Review Category : National News

Ward’s Aunt Says Tony Stewart Grand Jury Put ‘Wrong Man on Trial’

Rich Barnes/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The aunt of Kevin Ward Jr., the sprint car driver killed when he was struck by NASCAR star Tony Stewart in a race last month, questioned why her nephew was drug tested, but not the driver that hit him, saying it seemed “the wrong man was on trial.”

“Why was the toxicology report even an issue? Seems to me the wrong man was on trial,” Wendi Ward wrote in the open letter shared with ABC News four days after a grand jury investigation determined there was insufficient evidence to indict the NASCAR star.

The grand jury’s findings clearing Stewart were released Wednesday by the Ontario County District Attorney’s Office in Canandaigua, New York. At that time, prosecutors said a toxicology report showed Ward had marijuana in his system the night he died.

Prosecutors said the grand jury considered manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges in the Aug. 9 incident that occurred during a sprint car event at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.

Ward, 20, who had spun out while racing beside Stewart, died after he got out of his car and was struck by Stewart’s car.

She described Ward as “an amazing person,” who was devoted to his family and community, and loved his sport.

He was “just a small-town boy having fun until the days turned into years, and it then became his passion and life,” she wrote.

A representative for Stewart declined to comment on the letter.

In a statement released after the grand jury’s findings were announced, Stewart said the past two months have been the “toughest and most emotional experience of my life, and it will stay with me forever.”

“While much of the attention has been on me, it’s important to remember a young man lost his life,” he said. “Kevin Ward Jr.’s family and friends will always be in my thoughts and prayers.”

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Flight Delays and Cancellations Continue in Chicago

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — There are more delays and cancellations Saturday for flights into and out of Chicago and other Midwest cities, one day after a man allegedly set fire to an Illinois control center.

At O’Hare Airport in Chicago, many of the thousands of passengers who were stranded on Friday stayed the night, hoping they could still travel to their destination on Saturday.

As of Saturday morning, O’Hare had a total of 608 cancellations and 114 delays.

The contract employee accused of starting the fire at an FAA facility is 36-year-old Brian Howard of Naperville, Ill. On Friday he was charged with one count of Destruction of Aircraft or Aircraft Facilities. He could face up to 20 years in prison.

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Four College Students Killed When Semi Collides with Bus

iStock/Thinkstock(OKLAHOMA CITY) — Several members of a college softball team were killed when their bus collided with a semi truck Friday night near the Oklahoma/Texas boarder.

A school bus carrying the North Central Texas College softball team back from a game was struck by a tractor-trailer rig that crossed the freeway median.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Ronnie Hampton says four members of the team were killed and 15 others were injured.

Federal officials will be investigating the cause of the crash.

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Four College Students Killed When Semi Collides with Bus

iStock/Thinkstock(OKLAHOMA CITY) — Several members of a college softball team were killed when their bus collided with a semi truck Friday night near the Oklahoma/Texas boarder.

A school bus carrying the North Central Texas College softball team back from a game was struck by a tractor-trailer rig that crossed the freeway median.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Ronnie Hampton says four members of the team were killed and 15 others were injured.

Federal officials will be investigating the cause of the crash.

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Surveillance Video Captures Violent Carjacking at Miami Hotel

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — New surveillance video shows the moment a carjacking suspect got behind the wheel of a car and crashed through vehicles and people at a Miami hotel before racing away.

Police allege that Alberto Ruiz, 50, calmly slid into the driver’s seat of a brand-new Lexus sport utility vehicle around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the luxury JW Marriott Marquis hotel as the car’s owner got out.

He then allegedly backed into two valets who were unloading the vehicle’s trunk.

After plowing forward and getting stuck between two vehicles, police said, Ruiz again backed up into several valets and pedestrians as they tried to talk to him and remove him from the car.

Several valets were sandwiched between the SUV and another parked car, police said.

He eventually was able to speed off, police said, leaving seven people injured and four vehicles damaged. One valet suffered serious injuries and needed to be hospitalized.

Police later located Ruiz, whom they called a career criminal, at a motel and he was arrested.

He is charged with carjacking and attempted murder in addition to other charges.

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Chicago Flight Cancellations Overwhelm Airports

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Nearly 10 hours after firefighters extinguished the blaze at a Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Control Center in Aurora, Illinois, at least 1,669 flights have been canceled on Friday in and out of the two Chicago airports, one of which is the world’s busiest.

As of 3:25 p.m. ET, there were 1,669 canceled flights that were to go in and out of O’Hare and Midway Airports Friday and 353 delayed flights.

The fire, thought to be started by a contract employee, started a day after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proudly proclaimed O’Hare as the world’s busiest airport for the first time since 2004, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. More than 580,000 flights departed or landed at the airport from January to August.

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UVA Abduction Suspect Jesse Matthew Handed Over to Virginia Authorities

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) — The suspect in the case of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham has been transferred from the custody of a Texas jail to Virginia law enforcement officers, authorities told ABC News.

Jesse Matthew, 32, was arrested in Galveston, Texas, on Wednesday and has been held by Texas authorities for the past two days. He has waived extradition hearings.

Investigators from Charlottesville, Virginia, arrived in Texas Thursday to meet with Matthew, who is charged with abduction with intent to defile Graham. He reportedly refused to speak during that meeting, but officials said investigators were able to speak with Matthew later Thursday and again on Friday.

Matthew was spotted camping out on the beach in Galveston by a woman who called police who took him into custody.

Matthew was the last person seen on surveillance video on the night Graham vanished two weeks ago.

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Trooper Tells Accused Cop Killer Eric Frein: ‘We Will Find You’

Courtesy Roman Kamensky(CRESCO, Pa.) — The state trooper leading the manhunt for accused cop killer Eric Frein had a message for the suspect on Friday, calling him a “coward” and telling him, “We are not intimidated. We will not leave.”

Lt. Col. George Bivens, who is leading the manhunt, sent that message to Frein as the dragnet was almost two weeks old.

Bivens had earlier said there were indications that Frein had access to the media, and on Friday he said, “I have reason to believe he may have a radio with him.”

Bivens delivered a taunting message to Frein.

“You are a coward,” the officer said. “We are not intimidated. We will not leave… We will find you and we will bring you to justice.”

The posse hunting Frein zeroed in on a section of Pennsylvania wilderness because the suspect turned on his cellphone in an attempt to call his parents, sources familiar with the investigation confirmed to ABC News Friday.

Frein’s phone was only on for a few seconds, but it was long enough for investigators to track the signal to an area near the border of Monroe and Pike counties in the Pocono Mountains, the source said.

Bivens declined to discuss the cellphone call, saying, “I’m not going to comment on anything that may have been done with cellphones.”

The break in the manhunt, first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, came six days after Frein, 31, allegedly ambushed Pennsylvania state troopers at their barracks, killing one officer and critically wounding another.

As many as 1,000 officers have been scouring the woods and surrounding areas for Frein. Bivens said Friday that searchers have “found evidence there has been tampering with some structures in the area,” and the officer suspects it was the work of Frein.

The mountain dragnet sent officers to a sprawling abandoned hotel called the Buck Hill Inn near the town of Cresco. The search failed to locate Frein.

“We do know he has an interest in that location and do know he has spent some time there,” the lieutenant colonel said.

Bivens said that Frein has “experimented with explosives,” and “We are taking that into consideration,” alert for “booby traps” while checking cabins and caves where Frein might have been hiding.

The manhunt has included the use of helicopters and dogs and the combination appears to have flushed Frein out of a hiding spot earlier in the week, but he escaped into woods as it got dark, Bivens said.

“On at least one occasion…. (a tracking dog) caused him to jump out at quite some distance from us and escape,” Bivens said. He said the incident occurred a few days ago “just as darkness was falling,” which made it difficult for the helicopter above to spot him.

He said the last sighting of Frein was on Wednesday.

The investigators said they have recovered a hard drive from a computer that Frein had access to that included Internet searches and research on how to evade a police manhunt and survivalist techniques.

Investigators are also looking for anyone who may have seen Frein’s Jeep Cherokee Sport before Monday, Sept. 15 in and around the Blooming Grove station where the ambush occurred.

The vehicle was found partially submerged in a pond and inside the car were shell casings that matched the bullets fired at the troopers along with face camouflage and two empty rifle cases.

An AK-47 rifle and ammunition was later found in the woods that police believe Frein either abandoned or had stashed.

Frein is believed to be armed with a .308 rifle with a scope, police have said, and is considered to be extremely dangerous.

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Serial Arsonist At-Large in Washington State

iStock/Thinkstock(SPOKANE, Wash.) — Firefighters in Spokane, Washington are searching for a serial arsonist they believe may have intentionally set up to 17 fires in the past week.

Spokane County Fire District Chief Tony Neilson says there have been two fires per day, all set in rural areas along roads.

“Somebody is going to be injured. Either a member of the public or one of our firefighters,” Neilson said. “Or somebody is going to lose a home.”

Arson investigators are also looking for the suspect.

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LISTEN: The Frantic 911 Call Following NJ Bear Attack

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A frantic 911 call captured the moments after a New Jersey man escaped from a bear that had fatally attacked his friend.

Darsh Patel, 22, a senior at Rutgers University studying technology and informatics, was hiking in the Apshawa Preserve this past Sunday with four friends when the attack happened.

A male member of the group, who was not identified, made a chilling call for help after he managed to escape from the bear.

“We were hiking and we saw a bear and we all started running and it started chasing us,” the caller told the dispatcher.

He then proceeds to say that two of his friends were “really close” to the animal.

“I’m scared out of my mind for them. I want to go back but I’m hurt and I don’t know what to do,” he said.

“You’re hurt, you said?” the dispatcher asked.

“Not badly,” the caller replied. “I just scraped my leg. It’s nothing major, but I’m more worried about them. Can anybody get here anytime really soon please?”

Patel, from Edison, N.J., was found dead by police two hours later.

The bear, which wasn’t tagged, is being examined at a state lab for clues as to why it went after the hikers.

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