned these youths weren't armed. A police spokesman said the officers' actions followed protocol and displayed "professionalism ... throughout the entire ordeal," though the spokesman added that "it is unfortunate ... the teens had to endure this."

But some parents are outraged by the stop. "We can't stop thinking of the fact that -- what if one of our babies had made the wrong move?" Shawndryka Moore, whose 14-year-old son was among the teens forced to the ground, said at a community meeting with police earlier this month, according to Michigan Live. "And they wouldn't be here with us tonight -- would you be OK? Would it be proper protocol then?"

The March 24 incident happened after Grand Rapids police responded to a report of 100 teenagers fighting, but police only found about 20 or 25 youths and no fight, Grand Rapids Police Public Information Officer Terry Dixon told ABC News Tuesday.

A citizen flagged down an officer at the scene and asked the officer if the police were looking for group of teenagers with a gun, Dixon said. The citizen gave the officer a description of five or six teens; one teen allegedly dropped a revolver, picked it up and tucked it in his waistband, the citizen told police, according to Dixon. Police shared that information with other officers via radio, Dixon said.

About two blocks away from where the witness said he saw a teenager with a gun, an officer approached five boys, including some who appeared to match the descriptions given by the citizen.

The officer told the youths to get on the ground and waited for other officers to arrive, Dixon said.

Body camera footage, provided to ABC News by ABC affiliate WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, shows a cop standing next to the driver's door of his patrol car, using the door as a shield, and pointing his gun at a group of people.

"Guys, get on the ground. Keep your hands out," the officer says, and some of the youths comply.

"Come over here. Keep your hands where I can see them and get on the ground," the officer says.

While all five youths were on lying face down on the ground, one youth asked, "What did we do?"

"Just follow our directions and we'll be all right, OK?" the officer says. "Calm down, calm down, calm down, OK. It'll be all right."

After other officers responded, "One by one they had each teen stand up, put their hands above their heads and walk toward the officers," Dixon said. "Each one of them was put into the back of a police car ... until the officer was able to determine there was no gun."

Officers then called the teens' parents and after a series of quick interviews, they discovered there was no gun and this was the wrong group of teenagers, Dixon said.

The teens were all "very cooperative" and "nothing illegal was found on any of them,” according to the incident report.

The five youths included two sets of brothers and all of the teens’ mothers came to the scene, police said. One officer said in the incident report, "I explained the situation and the reasoning as to why we proceeded the way we did to all three of the mothers."

The mothers "were all a little shaken," but two "seemed to understand," the incident report said. The third mother "was very upset with police and was not willing to hear our reasoning and explanation," the incident report said.

The officer said in the incident report that they "attempted to explain ... that the boys matched the descriptions of males that allegedly had a gun” but that mother “was very upset and unwilling to listen."

One parent, seen on body cam footage, appeared emotional talking to officers; she said, "All this stuff that goes on in this world, I worry about my kids every day. That's why I don't let them go nowhere."

An officer responded to her, "He just happens to be possibly in the wrong place in the wrong time, matching the clothing these kids had, OK?"

Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky later sat with the youths and their families and showed them the video, walking them through why the officers did what they did, Dixon said. Rahinsky also apologized to the youths and their families, Dixon said.

"We were responding to credible information from a witness who said he saw a gun ... the officers acted according to procedure," Dixon said. "There was professionalism displayed throughout the entire ordeal."

"It is unfortunate, on the flip side of this, that the teens had to endure this," Dixon added.

On April 11, at the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting, Moore said, “We ask for something to be changed. ... We don't want this to happen to any other child."

“The department certainly is empathetic towards the families," Rahinsky said, according to WZZM-TV. "If that’s your teenaged son being ordered to the ground at gunpoint, I recognize the emotional response that that elicits."

"I wish we lived in a community or a country where we don’t take guns off of young men ... but we do," Rahinsky said, WZZM-TV reported. "We take guns off of teenagers with some frequency."

Dixon said last Friday police found themselves in a similar situation with a group of teenagers and responded the same way, and police did recover a gun. Dixon said that seven guns have been recovered from juveniles this year.

Since the incident, Rahinsky has held an "Open Office Initiative" to hear from community members, and he has scheduled another "Open Office Initiative" for this Friday.

"I know that the same level of energy and engagement that ensued after the incident on March 24 will also be directed at the issue of youth violence," Rahinsky said in a statement. "This community and this department places the utmost importance on our most valuable resource, our youth. This Friday, April 28, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., I will once again hold open office hours. No agenda, no appointment, just collaboration."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Apr252017

Florida wildlife officers searching for monkey on the loose

Keri Locke(SILVER SPRINGS, Fla.) -- A monkey on the loose in Florida has surfaced in photographs and caught the attention of state wildlife officials.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers, the snapshots and video taken over the weekend appear to be that of a rhesus macaque.

Primate researchers say a large and feral colony of these monkeys live in the Silver Springs area, but Sunday’s sighting happened 50 miles south in Apopka.

“It was a little too big to be a raccoon, a little too brown, and as we got a little closer it kind of turned and looked at us and it was a monkey,” Apopka resident Keri Locke told ABC Orlando affiliate WFTV-TV.

Elena Lamar, deputy director of animal operations at Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, warns against getting too close to these monkeys.

“They’re not really keen on eye contact,” Lamar added.

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Tuesday
Apr252017

New US Secret Service director to be named

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- ABC News has confirmed that the Trump administration has settled on a new appointment for U.S. Secret Service director.

Former Marine general and Acting Deputy Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Randolph "Tex" Alles is the pick for the position, law enforcement and government sources tell ABC News.

Selecting an outsider would be a big shift for the insular agency, which has long promoted its leaders through the ranks.

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Tuesday
Apr252017

Trapper’s rescue of alligator ends with a kiss

WPLG/ABC News(TAMARAC, Fla.) -- A trapper in Florida sealed his rescue of an injured alligator with a kiss.

The 8-foot alligator was visibly injured and bleeding Sunday while resting on the median strip along a road in Tamarac, Florida, according to authorities.

“It appeared that maybe it was hit by a car, because it had some road rash from the nose up to its spine,” Broward Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Will Medina told ABC Miami affiliate WPLG-TV.

Enter a trapper whose job was to contain the reptile, an ordeal captured on cellphone video that lasted nine minutes.

Wrapping the gator’s mouth with duct tape, the trapper puckered up and delivered the reptile a kiss on its snout.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Apr242017

Arkansas carries out first double execution in U.S. since 2000

iStock/supparsorn(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) -- Arkansas has executed Marcel Williams, 52, just after 10:30 PM local time on Monday. His was the second execution of the night, making this the first double execution in the country since 2000.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker had halted Williams' execution while his attorneys argued whether the night’s first execution had gone properly. Williams was sentenced to death for the 1994 rape and murder of 22-year-old Stacy Rae Errickson after kidnapping her at gunpoint from a gas station in Jacksonville, Arkansas.

The first executed inmate, Jack Jones, was declared dead at 7:20pm local time on Monday, at the state’s Cummins Unit. He was sentenced to death for the 1995 rape and murder of 34-year-old bookkeeper Mary Phillips in Bald Knob, Arkansas.

Arkansas had scheduled eight executions over an 11-day period before the end of April, when its supply of a lethal injection drug expires. One inmate was put to death last week, though the first three executions were canceled because of court rulings.

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Monday
Apr242017

Ex-teacher who allegedly kidnapped teen planned to run to Mexico, prosecutors say

Siskiyou County Sheriff(YREKA, Calif.) -- The former Tennessee teacher who authorities say kidnapped his 15-year-old student then allegedly spent over a month on the run with her had planned to flee to Mexico, federal prosecutors said.

Tad Cummins, 50, a married father and grandfather, went missing with 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas on March 13, authorities said. An Amber Alert was issued for Elizabeth, while Cummins was wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. The duo was found on April 20; the teen was "healthy and unharmed," authorities said, and Cummins was taken into custody.

Cummins allegedly plotted their getaway from the moment he was suspected of having an improper relationship with the teen, according to a motion filed by federal prosecutors Monday supporting detention for Cummins.

"The logical inference is that the defendant ... fled to avoid criminal charges," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Cummins planned to reach the Mexico border and then head to countries further south.

Cummins allegedly obtained a "small watercraft and conducted a test run to cross into Mexico across the water from San Diego," prosecutors said. "The defendant also considered the feasibility of a land crossing into Mexico."

Prosecutors claim that in an effort to evade capture, Cummins deliberately left a "misleading note with his wife regarding" which direction he was traveling. Cummins also allegedly altered his appearance, switched license plates twice, disabled the car's GPS system and used aliases for himself and the teenager, prosecutors said.

Cummins and Elizabeth were found on April 20 at a remote cabin in northern California near the Oregon border after over a month on the run.

Cummins was arrested on a state warrant for aggravated kidnapping and he faces a federal charge of transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. He appeared in federal court in Sacramento, California, Monday, where he did not enter a plea. Cummins is expected to be extradited to Tennessee.

The teenager was found "healthy and unharmed," authorities said. She has returned to Tennessee and is in a "safe location with family and friends where she is comfortable and resting," said attorney Jason Whatley, who is representing the Thomas family.

Cummins, who was fired one day after the alleged kidnapping, had allegedly researched teen marriage online, specifically the age of consent, according to law enforcement officials.

One of Elizabeth's schoolmates reported seeing her and Cummins kiss in his classroom on Jan. 23, according to a school district investigative report, but both denied the claim. A school report from January reads that neither one "admitted to behaving inappropriately towards the other."

Elizabeth’s father, Anthony Thomas, told ABC News after Elizabeth was found, “She may not be exactly ... the person she was because there’s a lot of experiences she’s had."

"I'm not allowed to ask her about things that happened along the way right now," he said.

Elizabeth’s father said the family is instead keeping "things positive."

"I go in there and tell her how much I missed her, how much I love her and how much her dog missed her," Anthony Thomas said.

"I think she has the determination to really go somewhere in life," he said. "But right now she really needs a lot of help."

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Monday
Apr242017

New Orleans is latest place in the South knocking down monuments to the Confederacy

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW ORLEANS) -- New Orleans has become the latest place in the South to take down monuments or symbols to the Confederacy.

Workers early Monday dismantled a 35-foot granite obelisk, the Liberty Place monument, which honored whites who tried to defeat a racially integrated government installed in New Orleans after the Civil War. The city will also remove three statues to Confederate military officers in coming days.

"We will no longer allow the Confederacy to literally be put on a pedestal in the heart of our city," Mayor Mitch Landrieu vowed.

New Orleans' toppling of Confederate monuments is part of a trend that gained speed and momentum after a mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, when avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine African Americans in a bible-study session.

In the aftermath of the massacre, calls came from both Republicans and Democrats in South Carolina to take down a Confederate battle flag that flew atop the statehouse in Charleston.

South Carolina's public grappling with symbols of its history sparked calls from activists and politicians around the country to take down Confederate flags and monuments in other places.

Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy and research organization focused on fighting bigotry and discrimination, published a survey in the wake of the Charleston shooting that found more than 1,503 symbols of the Confederacy in public spaces in the U.S., nearly all of them in the South.

The group asserted in its study that the symbols of the Confederacy can't be separated from the ideology underlying the Southern states' defense of slavery after the Civil War.

"There is no doubt among reputable historians that the Confederacy was established upon the premise of white supremacy and that the South fought the Civil War to preserve its slave labor," the study states.

South Carolina took the Confederate battle flag down from its perch on the statehouse on July 10, 2015, little more than three weeks after the church killings.

Since then, Confederate flags have also been taken down at other locations including the Alabama statehouse, Oklahoma Baptist University and St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. Souvenir Confederate flags were also taken off the shelves at major retailers like Sears and Walmart and at small gift shops such as at the Civil War Museum of the Western Theater in Kentucky and at Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland.

Defenders of public displays of Confederate monuments and symbols say they are important markers of history.

Robert Bonner, a 63-year-old who participates in Civil War re-enactments, protested the removal of the Liberty Place monument in New Orleans, telling The Associated Press that the city's decision to take it down was "terrible."

"It's a terrible thing," Bonner said. "When you start removing the history of the city ... you start losing where you came from and where you've been."

Aware of opposition to removing the Liberty Place monument, the workers who took it down did so while it was still dark and wore both masks and bulletproof vests.

Some historians, echoing the view of the Southern Poverty Law Center, say many of the monuments to the Confederacy were put up less to commemorate history than to make a statement after the Civil War against any granting of full rights and political power to former slaves.

"Many of these statues were mounted in the 1890s and during the time of Jim Crow," when laws enforcing racial separation took hold, said Matt Karp, associate professor of history at Princeton University and author of a book on the legacy of slavery.

"These were political [statements] and not meant to be viewed as neutral symbols" of history, Karp said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Apr242017

Lawyer: Doctor dragged from United flight planning legal action

ABC News(CHICAGO) -- The doctor who was dragged off a United flight by Chicago Department of Aviation security officers earlier this month is preparing for legal action over the incident, his lawyer told ABC News.

When asked by ABC News' Linsey Davis in an interview on Monday if Dr. Dao is planning legal action, attorney Thomas Demetrio said they are "getting ready."

United told ABC News that it had offered passengers on the plane up to $800 to give up their seats for four crew members who needed to board. No one volunteered, so the airline generated a list of four names to be removed from the flight and re-accommodated, per by the airline's contract of carriage. Three of those people complied, and one did not. That's when the police were called to remove the man, later identified as Dao.

United CEO Oscar Munoz apologized for the incident and has vowed that the company will conduct a “thorough review” of the “truly horrific event.”

Dao is still receiving treatment after suffering injuries in the April 9 incident, according to his lawyer.

Demetrio added that he has received hundreds of emails from passengers about their experiences on flights after taking up the Kentucky doctor's case.

Dao's lawyer is also representing an American Airlines passenger who is at the center of another viral video posted to Facebook on Friday. The footage shows an intense confrontation between a flight attendant and at least two passengers after a woman tried to bring her double-wide stroller on board a plane.

The airline’s rules for passengers traveling with children say strollers should be checked at the gate.

American Airlines responded to the incident shortly after the video began to circulate online, announcing in a statement that the flight attendant had been put on leave while the incident was investigated and that the woman and her family were upgraded to first class for the remainder of their international trip.

"What we see on this video does not reflect our values or how we care for our customers," American Airlines added in its statement. "We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused this passenger and her family and to any other customers affected by the incident."

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Monday
Apr242017

2 dead in apparent murder-suicide at Dallas office building, police say

WFAA-TV(DALLAS) -- Two people are dead in what is believed to be a murder-suicide at an office building in Dallas, Texas, police said.

At approximately 10:45 a.m. local time, officers with the Dallas Police Department responded to reports of an active shooter at the office building in question, police said. There, officers found two deceased individuals, one male and one female, in a meeting room. The individuals have not yet been identified.

According to police, it is believed that the male shot the female and then killed himself. Police believe this is not a domestic violence incident and that the female victim was a supervisor killed by her subordinate.

This a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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