National News

Suspect charged after high-powered rifles, shotguns, handguns found in man's home: Police

Los Angeles Police Dept.

(LOS ANGELES) -- A suspect has been charged with possession of a high-powered weapon and making criminal threats after a cache of high-powered rifles, shotguns and handguns were recovered at a man's Los Angeles apartment.

Braxton Johnson, 25, was arrested for criminal threats on Thursday, according to police.

Authorities initially said a mass shooting may have been thwarted, but the Los Angeles Police Department later issued a statement saying, in part: "At this point of the investigation, there are no indications that any persons were threatened with a firearm nor have we identified any intent by Johnson to plan a mass shooting incident."

On Tuesday morning, officers in Hollywood responded to a call from building security of a man making threats, according to law enforcement sources.

The officers "determined the elements of Criminal Threats had been met" and they obtained a search warrant, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

Police said they recovered "several high-powered rifles, shotguns, handguns and a large cache of various munitions" in the home. Some guns were found in front of a window, according to law enforcement sources.

Lt. Leonid Tsap had told reporters, "There's a high chance that the officers, and obviously security staff and the people who called, prevented a mass shooting from happening."

Johnson was set to be arraigned later in the day on with two counts of possession of an assault weapon, one count of criminal threats and one count of solicitation of murder, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.

"Los Angeles County is still reeling over the tragic mass shooting in Monterey Park," the DA said in a statement. "Were it not for the brave actions of the witnesses in this case, this could have also been an incredible tragedy

Johnson served in the Army as an Infantryman from July 2016 to February 2020, according to an Army spokesperson. He had no deployments.

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Large Chinese reconnaissance balloon spotted over the US, officials say

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- A massive spy balloon believed to be from China was seen above Montana on Thursday and is being tracked as it flies across the continental United States, with President Joe Biden ultimately deciding against "military options" because of the risk to civilians, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

The high-altitude reconnaissance balloon was not the first such vessel to pass over the country in this way, a defense official said in a briefing.

A separate senior official told ABC News the balloon is the size of three buses and complete with a technology bay.

The defense official said they "are confident" the balloon was sent by China. "The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is flying over the continental United States right now," Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters Thursday.

"NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] continues to track and monitor it closely," Ryder said.

While the balloon's purpose remains unclear, one outside expert predicted it was essentially scientific and set off course.

Retired Col. Steve Ganyard, an ABC News contributor, said the balloon appeared to be a standard research vessel -- which would mean it was unpowered and drifted with the jet stream.

Separately, the senior defense official told reporters that "instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including prior to this administration."

"It's happened a handful of other times over the past few years .... It is appearing to hang out for a longer period of time this time around," the defense official said.

The balloon was seen over Montana on Thursday and a U.S. official said F-22s were sent up the same day.

Biden was briefed about the balloon and "asked for military options," the official said. The president agreed with the recommendation of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and U.S. Northern Command Gen. Glen D. VanHerck to not "take kinetic action due to the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field."

A senior administration official echoed that view and said in a statement, "We acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information."

"Currently, we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective," the defense official said. "But we are taking steps nevertheless to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information."

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that there was a ground stop in Billings, Montana, on Wednesday but an agency spokesperson did not share more details.

Military expert's view

Ganyard predicted the balloon was an experiment gone awry.

Such balloons are not controlled after their release and while they are normally equipped with mechanisms to deflate over an open area, the mechanisms can fail, Ganyard said. So it's possible the balloon would have drifted over from China after multiple days, rather than being nefariously deployed.

China intentionally deploying a reconnaissance balloon over the U.S. would be highly provocative, with little value, Ganyard said, noting that Chinese satellites are able to collect information in a similar manner.

ABC News' Amanda Maile and MaryAlice Parks contributed to this report.

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New Jersey councilwoman shot and killed in possible targeted attack outside her home

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A New Jersey councilwoman was shot and killed in a possible attack outside her home, an incident officials are calling "shocking" and "senseless."

Eunice Dwumfour was the first sitting elected official in recent memory who had been shot and killed in office in the state, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told reporters Thursday.

"I am stunned by the news of Sayreville Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour's murder last evening in an act of gun violence," Murphy said. "Her career of public service was just beginning, and by all accounts she had already built a reputation as a committed member of the Borough Council who took her responsibility with the utmost diligence and seriousness."

Dwumfour was inside her white SUV when she was shot Wednesday night, officials said. She sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Dwumfour lived in the townhouse complex where she was killed. A motive for the shooting was not immediately disclosed. Police did not say if a suspect was identified or an arrest had been made.

Mahesh Chitnis, who serves on Sayreville's Human Relations Commission, posted on Facebook that Dwumfour, his neighbor, was "killed 300 feet from my home ... she was shot while returning back home. She was a woman full of life."

Police have no clear motive for Dwumfour’s killing, according to law enforcement sources briefed on the investigation. However, detectives have her phone and they are looking at every aspect of her life - personal, professional, religious - to figure out why this happened, sources told ABC News.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone told ABC News the councilwoman’s political position does not yet appear to have played any role in the homicide.

Dwumfour had just dropped someone off at her townhome and was heading somewhere else when the assailant approached on foot, according to sources.

No words appear to have been exchanged between the two, sources told ABC News.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing more than 10 shots, sources added.

Dwumfour was elected to the council in 2021 and worked as a business analyst and part-time emergency medical technician. She was recently married and had a 12-year-old daughter. Dwumfour was also known to be a leader of her church in Newark.

New Jersey Republican State Committee Chair Bob Hugin said Dwumfour's murder was "senseless violence."

"We will remember Eunice for her steadfast dedication to the community, as well as her deep and abiding Christian faith," Hugin said. "We have the utmost confidence that law enforcement will bring the perpetrators of this heartbreaking tragedy to justice. God Bless Councilwoman Dwumfour and her family."

Anyone with information or surveillance footage of the area is asked to call Detective Rebecca Morales of the Sayreville Police Department at 732-727-4444 or Detective Michelle Coppola of the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office 732-745-3477.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Newly obtained 911 calls reveal chaos and heartbreak as Monterey Park massacre unfolded

David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

(MONTEREY PARK, Calif.) -- Newly obtained 911 calls and radio traffic reveal the chaos and heartbreak as the Monterey Park, California, mass shooting unfolded.

One frantic 911 call came from a man who said his girlfriend had been shot in their car just outside the dance studio. He told police they were in the parking lot when "suddenly" somebody came and shot through the window.

The dispatcher asked the man if she was breathing, and he replied, "No, maybe she died? I'm not sure."

He said he could see blood coming from her nose and head. The dispatcher advised him to lean her seat all the way back.

The dispatcher asked the man if he could see her chest moving up and down, and he said, "No, no, I'm not sure." He pleaded, "Come, hurry!"

Another 911 caller said, "Somebody with a gun shooting people, inside the studio -- we just scared him off."

"Send police here right away," the man said. "He might start shooting again. I'm outside of the building, I don't know if anybody got hurt."

Eleven people were killed and several others were injured when a gunman opened fire at a crowded Monterey Park dance studio on Jan. 21. The suspect then fled and went to nearby Alhambra, where he allegedly entered a second dance hall and was disarmed by a good Samaritan, according to police.

The suspected gunman was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot one day after the shooting, police said.

ABC News' Lissette Rodriguez and Abigail Shalawylo contributed to this report.

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A new scientific method for bail reform

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(NEW YORK) -- Cities and towns around the country are turning to a new scientifically based algorithm that will work to help judges make decisions during pretrial processes in an attempt to create fairer judicial procedures that are less focused on a cash-based bail system.

The algorithm, called the Public Safety Assessment (PSA) tool, was created by the Advancing Pretrial Policy & Research center and is a project of the National Partnership for Pretrial Justice. It was funded by Arnold Ventures, a philanthropy founded by billionaire John Arnold and his wife Laura Arnold. The assessment tool is free and has been implemented in more than 50 jurisdictions in states, cities and counties around the country, according to sources involved in the development of risk assessment tools.

According to those close to its creation, the PSA algorithm was formulated by analyzing 750,000 historical criminal cases around the country, which pinpoint nine factors that best determine a set of critical pretrial questions: How likely would a released detainee be to appear in court for their trial, commit a new crime and perpetrate a violent criminal act?

Detainees are scored on a scale of 1 to 6, in what is called a release conditions matrix, according to creators of the PSA. It is then up to the jurisdiction to determine what happens to the charged individual based on their score. The PSA was never created to replace judges as decision makers in pretrial releases. Rather, it’s another tool they can use when deciding to release a detainee before their trial, according to sources close to the development of PSA.

“We're going to hopefully ensure that people who cannot afford a bond are not going to be held just because they can't afford it,” Nushin Sayfie, chief judge of Miami-Dade County in Florida, told ABC News. “We're also going to make sure that people that are going to pose any kind of threat or danger to the community that they're going to actually see a judge before they're released.”

According to those familiar with the creation of risk-assessment tools, the PSA was created in hopes of ending the cash-bail system. They believe judges can implement other conditions, such as court reminders through text, pretrial supervision and criminal history checks, once a month, in lieu of cash bonds.

In the current system, a first-time offender arrested in Miami for shoplifting could stay detained in jail until their trial if they do not have enough money to pay their bail. And if someone with enough money were detained for aggravated battery with a firearm, they could get out on bond without even having to see a judge before their trial, according to Sayfie.

Discrepancies like these in the 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida are a big reason why Miami hopes to implement a new PSA algorithm that will help officials reform the county's pretrial bail processes.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis voiced opposition against “rogue” judges releasing people into the community and announced at a press conference in Miami last week that he would unveil new criminal-justice legislation.

Sayfie’s office told ABC News they would put the pretrial reform initiative on hold until after DeSantis delivers his proposal at the Florida legislative session this spring. Sayfie’s office is confident their bail reform plans fall in line with DeSantis’ views on criminal justice and believe their policies could still roll out by the end of this year, as planned.

But there are critics of the algorithm on both sides of the bail reform issue.

“There's been so many panaceas in the criminal justice system that we've been promised are going to fundamentally change and move justice forward by, sort of, leaps and bounds,” Patrick Kenneally, McHenry County State Attorney in Illinois, said. “I am skeptical that these types of things are going to fundamentally change how courts operate or increase the accuracy of projecting future behavior.”

Illinois was poised to become the first state in the country to eliminate the cash bail system. But Kenneally joined state attorneys in other Illinois counties in a lawsuit halting the enactment of the law. According to Kenneally, the bill is currently on hold as it moves through the appellate process before the Illinois Supreme Court.

According to sources close to the development of the PSA tool, discussions about eliminating cash bail become conflated by prosecutors who believe cashless bail policies will make communities inherently more dangerous. Research shows money doesn't improve court appearance or community safety; rather, it mostly extracts wealth from poorer communities, according to those familiar with the development of risk assessment algorithms.

"The kind of biggest problem with these tools is that we actually can't predict serious crime that well. We haven't been able to for decades and decades,” Colin Doyle, Associate Professor at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, said. “There are still real limits to it and there are real limits to being able to predict human behavior, particularly rare actions like violent crime.”

There are those like Megan Guevara, executive partner with the Pretrial Justice Institute, who agree that bail reform should change to a cashless system but think the PSA tool is not the answer because she says the factors considered reflect inherent racial bias.

“When criminal history data, like the number of times somebody has previously been arrested or previously been convicted, is used to calculate a score, we know that people of color in the United States are more likely to have been arrested, more likely to live in over-policed communities and more likely to have been convicted of a crime,” Guevara said. “So, it means that there's racial bias baked into those tools.”

Those close to the development of risk assessment tools admit that they haven’t seen a reduction in racial disparities in jurisdictions that have implemented the algorithm. PSA can help reduce the reliance on a cash-bail system, but on its own, it won’t eliminate disparities in the system, according to those familiar with the PSA formulation.

New Jersey began applying the PSA tool as part of an overhaul plan for its judicial system in 2017. The inmate population, which was 8,482 in 2018, dropped in 7,937 in 2019. But in 2020, restrictions were put in place to combat COVID-19, slowing the criminal justice process and increasing the jail population to 8,930, according to New Jersey courts. However, serious crime offenses, which include murder, rape, aggravated assault and burglary, fell to 164,965 in 2020 from 212,346 in 2017, according to the New Jersey government records.

But in New Mexico, 80 percent of detainees the algorithm recommended be released in Bernalillo County were still detained by the courts because of the seriousness of their crimes, according to the Bernalillo County district attorney.

Judge Sayfie is eager to implement the algorithm in her district, but isn’t planning on eliminating cash bail.

“I want to assure people that we are doing everything we can, and we truly believe that this is going to improve public safety,” Sayfie said. “More people who are arrested currently on firearm charges are going to be seeing a judge that currently don't. And I believe it's also going to be better because people will get to be released without having to post a bond if they're low risk.”

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Twelve monkeys missing from Louisiana zoo as search for thief continues

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(NEW YORK) -- Twelve squirrel monkeys that were stolen from Zoosiana, a Louisiana zoo, shortly before midnight Saturday remain missing five days later.

The thief targeted facilities of smaller primates and "compromised" the squirrel monkey exhibit, successfully stealing 12 from the enclosure, according to zoo officials.

The person who broke into the zoo first tried to gain access into the marmoset habitat, another small monkey, but was unsuccessful. The marmoset escaped its enclosure and was later caught by the zoo, George Matthew Oldenburg, the owner of Zoosiana, which is located in Broussard, told ABC News in an interview.

The person then headed for the squirrel monkey exhibit and broke into the main house where monkeys sleep. There were 38 monkeys in that habitat, 12 of which were stolen, Oldenburg said.

The thief evidently brought tools to cut the wire, break locks and destroy the enclosure. It appears the monkeys were taken in a burlap sack as one was left behind at the scene, Oldenburg said.

Oldenburg said the zoo does not know what happened to the monkeys and is very concerned about them because they are exotic animals and on a special diet. He is also worried that the thief may not be skilled enough to recognize if one of the monkeys is not healthy.

"People think monkeys eat bananas, that's all you have to feed them, but no they are not going to survive on that," Oldenburg said.

Oldenburg also said the theft was stressful on the animals that were not taken and was worried about their well-being, saying it was "cruel" and this kind of stress level could cause them to die.

"I'm angry that these were taken from me but I want to make sure that my animals were maintained and cared for properly," Oldenburg said.

The remaining squirrel monkeys were assessed by the zoo's veterinarian and animal care team and there are no apparent issues affecting their health or well-being, Zoosiana said in a statement posted on Facebook.

The remaining monkeys were afraid of going into their night house for a while after the break-in, according to Oldenburg.

"All other animals are accounted for and appear to have been undisturbed," Zoosiana said.

Oldenburg is hoping the monkeys will be recovered, but said it is unlikely. In the meantime, security at the zoo will be increased.

The zoo was closed on Sunday, but Zoosiana said this was due to weather and was unrelated to the theft.

An investigation into the incident is ongoing. Zoosiana said it is working with local, state and federal agencies.

Police told ABC News that they are in the process of going through surveillance footage, even going back a few days before the incident to see if a suspect or suspects appear in footage.

While there are cameras in the zoo, Oldenburg said there was not any identifiable information that could point to a suspect. Oldenburg is hoping someone will come forward with information about the monkeys' whereabouts.

He had one message for the thief. "Shame on them," Oldenburg said.

The incident at Zoosiana comes as the Dallas Zoo faces a series of suspicious incidents. In the most recent incident, two emperor tamarin monkeys were stolen from their habitat earlier this week.

The Dallas Police Department found the monkeys safe on Tuesday. No arrests have been made and the investigation is still ongoing. There's no known connection to the monkeys stolen at Zoosiana.

As of now, there is no indication that there is a connection between the Texas and Louisiana zoo break ins, according to the Broussard Police Department.

In January, a clouded leopard escaped her enclosure at the Dallas Zoo after the fence of her habitat was "intentionally cut," the leopard was found the same day it went missing, according to officials. A second fence inside the zoo's langur monkey habitat was cut although no monkeys escaped or were danger or harmed.

The Dallas Zoo also found a rare and endangered vulture dead in its enclosure in January, with officials saying it did not appear to have died from natural causes.

Dallas Zoo is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of those responsible for the incidents.

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Up to 20 hours more Tyre Nichols footage yet to be released: DA

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) --

There is up to 20 hours of additional video footage in the Tyre Nichols case that has yet to be released, Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy's office confirmed to ABC News on Thursday.

It is not yet clear what that footage may show. The timing of that release is up to the city of Memphis with the city issuing a statement earlier this week saying any additional video would be released in the "next few weeks."

Nichols, 29, died three days after he was beaten by police during an encounter following a traffic stop for reckless driving on Jan. 7. Memphis police released hours of footage from body cameras last Friday.

Nichols complained of shortness of breath after the traffic stop and was taken by ambulance to Memphis' St. Francis Hospital in critical condition, according to police.

Speaking to local news after Nichols' death, his stepfather Rodney Wells said his stepson suffered a cardiac arrest and kidney failure because of a beating by officers.

A funeral was held for Nichols on Wednesday, which was attended by Vice President Kamala Harris and the Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy. Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Nichols family, also spoke.

Three videos from body worn cameras were shared by the city of Memphis on Jan. 27 with the warning: "Footage contains graphic content and language. Some may find offense. Viewer discretion is advised." A fourth video -- soundless surveillance footage from a city pole camera -- was also released, amounting to about 67 minutes total.

The videos prompted immediate outrage and protests across the nation.

The family of Tyre Nichols had been shown the video at the beginning of the week and supported to release of footage to draw attention to police brutality.

Five Memphis police officers were fired from the department and later charged with second-degree murder, among other felonies. They have yet to enter pleas, though two of the officers' lawyers said they would plead not guilty.

On Jan. 28, the Memphis Police Department deactivated its SCORPION Unit, the task force at the center of Nichols' death. All five officers fired and charged in connection with Nichols' death were in the unit, which had been inactive since the fatal encounter.

In the videos released last week, Nichols is shown being pulled out of his car and wrestled to the ground, Nichols can be heard saying, "I didn't do anything," and tells officers at least twice that he is "just trying to go home." During the altercation an officer warns Nichols, "I'm going to beat your a--."

Nichols breaks free and runs away, with officers chasing him. A 30-minute clip from nearby surveillance footage at a second scene shows the officers catching up to Nichols and kicking, punching and striking him with a baton while being held down.

Nichols can be heard screaming "mom" several times during the clips, which appear to show officers beating and pepper-spraying him after he ran from the traffic stop arrest.

The officers yell multiple times at Nichols to "give me your hands." The officer with the baton can be heard saying, "I'ma baton the f--- out of you" and then appears to strike him on the upper body three times.

ABC News' Meredith Deliso contributed to this report.

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Dangerous and possibly record-breaking freeze heading to Northeast: What to expect

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Bitter cold is moving into the northern Great Lakes and upper Midwest before a dangerous and possibly record-shattering freeze invades the Northeast.

By Thursday evening, the wind chill -- what temperature it feels like -- is expected to reach the minus 20s in Minneapolis. On Friday morning, the wind chill is forecast to fall to minus 18 degrees in Chicago.

The cold will move into the Northeast Friday morning, with wind chills expected to drop to 0 degrees in Boston, minus 10 degrees in Buffalo and minus 25 degrees in Burlington, Vermont.

The coldest air for the Northeast will hit Saturday morning, when wind chills are forecast to plunge to a bone-chilling minus 33 degrees in Boston, minus 23 degrees in Hartford and minus 9 degrees in New York City.

The most extreme forecast is for Caribou, Maine, near the Canadian border, where wind chills could be as low as minus 65 degrees on Saturday morning. That would clock in as the coldest wind chill on record.

But the extreme cold won’t last for long. On Sunday and Monday, New York City is forecast to thaw to 46 degrees and 50 degrees, respectively.

Click here for tips on how to stay safe in the cold.

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Virginia principal was not informed 6-year-old had a gun before shooting, lawyer says

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(NEWPORT NEWS, Va.) -- The former principal of Richneck Elementary School, where a 6-year-old intentionally shot a teacher last month in Newport News, Virginia, was not informed that the student had a gun at school, according to her lawyer, despite allegations that administrators were warned the day of the shooting.

Briana Foster Newton, the principal, was removed from her position and will be reassigned within the district, according to her lawyer, Pamela Branch.

"It continues to be reported that unidentified school administrators were aware that the 6-year-old student had a gun at school on Jan. 6, and simply failed to act. Mrs. Newton has been assumed to have been one of those administrators. However, this is far from the truth," Branch said at a press conference Thursday.

Branch told reporters Newton has been receiving "threatening voicemails wishing her ill [and] has also been the subject of misinformed social media posts," since the shooting.

The teacher, Abigail Zwerner, was shot in the chest and rushed to the hospital in critical condition. She is now home recovering from her injuries.

Zwerner announced she will be filing a lawsuit against the school board, alleging the shooting could have been prevented by school administrators who were warned about the student on the day of the shooting.

Toscano alleged that the administration was warned four times by teachers and school employees about the student. There were three warnings from school employees about the gun and a warning from Zwerner about the student threatening to harm another child, Toscano alleged.

A bullet remains lodged in Zwerner body, according to Diane Toscano, Zwerner's lawyer.

After the incident, the 6-year-old was admitted to a medical facility for treatment. Police interviewed the boy and his mother after the shooting and determined the gun was legally purchased by the boy's mother.

ABC News' Beatrice Peterson contributed to this report.

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Man arrested for allegedly throwing Molotov cocktail at New Jersey synagogue

Bloomfield Division of Public Safety

(BLOOMFIELD, N.J.) -- A 26-year-old man is facing federal charges for allegedly throwing a Molotov cocktail at a New Jersey synagogue.

Nicholas Malindretos, of Clifton, New Jersey, is accused of trying to firebomb the doors of Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield this weekend.

According to the charging documents, a surveillance camera caught Malindretos approaching the synagogue in the middle of the night while wearing a mask and gloves. The video showed the attacker walk to the entrance and ignite a wick on the top of a bottle before throwing it at the front glass doors. The synagogue was not damaged.

Malindretos was tracked, in part, through his car, which was recorded near the synagogue shortly before and after the incident, the FBI said.

Temple Ner Tamid Rabbi Marc Katz said in a statement, "We have prayed, reflected, and have helped each other heal from this traumatic event."

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy met with members of the synagogue on Tuesday.

On Thursday evening, the congregation will come together with the local community and New Jersey leaders for an "evening of prayer, healing and unity."

"We must not forget that many communities across the country have suffered from violent and hateful attacks over the past months," Katz said.

"We hope that Thursday evening's community event will be an opportunity to join together in solidarity across faiths and regions of the state, to unite, strengthen the voices of the great majority, and show that there is no place for violence or hate," he said.

Malindretos is due in court Thursday afternoon.

If convicted of attempted use of fire to damage and destroy a building used in interstate commerce, Malindretos faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison.

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Discrepancy between police accounts, evidence in Tyre Nichols case revealed

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(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- The police traffic stop that led to Tyre Nichols’ death was detailed in an incident report obtained by ABC News, as well as a Memphis Police statement, but the written statements provide a different account from what the body camera footage of the disturbing encounter has revealed.

Nichols, a 19-year-old Black man, died after a confrontation with police in which he was beaten following a traffic stop.

The footage shows officers beating Nichols and targeting him with pepper spray as he begins yelling for his mother, who lived near the site of the encounter.

In body camera footage, officers can be seen standing over Nichols while he's on the ground. As two officers hold him down, a third kicks him. A fourth officer comes over with a baton and the officers pick up Nichols from the ground and hold him up while officers appear to strike him in the face and torso.

The officers yell multiple times at Nichols to "give me your hands." The officer with the baton can be heard saying, "I'ma baton the f--- out of you" - then appears to strike him on the upper body three times. Officers pull Nichols to a stand, then appear to punch and slap him.

The official incident report does not mention that Nichols was kicked and punched by the officers. It also claims that Nichols started to fight with officers, reached for their guns, pulled on their duty belts and grabbed at least one officer by his vest. This cannot be seen in body camera footage.

Officers can be heard in the aftermath claiming that Nichols reached for their guns.

"Suspect Tyre Nichols was refusing a lawful detention by law enforcement officers and he started to fight with detectives," the report reads.

It says Nichols was "sweating profusely" and "irate" when he exited the vehicle.

The report also claims Nichols “began actively resisting by pulling duty belts and grabbing Officer Smith by the vest.”

It describes the use of chemical agents and the use of the baton to strike Nichols.

The report says the Memphis Police Department officer responded to an "aggravated assault" and that former MPD Officer Martin had observed Nichols' vehicle "driving recklessly at a high rate of speed" and "into oncoming traffic."

The initial statement from the Memphis Police Department failed to mention the details of the physical altercations.

It’s not the only example in recent years of police reports or statements not aligning with details seen in body camera footage or other evidence.

Some law enforcement experts and lawyers argue that when people are in fast-paced, high-intensity situations, they may not be equipped to "record" key details the way a body camera can.

“There's no training that any human being can go through that is going to teach them how to record an event like a machine,” said Michael Rains, a California attorney who has represented law enforcement in civil and criminal litigation.

Two former law enforcement officers told ABC News that every person's recollection of an event can differ.

“We learned to not say that eyewitness testimony is the only thing,” TJ Kennedy, a public safety and de-escalation expert, told ABC News. “You have to put it all together.”

However, “It's not to say that an officer wouldn't lie or try to lie because we all know that that can happen,” Rains adds.

Some officers get a chance to look at body camera footage before submitting their report, while others may not be allowed to because of local legal restrictions, according to ABC News contributor and former San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan.

It’s an ongoing debate in the industry, he said. Does it help officers recollect the events? Or does it cause officers to change their narrative based on what they saw in the footage?

“Now we have that conflict between what is the officer perceiving versus what the actual camera is showing,” said Burguan in an interview with ABC News.

Discrepancies in police reports, official statements and official documents have been seen in several recent police brutality cases.

George Floyd incident

The Minneapolis Police Department also has been criticized over its initial statement detailing the murder of George Floyd by then-MPD Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

“After he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress. Officers called for an ambulance,” read the May 26, 2020, statement.

The report fails to mention that Chauvin held his knee on the back of Floyd's neck for more than 9 minutes, a moment captured on cellphone video by bystanders. The video prompted protests worldwide against police brutality.

Floyd, who was handcuffed and in a prone position on the pavement, repeatedly said he couldn't breathe before falling unconscious and losing a pulse, according to evidence presented at Chauvin's state trial.

Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital. Chauvin was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He pleaded guilty to violating Floyd's civil rights.

Breonna Taylor

Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in March 2020 by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers executing a no-knock search warrant on her home.

Her death became one of several that year that prompted global protests.

Details concerning the legitimacy of the search warrant unveiled by the Department of Justice in August 2022 prompted more ire.

The DOJ charged Detective Joshua Jaynes, former Louisville Detective Kelly Goodlett and Sgt. Kyle Meany for allegedly violating Taylor's Fourth Amendment rights when they sought a warrant to search Taylor's home while knowing they lacked “probable cause.”

The DOJ alleged that the officers knew their affidavit supporting the warrant contained false and misleading information and it omitted other material information, resulting in her death.

"Among other things, the affidavit falsely claimed that officers had verified that the target of the alleged drug trafficking operation had received packages at Ms. Taylor's address. In fact, defendants Jaynes and Goodlett knew that was not true," Attorney General Merrick Garland said during a press conference on the charges.

Garland also alleged that Jaynes and Goodlett knew armed officers would be carrying out the raid at Taylor's home, and that conducting the search could create "a dangerous situation for anyone who happened to be in Ms. Taylor's home."

Goodlett pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the civil rights of Taylor. Jaynes and Meany have both pleaded not guilty. The next status hearing for the trial is scheduled for Feb. 21.

Casey Goodson

Casey Goodson, 23, was shot and killed by Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jason Meade while Goodson entered his home on Dec. 4, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio.

However, the details of the fatal incident from authorities and Goodson's family don't match up.

Goodson's family said he was returning from a dentist appointment and had a Subway sandwich in his hand, according to family co-counsel Sean L. Walton.

"Casey had the screen door open and his keys in the door, and Deputy Jason Meade fired shots at Casey," Walton told ABC News. "He fell into the house, where he lay in his kitchen."

Meade, who had been taking part in an unsuccessful search for a fugitive along with the U.S. Marshals Service, said Goodson -- who was not the target of the search -- waved a gun at him when he drove by in his police car.

Meade confronted Goodson outside his home, and Goodson allegedly refused to drop his gun, U.S. Marshal Peter Tobin said at a press conference. Tobin later withdrew those remarks about Goodson waving a gun.

Meade is charged with murder and pleaded not guilty.

Meade's attorney, Mark C. Collins, has said in a December 2021 statement that his client "acted within his lawful duties as an officer of the law when he pursued Mr. Goodson," and said Meade fired his weapon at Goodson in "fear for his life as well as those inside the house."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Two South Carolina men charged following 2019 murder of transgender woman

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(NEW YORK) -- Over three years after Pebbles LaDime “Dime” Doe was found dead, the Department of Justice unsealed charges against two men involved in her murder.

A South Carolina man was charged with a hate crime for the 2019 murder of Doe in Allendale, South Carolina, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina. The U.S. Attorney also charged another man with obstruction offenses related to the murder.

The five-count federal indictment alleges that Daqua Ritter, 26, shot Doe on Aug. 4, 2019, “because of her actual and perceived gender identity.” Ritter faces the maximum penalty of life imprisonment for the hate crime count alone. He also faces charges related to lying about his whereabouts on the day of the murder to federal investigators.

Another man, 24-year-old Xavier Pinckney, was charged with two obstruction counts for allegedly lying about seeing Ritter after the murder and concealing from investigators that his phone was used to call and text Doe on the day of the murder.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, Doe’s death marked the second murder of a transgender woman in South Carolina within a month that summer. On July 20, 2019, Denali Berries Stuckey was killed in North Charleston. Both Stuckey and Doe were black transgender women.

“As occurs far too often in the reporting of anti-transgender violence, initial reports also misgendered and misnamed Doe in coverage of the crime, delaying HRC’s awareness of her death,” HRC wrote in 2019.

According to the Department of Justice, transgender persons are 2.5 times more likely to be violent crime victims than cisgender people.

In 2019 when Doe and Stuckley were murdered, 23 other transgender or gender non-conforming were killed, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, predicts six more weeks of winter

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(NEW YORK) -- Punxsutawney Phil, Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog, awoke Thursday morning to see his shadow which means that -- according to legend -- there will be six more weeks of winter.

Legend has it that if he sees his shadow then winter will continue for another six weeks but if Punxsutawney Phil does not see his shadow spring will come early.

Phil’s prediction comes as parts of the county are being slammed with cripplingly cold temperatures and ice.

Phil's actual prediction takes place ahead of time in a place called Gobbler's Knob, a small hill just outside of the town, and has done so each year since 1887. This year marks the 137th time the event has occurred, according to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.

The men in top hats surrounding Phil during the ceremony are members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle. According to their website, their role is to “protect and perpetuate the legend of the great weather-predicting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil.”

Phil's predictions have been fairly even over the past decade or so. From 2015 to 2020, the groundhog predicted a longer winter three times and an early spring three times.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Will the Texas power grid survive the next deep freeze?

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(NEW YORK) -- The lights have stayed on in Texas among the recent freezes the state has been experiencing, but experts aren't sure whether the energy grids are winterized enough to withstand the next deep freeze.

Texas typically experiences deep freezes that really test its power grids once every decade, Ramanan Krishnamoorti, vice president of energy and innovation at the University of Houston, told ABC News. December 1983 holds the record for the coldest December for both Dallas-Fort Worth and Waco.

In 1991, a Halloween blizzard and ice storm overtook southeast Houston. Other freezes occurred in the early 2000s, specifically in 2011, which is known colloquially as the "Super Bowl freeze" because it took place over the Super Bowl weekend hosted at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. In 2021, more than 100 people died as a result of rolling blackouts during back-to-back ice storms that brought temperatures as low as 6 degrees.

How the grids have held up amid the recent tests, including freezes this week and in December around the Christmas holiday, has been "remarkable,", Krishnamoorti said.

In terms of demand and capacity, both renewable energy production and natural gas supply have been available "as predicted," he added.

"We're not seeing any significant challenges with the power grid at this point," other than occasional local outages associated with icing on transmission cables, Krishnamoorti said.

Energy-wise, the winter season has been so successful that price spikes for electricity have stayed well below what was anticipated, Krishnamoorti said. While predictions were measuring electricity prices to increase to about $100 a megawatt per hour, it was stayed closed to $25 to $30, Krishnamoorti said.

Several coal and gas production plants underperformed during the December freeze, and ERCOT underestimated the demand by about 10%, Daniel Cohan, associate professor of environmental engineering at Rice University in Houston, told ABC News. Despite there being "record amounts" of demand on the grid, no widespread outages have occurred. In addition, because it has been so windy in the region, the wind production made up for the coal and gas production facilities that did go down, Cohan said.

"That was a great sign that the grid performed better than it had in 2021," Cohan said.

However, the tests to the grid these past two winter seasons have not acted as "true stress tests," Krishnamoorti said. The current freeze is "much less intense" in terms of temperature and temperament, compared to the back-to-back winter storms of 2021 that caused a statewide energy catastrophe, he said. In addition, there has been no ice and snow, Cohan said.

During this cold spell, temperatures have not dipped into the negatives or even to single digits. In addition, the ice that did cause some local outages only fell in select regions, such as Dallas and Austin, Krishnamoorti said.

Changes have been made to the grid, Krishnamoorti said. In June 2021, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill to reform the state's power grid and how it is operated.

Power plants in Texas have installed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of updates to better winterize their facilities, Cohan said.

But it is unclear whether those changes have led to a true winterization of the system, Krishnamoorti said.

"Nature is the best stress test," he said. "The only way we will know whether the system can stand through the stress test is actually put it through that stress test."

ERCOT expects sufficient generation to meet demand this season and is continuing to monitor forecasts throughout this week, a spokesperson told ABC News in an email statement on Monday.

"Ice on trees, powerlines can lead to localized outages," the ERCOT spokesperson said. "If customers are experiencing a local power outage they are to reach out to their local power provider or visit the PUCT outage map for more information."

One of the challenges to winterizing Texas' energy grid is that the freezes don't happen often, Cohan said. After about a third of homes blacked out during the "Super Bowl" freeze in 2011, it would be near-impossible to determine what the demand would have been had the lights stayed on, Cohan said.

The energy sector is also in the middle of a "dynamic shift," as electrification becomes more commonplace than less sustainable sources, such as coal, nuclear energy and natural gas, Krishnamoorti said.

"That's great for reducing natural gas use and reducing emissions most of the year, but it makes us more vulnerable to having big surges in demand," Cohan said.

While Krishnamoorti expects the "next big one" to occur some time in the 2030s, climate scientists believe that climate change increases the frequency in which deep freezes reach the southern-most states in the U.S.

While those types of deep freezes have historically occurred once every decade, climate change could threaten the Lone Star State with more frequent occurrences in the future, scientists say.

As the Arctic warms and Arctic ice melts, the jet stream, a band of strong winds moving west to east created by cold air meeting warmer air, becomes weaker. As the jet stream becomes more "wavy," it allows very warm temperatures to extend far into the Arctic and very cold temperatures further south than usual, Jessica Moerman, vice president of science and policy at the Evangelical Environmental Network, a faith-based environmental group, told ABC News in 2021.

The loss of human life as a result of extreme weather events is "highly avoidable" in the U.S., Krishnamoorti said. In addition, the economic fallout that occurs as a result of blackout situations in Texas can also be catastrophic, especially in the medical and natural gas industries, he added.

"If Texas sneezes, the world will probably catch a cold," Krishnamoorti said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Attorneys for "Rust" armorer say she was pressured to work in unsafe environment

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(NEW YORK) -- Attorneys for the Rust film armorer charged with involuntary manslaughter Tuesday said she felt "extreme pressure" to work within an irresponsible culture that resulted in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in 2021.

Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and actor Alec Baldwin were both charged Tuesday with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in New Mexico. First assistant director David Halls has already agreed to plead no contest for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

Attorney Jason Bowles said Halls "rushed" Gutierrez-Reed "all the time," which did not allow her to do a full safety check on the gun held by Baldwin that fatally killed Hutchins. His client was waiting on Halls to call her back to the church where the scene was scheduled to be filmed and where she expected to perform a full check on the gun.

According to her, she never got the call.

Gutierrez-Reed "didn't even know that Baldwin was there with the gun. So for the DA's office to blame Hannah for failing to do something … it's insane," Bowles told ABC News.

In an exclusive with ABC News, Bowles and attorney Todd Bullion characterized the Rust set as negligent regarding its safety and blamed the culture on Halls, who they said insisted on having a "real gun" on the set and ignored Gutierrez-Reed's request to be called to the set when it was time to use the Colt .45 in a scene.

Halls, Bowles said, "handed the gun to Baldwin and didn't do the check himself. He admitted that had Hannah been called back in [he] would have prevented this tragedy. That's a David Halls failure."

Amid the allegations by Gutierrez-Reed's attorneys, Halls' legal team said, "You can quote anything in the public record." Lisa Torraco, attorney for Dave Halls, told ABC News earlier that Halls was responsible for "announcing that there's a firearm on set" but denied he was responsible for the handling of the weapon to Baldwin.

Law enforcement said Halls, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed were the only three people who handled the gun on the set. Halls testified in a deposition in December with attorneys from the New Mexico Occupational Health and Safety Bureau that he checked the gun and did not "have any recollection" announcing the gun was "cold," indicating it did not contain live rounds.

"I have recollections of Hannah saying it," he testified.

Gutierrez-Reed contradicts those claims, her attorneys say. Prosecutors said Baldwin has given contradicting statements to media and law enforcement, first telling police he received the gun from Gutierrez-Reed and later saying it came from Halls and that Halls told him it was a "cold gun."

Bowles said the charges brought against Baldwin are appropriate because he failed to follow the appropriate training when handling a firearm. Despite following the required hour-long training, it lasted 30 minutes because Baldwin was texting his family throughout, according to court documents.

"She was demanding the training occur, she was asking for it, pleading that the training occurred. They didn't allow her to do it," he said.

When reached for comment, Baldwin's attorney directed ABC News to his Jan. 19 statement. "Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun -- or anywhere on the movie set. He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win," attorney Luke Nikas said.

Despite her concerns over a reckless safety culture, Gutierrez-Reed did not feel comfortable demanding that protocols be met because of her junior status. Investigator Robert Shilling wrote in the statement of probable cause that she was unqualified because she had "no certification or certifiable training, or union 'card' for this practice," and the production violated industry practices by also assigning her assistant prop master duties, which meant she could not focus primarily on her armorer duties.

Bowles rejected the suggestion that Gutierrez-Reed, 24, was not capable of safety measures because of lack of experience.

"She was absolutely qualified to work in this film," he said, because she received training from Thell Reed, her father, a veteran armorer and weapons specialist whose credits include Tombstone, Django: Unchained, 3:10 to Yuma, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

"Everybody has to start somewhere. That didn't mean she wasn't trained or capable of doing this job," said Bowles.

He added she was simply "trying to follow orders" because Rust presented her the "opportunity to get her union certification to then be certified" as a professional armorer.

"She's trying to do her job. And she's being made to do certain things that she's fighting against," he said. "So when you have a 30-year veteran [like Halls] telling her 'you're going to do this.' That's what she did."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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