Review Category : National News

Police release audio clip from victim’s phone in hopes of catching Indiana teens’ killer

Indiana State Police(DELPHI, Ind.) — Police investigating the slayings of two girls in Indiana released new evidence Wednesday in hopes it will lead to the capture of their killer.

The evidence was a video clip captured by one of the victim’s cellphones. When police played the audio from the clip at a news conference in the city of Delphi Wednesday morning, reporters heard just three words from a deep voice: “Down the hill.”

The audio quality is not great, but police said it’s enough for someone to recognize the person’s voice. Investigators believe this clip recorded criminal behavior that was about to occur.

“Libby had the presence of mind to turn on her video camera,” Capt. David Bursten, chief public information officer of the Indiana State Police, told reporters. “There’s no doubt in our minds that that young lady is a hero.”

The rest of the video will not be released at this time because of the ongoing investigation, Bursten said.

The girls — Liberty (Libby) German, 14, and Abigail (Abby) Williams, 13, both of Carroll County — were first reported missing by their families Feb. 13 after they did not return from their hike. After organized searches, the bodies of the two girls were found Feb. 14 outside Delphi in the woods near Deer Creek, about three-quarters of a mile from an abandoned railroad bridge where they were dropped off a day earlier to go hiking. An autopsy revealed their identities.

“Evidence in this case has led investigators to believe that this is a double homicide and that’s what we’re investigating at this time,” Indiana State Police public information officer Sgt. Tony Slocum told reporters Wednesday morning.

Indiana State Police on Monday named a man in a photograph as the primary suspect in the double homicide investigation, but nothing is known about him at this time outside of a single image. The man, dressed in blue jeans, a blue jacket and a hoodie, was photographed on a nature trial around the same time the two girls disappeared. Previously, the man had been labeled a person of interest and police said he might only be a witness to the crime.

“We are actively looking for this person. We believe this person is our suspect,” Sgt. Slocum said at the press conference Wednesday morning.

Police said there is a possibility of more than one suspect, and it’s unclear if the voice heard in the audio clip belongs to the man seen in the photograph.

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Deadline looms for Dakota Access pipeline opponents to evacuate protest camp

Scott Olson/Getty Images(CANNONBALL, N.D.) — A deadline set by state and federal authorities for opponents of the Dakota Access pipeline to vacate the main protest camp is fast approaching.

Officials said the Oceti Sakowin camp, which is situated at the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation near Cannonball, North Dakota, must be evacuated Wednesday by 2 p.m. local time. Reentry will not be permitted. Camp residents there were seen lighting fires Wednesday morning, just hours before the deadline.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has set up a travel assistance center that will offer each protester water, snacks, a food voucher, a personal hygiene kit, health and wellness assessment, hotel lodging for one night, a taxi voucher to the bus terminal and bus fare for a return trip home. Transportation will be provided from Oceti Sakowin camp to the travel assistance center in Bismarck.

“This free service will provide protesters with support as they prepare for their return home,” Burgum’s office said in a Facebook post Tuesday night. “All camp residents are encourage to take advantage of these amenities.”

Last week, Burgum signed an emergency evacuation order for the Oceti Sakowin camp that reaffirmed a Feb. 22 deadline set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began coordinating a cleanup in late January, but state officials say it isn’t happening fast enough. The governor’s emergency evacuation order cited increasing temperatures and the threat of flooding as the impetus in accelerating the camp’s cleanup.

“Warm temperatures have accelerated snowmelt in the area of the Oceti Sakowin protest camp, and the National Weather Service reports that the Cannonball River should be on the watch for rising water levels and an increased risk of ice jams later this week,” the statement from Burgum’s office read.

“Due to these conditions, the governor’s emergency order addresses safety concerns to human life as anyone in the floodplain is at risk for possible injury or death. The order also addresses the need to protect the Missouri River from the waste that will flow into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe if the camp is not cleared and the cleanup expedited,” the statement added.

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Models describe how they rescued teens from frozen Central Park pond

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Two male models who were skateboarding in Central Park and paused to take a picture of the sunset ended up saving the lives of seven teenagers who had fallen through ice.

“It was all a matter of ‘right place at the right time’ for the two of us,” Ethan Turnbull said Wednesday on ABC News’ Good Morning America.

Turnbull was with fellow model Bennett Jonas in New York City’s Central Park Monday when, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a group of teenagers playing on ice atop a pond.

“I said to Bennett, ‘Look, man, there’s some kids over there on the ice,’” Turnbull recalled. “Within the time it took me to say that to Bennett and look back, the ice had actually broken because they came together to take a photo.”

Turnbull and Jonas rushed to the scene and jumped into the freezing water to pull the teenagers to safety. The teenagers in the water were all boys ages 13 to 17, according to ABC New York City station WABC-TV.

“One of the first things I learned as a kid was never give your body to somebody drowning and I learned that the hard way,” Jonas said Wednesday on GMA. “The first two kids I got to heading into the water pulled me under.

“They had me completely under the water,” he said. “I had to get them up and get them to [Ethan].”

While other eyewitnesses captured Turnbull and Jonas’s heroic efforts on video, the two friends kept working to pull each of the seven boys to the shore.

“The only time I was really scared was as I was entering the water … it was chaotic,” Jonas said. “They were pulling each other under [and] just knowing you’re heading into the middle of that and they’re trying to get out as much as you’re trying to get them out.”

He added, “You’re their way out so they’re trying to get on top of you, get out any way they can.”

One of the victims was hospitalized overnight. The other teens were treated and released, according to WABC.

Jonas and Turnbull were not injured during the rescue. Jonas described how the pair survived the “brutal” water temperature.

“The adrenaline was so crazy; I don’t think either of us really realized how cold we were until after it all kind of subsided,” he said.

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Muslim activists raise nearly $60,000 to aid vandalized Jewish cemetery

iStock/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) — As of early Wednesday morning, a crowdfunding campaign started by Muslim activists had raised nearly $60,000 in an effort to help repair a vandalized Jewish cemetery near St. Louis, Missouri.

“Muslim Americans stand in solidarity with the Jewish-American community to condemn this horrific act of desecration against the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery,” read the crowdfunding campaign’s website, which was spearheaded by Muslim-American activists Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi. “We also extend our deepest condolences to all those who have been affected and to the Jewish community at large.”

The effort comes after headstones were damaged late Sunday or early Monday at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery.

As of early Wednesday morning, the LaunchGood-hosted campaign had raised more than $58,000, far surpassing the original $20,000 fundraising goal that the organizers said had been met in just three hours.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens called the cemetery vandalism a “senseless act of desecration” in a tweet on Monday.

The incident at the cemetery comes amid a spate of threats directed at Jewish centers across the nation this year. The FBI and the Justice Department announced earlier this week that they would investigate the multiple bomb threats directed toward at least 60 Jewish centers, including 11 threats made on Monday alone.

The Anti-Defamation League called the situation “alarming” and “disruptive” in a statement and said that the threats should be taken seriously.

In a speech on Tuesday, President Donald Trump denounced anti-Semitism after facing criticism that he had not acted strongly enough against the threats.

“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” said Trump after touring the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

The fundraisers for the “Muslims Unite to Repair Jewish Cemetery” campaign said they launched the campaign in an effort to “send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities” and to condemn “hate, desecration, and violence.”

The campaign said the proceeds would go directly to the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, and that any additional funds leftover after the cost of restoration would “assist other vandalized Jewish centers nationwide.”

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Dakota pipeline builder says oil could flow in as few as two weeks

Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — On the eve of the deadline for anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protesters to vacate camps in North Dakota, the company in charge of construction said in a court filing on Tuesday that oil could start flowing in as early as two weeks, beating previous estimates.

Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners, the builder of the pipeline whose construction has sparked protests since last August over its location, said in the filing to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that the company “estimates and targets that the pipeline will be complete and ready to flow oil anywhere between the week of March 6, 2017 and April 1, 2017.”

The court filing was required as part of an ongoing legal battle that is challenging the construction at the site by Lake Oahe.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum last week called for the Oceti Sakowin protest camp — located on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation — to be evacuated by Wednesday, Feb. 23., claiming ecological damage at the camp and rising post-winter floodwaters.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which is part of the Great Sioux Nation, has joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit against the pipeline, filing a motion at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Feb. 9 seeking a temporary restraining order “to halt construction and drilling” under and on either side of the land surrounding the lake.

The tribe argued that the pipeline “will desecrate the waters upon which Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members rely for their most important religious practices and therefore substantially burden the free exercise of their religion,” according to a court document obtained by ABC News.

Last Monday, the court denied that motion seeking a temporary restraining order. On Tuesday, the pipeline company said that the Cheyenne River Sioux legal claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “has no chance of success on the merits.”

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed a separate motion seeking a preliminary injunction directing the Army Corps to withdraw the easement issued to the pipeline company on Feb. 8. The tribe alleges that the easement granted is “entirely unlawful,” according to court documents. A further hearing on the Cheyenne River Sioux’s motion for a preliminary injunction against the pipeline is set for Feb. 27 in Washington, D.C.

After receiving the easement to build the pipeline across land on both sides of Lake Oahe, Energy Transfer Partners announced it would resume construction immediately, and indeed work has resumed.

The Dakota Access Pipeline, which would connect oil production areas in North Dakota to an existing crude oil terminal near Patoka, Illinois.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been at the forefront of massive and prolonged protests over the four-state crude oil pipeline. The demonstrations have drawn thousands of Native Americans, environmental activists and their allies to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.

Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, has said that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on local water supply are unfounded” and “multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route.”

In the final days of President Barack Obama’s administration, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, announced on Dec. 4 that an easement would not be granted for the pipeline to cross under the large reservoir on the Missouri River.

The move to deny the easement was hailed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other pipeline opponents as a major victory. But on his second weekday in office, President Trump signed a memorandum aimed at advancing the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as one directed at the Keystone XL pipeline.

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California’s wet weather has some believing the drought is over

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A statewide downpour brought chaos to Californians this week, but it also provided some welcome relief to the state’s 20 million residents who have suffered from drought conditions for more than four years.

The record precipitation now has some experts declaring the drought over.

The beginning

The drought began in 2012, but California Gov. Jerry Brown did not declare a drought state of emergency until January 2014. A response team was later established, and state lawmakers have allocated over $3 billion for drought relief and water management improvements.

The U.S. Geological Survey said 2014 was the warmest year on record for California.

According to Park Williams, a climate scientist and an assistant professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the drought was exacerbated by high temperatures.

“These last five years in California were much warmer than you’d expect just based on the drought alone, and the reason is because the globe’s overall temperature has been warming,” he told ABC News. “California’s relationship with water is one where they either have too much or too little. So California goes through swings very rapidly. That’s what made this drought in California so rare … [it’s] very rare to get five dry years in a row.”

He added, “Global warming did not cause this drought but nevertheless had a measuring amplifying effect.”

Record rain this week

Flooding warnings were in effect Tuesday in Northern and Central California after storms wreaked havoc on the Golden State last weekend.

In Modesto, police went door to door evacuating residents as floodwaters rose. In San Jose, firefighters jumped on inflatable rafts to rescue two people trapped by a roaring river.

More than 2 inches of rain were recorded at the San Francisco International Airport on Monday. Since October, San Francisco has seen 25.6 inches of rain — nearly 2 inches more than the city usually gets in an entire year.

This extreme weather in Northern California came after powerful rain moved its way up the California coast; the rain first pounded San Diego and Los Angeles, stranding drivers in their cars and contributing to the deaths of least five people.

Is California’s drought over?

The latest drought outlook from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center “shows drought in Southern California likely to resolve and drought in the Central Coast region of California as persistent but improving.”

After this incredibly wet winter, Williams said, he considers the drought over; trees that survived the drought will likely begin recovering, and lakes are near capacity, he explained.

Michael Dettinger, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist and a researcher at the University of California at San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, agrees with Williams’ assessment.

“I believe that the drought is over at this point,” he told ABC News. “If groundwater levels were lower than they should be because of the drought, then we wouldn’t need to say it’s over. But groundwater levels are down because of overpumping that’s been going on … for 50 to 70 years. To me, that’s not drought — that’s just a long-term imbalance of how we use water.”

David Feldman, a UC Irvine professor of planning, policy and design, said he won’t know if the drought is over until May, when the state’s rainy season ends.

“If I were regulator working for the state water board, I’d probably lean on the conservative side,” he said.

He added, “Things can dry out quickly. You can have a warm spell. You can have a warm period that melts snowpack in the [Sierra Nevada]. I think in May they’ll have a good sense of if we can declare this thing over.”

The impact

Williams considers groundwater pumping — pulling water out of the ground, much of it by farmers so their crops can grow in dry conditions — a major issue in droughts.

Groundwater is “essentially taking away from future water reserves to survive this current drought,” he said.

“If we take groundwater out of the ground and we don’t put water back in to replace it, then that is an unsustainable approach to the use of a very valuable resource,” Williams said. “As we continue to reduce drought effects by pulling water out of the ground, we’re stealing from the future. And so without prescribing any recommendation, I will say that the California government is beginning to try to regulate groundwater use … The point of doing that is to try to find a more sustainable approach to using that valuable resource.”

Dettinger said groundwater was originally treated as a local issue. Now state lawmakers are enacting laws to improve how groundwater is monitored and managed.

“That’s I think one of the biggest things that came out of the drought, and it’s a good thing. The other big thing that came out of the drought is water use restrictions and efficiency requirements were instituted,” he said. “If we use less water, there will be more flexibility to carry us through droughts.”

Sobering statistics

California’s water comes from three main sources: snowpack, reservoirs and aquifers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Californians use an estimated 108 gallons of water per person on average every day, the EPA said.

Since 2012, the Golden State has endured not only record high temperatures but also record low levels of snowpack and precipitation, according to CaliforniaDrought.org, a project of the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit that researches solutions to freshwater issues, in Oakland.

The drought has hit rural communities harder than urban and suburban communities, which are better able to diversify their water sources, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Most farming relies on irrigation, which accounts for approximately 80 percent of California’s human water use, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. In 2015 farmers had about 50 percent less surface water because of the drought; they pumped more groundwater to make up the difference but still had 10 percent less water than usual, and farm sector losses reached nearly $2 billion, according to the institute.

Drought can be noxious to the environment. Wildfires could become more prevalent, and as many as 18 fish species could become extinct if the current drought continues, the Public Policy Institute of California said.

What the future holds

Brown has issued a series of executive orders to help the state cope with the drought, the most recent mandating “continued, long-term water savings as drought persists.”

Nancy Vogel of the California Natural Resources Agency told ABC News that the governor will consider many factors when he revisits the emergency statewide drought declaration in coming weeks — including groundwater, snow pack and reservoir levels.

This winter’s rain “doesn’t come all the time,” Dettinger said. “The worst thing we can do is forget about droughts just because it’s wet right now.”

He added, “Going forward, we definitely want to get a handle on the groundwater use because that is the piece that a winter like this can’t even fix. We’re going to have to fix it on our end by monitoring how much water we take. I would like to see them stop being called drought restrictions and call them sustainability restrictions.”

Feldman said it’s important to prepare for a drought before one is declared. He recommends that the U.S. follow Australia’s example by harvesting rainwater and recycling wastewater.

Most of all, he urged Americans not to take the nation’s water for granted.

“Droughts are not just limited to California and the Southwest,” Feldman said. “Other areas of the U.S. have been through periods of water stress and drought from time to time. We want to do everything we can … to protect our water, to conserve it … to recycle it if we can, just to treat it more wisely than we have in the past.”

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Police end ‘high five Fridays’ at Massachusetts schools amid complaints

Northampton Police Department(NORTHHAMPTON, Mass.) — A Massachusetts police department said it ended a program that aimed to “positively engage” with elementary school students after residents raised concerns that it may scare children who’ve had negative experiences with police.

The Northampton Police Department said it decided to scrap its High Five Friday program, which kicked off in December, after residents said that some children — particularly minorities and undocumented immigrants — may be uncomfortable with uniformed police officers greeting them at school in the morning.

Ninety percent of Northampton’s approximately 30,000 residents, though, are white, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.

“Concerns were shared that some kids might respond negatively to a group of uniformed officers at their school,” the police department said in a post on its Facebook page last week. “People were specifically concerned about kids of color, undocumented children, or any children who may have had negative experiences with the police.”

‘High Five Friday’ program slapped down https://t.co/Y9pywtYIDt pic.twitter.com/ZCWXpC1CM2

— WCVB-TV Boston (@WCVB) February 21, 2017

As of Wednesday morning, the post announcing the halt had racked up more more than 400 Facebook reactions and more than 300 comments.

Some Facebook users said the situation shedded light on the complex relationship between police and immigrants and/or people of color, but others were angry and unsympathetic to the complaints.

The program, intended to serve as a trust-building exercise, allowed officers to exchange “High Fives” with elementary school students once a month on a Friday. The department said it received mass support on social media, but concerns were raised at a recent school committee meeting.

The police chief, Jody Kasper, faced questions about the “long-term impacts of the program” and it was ultimately stopped, according to the department’s Facebook post.

The department said it enjoyed greeting the students and that it remains committed to exploring alternative programs to promote positive engagement.

“For a large portion of our population, this program may not seem controversial,” according to the Facebook post. “However, we cannot overlook the fact that this program may be received differently by some members of our community.”

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Dylann Roof stopped at another AME church after Charleston massacre, new documents say

ABC News(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof stopped at another AME church on the night of the shooting massacre, ABC News affiliate WCIV reported Tuesday, citing newly released court documents.

After the attack on June 17, 2015 that left nine black worshipers dead, Roof left Emanuel AME Church and traveled west to the Branch AME Church, according to WCIV, which cited GPS data that was not presented in court during his trial.

Roof, an avowed white supremacist, told FBI officials that he was too tired after the attack at the Emanuel AME church to continue shooting, according to the WCIV report.

Jurors Cry as Victims’ Families Share Stories of Loss

Branch AME, located about 30 minutes away from Emanuel, also holds a Bible study class on Wednesday night, the WCIV report said.

Defense attorneys argued previously that there was no evidence to suggest that he planned to carry out a second church attack.

Roof, 22, was sentenced to death last month in a federal trial for the 2015 massacre in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Owen Labrie is back in court, seeking a new trial

iStock/Thinkstock(CONCORD, N.H.) — A lawyer who was a member of the original defense team for Owen Labrie, the former prep school student convicted in 2015 of sexually assaulting a classmate, got emotional on the stand Tuesday as she recounted seeing what she says was an unprepared expert witness getting ready to testify during the trial for which she was a local co-counsel.

“That was possibly the most terrifying moment of my legal career,” attorney Jaye Rancourt said Tuesday. “I was sitting in that room, thinking, I’m [going] to have to go in that courtroom and interrupt this trial and step in and say, ‘I can’t let it go on.'”

The testimony is part of an effort to argue that Labrie’s counsel was ineffective and secure a new trial. Labrie, 21, was found guilty in August 2015 of a felony charge of using a computer to lure an underage female schoolmate at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, into a sexual encounter.

Although Labrie was acquitted of felony sexual assault, he was convicted of three misdemeanor sexual assault charges and one misdemeanor charge of child endangerment. He was sentenced to one year in jail.

Rancourt did not interrupt the trial. She said, instead, she made a decision to be more present and active during the trial and help as much as she could.

After Labrie’s trial and conviction, however, Rancourt did file a motion for a new trial due to ineffective assistance of counsel. She was subsequently removed from his new defense team by a judge who ruled that she could not argue against the original group of lawyers of which she was a part. Rancourt testified Tuesday for Labrie’s appeals team headed by Robin Melone.

Labrie’s attorneys are arguing not only that his defense team was ineffective but also that the defense team should have pursued an intranet vs. internet distinction.

They say that when he contacted his then-15-year-old accuser, Chessy Prout, on a school email system, or intranet, that was limited to campus servers, and therefore may not be covered under state law that specifies internet service, according to a court petition obtained by ABC News in October 2016.

Prout made her identity public in August 2016 during a national TV appearance. She was not present at Tuesday’s hearing.

In court documents filed in February, Labrie’s former attorneys JW Carney and Samir Zaganjori responded to questions about their work on his case.

“My co-counsel and I carefully reviewed our options for trying this case. … I met on numerous occasions with the defendant and had dozens of telephone calls with him. He participated in every aspect of the defense and agreed with the overall strategy and all of the specific tactics. If I were confronted with a situation, which we had not anticipatd, he always was complimentary afterwards to the approach I had taken on the fly,” Carney said.

Zaganjori said Labrie played an “active role” in his defense.

“I cannot recall a single instance when he expressed displeasure or disapgreement with any decision or recommendation made by myself, Attorney Carney or Attorney Rancourt,” Zaganjori said.

Labrie spent two months incarcerated but is now out on bail pending appeal, and must wear a monitoring bracelet while he appeals his conviction.

After graduating from St. Paul’s, one of the country’s most prestigious prep schools, Labrie, who now lives with his family in Vermont, had intended to attend Harvard University. The Ivy League school rescinded its offer after he was accused of sexual assault.

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Police: No injuries, no suspect after gunfire reported at Houston hospital

iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) — Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, Texas, has been given an all-clear after police responded to reports of gunfire on Tuesday.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said no one was shot and no suspect was found despite initial reports about an active shooter, a suspect described to police as a white male, on the second floor of the hospital.

Two searches were conducted by police, according to Acevedo, and there was “no evidence of shooter or shooting.”

“I am confident that if there was a threat, that threat is not here now,” he said.
When the hospital was in lockdown mode, some sheltered in place while hundreds of others, including staff, patients and family, were evacuated.

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