Review Category : National News

‘Porch Shooting’ Suspect Says He Shot Unarmed Teen ‘By Accident’

iStock/Thinkstock(DETROIT) — The suburban Detroit man accused of fatally shooting Renisha McBride told police he didn’t know his gun was loaded and said he shot the unarmed teen by accident, according to a recording played to jurors on Thursday.

“What happened here?” Sgt. Rory McManmon asked, according to the recording that was played by prosecutors in the second-degree murder trial of Theodore Wafer.

“A consistent knocking on the door, and I’m trying to look through the windows, but every time I look through the windows and the door it’s banging somewhere else,” Wafer said on the recording. “So I open up the door, kind of like who is this? And the gun discharged.”

“I didn’t know there was a round in there,” he told McManmon, according to the recording. “I don’t get it. Who’s knocking on your door at 4:30 in the morning? Bang, bang, bang — somebody wanting in.”

Wafer, 54, who is white, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of McBride, 19, who is black, after she showed up on his porch in Dearborn Heights during the early morning of Nov. 2, 2013.

Valentine Peppers, a 911 operator with the Dearborn Heights Police Department, told the jury that Wafer told him the same story. Peppers said he called Wafer back after his initial 911 call in order to get more information for the responding authorities.

However, Peppers said that call was not recorded because it was outgoing.

The testimony marked the second day of Wafer’s murder trial.

The prosecution and the defense presented their opening arguments Wednesday, where Prosecutor Danielle Hagaman-Clark argued that McBride had played a drinking game with her friend earlier that night, crashed her car and may have been seeking medical help for a cut on her head.

Wafer’s defense said his client had “never been this scared in his life, ever” after hearing a series of booms and saw a shadowy figure outside his home.

“He hears metal breaking on his front door. Ted hears it. He’s thinking, ‘They’re coming in. They’re breaking into my house,’” defense attorney Cheryl Carpenter said.

Whether Wafer’s screen door was torn from a break-in attempt or if it was damaged from the bullets he allegedly fired at McBride will be a crucial question in the case.

Under a 2006 Michigan self-defense law, a homeowner has the right to use force during a break-in. Otherwise, a person must prove his or her life was in danger.

The jury of seven men and seven women, including two alternates, will decide the case. Four of the jurors are black.

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Family of Victims Shows No Sympathy at Killer’s Execution

0iStock/Thinkstock(FLORENCE, Ariz.) — The family of two people murdered by a man sentenced to the death penalty by lethal injection showed no remorse when his execution dragged on for nearly two hours.

Jeanne Brown watched from the gallery at the Arizona State Prison Complex as Joseph Rudolph Wood, who shot her sister and father dead in 1989, died on Wednesday. She angrily brushed off his attorneys’ complaints that Wood suffered during the execution.

“You don’t know what excruciating is,” Brown told the media after Wood was pronounced dead. “Excruciating is seeing your dad lying there in a pool of blood, seeing your sister lying there in a pool of blood. That’s excruciating. This man deserved it.”

Her husband added that the convicted killer smiled at the family before succumbing to the drugs.

“It’s not just about him,” Richard Brown said. “It’s about other people that suffered, that are still suffering. He smiled and laughed at us and then went to sleep.”

State doctors said Wood didn’t suffer, but his attorneys claimed he did.

“It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breathe for about an hour and 40 minutes,” attorney Dale Baich, who witnessed the execution, said in a statement, adding that Arizona now joins the list of states responsible for a “bungled execution.”

Witnesses described watching Wood gasp like a fish and hearing sounds similar to snoring. A doctor checked Wood a few times during the procedure and confirmed that he was sedated, witnesses said.

Wood’s case is the latest in a growing debate about the efficiency of the death penalty by lethal injections. One federal judge recently suggested a firing squad would be a more “foolproof” method.

But Jeanne and Andrew Brown don’t care about the drug discussion. They’re just glad Wood is dead.

“Everybody is worried about the drug,” Andrew Brown said. “These people that do this, they deserve to suffer a little bit.”

“I saw the life go out of my sister-in-law’s eye as he shot her to death,” he added. “I’m so sick of you guys blowing this drug stuff out of proportion.”

Jeanne Brown said Wednesday marked the end of a long, painful journey for her family.

“Nobody sees the real picture of what took place in the last 25 years,” she said. “Everyone is more worried about: Did he suffer? Who really suffered is my dad and my sister, when they [were] killed.”

However, death penalty foes have argued, capital offenders should not suffer because the U.S. Bill of Rights bars “cruel and unusual punishments.”

“Today the state of Arizona broke the Eighth Amendment, the First Amendment, and the bounds of basic decency,” said Cassandra Stubbs, director of the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project, in a written statement after the execution. “Joseph Wood suffered cruel and unusual punishment when he was apparently left conscious long after the drugs were administered.”

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said justice was served with Wood’s execution, but has ordered a review of what happened.

“I am concerned by the length of time it took for the administered drug protocol to complete the lawful execution of the convicted double murderer Joseph Wood,” Brewer said in a statement. “While justice was carried out today, I directed the Department of Corrections to conduct a full review of the process.”

“One thing is certain, however, inmate Wood died in a lawful manner and by eyewitness and medical accounts he did not suffer,” she said. “This is in stark comparison to the gruesome, vicious suffering that he inflicted on his two victims — and the lifetime of suffering he has caused their family.”

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Helicopter Footage Shows Colorado Carjacking Scene

iStock/Thinkstock(JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo.) — An apparent carjacking was caught on camera in Colorado, with motorists rushing to help police subdue an armed suspect.

The dramatic helicopter footage appeared to show a man terrorizing Interstate 70 in Jefferson County, Colorado, Wednesday.

Police said the man, along with an alleged female accomplice, carjacked two different people, including Bush Sutter’s co-worker.

“Next thing you know, the guy pulled out a machine gun and started shooting at him, so he dove in the bushes,” Sutter said.

After crashing both stolen vehicles, the two apparently headed off on foot to the embankment, according to Jefferson County sheriff spokeswoman Jacki Kelley. The woman was arrested, but the man tried to make a getaway in a dump truck.

That didn’t work, so he walked to a house — and blasted through the closed garage door in the homeowner’s SUV, driving until the vehicle got stuck near the interstate, with fears that he would hijack another vehicle, officials said, describing a scene captured on video.

The man can be seen on video moving toward the highway, pointing his gun at passing cars.

A deputy with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department buzzed past on his motorcycle with his weapon drawn, causing the man to drop his weapons and raise his hands as he backed along the highway.

The deputy chased the man, grabbing his shirt and tackling him, as can be seen on video. Two other good Samaritans emerged, helping to hold the suspect down — the end of a dramatic scene that somehow was resolved without any injuries.

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Grim Details Emerge in FSU Professor’s Shooting Death

iStock/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — A criminal law professor at Florida State University gunned down at his home was shot in the side of the head at relatively close range, ABC News has exclusively learned.

Professor Dan Markel, 41, was fatally shot Saturday in the Betton Hills section of Tallahassee, Florida, a neighborhood marked by Spanish moss and ranch-style homes.

Investigators believe Markel knew his killer and may have literally opened his door to his own death.

“He was the intended target in this situation,” Tallahassee Police Department Officer David Northway said.

Police have released pixelated pictures of a silver Toyota Prius which they say was seen in the area on the day of the crime. A police tip line has netted 50 calls so far.

One potentially big clue is that there was no sign of forced entry into the house.

“There’s not enough information to suggest that this is a contract murder. It certainly could be,” said ABC News consultant Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent. “The most likely theory is that it it’s somebody that he knows.”

With no suspects named, police are being careful not to reveal certain evidence.

“We must make sure that we are keeping the integrity of this case so we can bring it to prosecution,” Northway said.

Markel’s death has rattled the college town. The Harvard grad had been published in the New York Times and served as a legal scholar, with a focus on criminal law.

Markel left behind two boys, as well as his ex-wife, fellow FSU professor Wendi Jill Adelson. Adelson’s attorney says her client is devastated and scared because she doesn’t know who did this or why. Documents obtained by ABC News show the two finalized their divorce a year ago, but had still been in a battle over access to their sons.

Tallahassee police say they’ve questioned Adelson, but have not named her or anyone else a suspect.

“We are speaking to everybody who has an affiliation with Mr. Markel,” Northway said.

ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams said police have made a point to say that Markel was targeted in order to assure people that they don’t need to worry about the shooter striking again.

Cases of this nature usually get solved, Abrams said.

“The tougher cases are when they don’t really have any idea what happened. But here, I think, they’ll have clues that will lead them back to the person who did this,” he said.
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Federal Judge Favors ‘More Primitive’ but ‘Foolproof’ Firing Squad

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) — Should lethal injection be replaced by firing squad? One federal judge thinks so.

Before Joseph Wood’s controversial execution Wednesday in Arizona, one federal judge reviewing the case earlier in the week opined that states should consider abandoning lethal injection executions in favor of a return to “more primitive” and “foolproof” methods such as the firing squad.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote an opinion Monday expressing his belief that Arizona would ultimately prevail in its attempt to execute Wood, who was convicted of killing his estranged girlfriend and her father in 1989.

But using drugs to carry out executions is a “misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful,” Kozinski said.

His words seem almost eerily prescient after conflicting reports emerged regarding whether Woods died peacefully, as one witness said, or gasping for air as another witness suggested. His execution took nearly two hours.

In the provocative opinion, Kozinski, who was appointed by Ronald Reagan, wrote that executions aren’t peaceful. “They are brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tried to do can mask that reality,” he said.

Kozinski, 64, allowed that the electric chair, hanging and the gas chamber are subject to occasional mishaps but that a firing squad would be the “most promising” method. “Eight or ten large-caliber rifle bullets fired at close range can inflict massive damage, causing instant death every time,” he wrote.

“Sure, firing squads can be messy,” he writes, “but if we are willing to carry out executions, we should not shield ourselves from the reality that we are shedding human blood. If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn’t be carrying out executions at all.”

Only two states — Oklahoma and Utah — would consider the firing squad under certain circumstances, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, an organization opposed to the death penalty. Utah performed the three most recent executions by firing squad in the United States, with Ronnie Lee Gardner the latest in 2010.

Utah no longer offers the firing squad as an option, but allows it only for those inmates who chose the method prior to its elimination in 2009. Oklahoma only offers the firing squad if lethal injection and electrocution are found unconstitutional.

Lethal injection is now the primary method of execution.

Kozinski’s opinion seemed designed to ignite a broader conversation regarding the efficacy of current protocols and procedures. He pointed to California’s difficulty, “or perhaps unwillingness,” to come up with an execution protocol. “Old age, not execution, is the most serious risk factor for inmates at the San Quentin death row,” he wrote.

Indeed, a California District Court judge ruled earlier this month that the state’s administration of the death penalty is unconstitutional in part because of the long delays in its implementation. Since 1978, 300 inmates have been placed on death row and only 13 have been executed.

Kozinski reiterated his belief that Arizona should prevail in the Woods case but that a lethal injection system was “inherently flawed and ultimately doomed to failure.”

If the state wishes to continue carrying out executions, he said, “it would be better to own up that using drugs is a mistake and come up with something that will work, instead.”

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Acadia National Park Is America’s Favorite Place

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — When ABC’s Good Morning America put out a call this month for your favorite places in America, the response was overwhelming.

GMA viewers sent in so many entries, from all over America, but in the end, Maine’s Acadia National Park took the top spot on GMA’s Favorite Place in America, finishing ahead of top five finalists including Lake Tahoe and the Chicago Lakefront.

Acadia is situated along the state’s central coast. Attracting more than 2 million visitors each year, the park is home to nearly 50,000 acres of jaw-dropping beauty, providing something for everyone with its cobblestone beaches, lush forests and rugged mountains.

The park’s centerpiece is the majestic Cadillac Mountain. Situated on Acadia’s Mount Desert Island and rising more than 1,500 feet, Cadillac is the highest point on the Eastern coast, and it’s famous for being the first place to see the sunrise in the U.S.

The park is designed to give visitors a front-row seat to nature, with 45 miles of scenic carriage roads and 125 miles of hiking trails.

Aracely and Sergio Rios visited Acadia during their travels to the lower 48 states. By far, Acadia is the Texas couple’s favorite place.

Once visitors are done exploring Acadia, they can head to nearby Bar Harbor to enjoy its shops, stroll the quaint streets and dig into some of the freshest lobster in the state.

Next, stop by Acadia’s cliffside Bass Harbor Head lighthouse to soak in the sunset.

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FAA Lifts Flight Restrictions for Tel Aviv Airport

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Aviation Administration announced the lifting of restrictions on U.S. airline flights into and out of Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday.

“Before making this decision, the FAA worked with its U.S. government counterparts to assess the security situation in Israel and carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation,” the agency said in a statement.

The notice comes after an earlier decision in which the agency renewed a ban on travel to or from Tel Aviv and prohibited air travel to the region for another 24 hours.

Initially, the FAA banned flights Tuesday following a rocket strike that landed nearly a mile from the airport.

“The agency will continue to closely monitor the very fluid situation around Ben Gurion Airport and will take additional actions, as necessary,” the FAA added.

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FAA Lifts Flight Restrictions for Tel Aviv Airport

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Federal Aviation Administration announced the lifting of restrictions on U.S. airline flights into and out of Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday.

“Before making this decision, the FAA worked with its U.S. government counterparts to assess the security situation in Israel and carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the Government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation,” the agency said in a statement.

The notice comes after an earlier decision in which the agency renewed a ban on travel to or from Tel Aviv and prohibited air travel to the region for another 24 hours.

Initially, the FAA banned flights Tuesday following a rocket strike that landed nearly a mile from the airport.

“The agency will continue to closely monitor the very fluid situation around Ben Gurion Airport and will take additional actions, as necessary,” the FAA added.

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Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution in Arizona

iStock/Thinkstock(FLORENCE, Ariz.) — A double murderer executed in Arizona on Wednesday was pronounced dead almost two hours after the process began, state Attorney General Tom Horne said.

“The execution of Joseph Wood commenced at 1:57 p.m. at the Arizona State Prison Complex (ASPC)-Florence and he was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m.,” the Attorney General said in a statement.

Wood’s attorneys filed a motion for emergency stay of the execution after the inmate was reported, “gasping and snorting for more than an hour,” according to court documents they filed.

“The experiment using midazolam combined with hydromorphone to carry out an execution failed today in Arizona. It took Joseph Wood two hours to die, and he gasped and struggled to breath for about an hour and forty minutes,” said Dale Baich, one of Joseph Wood’s attorneys. “We will renew our efforts to get information about the manufacturer of drugs as well as how Arizona came up with the experimental formula of drugs it used today. Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror — a bungled execution.”

Still, Jeanine Brown, a niece of one of Wood’s victims, says that’s not what she heard as she witnessed the execution.

“I don’t believe he was gasping for air,” Brown said. “I don’t believe he was suffering. Sound to me as though he was snoring.”

Wood was convicted February 25, 1991, and sentenced to death July 2, 1991.

The 55-year-old was involved in an unstable five-year relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Debbie Dietz, during the time of the crime. On August 7, 1989, Wood walked into the local body shop owned by her family and shot Debbie’s 55-year-old father, Gene Dietz, in the chest with a .38 caliber revolver, according to a statement from the AG.

He later located Debbie, and shot her once in the abdomen and once in the chest, killing her as well, the document stated.

The ACLU said in a statement that executions should be stopped until it can be proved the drugs used work as intended. “Today the state of Arizona broke the Eighth Amendment, the First Amendment, and the bounds of basic decency. Joseph Wood suffered cruel and unusual punishment when he was apparently left conscious long after the drugs were administered. According to his emergency papers filed by his attorneys, he was choking and snorting over an hour into the process.

“In its rush to put Mr. Wood to death in secret, Arizona ignored the dire and clear warnings from the botched executions of Oklahoma and Ohio. It’s time for Arizona and the other states still using lethal injection to admit that this experiment with unreliable drugs is a failure. Instead of hiding lethal injection under layers of foolish secrecy, these states need to show us where the drugs are come from.”

Wood filed several appeals denied by the Supreme Court, including one that claimed his rights were violated by the state’s refusal to give details on the drugs that were to be used in the execution.

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Family Booted Off Southwest Airlines After Dad Tweeted About ‘Rude’ Gate Agent

Rick Gershon/Getty Images(DENVER) — A Minneapolis man said he and his two children were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight after the father tweeted about a “rude” gate agent who refused to give his kids priority boarding.

The incident happened on Sunday afternoon when Duff Watson was traveling with his daughters, ages 9 and 6, from Denver to Minneapolis.

“I have been traveling with Southwest for a few years now, and I’m an A-list member,” Watson told ABC News Wednesday. “You can board the plane early.”

Watson said his two children have always been able to board the plane with him, but the gate agent he confronted Sunday afternoon wouldn’t budge, he said.

“I am not trying to game the system,” Watson said. “I’m not going to leave my kids alone to board. That doesn’t make sense.”

When the gate agent told Watson she couldn’t let his children board with him, Watson said he asked the agent: “Is this a new policy?”

Watson said the agent didn’t answer his question directly, but told him: “I am not going to change my mind.”

The gate agent allegedly asked the passenger and his children to step aside and wait until the rest of the A-list members boarded.

“We waited, which was fine,” Watson said. “I thought she was very rude and wanted to complain to customer service, so I asked her: ‘Can I get your last name?’”

“She told me: ‘You don’t need my last name for anything,’” Watson said. “I told her: ‘Real nice way to treat an A-list member.’”

“I tweeted something like, ‘Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA,’” he said.

He then boarded the plane along with his kids. However, they just couldn’t get home in time.

“I heard my name in the broadcast, asking me to get off the plane,” Watson said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I thought we left something or we were on the wrong flight.”

He was then approached by a flight attended, who refused to tell him the reason for the broadcast, but said: “You need to exit the aircraft immediately.”

“So I walked by the people who we just walked by to get to our seats,” he said.

Watson then ran into the same gate agent he had tweeted about.

“She [the agent] said I was a safety threat,” Watson said. “I was shocked. There was no use of profanity, there were no threats made. How was I a safety threat?”

Watson said the agent threatened to call the cops if he didn’t delete the tweet that included her first name and initial of last name.

“I was taken aback by the situation. My two kids were crying,” he said. “She watched me as I deleted the tweet.”

The gate agent then allegedly summoned Watson and his children to get back on the same flight.

“So we walked through the same passengers the third time,” Watson said.

“The point is not the order of boarding,” Watson said. “The point is how she responded.”

Southwest Airlines could not be immediately reached for comment by ABC News. But the airline issued a statement to a local CBS affiliate confirming that a customer was removed for a short time and continued on to Minneapolis. The incident is under review, Southwest noted.

“I have been loyal to Southwest,” Watson said. “I was really upset that Southwest has such rude front-line staff members.”

A Southwest representative called him after the incident, and informed him that A-list members’ priority treatment doesn’t apply to family members.

“I looked on their website and I didn’t find any explicit rule,” Watson said.

Southwest has offered a $50 voucher as a good-will gesture, he said, but he plans to donate it to charity.

“I’m not going to fly them again,” he said.

“I wish I didn’t back down, I wish I didn’t delete the tweet. But under that quid pro quo situation, I did it,” Watson said.

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