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Prosecutors present chilling scene footage from deadly California synagogue shooting

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iStock(NEW YORK) — Prosecutors presented disturbing surveillance video in a court hearing Thursday related to the deadly shooting at a California synagogue in April. The video shows the gunman storming the house of worship and targeting congregants with an assault rifle, killing a woman and injuring three others.

The video was presented as evidence in a preliminary hearing for 20-year-old John Earnest, who is charged with murder and attempted murder for allegedly killing Chabad of Poway synagogue member Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, and shooting other worshipers, including an 8-year-old girl.

Earnest has been charged with a hate crime, which could make him eligible for the death penalty if convicted. The multi-day hearing will ultimately decide if Earnest will face trial or not.

Surveillance cameras from inside and outside of the synagogue near San Diego captured the entire scene on video, starting from the moment the gunman drove up to the church and ending with congregants chasing him away.

In the video, the shooter began to open fire even before he opened the synagogue’s doors. Gilbert-Kaye saw him immediately and tried to flee. She barely managed to turn before the bullets ripped into her.

He continued firing, hitting Rabbi Israel Goldstein, who seemed to leap up when shot and sprint into the sanctuary. The gunman’s weapon appeared to jam and he struggled with it for a bit before a worshiper, Iraq combat veteran Oscar Stewart, chased him outside.

Stewart testified in court Thursday, revealing that he screamed at the shooter and caused him to drop his weapon and flee. He identified Earnest as the shooter in court.

“He was firing in front of me. … I was paying attention to the rifle,” Stewart said. “I told him I was going to kill him. … I screamed it out really loud. I kept screaming at him.”

“I was trying to throw him off. I didn’t say it very politely. I yelled it and used some profanities also,” he added.

Prosecutors also played audio of the suspect’s 911 call in which he said he allegedly told dispatchers that he’d been involved in the shooting and was armed. He said he had weapons in his car, but wouldn’t use them on authorities.

At one point he was heard on the call saying: “I’m just trying to defend my nation from the Jewish. …They’re destroying our people … we’re not going to go down without a fight.”

Earnest, a former nursing student at Cal State San Marcos, also faces federal arson charges in connection with a fire at a mosque in Escondido. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sheriff reveals deadly realities of illegal immigration across US southern border

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iStock(PIMA COUNTY, Ariz.) — Thousands of miles from Washington D.C. in Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff Mark Napier works on the front lines of the border crisis.

He showed Nightline a section of the border barrier that “was and still is a major drug trafficking and human trafficking corridor,” he said.

“We know that somebody came here with a kid,” he said, pointing out refuse along the barrier. “There’s children’s clothing, diapers, a small container of baby oil.”

From there, people traversing the desert would have 40 miles to go before “they get to something that would resemble civilization where they can be picked up by somebody else,” Napier said.

For more than three decades, this has been Napier’s home — the largest border county on the southern border.

On the national stage, what happens here has become a political flashpoint. Just this week, President Donald Trump touted his campaign promise of building a wall at the U.S. southern border while speaking south of San Diego.

“It’s a very powerful, very powerful wall, the likes of which probably to this extent has not been built before,” Trump said while showing off a portion of the 30-foot-tall bollard wall. “Plus it’s designed to absorb heat, so it’s extremely hot. The wall is, you won’t be able to touch it. You can fry an egg on that wall. It’s very, very hot.”

It’s the latest in a debate that’s dominated headlines and divided the country. But for the lifelong Republican sheriff, the border is much more than a policy dispute.

“The border is clearly a public safety threat to my county because of the drug and human trafficking that comes across that border,” Napier said. “Public safety’s not a partisan issue, it’s not a political issue. It’s quality of life, it’s a human condition issue. So partisanship and political ideology should not intersect [with] what I do to maintain public safety in my county.”

Napier said that in Pima County, in “some places, the only way to get to those areas are by air or hiking.”

Within a few miles of the international border, Napier noted that there’s “very undeveloped land — vast expanses of desert areas that somebody coming to this country between the ports of entry have to navigate.”

“My deputies do recover almost 100 bodies a year in the deserts of this county,” he said. “That taxes our resources, but it also pulls at my strings from a humanitarian standpoint.”

Chief Medical Examiner Greg Hess and his team work to identify remains recovered in the desert — a grim situation that he said has worsened since the early 2000s.

“So far this year…to date in 2019, we’ve recovered 92 suspected undocumented border cross remains,” Hess said. “We went from…75 [remains recovered] in the year 2000. In 2001, it was 77. In 2002, it was 145.”

The incomplete remains of an unidentified migrant discovered earlier this year laid on Hess’ exam table.

“That was somebody’s father, that that was somebody’s brother, somebody’s son,” Napier said. “That’s a human being, and a human being probably driven by very desperate decisions in their home country to make a very dangerous and illegal ingress in the United States that cost them their lives.”

Napier said Trump was correct in that “we need to secure our southern border.”

“I do understand the desperation,” Napier said of those who cross the border. But he added that it’s not safe. “Do not come into this country illegally because you’re going to [be] victimized by criminals [and] by the environment.”

The vast majority of immigrants have entered the country legally, including asylum seekers like Angel Ramos.

Last year, Ramos and his son Fernando fled Honduras. Like many Central American families, they say they had no choice but to take the risk.

“There, everything is controlled by gangs. And, well, now that you’re older, they want you to sell drugs, to do so many things… I didn’t want to do it,” Ramos told Nightline in June.

“My son is the most precious thing for me [so] I didn’t want to be involved in those bad things,” Ramos said. “You can imagine my son. How is he going to grow up without a father? Because over there, if you do something bad, they kill you.”

The father and son made the perilous three-month journey on foot, bus and train to reach the U.S. border.

Unlike the hundreds of thousands who have crossed into the U.S. illegally, Ramos said he wanted to do it the right way — petitioning for asylum to U.S. immigration officials at the Nogales Port of Entry.

After a few days, immigration officials released Ramos and his son at a Tucson, Arizona, shelter. The two are allowed to stay in the U.S. as their asylum case makes it through the courts.

But new policies under the Trump administration are making it harder for asylum seekers like Ramos to seek refuge.

Napier says in Pima County, “some places the only way to get to those areas are by air or hiking.”

While immigration dominates headlines, another constant concern on the border is stemming the flow of illegal drugs, the majority of which pass through legal ports of entry.

Sergeant Patrick Hilliker is with the Border Interdiction Unit at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

“We are usually directly involved in finding, or assisting other agencies in finding, hundreds of pounds a year,” Hilliker said. “You can imagine how much is probably getting through and how much is actually in this country right now.”

Hilliker showed “Nightline” what he said was approximately 14 pounds of heroin that had been seized.

“This one, in particular, you can see they’re in vacuum-sealed bags and that’s to contain the smell and make it so the dogs don’t smell it.”

The southwest border has long been the primary entry point for heroin. In 2017, nearly 1,000 pounds of heroin came through the Tucson sector.

“Nightline” joined Hilliker and some of his team to stake out what they believe is a “stash house.”

“If they see something that looks like there’s some smuggling going on, we’ll go try to stop the vehicle and talk with them,” Hilliker said.

“Any way you can think of smuggling narcotics into this country, it’s been done,” Hilliker added. He listed drugs that were found inside of car “radiators, fake battery compartments [and] fake flooring. They’ll take everything out of the vehicle and put in a fake floor, reweld it, put carpet back over it…put the seats back on and it’s very difficult to find.”

Traffickers not only use any method necessary to do business, they also use smugglers from all walks of life.

“They will pay people into bringing this stuff up and it’s quick money,” Hilliker said. “Sometimes, there’s elderly people that are doing it, younger people, different nationalities, different citizenships.”

“The opiate addiction is a public health emergency,” Napier said. “This is really the front line of a national issue, right here in our counties. But we have to bifurcate the issue of illegal immigration from transnational crime. They’re not exactly the same thing, although they intersect one another once in a while.”

For Napier, these aren’t faraway threats but realities in his backyard — nuances too often lost in the noise.

“We need to secure our border for public safety reasons, national security reasons and human rights reasons,” Napier said. “No one can argue past those three points. Let’s get it done.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Texas declares disaster as torrential rain wreaks havoc, grounds hundreds of flights

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iStock(HOUSTON) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared a disaster in 13 counties as Tropical Storm Imelda brought torrential rain and dangerous flash flooding to the Houston area, stranding residents in their homes, drivers in their cars and canceling hundreds of flights at local airports.

Over 900 flights were canceled into and out of Houston area airports due to the severe rain, which reached over 40 inches in some spots.

The storm claimed its first life on Thursday as well. A man in Jefferson County was “electrocuted and drowned” while trying to move his horse, according to the sheriff’s office. The family of Hunter Morrison, the man killed, said he was not trying to rescue any people, as had been reported locally, and wanted to correct false reports.

The town of Hamshire, Texas, saw six months’ worth of rain in 48 hours. More than 33 inches of rain has fallen in Hamshire since Tuesday — and over 2 feet of that rainfall within 12 hours.

In the small town of Winnie, Texas, the conditions are “horrible,” with rapidly-rising floodwaters making roads impassable, Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told ABC News as the rain pounded down Thursday.

“This is the worst flooding I’ve ever seen,” Hawthorne said.

Houses flooded during Hurricane Harvey two years ago are now taking in water again; some homes have 4 to 5 feet of water inside, said Hawthorne.

Anna Avales’ home in Winnie is still recovering from flooding during Harvey. She called Thursday’s rain “devastating” and is “hoping and praying that it stops.”

James Gibson and his wife walked ABC News through their Chambers County home, where the wood floors are now submerged under roughly 8 inches of water.

The rain fell “too fast to do anything” he said.

“Until it quits raining, it’s gonna be a nightmare,” the sheriff said.

Over 300 people were rescued from homes in Chambers County as the water rose, local officials said.

Dump trucks and airboats were being used to get residents to safety.

The threat isn’t over.

The relentless, heavy rain is continuing to slam parts of southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana Thursday afternoon. It’ll taper off Thursday evening leaving lingering, scattered showers.

But thunderstorms and downpours are possible again on Friday.

Up to 4 inches of rain could still fall in the hard-hit areas from Houston to Beaumont from Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon.

The remains of Tropical Storm Imelda with then track inland and bring areas of heavy rain — up to 4 inches — to east Texas and northwestern Louisiana.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

El Paso shooting victim says his story is 'genuine' after police dispute his heroism

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iStock(EL PASO, Texas) — The El Paso shooting victim whose story of heroism was disputed by police said he’s standing by his recounting of the attack at the Walmart.

Chris Grant was supposed to be one of 11 people honored by the White House for bravery in early September before he was detained by Secret Service over an open arrest warrant.

El Paso police later said video from the shooting did not match Grant’s claims of throwing bottles to distract the gunman.

“[His actions] were basically human instincts, survival instincts, but they were not heroic or as he described,” police spokesman Enrique Carillo previously told ABC News, declining to answer specific questions.

Grant now wants to tell his version of the events.

His lawyer said on Wednesday that Grant “stands by his statements and his recollections he made to police, to Chris Cuomo and others following the shooting.”

“He is still recovering from his physical injuries, but his recollection of the events on August 3, 2019 are genuine,” his lawyer, Rosana Narvaez, read from a statement.

Grant, a 50-year-old Texas resident, sustained bullet wounds during the shooting and underwent multiple surgeries.

He was released from the hospital by the time of the White House event Sept. 9 and was praised by President Donald Trump, but he didn’t attend.

“Chris grabbed — listen to this — soda bottles, and anything else in front of him, and began hurling them at the gunman, distracting him from the other shoppers and causing the shooter to turn towards Chris and fire at him,” Trump said in his speech. “Chris suffered two very serious gunshot wounds, but he is recovering well and we wish him the best.”

Grant’s mother, who was in attendance, collected the certificate of commendation on her son’s behalf. Grant was later released from custody and it’s unclear where the case stands.

El Paso police said the video footage they reviewed contradicted Grant’s story, but they declined to describe what action, if any, Grant took, or comment on any interaction he might have had with the gunman.

Narvaez said that Grant, nor anyone outside of law enforcement, has reviewed the surveillance video in question.

“Nonetheless, a video cannot begin to capture the entire story of Mr. Grant’s and others’ plights as the mass shooter rampaged inside Walmart,” she added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

New Jersey man arrested for allegedly spying for Hezbollah: Feds

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iStock(MORRISTOWN, N.J.) — A New Jersey man was indicted Thursday on charges he supported Hezbollah by scouting possible targets for an attack.

Alexei Saab began training with Hezbollah operatives overseas and surveilled multiple locations in the U.S., the FBI said.

According to the indictment, Saab joined Hezbollah in 1996 in Lebanon where he observed and reported on the movements of Israeli troops. He trained to handle and fire an AK-47, an M16 and other weapons. He also was trained to construct explosive devices, with the federal records showing diagrams of bombs he had built.

Saab entered the U.S. in 2000 and applied for citizenship in 2005. He became a naturalized citizen three years later.

Federal prosecutors said he continued to receive training in Lebanon and surveilled “dozens” of locations in New York City, including the New York Stock Exchange, U.N. building, Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center and local airports, tunnels and bridges.

“In particular, SAAB focused on the structural weaknesses of locations he surveilled in order to determine how a future attack could cause the most destruction. SAAB’s reporting to the IJO (Islamic Jihad Organization) included the materials used to construct a particular target, how close in proximity one could get to a target, and site weaknesses or ‘soft spots’ that the IJO could exploit if it attacked a target in the future,” court records said.

Saab also conducted similar scouting operations in Washington, D.C., and Boston, among other cities. Those targets included Fenway Park and the Prudential Center in Boston and the U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

Saab, 42, of Morristown, New Jersey, is charged with providing material support to a terror organization, receipt of military-type training from a designated foreign terrorist organization, unlawful procurement or naturalization to facilitate an act of international terrorism, among other offenses.

The unlawful naturalization charge stems from a phony marriage, with federal authorities saying Saab testified the marriage “was not for the purpose of procuring an immigration benefit.”

The complaint also outlines Saab’s attempts to murder an Israeli spy in Lebanon in 2003 and 2005. He even approached the man’s vehicle and attempted to shoot into the driver’s seat, but the gun did not fire.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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