Review Category : Top Stories

Seven Dead, at Least 53 Injured in Tennessee Wildfire, Officials Say

File photo. (iStock/Thinkstock)(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — At least seven people have died from the massive eastern Tennessee wildfire that has burned more than 15,500 acres in Sevier County, officials said today.

Authorities said they are still working on identifying the deceased.

The blaze — which has devastated the cities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and surrounding areas — has also injured 53 people, scorched more than 700 homes and forced thousands to evacuate, officials said.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said that the wildfire is the state’s biggest in 100 years.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in the county, and we’ll never see anything like it again,” said Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters.

The fire was exacerbated on Tuesday by what authorities have described as “hurricane-force” winds of up to 87 mph.

The heavy winds have presented a challenge to firefighters, who said that fallen trees have limited access to certain areas, according to Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller.

Though heavy rain helped suppress the fire today, it also presented new challenges, Miller said. Firefighters are now experiencing some rock and mudslides, he said.

The fire chief added that unless the rain penetrates deep into the brush fire, there is still a threat.

Over 200 firefighters remained on the ground this morning, according to Miller.

Gatlinburg mayor Mike Werner said at a news conference on Tuesday that it was a “devastating time” for the city but that its people were “strong and resilient.”

There are still areas that authorities are trying to reach, Werner said, noting that “nobody had a clue” the fire would spread “that fast.”

The blaze was “a scary sight to see,” he said, adding that “people were basically running for their lives.”

Officials from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency have said that it is likely that 14,000 residents and visitors have been evacuated from the city of Gatlinburg alone.

Numerous roads remain closed and blocked by fallen trees and power lines as a result of the fires, officials said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Families Search for Missing Loved Ones Amid Tennessee Wildfires

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Two families are searching for loved ones who went missing after a massive wildfire destroyed their homes in Gatlinburg, Tenneesee.

Both families last heard from their missing relatives on Monday evening, reported ABC affiliate WATE in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Michael Reed told WATE that he had been out on a drive with his son Monday night to check if the fire they saw on the news was close to their home.

He said that his wife, Constance Reed, and his two daughters — 9-year-old Lily and 12-year-old Chloe — had stayed behind.

While stuck in traffic, Michael Reed said he received a phone call from his wife around 8:15 p.m.

“She said that there were flames across the street from our house,” Michael Reed said through tears. “She said that she didn’t know what to do. I told her to call 911.”

That was the last time he heard from his wife and daughters.

Michael Reed said he is “just hoping for a miracle.” He added that he and his son were able to drive back to what was left of their homes on Wiley Oakley Drive and that there were signs his wife and daughters were able to escape.

Another woman who lived on the same road also remains unaccounted for, WATE reported.

Her name is Alice Hagley and she is the mother of brothers James Wood and Lyle Wood.

James Wood told WATE that his mother last called him around 8:30 p.m. on Monday night, saying that the “house was on fire.”

“I told her to get out immediately, and we got disconnected and have not been able to get in touch with her since,” he said. “She’s not anywhere to be found as far as we know right now.”

Lyle Wood, who came up to Tennessee from Georgia with his wife, Rachel Wood, told WATE, “We’re here, [and] we’ve come to find her.”

“If you see her now and you’re talking to her, she’s probably talking about her grandkids or about her wonderful family,” he said. “She loves us a lot, and we love her a lot, too. Our hope is that people see and maybe get in touch with us.”

The massive eastern Tennessee wildfire — which has devastated the cities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Force and surrounding areas in Servier County — has killed four people and injured 45 others, officials said at a news conference this morning.

The deceased have not yet been identified, officials said.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said on Tuesday that this is the state’s biggest fire in 100 years.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Michael Slager Murder Trial: Closing Arguments Begin

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Closing arguments are underway Wednesday afternoon in the state trial of former police officer Michael Slager, who is accused of murdering an unarmed black man in South Carolina last year.

Slager, who is white, is accused of killing Walter Scott at a traffic stop on April 4, 2015, in North Charleston while Slager was an officer with the city’s police department.

Witness video that surfaced shortly after the deadly encounter appears to show the moment Slager fatally shot Scott as he ran away. The video garnered national attention, propelling Slager into the spotlight.

Slager has pleaded not guilty to murder. His attorneys have said the witness video doesn’t show the whole struggle between Slager and Scott, and does not give the perspective of events from Slager’s point of view.

In this state trial, the jury can now also consider a voluntary manslaughter charge, officials told ABC News Wednesday. The voluntary manslaughter charge was requested by the prosecution and the judge allowed it based on testimony he heard during the trial.

“The court must let the jury decide if the force used was reasonable,” Judge Clifton Newman said Wednesday. “That’s the essence of the case.”

In the prosecution’s closing arguments, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson described murder and voluntarily manslaughter. She said murder involves malice, which “has to be in the mind before the shots are fired.” She said malice is a feeling and an emotion. Voluntarily manslaughter, meanwhile, “is an unlawful killing in the heat of passion,” Wilson said.

Wilson said jurors must decide the difference between heat of passion and malice “because from a distance they can look the same.”

She also discussed reasonable doubt.

“There are a lot of things that ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ does not mean,” Wilson said. “The judge will give you an instruction and you’ll see that it’s the kind of doubt that [makes] you hesitant to act.”

“It means that it’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt when we have proven our case, not beyond every doubt, not beyond a shadow of a doubt, but a reasonable doubt,” Wilson said.

She said reason is used because “in life, it’s almost impossible to prove things beyond all doubt 100 percent.”

Wilson told the jurors to look at reasonable doubt as proof that leaves them “firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt.”

Wilson closed by praising the jury.

“Y’all have been remarkably alert. Y’all have been remarkably attentive,” she said. “We know that we made the right decision. … We know that you can do this. You can get it right.”

The defense is addressing the jury now.

Ahead of closing arguments, jurors spent Wednesday morning at the scene of the shooting.

On Monday, Slager testified in his own defense, saying that Scott was a threat and that he kept shooting him until the threat was over.

Slager also faces a federal trial, which is scheduled for next year.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Four Dead, at Least 45 Injured in Tennessee Wildfires, Officials Say

File photo. (iStock/Thinkstock)(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Another fatality has been confirmed in the massive eastern Tennessee wildfire — raising the death toll to four, officials said Wednesday.

The blaze — which has devastated the cities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and surrounding areas in Sevier County — has also injured 45 people, burned hundreds of homes and forced thousands to evacuate, officials said.

The deceased have not yet been identified, officials said

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said on Tuesday that the wildfire is the state’s biggest fire in 100 years.

The fire was exacerbated Tuesday by what authorities have described as “hurricane-force” winds of up to 87 mph.

The heavy winds have presented a challenge to firefighters, who said that trees have been falling and limiting access to certain areas, according to Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller.

Though rain Wednesday morning has been very helpful in controlling the fire, it has also presented new challenges, Miller said. Firefighters are now experiencing some rock and mud slides, he said.

The fire chief added that unless the rain penetrates deep into the brush fire, there is still a threat.

Over 200 firefighters remained on the ground Wednesday morning, according to Miller.

Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said at a news conference on Tuesday that it was a “devastating time” for the city but that its people were “strong and resilient.”

There are still areas that authorities are trying to reach, Werner said, noting that “nobody had a clue” the fire would spread “that fast.”

The blaze was “a scary sight to see,” he said, adding that “people were basically running for their lives.”

Officials from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency have said that it is likely that 14,000 residents and visitors have been evacuated from the city of Gatlinburg alone and that the wildfire is still burning.

Numerous roads remain closed and blocked by fallen trees and power lines as a result of the fires, officials said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Michael Slager Murder Trial: Closing Arguments to Begin Wednesday

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Closing arguments are expected to begin Wednesday afternoon in the state trial of former police officer Michael Slager, who is accused of murdering an unarmed black man in South Carolina last year.

Slager, who is white, is accused of killing Walter Scott at a traffic stop on April 4, 2015, in North Charleston while Slager was an officer with the city’s police department.

Witness video that surfaced shortly after the deadly encounter appears to show the moment Slager fatally shot Scott as he ran away. The video garnered national attention, propelling Slager into the spotlight.

Slager has pleaded not guilty to murder. His attorneys have said the witness video doesn’t show the whole struggle between Slager and Scott, and does not give the perspective of events from Slager’s point of view.

In this state trial, the jury can now also consider a voluntary manslaughter charge, officials told ABC News Wednesday. The voluntary manslaughter charge was requested by the prosecution and the judge allowed it based on testimony he heard during the trial.

“The court must let the jury decide if the force used was reasonable,” Judge Clifton Newman said Wednesday. “That’s the essence of the case.”

On Monday, Slager testified in his own defense, saying that Scott was a threat and that he kept shooting him until the threat was over.

Ahead of closing arguments, jurors spent the morning at the scene of the shooting.

Closing arguments are expected to begin at 1 p.m.

Slager also faces a federal trial, which is scheduled for next year.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Cop Who Shot Keith Lamont Scott ‘Acted Lawfully,’ DA Says

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — Brentley Vinson, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer who shot Keith Lamont Scott, “acted lawfully,” Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray said Wednesday.

Scott’s death in September sparked days of protest and unrest in Charlotte, North Carolina after a series of videos of the encounter were released to the public.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Five Dead, Seven Injured After Tornadoes in Alabama, Tennessee

Hemera/Thinkstock(ROSALIE, Ala.) — At least five people have died and seven have been injured after severe weather and reported tornadoes tore across the states of Alabama and Tennessee early Wednesday, destroying dozens of structures, including a 24-hour daycare facility.

The National Weather Service confirmed three fatalities after a reported tornado destroyed homes and businesses in the town of Rosalie.

5:12am CST #SPC_MD 1855 tornado watch 511, #tnwx #ncwx #gawx #alwx #mswx, https://t.co/ZyYnjX2M4v pic.twitter.com/vEkbpwqdAM

— NWS SPC (@NWSSPC) November 30, 2016

About 15 to 20 structures were destroyed, including the Macklin Baptist Church and Rosalie Plaza, a convenience store, gas station and strip mall, according to the weather service and Rocky Harman, chief deputy of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. Images of the devastation show structures caved in or smashed down to the foundation.

There were also several injuries, one of them critical, Harman said.

The weather service said it received several preliminary reports of tornadoes in Alabama.

Storm damage across central Alabama (photos, video) #alwx https://t.co/zqvOz7mwDa pic.twitter.com/n4CGi4ZKin

— ABC 33/40 News (@abc3340) November 30, 2016

Another reported tornado wounded multiple people, including the four children in critical condition, after ripping through a 24-hour daycare near the town of Ider along Highway 117, the National Weather Service said.

Ider Christian Daycare Academy was “completely destroyed,” the weather service said.

Images on social media showed children’s toys strewn across a floor with no roof or walls surrounding it.

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Details Emerge as Ohio State Community Tries to Make Sense of Attack

Kirk Irwin/Getty Images(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — With the campus still in a state of shock and disbelief, students and community members at The Ohio State University are attempting to make sense of an attack Monday morning that left 11 people hurt.

Overnight more details emerged as students gathered on campus to pay tribute to those who were injured when Abdul Razak Ali Artan smashed his car into a crowd of people before jumping out and going on a knife slashing rampage.

“We’re blindsided by this whole thing,” said Michelle Marcinick, who attended the vigil Tuesday night.

Two days out from the attack, new details are emerging about Artan and his movements on Monday morning.

His family now says that before he launched into his car and knife attack, he began his morning with dropping his younger siblings off at school, giving no hint of what was to come or what motivated his violence.

Sources familiar with the investigation told ABC News that Artan purchased the knife Monday morning at a local Walmart shortly before the attack, and that the FBI increasingly suspects Artan was inspired by ISIS to carry out the attack.

On Tuesday, ISIS claimed that Artan was one of its “soldiers.”

In a message circulated online from one of its media outlets, ISIS said an “insider source” reported that he “is a soldier” of ISIS and “carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of international coalition countries,” according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group.

While ISIS has repeatedly called on its followers to conduct attacks in the U.S., no evidence has emerged publicly to suggest ISIS had foreknowledge of the OSU plot. The language used in this claim is similar to that used when previous so-called “lone wolves” were believed to have acted independently of the terrorist organization.

On Wednesday morning, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted, “ISIS is taking credit for the terrible stabbing attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who should not have been in our country.”

Sources tell ABC News that Artan had been a legal permanent resident of the U.S. since 2014.

The sources said that before coming to the United States, Artan had lived in a refugee camp in Pakistan where he was a refugee from Somalia, a war-ravaged country in East Africa.

A Facebook post suspected to have been written by Artan shortly before the attack does not include a pledge of allegiance to the terrorist organization, as in previous cases, but does say that if the U.S. wants the attacks to stop, it has to “make peace with ‘dawla in al sham,'” which is how some ISIS followers have referred to the terror group.

“I can’t take it anymore,” he purportedly wrote in the post, which has been reviewed by ABC News and appeared on a page that has since been disabled. “America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah. We are not weak. We are not weak, remember that.”

Referring to the attacker’s mother, Hassan Omar, the director of Somali Community Association of Ohio, remarked: “She said he never had a problem, he’s been here in this country only 2 years.”

“She said he loved education,” he added.

The mother’s shock is shared by those in the community, some of whom are on day two of recovery.

Anderson Payne, 28, an Army veteran, served two tours in Iraq without injury. Today he is nursing knife wounds sustained on an American college campus.

“He turned and went to swing the knife at me and I reached up with my left hand and I grabbed the blade so that it couldn’t hit me and that gave me enough time to duck under his arm and make my way into the building to get away from him,” Payne told ABC News.

Meanwhile, local Somali leaders have been quick to denounce Artan’s actions and reassure their neighbors.

“What has happened yesterday was un-Somali, un-American, un-Islamic, inhumane,” Mohamed Diini, a local religious leader, told a news conference on Tuesday.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Sheriff: Calif. Mom Had ‘Message’ Burned on Skin by ‘Very Sick Person’

ABC News(REDDING, Calif.) — Frightening details are being revealed of the trauma and apparent abduction of California mom Sherri Papini, who was found alive on Thanksgiving after missing for three weeks.

Among her injuries, the 34-year-old mother of two had a message branded into her skin, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told ABC News.

“I would think that that was some sort of either an exertion of power and control and or maybe some type of message that the brand contained,” Bosenko said on ABC News’ Good Morning America. “It is not a symbol, but it was a message.”

Papini’s husband Keith told GMA in an exclusive statement that his wife endured mental and physical abuse while being held captive for three weeks.

“Her now emaciated body of 87 pounds was covered in multicolored bruises, severe burns, red rashes and chain markings,” he said.

Keith Papini also said the bridge of his wife’s nose was broken and her hair had been chopped off.

“Obviously, a very sick person who may have wanted to not only to cut it off to change her physical appearance, but also as to humiliate them, wear her down,” Bosenko said.

Authorities are hunting for the alleged kidnappers, who Papini said dropped her off 150 miles from her California home on Thanksgiving day, Nov. 24. She was able to flag down help even though she was bound with restraints.

Papini described her apparent captors as two Hispanic female adults driving an SUV and armed with a handgun, Bosenko said.

Investigators interviewed Papini for a third time Tuesday.

Police hope to get more on the description of the suspects, Bosenko said.

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →

Cirque Du Soleil Technician Killed During Rehearsal Accident

iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) — A technician working a rehearsal for Cirque du Soleil LUZIA was struck by a lift and later died, the company and police said late Tuesday night.

San Francisco Police initially responded to the accident at 6:43 p.m. in the city’s Mission Bay neighborhood.

“The employee was transported to the hospital with life threatening injuries,” police said in a statement, adding that investigators would be on scene to determine the cause of the accident.

“It is with immense sadness that we report a fatal accident that occurred on November 29, during the pre-set of the show LUZIA in San Francisco,” Cirque du Soleil said in a statement. “One of our employees, a technician on the show, was struck by a lift and passed away from his injuries.”

The company declined to release the individual’s name. Tuesday’s 8 p.m. show was cancelled.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Read More →