National News

Kemp declares state of emergency after protests, mobilizes National Guard

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(ATLANTA) -- Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency Thursday in response to ongoing protests in downtown Atlanta.

Kemp ordered the state's defense department to mobilize up to 1,000 state National Guard troops to be called up to active duty "as necessary."

Authorities arrested six people Saturday when demonstrations over a proposed training ground for the Atlanta Police Department, which started peacefully, involved shooting fireworks, smashing windows, and igniting a police cruiser once protestors reached downtown.

Police suppressed the protests quickly, authorities said last weekend.

The group behind the protests, called 'Stop Cop City,' has demonstrated against the training facility for months and was particularly moved last week by the death of a protestor when police raided a campground occupied by demonstrators.

Police say the protestor, Manuel Esteban Paez Teran, fired first, injuring an officer, but activists have questioned authorities' description of the encounter.

The proposed training center, which was approved by the Atlanta City Council in 2021, will "reimagine law enforcement training," according to the website of the Atlanta Police Foundation, which is spearheading the project.

In a September FAQ posted on its website, the Foundation acknowledged that the 85 acres on which the facility is being built, which is part of a wooded area in DeKalb County, had been designated by the city council in 2017 as a future green space. However, the group claims that the plan "was not well-known" and said it was not binding.

Kemp's state of emergency declaration came as Atlanta braces for possible protests on Friday when Memphis authorities intend to release body camera footage of the alleged beating of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers who have since been fired and charged with murder in his death.

"We are closely monitoring the events in Memphis and are prepared to support peaceful protests in our city," the Atlanta Police Department said in a statement Thursday. "We understand and share in the outrage surrounding the death of Tyre Nichols. Police officers are expected to conduct themselves in a compassionate, competent, and constitutional manner and these officers failed Tyre, their communities and their profession. We ask that demonstrations be safe and peaceful."

Kemp did not indicate whether his declaration was also in preparation for any Nichols-related protests.

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Remains found positively identified as missing 4-year-old girl in Oklahoma

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(CYRIL, Okla.) -- Remains found last week amid the search for a missing 4-year-old girl in Oklahoma have been confirmed to be those of the child, authorities said.

Athena Brownfield was reported missing earlier this month after a postal carrier found her sister wandering alone outside, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Remains found in rural Grady County, outside of Rush Springs, on Jan. 17 have been positively identified as those of Athena, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said on Thursday.

The agency said it had no further comment due to a gag order filed in Caddo County District Court.

Local authorities began searching for Athena on Jan. 10, when the postal worker discovered her 5-year-old sister wandering alone and notified police, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The search became a "recovery operation," the agency said on Jan. 16, several days after one of her caregivers was arrested on a murder charge in connection with the child's disappearance.

Alysia Adams, 31, was arrested on Jan. 12 in Grady County, Oklahoma, on two counts of child neglect, the agency said. Her husband, Ivon Adams, 36, was taken into custody in Phoenix that day on one count of murder in the first degree and one count of child neglect, it said.

The two sisters had reportedly been in the couple's care for at least a year, before the 5-year-old was found alone outside their home in Cyril, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Alysia Adams is related to the sisters, the agency said. Authorities did not comment on how the Adams' became the primary caregivers of the children.

The girls' biological parents have been interviewed by agents and are "cooperating with the investigation," the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said.

During a court appearance in Maricopa County a day after his arrest, Ivon Adams waived his right to an extradition hearing.

"I need to get there and fight this," he told the court.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol issued a missing and endangered person alert for Athena on Jan. 11 to people in a 15-mile radius of Cyril, located about 70 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said on Jan. 16 that the search was now considered a "recovery operation" and that its agents and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol were searching areas of Caddo County for the child's remains.

Amid the search, Brook Arbeitman, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, said that authorities were finding items in town that "could be relevant" and helpful to the case, though did not elaborate.

"We are finding things that we hope might give us clues," she said.

Athena's sister was placed in protective custody with the state after she was found, Arbeitman said.

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California massacres suggest phenomenon of 'mass shooting contagion': Experts

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(LOS ANGELES) -- Following four California mass shootings in the span of eight days that left 25 people dead and 17 injured, some gun violence researchers said they're concerned that a phenomenon known as "mass shooting contagion" is occurring across the state.

The cluster of deadly incidents is not surprising, gun violence researchers told ABC News, saying studies have shown the probability is high that a mass shooting garnering national attention will be rapidly followed by another.

"'Contagion' is a statistical process. It's when the likelihood of a similar crime of another mass shooting increases in the aftermath of another mass shooting. That's what 'contagion' is," James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University, who led a study on the subject published in 2020, told ABC News.

Fox said a 2015 study conducted by researchers at Arizona State University concluded that every mass shooting tends to increase the likelihood of another mass shooting for about 13 days.

String of California massacres

California's recent string of mass shootings began on Jan. 16, when six people, including a teenage mother and her baby, were found fatally shot at a home in Goshen, a semi-rural area in the state's San Joaquin Valley. The Tulare County Sheriff's Department, which has yet to announce any arrests, said the shooting appeared to be a targeted attack by two gunmen possibly connected to a drug cartel.

Just five days after the Goshen killings, a 72-year-old man allegedly opened fire in a dance studio in the Los Angeles County city of Monterey Park, killing 11 people, all of Asian descent, and injuring nine others, according to law enforcement officials. The gunman, identified as Huu Can Tran, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after police cornered him following an intense manhunt, officials said. A motive in the shooting remains under investigation.

A day later, a 66-year-old farmworker allegedly shot and killed seven co-workers, five of Asian descent and two of Hispanic descent, and injured one in what authorities said was a workplace shooting at two mushroom growing farms in Half Moon Bay. The suspect, Chunli Zhao, was charged with seven counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, firearm use enhancements and a count of special circumstance allegation of multiple murder.

Just hours after the Half Moon Bay shooting, seven people were shot, one fatally, in Oakland, California, in what police described as a "targeted" and possibly gang-related attack during the filming of a music video at a gas station.

"There are mass shootings waiting to happen, so one of them can influence the other," Lori Post, director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told ABC News.

Post, who keeps a database of mass shootings dating back to 1966, added, "If a would-be shooter sees all the attention of another mass shooter, it may incentivize him to carry out his plan. But one mass shooting does not inspire a normal person to commit a massacre."

Difference between contagion, copycat killings

Fox said mass shooting contagion is very different from what law enforcement officials call "copycat shootings," when an individual attempts to mimic or copy the actions of mass shooter they may admire.

Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and injured 14 in a May 2014 rampage in Isla Vista, California, near Santa Barbara, became a hero to the so-called "incel," or voluntarily celibate community after distributing a document in which he said he planned his murderous rampage as a "Day of Retribution" to exact revenge on a society that had denied him sex and love.

"There were a couple of mass shootings by incels who revered him," said Fox, adding that copycat killings can occur long after the original crime.

"The 20th anniversary of Columbine brought a number of attempts," Fox said. "Fortunately, no one succeeded."

In contagion mass shootings, Fox said, "It's not necessarily that the killer admires the previous ones."

"There are individuals who have the motivation to commit a mass killing and another crime can help precipitate it, but it doesn't cause it. It's just that they say, 'Ok, that's what I want to do too and I'll do it now," Fox said.

In addition to the spat of California mass shootings, Post said there have been several recent examples of the phenomenon, indicating contagion mass shootings don't have to occur in the same geographic location or even the same state if widespread publicity is spawned by the initial event.

On May 14, 2022, 18-year-old Payton Gendron killed 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in what investigators said was a racially-motivated attack he later pleaded guilty to. Ten days after the Buffalo mass shooting, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos committed a mass shooting at Rob Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 children and two teachers before he was killed by a police officer.

One day after an Aug. 3, 2019, mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart, a gunman fired 41 shots in 30 seconds in a nightlife district in Dayton, Ohio, killing 9 people and wounding dozens of others before being shot and killed by police. In the final report of its investigation released in 2021, the FBI said the gunman, 24-year-old Conner Betts, had a fascination with mass shootings, serial killings and murder-suicide for at least a decade.

Fox said a cluster of mass shootings can be followed by a lull in massacres, some lasting several weeks to several years.

Fox, who once served on President Bill Clinton's advisory committee on school shootings, said that from the latter half of the 1990s to March 2021, there were eight multiple victim shootings in U.S. schools, each with at least four victims and at least two deaths, prompting a tremendous amount of discussion among the public, educators and students.

"After March of 2001, we had summertime, and of course there's no school shootings in the summertime, and then we had 9/11," Fox said. "After 9/11, no-one talked about school shootings. The shift of attention went from school shootings to terrorism. Once we stopped obsessing about it, they dissipated."

Less than 1% of annual homicides

Tage S. Rai, a psychologist and an assistant professor of management at U.C. San Diego Rady School of Management, who studies violence, told ABC News that data shows mass shootings only account for less than 1% of all annual homicide deaths in the United States, yet they garner the most attention and create widespread fear that is unwarranted.

"And so what that means is we're probably not paying enough attention or giving enough resources to other kinds of gun violence that go on," Rai said. "We're not paying enough attention to violence in the home, we're not paying enough attention to suicide deaths by gun, we're not paying enough attention to a lot of other kinds of gun violence that we see."

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California to deliver more water to cities after heavy rain storms

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(LOS ANGELES) -- January's record rain and snowfall on the West Coast has had a positive side effect for over 27 million California residents.

California's Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced Thursday that the extra rainwater will allow the State Water Project (SWP) to increase deliveries to 29 local water agencies this year.

In December, the agency announced that it would initially allocate 5% of requested supplies to the local agencies, but now it will allocate 30% of those requests.

"The SWP's two largest reservoirs (Oroville and San Luis) have gained a combined 1.62 million acre-feet of water in storage -- roughly enough to provide water to 5.6 million households for a year," DWR said in a statement.

Several rain and snow storms left parts of California with flash floods, downed trees and other damage during for weeks starting at the end of December. More than three feet of rain fell in California during those storms and the Sierra Nevada Mountains surpassed seasonal averages for snowfall, according to state data.

Extreme drought, the second-highest level of drought, in California fell from 27.1% to 0.32% Between Jan. 3 and Jan. 10, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Severe drought, the third-highest level, fell from 71% to 46%, during that same period, according to the monitor.

"These storms made clear the importance of our efforts to modernize our existing water infrastructure for an era of intensified drought and flood. Given these dramatic swings, these storm flows are badly needed to refill groundwater basins and support recycled water plants," DWR Director Karla Nemeth said in a statement.

The agency warned Californians to still conserve their water use as the state could see a return to warm and dry conditions prior to April 1, which is the end of the wet season.

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Tyre Nichols: a timeline of the investigation into his death

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(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- Jan. 7, 2023: Tyre Nichols pulled over

Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, was pulled over by police for alleged reckless driving.

According to Nichols' mother, Rowvaughn Wells, Tyre was 2 minutes away from his home when he was pulled over.

Officials said that Memphis officers approached Nichols, who ran away.

Attorneys for Nichols' family said the body camera footage of the incident shows that Nichols did not originally run when being approached by officers. They say Nichols told police that "he was just trying to get home" from FedEx, where he worked, and yelled for his mother three times toward the end of the video. The body camera footage has not yet been released publicly.

Officers say they then pursued Nichols after he ran and apprehended him, police said.

After the incident, Nichols "complained of having a shortness of breath" and was transported by ambulance to Memphis' St. Francis Hospital in critical condition, according to police.

Due to Nichols' condition, the Shelby County District Attorney's Office was contacted and TBI special agents were subsequently requested to conduct a use-of-force investigation, according to the TBI.

The Memphis Police Department said at the time that the "officers involved will be routinely relieved of duty pending the outcome of" the TBI's investigation.

Jan. 10: Tyre Nichols’ death

Nichols died three days after being detained by Memphis police.

Jan. 18: Federal investigations begin

Kevin G. Ritz, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced that the FBI and DOJ are investigating the incident.

“State authorities have publicly announced that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating," Ritz said in a statement. "In addition, the United States Attorney’s Office, in coordination with the FBI Memphis Field Office and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, has opened a civil rights investigation."

Jan. 20: The firing of Memphis police officers

The Memphis Police Department announced that it fired five police officers following an investigation into Nichols’ death.

The officers were identified as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith. They are all Black men.

"After a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding this incident, we have determined that five MPD officers violated multiple department policies, including excessive use of force, duty to intervene and duty to render aid," the department said in a statement.

Jan. 23: Family describes body camera footage

The video footage of Nichols' interaction with five Memphis police officers was viewed by Nichols' family and attorneys.

They described the video as "appalling," "deplorable," "heinous," "violent" and "troublesome on every level," according to Ben Crump, attorney for the Nichols family.

"What he was in that [video] was defenseless the entire time," said Antonio Romanucci, another attorney for the family. "He was a human piñata for those police officers. It was unadulterated, unabashed, nonstop beating of this young boy for 3 minutes." Romanucci also mentioned that Nichols, who died January 10, was kicked during the footage.

The family said they saw the police kick, pepper spray and use a stun gun on their son all while Nichols repeatedly asked, “What did I do?”

Jan. 26: Independent autopsy released, officers charged

A grand jury indicted five officers involved in the Nichols incident. They have each been charged with murder and are in custody. They have been charged with "second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravating kidnapping, resulting in bodily injury, aggravated kidnapping involving the possession of a weapon official misconduct through unauthorized exercise of power, official misconduct through failure to act when there is a duty imposed by law, and official oppression," according to the Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy.

An independent autopsy, completed by a forensic pathologist hired by the family's attorneys, found that Nichols suffered from "extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating," according to the family.

"His observed injuries are consistent with what the family and attorneys witnessed on the video of his fatal encounter with police on January 7," the family of Tyre Nichols and their attorneys said in a statement. "Further details and findings from this independent report will be disclosed at another time."

Memphis Chief of Police Cerelyn Davis called the officers' actions "heinous, reckless and inhumane," adding that "when the [body camera footage] is released in the coming days, you will see this for yourselves."

Chief Davis said that she expects protests following the video's release, but warns that even though she anticipates outrage, that "none of this is a calling card for inciting violence."

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Man shot dead after dog steps on hunting rifle's trigger

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(WELLINGTON, Kan.) -- A dog has shot and killed a 30-year-old man in the front seat of a car after it stepped on a hunting rifle lying in the back seat, Kansas authorities said.

The victim, Joseph Smith, was in the front passenger seat at the time of the shooting, which unfolded while he and another man were on a hunting trip, according to the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office.

"The stock of the gun was in the back seat, and the barrel was laying on the console facing the victim," Sumner County Undersheriff Mike Westmoreland told ABC News via email.

At about 9:45 a.m. Saturday, the German shepherd stepped on the trigger from the back seat, and a bullet struck Smith in the back, according to the sheriff's office and Wellington Fire and EMS Chief Timothy Hay.

Smith died at the scene, Hay told ABC News.

Westmoreland said the German shepherd belongs to the driver of the vehicle.

"You don't want to leave a loaded weapon in your vehicle that's out in the open," Hay advised. "Unload it if it's inside of the vehicle, or at least have the safety on."

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60 stolen guns missing after 13 people arrested for string of firearm burglaries

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(NEW YORK) -- Federal and local law enforcement in Pennsylvania said they are struggling to locate the bulk of firearms stolen in a recent string of burglaries of licensed firearm dealers.

Of the 93 guns stolen, officials have been able to locate 33 -- some of which were involved in later robberies and shootings -- leaving the status of 60 guns unknown, according to a joint press release.

The Montgomery County District Attorney, Bucks County District Attorney, Special Agent-in-charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Philadelphia Field Division and the Springfield Township Police Chief announced on Wednesday that they had arrested 13 people, including 11 juveniles, on charges related to three burglaries and one attempted burglary.

Two adults -- aged 40 and 22 -- and two people who were listed as juveniles were charged as adults, police said. Angel Mason, 40, and Donte Purnell, 22, were released after bail was set. Elijah Terrell, 16, was arraigned and remanded to the Montgomery County Youth Center, and Liv Hall, 18, was incarcerated in Philadelphia on unrelated charges, police said.

The remaining nine minors, who ranged in age from 14 to 17, were charged in juvenile court.

Police said they traced at least four of the guns to later crimes, including a September double shooting in Philadelphia that left a 16-year-old dead and a 14-year-old injured, as well as an additional shooting incident. At least two other firearms were used in armed robberies.

"With 60 firearms unaccounted for, we still don't know the extent of the damage by this corrupt organization's criminal activities, including shootings and murders," said Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele.

The 60 missing firearms represent a small portion of the total number of stolen firearms circulating in the United States. Roughly 1.2 million guns were stolen from individuals between 2012 through 2015, according to data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and analyzed by the Center for American Progress. Twenty-two thousand were stolen from gun stores. In total, during that timeframe, a person in the U.S. stole a gun every two minutes.

"Together, we fight hard every day against lawless criminals that steal and use crime guns to terrorize our communities, regardless of whose borders they cross," said Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub. "And we will not rest. More to come."

Some of the defendants in Pennsylvania belonged to a Philadelphia juvenile youth gang called "54th Street," authorities said. Between Sept. 23 and Nov. 20, the group allegedly executed three successful burglaries in Montgomery and Bucks Counties and attempted a fourth that was foiled when a bystander heard breaking glass and called 911. According to the release, the group also allegedly planned two additional robberies that had not yet been executed.

For each successful robbery, the defendants are alleged to have entered the store between 2 a.m. and 4:30 a.m., smashed the glass display case, grabbed the firearms, then fled. Their first heist yielded 26 guns, the second produced 32 pistols, eight rifles, and one suppressor, and their last provided 27 firearms, officials said.

"Detectives found that those stolen firearms were rapidly distributed and illegally transferred between members of the corrupt organization and to others, which led to the use of these stolen guns to commit crimes," the release noted.

The arrests resulted from cooperation across multiple local, county, state and federal law enforcement entities. The Springfield Township Police Department said law enforcement quickly analyzed the volume of cell phone and social media data through membership in the U.S. Secret Service's Philadelphia Area Cyber Fraud Taskforce.

"This was truly interagency cooperation at its best," wrote the Springfield Township Police Department in their release.

The Department of Justice announced in 2021 the creation of five firearms trafficking "strike forces" aimed at disrupting firearms trafficking by leveraging existing resources in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Such task forces work to stop the traffic of guns from where they are more obtainable into cities. For example, ATF data shows that 81% of guns recovered in New York in 2022 originated from out of state, with cities like Chicago and Baltimore seeming similar sourcing for illegal firearms.

"All too often, guns found at crime scenes come from hundreds or even thousands of miles away," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in 2021.

Following the fatal shooting of two New York Police officers with an illegally obtained gun in 2022, President Joe Biden called for strengthening task forces to stop the illegal flow of firearms.

At the time of Garland's 2021 announcement, Philadelphia did not acquire a dedicated strike force from the DOJ; however, the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Philadelphia Police and District Attorney's Office run a similar gun violence task force with multiple federal agencies to trace the origin of gun crimes.

"These defendants brazenly broke into gun stores and stole nearly 100 firearms, then sold and transferred them widely throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware," said Steele.

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Former Memphis police officers charged with murder in connection with Tyre Nichols' death

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(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- The five Memphis police officers who were fired in connection with the death of Tyre Nichols after a traffic stop on Jan. 7 have each been charged with murder and are in custody Thursday, according to Shelby County, Tennessee, jail records.

Memphis police identified the officers last week as Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith. All five have been booked into jail.

Jail records for the officers show they've each been booked on several felonies, including second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, official misconduct and official oppression.

According to the Shelby County DA press release, second-degree murder is either "an unplanned, intentional killing (reacting to the heat of the moment when angry) or a death caused by a reckless disregard for human life" in Tennessee. This differs from a first-degree murder charge in the state, that being defined a premeditated, intentional killing or a felony murder.

Bonds were set at $350,000 for Martin and Haley, and $250,000 for Bean, Mills and Smith, according to a news release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Mills is posting his bond, according to his attorney Blake Ballin, and is in the process of being let out soon. Martin is currently planning on making bail, according to his attorney William Massey.

The attorneys disclosed that they have not yet seen the video, but they assured the press that their clients will be pleading not guilty to the charges.

"We all want this process to play out in a fair way," Ballin said.

Although there have been no public announcement of other defense attorneys representing the officers, Ballin and Massey told press all former officers are currently represented.

Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, joined by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch and other TBI members, made the official announcement Thursday afternoon, charging the officers on multiple counts.

"In a word, it's absolutely appalling. Let me be clear, what happened here does not at all reflect proper policing. This was wrong. This was criminal," Rausch said.

The investigation is still ongoing at this time.

"Nothing we do today or did today precludes the addition of any further charges regarding any of the people [involved]," Mulroy said.

The video footage of the incident is comprised of city cameras and body camera footage of the former officers. It has yet to be made public, but is expected to be released on Friday.

Nichols' stepfather, Rodney Wells, told ABC News earlier this week that the family is seeking a first-degree murder charge, but Mulroy told press that he met with the family about the charges brought today and "expedited" the investigation.

All five officers charged were a part of the SCORPION Unit, an acronym for Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace In Our Neighborhoods launched in 2021 by the department. The goal of the unit was created to address violent crimes in the city in a 50-person unit that operates seven days a week.

The attorneys for Mills and Martin shared that their clients were "devastated" about the charges.

According to the department, the officers violated policies for use of force, duty to intervene and duty to render aid.

"The news today from Memphis officials that these five officers are being held criminally accountable for their deadly and brutal actions gives us hope as we continue to push for justice for Tyre," Nichols' family attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a statement.

"This young man lost his life in a particularly disgusting manner that points to the desperate need for change and reform to ensure this violence stops occurring during low-threat procedures, like in this case, a traffic stop."

MPD announced this week that other officers in the department are under investigation for department violations as well.

MPD Chief Cerelyn "CJ" Davis released a statement saying the five officers were "directly responsible for the physical abuse" of Nichols and that the video footage of the incident was "heinous, reckless and inhumane."

"I expect our citizens to exercise their First Amendment right to protest, to demand action and results, but we need to ensure our community is safe in this process. None of this is a calling card for inciting violence or destruction on our community or against our citizens," Davis said.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement Thursday, "Cruel, criminal abuse of power will not be tolerated in the state of Tennessee. These individuals do not represent the honorable men & women of law enforcement, & they must be brought to justice for this tragic loss."

Lee added, "The City of Memphis & the Memphis Police Department need to take a hard look at the misconduct and failure that has occurred within this unit. I discussed this with Mayor Strickland & am pleased the city is pursuing an external, impartial investigation."

President Joe Biden said in statement that Nichols' death is "a painful reminder that we must do more to ensure that our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment, and dignity for all."

Authorities have warned law enforcement agencies of the reaction that may transpire when the official video footage is released.

Tennessee Sheriff's Association President Jeff Bledsoe sent out a letter to Jonathan Thompson, the National Sheriffs' Association Executive Director/CEO, on Wednesday anticipating the public reaction to the video's release.

"Due to the nature of the video's contents it is believed it may spark responses outside of the traditional protests," the letter read. "There is a public safety risk potential to communities and peace officers expanding outside of the Shelby County (Memphis) TN area."

After being pulled over for "reckless driving" on Jan. 7, Nichols was involved in an altercation with Memphis officers that led to him being hospitalized in critical condition after complaining of shortness of breath during the arrest. Three days later, Nichols died.

According to a preliminary independent autopsy commissioned by Nichols' family and released by attorneys, Nichols suffered from "extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating."

Neither the independent autopsy report nor official autopsy report have been publicly released.

The incident also continues to be investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice.

ABC News' Armando Garcia, Josh Margolin, Stephanie Wash and Whitney Lloyd contributed to this report.

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Suspect in NYC truck attack that killed 8 found guilty in terror trial

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(NEW YORK) -- Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek native who drove a rented truck down a Manhattan bike path adjacent to the Hudson River in an ISIS-inspired terror attack that killed eight people, was convicted Thursday by a federal court jury of murder and attempted murder in order to gain entry to ISIS, making him eligible for the death penalty.

The trial, which began in Manhattan federal court earlier this month, marked the first federal death penalty trial of the Biden administration. Jurors will next decide whether Saipov should face the death penalty.

Saipov had pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including murder in the aid of racketeering and providing and attempting to provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.

The truck attack, which was on Halloween, was the deadliest terror attack in New York since Sept. 11, 2001.

Saipov, a native of Uzbekistan who lived in Florida, Ohio and New Jersey following his arrival in the United States, was allegedly inspired to commit the killings by ISIS videos he viewed, prosecutors said. The rental truck used in the Oct. 31, 2017, attack was decorated with an ISIS flag.

Prosecutors alleged that the suspect drove the truck on a bike lane and pedestrian walkway in lower Manhattan, and when the truck collided with a school bus he exited the vehicle holding a paintball gun and pellet gun.

"Moments after Saipov got out of the truck, he yelled, in substance and in part, 'Allah Akbar,'" according to charging documents filed in the case.

He chose Halloween to commit the attack, which required "substantial planning and premeditation," anticipating there would be more civilians on the streets that day, prosecutors alleged, calling it "heinous, cruel and depraved."

"Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov caused injury, harm, and loss to the families and friends of Diego Enrique Angelini, Nicholas Cleves, Ann-Laure Decadt, Darren Drake, Ariel Erlij, Hernan Ferruchi, Hernan Diego Mendoza, and Alejandro Damian Pagnucco," according to court records. Five of the victims were tourists from Argentina.

The defense, which did not call any witnesses during the trial, conceded during opening statements that Saipov carried out the attack but challenged the government's allegation he did it to become a full-fledged member of ISIS. The defense said Saipov did not want to join the terror group, he wanted to die a martyr.

Saipov has been in federal custody since his arrest.

The Southern District of New York's last capital murder case was against Khalid Barnes, who was convicted of murdering two drug suppliers but was ultimately sentenced to life in prison in September 2009.

The last time the death penalty was carried out in a New York federal case was in 1953 when husband and wife Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed after being convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

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'Sara's Law': Sex trafficking survivor pushes to change justice system's treatment of child victims

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(NEW YORK) -- Child sex trafficking victims implicated for crimes against their abusers are speaking out amid an ongoing push for laws that change how such cases are treated in the criminal justice system.

In 1995, Sara Kruzan was 17 when she was sentenced to life in prison for killing the man who she says began grooming her at the age of 11.

“I was an easy target for a man with disturbing intentions. From ages 13 to 16, I was a child sex trafficking victim who endured horrific abuse and rape at the hands of my trafficker and other adult males,” Kruzan told ABC News.

Kruzan would go on to spend nearly two decades in prison before her sentence was commuted twice — once in 2011 and once in 2013. She was released that year and was pardoned by California Gov. Gavin Newsom last July.

Since her release, Kruzan has dedicated her life to children who find themselves in the position she was once in — vulnerable, powerless and at the constant mercy of abusers.

Nearly 1,000 children were forced into sexual slavery in 2020, according to the Administration for Children Families. Victims often have a history of neglect, abuse and trauma. But in most cases, the abuse goes unreported.

In many cases, victims never return home. Only an estimated 1% to 2% of child sex trafficking victims are recovered, according to Erase Child Trafficking.

“The sex industry preys on vulnerability and marginalization,” said Yasmin Vafa, a human rights attorney who co-founded the nonprofit Rights4Girls. “And so those children who are marginalized by race and ethnicity, by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, by disability, by immigration status, by a whole host of factors. Those children are more likely to be exploited because they are vulnerable.”

In Wisconsin, 22-year-old Chrystul Kizer is facing a life sentence for killing the man who she says forced her into sex work.

Kizer met Randall Phillip Valor when she was 16 years old. She says Valor sexually abused her and recorded the acts. After a year of abuse, Kizer went to Valor’s home and shot him. She then started a fire and drove away in his car.

Kizer later admitted to detectives that she “had gotten upset and was tired of [him] touching her.” She was charged with multiple felonies, including first-degree homicide, and has since been released on bond.

In a groundbreaking decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Kizer may have the chance to be acquitted of all charges using a state law meant to provide immunity to victims of human trafficking.

Kizer’s defense argues that when she committed the murder, she was being trafficked and for no other reason would it have occurred, ABC News legal contributor Channa Llloyd said. The burden is now on the state to prove being sexually trafficked wasn’t a direct cause.

Kruzan said that trying child sex trafficking victims as adults is “another form of human rights violations.” She’s now part of an ongoing push to change laws around sentencing child victims of sex trafficking.

Backed by bipartisan representatives, one of them is “Sara’s Law” or "The Preventing Unfair Sentencing Act." If passed, it would give judges discretion to hand down reduced sentences for child survivors and promote physical and psychological recovery for child sex trafficking victims.

Looking back at her case, Kruzan wishes that the justice system treated her with compassion.

“You know, trying to ask the right questions, to say, well, what happened to you? How did this happen? And then, how did the adults miss it?” Kruzan said.

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Two arrested in death of 11-year-old girl who was shot after buying milk at corner store

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(SYRACUSE, N.Y.) -- Two men have been arrested in the slaying of 11-year-old Brexialee Torres-Ortiz, who was shot dead while walking home after buying milk near her home, authorities announced Thursday.

Two of the three suspects believed to be involved in the Jan. 16 shooting, an 18-year-old man and a 20-year-old man, were arrested Wednesday on charges including second-degree murder, Syracuse Police Chief Joe Cecile announced at a news conference Thursday. They were arraigned Thursday morning, Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick said.

The third suspect, a 16-year-old, is known to police and is a resident at a juvenile facility in the New York City area, where he was placed by a family court judge, Fitzpatrick said.

He was "on a furlough from the facility" on the day Brexialee was killed, Fitzpatrick said.

"We will be addressing more information about him at such time he's in custody," he said.

Brexialee had just left a corner store that was about 100 yards from her apartment when she was shot by gunmen in a car who were firing at someone else, authorities said. A 19-year-old man was also shot at the scene and survived, the chief said.

Police zeroed in on the suspects after identifying the stolen car that the shots were fired from, the chief said.

Brexialee, president of her fifth grade class and part of her school's high honors program, "was an extraordinary young lady," the chief said Thursday.

"The stories we started to hear about her taking care of her classmates ... [she was] their advocate so they could succeed the way she was succeeding," Cecile said.

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Jury deliberating in deadly New York City truck terror attack

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(NEW YORK) -- Jury deliberations resume Thursday in the trial of Sayfullo Saipov, the Uzbek native who took inspiration from the Islamic State group and drove a truck down the West Side Highway bike path, killing eight on Halloween 2017.

The jury deliberated for an hour or so Wednesday and appeared befuddled.

The defense, which did not call any witnesses, conceded during opening statements that Saipov carried out the attack but challenged the government allegation he did it to become a full fledged member of ISIS. The defense said Saipov did not want to join the terror group, he wanted to die a martyr.

Prior to adjourning for the day the jury sent the judge a note with three questions:

- Is the defense contending Saipov committed the truck attack but was charged with the wrong crime?

- If Saipov went to Syria, trained with ISIS and came back with an ISIS card, would he have been charged with the same crime?

- Let’s say we find Saipov not guilty of the truck attack because he wanted to join ISIS. Would he be re-tried for a different crime?

The judge expressed concern the questions sounded like conversations and not based on evidence.

The judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys will spend part of the morning deciding how to respond once the court reconvenes at 9 a.m.

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Illinois man charged with setting fire to Planned Parenthood clinic

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(NEW YORK) -- An Illinois man has been arrested and charged for allegedly setting fire to a Planned Parenthood clinic, federal authorities said Wednesday.

Tyler W. Massengill, 32, of Chillicoth, Illinois, is facing charges of malicious use of fire and an explosive to damage as well as attempt to damage, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois.

The charges stem from a fire that was reported late in the night on Jan. 15 at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Peoria, about 160 miles southwest of Chicago. After interviewing witnesses and reviewing surveillance footage in the area, investigators learned that a white pickup truck with red doors had parked adjacent to the building shortly before the blaze began and drove away just moments after, according to the complaint.

At approximately 11:20 p.m. CT that night, a man wearing a coat with a hood pulled up and possibly a face mask was seen walking up to the Planned Parenthood clinic "with a laundry detergent-sized bottle," according to the complaint. The man "lit a rag on fire on one end of the bottle, smashed a window with an object, then placed the container inside of the ... building" before "quickly" fleeing the scene "on foot," the complaint stated.

According to the Peoria Police Department, no patients or staff were inside the Planned Parenthood clinic at the time of blaze. A firefighter sustained non-life-threatening injuries while attempting to extinguish the flames. Investigators quickly determined that the preliminary cause of the fire was arson, police said.

On Jan. 17, after receiving several tips, the Peoria Police Department linked the truck to Massengill. Police also obtained a booking photo of Massengill and found a Facebook account in his name, and the images from both "bear a likeness" to the man captured on surveillance video outside the Planned Parenthood clinic, according to the complaint.

On Jan. 23, a woman contacted local police to tell them that she had Massengill's truck in her garage in Sparland, about 30 miles northeast of Peoria. She told police that, on Jan. 16, Massengill had requested to keep his white pickup truck in her garage and to paint its red doors white for $300, according to the complaint.

The woman said she last spoke with Massengill via Facebook on Jan. 18, when she asked him to come get his truck. She said he indicated that he had seen his truck on the news but told her: "I didn't do it, I didn't do it," according to the complaint.

The FBI seized Massengill's truck on Jan. 23, by which time the doors had been painted white. FBI agents also "recovered a paint grinder from the scene with red paint residue," the complaint stated.

The following day, Massengill contacted the Peoria Police Department and said he wanted to speak about the Jan. 15 fire at the Planned Parenthood clinic. While meeting with investigators, Massengill initially denied responsibility for the blaze but ultimately admitted to breaking a window and placing a burning container inside the building. He also confirmed that he had asked someone to paint his truck white after the incident, according to the complaint.

Massengill told investigators that, approximately three years ago, he had a girlfriend in the Peoria area who became pregnant and had an abortion. He said she first told him about the abortion via telephone while he was working in Alaska, which upset him. On or around Jan. 15, Massengill said he heard or saw something that reminded him of the abortion, which upset him again, according to the complaint.

Massengill also told investigators that if his actions on the night of Jan. 15 caused "a little delay" in someone receiving abortion services at the Planned Parenthood clinic, it may have been "all worth it," according to the complaint.

The Planned Parenthood location in Peoria, which had to be closed due to damage from the fire, offers medication abortion but is not a site for in-clinic procedures, according to Jennifer Welch, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

Massengill was taken into custody on Jan. 24. If convicted on all charges, he faces a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least five years and could be sentenced to as many as 40 years behind bars. The charges also carry up to three years of supervised release and a possible fine of up to $250,000, according to a press release issued Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice.

It was unknown whether Massengill had retained legal representation.

The incident at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Peoria happened just two days after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed comprehensive reproductive health care legislation into law that protects out-of-state abortion seekers and allows them to get an abortion. Illinois is among a number of U.S. states that have managed to enact legal reinforcements around abortions following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

Last week, the FBI announced that it is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the wake of a spate of attacks against reproductive health facilities across the country.

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Monterey Park shooting suspect had no known connection to victims, police say

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(MONTEREY PARK, Calif.) -- The suspect involved in the Monterey Park shooting had no known connection to any of the victims that were killed in the shooting, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Police also confirmed that a total of three firearms registered to the suspect were recovered by detectives -- along with a motorcycle that belonged to the suspect that authorities believe was a possible alternate getaway vehicle.

“As of today, based on interviews, investigators have not been able to establish a connection between the suspect and any of the victims,” Sheriff Robert Luna said in a statement following a press conference held on Wednesday evening. “The suspect was not married and was not romantically tied to any of the victims. According to witness accounts, the suspect has not frequented the location in the last five years.”

Three firearms registered to the suspect have so far been recovered by detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) Homicide Bureau, authorities say.

“The murder weapon recovered at the Alhambra scene was identified as a Cobray model CM11-9 (also known as Mac-10),” police said in a statement. “The weapon was not registered in the state of California and was purchased by the suspect on February 9, 1999, in the city of Monterey Park. The weapon used by the suspect to commit suicide inside the white van was identified as a Norinco 7.62 X 25mm pistol. The rifle recovered from the suspect’s residence in Hemet is a Savage Arms .308 caliber bolt action rifle.”

Monterey Park police officers also recovered a motorcycle -- just one block from where the shootings took place -- that was registered to the suspect.

Authorities believe it was strategically placed on the 200 block of South Garfield Avenue in Monterey Park as an alternate getaway vehicle.

“Investigators determined the motorcycle was parked at that location sometime on Saturday, just prior to the mass murder. Investigators believe it was placed there by the suspect as an alternate getaway vehicle,” police said.

The suspect had no recent criminal history but records show that he was arrested 33 years ago in 1990 for unlawful possession of a firearm.

“If people believe they have information that can help us with a motive in this case, please make sure you contact investigators of our Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. A lot of rumors out there, a lot of people sharing stories, but again, we will only put out there information that we have verified through facts and evidence,” Sheriff Luna concluded at the press conference.

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Massachusetts mother accused of killing two children, injuring infant

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(DUXBURY, Mass.) -- A Massachusetts woman is facing charges in the deaths of her two young children and the injury of her baby, authorities said Wednesday.

Police received a 911 call on Tuesday evening, just after 6 p.m. ET, from a man who said his wife had attempted suicide by jumping out of a window at their house in Duxbury, a small seaside town about 30 miles south of Boston. First responders rushed to the home and located the woman, identified as 32-year-old Lindsay Clancy, whom they treated on scene before transporting her to a Boston hospital, according to Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz. Her condition was unknown.

First responders subsequently found three young children inside the home who were "unconscious with obvious signs of severe trauma," Cruz said. A 5-year-old girl, identified as Cora Clancy, and a 3-year-old boy, identified as Dawson Clancy, were both transported to a hospital in nearby Plymouth, where they were pronounced dead. A 7-month-old boy, who was not named, was flown to a Boston hospital for treatment, according to Cruz. The infant's condition was unknown.

Massachusetts' Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine the causes of deaths.

"Preliminarily, it appears the children were strangled," Cruz said during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. "As soon as able, we will be arraigning her on the two charges of murder in the deaths of her children."

Late Wednesday, the district attorney announced via Twitter that an arrest warrant had been issued for Lindsay Clancy for two counts of homicide as well as three counts each for strangulation and assault and battery with a deadly weapon for the deaths of Cora and Dawson Clancy. The mother is under police custody, according to Cruz.

The district attorney was asked by reporters during Wednesday's press conference whether Lindsay Clancy had any known mental health issues.

"I'm not in a position to comment on mental health issues," he replied. "However, I would say that everything is being looked at."

Cruz reiterated that the investigation is "active and ongoing" by the Duxbury Police Department and the Massachusetts State Police, with investigators "working this case around the clock."

He commended "the professionalism and the work" of the first responders.

"I'm sure many of them will not forget what they saw last evening," he said "I think we should all be grateful to the men and women that put a uniform on that are willing do this difficult and challenging job."

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