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Friday
Jan122018

Dreamers pin hopes on an immigration fix

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- For months, the futures of thousands of young immigrants illegally brought to the country as children have hung in the balance as pundits, politicians, judges and journalists have debated their fates.

Earlier this week, a federal district judge in California issued a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration’s efforts to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama administration-era program that helps protect the roughly 800,000 so called "Dreamers" from deportation. It is a ruling supporters have deemed a step in the right direction.

The White House held a bipartisan meeting on Wednesday to discuss immigration reform and attempted to reach a DACA deal.

In the meantime, the "Dreamers" have not sat idly by as those in power ponder policy. They've protested in the halls of Congress and in cities across the nation demanding that their voices be heard.

Nearly six dozen "Dreamers" met with lawmakers outside the Capitol Wednesday to advocate for DACA protections.

ABC News spoke with several of the "Dreamers". Here's what they had to say.

“We fled for violence and for fear of our life”

Jesus Contreras a “proud Houstonian” was brought to the United States when he was six-years-old by his mother, who he says was trying to escape a violent situation with his father and the drug cartels in Mexico.

“My mom wanted a better life for me. A chance of life here in the United States,” Contreras said. “I am a proud Houstonian. A proud Texan. Most of all, I feel that this is home.”

The 24-year-old paramedic who helped give assistance during Hurricane Harvey, the most powerful storm to hit the mainland in over a decade, recalled the “heartbreak” he endured after learning about Trump’s decision to end DACA.

“I was so close to the community by helping people that were in need. And, that next day, I am being ripped apart from my community and being told, ‘yes, you have been a part of it, but now you are being taken away from it,’” Jesus lamented.

Contreras said that while he is not scheduled for any shifts at his job past Oct. 13, the date his DACA protection is expected to expire, he continues to “breathe positivity.”

Since the administration announced the end of DACA, 12,710 recipients have had their status expire, but there have also been a number of approvals for new, initial requests.

“I’m gonna go back to say goodbye”

Marissa Molina’s family made the trek from Mexico to Colorado when she was just nine-years-old.

She told ABC News her father was “hungry” for her success.

“I knew that I didn’t have the tools to give you that here,” Molina said her father stressed. “I brought you to the next best place I could think of, the place I had always known and stood for opportunity.”

Molina, 25, a former teacher who now manages community engagement for a network of schools in Denver, Colorado, has not been back to Mexico since leaving, but hopes to return someday and pay respects to her grandfather who passed.

“Someone asked me if the Dream Act passes, what are you going to do first? I said I’m gonna go back to say goodbye,” she said tearing up. “To say the goodbye I never got to say to a man that meant the world to me. I’m ready for that moment.”


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Friday
Jan122018

Rescue crews scramble to find missing in California mudslides as 10K evacuated in Montecito

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(SANTA BARABRA, Calif.) --  Rescue crews, some working with cadaver-sniffing dogs, scrambled Thursday to find dozens missing in Southern California communities hit hard by torrential rains and mudslides that have killed at least 17 people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes, officials said.

Multiple agencies using boats and helicopters, including the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy, fanned out across Santa Barbara County hoping to find people alive. Firefighters, who battled blazes that swept through the area in December, went from flattened home to flattened home looking for survivors.

Rescue crews were focusing on Montecito, an unincorporated area near the city of Santa Barbara, which was devastated by flooding and mudslides that wiped out dozens of homes and dislodged boulders the size of cars and sent them crashing into homes. Parts of Highway 101 in the area remained closed, swamped by debris flows that slid down fire-scarred mountains in the area.

Montecito was placed under a new evacuation order at 6 p.m. local time Thursday. Almost the entire community -- about 10,000 people -- is now under mandatory evacuation orders, which could last "one to two weeks," according to the Santa Barbara County fire chief.

At least 65 homes in Santa Barbara County were destroyed in the storm and another 446 were damaged, while eight commercial buildings were flattened, according to the latest count by Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Anne Marie Cullen was one of the rescue workers combing through homes with a cadaver-sniffing dog, looking for people vanished in the mudslides.

"So obviously, she's looking for human remains," Cullen told ABC News, referring to her canine partner. "Which could be an entire body or it could be part of a body. So she's doing a meticulous search where she sniffs little nooks and crannies and sometimes it could be a person and the scent can trickle its way up."

Cullen said the work has been exhausting and, at times, emotional.

"It overwhelms everybody ... but in search and rescue you distance yourself," Cullen said. "You have to put a shield up and do your job and just remember ... that's not to say that it doesn't upset us but when we're out here we just do our job."

Deputy Dan Page, chief of a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department rescue team, said the search effort was dangerous for rescuers, who had to trudge through debris and knee-deep water littered with nails, broken glass and splintered wood.

"We've gotten multiple reports of rescuers falling through manholes that were covered with mud, swimming pools that were covered up with mud," Anthony Buzzerio, a Los Angeles County fire battalion chief, told ABC station KABC. "The mud is acting like a candy shell on ice cream. It's crusty on top but soft underneath, so we're having to be very careful."

The rate of rainfall in Southern California Tuesday was 18 times more than required to produce debris flow, according to an analysis by ABC News meteorologists.

Montecito alone saw heavy rainfall in a short amount of time. Because hundreds of thousands of acres were charred in the fires, the influx of water has nowhere to go.

Aerial footage over Montecito showed a contrast of widespread damage next to homes completely untouched by the disaster. The roofs of some homes in canyon runoff areas were encased in mud, which has now dried.

The Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management said Montecito would be without potable water, electricity and sanitation "for an extended period of time."


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Friday
Jan122018

Man at large after allegedly killing mother of his infant daughter: Police

aijohn784/iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- Police in North Carolina shot and killed a man outside the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Law Enforcement Center hours after the man allegedly killed the mother of his infant daughter.

According to police, Jonathan Bennett, 23, drove into the parking lot outside the police department at about 11 p.m. and opened fire on a group of officers. One officer was hit by gunfire, while police returned fire on the suspect, shooting and killing him.

The officer was struck in the leg and transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
 
The shootout came about six hours after Charlotte-Mecklenburg police announced they were searching for Bennett as the suspect in the killing of the mother of Bennett's 2-month-old baby.

Officials initially said the man had fled with the baby, Journei Bennett, but she was found safe and unharmed, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said.

Police said the victim, whose name was not released, was found shot at a home this afternoon. She died at the scene, police said. A second child was found unharmed at the scene, police said.

It appears to be a "domestic-related and that the victim and suspect were known to one another," police said.

Police had announced they were searching for Jonathan Bennett, who was last seen driving a white Ford Expedition, earlier in the day.


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Thursday
Jan112018

Firetruck brings boy shot in Texas church massacre home from hospital

(University Health System) Sutherland Springs shooting victim Ryland Ward takes his ride home in a firetruck after his release from the hospital, Jan. 11, 2018.(SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas) -- A little boy who was shot in the Sutherland Springs, Texas, church massacre arrived home Thursday -- riding through town on a firetruck -- after more than two months in the hospital.

On Nov. 5, a gunman stormed the rural First Baptist Church, leaving 26 dead, according to police, who have included an unborn child in the death count. The attack was deemed the worst mass shooting in Texas history.

Among the injured was now-6-year-old Ryland Ward, who was shot several times.

Volunteer firefighter Rusty Duncan was a first responder that day, and he told ABC News he was the one who found Ryland and pulled him to safety.

Once he rushed inside the church, he went through the aisles and "started checking for people's pulses," Duncan said. "That's where Ryland's hand reached out from under his stepmom and grabbed my pant leg. I rolled her over and grabbed him and started running outside with him."

"As soon as we got him outside, his dad [Chris Ward] ran up to me and said, 'They killed my baby.' "And I told his dad, 'No, he's not dead, he's still alive,'" Duncan said. "Unfortunately his wife and two girls were actually gone."

Chris Ward's wife and Ryland's stepmother, Joann Lookingbill Ward, was among the dead, as well as Joann Lookingbill Ward's daughters, Brooke Bryanne Ward, 5, and Emily Garcia, 7.

Ryland was rushed to the hospital and soon the young boy's mother reached out to Duncan, the firefighter said.

"I met with her and talked to her then I was actually able to go to the hospital and see him for the first time," about a week after the shooting, Duncan said.

"He was heavily sedated," Duncan said, going through "surgery after surgery."

Duncan said he continued to visit the little boy at the hospital, including this week.

"He's doing great," Duncan said. "He walked for me for the first time. Of course with my help, but he walked."

Ryland's grandmother, Sandy Ward, told ABC News that Ryland is trying to walk but keeps dragging his left foot and he also has limited use of his hip.

"He's a character," Duncan said. "This little boy has the best fighting spirit I've ever seen out of anybody in my entire life. He's kept me going this whole time. Even when I was giving up ... just thinking about him and being around him makes me smile."

According to University Hospital, Ryland was the facility's final patient from the Sutherland Springs shooting.

"It's just a miracle he survived and is doing as well as he is," Sandy Ward said on Wednesday. "We're just excited to get him to come home."

On Thursday, Ryland was discharged from the hospital and was treated with a special ride home in a firetruck.

Sutherland Springs community members gathered in wait, holding signs including "Welcome home handsome" and "Yay buddy."

"Welcome home!" they screamed as the police escort -- and finally the firetruck carrying Ryland -- arrived in town.

"Just happy the Lord brought him home and he's doing good," one emotional Sutherland Springs resident told ABC San Antonio affiliate KSAT. "Total joy. This is our town, this is our family."

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Thursday
Jan112018

High-speed police chase in Arizona ends a kiss

Alex_Schmidt/iStock/Thinkstock(MESA, Ariz.) -- A high-speed car chase in Arizona had a bizarre Bonnie and Clyde ending when the suspects embraced shortly after their daring run from authorities ended.

KNXV-TV, ABC's Phoenix affiliate, was able to capture Wednesday night's chase on video.

Police in Mesa, Arizona, said the incident occurred after attempting to pull over a stolen silver SUV from Apache Junction, Arizona.

According to police, 35-year-old Dustin Perkins and 29-year-old Lovida Flores failed to stop when a police unit spotted the stolen vehicle. The patrol officer didn't pursue the SUV but alerted dispatchers.

A short time later a separate Mesa patrol unit spotted the reported stolen car. This time, a chase ensued. Several local agencies even joined in the pursuit, according to the Pinal County Sheriff's Office.

The suspects could be seen weaving in and out of traffic during the run that lasted over 30 minutes. The chase ended when the vehicle crashed through a wooded fence, spinning out of control and into a ditch. Perkins and Flores fled the vehicle and ran in opposite directions. Soon after, they walked toward one another and embraced. Police then moved in to arrest them.

The two suffered injuries as a result of the crash, according to officials. Perkins suffered a broken hand while Flores' injures were more severe. She was taken to Banner Dessert Medical Center according to the sheriff's office. She is listed in serious condition, KNXV reported.

The Pinal County Sheriff's Office said the two face multiple charges, including aggressive driving, criminal damage and stolen vehicle charges. It was not clear if they had retained an attorney.



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Thursday
Jan112018

Woman rescued after getting pinned beneath New York City subway

Starflamedia/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A woman was seriously injured in Brooklyn, New York, Thursday morning after falling in a gap between the subway tracks and the platform, according to the New York Police Department.

The woman became pinned between the tracks and a subway car, sustaining serious injuries and unable to get up, fire officials told ABC News.

The incident occurred on a Manhattan-bound L train at the Bedford Avenue subway station in Brooklyn. The MTA suspended subway service in both directions in and out of lower Manhattan, while first responders worked to rescue the woman.

The unidentified woman was freed and taken to the hospital in stable condition. L train service has since resumed.

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Thursday
Jan112018

Man confesses to 1993 murder in emotional TV interview before turning himself in to police

DanHenson1/iStock/Thinkstock(REDDING, Calif.) -- A California man gave a dramatic TV interview Tuesday confessing to a 1993 murder before going to a police station to turn himself in.

Brian Hawkins, 45, went to the ABC affiliate KRCR news station in Redding, California, on Tuesday, saying he wanted to speak about his involvement in the killing of Frank McAlister.

Crying, Hawkins told the station, "I've been through hell my whole life because of this," adding he has lived with the "absolute horror ... since that day."

"Every minute of every day has been a nightmare," Hawkins told the station. "Frank never got to have a life, but we were teenagers and now I'm 44 and still haven't even had a life and now most likely won't anyway."

A cold case killing

In May 1993, 19-year-old McAlister went missing, the Redding Police Department said in a statement Wednesday. His remains were found by a hiker the next year in Shingletown, California, and his death was ruled a homicide, police said.

On Tuesday, Hawkins voluntarily gave a statement to Redding police, telling investigators he and siblings Curtis Culver and Shanna Culver killed McAlister, police said.

Police said Hawkins told them that he and the Culvers lured McAlister to the Shingletown area to rob him of money he had to buy methamphetamine. Then, the three conspired to kill the teenager, police said.

Hawkins and Curtis Culver "stabbed the victim to death and left his body in the woods," police said. "The trio then took his money and vehicle and drove back to Redding, abandoning the victim’s vehicle."

In 1993, investigators learned that Hawkins and the Culvers were the last people to see McAlister alive, but they denied involvement, police said.

A TV confession

But before Hawkins went to police, he stopped by the KRCR station and said he wanted to confess to the killing, KRCR reported.

KRCR agreed to interview him, but the station said it would hold the interview until he surrendered to law enforcement and his confession was corroborated.

Hawkins said he found "God and Christ and these things that have happened over the course of 25 years have pushed me and pushed me to do the right thing."

"I know the wrong can't be changed," he said, "but this is the closest I can come to doing the right thing."

Hawkins said he spoke to McAlister's family last year "and told them I was going to make it [to the family's home] so I could tell them what happened and I wanted their forgiveness. By the time I got there, his father had passed away."

Clearing his conscience

After the visit to the news station, Hawkins met with investigators. According to the police, Hawkins told them "he could no longer live with the guilt" and wanted to clear his conscience.

On Wednesday, Curtis Culver and Shanna Culver were taken to the Redding Police Department and questioned, and later arrested and booked into the Shasta County Jail for homicide, police said. Hawkins was also arrested.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Redding Police Department at 530-225-4200.



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Thursday
Jan112018

Sea lion attacks and injures woman in San Francisco 

VitalyEdush/iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A woman is recovering from injuries after she was bitten by a sea lion while swimming in San Francisco's Aquatic Park on Thursday, the fourth attack by a sea lion in the same area in less than a month, officials said.

The woman was attacked around 7 a.m. PT and taken to a local hospital, where she was being treated for injuries to her leg, officials said.

The victim is a member of the South End Rowing Club located near Aquatic Park. Club members told ABC News affiliate KGO-TV that she is an accomplished swimmer.

Club members identified the victim as Irene Chan and said she usually swims in the chilly waters near San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf every morning.

"I just heard a yell for help and literally, I swam over to her and asked her what happened and she said she'd been bit and I said, 'Is it bad?'" Alice Ma, who witnessed the attack, told KGO-TV. "So she showed me what it looked like, but it was dark so you really couldn't see anything, so I started swimming with her and I said 'Do you want me to pull you back to the beach?' And she said, 'No, no, I can swim by myself I just can't kick because the sea lion bit me on my knee.'"

Jeannie Duncan, a retired San Francisco Fire Department paramedic, provided Chan with medical help on shore as they waited for an ambulance.

The attack was the fourth by a sea lion at Aquatic Park since mid December, including two that happened on consecutive days. One of the earlier victims, a man, suffered a serious bit to his groin, officials said.

The sea lion attacks prompted the National Parks Service, which oversees Aquatic Park, to ban swimming in the area for several days in December.

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Thursday
Jan112018

FEMA contractor allegedly traveled from Alabama with two others to kill Florida man, steal guns

(Polk County Sheriff's Office) Gerjuan Demarcus Jackson, 18, of Mobile, Ala., was arrested Jan. 9, 2018.(POLK CITY, Fla.) -- A FEMA contractor is accused of traveling from Alabama with two others to kill a man in Florida and steal his guns.

Gerjuan Demarcus Jackson, for whom detectives found an official FEMA contractor identification, allegedly drove with Kenley Campbell and Darril Lamar Rankin Jr. from their hometown of Mobile, Alabama, on Jan. 3 all the way to Polk City, Florida, where Jackson shot and killed a man he had met last year while on the job, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

William Reiss was found dead inside his residence in Polk City. Reiss' roommate, Kenneth Maier, was hospitalized in critical but stable condition.

When asked for comment on the alleged incident, FEMA spokesperson Jenny Burke told ABC News in a statement Thursday, “FEMA is aware of an alleged incident that occurred in Polk County, Florida, and are looking into additional details on this matter. Our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims."

Burke added, "FEMA works closely with law enforcement on a regular basis, and will provide appropriate coordination with law enforcement on this incident.”

Investigators learned Jackson, 18, had allegedly met Reiss while conducting a hurricane damage estimate in 2017, and he purchased two handguns from the Polk City resident. Upon returning to Alabama, Jackson was arrested for possession of marijuana and carrying a firearm without a permit, according to the sheriff's office.

Campbell, 22, allegedly drove Jackson and Rankin, also 22, to Polk City in his Chevrolet Sonic. Campbell and Rankin stayed inside the vehicle while Jackson went inside Reiss' residence. Jackson admitted to firing several shots at Reiss and Maier, the sheriff's office said.

Campbell and Rankin allegedly helped Jackson load Reiss' firearm collection and flat-screen television into Campbell's vehicle and Reiss' Dodge pickup truck. When the three men arrived back in Alabama, Jackson allegedly took Reiss' truck to a wooded area and set it ablaze.

Investigators later recovered six firearms, an extensive amount of ammunition, electronic devices and clothing believed to be worn by the suspects during the alleged killing. Three of the guns were from Reiss' looted collection, the sheriff's office said.

Detectives also discovered a box of latex gloves and apparent trace amounts of blood in Campbell's vehicle.

Jackson told authorities the stolen guns and television had been sold on "the streets," except for three firearms that were recovered from Campbell and Rankin’s home. Jackson estimated a total of 20 to 25 firearms were stolen from the Reiss' residence, according to the sheriff's office.

"Three killers traveled to Polk City all the way from Mobile, Alabama to steal firearms," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement Wednesday. "William Reiss was shot and murdered, and Kenneth Maier was shot and left for dead. Maier is currently in the hospital fighting for his life. I can’t begin to say how disgusted we are at the depravity displayed by these men."

Campbell and Rankin were arrested Saturday, and Jackson was arrested Tuesday. They were booked into the Mobile County Metro Jail without incident and will be extradited to Polk County at a later date. The three suspects have been charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and armed burglary, among other charges, according to the sheriff's office.

It's unclear whether the suspects have obtained attorneys or if they have entered any pleas.

The investigation is ongoing and further charges may be filed, the sheriff's office said.

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Thursday
Jan112018

Texas schools failed to identify special education students: Department of Education

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A report released by the U.S. Department of Education Thursday concluded that the Texas Education Agency did not comply with federal laws to identify and provide services to students with disabilities.

The department found that some independent school districts in the state "took actions specifically designed to decrease the percentage of students identified for special education" and that the Texas Education Agency "failed to fulfill its general supervisory and monitoring responsibilities."

The findings came after Texas reported a substantial decrease in its number of children with disabilities over more than a decade.

In a letter to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, the acting director of the Office of Special Education Programs, Ruth Ryder, wrote that the number of children identified as having disabilities in the state declined by more than 32,000 from 2003-2004 to 2016-2017, even as the total enrollment in Texas schools rose by over 1 million students.

Ryder further noted that during the time period, Texas began to include special education representation figures in its "Performance Based Monitoring and Analysis System" and measured the figures against a standard of 8.5 percent, therefore providing a disincentive for schools to accurately report its number of students with disabilities.

In a letter Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrote to Morath that was released by the Texas Education Agency, he said that "the past dereliction of duty on the part of many school districts to serve our students and the failure of the TEA to hold districts accountable are worthy of criticism."

"At the state and local level, the practices that led to the [Department of Education] monitoring letter will end," Abbott added.

In a statement, Morath said his agency has increased assistance and training for its schools and added statewide special education staff.

"I am committing today that there will be more," the commissioner said, pointing out that the agency will work with parents and special education advocacy groups to shape its corrective action plan moving forward.

The Department of Education said it received over 400 public comments on the issue and held five listening sessions in Texas in December 2016 to gather feedback from residents. The department's Office of Special Education Programs further visited 12 independent school districts, interviewed Texas Education Agency representatives and reviewed related state and district documents to reach its conclusions.

As a result, the Texas Education Agency will be required to take corrective action, including providing guidance for school staff members to ensure that students are not delayed or denied special education evaluations and potentially provide additional services to students who may not previously have been identified.

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