Review Category : Top Stories

President Obama ‘Deeply Disturbed’ by Laquan McDonald Video

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama said he was “deeply disturbed” by the video of a Chicago teen being shot by police, he said in a statement Wednesday evening.

“Like many Americans, I was deeply disturbed by the footage of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald,” the president wrote in a Facebook post. “This Thanksgiving, I ask everybody to keep those who’ve suffered tragic loss in our thoughts and prayers, and to be thankful for the overwhelming majority of men and women in uniform who protect our communities with honor. And I’m personally grateful to the people of my hometown for keeping protests peaceful.”

The video shows McDonald, 17, who later died at a hospital, walking near a group of officers responding to a report of someone with a knife on Oct. 20, 2014.

Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with first degree murder, allegedly fired at the teen 16 times, including while he was on the ground.

The video shows puffs of smoke coming from the ground, which were caused by bullets hitting the pavement and kicking up debris, according to court documents.

Releasing the video was controversial and the Chicago Police Department did so under court order a day before the mandated deadline.

Many feared that the release of the footage would spark violence.

Van Dyke’s lawyer, Dan Herbert, said that “It’s certainly everyone’s right to make a judgment about it but I would just state that the judgment made by individuals who have viewed this tape from the comfort of their living room, on their sofa … it’s not the same.”

Obama declined to answer questions about the video earlier in the day.

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Postcard Sparks Investigation of Train Track Murder in Tennessee, Police Say

Gallatin Police Department(NEW YORK) — A Tennessee community college received a postcard in October suggesting a possible murder on nearby railroad tracks, sparking a police investigation in Gallatin, a spokesman for the department told ABC News Wednesday.

The radio station at Volunteer State Community College received an anonymous postcard in the mail on Oct. 8 signed “Green Light Killa” and reported the suspicious note to campus police, who then brought it to the Gallatin Police Department the same day, Gallatin spokesman Bill Storment said.

Police immediately started an investigation and “gathered a large contingent of personnel to go out and search the railroad tracks through Gallatin,” Storment said.

The search included emergency management personnel, command staff, lieutenants, patrol officers, reserve officers and cadaver dogs, Storment said, but after searching “about a couple dozen miles of train tracks,” the team came up with nothing.

The postcard, which was postmarked in Peoria, Illinois reads: “Hello, you know what it’s like to watch a train hit a man you laid on the tracks. Trains make an awful mess of an old drunk. Guess the cops never found his glasses. I found this is the best way to kill a man.”

The note ends with, “Best wishes, the Green Light Killa.”

Police have looked at the area’s two train track fatalities within the last 12 months to see if there could be a possible connection, but train conductors confirmed that these incidents were not related, Storment said.

Although police have contacted local departments for information and put out a national bulletin, they have “gotten no responses back,” Storment said.

Officials at Volunteer State Community College also “have no idea” why it was sent to the radio station, college spokesman Eric Melcher told ABC News Wednesday.

Police have considered the possibility of the postcard being a hoax, but Storment said that only “time may answer that question.”

He added: “A body may turn up a year from now that gets connected to this claim, however we are confident no crime was committed in Gallatin, Tennessee.”

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Some of the Past Complaints Against Chicago Cop Charged in Teen’s Slaying

aijohn784/iStock/ThinkStock(CHICAGO) — The Chicago police officer charged in connection to the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald has a history of civilian complaints of misconduct, according to data provided by the Chicago Police Department to Invisible Institute, a Chicago-based journalistic production company and watchdog group.

The database — which includes police reports from 2002 to 2008, and from 2011 to 2015 — shows the Chicago Police Department received 20 civilian complaints against Officer Jason Van Dyke, 37, who is being held without bail after being charged Tuesday with first-degree murder. He has not yet entered a plea.

The charges from Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez came hours before a graphic dash-cam video, apparently showing the officer firing 16 shots at the teenager in October 2014, was released a day before a court-ordered deadline to release it.

Of the 20 complaints against Van Dyke, 10 are for alleged excessive force, including two involving the use of a firearm, according to the data collected by Invisible Institute, which said the information on its website is in response to litigation and Freedom of Information Act requests.

Another complaint accuses him of using racial slurs.

No disciplinary action was taken as a result on any of the complaints for which there is information available on the findings. Five were deemed unfounded, five not sustained and Van Dyke was exonerated regarding four complaints. The outcome of the others is not provided, which could mean the complaints are pending a review or waiting for the complainant to submit an affidavit, Alison Flowers of Invisible Institute told ABC News.

The Invisible Institute is an independent organization whose collaborators include the University of Chicago Law School’s Mandel Legal Aid Clinic.

Its database does not indicate specific dates for many of the complaints. Invisible Institute notes that the City of Chicago’s release of this data was “accompanied by a disclaimer that not all of the information contained in the City’s database may be completely accurate. No independent verification of the City’s records has taken place and this public database does not purport to be an accurate reflection of either the City’s internal database or of its truthfulness.”

Flowers said the institute has records of all complaints, including civilian, on all Chicago police officers for the past five years, but a court injunction obtained by the local police union prevents the institute from getting records older than that from the City of Chicago. Invisible Institute uses two other sources, containing complaints older than five years for some — not all — city officers, to complement the database, she said.

The Chicago Police Department’s press office confirmed 18 complaints against Van Dyke to ABC News but did not give details on them.

Van Dyke, a police officer for 14 years, was stripped of his police powers after an eight-day conduct review immediately after the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting of McDonald, according to police.

He had been on paid administrative leave since the shooting, police said.

Van Dyke’s attorney Dan Herbert gave a statement after the bond hearing, saying that he anticipates that people will form opinions “about the split-second actions of my client.”

“It’s certainly everyone’s right to make a judgment about it but I would just state that the judgment made by individuals who have viewed this tape from the comfort of their living room, on their sofa … it’s not the same,” Herbert said.

Herbert also said politicians judging his client were “irresponsible” and that his client “should be afforded the same presumption of innocence that every American charged with a crime is afforded.”

“This is not a murder case,” he said. “Despite what you heard in the courtroom, it’s truly not a murder case and we feel we will be very successful in defending this case.”

Van Dyke was suspended without pay Tuesday after being charged with murder, according to a statement from the department.

A group of investigators — including the Independent Police Review Authority in Chicago, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney — reviewed the evidence collected from the scene.

Van Dyke is the first Chicago police officer in decades to be charged with murder in an on-duty shooting.

The Invisible Institute database shows that of the 28,567 misconduct complaints filed against police from 2011 through September 2015, less than 2 percent resulted in disciplinary actions. Only 33 officers have been terminated in that time, according to the database.

His next court appearance is set for Monday, when the prosecutor is expected to show the dash-cam video. The video appears to show Van Dyke started shooting a few seconds after getting out of his squad car Oct. 20, 2014. He apparently fired 16 shots in the span of 14 to 15 seconds.

The video apparently shows that McDonald never made a move toward Van Dyke, but the officer did appear to take at least one step toward McDonald, who was allegedly armed with a knife with a 3-inch blade. The teenager died later at a hospital.

The city previously fought to keep the video private, citing a continuing investigation into the shooting, but a court ordered it released by Wednesday. The McDonald family had also asked for the video to be kept private, according to a statement from their lawyer.

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Group of Good Samaritans Chase Alleged Thief in Walmart Parking Lot

Bellmead Police Department(NEW YORK) — Crimes against the elderly are heinous enough to incite the highest caliber of anger, but police say one group of Good Samaritans decided to act on their own when they witnessed a suspect steal a purse from an 84-year-old woman at a Walmart in Bellmead, Tex.

The victim was loading groceries into her car Monday when the suspect, 27-year-old Andre Dawson, snatched her purse, which was sitting in the grocery cart, according to Detective Kory Martin of the Bellmead Police Department.

Cellphone video shows a group of men chasing Dawson and holding him down, while a woman approached the scene with a gun drawn, pointing it toward him, ABC News station KXXV-TV reported.

When Dawson broke free, the woman pointing the gun fired one round over his head, Martin said. He then stumbled to the ground before trying to flee again.

The men detained him until police arrived and the victim’s purse was recovered, Martin said.

The 28-year-old woman who fired the gun left the scene, but she voluntarily went to the Bellmead police station to aid in the investigation and was later released, Martin said. A grand jury will decide if she committed a criminal offense in firing the gun, but no charges have been filed.

While Martin commends the actions of the Good Samaritans, he advises individuals to thoroughly evaluate a situation before deciding to step in and help.

“We won’t ever recommend for people to intervene directly,” he told ABC News. “We want you to help without causing a danger to anyone else and yourself.”

Martin says the best way to help is to provide as many details as possible in a 911 call so officers can arrive to the scene as fast as they can.

Dawson was originally charged with theft under $100, but the charge was upgraded to a Class B misdemeanor due to a previous theft conviction, Martin said. He is also being charged with credit card abuse. Dawson has not yet entered a plea.

No one was injured in the incident, Martin said.

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Thanksgiving by the Numbers: A Look at the Stats Behind America’s Favorite Fall Holiday

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — As Thanksgiving draws near, millions of Americans will sit down with families and friends across the country to give thanks and enjoy a well cooked meal.

But America’s favorite fall holiday isn’t just about comfort and relaxation, it’s also about big business. Travel services, football leagues, massive parades and, of course, the turkey industry will all thrive this Thursday.

So to get a clearer look at the statistics behind this time honored tradition, ABC News presents Thanksgiving by the Numbers:

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Caught on Camera: Excavator Driver Survives 158 Foot Smokestack Collapse

iStock/Thinkstock(PELL CITY, Ala.) — The family of a Pell City, Ala., demolition worker is breathing easier after the demolition of a local landmark, the historic Avondale Mills, nearly turned deadly on Nov. 24.

After detonating explosives failed to bring down a 158-foot-tall smokestack, Tim Phifer, a driver of an excavator, moved closer to the smokestack in hopes of knocking it down with his excavator.

The 2.6 million-pound smokestack came crashing down on top of him, trapping Phifer inside the machine.

A drone flying above captured video of those harrowing moments.

Members of his team instantly rushed in to help, including Phifer’s daughter, Allie Phifer, who was desperately trying to reach him.

“I remember being halfway across the field just looking at him,” his daughter recalled. “I had to stop and I was like, ‘I don’t know if he made it and I can’t make it that much closer.'”

But moments later, one of his team members threw his arm victoriously into the air, giving everyone a thumbs up as Phifer emerged from the rubble.

“I’ve had some stuff go wrong but not like this,” Phifer said.

Despite a couple of scratches and a coating of soot, Phifer is alive and well, thanks to his own quick thinking.

“Stay in the hoe, the cab is made for that thing to turn over on top of it,” he explained. “It was safer inside the cab than coming out of it.”

“God blesses me,” Phifer added.

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Obama Shares Homeland Security Status as Holidays Approach

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama said Americans should not be concerned that a similar attack to the one in Paris would happen on U.S. soil.

“As we go into Thanksgiving weekend, I want the American people to know is that we are taking every possible step to keep our homeland safe,” he said.

The president made those remarks after getting an update from his national security team on the homeland security posture in the wake of the Paris attacks and as the nation enters the holiday season.

“Today’s meeting will provide an opportunity for members of the president’s national security team to review efforts to monitor threats, continually evaluate our security posture, and protect the American people. Per his instructions, the president will continue to be regularly apprised of these efforts,” a White House official said before the meeting.

The official also noted that the administration is not aware of any credible, specific intelligence that indicates a Paris-like plot on the U.S. homeland.

The president spoke from the Roosevelt Room in the White House, after the approximately hour-long national security meeting in the Situation Room, which included updates from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

The security update came just a day after Obama met with French President Francois Hollande, during which the two called for all western nations to step up their commitments in the fight against ISIS.

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Newborn Left in Nativity Scene at New York Church

Courtesy Fr. Christopher Heanue(RICHMOND HILL, N.Y.) — A newborn was left in a nativity scene at a Queens, New York church on Monday afternoon.

According to ABC affiliate WABC-TV in New York, a baby wrapped in cloths was left in a manger at the Holy Child Jesus Church in Richmond Hill. A custodian at the church reportedly heard a baby crying in the distance, eventually finding the child with its umbilical cord still connected.

Father Christopher Heanue told WABC-TV that the manger wasn’t supposed to be set up for another few weeks. “I believe when this woman who came in with this child, saw this…empty home, this home in which we’ll welcome Jesus in just a few short weeks, I believe she found in it a home for her child,” he said.

The baby was taken to Jamaica Hospital in Queens, where he weighed in at about five pounds and was measured at 17 inches long. The boy is said to be doing well.

The woman was reportedly caught on church surveillance cameras. Authorities say they are concerned for her wellbeing.

By law, a church is considered a safe haven for drop-offs, but parents are supposed to hand the baby to a responsible individual, and not leave the child unattended.

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BCI Shooting Report Says Gun In Car Belonged To Jeremy Linhart

11/25/2015 – 5:17 am

The gun found in the car occupied by Jeremy Linhart when he was shot and killed by Findlay police belonged to him. The Courier reports today that Jeremy Linhart’s girlfriend, 25-year-old Katrina Taylor told state investigators that the was Linhart’s, even though he was legally barred from having a firearm. After the shooting on June 9th, a friend of Linhart’s, Vincent Fedele told the Courier that Linhart began carrying the gun after a car accident left him with a broken ankle and cast. Fedele said that Linhart was a drug dealer and used the gun for protection from others who might be using drugs.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation conducted an independent investigation of the shooting and found that Linhart was in possession of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine when he was shot and killed by Findlay Police Officer Aaron Fletchner. The Hancock County Grand Jury did not charge Officer Fletchner after reviewing the investigation report. A complete account of the incident can be found in today’s Courier.

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Fostoria Police Continue Search For Robbery Suspect

11/25/2015 – 5:15 am

Fostoria police are saturating the city in an effort to apprehend the criminal responsible for five robberies in the past five weeks. The Review-Times reports that police believe the same criminal is believed to have committed all five robberies. After several incidents, the masked perpetrator has been described as a white or light-skinned male, around 180 pounds and around five foot ten. He was dressed in dark clothing for all incidents. Fostoria police encourage businesses to review their security policies and ensure their security equipment is 100 percent functional as well as to report any suspicious activity in the area of the business.

Police consider the criminal to be extremely dangerous as he has injured employees at several of the robberies. If anyone has any information, they are asked to contact Fostoria police at 419-435-8573.

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