Review Category : Top Stories

Hostage Situation Reportedly Underway at Alabama Credit Union

iStock/Thinkstock(TUSCALOOSA, Ala.) — A hostage situation is reportedly underway at a credit union in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, officials told local media.

A suspect and hostages are inside the One Credit Union, Tuscaloosa police told ABC affiliate WBMA-TV, although it’s not immediately clear how many hostages are there.

The situation does not appear to be a robbery, the police said, adding that the initial call came in as a “gun call.” Police said the credit union did not appear to be open.

The credit union is located across the street from the University of Alabama’s law school. The University of Alabama issued a campus alert, saying police are responding to an active hostage situation and people should avoid the area.

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Winter Storms That Battered Parts of the West Are Moving Eastward

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — At least a dozen states from California to Minnesota are under some sort of winter weather alert or flood alert as storms that have battered the western part of the country with rain or snow are expected to travel east Tuesday, rolling into the Midwest.

Since Friday afternoon, up to 11.84 inches of rain fell north of San Francisco. Meanwhile, Reno, Nevada, had 2.87 inches of rain so far this month, making it the city’s wettest month in nine years.

Here’s the current view of Wingfield Park. Please stay away from the water. #NVFlood17 pic.twitter.com/kDegGDUlYB

— City of Reno (@CityofReno) January 8, 2017

NDOT #NVFlood17 related Road Closures Update go to https://t.co/GwEQ3kmZvf
Pyramid Lake Area photo attached pic.twitter.com/LIdAvz5l4N

— NV Emergency Mgmt (@NVEmergencyMgmt) January 9, 2017

Sacramento set a record for daily rainfall on Monday with 1.95 inches, and it isn’t likely to let up any time soon. More rain is expected in central California Tuesday, as a brand new storm is about to pass through.

The Napa, Russian and Navarro Rivers, located in northern California, are all expected to rise as a result of the storms.

Avalanche blocking both west and east I-70 Vail pass. Road closures at Vail and Copper Mtn. pic.twitter.com/WjrqDaXnh1

— CSP Eagle (@CSP_Eagle) January 10, 2017

Meanwhile, an avalanche on Interstate-70 early Tuesday morning hit a semi truck and closed Vail Pass in Colorado, forcing the Colorado Department of Transportation to close parts of the highway.

Trucks are taking a beating in Colorado in general. Winds were so powerful on Monday that it apparently flipped a semi onto its side.

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Jurors Hear Closing Arguments in Dylann Roof Trial

Charleston County Sheriff(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof will have one last opportunity Tuesday to plead his case in front of a jury.

Roof, already convicted of opening fire and killing nine churchgoers during a bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015, will be sentenced to death or life in prison at the conclusion of this federal trial. The jury will begin deliberations after Tuesday’s closing arguments.

The government is asking the jury to sentence Roof to death. In the sentencing phase of the federal trial, the government laid out its case over four days, with testimony from the loved ones of victims. The family members and friends shared personal stories about the victims and described what life has been like since the shooting. Jurors cried in court during some of the emotional testimony.

Roof, 22, who is representing himself, refused to testify and did not call any witnesses to the stand. Last week, Roof spoke for less than five minutes in his opening statement, telling the jury there is nothing wrong with him psychologically. He did not apologize for his actions.

Among those who testified for the government during the sentencing phase was Jennifer Pinckney, wife of slain pastor and South Carolina State Sen. Clementa Pinckney. Pinckney told the jury her husband was a loving and devoted father to their two young daughters, then 6 and 12.

She and her youngest daughter were in an office at the church on the night of the shooting. She recounted to the jury how she and her young daughter hid under a desk as gunshots rang out. She said they put their hands over each other’s mouth. She said Roof tried to open the door to where she was, but it was locked.

She testified that the hardest thing she ever had to do was tell her children that their father had been killed.

On June 17, 2015, Roof entered the predominantly black Emanuel AME Church with the “intent of killing African-Americans engaged in the exercise of their religious beliefs,” according to the federal indictment against him. The parishioners welcomed Roof into their Bible study group, according to the indictment, after which Roof drew his pistol and opened fire.

The 33 federal counts against Roof included hate crimes resulting in death and obstruction of exercise of religion resulting in death.

Roof’s defense attorney David Bruck told the court last month that Roof “did it,” but added, “Our society does not order the death penalty if there are reasons to choose life.”

Roof also faces a state trial in which he may again face the death penalty. The state trial, which was scheduled to begin this month, has been delayed indefinitely.

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Ski Resort Closes Due to Snow

iStock/Thinkstock(CRESTED BUTTE, Colo.) — A Colorado ski resort closed Monday because it got too much snow.

Monday afternoon, Crested Butte Mountain Resort posted on Facebook that they were closing the chair lifts for safety reasons.

“Well folks, we officially #buriedthebutte. Due to the safety concern for our guests and employees, we are closing all lift operations for the day. We apologize for any inconveniences and Patrol and Mountain Ops are working as hard as they can to get up and running tomorrow.”

The Crested Butte website originally posted an encouraging message for skiiers, stating, “Do you have a case of the Mondays? Well, those are sure to go away when you make your way to Crested Butte Mountain Resort this Monday, the 9th day of January in 2017, where 23 inches of snow have fallen in the last 24 hours and there are no signs for stopping, as over 3 FEET of snow are predicted to fall by the end of this storm.”

An update at 1pm the site stated “1 FOOT of new snow has fallen since 5 am this morning!”

About half an hour later, they posted the closure notice on Facebook. They hope to be running again normally by Thursday.

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Two Detained in Bizarre Alleged Bank Robbery Streamed on Facebook Live

iStock/Thinkstock(MIAMI) — Police are investigating a bizarre incident where a man claims to have filmed a bank robbery on Facebook Live before making a bomb threat and allegedly handing out the cash to strangers on Miami Beach’s Shore Drive.

At about 5 p.m. a user posted a series of three videos to Facebook, the first of which appears to show a man in a suit inside a bank, according to ABC affiliate WPLG.

The first video shows the man in the suit receiving what appears to be a pink envelope from a bank teller.

The next two videos show two men inside a car, with one of them claiming the other has a bomb.

Witnesses on Shore Drive told WPLG the man in the suit got on top of the car and started handing out the money to strangers.

“We saw a guy standing on a car throwing money out to people,” one witness said. “He handed out all the money, threw the bag down and said ‘By the way I just robbed a bank.'”

The man then tried to call law enforcement on himself, according to witnesses.

The two men were detained by officials while crews cleared the area to investigate the car, WPLG reported.

Family and friends of one of the men told WPLG he is a driver for a ride share service and was forced by the other man to go along.

Parts of Shore Drive were shut down while a bomb squad searched the car and secured the area.

Update: @MiamiPD Bomb Squad has rendered the vehicle involved safe. Streets will be reopened shortly. Two subjects in custody by @FBIMiamiFL pic.twitter.com/LUaNFtTWam

— Miami Beach Police (@MiamiBeachPD) January 10, 2017

The FBI, U.S. Homeland Security and Miami Beach police are investigating the case.

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Argument over Grilled Cheese Sandwich Leads to Armed Standoff with Police

iStock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) — Police in Maryland arrested a man Sunday night after an argument over a grilled cheese sandwich led to an hours-long armed standoff with officers.

The incident in the Baltimore suburb of Dundalk began Sunday afternoon when Daniel Brian Blackwell, 55, grew irritated with his wife after she took a bite of his grilled cheese sandwich, police said.

As a result of his irritation, Blackwell’s wife told police, her husband fired a shot from the basement up through the kitchen floor, narrowly missing her and three teenagers. Blackwell told his wife the sound had been a firecracker, according to ABC affiliate WMAR-TV.

After the initial shot, Blackwell’s wife went down into the basement to confront him, she told police. She found Blackwell “surrounded by guns and ammunition,” according to police, and returned to the kitchen.

Shortly thereafter, according to a police statement, Blackwell allegedly fired three more shots into the kitchen from the basement, at which point his wife and the teenagers fled the house and contacted police.

When police arrived, Blackwell engaged tactical units and hostage negotiators for over three hours.

A neighbor told WMAR-TV that Blackwell encouraged police to shoot him. Authorities finally managed to subdue Blackwell with pepper balls — a non-lethal means — when he walked onto the porch with ammunition strapped to his waist. He was not armed at the time of his arrest.

Police seized 15 weapons from the home, including a .44 Magnum rifle, a .357 Magnum revolver, as well as several other rifles and at least four shotguns.

Blackwell — who remained hospitalized Monday with non-life threatening injuries — is charged with attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment and various firearms violations.

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Utah Dad Creates 300-Foot Luge Run in His Backyard

PHOTOS.com/Thinkstock(SOUTH JORDAN, Utah) — One Utah dad is the talk of his neighborhood this winter, thanks to a giant luge run built in his backyard.

Thomas Williams said with the help of his children, he constructed a 300-foot luge run, where kids can slide to their hearts’ content.

“I’ve got 15 kids, and they all shovel lots and lots of snow,” Williams told local ABC affiliate KTVX-TV.

The luge, built in Williams’ backyard in South Jordan, Utah, allows kids to sled down the white stuff for approximately 23 seconds.

Williams said that he started building the luge run back in December.

“We actually made most of the luge right with the snowstorm that came right after Christmas,” Williams said. “So they were … stealing snow from all the neighbors’ yard[s] and bringing it here to make the luge.”

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Authorities: Cancelled New Year’s Trip to New York for Fort Lauderdale Suspect

Broward County Sheriff’s Office(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) — Esteban Santiago’s initial destination may not have been Fort Lauderdale, but New York City, where he had made a reservation to fly in on New Year’s Eve, authorities told ABC News.

But for some unknown reason, he cancelled the flight and a few days later booked a one-way $278 ticket to Florida.

New York City counterterrorism officials are investigating Santiago’s plan to visit the city, and whether he planned to stay in New York or transfer to another flight.

Officials believe that the highly visible presence of NYPD officers throughout the city on New Year’s Eve could have been an effective deterrent.

On Friday — as surveillance video obtained by TMZ shows — Santiago arrived in the Fort Lauderdale airport and 43 minutes later pulled a nine millimeter handgun from his waistband and began firing off found after round.

Police have said that he emptied his first magazine of bullets and reloaded so that he could keep shooting.

After 34 seconds of terror, five people were killed and six more were injured in a scene of mayhem that the shooter’s friends and family say could have been prevented.

In an interview with ABC News on Sunday, Santiago’s former girlfriend, Michelle Quinones, said that after Santiago returned from a deployment to Iraq in 2011 — a tour which saw two friends in his National Guard unit killed — he started to become unhinged.

The death of his father also made matters worse, she said.

“He wasn’t the same after he came from Iraq and after his father,” she said. “there was something in his voice that wasn’t right. He needed to tell somebody something, he couldn’t, he just didn’t dare to.”

She said that they sought help for him from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We had let veterans know that he was having some mental problems, that he wasn’t feeling alright and they did nothing,” she said. “They didn’t do anything.”

Asked about these claims, Dept. of Veterans Affairs Spokesperson Randal Noller in Washington on Monday would not comment on whether Santiago had sought mental health treatment, citing privacy laws, but confirmed that he was, “a Veteran who served in the Army National Guard.”

Repeated calls by ABC News on Monday to the VA Caribbean Healthcare System in San Juan went unanswered.

As Santiago moved to Alaska, court records reveal domestic violence issues.

On Jan. 10, 2016, he was arrested after breaking down a door in his resident and trying to strangle a different girlfriend. Instead of a jail time, Santiago was required to attend anger management courses, the records show.

Then on Nov. 7th, Santiago showed up at the FBI’s Anchorage office claiming that “his mind was being controlled by a U.S. intelligence agency,” according to Marlin Ritzman, special agent in charge of that office, who was speaking at a press conference on Saturday.

During that incident, Santiago “appeared agitated, incoherent and made disjointed statements,” but “stated he did not wish to harm anyone,” Ritzman said.

But after a brief hospitalization for a mental examination, Santiago was released and was later allowed to collect his handgun on Dec. 8th that law enforcement had confiscated.

In an interview in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico with ABC News on Saturday, the shooter’s brother, Bryan Santiago was critical of the FBI.

The brother, claiming his brother was mentally unwell, said: “He would see things, like he was being followed by the CIA, this, that. That the CIA wanted him to watch some videos, that the CIA wanted him to join ISIS against his will. He never joined, but he’d say the CIA wanted him to.”

“When he went to the FBI, he was unconsciously asking for help,” the brother said.

“How is it possible that they only hospitalized him for four days?” he wondered. “The mistake was theirs, and what I criticize is that the federal government knew about his situation for months.”

“How is it possible that the federal government let him keep his gun?” the brother said. “All this could have been avoided.”

Now detained in Florida, authorities are investigating Esteban Santiago’s claims – real or imagined — that he had been in contact with the ISIS terror group online.

Since the attacks, investigators recovered Santiago’s computer from a pawn shop, and the FBI is examining it to determine whether the alleged shooter created a jihadist identity for himself using the name Aashiq Hammad, according to officials familiar with the case.

In his press conference on Saturday, the FBI’s Ritzman acknowledged concerns over why Santiago was not put on a no fly list. The agent told reporters, “I want to be clear, during our initial investigation, we found no ties to terrorism.”

But according to John Cohen, an ABC News consultant and former acting under secretary for intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security, in these instances, “investigators aren’t asking the right questions.”

What they’re asking is, is there a connection with a terrorist organization?’” he explained. “What they should be asking is, ‘does this person I’m interested in present a risk of committing an act of violence?’”

“Based on the attacks we’ve seen in this country, these aren’t traditional terrorists we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with people who have underlying mental health issues, who are self-connecting with extremist causes, and are murdering people in furtherance of some perceived grievance,” he said.

As authorities work to piece together Santiago’s motive, there will also be introspection as agents ask themselves what, if anything, they could have done to prevent this tragedy.

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Slain Officer Was Mom Who ‘Deeply Cared’ for Orlando Community

Orlando Police Department(ORLANDO, Fla.) — For Master Sgt. Debra Clayton, Orlando was not only the community she helped protect every day for 17 years, it was her hometown.

And throughout her career, she not only served as an officer in the community she “deeply cared” about, but as a volunteer who loved to help children as well as a mentor, police said.

Monday morning Clayton, a wife and mother, was gunned down while in uniform and on duty, allegedly by a suspect in the murder of a pregnant woman.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina said he had known Clayton, who has a college-age son, for her entire career there and called her a “hero” who “gave her life protecting the community that she loves.”

“There’s no one more passionate about the community she serves,” Mina said.

The chief said that Clayton was “involved in many community engagement efforts and was always the first to step up and volunteer and help kids.”

“She was in our mentoring programs where she personally traveled and mentored young kids in high school from this area and went to trips to Washington, D.C., and all over the country,” he said.

“She was trying to do her part to make this community safer,” Mina added. “She’s going to be forever missed.”

Clayton had been with the Orlando Police Department since 1999 and was promoted to Master Sergeant last year, the police said. She “deeply cared” about the community, the police said.

Her career was full of commendations, according to department documents. She and another officer were lauded in a 2005 letter to the Orlando police chief after they arrested someone for alleged weapons and drug possession.

“I am sure that usually, you only hear from people about the bad things that happen with your officers,” Mark Simpson, who worked for the Orlando Housing Authority at Ivey Lane Homes, wrote in the letter to the chief. “I am happy to say that I have been extremely happy with all the officers that I have come in contact with.

“Their actions got a bad guy and his drugs off the street,” Simpson wrote. “My thanks to you, and your officers for continuing to do an often thankless job and for caring the way they do about their work. You have a lot to be proud of.”

Clayton was alone at around 7 a.m. Monday when she tried to stop the suspect, Markeith Loyd, 41, from fleeing near a Walmart, police said. She was shot multiple times, police said, and later died.

Police said Loyd is also wanted as a suspect in the murder of a pregnant woman. He’s at-large and considered dangerous.

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Police Officer Lets Kids Broadcast Goodbyes to Navy Dad Over Patrol Car PA System

Courtesy Brettany Buetow(SAN DIEGO) — Two children were able to give their Navy father a proper goodbye thanks to a California police officer’s kindhearted act.

Officer James Weaver of the San Diego Police Department allowed Rileigh, 4, and Austin Buetow, 2, to say goodbye to their dad over his patrol car public-address system as he was leaving on a ship for deployment.

“[I] noticed the two little kids yelling goodbye to their dad,” Weaver told ABC News. “I knew he wouldn’t be able to hear them, so I pulled next to them and asked if they would like to use the PA in the patrol car. I figured it would be a little louder and a better chance for their dad to hear their little voices.”

The children’s father, Joshua Buetow, 28, left from Shelter Island Jan. 5 on the USS Carl Vinson. He will not return to his San Diego home until summertime, his wife Brettany Buetow, also 28, said.

That day Buetow, a mom of three, brought the kids to the harbor so they could see their dad off.

“The ship had started to come by and they were waving … he [Weaver] saw the kids jumping up and down,” Buetow told ABC News.

Officer Weaver, who was patrolling the parking lot that morning, drove by and asked Rileigh and Austin if they’d like to give a message to their dad using his microphone.

“Austin was getting kind of scared because of how loud it was, but Rileigh was yelling, ‘Bye Daddy! We love you, Daddy!'” Buetow recalled. “It got really emotional. I was holding it together, doing pretty well and once all that started happening, I just started crying.”

Buetow said her husband works in a lower deck of the ship. Although she’d be surprised if he heard the little ones, she’s happy they got to say another goodbye, she said.

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