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Arizona CEO fired after yelling racial slurs at Uber driver in video

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KNXV(PHOENIX) — An Arizona-based fertilizer company has fired its CEO after video surfaced of him berating a black Uber driver and calling him the N-word.

Agroplasma CEO and President Hans Berglund was ousted from the company he founded amid accusations of racism and verbal assault, the company said Wednesday.

The announcement came less than a week after Randy Clarke, an Arizona State University student and Uber driver, released dash camera footage of his disturbing encounter with Berglund after picking him up on Jan. 31.

Clarke responded to a ride request from Berglund at around 9 p.m., but the situation escalated when he asked Berglund to sit in the back seat, citing a policy he enacted in 2018 when he said a rider allegedly sexually assaulted him.

Clarke has signs posted on the inside and outside of his vehicle detailing this policy and why he prefers that customers ride in the back seat, according to his attorney. Uber authorized the rule after the sexual assault to limit the risk of Clarke being sexually assaulted by any other passengers, his attorney said.

Dashcam footage showed Berglund refusing to sit in the back seat and threatening to cancel the ride. He eventually agreed to sit in the back, but Clarke said it was too late as he had already began to process a refund for the ride.

That’s when Berglund began to berate him, according to the video.

“Are you f—ing serious with me?” Berglund is heard saying. “Is it because I’m white? And you’re a f—ing n——? You are a f—-ing idiot.”

Berglund apologized for the online incident, but Clarke said it was insincere, according to Jarrett Maupin, a reverend and civil rights activist who represents him.

“Hans Berglund is the CEO of several enterprises and he knows that his conduct is unacceptable and that a public apology — face to face — is merited here,” Maupin said in a statement Wednesday. “Until he agrees to meet with us, we will make known his racist behavior. His suppliers, his business partners, whomever he does business with will hear about what he did to Mr. Clarke and what kind of a bigoted bully he is.”

Clarke said he informed Uber of the incident and it agreed to place a temporary hold on Berglund’s account while it investigates the claims.

Berglund told Phoenix ABC affiliate KNXV that he “deeply regretted” the comments and said he hopes Clarke will accept his apology.

“I deeply regret and apologize for the hurtful and derogatory language I used during the altercation with Mr. Clarke,” Berglund said. “I firmly believe that there is no excuse for the use of racial slurs under any circumstance, so I will not offer any. It is my sincere hope that Mr. Clarke hears and accepts my apology and believes me when I say it is honest and heartfelt.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Hollywood Legend Kirk Douglas dead at 103

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Iconic Hollywood star Kirk Douglas, father of Oscar-winner Michael Douglas, has died, ABC News has confirmed.  He was 103.

In a statement on Instagram, Michael Douglas said, “It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103. To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to.”

“But to me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was simply Dad, to Catherine, a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great grandchild their loving grandfather, and to his wife Anne, a wonderful husband,” he continued.

“Kirk’s life was well lived, and he leaves a legacy in film that will endure for generations to come, and a history as a renowned philanthropist who worked to aid the public and bring peace to the planet,” Michael added. “Let me end with the words I told him on his last birthday and which will always remain true: ‘Dad — I love you so much and I am so proud to be your son.’”

Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch, in Amsterdam, N.Y., was the only son of Russian Jewish immigrants.  After college, he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he met his first wife, Diana Dill, mother of his sons Michael and Joel.  He made his Broadway debut in 1941 but later joined the Navy during World War II. After he was injured and discharged from the Navy in 1944, he returned to acting in New York in the theater, commercials and radio.

On the recommendation of Lauren Bacall, Douglas was signed to a movie contract and made his film debut in 1946. In his career, he appeared in more than 80 films before retiring in 2004.  He received three Best Actor Oscar nominations for the films Champion, The Bad and the Beautiful and Lust For Life; the latter featured him as painter Vincent Van Gogh.

He also starred in several westerns throughout his career, beginning with 1951’s Along the Great Divide. He also melded his military service with Hollywood in such films as Top Secret AffairPaths of Glory and Seven Days in May.

Douglas played a rebellious slave in one of his best-known films, Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, and broke the Hollywood blacklist by adding blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo to the credits of the film.  He considered it one of the most important moments of his career.

He was also lauded for his more lighthearted role in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Douglas owned the rights to the Ken Kesey novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which his son Michael succeeded in making into a 1975 movie.  It won Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay.  In addition, Douglas once claimed he’d made more money from the movie than any he’d ever appeared in.  He regretted being too old to play the part of McMurphy; Jack Nicholson was cast instead.

Douglas’ many TV appearances included The Simpsons, Touched by an Angel, Xena: Warrior Princess and other various TV movies.

After suffering a stroke in 1995 and having to learn to speak all over again, Douglas became an unofficial spokesperson for stroke victims.  In addition, he and his second wife Anne donated millions to various charities.

Douglas is survived by his wife Anne, whom he married in 1954, along by his sons Michael, Joel and Peter, and many grandchildren.  His youngest son, Eric, died in 2004.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Activists fight to ensure cops who used stun gun on man with his hands up remain off the police force

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kali9/iStock(AUSTIN, Texas) — Two Texas police officers fired over deploying a stun gun on a man while he was on his knees and with his hands in the air have appealed to get their jobs back, sparking outrage from community activists.

Criminal justice advocates are trying to keep former Austin police officers Robert Pfaff and Donald Petraitis off the force by making public a body camera video of the 2018 incident.

Pfaff and Petraitis were fired from the Austin Police Department last March after they were charged with criminal assault, official oppression and tampering with government records stemming from the use of a stun gun on 30-year-old Quentin Perkins.

Both officers appealed to the local Civil Service Commission to be reinstated to the police force after a Travis County jury acquitted them of the charges earlier this year. An independent arbitrator is expected to render a decision soon.

At the end of the officers’ trial, a judge ordered the body-camera video sealed.

But Chris Harris, a local community activist and a member of the Austin Public Safety Commission, obtained the body camera video through the Freedom of Information Act and shared it with news media outlets, saying he hopes the footage will spark community support to block the officers from getting their badges back.

Harris told ABC News on Wednesday that he received the video on Friday and that he is working with the activist group Austin Justice Coalition to show it to as many community residents as they can.

“It’s shocking and heartbreaking to see somebody get tased when they’re on their knees with their hands in the air and they’re not doing anything different from anybody else,” Harris said. “It confirms all the worst fears that so many of us have about police and why we shouldn’t trust them.”

Neither Pfaff nor Petraitis could be reached for comment. Both officers had pleaded not guilty to the charges they were acquitted of.

Perkins, who reached a $75,000 settlement with the city after filing a federal lawsuit, and his attorney did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

Following the acquittals of Pfaff and Petraitis, Perkins expressed disappointment with the jury’s decision.

“The video clearly shows that I had my hands up, did everything I was supposed to do,” he said at the time. “I complied and at the end of the day, justice was not served.”

Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association, said in a statement to ABC Austin affiliate station KVUE-TV that “Austin Justice Coalition is wasting their time because an arbitrator will rule on this, not the city.”

The body camera video was played for the jury at the officers’ trial and shows Pfaff, Petraitis and other officers responding to a shooting in a parking lot in Austin on Feb. 16, 2018, and rounding up Perkins and up to 10 other individuals who were in the area.

The police ordered people to get on the ground with their hands up, according to the body camera footage. Perkins appeared to comply with the orders, getting on his knees and holding up his hands before Pfaff shot him with the stun gun, according to the video.

“Hands out to your side! Roll on your side! Roll on your stomach!” officers are heard in the video yelling at Perkins, who appeared to be writhing on the ground in pain.

“Turn over on your stomach or you’re going to get it again,” an officer is heard telling Perkins, according to the video.

Perkins was arrested on suspicion of failure to comply with a lawful order.

Following an internal investigation, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley fired the officers after finding the statements and reports they made about the incident did not match what was on the body camera video.

In an affidavit released by Manley, Pfaff wrote that “Perkins refused to comply and moved toward the darkened area of the parking lot where Waller Creek is located. Officer Petraitis and I continued to give Perkins commands but he refused to comply.

Pfaff continued in the affidavit, “Perkins refused to comply and looked back towards the creek as if to escape. Due to the nature of the call, the number of subjects versus Officers, the darkened area of the incident I felt it was immediately necessary to deploy my taser in order to detain Perkins and safely frisk for weapons.”

Chief Manley said he found that both officers made false statements about the incident to their supervisor and in their reports, and violated the department’s rules for deploying a stun gun.

“The use of the Taser was inappropriate, unnecessary and objectively unreasonable, and a violation of Department policy,” Manley wrote in a March 18, 2019 memorandum to the director of the Municipal Civil Service Commission.

“If an officer demonstrates that he cannot or will not give truthful accounts of the force that they used, I as Chief of police would be remiss in my duties and responsibilities if I allowed such an Officer to be bestowed the power to continue to have the duties and responsibilities that are designed to protect and serve the public,” Manley wrote.

Harris and Chas Moore of the Austin Justice Coalition told ABC News they won’t stop fighting to keep Pfaff and Petratis from being reinstated.

“We know the trial is over. We can’t do anything about that,” Moore said. “But, Chief Manley did make the right call in this regard months ago and I hope the appeals process holds up to where we don’t have these types of officers on the police force.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Florida highway patrol officer gunned down while trying to help motorist: Officials

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FLHSMV(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) — A Florida Highway Patrol officer was killed in the line of duty Wednesday when he was shot by a disabled motorist he was apparently trying to help, authorities said.

At about 10:15 a.m., Trooper Joseph Bullock was assisting a motorist with a disabled car on Interstate 95 in Martin County, near West Palm Beach, when the motorist shot him, Highway Patrol Colonel Gene Spaulding said.

A police officer who was passing by then shot and killed the suspect, Spaulding said.

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Bullock, 42, was a leader within the highway patrol who trained and mentored new hires, Spaulding said.

Bullock served nearly 19 years with the highway patrol, officials said. He was also an Air Force veteran, officials said.

Spaulding called his death a “tragic, tragic, loss.”

“It’ll take a long time for the Florida Highway Patrol to heal,” he said at a news conference.

“The entire Florida Highway Patrol and FLHSMV family is heartbroken as we mourn the tragic loss of Trooper Joseph Bullock,” Spaulding and Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Terry Rhodes said in a joint statement.

“Please keep his family and his team members in your prayers,” they said.

Bullock’s death comes one day after an Alabama police officer, Nick O’Rear, was gunned down in the line of duty.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Tuskegee Airman honored at State of the Union address and by NASA

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON)  — Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee was honored by NASA during their Black History Month program hours after being acknowledged by President Donald Trump at his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

“Incredible story,” Trump said Tuesday. “After more than 130 combat missions in World War II, he came back home to a country still struggling for civil rights and went on to serve America in Korea and Vietnam.”

Ahead of the address on Capitol Hill, Trump signed a bill promoting McGee to brigadier general and pinned the stars on his shoulders in the Oval Office.

In his storied career, McGee flew a record 409 combat missions. During World War II, McGee escorted bombers over Germany, Austria, and the Balkans. During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, McGee participated in 100 interdiction missions and 173 reconnaissance missions.

On Wednesday, McGee was interviewed by astronaut Alvin Drew about his career, education and his early memories of flying. McGee closed his portion of the event by challenging his audience to give back to the next generation.

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“Are you mentoring a youngster coming along behind you? Whether it’s in your family, neighborhood or city, there are youngsters needing that. If you don’t have a mentor, somewhere in your neighborhood there is one. Don’t overlook that because those young folks are the future.”

McGee is currently a mentor to his great-grandson Iain Lanphier, who sat next to him at the Capitol during the State of the Union address.

Inspired by the Tuskegee Airman, Lanphier hopes to do great things like his great-grandfather and the president said that he hopes to attend the Air Force Academy and eventually travel into space.

“He has his eye on the Space Force,” Trump said Tuesday, referencing the new sixth branch of the U.S. military. “As Iain says, most people look up at space, I want to look down on the world.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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