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Ex-Minneapolis police officer to be sentenced for fatal shooting of Australian woman

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Kuzma/iStock(MINNEAPOLIS) — Former Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor is set to be sentenced Friday morning for the fatal 2017 shooting of an Australian woman who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault in an alley behind her home.

When police arrived at the scene, the woman, Justine Ruszczyk Damond, approached the driver’s side of the squad car, according to prosecutors.

Noor, who was in the passenger seat of the squad car, shot her through the open window on the driver’s side, prosecutors said.

There was no evidence of a threat when Noor fired the shot, according to prosecutors.

In April, Noor, 33, was found guilty of third-degree murder and manslaughter. He was found not guilty second-degree murder.

Noor, a two-year veteran at the time of the shooting, had pleaded not guilty to the charges. During the trial, his attorney maintained that he’d “acted as he has been trained” and that he should “not have been charged with any crime.” Prosecutors argued that the former officer had abused his authority to use deadly force.

Noor could face prison or probation, according to The Star Tribune.

On July 15, 2017, Damond called 911 to report that a woman sounded distressed, according to a criminal complaint.

“I think she just yelled out ‘Help,’ but it’s difficult. The sound has been going on for a little while but I think, I don’t think she’s enjoying it. … I don’t know,” Damond tells the dispatcher in the first 911 call.

She later makes a second 911 call, inquiring about the whereabouts of the officers who’ve been sent to investigate.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Heavy rain, flash flooding threatens Southeast over weekend

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ABC News(NEW YORK) — Heavy rain and severe weather pounded parts of the Southern Plains and Deep South on Thursday, with eight reported tornadoes in three states: Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama.

Also, very heavy rain fell in a short period of time from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Oklahoma City and to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, prompting multiple water rescues. Tulsa received more than 4 inches of rain in three hours, while Baton Rouge saw 4 to 5 inches in a matter of hours as well.

There are five states under flood alerts from Kansas to Alabama on Friday.

The storm system and all the tropical moisture will move into the Southeast on Friday and into the weekend, producing copious amounts of rain from Florida to the Carolinas.

Some areas could see more than a half an inch of rain.

Severe weather will be found Friday in the Northern Plains, including the Dakotas and west to Montana and Wyoming, where damaging winds and large hail are the biggest threats. There is an isolated chance for tornadoes as well.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

School officials 'exploring' possibility of demolishing Columbine High School

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wellesenterprises/iStock(LITTLETON, Colo.) — Colorado school officials say they are “exploring the concept” of demolishing Columbine High School, the site of one of the nation’s most notorious school shootings, and building anew.

Two students opened fire at the high school in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999, gunning down 12 of their fellow students and one teacher before killing themselves. The massacre preceded a wave of school shootings to come, including those at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“The tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999 serves as a point of origin for this contagion of school shootings,” Jason Glass, superintendent of the encompassing school district, Jeffco Public Schools, said in an open letter to the community on Thursday. “School shooters refer to and study the Columbine shooting as a macabre source of inspiration and motivation.”

In the letter, Glass posits, “In 1999, no guidance existed on what to do with a building such as Columbine High School. Today school safety experts recommend tearing down buildings where school shootings take place. Since the morbid fascination with Columbine has been increasing over the years, rather than dissipating, we believe it is time for our community to consider this option for the existing Columbine building.”

The superintendent also makes reference in the letter to Sol Pais, an 18-year-old woman from Florida who was allegedly obsessed with the Columbine shooting. In April, Pais traveled to Colorado with a shotgun and ammunition, and threatened schools in the Denver area before killing herself.

“Columbine High School has a gravitational-pull for these sorts of individuals,” he said, noting that local law enforcement and the Jeffco Public Schools Department of School Safety make contacts with “hundreds of individuals” every year seeking to enter Columbine High School and “reconnect with the 1999 murders.”

“Most of them are there to satisfy curiosity or a macabre, but harmless, interest in the school,” Glass added. “For a small group of others, there is a potential intent to do harm.”

Columbine High School is now among the safest schools in the country, boasting a “sophisticated system” of surveillance and security protection, according to Glass. But the building’s blood-stained history remains.

“The school site continues to serve as a source of inspiration for potential school shooters, and its lasting impact only seems to be growing,” Glass said. “Perhaps influenced by the 20th anniversary of the shooting, over the past 11 months the number of people trying to enter the school illegally or otherwise trespassing on school property has been increasing – now to record levels.”

A $15 million renovation and expansion of the current school was approved by voters last year. But the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education and administration are exploring the possibility of asking voters for an additional $60 to $70 million to build a new building, according to the superintendent.

Some of the ideas Glass said they are considering include demolishing the existing building and replacing it with fields and controlled entry points, and constructing the new school just west of the current location with enhanced safety features.

“We are in the very preliminary and exploratory stages of these conversations,” he said, “and we are seeking community feedback and thoughts on this proposal.”

Sandy Hook Elementary School in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, was torn down after Adam Lanza killed 20 students and six teachers in December 2012. There has also been discussion of tearing down Building 12, where the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, took place in February 2018.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Baltimore police sergeant arrested after allegedly lying about assault

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Baltimore Police Department(BALTIMORE) — Baltimore police announced the arrest of one of their own on Thursday after reviewing officer-worn body cam footage painting a very different picture than what one of their senior officers reported.

Sgt. Ethan Newberg was charged with second-degree assault, misconduct and false imprisonment for allegedly attacking a man who did nothing wrong. The charges came after officials reviewed footage from his body-worn camera of an arrest earlier this week conducted by Newberg.

According to officials, Newberg, a 24-year veteran with the department, was running a warrant check and claimed a second man at the scene “challenged him and became combative and aggressive.”

“The body worn camera that I reviewed tells a much different story,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said at a press conference Thursday. “It shows the man speaking to Sgt. Newberg and walking calmly away after offering his opinion that Sgt. Newberg should have not placed the suspect on a wet sidewalk.”

In a video Harrison called “disturbing,” he said Newberg is seen chasing and grabbing the subject while another officer tackled the subject to the ground and placed him in handcuffs.

Officials have not yet released the video. The other officer has not been charged.

“From what I saw, he did nothing to provoke Sgt. Newberg, whose actions were not just wrong but deeply disturbing and illegal,” Harrison said. “I don’t know how something like this would have been handled in the past, but I knew that as soon as I saw this video I knew how I would be handling it.”

Newberg was also suspended without pay from the police department.

“This behavior cannot and will not be tolerated,” Harrison said. “His behavior will never have a place in this department as long as I’m the police commissioner.”

Newberg was the second-highest paid city employee in 2018, making $243,132, according to city records. The only city employee who made more gross salary was fellow police Sgt. William Harris Jr.

The sergeant was paid over $60,000 more than then-Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh.

He also made more money than Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby — the third-highest paid city employee — who was also at Thursday’s press conference.

“I’m grateful to the new police commissioner that has expeditiously ensured that one standard of justice is applied,” Mosby said. “Although Sgt. Newberg is presumed innocent unless, or until, proven guilty, he will have his day in court.”

Acting Mayor Jack Young, who took over from Pugh when she resigned due to scandal in May, called the officer’s actions “unacceptable, weak and counterproductive.”

“We will not make progress on the crime right until Baltimore’s communities can have their faith restored in the Department,” he said in a statement. “And as long as there are BPD officers who conducting (sic) themselves the way this officer did, we will never restore that trust.”

Harrison said it was “no secret” the Baltimore Police Department has “a lot to do to repair our relationship with our community members” — a reference to a controversy that has embroiled the department in the past year.

Former police Sgt. Keith Gladstone pleaded guilty earlier this week to planting a gun on a person allegedly run over by Sgt. Walter Jenkins, the leader of the department’s now-defunct Gun Trace Task Force in 2014. The same incident led to the suspension of Gladstone and three other unnamed officers.

Jenkins is serving 25 years in prison for a host of crimes committed while leading the gun task force, including robbing citizens, extorting drug dealers and filing false reports, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The commissioner said Newberg’s incident was reported to the department’s new integrity bureau, after which an investigation was initiated and the body cam footage was reviewed.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Police: Minneapolis sees at least 65 overdoses, one fatal, in just nine days

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John Moore/Getty Images(MINNEAPOLIS) — Minneapolis sounded the alarm on the city’s addiction crisis on Thursday, revealing that officers had recently responded to as many as 15 overdoses in a single day — an apparent product of the country’s ongoing opioid epidemic.

Officials with the Minneapolis Police Department said officers responded to 65 overdose cases in the previous nine days leading up to Wednesday, with the majority of the cases occurring in and around the city’s East Phillips neighborhood.

The department said 15 of the cases, including a suspected fatal heroine overdose, came on Sunday. More than half of those calls came within a nine-hour time frame, as cities across the nation face epidemic levels of heroin, synthetic opioid and prescription pill addictions.

As a result, the MPD said it’s boosting coordination efforts and deploying extra resources to known problem areas. Its homicide unit recently added an overdose coordinator position to review the fast-growing number of incoming cases, police said.

“The MPD has increased patrols in the high overdose areas and is continuing our ongoing partnership with the City of Minneapolis Health Department and the State of MN Health Department in raising awareness to drug overdoses,” the department said in a statement.

Minneapolis is one of the many cities battling to keep up as the country struggles with a terrifying number of deadly accidental overdoses.

The odds of dying accidentally from an opioid overdose rose to one in 96 earlier this year, meaning Americans are more likely to die of an overdose than a car crash, according to an analysis from the National Safety Council.

The odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash are one in 103.

Like many cities, Minneapolis said its officers are equipped with Narcan — the emergency overdose reversal drug. The department said officers and had administered the life-saving drug “when applicable.”

“MPD is in constant communication with surrounding agencies regarding overdose trends and patterns in an effort to provide timely information to the public,” the department said.

In light of the “large increase in overdoses in a short period of time,” the department took a moment to remind residents of Steve’s Law — the state’s good Samaritan law.

The law protects people from being charged or prosecuted if they act in good faith while seeking medical treatment for another person experiencing a drug-related overdose.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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