Man charged in Baton Rouge killings that 'could possibly be racially motivated'

A 23-year-old white man has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and illegal use of a weapon and two counts of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated criminal damage to property and illegal use of a weapon by Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police today in connection with three shootings that took place this month.

Kenneth Gleason, 23, was arrested this morning by detectives from the Baton Rouge Police Department after a crime lab processed DNA evidence that allegedly linked Gleason to shell casings found at the scene of two of the shootings that left two black men dead, police said in a press conference.

Bruce Cofield, 59, and Donald Smart, 49, were both shot and killed within five miles of each other last week. In the shootings, the suspect first fired from his car and then exited the vehicle to shoot the victims while they were on the ground, according to police.

“Witness accounts in certain circumstances and ballistic analyzation of the homicides helped link the two,” Sgt. Don Coppola, a public information officer with the Baton Rouge Police Department, told ABC News Monday.

Gleason allegedly also fired shots at a Sandy Ridge residence on Sept. 11. Police did not provide additional information.

Gleason was initially named as a “person of interest” in the investigation into the killings of Smart and Cofield.

“Gleason was occupying a vehicle that matched the description” of the one seen in the area of the killings, Coppola alleged.

On Sunday, Gleason was released from jail after being booked on two drug charges. He was arrested again on Monday for allegedly stealing “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” from a local bookstore last week, police said Tuesday.

After the crime lab processed the DNA evidence this morning, Gleason was charged with the killings, police said.

While Baton Rouge Police spokesman Sgt. L’Jean McNeely told ABC News Sunday that the killings “could possibly be racially motivated,” police said in a press release Tuesday that the “motive is still unclear and this is an ongoing investigation.”

Police had initially questioned Gleason for hours and searched his home and his vehicle, but didn’t have enough evidence to charge him in the murders when he was arrested on drug charges on Saturday, McNeely said.

Law enforcement allegedly found schedule 1 narcotics – marijuana – and schedule 3 narcotics, which were “some kind of human growth hormone” at Gleason’s house on Saturday, Coppola said, and Gleason was arrested.

Gleason was released Sunday on bond, which had been set at $ 3,500.

Neither Gleason nor his family responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

Coppola said he was not aware if Gleason had any previous criminal record, and a background check showed only a traffic violation that had been dismissed by the court from earlier this year.

Police said Cofield, who was homeless, was killed on Tuesday. Smart was shot on Thursday while he was on his way to work at a cafe.

The Smart family has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment, but his aunt told the AP he was a father of three children.

“My nephew, I love him, and he was on his way to work and that makes it so sad,” Mary Smart told the AP on Sunday. “He was always smiling and hugging everybody. A lot of people knew him.”

The Smart family has not commented on Gleason’s arrest.

The district attorney’s office said it was too early to know if Gleason has legal representation.

It is not clear when he is due to appear in court on the various charges he is facing.

ABC News’ Lisa Sivertsen, Hilary Brueck and Alexandra Faul contributed to this report.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: U.S.

Woman thwarts attempted mugging by 'faking a medical problem': Police

A California woman responded to an attempted mugging on a train by “faking a medical problem to attract attention from her fellow riders,” according to the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Department.

Julie Dragland told local ABC News affiliate KGO-TV of the San Francisco Bay Area that someone dropped a note in her lap while she was on the train on Saturday, which demanded that she hand over her wallet and phone.

“Somebody dropped a note into my lap, I didn’t see them, or like a hand or anything,” Dragland told KGO-TV. “The note said that there were two guns pointed at my head, which logistically, doesn’t really make sense, cause they dropped the note.”

Dragland said she initially tried to make eye contact with someone standing in front of her, and mouthed “help,” but the stranger ended up getting off at the next stop.

“I wasn’t sure that they … actually had guns,” Dragland added of the suspect, but said she still worried for her safety. “So, I was like, ‘If I fake a seizure, or fake that I’m passing out … they could just think that I’m scared and reacting.'”

“So I slumped over to the left and started shaking, and people started to notice, and they were like, ‘Are you OK?” Dragland said, adding that a few people came over to her, and that her actions “caused a commotion, and then the person got off at the next stop.”

BART police said in a statement today that surveillance video taken on her train corroborates her report. “There is no indication from the video the suspect was armed with any weapons,” the police added. Authorities released still images of the suspect, who is believed to be a white female.

Dragland said she got off the train and she reported the incident to police but said she did not want to press charges. “At the time, I wasn’t robbed, so I feel like there wasn’t damages,” she said.

When asked where she got the idea to fake having a seizure, Dragland said, “It might have been ‘Law and Order,’ I don’t know why I did it.”

She adds that she was surprised by the fact that even as she made a scene, “the majority of the people on the train had no reaction.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: U.S.

3 arrested during protest at Georgia Tech after vigil

Three people were arrested Monday night during a protest after a vigil for a Georgia Tech student who was fatally shot by campus police, a university spokesman said.

Police shot and killed Scout Schultz late Saturday night after the 21-year-old student called 911 to report an armed and possibly intoxicated suspicious person, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said.

Georgia Tech sent out alerts urging students to shelter indoors Monday night and lock doors and windows because of violent protests. Video posted on social media showed a police vehicle burning in the street and officers pinning people to the ground as onlookers shouted at them.

After a peaceful vigil, about 50 protesters marched to the campus police department, university spokesman Lance Wallace said. A police vehicle was damaged and two officers suffered minor injuries, with one taken to a hospital for treatment.

Police restored order relatively quickly, and three people were arrested and charged with inciting a riot and battery of an officer, Wallace said.

In a statement released through attorney Chris Stewart, Schultz’s family urged protesters to remain peaceful.

“(W)e ask that those who wish to protest Scout’s death do so peacefully. Answering violence with violence is not the answer,” the statement said. “Our goal is to work diligently to make positive change at Georgia Tech in an effort to ensure a safer campus for all students.”

The GBI has said an officer responding to a 911 call about 11:17 p.m. Saturday shot Schultz as the student advanced on officers with a knife and refused commands to put down the knife. Stewart said Monday that the GBI confirmed to him that Schultz was holding a multipurpose tool and that the knife blade was not out.

Schultz was the one who called 911, GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said in an emailed statement Monday.

“In the call, Shultz describes the person as a white male, with long blonde hair, white T-shirt and blue jeans who is possibly intoxicated, holding a knife and possibly armed with a gun on his hip,” Miles said, adding that three suicide notes were found in Schultz’s dorm room.

Investigators recovered a multi-purpose tool at the scene but didn’t find any guns, Miles said.

Flanked by Schultz’s parents Monday morning, Stewart said the officer who shot Schultz overreacted. Schultz was having a breakdown and was suicidal but if the officer had used non-lethal force rather than shooting, Schultz could have received treatment and gotten better, Stewart said.

“The mentally ill are looking for a way out when they’re having a full breakdown, and there’s no way you should be able to use a police officer to take your life when that person isn’t threatened,” Stewart said.

Georgia Tech police don’t carry stun guns, but are equipped with pepper spray, a spokesman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Stewart says he plans to sue over the shooting.

Authorities have not identified the officer who shot Schultz. Georgia Tech on Monday refused to release personnel or disciplinary reports involving the officers, saying such information is exempt from Georgia’s open records law.

Schultz was president of Pride Alliance at Georgia Tech. The fourth-year computer engineering student used the name Scout, rather than the given name Scott, and preferred the pronouns “they” and “them” rather than “he” or “him.”

“I’m bisexual, nonbinary and intersex,” Schultz wrote in a Pride Alliance profile.

William Schultz told reporters Monday that his child had a 3.9 GPA and was on track to graduate early in December.

Lynne Schultz told the Journal-Constitution over the weekend that her oldest child had struggled with depression and attempted suicide two years ago using a belt as a noose.

After that, Scout Schultz went through counseling, William Schultz said. Scout Schultz spent this past summer at home and there were no obvious problems when school resumed last month, the elder Schultz said.

The GBI, through its Crisis Intervention Team, has trained about 10,000 local, state and federal law enforcement officers since it began in 2004, the Atlanta newspaper reported. Some agencies require that training while others don’t.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the officers who responded Saturday had undergone such training.

Stewart, the family’s lawyer, said the university has failed in not providing its officers with stun guns. He also said university police officers “should have the highest training in dealing with people having mental or emotional breakdowns and issues.”

Referring to a video of the incident, Stewart says the main officer was doing a “phenomenal job” handling the situation — retreating, trying to deescalate and putting a barrier between himself and Schultz — and that other officers also appeared to be providing appropriate backup. But one officer behaved inappropriately by firing on Schultz when there was no immediate danger to any of the officers, Stewart said.

William Schultz said the encounter shouldn’t have ended in his child’s death.

If given a chance to talk to the officer, he told reporters, he just has one question: “Why did you have to shoot? That’s the question. I mean, that’s the only question that matters right now. Why did you kill my son?”

———

Associated Press writer Jeff Martin contributed to this report.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: U.S.

90 percent of homes in Florida Keys damaged by Hurricane Irma: FEMA

Residents of the Florida Keys are returning to a much different landscape than the one they left last week. Three days after Hurricane Irma rumbled through the region, residents are coping with the aftermath.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 90 percent of homes in the Florida Keys suffered some damage. As many as 25 percent of all homes in the Florida Keys were destroyed, FEMA Administrator Brock Long said Tuesday evening, and as many as 65 percent of homes suffered major damage.

Search and rescue teams are still going door-to-door in the hardest hit areas of the Keys, including Big Pine Key and Cudjoe Key, where Irma came ashore. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Col. Lou Caputo told reporters Tuesday evening they had found no additional deaths in the county.

He said they expected to cover about 90 percent of the hardest hit areas in the Keys by Wednesday.

Monroe County officials on Tuesday night were quick to counter FEMA estimates, saying no official estimates of percentages or dollar amounts of damages had been done.

“Things look real damaged from the air, but when you clear the trees and all the debris, it’s not much damage to the houses,” Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers said in a statement released by the county Tuesday night.

Residents are returning to their homes, with the Florida Department of Transportation saying all 42 bridges along U.S. 1 — the only road into and out of the Keys — have been inspected and cleared.

Amenities are another story, however. Monroe County officials say gas is “limited” and AT&T was working to restore cell phone service.

The Lower Keys are still completely without power, but the Florida Keys Electric Co-op, which provides service to the Upper Keys, says about 30 percent of the region does now have electricity.

Some areas, mostly in the Upper Keys, have water, but food and water distribution stations have been set up in Key West. Anyone who does have water is being asked to boil it before drinking or cooking.

“It’s only been 48 hours after the storm hit and it’s absolutely remarkable what has been accomplished,” Florida State Sen. Anitere Flores said on Tuesday’s conference call.

The death toll in Florida now resides at 15, but only one of those came in Monroe County. A man driving a truck with a generator was killed in an accident during tropical storm winds just prior to Irma coming ashore.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: U.S.

Irma death toll in US rises to 22 as power restored to over 2 million

The death toll from Hurricane Irma has climbed to 22 in the United States following its path of destruction across the Caribbean and through the Southeast U.S. over the weekend, while power has now been restored to over 2 million customers in Florida.

And Monroe County announced Tuesday night that all 42 bridges in the county were inspected and “deemed safe for vehicles.”

By late Tuesday, Florida Power & Light Co. had restored power to 2.3 million customers, which was 40 percent of those affected across the state; about 4.4 million customers in Florida are still without power as of Tuesday afternoon. The company said its customers on the state’s east coast should expect most power to be restored by about Sept. 17, while customers on the state’s west coast should expect most power to be restored by Sept. 22.

After days of destruction, Irma — the first Category 4 landfall in Florida since 2004 — has dissipated. Now, evacuated Floridians are sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic to head home and face monumental cleanups throughout the state.

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday afternoon that he is set to travel to Florida on Thursday.

The Florida Keys had been cut off from the mainland for days after Irma made landfall on the low-lying islands Sunday morning as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing 130 mph winds and a storm surge of 10 feet.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said the storm left “devastation” on the Keys, which were under mandatory evacuation orders during Irma. At least one person died in the Keys.

This morning, officials opened entry into the Upper Keys for residents in Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada, up to mile marker 73, allowing residents to return home and see the damage for themselves.

Dozens of eager Keys residents parked their cars along U.S. 1 Monday, staying there through the night to make sure they could get onto the Keys when access was granted, ABC Miami affiliate WPLG-TV reported.

But water, power, sewer, medical services and cell service are still limited, Monroe County officials said today. In the meantime, shelters and distribution centers for food and water are being opened.

Florida’s Department of Transportation is also today working to repair two 300-foot stretches of road on the Keys that was washed out.

While the Keys were under mandatory evacuation orders as Irma neared, not everyone left. Florida Director of Emergency Management Bryan Koon estimates that about 10,000 people remained in the Keys during the storm, according to the Miami Herald.

County officials are working to restore services and make the county safe for residents in the Middle and Lower Keys to return, they said today, adding that this will take time.

Further north, Miami Beach residents were permitted to return this morning, too.

Clean up efforts were underway this morning on Miami Beach’s iconic Ocean Drive, which was covered in sand from the storm surge and wind. The area was littered with downed trees and street signs, but appeared to escape without major structural damage.

Some business owners this morning removed boards from their windows, preparing to reopen.

On Monday, Irma brought heavy rain and wind through the northern Florida city of Jacksonville as well as South Carolina and Georgia.

When water raced through the streets of Jacksonville, it brought record levels of storm surge along the coast and inland rivers. Over 350 people were rescued from the flooding, but no casualties were reported there.

Irma also pummeled the Charleston area on Monday with over 8 inches of rain and a nearly 10-foot storm surge.

On Sunday Irma passed over Naples, bringing torrential rain and a powerful 142-mph wind gust. Naples saw nearly 12 inches of rain and a 7-foot storm surge.

In Miami, which saw winds up to 99 mph, resident Joe Kiener said he has endured multiple hurricanes in the Caribbean but had never experienced a storm as brutal as Irma.

“I’ve been in Miami Beach for two years, which is prone to flooding, but this is completely out of the norm,” Kiener told ABC News.

Kiener boarded up his house and stayed at a high-rise hotel in Miami. But he had to move down to the lobby after his hotel room windows took a beating from the strong winds.

“The windows started cracking, and these are massive-impact windows. They were exposed 12 hours of continuous heavy winds. At one point in time, one of them started splintering and that’s when I lost my nerve and said, ‘I’m leaving,'” he said. “It psyches you out; it’s just the endless hallowing and pounding of the wind.”

Today the curfew for Miami-Dade County has been lifted as crews work to clear roads. But half of the county’s traffic lights are still not working.

At least 15 people, including a sheriff’s deputy, died of storm-related injuries in Florida.

One person was killed in Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys. The victim was killed after he lost control of a truck that carried a generator as winds whipped at tropical-storm strength, officials said.

Two people — a sheriff’s deputy and a corrections officer — died from a two-car crash in the rain in Hardee County, which is about 60 miles inland from Sarasota, officials said.

In Winter Park, near Orlando, a man was electrocuted by a downed power line Monday morning, according to police.

On Tuesday, the office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott confirmed five additional deaths. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office announced the death of three people whom “appear to be a family of multiple generations.” Fumes from a portable gas generator appears to have been running inside the house, and the individuals were overcome by fumes.

Another person died from carbon monoxide poisoning from improper use of a generator in Miami-Dade County, the mayor said.

Another person died in Hillsborough County while cutting fallen tree branches.

Another fatality was from a car crash in Orange County in central Florida.

At least three people have died in Georgia as a result of the storm. In Sandy Springs, a man died while lying in bed after a large tree broke and fell on his home, the Sandy Springs Mayor said.

In Forsyth County, a female passenger died after a downed tree struck her vehicle, the sheriff’s office said.

A third death was reported in Worth County.

At least four people have died in South Carolina: a 57-year-old man was killed after a tree limb fell on him and a 21-year-old died in a car crash.

At least 37 others died from Irma in the Caribbean, including at least 10 in Cuba.

ABC News’ Darren Reynolds, Max Golembo, Dan Peck, Rachel Katz, Will Gretsky, Jason Volack, Gio Benitez, Rachel Scott, Ben Gittleson and Ben Stein contributed to this report.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: U.S.

Hurricane Irma makes landfall in Florida Keys, at least 3 dead in the state

Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys this morning as powerful winds and rain pummeled the state, leaving at least three people dead and over 1 million households and businesses without power.

Meanwhile, about 100 miles from the Keys in Miami, wind gusts whipped around high-rise buildings at speeds approaching 100 mph, the National Weather Service said.

A strong rain band is expected in the Miami area around 10 a.m. to noon, with gusts potentially up to 100 mph.

And the city of Naples, on Florida’s west coast, is bracing to be hit by the storm’s dangerous eye wall. Wind gusts of 75 mph were recorded at the Naples Airport and officials were warning people to stay indoors and away from windows.

The National Weather Service also warned Florida residents that being in the eye of a hurricane can lead to a false sense of security: “IF winds go calm, you’re in the eye. Stay inside! Winds dramatically shift and will do so violently! STAY INSIDE!”

As Florida braced Sunday morning for the powerful Category 4 storm’s worst impacts, at least three deaths were reported in the state.

A man in Monroe County, which encompasses Key West, was killed after he lost control of a truck that carried a generator as winds whipped at tropical-storm strength, officials said.

Two other people died in a car crash in the rain in Hardee County, Florida, which is about 60 miles inland from Sarasota, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The death toll from the hurricane in the Caribbean meanwhile has risen to 22, bringing the total number in Irma’s path who have died to at least 25.

As the monster storm neared, about 6.3 million Floridians were under evacuation orders. When evacuation orders in South Carolina and Georgia are included, the number climbs to 6.8 million.

Over 100,000 people are in shelters while others are hunkered down in their homes bracing for the storm’s impact.

By 9:40 a.m. today, over 1.1 million customers were without power in Florida.

ABC News’ Daniel Manzo and Chris Donato contributed to this report.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

ABC News: U.S.