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Suspected arsonist sought in LA County wildland fire threatening homes

Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

(LOS ANGELES) — A suspected arsonist was on the loose Sunday morning after igniting a brush fire in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles County that has spread to more than 700 acres and is threatening homes and prompting mandatory evacuations in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the region.

The so-called Palisades Fire in the Santa Monica Mountains was 0% contained on Sunday as firefighters battled wind-whipped flames mowing through rugged, steep and extremely dry terrain from the ground and the air, officials said.

Residents of at least 500 homes, many of them multimillion-dollar residences, in nearby Topanga Canyon were ordered to evacuate on Saturday evening, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Some of the homes included ranches with livestock that was being moved to an emergency animal shelter established at Pierce College about eight miles away.

The fire was first reported about 10 p.m. Friday behind a residential area and near a trail leading to Topanga State Park, officials said. The blaze was initially reported as a 15-acre brush fire that firefighters battled into Saturday to bring under control, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

But around 4 p.m. on Saturday, firefighters were confronted by a major flare-up that was fueled by winds and quickly spread, officials said. Helicopters and air-tankers were called on to drop fire retardant and water on flames in areas hard for firefighters on the ground to reach, officials said.

"Much of the area remains inaccessible. This is primarily an air-based operation with both fixed wing and rotary working together," Los Angeles Fire Department spokesperson Margaret Stewart said Saturday evening.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire, sent crews to help fight the wildland blaze.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. But the Los Angeles Police Department said a police helicopter crew spotted what appeared to be a person setting fires in the area on Friday night.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Air Rescue 5 said on Twitter late Saturday night that a team was inserted into the "Topanga area in search of arson suspect setting fires.”

The sheriff's department posted photos on Twitter of deputies dressed in paramilitary gear rappelling from a helicopter into a burning wooded area.

David Ortiz, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Fire Department, said the Palisades Fire is burning in an extremely parched area that has seen little rain over the last 10 years, and that dry vegetation was fueling the rapid spread of the fire.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Man who drove 143 mph and led cops on chase arrested after running out of gas

Nelson County Sherriff's Department/Facebook

(NEW YORK) — A Kentucky man who drove more than double the 70 mph speed limit and led police on a lengthy pursuit has been arrested after running out of gas.

The incident occurred on Saturday, May 15, at approximately 12:58 p.m. when the Nelson County Dispatch in Kentucky received a call from the Kentucky State Police Dispatch asking for help to catch a man driving a bright yellow 2015 Ford Mustang.

The reason? The vehicle was clocked driving 143 mph in a 70 mph zone driving eastbound on the Bluegrass Parkway.

Authorities say the suspect, 47-year-old Steven Alford from Roundhill, Kentucky, subsequently led police on a long police chase.

“The driver pulled over at the 30 Mile Markers after a lengthy pursuit due to running out of gas,” Nelson County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement posted on social media.

Police also said that once he stopped that Alford refused to get out of his vehicle and that he had to be assisted by both the Nelson County Sheriff’s Department and the Kentucky State Police.

Alford was transported to the Nelson County Jail and charged with speeding 26 MPH or more over the limit, fleeing or evading police first degree motor vehicle, reckless driving, four counts of wanton endangerment first degree police officer, driving too fast for conditions, operating on a suspended or revoked license, improper passing, license plate not legible and resisting arrest.

The Nelson County Sheriff’s Office are still looking for witnesses who may have seen Alford driving and ask for anybody who was passed by Alford in the Yellow Mustang to call the Nelson County Dispatch at 502-348-3211.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Tiger on loose in Houston for nearly a week moved to animal sanctuary

Maria Torres

(NEW YORK) — The tiger loose for nearly a week after seen roaming the streets of a Houston neighborhood has been moved to an animal sanctuary.

India, the 9-month-old Bengal tiger, will be introduced to a half-acre wooded plot at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas, Noelle Almrud, senior director of the sanctuary, told reporters at a press conference Sunday morning.

He will be examined by the staff veterinarian and will be quarantined for 30 days.

While India, who already weights 175 pounds, is still playful at this age, he could prove deadly once he matures into adulthood, Almrud said. While the cub is used to interacting with humans, the two other tigers the group has rescued from homes in Texas -- Elsa and Loki -- quickly acclimated to becoming "wild" tigers and receive no direct interaction with humans, she added.

"Our hope is that we get full and legal custody of India so that he can live out his life here at Black Beauty Ranch, where he can have the life a tiger should—as close as possible to what he would have in the wild," Almrud said in a statement.

The group is pushing for laws that would prevent the private ownership of tigers, Almrud said. It is already illegal in the city of Houston to own a tiger, officials said.

The saga to locate the missing Bengal tiger, named India, began on May 9 after users of the neighborhood social media platform Nextdoor began posting about sightings of the cat.

The tiger's alleged owner, 26-year-old Victor Cuevas, fled the scene with India in the vehicle just as police were arriving. He no longer had the tiger when police arrested him on May 9 and so the search began.

The cat escaped Cueva's property after climbing the fence, Cuevas' attorney, Michael Elliot, said after his court appearance on Friday.

India was located Saturday night after Cueva's wife contacted police and brought the tiger to BARC Houston, the city's animal shelter, Houston Police Department Cmdr. Ron Borza said at a press conference Saturday night.

India spent Saturday night at BARC and was transported to the sanctuary Sunday morning, Almrud said.

"Houston authorities did a remarkable job over the past several days to locate India and to ensure the safety of the public and the animal," Almrud said in a statement. "Black Beauty Ranch will provide safe sanctuary for him and give him a proper diet, enrichment, an expansive naturally wooded habitat where he can safely roam and will provide everything else he needs to be the healthy wild tiger he deserves to be."

Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement that while the organization is glad India was found safe, it is unacceptable to "have dangerous wild animals roaming neighborhoods or living in people’s homes."

"Forcing these animals to live under such conditions, confined and treated as a 'pet' is inhumane and a serious public safety risk -- no matter how ‘cute’ or ‘tame’ the animal may seem," Block said. "Big cats like India express natural, unpredictable behaviors that can occur at any moment. Situations like this are why we are working to pass federal legislation. The Big Cat Public Safety Act would prohibit keeping big cats as pets."

Cuevas has been charged with felony evading police and is being held on $300,000 bail. He denies owning the tiger, but police have alleged multiple times that he is the owner.

Cuevas was previously arrested in July 2020 and charged with murder stemming from a 2017 fatal shooting outside a sushi restaurant in Fort Bend County, Texas, according to police. He has pleaded not guilty and was free on bond at the time of his arrest this week.

Police do not plan on charging Cuevas' wife with any crimes, Borza said.

ABC News' Matthew Fuhrman, William Hutchinson, Mark Osborne, Zohreen Shah, Abby Shalawylo and Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ceremony honors COVID-19 patients who died at Southern California hospital

Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

(FULLERTON, Calif.) -- Under the orange glow of a Southern California evening, the doctors and nurses at Providence St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton, California stand in their blue scrubs and white coats, holding tiny white boxes. In those boxes, butterflies representing all of the victims of COVID-19 who have died at this hospital in the past year.  

"The spirit of the butterflies and the spirit of our loved ones take flight amongst us,” said one of the speakers at the ceremony.

All at once, the white boxes were opened and 200 butterflies took flight. 

The ceremony marks a rare moment for these frontline workers to pause. With COVID-19 numbers coming down in many parts of the country, they're taking that moment to mourn all of the lives lost. Some are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxieties. 

Part of that healing is this ceremony.

"This ceremony is something we've never done before,” said the same speaker. “But it seems appropriate to mark the end, hopefully, of an unprecedented year. When you work in health care, you're familiar with loss. But the suffering experienced last year by families, friends, and health care professionals were beyond anything we could have been we could have imagined.”

Among those family members coming back to say thank you is Patty Trejo, whose husband Joseph died in March. 

"He said how he saw the stress on the nurses and the physicians,” Trejo told ABC News’ Alex Stone on ABC Audio’s ‘Perspective’ podcast. “He got admitted at 10:30, he said by two o'clock the hallways were full of patients. And his heart was melting. He goes 'I feel so bad for the families and the nurses and the doctors,' not only the doctors, he said just the staff in general, right now." 

Her husband was at the hospital during the height at Providence St. Jude in February when the hospital was overflowing. 

In the past year among those who came in were Rick Moran and his wife Georgina. They both work for the hospital, and they got COVID. His wife never left: she died here. 

"She was very loving,” Moran told the ‘Perspective’ podcast. She was a woman of faith. All her patients loved her, all her coworkers loved her. Since she has been gone it's not been the same at her facility. She's touched a lot of people, a lot of people with her prayers."

Like many hospitals, executives at Providence St. Jude are trying to figure out how to make sure the mental health of its staff is solid, to make sure now that things are calmer, and those staff members can take a moment and reflect.

“We were quite exhausted and we talked with our staff and we never knew the difference between being tired and fatigued, now they do,” hospital CEO Brian Helleland told the ‘Perspective’ podcast. “And that is just something that we looked forward to, getting to a place where we could let people have vacation and just be home with their families and take time away. We had some people who worked 20 plus days in a row."

As the butterflies take to the sky, the tearful staff here remember those patients to whom they had to say goodbye. 

"With this symbolic gesture, we honor those who have left us and encourage those left behind to have hope and know that our loving God is always with us, even in the darkest of days,” said a speaker at the ceremony.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Tiger seen in Houston neighborhood found after week of searching, legal wrangling

Maria Torres

(HOUSTON) — After nearly a week of searching, and enough legal twists and turns to write a movie plot, the tiger seen roaming the streets of a neighborhood in Houston has been found.

The tiger, named India, was found unharmed Saturday evening, after the pet's owner got in contact with the Houston Police Department and said she wanted to surrender the animal.

"We are happy to report that the missing tiger seen in a Houston neighborhood last week has been found and appears to be unharmed," the police department wrote on Twitter.

The tiger was brought to BARC Houston, the city's animal shelter, by the woman, police said.

"I think the public thought that it would be easy to catch a tiger, but it wasn't at all," HPD Cmdr. Ron Borza said at a press conference Saturday night. "I presumed right that it was still in Houston and I'm glad it worked out this way."

Borza said the woman who surrendered the tiger was the wife of Victor Cuevas, who was previously taken into custody Monday night at his mother's house in Richmond, Texas, according to the Houston Police Department.

The Houston Police Department also shared video of someone feeding the tiger after it was recovered.


After Daunte Wright shooting, city council approves resolution on police changes

Wright Family

(BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn.) -- Officials in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, the city where Daunte Wright was fatally shot during a traffic stop last month, passed a resolution that aims to make significant policing changes.

The Brooklyn Center City Council convened Saturday afternoon to address a proposal, called the Daunte Wright and Kobe Dimock-Heisler Community Safety & Violence Prevention Act, to create new divisions of unarmed civilian employees to handle non-moving traffic violations and respond to mental crises.

Wright, a black 20-year-old father, was shot in the chest on April 11 during a traffic stop. Former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter, who is white, is charged with second-degree manslaughter in his death.

After hearing two hours of at-times emotional public testimony, including by parents whose children were killed by police, as well as statements from the families of Wright and Dimock-Heisler, the council voted 4 to 1 to pass the resolution. The council member who voted against it, Kris Lawrence-Anderson, said she felt the council needed more time to consider it.

Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott, who is a city council member, created and presented the resolution last week to "move toward transforming our public safety," he said.

"We're taking a bold step here, this city," Elliott said at Saturday's city council session ahead of the vote. "But we can do it. We're gonna do it."

The proposal seeks to create a new Community Response Department where unarmed, trained medical and mental health professionals and social workers will respond to calls involving medical, mental health, disability-related and other behavioral needs.

It will create an unarmed Civilian Traffic Enforcement Department for non-moving traffic violations.

In the Wright case, he was pulled over for what police said was expired tags. It escalated when officers realized Wright had an outstanding arrest warrant, Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said at the time.

Daunte Wright's mother urged the city council to pass the resolution.

"I truly believe if this was implemented prior to April 11, our son would still be with us today," Katie Wright said at the session before the council vote.

The mother of Dimock-Heisler, a 21-year-old man on the autism spectrum who was fatally shot by Brooklyn Center officers during a domestic disturbance call last year, also spoke in support of the resolution.

"We have no time to wait," Amity Dimock told the council members. "There's not many things I know for sure in this lifetime, but I know for sure that if measures like this had been passed earlier, that Daunte Wright would be alive today, and that Kob Heisler would be alive today. That much I know for sure."

The resolution also seeks to create a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention to oversee the police department, fire department, traffic enforcement department and community response department.

It would also implement a "citation and summons" policy that would require officers only to issue citations and ban arrests and vehicle searches for non-moving traffic violations, non-felony offenses and non-felony warrants.

It'll also create civilian committees to review and make recommendations regarding police response to protests and policies.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota called the proposed changes "an important first move" in changing policing, The Associated Press reported.

However, the resolution has been met with backlash by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc., and the Minnesota Sheriff's Association. The policing groups claimed the proposal conflicts with state law in a letter to city officials.

On Friday, the city attorney responded to those concerns in a memo to the City Council, saying "the adoption of the Act establishes goals and commits the City to working to achieve them, but it does not constitute a final action."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Man arrested for alleged sexual assault of Asian woman, suspected of other attacks

Fremont Police Department

(FREMONT, Calif.) -- A California man arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting an Asian woman is suspected of two other attacks and could be linked to more, the Fremont Police Department posted on its Facebook page late Friday night.

Alexander Lomax, who police described as a 28-year-old man from Hayward, was arrested Thursday, Fremont police said.

Police said he severely beat and assaulted a 67-year-old Asian woman in broad daylight around 11 a.m. on Thursday in the front yard of a residence near Grimmer Blvd. and Blacow Rd. in the Bay Area, according to a Friday press release.

Witnesses of the alleged assault called police and officers who arrived to the scene said they found Lomax "completely nude and still sexually assaulting the victim," authorities said.

The woman was taken to a trauma center with major, non-life-threatening injures. She suffered significant facial injuries and broken bones throughout her body, police said.

Lomax, who is homeless, was arrested and booked into Santa Rita Jail. He was charged with rape, kidnapping with the intent to commit sodomy, assault with the intent to commit rape, sexual battery by restraint, assault with a deadly weapon with great bodily injury and elder abuse with injuries charges, all related to the 67-year-old victim.

Detectives said they later connected him to two other assaults -- one committed several hours before the Thursday attack targeting a 57-year-old Asian woman and another at a Safeway supermarket on May 5 targeting a 75-year-old white woman, Fremont police told ABC News.

Lomax was charged with assault with intent to commit rape related to the 57-year-old victim and sexual battery by restraint and false imprisonment related to the 75-year-old victim. The assault with intent to commit sodomy charge is no bail, meaning he'll be held until arraignment scheduled for May 17. An attorney for Lomax could not be immediately identified.

On Thursday at 9:47 a.m. police said Lomax assaulted a 57-year-old woman in the area of Auto Mall Pkwy and Fremont Blvd. He allegedly punched the woman in the back of the head, pushed her to the ground, then got on top of her, even as she fought back and bit him on the arm, police said.

A witness broke up the assault and Lomax fled before police could arrive on the scene, authorities said. The victim later positively identified Lomax as her attacker, police said.

In the investigation detectives connected him to the sexual assault of a 75-year-old victim shopping at Safeway on May 5 around 6 p.m. He allegedly walked up behind her, grabbed her arm and committed a sexual act, police said.

The victim screamed and he fled the store before police arrived. That victim also later positively identified Lomax, police said.

Fremont Police Chief Kimberly Petersen condemned the attacks, vowing to investigate whether Lomax had more alleged victims.

"As a police chief and as a woman, I am completely horrified by this crime. My thoughts are with the victims during this incredibly difficult time. I can assure the public that this case is the Department's highest priority and we are working diligently with the District Attorney to keep this offender in custody. I have also dedicated the necessary resources to investigate whether we have more victims in our community, and we will ensure that all will be provided with victim support services," Petersen said.

Fremont Mayor Lily Mei also denounced the "disturbing" attacks.

"I am deeply disturbed by the three sexual assault incidents that have recently occurred in our community. My heart is full of sadness for the victims. On behalf of the entire Fremont community, you are all in our thoughts and while we know your recovery will be long, we will continue to be by your side," Mei said in a statement.

Police are urging other potential victims to come forward. Additional victims or witnesses are encouraged to contact Detective David Rodriguez at 510-790-6900 or drodriguez@fremont.gov.

Lomax has not been charged with any hate crimes in the incidents.

The alleged attacks took place amid a spike of attacks against Asian Americans over the past year.

Stop AAPI Hate, a group that tracks bias incidents against Asians, reported more than 6,600 hate incidents from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic through March 31.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Toddler found dead on Dallas residential street in apparent murder

WFAA

(DALLAS) -- Police are investigating the apparent murder of a toddler who was found dead on a Dallas street Saturday morning, authorities said.

The boy, whose age and name have not been released, was discovered on Saddleridge Drive near Wood Homestead Drive, in a residential neighborhood in southwest Dallas.

Officials said the toddler had "multiple wounds" to his body, according to Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA.

"The incident is being investigated as a murder and the investigation is active and ongoing," the Dallas Police Department said in a statement.

Police have not released any further details.

No suspects have been arrested in connection with the toddler's death, WFAA reported.

Police are searching the area and are seeking the public's assistance, including any neighbors who "may have any knowledge or video regarding this incident," the department said.

Anyone with information is urged to call 911 or the Dallas Police Department's Child Abuse Unit at 214-275-1300.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Police banned from participating in NYC Pride events and march through 2025

Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Police will be banned from participating in NYC Pride events, including its signature LGBTQ march, until 2025, the organization announced Saturday.

NYC Pride is also working to reduce the New York Police Department's security and first responder presence at its events, the organization said.

André Thomas, co-chair of Heritage of Pride, which produces NYC Pride, told ABC News it was a difficult decision that's "not going to please everyone."

"We know many LGBT cops," Thomas said. "But what the institution represents sometimes to a person of color or trans person is violence, and that doesn't make you feel safe. So that's the perspective we're coming from. And it's a difficult place to be. But we know that's what our community expects of us at this time."

Typically, about 200 NYPD members would participate in NYC Pride's march, held in the month of June, organizers said. That includes members of the Gay Officers Action League, or GOAL, a fraternal organization that was formed in 1982 to address the needs of LGBTQ officers.

GOAL called Heritage of Pride's decision "shameful," and found its statement, which did not mention GOAL by name, "demoralizing" and "dehumanizing."

“Heritage of Pride is well aware that the city would not allow a large scale event to occur without police presence. So their response to activist pressure is to take the low road by preventing their fellow community members from celebrating their identities and honoring the shared legacy of the Stonewall Riots," GOAL President Brian Downey said in a statement.

The NYPD also said it found the officers' exclusion "disheartening."

"Our annual work to ensure a safe, enjoyable Pride season has been increasingly embraced by its participants," an NYPD spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News. "The idea of officers being excluded is disheartening and runs counter to our shared values of inclusion and tolerance. That said, we’ll still be there to ensure traffic safety and good order during this huge, complex event."

The move comes as LGBTQ activists have debated the role uniformed police officers should have at Pride marches, which formed as a response to a violent police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, in 1969. The calls have been renewed in recent years amid Black Lives Matter protests against police misconduct.

In 2017, Pride Toronto started barring police from participating in its march, amid demands from the local Black Lives Matter chapter. In 2019, Sacramento and St. Louis announced similar policies, but reversed them following pushback.

The debate was renewed after the death of George Floyd last year while in police custody in Minneapolis, which sparked widespread protests against police brutality.

LGBTQ advocacy group, New York City Anti-Violence Project, wrote a letter to Heritage of Pride last June demanding the organization divest from the NYPD.

"Pride marches don't want to celebrate and create a platform for the police as marchers," Audacia Ray, director of community organizing and public advocacy for the group, told ABC News. "That's a thing that I think we'll start to see more of."

She said she has heard mixed thoughts on keeping police out of the Pride march within the LGBTQ community.

"I talk to people who do not feel that police presence makes them feel safer, it makes them feel threatened. From what we've heard from older, white cisgender members of the community, they do feel a sense of reassurance and safety when police is there," Ray said. "So there's just a really intense rift there around gender and race and class. So that's something within the community we need to continue to talk about, about how we keep the most vulnerable members of our community safe and what does that look like."

NYC Pride did not hold its Pride march last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, though a pride rally was held by the activist group Reclaim Pride. LGBTQ advocates were critical of the NYPD response then, after officers were filmed assaulting a group of protesters and using pepper spray on them during an arrest.

Heritage of Pride said it plans to shift first response and security to trained private security and provide volunteers with de-escalation training. "NYPD will provide first response and security only when absolutely necessary as mandated by city officials," the organization said. It also plans to keep police officers at least one city block from the event perimeter areas "where possible."

Additionally, NYC Pride is not mentioning law enforcement in its social media.

In 2025, NYC Pride will review its policy on police participation, organizers said. "It is a matter of when the people in our community say hey, we feel safe," Thomas said.

These steps don't go far enough for some LGBTQ activists. Ray said the New York City Anti-Violence Project was pushing to have law enforcement completely removed from NYC Pride, and was concerned about the use of private security.

"Most private security companies hire off-duty officers or former police officers, so we think it's the same mentality," Ray said. "We're pushing more for them to start to shift (traffic enforcement) to working with the Department of Transportation instead of the NYPD."

Thomas said it will come down to training and setting clear standards with private security beforehand.

GOAL also provides training to new NYPD recruits to "(educate) future officers on the unique challenges facing our community," the organization said, as it pushed back against the ban.

"There are many partners for change throughout law enforcement," GOAL said in its statement. "For them to succeed, they need to be supported by leading LGBTQIA+ groups, not excommunicated by them."

Much of this year's NYC Pride festivities during Pride Month in June will once again be virtual due to the pandemic. The organization said it wanted to make the announcement now to start the process.

"A lot of this work we know has been geared towards a return to higher crowd sizes," Thomas said. "That's really what we can hopefully prepare for."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Body camera footage shows 'horrific' in-custody death of Black man at South Carolina jail

WCIV-TV

(NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- The Department of Justice and the FBI are investigating the death of a Black man with a mental illness at a South Carolina jail, as newly released body camera footage showed deputies repeatedly deploying stun guns before he became unresponsive.

Jamal Sutherland died on Jan. 5 at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in North Charleston after deputies attempted to remove him from his cell to attend a bond hearing for a misdemeanor assault charge that morning, according to a state prosecutor investigating the incident.

The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office released hours of body camera footage Thursday night at the request of Sutherland's family, who are calling for the officers involved to be fired.

Sutherland suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, his family said at a press briefing Friday. He had been at a behavioral health care clinic before going to jail following a fight at the clinic, according to Mark Peper, a lawyer representing the family.

"Mental illness does not give anybody the right to put their hands on my child," Amy Sutherland, Jamal's mother, said as she fought back tears. "That's my child. I love my child. His father and his brothers, they love Jamal."

"Jamal may have been mentally ill, but he was brilliant," she added.

The disturbing body camera footage shows deputies attempt to extract Sutherland from his cell. For several minutes they ask him to come to the door, before one deputy deploys a stun gun and he falls to the ground. The deputies order him to come to the door. When Sutherland says he can't stand, they order him to slide.

"What is the meaning of this?" he can be heard asking.

Once Sutherland reaches the door, a deputy attempts to place him in handcuffs, saying "Do not resist!" While Sutherland is on the ground, a deputy stuns him repeatedly, while another deputy kneels on his back. Sutherland can be heard screaming.

"I can't breathe," Sutherland later says.

As Sutherland is then dragged along the floor on his stomach, a deputy yells, "Stop resisting!" They move him to a chair, at which point a medical worker checks his pulse as Sutherland appears unresponsive. The deputies move him back to the floor, and more medical staff arrive and perform chest compressions.

Based on an autopsy, Sutherland's cause of death was "excited state with adverse pharmacotherapeutic effect during subdual process," according to Charleston County Coroner Bobbi Jo O'Neal. The manner of death is currently undetermined "as the investigation into the death of Mr. Sutherland remains open and is still active," the coroner's office said.

The two deputies involved are working in an administrative capacity pending the outcome of the sheriff's office internal investigation. The deputies have not been formally named.

The deputies "need to be let go," said James Sutherland, Jamal's father, Friday. "They don't need to be working in law enforcement."

"He was already afraid and confused about the situation and there was nobody in there to talk to him with any compassion, to try to reason with him, and to let him know what was going on," he said.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg called the footage "horrific" as the city announced the Department of Justice and the FBI are investigating the death Friday. "We still have more questions than answers."

He stressed the need for officers to receive deescalation training, especially for incidents involving people who suffer from mental illness.

"Jamal Sutherland deserved the mental health treatment that he sought," said Tecklenburg. "What rationale could there be for the treatment that Jamal received? My mind can't find one."

"In the days ahead, we will come together as a community and we will address these important mental health and criminal justice issues," he added.

Charleston Chief of Police Luther T. Reynolds likened watching the footage to seeing video of George Floyd's death last year while in custody of Minneapolis police.

"When I saw George Floyd last year, it was one of the worst things I've ever seen. This is right in that same category," Reynolds said Friday. "It was painful. It was difficult. And it will never get any easier, watching that video and watching a person die."

Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano called the incident a "horrible tragedy" in a statement Thursday night upon the release of the body camera footage.

"As sheriff, I regret that this occurred," she said, noting that the office is looking to change how officers are equipped to handle "mental health responsibilities." "I will continue to work with our judicial system, health care professionals, and community to ensure we are continually improving our processes and promoting the safety of all our residents and staff."

A mental health professional is assigned to the Al Cannon Detention Center, but Graziano said she was not sure whether that person was on duty the morning of Jan. 5.

A single mental health professional is "not enough and we need more," the sheriff said at a press briefing Friday evening.

Graziano said she has eliminated forced bond hearings in the wake of Sutherland's death. Residents now have the option of attending a hearing.

Scarlett Wilson, the state prosecutor for South Carolina's 9th Judicial Circuit, has said she will decide on any criminal charges before the end of June.

The incident has drawn the attention of the White House, which has "closely watched" the case, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing Friday.

Psaki reiterated President Joe Biden’s call for Congress to reach agreement on police reform legislation by May 25, the anniversary of Floyd’s murder.

"What I can say is that the president's focus and belief is that police reform is long overdue," she said. "That far too often, communities of color are living in fear and are exhausted by the threat and the possibility of being in harm's way, and they should not feel that way."

ABC News' Ben Gittleson, Will Gretsky and Ahmad Hemingway contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


At least 4 people slashed on New York City subway in separate incidents

J2R/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- Four people were attacked within an hour in separate incidents in the New York City subway early Friday morning.

Authorities arrested four suspects ranging in age from 17 to 19, and accused them of stabbing, slashing or punching the victims.

A 44-year-old man was taken to Bellevue Hospital and is in stable condition after he was slashed in the face on a southbound subway train at around 4:25 a.m.

Minutes later, another 44-year-old man was slashed in the back of the head in a robbery. The victim was taken to Lenox HealthPlex.

None of the victims sustained life-threatening injuries.

At least one more suspect may still be wanted, according to New York City Police Department Commissioner Dermot Shea.

Police said the alleged attackers remained on board the train as each victim ran off, and that they are looking into whether the attacks were part of a gang initiation.

A fifth incident also occurred Friday morning, but it was not immediately connected to the pattern.

Train service was impacted as police conducted an investigation at Union Square. Since then, the southbound 4 and 5 express service has resumed from 14th Street-Union Square to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall.

The latest attacks come after four people, including an MTA employee, were attacked in the New York City subway system in the span of three hours Wednesday morning.

"The responsibility for these vicious attacks does not fall on an already strapped police department -- it falls on City Hall and the individuals who are taking advantage of the mayor's negligence on the issue. If he needed a wake-up call, this is it. Enough is enough," New York City Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg said in a statement Friday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio's spokesperson Bill Neidhardt issued a response, pointing out that over 3,000 officers are on the transit force.

"The city has pulled cops off desk duty and put them on platforms and trains. We're going to keep putting massive resources into this fight to keep our subways safe. Meanwhile, the MTA sends out statements that point fingers and talk about mayoral politics. Get with the program. Help us fight back this crime," Neidhardt said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


US facing 'complex and volatile' threats from domestic extremism: DHS

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(WASHINGTON) -- The United States is facing "threats that have evolved significantly and become increasingly complex and volatile in 2021," according to an updated National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin on domestic violent extremism issued Friday by the Department of Homeland Security.

"These threats include those posed by domestic terrorists, individuals and groups engaged in grievance-based violence, and those inspired or influenced by foreign terrorists and other malign foreign influences," the bulletin reads. "Social media and online forums are increasingly exploited by these actors to influence and spread violent extremist narratives and activity."

Shortly after President Joe Biden was sworn into office, DHS issued the first NTAS bulletin on domestic violent extremism in years. The bulletin the agency issued in January ran out April 26.

DHS also notes in its new bulletin that violent extremists could seek to exploit the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced new mask guidelines, which stated that fully vaccinated people do not have to wear a mask inside or outdoors.

"Violent extremists may seek to exploit the easing of COVID-19-related restrictions across the United States to conduct attacks against a broader range of targets after previous public capacity limits reduced opportunities for lethal attacks," according to the bulletin.

Elizabeth Neumann, a former DHS assistant secretary, told ABC News that reopening will create counterterrorism concerns for law enforcement.

"Counterterrorism, law enforcement and mental health professionals have been concerned since last spring that the stress caused by the pandemic, and all of the associated mitigative actions, were likely to lead to an increase in violence when we reopen and return to large, group gatherings," Neumann, an ABC News contributor, said.

Additionally, DHS writes that "ideologically-motivated violent extremists fueled by perceived grievances, false narratives, and conspiracy theories continue to share information online with the intent to incite violence."

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called the threats facing the country "more dynamic, and more diversified than it was several years ago."

"We know that providing timely and useful information to the public is critical as we all work together to secure the homeland," Mayorkas said in a statement. "With the issuance of today's NTAS Bulletin, we are advising the public to be vigilant about ongoing threats to the United States, including those posed by domestic terrorism, grievance-based violence, and those inspired or influenced by foreign terrorists and other malign foreign influences."

The department has made combatting domestic violent extremism a priority.

On Tuesday, the secretary established a domestic terrorism branch in the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis and established the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships in an effort to combat terrorism and targeted violence. DHS previously used Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to combat domestic terrorism by having each recipient allocate at least 7% toward combatting domestic terrorism.

The Department of Homeland Security also warned that certain websites could be advocating for violence against government officials. It does not, however, name any specific officials.

"Online narratives across sites known to be frequented by individuals who hold violent extremist ideologies have called for violence against elected officials, political representatives, government facilities, law enforcement, religious or commercial facilities, and perceived ideologically-opposed individuals," the bulletin issued on Friday reads.

DHS mentions in the bulletin that the use of encrypted messaging could make it harder for law enforcement to track these cells.

The agency also writes that nation states are continually amplifying messages to sow discord in the United States.

"For example, Russian, Chinese and Iranian government-linked media outlets have repeatedly amplified conspiracy theories concerning the origins of COVID-19 and effectiveness of vaccines; in some cases, amplifying calls for violence targeting persons of Asian descent," according to the bulletin.

Javed Ali, a former top counterterrorism official on the National Security Council, said that Friday’s bulletin shows the concern agencies have about domestic violent extremism.

"While the bulletin does not appear to be based on a single and specific credible threat, it notes a range of factors and grievances that could drive individuals or groups to attack plotting,” said Ali, a Towsley policymaker in residence at the University of Michigan. "The use other similar NTAS bulletins over the past year shows a more mature and disciplined use by DHS for this product, with the goal of educating and informing multiple stakeholders."

DHS writes it remain "committed to identifying and preventing domestic terrorism."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


More than 250 correctional officers died from COVID-19

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(NEW YORK) -- Last year was the deadliest on record for correctional officers, according to the nonprofit group One Voice, which tracks correctional officers' deaths.

According to the group, 219 officers and 41 staff died of COVID-19, since March 2020.

In a typical year, about 11 officers lose their lives, One Voice said.

Friday night, One Voice will honor those fallen in a virtual candlelight vigil.

"We mourn the 219 correctional officers and 41 non-custody employees who died while reporting for duty during the pandemic as well as the thousands of incarcerated individuals who have died across the country," said Andy Potter, retired correctional officer and founder of One Voice United.

One officer who died from COVID-19 was Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institutions Lieutenant Russell K. Freeman.

Freeman, a father of three kids was a dedicated softball coach and family man, his children and wife told ABC News.

"He was a master at prioritizing the things that really mattered," Ingrid Freeman, one of Freeman's three children, said. "He always put us first. He put our family dog first. Above all, he put his wife first."

Freeman's wife Lisa, who is also a correctional officer at the ACI, told ABC News that he was her best friend and partner.

"From my point of view he wasn't just my husband, he was also my best friend, and he was probably the best partner I had ever had at work," she said.

Freeman's son Stone said his dad could move effortlessly from work to spending time with his family.

"He could work [a] seven-to-three shift at a prison with these really dangerous people, and then somehow be at the softball fields at five o'clock hitting ground balls and laughing and, almost as if he didn't come from, from such a dark place beforehand," his son said. "He had a really easy way of connecting with any type of people, whether it was the people that were incarcerated, his co-workers or, or just the people within the community."

Freeman's Warwick, Rhode Island, community renamed a softball field in his honor earlier this year.

His daughter Ingrid said that she will miss her dad's sense of humor.

"He was just always the center of the party without even trying," she told ABC News. "He was just so humble and kind and funny."

In a statement to ABC News, Rhode Island Department of Corrections chief of information and public relations officer J.R. Ventura, said the passing of Freeman was a "terrible and painful loss," adding that the 30-year correctional officer will be "sorely missed."

Both state and federal prisons have lost officers as a result of the pandemic.

"The past year has been devastating to the corrections profession in the United States," Shane Fausey, president of the National Council of Prison Locals 33 told ABC News. "The human tragedy is the sacrifice of more than 250 Correctional Professionals and the suffering of their families left to grieve their sudden losses."

Fausey continued: "The COVID-19 pandemic has left an indelible scar as it has resulted in the single most deadliest year in corrections across all boundaries, from our county jails, to our state prisons, to our federal penitentiaries. A year we shall never forget, and most importantly, the heroes of corrections we will honor and remember forever."

There have been six Bureau of Prisons correctional officers that have lost their lives to COVID-19, according to the union.

Members of Congress from both parties called the deaths of correctional officers tragedies.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat called the deaths of federal officers "preventable."

"The Judiciary Committee will continue to hold BOP accountable and support efforts to improve vaccination and prevention strategies for the men and women who work in our federal prison system," Durbin said in a statement to ABC News.

Rep. Fred Keller, a Pennsylvania Republican and Chairman of the Bureau of Prisons Reform Caucus, said they are working to have the Bureau be more transparent and accountable.

"Since the pandemic began our caucus has been working diligently to bring greater transparency and accountability to the BOP with one goal in mind: ensuring the health and safety of correctional officers nationwide," Keller, who chairs the Bureau of Prisons Reform Caucus, said.

Lisa Freeman said that she is "grateful" for the time she spent with her husband of almost 30 years, saying they were the best years of her life.

"I owe everything that I have, my children and everything around me, to my husband," she said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Man arrested in wife's murder now accused of voting for Trump in her name

Chaffee County Sheriff's Office

(DENVER) -- A Colorado man arrested this month for allegedly murdering his missing wife has also been accused of voting for former President Donald Trump in her name.

Barry Morphew, 53, was charged with felony forgery and offenses relating to mail ballots, a misdemeanor, according to court records filed Thursday.

He was previously arrested on May 5 on charges of first-degree murder after deliberation, tampering with physical evidence and an attempt to influence a public servant, according to court documents, in connection with the disappearance of his wife, Suzanne Morphew, over a year ago.

Suzanne Morphew, 49, who shared two daughters with her husband, disappeared on May 10, 2020, near the small mountain town of Salida, in Chaffee County. She has yet to be found.

So when the Chaffee County Clerk's Office received a voter ballot in the mail for the missing person in October, the county clerk reported the alleged voter fraud to authorities, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

The ballot did not have the required signature, but was allegedly signed by Barry Morphew on the witness' signature line on Oct. 15, according to the affidavit.

The Chaffee County sheriff seized the ballot and its envelope as evidence, and Barry Morphew's own ballot and envelope were seized in March as well during a monthslong investigation, according to the affidavit.

During an interview with FBI agents in April, Barry Morphew allegedly confessed to submitting his wife's ballot, according to the affidavit.

"Just because I wanted Trump to win," he allegedly said, per a transcript of the conversation included in the affidavit. "I just thought, give him another vote."

"I figured all these other guys are cheating," he allegedly said, adding that his wife "was going to vote for Trump anyway," according to the affidavit.

He allegedly told the FBI agents he didn't realize it was illegal to submit someone else's voter ballot. "I didn't know you couldn't do that for your spouse," he allegedly said, according to the affidavit.

Barry Morphew is being held in the Chaffee County Detention Facility without bond in the murder case. He is next scheduled to appear in court on May 27. His attorneys are state public defenders, who do not comment on criminal cases.

No other arrests are expected in connection with the disappearance of Suzanne Morphew, authorities said. The arrest affidavit for the murder charge is sealed, and prosecutors have not revealed a suspected cause of death.

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Ma'Khia Bryant case shines light on 'adultification' of Black girls

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(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Ma'Khia Bryant was 16 when she was shot and killed by police outside of her foster home in Columbus, Ohio. Since her death, the Bryant family lawyer, Michelle Martin, said she has had to combat negative portrayals of the teenager, who has been described by her family as "sweet" and "loving."

"Everyone wants to see her as an aggressor before we can even see her as a child," Martin said in an interview with ABC News. She said she wished people would give Ma'Khia the benefit of the doubt about what she says were her attempts to defend herself in the moments leading up to her death. "They're looking at our [Black] youth as if they are three to four years older and that could go from 'being a child' to 'you're a dangerous adult' -- not a child who was in a situation asking and calling for help" as her family claimed she was doing.

In the wake of the shooting, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther received backlash for calling the teenager a "young woman" in a tweet, instead of a child or teen. He later corrected himself in a press conference.

Advocates have argued that the "adultification" of Black girls -- being seen as less innocent and more aggressive than their peers -- has played a role in how Ma'Khia has been portrayed and perceived since the incident. Bodycam footage released by police appears to show that officers encountered Ma'Khia lunging at a woman with a kitchen knife when she was shot, 11 seconds after police arrived on the scene.

Law enforcement experts say the situation justified the use of deadly force. But her family and others wonder how much "adultification" has factored into her life prior to this incident, as well as her depiction afterward.

Her sister Ja'Niah, 15, has said that two former foster family members were threatening them during a confrontation about the house's cleanliness. Her family claimed Ma'Khia and Ja'Niah were the ones who had called 911 to the scene for help, as opposed to being the aggressor. The account has not been verified by police.

"She was being a bigger sister," Ja'Niah said. "She was trying to protect herself."

Martin said that she hopes Ma'Khia is remembered as the "bubbly" girl seen in the TikTok videos she made -- a smiling young girl dancing and singing along to music, and doing her hair.

Black girls "are instantly seen as aggressive early on and then that puts them in a position where they aren't even comfortable speaking about any injustices or unsafe positions in the home," Martin said about Ma'Khia's life in foster care. "They're not able to feel like they're safe and protected like they should be. Their vulnerabilities aren't really taken into consideration."

"'Adultification' is a form of dehumanization -- it's stripping Black girls of what it means to be a child," said Jamilia Blake, the lead researcher in a Georgetown University study on bias against young Black girls. "The idea is that your youth protects you from some of the significant outcomes that you're not protected from as an adult because you don't know better."

Her research, published under the title "Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls' Childhood," concludes that Black girls are perceived as needing less nurturing, less protection and less support than white girls of the same age. As a result, they are subject to harsher responses by those exercising discretion, including use of force, the research found.

Harsher penalties for Black girls: research

This "adultification" may manifest itself in harmful, tangible consequences for Black girls. According to 2018 data from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, Black girls are six times more likely to be expelled from school, four times more likely to be arrested, and three times more likely to be suspended.

Black girls also tend to be punished more severely by school authorities and are more likely to have police use force on them, Blake's research found. Two high-profile incidents in January underscored this trend -- in New York, a 9-year-old unarmed Black girl was pepper-sprayed in her eyes after being handcuffed and forced into a squad car by Rochester police. All three officers were suspended and are being investigated internally by the department.

In Florida, an Osceola County deputy was seen on video slamming a young female Black student onto concrete. The officer was placed on administrative leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates the incident.

Incidents like these, according to psychiatrist and ABC News contributor Dr. Divya Chhabra, are the product of unconscious racial bias, which goes hand-in-hand with "adultification" bias. She said that unintentional prejudices or biases can affect the way people act and respond to certain situations and people of different races.

"On a conscious level you don't actually have that belief nor do you want to have that belief, yet something inside your brain has been programmed for a long time because of society, because of the environment," Chhabra said. "We maybe don't want to 'adultify' Black girls, we may not actually believe that Black girls are more dangerous, but something in our brain is making us behave that way."

Implicit racism can affect the way Black girls are treated in their day-to-day lives, Chhabra said, and individual and systemic work needs to be done on acknowledging and actively challenging these unconscious biases. The first step, she recommended, is to be aware of the bias, recognize when the bias might be affecting thoughts or actions, and challenge those ideas.

"No person is immune to implicit bias, even people of color or people of oppressed backgrounds are not immune to implicit bias," Chhabra said.

History rooted in slavery and racism

The perceptions of Black girls as more dangerous or more adult, Blake said, stem from slavery and the history of racism in the U.S. Black children were dehumanized, separated from their families and viewed as property. This, combined with the over-sexualization and rape of Black women, has affected the way people see Black girls still today, she said.

"Beginning in slavery, Black boys and girls were imagined as chattel and were often put to work as young as two and three years old," the Georgetown study reads. "Subjected to much of the same dehumanization suffered by Black adults, Black children were rarely perceived as being worthy of playtime and were severely punished for exhibiting normal child-like behaviors."

Nishaun T. Battle, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Virginia State University, said Black girls face a "double victimization" of racism and sexism, and that the children suffer from the responsibility of combatting these stereotypes and unconscious biases.

"Even if you do follow all of the directions, stay in line, follow all of the policies, you still can face certain consequences," Battle said. "It's just a very, very dangerous position that Black girls find themselves in wherever they go."

Battle said she hopes a collective movement can prevent future violence against Black girls. She said resources and policies need to be targeted against police use of force against young Black girls and that legislators can instead invest in bettering community systems, like the foster care system that Ma'Khia belonged to.

"It's not about what happened after the fact but what we can do to prevent the fatality," Battle said. "Justice would be better schools, better communities, and more resources."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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