Review Category : National News

Adorable Kid Returns Stolen Sequoia Cone to Park

NPS Photo/Meredith Elgart(VISALIA, Calif.) — One young visitor to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks took the message of preservation adorably to heart, returning a stolen cone.

The pilfered cone and a note of apology were mailed to the park, spokesperson Dana Dierkes told ABC News.

“I took a [pinecone] out of the forest and I wanted to return it,” the note reads. “I hope it will be placed near the General Grant tree because that is where I took it.”

The writer adds: “I am sorry for my decision.”

Although the park notes in a Facebook post that is in fact a Sequoia cone, not a pinecone, it applauds the visitor for returning it. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks “rarely” get items back — “a few each year,” Dierkes said.

Dierkes hopes that next time the visitor will remember to “take only pictures and leave only footprints.”

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Inside the Flag Lowering Ceremony in Louisville for Muhammad Ali

ABCNews.com(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — Flags were lowered to half-staff in a solemn ceremony Saturday morning in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, in honor of hometown hero Muhammad Ali, who died Friday in Arizona.

Ali “lived a life so big and bold, it’s hard to believe any one man could do everything he did … in the course of just one lifetime,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer told the crowd at this morning’s ceremony. “This man, this champion, this Louisvillian, ended his 74 years yesterday as a United Nations messenger of peace, a humanitarian and champion athlete who earned Amnesty International’s lifetime achievement award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Sports Illustrated’s sportsman of the century.”

Ali and his wife also co-founded the Muhammad Ali Center, “which promotes respect, hope and understanding” in Louisville and around the world, Fischer said.

Fischer said Ali “belongs to the world — but he only has one hometown.”

“We heard him in a way no one else could. As our brother, our uncle, and our inspiration,” Fischer said. “I am so grateful that I had the chance to know him and see how he leveraged his fame to share his message of love, peace and compassion.”

Fischer said flags on government buildings would remain at half-staff until Ali has been laid to rest.

The hometown newspaper remembers a hometown hero as the world mourns Muhammad Ali @courierjournal pic.twitter.com/OPTCxPtbbY

— Mayor Greg Fischer (@louisvillemayor) June 4, 2016

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Inside One of the Police Videos Released in ‘Historic’ Chicago Document Dump

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Shocking video from a Chicago block party that appears to show a woman being thrown against a squad car and an officer striking a man with a baton is one of the many materials released today by Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority as a part of a new transparency policy.

Video, audio and other materials from 101 open cases involving the Chicago police were made public today in what IPRA Chief Administrator Sharon Fairley called a “historic” release. The materials released were released by the city’s IPRA — which investigates complaints of police misconduct — marking the implementation of a new transparency policy regarding the release of materials related to serious incidents involving Chicago police.

Chicago has “struggled with so many questions about policing,” Fairley said at a news conference today. “There’s a lack of trust,” she said, adding that “increased transparency is essential in rebuilding that trust.”

This video, which the IPRA said was taken at a July 2014 block party, documents the arrests of Lisa Simmons and Jeremiah Smith, who later sued Chicago on claims of police brutality. The case was settled out of court, with Simmons and Smith getting $100,000 between the two.

According to Simmons’ arrest report, an officer at the block party saw Simmons drinking and placed her under arrest. A crowd began to form, and when the officer started to bring her to another squad car, she “pulled away” and the officer thought she was fleeing, the arrest report said, so the officer “restrained her against his squad car.”

The video made public today appears to show Simmons roughly thrown against the squad car. An officer can be heard yelling at the crowd, “Get out of the street or you’re going to jail!”

The video then appears to show the officer striking Smith with a baton and forcing him to the ground. The police report noted that his forceful actions were warranted because Smith was “throwing a punch,” leaving the officer “in fear of receiving a battery.” The officer “defended himself by using his impact weapon,” the report said, and “during the dynamics of the altercation the offender was struck in the ear area.”

The video, while partially obscured by another officer, appears to show Smith lurching backwards as the officer reaches for him.

“It should be noted that while the offender was on the ground he was reaching for an unknown object in his right pocket,” the police report said, later stating that a knife was recovered from his pocket.

The arrest report says Smith was taken into custody and treated for bruising and swelling to the ear area.

Smith was initially convicted of misdemeanor resisting arrest, but the conviction was vacated, court records show. Simmons had no convictions from her arrest on that day.

Simmons and Smith’s attorney, Rahsaan Gordon, told ABC News today that Smith was brutally struck in the head, after which Smith was arrested and spent almost two weeks in jail. Smith pleaded guilty to resisting arrest — which Gordon says was a false confession so he could be released from jail. Gordon said once he was involved in the case and the video emerged, he convinced the prosecutor to persuade the judge to vacate the guilty plea.

Gordon told ABC News the video showing his clients’ arrests “speaks for itself.”

“These videos shed light on how these communities have been policed for a long time,” Gordon said. “In the video, you see a woman holding a very small child — it shows that even young children are witnessing this extreme violence by police. This leaves impressions on a whole community.”

IPRA spokeswoman Mia Sissac told ABC News that IPRA cannot comment specifically on ongoing cases, but said “the release of materials today does not necessarily mean that there’s been a determination regarding the officer’s conduct.” Sissac said the new transparency policy is not anti-police, but rather it’s “about providing information to the public that we found is in the interest of the public, according to the policy written and recommended by the police accountability task force.”

Fairley, the IPRA chief administrator, told reporters this morning that the released materials “may not convey all of the facts and considerations that are relevant to an investigation of an officer’s conduct. Sometimes videos may capture only a portion of an event and leave out critical facts and context that are also relevant in assessing the conduct of anyone that is involved.”

Fairley added, “the release of these materials has no bearing and makes no representation about the status or outcome of any of the underlying IPRA investigations.”

The materials released by IPRA today “are still open, ongoing investigations,” Chicago Police Department spokesman Frank Giancamilli said in a statement to ABC News today. “Superintendent [Eddie] Johnson has stated that accountability begins with him down to the last probationary police officer and that if these investigations determine intentional misconduct that those responsible will be held fully accountable.”

The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on the Simmons and Smith case, but in a statement earlier today called the overall document release “irresponsible” and “sad.” The FOP said its representatives met with police, city and IPRA members less than 24 hours before the release, claiming they were given “minimal notice.”

“To say this meeting turned contentious would be an understatement,” the FOP statement said.

The FOP said they were told reports would be redacted and not reveal who is being investigated.

“It is our hope that the Department, the City and IPRA consider our advice and add audio as well as an explanation of what the video shows,” the FOP said. “It is sad when, with all the talk about transparency and communication, they decide to operate in this manner.”

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Law Enforcement ‘Improperly Delayed’ During San Bernardino Investigation

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) — In the aftermath of the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, federal bureaucracy and a lack of coordination led to a bottleneck as investigators attempted to locate a friend of one of the shooters in connection with the attack, a new report says.

The delay cost 30 minutes and sparked calls for approval all the way to Washington, D.C., during the urgent investigation, according to an Inspector General report released Friday.

On Dec. 3, 2015, the day after the San Bernardino shooting that left 14 people dead, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) received word that Enrique Marquez’s wife had an appointment to adjust her immigration status that day at a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office.

Marquez, a friend of gunman Syed Rizwan Farook, was being sought in connection to the shooting and was later arrested on terrorism-related charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

When HSI agents arrived at the office, Federal Protective Service (FPS) agents told the them they had to wait in the lobby until the USCIS Field Office Director approved their entry.

After 15-20 minutes, the Field Office Director was eventually reached and the agents were escorted inside.

About 10 minutes later, the Field Office Director told the agents they were “not allowed to arrest, detain, or interview anyone in the building based on USCIS policy, and that she would need to obtain guidance from her superior before allowing them access,” said the IG report. The director denied saying that, but the IG found her account of the encounter to be inconsistent.

After several phone calls to superiors and some more back-and-forth, the USCIS staff determined that Marquez’ wife never checked in for her appointment.

Despite the miscommunication and delay, the investigation itself was not impacted, the report said.

The IG concluded that the USCIS Field Office Director “improperly delayed” HSI agents from conducting a lawful and routine law enforcement action.

“The report from the Office of Inspector General confirms whistleblower complaints I received about a dangerous lack of coordination between ICE and the USCIS,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

In a statement, Homeland Security said coordination has been improved.

“ICE and USCIS have since improved their protocols for facility access and information sharing in circumstances with potential national security or public safety implications, in order to avoid any such delays in the future,” the agency said in a statement. “FPS is also clarifying with its employees, Facility Security Committees, and protective security officers the agency’s policy of allowing law enforcement partners access to federal facilities during emergency situations.”

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UCLA Shooter Killed Estranged Wife Before Campus Incident: Police

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — Mainak Sarkar, the man who shot and killed a UCLA professor Wednesday before turning the gun on himself, is also believed to have climbed through a window to kill his estranged wife in her Minnesota home prior to the UCLA incident, authorities said.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s identified a body found in an apartment in Brooklyn Park as 31-year-old Ashley Erin Hasti. The couple had been separated for some time, according to the Brooklyn Park Police Department. No previous calls to been placed relating to Hasti or Sarkar, police said.

Police responded to a welfare check at the apartment building Thursday morning and found Hasti dead from an apparent gunshot wound. The apartment had a broken window, and police believe that Sarkar climbed through it to gain access to the residence. Early indications are that the shooting occurred prior to the UCLA incident, police said.

Sarkar’s car was found Friday afternoon in Culver City, California, according to the LAPD.

Sarkar had a note on him when he died requesting that whoever found it check on his cat, police said. The note also listed the Minnesota address where Hasti’s body was found.

After killing his wife, Sarkar then drove to Los Angeles, police said.

Professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering William Klug was killed by Sarkar on Wednesday. Klug was Sarkar’s teacher, according to law enforcement officials, and the two had a long-standing poor relationship, the LAPD said. Police believe that Sarkar’s grades may have been a factor in the killing.

Klug, who was married with two children, would coach soccer and Little League Baseball in his time away from the university, ABC-owned station KABC in Los Angeles reported after his death.

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Death Toll Rises to 9 Soldiers After Fort Hood Truck Accident

iStock/Thinkstock(KILLEEN, Texas) — The bodies of four Fort Hood soldiers, who went missing after a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle overturned in a creek, were found Friday, officials said.

A total of nine soldiers died in the accident in Owl Creek, near the military post in Killeen, Texas, said Major General John Uberti. Three soldiers who were rescued have been released from the hospital and are cleared to return to duty, he said.

The accident happened Thursday at 11:20 a.m., not on Fort Hood proper, but on a part of the base reachable by public roads.

The soldiers whose bodies were recovered Friday were from the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team and 1st Cavalry Division, according to Fort Hood.

Fort Hood has not released the names of the deceased soldiers.

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Four Missing Fort Hood Soldiers Found Dead After Truck Accident

iStock/Thinkstock(KILLEEN, Texas) — The bodies of four Fort Hood soldiers, who went missing after a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle overturned in a creek, were found Friday, officials said.

A total of nine soldiers died in the accident in Owl Creek, near the military post in Killeen, Texas, said Major General John Uberti. Three soldiers who were rescued have been released from the hospital and are cleared to return to duty, he said.

The accident happened Thursday at 11:20 a.m., not on Fort Hood proper, but on a part of the base reachable by public roads.

The soldiers whose bodies were recovered Friday were from the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team and 1st Cavalry Division, according to Fort Hood.

Fort Hood has not released the names of the deceased soldiers.

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West Coast Braces for Potentially Record-Breaking Heat as California Wildfire Continues

US Forest Service-Sequoia National Forest(PHOENIX) — As a wildfire burns through a California camping area, West Coasters from Arizona to Washington are bracing for dangerous, potentially record-breaking heat.

Above normal temperatures are expected to soar to 105 to 120 degrees in the Southwest and 90 to 100 degrees in the Pacific Northwest.

Record high temperatures are possible Friday in Phoenix — where the record for the day is 114 degrees — as well as Las Vegas, where the record for the day is 107 degrees.

Tomorrow temperatures could potentially hit 117 in Phoenix; 114 in Palm Springs; 110 in Las Vegas; 100 in Portland and 97 in Yakima, Washington.

As the expected heat wave looms, a wildfire that ignited Wednesday afternoon in the Chimney Peak campground area in central California, about 80 miles east of Bakersfield, has now burned through more than 1,800 acres.

More than 500 personnel are involved in fighting the fire, which on Friday is 33 percent contained, Michelle Carbonaro, Public Information Officer for the South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team, told ABC News.

The cause was determined to be “human,” but no further details were released, Carbonaro said Friday.

One injury was reported and no structures were lost, Carbonaro said.

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Three Minnesota Men Found Guilty of Plotting to Join ISIS

iStock/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) — Three Somali-Minnesotan men in their early twenties were found guilty Friday of plotting to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

The most serious of the crimes Mohamed Farah, 22, Abdirahman Daud, 22, and Guled Omar, 21, were convicted of is conspiracy to commit murder outside the U.S., which carries the possibility of life in prison.

U.S. Attorney Luger said in a statement that the three men wanted to kill innocent people and that the trial should serve as a wake-up call to Minnesota residents.

“The evidence in this case made clear that the defendants made a deeply personal and deliberate decision back in 2014,” Luger said. “They wanted to fight for a brutal terrorist organization, kill innocent people and destroy their own families in the process. This trial should serve as a wake-up call that it will take the entire community to stop terror recruiting in Minnesota.”

In addition to those charges, Farah was convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, two counts of attempting to provide material support to a designated terrorist organization, perjury and providing a false statement.

Daud was convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, attempting to provide support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and perjury. He was found not guilty on one count of perjury.

Omar was found guilty of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, two counts of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and attempted financial fraud.

The three men appeared in a Minneapolis courtroom Friday afternoon to hear the verdict.

Throughout the trial, the prosecution called 26 witnesses to build the case that the three men joined a conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization and a conspiracy to murder outside the United States. Witnesses for the prosecution included FBI agents, various law enforcement officers, forensic examiners and relatives of other Somali-Minnesotans accused of joining terrorist organizations.

U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Carlin said in a statement that the government would continue to fight against the terrorism recruitment in the United States.

“We will continue to work to disrupt the recruitment and radicalization of Americans by terrorist organizations and bring to justice those who conspire to provide material support to terrorists,” he said.

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Texas Teens Allegedly Confess to Beheading, Shooting Llamas

KTRK-TV(HOUSTON) — Two teens are in police custody after authorities say they confessed to the March 5 shooting of a llama, and the beheading of another.

The pair of 16-year-old boys were charged Thursday with one count each of animal cruelty and two counts each of misdemeanor criminal mischief, police said.

“Just when you think you’ve heard it all, along comes a bizarre case that makes you wonder what goes through people’s minds, especially young people,” Constable Alan Rosen told ABC’s Houston station KTRK-TV.

The juveniles allegedly carried out the attack against the llamas, named Lorenzo and La Tida, on a ranch in Cypress, Texas, called Figment Ranch.

Lorenzo, a guard llama, was shot twice, but survived, ranch co-owner Ruby Herron told ABC News.

“He was trying to protect [La Tida],” Herron said. “He was the best guard in the world.”

A bullet is still lodged next to his spine, as doctors advise trying to remove it could be deadly, Herron said.

“Now, he is so frightened every time someone comes up,” Herron said. “His whole personality has changed.”

La Tida was a show-quality AQHA halter champion llama, Herron said, noting that she was devastated when she discovered the llama was gruesomely decapitated. It was something she said she had never seen before in her more than 30 years raising llamas on the ranch.

“It’s a feeling that you never want to have,” she said. “These kids need help. I don’t know what would even possess them.”

No one was at the ranch when the boys allegedly entered the property, Herron said, noting that she and her co-owner grew increasingly fearful during the two months that the suspects remained at large.

“We’ve been scared to death to leave,” co-owner Robin H. Turell told ABC News, “and every day you wake up, you count the animals.”

These llamas can sell for up to $20,000, Turell said. In addition to that loss, they said they spent about $10,000 to install additional surveillance cameras on the ranch.

They said they want to prevent future such incidents, and are looking into possibly creating a “Lorenzo Alert,” much like the Amber Alert child abduction alert system.

Police have not made public the names of the suspects because they are minors. The motive for the incident remains unclear as the investigation continues, police said.

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