Review Category : National News

Veteran claims to have sought treatment prior to driving into Times Square crowd

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Richard Rojas, the 26-year-old Navy veteran who rammed his car into a crowd in New York’s Times Square last week, killing an 18-year-old woman and injuring 20 others, claims that he reached out to a mental health counselor prior to taking his fateful drive.

“He said he’d call me on Monday,” Rojas told the New York Post in a jailhouse interview while speaking about his attempts to seek counselling. “Monday hasn’t come yet.”

Shortly before noon on Thursday, Rojas, a resident of the Bronx, was driving south on 7th Avenue when he slowed down and allowed traffic to pass. He then made a U-turn at 42nd Street, accelerated and started to strike down pedestrians, according to police.

He accelerated and continued driving until he crashed at 45th Street, the NYPD said. After Rojas crashed, he exited the vehicle.

“I wanted to kill them,” he said of his victims, according to prosecutors.

Kenya Bradix, 47, a Planet Hollywood door supervisor, tackled Rojas and helped hold him until police arrived, Bradix told ABC News.

Court records said Rojas was observed with “glassy eyes, slurred speech, and was unsteady on his feet.”

He had smoked pot laced with PCP before the incident, Rojas told police. Authorities later confirmed that he had the drug in his system at the time.

The Post, which interviewed Rojas from New York’s Riker’s Island jail complex, described him as being “weepy” while discussing his attempts to seek help.

“I was trying to get help,” Rojas told the Post. “I wanted to fix my life. I wanted to get a job, get a girlfriend.”

Rojas is expected to return to court on May 24.

He was arraigned Friday on charges of murder, attempted murder and aggravated vehicular homicide.

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Firefighters rescue little boy’s card for deceased mom in heaven

iStock/Thinkstock(LAKEWOOD, Colo.) — Thanks to a group of firefighters, one boy was able to retrieve a balloon that he sent up to “heaven” for his mom.

“It meant so much to us, and we’re so thankful and grateful for everything they do,” the boy’s father, Jess, of Lakewood, Colorado, told ABC News. “They protect the community and go out of their way to help out even when it’s not a big thing, so we’re just deeply appreciative.”

Seven-year-old Evan’s mom, Kellie, died in February 2014. Since then, Evan and his father, who asked that ABC News not share their last name, have been writing cards to her and sending them up in the sky.

This Mother’s Day, Evan and Jess attached their note to a balloon and released it in the backyard, but it got tangled in a tree.

On Wednesday, Jess wrote to West Metro Fire Rescue in Lakewood, asking them to rescue the balloon for his son.

“We reached back out to [him] and said, ‘Absolutely, we’ll come and help you,’ ” Chief Steve Aseltine told ABC News. “We sent a tower ladder apparatus, which has four personnel. An opportunity to take their bad situation and make it better, we would jump on it. The firefighters — they were ecstatic to go and help.”

On May 17, the firefighters surprised Evan at home as soon as he got out of school.

“The firemen went out of their way to make him feel very special,” Jess said of his son. “They let him in the truck and hung out with him afterward, and that was great.”

Evan now hopes to resend the balloon to his mom in a “big field with no trees in sight,” Jess said.

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State of emergency declared in Indiana county due to flash flooding

Washington County Indiana Sheriffs Department(NEW YORK) — Officials in a southern Indiana county declared a state of emergency Friday after flash flooding prompted first responders to rescue residents from high water.

Some businesses and homes are under almost 20 feet of water, and multiple structures have water damage, according to the Salem Fire Department.

“Flash flooding occurs very quickly and can cause a lot of damage,” says ABC News meteorologist Brittany Borer. “People can be trapped in homes or vehicles which is a very dangerous situation. Rainfall totals of up to 2 inches can be expected through Sunday.”

Salem, the county seat of Washington County, was hardest hit. The city is located less than an hour northwest of Louisville, Kentucky.

Some residents evacuated after officials announced a voluntary evacuation of the county.

The fire department said it conducted “dozens” of water rescues between roughly 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. There were no injuries or fatalities.

“The City of Salem and Washington Co., is currently under a state of emergency please stay home do not get out to ‘sight see;’ there are multiple emergency service crews working in multiple locations,” the Salem Fire Department wrote on its Facebook page.

Follow the Blue River at Salem here! https://t.co/gi42bZFFY7 #lmkwx #inwx pic.twitter.com/UVTsuO6TUH

— NWS Louisville (@NWSLouisville) May 20, 2017

Multiple roads in and out of Salem were closed, the fire department said.

“It just rained and rained and rained, and next thing you know, this is what you got,” Salem mayor told ABC affiliate WHAS in Louisville. “It’s a heartbreaking situation, but we will get through it.”

In addition to Washington County, the National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for all or parts of Jefferson, Clark and Scott counties.

Indiana State Police Sgt. Jerry Goodin told WHAS that the city of Seymour, north of Salem, had downtown street flooding.

Be especially cautious in and near locations that flood particularly easily! #lmkwx #inwx pic.twitter.com/bXKv1TSSXk

— NWS Louisville (@NWSLouisville) May 20, 2017

Power outages have also been reported, and officials estimate there is millions of dollars in damage, according to WHAS.

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Superintendent: No link between bullying and 8-year-old Gabriel Taye’s suicide

Courtesy Cornelia Reynolds(CINCINNATI) — The superintendent of a Cincinnati public school district is disputing claims that 8-year-old Gabriel Taye was bullied at school before he hanged himself at home.

In a recent interview with ABC News affiliate WCPO-TV, Cincinnati Public Schools superintendent Mary Ronan rejected a family attorney’s claim that surveillance video captures Gabriel being bullied in a school bathroom.

“That is a falsehood. When you look at the video, we see no link between bullying and the suicide. If you look at the video — and we have, frame by frame — it appears the young man fainted,” Ronan told WCPO-TV on Thursday.

Cincinnati Public Schools released on May 12 the surveillance video recorded Jan. 24 outside a boys’ bathroom at Carson School. The blurry and choppy footage shows Gabriel walking into the bathroom around the 13-minute mark. As he enters the restroom, Gabriel appears to shake another child’s hand and then falls to the floor.

Gabriel was unconscious for several minutes, his feet visible from the hallway surveillance camera. Students are seen entering and leaving the restroom, with some stopping to look at Gabriel and nudge him.

Finally, a child summons a school staff member to the restroom, who attends to Gabriel.

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Gabriel’s mother, Cornelia Reynolds, took him to the hospital for vomiting that evening and kept him home from school the following day. He returned to school on Jan. 26.

That evening, two days after the alleged incident in the restroom, Gabriel hanged himself in a bedroom of his home. His mother found him, police said.

Months after the young boy’s death, Ronan is disturbed by what she says is the ongoing fallout from the incident and the family’s accusation that Gabriel’s death was due to bullying.

The superintendent said other boys who were in the restroom at the time are “traumatized” because they think they “caused his death.”

“Now, what I’m having to do is provide mental health services for the other three or four 8-year-olds in the bathroom with Gabriel because somehow now they think that they caused his death. So, now we’ve traumatized another three or four children who are at-risk,” Ronan told WCPO-TV.

She went on, “So, this whole situation is so tragic — to have lost a child — and now children for the rest of their lives may need therapy because of what they’ve been unfairly accused of and these are children with no disciplinary record who just happened to be walking into the bathroom when he collapsed.”

When contacted by ABC News for comment Friday, the superintendent reaffirmed her remarks as told to WCPO-TV and added that Gabriel told the school nurse when she arrived on scene that he had fainted.

“He never said he was bullied,” Ronan told ABC News.

Ronan reiterated her concern for the other children in the video, some of whom she said have been “harshly criticized by people who do not know them or all the facts.”

ABC News also reached out to Cincinnati Public Schools’ public affairs office for additional comment Friday but did not immediately hear back.

Gabriel’s death was initially ruled a suicide in January by the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office. On May 12, a spokesperson for the coroner’s office told ABC News the circumstances surrounding the boy’s death will be re-examined based on the newly-released surveillance video as well as a police detective’s analysis.

The Cincinnati Police Department has not filed charges in the case.

“On Jan. 26, 2017, the Cincinnati Police Department conducted an investigation into the death of Gabriel Taye. In light of the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office statement that they have reopened this death investigation, the Cincinnati Police Department does not believe it would be appropriate to comment at this time. Any questions regarding this matter should be directed to the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office,” the Cincinnati Police Department told ABC News in a statement on May 12.

Cincinnati Public Schools released a statement upon releasing the video, saying “the allegations portrayed in the media,” regarding Gabriel being bullied, aren’t supported by the footage.

“Our hearts are broken by the loss of this child, and our thoughts are with his parents and extended family. He was an outstanding young man, and this is a great loss for his family and our school community, the statement said. “In an effort to be completely transparent, we are releasing the video that was reviewed as part of an investigation by the Cincinnati Police Department. As all are aware, no charges resulted from that investigation. We have uploaded the video, in its entirety, blurring out faces of the students who appear to protect their privacy. We ask that you review the video, in its entirety. It is our firm position that the allegations portrayed in the media are not supported by the video.”

In a statement to ABC News on May 12, Reynolds called her son a “shining light to everyone who knew him and loved him.”

“We miss him desperately and suffer every day. His life was not only stolen from him, but from those of us who expected to watch him grow up and enjoy life. If I could, I would give anything to have him back. I feel he was cheated. I feel robbed. My only child, my best friend and my first true love isn’t here with us physically but I know he’s here in spirit,” the mother said in the statement.

Jennifer Branch, an attorney for the boy’s family, said Gabriel’s mother had not been told of the alleged incident in the boys’ bathroom. Reynolds had been told her son had fainted, according to Branch.

“There needs to be a lot more response in that school to what is going on and the parents need to know what’s going on. I think that’s a very big component,” Branch told WCPO-TV on May 11.

Carla Leader, another attorney for the family, said it’s unclear from the video whether Gabriel hit his head on the wall or the floor and if that ultimately knocked him out. Leader said the footage shows other students pointing at Gabriel, laughing and kicking him before a school staff member revives the boy.

“Gabe comes in and reaches out to shake his hand and gets pulled to the ground and he lays there unconscious for about seven-and-a-half minutes,” Leader told WCPO-TV on May 11.

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Man subdued after trying to breach cockpit on American Airlines flight to Honolulu, source says

American Airlines(HONOLULU) — A man was subdued after he tried to breach the cockpit of an American Airlines flight to Honolulu, a source familiar with the situation told ABC News.

American Airlines said in a statement that law enforcement met the plane upon landing in Honolulu following a “disturbance” on the flight.

A source at the TSA told ABC News that the man was waiting for the bathroom near the cockpit when a flight attendant asked him to sit down. He had a laptop with him and appeared to try the cockpit door before he was subdued, the source said.

Law enforcement is now responding to analyze a suspicious item associated with the man, a source told ABC News.

Flight 31 from Los Angeles landed safely at 11:35 a.m. local time, according to American Airlines.

The incident is under investigation.

Further details on the incident were not immediately available.

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Tornado survivor gets hospital reunion with lost dogs

iStock/Thinkstock(EAU CLAIRE, Wisc.) — A Wisconsin man thought he lost much more than his home when a tornado touched down on Tuesday.

Ron Belcher says he was knocked out from the violent storm and woke up to find everything gone, including his two dogs.

“They’re like my kids,” Belcher told WQOW-TV, the ABC affiliate in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Two important bundles of fur, Cocoa the Husky and Taz the Pomeranian, were missing from Belcher’s life while he recuperated from his injuries at Lakeview Medical Hospital.

All of that changed on Thursday when nurse Ciara Rockow, who spent her free time trying to locate Belcher’s pets, found them at a local animal hospital.

Belcher was later surprised at his bedside with the best get-well present: Cocoa and Taz.

“This is God’s gift, that’s what keeps me moving no matter how many bad things happen,” the grinning dog owner said.

According to hospital staff, Belcher’s recovery is expected to last another six to eight weeks.

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Police find body of missing Cornell University student Aalaap Narasipura

Cornell University Police(ITHACA, N.Y.) — Police say they have found the body of a 20-year-old Cornell University student who had been missing for more than two days.

Authorities recovered a body from the area of Fall Creek, just upstream from Ithaca Falls, New York, on Friday morning and later confirmed the deceased’s identity as 20-year-old Aalaap Narasipura, according to the Cornell University Police Department.

The circumstances of Narasipura’s death remain under investigation, but police said they don’t suspect any foul play.

Narasipura was last seen in Sage Hall on Cornell’s campus Wednesday morning between 2 and 3 a.m. ET, according to the Cornell University Police Department.

State and local authorities from multiple agencies searched Narasipura’s residence, academic spaces and regular routes of travel as well as adjacent natural areas and gorges around the Ivy League university. They did not find any evidence of his whereabouts until coming across his body in Fall Creek on Friday morning, police said.

Earlier in the week, police had released a photo and description of Narasipura in hopes that members of the public could provide any leads.

“We are actively searching for Cornell student Aalaap Narasipura. We are in regular contact with his family, and we are dedicating significant resources to the search process and coordinating with local and state agencies,” Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life at Cornell, said in a statement Thursday. “We are all hopeful for a positive outcome, and I know you will join me in keeping Aalaap and his family and friends in our thoughts right now.”

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After dropping out of school, triplets return to graduate at the top of their class

WFAA-TV(DALLAS) — Three Texas sisters have gone from dropping out of high school to graduating at the top of their class.

Han, Tran and Ngan Tran, 18, are triplets. They graduated from Evolution Academy Charter School, which serves at-risk youth, at the top of their class of 148 students, according to ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.

Their final grade point averages were just one-hundredth of a point apart.

WFAA-TV reports that the girls arrived in the U.S. from Vietnam in 2012 with their father after their parents divorced.

“The first struggle … when we came to America, was English,” Han said.

When they moved to north Texas in 2015, the sisters said that things became really hard and all three ultimately dropped out of school.

“We were just overwhelmed from everything,” Tran told WFAA-TV. “We shut down. We didn’t want to go out, we didn’t want to talk to anyone.”

But the sisters managed to turn their lives around, making their parents proud in the process.

“At one point we just said, we cannot disappoint our mom anymore,” Han told WFAA-TV.

This fall, they will all head off to college together. The three sisters plan to attend Richland College in Dallas.

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Anthony Weiner pleads guilty in sexting case and must register as sex offender; Huma Abedin files for divorce

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former New York congressman and estranged husband of top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, tearfully admitted Friday to a federal judge that he sent obscene material to a 15-year-old high school student in North Carolina, the same day it was reported that Abedin had filed for divorce from him.

Weiner, who turned himself into the FBI, pleaded guilty in federal court this morning to a single count of transferring obscene material to a minor. This afternoon a court official confirmed that Abedin filed for divorce after seven years of marriage.

Weiner agreed to surrender his iPhone as part of the plea agreement and he must register as a sex offender.

In an emotional statement Friday, Weiner said he “compulsively sought attention from women,” engaging many of them in sexual and non-sexual conversations. He said his behavior started when he entered Congress and it continued through the first six months of 2016.

“These destructive impulses brought great devastation to my family and friends, and destroyed my life’s dream of public service,” he said.

Weiner admitted to sharing explicit images with the 15-year-old and encouraging her to engage in sexually explicit conduct; he said he knew his behavior was “as morally wrong as it was unlawful.”

Weiner said last fall is when he “came to grips for the first time with the depths of my sickness” and entered “intensive treatment.”

“I have a sickness,” Weiner said, “but I do not have an excuse.”

Weiner also apologized to the teenage girl.

Weiner agreed to serve 21 to 27 months in prison but he will be released on $150,000 bond. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 8.

Weiner’s attorney, Arlo Devlin-Brown, said in a statement that the former politician “accepted full responsibility for the inappropriate, sexually explicit communications he engaged in early last year. He apologized, offered no excuses, and made a commitment to make amends.”

“As reflected in the plea agreement, the resolution on terms far less severe than could have been sought reflect ‘the specific circumstances of the offense conduct in this case,’ which did not feature aggravating factors often present in cases of this kind,” Devlin-Brown said. “Mr. Weiner will not be addressing this matter beyond his statement this morning in Court, and remains focused on his recovery.”

The emails that prompted the FBI to reopen its review of Clinton’s private email server days before the 2016 presidential election emerged from the 2016 federal investigation into whether Weiner sent explicit messages to to that underage girl in North Carolina.

During that federal investigation, at least one device used by Weiner and Abedin was discovered. Abedin was among a tight-knit group that had an email address on Clinton’s private server.

Abedin announced her separation from Weiner in August 2016. The two married in 2010, and in June 2011 Weiner resigned from Congress, a month after the release of an explicit photo of him that he inadvertently posted on his Twitter account. At the time, Abedin was pregnant their son, who was born in December 2011. Weiner ran for mayor of New York City in 2013 during which a similar sexting scandal unfolded.

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Times Square crash suspect told police ‘I wanted to kill them’: Prosecutors

WABC-TV(NEW YORK) — The driver suspected of plowing into a crowd in New York’s Times Square midday Thursday, killing an 18-year-old woman and injuring 20 others, was arraigned today on charges of murder, attempted murder and aggravated vehicular homicide.

Three people remain hospitalized with critical injuries from the crash.

At 11:55 a.m. Thursday, 26-year-old Richard Rojas, a Navy veteran, was driving south on 7th Avenue when he slowed down, allowed traffic to pass, made a U-turn at 42nd Street, accelerated and started to strike down pedestrians, police said. He accelerated and continued driving until he crashed at 45th Street, according to law enforcement.

Prosecutors today said Rojas “brutally murdered an 18-year-old woman and severely injured her 13-year-old sister who were here on vacation.” The crash killed Alyssa Elsman, an 18-year-old tourist from Michigan, officials said. Her younger sister is in the hospital with a collapsed lung and broken pelvis, police said Friday.

After Rojas crashed, he exited the car and prosecutors quoted him as saying, “I wanted to kill them.”

Rojas was detained by police and civilians, police said.

There is no indication of terrorism, officials said. Rojas’ motive remains under investigation, police said Friday.

Online court records said Rojas was observed with “glassy eyes, slurred speech, and was unsteady on his feet.” Rojas allegedly told police, “I smoked marijuana. I laced the marijuana with PCP.” Police sources confirmed the presence of PCP in his system.

Rojas was remanded to custody today and will return to court on May 24. Defense attorneys did not comment outside of court. Relatives of Rojas were seen sobbing outside.

Rojas, who lives with his mother in the Bronx, has had multiple arrests in the past, including two for drunken driving, police said.

Annie Donahey, who witnessed Thursday’s deadly crash, told ABC News, “I was walking toward the subway station and the sidewalk that I was on was super crowded. Last minute I decided I was gonna cross the street … I turn around because someone screamed. There’s this red car, full speed, careening down the sidewalk.”

Donahey said one woman she was walking next to was struck by the car. “I looked back and she was in a pile on the street,” Donahey said. “It could’ve been me.”

She continued: “I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t crossed the street. It happened too fast.”

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