National News National News en-us Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved. Feed content is not avaialble for commercial use. () () Tue, 30 Sep 2014 19:09:05 GMT Synapse CMS 10 144 25 Secret Service Head Takes Heat for White House Breach National News Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:40:22 AM Associated Press Secret Service Head Takes Heat for White House Breach

WASHINGTON (AP) - Facing blistering criticism from Congress, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson acknowledged on Tuesday that her agency failed in executing its plan to protect the White House when a man with a knife entered the mansion and ran through half the ground floor before being subdued.

"It's unacceptable," Pierson told lawmakers. But her promised review of how the storied but blemished agency carries out its mission of protecting the president - and how it failed to intercept the intruder much earlier - left lawmakers from both parties cold.

"I wish to God you protected the White House like you protected your reputation here today," Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch told her at a hearing.

Calm but defensive in testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Pierson disclosed there have been six fence-jumpers this year alone, including one just eight days before Army veteran Omar J. Gonzalez scaled the fence on Sept. 19.

"I'll make sure that it does not happen again," she said, declaring that she took full responsibility for the failures.

President Barack Obama and his daughters had left for Camp David shortly before the intrusion; Michelle Obama had gone to the retreat earlier in the day.

"The fact is the system broke down," declared committee chairman Darrell Issa. "An intruder walked in the front door of the White House, and that is unacceptable."

Not only that, he said, but the intruder penetrated at least five rings of security protecting what is supposed to be one of the world's most secure properties.

"How on earth did it happen?" he asked. "This failure ... has tested the trust of the American people in the Secret Service, a trust we clearly depend on to protect the president."

Lawmakers from both parties were aghast, too, about a four-day delay in 2011 before the Secret Service realized a man had fired a high-powered rifle at the White House.

The Washington Post reported on the weekend that some Secret Service officers believed immediately that shots had been fired into the mansion but they were "largely ignored" or afraid to challenge their bosses' conclusions that the shooting was not directed at the White House.

Such breaches, combined with recurring reports of misbehavior within the agency, cause "many people to ask whether there is a much broader problem with the Secret Service," said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, top Democrat on the committee.

Lynch told the agency's chief at the hearing he had "very low confidence in the Secret Service under your leadership. Based on the evidence, that's how we have to call it."

Members of Congress briefed by the agency apparently weren't told of the full extent of the breaches.

Details emerged only later. Among them: The recent intruder ran through the White House, into the East Room and near the doors to the Green Room before being apprehended. This, after he made it past a guard stationed inside the White House,.

On the way to the East Room, the intruder would have passed a stairwell that leads to the first family's residence. It was unclear what security would have been in place to prevent Gonzalez from attempting to go up to the family quarters.

Pierson said Tuesday that the front door to the White House now locks automatically in a security breach. She said that on Sept. 19 a Secret Service guard was attempting to lock one of the doors manually when the intruder knocked the agent down.

In the hours after the Sept. 19 fence-jumper incident, Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told The Associated Press that Gonzalez had been apprehended just inside the North Portico doors of the White House. The agency also said that night the Army veteran had been unarmed - an assertion that was revealed to be false the next day, when officials acknowledged Gonzalez had a knife with him when he was apprehended.

Senate Judiciary Committee staffers who were briefed about the investigation by the administration a week after the incident were never told how far Gonzalez made it into the building, according to a congressional official who wasn't authorized to discuss the investigation and requested anonymity. The official said the committee later was told that the suspect had, indeed, made it far beyond the front door.

Pierson's predecessor, Mark J. Sullivan, apologized to lawmakers in 2012 after details emerged of a night of debauchery involving 13 Secret Service agents and officers in advance of the president's arrival at a summit in Colombia. Sullivan retired about 10 months later.

Since the incident, the White House has treaded carefully. Although White House spokesman Josh Earnest acknowledged the president was "obviously concerned" about the intrusion, he expressed confidence in the Secret Service as recently as Monday.

It would be untenable for any president, not just Obama, to pointedly criticize the men and women who put themselves at risk to protect his life and family. That inherent conflict of interest means Congress, not the executive branch, is the most effective oversight authority for the Secret Service, its agents and officers.

"The president and the first lady, like all parents, are concerned about the safety of their children, but the president and first lady also have confidence in the men and women of the Secret Service to do a very important job," Earnest said.


On Twitter follow Alicia A. Caldwell at and Josh Lederman at

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Oklahoma Man Charged with Murder in Beheading National News Tue, 30 Sep 2014 11:27:42 AM Associated Press Oklahoma Man Charged with Murder in Beheading

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - An Oklahoma man who had been suspended from his job was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the gruesome beheading of a co-worker, who was attacked from behind as the man sought revenge, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Alton Nolen, 30, could face the death penalty for Thursday's deadly attack on Colleen Hufford, 54, at the Vaughan Foods plan in Moore. He also faces two assault charges.

The FBI is also investigating, given Nolen's interest in beheadings and a recent surge in Middle East violence. Nolen had recently converted to Islam but Cleveland County Prosecutor Greg Mashburn said it appeared Nolen's assault was tied more to his suspension.

Mashburn said Vaughan's human resources department suspended Nolen earlier Thursday after another co-worker, Traci Johnson, had complained that she had had an altercation with Nolen "about him not liking white people."

The prosecutor said Nolen fetched a knife from home and "returned to get revenge." He walked into the plant's administrative office in suburban Oklahoma City, Mashburn said. Nolen came across Hufford first and attacked her from behind, severing her head. He then turned his attention to Johnson, 43, who was repeatedly stabbed, but survived.

The company's chief operating officer, Mark Vaughan, a reserve sheriff's deputy in Oklahoma City, leveled a rifle at Nolen and fired, striking him once and stopping the attack.

Mashburn said it was "highly likely" that he would seek the death penalty against Nolen, but would confer first with Hufford's family.

While the FBI is investigating, and while he believed Nolen was using Arabic terms during the attack, Mashburn said the attack seemed to be tied more to the complaints against him.

"It had more to do with race rather than trying to convert people," Mashburn said. He said there was a "back and forth with Ms. Johnson and that led her to make a complaint to the HR department."

"There was some sort of infatuation with beheadings. It seemed to be related to his interest in killing someone that way," the prosecutor said. "Other than that, it seemed to be related to his being suspended earlier in the day."

Nolen's mother and sister posted a video message on Facebook over the weekend saying they were shocked and saddened by the allegations against him.

"My son was raised up in a loving home. My son was raised up believing in God," his mother, Joyce Nolen, said in the video. "Our hearts bleed right now because of what they're saying Alton has done."

A cousin, 29-year-old James Fulsom, told The Associated Press that as recently as February, Nolen did not mention his conversion in conversations.

Oklahoma prison records show Nolen was released from prison in March 2013 after serving two years of a six-year sentence on charges that included assaulting a police officer and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Nolen received no misconduct reports during his incarceration at five separate facilities, Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said. Nolen completed his probation in March of this year.

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Body of Missing Realtor Found in Shallow Grave National News Tue, 30 Sep 2014 6:41:27 AM Body of Missing Realtor Found in Shallow Grave

ARKANSAS - Authorities say the body of missing Arkansas Realtor Beverly Carter has been found north of the Little Rock area.

Her body was found in a shallow grave near Cabot.

The Pulaski County Sheriff's Office says Arron Lewis of Jacksonville will be charged with capital murder.

The 33-year-old was arrested by authorities Monday.

Authorities say he admitted to kidnapping carter, but would not divulge her whereabouts.

Carter vanished last week when she went to show a home in the small community of Scott.

Police haven't said how they linked Lewis to Carter or how they tracked him down.


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Secret Service Head Faces Questions on WH Breach National News Tue, 30 Sep 2014 4:24:50 AM Secret Service Head Faces Questions on WH Breach

WASHINGTON (AP) - Secret Service Director Julia Pierson is scheduled to answer lawmakers' questions about an embarrassing White House security breach.

Pierson will face critical questions Tuesday from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about how a Texas Army veteran armed with a knife managed to not only climb over a White House fence untouched, but make it deep into the inner sanctum of the presidential residence.

Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz said Monday night that whistleblowers told his committee that the intruder ran through the White House, into the East Room and near the doors to the Green Room before being apprehended Sept. 19.

Pierson will also have to explain why members of Congress apparently weren't told initially of the full extent of the breach.

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Virginia Police: Forensic Evidence Links 2 Cases National News Tue, 30 Sep 2014 4:21:24 AM Virginia Police: Forensic Evidence Links 2 Cases

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - They both were walking alone, separated from their friends late at night on or near the University of Virginia campus. One was found dead nearly five years ago. The other is still missing.

And now police believe they've found a link between the 2009 slaying of Morgan Harrington and the Sept. 13 disappearance of Hannah Graham - forensic evidence pointing to a 32-year-old man who fled the state when he learned police wanted to question him about the Graham case.

Jesse Matthew Jr. was arrested on a beach near Galveston, Texas, last week and was brought back to Virginia to face a charge of abduction with intent to defile the 18-year-old Graham. State police say the arrest has produced a forensic link to the Harrington case, but they're not providing details.

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Warrant Issued In Missing Real Estate Agent Case National News Mon, 29 Sep 2014 7:10:57 AM Miranda Leah - @MirandaLeahTV Warrant Issued In Missing Real Estate Agent Case

ARKANSAS - Authorities in Arkansas have just issued a warrant for a man wanted in connection with the disappearance of a real estate agent.

33-year-old Aaron Lewis is considered a person of interest in the disappearance of Beverly Carter, who went missing on Thursday.

Lewis is now wanted on a kidnapping charge.

He was in a car accident Sunday morning and was treated at a hospital for his injuries.

Police said he was not detained because a warrant had not been issued yet.

Police are continuing to search for that missing woman.


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Charges Expected in Workplace Beheading National News Mon, 29 Sep 2014 4:58:32 AM Charges Expected in Workplace Beheading

MOORE, Okla. (AP) - Police say charges are expected in the beheading of a woman at a food distribution center in an Oklahoma City suburb.

Moore police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis says murder and other charges against 30-year-old Alton Nolen will be presented to the district attorney for filing Monday.

Cleveland County prosecutors did not return phone calls for comment on Sunday.

Nolen is suspected of attacking two women, beheading one of them, shortly after being fired Thursday at Vaughan Foods in Moore. Police say reserve sheriff's deputy Mark Vaughan, the company's chief operating officer, ended the attack by shooting Nolen.

Nolen and the second victim in the attack were both hospitalized and are expected to recover.

A hospital spokeswoman said Sunday that she could not comment on Nolen's condition.

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Police: Many Minors at Site of Nightclub Shooting National News Mon, 29 Sep 2014 4:24:25 AM Police: Many Minors at Site of Nightclub Shooting

MIAMI (AP) - Miami police are looking into why so many minors were present at a nightclub during a pre-dawn shooting.

Among the 15 people wounded during the early Sunday morning violence at The Spot was an 11-year-old child.

Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Ignatius Carroll says it was "very disturbing" to see a large number of teens and pre-teens at the club.

Police spokeswoman Frederica Burden says authorities are trying to determine exactly what kind of club The Spot is, and whether the gathering there at the time of the shooting was a public or private one.

The shooting sent terrified patrons scrambling from the nightclub. No fatalities were reported.

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Fired Worker Beheads Woman at Office National News Fri, 26 Sep 2014 4:37:30 PM Fired Worker Beheads Woman at Office

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A man fired from an Oklahoma food processing plant beheaded a woman with a knife and was attacking another worker when he was shot and wounded by a company official, police said Friday.

Moore Police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said police are waiting until Alton Nolen, 30, is conscious to arrest him in Thursday's attack and have asked the FBI to help investigate after co-workers at Vaughan Foods in the south Oklahoma City suburb told authorities that he recently started trying to convert several employees to Islam.

Nolen severed the head of Colleen Hufford, 54, Lewis said.

"Yes, she was beheaded," Lewis told The Associated Press before a Friday news conference.

Lewis said Nolen then stabbed Traci Johnson, 43, a number of times before Mark Vaughan, a reserve sheriff's deputy and the company's chief operating officer, shot him.

"This was not going to stop if he didn't stop it. It could have gotten a lot worse," Lewis said. "The threat had already stopped once we arrived."

Lewis said Moore police have asked the FBI to look into the man's background because of the nature of the attack, which follows a series of videotaped beheadings by Islamic State militants.

In a statement, FBI Special Agent in Charge James E. Finch said the motive for the attack has not been determined but that there is no reason to believe there is a threat to anyone else.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation told the AP that while there was indication that Nolen was a Muslim convert and was trying to convert others to Islam, there is so far no connection to terrorism and no evidence of any worrisome travel.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said Nolen had a Facebook page that was of potential interest to investigators but that "there doesn't appear to be any nexus to terrorism right now." But the official also said investigators were still looking into Nolen's background.

Johnson and the suspect were hospitalized and in stable condition Friday, Lewis said. Nolen had not yet been charged and Lewis said he didn't know what charges the suspect would face.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections records say Nolen has served time in prison and is on probation for assault and battery on a police officer. He also was convicted of cocaine possession with intent to distribute in 2011.

Corrections records show Nolen has what appear to be religious tattoos, including one referencing Jesus and one in Arabic that means "peace be with you."

Lewis said Nolen had been fired in a building that houses the company's human resources office, then immediately drove to the entrance of the business. Lewis said he didn't know why the man was fired.

A Vaughan spokeswoman said the company was "shocked and deeply saddened" by the attack.


Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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Contract Employee Sets Fire, Divert Hundreds of Flights from Chicago National News Fri, 26 Sep 2014 3:53:59 PM Contract Employee Sets Fire, Divert Hundreds of Flights from Chicago

CHICAGO (AP) - Authorities say today's fire at an air traffic control center near Chicago was deliberately set by a contract employee -- but they are ruling out any ties to terrorism.

The fire put a halt to air traffic at two of the nation's busiest airports -- Chicago's O'Hare and Midway -- for hours, and the delays and cancellations rippled through the air travel network from coast to coast. By midday, nearly 1,800 flights in and out of Chicago alone had been canceled.

Even after flights resumed, they were taking off and landing on a much reduced schedule, and there's no word on when full service will resume.

The early morning fire forced the evacuation of the control center in Aurora, about 40 miles from downtown Chicago. Emergency crews found the man suspected of setting the fire in the basement. Authorities say he had multiple self-inflicted knife wounds as well as burns. They say he used gasoline to help spread the fire, and that there was some damage to wiring in the building.

Investigators don't know of a possible motive. They say the Federal Aviation Administration contractor was authorized to be there.

The impact of the fire is raising questions about whether the FAA has adequate backup plans to keep planes moving when a single facility has to shut down.

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Immigrant Families Ignore Follow-Up Meetings National News Thu, 25 Sep 2014 12:02:14 PM Associated Press Immigrant Families Ignore Follow-Up Meetings

WASHINGTON (AP) - Tens of thousands of young families caught crossing the border illegally earlier this year subsequently failed to meet with federal immigration agents, as they were instructed, the Homeland Security Department has acknowledged privately.

An official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement revealed that about 70 percent of immigrant families the Obama administration had released into the U.S. never showed up weeks later for follow up appointments.

The ICE official made the disclosure in a confidential meeting at its Washington headquarters with immigration advocates participating in a federal working group on detention and enforcement policies. The Associated Press obtained an audio recording of Wednesday's meeting and separately interviewed participants.

On the recording obtained by the AP, the government did not specify the total number of families released into the U.S. since October. Since only a few hundred families have already been returned to their home countries and limited U.S. detention facilities can house only about 1,200 family members, the 70 percent figure suggests the government released roughly 41,000 members of immigrant families who subsequently failed to appear at federal immigration offices.

The official, who was not identified by name on the recording obtained by the AP, also said final deportation had been ordered for at least 860 people traveling as families caught at the border since May but only 14 people had reported as ordered.

In a statement, ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen did not respond to questions from the AP about the newly disclosed figures. Instead, she said the agency was committed to increasing its capacity to detain and quickly deport families who crossed the border illegally.

The AP reported in June that the administration would not say publicly how many immigrant families from Central America caught crossing into the U.S. it had released in recent months or how many of those subsequently reported back to the government after 15 days as directed. The AP noted that senior U.S. officials directly familiar with the issue, including at the Homeland Security Department and White House, had dodged the answer on at least seven occasions over two weeks, alternately saying that they did not know the figure or didn't have it immediately at hand.

The Homeland Security Department's public affairs office during the same period did not answer roughly a dozen requests for the figures.

More than 66,000 immigrants traveling as families, mostly mothers and young children, have been apprehend at the border since the start of the budget year in October. Nearly 60,000 of those immigrants are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala and cannot be immediately repatriated, so the government has been releasing them into the U.S. and telling them to report within 15 days to the nearest Immigrations and Customs Enforcement offices.

At the meeting, the ICE official acknowledged the no-show figures while explaining the administration's decision in June to open a temporary detention center for families in Artesia, New Mexico. A second immigration jail in Texas was later converted for families and can house about 530 people. A third such detention center will open in Texas later this year. Before the new facility in Artesia, the government had room for fewer than 100 people at its only family detention center in Pennsylvania.

Immigration advocates have complained that the new detention centers were punishing immigrants who ultimately may win lawful asylum claims to remain in the U.S. In the meeting, they also questioned whether immigration officials had clearly and properly instructed immigrants to meet with federal agents within 15 days.

The ICE official said it was necessary to detain families to ensure they didn't vanish into the U.S. He encouraged advocacy groups to help find ways to ensure that immigrants reported to federal agents as ordered so the government could begin processing their cases, including any requests to remain in the U.S. legally.


Follow Alicia A. Caldwell on Twitter at

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Attorney General Eric Holder to Resign National News Thu, 25 Sep 2014 10:39:28 AM Associated Press Attorney General Eric Holder to Resign

WASHINGTON (AP) - Eric Holder, who served as the public face of the Obama administration's legal fight against terrorism and weighed in on issues of racial fairness, is resigning after six years on the job. He is the nation's first black attorney general.

The White House said that President Barack Obama would announce Holder's departure later Thursday and that Holder planned to remain at the Justice Department until his successor was in place. White House officials said Obama had not made a final decision on a replacement for Holder, who was one of the most progressive voices in his Cabinet.

Advisers to Obama and Holder said the attorney general had been planning his departure with the president for some time. Some possible candidates who have been discussed among administration officials include Solicitor General Don Verrilli, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a former Rhode Island attorney general.

Holder, a 63-year-old former judge and prosecutor, took office in early 2009 as the U.S. government grappled with the worst financial crisis in decades and with divisive questions on the handling of captured terrorism suspects, issues that helped shape his tenure as the country's top law enforcement official. He is the fourth-longest serving attorney general in U.S. history.

He also took on questions of racial fairness, working to improve police relations with minorities, enforce civil rights laws and remove disparities in sentencing. Most recently he became the Obama administration's point man in the federal response to the police shooting last month of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. In the shooting's aftermath, he enlisted a team of criminal justice researchers to study possible racial bias in law enforcement.

The news of Holder's resignation came as civil rights leaders and the families of Brown and Eric Garner, who died in a New York City police chokehold this summer, were appearing at a news conference in Washington calling on the Justice Department to take over investigations into the deaths.

The Rev. Al Sharpton urged the White House to meet with civil rights representatives before appointing a replacement. "There has not been an attorney general with a civil rights record equal to Attorney General Eric Holder," Sharpton said.

In his first few years on the job, Holder endured a succession of controversies over, among other things, an ultimately abandoned plan to try terrorism suspects in New York City, a botched gun-running probe along the Southwest border that prompted Republican calls for his resignation, and what was seen as failure to hold banks accountable for the economic near-meltdown.

But he stayed on after Obama won re-election, turning in his final stretch to issues that he said were personally important to him. He promoted voting rights and legal benefits for same-sex couples and pushed for changes to a criminal justice system that he said meted out punishment disproportionately to minorities.

Stung by criticism that the department hadn't been aggressive enough in targeting financial misconduct, Holder in the past year and a half secured criminal guilty pleas from two foreign banks and multibillion-dollar civil settlements with American banks arising from the sale of toxic mortgage-backed securities. Even then, critics noted that no individuals were held accountable.

A former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, Holder was pulled away from private practice to reshape a Justice Department that had been tarnished by a scandal involving fired U.S. attorneys and that had authorized harsh interrogation methods for terrorism suspects.

He immediately signaled a new direction for the incoming administration by declaring that waterboarding was torture, contrary to the George W. Bush administration's insistence that it wasn't.

In the first year of his tenure, Holder was widely criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for his plan to try professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other alleged co-conspirators in New York. The plan was doomed by political opposition to granting civilian criminal trials to terrorist suspects, who arguably would have had greater legal protections in civilian courts than in military commissions. The attorney general gave up the effort, but he continued to maintain that civilian courts were the most appropriate venue. He argued that his original plan was vindicated by the successful prosecution in New York of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law.

Under his watch, the Justice Department cracked down on news media reporting on national security matters. The department secretly subpoenaed phone records from Associated Press reporters and editors and used a search warrant to obtain some emails of a Fox News journalist as part of a separate leak investigation.

On matters of policy, Holder spoke frankly about how his upbringing - his father emigrated from Barbados and his sister-in-law helped integrate the University of Alabama - helped shape his thinking. He referred to America in 2010 as a "nation of cowards" in its discussions of race. He later lamented that "systemic and unwarranted racial disparities remain disturbingly common."


Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Pete Yost and Jesse Holland contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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Guns Found at Middle School, 4 Students Arrested National News Thu, 25 Sep 2014 3:55:58 AM Guns Found at Middle School, 4 Students Arrested

MIAMI (WSVN) -- Four male Brownsville Middle School students have been arrested and charged with possession of a loaded firearm on school property after two loaded guns were found on school grounds Wednesday afternoon.

Brownsville Middle, located at 4899 N.W. 24th Ave. in Miami, was put on lockdown at around 12:45 p.m. Wednesday after students told authorities that some of their classmates had brought guns to school.

"He was flashing [the gun] with his shirt," said one student.

Miami-Dade Schools Police acted swiftly, sweeping the school with K-9 units. "Miami-Dade School Police confronted some of the students and did some follow up in the school," said Miami-Dade Schools Police Lt. Raul Correa.

One loaded gun was found in a backpack while the other was found on another student, carrying it on himself.

Police are crediting the students for using the "See Something, Say Something" initiative for coming forward and telling authorities what they saw before things could have been much worse.

Parents were getting texts from their frightened children who were inside the school. "I'm speechless right now," said one worried parent as she waited for her child during dismissal. "My heart races up. My baby is inside the school."

"They won't let us parents go inside and get our kids," said another concerned parent. "My daughter told me she's scared. She said they have dogs in her classroom and all."

Students were just as frightened. "When I was in class, the security guard and everybody came in searching us," said student Natasha Ruffin. "I was really scared 'cause I didn't really know what was going on. So, after that, they came back to us again, and they started bringing in a dog to search around, so I didn't really know what was going on."

"All they said was to close the doors cause we were on Code Red," said student Malaysia Eason. "First it was on Code Yellow cause it was raining a lot. Then we went from that to Code Red. Code Red means illegal weapons in the school."

Police have not yet said if the students had plans to do anything with the guns or why four were taken into custody, although only two weapons were found.


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Woman Hit by California Officer Gets $1.5 Million National News Thu, 25 Sep 2014 3:49:28 AM Woman Hit by California Officer Gets $1.5 Million

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A woman punched repeatedly by a California Highway Patrol officer on the side of a freeway in an incident caught on video will receive $1.5 million under a settlement, and the officer has agreed to resign.

CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow confirmed the settlement in an emailed statement and an attorney for Marlene Pinnock confirmed the dollar amount for The Associated Press.

Wednesday's agreement came after a nine-hour mediation session in Los Angeles.

"When this incident occurred, I promised that I would look into it and vowed a swift resolution," Farrow's statement said. "Today, we have worked constructively to reach a settlement agreement that is satisfactory to all parties involved."

The statement said that Officer Daniel Andrew, who joined the CHP in 2012 and has been on paid administrative leave since the incident, "has elected to resign."

Andrew could still be charged criminally in the case. The CHP forwarded the results of its investigation of the incident to Los Angeles County prosecutors last month, saying he could face serious charges but none have been filed yet.

The bulk of the settlement will take the form of a special needs trust for Pinnock, the CHP said.

Pinnock's attorney Caree Harper said the settlement fulfilled the two elements her side was looking for.

"One of the things we wanted to make sure of was that she was provided for in a manner that accommodated her unique situation in life," Harper said, "and that the officer was not going to be an officer anymore and we secured those things."

The July 1 video of Andrew punching Pinnock was captured by a passing driver and spread widely on the internet and television.

According to a search warrant made public in court documents last month, Andrew had just pulled Pinnock from oncoming traffic and she resisted by pushing him after multiple drivers called 911 to report her walking barefoot along the side of the freeway.

Andrew then straddled her on the ground as Pinnock resisted by "kicking her legs, grabbing the officer's uniform and twisting her body," the warrant said. Andrew "struck her in the upper torso and head several times with a closed right fist," the records say.

The warrant said Pinnock suffered no signs of physical injury and refused medical treatment. She was placed on a psychiatric hold for two weeks.

Pinnock has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had been off her medication for two to three months before the altercation.

In an interview with the AP last month, Pinnock said she believed the officer was trying to kill her.

"He grabbed me, he threw me down, he started beating me," she said. "I felt like he was trying to kill me, beat me to death."


Tami Abdollah can be reached at

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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Teen Crash Victims' Families Drop Suit Against GM National News Wed, 24 Sep 2014 6:48:45 PM Associated Press Teen Crash Victims' Families Drop Suit Against GM

DETROIT (AP) - The families of two Wisconsin teenagers killed in a car crash involving a faulty General Motors ignition switch have dropped their lawsuit against the company and are seeking a settlement with the automaker.

The Oct. 24, 2006, crash that killed Natasha Weigel, who was 18, and Amy Rademaker, who was 15, was among the first blamed on the faulty switches, and evidence from the crash exposed how GM and federal regulators missed clues that could have prompted a recall of the cars as early as seven years ago.

Instead, GM failed to recall 2.6 million cars equipped with the switches until earlier this year.

Despite evidence that people within GM knew for years about a defect in the ignition switches in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars, the families face tough going in court because of the legal protection GM has from liabilities incurred prior to its 2009 bankruptcy. The families and their attorney, Robert Hilliard, dropped the suit on July 31, then filed a wrongful death claim with Kenneth Feinberg, the compensation expert hired to settle with victims on GM's behalf.

Representatives of the victims of any crash that preceded GM's bankruptcy face a similar choice. Hilliard is among a number of lawyers trying to get GM's so-called bankruptcy shield revoked, but he said judges rarely unravel a corporate bankruptcy agreement.

Rademaker's mother, Margie Beskau, of Woodville, Wisconsin, saw little chance the lawsuit would succeed. "GM is hiding behind their bankruptcy, so it would make it very difficult for us to sue them, because Amy died before they filed that bankruptcy," she said.

The girls' deaths are among 21 that Feinberg has deemed eligible for payments from GM since he started accepting claims on Aug. 1. He has received 143 death claims, with the rest still being evaluated. On Wednesday, his spokeswoman said he had made the first cash compensation offers to 15 claimants.

Feinberg informed Hilliard of his offers to the families on Wednesday as well. Hilliard described them as "fairly fair," without disclosing the amounts. Earlier he said that under Feinberg's compensation formula, he expected each family to get at least $3 million. The families can refile the lawsuit if they aren't satisfied with the offers.

GM has admitted it knew about the flawed switches for at least a decade before issuing a recall. The switches can unexpectedly slip into the "accessory" position, shutting off the engine and disabling key features such as power-assisted steering, and the car's air bags. Congress and the Justice Department are investigating GM's handling of the recall.

The car's driver, Megan Phillips, also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, survived the crash but suffered permanent brain damage. The data recorder in her 2005 Cobalt showed that the ignition switch was in "accessory" at the time of the crash.

A Wisconsin state trooper investigating the crash made the connection between the defective switch and the air bags not deploying. A report commissioned by GM, and a separate report from a Congressional committee on the role of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said both the company and regulators were aware of the trooper's finding but largely ignored it for years.

The move to drop the lawsuit, despite the strong evidence against GM, illustrates the difficulty pre-bankruptcy plaintiffs face because of the bankruptcy shield, said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond in Virginia. It makes Feinberg a better option than a potentially costly and lengthy court case.

Tobias said there's little risk to making a claim with Feinberg because the plaintiffs aren't obliged to accept his offer.

"Everyone is making the same calculus," he said. "Hilliard knows that that just may be a long, tough fight to win a civil case, and he may not come out with any more money."

For GM, Tobias said, it's advantageous to encourage settlements with Feinberg - even for millions of dollars - to avoid bad publicity, legal costs and the risk of huge verdicts. The automaker has set aside $400 million in its compensation fund and may pay out up to $600 million.

Families of victims of crashes that happened after July 2009 may be willing to fight in court because GM can be found liable for death or injury. For example, the family of Brooke Melton, a Georgia nurse who died in a 2010 Cobalt crash, settled last year for $5 million. But, citing what they say is new evidence that GM concealed the switch problem, the Meltons want the settlement overturned so they can seek a larger jury verdict. They also want company executives to be questioned under oath.

When the Rademaker and Weigel families told Feinberg their stories in August, "he wanted to get to know us so he could actually get a sense of who our daughters were," Beskau said. "To him, they are not just numbers, they are people."

Hilliard said Phillips will present her case at a later date.

Feinberg previously handled payments to victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the BP oil spill. The families, Hilliard said, told Feinberg of a circumstance that might warrant compensation above the standard formula.

The night of the crash, the identities of the heavily bruised and swollen girls were somehow mixed up. So Weigel's family was at Rademaker's side when she died while Rademaker's family waited for Weigel to come out of surgery. The mix-up was sorted out quickly, but not until it caused additional heartache for the families.


Forliti reported from Minneapolis.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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Man Charged with Virginia Student Abduction Caught in Texas National News Wed, 24 Sep 2014 6:44:45 PM Man Charged with Virginia Student Abduction Caught in Texas

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - Police say they have captured the man charged in the disappearance of a University of Virginia student.

Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said Wednesday that 32-year-old Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr. is in custody in Galveston, Texas. Matthew is charged with abduction with intent to defile in the case of 18-year-old Hannah Graham, who has been missing since Sept. 13.

Police had been looking for Matthew since Sept. 20, when he sped away from officers who had him under surveillance after he left the Charlottesville police station. He had gone there with his mother and uncle to ask for a lawyer after police searched his car and apartment and said they wanted to question him about Graham's disappearance.

Graham vanished after leaving an off-campus party alone.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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New iPhones Run into Software, Bending Complaints National News Wed, 24 Sep 2014 4:53:21 PM Associated Press New iPhones Run into Software, Bending Complaints

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Apple's newest iPhones ran into some glitches Wednesday after users complained that a new software update blocked their calls, and a video circulated to suggest that the larger of the two new models is vulnerable to bending.

Apple said it would stop providing the software update, which it began distributing Wednesday morning to fix several issues in last week's iOS 8 operating system for iPhones and iPads.

The decision to pull the update came after some people complained on Twitter and in Apple user chatrooms that the update, dubbed iOS 8.0.1, rendered their phones unable to make calls and caused problems with a feature that lets people unlock their phones with their fingerprint.

By midday Wednesday, Apple announced that it was investigating the reports and would issue advice to users "as quickly as we can." Users are still able to the upgrade older phones to last week's version of iOS 8, which Apple said has already been downloaded to nearly half of all iOS devices.

Some tech blogs reported the update only seemed to cause problems for the latest phone models - the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. It's not uncommon for new software to contain bugs that have to be fixed with subsequent releases.

Meanwhile, social media sites were buzzing on Wednesday with reports that the aluminum shell of the iPhone 6 Plus is vulnerable to bending. Some Twitter users claimed their phones showed a slight curving at one end after several hours in a pants pocket. With a 5.5-inch screen, the iPhone 6 Plus is slightly longer and thinner than other iPhone models.

It's not clear how widespread the complaints are. One YouTube video showed someone bending an iPhone 6 Plus by applying extended pressure with his hands - not from normal sitting.

Both the iPhone 6 and the 6 Plus were given high ratings in a recent "breakability" test sponsored by SquareTrade, a San Francisco firm that sells protection plans to consumers for their electronic devices. That test did not include bending, and SquareTrade plans further tests.

Apple did not comment on the reports of bending.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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UN Security Council Acts Against Terror Recruitment National News Wed, 24 Sep 2014 3:04:32 PM Associated Press UN Security Council Acts Against Terror Recruitment

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - With President Barack Obama presiding, the U.N. Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution aimed at limiting the flow of fighters to terror groups like the Islamic State.

The resolution requires all countries to prevent the recruitment and transport of those fighters.

Obama earlier told the General Assembly that the task of rejecting extremism is "for the people of the Middle East themselves." He said, "No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds."

Obama's address came against the backdrop of an expanded U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State group, with airstrikes now hitting targets in both Iraq and Syria. A coalition of five Arab nations joined the U.S. this week in the strikes in Syria.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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Drill Sergeant Found Guilty of Sexual Assaults National News Wed, 24 Sep 2014 2:24:03 PM Drill Sergeant Found Guilty of Sexual Assaults

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri drill sergeant is guilty of sexually assaulting and harassing eight female soldiers, a military judge ruled Wednesday.

Army Staff Sgt. Angel M. Sanchez, 30, was accused of using his supervisory position with the 14th Military Police Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood to threaten some of the women he was tasked with training. His accusers said the incidents took place in the bathroom of the female barracks as well as in an office shared by drill sergeants.

Sanchez was found guilty of charges including four counts of sexual assault and six counts of abusive sexual contact.

At the outset of the military judicial hearing, Sanchez pleaded guilty Monday to three charges of disobeying orders by having sexual contact with three female trainees. Several additional accusations against Sanchez were dismissed after a pretrial hearing in the spring.

His accusers said the incidents took place in the bathroom of the women's barracks as well as an office shared by drill sergeants at Fort Leonard Wood. Other allegations were brought by a medic in Afghanistan and a soldier in Fort Richardson, Alaska.

Sanchez, who is married, also served one tour in Iraq, where he earned a Bronze Star and two other combat medals before arriving at the Missouri post in August 2013. He did not take the stand.

Sanchez's attorney Ernesto Gapasin questioned the accusers' credibility, noting that some of the initial accusers were either facing disciplinary action of their own or forced separation from the military at the time complaints against Sanchez were raised. He suggested that three privates who accused Sanchez of forcing them to perform oral sex on him had consented to sex.

On Tuesday, an Army National Guard private testified that a brigade commander had warned her company of soldiers during training that the entire group wouldn't graduate if any additional sexual assault complaints were made. An installation spokeswoman declined to discuss the allegation.

The charges against Sanchez were filed in May, days before a Pentagon study on sex assault in the military found that more than 5,000 reports of sexual abuse had been filed in the previous fiscal year, a 50 percent increase from the previous 12 months.

Pressure from Congress led to several reforms in how the military justice system handles sex assault complaints. Accusers are now assigned lawyers to guide them through the legal process, and the statute of limitations has been eliminated. Anyone convicted of a sexual assault in the military faces a required minimum sentence of a dishonorable discharge.

The Pentagon's first formal report on sex assaults in its ranks found that in the vast majority of the cases the victim was a young, lower-ranking woman and the offender a senior enlisted male service member, often in the same unit.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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Tony Stewart Will Not Face Charges in Deadly Track Crash National News Wed, 24 Sep 2014 2:07:54 PM Associated Press Tony Stewart Will Not Face Charges in Deadly Track Crash

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. (AP) - A grand jury has decided against charging NASCAR star Tony Stewart in the August death of another driver at a sprint car race in upstate New York.

The decision was announced Wednesday, nearly seven weeks after Stewart's car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. at a dirt-track race on Aug. 9 in Canandaigua.

Ward had climbed from his car after it had spun while racing alongside Stewart. The 20-year-old walked down the track, waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront the three-time NASCAR champion.

The front of Stewart's car appeared to clear Ward, but Ward was struck by the right rear tire and hurtled through the air. He died of blunt force trauma. Stewart skipped three races following what he called a tragic accident.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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