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International flight turns around after passenger refuses to wear mask: Officials

Alicia Llop/Getty Images

(MIAMI) -- A first-class passenger who allegedly refused to wear a mask disrupted a London-bound American Airlines flight Wednesday night and prompted the pilot to turn back to Miami so the customer could be booted off the aircraft, police and airline officials said.

American Airlines Flight 38, with 129 passengers and 14 crew members aboard, was over the Atlantic Ocean when the passenger allegedly refused to obey instructions to wear a mask and became disruptive, a spokesperson for the airline said.

The flight departed Miami International Airport at about 7:40 p.m. local time. About an hour into the flight, the pilot decided to turn the Boeing 777 aircraft around and head back to Miami, according to the airline.

The flight was ultimately canceled and the passengers needed to rebook on future flights, the airline's spokesperson said.

"The flight landed safely at MIA where local law enforcement met the aircraft. We thank our crew for their professionalism and apologize to our customers for the inconvenience," American Airlines said in a statement.

Steve Freeman, a passenger on the flight, told ABC Miami affiliate WPLG the woman was verbally abusive to the flight crew.

"She sat behind us in first class -- she was a first-class passenger and was extremely abusive to the stewards," said Freeman, who was flying home to London. "I could see the writing on the wall -- they gave her a lot of warnings, so we were kind of ready for it."

He said flight attendants tried to offer the passenger several different masks.

"She complained about each mask," Freeman said.

Det. Argemis Colome of the Miami-Dade Police Department told ABC News on Thursday that police were contacted by American Airlines about a disruptive female passenger refusing to wear a mask.

Colome said police officers met the plane when it returned to the Miami International Airport. He said officers escorted the passenger off the plane, but she was not arrested or charged.

Colome said the woman, whose name was not released, was turned over to American Airlines officials to handle administratively.

A spokesperson for American Airlines told ABC News on Thursday that the woman has been placed on the airline's internal no-fly list pending an investigation. Such incidents are referred to the Federal Aviation Administration as part of a standard reporting process, the spokesperson said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


COVID-19 live updates: Fauci predicts most states will be past omicron peak by mid-February

Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.5 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 855,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

About 63% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jan 20, 4:37 pm
Hospitalizations at record high, cases dropping in some areas

More than 160,000 COVID-19-positive Americans are currently in hospitals -- a pandemic high and double the number from about three weeks ago, according to federal data.

It's still not clear how many were admitted with COVID-19 and how many tested positive for the virus after they were admitted for other reasons.

The U.S. is reporting an average of 760,000 new cases per day, according to federal data.

Although case levels remain high, there's growing evidence to suggest the omicron surge is receding in the parts of the country first struck by the variant.

In New York, daily cases have dropped by 33% in the last week, while in New Jersey new cases are down by 43.7%.

Wisconsin now leads the nation in new cases per capita, followed by Rhode Island, Utah and South Carolina.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 20, 3:12 pm
San Francisco appears to pass peak of omicron surge: Officials

In San Francisco, COVID-19 cases are "dropping rapidly" following record highs that appeared to peak on Jan. 9, officials announced.

While "cases are still extremely high," they "have plateaued and are starting to go down," said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health.

"We're looking at data from other places … the consistent data seem to show that cases go up very fast, they started to come down very fast. So we're on that downward trend now," Colfax said.

Jan 20, 2:28 pm
Austria becomes 1st European country to mandate vaccines for all

Austria's parliament voted Thursday to mandate vaccinations for all adults, making Austria the first country in Europe to mandate the vaccine for all eligible residents.

According to the Austrian Health Ministry, 72% of the country's population is fully vaccinated.

The COVID-19 Vaccination Act will go into effect on Feb. 1. Beginning March 15, reminder letters will be sent to those who remain unvaccinated. Noncompliance can result in a fine.

Exempt from the new law are: minors, pregnant women, those who had COVID-19 within 180 days and people with medical exemptions.

-ABC News' Christine Theodorou

Jan 20, 1:49 pm
France to ease some restrictions

Beginning Feb. 2, masks will no longer be required outdoors in France and public establishments will no longer have to apply quotas for receiving the public, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Thursday.

Working from home will be recommended but won't be mandatory as of Feb. 2, he said.

Beginning Feb. 16, nightclubs will reopen and standing consumption in bars will resume.

Some epidemiologists have suggested a peak in cases has been reached. But the prime minister warned that in a normal year the flu generates 10,000 hospitalizations in the winter, while omicron is causing 10,000 hospitalizations every five days.

Beginning Monday, the vaccine pass will come into force and will apply to everyone 16 and older.

-ABC News' Ibtissem Guenfoud

Jan 19, 10:30 pm
NIH panel discourages use of 2 monoclonal antibody treatments against omicron

The National Institutes of Health's COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel is discouraging the use of monoclonal antibody treatments from Regeneron and Eli Lilly in its updated guidance Wednesday, as both have shown to be less effective against the predominant omicron variant.

Sotrovimab, from Vir Biotechnology and GlaxoSmithKline, is the only monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 that has so far been shown to hold up against omicron. Last week, the federal government bought 600,000 more doses of the treatment, bringing the total to approximately 1 million, but supplies remain short while production ramps up.

Federal health officials had announced last month they would pause shipments of the treatments from Eli Lilly and Regeneron due to omicron efficacy concerns.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is recommended for nonhospitalized COVID-19 patients who are at high risk of getting severely ill.

-ABC News' Sasha Pezenik

Jan 19, 7:32 pm
NJ mandates booster for workers in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons

New Jersey will require workers in health care and high-risk congregate settings such as nursing homes and correctional facilities to get the COVID-19 booster, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday.

"The science tells us that it's no longer good enough to just receive your primary series, as being boosted is necessary to protect yourself and those around you," Murphy said at a press briefing announcing the executive order.

The executive order also ends COVID-19 testing as an alternative to vaccination, requiring all workers in health care and high-risk congregate settings to be fully vaccinated and boosted unless they have a medical or religious exemption. The requirement is in line with the Biden administration's vaccine mandate for health care workers at facilities that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Health care workers subject to the federal vaccine mandate have until Feb. 28 to submit proof that they have completed their primary vaccination series or received a booster shot if eligible. All other health care workers and employees in high-risk congregate settings have until March 30. Newly vaccinated workers will have to submit proof of a booster within three weeks of becoming eligible for the shot.

Anyone found noncompliant can face disciplinary action, including termination.

"We are no longer going to look past those who continue to put their colleagues, and perhaps I think even more importantly those who are their responsibility, in danger of COVID," Murphy said. "That has to stop."

Jan 19, 6:45 pm
US COVID-19 hospitalizations reach record level

Nearly 159,000 Americans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 -- a pandemic high -- according to federal data.

On average, more than 21,000 Americans with COVID-19 are being admitted to the hospital each day, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows. Nearly 26,000 Americans with the virus currently require intensive care.

Americans 65 years and older currently account for the largest percentage of COVID-19-related hospitalizations, followed by 18- to 49-year-olds.

Emergency department visits for COVID-19 patients declined nearly 14% over the last week.

It is largely unclear how many patients were admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 versus coincidentally testing positive for the virus after they were admitted for other reasons. Experts say these totals likely vary widely, community by community, and that a COVID-19 diagnosis, regardless of the reason behind the initial admission, can cause additional strain on a health system.

-ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Jan 19, 4:10 pm
Fauci predicts most states will be past omicron peak by mid-February

Dr. Anthony Fauci predicts that most states will be past the omicron peak by mid-February.

"I would imagine as we get into February, into the middle of February, first few weeks of February, it is very likely that most of the states in the country will have turned around with their peak and are starting to come down with regard to cases, and then obviously hospitalizations," Fauci said at a Blue Star Families event.

"Right now, there's no doubt that in New York City and other parts of New York state and in New Jersey, it has already peaked and is rather dramatically on its way down," Fauci said. "We're seeing that also in bigger cities such as Chicago, where as in cities in the South, it has not yet peaked and likely will have more of a slower incline and a slower decline, such as in places like New Orleans and in other cities in Louisiana."

Fauci said he expects data on vaccines for kids under 5 will be delivered to the FDA in the next month.

"They're determining now that for children within that age group, it is likely that it will be a three-dose vaccine. And that being the case, it's going to take a little longer to get those data to the FDA and approved," he explained. "My hope is that it's going to be within the next month or so and not much later than that. But I can't guarantee that because I can't out guess the FDA, I'm gonna have to leave that to them."

-ABC News' Cheyenne Haslett

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


US presses criminal charges against Belarusians involved in alleged state-sponsored hijacking of flight with activist on board

Catherine McQueen/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Belarus fabricated a bomb scare aboard a Ryanair passenger plane last year to force it to land so it could arrest dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, federal prosecutors in New York said Thursday as they charged four Belarusian officials with conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy.

Ryanair flight 4978, carrying 126 passengers, including four Americans, was headed to Vilnius from Athens on May 23. When it flew over Belarusian airspace, controllers told the pilots they had received word of a bomb aboard, according to prosecutors. A MiG-29 was sent to escort the plane to Minsk National Airport.

The episode prompted international outrage and Ryanair accused Belarus of state-sponsored hijacking.

At the time, Julie Fisher, the U.S. ambassador to Belarus who is based in Vilnius, said the diversion of the flight was "dangerous and abhorrent," saying it showed Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko's contempt for the international community.

Leonid Mikalaevich Churo, the director general of the state air navigation authority; his deputy, Oleg Kazyuchits, and two officers of the state security services, Andrey Anatolievich Lnu and Fnu Lnu, are all in Belarus and remain at large. Prosecutors called them "critical participants" in the alleged conspiracy.

"Belarusian government authorities fabricated the threat as a means to exercise control over the Flight and force it to divert from its course toward the original destination of Vilnius, and instead land in Minsk. The purpose of the Belarusian government's plot diverting the Flight to Minsk was so that Belarusian security services could arrest a Belarusian journalist and political activist," according to the indictment.

Churo personally communicated the false bomb threat to staff at the Minsk air traffic control center and directed controllers to instruct the flight to divert, the indictment reads.

Kazyuchits directed air traffic authorities to falsify incident reports, according to the indictment.

"Since the dawn of powered flight, countries around the world have cooperated to keep passenger airplanes safe. The defendants shattered those standards by diverting an airplane to further the improper purpose of repressing dissent and free speech," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.

Once the flight landed in Minsk it was met by Belarusian security services personnel, including individuals dressed in camouflage military-style uniforms, some of whom were wearing ski masks and carrying visible firearms and supervised by Fnu Lnu, the indictment said.

The cover-up began almost immediately, prosecutors said. In a press conference the following day, Churo said the Belarusian authorities had "done everything according to their technology and their job responsibilities" in handling the flight. "In reality, Churo knew that he and his co-conspirators had contrived the false bomb threat and had directed the Flight to divert to Minsk so that Belarusian security services could arrest [Pratasevich] and [his girlfriend]," the indictment said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Suspect armed with 2 guns by San Francisco airport's BART station is 'neutralized' by police

Stephen Lam/ The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

(SAN FRANCISCO) -- An individual with two guns was "neutralized" near the San Francisco International Airport's Bay Area Rapid Transit entrance, temporarily delaying BART service Thursday morning, officials said.

When officers responded to the airport's international terminal in front of the BART station entrance, they tried to de-escalate the situation, but the suspect kept showing "threatening behavior," airport spokesperson Doug Yakel said.

Police "engaged non-lethal measures," but the gunman "continued to advance, at which time SFPD officers fired shots to neutralize the threat," Yakel said.

ABC San Francisco station KGO reported that the suspect has died.

One bystander suffered minor injuries and has been treated and released, he noted.

The incident didn't impact any airport operations, Yakel said. BART service to the airport was temporarily suspended and has since resumed.

"The entire incident happened in the terminal. It didn’t happen at BART. It was near the entrance of our station but not at our station," a BART spokesperson said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Black immigrant population in US could more than double by 2060: Study

John Moore/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- About 4.6 million Black people in the U.S. -- roughly 1 in 10 -- are immigrants, and that figure could more than double to 9.5 million by 2060, according to a study by Pew Research Center.

Pew based its calculations in the study, released Thursday, on Census data collected from from 2006 to 2019 through community surveys.

"The nation's immigrant population has been, to some extent, largely driven by trends from Latin America and Asia," said Mark Lopez, director of race and ethnicity research for Pew and a coauthor of the study. "But African and particularly Black immigrant trends have become a growing part of the story of the nation's immigrant population overall."

Lopez noted that in addition to the roughly 10% of Blacks who came from anther country, another 9% were born in the U.S. from an immigrant parent, meaning "the immigrant experience is not far from the daily life experiences of about 1 in 5 Black Americans today."

In 2019, New York (about 900,000) and Florida (about 800,000) had the most Black immigrants, according to the study.

"Our report is part of a broader research agenda to understand the diversity of the country, including the diversity of the nation's Black population," Lopez added.

Abraham Paulos, deputy director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration, which is based in Brooklyn, said Black immigrants and those who've lived in the U.S. longer face many of the same challenges.

"I think whatever is happening in Black America is also happening to Black immigrants," said Paulos, noting America's historically discriminatory criminal justice system, police brutality and housing inequality. Many of those represented by BAJI also struggle to unionize and to advocate for better working conditions.

Most Black immigrants, the study showed, came from Jamaica (about 760,000) and Haiti (about 700,000) from 2009 to 2019, and many of them, Paulos noted, also faced comparatively more difficult acclimation periods, including more discrimination, than some from other nations.

In September, thousands of Haitian asylum seekers camped under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas. The Biden administration came under fire when images were released showing Customs and Border Patrol officers using horses to push back migrants crossing the Rio Grande into the U.S. And in December, a group of Haitian migrants sued the Biden administration, alleging mistreatment in that incident.

"Haiti is a great example," Paulos said. "I think with the Haitian immigrant, I think it is probably the best analogy to sort of get a window into how Black Americans are treated by the immigration apparatus."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Eleven-month-old baby girl shot in face in the Bronx

kali9/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- An 11-month-old girl has been shot in the face in the Bronx, prompting a search for the gunman and outcry from New York City's new mayor.

The baby is in the hospital in critical but stable condition, the New York City Police Department said.

The shooting took place at about 6:45 p.m. Wednesday while the baby was in a parked car with her mother outside a grocery store, waiting for the father who was inside the store, police said.

A man chasing another man fired two shots, hitting the baby in the face, police said.

"An 11-month-old baby shot in the Bronx. If that's not a wake up call, I don’t know what is," New York City Mayor Eric Adams tweeted. "It should be unimaginable that this would happen in our city. But it did."

"Leaders at every level have abandoned city streets. I won't," he said. "I refuse to surrender New York City to violence."

Police have released surveillance video of the suspect, who they said fled the scene in a gray four-door sedan. The suspect is described as a man in a dark-colored hooded sweatshirt with a white Nike logo on the front, gray sweatpants, and black and white sneakers.

Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Derek Chauvin's presence to loom large in fed trial of former cops charged in George Floyd's death: Experts

Ramsey County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images

(ST. PAUL, Minn.) -- The federal trial of three former police officers charged in the death of George Floyd is set to begin Thursday with jury selection, and some legal experts expect the presence of Floyd's convicted murderer, Derek Chauvin, to loom large over the case of his one-time subordinates.

Fired Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng, 28, Thomas Lane, 38, and Tou Thao, 35, have not been offered plea deals by federal prosecutors and are set to fight civil rights charges for their alleged roles in Floyd's 2020 murder.

All three are charged with using the "color of the law," or their positions as police officers, to deprive Floyd of his civil rights on May 25, 2020, by allegedly showing deliberate indifference to his medical needs as Chauvin dug his knee in the back of a handcuffed 46-year-old Black man's neck for more than 9 minutes, ultimately killing him.

Kueng and Thao both face an additional charge alleging they knew Chauvin was kneeling on Floyd's neck but did nothing to intervene to stop him. Lane, who was heard on police body-camera footage asking if they should roll Floyd on his side to help ease his breathing, does not face that charge.

All three men have pleaded not guilty.

The trial in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota, will commence a little over a month after Chauvin, 45, a former Minneapolis police officer, pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges stemming from Floyd's death and the abuse of a 14-year-old boy he bashed in the head with a flashlight in 2017. He admitted in the signed plea agreement with federal prosecutors that he knelt on the back of Floyd's neck even as Floyd complained he could not breathe, fell unconscious and lost a pulse.

The guilty plea came after Chauvin was convicted in Minnesota state court of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He was sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison in the state case and is facing an even stiffer sentence in the federal case.

Legal experts interviewed by ABC News said that attorneys for Kueng, Lane and Thao will likely paint Chauvin as the villain -- and their clients as following the orders of a senior training officer. One also said that Chauvin could be called as a witness, a move that would likely present a challenge to prosecutors if he were to testify that he was solely responsible for Floyd's death.

What to expect from the defense

Kueng and Lane were rookies being trained by Chauvin at the time of Floyd's fatal arrest.

Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, said he expects defense attorneys for Kueng, Thao and Lane to point to Chauvin as the culprit.

“You really have a boogeyman that you can point the finger at," Rahmani, now president and co-founder of Los Angeles-based West Coast Trial Lawyers, told ABC News. “Here’s someone who is not only a convicted felon, but a murderer; first time in the state of Minnesota a police officer has been convicted of second-degree murder."

Rahmani said that prosecutors will likely frame the case as "an aiding-and-abetting type case."

"No one is saying that Lane, Keung and Thao actually killed George Floyd. They (allegedly) aided-and-abetted Chauvin in the murder."

In fact, following the federal trial, Lane, Keung and Thao are facing a state trial on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder, and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

The state trial, which had been scheduled to get underway in March, was postponed on Wednesday until June 13 due to uncertainty over how long the federal trial will last.

The three defendants have pleaded not guilty to the state charges.

From the outset of the state case, Lane's attorney in both the state and federal cases, Earl Gray, has portrayed Chauvin as the villain.

"What was my client supposed to do but follow what his training officer said?" Gray asked during a 2020 hearing in the state case.

In a video-recorded interview with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension after Floyd's death, Thao claimed he did not see what Chauvin and the others were doing with Floyd because he was focused on keeping a hostile crowd at bay. "I could have been more observant to Floyd," he said in the interview.

Jill Huntley Taylor, a veteran jury consultant and trial strategist, told ABC News that it is crucial for the defendants to differentiate themselves from Chauvin.

"I think in some ways they want for him to be the center of the case," said Taylor, the CEO of Taylor Trial Consulting. "If I'm a defendant, I think I would want to shift all attention to Chauvin. They’re not going to defend his actions."

Trial to hinge on video

Like in the state trial of Chauvin, video is expected to play a major role in the federal case.

“It’s huge and it’s really what ultimately led to Chauvin’s conviction," said Taylor, who is not involved in the case.

"I think that may suggest that one of these guys, or all of them, wants to take the stand so that they can put in their own words what was going through their minds so it’s not just the video," added Taylor.

Unlike the Chauvin trial, the federal case is not expected to be livestreamed, although a coalition of media outlets has asked the judge presiding to reconsider.

The May 25, 2020, police encounter with Floyd was video recorded from start to finish and included multiple angles taken by bystanders with cellphones, police body cameras and surveillance cameras.

The footage showed Chauvin grinding his knee into the back of Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds while Kueng helped keep Floyd down even after he stopped resisting by placing his knee on the man's back and holding and lifting one of his handcuffed hands. Lane, according to the videos, held down Floyd's feet.

Thao, according to footage, stood a few feet away, ordering a crowd to stand back despite several witnesses, including an off-duty firefighter, expressing concern for Floyd's well-being.

Rahmani said Lane appears to have the best chance of beating the charges because he was the only officer who seemed to voice concern for Floyd.

At one point, police body-camera footage captured Lane asking if they should roll Floyd onto his side to help him breathe easier.

"I can easily see him taking the stand," Rahmani said of Lane.

Neither prosecutors or defense attorneys have said if they will call Chauvin to testify in the case, but Rahmani said such a move could possibly benefit the three defendants.

“Let’s say he were to take the stand, fall on the sword and say, ‘I am solely responsible for George Floyd’s death,'" Rahmani said. "Potentially, if he were to take the stand and testify and say something to that effect, it would be a challenging case for the prosecutors."

Jury selection

Judge Paul Magnuson, who was randomly selected to preside over the federal trial, said last week that he plans to have a jury of 18, including six alternates, seated in two days. In contrast, it took more than two weeks to select a jury in Chauvin's state trial.

The jury will be chosen from a pool of 256 Minnesotans asked to report to the Warren E. Burger Federal Building in St. Paul on Thursday.

During a hearing last week, Magnuson said he will question potential jurors during the voir dire process with suggestions from the attorneys in the case. During voir dire in the state case against Chauvin, attorneys, as well as the judge, questioned potential jurors.

But Magnuson said he wants the case to move quickly to lessen the possibility of people involved in the trial coming down with COVID-19 as the omicron variant continues to spread across the country.

Rahmani said the speed of the process could be problematic for properly vetting potential jurors

"Two days for jury selection is insane to me because everyone in the entire world has not only heard about this case but seen it, has lived it and they know that Chauvin has been convicted," Rahmani said. "The case is going to come down to jury selection and there are folks who have preconceived views about police officers. You have to really drill into what the potential jurors think about law enforcement and race."

Taylor said prosecutors and attorneys for Lane, Keung and Thao will have different views on who they want to see on the panel.

"I think the prosecution wants people who want to hold police responsible for misconduct," Taylor said. "And the defense wants people who are very pro-police, but who are also going to defer to the judgments of police rather than challenge them."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


2 Marines killed, 17 injured in rollover crash near Camp Lejeune; driver charged with death by motor vehicle

ABC News/FILE

(JACKSONVILLE, N.C.) -- Two Marines have been killed and more than a dozen injured in a rollover accident Wednesday near Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, according to officials.

Seventeen Marines were injured in the accident after they were ejected from the back of the 7-ton military vehicle as it tried to make a turn onto a highway just miles from the base at about 1 p.m., according to the North Carolina Highway Patrol. Two of the injured were airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, while the other 15 were transported on the ground.

The 19-year-old Marine who was driving the military vehicle, Louis Barrera, has been charged with exceeding a safe speed and two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, according to the highway patrol.

One Marine who was ejected from the truck was hit by another military vehicle trailing the accident, police said.

The vehicle was carrying 19 Marines total, all from the 2nd Marine Logistics Group, stationed at Camp Lejeune. The driver, Barrera, and passenger in the front of the vehicle were uninjured.

Officials will release the identifications of the victims once next of kin have been notified.

An investigation into the accident is ongoing, the North Carolina Highway Patrol said.

North Carolina Highway Patrol Sgt. Devin Rich said at a press conference he was not sure if this was part of a training mission.

The 2nd Marine Logistics Group had initially posted on Twitter, "We are aware of a vehicle rollover in Jacksonville, North Carolina, involving service members with 2nd MLG. We are working closely with @camp_lejeune and Onslow County officials to gather details regarding this incident."

Camp Lejeune is located in southeast North Carolina along the Atlantic coast. It is home to more than 30,000 people.

ABC News' Mark Osborne and Will Gretsky contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


2 cold case homicides tied to convicted murderer, police say

Prince George's County Police Department

(FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va.) -- A Virginia man convicted of murder has been charged in connection with two decades-old cold case homicides, authorities said.

Charles Helem, 52, is currently serving life in prison at a Virginia supermax state prison after he was convicted of first-degree murder for the death of a Chantilly woman who was found strangled in her townhome in 2002.

He has been now been charged in two unrelated homicides in Virginia and Maryland after allegedly confessing to both murders, authorities announced Wednesday.

"We now know even more about the dangers the killer presented to the entire national capital region," Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said during a press briefing.

The murder of Eige Sober-Adler was among Fairfax County's notable cold cases. The 37-year-old was found dead in a field in Herndon on Sept. 9, 1987, badly beaten.

Helem allegedly confessed to the murder during an interview with Fairfax County detectives in October, officials said.

"Detectives were able to corroborate this confession with details known only to the killer," Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Steve Descano said during the Wednesday briefing.

On Tuesday, a grand jury indicted Helem for murder in connection to Sober-Adler's death. Descano said his office will now pursue a "vigorous" prosecution of Helem.

Authorities in Prince George's County, Maryland, have also charged Helem in connection with an unsolved murder in Mount Rainier. Jennifer Landry, 19, was found dead in a wooded area on Aug. 15, 2002. An autopsy determined she had died of asphyxia and cutting wounds to her neck. It took nearly three years for police to positively identify her body.

In 2010 and 2017, Helem sent letters to law enforcement claiming to have information on the Landry murder, though he refused to speak with detectives until last year, police said.

"He verbally confessed to killing Jennifer Landry," Prince George's County Police Chief Malik Aziz said during the briefing.

Helem initially provided information on the unsolved Fairfax County murder while talking to Prince George's County detectives, police said.

It is unclear if Helem has an attorney. Court records for Fairfax County and Prince George's County not have yet listed his case.

Davis and Aziz said authorities are exploring whether Helem may be connected to other unsolved cases.

The parents of both women are deceased, authorities said, though officials in both counties said they hoped the latest charges bring some closure to the victims' surviving families and friends.

"My team and our partners in law enforcement did not waver in our dedication to seek answers and pursue justice in this cold case," Descano said.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Prosecutors lay out 'missed opportunities' in Robert Durst murder investigation

Myung J. Chun-Pool/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A series of "missed opportunities" and an overreliance on false statements made by Robert Durst delayed his prosecution for the murder of his then-wife, Kathleen "Kathie" Durst, by almost 40 years, Westchester District Attorney Mimi Rocah said Wednesday.

Rocah's office released a 13-page report that probed the entire scope of the investigation and found both police and prosecutors relied too much on Robert Durst's alibis that his wife was last seen in Manhattan before she disappeared from their South Salem home on Jan. 31, 1982. Her body has never been discovered.

Even though Robert Durst's claims were refuted by other evidence, investigators continued their search for Kathie Durst in New York City instead of Westchester, the report said.

"In short, it appears that the initial investigation suffered to some degree from 'tunnel vision' -- having a theory of a case, which is maintained even when there are red flags that should cause those initial theories to be questioned," the report said.

New York investigators uncovered evidence that showed Kathie Durst was the victim of domestic violence by Robert Durst before she was killed. Neighbors at the Dursts' Manhattan residence told investigators at the time that Kathleen Durst had knocked on their window seeking protection from her husband, who allegedly beat her and threatened to shoot her.

Neighbors of his South Salem home refuted Robert Durst's claims that he stopped by their house for drinks after he dropped off Kathie at a train station the night of her disappearance.

"And yet focus of the investigation remained guided by Durst's version of events that he had driven her to the train to New York City on the night she disappeared," Rocah said at a news conference Wednesday.

Susan Berman, Durst's friend and unofficial spokeswoman, also gave questionable statements to the police suggesting Kathie had run off with another man, the report said.

Berman was murdered in 2000 before she was set to speak with police for a follow-up investigation into Kathie's disappearance. Robert Durst was arrested in 2015 and charged in connection with Berman's death, following the airing of the final episode of the HBO documentary "The Jinx," where he was recorded on a hot mic allegedly incriminating himself.

Robert Durst was convicted in Berman's death last year and was sentenced to life in prison in October. Shortly after the sentencing, Rocah's office charged Durst with Kathie Durst's murder.

Robert Durst died of natural causes earlier this month in custody.

Kathie Durst's family wasn't invited to Rocah's press conference, according to family attorney Robert Abrams, who added that they're calling for Rocah's resignation. She was elected as DA in November 2020.

"There have been numerous individuals, including members of the Durst family, that have knowingly and intentionally participated in a criminal conspiracy to help Robert Durst avoid prosecution," Abrams said in a statement. "Through her misrepresentations and omissions, DA Rocah must now be considered part of the cover-up."

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Suspect captured in furniture store slaying, a crime that 'shocked' LA neighborhood

Facebook/Brianna Kupfer

(LOS ANGELES) -- Los Angeles police on Wednesday arrested the man they say killed a 24-year-old woman while she worked alone in a furniture store.

The suspect, believed to be homeless, attacked Brianna Kupfer with a knife just before 2 p.m. Thursday, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

He fled through the store's back door and Kupfer's body was soon found on the floor by a customer, police said.

Police on Tuesday identified the suspect as 31-year-old Shawn Laval Smith and asked for the public's help in finding him.

On Wednesday, Smith was spotted by a citizen who recognized him from the news and responding officers found him at a bus bench in Pasadena, police said.

There is no known motive, police said, adding that the suspect had randomly walked into the store.

Kupfer texted a friend that afternoon saying someone in the store was giving her a "bad vibe," LAPD Lt. John Radke said at a Tuesday news conference.

The slaying has "shaken and shocked our community to its core," Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz said at the news conference.

While not working at the furniture store, Kupfer was taking courses in design through UCLA Extension, a continuing education program.

"Brianna, who was born, educated and was building her career here in Los Angeles, was a rising star in this community," Kupfer's family said in a statement read on their behalf at the news conference. "Brianna was a smart, funny, driven and kind soul who only wanted to better herself and her community on a daily basis."

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Final teen sentenced in murder of Barnard student Tessa Majors

Courtesy of Conrad MacKethan

(NEW YORK) -- The anguished parents of slain Barnard College student Tessa Majors sat in the front row of a New York City courtroom Wednesday, looking on as the teenager who ​stabbed their daughter was sentenced to 14 years to life.

Rashaun Weaver, who prosecutors said wielded the knife, and two other teenagers were arrested in the slaying of 18-year-old Majors, who was attacked in Morningside Park, just off the Columbia University campus, on Dec. 11, 2019.

Majors, stabbed four times, stumbled up the park steps before she was seen on surveillance video collapsing against a lamppost, dying on the sidewalk.

A victim impact statement read in court said Majors' family has "no idea what it is like to experience what she experienced. No idea what it is to fight with three males -- all of them larger than she -- for over a minute, escaping two times only to be surrounded and targeted again."

"They have no idea what it is like to stumble up a long flight of stairs after being stabbed multiple times in the chest" and "bleed to death on a New York City street," the statement said.

"The family of Tess Majors misses her every second of every day and will continue to do so as long as they are living and sentient," the statement said.

Weaver, who was 14 years old at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty in December 2021.

In court, Weaver apologized to the family for his "selfish" and "immature" act and said he would "give anything to go back in time so it never happened."

Defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said Weaver's father and other adult role models had been imprisoned, calling his client a "symptom" of a broken system of repeated incarceration.

"It does not absolve him but it does explain," Lichtman said.

Weaver's sentencing marked the final chapter of the court proceedings.

The second suspect, Luchiano Lewis, also 14 at the time and charged as an adult, pleaded guilty in September 2021 to second-degree murder and second-degree robbery. He was sentenced to the maximum of nine years to life in prison.

The third suspect, a 13-year-old who was treated as a juvenile, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree robbery in 2020 and was sentenced to 18 months in detention.

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University of Michigan reaches $490M settlement with sex abuse survivors

Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- The University of Michigan announced on Wednesday that it's reached a $490 million settlement in connection with allegations against the late Dr. Robert Anderson, who served as the school's sports team physician from 1966 to 2003.

At least 1,050 victims have come forward with accounts, stretching back decades, that Anderson molested or sexually abused them. Anderson died in 2008.

Some of Anderson's victims filed lawsuits two years ago. Jamie White, an attorney representing 100 of the survivors, said in a statement that the school should be commended for taking responsibility financially.

"Most of our clients had a strong love for the university and did not want to see permanent damage, but wanted accountability. I believe we accomplished those goals," White said in a statement.

The settlement is pending approvals by the university's board of agents, 98% of the claimants and the court, according to the University of Michigan, which said $460 million will be made available to the 1,050 claimants and $30 million will be set aside for future claimants who choose to participate in the settlement before July 31, 2023.

"This agreement is a critical step among many the university has taken to improve support for survivors and more effectively prevent and address misconduct," University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said in a statement.

The accusations against Anderson came after Michigan State University athletes and Team USA gymnasts came forward in 2016 alleging years of sexual abuse by physician Larry Nassar.

Nassar was sentenced in 2018 to 40 to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to multiple sex crimes. In December, Nassar's victims reached a $380 million settlement with USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

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Michigan school district defends actions prior to fatal November shooting

Emily Elconin/Getty Images

(OXFORD, Mich.) -- The leader of Oxford Community Schools fired back on Tuesday at a lawsuit alleging that the district failed to heed warning signs before the shooting that killed four students in November.

In a letter to parents, Superintendent Tim Throne said that the district was unaware of a message on Ethan Crumbley's Twitter account the night before the shooting that read: "See you tomorrow, Oxford," until after the shooting occurred.

Throne's statement contradicts allegations made by attorney Geoffrey Fieger, on behalf of two Oxford High School students, that Throne and the principal "reviewed the social media posts of Crumbley prior to November 30, 2021, which threatened Oxford High School students."

Throne also said that an investigation into an incident three weeks before the shooting, in which a severed bird's head was found in a bathroom at the school, "determined there was no threat to the high school." Law enforcement was "unable to determine when or how the jar was delivered," he added.

The lawsuit contended that Crumbley placed the bird's head in the bathroom and that school leaders assured parents afterward that there was "absolutely no threat at the high school," even though parents voiced concerns about their children's safety.

On Tuesday, Throne said he was "proud" of school administrators, who, he said, "ran toward the incident to effectively save children, administer aid to injured parties, and locate the perpetrator, putting themselves in harm's way."

Oakland County prosecutors have not brought charges against the school district.

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American Jewish groups, leaders send support to a Texas synagogue after hostage situation--and look to what comes next

Emil Lippe/Getty Images

(COLLEYVILLE, Texas) -- Some American Jews found out right when reports of a hostage situation at a synagogue started to spread. Others saw the news alerts as they logged back online when Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath, concluded at sundown on Saturday.

Reactions poured in at lightning speed, with some Jewish organizations calling for solidarity, psalms and prayers; and others getting in touch with the local community and with law enforcement as they hoped for a peaceful resolution.

Those prayers would be answered: many hours after a British national took Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and other congregants hostage in Congregation Beth Israel, a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, law enforcement stormed the synagogue, killing the assailant and the hostages escaped.

In the days afterwards, tributes to Rabbi Cytron-Walker and the congregation poured in, as well as messages of support for a community reeling from a near-tragedy.

Anna Salton Eisen, a congregant at Congregation Beth Israel, told ABC News' Linsey Davis that the intensity and immediacy of support from the broader community has "astounded" her.

"I feel like the outcome of support really changed how I feel. I think I feel safer now," she said.

"People have asked me, are you more afraid? No, because I've seen from the local community, and law enforcement, up to the governor... in a crisis, people are going to be there for us."

As more of the dust settles, American Jewish organizations are looking at how they can support the Colleyville community -- and what needs to be done next, both in Colleyville and the broader American Jewish community.

Andrew Rehfeld, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) seminary, Ohio, praised Cytron-Walker for his leadership in a letter shared on Sunday. Cytron-Walker was ordained by the seminary in 2006, according to Congregation Beth Israel's website.

"We held our collective breath over Shabbat… A sense of relief came over us as the horror came to a blessed end, the tangible presence of the Divine revealed," Rehfeld wrote in a letter on Sunday.

In an interview with ABC News on Monday, Rehfeld said that any Jewish leader could be a "potential target" as Cytron-Walker was.

"How they respond in that is a reflection of their courage, their perseverance, their strength, and Rabbi Cytron-Walker really represented the very best of what we hope for, from our HUC graduates--and for any Jewish leader," Rehfeld said.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, a group that oversees Reform Movement congregations in the United States, told ABC News that Rabbi Cytron-Walker was well known in interfaith and multicultural circles as a "bridge builder" who had strong relations with Muslim, Christian and other faith communities.

And that is "why nobody had to be told, you know, 'this is a terrible trauma. We have to support our brother, Rabbi Cytron-Walker and his remarkable congregation, Congregation Beth Israel.' They just knew, they felt it immediately," Jacobs said.

Jacobs said the URJ had been in touch with the Jewish community of Colleyville "many times" since the incident. "And the key is, what do they need? They're going through this unbelievable trauma," he said.

But he knows that the Jews of Colleyville are finding ways to heal: "[On Monday] night, they had a healing service for the community, for their congregation, but also [for] the wider community."

Solidarity and support for Colleyville -- as well as calls for action -- came across different spheres of the American Jewish community.

The Orthodox Union, a national group that oversees a network of institutions affiliated with the Modern Orthodox and Orthodox Jewish movements, wrote in a statement on Sunday: "We are grateful first to the Almighty who provided strength and courage to the hostages and wisdom and patience to the law enforcement officers who responded to the crisis."

The group said it will, through its advocacy arm, advocate for more federal funding for synagogue security.

Rehfeld told ABC News that "without a doubt," different denominations of Judaism were responding strongly to what had happened in Colleyville.

"When an attack on any one of us happens, we're not Reform, or Orthodox or Conservative," he said, referencing the three major denominations of American Jewry.

"We are a Jewish people."

High-profile Jewish leaders, including lawmakers, also lent their voices in solidarity.

Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., was among them, writing on Sunday that he had spoken with Jewish leaders in Georgia and the Atlanta FBI field office on Sunday to help the Jewish community with security concerns.

"This weekend's attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, has shaken the Jewish community in Georgia and nationwide. As we have throughout our history, Jews refuse to be intimidated by cowardly anti-Semitic attacks," Ossoff wrote.

"We join our fellow Americans of all faiths and ethnicities to defy hatred and deepen our commitments to tolerance, mutual respect, freedom of religion, and peaceful co-existence."

Deborah Lipstadt, a historian at Emory University who is the Biden administration's nominee to be State Department Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, looked back at synagogues as a space of refuge in an essay in the New York Times published Tuesday.

"Jews have long thought of their synagogues as both a place to pray and a place to find community… It is not radical to say that going to services, whether to converse with God or with the neighbors you see only once a week, should not be an act of courage. And yet this weekend we were once again reminded that it can be precisely that," Lipstadt wrote.

Lipstadt's nomination as Special Envoy is being held up in the Senate, among many other Biden administration nominees, although the events in Colleyville have led to some renewed calls for her confirmation.

Those calling for the Senate to confirm her include Jacobs.

"It just feels beyond anyone's understanding how anyone could pause and not vote immediately ... to have her in an official position, helping to lead the U.S. government's response, feels like oh, my gosh, what could be more obvious," Jacobs said.

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