National News

COVID-19 live updates: Greece to mandate vaccines for people 60 and older


(NEW YORK) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the globe, more than 5.2 million people have died from the disease worldwide, including over 779,000 Americans, according to real-time data compiled by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Just 59.4% of the population in the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Latest headlines:
-Variant-specific vaccine could be completed in about 3 months: White House
-Greece to mandate vaccines for people 60 and older
-Global case count of omicron variant tops 200
-Omicron variant was in the Netherlands earlier than thought

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

Nov 30, 7:01 pm
Pfizer requests FDA authorization to expand booster eligibility

Pfizer has officially requested Food and Drug Administration authorization of its COVID-19 booster for 16- and 17-year-olds, the company's CEO said Tuesday evening.

"It is our hope to provide strong protection for as many people as possible, particularly in light of the new variant," Albert Bourla tweeted, referring to omicron, a recently discovered variant of concern, according to the World Health Organization.

ABC News' Sony Salzman

Nov 30, 6:30 pm
Pediatric COVID-19 cases in US remain 'extremely high,' report says

Nearly 132,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 last week, as pediatric cases remain "extremely high." according to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association.

This marks the 16th consecutive week that weekly pediatric COVID-19 cases have been above 100,000. Prior to the recent increases, infections among children had been steadily dropping since the pandemic peak of 252,000 child cases, recorded over the span of a week in early September.

At this time, severe illness due to COVID-19 remains "uncommon" among children, the two organizations wrote in the report. However, they warn that there is an urgent need to collect more data on the long-term consequences of the pandemic on children.

The latest report comes amid growing concerns surrounding the new omicron variant, launching a renewed push to get all eligible Americans vaccinated against COVID-19. To date, about 36% of children ages 5 to 17 have received at least one dose, according to federal data.

ABC News' Arielle Mitropoulos

Nov 30, 5:50 pm
Merck pill now awaiting FDA authorization after adviser endorsement

Advisers from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have narrowly approved an endorsement of the Merck COVID-19 pill, voting 13 to 10 in favor of the authorization.

If authorized, it would be the first easy-to-take antiviral pill for COVID-19. Pfizer is also working on a COVID-19 pill, which it hopes will be authorized early next year. The FDA typically takes the advice of its advisers but will make its own final decision.

During Tuesday’s meeting, advisers spoke positively on Merck's pill, even though it was not found to be quite as effective in the final analysis as it was in an early, preliminary analysis.

However, the advisers expressed doubt about whether it would be safe for pregnant people to use Merck's pill because of the potential risk of harm to the fetus as well as its use in children due to lack of data and similar concerns as in pregnancy.

ABC News' Sony Salzman

Nov 30, 2:45 pm
Variant-specific vaccine could be completed in about 3 months: White House

If a variant-specific vaccine is needed, the process, including FDA and CDC authorization, would take about three months, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients said at Tuesday's White House briefing.

The omicron variant has still not been detected in the U.S. Delta "remains the predominant circulating string representing 99.9% of all sequences sampled," CDC director Rochelle Walensky said.

Walensky said the CDC is also working on expanding a surveillance program through JFK International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport that would conduct more tests on international arrivals.

Walensky added, "To be crystal clear, we have far more tools to fight the variant today than we had at this time last year."

ABC News' Cheyenne Haslett

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Ghislaine Maxwell accuser 'Jane' testifies on Day 2 of trial


(NEW YORK) -- Ghislaine Maxwell, a longtime associate of serial sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, came face to face with her first accuser in a Manhattan federal court on Tuesday.

A woman prosecutors have referred to as "Jane," one of the three alleged minor victims whose allegations against Jeffrey Epstein's longtime associate Ghislaine Maxwell are detailed in a federal indictment, testified on the second day of her trial, telling her story publicly for the first time.

She told the jury that she met Maxwell and Epstein while attending summer camp at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, the beginning of what prosecutors earlier called "a nightmare that would last for years."

After returning home to Palm Beach, Florida, "Jane" said, she began visiting Epstein at his seaside mansion, where she testified that she had her first sexual encounter with Epstein in 1994 when she was just 14. According to "Jane," Epstein abruptly took her to his pool house, pulled down his pants and "proceeded to masturbate on me" while she remained "frozen in fear."

The abuse escalated to include explicit massages, "Jane" said, during subsequent visits to Epstein's house, and she identified Maxwell as the person (other than Epstein) most often in the room. Maxwell contributed, she alleged, by "leading me to a massage table and showing me how Jeffrey likes to be massaged."

Maxwell faces a six-count indictment for allegedly conspiring with and aiding Epstein in his sexual abuse of underage girls between 1994 and 2004. She has been held without bail since her arrest in July 2020 and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Over the next several years, "Jane" said, she travelled with Epstein and Maxwell "maybe 10 times," sometimes on Epstein's private plane and sometimes on commercial flights. She visited both Epstein's New York residence and his New Mexico ranch, she said, where she suffered further sexual abuse by Epstein. It was Maxwell, she said, who typically arranged for her travel.

Earlier in the day, Epstein's former pilot, Larry Visoski, testified that he met "Jane" in the cockpit of Epstein's plane, though he later acknowledged he did not know how old she was at the time and could not recall whether she had actually taken a flight.

"Jane" also described frequent orgies with Epstein and other women, the details of which, she said, are "hard to remember," because they started to "seem the same" and she became "numb to it."

She never told anyone about her experience, she said, until many years later.

"How do you tell or describe any of this," she asked, "when all you feel is shame and disgust and confusion and you don't know how you ended up here?"

It's unclear whether Maxwell will take the stand during her trial, which is expected to last six weeks. If convicted, she could spend decades in prison.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Three killed, eight hurt in shooting at Michigan high school


(OXFORD, Mich.) -- Three students were killed in a shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan, on Tuesday, authorities said.

They were a 16-year-old male student and two female students, ages 14 and 17, authorities said.

Eight others were shot and injured, including a teacher, authorities said. They were transported to three different local hospitals. Two were in surgery and six in stable condition with varied gunshot wounds, Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said during a briefing Tuesday evening.

All parents of the victims have been notified, he said.

The suspected shooter, a 15-year-old male student, was taken into custody within five minutes, authorities said. A semiautomatic handgun has been confiscated, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said.

The student lives in the Village of Oxford and attended school Tuesday, authorities said.

Authorities said they believe he acted alone. The teen has not mentioned a motive, authorities said.

He is being held at the Oakland County Children's Village and is lodged as a juvenile, McCabe said. The county prosecutor could choose to charge him as an adult, he said.

The suspected shooter's parents have not granted him permission to talk to authorities and have hired a lawyer, the undersheriff said. Authorities are executing a search warrant at his house, he said.

Over 100 calls poured into 911 as the shooting unfolded, authorities said.

The shooting occurred primarily in one area of the school and there is a "fairly large crime scene," McCabe said.

Oxford is about 40 miles north of Detroit.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer attended an evening briefing on the shooting, saying she wanted to be there "because I think this is an important moment for us to support one another, to support this community. And I want to thank our first responders."

She called the incident a "uniquely American problem that we need to address," and got visibly emotional discussing the tragedy.

"I think this is every parent's worst nightmare," she said, crying.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday afternoon, "My heart goes out to the families during the unimaginable grief of losing a loved one."


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Denver still waiting for first snow of season, breaking record

ABC News

(DENVER, Colo.) -- Denver is making weather history this year as the city patiently waits to receive its first measurable snow of the 2021 winter season. This is the latest the city has ever waited for snow, according to the National Weather Service.

For a snowfall to be considered measurable by the weather service, it must be greater than a tenth of an inch.

Denver will begin the month of December without any snowfall for the first time in history -- and there's still no snow in sight for the near future. The previous record for the latest first snowfall in the city was set on Nov. 21, 1934.

The Mile High City has now gone 223 consecutive days without snow as of Tuesday, and is just 12 days away from passing the all-time record of 235 snowless days, a record that was set in 1887, 134 years ago.

“With no snow expected for the next several days, a move up to second place is certainly possible by next weekend,” the weather service said of the consecutive snowless streak on Monday. Currently, this year ranks as the fourth longest without snow, just behind a 224-day record set in 1889.

Sitting on the downslope of the Rocky Mountains at 5,500 feet above sea level, dry weather isn’t exactly abnormal for Denver. This is partially because during the winter months, weather systems, which generally form west to east, precipitate higher up in the mountains. As the system moves down the mountains toward the city, much of the leftover moisture evaporates.

Additionally this year’s Pacific jet stream, a high altitude wind current that can affect weather, is following a La Nina pattern, which could also be contributing to the region’s lack of snow and precipitation.

But the West has also seen the effects of climate change over the years as weather has gotten drier and winters have shortened.

The underwhelming snow figures come amid an ongoing drought in the western United States, where about 49% of the region is under extreme or exceptional drought conditions, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

In Colorado, 40% of the state is in a severe drought, and Denver has received between zero and 25% of its normal precipitation in the last 30 days, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System.

These conditions have led to increased fire danger in Boulder, where county authorities ordered stage one fire restrictions to be put into effect on Tuesday over the lack of moisture and above-average seasonal temperatures.

The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office added in a press release that “moderate to severe drought conditions” and low resource availability could impact the ability to obtain “vital suppression resources” if a fire were to erupt.

The abnormally warm and dry weather has also begun to impact the famous Colorado ski season, which typically starts in the late fall.

One hundred fifty miles northwest of Denver, the Steamboat Springs Ski Resort has also seen less than average snowfalls. Crews were forced to generate more than 20 acres of snow across five trails using artificial snow blowers after the mountain initially delayed its season’s opening by one week, citing an “unseasonably warm” fall and little snow.

“Normally this time of year we’ve had more than 20 inches of snowfall, a 10-20-inch mid-mountain base and 200 hours of snowmaking under our belt,” Dan Hunter, vice president of resort operations, said in a statement. “This year we haven’t been able to capitalize on extended snowmaking temperatures and windows.”

Loryn Duke, director of communications for Steamboat Springs Ski Resort, noted that snowmakers this season have now logged just over 100 hours of snow production, with the resort now open to skiers. Duke said that the mountain would have been well on its way to 300 hours of production in past seasons by this point, with mild temperatures this year hampering snow generation efforts.

“Even though temperatures will continue to be on the warm side (for Steamboat and Colorado),” Duke said, “our crews will continue to work around the clock taking advantage of conditions prime for snowmaking and opening new terrain and lifts as soon as possible.”

ABC News’ Max Golembo contributed to this report.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Two teens charged in Iowa Spanish teacher's death plead not guilty


(NEW YORK) -- Two Iowa 16-year-olds accused of murdering a high school Spanish teacher in early November have pleaded not guilty, according to documents filed Monday.

Willard Noble Chaiden Miller and Jeremy Everett Goodale were charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the death of 66-year-old Nohema Graber on Nov. 2.

The defendants appeared in court for individual bond review hearings on Nov. 23. Each asked for his bond to be reduced from $1 million to $100,000 cash or surety.

District Court Judge Joel Yates is expected to issue a written ruling on the bond reduction requests later this week.

The teens are being charged as adults in the death of the teacher who worked at Fairfield High School, which they both attended, according to Jefferson County authorities.

Law enforcement officials said they received a tip from an associate of the two teenagers that included social media messages between Miller and Goodale allegedly sharing details of their motive and plan for killing Graber, according to a criminal complaint filed against Miller.

Graber had taught Spanish at Fairfield High School in Fairfield, Iowa, since 2012. According to online court documents, Graber was reported missing on Nov. 2 by family members.

Multiple law enforcement agencies reportedly started to search Chautauqua City Park, where Graber was known to take walks during the afternoon.

Officials later found Graber's body in the park "concealed under a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties," according to the complaint.

Authorities determined Graber had "suffered inflicted trauma to the head."

Miller and Goodale are set to appear for individual pre-trial conferences on March 21, and are scheduled to face a jury on April 19.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

El Chapo's wife sentenced to 3 years in prison


(NEW YORK) -- The wife of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison for conspiring to distribute cocaine, meth, heroin and marijuana for import into the U.S; money-laundering and helping run the Mexican drug cartel in which her husband was the boss.

Emma Coronel Aispuro will also serve 48 months of supervised released.

The Justice Department initially asked for four years in prison.

In June, she pleaded guilty, and voluntarily forfeited $1.5 million to the government.

She was arrested in February 2021 at Dulles International Airport, just outside the nation's capital.

She was also accused of conspiring with others to assist El Chapo in his July 2015 escape from Altiplano prison and prosecutors said she also planned with others to arrange another prison escape for the drug kingpin before his extradition to the U.S. in January 2017.

"The defendant was not an organizer, leader, boss, or other type of manager" a Justice Department prosecutor told the judge during sentencing on Tuesday, calling her the "cog" in a very large criminal machine.

Aispuro, through an interpreter begged for forgiveness, vowing she will teach her daughters right from wrong.

"I beg you to not allow them to grow up without the presence of a mother," she said.

Guzman was found guilty in February 2019 of running an industrial-sized drug trafficking operation, the Sinaloa cartel, one of the world's largest, most profitable and most ruthless drug smuggling organizations.

He was sentenced to life in prison, and has since tried to appeal the conviction.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Hurricane season ends with 21 named storms, using all the names for 2nd consecutive year


(NEW YORK) -- The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season ended on Tuesday after 21 named storms, continuing a record-breaking pattern from 2020, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This year's storms used each of the names from the tropical cyclone list, marking the first time in recorded history the list has been exhausted two years in a row, NOAA said. Storms are named when wind speeds hit 39 mph.

This was also the seventh year in a row that a named storm formed before the official start of the season on June 1, NOAA said.

Before the season began, NOAA predicted a 60% chance that the season would be busier than usual, but said it would not surpass 2020's historic level of activity. Seven of the named storms in 2021 were classified as hurricanes.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season had 30 named storms, the most in recorded history, with two more than in 2005, which included Hurricane Katrina. Six of 2020's storms were designated as hurricanes.

The effects of climate change already may be evident in the behavior of recent hurricane seasons.

The increase in activity in the past two years can be attributed to higher-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds and an enhanced west African monsoon, NOAA scientists said.

Although most of the storms stayed out in the open ocean, 2021 proved to be more costly than 2020.

Total losses due to property and infrastructure damage this year have totalled about $105 billion — eclipsing $100.2 billion in 2020, according to NOAA.

Hurricane Ida, which made landfall in Louisiana in late August and tracked northeast to New York City before exiting into the Atlantic Ocean, was responsible for about $60 billion in damage alone, according to NOAA.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Teen Kim Bryant was killed in 1979. Now DNA has helped identify a suspect.


(LAS VEGAS) -- More than 40 years after a teenage girl's murder in Las Vegas, her suspected killer has been identified through DNA evidence and genetic genealogy.

Kim Bryant, 16, was kidnapped, raped and killed on Jan. 26, 1979, police in Las Vegas said.

The teen was last seen at a Dairy Queen restaurant near her high school and was reported missing after she didn't return home, police said.

Her body was found one month later in a desert area, police said.

For decades, her slaying went unsolved.

Semen from a suspect was recovered during Bryant's autopsy, but the DNA sample could not be identified at the time, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Lt. Raymond Spencer said at a news conference on Monday.

"We first attempted DNA on this particular case back in 2008. We were not able to get a DNA profile," Kimberly Murga, director of laboratory services for the Las Vegas police, said at the news conference. "Technology has continued to advance and revolutionize. We again attempted DNA on different items of evidence in January of this year. We were able to obtain a foreign male DNA profile on some evidence and we put that DNA profile into CODIS -- the Combined DNA Index System -- and at that time we obtained no hits."

That's when the department turned to advanced genetic genealogy testing, she said.

Through genetic genealogy, DNA left at a crime scene can be used to identify a suspect's family members, who voluntarily submit their DNA to a genealogy database. This allows police to create a more detailed family tree than if they were limited to using law enforcement databases like CODIS. Genetic genealogy gained visibility as an investigative tool in 2018 when the "Golden State Killer" was arrested.

Employees of Othram Inc., a private laboratory, built a genealogical profile of Bryant's unknown killer through his family tree, Michael Vogen, director of case management at Othram, said at the news conference.

Othram and police eventually narrowed the search to a relative who was willing to give a DNA sample, officials said.

That sample allowed investigators to zero in on their suspect, Johnny Peterson, who died in January 1993, police said.

Peterson was 19 and living in Las Vegas at the time of the murder, Spencer said. Peterson had previously attended Bryant's school, though it's not clear if they had interacted, Spencer said.

In April 1980, Peterson was arrested for sexual assault, but that case was dismissed, Spencer said.

Peterson was never on the department's radar as a suspect in Bryant's case, Spencer said.

For Bryant's family, Spencer said, "Nothing is gonna make the pain go away, but at least the family has some closure."


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

NASA delays International Space Station spacewalk over debris risk


(NEW YORK) -- A spacewalk by two U.S. astronauts was called off on Tuesday morning due to the risk of space debris, NASA announced in a statement.

NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Thomas Marshburn were scheduled to leave through the International Space Station's Quest airlock at 5:30 a.m. EST to replace a part on the space station, according to a NASA blogpost.

"Marshburn and Barron will work at the Port 1 truss structure, where the antenna is mounted. The antenna recently lost its ability to send signals to Earth via NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System," NASA said in the blog.

However, four hours before the scheduled spacewalk, the ISS tweeted that the repair would be delayed until more information was available.

The source of the debris hasn't been confirmed. Two weeks ago Russia had conducted an anti-satellite test that created a "dangerous" debris field in the orbit.

The spacewalk was scheduled to last 6 1/2 hours and be Barron's first and Marshburn's fifth spacewalk, NASA said.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

New Zealand Green MP cycles to hospital in labor, gives birth hour later


(NEW YORK) -- Julie Anne Genter, a Green Party member of the New Zealand Parliament, is a keen cyclist who used her skills to bike to the hospital in the middle of the night while in labor Sunday. Within an hour of setting off, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

"I genuinely wasn't planning to cycle in labor," she wrote on Instagram later that day, "but it did end up happening."

Genter shared photos of her nighttime journey on a cargo bike, smiling through contractions while locking up in the Wellington, New Zealand, hospital car park.

"My contractions weren't that bad when we left at 2 a.m. to go to the hospital," she said on Instagram. "Though they were 2-3 min apart and picking up in intensity by the time we arrived 10 minutes later."

At 3.04 a.m., her daughter was born.

Originally, the plan was for her partner Peter Nunns to cycle with her in front, Genter told New Zealand outlet Stuff. When they realized there was too much weight with her hospital bag, Genter "just got out and rode."

Genter is a dual U.S.-NZ citizen. She grew up in Los Angeles and moved to New Zealand in 2006 as a post-grad scholar at the University of Auckland. She credits her L.A. upbringing with her interest in transportation and urban design. She worked in transport and urban planning before becoming a Member of Parliament in 2011 where she has been an advocate of cycling and increasing bike infrastructure. Her baby girl was born two days after her 10-year anniversary in parliament.

This is the second time the lawmaker has cycled to the hospital to give birth. She did so in 2018 for the birth of her first child, although on that occasion, labor was induced, she said.

New Zealand's parliament is one of the most gender-equal in the world, electing 49% female members in its 2020 election. It also has a reputation for being family-friendly.

The country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave birth to her daughter Neve while in office in 2018, making headlines as one of the first sitting world leaders to do so. Genter followed her lead, bringing her firstborn to a UN meeting a year later.

In 2019, the Speaker of Parliament, Trevor Mallard, appeared in headlines around the world when he cradled and fed a bottle to a baby boy during a general debate.

Mallard told ABC News at the time that inclusivity is something that he focused since becoming speaker in 2017. "When I became speaker, I made it clear that I wanted the parliament to be much more family-friendly than it had been," he said.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Wind chills plunging in the South from Raleigh to Tallahassee, Northwest braces for more rain

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A bitter cold is gripping the South with states from Florida to Georgia experiencing wind chills in the 30s.

The wind chill -- what temperature it feels like -- plunged Tuesday morning to 24 degrees in Raleigh and 31 degrees in Atlanta, Charleston and Montgomery.

A freeze warning has been issued as far south as Tallahassee, where the actual temperature fell to 30 degrees.

The wind chill dropped Tuesday morning to 15 degrees in Boston and 25 degrees in New York City.

Milder air will thaw the East Coast by Wednesday and Thursday. Temperatures are expected to reach the middle to upper 50s for Boston and New York City and near 60 degrees in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, more heavy rain is expected for Washington state and Oregon, where some areas could see 3 to 6 inches over the next few days.

Two weeks ago, over 1 foot of rain pummeled the Pacific Northwest within days, bringing rivers into major flood stages and flooding roads and neighborhoods.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Former officer Kim Potter set to go on trial in death of Daunte Wright

Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Jury selection in the case of the former Brooklyn Center, Minnesota police officer charged with killing a Black man during a traffic stop earlier this year, is set to begin Tuesday -- a high-profile incident that was captured on video and sparked a new wave of protests.

Kim Potter, who is white, has been charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, which happened just outside of Minneapolis during the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd.

Floyd's death prompted a national conversation concerning race and policing -- and Wright's death reignited protests across the country against racism and abuse of force.

While the defense team has argued Wright's death was an accident -- Potter grabbing her gun instead of Taser -- prosecutors say the veteran training officer should not have been reaching for her stun gun in the first place.

In a statement to ABC News, Wright's family described him as a young father who "had a whole life ahead of him."

"We just want people to know Daunte was a good kid," Wright's family said in the statement. "He loved being a father to Daunte Jr."

"Daunte had a smile to make anyone's heart melt. He was definitely a jokester, he loved to joke with people, especially his brothers and sisters," the family added. "He did not deserve this."

Wright's mother, Katie, thanked the community in a Monday press conference for the support as she and family members prepare for the trial.

"Everybody who's been there for us, standing with us, on one of the worst days of our life, one of the worst months going forward of our life, we really thank you and we appreciate this," she said.

A traffic stop turns deadly

On April 11, Wright was driving in Brooklyn Center, about 10 miles northwest of Minneapolis, when he was stopped by police. The officers initially pulled him over for an expired registration tag on his car but determined that he had an outstanding warrant for a gross misdemeanor weapons charge, according to former Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon.

The warrant was filed in April against Wright for carrying or possessing a pistol without a permit and fleeing a police officer, according to Hennepin County District Court records. Officers told Wright he was being arrested for the outstanding warrant.

Wright followed orders to get out of the car and the officers attempted to take him into custody. But Wright resisted arrest and freed himself and got back into his car, according to the video.

After that, the officers and Wright appeared to scuffle, with Wright in the driver's seat and Potter warning Wright several times that she would "tase" him.

But instead of her stun gun, she had drawn her firearm and shot him once in the chest before he drove off, traveling several blocks before his car crashed into another vehicle, according to Gannon. Officers and medical personnel "attempted life-saving measures" on Wright, Gannon said, but he died at the scene.

Wright drove off, traveling several blocks before his car crashed into another vehicle, according to Gannon. Officers and medical personnel "attempted life-saving measures" on Wright, the police chief said, but he died at the scene.

The shooting appeared to surprise Potter, who can be heard on the police body camera footage saying, "Holy s---, I just shot him!" and "I'm going to prison."

Gannon said Potter intended to deploy her stun gun instead of her firearm when she "accidentally" shot Wright.

"It is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet," Gannon told reporters in an April 12 press conference. "This appears to me, from what I viewed and the officer's reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright."

Potter is a 26-year BCPD veteran, former union president, and was serving as a field training officer at the time of the incident. She and Gannon resigned two days after the incident, following a resolution from the city council in support of relieving Potter and Gannon of their duties.

"I have loved every minute of being a police officer and serving this community to the best of my ability, but I believe it is in the best interest of the community, the department, and my fellow officers if I resign immediately," Potter wrote in her resignation letter.

Negligence key to manslaughter charge

Potter was initially indicted on a second-degree manslaughter charge, which alleges that she acted with “culpable negligence” in Wright’s death.

The first-degree manslaughter count was later added. Prosecutors say that Potter caused Wright’s death while recklessly handling a gun, causing the death to be reasonably foreseeable.

An intent to kill is not required in either charge.

The maximum sentence for first-degree manslaughter is 15 years and a $30,000 fine and for second-degree manslaughter, it's 10 years and a $20,000 fine.

She has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Potter's attorneys argue that because Wright was trying to drive off when he was shot, he is responsible for his own death. Defense attorneys say he could have endangered police officers if Potter had not reacted.

"When told he was about to be 'tased,' he could have stopped, but chose not to," said defense attorney Paul Engh in court documents. "The jury must be told what laws the facts will prove he violated, all in evaluating whether he caused his own tragedy. Mr. Wright’s unreasonable conduct, his own negligence, is for their collective consideration."

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump -- who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and more -- has been retained as the Wright family attorney.

"After 26 years, you would think that you know what side your gun is on and what side your Taser is on," Crump said in an April 13 press conference. "You know the weight of your gun, and you know the weight of the Taser."

Since Wright’s death, the Brooklyn Center City Council approved a proposal from Mayor Mike Elliott to create a new Community Response Department and Civilian Traffic Enforcement Department that would allow civilian employees to respond to non-moving traffic violations and mental health crises.

The new divisions would be composed of medical and mental health professionals, as well as social workers.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Dayton gunman fantasized about mass violence for years: FBI report


(DAYTON, Ohio) -- The suspect who carried out a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, on an early August morning in 2019 had an "enduring fascination with mass violence," the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit concluded in a report released Monday.

Just after 1 a.m. on Aug. 4, 2019, Connor Betts killed nine people and wounded 27 when he opened fire in downtown Dayton.

It was the second mass shooting that weekend, after 23 people were killed at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, the day before.

After a mass shooting or incident, it is typical for the FBI to use its Behavioral Analysis Unit to try and determine a motive or find other factors at play when an attacker carries out an incident.

The FBI concluded in its report that Betts "likely violated federal law" by lying to federal investigators about his drug use when he purchased the gun used in the attack.

The agency also concluded that Betts likely suffered from mental illness.

"The FBI’s BAU assessed the attacker’s enduring fascination with mass violence and his inability to cope with a convergence of personal factors, to include a decade-long struggle with multiple mental health stressors and the successive loss of significant stabilizing anchors experienced prior to August 4, 2019, likely were the primary contributors to the timing and finality of his decision to commit a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio," the report stated.

There were no specific warnings that Betts would one day commit a crime, the FBI said, despite having "suicidal and violent fantasies" for over a decade.

"This underscores the importance of bystanders’ attentiveness to more subtle changes an individual may exhibit that could be indicative of their decision to commit violence, such as a change in personal circumstances, an increase in perceived stressors, or language indicating they may be contemplating suicide," the FBI said.

One reason that family and friends did not alert authorities about Betts was potentially because of "bystander fatigue," according to the report. Bystander fatigue occurs when people around the suspect don't pay attention or take any action "due to their prolonged exposure to the person’s erratic or otherwise troubling behavior over time," according to the Behavioral Analysis Unit.

The special agent in charge of the FBI's Cincinnati field office said there were some technical issues with the investigation that made it harder to get to the bottom of what happened.

"Finding answers for the victims and their families has been a driving motivator each day," FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge J. William Rivers said in a statement.

"From the start, this has been a thorough and deliberate investigation. Due to technical challenges accessing lawfully acquired evidence that was encrypted, this investigation has taken significantly longer than expected," he said. "However, we are confident that it has uncovered the key facts and that we have done everything in our ability to provide answers to all those impacted by this horrible attack."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Merriam-Webster chooses 'vaccine' as its 2021 word of the year

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- "The biggest science event of the year quickly became the biggest political debate in our country, and the word at the center of both stories is vaccine," Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, said in a press release. "Few words can express so much about one moment in time."

The selection, which is based on search volume, comes as more than 196 million Americans are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. The dictionary publishing company said in a press release Monday that even though the choice may be seen as "obvious," data from its website's search history paints a more complicated picture.

“Vaccine lookups increased 600%, and the story is about much more than medicine,” Sokolowski said in the press release. “It was at the center of debates about personal choice, political affiliation, professional regulations, school safety, healthcare inequity, and so much more."

Sokolowski told ABC News on Monday that there was already increased search for vaccines coming into the year, as the first shots were administered in late 2020. Those searches continued in 2021, spiking in early summer and fall.

The dictionary publisher also expanded its definition of vaccine to include scientific advances in how vaccines work, adding information about the use of mRNA technology.

"Insurrection" was a notable runner-up as searches for the term spiked following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Sokolowski told ABC News that there was a 61,000% increase in searches for the word following the attack.

Another contender was "infrastructure," which spiked in April as President Joe Biden made his pitch for a more than $2 trillion package investing in infrastructure.

Other words related to pop culture and lifestyle also trended, including "nomad," which spiked after "Nomadland" swept the Oscars in April. The word "cicada" increased by 1,442% in May as Brood X emerged in the Northeast, with millions of the insects making their noisy entrances.

Sokolowski said some of 2021's most popular words, like vaccine, may already be in the vocabulary of the average American and that the interest in the words may have "nothing to do with the spelling of vaccine, but it has a lot to do with our understanding of vaccines."

"I'm betting most of the words that you look up in a given day are words that you have encountered before," Sokolowski told ABC News. "Looking up a word isn't the signal of ignorance, it's the opposite of ignorance. It means that you want to know more nuanced, more specific knowledge"

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

First lady Jill Biden unveils White House holiday decorations

Alex Wong/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Jill Biden unveiled the White House holiday decorations on Monday and announced her theme for the 2021 season as "Gifts from the Heart," intended to honor those who have preserved through hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The things we hold sacred unite us and transcend distance, time, and even the constraints of a pandemic: faith, family, and friendship; a love of the arts, learning, and nature; gratitude, service, and community; unity and peace. These are the gifts that tie together the heart strings of our lives. These are the Gifts from the Heart," the Bidens wrote in a letter explaining the theme for a commemorative White House Holiday Guide.

"As we celebrate our first holiday season in the White House, we are inspired by the Americans we have met across the country, time and again reminding us that our differences are precious and our similarities infinite," the first lady and president said. "We wish you a happy, healthy, and joyous holiday season. As we look to a new year full of possibility, may gifts from the heart light our path forward."

It took approximately 25 wreaths, 41 Christmas trees, 300 candles, 6,000 feet of ribbon, 10,000 ornaments and nearly 80,000-holiday lights to spruce up the White House for the holiday season. More than 100 volunteers worked on the decorations, according to the office of the first lady. While volunteers in the past have come from around the country, they were limited to surrounding areas this year due to the COVID-19 concerns.

Officials said the theme is represented in every room "with sort of an element of another theme, a sub-theme, if you will."

Inside the Blue Room, which represents the "Gift of Peace and Unity," stands the official White House Christmas tree. The room's iconic chandelier was temporarily removed to display the 18.5-foot Fraser fir from Jefferson, North Carolina, which the first lady welcomed last week.

"Cascading down the tree, peace doves carry a shimmering banner embossed with the names of each state and territory of the United States, reminding us all of the importance of unity and national harmony," the White House said.

Photos of the Trumps, Obamas, both Bushes, Reagans and Carters also hang on the tree, in addition to pictures of the Bidens, their kids, grandkids and dogs, Champ and Major.

Inside the State Dining Room, Christmas stockings hang above the fireplace mantel for each of the Biden grandchildren, marked with their names.

The Gingerbread White House, which the White House said was "inspired by our gratitude and admiration for our Nation's frontline workers who kept our country running through the global pandemic, often at great risk to themselves and their families," honors nurses, doctors, postal and grocery store workers, to name a few, and is complete with a gingerbread school teacher, illustrative of the first lady who is a longtime community college professor, smiling and standing next to a gingerbread schoolhouse.

Also on display is the Bidens' Christmas card, signed "Joe" and "Jill," which includes a remembrance for those who lost their lives this year to COVID-19.

A drawing of a candle on the back of the card includes the words, "In remembrance of all Americans who lost their lives to COVID-19 and in recognition of essential and frontline workers, first responders, and our service members and their families."

As she did when she welcomed the White House Christmas tree last week, the first lady was joined again Monday afternoon by the National Guard family -- the Harrells -- to honor those spending the holiday season apart.

To that end, a Gold Star Tree honoring service members who have died in the line of duty, as well as their families who carry on their legacies, is on display at the East landing.

The first lady hosted a second-grade class from an elementary school in Maryland to help her unveil the decorations on Monday.

The kids sported masks and wrist bands to indicate they have been COVID-19 tested, and the first lady read her 2012 children's book, "Don't Forget, God Bless our Troops." PBS Kids held a holiday puppet show to mark the festive occasion, and the children appeared starstruck at a performance by the Kraft Brothers.

She also thanked volunteers who decorated the home for the holidays in brief remarks.

"When the pandemic keeps us apart -- like I know how tough this year has been really struggling to get by -- or we feel like the weight of our lives is just too heavy to carry, these constants remind us that they feel us and lift our eyes to the future," she said of the theme.

"For all of our differences, we are united by what really matters like points on a star we come together at the heart. That is what I wanted to reflect in our White House this year," Biden added, blowing a kiss to the volunteers.

Earlier, inside the East Wing, the president's own U.S. Marine Corps band played an assortment of holiday tunes amid an assortment of large, red packages.

The planning for holiday decorations started in late May, and the first lady was "very involved" in the process, according to her communications director Elizabeth Alexander.

Social secretary Carlos Elizondo said the White House didn't have too many problems with the supply chain, "but there were some items that were backed up," like some of the topiaries, he said.

With public tours on pause due to the pandemic, the White House said to stay tuned for interactive ways to view the decorations on social media and other platforms.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.