Review Category : Top Stories

VA Releases Results of Largest Analysis of Veteran Suicide Rates

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released sobering new statistics Thursday about veteran suicide rates in the United States.

According to the VA, an average of 20 veterans died from suicide every day in 2014.

The VA examined over 55 million veteran records from 1979 to 2014 from every state in the nation. The last time the VA conducted a study like this was in 2010, but that report only included data from 20 states.

Veterans accounted for 18 percent of all suicides among U.S. adults in 2014, down from 22 percent in 2010. That means of the 41,425 suicides among U.S. adults in 2014, 7,403 of those were veterans.

Thursday’s results also included comparisons between civilians and veterans. Since 2001, the VA found that suicides among U.S. adult civilians increased 23 percent, while veteran suicides increased 32 percent in the same time period — making the risk of suicide 21 percent greater for veterans than civilians.

Older veterans face a higher risk of suicide, the data showed. In 2014, about 65 percent of veterans who died from suicide were 50 years or older.

The VA said it was “aggressively” undertaking new measures to combat suicide, including same-day access for veterans with urgent mental health needs. According to the VA, techniques like “predictive modeling” can help determine which veterans may be at the highest risk of suicide so that health care providers can get involved earlier.

“Veterans in the top 0.1 percent of risk, who have a 43-fold increased risk of death from suicide within a month, can be identified before clinical signs of suicide are evident in order to save lives before a crisis occurs,” the VA said in a statement.

Data in this analysis supports that those veterans who seeks VA services may be able to decrease their risk of suicide. The report said that since 2001, the rate of suicide among veterans who use VA services increased by 8.8 percent, while the rate of suicide among veterans who did not use VA services increased by 38.6 percent.

The VA treated more than 1.6 million veterans for mental health in 2015.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Two Pilots Dead After Chopper Crashes During Test Flight Near Dallas

iStock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) — Two pilots are dead after an experimental helicopter crashed during a test flight near Dallas on Wednesday, the maker of the chopper confirms.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the twin-engine Bell Helicopter B525 crashed just before noon.

“It’s with incredible sadness for us to confirm the tragic loss of two pilots during a flight test today in the Bell 525,” Bell tweeted. “Our deepest sympathies are with their family and friends and we ask that you join us in sending thoughts and prayers. We’re working with relevant authorities to determine the cause of the accident and will provide further details as they come available.”

The FAA said the aircraft was “destroyed” during what Bell called “developmental flight test operations.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Video Footage Shows Man Being Shot by Police at California Gas Station

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(FRESNO, Calif.) — Video footage of a 19-year old man killed Saturday night during a confrontation with a Fresno, California, police officer June 25, has surfaced.

The video, obtained by Fresno ABC affiliate KFSN shows the fatal encounter between Dylan Noble and police at a Chevron gas station.

According to KFSN, Noble was killed after police tried to pull him over for driving erratically. When Noble stopped, police say he refused to show his hands and stepped out of the car running towards them.

The Fresno Police Department said in a statement that its officers were sent “to investigate a report of a man walking in the area with a rifle. While searching the area for the armed subject, officers observed a black pickup truck traveling…at a high rate of speed. Officers caught up with the vehicle…and turned on their emergency equipment to conduct a traffic stop. The black pickup truck continued…refusing to pull over for one-half mile. The truck finally pulled into the parking lot of a gas station on the southwest corner of Shields Avenue and Armstrong Avenue.”

The statement continues, “During the traffic stop, the driver refused to show his hands to the officers, making a conscious effort to conceal one hand behind his back, then in his waistband, as he exited the truck, and walked away from officers. The officers, believing the driver was armed, repeatedly asked him to show his hands and get on the ground. The driver then turned towards officers with one hand concealed behind his back, and told officers he hated his life.”

This is when the altercation became tense. “As he continued to advance towards officers, an officer-involved shooting occurred,” reads the statement. “A total of four shots were fired during the incident.”

Police said officers called for an ambulance, and began first aid. Paramedics arrived and transported the suspect to a hospital, where he later died during surgery.

The officer involved in the shooting is currently under investigation.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Woman Live-Streams After Police Fatally Shoot Boyfriend in Minnesota

Lavish Reynolds/Facebook(ST. PAUL, Minn.) — Police in Minnesota have confirmed that a man has died after being shot by an officer Wednesday night while inside a car with a woman and child.

It was apparently documented in a Facebook Live recording posted by a woman in the car, who identified herself as the man’s girlfriend. The video, which had been posted for just a couple of hours, had more than one million views before it was taken down.

The incident occurred in the city of Falcon Heights, a suburb of Saint Paul.

The person who was shot has been identified by family as Philando Castile and police have identified the woman filming the altercation as Diamond Reynolds.

The president of the NAACP Minneapolis chapter also confirmed the man’s identity in a tweet early Thursday.

UPDATE: #PhilandoCastile was killed by St. Anthony Police Dept. earlier tonight. He was a kitchen worker at JJ Hill at St. Paul Schools.

— Nekima Levy-Pounds (@nvlevy) July 7, 2016

The video, posted Wednesday night on Facebook Live, appeared to show an incident like the one police described. The video showed Reynolds sitting in a car with Castile, whose shirt appeared to be soaked in blood, saying an officer shot her boyfriend.

The St. Anthony Police Department said in a statement early Thursday that at 9 p.m. “a St. Anthony Police Officer effected a traffic stop on Larpenteur and Fry in the City of Falcon Heights, Minnesota. During the stop, shots were fired. One adult male was taken to the hospital. We have been informed that this individual is deceased.”

The police department acknowledged there may be video of the incident on social media, and added that no one else was injured and a handgun was recovered from the scene.

Prior to the statement announcing the man’s death, interim St. Anthony Police Chief Jon Mangseth told ABC Minnesota affiliate KSTP, “I don’t know the reason for the traffic stop or what the circumstances were.”

The officer involved has been placed on standard paid administrative leave.

Around 200 people had gathered at the scene of the shooting overnight while dozens more began holding demonstrations outside the Governor’s mansion.

Guessing there are 200+ people gathered now. #FalconHeightsShooting pic.twitter.com/CbLr4Lwzli

— Josh Rosenthal (@JRosenthalKSTP) July 7, 2016

Protesters held signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Police Brutality,” reports KSTP.

This is a breaking news story, check back for updates.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

New Video Emerges of Deadly Baton Rouge Police Shooting

ABC News(BATON ROUGE, La.) — Graphic video provided by a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, convenience store owner shows the fatal shooting of a black man during a confrontation with two white police officers.

Baton Rouge police said the early Tuesday morning incident began when uniformed officers responded to a disturbance call from someone who said a black man who was selling CDs threatened him with a gun.

Officers approached Alton Sterling, 37, in the parking lot of the store, and “an altercation between Sterling and the officers ensued,” police said. Sterling was shot during the altercation and died at the scene, according to police.

In the video from the store owner, someone says, “Gun,” while one officer is on top of Sterling and one is next to him. Multiple shots are fired.

The camera then pans away. Someone says, “Get on the ground,” and three more shots are heard.

The camera pans back to Sterling, showing him lying on his back with a gunshot wound to his chest and an officer by Sterling’s head, pointing a gun at him.

Sterling’s body after the shooting has been obscured in the video, which was edited by ABC News.

In the video someone says, “Shots fired,” and an officer then takes an object out of Sterling’s front pants pocket.

The store owner, Abdullah Muflahi, who recorded the video on his cellphone, told ABC News he was standing a few feet from the altercation when Sterling was shot.

When Muflahi got outside, the officers were already slamming Sterling onto a parked car, he said. Then, the officers “backed off” before one officer tasered him and the other tackled him, Muflahi said.

“I thought I was just going to wake up from a nightmare,” Muflahi said of the ordeal. “It was horrible.”

Muflahi said he knew Sterling for about six years and that Sterling had been selling CDs outside his store for the past two years or so. Muflahi described Sterling as a friend who would sometimes watch his store when he had to step out.

“A lot of people loved and respected him,” Muflahi said, describing Sterling as a “very nice,” “always happy” and “loving guy” who would always buy snacks for kids in the neighborhood.

Another video obtained by ABC News shows the two officers appear to struggle with Sterling and slam him to the ground. One man yells, “Gun.” Then at least two shots are fired while the officers are close to Sterling.

As video of the shooting circulated online, public outrage exploded. Crowds gathered in Baton Rouge to protest, and #AltonSterling was the No. 1 hashtag in the United States on Twitter.

The two officers involved were placed on leave, police said.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said that when the two officers were interviewed by case detectives, the officers “indicated that they feared for their life and that deadly force was necessary and justified.”

An investigation of the shooting will be led by the Department of Justice’s civil rights division.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Two Pilots Dead After Chopper Crashes During Test Flight Near Dallas

iStock/Thinkstock(DALLAS) — Two pilots are dead after an experimental helicopter crashed during a test flight near Dallas on Wednesday, the maker of the chopper confirms.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the twin-engine Bell Helicopter B525 crashed just before noon.

“It’s with incredible sadness for us to confirm the tragic loss of two pilots during a flight test today in the Bell 525,” Bell tweeted. “Our deepest sympathies are with their family and friends and we ask that you join us in sending thoughts and prayers. We’re working with relevant authorities to determine the cause of the accident and will provide further details as they come available.”

The FAA said the aircraft was “destroyed” during what Bell called “developmental flight test operations.”

According to Bell, company representatives are headed to the site to assist authorities there. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are also sending investigators.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Tension Between Baton Rouge Residents and Police Predates Alton Sterling’s Death

iStock/Thinkstock(BATON ROUGE, La.) — The relationship between the Baton Rouge community and the city’s police force was tense long before the killing of Alton Sterling, according to individuals who spoke with ABC News.

Sterling, 37, was killed early Tuesday in a shooting that was captured on cellphone video. In the video, two officers appear to struggle with Sterling and slam him to the ground. One man seems to yell “gun.” Then at least two shots are fired while the officers are close to Sterling.

The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Alton’s death, but Kearney Loughlin, a New Orleans-based attorney who handles civil litigation cases in Baton Rouge, told ABC News by phone that the city has a history of tension between residents and police that he said predates Sterling’s death.

“There are two classes in Baton Rouge,” Loughlin said. “The police and everyone else.”

Loughlin recently represented Brett Percle, a 24-year-old man, who, in 2013, was allegedly abused by police during a drug raid that never resulted in charges against him. Percle, according to Loughlin, was lying face down on the ground when Officer Robert Moruzzi allegedly “stomped on the back of his head,” knocking out his teeth. Loughlin said that Percle was with his friends at the time of the raid and that they served as witnesses in the civil litigation trial against the City of Baton Rouge, Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr., Officer Jason Acree and Moruzzi, in which Percle was awarded $25,000 dollars to cover medical, dental and mental health expenses for treatment following the alleged beating.

Loughlin said that his client tried to lodge a complaint with the Baton Rouge Police Department against the officers who conducted the raid, but that his attempts “went nowhere,” which forced him to take his case to trial. The case was not appealed and the defendants do not plan to, according to Loughlin.

The Advocate, a Louisiana newspaper, reported that at the time of the verdict that police spokesperson Lt. Jonathan Dunnam said, “We feel that our officers acted within the bounds of the law.”

“The Baton Rouge Police have a reputation of being dismissive of the public,” Loughlin said. “And that causes mistrust.”

“The black population has it even worse,” he added. Percle, he said, was white.

In April, a Baton Rouge sergeant was placed on leave after a video appeared online that allegedly showed him beating a black 16-year-old boy during an Earth Day gathering in the city, according to The Advocate.

The sergeant was still on leave as of May, according to The Advocate. The current status of the internal investigation is not known.

A request for comment from ABC News to the Baton Rouge Police Department on the Percle case and the allegations of longstanding tension between the community and the city’s police force was not immediately returned.

Pastor Raymond Jetson, of the Star Hill Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, which he said has a majority black congregation, told ABC News that the Earth Day incident left a furor in the community that is “still lingering.”

He said that what is happening in Baton Rouge between residents and police is reflective of a myriad of different issues that are being seen “across the country” between police and the men and women they serve. He said that “African Americans, most notably African-American males” are at the center of these conflicts.

“It doesn’t mean that every police officer is horrific,” he said. “But there have been negative encounters.”

Sharon Weston Broome, a Democratic former member of the Louisiana State Senate for District 15 and the first black woman to hold that position, is currently running for mayor of Baton Rouge. A resident of the city for “nearly 40 years,” she has been a long-time advocate for body cameras as a way of building greater trust between Baton Rouge residents and police.

After the video of the Earth Day incident surfaced online, she wrote an open letter supporting the use of body cameras in response to the incident.

“What has happened has impacted our entire community,” Broome told ABC News today, calling Sterling’s death a “tragedy.” “I hope that this will serve as a catalyst to build better greater trust between residents and the police.”

She called Baton Rouge a “generous city” and said that her support of body cameras was an effort to get out in front of what has become a “nationwide issue.”

“We all look at the news, we see what is happening,” she said.

There is video of the Sterling encounter from police body cameras, which became dislodged during the incident but continued recording, as well as video from the patrol car camera and the store, officials said today.

Broome maintains that body cameras are an effective tool in building trust with law enforcement “if they are operative,” she said, referencing the devices becoming dislodged.

She acknowledged the ongoing protests against police violence in her city and said that she hoped that they would be “peaceful and productive.”

“We need changes,” she said. “We don’t need violence.”

“This incident is only one incident in many,” NAACP chapter president Michael McClanahan told reporters earlier today of Sterling’s death. “What we’re going to do is root out the 1 percent of bad police officers that go around being the judge, the jury and execution of innocent people, period — but more specifically, innocent black lives.”

McClanahan asked for the chief of police to resign in the wake of the killing.

But Baton Rouge Police Chief Dabadie said he is not resigning. He called Sterling’s death a “horrible tragedy” and described the incident as an “altercation” that “resulted in the loss of his life.”

He also told reporters that there would be a “thorough, just, transparent and independent investigation” of the incident, adding that those calling for his resignation are “acting off of emotion.”

Dabadie urged protesters to remain peaceful. “We ask for your voluntary compliance to our laws and peaceful assembly with any gatherings that may be planned. We encourage you to plan and protest…. We don’t have issues with that,” he said.

He continued: “We just ask that you do it peacefully and that no one gets hurt or injured. Despite the events that we are here for this morning, I want to remind everyone that we have hundreds of officers that risk their lives every single day and have a very difficult job and we will continue to work in this community and for this community throughout this event.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Georgia Supreme Court Rules in Favor of KKK in ‘Adopt-A-Highway’ Lawsuit

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The Georgia Supreme Court rejected a state appeal of a lower court decision Tuesday, ruling in favor of the Ku Klux Klan and its right to free speech — and to pick up litter on the side of a highway through a government program.

The opinion, written by Justice Keith R. Blackwell, stated, however, that the appeal was dismissed because it was filed incorrectly, leaving Georgia’s highest court without jurisdiction.

The ACLU Foundation of Georgia filed a lawsuit in 2012 on behalf International Keystone Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (IKKK) against the State of Georgia after the IKKK’s application was rejected by the state’s Adopt-A-Highway program.

Georgia’s Adopt-A-Highway website states that it “provides recognition for participating companies and organizations” in return for removing litter from state roadsides.

When the IKKK applied to clean up a stretch of State Route 515, the Department of Transportation rejected its application partially because, “The impact of erecting a sign naming an organization which has a long-rooted history of civil disturbance would cause a significant public concern,” according to the Georgia Supreme Court’s opinion.

But the decision to reject the application violated free speech and due process guaranteed by the Georgia Constitution, according to the ACLU Foundation of Georgia.

“The fundamental right to free speech is not limited to only those we agree with or groups that are inoffensive. The government cannot pick or choose who is protected by the Constitution,” Debbie Seagraves, the former Executive Director of the ACLU Foundation of Georgia, said in a statement at the time the lawsuit was filed. “There will always be speech and groups conveying hateful messages that are distasteful to some. That is why the First Amendment protects free speech for all.”

Years of litigation followed as the Georgia Department of Transportation attempted to get the lawsuit dismissed, in part citing “sovereign immunity,” because it is a state agency, according to the opinion published yesterday. The case eventually made its way to the Georgia Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the IKKK on the technicality.

“The ACLU and my law firm did this to protect the freedom of speech, so it’s a big victory,” Alan Begner, an attorney for the KKK group, told ABC News today. “The next step is to go to work picking up litter.”

Begner added that he wished the Georgia Supreme Court would have discussed the issue of sovereign immunity in more depth.

The Georgia Department of Transportation and the state attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Black Lives Matter Holds Vigil for Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge

iStock/Thinkstock(BATON ROUGE, La.) — Black Lives Matter hosted a candlelight vigil for Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge Wednesday night, one day after the 37-year-old was shot and killed by two police officers.

A crowd of mourners chanted “We love Baton Rouge” outside the convenience store where Sterling was killed, with people holding up balloons and signs pleading for justice.

The hashtag #AltonSterling was trending on Twitter as the vigil was held, with nearly 69,000 people tweeting about his death. One mourner free-style rapped about keeping the peace in wake of injustice in front of the hundreds who gathered from all over the state of Louisiana.

A moderator mentioned Sterling’s son before leading the crowd in a prayer. The crowd then passed lit candles around to hold up in a moment of silence for Sterling. Mourners were asked to recall their last memory of Sterling.

After a count of three, the crowd released balloons and said in unison, “Alton Sterling’s life mattered.” Following an eruption of cheers, people sang along and swayed to gospel music playing in the background.

Sterling was killed early Tuesday after an altercation with police in the parking lot of a convenience store. The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice is leading an investigation into Sterling’s death, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Wednesday.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Baton Rouge Cops in Alton Sterling Killing Named

iStock/Thinkstock(BATON ROUGE, La.) — Officials on Wednesday released the names of the two police officers who were placed on paid administrative leave after an officer-involved shooting that left a black man dead outside a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, convenience store.

Blane Salamoni, a four-year veteran, and Howie Lake II, a three-year veteran, were placed on leave in connection with the death of Alton Sterling, according to a Baton Rouge police news release.

Both officers work in the Uniform Patrol Division.

Sterling, 37, was killed early Tuesday in a shooting that was captured on cellphone video. The video, which authorities have not yet confirmed, shows the incident in which two officers appear to struggle with Sterling and slam him to the ground. One man seems to yell “gun.” Then at least two shots are fired while the officers are close to Sterling.

Baton Rouge police said the incident began when uniformed officers responded to a disturbance call from someone who said a black man who was selling CDs threatened him with a gun.

Officers approached Sterling in the parking lot of the convenience store, and “an altercation between Sterling and the officers ensued,” police said. He was shot during the altercation and died at the scene, police said.

The coroner for East Baton Rouge Parish said Sterling died from multiple gunshot wounds to his chest and back.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Wednesday that the investigation into the shooting will be led by the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →