Review Category : National News

Dylann Roof Federal Trial: Key Points From Government’s Case

Purestock/iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — The government has laid out its death penalty case against Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old accused of killing nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Roof, who is white, is accused of shooting and killing nine black parishioners at the predominantly black Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015. Roof allegedly entered the church armed and “with the intent of killing African-Americans engaged in the exercise of their religious beliefs,” according to the federal indictment against him. The parishioners welcomed Roof into their Bible study group, according to the indictment, after which Roof allegedly drew his pistol and opened fire.

The 33 federal counts against Roof include hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death. If convicted, Roof faces the death penalty. Roof has pleaded not guilty.

Here are some of the key points from the government’s case ahead of Thursday’s closing arguments.

Survivor Felicia Sanders

Felicia Sanders, a survivor of the shooting, was the government’s first witness. When Roof opened fire that June night, Sanders said she clutched her granddaughter tight and told her to play dead.

“I could feel the warm blood flowing on each side of me,” she said.

“I was just waiting on my turn,” she added. “Even if I got shot, I just didn’t want my granddaughter to get shot.”

Amid the chaos and the bloodshed, her youngest son, Tywanza Sanders, stood up and confronted the assailant: “Why are you doing this?” he asked, according to Felicia Sanders’ testimony.

“And he told our son, ‘I have to do this because y’all raping our women and taking over the world,'” Felicia Sanders said. “And that’s when [the gunman] put about five bullets in my son.”

Felicia Sanders then tearfully recalled watching her son die.

“We watched him take his last breath,” she said. “I watched my son come into this world, and I watched my son leave this world.”

Gruesome Photos

Investigators showed pictures from the gruesome scene at the basement hall where the shooting happened. The images showed bodies with numbers labeling what investigators believe was the order in which they were shot. The images also showed streams of blood. Many of the victims were under the rickety tables. Some Bibles were still on the tables.

Roof’s Video ‘Confession’

In a video interview of Roof conducted by an FBI agent shortly after he was captured and played in court, Roof laughed as he admitted to the shooting.

He also said he used a .45-caliber Glock to do it, according to the video. “I didn’t say anything to them before I pulled it out, not even one word,” Roof says of the gun in the video. “I mean, they reacted after I shot them.”

Asked in the video when he decided to do the shooting, Roof say, “I can’t tell you.”

Roof’s voice was mostly monotone during the interview, though it was often punctuated by laughter.

“I am guilty,” he says, laughing.

Roof said he did not expect to survive the shooting because he expected police to respond to the church and shoot him. Once he escaped, he said he spontaneously decided to go to Charlotte, North Carolina, because he didn’t want to go home to Columbia.

After an agent tells him he killed nine people and asks how he feels, Roof responds in the video in a monotone voice, “It makes me feel bad.”

Roof’s Journal of Racist Language

Testimony also addressed letters Roof wrote to his parents and a journal he kept with racist entries — all found in his car after he was apprehended.

In a note to his mother, Roof apologized and said he loved her, and he wrote, “Childish as it sounds I wish I was in your arms.”

In the journal, Roof degrades African Americans and Jews, and a state law enforcement agent on the witness stand read the racist entries aloud. Some jurors leaned on their hands as they read the journal entries on monitors and appeared shocked.

Families of the victims were quiet, some wrapped in colorful blankets to stay warm in the cold courtroom.

Roof wrote that he was not raised in a racist place. He also wrote that after reading a Wikipedia entry about the Trayvon Martin case, it was obvious to him that George Zimmerman, the man who fatally shot Martin, was in the right, and he was never the same again.

Roof also wrote that one of his only regrets is that he was never able to fall in love.

Roof’s Note Listing Churches

Roof had a handwritten note in his car with the names of several churches on it, according to testimony from a former South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) agent who processed Roof’s car after the shooting.

Besides the note listing churches, notable items in Roof’s car included a Confederate flag, a burned American flag, a gun, an empty box of ammunition and a laser attachment for a gun that helps with accuracy.

Survivor Polly Sheppard

Polly Sheppard was the government’s final witness. One of the deadly rampage’s three survivors, Sheppard said she initially thought the gunshots were an electrical problem. But then Felicia Sanders screamed that it was a gun, Sheppard said. Sheppard said she saw Roof shoot Rev. Daniel Simmons, then she ducked under a table.

She told the court that she listened to the gunshots ring out as she hid. She said she saw the casings bounce and roll across the ground, and watched as Roof’s boots came closer and closer. When Roof got to the tables, he told her to shut up as she was praying out loud, she said.

Then she said Roof asked her if she was shot. She told him no, she said, and he replied that he wouldn’t shoot her. “I’m going to leave you alive to tell the story,” Sheppard said Roof told her.

Sheppard’s emotional 911 call was also played in court.

The Defense

Defense attorney David Bruck said in opening statements that Roof committed the crime but the trial involves understanding “who this person was and why on earth he would want to cause so much grief.”

“He did it,” Bruck said of Roof. “… You’re probably wondering, so what we are doing here? Why does there need to be a trial? … The practical reason is that the government has asked for the death penalty after conviction, and because of that, we have a procedure to go through.”

Bruck said the jury must “go deeper than the surface with this awful crime.”

“Among the elements of the crime are racial hatred. In considering that issue, ask yourself where this extraordinary degree of racial feeling came from. … How much sense does this crime make? Does it make any sense at all? And if not, what does that tell you?” he said.

After the prosecution rested its case, Roof told the judge that he did not want to testify, and the defense called zero witnesses before it, too, rested.

Closing arguments are slated for Thursday, then the jury will begin deliberations.

Roof also faces a state trial, set for early next year, in which he may also face the death penalty.

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Judge Declares Mistrial in Dalia Dippolito’s Murder-for-Hire Retrial

Ingram Publishing/iStock/Thinkstock(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) — A judge has declared a mistrial in the murder-for-hire case against Dalia Dippolito, the south Florida woman accused of hiring an undercover police officer posing as a hitman to kill her husband of six months, saying jurors were deadlocked.

“We the jury, after further deliberation, still cannot reach a unanimous verdict,” said Judge Glenn D. Kelley Wednesday in court, reading the jury’s statement.

“I must declare a mistrial,” Kelley said.

Kelley then sent forms to jurors, asking how they would have voted, and later, shared them with the court.

“I’ll just tell you, it was not a single holdout. … By my count, there were three votes for guilty and three votes for not guilty. … It was actually a 3-3 split,” he said.

In a statement after the ruling, State Attorney Dave Aronberg said: “My office will retry this case at the earliest opportunity. Due to ethical rules, I cannot comment further because this is again a pending case.”

On Tuesday, after beginning deliberations earlier in the day, the jury told the court that they could not agree on a verdict. The judge sent the jury home to rest.

During the trial, prosecutors said that Dippolito allegedly had hired an undercover officer posing as a hitman to kill her then-husband, Mike Dippolito, in 2009.

Jurors were shown a video of Dippolito in a car with the fake killer for hire.

“I’m going to tell you how I’m going to do it and what exactly is going to get done,” the undercover officer is heard telling Dippolito in the 2009 video. He then goes on to say that he will break into their house and her husband “gets two in the head.”

“Between now and when it’s done, you know, you’re not going to have an opportunity to change your mind,” the undercover officer says.

“No, there’s no, like, I’m determined already, I’m positive, like 5,000 percent sure,” Dippolito tells him.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News in December 2015, Dippolito maintained her innocence.

Dippolito denied ever wanting Mike Dippolito killed and said she did not hire a hitman to carry out a murder plot, that it was all fake and that she was just acting.

“Did you want your husband dead?” “Good Morning America” co-anchor Amy Robach asked.

“No, absolutely not,” Dippolito said.

Her lawyers also argued that the investigation was tainted by the police, who were eager to be part of a reality show called “Cops.” The police department denies any wrongdoing and says it was only trying to gather evidence.

In her first trial in 2011, Dippolito was convicted of solicitation to commit first-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison. That conviction was overturned on appeal.

Jurors declined to comment as they left the courthouse on Wednesday. The judge set a status check for Jan. 6.

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Tragedy Strikes Small NY Town When Boy Dies After Being Buried in Snow

iStock/Thinkstock(GREENWICH, N.Y.) — A 13-year-old boy in upstate New York who was building a snow fort died on Tuesday after being buried alive in snow, police said.

The boy, identified as Joshua J. Demarast of Greenwich, New York, a seventh-grader at Greenwich Junior-Senior High School, ventured on Tuesday afternoon to an area in the town where snow is frequently dumped, Greenwich Police Chief George Bell said. While he was playing there, the boy became trapped, Bell said.

Demarast and a friend of his were playing at the dumping site, digging tunnels, when a truck dropped off snow it had plowed, Bell told ABC News Wednesday, adding that the snow was then pushed over onto the boys without the driver’s knowing that they were there.

Buried alive, the two boys remained trapped under the snow for hours as police and rescue workers struggled to free them Tuesday evening, police said.

Police received a call for two missing boys around 5 p.m., and a K-9 unit was employed, police said. A dog located a sled the boys took with them, and the digging began. Demarast was found unresponsive under the snow and died shortly after 10 p.m., police said.

Bell said that he spoke to the survivor of the tragedy this morning and that the boy was recovering from the incident.

Demarast’s family suffered two deaths on Tuesday, according to Bell, who said the boy’s grandmother also passed away, at around 3 p.m.

“His family is dealing with both losses,” Bell said.

Mark Fish, the superintendent of Greenwich Central School District, described Demarast at a news conference today as a good student who was well liked and loved the outdoors.

Fish, speaking to ABC News Wednesday, described his district as “small and rural” and a “place where everybody knows just about everybody.”

Counselors were made available to students in the wake of the tragedy, he said, and after-school programs were canceled because they didn’t feel appropriate, given the shock surrounding Demarast’s death.

Greenwich, in upstate New York near the border with Vermont, is no stranger to snowfall, but the town received only 4 or 5 inches earlier this week, Bell said.

School was canceled on Monday because of snowfall but was reopened on Tuesday, the day of the incident. The boys decided to play together after school, officials said.

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Unarmed 73-Year-Old Man Shot by Police Was Carrying Crucifix, Authorities Say

iStock/Thinkstock(BAKERSFIELD, Calif.) — Authorities in Bakersfield, California, continue to investigate Monday’s early morning shooting death of an unarmed 73-year-old man, who his family says was suffering from early-stage dementia.

In a news release, the Bakersfield Police Department said that around 12:38 a.m. Monday, it got a 911 call reporting an “adult male brandishing a handgun” on Silver Birch Avenue.

The BPD confirmed Monday that no gun was found. But police did recover a “dark colored simulated woodgrain crucifix,” the department said. It said the man, Francisco Serna, had both hands in his jacket, refused police commands to remove them and continued to walk toward the officers.

“When officers arrived, a witness directed officers to the man, who was in the driveway of a nearby residence. During the contact, one officer fired several rounds, striking the subject. Medical aid was summoned; however, despite their efforts, the man was pronounced dead at the scene,” the news release said.

He was shot just feet from his front door, in a neighbor’s driveway, at about 12:49 a.m.

Serna family spokeswoman Cyndi Imperial said that the family wants the Department of Justice to investigate and that the death was “difficult to accept.”

“It is difficult to accept that our dad’s life ended so abruptly, brutally and with such excessive violence,” she said, reading a statement from the family. “We feel our dad was stolen from us at a time that our family should be celebrating the holidays, birthdays and making more family happy memories.”

“Our dad was murdered by BPD,” the statement continued. “Our dad was treated like a criminal, and we feel that he was left to die alone without his family by his side.”

In an interview with ABC News Wednesday, Bakersfield police Sgt. Gary Carruesco did not say how many rounds were fired. He said he did not know whether officers had time to use other “force options.” ABC News learned that at least seven shots were fired.

“I know the officer, at the time, the last thing that he was told was that person that was advancing toward him was in possession of a gun. So the ignoring of the command to stop and the advancing on the officer, you know, things can happen very fast,” he said. “It doesn’t take but a split second to remove a firearm and fire on people … It’s a very unfortunate event. It’s tragic for everybody involved.”

Carruesco said officers were not wearing body cameras, and there was no dashcam footage. Six other officers were present during the shooting.

Mable Jones, a neighbor, told ABC News that Serna was known in the community. “Normally if you come outside, he comes outside … He’s been here for, like, five, six years,” she said. “The nicest man in the world. He’s never came out late at night like that.”

She said it was her daughter who called 911, after Serna approached her and a friend as they sat in a car. Jones said her daughter, who did not know Serna, described him as acting strange and called 911 about a strange person who might be armed.

In the 911 audio, the dispatcher can be heard saying, “We have a poor phone connection, but caller said someone is outside with a gun … He came outside with a revolver and then returned inside his house.” The dispatcher can be heard telling officers that Serna has been “reported as having dementia.”

“He’s in the road, with his hands in his pockets, not complying,” an officer says later in the audio. “Subject still not complying.”

The officer involved in the shooting is on routine administrative leave, according to police, pending an investigation by the Critical Incident Review Board.

Laura Serna, Francisco Serna’s daughter, told ABC affiliate KERO-TV that he was struggling with early-stage dementia and that his medication made him paranoid. She and her brothers Frank Serna and Roy Serna said they believed Bakersfield police knew about their father’s medical condition.

“My father’s never owned a gun, so that was good to hear that the police finally came out and said there was no gun found … That’s good news, but I think there’s far more work to be done here,” she said. “In a matter of a 15- to 20-minute window, he was shot dead. Enough is enough. BPD murdered my father for no reason. They need to be held accountable.”

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Charleston Church Shooting Survivor Says She Prayed as Dylann Roof Gunned Down Parishioners

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — The federal trial for Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old accused of killing nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church, continued today with one of the three survivors of the deadly rampage taking the stand.

Polly Sheppard, 72, told the court of how Roof opened fire on her and her fellow parishioners as they stood to pray at the end of Bible study. Sheppard’s emotional 911 call was also played in court.

Roof, who is white, is accused of fatally shooting nine black parishioners during a Bible study at the predominantly black Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015. Roof allegedly entered the church armed and “with the intent of killing African-Americans engaged in the exercise of their religious beliefs,” according to the federal indictment against him.

Roof was captured in North Carolina the day after the shooting.

Sheppard told the court that she chose to attend Emanuel because her husband was a third-generation member there. She said she was a member of the trustee board together with victim Myra Thompson.

On June 17, 2015, Sheppard said she went to the quarterly conference meeting at the church at 6 p.m. She told the court she planned to leave after the meeting, but ended up staying for Bible study that day because Thompson had asked her to.

Sheppard spoke fondly of the victims on the stand. “She sang like an angel,” she said of Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor. She told the court that Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was working on a Ph.D. at the time of her death. “She could preach real well,” Sheppard said. Cynthia Hurd loved to read and “was just a lovely person,” while Susie Jackson sang in the choir and would do anything for you, said Sheppard.

That fateful day, Sheppard said she sat in the back of the room for Bible study, hoping to sneak out. When asked why she didn’t, Sheppard said of Thompson, “She kept watching me.”

Roof joined them, Sheppard told the court. Sheppard said that Rev. Clementa Pinckney asked Roof to sit beside him and gave him the lesson and Bible.

As Bible study ended, Sheppard said they planned to finish with a prayer and the benediction. They did not get to the benediction because Roof opened fire as they began praying, she said.

At first, she told the court, Sheppard thought it was an electrical problem. But then Felicia Sanders, one of the other survivors, screamed that it was a gun, she said. Sheppard said she saw Roof shoot Rev. Daniel Simmons, then she ducked under a table.

She told the court that she listened to the gunshots ring out as she hid. She said she saw the casings bounce and roll across the ground, and watched as Roof’s boots came closer and closer. When Roof got to the tables, he told her to shut up as she was praying out loud, she said.

Then she said Roof asked her if she was shot. She told him no, she said, and he replied that he wouldn’t shoot her. “I’m going to leave you alive to tell the story,” Sheppard said Roof told her.

Sheppard said she saw victim Tywanza Sanders, Felicia Sanders’ son, sit up and try to draw attention away from the living. He told Roof that none of them meant him any harm, but Roof responded that he had to kill them, Sheppard said. He then shot and killed Tywanza Sanders right at Sheppard’s feet, she said.

After killing Tywanza Sanders, the gun clicked twice, which made Sheppard think it was empty, she said.

“My first thought was to call somebody,” Sheppard said. She found Ethel Lance’s phone covered in blood on the floor next to her and called 911, she said.

The call was played in court. In it, Sheppard can be heard sobbing and begging for help. “He’s coming. He’s coming. He’s coming. Please!” she tells the dispatcher. In the background, moaning can be heard.

“There’s so many people dead,” Sheppard says in the call. The dispatcher then tells her to be quiet.

The defense declined to cross-examine Sheppard.

Earlier, the prosecution called Erin Presnell, the head forensic pathologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, who performed all nine autopsies on the victims. Presnell testified that each victim was shot multiple times.

The prosecution rested its case once Sheppard was done speaking.

Roof told the judge that he did not want to testify, and the defense called zero witnesses before it, too, rested.

Closing arguments are slated for Thursday, then the jury will begin deliberations.

The 33 federal counts against Roof include hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death. If convicted, Roof faces the death penalty.

Roof has pleaded not guilty.

He also faces a state trial, set for early next year, in which he may also face the death penalty.

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New Details Emerge in ‘Pizzagate’ Shooting as Suspect Faces Federal Charges

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The suspected gunman at the center of the “Pizzagate” shooting in Washington, D.C., which authorities said was sparked by a fake news story, is now facing federal charges and allegedly said that he may be “sacrificing the lives of a few for the lives of many,” according to court documents.

Edgar Maddison Welch was arrested last week after allegedly firing an AR-15 assault rifle “multiple times” inside a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C., Comet Ping Pong.

Police said Welch told them that he had learned of “news” reports that a child sex trafficking ring was being conducted in hidden rooms at the pizzeria. He said he decided to “investigate” the reports on his own, according to the criminal complaint.

The federal charges, which were unsealed Wednesday, allege that police discovered cellphone evidence with a trove of text messages to Welch’s girlfriend and friends about his plans.

It appears Welch was contemplating a “violent confrontation” at the restaurant since at least Dec. 1, according to the court documents.

In a text message to his girlfriend on that day, Welch wrote that he had been researching “Pizzagate” — the so-called conspiracy theory — and it was making him “sick,” the complaint says. In a text to a friend the next day, it says, Welch allegedly wrote that the “cause” was, “raiding a pedo ring, possibly sacrificing the lives of a few for the lives of many.”

“I’m sorry bro, but I’m tired of turning on the channel and hoping someone does something and being thankful it’s not my family. One day it will be our families. The world is too afraid to act and I’m too stubborn not to,” he added, according to the complaint.

Welch allegedly told police that on Sunday, Dec. 4, he left his home in North Carolina and drove straight to the restaurant in Washington, D.C.

During the drive, he told his girlfriend something to the effect of he “might be gone awhile,” according to the documents.

Court documents say he appears to have recorded a cellphone video during the drive, in which he looks into the camera and tells family members that he loves them and that he hoped he had “showed it.” He added that he hoped that he would be able to “tell [them] again,” the papers say.

At around 3 p.m., he arrived at the restaurant, where witnesses say they saw Welch carrying an assault rifle that he was holding across his chest, according to the complaint. As he moved towards the back of the restaurant, employees and customers fled the building.

As everyone was fleeing, Welch encountered an employee returning to the restaurant from the back freezer, according to court documents. The employee said Welch pointed the AR-15 rifle in his direction, the documents state, but Welch denied raising the firearm at the employee.

After the customers fled, police created a perimeter around the restaurant and around 3:24 pm, Welch exited the building with his hands in the air, complying with officers. Welch told officers that he had an AR-15 and a .38 caliber revolver, both of which were left in the restaurant, according to the complaint. He also admitted to having a loaded shotgun and ammunition in his car.

He told police that while he was inside, he searched for evidence of hidden rooms or tunnels, or child sex-trafficking of any kind.

At one point he said he encountered a locked door and attempted to open it with a butter knife, the complaint says. When that didn’t work he fired shots at the lock with his AR-15, documents say. When that was still unsuccessful, he climbed on top of furniture to look inside and found the space empty, according to the complaint. Welch has been in custody since his arrest. He appeared in court this morning, facing local charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon and unlawful discharge of a firearm. Charges were moved to federal court, where had his initial appearance in federal court this afternoon.

Welch is charged with interstate transport of a firearm with the intent to commit a felony. He faces up to 10 years in prison with these new charges.

He was appointed a public defender, who declined to comment beyond what was said in the courtroom. Welch will remain in detention at least until his next hearing, which is scheduled for Friday morning. He has not yet entered a plea.

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Residents Evacuated Due to Toxic Smoke After Truck With Hazardous Materials Crashes in Tennessee

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — An order to keep residents indoors has been issued in a Tennessee county and some surrounding neighborhoods are being evacuated, after a commercial semi-truck carrying swimming pool cleaning supplies crashed into another truck, officials said.

Authorities in Rutherford County are working to evacuate residents in the Buchanan Estates neighborhood, as well as Rankin Road and Aldridge Road. The evacuation is about one mile downwind from the accident, officials said.

“If you are smelling a slight smell that’s okay,” Tim Hooker, Assistant Director at Rutherford County Emergency Management Agency cautioned Wednesday morning. “Just get out of the area.”

The evacuation is a precaution because emergency workers plan to dump water on the chemicals, which will cause another plume of toxic gas, authorities said.

Wind could could potentially pose a danger to residents, as it pushes toxic air further from the crash site, but authorities noted the current is moving slowly this morning.

The semi caught fire on the side of the highway near the tree line, according to a Rutherford County 911 dispatcher and the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Officials believe the truck was carrying chemical cleaners like chlorine tablets, oxidizers and other corrosives. The product of the fire was a likely toxic plume of smoke that could be dangerous for people to inhale.

Prior to the evacuation, authorities had asked people within a one square mile radius of the accident to stay indoors as a precaution if the smoke was toxic.

This order applied to all residents and businesses within the affected area, which is located near a large residential neighborhood as well as farm land.

Westbound lanes on the interstate I-24 were closed as crews worked to contain the spill early Wednesday. A 911 alert first came in at 2:49 a.m. Tuesday night.

HAZMAT crews as well as Rutherford County, Tennessee Emergency Management and Tennessee Highway Patrol officials are working the scene.

No buses will be allowed into this area to pick children up for school, Hooker added.

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Authorities Warn of Toxic Air After Semi Crash Spills Hazardous Materials in Tennessee

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A shelter-in-place order has been issued after a commercial vehicle carrying swimming pool cleaning supplies crashed into another semi on Interstate 24 in Rutherford County, Tennessee, officials said Wednesday morning.

The truck carrying pool cleaning supplies was leaking chlorine and possibly other chemicals and was on fire on the side of the highway near the tree line, the according to a Rutherford County 911 dispatcher and the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Officials have asked people within a one square mile radius of the accident to shelter in place, because authorities believe the air is toxic.

This order applied to all residents and businesses within the affected area, which is located near a large residential neighborhood as well as farm land.

Westbound lanes on the interstate were closed as crews worked to contain the spill early Wednesday. A 911 alert first came in at 2:49 a.m.

HAZMAT crews as well as Rutherford County, Tennessee Emergency Management, and Tennessee Highway Patrol officials are working the scene.

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No Record of Fire Dept. Inspections at Oakland Warehouse Where Blaze Killed 36

Monkey Business/Thinkstock(OAKLAND, Calif.) — There was no record of fire department inspections at the Oakland, Calif., warehouse where a deadly blaze claimed 36 lives, Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed said at a news conference Tuesday.

Reed said that there was nothing to trigger an inspection — active businesses, not vacant buildings, are inspected, and she said there was no indication that the warehouse was an active business.

“We have no records of 1315 31st Ave. being inspected nor do we have any records of them applying for a special permit, a change of occupancy, any type of tenant improvement,” or other request that “would trigger” the facility to be in the system, Reed said.

Reed said there was an inspection at an auto-body shop next to the warehouse earlier this year. There was also no record of complaints to the fire department, Reed said.

The cause of the warehouse fire is still unknown, 11 days after the blaze.

The electrical system is part of the ongoing analysis, though no final determination has been made, Jill Snyder of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives added at the news conference Tuesday.

Reed called the Dec. 2 blaze a “tragic event” and said “our thoughts and prayers” are with the families.

The office of Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley is leading the criminal investigation. She said her office is working closely with Oakland Fire Department as investigators pore over the evidence.

Some of those trapped upstairs at the party had just enough time to send final text messages to loved ones, according to Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Ray Kelly. Some of these messages read “I’m going to die” and “I love you,” Kelly said.

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Authorities Probe Fatal Police Shooting of Unarmed 73-Year-Old Suffering From Dementia

Serna Family (BAKERSFIELD, Calif.) — Authorities in Bakersfield, California, continue to investigate Monday’s early morning shooting death of an unarmed 73-year-old man, who his family says was suffering from the early stages of dementia.

In a news release, police said that around 12:38 a.m. Monday, its department got a 911 call of an “adult male brandishing a handgun” on Silver Birch Avenue.

“When officers arrived, a witness directed officers to the man, who was in the driveway of a nearby residence. During the contact, one officer fired several rounds, striking the subject. Medical aid was summoned; however, despite their efforts, the man was pronounced dead at the scene,” the news release said.

The man was later identified as Francisco Serna. He was shot dead by police just feet from his front door, in a neighbor’s driveway, minutes later around 12:49 a.m.

In an interview with ABC News on Tuesday, Bakersfield police Sgt. Gary Carruesco did not say how many rounds were fired. He also said he did not know whether officers had time to use other “force options.” ABC News learned that at least seven shots were fired.

“I know the officer, at the time, the last thing that he was told was that person that was advancing toward him was in possession of a gun. So the ignoring of the command to stop and the advancing on the officer, you know, things can happen very fast,” he said. “It doesn’t take but a split second to remove a firearm and fire on people. … It’s a very unfortunate event. It’s tragic for everybody involved.”

Carruesco said officers were not wearing body cameras and there was no dashcam footage. Six other officers were present during the shooting.

Mable Jones, a neighbor, told ABC News that Serna was known in the community.

“Normally, if you come outside, he comes outside. … He’s been here for like five, six years,” she said. “The nicest man in the world. He’s never came out late at night like that.”

It was Jones’ daughter who called 911 after Jones said Serna approached her and a friend as they sat in a car. Jones said her daughter, who did not know Serna, described him as acting strange and called 911 about a strange person who might be armed.

In the 911 audio, the dispatcher can be heard saying: “We have a poor phone connection but caller said someone is outside with a gun. … He came outside with a revolver and then returned inside his house.”

In the 911 audio, the dispatcher can be heard telling officers that Serna has been “reported as having dementia.”

“He’s in the road, with his hands in his pockets, not complying,” the officer says later in audio. “Subject still not complying.”

The Bakersfield Police Department confirmed Monday that no gun had been found. The officer involved in the shooting is on routine administrative leave, according to police, pending an investigation by the Critical Incident Review Board.

Laura Serna, Francisco Serna’s daughter, told ABC affiliate KERO-TV that he’d been struggling with early stages of dementia and that his medication made him paranoid.

She and her brothers, Frank and Roy, said they believed Bakersfield police knew about their father’s medical condition as well.

“My father’s never owned a gun so that was good to hear that the police finally came out and said there was no gun found. … That’s good news, but I think there’s far more work to be done here,” Laura Serna said. “In a matter of a 15- to 20-minute window he was shot dead. Enough is enough. BPD murdered my father for no reason. They need to be held accountable.”

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