Review Category : National News

One Dead, Eight Injured After Car Slams into Los Angeles Bible Study Group

KABC(LOS ANGELES) — One person was killed and eight others injured after a car plowed through a Los Angeles home during a bible study session Wednesday evening.

Police said the driver of the car is still on the loose.

The incident happened around 8 p.m., when a female driver sped through the neighborhood and crashed into the house where a group of 11 elderly people had gathered for a prayer meeting, according to police.

Footage from a KABC Los Angeles news helicopter showed a red sedan almost completely inside the Harbor Gateway home, where it apparently came to a stop.

UPDATE: #LAFD now says 8 injured when car crashes into Harbor Gateway home

— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) July 28, 2016

Police said the female driver fled the scene, leaving behind a car with no license plates and no identification inside.

Some of the victims were stuck under the car and had to be rescued by firefighters at the scene, reports KABC. Victims of the hit-and-run crash ranged from their 40s to 80s, police said.

The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the crash.

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Deadly Ambush Attacks Against Cops Have Increased Dramatically This Year: Inside the ‘Troubling’ Report

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The number of law enforcement officers killed in ambush-style attacks has increased dramatically this year, according to a report issued today by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a finding its spokesperson called “especially troubling.”

Sixty-seven law enforcement officers died in the line of duty this year as of July 20 — a small increase from 62 deaths in the same period last year, according to the report. But of this year’s 67 deaths, 32 were firearms-related — which is a 78 percent spike from last year, when 18 deaths were firearms-related.

And of this year’s 32 firearms-related deaths, almost half — 14 — were the result of eight ambush-style attacks against unsuspecting officers, according to the report. At this time last year there had been just three ambush deaths.

Forty-six officers were killed as a result of a criminal act so far this year, the report said — double last year’s number of 23. The criminal-related deaths this year were from shootings, traffic-related incidents, a beating, and an officer who died from illness contracted from 9/11 rescue and recovery work.

Texas has had the most officer fatalities with 13, followed by Louisiana with seven, in the wake of deadly, targeted attacks on officers in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this month.

In Baton Rouge, three officers were killed on July 17 by a gunman who “intentionally targeted and assassinated” cops, according to police. The attack followed the death of Alton Sterling, a black man who was shot and killed during an altercation with Baton Rouge police officers on July 5. Protesters took to the streets nationwide after video surfaced of the encounter, which was followed the next day by a video of the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile, another black man, in Minnesota.

The Baton Rouge attack was also 10 days after the killing of five officers in Dallas by a gunman who reportedly said he was angry at police.

In all of 2015, there were eight deadly ambushes, said Steve Groeninger, senior director of communications and marketing of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, and in all of 2014 there were 15.

“We’re halfway through the year and already at 14,” Groeninger said, calling the increase of ambushes “especially troubling.”

And while Groeninger said the mass ambushes in Dallas and Baton Rouge are “terribly relevant,” he added, “there have been other officer ambushes in the first half of the year.” One was 28-year-old police officer Ashley Guindon, who was shot dead while on her first shift after being sworn in at the Prince William County Police Department in Virginia in February.

Despite what Groeninger points out to be an alarming 78 percent firearms-related spike from last year, he said this isn’t the deadliest time ever for cops — another dangerous year was in 1973, when at the midway point of the year, 84 officers had been shot and killed.

But police throughout the country are certainly on edge today, and deadly danger for police extends beyond ambushes. While ambushes made up 14 of the 32 firearms-related deaths, other firearms deaths were by incidents including handling prisoners and stopping a suspicious person, the report noted.

Of the non-firearms-related deaths, 24 were traffic related and 11 were from other causes, the report said.

Terrence Cunningham, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, told ABC News that officer safety in the current climate can very difficult to achieve. He said some departments are taking “steps to try to keep officers safe in this current environment,” like dual patrols. He said it’s also been suggested that officers not write reports in their cars in the open and not eat in restaurants, instead returning to their stations.

Cunningham called it “really unfortunate” that “in a time we need to connect most with the community,” these potential steps are “driving a wedge between the community and the police.”

“Those [community interactions] are the interactions we need right now, and unfortunately that’s being lost,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham also gave insight into the mindset of police officers. He said officers are often responding to “people’s worst day,” and while citizens may think they are the only call that officer is responding to, the officer is really going to “call after call after call.”

The tension is “palpable out there,” he said, “and this cumulative effect of stress and trauma on the officers … is something we have to deal with as a profession.”

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Mother of Orlando Shooting Victim Makes Emotional Plea at DNC

ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) — The mother of one of the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting made an emotional plea from the stage of the Democratic National Convention as she called for commonsense gun policies.

Christine Leinonen, mother of Christopher Leinonen, told how her son and his boyfriend were among the 49 victims of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

She recalled that when Christopher was born, she was a Michigan state trooper and the hospital put her gun away as she prepared to give birth.

“When I went into labor, the hospital put my off-duty gun in a safe. I didn’t argue,” she said. “I know commonsense gun policies save lives.”

“I’m glad commonsense gun policy was in place the day Christopher was born,” Leinonen said. “But where was that common sense the day he died?”

Leinonen told how her son was an award-winning humanitarian who had started a gay-straight alliance at his high school.

“Christopher’s paternal grandparents met and fell in love in a Japanese internment camp. So, it was in his DNA that love always trumps hate,” she said.

Leinonen spoke to ABC News in the hours that immediately followed the Orlando shooting, when at the time she did not know the fate of her son.

“Please, let’s all just get along,” Leinonen said while gasping for breath. “We’re on this earth for such a short time. Let’s try to get rid of the hatred and the violence, please!”

Among others who gave emotional testimonies on gun violence were former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011 and survived, and Erica Smegielski, daughter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal, Dawn Hochsprung, who was killed in a mass shooting at the Newtown, Connecticut, school in 2012.

Giffords spoke briefly, calling for the election of Hillary Clinton because “in Congress, I learned a powerful lesson: Strong women get things done.”

“Speaking is difficult for me,” Giffords said. “But come January I want to say these two words: Madam President.”

Both Giffords and Smegielski campaigned for Clinton ahead of the convention, and Smegielski said that one reason she feels passionately about Clinton’s bid is because the candidate reminds her of her mother.

“What we need is another mother who is willing to do what’s right, whose bravery can live up in equal measure to my mom’s,” Smegielski told the assembled delegates tonight. “What we need is to elect Hillary Clinton as the 45th president of the United States of America so that no other daughter ever has to say, ‘I would give every single day that I have left for just one more day with my mom.'”

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Eight Hikers Led to Safety After California Fire Stranded Them for Days

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — Eight hikers were led to safety after a raging wildfire in northern California stranded them for at least five days, officials said.

A Cal Fire spokesperson said this was not technically a “rescue” as the hikers, who had been near the massive Soberanes fire in Monterey County for at least five days, were given the option to stay or leave, and they chose to walk down from the fire with firefighters.

The hikers were not injured and in fine condition, the spokesperson said. Once they walked down they were were given food and water at a Boy Scouts camp.

The Soberanes fire in Monterey County started on July 22 and has since burned 23,500 acres. It’s 10 percent contained.

Meanwhile, a second massive blaze is raging in southern California; the Sand fire has covered 38,000 acres in the Los Angeles area and is 40 percent contained.

The two fires prompted states of emergency to be declared Tuesday in Monterey County and Los Angeles County.

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Charges Dismissed Against Baltimore Police Officers in Freddie Gray Case

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) — Prosecutors dropped all charges against the remaining Baltimore police officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death, a court official confirmed to ABC News.

At the motion’s hearing for State v Garrett Miller Wednesday morning, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office decided not to prosecute the remaining cases related to the arrest and death of Gray. The gag order has been rescinded.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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Reagan Shooter John Hinckley Jr. Will Be Released to Homestay

The White House/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — John Hinckley, Jr., the man who shot President Ronald Reagan in 1981, has been granted “full-time convalescent leave” and will be released from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., where he has been in treatment.

A federal judge granted the leave, which will begin as early as Aug. 5, according to court documents. He is permitted to reside full-time in Williamsburg, Virginia, with his mother at her home.

While he lives full-time in Williamsburg, Hinckley is subject to certain conditions, and he will return for monthly outpatient therapy treatment in Washington. He will also be required to work or volunteer three times a week and participate in individual music therapy sessions at least one a month in Williamsburg.

Hinckley was ordered to stay out of contact with Jodie Foster, as it was said he shot Reagan as a way to impress the Hollywood actor. He must also stay away from the media and cannot make posts on the internet or access it. He is now allowed to contact his victims and their families, the president or vice president of the United States, and all members of Congress.

As part of the release, he is also required to abstain from alcohol and drugs. He is not allowed to own a weapon.

Whenever he is away from his mother’s residence, he must carry a GPS-enabled cell phone that is monitored by the Secret Service. He is not allowed to drive unaccompanied only within a 30-mile radius of Williamsburg, unless it is for the purpose of his monthly scheduled appointments in Washington, D.C.

Hinckley is also told he must complete a daily log of his activities while on leave that detail any of his work or volunteer hours, plus social interactions and treatments, and any errands or recreational activities.

After a full year to 18 months of his leave, his doctors will complete an updated risk assessment and will then adjust his treatment plans if it is warranted, according to court documents.

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Secret Service on Alert for Convention Cyber Attacks

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The alleged hack into Democratic National Committee e-mails has heightened vigilance against cyber-attacks at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, according to the Secret Service.

“We are trying to be proactive in addressing the cyber threat,” Agent Kyo Dolan of the Secret Service told ABC News.

The Secret Service is leading a multi-layered effort to block potential hackers and other potential threats to the convention. The most visible part of the agency’s job, of course, is the physical protection of the candidates and the convention venue. There are the usual guards, gates and guns protecting the convention and its estimated 30,000 participants. But that’s hardly where the security ends.

Secret Service agents took ABC News behind the scenes in Philadelphia to show us some of the multi-layered, technological fortress that is in place to protect the convention’s critical systems, and computer networks.

“Every security enhancement available has been rolled out for the political conventions — some you can see, and some you can’t,” Dolan said.

To combat the cyber threat, agents and analysts have set up an extensive computer monitoring system to track internet activity around the convention — the command center at the convention in is close touch with the Secret Service monitoring center at headquarters in Washington. Agents closely watch various networks looking for any kind of abnormal or suspicious activity.

Dolan pointed out that national political conventions can make appealing targets for hackers.

“When our protected are on a national stage like this … they are attracting various personnel, various actors and adversaries that possibly want to either cause embarrassment, disrupt the evens, or cause –potentially—harm to our protesters.”

In addition to watching for cyber-attacks aimed at groups or individuals, agents are also on the alert for any internet activity that could threaten the critical systems of the Wells Fargo Center, the site of the convention.

Dolan agreed that it is no longer science fiction to worry about hackers being able to access internal system controls and cutting the power, or shutting off the flow of water.

“That capability is certainly possible,” Dolan said.

Added to the beefed up cyber-security, a tighter credentialing system has been put in place for this year’s conventions. Embedded in each plastic ID card issued is a chip that sends out a radio frequency that is picked up by scanners located at the various entry points.

“It’s automatically scanned,” Tonya Abbott of the Secret Service said of the new ID’s. “It’s not one of those where you have to physically scan.”

The scanners read the radio signal to confirm the person’s identity as they approach the entry, so the security personnel will know whether that person is cleared for entry — or not, even before they arrive at the door.

The back-to-back Republican and Democratic conventions posed a challenge to the Secret Service, but Dolan and other agents told us they are used to the pace. After they finish in Philadelphia this week, some will be headed off to Martha’s Vineyard, to protect President Obama as he heads off on a family vacation.

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College Student Injured by Central Park Explosion Returns Home, Family Says

Conner Golden’s GoFundMe page(NEW YORK) — A college student who was injured by an explosive device in New York’s Central Park earlier this month has returned home and is recovering, his family said this week.

Connor Golden of Fairfax, Virginia, was climbing rocks in the park on July 3 with friends when the explosion badly mangled a portion of his left foot, resulting in the removal of his lower left leg and foot.

Golden, 19, had been recovering in a New York City’s Bellevue Hospital for the last few weeks.

“The Golden family is deeply grateful to the health care professionals in New York who cared for Connor and to the many individuals who made the family’s stay in New York as comfortable as possible,” according to a statement released by his family on Golden’s GoFundMe page.

The family has already raised more than $60,000 toward its $75,000 goal.

The NYPD believes the explosive had originally failed to detonate and was discarded, only to be accidentally discovered by Golden.

Police said there’s no indication the blast was terrorism-related.

NYPD is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for the arrest and indictment of the individual or parties responsible.

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New Department of Education Guidelines for Schools Aimed at Helping Homeless Students

Courtesy: Levi Bohanan(NEW YORK) — At 13, Levi Bohanan was homeless, fending for himself as a young, adolescent boy.

“The biggest fight every day wasn’t how I was going to survive, it was deciding whether or not I wanted to,” Bohanan, now 23, tells ABC News.

His parents kicked him out of the house because he is gay.

“Struggling to survive was a constant battle, but having your entire support system, your entire family, stripped from you so quickly and so completely — it’s an experience I will never be able to fully and accurately articulate,” Bohanan said.

Now, Bohanan is working alongside the nation’s top education experts at the U.S. Department of Education — as a special projects manager in the office of the Secretary — which issued federal guidelines Wednesday for states and school districts across the country to better serve students without a permanent home as part of federal legislation that was signed into law last year by President Obama. These guidelines will become mandatory on Oct. 1, 2016.

Homeless students are among the nation’s most vulnerable. There are about 1.3 million in the U.S., according to federal data gathered during the 2013-2014 school year.

“In my experience, this is an unprecedented effort to really shine a light on what homeless students are facing,” said Barbara Duffield, director of policy and programs at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, an organization working in tandem with the Department of Education.

The guidelines include prioritizing the identification of homeless students, including designating and training a “school liaison” within each district to help provide students with professional development and college readiness.

The guidelines also help ensure coordination with various groups, like law enforcement, juvenile and family courts, mental health groups, and public housing agencies.

“As a person who experienced homelessness when I was a kid, these efforts in particular strike a chord because they’re efforts that would’ve impacted me while I was in school,” Bohanan said. “These supports and many more would’ve eased some of the burdens I experienced, as I know they’ll ease some of the burdens homeless students experience now.”

It’s a subject that hits close to home not just for Bohanan, but also for his boss, Secretary of Education John B. King Jr.

“As a kid, home was a scary and unpredictable place for me and I moved around a lot after my parents passed away,” King said. “I know from my own experience and from my conversations with homeless students that school can save lives.”

According to the Department of Education, homeless students experience significant academic, social, and socio-emotional challenges, and often experience lower school achievement and increased risk of dropping out of school.

In addition, students who experience high mobility and attend many different schools over the course of their education often slip academically with each move.

This rings true for Elio Velazquez, 20, who was still at a second-grade reading level at the age of 10. He said his mother was a teenage single parent, and lost her job. They became homeless when he was just four years old and they were forced to move several times while she looked for work, shifting from the streets to various homeless shelters.

“I was the underdog my entire life,” Velazquez said. “I would sit in the hallways of my apartment building and do homework on the staircase so I had some light. And when my sister got sick, I had to miss about two weeks of school because my mom couldn’t afford to miss work. I fell behind in school.”

Of the new guidelines, Velazquez says, “I do commend the Department of Education’s effort towards resolving this issue. I think this is a great start to helping students attain a proper education without their economic background becoming a detrimental barrier to their success.”

Under the new guidelines, students who are older and have moved often will be able to receive partial credit for work they’ve completed in other schools.

“Homeless students have absences beyond their control, so they fall behind on their credits,” Duffield said. “They feel real discouragement to stay in school because they’ve fallen behind, and sometimes think, ‘why bother?'”

Velazquez struggled to thrive in a broken home on the streets of New York City, and at one point, was commuting three hours to and from school to attend classes in a more affluent neighborhood. But he too, like Bohanan, beat the odds, and eventually graduated second in his class from high school. Then, with financial assistance, he headed to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, to study business, global studies, philosophy, and economics.

“Public schools have a critical, critical role in responding to these issues,” Duffield said. “Schools will see things that the community may not be able to see because homeless students really are an invisible population.”

“Education changed the course of my life,” Bohanan said. But life as a homeless student, he said, is something he will never forget.

“It’s something that I think about every day,” he said. ‘Fending for yourself day to day, not having parents at your high school graduation, not being able to share holidays with your family, that changes the way you pass through the world.”

Bohanan continued, “Every day I bring my experiences to the table and I seek to be intentional with the opportunities and access I have. It’s a constant reminder that the policies that we work on at the Department are not nebulous, theoretical, pieces that are out of touch with reality. They actually impact the lives of students every single day, and for the better.”

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Iowa Football Player Mistaken for Robber During ‘Pokemon Go’ Game in Park

City of Iowa City(IOWA CITY, Iowa) — Police released bodycam footage showing an encounter last week between a black University of Iowa football player and officers who were looking for a robbery suspect.

The video was released Tuesday and shows defensive end Faith Ekakitie being stopped and searched by police in Benton Hill Park in Iowa City on July 20. Police said Ekakitie had matched the description of a suspect involved in an armed robbery just 10 minutes earlier.

The incident was first described by Ekakitie in a Facebook post the same day of the encounter. Ekakitie said it was “the first time that I’ve ever truly feared for my life,” but added that the police handled the situation “very professionally” once they realized that he was not the suspect.

At the beginning of the nearly seven-minute-long video, an officer can be heard telling Ekakitie to put his hands up while they approached him. The same officer could also be heard saying “It’s probably not you, but we’ve got to double check.”

Ekakitie wrote that he was playing “Pokemon Go” in a public park when he was surrounded by police “with four gun barrels staring me in the face.” Ekakitie said he feared for his life but understood why police did what they did.

He admitted he was wearing headphones while playing the popular mobile app and didn’t hear when officers initially approached him. An officer could also be heard telling another officer that Ekakitie did have his headphones on.

“I was actually playing Pokemon Go, believe it or not,” Ekakitie said while being searched. “I believe it, actually,” the officer replied.

After the officers check Ekakitie’s ID, one thanks him for his cooperation.

“Within two minutes of the initial contact, officers determined that Mr. Ekakitie was not the suspect.” The Iowa City police department said in a statement. “Officers then explained why they had detained him. After routine checks to verify Mr. Ekakitie’s identify were completed, officers left the park.”

“I would also urge people to be more aware of their surroundings because clearly I wasn’t,” admitted Ekakitie.

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