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Florida Council Votes to Ban Saggy Pants; Mayor Sees No Need for Fashion Police

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 by

Posted in National News

iStock/Thinkstock(OCALA, Fla.) — A Florida city council’s vote to ban sagging pants has sparked a debate among city officials over whether the need for fashion police.

The ordinance, passed July 15 in a unanimous vote, makes it illegal to wear pants two inches below the natural waistline, with violators facing a penalty of possible jail time and a fine of up to $500. The ordinance affects city-owned or leased property, including sidewalks, streets and parks.

Mary Sue Rich, a councilwoman for Ocala, was “the driving force” for the law, said Jeannine Robbins, public information officer for the City of Ocala.

Councilwoman Rich told ABC News: “Sometimes fads come in and they go out, but this one, to me, just seems to be getting worse. I’m just tired of looking at young men’s underwear, it’s just disrespectful.”

Rich, a retired probation senior supervisor for the Florida Department of Corrections, believes the ordinance will have a positive effect.

“I think it would make [individuals who wear sagging pants] respect themselves, and I would wager 9 out of 10 of them don’t have jobs,” she said.

“Everyone’s saying I’m targeting young black men,” she added. “I’m black. I’ve been black for a long time, why would I be targeting black men? I would just like to ask one of these men, ‘What is the advantage of pulling your pants down so far?’”

Not everybody agrees is on board with the anti-sag push, including Mayor Kent Guinn, who may veto it.

“I don’t think it’s a good law,” Guinn told ABC News, “when we start getting into creating laws that prohibit peoples’ freedom of expression and the way they dress, I think you’re getting into some dangerous territory.”

Guinn said, “After I thought about it, I thought, ‘this is just a bad law.’ I may not like the way they dress, but I’m not going to make a law about it.”

“It’s nothing personal towards councilwoman Rich,” said Guinn, “you vote for what you believe in your heart is right.”

“I just don’t think you can create laws that make you respect yourself,” he added.

On the fate of the law she worked so hard to implement, Councilwoman Rich simply says, “I guess we’ll see.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Pet of the Week

Mysterious White Flags Fly over NY’s Brooklyn Bridge

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 by

Posted in National News

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The mystery surrounding two white flags that appeared on top of the Brooklyn Bridge Tuesday deepened as the New York City Police Department admitted they don’t know who committed the security breach or how they accomplished it.

White flags, which are symbols of surrender, flew from poles on the stone supports atop the famed bridge that connects Brooklyn and Manhattan over the East River.

“I’m not particularly happy about the event,” said NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton.

Police officials said Tuesday afternoon that they have surveillance video of a group of four or five individuals walking onto the bridge shortly after 3 a.m.

Authorities said that at around 3:30 a.m., the lights that illuminate the U.S. flags on either side of the bridge could be seen flickering and then going out completely. At 5:30 a.m., construction workers noticed that two seemingly-white flags had replaced the American flags, police said.

When police investigated the scene, they found that the two American flags had been apparently bleached and large aluminum tins had been tied to cover the lights that illuminate the flags.

“At this time there is no sign of any particular nexus to terrorism or even politics,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller, who also oversees intelligence and counter terrorism. “It could be someone’s art project or a statement, but it’s not clear what that statement is.”

Miller said authorities think the perpetrators may have had some experience “climbing in construction or bridgework” or have previously been up to the flag platforms on the Brooklyn Bridge.

“When [the NYPD's] Emergency Services went up this morning, the gates were still up and locked,” he said. “For someone to go around it and go up to the tower and have right size cover to put over the light, there’s some indication of pre-operational planning.”

The Brooklyn Bridge — operated by the city’s Department of Transportation — is one of the country’s oldest suspension bridges. The span, which was completed in 1883, is also a National Historic Landmark.

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Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Pre-Teens Account for Sharpest Spike in Unaccompanied Child Migrants

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 by

Posted in National News

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without parents are increasingly younger, according to newly released figures by the Pew Research Center.

Sixteen percent of the minors who’ve crossed unaccompanied in fiscal year 2014, ending Sept. 30, were 12 and younger, compared with 9 percent in the same nine-month period for the previous year, Pew found. The remaining 84 percent of unaccompanied minors who’ve crossed this year were teenagers.

The change from last year so far represents a 117 percent increase in the number of unaccompanied kids 12 and younger making the dangerous trek.

“The big message here is that when looking at who is crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and being apprehended, a growing number are young children,” Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew’s director of Hispanic research, told ABC News.

The data, which look at Customs and Border Patrol number released to Pew through a Freedom of Information Act request, provide the first publicly available detailed portrait of the children surging at the southwest U.S. border in the past few months.

Over 57,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border so far this fiscal year, more than double the number last year during the same nine-month period.

The majority of children this year have come from Honduras, followed by Guatemala and El Salvador. Mexico, which normally leads, comes in fourth.

The largest share of children 12 and younger comes from Honduras (27 percent), representing a 20 percent uptick in actual numbers from the previous year, according to Pew. El Salvador follows with an increased to 22 percent from 17 percent, followed by Guatemala, which has seen the share of minors 12 and younger double to 10 percent of all unaccompanied minors.

Comparatively, Mexico only had 3 percent of its unaccompanied children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border under the age of 1, the same amount seen last year.

“While this data does not tell us why [Honduras is sending more youth], one possible reason, according to Department of Homeland Security, is the growing level of violence in Honduras,” Lopez said. “Today, Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate, and San Pedro Sula, where the single largest contingent of kids from Honduras are from, is the world’s murder capital.”

Family apprehensions — parents traveling with children — have also seen a huge spike this year, according to Customs and Border Patrol numbers, with more than 55,000 apprehensions so far, compared with only 9,300 during the same time last year.

In analyzing the data, Pew also found children traveling with a parent were younger than those who travel without one, 81 percent 12 and younger.

“One pattern in the data is that younger children are more likely to be accompanied by a parent or guardian,” Lopez said. “Older children, say age 16, may have left on their own for the U.S. Perhaps to reunite with a family member in the U.S. or possibly to find work.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday at a briefing that “preliminary data” from the first two weeks of June show apprehensions of unaccompanied children down by nearly half in the Rio Grande Valley sector, going from around 350 per day to 150 per day.

“Now, while the reasons for the reduction in the number of unaccompanied children and adults traveling with children apprehended by CBP cannot be attributed to any one factor,” he said, “we do believe that the administration’s response and efforts to work with Central American leaders to publicize the dangers of the journey and reinforce that apprehended migrants are ultimately returned to their home countries, in keeping with the law, as well as seasonal flows, have all played a part.”

President Obama on Monday met with the Homeland Security Council to discuss the unaccompanied children crossing the border.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Crusin In Cruces

Girl Attacked in ‘Slender Man’ Case Receives Anonymous Purple Heart

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 by

Posted in National News

Courtesy Steve Lyons(WAUKESHA, Wis.) — First she survived being stabbed 19 times. Police say it was by her 12-year-old friends. The suspects allegedly told police they did it to please an online fictional character named “Slender Man.”

Then she crawled to safety from the woods near Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Now as she heals, the girl, whose identity ABC News is not revealing because of her age, continues to inspire many worldwide, with well-wishers creating cards for her on homemade purple hearts.

“The little girl and her brother open up the hundreds and some days thousands of packages sent to the family from generous people from all over the world,” Stephen Lyons, the survivor’s spokesperson, told ABC News. “It’s therapeutic and something she and her brother do every day.”

But this month a different kind of Purple Heart came for her in the mail: one issued to members of the military wounded service to the country, or to a family whose loved one was killed in the line of duty.

A simple note came attached, Lyons said. It read, “The Only Heart I Could Find – Stay Strong.”

The stabbing survivor and her family are now hoping to thank the anonymous donor publicly or privately, if they can find that person.

“[Her parents] explained to her the significance of a Purple Heart in the military and what it means, what a personal sacrifice it is to be wounded on behalf of the country, and how incredible it is to be sent this,” Lyons said. “The gift really resonates with the family because they are still dealing with wounds, emotionally and physically, from the events of May 31.”

Prosecutors say on May 31 the 12-year-old survivor’s friends Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser tried to kill her in hopes of becoming agents of “Slender Man,” a niche mythical character the duo read about online.

After the stabbing, authorities say the survivor crawled from the woods and was discovered by a passing cyclist who called 911 as she fought for her life.

Geyser and Weier have been charged with first-degree attempted murder. While the two have yet to enter pleas in court, the stabbing survivor continues to heal at home with her family by her side.

Lyons says the family is now trying to decide where they will display the gifted military Purple Heart in their home.

“Our family continues to be so moved by the prayers, well wishes, packages, financial support and purple hearts from around the world,” they wrote in a statement. “It does not surprise me that a decorated veteran unselfishly gave this amazingly brave and courageous little girl something from his or her heart.”

Along with the numerous mailings they’ve received, Lyons said the family is also grateful for the money raised in an online “Hearts for Healing” campaign. According to the family’s statement, “supporters have donated over $50,000 to assist the family in their goal of $250,000 to help with mounting medical expenses.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Home Instead Senior Care

Four EMTs Suspended over Response in NYPD Chokehold Death

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 by

Posted in National News

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The four EMTs who responded to the scene where New York City cops had taken a man named Eric Garner down with an apparent chokehold have been suspended without pay while their actions are being investigated. Garner died an hour after the controversial arrest.

On Sunday, the Fire Department of New York, which handles citywide emergency medical dispatch, barred the EMTs from responding to 911 calls. Richmond University Medical Center, which employs the first responders, made the decision to suspend them.

“The EMTs are suspended without pay while the investigation continues as they are placed on operational restriction,” the hospital said in a statement announcing the move. “This restriction means they are not working at this hospital or throughout the 911 system. Richmond University Medical Center continues to fully cooperate as this matter is under investigation.”

On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters trailing him on vacation in Italy that — as a layman — he thought a chokehold had been employed by a cop during the controversial caught-on-camera incident on Staten Island on Thursday.

“As an individual who’s not expert in law enforcement, it looked like a chokehold to me. But I also emphasize you have a full investigation because all sides need to be heard and all evidence has to be looked at,” de Blasio said in the statement provided to reporters in New York by the mayor’s office.

The mayor left New York City for Italy on Saturday night, after postponing his departure for a day to deal with the developing firestorm over Garner’s death.

Garner, who stood at 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed about 350 pounds, died Thursday after police struggled to arrest him for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island, according to the NYPD. Police said he appeared to suffer a heart attack.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo, an 8-year veteran who was seen on video apparently putting Garner in the chokehold, was placed on “modified assignment” Saturday, meaning he was stripped of his badge and gun, pending the outcome of the dual probes by the district attorney and Internal Affairs.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton had announced Friday that the cop and his partner were on “desk duty,” but at that point they still had their guns and shields.

A chokehold is a violation of NYPD policy, regardless of whether the move causes any damage. Beyond that, prosecutors and police investigators will be looking at whether it caused or contributed to Garner’s death about an hour after he was taken into custody.

The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office said Sunday it had not reached any finding on Garner’s cause of death. Official preliminary results could come in the next few days.

Garner was arrested in Staten Island after he was allegedly seen selling “loosie” cigarettes, police said. Garner was known for selling individual cigarettes for 50 cents each in his Staten Island neighborhood.

Police said the cigarettes come from North Carolina and Garner is the end of the supply line. Because the Staten Island man allegedly sold cigarettes to children, the police called the cigarette sales a “quality of life” issue in the neighborhood.

Garner’s death has led to outrage, especially after video obtained by the New York Daily News appeared to show that the man was put into a chokehold as he was arrested.

The video shows officers approaching Garner, who initially denies that he’s selling loose cigarettes.

“I’m minding my business, why don’t you leave me alone?” Garner can be heard saying.

When police officers move in, Garner appears to not comply and at least five officers wrestle him to the ground as they attempt to handcuff him.

As Garner is being held down, he can be heard telling police that he “can’t breathe.” Eventually when officers realize he is not responsive, they called in an ambulance, which took Garner to a hospital where he died a short time later.

The apparent violence of the arrest led to outrage and the internal investigation. Online, numerous people tweeted #JusticeforEricGarner, calling attention to the deadly incident.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Double Your Dollars

Coloradans Still High on New Pot Laws

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 by

Posted in National News

iStock/Thinkstock(HAMDEN, Conn.) — How do state voters feel now about Colorado Amendment 64, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana by adults as well as sales of one ounce or less by licensed stores?

About the same as they did in April, when Quinnipiac University previously asked the question.

Fifty-four percent say they support the overall passage of Amendment 64. However, it was as high as 58 percent last February.

In other findings, two-thirds of Coloradans maintain that people who want to smoke marijuana should only do so in their homes or at members-only clubs.

Meanwhile, just over six in 10 respondents to the Quinnipiac poll say that smoking pot should not be allowed in establishments that serve alcohol or at any venue that charges admission.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Metal Depot

Poll: Most Americans Not Anxious to Get Involved in Foreign Entanglements

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 by

Posted in National News

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The upheavals overseas have made Americans more skittish about any kind of U.S. military involvement, according to a new POLITICO survey.

For instance, 67 percent of those polled say that military action should only be taken when there is a direct threat to national security. Only 22 percent believe that the U.S. should be compelled to act whenever democracy is threatened elsewhere.

The survey of 834 adults, which was taken before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed over eastern Ukraine, found that just 17 percent feel the U.S. should do more to help the central government in Kiev, while 34 percent want less involvement and three in ten contend the current policy is correct.

In regards to Afghanistan, nearly three-quarters agree on the timetable to withdraw all U.S. forces from the country. Twenty-three percent oppose a complete withdrawal.

As for Iraq, 51 percent believe the worsening situation there has little or no effect on national security, while 42 percent says it affects national security “a lot.”

Another source of concern is the ongoing civil war in Syria, although just 15 percent believe the U.S. should do more. Meanwhile, 68 percent agree with the present U.S. policy or think it should be limited further.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Hometown Headlines w/ Brad Barrett

Reserve Cop Who Posted Offensive Cyclist Rant Resigns

Monday, July 21st, 2014 by

Posted in National News

iStock/Thinkstock(SANTA PAULA, Calif.) — A volunteer reserve police officer in California has resigned after a video that she posted in which she jokes about running over cyclists went viral.

Laura Weintraub of the Santa Paula Police Department posted to her Facebook on Saturday apologizing for the “mistake” and asking for forgiveness. The same day, the police department updated its Facebook saying that the volunteer who made the video had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Then on Sunday, Police Chief Steven Mclean reported on the Facebook page that he had accepted Weintraub’s resignation, effective that day.

“It’s a black eye and it’s embarrassing,” Mclean told ABC News Monday. “The whole police department is completely horrified. I’m just beside itself.”

After receiving multiple death threats, Weintraub said she knew it was best for both herself and the department to resign, Mclean said.

Another volunteer who tried to make light of the situation by posting sarcastic comments on Weintraub’s video has also issued an apology taking responsibility for his comments. That volunteer has been suspended pending an investigation, Mclean said.

The video has since ignited a firestorm of debate on the department’s Facebook page. Thousands of users have flocked to the page, many of whom are unsatisfied with Weintraub’s “dignified” departure.

One comment that has garnered nearly 300 likes demands that Weintraub be charged with violating California Penal Code Section 422, aimed at any person who willfully threatens to commit a crime that results in a death.

“That video was posted in L.A. County, on her own time, and doesn’t reflect any of our views here. If someone thinks she did something criminal, they can do something about it,” Mclean said.

Others, however, appear more sympathetic. Many who say they know Weintraub personally have changed their profile pictures to a screenshot of the video that reads, “I support Laura Weintraub. Share this if you know her for the person she is. Not who the media has made her into.”

In the video, Weintraub filmed herself from her car commenting on bikers’ spandex and claiming, “I hate bicyclists — every single one of them.”

At one point she asks her husband who was driving the car, “How much would I have to pay you to run one of these over?” The video was part of her Web series Cup Holder Commentary.

Weintraub, who is a personal trainer, was not on duty while filming the video nor did she state that she worked at the police department.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Florida Cop Fired for KKK Ties Was Undercover, Ex-Wife Claims

Monday, July 21st, 2014 by

Posted in National News

iStock/Thinkstock(FRUITLAND PARK, Fla.) — The wife of a Florida police officer fired for allegedly secretly belonging to the Ku Klux Klan is claiming that she and her husband were ordered to infiltrate the white supremacist group.

The woman’s allegations come with a description of the Klan’s initiation ceremony that included kneeling with pillow cases over their heads.

The departures from the Fruitland Park Police Department earlier this month of Deputy Chief David Borst and Officer George Hunnewell have revived emotions of Fruitland’s past. The department had already dismissed an officer in 2009 for being affiliated with the KKK and the overwhelmingly white former citrus town turned retirement community has had a history of racial violence in the past.

Since the initial news of the investigation broke, the release of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s report has revealed more details about the explanation that Hunnewell’s ex-wife gave to attempt to support his claims of innocence.

The FDLE report states that Ann Hunnewell told investigators that she was working as a secretary for the Fruitland Park Police Department in 2008 when she and her then-husband George were assigned to an undercover mission by then-chief James Isom.

“Ann Hunnewell said in 2008 through 2009, she and her ex-husband successfully infiltrated the [United Northern and Southern Knights] chapter of the KKK in an undercover capacity,” the report states.

It goes on to say that she claimed Isom “received allegations” that an officer in the department, James Elkins, was involved in the supremacist group and she said Isom “assigned George and Ann Hunnewell to follow up with the matter.”

Ann Hunnewell told investigators that they befriended Elkins and his wife and began exercising and dining with them before James Elkins reportedly asked her husband to join the KKK.

“Ann Hunnewell stated her ex-husband did not share the KKK ideology, but agreed to join in the spirit of the undercover investigation,” the report states.

The former police chief has denied he ordered any such investigation.

“At no time did I ever instruct, or have anybody working undercover or infiltrating a Klan organization while I was the chief of police,” Isom said in sworn statement he gave to his successor, current Fruitland Park police chief Terry Isaacs, which was shared with ABC News. According to Isom’s statement, the men also denied any involvement in the KKK when Elkins was fired in 2009.

Isom reportedly resigned in 2010 after signing a plea deal following a misconduct investigation.

A photo surfaced of Elkins being sworn into the group while surrounded by other members in their infamous white hoods. He was fired on the same grounds that Hunnewell was dismissed five years later — for belonging to a subversive group, which is not illegal but is against the police department’s code of conduct.

Ann Hunnewell described for the FDLE what she said was the KKK’s initiation rite.

“Once in the room, a pillow case was placed over their heads,” Ann Hunnewell said of the induction at the Elkins’ home alongside six to eight others. “As the ceremony began, they were led into the living room and told to kneel. After a reading, their pillow cases were removed from their heads and the ceremony was complete.”

Isaacs told ABC News that when he confronted George Hunnewell about the accusations, Hunnewell said “none of that is true about me.”

ABC News was unable to contact either George or Ann Hunnewell in spite of numerous inquiries.

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Hunnewell was described by Isaacs as a “marginal” officer who had five letters of counseling due to poor work performance and one demotion to his name last year.

Borst, however, was considered a leader in the police department.

“Borst served as my fire chief,” Isaacs said of his former deputy. “He was in a position that had a lot of prestige and a lot of responsibility.”

There is less evidence in the case against Borst.

The FDLE report was sparked by a broader FBI investigation and portions were redacted for that reason. Of the readable portions, there are inconsistencies between two of their sources about Borst’s alleged involvement in the KKK. One source said that Borst knew about Hunnewell’s membership and did nothing, while another point in the report suggests that it is unclear if Borst was a sworn member of the group, the report states.

Isaacs said that Borst “became very emotional” when confronted with the accusations and denied everything, but offered his resignation.

“He said it is an absolute lie but…because of his family and the public outcry, he said he simply wanted to resign,” Isaacs said. Borst could not be reached by ABC News.

Questions about racism in the area first sprung up in 2009 with Elkins’ dismissal.

“Florida in general has a fairly large number of hate groups,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that monitors and tracks hate groups. “Once upon a time this was absolutely common. Right up through the 1960s there were very large numbers of police officers who were members of the Klan or largely sympathetic.”

Fruitland Park, a community of nearly 5,000 people that is almost 90 percent white, lies about 50 miles north of Orlando and is home to a large number of retirees.

The city’s website calls itself “The Friendly City,” but there is a history of racial violence, specifically within the citrus industry in the 1940s and 1950s.

ABC News’ calls to the Ku Klux Klan and the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan went unreturned.

Elkins spoke to the SPLC after news of Hunnewell and Borst’s alleged KKK membership broke and he said that when he was on the force, “probably 10 out of the 12 full time officers” were either members or sympathetic to the group.

Isaacs said that since he joined the department in 2011, he has not had any incidents relating to racism or other officers being members of subversive organizations, but that much of the police force he inherited has left for various other reasons.

“Ten out of the 13 officers who were here [when he joined]- for one reason or another, they’re gone and that shows you that I disagree with the mindset that was here and I’ve worked hard with programs to weed out the mentality of that culture,” Isaacs said. “I never dreamed it would be that officers of the law were members of the Klan. I just prayed to God that was behind us.”

Neither Borst nor Hunnewell face criminal charges for their alleged actions and the county rules allow them 10 days to appeal any dismissal. Isaacs said he has not heard from either of them about plans to file an appeal.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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Video Shows Hot Air Balloon’s Fiery Crash into Power Lines

Monday, July 21st, 2014 by

Posted in National News, Mass.) –  Federal authorities are investigating a hot air balloon crash into power lines Saturday in Massachusetts, an accident that sparked a pair of powerful explosions and injured five people.

Six people were on board the balloon, named “Raspberry Ripple,” including a grandmother. The operator was attempting to land in a residential area in Clinton, Worcester County, when the balloon struck the power lines around 7:40 p.m. Two of the passengers sustained severe burns, authorities said.

Moments before the crash, the passengers seemed unconcerned, waving and talking to people below. But the balloon wasn’t flying high enough. The balloon’s impact with the power lines sent sparks flying — two big explosions, leaving bystanders terrified.

The balloon finally crash-landed into Dennis MacDonald’s backyard. MacDonald rushed to help after witnessing the accident.

“We brought out ice for their wounds,” MacDonald said. “They were all shaken up, but they were all walking.”

Damn Yankee Balloons, the Maine company that owns the balloon, removed the basket from MacDonald’s yard Sunday and refused to comment.

Accidents of this nature aren’t common. Last year, former NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth and a friend suffered serious burns after a balloon they were in hit power lines.

“I saw we were getting really close to the power lines,” Stallworth said at the time. “When I realized we were gonna hit, it was too late.”

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