Review Category : National News

United Airlines Employee Allegedly Steals $130K in Jewelry from Passenger

Denver District Attorney(DENVER) — A United Airlines employee allegedly stole $130,000 worth of jewelry from a passenger’s bag earlier this month at Denver International Airport, according to the Denver District Attorney’s office.

Rafael Magana, 42 of Commerce City, Colorado, has been charged with one count of felony theft.

The jewelry included a $35,000 pair of diamond earrings and a “pearl encrusted bracelet,” also valued at $35,000, according to the Denver police search warrant.

The United passenger was traveling Aug. 8 from Aspen, Colorado, to Denver when she discovered a cosmetics case containing the jewelry had fallen from her suitcase in the Aspen airport, the warrant states.

She learned that Aspen airport staff had found the case and put it on her flight. Upon arrival at the Denver airport, the cosmetic case was unloaded and put onto a cart with other carry-on luggage, which was then put into an area near the gate where passengers can grab their bags as they leave the airplane, the search warrant states.

Video from the Denver Airport’s surveillance system appears to show Magana “taking possession of the … cosmetic case … and intentionally wrapping the case with a white piece of [printer] paper,” at the gate, according to the statement of probable cause provided by the District Attorney’s office.

Magana walked over to a nearby coffee shop where he obtained a brown paper bag and then “artfully conceale[d] the wrapped cosmetic bag into the paper bag,” according to the statement.

Back at the gate, Magana picked up his phones, water bottle and the brown paper bag and left his post at the customer service desk, according to the search warrant.

When police contacted him a few days later at the airport about the missing cosmetics case, Magana told them he had left the case on the service desk, the search warrant stated.

Denver police arrested Magana, who eventually offered to return the jewelry as long as he could escort the police officers to his home so they would not “upset his 65-year-old landlord,” according to the warrant.

In a statement, United Airlines said, “We hold our employees to the highest standards and have zero tolerance for theft. We are cooperating with the Denver Police Department in this matter and have removed the employee from his duties.”

Magana has not yet entered a plea and his lawyer did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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Two Small Planes Carrying 5 Passengers Collide Midair in Alaska, Officials Say

iStock/Thinkstock(BETHEL, Alaska) — Two small aircraft carrying a total of five people collided midair Wednesday, according to the Alaska National Guard.

A Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 Caravan with three people on board collided with a Renfro’s Alaska Adventures Piper PA-18 Super Cub, carrying two people, just before 11 a.m. local time, the National Guard said. The crash happened midair about 60 miles north of Bethel.

It is unclear whether the passengers on board were killed or injured.

A Black Hawk helicopter from the Alaska National Guard is en route to the scene, officials said. Two medics are on board the helicopter.

The National Transportation Safety Board is aware of the collision and has sent three investigators and a transportation disaster assistance specialist to the scene, it said in a statement.

The Federal Aviation Administration is also investigation the crash, spokesman Allen Kentizer told ABC News.

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Twin Hurricanes Head Toward Hawaii as Tropical Storm Hermine Forms off Florida’s Gulf Coast

NOAA(NEW YORK) — Hawaii is under a hurricane warning as twin hurricanes continue to head toward the islands Wednesday, bringing heavy rain and high waves and causing residents to stock up on supplies.

Hurricane Madeline is weakening but still has winds of 90 miles per hour as it moves toward the Big Island. Hurricane conditions are expected on the island later Wednesday and into Thursday morning. More than 15 inches of rain and waves of up to 25 feet are possible on the Big Island, according to forecasts.

Hawaii Island public schools will be closed Wednesday and Thursday because of Madeline, according to the state’s Department of Education.

Hurricane Lester is not far behind Madeline and is expected to approach the islands on Friday night, but it will not come as close to land as Madeline, according to forecasts. Lester is expected to bring heavy rain, gusty winds and bigger surf.

Meanwhile, in the Atlantic, Tropical Depression 9 has strengthened to become Tropical Storm Hermine, with a hurricane watch in effect for parts of Florida from just east of Apalachicola to north of Tampa. Hermine is 415 miles west-southwest of Tampa, with maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour, and is moving north at about 2 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. It is expected to move faster later Wednesday and take a turn toward the northeast.

A hurricane watch is in effect for the Anclote River to Indian Pass in Florida, and a tropical storm warning is in effect for the Anclote River to Florida’s Walton-Bay county line, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tornadoes are possible late Wednesday night through Thursday morning across central Florida, the National Hurricane Center said. A storm surge can cause normally dry areas to be flooded by rising waters over the next two days along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Tropical Depression 8 is moving slowly northeastward away from the North Carolina coast at about 5 miles per hour. It has maximum sustained winds of 35 miles per hour, but there are currently no coastal watches or warnings in effect. Strengthening is still possible, and the depression could become a tropical storm later Wednesday, but it is expected to continue moving northeast, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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White Lives Matter to Be Listed as Hate Group by Southern Poverty Law Center

Hemera/Thinkstock(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) — White Lives Matter will soon be listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a prominent civil rights and legal advocacy organization that monitors the “activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists” in the U.S.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) confirmed in mid-August 2016 that it is adding White Lives Matter to its 2017 hate group map and list,” reads an editor’s note at the bottom of a post on SPLC’s website that calls White Lives Matter the “racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement.”

“White Lives Matter is a white supremacist group founded by people with long histories in racist movements,” the editor’s note adds. “The group, which is dedicated to ‘the promotion of the white race,’ claims to have representatives in several states, which the SPLC is currently investigating. A full list of White Lives Matter chapters will be released in February 2017 along with all hate groups for that calendar year.”

The SPLC defines hate groups on its website as “those that vilify entire groups of people based on immutable characteristics such as race or ethnicity.”

“This is exactly what White Lives Matter has been doing,” SPLC senior fellow Mark Potoc told ABC News today. “When you have a group of people saying that an entire group of human beings are less — that all black people are criminals and all Muslims are mad bombers — that’s a hate group.”

Potoc added that on the other hand, Black Lives Matter “is not considered a hate group because its leadership and majority of members have never suggested all white people are evil or that all police officers should be killed or hurt.”

“They’re a civil rights organization,” Potoc explained. “White Lives Matter is completely different. They’re quite literally neo-Nazis who think white people are the cream of the earth and that marginalized groups — such as black people, Muslims, and gay people — are their enemies.”

Though the SPLC is still investigating “the shape and scope” of White Lives Matter, Potoc said the group appears to be mainly operating online. There, members often use the hashtag to spread “racist messages and the false idea that there is a genocide going on against white people in this country,” Potoc explained.

While White Lives Matter appears to be a small group right now, it seems to be influenced by larger white supremacist groups, especially the Aryan Renaissance Society (ARS), Potoc said. The ARS is a Texas-based neo-Nazi group that is part of the white nationalist coalition, the United Aryan Front.

The ARS has plans to create an “Aryan oligarchy based on genetic aristocracy” and has said it wants to create an “autonomous Aryan Society” that will keep whites safe from “bastardization of the white race, racial integration … [and] inter-breeding,” the SPLC said in a post on its website earlier this month.

The SPLC added that the ARS has said it is “committed to whatever it is necessary” to return a “sense of pride” to “the Aryan race.”

Two prominent members of ARS, Rebecca Barnette and Scott Lacy, both managed Facebook pages for White Lives Matter, and Dough Chism, another ARS member, displayed a large “White Lives Matter” sign outside of his house, the SPLC also said in its post.

Potoc told ABC News today that the SPLC will have more information on White Lives Matter and its affiliations by February 2017, when the group conducts its next annual hate group list update.

White Lives Matter told ABC News Wednesday in a statement that the group wasn’t surprised by the SPLC’s decision to label White Lives Matter as a hate group.

“The SPLC routinely takes a very aggressive stance against white ethno-nationalism, so it doesn’t surprise us that they would jump on a new opportunity to do that,” White Lives Matter said. “To understand the SPLC’s motivation to label White Lives Matter as a hate group, you have to consider they are a Jewish organization acting in the interests of a political ideology known as Talmudic Zionism.”

The group added that White Lives Matter “is really about recognizing the contributions that people of European descent have made to civilization, and that we as a people and culture are worth preserving.”

“We value Western civilization and the inherent safety of majority white populations,” the group said. “We believe that if we’re going to have non-white immigration to Western countries, they should not make us dumber or poorer. This means that immigrants should meet a minimum IQ requirement of 100, and should not be allowed to come to Western countries and get paid to not work.”

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LAX Panic Was Sparked by Man in Zorro Costume and Loud Emergency Locks, Officials Say

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — The chaos at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday night, during which passengers breached security doors and spilled out onto the airport tarmac, was sparked by law enforcement detaining a man in a Zorro costume as well as loud emergency locks that sounded like gunshots, officials told ABC News Wednesday.

Panic erupted at the airport after word of a shooting threat spread — later deemed a false alarm. But the false alarm brought travel to a halt and caused delays to pile up into Monday morning.

According to two officials briefed on the investigation, it began when a street actor in a Zorro costume was at the airport picking up a friend.

Law enforcement at the airport became suspicious of him and detained him to for questioning — in full view of people moving through the busy Terminal 7. A small crowd saw the questioning and some of those people began rushing away from the area for fear that this was a security incident in progress, the officials said, and one passenger notified a senior TSA official that there was a security incident ongoing in the terminal.

The TSA agent put out calls to other terminals and checkpoints notifying them of an ongoing security incident in Terminal 7, the officials told ABC News.

The mounting panic caused travelers to rush for emergency exits and doors that lead to the tarmac.

Many of the doors have heavy locking mechanisms that make loud noises when they’re opened, the officials said, and during the panic, the “boom” sound from the emergency locks were mistaken for gunshots.

Within minutes, travelers were posting on social media and calling in emergency reports of gunshots at the airport.

Airport officers responded and secured all nine terminals in under an hour, LAX said. The scare resulted in evacuations from Terminals 1, 4, 6, 7 and 8, LAX officials said. Police conducted a search, later confirming there was no evidence of any shooting and that the incident appeared to be a false alarm.

Now that officials have a complete picture of what occurred, they are looking to determine if “our own tactics contributed to the panic,” one person briefed on the investigation told ABC News.

The officials who described the Sunday night’s events to ABC News stressed that the November 2013 incident in which a TSA agent was killed at LAX is still fresh in the minds of all security personnel at the airport, and as a result, the tendency at LAX is to be more proactive in the face of possible security threats.

ABC News contributor Steve Gomez, who oversaw FBI operations at LAX as the former head of counter-terror investigations at the FBI’s Los Angeles division, noted that “LAX is known as a terrorist target. Given that, when you have a situation [like Sunday] there’s going to be an immediate law enforcement response.”

“Given the nature of the threat to LAX and the circumstances around the world, it’s very important that the information about a potential incident or security incident, that information gets out to everybody,” Gomez said.

While “communication has to move quickly,” Gomez said, “government agencies and their representatives have to be mindful of the accuracy of the information that they are passing around.”

Travelers should also be mindful of their surroundings if a scare like this one arises. “There are two sections when you get to the airport: one is the area before the screening,” Gomez said. “So, when you are arriving at the airport … there’s a certain point where nobody has really been screened so anything’s possible.”

Once you go through screening, “You’re in what they call the sterile environment,” Gomez said. “You have some comfort that everyone’s been screened … [but] if somebody makes it through with a firearm or an explosive … you have to be prepared act: run, hide or fight.”

Gomez recommends to also be aware of exits while you’re sitting at the gate. “There is a way for you to get out of the area that’ll take you down to the tarmac,” he said. “You may be at least out of potential danger from the gate area,” but “you have to be careful of where you’re running to,” because there are still potential dangers like moving vehicles and airplanes, he said.

LAX said enhanced security resources and technology improvements — adopted after the 2013 deadly shooting — “dramatically helped law enforcement respond quickly and effectively” to the active shooter false alarm Sunday. LAX said airport police officers responded to the report less than a minute after they were notified.

“Airport officials are holding several reviews to assess the response to Sunday’s incident and continue to improve effectiveness for active-shooter and false-alarm scenarios,” LAX said.

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Christopher Suggs Takes Action Against Gun Violence in Kinston, North Carolina

Jason Kurtis/ABC News(KINSTON, N.C.) — Kinston, North Carolina, is a “great small town” according to 16-year-old Chris Suggs. It has been that way as long as he can remember.

“Everybody knows everybody. Everybody loves and supports each other,” he said.

But in 2014, the city was on edge. A spree of gun violence played out on the streets, at times involving local youth. Organized gang activity was a major factor and residents were afraid of getting caught in the crossfire.

Tired of the seemingly relentless shootings, Suggs wanted to figure out how to curb the violence.

“Since young people are affected by these issues, we also need to be at the table when it comes to developing solutions,” Suggs said. That’s when he came up with the idea of starting Kinston Teens. “I’ve always been passionate about my community and trying to make a difference. So when it came to trying to start an organization focused around those things it was really easy for me.”

In Oct. 2014, Suggs held a press conference at the local library and invited community officials, young people and the school administrators to hear a clear message: Kinston youth has a voice too. “Immediately young people started getting on board and adults started supporting us,” said Suggs. “We started making the news and to make a difference.”

From street cleaning to creating mentor programs and a youth leadership summit, Kinston Teens is focusing on short-term goals with immediate visible impact while planting the seeds for Kinston’s younger generation to be inspired and reach their potential.

Since it began, the organization has had more than 1,000 young people participate and get involved in the Kinston community. “One thing I’ve learned is that a lot of people don’t volunteer because they’ve really never been asked to,” said Suggs. “But once I ask them, that lights a spark in their head and they want to join the movement.”

Suggs has also developed strong relationships with Kinston leaders and the Kinston Police Department. “Chris came to us as a young boy. He wasn’t even a teenager then. But he had unbelievable outside-thinking strategies. As a police chief, you want that connection with the youth.” said Chief Greg Thompson.

“One lesson that I have learned working with Chris,” said Kinston Mayor BJ Murphy, “is that in most communities the young people probably aren’t getting heard. And it’s taught me not to discount the youth in this community.”

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NYPD Releases Witness Sketch in NYC Jogger Murder

NYPD(ROCKAWAY, N.Y.) — New York City police have released a sketch of a witness they are looking to identify and speak to as they investigate the unsolved murder of a Queens jogger.

On Aug. 2, 30-year-old Karina Vetrano was strangled to death while jogging along a path she and her father often ran together in the Howard Beach, New York, community.

Nearly one month later, about 85 tips have come in, but the case remains unsolved. The New York Police Department still has no hits from DNA recovered from the scene. Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Tuesday the killing is still believed to be a random attack. Police have talked to known shoplifters and panhandlers in the area and have traced all possible escape routes, but no suspect appears on any surveillance camera.

As police released the witness sketch Wednesday, Boyce emphasized the witness is not a suspect or a person of interest but that he was allegedly in the area at the time of the murder and police want to speak to him.

The witness is described as a black man between the age of 35 and 45 who was wearing a wool cap. He stands at about 5’10” and has a medium build.

The sketch was prepared by utility worker who was working in the area at the time.

Because nothing came of surveillance video, police are relying on witness recollection; they’ve been interviewing joggers and bicycle riders every day.

Vetrano’s devastated parents addressed the media on Aug. 18, pleading with their daughter’s killer to “own up” to the crime.

“I know that you’re tormented,” her father, Phil Vetrano, said. “I know that you’re being driven crazy. I know that you want to do the right thing.”

“My little baby was brutalized by this person, by this evil coward,” his wife, Cathy Vetrano, said. “Her last moments were horrible.”

She then spoke directly to the killer: “Show someone that you care about that you’re not as evil as the whole world thinks that you are. You can’t run. It’s just a matter of time.”

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NYPD Expected to Release Witness Sketch in NYC Jogger Murder

lzf/iStock/Thinkstock(ROCKAWAY, N.Y.) — Police are expected to release a witness sketch in the unsolved case of a Queens woman who was murdered while on a jog in her neighborhood nearly one month ago.

On Aug. 2, 30-year-old Karina Vetrano was strangled to death while jogging along a path she and her father often ran together in the Howard Beach, New York, community.

Nearly one month later, the case remains unsolved. The New York Police Department still has no hits from DNA recovered from the scene. Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Tuesday the killing is still believed to be a random attack. Police have talked to known shoplifters and panhandlers in the area and have traced all possible escape routes, but no suspect appears on any surveillance camera.

It’s not clear when the sketch will be released.

Vetrano’s devastated parents addressed the media on Aug. 18, pleading with their daughter’s killer to “own up” to the crime.

“I know that you’re tormented,” her father, Phil Vetrano, said. “I know that you’re being driven crazy. I know that you want to do the right thing.”

“My little baby was brutalized by this person, by this evil coward,” his wife, Cathy Vetrano, said. “Her last moments were horrible.”

She then spoke directly to the killer: “Show someone that you care about that you’re not as evil as the whole world thinks that you are. You can’t run. It’s just a matter of time.”

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Brock Turner to Be Released from Prison This Week

Jean Vaillancourt/iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — Former Stanford University student Brock Turner, who was sentenced to six months in prison after being convicted of sexually assaulting a woman, is slated to be released from prison on Friday, after serving just about three months of his sentence.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2014 that more than 13,500 inmates per month were released early in an effort to relieve crowding.

Turner faced up to 14 years in prison, and prosecutors sought a six-year term, but Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky — who is now facing a recall campaign over his handling of the case — opted for the lighter jail term and three years probation. At the time, Persky said that a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner.

Last week, Persky moved to civil court, officials said.

Turner’s case hit the national spotlight in June, when Buzzfeed published the 23-year-old victim’s impact statement, which she read in court.

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Good Samaritans Speak Out After Rescuing Woman From Fiery Wreck

Courtesy City of Binghamton(BINGHAMTON, N.Y.) — Bystanders who jumped into action to save a woman’s life described the “surreal” scene after a multiple-vehicle accident trapped a motorist inside her car as it burst into flames.

The mayor of Binghamton, New York, released dashcam footage of the 10-car pileup in the hopes of finding and honoring the people who can be seen on camera rescuing the woman.

ABC News spoke exclusively with four of the men who helped save the woman’s life.

The good Samaritans behind the daring rescue during the Aug. 25 accident recalled the moments when they decided to rush to an elderly woman’s aide rather than stand by and watch.

Ed Staff, seen in the video wearing neon green shorts and a baseball hat, told Good Morning America, “It was like a demolition derby. It really was.”

“It was miraculous that nobody got killed in this accident, said Chris White. “It’s tough.” White is pictured in the video wearing jeans and a white shirt while helping carry the woman away from the fiery scene.

“It’s hard to watch,” Doug Kumpon, added.

Albert Fior, in black shorts and a blue shirt told ABC, “I looked inside the car and I noticed that there was a female trying to get our attention, waving her hands frantically.”

While the group of strangers worked together, struggling to get the car doors open, Kumpon said, “flames shot out from that rear quarter of the car. That was pretty scary.”

With the vehicle up in flames and the woman still trapped inside, Staff jumped into action, “I run to the tractor trailer there and the driver was just getting out and he’s got a fire extinguisher in his hand. So I grabbed that fire extinguisher and I run back to the car that’s burning.”

White said that in the heat of the moment, he knew he had to do whatever he could, “I couldn’t live just watching somebody burn to death without me putting up a fight.”

“It was a very surreal few minutes in our lives,” said Kumpon, who said he doesn’t believe they’re heroes. He said the group “did what we had to do at the end of the day and got the job done.”

But the mayor of Binghamton, Richard C. David, begs to differ saying, “You wanna know what a hero looks like? Take a look at this video and you’ll see several of them in action.”

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