Review Category : National News

Police appeal to public for help finding missing 5-year-old; father arrested

iStock/Thinkstock(SOUTH PASADENA, Calif.) — Police in California appealed to the public for help finding a 5-year-old boy who has been missing since Saturday and whose father has been arrested after police found him unconscious in a park.

Police said they found Aramazd Andressian Sr., 35, passed out near a car in Arroyo Park in South Pasadena, California, on Saturday and arrested him after an investigation about the whereabouts of his son, Aramazd Andressian Jr., ABC affiliate KABC-TV reported Sunday.

Police were still searching for the boy as of late Sunday and urged anyone with information to come forward.

Andressian was arrested on charges of child endangerment and child abduction, police said.

The child’s mother reported the boy missing on Saturday after Andressian, her estranged husband, failed to drop him off at a scheduled meeting place, authorities said. The couple is in the process of divorce and a custody battle, according to police.

The boy currently spends one week with each parent and speaks with the other through a video call twice a week, according to the boy’s mother. She said she spoke with the boy via Skype on Tuesday, but a second call scheduled for Thursday never happened.

Police in South Pasadena said they searched the park for signs of the boy to no avail, the report said. It was still unclear how and why the father passed out.

Police described the father’s statements as “convoluted and not consistent” as well as “contradictory.”

“When we found out the boy was missing we don’t know if he crawled out of the car himself, if he walked away, if he was abducted — we have no idea,” South Pasadena Police Chief Art Miller said Saturday during a press conference. “To become unconscious when you’re supposed to be in the care of a child, that’s where our main concerns are.”

A judge increased Andressian’s bail to $10 million from $100,000 after detectives provided additional information about the circumstances of the case.

In a Facebook post late Sunday, the South Pasadena Police Department said it was still “pursuing leads” and had requested assistance from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

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Wheaton College freshman dies in accident at track meet

WLS-TV(WHEATON, Ill.) — A 19-year-old college student was killed at a track meet in Wheaton, Illinois, on Saturday when he was struck by a hammer during the hammer throw event.

Wheaton College said in a statement that freshman Ethan Roser, a transfer student from Cincinnati, Ohio, was volunteering at the school’s track and field competition when he was accidentally hit.

Paramedics were on the scene with Wheaton College Public Safey immediately, according to the college, but Roser was pronounced dead after he was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove.

“We are deeply grieved, but, because of our faith in Christ, not without hope,” Wheaton College President Philip Ryken said in a statement. “We ask people to pray for Ethan’s family, his friends, and our campus community.”

Roser was a member of the soccer team, according to ABC station WLS-TV.

A service was scheduled to be held for students, faculty and staff of Wheaton College at Pierce Memorial Chapel on Sunday night.

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Three children among five dead in Queens house fire

FDNY(NEW YORK) — Five people were killed, including three children, after a three-alarm fire blazed through a family home in the New York City borough of Queens on Sunday.

Fire officials said the entire house was consumed in flames by the time they showed up, just minutes after FDNY first received a phone call around 2:30 p.m. reporting the fire traveling from the first floor to the second floor.

The youngest child who died was 2 years old and the oldest victim was 21, according to New York City Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro, but as of Sunday afternoon one victim’s age was still unknown.

At least one person, a 46-year-old, survived by jumping out a second-story window, the fire commissioner said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was the city’s biggest loss of life in a fire in two years.

“This happened in the middle of an afternoon when the weather was good,” he said at the news conference. “How could something like this could have happened? There are many unanswered questions.”

The fire commissioner said Sunday that fire marshals would investigate the cause of the fire.

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Father of Tennessee teen: She ‘may not be exactly’ the person she was prior to alleged abduction

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) — The father of the Tennessee teen found more than a month after she was allegedly kidnapped by a former teacher said the girl’s family wants her to be the same person she was before she disappeared.

But Anthony Thomas told ABC News that his 15-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, has now had experiences that may have changed her.

“What we want to see when we look at her is the child we knew,” Thomas told ABC News. “She may not be exactly … the person she was because there’s a lot of experiences she’s had.”

After Elizabeth was found, authorities described her as “healthy and unharmed,” but added that the main concern is the state of her emotional and mental well-being.

Her father said that even physically, she has at least temporarily changed.

“She has lost a lot of weight,” Anthony Thomas said.

Elizabeth was allegedly kidnapped by her former teacher, Tad Cummins, 50, on March 13 and taken on the run. She and Cummins were found at a remote cabin in northern California near the Oregon border where he was captured Thursday.

Cummins, who surrendered to police without incident, faces charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor, authorities said.

The teen returned to Tennessee on Friday and is currently in a “safe location with family and friends where she is comfortable and resting,” said Jason Whatley, who is representing the Thomas family.

Elizabeth’s father told ABC News that the family to “just keep things positive” in their interactions with her at this stage.

“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’m not allowed to ask her about things that happened along the way right now,” he said.

He said that one of the first things Elizabeth asked for “was to see her baby sister.”

That hasn’t happened yet, the father said. “Now is not really the time.”

Thomas recounted his daughter’s take-charge personality. “She used to really believe in herself. She had this confidence,” he said. “She was always a leader. She was very outspoken.”

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

Thomas said the first material things Elizabeth asked for upon returning to Tennessee were a shower and a razor.

He added that she has few clothes in her possession right now. “All of the clothes she had with her were taken for evidence” after she and Cummins were found, he said. And many of the clothes she had left at home were previously taken by law enforcement to help with the investigation, he said.

Thomas said the loss of her clothes may be difficult for his teen daughter. “She was always particular with the way she dressed.”

Elizabeth also asked to see her father upon her return to Tennessee, he said. “It was really great to have her tell her she loved me,” he said.

He said his daughter had told authorities that she was afraid her father would be mad at her. “I think Tad had told her too, ‘There’s no way you can go home because your dad is just going to be mad at you,'” Thomas said.

The father said he believes Cummins was aware of the search for him and his daughter, but he’s not sure if his daughter knew before she was found the extent of the effort to find them. “Tad was apparently aware of all the flyers and all the things he saw,” the father said. “I’m not sure of the extent he let her be exposed to that.”

Thomas reflected on the difficulty of parenting a teenager, and then having that child disappear.

“At the end of the day when they’re gone, you find out you can’t live without them,” he said.

Cummins is expected to make his first court appearance at 2 p.m. Monday in federal court in Sacramento.

In addition to facing charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor, he also faces a federal charge of transportation of a minor across state lines with the intent of having criminal sexual intercourse, which has been filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee, authorities said. That charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

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After controversial Hawaii comment, Sessions says ‘nobody has a sense of humor’

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions says people should lighten up about controversial comments he made earlier this week about the state of Hawaii.

When asked by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview Sunday on This Week about why he referred to Hawaii as an “island in the Pacific,” Sessions responded “nobody has a sense of humor anymore.”

Sessions stirred up controversy this week when he referred to Hawaii as an “island in the Pacific” to conservative radio host Mark Levin on his program.

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president from the United States what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Sessions said on the program Tuesday.

Sessions’ comments were referring to the Hawaii judge who issued a nationwide restraining order on President Trump’s revised executive order that calls for suspending the entire refugee program for 120 days and halting immigration from six countries in the Middle East and Africa for 90 days.

Sessions’ comments prompted backlash from Hawaii’s Democratic senators and representatives in Congress.

“The suggestion that being from Hawaii somehow disqualifies Judge Watson from performing his Constitutional duty is dangerous, ignorant, and prejudiced,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said in a statement Thursday. “I am frankly dumbfounded that our nation’s top lawyer would attack our independent judiciary. But we shouldn’t be surprised. This is just the latest in the Trump Administration’s attacks against the very tenets of our Constitution and democracy.”

Hirono also tweeted, “Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won’t succumb to your dog whistle politics.”

Hey Jeff Sessions, this #IslandinthePacific has been the 50th state for going on 58 years. And we won’t succumb to your dog whistle politics

— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) April 20, 2017

When, Stephanopoulos pressed Sessions on This Week for a response to Hirono, asking “Why not just call it the state of Hawaii?” Sessions instead defended the administration’s actions, saying that the executive order is “lawful” and he plans to continue the fight to reinstate it.

“The president — nobody has a sense of humor anymore. Look. The president has to deal with the Department of Defense, the national intelligence agencies, CIA. He knows the threats to this country. He is responsible for protecting America,” the attorney general said. “This order is lawful. It’s within his authority constitutionally and explicit statutory authority. We’re going to defend that order all the way up. And so you do have a situation in which one judge out of 700 in America has stopped this order.

“I think it’s a mistake. And we’re going to battle in the courts and I think we’ll eventually win,” Sessions added.

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‘Pure joy,’ but concern, too, for family of formerly missing Tenn. student

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) — The brother of the Tennessee teen allegedly kidnapped by a former teacher says that now that she is finally back with her family, “she’s like herself and in ways she’s not.”

Elizabeth Thomas, 15, returned to Tennessee on Friday and is currently in a “safe location with family and friends where she is comfortable and resting,” said Jason Whatley, who is representing the Thomas family.

“We’re all excited,” her brother James Thomas said. “It’s like just pure joy.”

She was allegedly kidnapped by Tad Cummins, 50, more than a month ago, and taken on the run until he was captured Thursday in Northern California.

“Well, right now … in ways she’s like herself and in ways she’s not,” her brother said. “It’s kind of distressing to see her like that. It’s troubling.”

The teen was transported home on an aircraft owned by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The agency sent the plane to northern California after Elizabeth was found on Thursday, along with Cummins, in a remote cabin in Cecilville, in Siskiyou County, a rural, isolated area near the California-Oregon border that has little to no cell service, authorities said.

Cummins surrendered to police without incident as he exited the cabin, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department. He faces charges of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor, said Lawrence County Attorney General Brent Cooper.

The U.S. State Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee has also filed a federal charge of transportation of a minor across state lines with the intent of having criminal sexual intercourse against Cummins, according to U.S. attorney Jack Smith. The charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Cummins also faces charges in Siskiyou County for kidnapping and possession of stolen property, according to the sheriff’s department. He was expected to be arraigned in California on Friday, but the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department said he was taken into FBI custody and will likely be brought back to Tennessee. The federal warrant provided by the FBI superseded any local charges filed in Tennessee and California.

Elizabeth had been missing since March 13 when she was allegedly kidnapped by Cummins, who had been added to Tennessee’s Top 10 Most Wanted list.

After Elizabeth was found, she was described by authorities to be “healthy and unharmed,” but they added that the main concern is the state of her emotional and mental well-being.

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Girl Scout troop is ‘first single troop’ for homeless girls in New York

Courtesy of NYC Council Member Jimmy Van Bramers office(NEW YORK) — It’s what the Girl Scouts of Greater New York is calling a first.

Girl Scout Troop 6000 — which serves homeless girls and women in New York — is the first “full single unit…that serves girls in shelters” in the nation, Meridith Maskara, the organization’s chief operating officer, told ABC News.

It was created back in February by Giselle Burgess, a homeless woman who serves as a community engagement specialist for Girl Scouts of Greater New York.

She began the troop out of a Sleep Inn, located in Long Island City, Queens, that has been turned into a 10-floor homeless shelter that serves 100 homeless families.

Burgess told the New York Times, who first reported on the troop, that her organization is not only paying for the girls’ monthly dues, but they also covered the costs of membership fees and starter kits.

Maskara noted that many times families will be “reassigned within the shelter system. Their family can get moved without notice within the city.”

“The troop says [to the girls] although other things in your life won’t be consistent, we will be. We’ll be your anchor,” she added.

Troop 6000 currently has a membership of 23 girls, ranging from kindergarten students to high school students. They meet weekly to organize and execute several community service projects that benefit their community — from planting seeds in local gardens to learning how to become mentors.

Council Member Van Bramer visited the Long Island City homeless shelter last November to serve Thanksgiving dinner, he told ABC News in a statement.

“Last November, I joined the Girl Scouts of Greater New York to serve Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter for women in Queens. It was there that we dreamed of a Girl Scout troop created specifically for homeless girls,” he said in a statement. “With Troop 6000, that dream became a reality.

“I’ve met the members of Troop 6000, who all live in a shelter in my district, and I can tell you that they have big dreams. They are our future engineers, fashion designers, athletes, doctors, activists, and community leaders. With Troop 6000, these girls now have a place to realize these dreams, find stability, make lifelong friends, and discover the strength they have inside to be whoever they want to be. Troop 6000 is just about the most right thing I’ve ever been a part of, and I’m committed to its expansion all across New York City,” Van Bramer concluded.

Girl Scouts of Greater New York already wants to expand the troop, offering their services to more homeless girls in New York.

Maskara said, “There’s such a need.”

“We’re doing what we do best: give girls courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place,” she continued. “They’ve really bonded together as a unit, immensely. It’s beautiful to see the transformation.”

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March for Science held in cities around world calls for respect, funding

Simona Granati/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Scientists and supporters of science marched in cities around the world Saturday to push back against what organizers said is “an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery.”

The March for Science, coinciding with Earth Day, was set for more than 600 cities worldwide, with the main event planned for Washington, D.C.

Participants also took to the streets in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Des Moines, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Austin, Miami, San Francisco, Mobile, Oklahoma City, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Paris, Munich, Berlin and many more.

“Support for evidence-based science is a powerful force,” March for Science satellite organizer Kishore Hari said in a statement Friday. “The number of marches is incredible and a reflection of how important this effort is.”

Prior to the march in Washington, D.C., famed American scientist Bill Nye, an honorary co-chair of the event, delivered a speech to a huge crowd in pouring rain.

“Show the world that science is for all. Our lawmakers must know and accept that science serves every one of us,” Nye said before shouting out, “Save the world!”

Even with the rain, thousands of people packed the Washington Monument grounds for the start of the march Saturday morning. Some were clad in white lab coats while others carried handmade signs calling for funding for scientific research. At least 27,000 Facebook users said they were attending the march in Washington, D.C.

Today, we’re at the #MarchForScience promoting the progress of science and the useful arts of engineering.

— Bill Nye (@BillNye) April 22, 2017

In London, the march route went past the city’s most celebrated research institutions. Participants carried signs showing images of a double helix and chemical symbols.

In Geneva, marchers held signs that said, “Science – A Candle in the Dark” and “Science is the Answer.”

Berlin saw several thousand people march from one of the city’s universities to the Brandenburg Gate.

The idea for a March for Science began on social media after President Trump’s inauguration in January.

Within weeks, organizers said, the concept went viral, with hundreds of marches being organized worldwide and thousands of volunteers offering assistance, all in an effort to get scientists out of their labs and onto the streets along with students, teachers and research advocates. The movement’s Facebook page has garnered nearly 550,000 likes.

“Science protects the health of our communities, the safety of our families, the education of our children, the foundation of our economy and jobs, and the future we all want to live in and preserve for coming generations,” organizers say on the March for Science website. “We speak up now because all of these values are currently at risk. When science is threatened, so is the society that scientists uphold and protect.”

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Wildfires rage across Florida, destroying homes and displacing thousands

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Three separate wildfires raged across parts of Florida on Saturday, burning up homes and forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents.

One blaze has burned 5,500 acres and destroyed nine homes in Collier County near Naples as of Saturday morning. Approximately 7,000 homes have been evacuated since Friday night, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.

More than 500 public safety professionals are working to contain the fire, assist with evacuations and manage traffic in the area. Just 10 percent of the fire was contained as of 9 a.m. ET Saturday, the sheriff’s office said.

Authorities are strongly urging those in the mandatory evacuation zone to leave as soon as possible. As many as 10 aircraft will fly over the blaze Saturday attempting to drop water on the flames, according to the sheriff’s office.

The Caloosahatchee Forestry Center said Saturday there is a 5-mile temporary flight restriction in place around the fire in Collier County.

Intense pictures from Collier County brush fires. Plantation firefighters working as part of Broward County strike team.

— Plantation Fire (@PlantationFire) April 22, 2017

In central Florida’s Polk County, the entire Indian Lake Estates subdivision, which encompasses some 800 homes and 8,000 lots, is under a mandatory evacuation due to a large wildfire that authorities suspect may be man-made.

“Several structures are on fire. Fire crews need residents to leave the area so firefighters can protect structures,” the Polk County Fire Rescue said in a statement on its Facebook page Friday.

The American Red Cross opened a shelter Friday night at the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Wales for those displaced by the fires in the Indian Lake Estates.

Authorities believe the initial blaze started late afternoon on Friday and has since spread to multiple fires that are burning in the area of Ponce de Leon Road, Magnolia Drive, Red Range Road and Winter Haven Road. Fire officials said several structures have been destroyed but did not specify an exact number.

It’s unknown how many acres are currently on fire.

The cause of the wildfire remains under investigation, but authorities suspect it could be arson. The Florida Forestry Arson Alert Association is offering up to a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Just last week, firefighters were deployed to the Indian Lake Estates area to extinguish several fires that came dangerously close to nearby homes. Those blazes were deemed “suspicious” by the Florida Forest Service.

“There’s no evidence the fires are occurring naturally,” Ricky Britt of forest service, said in an April 12 statement. “The cause of the fires needs to be investigated, so investigators will be looking into it.”

Meanwhile, a 400-acre brush fire in Lee County has destroyed at least 13 structures in Lehigh Acres near Fort Myers. The fire was 95 percent contained as of 8 a.m. ET Saturday, according to the Caloosahatchee Forestry Center.

Investigators are still working to determine the cause of this fire.

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Arizona police questioning person of interest in Phoenix serial shootings that killed 7

Phoenix Police Department(PHOENIX) — Police in Phoenix are investigating a person of interest in connection with a series of shootings that occurred in 2016 that claimed 7 lives, a law enforcement source told ABC News.

In July, the Phoenix Police Department announced that it was searching for a gunman believed to be responding for a string of shootings, all of which occurred in the same neighborhood.

The same gunman is believed to be responsible for at least nine shooting incidents that killed seven people between March 2016 and June 2016.

The man being questioned by police is already in jail and has not yet been named a suspect, according police.

The first attack occurred on March 17, 2016, when a 16-year-old was shot while walking around 11:30 p.m. The teen survived the shooting.

The majority of the shootings followed a similar pattern.

In July, detectives released a composite sketch of the suspect with the help of a witness. The suspect had been described as a white male in his early 20s with a skinny or lanky build.

It is unclear if the victims were targeted or selected at random.

Authorities are still looking for tips from the public as they continue the investigation. The Phoenix Police Department had offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the suspect’s arrest.

“Someone out there knows who did this. We need our community to call us or Silent Witness and help us solve these cases, bring justice to these families and victims and prevent more violence from occurring,” said Phoenix Police Chief Joseph Yahner in July.

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