Review Category : National News

Witness Defends Officer Who Rammed Suspect with Patrol Car

Marana Police Dept(MARANA, Ariz.) — A man who witnessed an Arizona police officer ramming a suspect with his patrol car defended the officer’s actions — and said he worried a shootout could have ensued if the officer hadn’t acted.

“If they got into a gunfight, there would have been rounds flying all over the place,” said David Lightfoot, who watched the situation unfold on Feb. 19 in front of his office.

Video from the incident gained national attention after it was released Tuesday. Dash cam footage from Marana Police Officer Michael Rapiejko’s car shows him ramming his vehicle into Mario Valencia, a suspect who had allegedly committed a string of crimes earlier that day.

Those crimes allegedly include robbing a 7-Eleven, breaking into a church and stealing a car. Valencia was also seen on camera allegedly stealing a rifle and ammunition from Walmart.

Valencia was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of armed robbery and unlawful discharge of a firearm.

Valencia was seen walking with a loaded rifle before he was struck by the police vehicle. Despite officers’ pleas to put the gun down, Valencia ignored those requests — and fired the gun, according to the video.

Officers say they feared Valencia would shoot someone.

John Cohen, an expert in law enforcement and homeland security, defended the officer’s methods at subduing the suspect.

“The officers’ actions were unconventional, however, they were effective,” Cohen said. “He was able to stop a very violent situation and at the same time, do it in a way that protected his fellow officers, the public and even the suspect himself.”

But Valencia’s attorney, Michelle Cohen Metzger, says the circumstances don’t justify such a violent tactic.

“I think that there’s all sorts of other things that the police have been trained on and could have done. The officer that used this tactic certainly went outside protocol in using that and I don’t think that was the only means with which to have taken my client into custody,” Metzger said.

Rapiejko will not be charged in the matter, according to the local district attorney’s office.

Valencia was hospitalized for two days after the incident, according to police. He was charged aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of armed robbery and unlawful discharge of a firearm.

On Wednesday, the local district attorney’s office decided not to charge Rapiejko.

“Given all of the circumstances of this case, there is insufficient evidence to prove that Officer Repiejko had the requisite criminal intent for aggravated assault,” reads the letter from Pima County attorney Barbara LaWall to the police chief, dated March 31.

The letter details how Rapiejko came to the decision to hit Valencia.

“As Officer Rapiejko arrived in the area, he could see Mr. Valencia was headed toward some businesses,” the letter reads. “There were also other officers in the area. Officer Rapiejko was approximately fifty yards away. Officer Rapiejko determined that Mr Valencia would be able to fire the gun quickly at businesses and therefore decided he needed to stop Mr. Valencia from proceeding any further.”

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Marine Corps Chopper Lands in California Beach ‘Danger Zone’

Stocktrek Images/Thinkstock(SOLANA BEACH, Calif.) — Three decades after recording the smash song “Danger Zone,” singer Kenny Loggins finally discovered his own personal danger zone on Wednesday after a Marine Corps helicopter landed on a southern California beach.

The CH-53E Super Stallion landed in Solana Beach after a low oil-pressure indicator light went on in the cockpit, authorities said — a spectacle that drew stares and attention from nearby beachgoers, including Loggins.

Walked right into the #DANGERZONE #SolanaBeach Marine helicopter emergency landing pic.twitter.com/Ty160Y9ODx

— Kenny Loggins (@kennyloggins) April 15, 2015

“Lo and behold, I walk down there and I say, ‘You’re in the danger zone!’” Loggins said in a video he filmed while standing near the helicopter. “We literally are.”

The song was featured in the 1986 movie Top Gun, which stars Tom Cruise as Navy pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.

In the case of the helicopter beach landing, no one was injured.

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Decorated Marine Killed in Florida Training Accident Buried at Arlington National Cemetery

Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images(ARLINGTON, Va.) — The steady, pouring rain was fitting for the occasion: a military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery for Marine Staff Sgt. Andrew Seif, killed in a training accident one month ago.

Exactly one week after being awarded the Navy’s third-highest award for valor, the Silver Star, Seif’s helicopter went down in heavy fog off the coast of Florida, killing all on board. Among the dead were some of the most highly trained Marines and Army pilots: 11 men from Marine Special Operations Command, knowns as MARSOC, and two pilots and two crewmembers from the Louisiana National Guard.

It’s a stark reminder that the risks associated with military service aren’t always on the battlefield.

The wives of the men killed have traveled together to each funeral service, offering support for one another.

They were all present at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday where Staff Sgt. Seif was laid to rest, in Section 60 with others lost fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2013 Seif was awarded the USO’s Marine of the Year. He was honored for his heroic actions during a July 2012 mission in Afghanistan, where he lost his close friend Sgt. Justin Hansen.

By his side for every award ceremony and by his side again Monday was his wife Dawn, who is pregnant with their first child.

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Arizona Police Officer Who Rammed Car into Suspect Won’t Be Charged, DA Says

shiyali/iStock/Thinkstock(MARANA, Ariz.) — The Arizona police officer who rammed a police car into a suspect from behind will not be charged with aggravated assault, according to the local district attorney’s office.

The Feb. 19 incident gained national attention when the dash cam footage from police officer Michael Rapiejko’s car was released on Tuesday, showing him ramming into Mario Valencia, a suspect who had allegedly committed a string of crimes earlier that day.

“Given all of the circumstances of this case, there is insufficient evidence to prove that Officer Repiejko had the requisite criminal intent for aggravated assault,” reads the letter from Pima County attorney Barbara LaWall to the police chief, dated March 31.

The letter details how Rapiejko came to the decision to hit Valencia.

“As Officer Rapiejko arrived in the area, he could see Mr. Valencia was headed toward some businesses,” the letter reads. “There were also other officers in the area. Officer Rapiejko was approximately fifty yards away. Officer Rapiejko determined that Mr Valencia would be able to fire the gun quickly at businesses and therefore decided he needed to stop Mr. Valencia from proceeding any further.”

Valencia was hospitalized for two days after the incident, according to police. Valencia was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of armed robbery and unlawful discharge of a firearm.

In addition to being seen in the dash cam footage, Valencia allegedly was caught on a store surveillance camera obtaining a rifle from Wal-Mart.

Valencia allegedly committed several crimes before police caught up with him, including an alleged arson at a church and invasion of a home, before allegedly stealing a rifle and ammunition from a Wal-Mart. Authorities say the theft was caught on the store’s surveillance footage, which has now been publicly released.

On the video, a man identified by authorities as the suspect is seen examining a rifle with the help of a Wal-Mart employee. The staffer walks off at some point, as if to go check something, leaving the man standing in the aisle with the rifle placed casually on his shoulder, according to the video.

The female employee returns a short while later, and a fellow shopper and a man with a child appear to approach the suspect and start talking to him before he walks off with the gun and a small box that the employee had handed him.

The entire interaction appears to be calm, including the moment when the suspect walks out of the store with the rifle and box in hand.

The employee appears to be following him but from a distance.

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How the Gyrocopter’s Flight to the US Capitol Unfolded

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — A political protester took his grievances to the air Tuesday in a long-planned plot reportedly to deliver a message to members of Congress.

As details of how a man was able to fly into restricted airspace in the heart of the nation’s capital are starting to come out, one of the biggest questions is how was someone able to not only plan such an act of civil disobedience, but also able to carry it out even after he allegedly notified the Secret Service of his plans ahead of time.

The person with most of those answers has been identified by his local newspaper, The Tampa Bay Times, as Doug Hughes. His intent was to deliver a special message to legislators about campaign finance.

Here are some of the key moments connected to this case:

Late Last Week

According to The Tampa Bay Times, Hughes drove from Florida to an undisclosed location near D.C., carrying the gyrocopter in a trailer. In the months leading up to his starting point, the newspaper reports that he had bought a burner cell phone, built a website dedicated to the cause and even tested out a livestream so that he could share the experience online in real time.

Tuesday, 12:11 p.m. ET

The Tampa Bay Times posted their lengthy article with accompanying video interview online.

“If you’re reading this, Doug Hughes, a 61-year-old mailman from Ruskin, has taken flight,” the story begins.

While Hughes’ hometown paper likely had the most prior knowledge about the stunt, they were not the only ones to receive notification. They reported that Hughes had arranged a delayed email blast to news stations and the secret service, hoping that in understanding that he is non-violent, perhaps the Secret Service would avoid shooting him down.

1:15 p.m.

The Tampa Bay Times called the Secret Service headquarters in D.C. to see if they had been notified of Hughes’ plans, but a spokesman said that they had not received any warning.

“He hasn’t notified anybody. We have no information,” a sergeant in the watch commander’s office for the Capitol Police told the paper.

1:42 p.m.

The U.S. Capitol Police issued a statement saying that they are investigating a single occupant gyro copter that has landed on the grassy area in the West Lawn of the Capitol.

At that point, the individual was not publicly identified by authorities who just noted that the person had been detained and nearby roads closed.

2:07 p.m.

ABC News confirmed that representatives from the FBI were on the scene and a robot was being used by Capitol Police to clear any hazardous material from the vehicle.

3:25 p.m.

The copter was seen being moved from the lawn after being put in a trailer attached to the back of a police pick up truck.

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Man Fatally Shot After Police Chase, Multi-Vehicle Crash in Houston

iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) — A suspect is now dead after being shot by at least one Houston Police Department officer following a chase in Texas that started in Houston and ended in east Harris County, a Houston Police Department spokesman told ABC News Wednesday.

“It started as a self-initiated patrol investigation in Houston city limits, but then the suspect fled into Harris County,” the spokesman said. “At the conclusion of the pursuit, at least one officer did discharge his weapon, but because it happened outside city limits, the Harris County’s Sheriff’s Office will take a lead role in the investigation.”

The chase ended in a multi-vehicle crash followed by a shooting, a Harris County Sherrif’s Office told ABC News in a statement.

The high-speed chase, multi-vehicle crash and shooting was caught on video from a helicopter.

The video caught the suspect’s car eluding police and driving into grass and eventually slamming into another vehicle at an intersection and then spinning into another vehicle, causing a pile-up.

The suspect can be seen coming out of the car and then reaching back into it, at which point Houston Police Department officers opened fired, ABC News affiliated KTRK-TV reported.

A large number of patrol cars from the Houston Police Department were involved in the chase, KTRK added, saying the end of the pursuit unfolded quickly in a matter of seconds elapsing between “the time the suspect struck the white car and the time officers opened fire.”

The chase ended near North Shore Middle School in Houston, KTRK reported.

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Helicopter Lands on West Front of US Capitol, Pilot Arrested

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — A small helicopter landed on the Capitol’s West Front Wednesday afternoon in Washington, and one person has been detained, according to Capitol Police.

“The U.S. Capitol Police is investigating a gyrocopter with a single occupant that has landed on the grassy area of the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol,” Capitol Police Public Information Officer Lieutenant Kimberly Schneider confirmed. “The U.S. Capitol Police continues to investigate with one person detained and temporary street closures in the immediate area.”

It appears that the man contacted a Tampa Bay Times reporter in advance of his flight. His aim: To draw attention to the issue of campaign finance reform, according to the newspaper.

“I have got a plane, a gyro-plane. And I’m going to fly it, I’m going to violate the no-fly zone, non-violently,” he said in the video. “I’m going to land on the Capitol Mall.”

According to the Times, a 61-year-old mailman in Florida threatened to drive his gyrocopter through protected airspace to deliver the mail.

The Ruksin native, Dough Hughes, has contemplated the plan for more than two years, according to the newspaper.

“No sane person would do what I’m doing,” he reportedly said.

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Jodi Arias Had to Keep Her True Personality Hidden, Lawyer Says

ABC News(PHOENIX) — Jodi Arias’ attorney says the convicted murderer is really “very chit chatty and smiley” but was unable to show that side of her personality during the trial.

Jennifer Willmott was one of two attorneys at Arias’ side from the beginning of her trial for the murder of her on-off boyfriend Travis Alexander in December 2012 until Arias was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole.

Willmott said that in spite of her plea to the court on Monday, where Arias said she viewed the death penalty as a release because then she would be free, Arias was actually fearful of a death sentence.

“I don’t know how she feels about dying but it’s really what comes before that that’s so awful, to be on death row, so yeah, she was afraid of that, she did not want the death penalty,” Willmott told ABC News affiliate KNXV in Phoenix.

Two juries were unable to reach a unanimous decision regarding Arias’ sentencing, meaning that the death penalty was taken off the table and Judge Sherry Stephens was tasked with deciding whether Arias should be eligible for parole in 25 years. After hearing tearful testimony from Alexander’s sisters, as well as Arias’ mother and Arias herself, Stephens ruled that she will not be eligible for parole.

Now, Willmott says her client is coping.

“She’s focused on her future and what she can do potentially in the future,” Willmott told KNXV.

Willmott said Arias’ biggest hope is to be “able to have a contact visit and hug her mom. She hasn’t been able to do that in seven years. She’d like to be able to hug her niece.”

Willmott, who is a public defender and was assigned Arias’ case, said she received death threats throughout the trial and the police had to be involved in contacting one person to have them stop.

When asked whether she would take the case again, she said she would but would change some of the tactics they used during trial, without going into further detail.

“The hard part about that is if you were to see the Jodi that we see, she’s very chit chatty and smiley and she’s very funny and smart but she could never do that in court because that’s completely inappropriate to be in such a serious proceeding,” Willmott said. “All she knows how to do is be deadpan serious.”

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Walter Scott Had Planned a Cookout for the Day He Was Shot

The Scott Family(NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.) — South Carolina police shooting victim Walter Scott and his passenger were looking forward to a cookout they had planned for later in the day when Scott was shot, the passenger’s attorney tells ABC News.

Pierre Fulton, who has been identified as the passenger in Scott’s car on the morning of April 4, when Scott was pulled over for a broken tail light, had known Scott for the past four or five years, becoming better friends when they started working together several months ago.

Fulton’s attorney, Mark Peper, said the pair knew each other casually from the neighborhood, then started commuting together, which is when they started to get to know one another.

“Walter being the type of guy he was realized that Pierre was having to take the bus home,” Peper told ABC News. “He said, ‘No man, I have room, hop on in.'”

In the days leading up to the fatal police altercation, where then-police officer Michael Slager chased and shot Scott multiple times, Scott and Fulton had been talking about having a cookout at Scott’s house that Saturday afternoon.

The two men met for breakfast at a Hardee’s and then Scott drove them to a local church that has a weekly food drive, where Fulton picked up a bag of food, Peper said.

“This was just your typical Saturday morning since they [were] kind of out and about,” Peper said. “The goal was to drop Pierre’s bag off at his house, which they did. And then Pierre was to ride with Walter over to Walters’s house to have a cookout. Unfortunately, they saw blue lights and we all know how that ended.”

Fulton could not see the shooting but did hear Slager’s shots. Peper said that his client does not know why Scott ran from the vehicle during the traffic stop.

“What’s frustrating… everybody rightfully so wants to know why… so does Pierre. Pierre does not know why Walter ran,” Peper said.

Peper said that the shooting has had “an extremely large effect on [Fulton’s] mental health.”

“He is torn up. He is a mess,” Peper said. “He hasn’t been able to talk to anybody about this.”

Fulton has been interviewed by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, who has been handling the investigation into the case, but Fulton has chosen not to speak publicly except through his lawyer.

Slager, the now-fired police officer who has been charged with murdering Scott, has not yet had to enter a plea. Slager has had an addition to his legal team, with Sean Kent joining Slager’s previously-hired attorney, Andy Savage. They have chosen not to comment on the case until they complete their own investigation.

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Walter Scott Had Planned a Cookout for the Day He Was Shot

The Scott Family(NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.) — South Carolina police shooting victim Walter Scott and his passenger were looking forward to a cookout they had planned for later in the day when Scott was shot, the passenger’s attorney tells ABC News.

Pierre Fulton, who has been identified as the passenger in Scott’s car on the morning of April 4, when Scott was pulled over for a broken tail light, had known Scott for the past four or five years, becoming better friends when they started working together several months ago.

Fulton’s attorney, Mark Peper, said the pair knew each other casually from the neighborhood, then started commuting together, which is when they started to get to know one another.

“Walter being the type of guy he was realized that Pierre was having to take the bus home,” Peper told ABC News. “He said, ‘No man, I have room, hop on in.'”

In the days leading up to the fatal police altercation, where then-police officer Michael Slager chased and shot Scott multiple times, Scott and Fulton had been talking about having a cookout at Scott’s house that Saturday afternoon.

The two men met for breakfast at a Hardee’s and then Scott drove them to a local church that has a weekly food drive, where Fulton picked up a bag of food, Peper said.

“This was just your typical Saturday morning since they [were] kind of out and about,” Peper said. “The goal was to drop Pierre’s bag off at his house, which they did. And then Pierre was to ride with Walter over to Walters’s house to have a cookout. Unfortunately, they saw blue lights and we all know how that ended.”

Fulton could not see the shooting but did hear Slager’s shots. Peper said that his client does not know why Scott ran from the vehicle during the traffic stop.

“What’s frustrating… everybody rightfully so wants to know why… so does Pierre. Pierre does not know why Walter ran,” Peper said.

Peper said that the shooting has had “an extremely large effect on [Fulton’s] mental health.”

“He is torn up. He is a mess,” Peper said. “He hasn’t been able to talk to anybody about this.”

Fulton has been interviewed by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, who has been handling the investigation into the case, but Fulton has chosen not to speak publicly except through his lawyer.

Slager, the now-fired police officer who has been charged with murdering Scott, has not yet had to enter a plea. Slager has had an addition to his legal team, with Sean Kent joining Slager’s previously-hired attorney, Andy Savage. They have chosen not to comment on the case until they complete their own investigation.

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