Review Category : Top Stories

NYC Firefighters Battling Deadly Six-Alarm Blaze

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Firefighters are scrambling to extinguish a blaze in New York City’s Upper East Side that has ripped through all five floors of an apartment building, killing at least one person and leaving another in critical condition.

The New York Fire Department responded to the six-alarm blaze that started around 3:30 a.m. on Thursday, reports WABC-TV, ABC’s local affiliate.

Two others reported minor injuries.

Authorities have closed down 93rd Street between First and Second Avenues, and First Avenue between 91st and 94th Streets, WABC said.

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What the Justice Department Review Means for the Eric Garner Case

Rawpixel Ltd/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The federal investigation into the death of Eric Garner is under new scrutiny two years after the Department of Justice announced that it was launching a civil rights probe.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., is reviewing the case, according to sources familiar with the investigation. The case has been primarily handled by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, New York.

“This is kind of like doing due diligence on the investigation,” said Richard Frankel, an ABC contributor and former FBI agent who oversaw the federal Garner investigation when the feds first came in.

Garner died on July 17, 2014, after being placed in a chokehold by Officer David Pantaleo during an arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes in New York City.

The incident, which was caught on video, was one of a number of high-profile incidents of unarmed black men killed by white police officers that have sparked outrage and protests across the country and a flashpoint in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I can’t breathe,” which Garner can be heard saying in the video, became one of the movement’s rallying cries.

The New York Police Department said today that its own investigation into the incident is ongoing, but that at the request of DOJ, it is waiting to move ahead with administrative proceedings.

“We are continuing to watch the situation, standing by on what we will do, and we are waiting to hear from them [federal prosecutors] at this point,” said Deputy NYPD Commissioner Larry Byrne.

What Does This Mean?

One possibility is that federal prosecutors closest to the investigation don’t believe there is enough evidence to bring charges, but are being pushed by DOJ in Washington, D.C., to continue the investigation and bring a case forward, according to civil rights attorneys who spoke to ABC News.

Even if the Justice Department decides to bring charges, a grand jury still needs to indict for the case to move ahead.

Another concern may be that the federal prosecutors in New York could be too close to the issue and people involved to impartially evaluate the case.

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that disagreements over whether to bring charges had caused a shake-up among the prosecution team.

If someone wants there to be a trial, a shuffle within the prosecution team indicates that this is more likely, according to Barry Friedman, professor of law at New York University.

However, it’s possible that other factors resulted in an additional review.

“Reasonable minds could easily differ in a case like this because of the nature of the legal standard,” said Daniel Richman, professor of law at Columbia Law School.

The Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the case.

Where Does the Case Stand?

When former Attorney General Eric Holder announced the launch of the civil rights investigation, he said, “We must seek to heal the breakdown in trust that we have seen.”

Last year, Garner’s family settled with New York City for $5.9 million, but so far criminal charges have been stalled.

In 2014, a grand jury on Staten Island decided not indict Pantaleo in connection to the death of Garner. That decision meant that the only potential criminal charges would come from the pending federal investigation.

At that point, FBI agents in New York, NYPD investigators and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office formed a team to begin the civil rights investigation, according to Frankel.

“Two years is long, but not unheard of,” for a case like this, he said.

A review by DOJ could be a way of “dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s,” he added.

How Likely Are Charges?

In order to convict in the federal civil rights case, prosecutors need to show that officers willfully violated Garner’s constitutional rights.

But stepping over the line of appropriate behavior doesn’t necessarily mean a willful violation, according to attorneys familiar with case law.

The video helped the investigation, but it’s not conclusive, according to Frankel. “The problem with video is you never see everything,” he said.

Pantaleo’s attorney, Stuart London, told ABC News that the DOJ should accept the recommendation not to indict Pantaleo “rather than impair the integrity of the investigation by allowing politics to replace the rule of law.”

“This matter has been thoroughly investigated by a state grand jury as well as experienced FBI agents and assistant U.S. attorneys. The recommendation is apparently that there was no civil rights violation. It is unprecedented to continue shopping for new FBI agents who support a predetermined result,” he said in a statement.

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MBTA Train Evacuated in Boston After Motor Overheats

ellisonphoto/iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — The motor of an MBTA train in Boston overheated at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon at Back Bay station, MBTA officials confirmed to ABC News.

Three people were transported to a nearby hospital to be treated for injuries from the incident.

According to the MBTA, service through the station has been suspended.

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‘Build the Wall Higher’ Graffiti Found at California School with ‘Large Latino Population,’ Police Say

ABC News(WINDSOR, Calif.) — A California police department has launched an investigation after “offensive and racist” graffiti images were found spray painted Monday morning at a school with a “large Latino population,” police said.

“TRUMP 2016” and “Build the WALL HIGHER” were among some of the messages found sprawled across the campus of Cali Calmecac Language Academy, according to photographs taken before a janitor covered them up with fresh paint, according to police and the school principal.

The “offensive and disrespectful graffiti” appeared to “have been directed at the large Latino population of that school,” Windsor Police Chief Carlos Basurto said in a statement on Tuesday.

“It is extremely upsetting that the children had to be subjected to such hatred and bigotry,” Basurto said. “Whether this was a prank or not does not diminish its effect on the emotions of the children of that school or the people of this community.”

Basurto said his department “will continue to investigate this crime and attempt to identify those responsible.” He added that the alleged crime was “unjustifiable” and that “this type of behavior and thinking is not indicative” of the town of Windsor.

The school’s principal, Jeanne Acuña, told ABC News that when she first saw the graffiti she “very angry” and “really violated.”

“Our school is a bilingual immersion school with Spanish as the second language,” she said. “We have 1,112 students on campus, 75 percent of which are Latino. It just really felt like we were being targeted.”

Acuña added, “It felt as though someone had just come into our school family’s house and violated the sanctity of the school.”

Though janitors were able to “cover up most of the offensive messages” before the official school day started, a few staff, students and parents who came to the school earlier in the morning did see the graffiti, according to Acuña.

The principal said the messages provoked “a flurry of reactions” from the school community and sparked lot of dialogue about the “inflammatory rhetoric” being used in the presidential campaign this year.

“Even our youngest of children who have no way of knowing all the ramifications of the inflammatory speech being used are feeling the fear,” Acuña said. “I just talked to one of our kindergartners the other day and they told me they’re kind of afraid that their family might be taken away.”

Despite such “heartbreaking” fears, the principal said she has been encouraged by the “surprising and overwhelming outpouring of support and kindness from the community.”

“Just the other day, a woman outside the school community organized people in our community to greet students at the door with signs of love,” she said. “They held signs like ‘Love the Kids at Cali’ and ‘Have a Good Day!’ and they passed out heart stickers. It really meant a lot.”

Acuña added, “In a way, this horrible thing has actually brought our community closer together, and it just proves the positive side always wins.

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Body-Cam Video Shows Moment Police Found New York, New Jersey Bombing Suspect

artolympic/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Police body camera video obtained by ABC News shows the moment officers in Linden, New Jersey, first encountered Ahmad Rahami, the man accused of planting bombs in New Jersey and New York City in September.

Officers were called to the scene in Linden the morning of Sept. 19 — the Monday after the weekend bombings — when the owner of a Linden bar reported that someone was sleeping in a hallway of his establishment.

“You can’t be sleeping on somebody’s door,” an officer is heard saying to Rahami from his patrol car in the video.

The video then shows officers exiting the patrol car and approaching Rahami, who is seen briefly in the vestibule of the bar.

Rahami tells the officers he doesn’t have an ID and says he’s homeless; he tells them he used to live in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, but lost his job and couldn’t pay rent.

The body-cam video obtained by ABC News ends before the shootout between Rahami and police that left the suspected bomber in the hospital. The additional footage is considered evidence and was not released.

Rahami has pleaded not guilty to seven charges in connection to the New Jersey shootout with authorities: two weapons offenses and attempted murder of five officers.

Rahami also faces federal charges of using weapons of mass destruction. He has not yet entered a plea to those charges.

Rahami has been released the hospital and is now being held in state prison in Trenton, New Jersey, while he awaits appearances in federal courts in New York and New Jersey.

His attorneys have asked the courts to change the spelling of his last name to Rahimi.

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2 Suspects Held, 1 at Large After California Ride-Along Shooting

mokee81/iStock/Thinkstock(MADERA, Calif.) — Two suspects are in custody and one more is still at large following a shooting that targeted a police officer and a passenger during a ride-along in Madera, Calif.

During a ride-along, a civilian typically spends a shift in an emergency vehicle, like a police car, in order to observe a day of work, and that’s what Yesica Valencia, 29, was doing on the Sunday evening when the shooting occurred.

Thomas Matthew Garcia, 33, the alleged shooter, and Serena Arroyo, 26, the alleged driver, are expected to be charged with two counts of attempted homicide, according to police.

A third person, James Cruz, was still on the loose, police said.

Footage of the shooting released by police shows the officer tailing a speeding white Mazda. As it turns a sharp corner, nine flashes of gunfire light up the night in the direction of police.

The officer was not injured in the shooting, and Valencia suffered cuts from broken glass, police said on Monday.

Valencia is a member of the Citizens’ Police Academy, a program designed to foster understanding between police and the community, but is not pursuing a career in law enforcement, according to cops.

The officer who was involved in the shooting is expected to return to work Friday.

Police said that Garcia and Cruz are members of Fresno Bulldog gang, a group that grew out of the prison system and were responsible for 70 percent of the city’s shootings in 2006, according to the New York Times.

Police said that Garcia has extensive criminal background that included assault with deadly weapons charges, and that the crime didn’t appear to have a motive, other than the fact that the men didn’t want to be stopped.

Madera Police said that they would revisit ride-along policy as a result of the shooting.

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‘Nothing Short of a Miracle’: 2 Young Boys Survive 100-Foot Fall From Bridge in New Jersey, Police Say

yucelozel/iStock/Thinkstock(WANAQUE, N.J.) — Police believe it is “nothing short of a miracle” that a 3-year-old boy and his 1-year-old baby brother were found alive after falling 100 feet from a bridge in Northern New Jersey.

The two kids were in the arms of their apparently suicidal father when he jumped off a bridge in Wanaque, New Jersey, this past Monday evening, according to Capt. Christopher DePuyt, public information officer for the Pequannock Police Department.

Though their father died from the fall, “these babies were amazingly found alive” shortly after Pequannock Police and other law enforcement agencies arrived on the scene, DePuyt said.

“It was nothing short of a miracle,” he told ABC News. “To be able to survive a fall like that, I just — there’s no words to describe it.”

The young boys were found “conscious and alert” in a forested area with thick brush and foliage, DePuyt said. Responding officers believe the trees and foliage likely cushioned the impact of their fall.

The children’s father was found on the ground a little bit farther away from the forested area, DePuyt said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The young boys were transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson, where they were treated for “serious, but non-life-threatening injuries,” according to a news release from New Jersey State Police.

“Based on the preliminary investigation, detectives have determined that the father intentionally jumped with his two children,” N.J. State Police said. The agency added that an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the father’s “apparent suicide” remains “active and ongoing.”

Meanwhile, DePuyt said the Pequannock Police Department is now “focusing on the surviving family” and “making sure we’re doing everything we can to help the family find healing.”
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Foreign-Born Mothers Raising US Birth Rate, Study Finds

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Foreign-born mothers living in the U.S. are driving long term population growth, according to a new report by Pew.

While overall the number of babies being born in the U.S. increased from 3.74 million to four million, the uptick is largely due to the number coming from foreign-born mothers in the U.S., which grew three-fold. Births from U.S.-born mothers decreased.

Pew found that, as of 2014, “23% of all babies born in the U.S. had immigrant mothers, up from just 7% in 1970.”

In 1970, there were 3.46 million births to U.S. born women and a population of about 203 million, versus 3.1 million in 2014 and a total population of about 323 million.

“Almost one-quarter of births are to women who were not born in this country,” Gretchen Livingston, senior researcher at Pew Research Center and the lead author of the report, told ABC News.

“In the long term, overall births annually in the U.S. would have been on the decline,” she said. “Had there not been immigrant moms coming in, births would have actually dropped.”

The researchers also found that, of the 23 percent of babies born to immigrant mothers, roughly one-third were to undocumented immigrant mothers and the other two-thirds were in the U.S. on legal status. That works out to 7 percent of all U.S. births from undocumented immigrant mothers — down from 2007, when they peaked at 9 percent of all U.S. births that year, or 370,000 babies.

The vast majority of foreign-born new mothers have been in the U.S. long term, more than 11 years, according to the study.

The researchers didn’t break down how long the undocumented immigrant mothers had been living in the U.S., but point to a September report that found the vast majority of the undocumented population have been in the U.S. for more than 10 years.

“We are not seeing evidence of women crossing the border to have babies. This is not who the unauthorized immigrant population is,” Jeffrey S. Passel a senior demographer at Pew Research Center told ABC News. “Its people who have been here a long time.”

The researchers also found that births outside of marriage declined for immigrant mothers — largely due to a change in the origin regions of immigrants in the U.S.

A rising share of foreign-born mothers originated in Asian countries, where births outside of marriage are quite low compared to births from Latin American mothers.

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Allegedly Drunk Pilot Arrested Before Flight in South Dakota

iStock/Thinkstock(RAPID CITY, S.D.) — A SkyWest Airlines pilot was arrested Wednesday morning for operating an aircraft under the influence of alcohol in Rapid City, South Dakota just prior to a flight to Salt Lake City, according to the city’s police department.

“SkyWest holds its employees to the highest standards of professionalism and the safety and security of our customers and people are our top priority. We apologize to our passengers for the delay of SkyWest flight #4574, operating as Delta Connection from Rapid City to Salt Lake City, due to a crewmember issue,” the airline said in a statement.

“The crewmember has been placed on administrative leave and removed from flying duties as we investigate this situation. We are cooperating fully with law enforcement’s investigation into this matter,” it added.

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Florida Animal Trainer Hospitalized After Tiger Attack

Design Pics/Thinkstock(PENSACOLA, Fla.) — An animal trainer in Florida was hospitalized after being scratched and dragged by a tiger while performing for a school field trip at a fair, officials said.

A video of the incident allegedly taken by a student on a field trip to the Pensacola Interstate Fair has surfaced on social media. The dramatic footage shows a female trainer with a tiger in an enclosed area, while children and adults a few feet away watch behind a fence. The tiger appears to scratch the trainer, causing her to fall to the ground. The woman is seen repeatedly hitting the tiger with a rod as the animal grabs her leg and drags her across the ground. A male trainer then enters the cage and hits the tiger with a rod until the animal releases the woman.

“My daughter recorded it on her tablet,” Scott Caputo wrote in a post accompanying the video on Facebook, which has already been shared hundreds of times. “Holly thinks it was no big deal. I thought it was horrifying.”

According to ABC affiliate WEAR-TV, fair officials said the trainer, identified as Vicenta Pages, suffered a 3-inch cut on her knee and a laceration on her ankle from the incident on Tuesday. She was taken to a local hospital where she underwent surgery due to concerns of an infection, WEAR reported.

“We’re dealing with wild animals here and although we take every precaution, accidents like this sometimes happen,” David Donnert, Pages’ fiancé and co-owner of the tiger show, told WEAR. “We know the hazards of our job, but we love these beautiful animals and Vicenta will be back as soon as she’s able.”

Pensacola Interstate Fair officials told ABC News on Wednesday that Pages is now back home with her family and is in good condition.

A spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told ABC News investigators are looking into the incident.

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