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Sheriff, officers accused of jailing innocent man for not following orders during manhunt

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imegastocker/iStock(COLUMBIA, S.C.) — A sheriff in South Carolina and two other officers have been indicted on federal charges that they allegedly jailed an innocent man for three days in retaliation for him not following their orders as they looked for a suspect after a car accident.

On Nov. 20, 2018, Chester County Sheriff George Alexander Underwood, Lt. Johnny Ricardo Neal Jr. and Chief Deputy Robert Andrew Sprouse were among the authorities responding to a car accident and searching for a “fleeing” suspect when they encountered a resident, identified in court papers as K.S., recording the situation on his cellphone.

K.S. lived on the highway where the accident had occurred and began recording the scene on Facebook Live. He did not “enter the roadway or interfere with law enforcement activities,” court papers said.

When Underwood told K.S. to stay on the porch, the man opted to remain in the yard.

“I’m telling you to get on the porch,” an officer could be heard telling K.S., according to WSOC-TV in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Twenty-five minutes later, as K.S. continued to record on Facebook Live, the sheriff told him to go his porch and when K.S. did, Underwood followed him and demanded that he turn over his phone, according to court papers.

Underwood then restrained K.S., telling him that he was under arrest.

Court papers said K.S. suffered injuries to his head and elbow after Neal allegedly knocked him to the ground while he was handcuffed.

K.S. was taken to a jail and held there for three nights after Neal placed a “hold” on him, causing a delay in the processing of his arrest.

Court papers said that after learning of K.S.’ Facebook Live post, Sprouse entered the man’s house and removed his cellphone without his consent or knowledge — all without a search warrant.

On Jan. 3, 2019, Underwood and Sprouse allegedly lied to the FBI about K.S.’ arrest, after having created a false police report, as well as the whereabouts of his cellphone.

The three officers were charged Tuesday with several counts including conspiracy, tampering and falsification of records in a federal investigation. They are now suspended pending the investigation.

In a Facebook post on April 29, Underwood said the sheriff’s office was “cooperating fully” with the investigation.

“Unfortunately, I cannot comment on this investigation. However, I do plan to make an on air interview to address the citizens of Chester County as soon as I am able to do so. I ask that you be patient until then, as I am looking forward to that day,” he said.

In a statement, a lawyer for K.S. — identified by his lawyer as Kevin Simpson — thanked law enforcement.

“We are appreciative of law enforcement in general and particularly for those law enforcement agencies that refuse to allow the bad apples to survive in the greatest justice system in the world. The FBI and the US Attorney’s office here in South Carolina have acted like true professionals, and we feel confident that the wheels of justice will continue to turn for Mr. Simpson and his family,” Everett B. Stubbs said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

'Hero' student describes how he, 2 classmates, thwarted suspect in Colorado school shooting

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Courtesy John Castillo(HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo.) — A high school student who helped tackle an accused gunman at his Colorado high school this week said his feeling of “absolute and complete fear” evaporated as he watched his friend, Kendrick Castillo, charge forward without hesitation.

Along with Castillo and one other student, Brendan Bialy, an 18-year-old student at the STEM School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, was able to disarm one of the alleged shooters and pin him to the ground. 18-year-old Castillo was killed as he charged at the accused gunman and threw him up against the wall.

“There was no questioning. There was no hesitation. There was no looking around,” Bialy said of Castillo as he spoke to reporters at a news conference.

“It’s really hard to stop that kid when he gets going,” Bialy said, likening Castillo to a human bowling ball as he rushed to overpower the suspect. “The gunman… was against the wall and didn’t know what the hell hit him.”

Bialy said he had known Castillo since their freshman year and said they had been close friends. He described Castillo as a “fantastic, wholesome person” who loved cars and electronics.

Bialy was seated on the far side of his classroom on Tuesday afternoon when one of the two alleged shooters entered the room brandishing a pistol. He said his fight-or-fight response kicked in after seeing his friend stand up to the threat.

Bialy was able to get the gun away from the suspect while the third student, who has not been identified, joined in to help and pinned the suspect to the ground, Bialy said.

Bialy said the gun went off once or twice. After Castillo was shot, an IT teacher came into the room and began performing chest compressions on the 18-year-old.

Castillo later died at a local hospital. Eight other students were injured in the shooting, including some in that same classroom, authorities said.

The only injury Bialy received in the scuffle was scrapes on his knees.

“I was blessed by something,” he said. “Somebody’s watching down on me. Something, somebody, I don’t know. Even though I was inches away, I didn’t get shot.”

Bialy described the gunmen as cowards. He said he knew both suspects, including one who was in his graduating class, but he only saw one of the suspects in his classroom. Other students who were in the same room were also shot and injured, he said.

Both suspects appeared in court Wednesday afternoon. The adult suspect, 18-year-old Devon Erickson, has been charged with murder. The other suspect, a juvenile, as not been identified, and any charges against him are not yet known.

When asked by a reporter on how he was “able to smile” despite having just experienced a tragedy, Bialy explained that it was because he got to see “the absolute best in people.”

“I got to see two heroes — two regular high school kids, two really awesome people — jump into action,” he said. “I was more than lucky to join them.”

Bialy, who is a member of the U.S. Marines Corps’ Delayed Entry Program, rebuffed any suggestion that he was a hero, but said he has received congratulatory messages from several fellow U.S. servicemen.

“I need to let them know that Kendrick Castillo and that other student were in the thick of it, rolling in the ground, where I was too,” he said.

“Kendrick Castillio died a legend,” Bialy said. “I know he will be with me for the rest of my life.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Feds now investigating 850 possible domestic terrorists across US: FBI

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House Homeland Security Committee(WASHINGTON) — The FBI is currently investigating nearly 850 people across the United States as possible domestic terrorists, including many white supremacists and anti-government Americans, and U.S. authorities are seeing “a tide change” in social media companies trying to stop the spread of hate, the head of the FBI’s counterterrorism division told lawmakers Wednesday.

The testimony from FBI Assistant Director Michael McGarrity came less than two weeks after authorities say a 19-year-old California man launched a deadly attack on a synagogue outside San Diego, allegedly leaving behind a message online touting white supremacy and anti-semitism. Months earlier, another assault on a synagogue in Pittsburgh left 11 people dead.

“That mobilization to violence is much quicker” than it used to be, McGarrity warned on Wednesday, noting that anyone “can go on the internet and find content that justifies what you want to do.”

McGarrity emphasized that “domestic terrorism” — often rooted in racially-motivated extremism, anti-government extremism or environmental extremism — is different than “homegrown” terrorism, which is inspired by international terrorist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

“In fact, there have been more arrests and deaths in the United States caused by domestic terrorists than international terrorists in recent years,” he told lawmakers.

He said that of the 850 domestic terrorism investigations currently underway inside the United States, about 40 percent target subjects who adhere to racist ideologies, and “a significant majority” of them are white nationalists or white supremacists. The vast majority of the other cases involve subjects who promote anti-government or anti-authority sentiments, according to McGarrity.

The number of current domestic terrorism investigations is actually down from six months ago, McGarrity said. In September 2017, FBI Director Chris Wray testified that — at that time — the FBI was conducting about 1,000 domestic terrorism investigations.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday, McGarrity said “the velocity” of domestic terrorism cases “is much quicker than it’s ever been.” Like ISIS-inspired terrorists, domestic terrorists are being radicalized much faster than ever before thanks to the internet, and that makes it much harder for authorities to detect them, McGarrity said.

McGarrity said the “most deadly” domestic terrorism threat facing the country is “the lone offender who self-radicalized online [and] who has access to a weapon.”

However, McGarrity said, “We are seeing a tide change in social media companies being more proactive, policing their own.”

A senior official from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Brian Murphy, seemed to agree, saying, “We are making strides, and we would like to keep making strides.”

But Murphy indicated that not all social media companies are as willing to police their own content as some of their competitors.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Extraordinary cocaine seizure announced in New York with a street value of almost $3M

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tzahiV/iStock(NEW YORK) — Federal agents, the NYPD and the Bronx District Attorney have announced the largest cocaine seizure in New York City in recent years after a year-long investigation.

The bust, involving 19 defendants, amplifies the recent trend of cocaine becoming a stronger drug threat. Larger loads are being sent directly to New York and there is more production in Colombia, where producers are mixing cocaine with fentanyl to satisfy the opioid-addicted, officials said.

The 176 pounds of cocaine with a street value of nearly $3 million were on display at Wednesday’s news conference.

In this seizure, the dealers joined forces to corner the market for cocaine on the street and in clubs around the city. The traffickers exploited the addicted and sought new customers in the club scene, pushing fentanyl-laced cocaine along with Ecstasy and Ketamine, police said.

There’s also an international component here. Two of the defendants conspired to import pills from overseas via international mail. Authorities in Belgium intercepted 1.25 pounds of pure controlled substances before they could reach their destinations in the Bronx and Manhattan.

Two of the defendants were charged with operating as a major trafficker, which carries a minimum of 15-25 years to maximum of life in prison if convicted, according to authorities.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Search for missing Texas girl suspended indefinitely due to weather

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Houston Police(HOUSTON) — Authorities have suspended the search for missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis after parts of Texas were inundated with heavy rains and flooding.

A group that was helping with the search said it would be suspended until further notice.

“The areas we had planned to search have been flooded with the recent heavy rains, and this could restrict us from being effective in finding Maleah,” Texas EquuSearch, a group that provides volunteer horse-mounted search and recovery groups in missing persons cases, announced on its Facebook page.

“Some of the areas are now filled with deep rain water, and this would greatly limit our searchers and accessibility,” the group said.

Maleah Davis was last seen on May 3. An Amber Alert was issued Sunday morning.

The girl’s stepfather, Darion Vence, claimed that three mystery men beat him up and briefly held him and Maleah’s 2-year-old brother hostage. He later told police that the men dumped him and the boy on the side of the road and fled with Maleah.

According to Sgt. Mark Holbrook of the Houston Police Department Homicide Division, Vence said that he went in and out of consciousness during the ordeal and, at one point, woke up to find the suspects driving him and the two children around in what he described as a blue pickup truck.

Vence told police that he eventually regained full consciousness around 6 p.m. on Saturday, waking up on the side of a road in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land with his toddler unharmed near his side. Maleah was nowhere to be found, Vence told police.

ABC station KTRK reported that Texas EquuSearch became involved in the case Monday after their help was requested by the Houston Police Department.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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