Review Category : National News

Snow, Ice, Brutal Temperatures to Grip the Midwest and Northeast

ABC News(NEW YORK) — An Arctic front bringing frigid cold temperatures, snow and ice is sweeping across much of the country.

Thirty U.S. states, from California to Maine, were under winter weather alerts Thursday morning, and temperatures are expected to drop throughout the day and hit the teens in some northeastern cities by Friday morning. The wind chill, or “feels like” temperature, will make it feel 20 to 30 degrees colder, according to forecasters.

ABC News meteorologists are also monitoring a winter storm coming from the west that is expected to bring rain, snow or ice to much of the country. The storm pummeled Portland, Oregon, Thursday with snow and ice and triggered two avalanches near the Hoodo ski resort.

“The snow is over in Portland, but icy conditions could cause a messy morning commute,” said ABC News senior meteorologist Max Golembo.

The storm is expected to hit Minnesota by early afternoon Friday and settle in the Northeast on Friday night through Saturday. It could dump up to 10 inches of snow in areas from Minneapolis to Detroit and parts of the Northeast.

“Even places like New York City and Boston could see 1 to 3 inches of snow Friday night,” Golembo said.

On Thursday, parts of northern and central California are under flood warnings with heavy rain expected in the afternoon through Friday morning.

“San Francisco will get heavy rain this afternoon and evening,” Golembo said. “Los Angeles will get the heavy rain tonight into Friday morning.”

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Accused Church Shooter Dylann Roof Showed ‘Tremendous Hatred’ and ‘Must Be Held Accountable,’ Prosecutor Says

ABC News(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Dylann Roof showed “tremendous cowardice” and “tremendous hatred” when he gunned down nine helpless worshippers at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in June 2015, the prosecution said Thursday in its closing arguments for Roof’s federal death penalty trial.

Roof, who is white, is accused of fatally shooting nine black parishioners during a Bible study at the predominantly black Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015. Roof, 22, allegedly entered the church armed and “with the intent of killing African-Americans engaged in the exercise of their religious beliefs,” according to the federal indictment against him.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams began the prosecution’s closing arguments by describing church as a sanctuary, “a place of fellowship where old friends met at a Bible study,” local ABC affiliate WCIV reported. Williams said hatred doesn’t have a place in such a venue, according to WCIV.

But nonetheless, Roof felt hatred and targeted the church, Williams said, according to WCIV. “It was a cold and calculated hatred that had been developing for months … that had been seeking out the most vulnerable people to target,” Williams said of Roof, WCIV reported. “He sat there with them and he waited until they were at their most vulnerable.”

Williams continued: “When they stood to pray, when they had their eyes closed … in those actions we see exactly who this defendant is. … A man whose actions show him to be a man of tremendous cowardice, shooting them when their eyes were closed, shooting them when they were on the ground.”

Williams said that Roof believes black people are a problem for America and that he thinks society should go back to a time that was “one of the most dismal and shameful in this country’s history,” referring to slavery, WCIV reported.

Williams pointed to Roof’s manifesto, in which he said Roof identified himself as the one who had to act, according to WCIV. “We’ve seen in these writings a racist retribution,” said Williams. “[Roof] literally wants there to be a race war.”

Next, Williams spoke about the steps Roof took to prepare for his deadly rampage, according to WCIV. Roof worked to find “the most vulnerable people to attack,” Williams said, WCIV reported, saying Roof scouted out the church. Roof considered a black festival, but ultimately decided against it because of the security, Williams said. So instead, he turned to a church, Williams said, according to WCIV, and began stockpiling ammunition.

On June 17, Roof drove to the church, taking a route he’d practiced before, Williams said, WCIV reported. The church he chose, Emanuel AME, was at the top of a list of possible targets, Williams said, according to WCIV.

“That tells you the depth, the vastness of his hatred,” Williams said, WCIV reported.

Williams then asked how someone could shoot a person on the ground. “The answer, in part, is because he thinks they’re less than human,” Williams said, according to WCIV.

And the worst part of Roof’s hatred, Williams said, is that he carried out his attack in a church, WCIV reported. Roof drove for 90 minutes to Charleston, then sat outside Emanuel AME for 28 minutes before going inside, Williams said, according to WCIV. He was “planning and preparing for what he was about to do,” Williams said. Then he loaded his gun and went inside, Williams said.

For 40 minutes, Roof sat with his victims, laughing, before eventually opening fire, Williams said, according to WCIV. “For every round he fired, for every person he killed, he must be held accountable,” Williams said, WCIV reported.

Williams then pointed out that each victim was shot repeatedly, according to WCIV. “Shooting round after round after round shows … immense hatred,” Williams said, WCIV reported. He commended the bravery of those who faced Roof as he fired, including victim Tywanza Sanders, who tried to draw Roof’s attention away from the other people in the church, Williams said, according to WCIV.

During his video “confession,” Roof laughed over and over, Williams said, WCIV reported, “and that shows just how vast that hatred was [as well].”

“This defendant’s hatred was overwhelming… it was horrifically violent,” Williams said, according to WCIV.

But Roof’s nine victims triumphed over his hatred, Williams continued, WCIV reported. “[Roof] thought it would spread his message of hate, but that message was stopped by their goodness.”

He added: “That church was a sanctuary because these good people created a sanctuary. And this defendant’s hatred has no place in that sanctuary.”

Williams concluded by asking the jury to find Roof guilty of every count, according to WCIV.

The defense will speak next.

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

Roof has pleaded not guilty.

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

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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‘Affluenza’ Teen’s Father Guilty of Identifying Himself as Officer

WFAA/North Richland Hills PD(NEW YORK) — Like his son, the father of infamous “affluenza” teen Ethan Couch is in trouble with the law.

WFAA, ABC’s Dallas affiliate, reports that a Tarrant County, Texas, jury found Fred Couch, 51, guilty of a misdemeanor of false identification of a peace officer in a 2014 case involving police in the affluent Dallas-Fort Worth suburb the North Richland Hills.

Couch — whose teenage son, currently in custody, caused a fatal car accident in 2013 that killed four people and severely wounded another — pleased not guilty to the aforementioned charge on Tuesday, his trial’s first day of testimony.

According to WFAA, the elder Couch told North Richland Hills officers who were responding to a disturbance call that he was a reserve police officer in the town of nearby Lakeside.

And to make matters worse, police said they found on him a “Lakeside Police Search and Rescue” badge on him.

He faces a maximum of 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine, WFAA reports.

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‘Extremely Dangerous’ NC Inmate at Large After Escaping Police Custody, Carjacking Vehicle

Fayetteville Police Dept.(NEW YORK) — An armed and “extremely dangerous” North Carolina inmate is at large after escaping a hospital’s emergency department and carjacking a vehicle, following a struggle with a deputy Wednesday night, police said.

“Edward Moore Jr., 39, escaped from custody of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office this evening while at CFVMC. Call 911 if you see him,” tweeted the Fayetteville Police Department, referring to the Cape Fear Valley Hospital.

A subsequent tweet read, “Moore was an inmate of the CCSO Detention Center for bank robberies. He is EXTREMELY dangerous. Call 911 with any info or 483-TIPS.”

Edward Moore Jr., 39, escaped from custody of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office this evening while at CFVMC. Call 911 if you see him. pic.twitter.com/RFVpyU7j9J

— Fayetteville Police (@FayettevillePD) December 15, 2016

Moore was an inmate of the CCSO Detention Center for bank robberies. He is EXTREMELY dangerous. Call 911 with any info or 483-TIPS https://t.co/Y59CCRWdia

— Fayetteville Police (@FayettevillePD) December 15, 2016

Moore — who was incarcerated for bank robberies at the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center, according to police — was being treated at the hospital when he escaped custody of the officer.

He assaulted the deputy, managed to get the deputy’s Taser and then escaped through the entrance while still wearing an orange jumpsuit, police said.

The vehicle he carjacked outside the hospital, a Buick, was located in Fayetteville but he remains on the run.

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Home Depot Employee Plays Role of Santa Claus to Replace Girl’s Lost Doll

Joe Raedle/iStock/Thinkstock(HANFORD, Calif.) — A Home Depot employee in California played the role of Santa Claus to replace a beloved doll the young girl lost in the store.

Tyson Manuele, the manager of a Home Depot in Hanford, California, first met Adrianna Escamilla, 6, and her mom, Rosamaria Jaramillo, last month as they frantically searched his store for Adrianna’s beloved doll, Katy.

Adrianna was returning items to Home Depot with her family when she placed her doll in a shopping cart and then lost the doll when the shopping cart was misplaced.

“We realized she was missing before we even left Home Depot,” Jaramillo told ABC News. “We asked the Home Depot employees and looked everywhere, through all of the carts and shelves.”

Jaramillo said her family left the store that day without Katy, a doll Adrianna carried with her everywhere. They returned the next few days to provide a description of the doll again to employees and search themselves, all to no avail.

“After going there for about three days, I told her, I said, ‘It might be that a little girl needed Katy,’” Jaramillo said. “We kept going back to the store because we needed to give her closure.

“I was worried she was going to get sick over it,” she said of Adrianna.

Manuele said his staff also searched high and low for the lost doll. When it was clear the doll was nowhere to be found, Manuele decided to take action.

“I am very lucky to work for such a great company as the Home Depot who encourages all employees to give back and do the right thing,” Manuele said. “It’s just what we do here.”

He added, “I got all the family’s information because I was determined for Adrianna to have a happy Christmas.”

Jaramillo recalled getting a call from Manuele out of the blue to find out exactly what type of doll Adrianna had lost. He then told Jaramillo he wanted to surprise Adrianna with a new doll.

“It just touched my heart to the point that I cried,” she said. “For him to take the time to go out a buy a doll and spend money and help my daughter, it’s not his responsibility but he went out of his way.”

Manuele, the father of a 22-year-old daughter, purchased the new doll — a near replica of Katy — with his own money. He and his wife, Stefini, also wrote a letter from Santa Claus to Adrianna.

“It had been a while since I went doll shopping so it brought back a lot of fond memories of Christmases past,” Manuele said. “I bought her the best one I could afford because every child should have the best Christmas possible.”

Jaramillo brought Adrianna and her twin sister, Lillyanne, back to the Home Depot a few days later to be surprised with the new doll.

“She was just tickled to death that Santa was there at Home Depot,” said Jaramillo, who described Adrianna as “thrilled” by the new doll. “We always tell her that Santa sees everything.

“For her to know that Santa knew she lost her doll and that he brought a doll with him to Home Depot when he went to buy his tools, it just really gave her a sense of Christmas and that there is a Santa,” she said.

Manuele described the moment as “emotional,” too.

“It reminded me a lot of seeing my own daughter open her gifts on Christmas,” he said. “I was very thankful to Adrianna and her family for allowing me to re-live those special times.”

He added, “My only hope was that she would like the doll and believe Santa had gone out of his way to help her personally because what better Christmas present could there be.”

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

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

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

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

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

Survivor Felicia Sanders

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

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

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

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

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

Felicia Sanders then tearfully recalled watching her son die.

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

Gruesome Photos

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

Roof’s Video ‘Confession’

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

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

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

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

“I am guilty,” he says, laughing.

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

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

Roof’s Journal of Racist Language

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roof’s Note Listing Churches

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

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

Survivor Polly Sheppard

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

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

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

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

The Defense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I must declare a mistrial,” Kelley said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, absolutely not,” Dippolito said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The defense declined to cross-examine Sheppard.

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

The prosecution rested its case once Sheppard was done speaking.

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

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

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

Roof has pleaded not guilty.

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

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