National News

Court mulling whether to reinstate 3rd-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin in George Floyd's death

Courtesy Ben Crump LawBY: BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC NEWS

(MINNEAPOLIS) — The Minnesota Court of Appeals is deciding whether to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer set to go on trial next week in the death of George Floyd.

During a virtual hearing on Monday, a prosecutor from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison's office argued that the district court judge presiding over Chauvin's case "abused his discretion" by dropping the charge.

Chauvin, who did not attend Monday's hearing, is currently facing charges of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 25 death of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man.

"We will ... issue an expedited decision as soon as possible, appreciating that the trial in this matter is supposed to start one week from today," Appellate Judge Michelle A. Larkin said at the close of the hearing.

Chauvin, 44, is being tried separately from three other former officers involved in Floyd's death. J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter and are scheduled to go on trial in August.

Cellphone video showed Chauvin digging his knee into the back of Floyd's neck for a prolonged period as Kueng and Lane held the handcuffed man down in a prone position as he repeatedly cried out, "I can't breathe."

Thao is accused of standing by and keeping witnesses at bay.

Floyd went unconscious during the incident and was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill, who is presiding over Chauvin's case, dismissed the third-degree murder charge in October last year, ruling that it required evidence that Chauvin's alleged actions put multiple people at risk and resulted in a death. Cahill ruled that since Chauvin is accused of only targeting Floyd, the count did not apply to his case.

During Monday's hearing, prosecutor Neal Katyal cited a Feb. 1 ruling by the Minnesota Court of Appeals upholding a third-degree murder conviction against former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor in the 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond after she called 911 to report an assault in progress near her home.

Following the Court of Appeals ruling in Noor's case, prosecutors asked Cahill to reconsider the third-degree charge against Chauvin. Cahill denied the request.

Chauvin's lawyer Eric Nelson argued on Monday that Cahill's ruling should stand because the Appeals Court decision in Noor's case should not be considered a legally binding precedent because Noor has 60 to 90 days to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Nelson argued that if Chauvin were convicted of third-degree murder and the Noor case was overturned, he could appeal, "but he would have to do it from the confines of a prison cell."

Larkin responded, "When the Supreme Court does grant review of our cases, it typically does not vacate our decision or issue any order limiting that decision."

"All of these rules and the lack of any statement that a precedential opinion is anything but immediately effective in terms of precedential authority are causing me to question your assertion that the rules support ignoring precedential decisions of this court until such time as to seek review has expired, the Supreme Court denies review or the Supreme Court takes review and issues a different decision," Larkin told Nelson.

Katyal said that it could take the Supreme Court up to a year to review a case. He noted that there are three other former officers charged in the death of Floyd and their trial could occur "very possibly when Noor is over and left intact."

"That would mean third-degree murder charges could be brought against those three officers just because of timing," Katyal said. "Everything about our legal system rebels against that notion ... in Minnesota and any jurisdiction with which we're familiar."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


15-year-old boy shot at Arkansas school allegedly by fellow student: Police

vmargineanu/iStockBy EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(PINE BLUFF, Ark.) -- A 15-year-old boy has been shot at his school in Arkansas, allegedly by a fellow student, police said.

The shooting at Watson Chapel Junior High School in Pine Bluff took place around 10 a.m., Pine Bluff police said.

The teen, the only one hurt, was hospitalized in very serious condition, police said. On Monday afternoon, police incorrectly said the teen died.

The suspect, also a 15-year-old boy, was found hiding behind a house near the school, police said. He has been taken to the Juvenile Justice Center and is awaiting charges, police said.

All other students were safe, the Watson Chapel School District said, calling the shooting an "isolated incident."

Police said a motive isn't clear but the shooting was believed to be targeted, not random.

Monday marked the first day of on-site learning for students in Pine Bluff, about 44 miles south of Little Rock.

Editor's Note: The Pine Bluff Police Department issued a correction Monday saying the student who was shot at Watson Chapel Junior High School Monday has not died. Police said they released bad information to the public.

ABC News' Rachel Katz contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Teachers in LA County approved for vaccine in latest expansion

adamkaz/iStockBY: ERIN SCHUMAKER, ABC NEWS

(LOS ANGELES) — Teachers in Los Angeles County will be able to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, as part of a wave of essential workers who are newly eligible to get vaccinated.

In addition to educators, child care and emergency service workers, law enforcement and food and agriculture workers are also newly eligible, which translates into roughly 1.2 million newly approved people in LA County.

Health officials warned that vaccinating everyone will take time, given the size of the new pool combined with people from previously approved groups who have not yet received vaccines.

"It will take considerable time to vaccinate these groups, unless vaccine supply significantly increases,'' said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for LA County's Department of Public Health.

"We urge the public's patience as we work through this process as quickly as possible," he said.

While many of this week's shots are set aside for people who are receiving their second jab, 103,000 doses will be allocated to specific groups, with 35.8% going to people 65 and older; 27.6% going to food, agriculture and grocery workers; 30.3% going to educators and child care workers; and 6.2% going to emergency services and law enforcement.

"This allocation is proportional to the size of the population in each sector as well as the size of the unvaccinated 65-plus population in the county,'' according to Simon.

In order to get a vaccine, workers will have to show proof of their employment, such as an employee badge, a pay stub with an address or other type of official license.

The vaccine expansion comes after a back-and-forth battle in Los Angeles over reopening schools for in-person instruction. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say schools should be able to safely do at least some in-person learning with proper mitigation measures, LA's teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, wants teachers to be vaccinated or provided access to vaccination before they go back to the classroom.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Minneapolis scraps plans to pay social media influencers to spread information during Chauvin trial

oatawa/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Minneapolis has scrapped plans to pay social media influencers to share information during the upcoming trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd.

In an email sent to city elected officials and obtained by ABC News, Minneapolis' Director of Communications Greta Bergstrom and Director of Neighborhood and Community Relations David Rubedor confirmed plans to cancel the initiative.

"We would like to take a moment to address the recommendation to use social media 'influencers' as part of the Joint Information System information sharing strategies," the email stated. The initiative, according to the email, came about because "we have heard repeatedly that many residents are not connected to the city's traditional routes of sharing information."

"While we believe in and support the intention of this recommendation, we have seen the impact has caused harm. We are sorry and acknowledge that we will have to work to repair the harm that has been caused," the email added. "At this point, we will NOT move forward with this strategy."

The initial plans were for Minneapolis to have paid partnerships with "community members who are considered trusted messengers and have large social media presence to share City generated and approved messages," according to the city's website.

The proposal was first reported by the local outlet the Minnesota Reformer last Friday, which stated that the budget for this project was $12,000, with $2,000 paid to each influencer to share information during the trials, citing a city spokeswoman.

The embattled plans immediately courted controversy from many residents of Minneapolis, who questioned the move and the city's motives.

“If you go through lengths and measures to buy a narrative, what does that say about the leadership and trust that has been eroded in the past few years?” Toussaint Morrison, a community activist in Minneapolis, told ABC Minneapolis affiliate KTSP-TV.

"You buy people to tell you that your emotions aren't valid, or that you should stay home and not protest, or that certain things are more important than justice," Morrison added. "So I really feel that them trying to buy the narrative from social media influencers is really disappointing."

The trial of Chauvin, which is set to begin on March 8 with jury selection, looms large over Minneapolis.

The white police officer, who pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for almost eight minutes in a video that horrified the nation -- as well as galvanized communities across the country to demand change -- faces second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Water crisis in South persists following devastating winter storm

FRANCOIS PICARD/AFP via Getty ImagesBy JULIA JACOBO, ABC News

(JACKSON, Miss.) -- Hundreds of thousands of residents in the South are still dealing with the after effects of two devastating winter storms as cities struggle to provide drinking water.

Residents in Jackson, Mississippi, are still under a boil water alert, and some residents still do not have running water after the back-to-back winter storms last month wreaked havoc on the city's water system.

While significant progress was made Sunday on restoring pressure to the system, and water for flushing toilets was restored on Monday, the city's water system does not have a time table on when a full restoration will be complete, ABC Jackson affiliate WAPT reported. Water was previously expected to be fully restored by the end of last week, Charles Williams, the city's director of public works, told the Jackson City Council on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves dispatched the National Guard and more tanker trucks to Jackson to aid in the water crisis.

Jackson resident Terri Hall told WAPT that water has only been dripping from her faucet and that what little comes out is mixed with sediment. She has been without water for 10 days.

"We can't bathe in this, because if there is microbes in the water, they can enter your mouth, eyes, and nose, and can't wash dishes because you don't want to ingest that way," she said.

In Texas, more than half a million people are still under boil water advisories, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. At one point, more than 14.4 million people, about half of the state's population, were affected by weather-related water disruptions.

Although the boil water advisory was lifted in Houston on Feb. 21, thousands of homes are still without water after pipes burst in freezing temperatures, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced on Sunday.

"They still do not have water, so there is a tremendous need," Turner said.

About 10,000 people showed up to a distribution center Sunday to pick up cases of water and meal kits, Turner said.

Turner has requested more supplies from FEMA so licensed plumbers can continue to repair the pipes, according to the release.

Business agent Rick Lord told ABC Houston station KTRK that when he recently went to a local hardware store, the plumbing section was empty, describing it as "Black Friday on steroids in the plumbing aisle."



Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Flooding in Kentucky sparks rescues, evacuations for seniors

welcomia/iStockBy EMILY SHAPIRO, MAX GOLEMBO and MELISSA GRIFFIN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Up to 5 inches of rain has slammed parts of Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Maryland, leaving residents stranded, roads washed out and buildings flooded.

In London, Kentucky, the London-Laurel County Rescue Squad used a raft to rescue a woman trapped in her car Sunday night.

In Salyersville, Kentucky, a nursing home evacuated its residents due to a high risk of flooding, the staff told local station WYMT-TV.

In Powell County, Kentucky, all learning is remote on Monday due to the flooding.

Thunderstorms also brought damaging winds to Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, knocking down power lines and trees.

Officials are urging residents to drive with extra caution.

Although the heavy rain has subsided, flood warnings remain in effect Monday due to saturated grounds and swollen creeks and rivers.

The rain is now moving Southeast. Heavy rain is in the forecast through Wednesday morning from New Orleans, Louisiana, to Charleston, South Carolina.

The heaviest rain will likely be Monday night through Tuesday night with scattered thunderstorms and isolated flash flooding. Some spots could see 2 to 4 inches of rain.

In the Northeast, arctic air is about to return.

Wind advisories and high wind warnings are in effect through Tuesday morning from Washington, D.C., to New York City to New England. Wind gusts could reach 50 to 60 mph.

By Tuesday morning, the wind chill -- what it feels like -- will plunge to -3 degrees in Boston, 12 degrees in New York City and 9 degrees in Pittsburgh.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Kentucky man reported missing at Grand Canyon

National Park Service via TwitterBy EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A 40-year-old man has gone missing at the Grand Canyon, sparking a search by the National Park Service.

John Pennington, of Walton, Kentucky, was last known to be at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, near Yaki Point, the National Park Service said.

Pennington abandoned his vehicle at Yaki Point on or around Feb. 23 and is believed to be traveling alone, possibly on a yellow motorcycle, the park service said.

Grand Canyon spokesperson Joelle Baird said Monday, "Yesterday and continuing today our aviation crew will continue aerial search reconnaissance flights."

Rangers ask anyone who may have seen Pennington or the yellow motorcycle to call the park service's Investigative Services Branch Tip Line at 888-653-0009.

A family spokesperson urged anyone with information to call the tip line, and told ABC News, "our thanks and appreciation to the NPS and the local authorities for their efforts."

Pennington is described as a white man with hazel eyes and brown hair. He stands at 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 165 pounds, the park service said.

The motorcycle, a 2005 Suzuki, has an Ohio license plate number GSX-R600.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How the first US city to fund reparations for Black residents is making amends

ABCBy ASHLEY BROWN, EMILIE DE SAINTE MARESVILLE and ALLIE YANG, ABC News

(EVANSTON, Ill.) -- Evanston, Illinois, is like a lot of American cities. The city just north of Chicago appears picturesque, updated and grand on one side -- but not far away, one can see the signs of economic and racial segregation, despite the city's proud, diverse and liberal reputation.

What sets Evanston apart from other cities, however, is its groundbreaking plan to address the impact of that segregation and Black disenfranchisement: reparations.

The impetus for the city's reparations resolution, first passed in 2019 and spearheaded by 5th Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, is rooted partially in Rue Simmons' experience growing up Black in Evanston.

"Early in my childhood I was invited to have a play date," she recalled. "My white friends never had a play date at my home."

Visiting a white friend's neighborhood, she noticed, "the streets were wider. The trees were taller. The homes were bigger and brighter. As a young child, I recognized that difference."

Watch “Soul of a Nation” TUESDAY at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. Episodes will be available on Hulu starting Wednesday.

"I never felt, in any way, envious," she said. "I never had that feeling like, 'Why isn't my family doing better?' It was obvious that it was the barrier of race that kept us from that."

Rue Simmons still lives in the ward she represents. She says over time, resources were stripped away from her neighborhood. That, she said, coupled with a lack of investment, led to an ever-increasing wealth gap between white and Black residents in the city.

She hopes that her work will help families in her neighborhood that are "burdened … get some relief" via reparations, which will first be distributed this year in increments of up to $25,000 per eligible resident to use for housing.

The discussion on reparations has been ongoing -- and controversial -- in the U.S. since slavery was abolished in 1865. Originally, reparations were proposed to make amends for slavery, which built the nation's wealth -- but excluded Black Americans from it.

Reparations first arose as a promise, in early 1865, to redistribute land in the southeast U.S. to formerly enslaved people. For decades, the promise is often invoked in the phrase, "40 acres and a mule."

It was a promise left unfulfilled. By the end of 1865, President Andrew Johnson overturned the land redistribution order. In the decades since, Black Americans have endured a succession of injustices, from Black codes to Jim Crow and redlining -- American policies that broadly kept generational wealth-building out of reach for many Black communities.

Today, Evanston is the first city in the U.S. to fund reparations, committing $10 million over the next decade in an attempt to repay Black residents for the wrongs and accumulated losses incurred by generations of racism.

Rue Simmons said she didn't start her elected career "even discussing reparations. It was not something I had planned to pursue," she said.

"I was looking at data," she continued. "I was looking at what we had done, what more we could do, and reparations was the only answer."

She explained that any more of the status quo would sustain "the oppressed state and the disparity that we have and that we have had for years. That's all it could do. More of the same."

"The only legislative response for us to reconcile the damages in the Black community is reparations," she said.

Rue Simmons and her colleagues had the support of local historian Dino Robinson in building the case for reparations. Robinson is the founder of the Shorefront Legacy Center in Evanston, an archive dedicated solely to chronicling and celebrating the local Black history that had long gone ignored.

In a 70 page report, Robinson documented discrimination and racism in Evanston that dated back to the late 1800s.

"We anticipate litigation to tie things up with the premise that 'You cannot use tax money that's from the public to benefit a particular group of people,'" Robinson said, referring to opposition to the city's plan. But, he countered, "the entire Black community historically has paid taxes, but were not guaranteed the same benefits."

He said part of the resistance is due to a lack of education.

"The one comment I hear most often is, 'I did not know,'" said Robinson. "'I did not know there was segregation in Evanston.' 'I did not know that your housing mortgage is higher than mine but we have the same income."

But records paint a clear picture of exactly how racial inequality developed in the city.

"Black community members were moving throughout Evanston and forming … Black pockets in the city of Evanston," Robinson said. "It caused the white community to start panicking, like, 'What do we do about this?'

Articles, reports and studies were conducted on the Black community to discuss what should be done, Robinson said. And Evanston, like many cities across the country, embraced the practice of redlining.

"Redlining was a federal project to determine the market values of areas and neighborhoods," Robinson explained. "[There were] four categories, 'A' being the highly desired area, 'D' the lower, lowest-value properties. The 'D' areas were usually relegated to the Black community. 'D' was always in red."

In Evanston, Black residents were moved into a triangle-shaped area that became the 5th Ward, deliberately segregating them from white families, sought-after property, and ultimately, wealth.

The 5th Ward was bordered by what was then a sewage canal on one side and far removed from public transportation and the city's downtown. According to Robinson's report, homes in the area had smaller lot sizes, and at the time, many had no electricity, water or sewers.

"The only option to buy in Evanston was basically in the 5th Ward," Robinson said. "Banks in Evanston would not loan to Black families for housing [and] the real estate agencies would not show you anything other than the 5th Ward."

In the late 1940s, the city also demolished some homes belonging to Black families that were outside of the 5th Ward -- or physically took them from their foundations and moved them into the redlined boundaries.

"The historic redlining impacts our community today," Rue Simmons said. "That map still is the map of our concentrated Black community, our disinvestment, our inferior infrastructure."

Today, white people in Evanston make nearly double the income and have double the home value of their Black neighbors according to the most recent U.S. Census. This racial wealth gap is prevalent nationally, with Black Americans possessing less than 15% of the wealth that White Americans have, according to the Federal Reserve 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances.

Black residents who lived through redlining in Evanston -- and their descendants -- are eligible for reparations. That includes 98-year-old, Benjamin Gaines Sr. and his son, Benjamin Gaines Jr. The Gaines family moved to Evanston in 1959.

"We did something that not a whole lot of Black families were able to do in Evanston," Gaines Sr. told ABC News. "That's build a house from the ground up."

But Gaines Sr. said there's no doubt in his mind that the two-year process to find a plot and get financing was much more difficult than it would have been for a white man.

"The contractor, he said, 'You find a lot anywhere in Evanston, and I'll build whatever you want," Gaines Sr. said. "Well, when he said that, he meant in the Black neighborhoods … It was just the way it was."

Gaines Sr. said he also had "big trouble" financing his home, and that he feels these problems are still present today.

"It's the old cliché about, 'The more things change, the more they remain the same.'"

Younger members of Gaines Sr.'s family say that while modern-day Evanston is outwardly progressive, inequality is still a problem.

"Growing up in Evanston for me was definitely good, despite the racism that I faced," Gaines Sr.'s grand-nephew, Jared Davis said. The father of three said he will apply for reparations, "because it's owed."

Davis' kids, 25-year-old Nic and 16-year-old Myah, have also been involved in their family's discussion on reparations, expressing fatigue over having to justify why they're owed, with the city's history so well-documented at this point.

"I don't even think it's my job to justify to you, like, why we need reparations," said Nic. "Do you not live here? Do you not know? Did you not see the demographics changing throughout the years? Like, we knew it was racist."

Alderman Rue Simmons has also noted a shrinking Black population in Evanston as a result of historic redlining, modern gentrification and rising property taxes. Black residents currently make up 16% of Evanston's population, but, Rue Simmons pointed out, "we've had much higher in the past."

Now, according to Rue Simmons, the $25,000 reparations benefit for housing is meant to combat "a lack of affordability, lack of access to living wage careers here in the city, and a lack of sense of place."

Evanston proposed a novel idea to fund reparations -- a 3% tax on newly legal recreational marijuana sales.

"It's the most appropriate use for that sales tax," Simmons said. "In our city, 70% of the marijuana arrests were in the Black community. And we are 16% of the community. All studies show that Blacks and white [people] consume cannabis at the same rate."

This funding solution has put Evanston ahead of any other city in America, and on the radar of Danny Glover, an actor and long-time reparations activist who has been vocal in his support of House Resolution 40.

The 31-year-old bill was so named to invoke the broken promise of "40 acres and a mule." The proposal would create a commission to study and develop a national plan for reparations.

The bill was first proposed in 1989 by Rep. John Conyers. He re-introduced it every year he served until he resigned in 2017. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has taken on the mantle. She cites “the idea of reparations is unworkable politically or financially” as the reason opposition has fought the bill for decades.

Glover testified before the House Judiciary subcommittee to support HR-40 in 2019.

"[It] is an opportunity to have a commission to study reparations, but also the further contexts in which we look at slavery and the impact that it had on us," he told ABC News.

Glover traveled to Evanston in 2019 to speak at a reparations town hall because, in his words, the city "did something that no other city has done in the country."

"If we're able to use that as a platform, maybe other cities might adopt the whole idea of this," he continued.

In Washington, the issue is incredibly divisive.

Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell said in 2019 “it would be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate,” and said, “none of us currently living are responsible” for what happened 150 years ago. Lee currently has backing from 173 cosponsors, all Democrats.

It gained renewed attention this winter, but still has yet to advance out of committee.

Simmons says reparations are broadly supported in Evanston, despite some questions from other city leaders over whether the recreational marijuana sales tax revenue can sustain the fund in the longer-term.

For the Gaines-Davis family, and other Black Evanstonians who proudly support reparations, questions remain about how far $25,000 can go -- even as a first step -- to fulfill long-broken promises.

"It's a drop in the bucket… But it's better than nothing. It's better than what I have now," Benjamin Gaines Sr. said. "Hopefully, before I die, I'll see the world change."

Nic Davis is hesitant to celebrate too soon.

"Uncle Ben [has been] telling all these stories and things and making you understand, like, change is not an easy thing," he said, expressing wariness over years of support for progressive promises that have taken too long to fulfill throughout history.

"[There were] people who were acting like they're ready for change, and behind closed doors other things are happening, right?" he said. "We see that all the time in politics right now."

"What does it say that my 25-year-old has to feel like that?" his father Jared Davis said.

Myah Davis said she's learned a lot from her elders.

"They constantly talk to me about issues that I would not know anything about if I wasn't in the family that I'm in," she said. "[In school] we aren't really taught about a lot of Black history outside of, 'Oh, you know, slaves came from Africa.' I think part of reparations - it can't just be money. Like, you have to teach us what we need to know."

Rue Simmons acknowledges the concerns of those community members who feel $25,000 is not enough.

"$25,000 is life-saving for some families right now," she said. "But relative to the injury, it's not nearly enough. And I get that."

That's why she hopes more relief will come from reparations at the state and federal levels, including HR-40.

But Evanston's leaders are not waiting for Washington. They plan to begin dispersing funds this spring and hope that is just the first reparative step for Evanston, and for other cities across the country.

"When I introduced reparations in Evanston it was always the first step of many to come," Simmons said. "There is a lifetime of work ahead of me and my children for us to get to justice for the Black community."

She said she remains hopeful, and that she must, to do this work.

"I do believe that we're committed as a city. And I believe that we will advance reparations," Simmons said. "I can't wait to celebrate the family that receives their first reparation benefit. I cannot wait for that day."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


'Many' US Capitol Police officers want to retire or leave after Jan. 6 insurrection, union says

YayaErnst/iStockBy LUKE BARR and MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The union representing United States Capitol Police officers said "many" members of the force are looking to retire or leave the federal law enforcement agency after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

"Many officers that are retirement eligible are seriously looking at turning in their retirement papers. Since January 6th, several Officers have retired as a result," Gus Papathanasiou, chairman of the United States Capitol Police Labor Committee, said in a statement Friday. "Additionally, I cannot tell you the number of younger officers who have confided in me since the insurrection who are actively looking at other police agencies or even new careers."

Papathanasiou said the two main drivers are "a lack of trust in our leadership who clearly failed us on January 6th" and the fact that many other agencies "offer better working conditions and better retirement benefits" than the U.S. Capitol Police.

"If Congress wants to recruit and retain officers to meet the heightened security threat," he added, "they are going to have address both the leadership and quality of life issues driving officers to leave this department."

The events of Jan. 6 occurred after then-President Donald Trump and his allies held a rally in Washington, D.C., urging Congress not to certify the results of the November presidential election, in which Trump lost to Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Trump vowed to "never concede" and urged his supporters "to fight," as he continued to push baseless claims of election fraud.

Crowds of people then made their way to the steps of the U.S. Capitol, pushing through barricades, officers in riot gear and other security measures that were put in place in anticipation of the protest. An angry mob breached the Capitol building, forcing a lockdown with members of Congress and their staff holed up inside. It took hours for law enforcement to clear the building and establish a perimeter around the area. Five people, including U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, died during the rampage and dozens more were injured.

So far, more than 300 people have been charged in connection to the Jan. 6 siege, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund resigned amid criticism over the department's handling of the attack. Meanwhile, six U.S. Capitol Police officers have been suspended with pay and 29 others have been placed under investigation for their actions during the insurrection.

In his statement Friday, Papathanasiou referenced reports that a draft review by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who was appointed to examine security on Capitol Hill following the insurrection, calls for the hiring of an additional 1,000 officers, of which approximately 350 would be detailed to provide personal security to members of Congress. The U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) "made it clear" in its budget submission to the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Appropriations in February 2020 that it "did not have enough officers to meet mission requirements," according to Papathanasiou.

"The fact we were understaffed was no secret," he said. "Recruiting, hiring, and training these additional officers is going to take years. As the USCP'S mission has increased drastically over the last few years, our manpower hasn't and we need more manpower, but my biggest concern right now is retaining the officers we already have. I have warned USCP leadership and Members of Congress that many USCP officers are on the fence about whether to stay with this department."

In addition to inadequate staffing, Papathanasiou said "one of the primary challenges on January 6th is that we did not have a fixed perimeter that we could easily defend."

"The bicycle racks that were put in place did not stop anyone and they were actually used as a weapons against the officers by the insurrectionists," he added. "We need to be able to establish a fixed perimeter for future protests. Whether it's a permanent fence or temporary that can quickly be deployed is open for discussion. However, we definitely need a solution so that January 6th never happens again."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Authorities rescue five from truck trapped in flooded creek in Tennessee

Dekalb County Fire Department/FacebookBy MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Five people, including an infant, were rescued from a pickup truck that had slid off a water-covered bridge and into a swollen creek in Tennessee on Sunday afternoon amid severe flooding across the southern U.S. state, authorities said.

The vehicle was swept off the road by floodwater and became partially submerged in the rushing creek, with all five occupants trapped inside, near the small town of Liberty in DeKalb County, about 60 miles southeast of Nashville.

Water rescue teams from multiple agencies worked together and used various equipment, including a bucket truck, to safely rescue the individuals, according to the DeKalb County Fire Department. There were no injuries reported.

The DeKalb County Fire Department posted footage of the rescue on Facebook.

The National Weather Service's forecast office in Nashville issued a flood watch on Sunday for a number of Tennessee counties, including DeKalb. The agency warned that "showers and thunderstorms will produce intense rainfall rates in excess of 2 inches per hour at times," and that "runoff from these storms will quickly overwhelm poor draining areas as well as small creeks and streams."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Man vanishes in attempt to swim after boat he lost control of, presumed dead

TeamDAF/iStockBy JON HAWORTH, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A man vanished and is presumed to have drowned after losing control of his boat and attempting to swim after it as it floated away.

The incident occurred on Sunday, Feb. 28 at approximately 3:00 p.m. in Pascagoula, Mississippi, which is located on the Gulf of Mexico when the Pascagoula Police Department say their Marine Patrol Division found an unmanned fishing vessel in the Yazoo Bayou across from The Point Pier.

Officers subsequently took control of the unmanned boat and were able to pull it ashore before conducting a cursory investigation.

“Once on land, officers discovered the boat owner’s truck, which was unlocked and contained a cell phone and several personal items,” said Pascagoula Police Department’s Chief of Police Matt Chapman in a statement released on social media. “Upon further investigation, officers were able to determine from video footage, the owner launched his boat, but lost control and it floated away from him.”

Authorities said the victim, whose identity has not yet been released, then returned to his car to place his personal items in the vehicle before attempting to swim after his boat that he had accidentally lost control of.

“He was see on video footage going under water and never returning to the surface,” said Chapman.

Investigators with the Pascagoula Police Department said that they have determined this was an accidental drowning though the man’s body has not yet been recovered.

Authorities confirmed that a dive team is currently on the scene attempting to locate the victim.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


VCU fraternity under investigation after death of freshman student

Courtesy Courtney WhiteBy DEVIN VILLACIS and IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Virginia Commonwealth University said it shut down a fraternity and the police are investigating after a freshman student was found dead this weekend.

Adam Oakes, 19, was found dead at an off-campus residence early Saturday morning by authorities, the university and the Richmond Police Department said in statements. The medical examiner's office is working to determine the cause of death, according to Richmond Police.

"This is a tragic loss for Adam's family and members of our community, and we encourage any students in need of support to contact University Counseling Services," the school said in a statement.

Oakes' cousin, Courtney White, told ABC News that the teen had rushed the university's Delta Chi fraternity, and this weekend was the night of his "big little reveal."

The national office of Delta Chi said in a statement it suspended its VCU chapter Saturday afternoon and extended its condolences to Oakes' family.

"We encourage all members to cooperate with law enforcement, investigative efforts and all directives of the University Administration," the national fraternity organization said in its statement.

The university said it also took "similar action" against the chapter.

White, 39, said Oakes was an only child and the youngest of all of the family's cousins. She said her cousin pledged with the fraternity because "he was just trying to be accepted and find his place."

"Adam was a kid who loved life and was just coming out of his shell," White told ABC News.

The university instructed students to contact the Richmond Police if they have any information regarding Oakes' death or this weekend's incident. Richmond Police said anyone with information is asked to call Major Crimes Detective Michael Gouldman at (804) 646-3915 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000.

White urged her cousin's classmates and fraternity members to speak up and help find answers.

"Don’t be afraid, be brave," she said. "There is no healing from this, but it would give us a sense of what happened."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Connecticut ambulance employee arrested in string of Molotov cocktail attacks: Police

ChristopherBernard/iStockBy BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A Connecticut ambulance company employee was arrested and charged in a string of Molotov cocktail attacks across the state that targeted two emergency medical services agencies, a volunteer fire department and a private residence on the same day, authorities said.

Richard White, 37, of Torrington, Connecticut, was arrested around 10 p.m. on Saturday by Pennsylvania State Police troopers who stopped his car on Interstate 80 near Milton, Pennsylvania, officials said.

An arrest warrant was issued for White on Saturday night, charging him with third-degree arson and third-degree burglary. He is being held in Pennsylvania on a $150,000 bond and is awaiting extradition back to Old Saybrook, Connecticut, Old Saybrook Police Chief Michael A. Spera told ABC News on Sunday.

"This individual has targeted those who we count on to save lives," Spera said in a statement to ABC News. “Our Officers have worked diligently all evening obtaining both search and arrest warrants in an effort to quickly stop these violent attacks against public safety and cause the suspect to be taken into custody."

It was not immediately clear if White had retained an attorney.

No one was injured in the attacks, Spera said.

White is an employee of the Hunters Ambulance agency in Meriden, Connecticut, according to a statement from Capt. John Mennone of the Meriden Police Department.

White's colleague told police that he was involved in a physical altercation with another employee about 10 a.m. on Saturday following a disciplinary hearing in which he was placed on administrative leave, Mennone said.

He said police were called to the ambulance agency, but by the time they arrived White had fled. Police did not release details on what White was disciplined over.

Spera told ABC News that White works as an emergency medical technician.

Just after 4 p.m. on Saturday, White resurfaced at the Hunters Ambulance station in Old Saybrook, where he allegedly ignited a Molotov cocktail inside an employee room and fled in a 2004 gray Ford Taurus, according to Mennone's statement.

Mennone said that at about 5 p.m., a car matching the description of White's vehicle was spotted back at the Hunters Ambulance agency in Meriden, where the occupant of the car was seen throwing a lit Molotov cocktail at the building and speeding off.

During a news conference on Sunday, Sgt. Paul Makuc of the Connecticut State Police Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit said the back-to-back attacks at the Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department and at a residence about 2 miles away both occurred around 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Spera told ABC affiliate station WTNH-TV in New Haven that the residence set on fire in Roxbury is believed to be White’s childhood home.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Flight instructor, student pilot rescued by US Coast Guard after ditching plane off coast of Hawaii

Joel Carillet/iStockBy BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A flight instructor and a student pilot were rescued by a U.S. Coast Guard crew Saturday night after their plane experienced engine trouble, forcing them to ditch the aircraft in the ocean off the coast of Hawaii, officials said.

The two pilots were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Coast Guard officials. Their names were not immediately released.

Lt. j.g. Makenzy Karnehm, watchstander of the Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center, said a Coast Guard helicopter rescue crew from Air Station Barbers Point in Oahu managed to reach pilots about an hour after they ended up in the ocean about eight miles off the coast of Lanai, the sixth-largest Hawaiian island.

"As a watchstander, this is the type of outcome we want to see with every case," Karnehm said in a statement, "Both the Coast Guard and our partners train together for incidents like this and once the call came in we were able to quickly mobilize a robust response and rescue the pilots."

The Coast Guard and Maui Fire Department also dispatched boats to the area where the single-engine plane went down, officials said.

Coast Guard officials said they received a call at about 5:49 p.m. from the air-traffic control facility at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport that an aircraft was experiencing engine trouble and was likely going to ditch in the ocean.

On-duty Coast Guard watchstanders issued an urgent notice to mariners in the area to be on the lookout for survivors, officials said.

A Mokulele Airlines plane that had just taken off from the Lanai Airport heading to Honolulu spotted the two men in the water and radioed in their location as they continued to circle, officials told ABC affiliate station KITV in Honolulu.

Passengers aboard the Mokulele Airlines flight said their pilot quickly asked them to help scan the ocean for the stranded flyers as they circled the area.

"The pilot said, 'There is an aircraft in distress. There is nobody else out there. We have to divert to find them,'" a passenger aboard the Mokulele Airlines flight told KITV. "We started a descending spiral over the ocean just looking for the aircraft. My wife and two passengers on the left side of the plane spotted the aircraft about to impact the water, then witnessed the aircraft impact the water."

The airline passenger, who asked to remain anonymous, said the pilot asked him and his fellow passengers to look for two people in yellow life jackets because the pilot kept losing sight of them.

"We kept losing the plane. It submerged. It was just a white tail in a blue ocean with white caps and two small people with life jackets," the passenger said.

Another crew from Kamaka Air also spotted the pilots in the water and continued to circle until Coast Guard crews arrived, the president of the airline told KITV.

George Hanzawa of George's Aviation Services in Honolulu told KITV that the plane that crashed was a DA40 Diamond Star that was owned by his company. He said the flight instructor also worked for his company and took a student on a training run Saturday afternoon. He said they were expected to return by sunset.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Brothers arrested in shooting of two deputies near Florida-Georgia border

Decatur County Sheriff via FacebookBy BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Two sheriff's deputies were shot and wounded, one critically, on a Georgia highway Saturday night when two brothers in a vehicle being chased allegedly opened fire with a rifle, authorities said.

One of the brothers, Troy Arthur Phillips, 40, was captured on Sunday following a statewide search, Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin announced on Facebook.

Phillips' brother, Brad Phillips, 41, was arrested shortly after the shooting that left the Decatur County sheriff's deputy critically wounded, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The shooting unfolded when a Decatur County Sheriff's deputy attempted to assist a Seminole County, Florida, sheriff's deputy in a chase on U.S. Highway 84 that started in Florida and crossed into Georgia, Griffin said.

During the chase, the occupants of a white Chevrolet pickup the deputies were attempting to stop for speeding and reckless driving opened fire with what investigators believed to be a .30 caliber rifle. The deputies returned fire as the chase continued, investigators said.

"The suspects drove into the driveway of a Decatur County residence and attempted to gain entry by shooting through the door," according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation statement.

The Decatur County deputy arrived at the scene as the suspects were fleeing the residence in Brinson, Georgia, and one of the brothers allegedly shot the deputy while he was still in his vehicle.

The suspects crashed in a wooded area, according to investigators. Brad Phillips was arrested shortly after the crash, while Troy Phillips was able to flee the scene on foot.

The Decatur County deputy was critically wounded when he was shot underneath his arm, Griffin said.

The deputy, whose name was not released, was taken by a helicopter ambulance in critical condition to Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, about 50 miles south of Brinson, Griffin said.

Griffin said the Seminole County deputy shot in the incident was treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

Brad Phillips was charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer. Charges against his brother were pending.

The shooting occurred when the deputies attempted to stop a vehicle for going 81 mph on the highway, authorities told ABC affiliate station WTXL-TV in Tallahassee, Florida.

While the search for Troy Phillips was going on Sunday, Griffin said in a Facebook post that investigators believed he was still in the Brinson area and advised local residents to contact law enforcement officials immediately if he is spotted.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation because it involves law enforcement officers, officials said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Weather Center

High School Scoreboard

Sports Scores

Facebook