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Students at more than 50 schools, universities stage reproductive justice protests

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Students at more than 60 high schools and universities across at least 29 states are holding student strikes and events on Thursday to fight for reproductive justice.

The self-dubbed "Day of Student Action" is organized by the Graduate Student Action Network, a group formed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade ending federal protections for abortion rights, and the Young Democratic Socialists of America.

Students plan to demand that their school step in and defend their reproductive rights and freedom of gender expression in the absence of action from elected leaders, CalTech graduate student and founder of GSAN, Rachael Kuintzle told ABC News in an interview.

GSAN was born over the summer when Kuintzle started emailing student leaders including grad student government leaders, union reps and advocacy club officers.

"Right after the Supreme Court decision in June, I felt really helpless and I started reaching out to grad students across the country … emailing them, and asking if they wanted to meet together and figure out what we can do to get health into the hands of our students as soon as possible. And so what came out of that was this day of action," Kuintzle said in an interview with ABC News.

Another student group, the Young Democratic Socialists of America, was also separately running a reproductive justice group looking into how they could make a difference and so the two groups teamed up, organizing protests and events jointly, Kuintzle said.

GSAN plans to send letters to Congress and President Joe Biden on Thursday listing their demands.

In the group's letter to Congress, they are demanding safe, legal and accessible abortion; gender-affirming healthcare; free contraception of all varieties; and federally mandated sex education, including standardized curriculum on sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy prevention and consent.

GSAN is asking Biden to declare a public health emergency over abortion to ensure that abortion pills can be provided by mail for free in all states and implement a program to mail free at-home pregnancy tests on demand to U.S. households to enable early detection of pregnancies.

The letters will be sent from the group of student leaders, but students at some campuses are also gathering signatures for petitions listing demands specific to their school.

Some of the campuses organizing protests or events Thursday include the University of Arkansas, the University of South Dakota, multiple CUNY system campuses, University of Texas at Austin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Law School.

Nikole Schneider and Danielle Galvin, students at at the University of South Dakota, told ABC News they will also be fighting for health insurance, which they do not currently have. They plan to set up several booths on Thursday for voter registration, the student health center, the school's mental health services, Planned Parenthood and a fundraising booth for a student-run group that offers free healthcare services for those without insurance.

Schneider and Galvin said being in contact with students from around the country has allowed them to feel like they are making a difference, despite initially feeling lonely and helpless after Roe was overturned.

"It's definitely changed how I think that I can affect what's happening in the country, especially now, just like being a part of something bigger," Schneider said.

Galvin said it has been eye-opening to hear the support other students around the country are getting from their schools, with those students giving them advice on how to advocate for themselves with their university's administration.

A trigger ban in South Dakota prohibits abortions entirely, "unless there is appropriate and reasonable medical judgment that performance of an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant female," according to the law.

The law, which went into effect when Roe was overturned, makes it a class 6 felony to provide abortion care in the state.

Students at the University of Arkansas have already had a few protests since Roe was overturned, but they are hoping this day of action would give them momentum going into the midterms, specifically because of the tight restrictions on abortion in the state and attacks on transgender individuals, organizer and graduate student Katy Dupree told ABC News.

A state law in Arkansas bans all abortions except to save the life of the mother, making it a felony for anyone to perform a non-approved abortion, punishable with up to 10 years in prison.

Dupree said they are organizing a comprehensive resource fair with a voter registration booth and speakers along with their student walkout and protest.

"This organization kind of fell into my lap. And it has been a very serendipitous and beneficial kind of happenstance for me, I struggled a lot through the pandemic with figuring out if graduate school is something that I really wanted to continue to pursue. And if I was happy with what I was studying, and really found that advocating for others helped me pull myself kind of up and out," Dupree said.

The student leaders all agreed that the Oct. 6 protest is just a starting point. What started out as Kuintzle emailing students around the country has since grown into a more organized graduate student group.

"We have a structure, we voted on a name together, we meet regularly, we have rules of operation, we're over 50 grad leaders in over 30 states," Kuintzle said.

Only 59 campuses opted to publicly list their name on the GSAN website, saying they will participate in the protests, but Kuintzle said there will be events at seven other schools.

The group plans to continue organizing events and advocating for students in the future.

"We're committed to fighting for our students rights, not just in reproductive justice, but beyond. We're looking for future actions and climate justice and indigenous sovereignty, we're going to be taking some action to fight for higher stipends and better health care coverage for graduate students in the near future as well," Kuintzle said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Four kidnapped Merced County family members found dead: 'Horribly senseless'

Merced County Sheriff's Office/Facebook

(NEW YORK) -- All four family members who were mysteriously kidnapped in Northern California have been found dead in a rural almond orchard, the Merced County sheriff said.

Eight-month-old Aroohi Dheri and her parents -- 27-year-old mother Jasleen Kaur and 36-year-old father Jasdeep Singh -- were taken against their will from a business on Monday, Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke said. The baby's uncle, 39-year-old Amandeep Singh, was also kidnapped, the sheriff said.

Warnke announced Wednesday night that a farm worker came across the victims' bodies, which were found relatively close together.

No motive is known, Warnke said.

The sheriff called it "horribly senseless."

The suspected kidnapper, 48-year-old Jesus Manuel Salgado, was taken into custody on Tuesday, the sheriff's office said.

Salgado attempted to take his own life "prior to law enforcement involvement" and was receiving medical attention, which delayed investigators' ability to talk to him, the sheriff's office said.

Warnke said Wednesday night that investigators have now spoken with Salgado, but the sheriff didn't provide details.

"Salgado is still being medically treated and investigators are still interviewing him," the sheriff's office said Thursday.

The sheriff added that he believes at least one other person is involved.

On Wednesday, sheriff's officials revealed surveillance video showing the family's movements outside the business -- a trucking company -- on the day of the kidnapping.

At 8:30 a.m. Monday, Jasdeep Singh arrived at the business in a minivan, and minutes later, his brother Amandeep Singh arrived there in his pickup truck, the sheriff's office said.

Someone was seen walking along the highway near the business that morning, officials said. Jasdeep Singh then made contact with the suspect and the two walked back toward the building, officials said.

The suspect -- identified by sheriff's officials Thursday as Salgado -- was seen on video pulling out a gun and entering the business, officials said.

At 9:11 a.m., video showed the back door opening and the armed suspect exiting, officials said.

Jasdeep and Amandeep Singh were seen exiting the building, apparently with their hands zip-tied behind their backs, and were put in the back seat of the pickup truck, officials said.

The truck left for a few minutes and then returned, and the suspect got out of the truck and went into the business, officials said.

Less than one minute later, Jasleen Kaur and her 8-month-old baby exited the business, officials said.

The final surveillance video image showed the truck leaving the business, officials said.

The four family members were the only people in the business at the time, the sheriff said.

The sheriff's office announced on Tuesday that Amandeep Singh's truck had been found on fire shortly before noon on Monday.

Police went to Amandeep Singh's Merced home around 12:35 p.m. Monday; while they couldn't locate him, they spoke to another relative, the sheriff's office said. When the relative couldn't reach Jasleen Kaur, Jasdeep Singh or Amandeep Singh, the relative reported them missing, the sheriff's office said.

Sheriff's officials then responded to the business, and "during the primary investigation, detectives determined that the individuals were kidnapped," the sheriff's office said Tuesday.

There were two bank transactions from the family's accounts, the sheriff said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Texas trooper under investigation for Uvalde massacre response now a cop for school district

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(UVALDE, Texas) -- ABC News has confirmed that a former Texas state trooper now under investigation for her conduct in responding to the May 24 Uvalde school shooting rampage is among the new officers hired for the Uvalde school district police department -- the same force that has come under fire for the bungled response to the massacre.

The news was first reported by CNN.

CNN reported Wednesday night that the former trooper is Crimson Elizondo, the first member of the Texas Department of Public Safety to enter the hallway at Robb Elementary School after the shooter gained entry. A law enforcement official briefed on the investigation confirmed CNN's report.

The trooper did not bring her rifle or vest into the school, according to the results of an internal review by DPS that was detailed to ABC News. As a result of potential failure to follow standard procedures, the trooper was among five DPS personnel whose conduct is now being investigated by the agency's inspector general. The five have been suspended; the trooper in question resigned from DPS and went to work for the Uvalde schools.

Elizondo is the second officer listed on the district's police webpage.

The official said DPS was not contacted by Uvalde's school personnel prior to hiring the former trooper.

DPS declined to comment. The Uvalde school district has not responded to a request for comment. The trooper declined to comment to CNN.

Nineteen students and two teachers were killed during the massacre in May. Some families of the dead have joined to form a group called Lives Robbed.

In a statement Wednesday night, the group said: "We are disgusted and angry at Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District's (UCISD) decision to hire Officer Crimson Elizondo. Her hiring puts into question the credibility and thoroughness of UCISD's HR and vetting practices. And it confirms what we have been saying all along: UCISD has not and is not in the business of ensuring the safety of our children at school."

The statement continues: "We cannot trust the decisions that have been made in regard to the safety of our schools. Therefore, we are calling for all UCISD officers to be suspended, pending the conclusion of the investigation by JPPI Investigations LLC. The results of this investigation must be released to the families of the victims of the Robb Elementary shooting, as well as to the public. Our families have been calling for accountability, and we deserve transparency and justice at the state, local and federal levels. Our children have been taken from us. We will not stop fighting until we have answers and we ensure the safety of the children in our community is the top priority."

Questions were also raised about the district's pre-hiring vetting of Pete Arredondo, the former district police chief who has been blamed for much of the bungled shooting response and has been fired because of it. He had been demoted in a previous job, and critics contend that work history was not taken into account when the district hired him to run its police force.

The practice of police officers switching jobs and jurisdictions despite concerns raised in prior posts has become a concern nationally. Some have called for the creation of national standards and databases that would enable prospective employers to learn quickly whether a cop has anything potentially disqualifying in their employment history.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Alex Jones 'boycotts' defamation trial as Connecticut jury to soon hear closing arguments in damages phase

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(NEW YORK) -- Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones declined to take the stand in his own defense Wednesday in the Infowars host's second defamation trial over his Sandy Hook comments, as jurors are slated to begin deliberating the damages this week.

Standing outside the Connecticut courthouse on Tuesday, Jones called the trial a "fraud" and told reporters he was likely not going to testify again because he could be held in contempt if he says he is "innocent."

"I'm being ordered to perjure myself when they ask me questions, or I'll be arrested if I tell the truth," he said.

His attorney, Norm Pattis, told the court Wednesday that Jones is "boycotting" the trial because he would commit perjury if he testifies under the court's orders.

Pattis did not call any witnesses for the defense, which is aiming to limit the amount of damages Jones must pay for calling the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School a hoax.

The six-member jury is expected to begin deliberating on Thursday after hearing closing arguments.

The judge last year found Jones and Infowars' parent company, Free Speech Systems, liable in the defamation lawsuit, whose plaintiffs include an FBI agent who responded to the scene and eight families of victims that Jones called actors.

Parents of some of the 20 children killed in the massacre have testified during the weeks-long trial, detailing how they have faced years of death threats, rape threats and confrontations outside their homes from people who believed Jones' lies.

Jones did testify last month after called to the stand by the plaintiff's attorney. During the tempestuous testimony, Jones suggested the families who sued him have a political agenda because they are advocates for gun safety.

After the plaintiffs' attorney, Chris Mattei, at one point told Jones to "show a little respect" to the families of victims in the courtroom, Jones responded, "I've already said I'm sorry hundreds of times and I'm done saying I'm sorry."

During the trial, Mattei accused Jones of putting a target on the backs of families through his repeated lies about the massacre being a government-staged hoax and the families of victims being crisis actors.

Prior to testifying, Jones has spoken out amid the trial outside the Waterbury courthouse, calling the judge a "tyrant" and the trial a "political hit job."

The Connecticut trial is the latest legal battle for Jones involving his comments on the Sandy Hook shooting, in which 20 children and six adults were killed.

In August, a Texas jury ordered Jones to pay nearly $50 million in damages to the parents of one of the victims -- including $4.1 million in compensatory damages for the suffering he put them through and $45.2 million in punitive damages.

The judge in the case has yet to rule on whether to apply state caps for punitive damages to the amount awarded to the plaintiffs -- Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, whose son Jesse was killed.

In both the Texas and Connecticut cases, the judges issued default judgments against Jones because he failed to turn over court-ordered documents.

A similar decision was issued in a second Texas defamation case last year involving Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, whose son Noah was killed in the shooting. A trial to determine those damages has not yet started.

Amid the lawsuits, Infowar's parent company, Free Speech Systems, filed for bankruptcy protection.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


LAPD officer who died following a training simulation had reported sexual assault: Family's lawyer

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(LOS ANGELES) -- An attorney representing the family of a Los Angeles police officer who died after a training exercise in May alleged Wednesday that the officer was targeted and killed after filing a report accusing fellow officers of sexually assaulting a woman.

"I think it's an intentional act because of the magnitude of injuries," Brad Gage, the attorney for Houston Tipping's family, told ABC News. "We know that Houston was a whistleblower who reported this alleged criminal act."

Bicycle officer Tipping, 32, suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury after he and another officer fell to the ground during a simulation, according to a report released Tuesday by Los Angeles Police Department's Office of Constitutional Policing and Policy, which called his death a "tragic accident."

"The impact on the ground with the arm of the officer in that position around the backside of Officer Tipping's neck...in that instance is where the fracture occurred," LAPD Chief Michel Moore previously said.

Gage says they intend to file a lawsuit against the LAPD over the officer's death.

A spokesperson for the LAPD told ABC News on Wednesday that the department does not comment on open and pending cases and that "the report that was released yesterday stands on its own."

The Los Angeles Medical Examiner-Coroner's office ruled Tipping's death an accident.

The LAPD's investigators said they found no evidence of wrongdoing.

According to the LAPD report, officers taking part in the training exercise are expected to be punched and kicked, which according to Gage, Tipping was subjected to during the exercise, leading to his injuries.

Gage disputed the department's findings, claiming that Tipping was beaten in a retaliatory act for filing a report by a woman who claimed that four LAPD officers sexually assaulted her in July 2021, while wearing their uniforms.

One of the officers involved in the alleged sexual assault was at the training, according to Gage.

The autopsy report said that a cut to Tipping's head and fractured ribs were sustained while officers tried to save his life.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Detroit police fire 38 shots in 3 seconds, killing Black man

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(DETROIT) -- Detroit police said they fired 38 shots in three seconds at Porter Burks, a 20-year-old schizophrenic Black man, as he was in an apparent mental health crisis, killing him.

During a press conference on Tuesday with Detroit Police Chief James White, snippets of body camera footage were shown of events leading up to the fatal shooting that occurred Sunday. The body camera footage shown involved a trained crisis intervention officer identified as Shawn in the video.

In the video, officers can be heard negotiating with Burks, who is alleged to have been armed with an 8-inch blade knife, ordering him to put it down and offering to get him some help.

"You're not in any trouble, just drop the knife and we'll get you some help," the officer said in the video.

Burks can be seen running toward officers in the video before he was fatally shot.

"It's unfortunate but this was a life-threatening situation," White said.

"This is a tragic situation. Any time we use force, it's not the desired outcome. Any time we use fatal force, it's the worst outcome," he added.

Burks was too far from law enforcement for a taser to be effective, White said.

Detroit Police executive team director Christopher Graveline said there were numerous officers at the scene Sunday where Burks was killed, but only five had fired their weapons.

Due to the ongoing investigation by Michigan State police, White said he is not releasing the full names of the five officers involved but they are all currently on administrative leave.

Burks was diagnosed with schizophrenia three years prior and was having a mental episode, according to his brother Damondo Anderson, who called the police for help.

In the body camera video, Anderson tells police Burks was frantic and slashed his tires. Anderson claimed he was “concerned for people” because he was armed with a knife.

Police were aware of Burks' mental health condition, according to Graveline. They responded multiple times on separate occasions -- two incidents dating back to 2020 where Burks stabbed his siblings.

"In March of 2020, he stabbed two family members, a sister…he stabbed her in both her neck and her hand," Graveline said at the news conference. "As well as a brother in the top of his head as the brother came to defend the sister."

"What we have found unfortunately is a system that has failed Mr. Burks on several different occasions," Graveline said. "That schizophrenia manifested itself into violent behavior. We have seen a pattern of him being brought to psychological services and being released and not being followed up with taking his medication."

White said that they need "help with the system."

"The system failed Mr. Burks," White said.

Fieger Law announced Wednesday that Geoffrey Fieger will be representing the family of Burks and will hold a press conference Thursday at 10:30 am.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Uvalde parents enter second week of protest outside school district office

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(UVALDE, Texas) -- Uvalde parents are still protesting outside the school administration offices after a full week, in an attempt to get UCISD officers suspended pending the independent review of the shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, in which 19 children and two adults were killed.

Brett Cross, guardian of 10-year-old victim Uziyah Garcia, has not left the building site since last Tuesday morning, sleeping overnight in a cot and receiving food deliveries and messages of support from across the country.

"I am still out here and the plan is to stay," Cross told ABC News. "The goal is the same since we started this, we will stay here until those officers are held accountable."

Both Brett and his wife Niki Cross have posted updates on social media to document their efforts.

One video shows 19 backpacks and two teachers' tote bags lined up outside the building in remembrance of the victims, captioned, "These lives are who we are fighting for and I'm gonna make damn sure that this administration remembers them."

In another video posted Tuesday, Brett said, "Everything that they're doing is reactionary instead of proactive," referring to office security upgrades that have gone into place since he's been there.

Traffic gates with a combination padlock were installed at the administrative building only days after protestors arrived, while fencing and security measures at the district's schools are not complete more than a month into the school session.

Cross says he has not heard from the school district superintendent or his staff since their 8-minute meeting on Friday morning, which Cross live-streamed on Twitter. During that meeting, Superintendent Hal Harrell told Cross the district was conducting an investigation of the events on May 24 but officers were needed for campus patrol.

"We have had no communication with the school district," Cross told ABC News. "They've made some adjustments on how they enter the building, but that's it."

The school district did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on Wednesday.

In a Sept. 30 internal memo to the school district obtained by ABC News, Harrell told teachers, "We do not condone this group's behavior and are seeking an end to the disruption. We are working to identify state or local partners who are willing to assist us in restoring peace."

There have been no reports of violence and no police intervention into the gathering to date, though Texas Department of Public Safety Officers have been present throughout the week.

UCISD spokesperson Anne Marie Espinoza told ABC News last week that the school district hired JPPI Investigations, a private investigative firm, to conduct an independent review of UCISD police actions on May 24.

"At this time, we do not have an expected completion date for the reviews," she said in an emailed statement to ABC News.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Professor shot, killed on University of Arizona campus; suspect in custody

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(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- A professor was shot and killed on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson on Wednesday, campus police said.

The campus police chief said a male professor in the Department of Hydrology was shot and killed by a former student. The suspect was identified by police as Murad Dervish. The professor has not been identified.

Dervish, 46, was taken into custody following a traffic stop by the state’s Department of Public Safety near the town of Gila Bend, University of Arizona Police Chief Paula Balafas said during a news conference.

Police said the suspect used a handgun.

The victim was sent to a local hospital but was pronounced dead by medical staff, Balafas said.

Police responded to the campus' John W. Harshbarger building "for a shooting," University of Arizona Police said on Twitter shortly after 2 p.m. local time Wednesday.

Police did not issue a lockdown but warned people to stay away from the building and surrounding area.

"Male suspect was ID'd but no longer on scene. Police currently looking for him," University of Arizona Police had said, describing the suspect as being in his mid-30s with short brown hair and wearing a blue baseball cap and carrying a dark backpack.

All remaining classes being held at the school's main campus were canceled Wednesday, police said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Hurricane Ian death toll now more than 100 after storm slams into Florida, North Carolina

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(NEW YORK) -- At least 120 people in Florida have died due to Hurricane Ian, according to local officials, as the death toll continues to climb a week after the powerful storm slammed into the state's southwestern coast.

Five additional people were also reported dead due to the storm in North Carolina, according to the governor's office.

The Category 4 storm made landfall in Florida the afternoon of Sept. 28, causing catastrophic damage, fierce winds and dangerous, record-breaking storm surges.

Deaths from Hurricane Ian reported in Florida

The deaths span multiple counties in Florida, including 58 in Lee County and 24 in Charlotte County. Also reported were seven in Monroe County; five each in Volusia, Collier and Sarasota counties; four in Hendry County; three each in Manatee and Putnam counties; two in Polk County; and one each in Hardee, Hillsborough, Lake and Martin counties, ABC News has determined based on information from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission and inquiries with local officials and authorities.

Hurricane Ian's death toll has been rising amid ongoing search and rescue missions.

The causes of the deaths in Florida were primarily drownings, as well as two vehicle accidents and a roofing accident, officials said.

It is unclear whether the state's figure overlaps with ABC News' analysis. The state confirms deaths by reviewing medical examiner records, which can take some time.

Confirmed deaths from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement occurred in Lake, Sarasota, Manatee, Volusia and Collier counties between Sept. 27 and 30. The victims ranged in age from 22 to 91. One, a 68-year-old woman, drowned after being swept into the ocean by a wave on Sept. 29, the department said.

The Volusia County Sheriff's Office was among the first to publicly announce a fatality from Ian. A 72-year-old man in Deltona died after attempting to drain his pool during the storm, the office said Thursday.

The man, who was not publicly identified, "disappeared" after heading outside, the sheriff's office said. Deputies found him unresponsive in a canal behind the home and he was pronounced dead at a local hospital, the sheriff's office said.

Deaths from Hurricane Ian reported in North Carolina

The storm made landfall again on Friday in South Carolina, which has reported no deaths due to the storm so far, Gov. Henry McMaster said Saturday.

Though in neighboring North Carolina, five storm-related deaths have been reported. In a statement Saturday, Gov. Roy Cooper said three involved vehicle accidents on Friday, with the victims ranging in age from 22 to 25. Additionally, a 65-year-old man died Saturday from carbon monoxide poisoning after running a generator in his closed garage while the power was out. The manner of the fifth death is unclear.

Hurricane damage across the Southeast, as rescue efforts continue

Florida Rep. Kathy Castor, who represents the Tampa Bay area, called the situation a "major catastrophe."

"I'm afraid we're going to be dealing with a larger loss of life than we anticipated," she said on "ABC News Live" Thursday.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott told "Good Morning America" Thursday morning there were "thousands of rescue efforts going on right now."

"We've got great sheriff's departments, police departments, fire departments, state rescue teams. They're working hard. But there's a lot of people that need help right now," he said.

He expressed concern for the state's many low-lying areas.

"The water kills and I'm just -- I'm scared to death of, you know, what's happened here and I hope everybody stays safe," he said.

Sheriff Marceno told "Good Morning America" Thursday they had thousands of 911 calls they were answering.

"We still cannot access many of the people that are in need," Marceno said. "It's a real, real rough road ahead."

ABC News' Jay O'Brien, Ahmad Hemmingway, Benjamin Stein and Will Gretsky contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Jury deliberating in trial over murder of college student Kristin Smart

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(SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif.) -- The jury is deliberating in the murder trial of the man accused of killing Kristin Smart, a California college student who disappeared in 1996 while walking home from a party.

Paul Flores, 45, who walked Smart from the party and previously was named the "prime suspect," was arrested and charged with her murder last year.

After 11 weeks of testimony, closing arguments wrapped late Tuesday afternoon and the jury is currently deliberating their verdict.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Robert Sanger told the jury, "there is no evidence of a murder so that's really the end of it."

"This case was not prosecuted all these years because there was no evidence and there's still no evidence," he said.

The prosecutor, San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Chris Peuvrelle, tried to show a pattern of behavior by Flores that began with Smart. Two women, Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe, testified during the trial that they were drugged and sexually assaulted by Flores in 2008 and 2011, respectively.

"Do you see a pattern here?" Peuvrelle asked the jury in his closing argument, calling Flores a "serial drugger and rapist."

Sanger argued there was no evidence that Smart was raped or that Flores attempted to rape her and jurors should not consider the testimony of Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe.

In her instructions to the jurors, Judge Jennifer O'Keefe said they need to decide if they believe Flores drugged and raped Sarah Doe and Rhonda Doe. If the answer is yes, they can rely on their testimony; if the answer is no, they cannot use their testimony.

Flores' father, Ruben Flores, 81, was charged with being an accessory to the crime last year. Prosecutors say he helped hide Smart's body before moving it in 2020.

The two men are being tried at the same time, with separate juries hearing the case together. After hearing closing arguments Wednesday, the jury is now deliberating in the Ruben Flores' trial.

Once a verdict is reached by one jury, it will be sealed until the other jury reaches their verdict.

A judge earlier this year ordered that the Flores trials be moved out of San Luis Obispo County more than 100 miles away -- north to Monterey County -- to ensure fair legal proceedings.

Both Paul and Ruben Flores have pleaded not guilty to their charges.

Smart, a 19-year-old freshman at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, disappeared in the early hours of May 25, 1996, after a party near school. Her body has never been found.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Four shooting murders within 24 hours in Indiana likely not random, police say

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(GARY, Ind.) -- Police in Gary, Indiana, are investigating four fatal shootings that occurred within 24 hours of each other.

In the first incident, a woman was brought to a hospital Sunday with a gunshot wound by a known person, Gary Police Chief Brian Evans told reporters during a news conference Tuesday.

Once officers arrived, the victim was already receiving treatment, but she later succumbed to her injuries, Evans said.

The second shooting occurred later that evening, Evans said. Officers responded to the 2600 block of Jackson Street, north of Indiana University's Northwest campus, where they encountered two victims who had been shot, Evans said.

The female victim died of her injuries, and the other victim, whose identity was not released, is still alive and is receiving treatment at a hospital in Chicago, Evans said.

The next fatal shooting occurred later on Sunday, Evans said. Officers responded to the 2900 block of West 11th Ave., where they found two victims who had been fatally shot, both of them minors, Evans said.

Investigators believe both victims on that scene were killed at the same time, Evans said.

The four shootings are not gang or drug-related and are not random or related to each other, Evans said.

"We believe that all the individuals were targeted by an individual person," Evans said. "It just so happened that it happened in a short period of time."

Two of the victims were identified by police as April King, 50, and Arlandus Jackson, 27. ABC News does not disclose the identities of juvenile victims.

There were also several other non-fatal shootings that occurred during the same time period, Gary Mayor Jermone Prince said during the news conference.

Prince noted the recent wave of violence that has plagued the city.

"Within a 24-hour period, the city saw a rash of shootings across the area that ended with four people killed," he said, adding that the city had implemented a number of anti-crime programs directed toward young people.

Additional information on the shootings was not immediately available.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Fort Myers Beach mayor talks about Ian recovery

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(FORT MYERS, Fla.) -- The Florida barrier islands were hit the worst by Hurricane Ian as teams are still working to survey the damage and conduct search and rescues.

Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy spoke with ABC News Live's Linsey Davis Tuesday night to discuss the latest updates.

ABC NEWS LIVE: What is going on the ground right now? What's the first step in recovery at this point?

RAY MURPHY: Well, the first step, of course, is finishing this search and rescue. As soon as they get done with that, we can go in and start hauling off the debris and getting our utilities back up and so forth. So, there's a lot else going on simultaneously with the search and rescue.

ABC NEWS LIVE: [I'm] curious to know what the short-term plan is with regard to two children who need to go back to school and stay local in order to do that, potentially?

MURPHY: Our local school on the beach was destroyed as the other schools on the barrier islands were. So, I imagine the school district of Lee County will be determining where these children will be taken off the island and put into schools. I imagine that'll be close to where they've been evacuated, too, because they certainly won't be able to go to the schools that are here.

ABC NEWS LIVE: And what's the long-term plan at this point?

MURPHY: Well, the long-term plan is to this is to rebuild our facilities. But as you say that that is long term, it's going to take some time. But step by step, we have to clear the island first, get all the debris off the island, and then whoever can repair, make remedial repairs to their places and get back in can do that. Although there won't be too many of them. There will be there's going to be a lot of major repairs going on. Nobody was spared this storm. Every structure on the island. So, there's going to be a big, big job ahead of us. But we're up to the task. And I look forward to the challenge of it.

ABC NEWS LIVE: When you say there is a big job ahead, where does the money come from to rebuild, to tear down, to restore what the town is lost?

MURPHY: I'm sure in the short term, they'll be there'll be FEMA funds available and hopefully everybody had insurance on their properties that they'll be able to make claims on to rebuild or they won't. Or people may decide that's one hurricane too much for me.

ABC NEWS LIVE: President Joe Biden is expected to visit Florida tomorrow. If you get a chance to talk to the president, what do you think your message will be to him?

MURPHY: Well, I'll first of all, express my gratitude for coming down. And my message will be, so, President Biden, we can use all the help from the federal government.

We're going to need assistance from our partners on the federal level. And I think I can count on the president to help us out down here.

ABC NEWS LIVE: And lastly mayor, when you envision the future, how do you see Fort Myers Beach now?

MURPHY: Well, I envision it with the rebuilds. People building up to today's codes and the building stock being so much better. You can still have the same type of architecture and beachy cottages and all that sort of thing, but you just have to build them strong. All of the newer houses that have been built on the beach over the years, all the concrete homes, they did exactly what they were supposed to do. The water rushed through the bottom, blew it out, and the houses remain standing.

So that's how the beach, any barrier islands for that matter, has to rebuild. If you're going to live on the coastal barrier island, you have to build. You have to build so the buildings will stand. And so, I foresee a great future for the beach. Know people will always want to come to beachfront property and there's a certain amount of the population, no matter what happens, they'll come back to barrier islands. And so, I see a bright future, actually, and I look forward to seeing it happen.

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Purdue student killed in dorm room, roommate in custody

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(WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.) -- A 20-year-old Purdue University student was killed in his dorm room early Wednesday and his roommate is in custody, school officials said.

Varun Manish Chheda, a senior majoring in data science, was found dead in his room at McCutcheon Hall, a residence hall on the school's campus in West Lafayette, Indiana, after the suspect called 911 to report the incident at 12:44 a.m. local time, Purdue University Chief of Police Lesley Weite said at a news conference Wednesday.

The suspect, 22-year-old Gji Min Sha, a junior majoring in cyber security, is in custody on a charge of murder, Weite said. He is an international student from Korea, she said.

No other roommates lived with the victim and suspect, Weite said.

"I believe this was unprovoked and senseless," she said.

"Our hearts go out to the victim and his family and friends," she added. "I can't even imagine what his family is going through."

Chheda died from "multiple sharp force traumatic injuries," according to the Tippecanoe County Coroner’s Office.

A university spokesperson said, with the suspect apprehended, "there is no threat to the community."

"This is as tragic an event as we can imagine happening on our campus and our hearts and thoughts go out to all of those affected by this terrible event," Purdue University President Mitch Daniels said in a statement Wednesday morning. "We do not have all the details yet. Our Purdue University Police Department is conducting a thorough investigation of this incident so that we all may learn more about what transpired."

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FDNY paramedic who responded to 9/11 to be laid to rest after slaying

FDNY

(NEW YORK) -- A New York City paramedic who responded to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, will be laid to rest on Wednesday, six days after she was stabbed to death.

Lt. Alison Russo-Elling, a nearly 25-year veteran of the New York City Fire Department, was stabbed approximately 19 times in the chest in an "unprovoked attack" while on duty in Queens on the afternoon of Sept. 29, authorities said. She was 61.

Peter Zisopoulos, 34, was subsequently arrested in connection with the slaying. He has been charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon. He has no prior arrests and no known connection to Russo-Elling, according to authorities.

Authorities said Russo-Elling was in the vicinity of 20th Avenue and Steinway Street in Astoria, near her station's quarters, when she was attacked. Authorities obtained surveillance footage that purportedly shows the incident. In the video, Russo-Elling is seen walking past Zisopoulos, who is standing in the doorway of a building. Suddenly, Zisopoulos appears to pull out a steak knife and "runs full speed" behind Russo-Elling, knocking her on her back and attacking her, authorities said.

An eyewitness is seen in the video apparently attempting to intervene, but Zisopoulos chases them away with the knife still in his hand. He then retreats to his apartment, where he barricaded himself before being taken into custody.

Russo-Elling was transported in critical condition to Mount Sinai Queens Hospital, where she died, according to authorities.

In the wake of her slaying, Russo-Elling's colleagues described her as "the mother hen of the station" who "was always looking out for everybody." She was the second emergency medical worker to be murdered on the city's streets in the last five years and the 1,158th member of the FDNY to die in the line of duty, according to authorities.

In 2017, FDNY emergency medical technician Yadira Arroyo, 44, was struck and killed by her own ambulance after it was stolen in the Bronx.

Acting FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh announced Tuesday that Russo-Elling will be posthumously promoted to captain at her funeral, which will take place Wednesday at 11 a.m. local time.

“Alison Russo was everything we look for in a leader in our Department," Kavanagh said in a statement. "A dedicated and accomplished veteran of 25 years, she responded to thousands of emergencies, mentored many new EMTs and paramedics, cared deeply for the communities she served, and set an incredible example for others at Station 49 and at every station she called home throughout her outstanding career. This posthumous promotion is a sign of our deep respect and admiration for all the courageous and selfless work she did throughout her career. We will never forget her."

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There will be review of Hurricane Ian response, DeSantis says amid evacuation timing questions

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(NEW YORK) -- With Ian already the deadliest hurricane in decades in Florida -- and the death toll continuing to rise -- Gov. Ron DeSantis told ABC News on Monday that there would "of course" be a review of the decisions that local officials made before the storm hit.

DeSantis responded brusquely at an afternoon press conference to questions from ABC News about the evacuation orders issued shortly before Ian made landfall in western Florida last Wednesday.

"Excuse me, this has been handled ad nauseam," the governor said, cutting off the reporter's question mid-sentence.

Lee County, which has seen the most fatalities, did not mandate evacuations until the day before the Category 4 storm leveled much of its coastline.

In the week since, both emergency officials and DeSantis have been pressed about that timeline and whether different choices could have lessened the casualties.

The governor and others, including the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have stressed that the decision was made at a local level but defended the evacuation timing, citing uncertainty about Ian's path.

However, the National Hurricane Center forecast on Sept. 25 that Ian could bring a potential storm surge of between 4 and 7 feet along Florida's southwestern coast from Englewood to Bonita Beach -- covering the entirety of Lee County's coast.

According to Lee's emergency management plan from 2018, even a 10% chance of a 6-foot storm surge should be enough to prompt the evacuation of Zone A of the county, which includes low-lying coastal high hazard areas, mobile and manufactured homes.

On Sept. 27, less than 24 hours before Ian made landfall, Lee County issued mandatory evacuations for much of the area starting around 5 p.m. local time.

Asked Monday if he would order a formal review of how Lee County responded, DeSantis said: "Well of course you're going to review everything you do in these storms. That's the way it works."

Lee County's Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach were among the most severely damaged areas in the state. At least 54 of the storm deaths reported in Florida were in Lee County, the sheriff's office said Saturday.

One resident, Pam Schlitten, rode out the storm in her Cape Coral home. Schlitten, a DeSantis supporter, asked ABC News before the governor's appearance on Monday why no one knocked on her door and told her to leave.

"I didn't know what was happening," said Schlitten, 60.

Her phone service had gone out on Tuesday, she added, which was the day evacuation orders were given.

"There was no police," she said. "You could have the police running in the area with their speakers. You [have] to get the communication out."

DeSantis, Lee County defend evacuation timing

The governor has repeatedly said officials on the ground were "following the data" when making evacuation decisions -- and it was the data from the forecast models that led them astray.

"When we went to bed Monday night, people were saying this is a direct hit on Tampa Bay, worst-case scenario for the state," DeSantis said on Saturday. "As that track started to shift south, and the computer models the next morning, they called for the evacuation, they opened their shelters and they responded very quickly to the data."

"But at the end of the day, Fort Myers and Naples, on Sunday, I think at the 11 a.m. advisory, 72 hours out, they weren't even in the cone. That's just the reality, so they followed it very closely," he added.

The "cone of uncertainty" is what forecasters use to represent what's likely to be the center of the storm. At least some parts of Lee County were in the cone in the days leading up to landfall, according to models from the National Hurricane Center.

Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais said at a news conference on Monday that search-and-rescue efforts were continuing in Fort Myers Beach, with crews working 24 hours per day.

When asked about the timing of evacuations, Desjarlais insisted the decision was made at the "earliest possible moment when we got the weather information."

"Based on all the conditions at the time, I wouldn't change a thing," he said, noting that -- still -- many county residents appeared to have chosen not to evacuate as only 4,000 people came to an area shelter that can house 40,000 individuals.

FEMA weighs in

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell discussed the timing of the Lee County evacuations during an appearance on ABC's This Week on Sunday, echoing DeSantis' comments about the unpredictability of the storm.

"Just 72 hours before landfall, the Fort Myers and Lee County area were not even in the cone of the hurricane," Criswell said when asked if the late timing of the evacuation orders played a part in the death toll.

"And as it continued to move south, the local officials immediately -- as soon as they knew that they were in that threat zone, made the decisions to evacuate and get people to safety," she added.

Criswell said officials were aware Hurricane Ian would have a "significant impact to life," which is why they prepared search and rescue teams to be deployed early in the morning the day after landfall.

"They are still there today going house-by-house to make sure we account for everybody," Criswell said Sunday.

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