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Transgender woman brutally attacked on video last month fatally shot in Dallas

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ChiccoDodiFC/iStock(DALLAS) — A transgender woman seen brutally attacked in a widely circulated video last month was shot to death in Dallas over the weekend.

Muhlaysia Booker, 23, was found “lying face down” on a Dallas road early Saturday morning, police said, adding to a fast-growing number of homicides involving people who identify as transgender.

Officers with the Dallas Police Department said the slaying was the result of “homicidal violence,” but it stopped short of calling it a hate crime.

“We recognize that hate crimes, if you will, are a serious topic,” Assistant Dallas Police Chief Avery Moore said at a press conference Sunday. “We at the Dallas Police Department take them serious.”

A video of Booker drew national attention last month when it circulated online, showing a brutal beating by several men in the parking lot of an apartment complex as a crowd cheered.

She told police that the incident occurred after a minor traffic accident and that the men yelled homophobic and transphobic slurs at her.

Video of the encounter showed a man in a white, long-sleeved T-shirt and white shorts as he ran up to her and threw her down. He then pinned her to the ground and started raining punches on the woman’s head. Several other men joined in the assault, stomping and kicking her as she struggled, until a group of women intervened.

The incident was flagged as a possible hate crime, and police arrested 29-year-old Edward Thomas two days later on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He has since been released on bond.

Booker, who sustained a concussion and a fractured wrist in the gruesome beating, said she was lucky to have survived.

“This has been a rough week for myself, the transgender community and also the city of Dallas,” Booker said an April press conference. “This time, I can stand before you … whereas in other scenarios, we are at a memorial.”

Investigators said there was not enough information to say if her death may have been connected to the April attack. The police department did not offer any information about a potential suspect in the slaying.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who said the video made him “extremely angry,” offered his condolences to Booker’s family and loved ones in the wake of her death.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the murder of Muhlaysia Booker,” he said in a tweet on Sunday. “I call on anyone with information on this homicide to please contact the Dallas Police Department.”

At least 26 transgender people were killed in the U.S. in 2018, with black transgender women targeted the most, according to a statement from the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group.

At least three transgender people have been violently killed so far in 2019, the HRC said.

“As HRC continues to work toward justice and equality for transgender people,” the organization said, “we mourn those we have lost.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Suspected serial rapist arrested in second cold case murder nearly 45 years later

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San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office(PALO ALTO, Calif.) — A former Stanford University employee was arrested in connection to a cold case murder from the 1970s this week, just months after genetic genealogy linked him to another decades-old slaying.

John Arthur Getreu, 74, already was in custody on Thursday when officers with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office charged him with the 1974 murder of 21-year-old Janet Taylor.

Taylor vanished while hitchhiking home from a friend’s house in Palo Alto, California, not far from the Stanford University campus, on March 24, 1974. She was found strangled to death on the side of a nearby highway the next day.

There was no evidence of her being raped, but investigators said the crime appeared to be “sexually motivated.”

“Based upon the evidence that we have — based upon how these investigations the unraveled, based upon his past and everything that we saw — we believe that this was sexually motivated,” Assistant San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Rothaus said at a press conference. “I can’t comment too much on the evidence that caused us to believe that.”

Police said DNA found on the young woman’s clothes led them to Getreu, a convicted rapist police said could be connected to several other murders.

Taylor’s family thanked the detectives for continuing to work on her case so many years later.

“We can’t ever know all that we missed, but whatever she pursued, Janet would have served others with passion and kindness,” the family said in a statement. “We’re grateful today for the diligent, meticulous work of the law enforcement officers whose efforts have resulted in today’s announcement.”

“They’ve done this difficult work with integrity and excellence, and with compassion for our family,” the statement continued.

Rothaus said his office re-initiated the investigation into Taylor’s death last November when authorities in nearby Santa Clara County arrested Getreu in the cold case murder of 21-year-old Leslie Perlov. She was found strangled to death near Stanford in 1973. Police said new DNA and genetic genealogy technology connected Getreu to that crime.

“After the identification of the suspect in the suspect in the Santa Clara County case, our investigators at the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office collected more evidence in the Janet Taylor case and submitted additional items to our crime lab,” Rothaus said. “Through our combined investigation we learned much more about the suspect in this case.”

Rothaus said Getreu, a carpenter who previously worked for Stanford University, had ties to the Palo Alto area around the time when both women were murdered and previously was convicted on rape charges in Santa Clara County. He also was put on trial in 1964 for rape resulting in the death of a 16-year-old girl in Germany, Rothaus said.

Police said Getreu could be responsible for other cold case crimes as well.

“Many of the records on Getreu are old and/or incomplete, so we are still researching his past,” Rothaus said. “We are actively looking into areas where he has lived in the past and communicating with those agencies too.”

Getreu was being held in police custody without bail as of early Monday morning.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Billionaire philanthropist shocks Morehouse grads by promising to pay off loans

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Marcus Ingram/Getty Images(ATLANTA) — While most commencement speakers offer words of encouragement to college graduates headed into the cold and cruel work world, billionaire philanthropist Robert Smith left the class of 2019 at Morehouse University inspired and astonished by his pledge to “put a little fuel in your bus.”

During his keynote graduation address on Sunday at the historically-black, all-male Atlanta college, Smith, the chief executive officer of the San Francisco-based Vista Equity Partners, promised to pay off the student loans of the nearly 400 graduates, a pledge estimated to cost him $40 million.

“On behalf of the eight generations of my family who have been in this country, we’re going to put a little fuel in your bus,” Smith told the 396 graduates in a surprise announcement.

Pointing out the alumni seated in the audience, Smith said, “This is my class, 2019,” and challenged them to follow his lead.

“My family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans,” Smith said.

The pronouncement prompted a jaw-dropping standing ovation from the graduates and their families, and chants of “MVP! MVP!”

But Smith, ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the richest people in America with an estimated net worth of $4.4 billion, said he had one request from the beneficiaries of his generosity.

“Now, I know my class will make sure they pay this forward,” Smith said. “I want my class to look at these alumni, these beautiful Morehouse brothers, and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity going forward.”

Smith, 56, who graduated from Cornell University and Columbia University Business School, received an honorary degree from Morehouse on Sunday. Back in January, he donated $1.5 million to Morehouse to create the Robert Frederick Smith Scholars Program and a park at the school.

Morehouse President David Anthony Thomas told reporters after the graduation that the average Morehouse student leaves school $30,000 or more in debt.

He said he was stunned by Smith’s announcement. He added that he had spoken to Smith on Saturday night about student debt being one of the biggest challenges graduates of Morehouse faced, but he had no idea what Smith was going to do a few hours later.

“To remove that burden allows them to start this phase of their lives with so much more potential than they ever had when they sat down this morning because they can now do anything they want to do and nothing because they have to pay that debt,” Thomas said.

He said that in his 30-plus years in academia, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“Three-hundred-and-ninety-six individuals will have their debt wiped out thanks to Robert F. Smith,” Thomas said.

Graduate John Jacob Burns of New Rochelle, New York, was “amazed” by Smith’s grant, and said he has $35,000 in student loans.

“Even graduating from Morehouse was a tremendous blessing,” Burns told ABC News. “To get all my debt paid off after that…that was like something I couldn’t even imagine.

“Throughout his speech, he talked about a commitment to black people and he obviously demonstrated it at the end of the speech,” Burns, who plans to go to graduate school at the University of Chicago on a full scholarship, said of Smith.

Burns’ father, Carney Burns, who graduated from Morehouse in 1988, said that initially he couldn’t believe what he heard Smith say, and had to ask people all around him if it was true.

“After each person confirmed to me, yes, in fact, what he said is true, it was elation, it was surprise, but most of all it was respect for someone who stepped forward and did such a meaningful act for so many people,” the senior Burns told ABC News.

Graduate Ernest Holmes of Sayreville, New Jersey, said he and his classmates were overwhelmed by Smith’s announcement.

“When he announced that he was going to pay off all our student debt, it was like a brief moment of disbelief and then immediately everyone went into tears, into hugging, into crying together,” Holmes told ABC News, adding that he has $10,000 in student loans.

Holmes, who earned degrees in computer science and mathematics, said he’s already accepted a software engineering job at Google and plans to fulfill Smith’s wish that he and his classmates return his benevolence by paying it forward. He said he plans to be part of the $100,000 club, Morehouse alumni who give back that amount to the school.

“So that’s one of my goals within the next 10 years,” Holmes said.

Smith’s pledge came a month after a Wall Street Journal report showed that the student debt crisis was hitting historically black colleges like Morehouse the hardest.

The report also found that graduates of historically black colleges failed to pay down even $1 of their original student loan balance in the first few years out of school, and that the amount of money parents borrowed in 2017-2018 to put their children through those schools had spiked 33 percent compared to 2000-2001, even when adjusted for inflation.

“This is your moment graduates. Between doubt and destiny is action. Between our community and the American dream is leadership. That’s your leadership. That’s your destiny. This doesn’t mean ignoring injustice. It means using your strength to right order,” Smith told the graduates.

“True wealth comes from contributing to the liberation of people and the liberation of communities we come from depends upon grit and determination, and the greatness inside of you.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Columbine High shooting survivor dies from 'the very disease he fought': Family

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iStock/wellesenterprises(NEW YORK) —  He survived the Columbine High School mass shooting, but a 20-year battle with drug addiction that followed, one that Austin Eubanks had publicly said started with pills given to ease his pain from bullet wounds suffered in the 1999 rampage, has now cost him his life, his family said.

Eubanks, 37, was found dead in his home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, on Saturday morning. While an autopsy is being conducted to determine the cause of death, his family says they already know what killed him.

He “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face,” his family said in a statement.

Routt County Coroner Rob Ryg told ABC affiliate station KMGH-TV in Denver that Eubanks died sometime late Friday or early Saturday. He said no evidence of foul play was found in his home.

Eubanks had seemed to be in recovery from his addiction, speaking to millions of people across the nation about the ravages of opioids and the “emotional pain” he said doctors were failing to treat.

“As you can imagine, we are beyond shocked and saddened,” his family’s statement reads.

On April 20, 1999, Eubanks was in the library at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, with his best friend, Corey DePooter, waiting for other classmates to go to lunch, when teenage gunmen Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, launched what at the time was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history to occur at a high school.

“A teacher ran through the same door that we had just entered, yelling for everybody to get under the tables, that somebody had a gun,” Eubanks recalled in a 2017 Tedx Mile High Talk. “I remember how I felt: I was confused, I was afraid, I felt sick and I was vulnerable. And just minutes later, I was playing dead underneath a table next to a pool of blood. I had just been shot and I witnessed my best friend murdered right in front of me as we were huddled together waiting for help to come.”

Eubanks, then 17, was shot in the hand and leg in the rampage that claimed the lives of 12 students and a teacher, and ended with the gunmen taking their own lives.

“I often think back to my pain that day,” he said in the Tedx Mile High talk. “And if I were to rate it on a pain scale, my physical pain would have been a 3 or a 4, and that was likely the response I offered when I was asked. But my emotional pain was an absolute 10. I was in agony beyond comprehension. But that was never asked, it was never talked about.”

Within an hour after fleeing the library, he was given sedatives in a hospital to relieve his pain.

“I was addicted before I even knew what was happening,” Eubanks said, adding that prior to the day of the attack he had never drank alcohol or smoked marijuana.

In a 2016 interview with KMGH, Eubanks said he didn’t seek help for his addiction until six years after the Columbine attack, and that it was another six years before he got sober.

“I was 29 years old before I found lasting sobriety and I think it took a level of maturity and willingness on my part to do what it takes and, for me, I had to change pretty much everything about my life,” he told KMGH.

In numerous speeches and interviews, Eubanks used his story of survival and recovery to inspire others nationwide.

“I think that it’s really important that — not as survivors of trauma but survivors of addiction — speak out and they share their story,” Eubanks said. “Just because you never know when your story is going to change the life of somebody else.”

Eubanks’ death follows the apparent suicides of two students who survived the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and the apparent suicide of a father whose young daughter was killed in the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012.

Calvin Desir, 16, and Sydney Aiello, 19, who both survived the Parkland shooting that killed 17 people, were found dead within a week of each other in March from apparent suicides, officials said.

On March 25, Jeremy Richman, 49, whose 6-year-old daughter, Avielle, was among the 26 children and educators killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook, apparently took his own life.

Richman appeared last year on ABC News’ “10% Happier” podcast, telling host Dan Harris that losing Avielle was “infinite heartbreak.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Police find 8-year-old girl safe after being kidnapped; suspect in custody

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Fort Worth Police(FORT WORTH, TX) — Authorities have found an 8-year-old girl following a desperate overnight search after she was ripped away from her mother and pulled into a stranger’s car on Saturday afternoon.

The girl was safely recovered by Fort Worth, Texas, police just after 2 a.m. local time Sunday, according to police. She was found safe and a suspect in the kidnapping has been taken into custody.

Police thanked the media for publicizing the incident and concerned citizens for directing them to the location of the suspect’s vehicle.

Fort Worth Police Department Officer Buddy Calzada said at a press conference early Sunday that two citizens spotted the car at a local hotel and called police. Officers responded, found out what room he was staying in and breached the door.

The victim was found in good condition, but was taken to a local hospital to be checked out.

Late Sunday morning, police identified the suspect as Michael Webb, who is 51 years old. He was charged with aggravated kidnapping, which is a first-degree felony.

Police said Webb was not related to the mother or her daughter.

An Amber Alert was issued for the 8-year-old after she was kidnapped on Saturday afternoon, police said.

The girl and her mother were walking in their neighborhood at 6:38 p.m. local time when Webb allegedly man drove up and dragged her into his car, according to Fort Worth police.

Surveillance video from a nearby house shows her mother tumbling to the ground after trying to pull her daughter free from the vehicle. The car drove off and she immediately called 911 while running back to her house.

Her mother can be heard screaming, “Help me please, someone call the police, my daughter just got kidnapped.”

Police released a photo of the vehicle taken from a nearby camera. It is a gray, four-door sedan with alloy wheels and a paper tag.

Calzada said members of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Public Safety helped in the search.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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