Review Category : National News

Nine Dead in Charleston, South Carolina Church Shooting

Mike Liggett(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Nine people were killed in an apparent hate crime when a gunman opened fire in a historic Charleston, South Carolina church Wednesday evening and police were searching for the suspect.

Charleston police chief Greg Mullen said that eight people were found dead inside the church. Two other people were rushed to the hospital and one died.

Authorities have not released any of the victim’s identities but confirmed that there were survivors who were inside the church at the time of the shooting.

“It is senseless. It is unfathomable that somebody would walk into a church when people are having a prayer meeting and take their lives,” Mayor Joe Riley said at a press conference early Thursday evening.

Mullen said that the FBI is on the scene and working with local authorities, as they would in any shooting of this “size and scope” but both Mullen and Riley said they believed it was a hate crime.

“The only reason someone would walk into church and shoot people praying is hate,” Riley said.
Mullen added that the city will be offering a reward for information about the suspect but the amount will be set later in the day.

Investigators believe that “as far as we know right now” there was only one suspect but they consider him to be armed and dangerous.

The shooting happened around 9 p.m. on Wednesday and police said they were looking for a 21-year-old white man with sandy blond hair and a slender build wearing a gray hoodie, blue jeans and Timberland boots.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, built in 1891, is the oldest of it’s kind in the South, according to their website. It is listed among the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.

It has played a role in the civil rights movement. Coretta Scott King led an estimated group of 1,500 demonstrators there during a protest in 1969 and they faced down national guardsmen, according to historic reports of the incident.

Outside the Courtyard Marriott, down the street from the church, a group of pastors gathered to pray.

“We need that peace, Lord,” members of the prayer circle were heard saying. “We need that peace you talk about in your word.”

A man in the prayer circle spoke to ABC News affiliate WCIV-TV briefly after calling for answers.

“We’re asking the community to just remain peaceful, but at the same time we want some answers as to how this happened and why,” the man said.

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Octopus Looks Like Cross Between Pokemon Character and Pac-Man Ghost

Monterey Aquarium(MONTEREY, Calif.) — What do you call an adorable octopus that looks like a mix of a ghost in Pac-Man and Pearl from Finding Nemo?

Nothing — for now.

Stephanie Bush, a postdoctoral fellow at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, is researching the cute creature and the responsibility is on her for naming it.

“I was thinking about what my options are [for naming it], and I wanted it to be something indicative of the characteristic of the species. Since they’re so cute, I thought I could name it the Opistoteuthis adorabilis,” Bush told ABC News.

The small creature has large eyes in comparison to the rest of its body and puffs up like a parachute to propel itself off the ocean floor, Bush said.

The process to capture the octopus’ required a remotely-operated vehicle, where Bush and her team collected about 15 in a little more than a year.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is nicknaming the species the “flapjack octopus” until Bush gives it an official scientific name.

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Octopus Looks Like Cross Between Pokemon Character and Pac-Man Ghost

Monterey Aquarium(MONTEREY, Calif.) — What do you call an adorable octopus that looks like a mix of a ghost in Pac-Man and Pearl from Finding Nemo?

Nothing — for now.

Stephanie Bush, a postdoctoral fellow at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, is researching the cute creature and the responsibility is on her for naming it.

“I was thinking about what my options are [for naming it], and I wanted it to be something indicative of the characteristic of the species. Since they’re so cute, I thought I could name it the Opistoteuthis adorabilis,” Bush told ABC News.

The small creature has large eyes in comparison to the rest of its body and puffs up like a parachute to propel itself off the ocean floor, Bush said.

The process to capture the octopus’ required a remotely-operated vehicle, where Bush and her team collected about 15 in a little more than a year.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is nicknaming the species the “flapjack octopus” until Bush gives it an official scientific name.

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Three Postal Service Workers Accused of Writing Phony Letters to Santa to Steal Underprivileged Kids’ Gifts

888Photography/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Oh, you better watch out! These three New York postal workers may be on Santa’s naughty list this year.

The accused grinches used the postal service’s program to stuff their own stockings with gifts that should have gone to underprivileged children — posing as needy kids in phony letters to Santa to amass a treasure trove including electronics like laptops, iPads and headphones as well as clothing and other pricey goods, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court earlier this month.

In addition to making multiple copies of fake letters to increase the chances they’d get picked up by a “Secret Santa” in the “Operation Santa” program, the workers, Terry Jackson, Mahogany Strickland and Nickyeves Saintalbord, also replaced mailing labels on gifts so that they would arrive at their personal residences instead, the Manhattan Federal Court complaint alleges.

The alleged scam happened during the 2013-’14 holiday season, during which the USPS received more than 300,000 letters written to Santa by underprivileged children hoping to receive gifts, the complaint says. Just a fraction were fulfilled from the program’s headquarters in the Farley Post Office in Manhattan.

“Although USPS employees processed more than 7,000 of these letters, less than half of the letters that were processed were ultimately adopted by Secret Santas,” investigators added. “Thus, because Operation Santa was not able to fulfill all of the requests, every gift that was fraudulently obtained by a participant in the scheme effectively deprived an underprivileged child of a gift.”

Jackson allegedly confessed that he made 20 copies of each of the four to five phony letters he wrote, according to investigators. He received a printer, two laptop computers, two tablets, clothing, bedding, gift cards, and other items, according to the complaint.

Strickland also confessed to making multiple copies of her letters, the court document said, adding that she received about two of each requested gift including an iPad, a laptop, headphones, clothing, and boots, the court documents say.

Lastly, Saintalbord allegedly confessed to writing four letters posing as a child and making five copies of each letter, according to the complaint, which added he received multiple gifts including headphones and boots.

In the “Operation Santa” program, letters to Santa are entered into a database by USPS workers, who then remove the children’s personal information before offering them to interested “Secret Santas,” investigators said. “Secret Santas” then purchase and send the children’s requested gifts through the USPS.

Jackson, Strickland and Saintalbord are facing charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud and receipt of stolen mail, according to court records that added if found guilty, the three could face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

ABC News was unsuccessful in its attempts to find working contact information for Jackson, Strickland and Saintalbord to get further comment.

According to ABC News station WABC-TV, the suspects appeared in court Wednesday. All were released without bond. It was not clear if they entered a plea.

The United States Postal Service told ABC News in a statement that it was “deeply troubled and extremely disappointed” by the allegations.

“The Postal Service is currently reviewing all of the facts involved with this incident and we will take whatever disciplinary action is warranted,” the agency said. “We will also cooperate fully with federal prosecutors. We believe this incident is isolated and should not undermine public trust in the integrity of the Operation Santa program.”

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Who Kalief Browder Might have Been if He Hadn’t Spent over 1,000 Days in Jail with No Charges

ABC News(NEW YORK) — At just 22 years old, Kalief Browder had endured hell and lived to tell about it.

For three years, he had been locked up in one of the country’s toughest jails for allegedly stealing a backpack — a charge he strongly denied. While in jail, he was given a choice: Either admit to the crime, take a plea bargain and go home the same day or return to his cell and wait for a new court date.

Browder chose to go back to his cell.

“I always believed in standing up for what I felt was right and at that time I felt like that was the right thing to do, fight my case,” he told ABC News during an interview in New York City last November. “The way I looked at it if I got to stay here just to prove that I am innocent, then so be it.”

In May 2010, Browder was 16 years old when he was arrested for robbery, and when his mother Venida Browder couldn’t make his $3,000 bail, Kalief was sent to Rikers Island.

“My heart just dropped, that was my baby,” she said. “He was the youngest of my kids. You know, I had heard so many horror stories about Rikers and all I could picture was him getting hurt in there.”

Rikers is a 400-acre island in New York’s East River that holds more than 10,000 inmates.

“It’s like hell on earth,” Browder said in November. “We were beaten, stomped by the corrections officers. They hit me weapons. They just cuff me in the back and they’re just beating on me while I was in the cell. They’re just beating on me.”

Two beating incidents captured on Rikers surveillance video were obtained by New Yorker magazine, which first brought Browder’s story to light. In one video, Browder is seen being escorted to a prison shower. He appears to speak to the guard, who then is seen slamming him into a wall and then to the ground.

In the second video, Browder appears to be attacked by a group of inmates, all of them seen punching and kicking him while he’s on the ground.

Browder said he endured regular beatings, and that he was punished with starvation and solitary confinement for months at a time.

“Sometimes I went back to my cell and I cried myself to sleep because it’s like I want to go home and it’s like, they’re not letting me go home,” he said in November.

By the time Browder’s case was dismissed in June 2013, prison records show he had attempted suicide at least six times and had spent 1,110 days behind bars, more than 800 of those were in solitary. His court date was postponed more than 30 times. He was never given a trial. He was never convicted of a crime.

By then Browder had missed junior and senior year of high school, proms and high school graduation.

“It destroyed him, it destroyed him, mentally he became a wreck,” his mother Venida Browder said. “When he came home, the ghost of Rikers came with him.”

The 16-year-old boy emerged from Rikers a broken 22-year-old man.

“I lost my childhood, I lost my happiness,” Kalief said in November. “Deep down, I’m a mess because like I feel like I’m 40. I feel like I’m a grown old man.”

After he got out, he was doing better, he said. He earned his GED and was pulling a 3.56 GPA at Bronx Community College, working towards an associate’s degree. After all he had been through at Rikers, he was proud that he didn’t take a plea bargain.

“The judge told me if I plead guilty I will be released that same day, but I didn’t do it,” he said in November. “You’re not going to make me say I did something just so I can go home. The way I looked at it if I got to stay here just to prove that I am innocent, then so be it.”

The psychological trauma from jail doesn’t fade easily. Bernie Kerik, the former police and correction commissioner of New York City, who is also a convicted felon himself, said he knows what it’s like to be on the other side.

“You stick somebody in a 12 by 8 box, a metal box, for 24 hours a day with no contact with the outside world. It is mind altering,” Kerik said. “It changes your view on life, it creates enormous paranoia, anxiety.”

In the last year, Browder grew deeply depressed and deeply paranoid.

“He would constantly think about what he went through in there and then he would talk about it and then get angry and upset and frustrated,” Venida said. “And when he first came home, he would just walk the four corners of the driveway.”

Then, on June 6, two years after his release from jail, Browder hung himself with an air conditioner cord in his childhood bedroom in the Bronx.

“They damaged him so much that he felt this was the only way to escape,” Venida Browder said.

Venida wants Rikers and the district attorney’s office to be held responsible for her son’s suffering, and “to admit that it’s their fault” that Kalief is dead.

“He spent three years because of them in hell,” she said. “I will be in hell until the day I die because I found my son hanging. They say no mother should have to bury their child. Which is true. If your child is murdered, you have an immediate anger towards that person and you want that person found and pay for what they did to your child. It’s not one person. It’s a whole system that destroyed my son. And I want them all to pay.”

The district attorney declined to comment on this report. The city’s Department of Corrections declined to comment in regards to the videos of Kalief Browder, and the Department of Corrections commissioner told ABC News he was “deeply saddened” by Browder’s death.

Kelief’s case made national news and messages of outrage mixed with sympathy flooded social media. John Legend wrote an op-ed for New York Magazine entitled, “New York Failed Kalief Browder.” Lena Dunham Instagrammed his photo and called for reform. sparked a national conversation and outrage, and his story of abuse at Rikers triggered reform in the city’s criminal justice system. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said Browder’s story helped trigger reform in the city’s criminal justice system.

“It caused a lot of people to act and a lot of changes we are making at Rikers Island right now are the result of the example of Kalief Browder so I wish — I deeply wish — we hadn’t lost him, but he did not die in vain,” de Blasio said during a press conference two days after Kalief’s death.

The city has since done away with solitary confinement for 16 and 17 year olds with plans to raise the age even higher by 2016. In April, plans were announced to fix backlogs and crowded dockets in the city’s courts. It’s a change that would stop people from being held for extended periods of time without trial. Residents are also calling for a change to the cash bail system. Currently only 12 percent of defendants in New York City make bail, according to the New York Criminal Justice Agency.

But attorney Paul Prestia, who helped Browder file his civil suit against the city, says those reforms aren’t enough.

“Reform is all nice and well, and you know invoking Kalief’s name in reform is all nice and well, but admit you did something wrong here… that’s always Kalief’s message,” Prestia said. “How many young men had to go through this?”

Prestia is also asking lawmakers to clean house at Rikers. Last August, a U.S. Department of Justice report found an “alarming rate” of physical force used against adolescent inmates in Rikers and called for an overhaul of its correction department operations.

But Kerik cautions that the city against bowing to public pressure and implementing changes that could put Rikers correction officers and inmates in danger.

“You cannot let the inmates control the asylum,” he said. “If you take solitary confinement away from the correction officials, across the board, you’re going to see a major, major increase in violence… These are not 16 and 17 and 18 year old kids, they’re not your kid. It’s not my son. These are kids that come from gangs. These are kids that ran the streets. These are kids that are predatory in nature, from wherever they come from… There’s no where to put the really, really bad people. That’s going to be a problem.”

Kerik suggests that Rikers increase searches, check for weapons, and hold staff members that violate the law accountable for their actions. But these are suggestions that come too late for Kalief Browder.

“I want my baby back and he’s never going to come back,” Venida Browder said. “Every morning when I go take a shower, I still peek in his room. I left his room exactly the way he left it. I know he’s not there, but I still peek in his room.”

To those who knew him, Kalief was the kind of person who turned down a plea bargain on principle, whose story may help save others like him.

“If I would have plead guilty then my story would never have been heard,” he told ABC News in November. “Nobody would take the time to listen to me. And I’d just been another criminal.”

Watch the full story on Nightline at 12:35 a.m. ET on Thursday.

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10-Year-Old Boy Bitten by Shark in Florida

Eivaisla/iStock/Thinkstock(DAYTONA BEACH SHORES, Fla.) — Just days after two teenagers suffered vicious shark bites at North Carolina beaches, yet another shark attack was reported Wednesday — this time in central Florida.

Around 1 p.m. on Wednesday, a 10-year-old boy was swimming in shallow water in Daytona Beach Shores when he was bitten by what appeared to be a small shark, according to Capt. Tamra Marris of Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue.

The boy suffered minor lacerations to his calf. He was treated and released at the scene, Marris said.

This incident comes just three days after Hunter Treschl, 16, was attacked by a shark off the coast of Oak Island, North Carolina, losing part of his arm.

A 12-year-old girl, Kiersten Yow, also lost an arm in a similar attack near Oak Island, just 90 minutes before. Her family has said that she is expected to be able to keep one of her legs, which was also injured in the attack. On Wednesday, her family added that was in good condition, after describing her as “stable” on Tuesday.

While shark attacks may seem to be on the rise across the globe, that doesn’t mean sharks are on a rampage, according to experts who note that it could be the result of more people seeking fun in the oceans.

Last year, there were four shark attacks in North Carolina, according to the International Shark File, which tracks and verifies shark attacks around the world and is curated by the Florida Museum of Natural History’s George Burgess.

Florida topped the list as the state with the highest number of shark attacks last year, with 28. That top spot is not surprising, Burgess said, given the state’s year-round appeal as a surfing and swimming destination.

Many of Florida’s two-dozen shark attacks a year are relatively small bites by smaller species, said Burgess, who is also the director of the Florida Program for Shark Research.

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University in Utah Installs ‘Texting Lane’ on Stairs

UVU Student Life & Wellness Center(OREM, Utah) — The days of bumping into texters on staircases are over at Utah Valley University — at least in theory.

The university decided to divide its stairs into three neon-green-striped lanes — one for walkers, one for runners and one for texters, director for campus recreation Amy Grubbs told ABC News on Wednesday.

“The stairs were just lifeless before,” Grubbs said. “Students don’t necessarily abide by it but it’s funny to watch students push their friends over in the right lane as a joke if they’re texting.

“Other people don’t even see it because they’re so consumed in their phones,” she added.

Putting the lanes on the stairs was partly tongue-in-cheek, she said. But it also was intended to make the space more aesthetically pleasing for students. The Student Life & Wellness Center building is just a year old, but Grubbs said the dreary color on the inside needed change.

“We did a lot of surveying with the students for what areas were the gloomiest and the staircases were often talked about,” she said.

“Now, that’s definitely not the case,” she added.

The changes to the stairs were designed by the school’s marketing department to appeal to the student population that Grubbs said is “constantly texting.”

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Prison Worker Joyce Mitchell Admits to Having Sex With Escapee in Tailor Shop, DA Says

NYS Police(DANNEMORA, N.Y.) — The prison worker who has been charged with helping two convicted murderers escape from a maximum security New York lockup admitted to investigators that she had sex with one of fugitives in the tailor shop, prosecutors said.

Joyce Mitchell told investigators that she was having sex with Richard Matt ahead of his June 6 escape from Clinton Correction Facility, DA Andrew Wylie told ABC News.

This alleged admission comes after the revelation last week that she had been previously investigated for a suspected relationship that she had with the other prisoner who escaped, David Sweat, some time in the past year.

Her suspected connection with Sweat was investigated but not enough evidence was found to take any action against her at that time, sources said.

The connection between Mitchell and both Sweat and Matt came under scrutiny after their escape as investigators alleged that she was supposed to be the getaway driver for the inmates.

Wylie on Wednesday said that Mitchell told investigators she had discussed an alleged plot with the prisoners to have them kill her husband.

“The information that we have from Joyce Mitchell was that that occurred,” Wylie said.

Mitchell’s lawyer, Stephen Johnston, declined comment.

Mitchell has been moved to a jail in Troy after pleading not guilty last week to a felony count of promoting prison contraband and a misdemeanor count of criminal facilitation.

According to court documents she allegedly provided the men with hacksaw blades and chisels as well as other contraband.

Police say there are no “concrete leads” suggesting that two escaped inmates have left the area of the New York prison, though officials have decided to expand the search area, they announced at a news conference on Wednesday.

“There is no hard evidence that they are outside the area,” one investigator said on Wednesday. “That being said, we cannot rule that out.”

Wednesday marks the 12th day since convicted murderers Matt and Sweat escaped from the prison in upstate New York via a steam pipe.

A host of law enforcement officials from the various agencies involved in the search gave updates in Dannemora, New York, on Wednesday but did not have any specific details about leads that have panned out. In all, they’ve fielded more than 1,400 tips throughout the search.

“They came up with a very elaborate and creative plan to escape from one of the most secure facilities in New York, if not the United States,” another official said.

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Prison Worker Joyce Mitchell Admits to Having Sex With Escapee in Tailor Shop, DA Says

NYS Police(DANNEMORA, N.Y.) — The prison worker who has been charged with helping two convicted murderers escape from a maximum security New York lockup admitted to investigators that she had sex with one of fugitives in the tailor shop, prosecutors said.

Joyce Mitchell told investigators that she was having sex with Richard Matt ahead of his June 6 escape from Clinton Correction Facility, DA Andrew Wylie told ABC News.

This alleged admission comes after the revelation last week that she had been previously investigated for a suspected relationship that she had with the other prisoner who escaped, David Sweat, some time in the past year.

Her suspected connection with Sweat was investigated but not enough evidence was found to take any action against her at that time, sources said.

The connection between Mitchell and both Sweat and Matt came under scrutiny after their escape as investigators alleged that she was supposed to be the getaway driver for the inmates.

Wylie on Wednesday said that Mitchell told investigators she had discussed an alleged plot with the prisoners to have them kill her husband.

“The information that we have from Joyce Mitchell was that that occurred,” Wylie said.

Mitchell’s lawyer, Stephen Johnston, declined comment.

Mitchell has been moved to a jail in Troy after pleading not guilty last week to a felony count of promoting prison contraband and a misdemeanor count of criminal facilitation.

According to court documents she allegedly provided the men with hacksaw blades and chisels as well as other contraband.

Police say there are no “concrete leads” suggesting that two escaped inmates have left the area of the New York prison, though officials have decided to expand the search area, they announced at a news conference on Wednesday.

“There is no hard evidence that they are outside the area,” one investigator said on Wednesday. “That being said, we cannot rule that out.”

Wednesday marks the 12th day since convicted murderers Matt and Sweat escaped from the prison in upstate New York via a steam pipe.

A host of law enforcement officials from the various agencies involved in the search gave updates in Dannemora, New York, on Wednesday but did not have any specific details about leads that have panned out. In all, they’ve fielded more than 1,400 tips throughout the search.

“They came up with a very elaborate and creative plan to escape from one of the most secure facilities in New York, if not the United States,” another official said.

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FAA Investigating Close Call at Chicago Airport

chanceb737/iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a close call between two aircraft at Chicago Midway Airport. The incident occurred Tuesday evening just before 7:40 p.m.

According to the FAA, air traffic control cleared Southwest Flight 3828 for takeoff, but then Delta Air Lines Flight 1328 also started to roll onto the runway without the proper clearance.

“Preliminary information indicates that Southwest Airlines Flight 3828 was cleared for takeoff on Runway 31-Center,” the FAA said in a statement. “As that aircraft began its takeoff roll, an air traffic controller noticed that Delta Air Lines Flight 1328 had also begun rolling on Runway 4-Right without proper clearance.”

Once the air traffic controller noticed the Delta flight, the controller immediately alerted that crew to stop. The Southwest flight also decided to stop and both planes halted more than 2,000 feet from the runway intersection, the FAA said.

Air traffic control audio indicates the air traffic controller telling a pilot to “Stop, stop.” Then, one of the pilots says “Stopping.”

The Southwest Airlines flight returned to the terminal to complete required checklist items, and later continued to Tulsa.

“Our reports indicate that after being cleared for takeoff at MDW on the evening of Tuesday, June 16, the pilots of Southwest flight #3828 followed FAA Air Traffic Control instructions and safely aborted takeoff,” Southwest Airlines told ABC News in a statement.

“Then, the pilots proceeded to taxi off of the runway to complete required checklist items and returned to the terminal to complete other necessary reports and tasks. The flight later continued onward to Tulsa without further incident. We appreciate the professionalism of our pilots and the FAA air traffic controller.”

Delta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

FAA safety investigators continue to examine the incident.

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