After almost a year in a church basement, undocumented Philadelphia father is free

Jumping Rocks/UIG via Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA)- Nearly 11 months after taking sanctuary at a Philadelphia church to avoid being deported from the U.S., Javier Flores Garcia walked outside for the first time today as a free man.

"The first thing I want to do today is to go back home and go for a walk with my children around the neighborhood and say hi to all of my neighbors," Garcia, 40, told ABC News. "Today, I can finally go back to my kids."

Shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday, Garcia left Arch Street United Methodist Church in downtown Philadelphia accompanied by his wife, Alma Lopez, his three children, Adamaris, Javier, and Yael, the church's pastor and immigrant rights activists. It was the first time in 332 days that Garcia had been able to leave the church.

"We are celebrating a huge victory and that victory is that after so long, I am finally able to go back to my family and my kids," Garcia said. "The hardest thing for me was all the suffering my kids had to go through, all the psychological trauma, but we knew that I had a strong case and we needed to keep on fighting to be with them."

Garcia was able to leave after being granted a waiver that allows his visa case to move forward, according to his attorney Brennan Gian-Grasso. Garcia has been approved for one of only about 10,000 U visas available each year. These visas are reserved for immigrants who are victims of crimes and agree to help law enforcement solve them.

"The U visa does permit him to remain in the country for three to four years, after which he can apply for residency," Gian-Grasso said, adding that Garcia has been approved and is now "waiting in the queue" for the visa.

Garcia entered the sanctuary on Nov. 13, 2016, to avoid being deported back to Mexico after living in the U.S. for nearly 20 years. Garcia's U visa petition is based on a March 18, 2004, incident in which he and his brother were attacked and stabbed with box cutters in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, by two other undocumented men. They helped police solve the crime.

According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by the detectives in the case, the brothers were transported to the hospital after “suffering stab wounds and numerous lacerations” from “grayish colored box cutters.” The two men who attacked them were charged with aggravated assault. Gian-Grasso told ABC News in May that thanks to Garcia's "cooperation from the very get-go and his ability to identify the people who hurt him, they ended up accepting plea deals to aggravated assault, served jail time and were ultimately deported."

But according to Gian-Grasso, no U visa petition was filed on his behalf until more than 10 years after the attack, when he was already in the Pike County Detention Center, more than 130 miles from his family in Philadelphia, awaiting deportation.

Garcia’s detention started in May 2015, when ICE agents were waiting for him as he left for work. He said his older son and daughter watched as ICE agents handcuffed him at the family’s home. He was sent to a detention center more than 130 miles from his family in Philadelphia. During the time he was detained, his family suffered: his daughter attempted suicide and his children once ran away from home to try to get to the detention center, he said.

With just one day before his parole was set to expire on Nov. 14, 2016, Garcia entered sanctuary at Arch Street United Methodist Church, where he had not previously been a member. The logistics of his sanctuary were the product of weeks of planning between the Garcia family, immigrant rights group Juntos and the church's pastor, the Rev. Robin Hynicka. Garcia soon became a big part of the church community, serving meals, painting and helping out, Hynicka said.

"Just the human being he is touched our souls deeply because of his courage, his strength and the love of his children," Hynicka said today. "I'm so happy that he's leaving but I am going to miss him terribly."

Garcia was the first person to take sanctuary in the church, he said, and being unable to even set foot outside is not easy.

"To be able to withstand the trauma and the difficulty and the loneliness and the confinement -- really, the confinement -- of sanctuary, you have to have a large support community," Hynicka said.

After supporting Garcia, the church would consider doing it again, Hynicka said. Arch Street United Methodist is a member of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia.

"The room where Javier stayed will remain open and ready when that happens," he added.

Now that he is no longer facing deportation, Garcia said he intends to return to "everyday life" and his work as an arborist.

"I want to go back to work and keep supporting and providing for my family," Garcia said.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement official told ABC News today that "ICE cannot comment on Mr. Flores Garcia’s case."

Olivia Vasquez, a community organizer with Juntos, said she did not see any ICE presence outside the church when Garcia exited this morning. During his time in sanctuary, Garcia said his family worried that ICE could choose to enter the church and deport him. His GPS ankle bracelet shared his location with ICE, which has a field office nearby.

But ICE said its "sensitive locations policy" remains in effect, which limits enforcement actions at places of worship.

"The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sensitive locations policy, which remains in effect, provides that enforcement actions at sensitive locations should generally be avoided, and require either prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action. The Department of Homeland Security is committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation," ICE said today in a statement.

Garcia described his time living in the church as a "life-changing experience" and said he wants to start his time living at home again by "thanking everyone who supported me."

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Emotional Iraq veteran finds his dog tag amid ruins of his parents' home destroyed by wildfire

ABC News (SANTA ROSA, Calif.) --  An Iraq veteran spent this week sifting through the charred remains of his parents' California house to find one of his most precious items: the dog tags he deployed with.

While Brady Harvell's Santa Rosa home survived the deadly wildfire that tore through the area, his parents, who live nearby at the house he grew up in, lost everything.

Harvell said his parents' house had already filled with smoke by the time they woke up. They grabbed their two dogs, two cats and fled. They didn't have time for anything extra, like his baby pictures, he said.

"Everybody I grew up with ... everybody's house is gone. It's absolutely nuts," he told ABC News.

But Harvell, 31, had to come back to his parents' destroyed home to search for the dog tags he gave to his father after he returned from his yearlong deployment to Iraq in 2013.

"It took two hours to sift through and find it, but it's what I wanted. I needed to find them," he said. "I spent 12 months of my life in Iraq wearing these things -- [they] mean a lot to me."

With nothing left standing at the house, he didn't think he'd find them. Miraculously, though, he managed to locate one, which he said is enough.

"I can't believe it," he said, with goosebumps on his arm. "It's mind-blowing. I can't even comprehend it."

"I'm happy with this," he added. "Maybe if I come back with my parents later and start digging for more stuff I'll find it."

While his parents lost everything, they are OK, "thank goodness," he said. For now, his parents are staying with his grandparents.

"Where are you supposed to go? Where's the whole neighborhood supposed to go?" he said. "Start rebuilding. Only thing you can do."

Santa Rosa is among the hardest hit areas of devastating wildfires in California. Officials said today that 560 people remain missing in Sonoma County, which includes Santa Rosa.

Firefighters are battling 22 wildfires across the state that have killed 21 people and burned about 170,000 acres.

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Only 16 percent of Puerto Rico has power three weeks after Hurricane Maria

Mario Tama/Getty Images(SAN JUAN, P.R.) -- Three weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall, only 16 percent of Puerto Rico's residents have electricity, the Department of Defense said Wednesday.

But the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said the number is more like 10 percent after an outage at one nuclear plant.

Power continues to be a top priority for Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Pentagon said about the ongoing disaster relief efforts.

"Power restoration crews continue to arrive on the island. Additional priorities remain hospitals and communication, with an increased focus on isolated regions," the department said, adding, "The governor is implementing a plan to assign the PR National Guard, augmented by the territorial militia, to support local leaders in each of the 78 municipalities to ensure more commodities are pushed to those in need."

While electricity remains scarce, 64 percent of residents now have cellular services and drinking water (though the boiling water order still remains in effect).

The status of the U.S. territory's health care system continues to improve with 65 of 67 hospitals open; however, of those operational hospitals, only a little more than half are connected to the power grid while the rest are relying on generators.

Forty-three of 48 dialysis centers are also operational.

The island's health care system will be put to the test as reports of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease, are beginning to emerge. The governor has repeatedly said that he is concerned about a possible public health emergency in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which has led to the deaths of at least 45 people on the island.

In preparation, the U.S. Navy's floating hospital, the USNS Comfort, arrived in Puerto Rico last week. On Tuesday, the 894-foot-long ship departed San Juan for Aguadilla to conduct medical support operations, the Department of Defense said.

The Comfort is said to have one of the largest trauma centers anywhere in the U.S. and maintains up to 5,000 units of blood at any given time for its medical services.

Additionally, U.S. Northern Command deployed resources on Wednesday that include elements of the 633rd Expeditionary Medical Support hospital, which is scheduled to arrive in Aguadilla on Saturday.

Approximately 13,600 Department of defense personnel are responding to hurricane relief efforts across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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Women collect Halloween costumes for kids affected by Harvey

Becky Schmidt(KATY, Texas) -- Becky Schmidt and Michelle Donahue did not know each other in August as Hurricane Harvey, the most powerful storm to hit Texas in over a decade, dumped rain and wind on their hometown of Katy, Texas.

Now the two, both mothers, speak multiple times a day as they work together to make sure children affected by Harvey have a chance to celebrate Halloween this year.

Schmidt, 35, and Donahue, 38, were introduced by a mutual friend last month when the friend realized they were both on their own working to collect Halloween costumes to donate to kids in need.

The pair have since together collected 1,200 costumes and counting. They have distributed nearly 1,000 of those costumes already to students at two public elementary schools in Katy.

They are holding a pop-up shop this weekend at a local hotel to both collect and distribute even more costumes.

"It was just something that we knew would bring joy to kids’ faces who have been devastated losing their homes," said Donahue, who first got the idea to collect Halloween costumes from the youngest of her four children, her 10-year-old daughter.

"The kids' parents are dealing with FEMA and relocating and Halloween hasn’t even crossed their minds," Donahue, an assistant principal at a local junior high school, told ABC News. "Halloween costumes are expensive and one more financial burden."

Harvey dumped more than 20 trillion gallons of rain across Texas and Louisiana. Some businesses and schools in Katy were closed for nearly two weeks due to the storm.

After the storm, both Donahue and Schmidt said they turned to collecting costumes when they were turned away from donating supplies like clothes and toiletries because of an overwhelming response.

"I thought, 'Halloween will come sooner than we think it will so why not start collecting Halloween costumes,'" said Schmidt, the mother of a 5 and 7-year-old. "It’s just one expense that we wanted to help alleviate and create a sense of normalcy for the kids too."

The pair spread their call for donated costumes through word of mouth and a Facebook page. They are calling their effort "Harvey Can't Scare Away Halloween."

Schmidt described the response as "overwhelming." People from as far away as Michigan, where Schmidt has family and friends, have donated everything from brand new costumes to handmade costumes that are generations old.

"They’re just ecstatic," Donahue said of the kids who have been able to pick out their costumes. "Some of them wear the costumes out because they don’t even want to take them off."

She added, "They’re like kids again, which is our intent."

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Investigation exposes security lapses at federal facilities that house dangerous chemicals

Dana Romanoff/Getty Images(BOULDER, Colo.) -- Federal investigators conducting covert surveillance and other secret operations successfully breached security at two secure U.S. government facilities in Maryland and Colorado, according to a new government report. One of the facilities contained a nuclear research reactor.

“Our covert vulnerability testing identified security vulnerabilities,” warns a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which sent undercover agents to two campuses of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department.

The report adds, “Specifically, GAO agents gained unauthorized access to various areas of both NIST campuses.”

Investigators sought access to the facilities multiple times, and each time were successful, according to an aide on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, which is holding a hearing Wednesday on the report. The public report was provided to reporters in advance of the hearing.

“Lax physical security at NIST invites concerns about everything from petty vandalism and theft ... to criminals or even terrorists stealing or releasing poisonous chemicals and other dangerous materials that are stored in NIST labs,” the aide said.

NIST labs house a number of dangerous chemicals and radioactive materials used for research and testing that could be deadly in the wrong hands.

The agency tests and sets standards for everything from radiation detectors used by the Department of Homeland Security, to ballistic-resistant body armor used by police departments, to proper radiation and exposure levels for mammograms. It has recently been tasked with researching and recommending ways for federal agencies to recover from any cyberattack.

GAO agents shot videos of their clandestine activity. The House panel, which is now in possession of those videos, plans to show them to committee members and staff before the hearing, but not to the public.

The U.S. Commerce Department, under which NIST falls, has asked the committee, chaired by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to treat the recorded material as “law enforcement sensitive,” which shields it from public view. For now, the committee is abiding by this request, though negotiations are underway to publish the material, according to the aide.

A Commerce Department spokesman acknowledged receiving the request, but declined to comment further to ABC News.

The committee aide said, “These risks threaten thousands of federal scientists and other federal workers, thousands of visitors with whom NIST works on a daily basis and the entire nearby communities.”

Serious security lapses not new

This is not the first security lapse at NIST, an agency that is home to the atomic clock and several Nobel Prize-winning scientists.

In 2015, a senior police lieutenant on the agency’s security force was convicted of attempting to manufacture methamphetamine in a NIST lab in Gaithersburg, Maryland. His failed effort resulted in an explosion that blew out windows and burned the officer.

A judge sentenced the man to more than three years in prison, according to court documents, referencing the popular TV series, Breaking Bad, in which a chemistry teacher decides to start making meth.

As Smith’s committee was investigating that 2015 breach, another incident occurred. An unauthorized individual wandered onto the Boulder, Colorado, campus into a sensitive area, according to a committee official.

NIST has seen some security improvements

But it’s not all bad news for NIST. Security has been improving since 2015, the GAO noted. The research agency has been working to educate its employees about the need for heightened security.

As part of its investigation, agents spoke to employees working in highly sensitive facilities, all of whom attend mandatory security training and “reported significantly fewer observations of colleagues not following NIST security policies,” the GAO report reads.

But the report adds this ominous warning: “The remainder of NIST’s employees currently have no mandatory security training, and a higher percentage reported having observed a colleague not following NIST security policies.”

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Boy Scouts allowing girls into Cub program, but will keep them separate

Tom Pennington/Getty Images(IRVING, Texas) -- The Boy Scouts of America will now allow girls to join the ranks of its Cub Scouts program, as well as create a Scouting program for older girls, the organization announced on Wednesday.

Cub Scout "dens," as they are referred to, will be single-gender, allowing the organization "to maintain the integrity of the single-gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families," the Boy Scouts of America said in a press release.

"The historic decision comes after years of receiving requests from families and girls. The organization evaluated the results of numerous research efforts, gaining input from current members and leaders, as well as parents and girls who’ve never been involved in Scouting, to understand how to offer families an important additional choice in meeting the character development needs of all their children," the press release reads.

The program for older girls, which will allow them to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, is expected to be formally announced next year and is projected to be available in 2019, according to the press release.

The Boy Scouts of America "has offered co-ed programs since 1971" in the form of the "Exploring and the Venturing program," the press release notes.

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Details revealed from deadly night of alleged hazing at LSU fraternity

ABC News(BATON ROUGE, La.) --New documents reveal details about the night of alleged hazing at Louisiana State University's Phi Delta Theta fraternity -- including members allegedly yelling at pledges and forcing them to drink alcohol -- that authorities say led to the death of a freshman.

Arrest warrants have been issued for 10 people in connection with last month's death of 18-year-old pledge Maxwell Gruver, LSU said today. Ten people are facing charges of hazing and one of those ten individuals is also facing a charge of negligent homicide, LSU said.
What authorities say happened at Phi Delta Theta that night

Here is what authorities allege happened on Sept. 13 and Sept. 14, according to arrest documents:

On Sept. 13, pledges were called to the frat house for what was referred to as "Bible study," during which the pledges answered questions and, if they were incorrect, they had to drink.

"Pledges were told to make a single file line and go upstairs," documents state, describing events as they allegedly progressed. As they went upstairs, one fraternity member threw mustard and hot sauce on them. Upstairs, the pledges were told to line up and put their nose and toes against a wall. "The lights were off with a strobe light flashing and loud music playing," the documents continue.
Pledges were allegedly forced to drink. They also were allegedly forced to do "wall sits" while members walked across their knees; the document say the pledges were forced to hold out a small book and members would stand on the book while the pledges were forced to hold them up.

Multiple people told authorities that the pledges were told to recite the Greek alphabet, and every time Gruver made a mistake, one fraternity member forced him to drink. A pledge reported that Gruver was forced to drink much more than the others. It appeared a fraternity member doing the hazing didn’t like Gruver, a pledge added, and wanted to cut him from the pledging process.

According to court documents, at some point, Gruver, who appeared intoxicated, was put on a couch and left for the night.

Several fraternity members that live in the house said Gruver was checked on throughout the night and was last seen still passed out on the couch around 3 a.m., the documents state.

According to court documents, that was the last time they said he was monitored until around 9 a.m. on Sept. 14. At that time, several people checked his pulse and found it was weak and they couldn’t tell if he was breathing. He was taken to the hospital where he was declared dead.
Gruver died from acute alcohol intoxication with aspiration, according to the coroner’s report. The manner of death was ruled an accident. Toxicology testing found that Gruver’s alcohol level was .495 at the time of this death, the coroner’s office said.

David Bourland, an attorney for one of the men charged with hazing, told reporters today, "He’s very sad about what happened ... That was a fellow fraternity brother of his and he feels horrible about that, but he had nothing to do with those unfortunate circumstances."

"He never hazed anyone," he said. "My client has not participated in any inappropriate conduct or any hazing and that will come out in time in due course."

Michael Fiser, an attorney for another man charged with hazing, told reporters, "It’s an accusation at this point. All the facts are not in. We maintain our innocence at this point. We are not aware of anything that he did to participate in any hazing."

Franz Borghardt, the lawyer for another person charged with hazing, said his client is "presumed innocent," adding, "My client is terribly upset about the fact that Max died. We mourn his loss, we feel bad for his family, and we’re ready to just move forward with this."

At the time of the incident, 8 of the 10 people now charged were active members of Phi Delta Theta, a spokesman for LSU Ernie Ballard III said today. Eight of the 10 are current students at LSU, Ballard said.

The university and fraternity react

Ballard said today in a statement, "The LSU Police Department has communicated with the Gruver family throughout the investigation process, and the university has also been in touch with them regarding today’s arrests."   The university's president F. King Alexander said in a statement today that the "arrests underscore that the ramifications of hazing can be devastating. Maxwell Gruver’s family will mourn his loss for the rest of their lives, and several other students are now facing serious consequences –- all due to a series of poor decisions."

Days after Gruver's death, Phi Delta Theta General Headquarters said it was immediately shuttering the LSU chapter "based on the preliminary findings of an investigation that uncovered enough information to conclude that some chapter members were in violation of established risk management policies, including our Alcohol-Free Housing policy."

"Actions such as those described in the charges filed today are completely inconsistent with the values of Phi Delta Theta and in full violation of our established and communicated risk management policies," Phi Delta Theta said in a statement today, adding that it has "formally removed the membership of those charged in this incident."

"We continue to keep the entire Gruver family in our thoughts and prayers. No parent or family should have to go through the pain and suffering that they are currently experiencing," the fraternity said. "We are committed to continuing to work with LSU, the Baton Rouge police department and the East Baton Rouge District Attorney’s office to fully understand the events that led up to Max's passing so we can help prevent another tragedy such as this from ever happening again."

Reforms at LSU

Ballard said earlier that Greek Life activities were suspended at LSU after Gruver's death, though "educational and outreach activities have been reinstated, along with some events that are registered and approved through the university."

LSU has also said it will form a Greek life task force to take "an exhaustive look at past and current practices of Greek Life, as well as other LSU student organizations, to address concerns about student safety."

Alexander said in his statement, "We are all in this together. Affecting real change requires students, faculty, staff, administration and alumni engagement. I ask that anyone who might have information that would prove useful in our Greek Life Task Force’s efforts to inform a healthier culture for all LSU students reach out to"

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What is National Coming Out Day?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Wednesday is National Coming Out Day, dedicated to raising awareness of civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community.

LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) said National Coming Out Day is meant to help create an environment where living openly and honestly is possible.

“Coming out is one of the most courageous acts any LGBTQ person makes, and on this National Coming Out Day, that courage remains essential to our continued progress toward full equality,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a press release . “As LGBTQ people across the nation and around the world continue to come out, opposition to equality will continue to crumble. Sharing our stories is a key way each of us can fight back against attempts to turn back the clock on LGBTQ equality.”

The idea for the day was the culmination of four months of momentum where more than 100 activists were gathered in Manassas, Virginia, near Washington D.C., conceived by psychologist Richard Eicherg and activist Jean O’Leary on Oct. 11, 1988. Their meeting followed the second march on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights on Oct. 11, 1987, in which half a million people participated and the AIDS Quilt was displayed.

In the 1980s, AIDS and HIV disproportionately affected the gay and lesbian communities in the U.S., but many felt the epidemic was not being researched because of discrimination against that community.

A recent study sponsored by GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) said 20 percent of millennials identify as LGBTQ. According to the National Coming Out Day Report sponsored by the HRC, about 42 percent of LGBT youth said the communities in which they live are not accepting of LGBTQ people.

The American Psychological Association said positive feelings about one’s sexual orientation foster greater well-being and mental health. They define "coming out" as "self-awareness of same-sex attractions; the telling of one or a few people about these attractions; widespread disclosure of same-sex attractions and identification with the lesbian, gay and bisexual community."

The three stages of coming out are opening up to oneself, coming out and living openly, according to the HRC.

Advocates said coming out can be a difficult time for many in the LGBTQ community, and many organizations offer counseling and support.

“As many folks who have done so can tell you, coming out is a deeply personal experience, and it’s different for everyone. We work with each individual caller who is seeking support on the issue to make sure that if they do feel ready to come out, they have a plan to do so safely,” Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project, told ABC News. "We help them explore friends and family who may possibly be a support system for them. We want to make sure that young people aren’t coming out just because they feel pressured to do so by a holiday, but are doing so because they themselves have made the choice best for them."

The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth, has counselors to help LGBTQ community members come out.

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California native loses everything in fire two weeks after resettling

iStock/Thinkstock(SANTA ROSA, Calif.) -- Charlie Yates awoke to the smell of smoke around midnight on Monday -- just two weeks after moving cross-country from Virginia to call California home again.

Hours later, the 26-year-old had packed everything he could into a truck and was fleeing for his life, surrounded by walls of fire on both sides of the road.

Yates and his girlfriend, Taylor Walden, were living in Virginia when they realized they wanted to be close to family again. So they used every bit of money they had, packed up a trailer full of their belongings and moved into Yates' father's pool house in Santa Rosa until they could find their own place.

It wasn't long before their lives were uprooted again, with the smell of smoke warning Yates it was time to act.

"I had a weird feeling, so we started gathering important items and put them near the door," Yates said.

Knowing they had to act fast, Yates and his father gathered what they could and loaded their trucks. As they began to drive, there were flames on both sides of the road, Yates told ABC News. He remembers the flames being as tall as the trees surrounding them.

"It was, one point, pitch-black, and then all of a sudden it was bright orange within a matter of minutes," he said.

Yates said he felt terrified and his main concern was making sure his family made it out of the fire alive.

"I was just praying that none of their cars got stuck," he said. "My stepmother drove behind me in her car."

As he and his family were headed to a nearby hospital for safety, Yates looked in his rear-view mirror and saw the bed of his truck with all of his belongings on fire. He had to leave his truck in the middle of the intersection and run for his life.

"My truck survived and is still driveable, but we have nothing," he told ABC News.

Sharing the news with his girlfriend, who was in San Diego at the time, was devastating. Walden had been a victim of a 2007 California fire where she lost everything. Hearing this was all too familiar.

"I felt helpless. They didn't know the fire was on top of them," Walden said, adding, "They thought they had time."

Although Walden felt helpless, Yates was thankful the girlfriend he had known since freshman year in high school was alive.

"I'm just really thankful she wasn't here. It was one less person I had to worry about being OK," Yates said. "I knew she was safe."

Yates and his family went to the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa to seek shelter. They were the first people to arrive there. Not too long after they arrived, Yates saw a man collapse and helped carry him to safety. A volunteer told him they had loads of elderly and injured evacuees on buses headed to the center. Yates began grabbing office chairs, office tables and anything he could find in the community center to help get people off the buses and into the community center safely.

"That's what matters at the end of the day: making sure everyone is safe," he said.

He said that despite what has taken place, everyone is trying to remain in high spirits.

"It's going to be hard, but it's overwhelming how much support we've gotten," he said. "I'm just so thankful for the first responders; we wouldn’t have made it without them."

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Utah officer fired for handcuffing, dragging nurse out of hospital

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- The Salt Lake City police officer featured in a widely viewed video aggressively handcuffing a hospital nurse who refused his request to draw blood from an unconscious patient without a warrant was fired on Tuesday.

The Salt Lake City Police Department said it fired Det. Jeff Payne after an internal investigation found he violated department policy when he arrested University of Utah Hospital nurse Alex Wubbels on July 26.

"I have lost faith and confidence in your ability to continue to serve as a member of the Salt Lake City Police Department," Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown wrote in a letter notifying Payne of the termination.

"I am deeply troubled by your lack of sound, professional judgment and your discourteous, disrespectful and unwarranted behavior, which unnecessarily escalated a situation that could and should have been resolved in a manner far different from the course of action you chose to pursue," Brown continued, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Deseret News Tuesday.

Payne’s supervisor, James Tracy, was demoted two ranks from lieutenant to the rank of police officer over his role in the arrest. Brown said Tracy made an impulsive decision when he ordered Payne to arrest Wubbels without "fully understanding the nature of the situation and, as such, violated policy," according to his disciplinary letter, which was also obtained by the Deseret News.

The incident sparked a national conversation about the use of police force and prompted Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Brown to personally apologize to Wubbels.

Payne’s attorney, Greg Skordas, said his client plans to appeal the firing, according to reports.

Wubbels recounted her experience in a September interview with ABC News.

She said the situation escalated as she tried to explain why she wouldn't allow the patient's blood to be drawn unless he was under arrest or if there was a police warrant.

Moreover, when Wubbels defended the hospital's policy -- buttressed by a 2016 Supreme Court ruling citing that warrantless blood draws are a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment -- she was rebuffed.

"I either go away with blood in vials or body in tow. That's my only choices. I'm going to follow my boss's instructions," Payne is heard saying in the bodycam video.

"I just said, 'Look, I'm sorry, we can't let you do this at this time,'" Wubbels told ABC News in an interview where she was joined by her attorney, Karra Porter. "And he just got up and said, 'You're not sorry!' "

"Right then, he was on this war path," she added.

In the video, which Wubbels said her attorneys received through a public records request, Payne is heard declaring, "We're done!" and Wubbels wails as she's dragged outside of the hospital in handcuffs.

"I think I was able to keep my cool pretty well, because I knew I was in a tough situation," she said, noting that she continued to refer to the officer as "sir" even as he dragged her out of the hospital.

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