Review Category : Top Stories

Victims Identified In Liberty Township Shooting

03/22/17 – 4:08 P.M.

The two people killed in the Liberty Township shooting on Monday have been identified. The Sheriff’s office reports that they found 19-year-old Ashley Sayarath dead with 2 gunshot wounds. She was found at her residence at 605 Palm Drive. They also found Ashley’s cousin, 30-year-old David Sayarath of Bluffton dead from a single gunshot wound.

The investigation has determined that David shot Ashley and then turned the gun on himself. They have not determined a motive and the investigation continues at this time.

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Stabbing suspect came to New York to ‘target black males,’ say police

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The fatal stabbing of a 66-year-old man in New York City Monday night is being investigated as a bias crime, according to police.

Authorities said they have a 28-year-old suspect from Maryland in custody. They said they believed that the man had traveled to New York City to attack and kill black people.

According to police, the suspect has a deep-seated hatred against black people.

“He came here to target male blacks,” Assistant Chief Bill Aubrey said Wednesday during a news conference. “[He] picked New York because it’s the media capital of the world. … He knew what he was doing coming up here.”

Police identified the suspect as James Harris Jackson. Aubrey said he came from Maryland on Friday via a BoltBus.

Police said he assaulted Timothy Kaufman, 66, a black man. Jackson is white.

Police said the suspect walked into a police substation in Times Square a little after midnight. Two knives were found in his possession, police said. Authorities said he was being questioned.

The victim was stabbed in the chest and back at Ninth Avenue and West 36th Street just before 11:30 p.m. Monday.

Police said that the victim walked more than a block to a police precinct before collapsing. He was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Ex-teacher accused of kidnapping teen believed to have watched TV show about living off the grid: sources

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(NEW YORK) — A former Tennessee teacher accused of kidnapping his 15-year-old student is believed to have watched a TV show about living off the grid before the pair disappeared, law enforcement sources told ABC News.

Tad Cummins, 50, is accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Thomas on March 13. As the manhunt intensifies, officials say there have been no credible sightings of the duo. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesman Josh DeVine told ABC News that if the duo isn’t outside the Southeast, they are likely “off the grid” in a rural area.

Three days before the alleged kidnapping, Cummins did online research about his car “to determine if certain features could be tracked by law enforcement,” the TBI said Tuesday.

He also researched if his SUV was suitable for camping, law enforcement officials said.

Cummins, a married father and grandfather, researched teen marriage online as well, specifically the age of consent, according to law enforcement officials.

The TBI said that Cummins, who was fired one day after the alleged kidnapping, “may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom [the teen] … in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her.”

One of Thomas’ schoolmates had reported seeing Thomas and Cummins kiss in his classroom on Jan. 23, according to a school district investigative report, but Thomas and Cummins denied the claim.

Thomas’ sister told ABC News that the 15-year-old was bullied in school by students and teachers after the reported kiss and told her “I just have to get away, we have to get away.”

“I can’t handle this anymore . .. all the teachers, all the kids constantly saying mean things, I can’t handle it,'” the sister said.

Cummins is wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. An Amber Alert has been issued for Thomas.

Authorities say Cummins is believed to be armed and that the teen is “in imminent danger.”

Authorities said neither Thomas nor Cummins has been in touch with family members.

Cummins’ wife, Jill, pleaded with her husband Friday to “come home.”

“I had no idea my husband was involved with anything that has led to all this. My heart breaks for the family of Beth Thomas,” she said. “Tad, this is not you. This is not who you are. We can help you get through this. … Your family wants their poppy back. Please do the right thing and turn yourself into the police and bring Beth home.”

In an interview with ABC News Monday, the teen’s father, Anthony Thomas, said he wants his daughter to “please let us know you are all right and please come home to us.”

Thomas family attorney Jason Whatley told ABC News that Cummins was “taking advantage” of his student and “manipulating her into leaving with him.”

“We are very concerned about the control that he has over her,” Whatley said. “We believe that is 100 percent the reason why she is missing at this point. He is the problem, she is not. She’s a child, she’s a victim.”

Cummins is described as 6 feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds. He may be driving a 2015 silver Nissan Rogue with a Tennessee license plate number 976-ZPT.

Elizabeth Thomas is described as 5-foot-5 and weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing leggings and a flannel shirt.

Authorities are asking that anyone with information call 1-800-TBI-FIND and that anyone who sees a car with a Tennessee license plate 976-ZPT call 911. A $1,000 reward is available for information leading to Cummins’ arrest.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Feds conducted series of tests to determine credibility of new aviation threat

Purestock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — U.S. authorities became convinced that security measures for certain U.S.-bound flights needed to be boosted only after conducting a series of tests to determine the credibility of new intelligence indicating that ISIS associates were trying to develop explosives-laden electronics that could be smuggled onboard planes, ABC News has learned.

The tests were executed in recent weeks and led authorities to one conclusion: “It can be done,” as one source put it.

The Department of Homeland Security ultimately banned all electronics bigger than a cellphone from the cabins of some direct flights to the United States from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries.

Sources said that the airports affected by the restrictions were not directly named in the most recent threat intelligence gathered by authorities, but those airports were identified through intelligence analysis paired with other government information.

In an interview with ABC News, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, warned about the “new aviation threat.”

“We know that our adversaries, terrorist groups in the United States and outside the United States, seek to bring down a U.S.-bound airliner. That’s one of their highest value targets. And we’re doing everything we can right now to prevent that from happening,” Swalwell said Tuesday.

Nearly two years ago, ABC News first reported that an internal investigation of the Transportation Security Administration revealed security failures at dozens of major U.S. airports. Undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials, ABC News reported. The series of tests were conducted by Homeland Security Red Teams who pose as passengers, setting out to beat the system.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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California high school student in custody after threatening a Columbine-style shooting attack

iStock/Thinkstock(CHINO, Calif.) — A Southern California high school student was taken into custody on Tuesday for allegedly threatening to carry out a Columbine-style shooting attack.

The 15-year-old Chino High School student from Ontario allegedly made the threats via Twitter, ABC affiliate KABC reported Tuesday, citing the Chino Police Department.

The teenager, whose identity was withheld, allegedly tweeted, “I’m recreating Columbine” and “Chino needs a good shooting,” according to a group known as “The Tactical Institute,” who saw the messages and reported them to police, the report said.

The comments refer to the 1999 shooting massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado where two students killed 13 people before taking their own lives. The shooting is the deadliest school massacre in U.S. history.

The student is currently being held at a juvenile facility in San Bernardino on suspicion of criminal threats, according to KABC.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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LAPD: Deportation fears possibly impacting Hispanic crime reporting

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — The head of the Los Angeles Police Department on Tuesday warned of a “strong correlation” between dramatic drops in violent crimes being reported by Hispanics in Los Angeles and fears of being deported, suggesting that the community may be avoiding contact with local law enforcement in the wake of immigration polices favored by the Trump administration.

Newly-released LAPD crime statistics for 2017 show that among Hispanics, reports of rape have dropped 25 percent while those of spousal abuse have decreased by 9.8 percent. Similar reductions from the start of this year were not found in any other ethnic group, according to the LAPD numbers.

“Imagine your sister, your mother, not reporting a sexual assault for fear that their family will be torn apart,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters on Tuesday.

With a large Hispanic population, Los Angeles has been one of several large U.S. municipalities to have resisted new federal immigration policies under President Trump, who has promised to toughen laws against the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in the U.S.

Police in California’s largest cities have long warned of the difficulties of local officials enforcing federal immigration laws, partly because such enforcement could drive large immigrant populations into hiding and be fearful of reporting crimes, which could result in higher crime rates overall.

Speaking Tuesday, Beck said that immigrant populations should not have to fear the police.

“In L.A. we don’t care what color your skin is, where your parents come from or what language you speak,” he said. “We are your police department.”

In February, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other city leaders sent Immigration and Customs Enforcement a letter asking that federal immigration agents stop identifying themselves as “police” while going after undocumented immigrants. They argued the practice makes the immigrant population fearful of police and potentially afraid to report crimes due to deportation fears if exposed as illegal immigrants. The authorities said in some cases a victim might be legal but be worried that calling the police could lead to a loved one being deported.

For its part, ICE has argued it uses “police” because it’s an internationally recognized term for law enforcement understood in any language.

The LAPD has long had a policy of not asking about the immigration status of individuals who come into contact with its officers.

On Tuesday, Garcetti signed an executive directive expanding that policy to Los Angeles Airport Police, Harbor Police and the Los Angeles Fire Department.

“We believe that many local families are keeping their kids home or backing off of engaging with our law enforcement officials and our public safety officials because they’re afraid of what they believe could happen,” said Garcetti.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Trump offspring and spouses ditch DC, NYC for the snowy slopes of Aspen

iStock/Thinkstock(ASPEN, Colo.) — The Trump clan — sans its patriarch, President Donald Trump — ditched the East Coast this week and headed west to the ritzy Colorado ski town of Aspen.

Lara Trump, who announced on Monday that she and President Trump’s son Eric are expecting a boy in September, posted a photo on Instagram Tuesday with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, as well as Donald Trump Jr.’s son, Donald III — all of whom are decked out in chic skiwear atop a snow-covered mountain.

Donald Jr. and his wife Vanessa are also in Aspen with their children, and Ivanka and Jared’s children are also there.

Eric also posted a photo of the couple’s two dogs, writing, “These two love Aspen!”

These two love Aspen! pic.twitter.com/iNMtBg5FNd

— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) March 22, 2017

Eric announced the upcoming arrival of their child on Monday, tweeting, “.@LaraLeaTrump & I are excited to announce that we are adding a boy to #TeamTrump in September. It’s been an amazing year. We are blessed!”

.@LaraLeaTrump & I are excited to announce that we are adding a boy to #TeamTrump in September. It’s been an amazing year. We are blessed! pic.twitter.com/ENrhdxdziA

— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) March 20, 2017

Congratulations Eric & Lara. Very proud and happy for the two of you! https://t.co/s0T3cTQc40

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2017

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Cause of 8-alarm fire that destroyed several homes in Kansas deemed accidental

iStock/Thinkstock(OVERLAND PARK, Kan.) — An eight-alarm fire that injured three firefighters and destroyed multiple homes in Kansas this week was ruled an accident on Tuesday, according to emergency officials said.

Investigators believe the fire, which began at an unoccupied apartment complex in Overland Park, Kansas on Monday, was accidentally ignited by a welder working onsite, the Overland Park Fire Department said in a statement Tuesday evening.

The fire was the biggest in the city’s history, according to the statement on Tuesday.

The fire broke out at a luxury apartment complex under construction at around 3:30 p.m. Monday before quickly spreading to several nearby homes in Overland Park, which is the state’s second most populated city, fire officials said.

At least 22 homes were affected by heat exposure and flying embers, according to Overland Park fire officials.

Three firefighters were transported to a local hospital with minor injuries but appear to be doing well officials said early Tuesday.

Overland Park Fire Department spokesman Jason Rhodes described their conditions as a “mixed bag” of damaged and destroyed on Monday evening.

He described the initial scene as “a bit of a war zone” and said the fire was intensified by winds, which pushed fire embers south, and dry air conditions.

Fire officials said they worked into early Tuesday morning to fully extinguish the fires.

FF’s working into the night. Neighbors be vigilant embers still a danger. Those needing assistance go to Christ Lutheran Church 117th Nieman pic.twitter.com/UFCpynKQur

— Overland Park Fire (@OPFDMedia) March 21, 2017

City building inspectors were in the area on Tuesday to assess the safety and “livability” of the damaged homes, according to Overland Park fire officials.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Photo shows teacher with 15-year-old student he allegedly kidnapped

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(CULLEOKA, Tenn.) — A photo released today by police shows former teacher Tad Cummins and the 15-year-old student he is suspected of kidnapping, Elizabeth Thomas, together at their school earlier this year.

The photo — released today by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation — was taken at the teen’s Culleoka, Tennessee, school in January. Cummins, accused of kidnapping Thomas on March 13, was her teacher at the time and the photo was taken “days before his alleged inappropriate contact with her,” the TBI said.

Cummins and Thomas have denied the claim, but one of Thomas’s schoolmates had reported seeing the pair kiss in his classroom on Jan. 23, according to a school district investigative report.

The TBI said that Cummins “may have been abusing his role as a teacher to groom [the teen] … in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her.”

Cummins was fired March 14, one day after he and Thomas disappeared.

An Amber Alert has been issued for Thomas, and Cummins is wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor.

Cummins is believed to be armed and authorities say the teen is “in imminent danger.”

TBI spokesman Josh DeVine told ABC News about 600 tips have come in as of today, which he called “substantially low.” And there are still no credible sightings of the duo, which DeVine says is very rare.

Join us in holding out hope. It only takes one solid lead. pic.twitter.com/VShoOaUksX

— TBI (@TBInvestigation) March 21, 2017

Authorities said neither Thomas nor Cummins has been in touch with family members.

In an interview with ABC News Monday, the teen’s father, Anthony Thomas, pleaded with his daughter to “please let us know you are all right and please come home to us.”

It’s been a week, but we’re not giving up hope. Stay vigilant, stay alert, and let us know if you spot these individuals or this vehicle. pic.twitter.com/jDACuW1iUg

— TBI (@TBInvestigation) March 20, 2017

Thomas family attorney Jason Whatley told ABC News that Cummins was “taking advantage” of his student and “manipulating her into leaving with him.”

“We are very concerned about the control that he has over her,” Whatley said. “We believe that is 100 percent the reason why she is missing at this point. He is the problem, she is not. She’s a child, she’s a victim.”

Cummins is described as 6 feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds. He may be driving a 2015 silver Nissan Rogue with a Tennessee license plate number 976-ZPT.

Thomas is described as 5-foot-5 and weighs 120 pounds. She was last seen wearing leggings and a flannel shirt.

Authorities are asking that anyone with information call 1-800-TBI-FIND and that anyone who sees a car with a Tennessee license plate 976-ZPT call 911. A $1,000 reward is available for information leading to Cummins’ arrest.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Heartbreaking photo of urn in a car seat helps mom honor her ‘baby girl’

Sarah Walton(NEW YORK) — When Sarah Walton needed to transport her deceased 4-year-old daughter’s ashes from the funeral home, she put them in the only logical place she could think of: the little girl’s car seat.

Ellie Walton died in January from a rare brain tumor. She endured 17 surgeries, 14 of them brain surgeries, in her short life.

Sarah Walton “wasn’t sure” why she photographed the temporary urn in the car seat, but she’s received such an outpouring of support since she posted it on the Facebook page Prayers for Ellie Walton that she hopes it’s raising awareness about pediatric cancer.

Currently, 4 percent of cancer research funding goes to pediatric cancer.

“It’s been two months of pure torture, agony, and despair,” Walton wrote. “All I want back is our daily life, whatever they entailed, I want it back. I want hospital visits back, and chemo back, I want your laughter, and your joyous heart back. The things that brought my heart so much pain, only a few months ago, I so desperately want back today.”

Walton told ABC News that she never wants another mother to go through this.

But posting about Ellie, Walton told ABC News, also helps her cope with her daughter’s loss. “I love to talk about her and have people remember her. I love to hear about her and I love to talk about her.”

Ellie wore sunglasses everywhere she went, her mother said. “But she always wore them upside down. Even when I put them on her the right way she turned them around.” She also loved animals, especially dinosaurs, and pickles.

“She was the kind of kid who would have brain surgery on a Monday and by Tuesday she wanted to leave the hospital so she could get a Slurpee,” her mother told ABC News. “She lit up a room. She was very outgoing and spoke to every person.”

The outpouring of love on the family’s Facebook page has been tremendous. “Awareness is about funding, of course,” Walton said. “But for families going through this, just having people support them is important, too.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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