Review Category : National News

Cleveland Cop Verdict: Multiple Arrests as Protests Continue Into Evening

Photo by Ricky Rhodes/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) — Largely peaceful demonstrations following the acquittal of a Cleveland police officer in the killing of an unarmed couple continued Saturday evening, as some groups of people turned more rowdy and police said there were multiple arrests.

A spokesman for the mayor’s office said it was not clear how many of the arrests were directly related to the protests and how many were people “being a nuisance.”

“We are trying to sort that out,” said Dan Williams, a spokesman for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

Michael Brelo was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter and a lesser charge of felonious assault in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. Prosecutors said Brelo, 31, was one of 13 officers who fired 137 times into the couple’s car in the November 2012 shooting.

Among those arrested Saturday night was a man was charged with assault after he allegedly injured a patron at Harry Buffalo’s on East Fourth Street when he threw an object through the window, police said.

After a day in which peaceful demonstrators carried signs and chanted after the handed down a not guilty verdict, police reported that some protesters were turning “disruptive.”

Protests began immediately after the verdict, with demonstrators outside the courthouse chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” — a rallying cry linked to the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Sheriff’s deputies stood outside the courthouse carrying shields, blocking the demonstrators from entering.

In a demonstration that had already been planned to mark six months since the killing of Tamir Rice, a black 12-year-old carrying a pellet gun who was shot by a white rookie officer, about 200 people walked in a mock funeral procession. They carried a black, plywood coffin and softly sang “I’m going up yonder, we’re marching, we’re marching.”

The protests continued into the evening, when a crowd temporarily blocked downtown street intersections and chanted anti-police slogans.

Demonstrators also marched past sports fans getting out of a Cleveland Indians-Cincinnati Reds game, adding to the congestion.

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One Killed, Homes Underwater as Flooding Wreaks Havoc in Texas, Oklahoma

@shellyygreen/Twitter(TULSA, Oklahoma) — An Oklahoma firefighter was killed attempting a water rescue and about 350 homes were underwater in a small Texas town as a large part of the central and southern Plains states remained under a flash flood watch Sunday following a day of powerful storms.

In Claremore, Oklahoma, about 30 miles northeast of Tulsa, a firefighter was killed when he was swept away while attempting a water rescue, according to the Rogers County Sheriff’s Office.

Three to six inches of rain fell in the Oklahoma City metro area, which has had the rainiest 40 days and 40 nights in that city’s history as 20.46 inches have fallen.

The National Weather Service said major flooding continued along the Blanco River near Wimberley, Texas, about 40 miles southwest of Austin and 63 miles northeast of San Antonio.

Rescues were ongoing in the area, where more than 9 inches of rain was reported as the Blanco River rose 35 feet within a few hours Saturday.

More rain was expected on Sunday for areas east of Interstate 35 in the Southern Plains with the rainfall lasting into Memorial Day.

There was also the possibility of some brief tornadoes, with the threat area from Springfield, Missouri, to Shreveport, Louisiana.

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Body Found Near Where Kayaker in Alleged Murder Disappeared

New York State Police(NEW YORK) — A body was found in the Hudson River near where a New York man disappeared while kayaking with his fiancée, who has been accused of murdering him.

New York State police said the body was pulled from the river near West Point Saturday, and was taken to the Orange County medical examiner for autopsy and identification.

Police released no identifying information about the body.

Vincent Viafore, 46, disappeared last month after his kayak capsized. Prosecutors charged Angelika Graswald, 35, with his with second-degree murder last month in connection with his death. The pair were kayaking together on the Hudson River in April when it is alleged that Viafore’s kayak filled with water, causing it to capsize.

Police initially said it appeared that Graswald tried to help Viafore, but then charged her two weeks after the incident.

Prosecutors said last month that Graswald, a Latvian national, admitted to investigators that she tampered with Viafore’s kayak so that it would take on water.

Prosecutors said Graswald also told police that she watched Viafore struggle in the Hudson’s icy waters for several minutes before he went under.

Prosecutors said Graswald admitted to New York State Police it “felt good knowing that he was going to die,” and implied that “this was her only way out.”

Graswald’s motive, as alleged by prosecutors, was two life insurance policies that could benefit her for a total of about $250,000. Graswald even “talked about what she could possibly do with the money,” prosecutors said.

Graswald’s lawyer said he plans to challenge the alleged confessions.

“We’re going to find out whether they indeed happened, whether they were voluntary or forced,” Graswald’s attorney, Richard Portale, said of the alleged confessions reported by prosecutors. “And it’s all going to come out.”

Graswald has not yet entered a plea. Her bail has been set at $3 million.

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Why Cleveland Police Officer Verdict Was Announced Over Holiday Weekend

People march in protest to the Cuddell Recreation Center where Tamir Rice was killed, in reaction to Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo being acquitted of manslaughter charges after he shot two people at the end of a 2012 car chase in which officers fired 137 shots May 23, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Ricky Rhodes/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) — Cuyahoga County Judge John O’Donnell Saturday acquitted Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo in the 2012 shooting deaths of two unarmed people. But why was the decision announced at the start of Memorial Day Weekend?

“The decision to announce the verdict in this high-profile case on a holiday weekend was not made lightly,” Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Administrative and Presiding Judge John J. Russo said in a statement.

“The prime consideration was to not delay the reading of the verdict any longer than necessary,” the statement added. “While the wait was difficult for many, it was especially hard on the parties involved in the case and their families. Once Judge O’Donnell reached his verdict and finished writing his opinion, he and the Court wanted to let the parties know the decision as quickly as possible.

“It was agreed that by announcing it on a Saturday morning, the potential for downtown traffic issues and the resulting impact on the community could also be lessened,” the statement said.

Russo also wrote: “On this Memorial Day Weekend, we honor and thank those who served our nation and paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms and rights that we enjoy.”

Brelo was acquitted of voluntary manslaughter and a lesser charge of felonious assault in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, as O’Donnell said he couldn’t determine whether the officer alone fired the fatal shots at the end of a 137-bullet barrage.

O’Donnell ruled that Brelo’s use of deadly force was constitutionally reasonable based on how the events unfolded.

“It was reasonable, despite knowing now that there was no gun in the car and he was mistaken about the origin of the gunshots,” he said.

Prosecutors said Brelo, 31, was one of 13 officers who fired 137 times into the couple’s car in the November 2012 shooting. The 22-mile, high-speed chase through Cleveland began when an officer tried pulling over Russell for a turn signal violation. His car backfired while speeding away, causing officers to think someone in the car had fired a gun.

No gun was ever found in the car. Russell and Williams were each shot more than 20 times.

Brelo was the only officer charged criminally because prosecutors said he intended to kill Russell, 43, and Williams, 30, alleging that he reloaded during the shooting barrage and that it was his final salvo that killed the couple.

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Missouri Police Shoot, Kill Man Accused of Murder, Kidnapping

aijohn784/iStock/Thinkstock(CLINTON, Mo.) — Police in Missouri say that they shot and killed a convicted sex offender and accused murderer on Saturday after he allegedly threatened officers with a weapon and refused to surrender.

James Horn was accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and her teenage son. He had also been charged with kidnapping for allegedly keeping the woman confined in a wooden box. Police had been searching for Horn when they encountered him in an abandoned house on Saturday. It was there that Horn threatened officers was shot.

Lynch said Horn was armed and hiding in a closet when police found him.

Clinton, Missouri Police Lieutenant Sonny Lynch said that many in the area are glad the manhunt for Horn is over. “People were fearful of this man and him being at large,” Lynch said, “so I’d say that the sigh of relief is pretty big at this point.”

Still, Lynch said that the whole situation is tragic. Everything, he added, is “overshadowed by the fact that we’ve lost two residents, two people in Clinton, Missouri, tragivally killed by this man, we believe, and so we think about that and our thoughts are with the family.”

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Students Petition Texas High School to Allow Netherlands Exchange Student to Walk at Graduation

Hidde Tuinte is shown in this undated photo. Photo Courtesy: Hidde Tuinte(TAYLOR, Texas) — “Let Hidde walk!”

That’s what Taylor High School students in Texas are demanding on t-shirts, signs and social media after foreign exchange student Hidde Tuinte, 17, said he was recently told by the school that he may not be able to walk at the school’s graduation next Friday because he’s missing required classes.

“It’s been so crazy these past few days,” Tuinte, originally from the Netherlands, told ABC News Saturday. “I feel I have a whole army working for me. I had no idea people liked me this much.”

Tuinte’s host “mother,” Jennifer Lovejoy, told ABC News Saturday that Tuinte is a “boy with a good heart” and that she thinks “it’s wonderful” his friends are supporting him in such an amazing way.

“All he wants is to walk with his friends,” she said. “It’s never been about the diploma. I just want to say, ‘Look, give him a certificate of completion that he’s completed a year here, and let him walk.'”

Lovejoy added that although Tuinte is a senior at the high school in Texas, he still has another year of high school left in the Netherlands before he will go onto college there.

Taylor Independent School District Superintendent Jerry Vaughn said he was “in the process of reviewing this concern” in a statement to ABC News.

“Be assured that Taylor ISD is investigating the situation, the educational records and the concerns of the student,” Vaughn said. “ISD will follow Taylor ISD board policies that address graduation and commencement. All students who have fulfilled the required course work for credits as well as the required state assessments will be allowed to participate in graduation.”

Tuinte said he was working with the school to get his complete transcript from the Netherlands and possibly complete work over the long Memorial Day weekend to make up for the classes he’s missing to assess if he can be allowed to walk at graduation.

Regardless of whether he gets to walk, Tuinte said he’s had a “great experience” in the U.S. and is considering moving here permanently in the future.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want to do, and I’ve met a lot of good friends I’ll be coming back to definitely visit,” he said.

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Cleveland Police Officer Found Not Guilty in 2012 Shooting Deaths

Andreyuu/iStock/Thinkstock(CLEVELAND) — A judge Saturday deemed a Cleveland police officer not guilty in the shooting deaths of an unarmed couple in 2012, an incident that involved a high-speed chase and a hail of bullets.

Michael Brelo was found not guilty of voluntary manslaughter and a lesser charge of felonious assault for the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. He was visibly emotional as Cuyahoga County Judge John P. O’Donnell read a portion of the verdict in open court.

Prosecutors alleged that Brelo was one of 13 officers who fired a total of 137 bullets into their car in the November 2012 shooting, but O’Donnell ruled that his entire use of deadly force was constitutionally reasonable..

The 22-mile, high-speed chase through Cleveland began when an officer tried pulling over Russell for a turn signal violation. His car backfired while speeding away, causing officers to think someone in the car had fired a gun.

Thirteen officers fired upon the car at the end of the chase, among them Brelo, who prosecutors said shot 15 times into the windshield while standing on the car’s hood when it was stopped.

No gun was ever found in the victims’ car. They were each shot more than 20 times.

Brelo was the only officer charged criminally because prosecutors said he intended to kill Russell, 43, and Williams, 30, alleging that he reloaded during the shooting barrage and that it was his final salvo that killed the couple.

Attorneys for Brelo argued that other officers also fired during the final seconds of shooting and that prosecutors couldn’t prove which shots were fatal and when they were fired.

Brelo had pleaded not guilty.

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California Oil Cleanup Expands as US Takes Action Against Pipeline Owner

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(GOLETA, Calif.) — A massive cleanup remained under way on the California shores Friday as a crude-oil slick from a ruptured pipeline covered nearly 10 squares miles of Pacific Ocean and nearly 8 miles of coastline, forcing the closure of beaches and campgrounds just as Memorial Day weekend nears.

“There’s a lot of wildlife out there,” said veterinarian Dr. Christine Fiorelo, who is helping to treat six birds.

The oil leak was first reported around noon Tuesday in southern California. Officials said that up to 105,000 gallons of crude oil had escaped the busted pipeline and that 21,000 gallons had reached the waters off the California shore, which 200 species of animals and birds call home.

“It’s terrible to know that all of that toxic material is out there,” Fiorelo told ABC News. “It’s a very heavy, thick, tarry oil. It’s a hard product to get off.”

Houston, Texas-based Plains All American, the pipeline’s owner, came under fire as the U.S. government took swift and tough action against it Friday.

Plains All American had 175 safety and maintenance violations in the last nine years and paid out more than $24 million in damages, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s records.

Patrick Hodgins, the director of safety and security for Plains, said recently though that “the number of reportable incidents, by percentage, is well within the industry norms.”

The administration said the pipeline had been inspected May 5 through an outside vendor, chosen by Plains All American. It also said today that it had asked the pipeline owner to share the results of that inspection so the administration could see what the pipeline knew before the leak.

A spokesman for the pipeline said Friday’s cleanup efforts had been “productive,” with a total of 145 bins being filled with contaminated oil.

“We continue to focus our efforts on the shoreline and removing the oil there,” said Rick McMichael, the senior director of operations for Plains All American. “We are making good progress although we still have a ways to go.”

Plains All American said it had shut down the flow of oil and McMichael said Friday the pipeline was currently working to excavated the affected section of pipeline.

The administration also ordered the pipeline to suspend operations until the agency deemed it safe to reopen; remove the part of the pipe that had failed in 45 days and have it tested; and purge the line of all remaining oil product.

Officials warned Thursday that there was a potential that far more oil had leaked into the Pacific Ocean through the faulty pipeline.

“California is tremendously well-prepared to deal with these spills, much better than probably anywhere else in the country, and maybe in the world, so that’s fantastic,” veterinarian Fiorelo said on Friday. “But it’s also, of course, very terrible that it has to happen at all.”

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Memorial Day 2015: The Real Story Behind the Holiday

flySnow/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Memorial Day Weekend usually conjures up images of backyard parties, beaches and beer.

But Memorial Day is more than just a three-day weekend marking the unofficial start of summer. It’s actually been an official national holiday for over 40 years aimed at remembering those who served in the armed forces.

Here is a brief look at the history behind the holiday and how people are expressing the true meaning of Memorial Day through photos on social media.

A few years after the end of the Civil War, May 30 was established as “Declaration Day” — a day to decorates veterans’ graves with flowers. May 30 may have been the selected day because flowers would be in bloom throughout the country, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

In 1971, Memorial Day was officially declared a national holiday and placed on the last Monday in May, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website says.

In December 2000, the president signed into law The National Moment of Remembrance Act.

“The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation,” the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website says.

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DC Mansion Murders: More Than One Person ‘Required’ to Commit Crime, Affidavit Says

Metropolitan Police Department(WASHINGTON) — A newly unsealed arrest affidavit concludes that the quadruple murder inside a DC mansion “required the presence and assistance of more than one person,” authorities said.

Only one suspect in the murder and ensuing fire has been named publicly.

Daron Wint, 34, was arrested Thursday at 11 p.m. on Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast Washington, DC Metropolitan Police said. He is charged with first degree felony murder while armed. Members of the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force made the arrest. He was arraigned Friday afternoon.

Wint was named by Metropolitan Police as the suspect in the murders after his DNA was found on the crust of a Domino’s pizza that had been delivered to the house, authorities said.

The court documents, meanwhile, describe the charred scene that firefighters responded to on the afternoon of May 14. Firefighters found three unconscious adults in one of the second floor bedrooms, but they found a fourth victim in an adjacent bedroom where the blaze was largely contained, according to the affidavit.

That fourth body was that of 10-year-old Phillip Savopoulos. The medical examiner later determined that the child’s cause of death was thermal and sharp force injuries.

The affidavit states that Phillip Savopoulos “was located on the charred remains/mattress spring of a queen sized bed.”

There were signs at the scene that the fire was set purposefully and the suspects had planned for it to spread further than it had.

Firefighters found “the presence of an ignitable liquid on the stairs and in the room in which the three adults were located. Several matches and a matchbox were found at the top of the stairs,” the affidavit states.

His parents Savvas and Amy Savopoulos were both pronounced dead on the scene. Their housekeeper Verlicia Figueroa, who was found in the same bedroom as the couple, was transported to Georgetown University Hospital though “lifesaving efforts failed and Mrs. Figueroa was pronounced dead,” the report states.

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