National News

Military helicopter crashes in Mississippi during routine training flight

Kali9/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A military helicopter crashed in northeast Mississippi on Friday afternoon during a routine training flight, according to the Mississippi National Guard.

The AH-64 Apache crashed in Prentiss County around 2 p.m. Possible casualties have not been confirmed, the Mississippi National Guard said in a statement.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Alabama women describe heartbreak over IVF treatments stopping following court ruling on embryos

Carlos Duarte/Getty Images

(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- Since last year, Jasmine York, 34, and her husband have been trying to have a baby. The couple, both nurses, began freezing embryos before they got married in March 2023.

York had her first embryo transfer in August 2023, but the transfer failed, she told ABC News.

Determined to grow their family, the couple tried again, and they are currently undergoing their second round of in-vitro fertilization, or IVF.

But, after the Alabama Supreme Court issued a new decision last week ruling that frozen embryos are considered children, their embryo transfer appointment scheduled for March 20 was canceled by her hospital.

"It's obviously really nerve-racking," York told ABC News. "Where do we go from here? What would happen? We're in the middle of this process, I'm taking medications, I've already purchased all of the medications for the transfer cycle."

"But now, it's just devastating, honestly, that all of that has been put on hold, and we don't know what the next steps will be for us, or if we'll even be able to afford the transfer of them out of state," she continued.

The couple has spent more than $20,000 trying to get pregnant, according to York. They are now in limbo, unsure when they'll be able to get the procedure, and if the money they spent on expensive medication will go to waste.

"We're frustrated. Now, especially that a decision has been made to put everything on pause, I'm sad. I've had my moments of crying throughout the whole day and I'm angry. I'm angry that other people get to make a decision about whether or not I get to grow my family. I'm mad that other people's opinions affect medicine and the practice of it," York said.

"None of this is intentionally going in with an intent to harm a child. This is an attempt to create a child and it's just frustrating and it's sad that it could impact the rest of my life," she said.

Alabama Supreme Court rules frozen embryos are 'children'

News that York's appointment was canceled comes days after the state Supreme Court issued a decision saying that frozen embryos are considered children under Alabama's Wrongful Death of a Minor Act, opening the door to civil -- and potentially even criminal -- lawsuits for destroying the embryos, even if done accidentally.

The decision stemmed from a lawsuit by couples whose embryos were destroyed after a patient wandered into a fertility clinic and dropped the embryos, according to court documents. In order to remain viable, embryos are stored in subzero temperatures and handled with care to avoid contamination. When the embryos were dropped, they were no longer viable and could not be transferred to create a pregnancy.

The couples then brought civil lawsuits against the facility, but a trial court threw out their wrongful death suits.

The Alabama state Supreme Court then reversed that decision late Friday, ruling that embryos are "children."

"Unborn children are 'children' ... without exception based on developmental stage, physical location, or any other ancillary characteristics," the Court wrote in its opinion.

Associate Justice Gregory Cook, who wrote the lone fully dissenting opinion, said it was not the Court's decision who meets the definition of "person" under the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act and that the ruling would have devastating consequences for Alabamians.

"Moreover, there are other significant reasons to be concerned about the main opinion's holding," he wrote. "No court -- anywhere in the country -- has reached the conclusion the main opinion reaches. And, the main opinion's holding almost certainly ends the creation of frozen embryos through in vitro fertilization ("IVF") in Alabama."

Patients see IVF services paused

At least three IVF providers in Alabama have indefinitely paused procedures following the Court's decision, among them being the University of Alabama Birmingham health system, the largest in the state.

Alabama Fertility Specialists and the Center for Reproductive Medicine in Mobile – in southwest Alabama -- announced Thursday they had decided to pause IVF treatments.

Meanwhile, Huntsville Reproductive Medicine, P.C., located in Madison, near the Tennessee border, told ABC News it was still proceeding with IVF treatments but pausing on discarding embryos, whether the embryos "were genetically tested and found to be abnormal or the couple has simply reached their family building goals and don't want to donate their" embryos.

Already a mother to a 13-year-old from a previous marriage, York has since had three ectopic pregnancies, resulting the removal of one her fallopian tubes. York says IVF was her only option to get pregnant.

"I want to go forth with the IVF. The problem is that I don't know what that looks like for us right now. I don't know. If it's something that will be an option for us, because of all of the factors that come into play, with the transfer in the finding of physician and in taking off work, to go do this whole procedure," York said.

Kendall Diebold, 32, a hematology nurse practitioner from Hanceville -- about 40 miles north of Birmingham -- and her husband have been trying to conceive for two years.

They used two rounds of letrozole, a medication that decreases the amount of estrogen in the body to increase the odds of pregnancy. The first round resulted in a pregnancy that ended in miscarriage, the second round was unsuccessful.

The couple also went through two rounds of intrauterine insemination, which were unsuccessful. They were getting ready to begin IVF at UAB in April when the court issued its ruling and UAB shut down its IVF program.

Diebold was at work when her colleague came in and told her the program was being suspended indefinitely.

"I didn't even stick around to hear what she said next, because I left," Diebold said. "One of my best friends, I called her and I said, 'Where are you because I need you to come take care of me right now.' So, she took care of me. We went on a walk, and she quite literally held me while I cried."

Diebold and her husband have discussed potentially going out of state to seek care in Georgia, Kentucky or Tennessee, which she described as a privilege that many other families may not have. She said she's reached out to Emory Healthcare in Atlanta to ask about what the IVF process may look like there.

"I don't want to transfer care because I love my physician so much and after a while you build a rapport with them," she said. "It's doable, but it's likely incredibly challenging, just from a logistical standpoint."

She described not being able to potentially get fertility care in her home state as "frustrating."

"It's stressful when you're already dealing with something that is so emotional, and so, it's absolutely frustrating, overwhelming, scary, all of the things," Diebold said.

'It should be my choice'

Also impacted by the decision are women who currently have embryos in storage and now may not be able to pursue IVF in Alabama or are not able to discard their embryos.

Audrey B, who asked that just the last initial of her name be used to protect her privacy, from north-central Alabama, is currently 31-weeks pregnant via IVF after she and her husband struggled to conceive for about two years.

Audrey, 35, who was being treated at UAB, still has two frozen embryos. She and her husband originally planned to wait a year or two after giving birth to try and transfer a second embryo.

"It just feels like now we do not have any control over our embryos," she told ABC News. "Like, what does that decision do for me? Like, am I going to have to pay for storage for the rest of my life for those embryos if I don't use them?"

"Even if I do want to use them, who is going to transfer them? My fertility clinic, they said they were stopping all IVF programs," she added.

Audrey and her husband have talked about possibly going out of state for IVF in the future but worry about the added cost and travel expenses.

"Can we transfer or should we transfer our embryos out of state?" Audrey said. "And even though we were transferring out of state, what state? Because like are we transferring them to Georgia, which is the neighbor state, but I mean, what tells us that Georgia is not going to pass the same kind of law?"

"So [if] you have to transfer those embryos to states like Colorado, New York ... how much it's going to cost?" she said.

Taylor Cater Durham, 30, who lives in Birmingham is in a similar situation. Cater Durham and her ex-husband went through IVF for two years but were unable to conceive.

During that time, Cater Durham said she had at least two egg retrievals. The first resulted in just one viable embryo, which was transferred but she didn't become pregnant.

The second resulted in eight eggs being retrieved, four of which led to viable embryos that could be transferred. Three were transferred but they didn't result in pregnancy. They still have one embryo left.

"This new law, the [embryos] that they knew were inconclusive and were not viable, it states that we couldn't donate, we couldn't discard them, that we would have to store them or use them," she told ABC News. "And going through IVF is already very, very heartbreaking, and to know that you're going to have to put these embryos in or store them and know they're not going to work. It's just crazy."

Cater Durham said she is paying $850 a year to store her last embryo and is worried that the price could potentially increase with all the embryos that will now have to be stored due to so many clinics stopping IVF procedures.

She added that she was not planning to discard her last embryo but she's angry that the court took that choice away from her.

"It should be the patient's choice," Cater Durham said. "I'm not ready to get rid of that embryo yet [but] I feel like it should be my choice if I want to keep it, donate it, discard it. Whatever I decide I want to do, it should be my choice, not the state of Alabama's."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Suspect in University of Colorado dorm murders had AK-47-style assault rifle when arrested: Prosecutors

Mint Images/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A student at the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs who is accused of gunning down two people in a dorm room had an AK-47-style assault rifle and a handgun in his car when he was arrested, according to prosecutors.

Nicholas Jordan was arrested on Monday and charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of his roommate, Samuel Knopp, and Celie Rain Montgomery, who were found shot dead on Feb. 16, according to the Colorado Springs police.

Knopp, 24, was a registered student at the school while Montgomery, 26, was not currently registered, police said.

Prosecutors described Jordan, 25, as a relatively new student in the process of withdrawing from UCCS.

A motive for the murders is not clear.

As Jordan appeared in court in person for the first time on Friday, the judge ruled the arrest warrant and affidavit to be unsealed.

A status conference has been scheduled for March 15.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Black farmer looks to rethink stigma of picking cotton

Kelli Merrick/500px/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Old images of African Americans picking cotton remind many of the oppression suffered by generations of Black slaves before the Emancipation Proclamation. For Black Americans in particular, their history with this famous crop, that helps clothe the world, is complicated.

Now Julius Tillery, a Black cotton farmer in North Carolina, is working to turn cotton’s painful story with Black Americans into an affirmation of the economic progress that his community has achieved over the years.

“If I don't create a new history for us, it will always be a bad history,” Tillery told ABC News. “So I think it's really important that the work I do to help and foster a better idea around cotton is important. We have to remember, cotton wasn't the oppressive thing. Cotton is just a plant, and it's a magical plant at that. It was people that were oppressive and made us work like machines.”

Tillery owns several hundred acres of farmland and has been teaching other farmers how to survive in a global economy.

The 37-year-old said it is important for him to see the Black farming community grow.

"It's not many of us. We're basically... extinct," he said. "It's less than 100 Black cotton farmers in the whole country."

Outside of his advocacy, Tillery started a side business, Black Cotton, in 2016. He promotes other cotton farmers across the South. The business has created and sold home décor, jewelry, and accessories handmade with cotton. The tagline for the company is: Cotton is Our Culture. Let's Grow Together.

The company also has partnered with shoemaker and clothing line Vans, which purchased 10,000 pounds of cotton from Black Cotton two years ago. Vans produces streetwear, including a T-shirt with a cotton flower logo that uses cotton from the company.

Vans said it plans to buy more cotton from Black Cotton this year.

Tillery said that he sometimes gets remarks from people who wonder how, as a Black man, he could be a cotton farmer. He said that he sees his work as a way for the community to grow.

"I'm a fifth-generation cotton farmer, and I emphasize that because that means five generations of free men decided to do this work," he said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Foul play suspected after woman who went for a run on university campus found dead: School

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

(ATHENS, Ga.) -- Foul play is suspected after a woman who went for a run on the University of Georgia's Athens campus was found dead Thursday, school officials said.

The victim has been identified as 22-year-old Laken Hope Riley, the University of Georgia and the Athens-Clarke County coroner confirmed to ABC News.

A friend reported Riley missing shortly after noon when she failed to return home from a run at the school's intramural fields earlier that morning, the university said.

University police officers subsequently found her in a wooded area behind a lake near the fields "unconscious and not breathing" with "visible injuries," the university said. Officers attempted to provide medical aid but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Her cause and manner of death have not been disclosed.

Riley was a student at the Augusta University College of Nursing, the school said. She had previously attended the University of Georgia.

"The receipt of this news this afternoon was shocking to all of us," the Augusta University College of Nursing said in a statement Thursday.

Classes have been canceled at the nursing school on Friday, with counselors available to staff and students.

There is no suspect in custody, University of Georgia Police Department Chief Jeffrey Clark told reporters during a press briefing Thursday evening.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Athens-Clarke County Police Department are assisting in an investigation into the death, the university said.

"We have been fully briefed on this terrible situation," the university said in a statement. "We want to assure you that the safety and welfare of our campus community is our top concern."

The incident follows the "sudden death" of a student in the campus' Brumby Hall Wednesday night, the school said. A cause of death has not been released.

Clark said there is no connection between the two deaths.

Classes have been canceled Friday and will resume on Monday, the school said, calling the past 24 hours a "traumatic time" for the university.

University officials recommended that students travel in groups when possible and download the school's safety app.

Clark urged the school community to avoid the general area where the victim was found amid the ongoing investigation.

"We're not gonna leave any rock unturned on this investigation," Clark said. "We will follow all leads."

There is no immediate danger to the public at this time, he said.

There has not been a homicide on the campus in the past 20 years, according to Clark.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Three University of Wyoming swimmers killed in car crash

PBNJ Productions/Getty Images

(NEW YORK)  -- Three members of the University of Wyoming swimming and diving team have died in a single-vehicle crash, according to the school.

The accident happened on U.S. Highway 287, about 10 miles south of the Wyoming-Colorado border Thursday afternoon, according to the University of Wyoming. Two other members of the men's swimming and diving team were injured in the crash but their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

The crash happened between Livermore and Virginia Dale, Colorado, at the intersection of Highway 287 and Red Mountain Road, according to reports from the Colorado State Patrol.

Authorities are still investigating what led up to the accident, but Initial indications are that the driver swerved and the vehicle went off the road, causing it to roll multiple times.

"We are heartsick at the news of this terrible tragedy for our university, our state, our student-athlete community and, most importantly, the families and friends of these young people," University of Wyoming President Ed Seidel said in a statement released by the school following the accident. "Words are insufficient to express our sadness."

The university is not releasing their names until next of kin are notified.

"My thoughts and prayers are with our swimming and diving student-athletes, coaches, families and friends," University of Wyoming Director of Athletics Tom Burman said. "It is difficult to lose members of our University of Wyoming family, and we mourn the loss of these student-athletes. We have counseling services available to our student-athletes and coaches in our time of need."

The accident is currently under investigation and more details are expected to be released at a later time.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump files several motions to dismiss his classified documents case

Former President Donald Trump leaves the courtroom on the third day of his civil fraud trial at New York State Supreme Court on Oct. 4, 2023, in New York. -- Spencer Platt/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump's legal team on Thursday filed a series of motions to dismiss the classified documents case brought by special counsel Jack Smith.

The four motions argue that the case should be dismissed on the grounds of presidential immunity; that Smith's appointment as special counsel was unlawful; that Smith charged Trump with statutes that shouldn't apply to the former president's behavior based on an unclear precedent in the Constitution; and that Trump should have been able to have custody of the documents in question, even after he was president, because of the Presidential Records Act.

The filings came as Trump's team faced a deadline Thursday to file motions to dismiss.

Trump pleaded not guilty last June to 37 criminal counts related to his handling of classified materials, after prosecutors said he repeatedly refused to return hundreds of documents containing classified information ranging from U.S. nuclear secrets to the nation's defense capabilities, and took steps to thwart the government's efforts to get the documents back.

His longtime aide, Walt Nauta, also pleaded not guilty to related charges.

A superseding indictment subsequently charged Trump, Nauta, and Carlos De Oliveira, the head of maintenance at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, with two obstruction counts based on allegations that the defendants attempted to delete surveillance video footage at Mar-a-Lago in the summer of 2022.

Trump has denied all charges and denounced the probe as a political witch hunt.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Texas county issues disaster declaration ahead of April total solar eclipse

Edwin Remsberg/Getty Images

(KILLEEN, Texas) -- A small county in Texas is bracing for a state of emergency when hundreds of thousands of skywatchers are expected to flock to the South for the total solar eclipse in April.

Bell County Judge David Blackburn issued a local disaster declaration this week, ahead of the April 8 natural phenomenon, saying the county's population of 400,000 residents is expected to double in tourists.

The declaration allows Bell County to coordinate with the state's Department of Emergency Management if needed on eclipse day.

"In order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of both residents and visitors, Bell County has determined that extraordinary measures must be taken in the form of a local disaster declaration," the county said in a press release Wednesday.

Bell County is expecting the influx of eclipse viewers in the area to cause traffic congestion, shortages of food and fuel and cellular network congestion, according to the release.

The declaration also requires property owners planning to host events with over 50 attendees to register with the county to ensure proper "life safety and critical infrastructure" is in place.

"Registering information will provide public safety officials and first responders with important information that will aid them during this period when roads and highways may be stressed, and responders may be impeded by population conditions," the release notes.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth and, for a short time, completely blocks the face of the sun, according to NASA.

In the U.S., the path of totality begins in Texas and will travel through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Small parts of Tennessee and Michigan will also experience the total solar eclipse, the agency reports.

April's total solar eclipse will be the last of its kind to occur in North America for 20 years and is expected to be the largest mass travel event in 2024, Michael Zeiler, expert solar eclipse cartographer, told ABC News.

Zeiler compared eclipse day travel to "50 simultaneous Super Bowls across the nation," saying 4 million people are estimated to travel to view the eclipse.

"When you look at the number of people expected to come to the path of totality for the solar eclipse, we estimate those numbers are roughly the equivalent of 50 simultaneous Super Bowls across the nation, from Texas to Maine," he said.

Zeiler said Texas is a prime place for eclipse chasers to head to because it is located in the path of totality and has the best chances for clear skies on eclipse day.

"You want to be in the center of the path for the longest duration," Zeiler explained. "If you have a friend or relative in the path in Texas, and there are 12 million Texans inside the path, that's the spot to go because that's where the best weather prospects are."

Zeiler explained how eclipse travel should be celebrated, despite the hazard of heavy tourism, "All of us are united in pursuing the unimaginable beauty of a total solar eclipse."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg slams Arizona prosecutor who won't extradite murder suspect: 'Political games'

Surprise Police Department

(NEW YORK) -- Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg criticized his Maricopa County, Arizona, counterpart who doesn't want to extradite a New York City murder suspect, saying she's playing "political games in a murder case."

Raad Almansoori, 26, is in custody in Arizona, where he is charged in two stabbings. He is also the suspect in the death of Denisse Oleas-Arancibia, 38, who was found beaten and strangled at New York's SoHo 54 Hotel earlier this month.

Bragg said he learned from Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell's Wednesday news conference that Mitchell would not extradite Almansoori.

"Her reasoning?" Bragg said at a news conference Thursday. "Not because that's what the law dictates. Not because that's what advances justice. Not because of a concern for victims. Not at the request of the NYPD. But rather, plain and simple, old-fashioned grandstanding and politics."

"That should have no place in our profession," Bragg said. "It is deeply disturbing to me that a member of my profession ... would choose to play political games in a murder case."

Mitchell said at her news conference Wednesday that she would not agree to send Almansoori to New York.

"Having observed the treatment of violent criminals in the New York area by the Manhattan DA there, Alvin Bragg," Mitchell said, "I think it's safer to keep him here and keep him in custody, so that he cannot be doing this to individuals either in our state or county, or anywhere in the United States."

Mitchell "professes concern that a murder suspect in Manhattan would be released?" Bragg responded at his news conference. "I do not know what they do in Arizona, but I know that here in this county, New York County, we routinely seek and get remand ... in our murder cases."

Bragg said shootings in Manhattan decreased by 38% and homicides have dropped 24% during his two years as DA.

He stressed that New York City's murder rate is less than half Phoenix's rate.

Almansoori is facing charges of attempted homicide, theft of means and aggravated assault in Surprise, Arizona, and robbery, assault, theft and criminal damage in Phoenix, police said. He is being held without bond.

The Arizona and New York crimes are both important, Bragg said, but he slammed Mitchell for not calling him to speak about the cases and instead holding a news conference.

Moving forward, Bragg said he hopes to have "regular, professional conversations" about Almansoori's extradition.

If Almansoori agrees to be extradited to New York, "it's a moot issue," Bragg said, but if he does not agree to be extradited, Bragg said his office would likely prepare an extradition package.

Bragg said that extradition package would be reviewed by the governor, not a local prosecutor.

"This is not the Maricopa County attorney's decision, and I'm hoping that facts, law, justice and reason will prevail," he said.

Almansoori was arrested in Arizona on Feb. 18 after he allegedly stabbed a woman and stole a car, authorities said. While in custody, Almansoori allegedly indicated to police that he was involved in another stabbing in Arizona, a deadly attack in New York City and an attack in Florida, authorities said.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky and Alex Stone contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


2 more Alabama clinics pause IVF fertility treatment after court ruling

Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

(MOBILE, Ala.) -- Two Alabama fertility clinics announced they will stop providing in vitro fertilization treatment days after the state's Supreme Court issued a decision that said frozen embryos are considered children in the state.

Alabama Fertility Specialists and the Center for Reproductive Medicine in Mobile, Alabama, have each decided to pause treatments, they announced Thursday.

"We have made the impossibly difficult decision to hold new IVF treatments due to the legal risk to our clinic and our embryologists," Alabama Fertility Specialists said in a statement. "We are contacting patients that will be affected today to find solutions for them and we are working as hard as we can to alert our legislators as to the far reaching negative impact of this ruling on the women of Alabama."

Alabama Fertility Specialists vowed not to close its doors and said it will "continue to fight for our patients and the families of Alabama."

"At a time when we feel so powerless, advocacy and awareness is our strongest tools. Check back in later today for links to advocacy opportunities," the group said in a statement.

Dr. Mamie McLean, an infertility specialist at Alabama Fertility Specialists in Birmingham, Alabama, told "Good Morning America" earlier this week that the court's historic ruling could impact the future of in vitro fertilization treatments for those trying to access fertility treatments, adding that for her, the ruling left more open questions than answers.

"We're concerned that this ruling has far-reaching consequences for what we feel is safe to freeze and safe to discard," McLean said.

The Center for Reproductive Medicine said they had "no choice but to pause IVF treatments for patients."

"We understand the burden this places on deserving families who want to bring babies into this world and who have no alternative options for conceiving," Mark Nix, president and chief executive officer of Infirmary Health, said in a statement.

The court ruling opened the door to individuals being held civilly -- and potentially criminally -- liable for the destruction of embryos.

The decision stemmed from a lawsuit brought by couples who alleged that a patient managed to "wander" into a fertility clinic through an unsecured door, removing several embryos and dropping them to the floor.

The couples whose embryos were destroyed tried to bring a wrongful death suit against the facility but a lower court threw out the lawsuits. The Alabama state Supreme Court then reversed the lower court decision and deemed frozen embryos are children.

Alabama Fertility Specialists and Center for Reproductive Medicine in Mobile, Alabama, join the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, which paused IVF treatment earlier this week.

"We must evaluate the potential that our patients and our physicians could be prosecuted criminally or face punitive damages for following the standard of care for IVF treatments. We want to reiterate that it is IVF treatment that is paused. Everything through egg retrieval remains in place. Egg fertilization and embryo development is paused," the University of Alabama at Birmingham said in a statement.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


'Disgusting': MLK monument vandalized in Denver park during Black History Month

KMGH

(DENVER) -- A monument honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., created by the nation's first African American NASA astronaut candidate, was vandalized in a Denver park this week by perpetrators who pried off a large bronze plaque and other pieces from the statue's pedestal, authorities said.

The damage to the "I Have a Dream" monument in City Park occurred in the middle of Black History Month and was discovered Wednesday morning by a concerned citizen, according to Vern Howard, chairman of the Martin Luther King Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission.

Howard, who was the project manager on the monument, told ABC News Thursday he suspects the vandalism and theft was a "coordinated effort," saying the largest piece taken from the monument was too heavy to have been carried off by a single individual.

He said that while some people he has spoken to about the incident believe the parts were taken to be sold on the black market, he suspects the crime was racially motivated.

"I believe that it was more sinister than what may meet the eye," said Howard.

Howard said Denver is full of bronze art, including five other bronze statues in City Park that would have been easier to steal.

"The Dr. King monument is lit at night, the lights are on. And the Dr. King monument is also on the main thoroughfare as you go through the park," Howard said. "Well, guess what? There are other monuments in City Park that are not lit. They are literally in the dark. So, it's a heck of a lot more daring and challenging to go after the Dr. King monument."

The Denver Police Department Bias Motivated Crime Unit has launched an investigation and police are asking for the public's help in catching the culprits.

The city of Denver commissioned sculptor Ed Dwight, the first African American NASA astronaut candidate, to create the monument, which also features bronze statues of Frederick Douglass, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Sojourner Truth.

"Obviously, I'm extremely disappointed. But it was sitting there waiting to be vandalized," the 90-year-old Dwight told ABC News on Thursday, citing the lack of security cameras or other means to protect the monument.

Dwight estimated the large bronze plaque stolen from the monument weighs more than 200 pounds. The plaque depicts African Americans who served in the United States military from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War.

Two smaller bronze pieces pried off and taken from the monument were of a unity torch and choir lady.

"It's one of my big successes in my body of work," said Dwight, who lives in Denver. "It attracts people from all over the world that come here just to see this memorial. So for somebody to come and vandalize it is just disgusting to tell you the truth."

Dwight said the stolen bronze plaque is curved at the same radius as the pedestal and will be difficult to replace because the molds he used to create it no longer exist.

Howard said the entire monument is valued at $3 million and that the swiped plaque is worth about $75,000.

"This will not deter us. We will continue to march. We will continue to seek justice. We will continue to seek love," Howard said.

In late January, a bronze statue of Jackie Robinson, the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers player who broke Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947, was stolen from a park in Wichita, Kansas. The Robinson statue, which had been cut off at the ankles, was later found dismantled and burned in a trash can. A 45-year-old man was arrested and charged with felony theft valued at more than $25,000, aggravated criminal damage to property, identity theft and making false information, according to the Wichita Police Department.

Police said they are "very confident" that the theft of the Robinson statue was not a race-related crime, but that it was stolen for the potential financial value of the metal. Investigators are still trying to identify other individuals involved in the theft.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Odysseus moon landing updates: What to know about 1st commercial moon landing

Intuitive Machines

(HOUSTON) -- A Houston-based company is attempting to make the first-ever commercial moon landing on Thursday, and the first by a U.S.-built spacecraft in more than 50 years.

Intuitive Machines' lander, named Odysseus, launched last week from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and entered lunar orbit on Wednesday.

It will orbit the moon for about one day before beginning its descent and will attempt to soft-land near the south pole at 6:24 p.m. ET, according to NASA. However, video of the landing will be delayed reaching Earth by at least 45 minutes.

The lander is carrying five NASA instruments, including a radio beacon meant to transmit precise geolocation and cameras that capture how the surface of the moon changes from interactions with the engine plume of the spacecraft, as well as commercial cargo.

If the landing is successful, Odysseus -- nicknamed "Odie" by employees -- will have seven days before darkness descends on the landing site, which will prevent the spacecraft's solar panels from gathering energy from sunlight and bringing freezing temperatures.

Intuitive Machines was one of several companies approved by NASA under Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts to build private lunar landers that the federal space agency, among others, would use to send instruments into space.

Steve Altemus, president and CEO of Intuitive Machines, said the company's employees' names are engraved into the footer to permanently stamp their names on the lunar surface.

"I had everyone's name etched on the bottom of the landing gear so that their names will be indelibly printed on the moon when we touch down softly," he told ABC News.

This is the third attempt to land on the moon this year. In early January, the Peregrine lunar lander, built by Astrobotic, developed a critical fuel leak, forcing it to return to Earth and burn upon re-entry.

Meanwhile, Japan launched a rocket to the moon in September 2023 and landed on Jan. 19, becoming the fifth country to do so. However, the lunar lander landed upside down and could not deploy its solar arrays.

"There's reduced gravity There's very little atmosphere, lot of dust, and so the engineers have to speculate how a spacecraft would behave in that type of environment, right? And it doesn't exist here on Earth," Regina Blue, NASA's CLPS deputy program manager, told ABC News, explaining why it's so difficult to land on the moon.

"So they have to spend lots of hours testing and testing and doing more testing and even that, getting into that environment there is a good amount of unpredictability, so that makes it very, very hard," she continued.

These robotic missions are important to explore the moon as NASA and the Canadian Space Agency prepare to send four astronauts to fly around the moon in the upcoming Artemis II mission next year. If the mission is successful, Artemis III -- a moon landing -- is scheduled for 2026.

The Artemis team will be made up of three Americans -- Victor Glover, Christina Hammock Koch, and Reid Wiseman -- and one Canadian, Jeremy Hansen.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


AT&T outage prompts urgent investigation into possible cyberattack: Sources

Karl Tapales/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A network disruption affected AT&T customers in the U.S. Thursday, prompting federal agencies to investigate whether the outage was caused by a cyberattack.

In a statement to ABC News, the company confirmed the outage and advised customers to make calls over Wi-Fi.

“Some of our customers are experiencing wireless service interruptions this morning. We are working urgently to restore service to them. We encourage the use of Wi-Fi calling until service is restored," an AT&T spokesperson said.

Later Thursday afternoon, AT&T issued an update saying that its network had been fully restored.

"We have restored wireless service to all our affected customers. We sincerely apologize to them. Keeping our customers connected remains our top priority, and we are taking steps to ensure our customers do not experience this again in the future," the company said in a message on its website.

Two sources briefed on the situation told ABC News that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS), among other agencies, are now urgently investigating to determine whether the AT&T outages are the result of a cyberattack or a hack, or simply some sort of technical malfunction.

As of 5:00 a.m. ET, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) reported, according to a confidential memo obtained by ABC News, that “the cause of the outage is unknown and there are no indications of malicious activity.” CISA is an agency within DHS tasked with monitoring cyber threats.

The FCC has been in touch with AT&T and conversations are ongoing to figure out what’s causing today’s outages, according to National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby.

This afternoon, Kirby told reporters that DHS and the FBI are looking into the outages as well, and are working with the tech industry and network providers to see what can be done “from a federal perspective to enhance their investigative efforts to figure out what happened here.”

“The bottom line is we don't have all the answers,” he said. “We're working very hard to see if we can get to the ground truth of exactly what happened.”

Several police departments and municipalities warned local residents of what they described as a nationwide outage. In turn, officials urged callers to contact emergency services by alternative means.

"There is a nationwide AT&T outage that is preventing wireless customers from making and receiving any phone calls (including to 9-1-1)," the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, which serves the Charlotte, North Carolina area, said in a post on X.

The county government in Fairfax, Virginia released a similar warning.

"There is a nationwide AT&T outage that is preventing wireless customers from making and receiving any phone calls (including to 9-1-1)," the Fairfax County Government said on X. "Try calling from a landline or ask a friend or family member to call 9-1-1 on your behalf."

In response to an earlier request from ABC News, CISA said they had no comment on the outages.

AT&T serves more than 100 million customers across mobile and broadband services, according to the the company's website.

Verizon and T-Mobile both told ABC News that their respective networks are not experiencing outages but customers may experience difficulty when contacting individuals affected by outages at other providers.

"Verizon's network is operating normally. Some customers experienced issues this morning when calling or texting with customers served by another carrier. We are continuing to monitor the situation," a Verizon spokesperson said.

T-Mobile similarly told ABC News, "We did not experience an outage. Our network is operating normally. Down Detector is likely reflecting challenges our customers were having attempting to connect to users on other networks."

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Judge denies Trump's request to delay enforcement of $355M fraud case penalties

Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a Fox News town hall at the Greenville Convention Center on Feb. 20, 2024 in Greenville, South Carolina. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- The judge in former President Donald Trump's civil fraud case has rejected a request from the defense to delay the enforcement of the penalties in the case.

The defendants had asked Judge Arthur Engoron to delay the enforcement of the penalties by 30 days to allow for an "orderly post-judgment process."

"You have failed to explain, much less justify, any basis for a stay," Engoron wrote in an email posted Thursday to the court docket. "I am confident that the Appellate Division will protect your appellate rights.

Trump last week was ordered to pay a $354.8 million fine plus interest and was barred from leading New York companies for three years.

The defense's request for a delay in the penalties stemmed from a dispute about the case's judgment order, the court document that, at the end of a trial, starts the clock for the penalties in a case. Lawyers for New York Attorney General Letitia James submitted a draft judgment on Tuesday, prompting criticism from Trump's defense lawyer Clifford Robert.

"To deprive Defendants of the opportunity to submit a proposed counter-judgment would be contrary to fundamental fairness and due process," Robert wrote in a letter to the court Wednesday morning.

Later that morning, Engoron requested that Robert submit a written response articulating what would make the defense's judgment different from the proposed order. Robert replied Wednesday afternoon by arguing that the attorney general's judgment broke with standard practice and included at least two errors.

"The Attorney General has not filed any motion on notice, nor moved to settle the proposed Judgment," Robert said in the filing. "Her unseemly rush to memorialize a 'judgment' violates all accepted practice in New York state court."

Citing the "magnitude" of the penalties in the case, Robert requested a stay of penalties by 30 days if Engoron opts to sign the attorney general's proposed judgment.

"Given that the court-appointed monitor continues to be in place, there is no prejudice to the Attorney General in briefly staying enforcement to allow for an orderly post-judgment process, particularly given the magnitude of Judgment," Robert wrote.

In a short letter to Engoron Thursday, state attorney Andrew Amer opposed the request, arguing that Robert failed to justify why an additional delay of 30 days would be necessary and writing that Engoron's decision in the case left "no room for further debate" about the judgment.

"Nor do Defendants provide any basis for staying enforcement of the judgment; indeed, they requested such relief in their post-trial brief, which the Court declined to grant," Amer wrote.

Amer also objected to a change proposed by Robert to move the address of six of Trump's businesses -- which are defendants in the case -- from New York to Florida.

"Finally, the Court should reject Defendants' attempt to change the business address of six entity Defendants to Florida as the record establishes those entities are located in Trump Tower at 725 5th Avenue in New York, the office building in which the executives who carry out the business activities of those entities work," Amer wrote.

Trump was fined $354.8 million plus approximately $100 million in pre-judgment interest last week after Engoron determined that he inflated his net worth to get more favorable loan terms.

The former president has denied all wrongdoing and has said he will appeal.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Missing Virginia Tech student remains a mystery nearly 1 week on: 'This is making sense to no one,' his mom says

Montgomery County Sheriff's Office

(BLACKSBURG, Va.) -- Nearly one week after Virginia Tech student Johnny Roop mysteriously vanished, his mother is desperate for answers, noting that the 20-year-old disappearing "is totally out of his nature."

Authorities believe Roop left the Virginia Tech area on Feb. 16 on his own, and said there's no information leading them to believe he's in immediate danger.

"Our concern now is there's something that we're just not aware of, that mentally may have snapped. And I have no idea what that might be," Roop's mom, Veronica Widener, told ABC News on Thursday. "We just want to locate him and make sure that he's OK."

Widener described her son as a self-motivated, straight-A student. He has an "even-keeled" temperament and is passionate about his Christian faith, she said.

Roop, a senior at Virginia Tech's business school, is set to graduate this May. He completed college in three years and is looking to pursue a career in financial planning, his mom said.

Roop has been friends with his college roommates since childhood. They all grew up in Abingdon, Virginia, about 100 miles away from Virginia Tech, and Widener said her son drove home to visit every few weekends.

Widener said her last communication with Roop was via text on Feb. 14 when they exchanged "Happy Valentine's Day" messages.

She said the night of Feb. 15 was the last time someone physically saw Roop, when he went to a birthday dinner for his roommate with the roommate's parents, and his behavior appeared normal.

That night, the roommates talked about an online exam that was due the next night, and Roop mentioned that he was probably going to drive home on Feb. 16 to complete the exam from Abingdon, Widener said.

The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said investigators believe Roop left the county on his own on the afternoon of Feb. 16, and most likely traveled southwest toward Abingdon.

Surveillance video showed him in the Christiansburg area, which is just a few miles south of his apartment, until about 3:30 p.m., the sheriff's office said.

The university said that at 4:26 p.m., Roop's phone pinged near the New River Valley Mall, which is also near his apartment.

"Based on interviews with friends and family (in addition to video surveillance) it was noted that Mr. Roop's behavior on Friday was not consistent with his normal patterns of behavior; however, information received seems to indicate that he was alone," the sheriff's office said in a statement Tuesday. "We have received no information leading us to believe that he is in immediate danger; however, due to the fact that Mr. Roop appears to be acting outside of his normal behavior we would like to make contact with him to confirm that he is indeed ok."

"This is making sense to no one -- the measures that he's, you know, taken to just, kind of, seemingly disappear," Widener said. "Our concern at this point is whether he would be a danger to himself."

Roop drives a black 2018 Toyota Camry with a sticker of the Virginia Tech flag on the back window, the university said. The car has Virginia license plate number TXW6643.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office at 540-382-4343.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.