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Saturday
Oct192019

Judge halts Atatiana Jefferson's funeral amid family dispute 

iStock/Kuzma(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- Family and friends of Atatiana Jefferson, the 28-year-old woman fatally shot by a Fort Worth police officer in her home last week, will have to wait to pay their respects after a judge halted Saturday’s scheduled funeral.

At the request of the victim’s father, Marquis Jefferson, Dallas County Probate Court Judge Brenda Hull Thompson issued the temporary restraining order Friday to postpone the funeral. The father claimed he had no control over his daughter’s funeral and burial arrangements, which were planned by Atatiana Jefferson’s aunt, Bonita Body.

Lee Merritt, the attorney for Brody, confirmed Saturday the funeral had been postponed. He lamented the family having to deal with this family dispute publicly.

“This family, like most families, is dealing with internal disputes," Merritt said in a statement Saturday. "Unfortunately, due to the public outcry concerning Atatiana’s murder, they are being forced to go through this tragedy publicly. Please respect their privacy as the family resolves this conflict.”

Marquis Jefferson, according to court documents, argued that, as the surviving parent and his daughter's heir, he should be the one planning her funeral. The documents also state that he was denied any involvement by the funeral home.

“Good cause exists to limit the right of Bonita Body to control the funeral and burial of Atatiana Jefferson because … Marquis A. Jefferson, as the parent, has priority of the persons that are allowed under the Code to control the decedent’s funeral and burial arrangements,” Marquis Jefferson’s temporary restraining order application states. “Applicant prays that after notice and hearing on this matter, the Court to restrain Bonita Body, Golden Gate Funeral home and others acting in concert with them to control the funeral and burial of Atatiana Jefferson.”

Body’s funeral for Atatiana Jefferson was planned for 2 p.m. Saturday before the judge postponed it. Thompson scheduled a hearing for Monday, Oct. 21, to determine if the restraining order would continue.

Atatiana Jefferson was shot to death on Oct. 12 at around 2:30 a.m. Her neighbor called the non-emergency number for a welfare check because her doors were open. Police bodycam footage showed that when officers arrived, they walked to the back of the house. That's where they saw Atatiana Jefferson, in the rear window. The officer, later identified as Aaron Dean, approached the window with his gun drawn. When he saw Atatiana Jefferson in the window, he shouted, "Put your hands up, show me your hands," but then fired one shot.

When police arrived at her home, Atatiana Jefferson was playing video games and baby-sitting her 8-year-old nephew. The boy told investigators he witnessed his aunt being shot to death as she approached the window that night.

"She took her handgun from her purse," the arrest affidavit reads. "(The nephew) said Jefferson raised her handgun, pointed toward the window."

At that point, she was shot and fell to the ground, the affidavit said.

Dean's partner, identified in the warrant as L Darch, told investigators that she didn't see Jefferson raise the gun before Dean discharged his weapon. "Officer Darch said that they went into the backyard and Officer Dean was standing between her and the house and she could only see Jefferson's face through the window when Officer Dean discharged his weapon one time," the arrest warrant affidavit reads.

The footage appears to confirm that Dean never identified himself as a police officer before opening fire. On Monday, Dean abruptly quit the police department shortly before he was going to be fired, according to Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus.
 
"Had the officer not resigned, I would have fired him for violations of several policies, including our use of force policy, our de-escalation policy, and unprofessional conduct," Kraus said at a press conference Monday.

Just hours after he resigned, Dean was arrested and charged with the murder of Atatiana Jefferson. Dean was then released on bond from Tarrant County Jail late Monday, according to court records.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct192019

Video shows Oregon coach disarming student then embracing him before police arrive

KATU(PORTLAND, Oregon) -- Stunning surveillance footage captured the moment a high school coach in Oregon disarmed a student with a shotgun and then held him in his arms.

Keanon Lowe, a football and track and field coach at Parkrose High School, can be seen walking through the hallways and entering a classroom on May 17.

When he next emerges, he is holding a shotgun and backing away from student Angel Granados-Diaz before another teacher comes up and takes the weapon away.

Then, in an extraordinary moment, Lowe embraces Granados-Diaz and the two hug for at least a minute.

At one point, it appears that Granados-Diaz tries to break free, but Lowe continues to hold on to him.

Police eventually arrive and take Granados-Diaz into custody.

Lowe was hailed a hero following the incident at the Portland high school.

"This was a best-case scenario," Portland Police Sergeant Brad Yakots said at the time. "The staff members from all accounts did an excellent job."

Initial reports said that Lowe wrestled the student to the ground, but the video, which was released by Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office on Friday, shows the emotional moment the two shared.

Granados-Diaz, now 19, was suffering from a mental health crisis at the time, according to ABC Portland affiliate KATU. He pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of a firearm in a public building and one count of unlawful possession of a loaded firearm in public and was sentenced to three years of probation, KATU reported.

Lowe, a former Oregon Ducks football player, told the station that when the student entered the classroom with the weapon, he was close enough that he lunged for the gun and grabbed it with both hands.

"Then it was just me and that student. It was a real emotional time. It was emotional for him, it was emotional for me," he said back in May, according to KATU. "In that time, I felt compassion for him. A lot of times, especially when you’re young, you don’t realize what you’re doing until it’s over."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct192019

Tropical Storm Nestor batters Florida with storm surge, tornadoes

ABC News(APALACHICOLA, Fla.) -- Tropical Storm Nestor expected to make landfall in Florida today as it brings heavy rain, gusty winds, storm surge, and possible tornadoes to parts of the Southeast U.S.

As of 8 a.m. Saturday, the storm was about 110 miles west of the coastal city of Apalachicola, Florida, and its maximum sustained winds were 50 mph as it moved northeast at 17 mph.

Nestor is still expected to come ashore in Florida later Saturday morning. Winds and storm surges are affecting parts of the Florida Gulf Coast as Nestor is begins to lose tropical characteristics. Once that happens, it will become a post-tropical cyclone.

Regardless of the true physics of the storm, heavy rain, some severe storms, and gusty winds will continue as the storm moves into the Southeast today.

A tornado watch remains in effect for much of Florida until noon EDT as some of the outer bands of Nestor are producing spin-up tornadoes. There have already been four reported tornadoes in the Tampa Bay metro area overnight.

Nestor will continue to move inland today as tropical storm-force winds extend up to 160 miles east of the central low pressure, bringing heavy rain and some gusty winds to much of the Southeast today. In addition, severe storms will be possible on the right side of the storm, especially from Central Florida to Eastern North Carolina. A few tornadoes will be possible in some of the intense bands east of the center of circulation. This tornado threat includes Jacksonville, Savannah, Charleston, and Wilmington.

On Sunday Nestor will slide further up the East Coast and bring heavy rain to parts of the Mid-Atlantic including Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. Once again, there will be at least some marginal severe probabilities in parts of Eastern North Carolina.

Luckily, Nestor will quickly be pushed eastward on Sunday night and Monday, with the majority of the storm heading into the Atlantic. While some showers and gusty winds will be possible, impacts should be kept to a minimum in much of the Northeast.

Attention will immediately turn to a new storm developing in the West, that will race across the country this week. This is typical for fall, as low pressure systems begin to trek further and further into the mid-latitudes due to colder air gaining strength in the Arctic.

On Saturday, heavy rain, gusty winds, and some mountain snow will be possible in the Northwest with parts of the Cascades expected to pick up a couple of inches of fresh snow.

The storm is also causing gusty winds ahead of the frontal system, which could briefly cause pockets of fire danger from California to the Rocky Mountains.

Late Sunday and early Monday, as the storm heads into the Central U.S., it will spark a line of strong storms and heavy rain, There is a chance for some severe weather across Northern Texas, parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas. The threats will be damaging winds, large hail and possible tornadoes.

Then on Monday and into early Tuesday, heavy rain and severe storms will move into parts of the southern U.S., especially the Mississippi River Valley. There will be a potential for a few tornadoes in this round of severe weather. This classic fall severe weather set-up looks like it could be the most notable severe weather in the last couple of months.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct192019

Driver who fatally struck 3 siblings at school bus stop is found guilty of reckless homicide

Indiana State Police(ROCHESTER, Indiana) -- A 24-year-old Indiana woman who struck four children with her pickup truck, killing three of them, as they crossed a rural highway to their school bus, has been found guilty of reckless homicide.

Alyssa Shepherd was also found guilty of criminal recklessness in the Oct. 30, 2018, crash, which shined a light on issues of school bus safety.

Shepherd testified Friday that she saw blinking lights but failed to see a school bus or a red stop sign arm when she plowed into 6-year-old twin brothers Xzavier and Mason Ingle, and their 9-year-old sister, Alivia Stahl, as they crossed the highway to board the bus from the mobile home park where they lived, near Rochester, Indiana. All three children died, while Maverik Lowe, 11, was injured in critical condition.

Lowe, who entered the courtroom Wednesday using a walker, testified that he saw the headlights of an approaching vehicle as he crossed the road toward the bus. He recalled having only a couple of second to decide what to do.

"I decided to go forward," he said, at which point he was struck. He remembered struggling to breath as he lay in a ditch before rescuers had him airlifted him to a hospital, where he spend 30 days and ultimately underwent 21 surgeries.

Shepherd, in her testimony, said she dropped her husband at work and was on her way to drop her kids at school and welcome a new youth pastor to church when she came upon a large vehicle, according to South Bend, Indiana, ABC affiliate WBND.

"I saw a vehicle, it was a very large vehicle. I couldn't tell what it was," Shepherd told the court, saying that she assumed it was an oversized-load modular home.

“When I saw children I instantly knew it was a bus," Shepherd said. She testified that doesn't remember how she moved the steering wheel but said she did brake.

Her husband testified that Shepherd called him shortly after the accident.

"She was very hysterical. I couldn’t quite make out what was going on. I assumed she was in an accident," he said.

The parents of the three children who were killed, Shane Ingle and Brittany Stahl, told ABC News following the accident that their loss was "more than what we can even express in words."

"A parent never expects to bury their child," the couple said in a statement. "Every night we go to sleep without their hugs and kisses. And every morning we wake up to reality and wishing it was just a dream. We miss them so much. Our lives are forever changed."

Shepherd, who will be sentenced on Dec. 18, now faces up to 21 1/2 years in prison.

The crash led the Indiana legislature to increase statewide penalties for drivers who pass stopped school buses illegally.

Shortly after the accident, the supervisor of the local school district announced that the bus stop where the crash occurred would be relocated into the mobile home park where the victims lived.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct182019

Over 1,000 goats needed to clear dry brush from California to help prevent wildfires

eyecrave/iStock(LAGUNA BEACH, Calif.) -- There a number of ways to prevent wildfires, but for the city of Laguna Beach, California, fire officials used a unique method, in fact,1,000 of them.

As of Friday, more than 1,000 goats were chewing their way through dry weeds and grass, vegetation that Laguna Beach’s Fire Marshall, James Brown is calling “fuel” for fire. Best suited for the geography and topography of the city due to their ability to maneuver steep and rocky slopes, goats and herders from Peru have cleared 80% of this year’s 250-acre goal.

Laguna Beach’s goat program began in 1992, a year after the city of Oakland tested its own goat program in response to the Oakland-Berkley fire of 1991. Brown told ABC News that with 250 goats, the Laguna Beach fire officials moved forward with the program after it proved extremely effective during the fire season.

This is largest group of goats they’ve had in the history of the program. Officials even added a third herd to cover more acres, Brown told ABC News.

“The Laguna Beach residents appreciate what the goats do to protect their community, and are very supportive of our program," Brown said. "They have also been very supportive of the herders who tend to the goats, and welcome the herders each year when they come through the neighborhood.”

This year, Laguna Beach experienced a wet season prompting a super bloom. Brown says while a super bloom may seem great, the vast growth becomes fuel for a fire when it dries out.

 This is where the goats come in.

The goats are just one of five prongs of fire-prevention methods used by the city. Other prongs include hands crew, weed abatement, complaint-based removal and enforcing building development requirements for fire safety landscaping.

“The City of Laguna Beach has been using goats for fuel modification for over 25 years, and they have proven very effective at reducing the dead vegetation fuel load and helping to protect our City," Brown said. "They have also been very cost-effective, and typically are 10% or less per acre of what a hand crew charges.”

Brown says he looks forward to expanding the department’s fuel modification program over the next 10 years with the goal to cover the entire perimeter of Laguna Beach.



Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct182019

Tropical Storm Nestor takes aim at Florida: 'Residents should prepare now'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico strengthened to Tropical Storm Nestor Friday afternoon as it takes aim at the Florida Panhandle.

Nestor is moving quickly and is set to make landfall along the Florida Panhandle near Panama City on Saturday morning, bringing tropical storm-force winds and dangerous storm surge.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect from southeastern Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle.

Bands of rain will move in Friday night, and by Saturday morning, Floridians will see heavy rainfall and strong, gusty winds.

In the impact zone is Mexico Beach, Florida, which was devastated by Category 5 Hurricane Michael last year.

Mexico Beach resident Gail Evans lost her three-bedroom home from Michael and has been living in her RV for over a year -- and now she's worried about Nestor.

"I hope that it's not that bad," she told ABC News Friday. "I'm hoping there's not a lot of wind to lift anything ... everything depends on if it strengthens coming in, which is what Michael did."

If the wind is significant, Evans said, "I'll have to leave."

The biggest threat with this storm will be storm surge, as ocean water could rise up to 5 feet from Apalachicola to Cedar Key, Florida. Water could also rise up to 4 feet as far south as Clearwater.

Storm surge warnings have been issued from Apalachicola to Clearwater.

"Residents should prepare now for the chance of flooding & power disruption," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted Thursday.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards added, "Until we know the exact track of the storm & the potential impact areas, it is important for everyone to stay informed & prepare now. Hopefully, most of the severe weather will remain south of Louisiana, but we must stand ready in case the conditions change."

Up to 6 inches of rain is possible in the Florida Panhandle.

Winds aren't forecast to be too strong, with gusts near 50 mph possible.

Because the storm is moving quickly, conditions will improve along the Florida Panhandle mid-day Saturday.

Saturday evening, what's left of Nestor move through Georgia and the Carolinas, bringing about 2 to 4 inches of rain.

By Sunday morning, Nestor's remnants will sweep across eastern North Carolina, then move off the mid-Atlantic coast and out to sea.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct182019

Passenger dies from Alaska Airlines plane crash

Ryan Burnias(UNALASKA, Alaska) -- A passenger has died after a twin-engine Alaska Airlines flight crashed Thursday night, officials said.

Alaska Airlines Flight 3296, operated by Peninsula Airways, ran off the runway while landing at Alaska's Unalaska/Dutch Harbor Airport, airline officials said, and stopped just short of plunging into the waters of the bay.

Passenger David Allan Oltman, 38, of Washington state, died as a result, Alaska State Troopers said on Friday.

This is the first U.S. commercial plane passenger death since a passenger died in a Southwest incident last year.

A statement from Peninsula Airways on Friday said: "It is with our deepest sorrow that we have confirmed that one of our critically injured passengers from PenAir Flight 3296 passed away last night. "

"Our entire team is devastated by this tragic incident," the statement said. "The thoughts of all 1,300 of our employees are with those who were hurt or affected."

Another passenger was critically injured, and 10 others received medical care, according to Peninsula Airways.

The flight was from Anchorage to Unalaska Island.

The plane, a Saab 2000 turboprop, had three crew members and 39 passengers aboard, including members of the swim team at Alaska's Cordova High School.

"At present, all students and chaperones are accounted for and are OK, albeit a bit shaken up," read a statement posted by superintendent Alex Russin on the school district's website Thursday night.

The statement said that "the team was together, seemed fine, and were eating pizza."

Photos taken afterward showed the plane resting at about at 30-degree angle on a rocky embankment, with its nose just feet from the water.

Unalaska Island is part of the Aleutian Island chain to the west of the Alaskan mainland.


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Friday
Oct182019

New Orleans will use explosives to bring down cranes at Hard Rock Hotel that collapsed

baona/iStock(NEW ORLEANS) -- Demolition experts will use small explosives to bring down the two cranes still standing at the site of the partially collapsed Hard Rock Hotel collapse in New Orleans, authorities said.

The controlled demolition is expected to happen around noon Saturday, New Orleans Fire Department chief Timothy McConnell said at a press conference Friday.

The cranes have been a source of major concern, he said. Both have continuously swayed since the under-construction building's collapse on Oct. 12, which left three dead and dozens injured.

"They are not designed to do that," McConnell said at a press conference Thursday.

Workers will use small explosives, known as energetic materials, to bring the cranes down. The goal is that they will come down in the same place as they are standing.

"Think of it like melting," McConnell said.

There is a "very, very high probability" that the cranes will come down as planned, according to McConnell, but there is always a risk.

"Something like this is not a science. It's not something you can practice," he said.

Authorities said if the cranes can come down earlier, they will but the approaching tropical storm and high winds are preventing them from moving as quickly as they'd like.

The controlled demolition was expected to happen Friday, but authorities said the plan was pushed back to Saturday.

Authorities are not only working through the dangers of the building, but also hoping to recover two bodies that are still inside.

One man was confirmed dead, while the other has not been located yet but is presumed dead, according to the mayor's office.

Officials have not yet said what caused the collapse. Ten of the victims injured filed a lawsuit Friday against five companies involved in the construction, citing negligence.

Surrounding buildings have been evacuated ahead of the demolition.

Authorities will divert their attention to the rest of the building once the cranes are successfully brought down.


Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct182019

Surveillance video released amid search for abducted 3-year-old: 'This is the male we're looking for'

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- Police on Friday released surveillance video from the night a 3-year-old Alabama girl was abducted in hopes that the public can identify a man who might help with the case.

The grainy footage shows two small children, including who's believed to be missing 3-year-old Kamille "Cupcake" McKinney, playing near a Birmingham housing area Saturday night.

"There are two males that appear in the video where the two children are playing," Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith said at a news conference on Friday. "The first male will walk completely by. He looks at them. And it's the second male that comes up and engages the children."

That second man is a suspect, said Smith, adding that investigators believe they know who that man is.

Police are looking to identify and speak with the first male in the video.

"The first man who walked by in the video, he may have pertinent information that will help us," Smith said. "This is the male we're looking for ... we want to talk to him ... if he saw something that night that may be critical to the investigation."

Within minutes of the video being taken, authorities received a report that Kamille was missing, police said.

The week has brought an "exhaustive search" for Kamille, who was playing with other children at an outdoor birthday party in Birmingham on Saturday when she vanished, Smith said.

An Amber Alert was issued but the Birmingham police said earlier this week that there was no information on Kamille's whereabouts.

The planning of the kidnapping was likely 20 minutes, Smith said.

"I don't believe that a lot of planning went into it," he said.

Police do not have a motive, Smith said.

The chief on Friday also asked volunteers to come forward to help with a grid search on Sunday. The search will be in one area investigators found was frequented by a person of interest, Smith said.

"In my heart I believe she is in and around the area and we're hoping to bring her home safely," Smith said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Oct182019

Man accused of killing woman, saving videos to SD card now charged in 2nd slaying: Police

nicolas_/iStock(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) -- A man accused of killing a young woman and saving videos of the crime to a memory card has now been charged in a second slaying, authorities said.

Brian Smith was initially arrested on Oct. 8 for the September 2019 murder of 30-year-old Kathleen Henry. During that investigation, detectives determined Smith was also responsible for the death of 52-year-old Veronica Abouchuk, Anchorage police said on Thursday.

"After he committed each murder, he dumped the body along the side of a road like unwanted trash," prosecutors said in a bail request document.

Abouchuk, who was last seen by her relatives in July 2018, was reported missing by family in February 2019, police said.

In April, human remains were found near an Anchorage highway, and on Oct. 11, days after Smith's arrest, the remains were identified as Abouchuk, police said.

When Smith was interviewed for the Henry case, he confessed to shooting a woman between 2017 and 2018, and he provided the location of her body, court documents said.

A skull with a gunshot wound -- later identified as belonging to Abouchuk -- was recovered near the location Smith identified, the documents said.

Smith's attorney declined to comment to ABC News on Friday on the Abouchuk case.

Smith was taken into custody on Oct. 8 for first-degree murder in connection with Henry's death. He pleaded not guilty and his attorney declined to comment to ABC News last week.

Police were led to Smith when a woman found an SD card labeled "Homicide at midtown Marriott" lying on the ground on Sept. 30, according to court documents.

The memory card contained disturbing videos from early September that showed a woman being beaten, raped and strangled, according to court documents.

Some of the footage showed a naked woman "moaning and struggling to breathe," and trying to fight back, documents said. In another video, the suspect is seen stomping on the woman's throat with his foot, documents said, and laughing as he strangles her.

Images also showed the victim, later identified as Henry, in the back of a truck, documents said.

Detectives found that Smith's phone pinged "to a location on Rainbow Valley Road along the Seward Highway within minutes of the last still image from the SD card of the female in the back of the black truck," according to court documents. Henry's remains were found on Oct. 2. near Seward Highway, police said.

Smith had a room registered at the same hotel during that time period and has a car matching the truck seen on the footage, court documents said. His accent also matched the voice heard in the video, court documents said.

A grand jury on Thursday returned a supplemental indictment on charges including murder in connection with Abouchuk's death, officials said. Smith is expected to be arraigned on Oct. 21 on the second indictment. His attorney did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on Friday.

At Thursday's news conference, police would not say if Smith could be connected to more victims.

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