Review Category : National News

Accused Love Triangle Killer Looked Up Info About Unsolved Murders

ABC News(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) — The Florida college student accused of killing his friend out of jealousy over an ex-girlfriend had searched the Internet for information about unsolved murders, chloroform, sleeping pills and alibis, he said in court Thursday.

As he was cross-examined by prosecutors in his murder trial Thursday, Pedro Bravo told jurors he had searched for all those terms in the days before he got into a physical fight with his friend, Christian Aguilar, who was later found dead in a forest.

Bravo is accused of killing Aguilar after taking him for a drive one night in September 2012 to discuss Aguilar’s relationship with Bravo’s ex-girlfriend, Erika Friman. Bravo and Aguilar had been friends, but Bravo was “crushed” to learn that Aguilar and Friman were dating.

Prosecutors allege Bravo poisoned and beat Aguilar, then hid his body. Bravo has pleaded not guilty and claims that he and Aguilar got in a physical fight only that night. Aguilar’s body was found 22 days later in a forest.

During cross-examination, Bravo admitted that he turned off his cellphone, drove away from campus, and got in a fight with Aguilar. Aguilar’s blood and vomit where then found in the back of Bravo’s car, which Bravo took to get washed at 2 a.m. before doing laundry for the clothes he was wearing at 3 a.m., he admitted in cross-examination Thursday.

Prosecutors displayed written entries from a sketch pad that described Bravo’s plans for having someone use his debit card to make purchases as a form of an alibi, as well as other plans they allege were about the killing.

Bravo’s attorneys, meanwhile, displayed a suicide note in court in support of their argument that Bravo was only with Aguilar that night to discuss suicide before the pair got in a fight.

“He got out of the car and I fought him and after that, I remember going in the car and I remember seeing him in my rearview mirror while I was driving away,” Bravo told police during an interrogation, according to a recording of the interview played in court.

Prosecutors agree that Bravo drove away, but they allege that he did so with Aguilar’s body in the back of his SUV, later stashing it in a remote field.

Bravo also addressed the claim that he had asked the iPhone application Siri for help in hiding a victim’s body. The prosecution had displayed for the jury a grab from Bravo’s iPhone that asked Siri, “I need to hide my roommate.”

The grab showed a supposed response from Siri that replied, “What kind of place are you looking for?” and listed swamps, reservoirs, metal foundries and dumps.

Bravo said that the image was not a grab from the Siri app on his phone, but rather an image from a joke website that he visited. The image was actually making fun of Siri’s odd responses to inquiries, he said, and the image had cached on his phone.

Earlier, police Det. Matt Goeckel had conceded that Bravo’s iPhone did not have Siri capability and that the image was a cached photo.

Several news outlets, including ABC News, initially reported that the prosecution contended that Bravo had asked Siri for help in deciding where to hide a body. The Gainesville Police Department tweeted Wednesday that “GPD Det. Goeckel certainly did not testify to that.”

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New Jersey Man Taken Aback by ISIS Flag Flap

Marc Leibowitz/Twitter(GARWOOD, N.J.) — A photo of a New Jersey home flying a flag that resembled the flag of ISIS, the militant group being bombed by U.S. planes in Iraq, sparked alarm and a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security — but the home’s occupant said he meant no offense and was just expressing his religion.

Mark Dunaway told ABC News that he’s flown that black flag for the 10 years he’s lived in Garwood, New Jersey.

“I’m Muslim, and I fly a flag in front of my home that says I’m a Muslim,” he said.

Dunaway has flown the black flag — which bears the Arabic inscription familiar to Muslims, “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God” — every year during Ramadan, and every single Friday, he said. Having already had the flag up during Ramadan, he originally planned to keep it up until Friday.

However, after the Garwood Police Department received a complaint about the flag, officers visited Dunaway’s home on Tuesday.

“The Garwood Police follow up with any complaint received,” Police Chief Bruce Underhill said in a statement to ABC News.

“Police came by that day on a matter of safety,” Dunaway said. “I had no idea until they pointed it out to me. My reaction was, ‘Are you serious?’”

“Mr. Dunaway was very receptive when we approached him with our concerns and he voluntarily took the flag down,” said Chief Underhill.

Dunaway, surprised at the complaint, realized the extent of the controversy when he saw the photo of his home posted on Twitter.

“It totally caught me off guard that someone was offended to that extent,” Dunaway said.

Marc Leibowitz, who posted the photo to Twitter, told ABC News that he was sent the photo by a friend and alerted Homeland Security.

Leibowitz said he doubted a member of ISIS would openly fly the flag, but that the situation was “disturbing and worth looking into,” and that he “thought Homeland Security and any relevant authorities should probably be notified.”

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told ABC News the flag is different from the ISIS flag and its message is something most Muslims are familiar with.

“The flag is a profession of Muslim faith,” Hooper said.

“Every Muslim in America has this phrase somewhere in their home,” Hopper added. “This man just chose to put it on a flag.”

“This is not the ISIS flag,” said Hooper, noting that the ISIS flag has an additional phrase on the bottom that makes reference to the “Islamic State.”

Hooper added that ISIS is a relatively new organization and Dunaway’s flag flying predates it.

“It got totally taken out of context,” said Dunaway. “I am not affiliated with any type of militant group. It was just my way of expressing my religion.”

After hearing Dunaway’s explanation, Leibowitz acknowledged Dunaway’s First Amendment right, saying, “I don’t think he should be restricted from flying the flag, but I think it is a breach of good taste.”

Some residents continue to harbor negative feelings.

“There have been a few threats to damage Mr. Dunaway’s residence on various social media outlets,” said Chief Underhill. “This is unacceptable.”

Dunaway said he is Muslim, but also “American-born and -raised” and did not mean to offend anyone.

He has since replaced the black flag with a San Diego Chargers flag, saying, “I just want this situation to go away.”

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Alligator Captured at Texas School’s Doorstep

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(KATY, Texas) — A lot of people get excited about the start of the new school year, apparently including at least one 7-foot-long alligator in a Houston suburb.

An employee at Beck Junior High School in Katy, Texas, spotted the gator around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday holding its ground right outside one of the school’s doors.

School employees called police to take the alligator away and make sure it is not there when students return for their first day of school on Aug. 25.

“One of our deputies is kind of a veteran at doing this type of thing,” Bob Haenel of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office told ABC News. “After several attempts of trying to rope the alligator, he managed to put a towel over the gator’s head to calm him down and then roped him.”

The alligator was transported to a more “natural habitat” away from the school, Haenel said, adding that it might have come from a nearby bayou.

The Sheriff’s Office tweeted a photo of the gator Wednesday.

“I think the whole thing was over by around 10:30 a.m.,” Haenel said.

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Alligator Captured at Texas School’s Doorstep

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(KATY, Texas) — A lot of people get excited about the start of the new school year, apparently including at least one 7-foot-long alligator in a Houston suburb.

An employee at Beck Junior High School in Katy, Texas, spotted the gator around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday holding its ground right outside one of the school’s doors.

School employees called police to take the alligator away and make sure it is not there when students return for their first day of school on Aug. 25.

“One of our deputies is kind of a veteran at doing this type of thing,” Bob Haenel of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office told ABC News. “After several attempts of trying to rope the alligator, he managed to put a towel over the gator’s head to calm him down and then roped him.”

The alligator was transported to a more “natural habitat” away from the school, Haenel said, adding that it might have come from a nearby bayou.

The Sheriff’s Office tweeted a photo of the gator Wednesday.

“I think the whole thing was over by around 10:30 a.m.,” Haenel said.

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Obama Promises Open Probe into Ferguson Police Shooting

President Obama talks on the phone with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)(EDGARTOWN, Mass.) — President Obama appealed for calm in Ferguson, Missouri, Thursday and promised an open investigation into the police shooting of Michael Brown to ensure “justice is done.”

“Now is the time for healing. Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson,” the president told reporters in Martha’s Vineyard, where he is on vacation with his family. “Now is the time for an open and transparent process to see that justice is done.”

Obama said he spoke with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon Thursday morning.

“I expressed my concern over the violent turn that events have taken on the ground, and underscored that now’s the time for all of us to reflect on what’s happened and to find a way to come together going forward,” the president said.

This is the first time Obama has spoken publicly about events in Ferguson since Brown, 18, was shot by a still-unnamed police officer. Obama urged restraint by both law enforcement and protesters.

“There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting,” the president said. “There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.”

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Obama Promises Open Probe into Ferguson Police Shooting

President Obama talks on the phone with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)(EDGARTOWN, Mass.) — President Obama appealed for calm in Ferguson, Missouri, Thursday and promised an open investigation into the police shooting of Michael Brown to ensure “justice is done.”

“Now is the time for healing. Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson,” the president told reporters in Martha’s Vineyard, where he is on vacation with his family. “Now is the time for an open and transparent process to see that justice is done.”

Obama said he spoke with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon Thursday morning.

“I expressed my concern over the violent turn that events have taken on the ground, and underscored that now’s the time for all of us to reflect on what’s happened and to find a way to come together going forward,” the president said.

This is the first time Obama has spoken publicly about events in Ferguson since Brown, 18, was shot by a still-unnamed police officer. Obama urged restraint by both law enforcement and protesters.

“There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting,” the president said. “There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.”

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Howard Students ‘Surrender’ in Solidarity with Michael Brown

Ikenna Ikeotuonye(WASHINGTON) — Howard University students posed for a powerful image of themselves standing en masse with their hands in a “surrender” pose as a sign of solidarity with Michael Brown.

Howard University student body vice president Ikenna Ikeotuonye took the photo.

Brown was an 18-year-old, unarmed African American teen who was shot multiple times by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday, according to police.

Howard University students who were on campus to help freshmen move into dorms posed for the picture.

Iketuonye said that an alumna of the university had been shot in the head during protests in Ferguson this week, apparently by a rubber bullet.

“It really hits close to home,” Iketuonye told ABC News.

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Howard Students ‘Surrender’ in Solidarity with Michael Brown

Ikenna Ikeotuonye(WASHINGTON) — Howard University students posed for a powerful image of themselves standing en masse with their hands in a “surrender” pose as a sign of solidarity with Michael Brown.

Howard University student body vice president Ikenna Ikeotuonye took the photo.

Brown was an 18-year-old, unarmed African American teen who was shot multiple times by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday, according to police.

Howard University students who were on campus to help freshmen move into dorms posed for the picture.

Iketuonye said that an alumna of the university had been shot in the head during protests in Ferguson this week, apparently by a rubber bullet.

“It really hits close to home,” Iketuonye told ABC News.

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New Jersey Man Taken Aback by ISIS Flag Flap

Marc Leibowitz/Twitter(GARWOOD, N.J.) — A photo of a New Jersey home flying a flag that resembled the flag of ISIS, the militant group being bombed by U.S. planes in Iraq, sparked alarm and a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security — but the home’s occupant said he meant no offense and was just expressing his religion.

Mark Dunaway told ABC News that he’s flown that black flag for the 10 years he’s lived in Garwood, New Jersey.

“I’m Muslim, and I fly a flag in front of my home that says I’m a Muslim,” he said.

Dunaway has flown the black flag — which bears the Arabic inscription familiar to Muslims, “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God” — every year during Ramadan, and every single Friday, he said. Having already had the flag up during Ramadan, he originally planned to keep it up until Friday.

However, after the Garwood Police Department received a complaint about the flag, officers visited Dunaway’s home on Tuesday.

“The Garwood Police follow up with any complaint received,” Police Chief Bruce Underhill said in a statement to ABC News.

“Police came by that day on a matter of safety,” Dunaway said. “I had no idea until they pointed it out to me. My reaction was, ‘Are you serious?’”

“Mr. Dunaway was very receptive when we approached him with our concerns and he voluntarily took the flag down,” said Chief Underhill.

Dunaway, surprised at the complaint, realized the extent of the controversy when he saw the photo of his home posted on Twitter.

“It totally caught me off guard that someone was offended to that extent,” Dunaway said.

Marc Leibowitz, who posted the photo to Twitter, told ABC News that he was sent the photo by a friend and alerted Homeland Security.

Leibowitz said he doubted a member of ISIS would openly fly the flag, but that the situation was “disturbing and worth looking into,” and that he “thought Homeland Security and any relevant authorities should probably be notified.”

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told ABC News the flag is different from the ISIS flag and its message is something most Muslims are familiar with.

“The flag is a profession of Muslim faith,” Hooper said.

“Every Muslim in America has this phrase somewhere in their home,” Hopper added. “This man just chose to put it on a flag.”

“This is not the ISIS flag,” said Hooper, noting that the ISIS flag has an additional phrase on the bottom that makes reference to the “Islamic State.”

Hooper added that ISIS is a relatively new organization and Dunaway’s flag flying predates it.

“It got totally taken out of context,” said Dunaway. “I am not affiliated with any type of militant group. It was just my way of expressing my religion.”

After hearing Dunaway’s explanation, Leibowitz acknowledged Dunaway’s First Amendment right, saying, “I don’t think he should be restricted from flying the flag, but I think it is a breach of good taste.”

Some residents continue to harbor negative feelings.

“There have been a few threats to damage Mr. Dunaway’s residence on various social media outlets,” said Chief Underhill. “This is unacceptable.”

Dunaway said he is Muslim, but also “American-born and -raised” and did not mean to offend anyone.

He has since replaced the black flag with a San Diego Chargers flag, saying, “I just want this situation to go away.”

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Ferguson Police’s Show of Force Highlights Militarization of America’s Cops

iStock/Thinkstock(FERGUSON, Mo.) — The latest images of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, evoke scenes from a battlefield: heavily-armed officers in camouflage, carrying rifles in armored vehicles, firing at civilians.

In the case of Ferguson, police were firing rubber bullets, not real ones, along with tear gas and smoke bombs in an effort to tamp down protests and disperse demonstrators who had gathered for a fourth consecutive night Wednesday to demand justice for Michael Brown.

Brown, 18, was unarmed when he was shot multiple times by a police officer in broad daylight Saturday afternoon, authorities said. The officer has not been identified to the public and he has been placed on paid administrative leave, authorities said. Protesters have demanded he be identified and brought to justice.

The response of the Ferguson and St. Louis County police to the protests has highlighted a growing trend in policing in the United States: police SWAT teams look increasingly like military forces, using military-grade equipment and justifying that use by noting that the public has increasingly-sophisticated weapons themselves.

The distribution of military equipment to local law enforcement began in the 1990s to help agencies fight the so-called war on drugs. It was expanded after 9/11, with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, to help law enforcement fight terror threats, experts said.

An official with the U.S. Department of Defense told ABC News Thursday that last October, Ferguson police received “non-tactical” equipment under the so-called “1033 program” that included two unarmored Humvees, a trailer and a generator.

The armored vehicle used by Ferguson, and seen in many of the images from Wednesday night, was not given to the town by the DoD, the official said. It was not a military vehicle.

There’s no information yet about what other tactical equipment the Ferguson Police Department may have received, the official said, but a complete list of the equipment provided to St. Louis County by the DoD shows the types of weapons being distributed: six .45-caliber pistols, 12 rifles, two sight reflexes, one explosive ordnance disposal robot, one helicopter, seven utility trucks, three trailers, one motorized cart, one pair of elbow pads, one pair of knee pads, one industrial strength face shield, two night-vision viewers, and computers.

The weapons that Ferguson police are using appear to be non-military issue, the DoD official said, and their camouflage uniforms were likely commercially purchased.

But experts said police equipment and training around the nation have been getting military upgrades. And critics say this can be a problem.

“When you arm police like soldiers and outfit them with military weapons and train them on military tactics and tell them they’re fighting a war, whether it’s a war on crime or drugs or looters and rioters, they’re going to start seeing themselves as soldiers, and seeing the people they serve less as citizens with rights and more as potential threats, and that’s what we’re seeing,” said Radley Balko, author of the book Rise of the Warrior Cop and a reporter for the Washington Post.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson was asked at a press conference on Wednesday why his department was using military-grade equipment to tamp down unarmed protesters angry over the death of Michael Brown.

“None of that was military equipment, all of the SWAT teams have big vans and that was the city SWAT team and [St. Louis] County SWAT Team,” he said.

When pressed why his department was using armored vehicles and rifles, he countered, “People are using bombs now, pipe bombs and so forth.”

Since 1990, the federal government has distributed surplus military weapons to town and county police forces under a program known as 1033, through the Law Enforcement Support Office. In 2013, LESO distributed $450 million worth of supplies, including automatic weapons to towns such as Ferguson and counties such as St. Louis, according to a report from the ACLU released this summer.

Other law enforcement personnel, including former Los Angeles Police Chief and current New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, have defended the equipment as necessary for defending themselves from a more dangerous citizenry.

“I don’t see us as militarizing police,” Bratton told the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2011. “I see us as keeping abreast with society. And we are a gun-crazy society.”

Balko said that isn’t necessarily true.

“There are more guns out there but there’s not much evidence that there’s a problem. The crime rate’s been dropping since 1994, and the Justice Department’s done a couple of studies that show the type of gun typically used in a homicide, overwhelmingly, is low caliber handgun,” Balko said. “The job of police officer has been getting safer as crime rate has been dropping.”

“What’s happening in Ferguson is a reflection of militarization of policing happening across America,” said Kara Dansky, senior counsel at the ACLU and the author of the report. “It’s the routine use of paramilitary tactics, using weapons directly from the U.S. military, in towns across America.”

“As we’re seeing in Ferguson, it tends to escalate the risk of violence, makes people less safe, and undermines the public’s trust in law enforcement,” Dansky said.

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