Review Category : National News

Woman Abducted 18 Years Ago as a Newborn Found Living in Another State

ABC News(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — Authorities have found and identified a woman in South Carolina who was abducted from a Florida hospital more than 18 years ago as a newborn baby.

The woman, named Kamiyah Mobley at birth, was kidnapped on July 10, 1998, just hours after she was born at a Jacksonville hospital, according to Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.

She was abducted by a woman, now identified as Gloria Williams, who had posed as a nurse and told Mobley’s mother that the baby had a fever and she needed to take her away, Mike Williams said at a news conference Friday.

Gloria Williams, now 51, was able to walk out of the hospital with Mobley and was never caught — until now. She has been arrested and charged with kidnapping, officials said at the news conference.

Mobley grew up in Walterboro, South Carolina, thinking that Gloria Williams was her biological mother, according to the sheriff. He said that she now appears to be a normal 18-year-old woman in good health.

The sheriff added that Mobley has been living under a different name for the past 18 years. Officials are not releasing her current name in the interest of reducing any further trauma.

Mobley began to suspect a few months ago that she may have been involved in the reported 1998 abduction case, the sheriff said. She recently submitted a DNA sample to authorities and the sample came back positive this past Thursday night, he said.

Mobley’s biological mother, father, grandmother and a couple of close family friends have been notified and they are extremely excited, the sheriff said.

Craig Aiken, Mobley’s biological father, told ABC News Friday he has spoken with Mobley over the phone and on Skype, along with her biological mother.

“It was like the end of a nightmare,” Aiken said. “I can’t even explain it.”

Aiken said that he and Mobley’s biological mother would celebrate her birthday every year and would imagine “how it would be if she were here” and “what we would do if she came came back.”

He added that he expects Mobley to visit her place of birth very soon and that the they would take it “day by day” to slowly “transition back to a happy family.”

Mobley’s biological grandmother, Velma Aiken, told ABC News that the family cried “tears of joy” when they were informed by police that her granddaughter had been found. Velma Aiken said it felt like they had known each other all along.

Although she was “bitter and empty” toward Williams for “stealing” her “grandbaby,” Velma Aiken said she is grateful that Williams was “willing to raise her right.”

Williams was charged with kidnapping at a bond hearing on Friday in South Carolina. Bail was denied and another bond hearing will be held once she is extradited to Jacksonville, Florida, according to the sheriff’s office.

Mobley, who identified herself as “Alexis” in court, began to cry when her mother was denied bond. She told Williams that she is “praying for her.”

“Mama, I love you,” she said.

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Five Takeaways from Scathing Department of Justice Report on Chicago Policing

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Federal investigators have determined that the Chicago Police Department has violated the constitutional rights of citizens for years in numerous ways, such as using excessive force, permitting racially discriminatory conduct and shooting individuals who posed no immediate threats, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.

“One of my highest priorities as attorney general has been to ensure that every American enjoys police protection that is lawful, responsive and transparent,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement Friday in announcing the findings. “Sadly, our thorough investigation into the Chicago Police Department found that far too many residents of this proud city have not received that kind of policing.”

After a year-long probe into the city’s 12,000-officer police force, which began in December 2015 after the release of a dashcam video of a white officer’s shooting a black teen, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the North District of Illinois released on Friday a scathing 161-page report that details their findings of “systemic deficiencies” in training and accountability that investigators say have led to a pattern or practice of using force in violation of the Constitution.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois said “these findings are not new” and should come as no surprise to Chicago residents.

After the report’s release, officials from the Justice Department and the city of Chicago said Friday they have signed an agreement in principle to work together, with community input, to create a federal court-enforceable consent decree addressing the deficiencies uncovered during the investigation. An independent monitor, who has yet to be chosen, will oversee compliance with the consent decree, according to the Justice Department.

“While the Chicago Police Department has made real progress and achieved meaningful reforms, the incidents described in this report are sobering to all of us,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters Friday. “Police misconduct will not be tolerated anywhere in this city and those who break the rules will be held accountable for their actions.”

Here are some highlights from the report:

CPD Uses Deadly Force in Violation of Constitution

According to the report, federal investigators found that the Chicago Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of using force that is unreasonable and unconstitutional, including the following: shooting at fleeing suspects who presented no immediate threat; shooting at vehicles without justification; using less-lethal force, including Tasers, against people who pose no threat; using force to retaliate against and punish individuals; and using excessive force against juveniles.

“This pattern is largely attributable to systemic deficiencies within CPD and the City,” the report stated, citing, among other shortcomings, the department’s historical failure to train its officers in de-escalation and failure to conduct meaningful investigations of uses of force.

For instance, federal investigators observed police academy training on deadly force that consisted of a video made decades ago, which the report said was inconsistent with both current law and the Chicago Police Department’s own policies.

“The impact of this poor training was apparent when we interviewed recruits who recently graduated from the Academy: only one in six recruits we spoke with came close to properly articulating the legal standard for use of force,” the report stated. “Post-Academy field training is equally flawed.”

The deficiencies in officer training are exacerbated by the lack of adequate supervision provided to officers in the field, the report said.

The Majority of Cases Are Not Investigated

The report found the city of Chicago fails to investigate the majority of cases it is required to by law, including misconduct allegations filed against police officers. The ones that are investigated, “with rare exception, suffer from entrenched investigative deficiencies and biased techniques,” and discipline taken against the accused officers is “haphazard,” “unpredictable” and “does little to deter misconduct,” according to the report.

Federal investigators, who reviewed hundreds of investigative files, found that civilian and officer witnesses – and even the accused officers – are frequently not interviewed during an investigation. The city investigators also frequently failed to collect basic evidence and have allowed union representatives and attorneys to “coach officers in the middle of recorded interviews — with official protocols actually prohibiting investigators from preventing this, or even referring to it on tape,” the report stated.

The report also detailed a lack of transparency regarding officer misconduct complaints, saying the “complainants themselves are often kept in the dark about the status of their cases” and the city investigators do not provide periodic updates to individuals complaining of officer misconduct.

“Several complainants told us that they were left unaware of what was happening with their complaint for months, or even years – and some never heard back at all,” the report stated.

CPD ‘Tolerated Racially Discriminatory Conduct’

The report called on the city of Chicago to address “serious concerns” about systemic deficiencies within the police department that disproportionately affect black and Latino communities. According to the report, statistics show the Chicago Police Department uses force almost 10 times more often against blacks than against whites.

“CPD’s pattern or practice of unreasonable force and systemic deficiencies fall heaviest on the predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods on the South and West Sides of Chicago, which are also experiencing higher crime,” the report stated. “As a result, residents in black neighborhoods suffer more of the harms caused by breakdowns in uses of force, training, supervision, accountability and community policing.”

According to the report, the Chicago Police Department “tolerated racially discriminatory conduct” that federal investigators say contributes to its pattern of unreasonable force. Federal investigators reviewed the police department’s complaint database, which showed 980 police misconduct complaints coded as discriminatory verbal abuse on the basis of race or ethnicity from 2011 to March 2016. Just 13 of those complaints, or 1.3 percent, were sustained, generally when there was audio, video or other irrefutable evidence, the report said.

Federal investigators found 354 complaints for the use of the word “n—–“ or one of its variations. Only four, or 1.1 percent, of these complaints were sustained, according to the report.

Federal investigators also found that some officers expressed discriminatory views and intolerance with regard to race, religion, gender and national origin in public social media forums. Meanwhile, the police department failed to take sufficient steps to prevent or appropriately respond to this issue, the report said.

The report urged the city to restore its police-community trust by addressing both discriminatory conduct and the disproportionality of illegal and unconstitutional patterns of force on minority communities.

“We have serious concerns about the prevalence of racially discriminatory conduct by some CPD officers and the degree to which that conduct is tolerated and in some respects caused by deficiencies in CPD’s systems of training, supervision and accountability,” the report stated.

CPD’s Promotions System Viewed as Political and Unfair

According to the report, officers in the Chicago Police Department can be promoted to detective, sergeant or lieutenant based on test scores or evaluation of other merit-based criteria. Legal challenges of discriminatory impact and allegations of improper exam procedures have prompted several significant reforms to the department’s promotions system. However, the report said, federal investigators spoke to officers who continued to express skepticism.

“One of the major complaints from officers we interviewed is that CPD’s promotions system lacks transparency regarding the nomination and qualification process for merit promotions. This has led many officers to believe that merit promotions are a reward for cronyism, rather than a recognition of excellence that was overlooked by the testing process,” the report stated.

“Many of the officers we spoke with — minority and non-minority alike — told us that they feel merit promotions are not truly based on ‘merit,’ but rather the ‘clout’ you hold in the Department or ‘who you know.’”

The report continues: “In reality, there are documented instructions and guidance for merit promotion nominators and decision makers, but this information is not widely known.”

Insufficient Support for Officer Wellness and Safety

The federal investigation found that the acute stress and pressure Chicago police officers face each day weigh heavily on them. For instance, the report found that the rising levels of gun violence in Chicago neighborhoods where the relationship between officers and the communities they serve is strained, making it difficult to police effectively.

“Our investigation found that these stressors can, and do, play out in harmful ways for CPD officers,” the report stated. “CPD deals with officer alcoholism, domestic violence and suicide. And as explained elsewhere in this Report, CPD officers engage in a pattern or practice of using force that is unjustified, disproportionate and otherwise excessive.”

The report continued: “Although the pressure CPD officers are under is by no means an excuse for violating the constitutional rights of the citizens they serve, high levels of unaddressed stress can compromise officer well-being and impact an officer’s demeanor and judgment, which in turn impacts how that officer interacts with the public.”

The report said Chicago officers need greater support from both the police department’s leadership as well as the city, adding that both parties “should think meaningfully about how to better address the stressors” these offices face.

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Feds Launch New Rail Crossing Safety Campaign with Striking Video

Federal Railroad Administration(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Transportation kicked off a new railroad crossing safety campaign on Friday with a striking new video.

The ad, a collaborative effort between the Federal Railroad Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, shows a freight train traveling through the outskirts of a city before crashing into the side of an SUV. The engineer appears to apply the brakes, but it cannot slow down quickly enough. The train travels some distance as the vehicle is violently dragged along the tracks.

The ad’s title is “Stop. Trains Can’t.”

According to the FRA, it takes a freight train traveling at 55 mph one mile to come to a complete stop even with the emergency brake applied.

By law, a train always has the right of way.

“This is an old problem, but one that can be solved. Nearly all deaths at crossings are preventable,” said FRA administrator Sarah E. Feinberg in a press release.

According to federal data, a person or vehicle is hit by a train in the United States approximately every three hours.

“Too many people are still taking unnecessary risks and needlessly paying with their lives,” according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These deaths are preventable, and this ad campaign is a reminder for everyone that ignoring signage at railroad crossings or attempting to race or beat a train can have deadly consequences.”

The Department of Transportation is spending $7 million to run the ad, which targets males between the ages of 18 and 49 in the areas where railroad crossing accidents are particularly problematic.

The ads will run in California, Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Mississippi, New Jersey, Arkansas and Arizona.

In April, the FRA listed the most troublesome railroad crossings in the United States. Using data from the last 10 years, four of the five crossings with the most incidents are in Arizona.

There have been 24 incidents since 2006 at this Phoenix crossing. None of the incidents were fatal.

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Driver Allegedly Used License Plate Concealer to Avoid Toll: Authorities

iStock/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) — A driver went to great lengths just to avoid paying a $1.25 toll in Orlando, Florida, according to the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP).

Before going through an E-Pass toll booth on Wednesday, Joshua Concepcion West, 27, allegedly used a remote control to drop down a black screen that covered his license plate, said Sgt. Kim Montes, a public affairs officer for the FHP.

West did not realize a state trooper in a marked FHP car was right behind him when he deployed the screen, Montes told ABC News Friday.

The trooper immediately pulled him over and arrested him after they passed through the toll booth, Montes said.

During the arrest, the trooper discovered that West had “an unusual license plate holder,” according to an arrest report obtained by ABC News Friday.

The holder has a black screen that comes down and conceals the license plate when triggered by a remote, the arrest report said. When triggered a second time, the screen comes back up and exposes the plate again.

West was arrested on charges of petit theft, a misdemeanor, and cheating or gross fraud, a felony, the arrest report said.

“The petit theft was for stealing from the state by not paying the toll, and the felony charge was for concealing his tag,” Montes told ABC News.

West’s vehicle has been impounded and is currently being kept at an FHP yard as evidence, Montes said.

A representative of the Orange County Clerk of Courts told ABC News Friday that West has not yet obtained a lawyer nor entered a plea to the charges against him. West could not be reached for comment by ABC News.

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Two Flight Attendants Fall Ill Aboard Alaska Airlines Flight

Alaska Airlines(SAN JOSE, Calif.) — At least two Alaska Airlines flight attendants became ill Thursday night after coming into contact with an unknown substance on board their flight, according to officials.

Alaska Airlines says Flight 322 landed in San Jose, California, just before 7 p.m. PT after the flight crew requested that emergency crews meet the Boeing 737 upon landing. Three flight attendants were evaluated by the San Jose Fire Department; one was transported to the hospital.

None of the flight’s 181 passengers reported feeling ill.

According to Alaska Airlines, those in the front of the aircraft had noticed a light white powdery substance coming out of a ceiling vent during the flight.

Hazmat crews are evaluating the aircraft, but the airline believes the unknown substance was from deicing fluid used prior to departure from Seattle.

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Hospitalized Mother Identified in Baltimore House Fire That Killed Six Children

iStock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) — A mother who lost six of her young children in a fire that tore through her family’s home in Baltimore this week has been identified by authorities as Katie Malone, who’s on the staff of a U.S. congressman.

She is the adult female who was hospitalized from the fire, along with several of her children, Baltimore Fire Department Chief Roman Clark said Friday morning.

Fire officials said Thursday the woman and two sons, ages 4 and 5, were in critical condition. Malone’s 8-year-old daughter, who helped her mother and her two younger brothers escape the burning house, was hospitalized in good condition and could be released from the hospital shortly, fire officials also said Thursday.

Six young children died in the blaze: a 9-month-old boy, a 2-year-old boy, two 3-year-old twin girls, a 10-year-old girl and an 11-year-old girl. The six bodies have been recovered and everyone is now accounted for, according to the fire chief.

Clark said the deadly blaze broke out early-Thursday morning just after midnight and caused the home’s third floor to collapse into the second floor, making the search for the children difficult. The fire chief called the collapse “horrendous.”

The body of the baby boy was found in a crib on the first floor of the three-story home in northeast Baltimore, Clark said.

The children’s father was at work at the time of the fire, according to Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh.

Pugh asked citizens of Baltimore to pray for the family, saying, “Any loss is painful, but the loss of children pains you even more deeply.”

Although fire officials had not yet identified the woman at the time, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Thursday that the fire involved Malone, who is one of his staff members, and “her young family.”

“I am asking that our entire community pray for my staff member, Katie Malone, and her young family. Katie has worked as a Special Assistant in my Catonsville office for nearly 11 years where she dutifully serves my constituents in the areas of immigration, postal services and the military, including Service Academy nominations,” Cummings said in a statement on Facebook.

“My staff is a family and this unimaginable tragedy is shocking and heartbreaking to us all.”

Cummings told reporters Thursday he talked to Malone’s husband “at length today.”

“Katie is going to be OK. … Three of her nine children, her husband thinks they will be OK, also,” the congressman said. “Our office will do every single thing in our power to embrace them in this very, very difficult time.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation, according to the Baltimore Fire Department.

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Dead Whale Washes Ashore at End of LaGuardia Airport Runway

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — New York City’s LaGuardia Airport had an unexpected arrival Thursday afternoon: A dead whale.

The 15-foot minke whale washed ashore in Flushing Bay and was discovered on an embankment leading up to one of the runways, WABC-TV reported.

It is unclear how the whale died.

The minke whale typically weighs between 5 tons and 6 tons, which is smaller than a humpback whale.

The airport is consulting with the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation — which wants to examine the whale — to figure how to remove the mammal without disrupting LaGuardia’s flight operations, according to WABC-TV.

“To actually have a whale at this location is a new location,” said Kimberly Durham, a biologist and the conservation group’s rescue program director. “It’s certainly in proximity to Port Authority and operations that go there, there’s a lot of things that have to be taken into consideration and we’ll be working with the Port Authority to see what we can do regarding this carcass.”

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Oklahoma, Missouri Declare States of Emergency Before Winter Storms

Thinkstock/iStock(OKLAHOMA CITY) — Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for all 77 counties in the state due to forecasted severe winter weather.

A statement issued by the Governor’s Office on Thursday warned that the state could face “[w]inter storms, snow, freezing rain, ice, severe storms, tornadoes, straight line winds and flooding” over the next few days.

“Emergency personnel are coordinating with state and local officials to ensure we are prepared and ready for whatever comes our way,” Fallin said in the statement.

Thursday’s order enables state agencies to make emergency purchases related to disaster relief and preparedness, and will make it easier for the state to seek federal assistance if it becomes necessary.

Gov. Fallin also issued an executive order waiving licensing requirements for vehicles bringing in materials and supplies necessary for storm relief, such as food and fuel, and equipment necessary to keep electrical, water and communications systems operational.

As of Thursday afternoon, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens had also declared a state of emergency in his state.

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Authorities Investigate Video Showing Dog Chained to Moving Trailer

Thinkstock/iStock(FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla.) — Authorities in Florida have launched an investigation after a video emerged on Facebook of a dog chained to the top of a crate being towed by an SUV driving at least 70 mph.

Palm Coast resident Brenna Cronin, 24, shot the video Wednesday afternoon in Flagler County as she and her boyfriend were driving southbound on I-95 toward Daytona Beach. In the video, a dog is seen standing on top of the crate, which contained at least one other animal, while a Chevrolet Tahoe pulls the trailer at high speeds.

Cronin said she and her boyfriend were shocked to see the dog traveling in that manner, so she pulled out her video and began to film it.

“I was just completely outraged and appalled,” she told ABC News Thursday. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Once the driver realized Cronin was filming him, he “gave me the finger,” she said. Cronin said she is “happy” that the video she took led to an investigation of the owner.

“The dog stood up and was looking at me so sad,” she said. “I had to do something.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the Facebook video had been viewed more than 500,000 times, with hundreds of people expressing outrage over the dog’s condition in comments.

The owner, who did not wish to be identified, told ABC Jacksonville affiliate WTLV-TV that it was an “OK” way to transport dogs and that it is “how everybody transports.”

Flagler Animal Services is investigating the video, said Jeffery Ritter, development coordinator for the Flagler Humane Society. The dog seen in the video is a Blue American Pitbull Terrier named Zeus, who does not like to ride in the crate, Ritter said. So his owner, who said he uses the dog for hunting, allows him to ride outside, Ritter said.

A Flagler County ordinance allows people to travel with a dog in that manner as long as the animal is tethered twice to the vehicle. Dogs being transported in the open bed of pickup trucks or any other type of open vehicle must either be confined to a pen or be restrained by a “minimum of two tethers or some other similar method to safely control or restrain the dogs from easily escaping the vehicles,” No. 93-15 S 4, 11-15-93 of the Flagler County Code of Ordinances states.

Zeus was only tethered to the trailer once, Ritter said.

“The driver didn’t have any bad intentions,” he said. “…He honestly didn’t know any better.”

Zeus’ owner is cooperating with the investigation and has agreed to allow animal services to conduct wellness checks, Ritter said.

Once the Humane Society wraps up the investigation, it will turn over its findings to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, which will determine if a crime was committed, Flagler Police Chief Mark Strobridge told ABC News. At minimum, Zeus’ owner faces a ticket and fine under the Flagler County Ordinance, Ritter said.

Although it is legal in Flagler County to travel with a dog in an open vehicle, Ritter said the Humane Society “would not recommend it at all” and stressed the “importance of having any pet secured when driving.”

“Don’t let your dog sit in your lap when driving,” he warned pet owners. “Make sure your animal is contained while you travel. It’s dangerous for them as well as you and other drivers.”

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Lady Liberty Portrayed as Woman of Color for 1st Time on US Currency

United States Mint(WASHINGTON) — The United States Mint and Treasury have unveiled a new gold coin that portrays Lady Liberty as a woman of color for the first time in American history.

In a press conference Thursday held in the Department of Treasury’s “historic” Cash Room, the two departments introduced the 2017 American Liberty High Relief Gold Coin, which celebrates 225 years of coins being minted in the U.S.

“We are very proud of the fact that the United States Mint is rooted in the Constitution,” said Principal Deputy Director Jeppson. “Our founding fathers realized the critical need for our fledgling nation to have a respected monetary system, and over the last 225 years, the Mint has never failed in its mission.”

In “a departure from previous classic designs,” the new coin portrays Lady Liberty as a black woman wearing a crown of stars. The coin is inscribed with “1792,” for the year the U.S. Mint was established, “2017” and “IN GOD WE TRUST.” The reverse side of the coin contains a “bold and powerful eagle in flight,” according to the press release.

The 1-ounce coin will be struck in .999 fine 24-karat gold at the West Point Mint facility in New York. It is the first in a series of 24-karat gold coins that will feature designs representing Lady Liberty as Asian-American, Hispanic-American and Indian-American. The coins will be issued every two years.

Last year, the Treasury announced that civil rights activist and abolitionist Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

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