National News

James Holmes' Father Says Son Is 'Excellent Kid' in Desperate Bid to Save His Li


Shelly Greer/Hemera/iStock/ThinkStock(AURORA, Colo.) -- Bob Holmes took the stand Tuesday in a desperate attempt to save the life of his son, who was convicted of killing 12 people and wounding 70 others in the Aurora, Colorado theater massacre.James Holmes is potentially facing the death penalty after being convicted of 165 counts on July 16."Do you still love your son?" asked public defender Tamara Brady. "Yes. He was an excellent kid. He's my son," Bob Holmes said quietly.Bob Holmes testified that the trial has been very difficult for him. He and his wife, Arlene, have sat directly behind their son in support of him enduring weeks of gut-wrenching testimony from the victims of families he killed and wounded.Bob Holmes told the court that he wasn't aware that his son was mentally ill and also did not know that he was having homicidal thoughts.At the urging of defense attorneys, the killer's father described a bucolic California childhood as pictures and videos of the gunman were shown to the jury on three flat screens in the courtroom. There were pictures and home movies of Christmas gatherings, neighborhood Halloween parties, camping out and, at 5 years old, getting a haircut by his grandmother.All week, the jury has heard from neighbor moms, church leaders, college roommates and childhood friends. They've listened to stories of better days when the defendant got good grades on school science projects, volunteered to pull weeds at the church and brought toys to orphans.But the older Holmes described life starting to turn south for his son after a move from the strawberry fields of Castroville, California to San Diego when the defendant was entering middle school."Jimmy," as the family calls him, got good grades, but was struggling to fit in.After graduating from high school, he started a job in a pill-coating factory."I suspected he was unhappy," explained his dad. Life started looking up when the defendant got into the Neuropsychiatry program at the University of Colorado. In the fall of 2011 he had his first girlfriend.Holmes' father testified that at Christmas break that year, James was very sick with mononucleosis and he was concerned. By that spring, his son wasn't returning phone calls."We knew he had broken up with his girlfriend. We knew some things weren't going very well."In truth, the convicted shooter had already begun buying guns and plotting out the July 20th attack; but he didn't reveal his plans to anyone.Though they usually communicated by email, they set up a phone call for July 4th and had a long conversation, which for the normally-introverted James they knew, was very unusual. "He sure didn't sound depressed. He was pretty chatty," testified the father.When Bob and Arlene Holmes got the call that a gunman had opened fire into the premiere of a Batman movie in the early morning of July 20 three years ago, they thought their son had been shot. To their horror, they found out from the media that it was their son who had done the shooting.The family sent nearly 50 letters to the jail and visited three times before the trial procedures started. "Jim doesn't allow visitors, so we hadn't been able to see him. The first time was when he had his red hair."Wednesday, Arlene Holmes will have her turn on the stand and tears are expected to be flowing in the Arapahoe County courtroom. Thursday morning both sides will have closing arguments and then the jury will deliberate whether the Holmes family's plea for them to see their son as a human being worked to save him from moving to the next phase, the decision of whether or not to put him to death.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tree Falls on Children Critically Injuring At Least Two


Christopher-Oliver/iStock/ThinkStock(PASADENA, Calif.) -- A tree fell and hit children near a Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena, California on Tuesday.Eight children were injured with at least two in critical condition. Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said, "We have our urban search and rescue team literally cutting through every limb to ensure that there's no other victims underneath this tree."  The giant tree fell on top of campers who were waiting to be picked up by their parents.Bystanders immediately jumped in and began pulling pieces of the tree off of the victims. John Rouse was nearby with his son when he ran over to help, "We heard some noise and then a lot of screaming and so a lot of us jsut ran right next door here and the tree had just fallen."There is no word yet on the cause of the tree fall. Kidspace Children's Museum CEO Michael Shanklin said, "All the children are accounted for and all parents have been notified."Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tree Falls on Children Critically Injuring Three


Christopher-Oliver/iStock/ThinkStock(PASADENA, Calif.) -- A tree fell and hit children near a Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena, California on Tuesday.Eight children were injured with three in critical condition. Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said, "We have our urban search and rescue team literally cutting through every limb to ensure that there's no other victims underneath this tree."  The giant tree fell on top of campers who were waiting to be picked up by their parents.Bystanders immediately jumped in and began pulling pieces of the tree off of the victims. John Rouse was nearby with his son when he ran over to help, "We heard some noise and then a lot of screaming and so a lot of us jsut ran right next door here and the tree had just fallen."There is no word yet on the cause of the tree fall. Kidspace Children's Museum CEO Michael Shanklin said, "All the children are accounted for and all parents have been notified."Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Inside Joyce Mitchell's Relationships with Escaped Prisoners and Fantasy of a Ne


G.N. Miller - Pool/Getty Images(PLATTSBURGH, N.Y.) --  Prison worker Joyce Mitchell poured her heart out to investigators about her relationships with the convicted murderers she helped escape from an upstate New York prison, detailing her increasing sexual contact with one of them and her deepening involvement in the plot over time, according to a series of statements she made to police.In the statements, obtained by ABC News, Mitchell, who pleaded guilty Tuesday, details her dreams of running off into the sunset with the men, only to have the fantasy unravel when she panicked on the night of the escape."I enjoyed the attention, the feeling both of them gave me, and the thought of a different life," she said in one of the three statements she gave investigators in the week following the escape.Her relationship with one of the men, Richard Matt, began with seemingly innocent requests for help, but soon escalated into sexual contact, she said, including sending him nude photos to give to the other inmate, David Sweat, she said in the statements.Matt and Sweat escaped from the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora in a dramatic "Shawshank Redemption"-style breakout. Investigators caught up to the men after weeks on the lam and shot and killed Matt. Sweat was shot and captured.Matt only began the relationship with Mitchell, who is married, after he hatched his escape plan from Clinton Correctional Facility with fellow convicted murderer David Sweat, the statements said.Mitchell was investigated by jail officials for allegedly having relations with Sweat, but not enough evidence was found to continue the investigation.The statements, obtained by ABC News, offer the first detailed account of the incident in Mitchell's own words.Mitchell, who worked in the prison tailor shop, explained she had sexual contact with Matt but insisted that she and Sweat had never had any sexual contact.She said that Matt made her “feel special” and she started doing favors for him. First, she called Matt’s daughter for him and then helped him get a hold of items he couldn't get for himself, including two pairs of glasses with lights on them, a screw driver bit, and two hacksaw blades.At one point at the end of April 2015, Mitchell said she was alone with Matt in the prison tailor shop where she worked when he "grabbed me and kissed me," the statement said."It startled me," she said. "He kissed me with an open mouth kiss." The sexual request from Matt escalated from there over time and Mitchell obliged, she told investigators.Mitchell told investigators how she started bringing contraband into the prison around that time, including smuggled in frozen hamburger meat, allegedly with the unwitting help of Correction Officer Gene Palmer."I originally brought in two blades, by bending them in half and putting them in some hamburger, which I then put in the freezer," she told investigators, according to the statements."I brought the frozen hamburger into work and put it in the freezer where I work. Inmate Matt stated he would have Correctional Officer Palmer pick up the hamburger and bring it back to his cell.""The second time Inmate Matt asked me for hacksaw blades, he also asked for two chisels and a punch," Mitchell said. She said she put the blades in the hamburger again, froze the meat and took it into the jail.Mitchell said she left it in a freezer, and a few days later, the hamburger was gone."Matt said he had gotten the items, so I assume C.O. Palmer brought them to him," Mitchell said, according to the statement.Mitchell also said Matt gave her two pills to "drug my husband Lyle with." Mitchell said she doesn't know what the pills were, but that she took them home and flushed them down the toilet once police started interviewing her.When recounting the night of the escape -- June 5 -- Mitchell said she had initially agreed to help Matt and Sweat escape and run away with them. But at the last minute, she panicked and decided she couldn't go through with it because she loved her husband.She said they were supposed to meet at midnight, and they were going to go somewhere 6-7 hours away, but she doesn't remember where. Mitchell said the plan was for Matt to go off by himself and for Mitchell to be with Sweat.Mitchell said she had agreed to help the prisoners because she believed she was “caught up in the fantasy”, and liked the attention the men paid to her and the thought of a different life.Mitchell, 51, pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree promoting prison contraband and fourth-degree criminal facilitation. She faces a prison sentence ranging from 2 1/3 years to 7 years.She also agreed to cooperate with the investigation and give up her teaching certificate.The judge said Mitchell, who wiped away tears while making the plea, could be released on $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond. Mitchell was wearing her wedding ring in court.Mitchell's attorney, Stephen Johnston, said Mitchell has been sobbing, anxious, depressed and remorseful since her arrest.Johnston said Mitchell's husband, Lyle, is also upset, but continues to support his wife. Johnston said Lyle Mitchell believed it was in his wife's best interest to accept the plea deal."She realizes that she made a horrible mistake," Johnston said at a news conference after Tuesday's court hearing.Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie agreed not to pursue other charges against Mitchell, including allegedly conspiring to murder her husband and sexual-related offenses, Wylie said.Palmer, who was also arrested in connection with the escape, will face a grand jury next month. He has admitted providing the two inmates with certain items and access, but has denied knowing the men would escape.Mitchell will be sentenced on Sept. 28.ABC US News | World NewsCopyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Officials Release Sandra Bland Jail Footage to Address Theories About Her Death


Sandra Bland/Facebook(HOUSTON) -- Texas officials released new footage of Sandra Bland in the county jail where she remained for three days until her death, showing her talking to officers, facing a magistrate judge, sleeping in a holding cell and making multiple phone calls.One clip from the day after her arrest shows a seemingly upset Bland in her orange jumpsuit make multiple phone calls from the jailer's phone. As she makes calls she used a tissue to wipe her eyes.Waller County Judge Carbett Duhon said he released the footage because of threats related to Bland's death, which caused an uproar and to address theories that she was dead prior to her mug shot being taken. Bland was found hanged from a plastic trash bag in her cell on July 13, three days after she was pulled over for a traffic infraction.County officials said that Bland spent about 22 minutes making calls after she made multiple requests to use the phone. They said it was possible she was leaving voicemails. In one voicemail she was heard telling a friend that she did not know how a traffic stop turned into time in jail.County officials said that the numbers she called were being retrieved as part of the investigation into her death.Waller County Judge Carbett Duhon walked reporters through the videos of Bland during the three days at the county jail before she was found dead in her cell.Initial video showed Bland at the jail wearing the same dress as the one she wore during the arrest.Other video showed Bland waiting around for hours in a holding cell before she was booked and had her mug shot taken.Duhon pointed out that Bland had been asleep for hours before her picture was taken that Friday. On Saturday Bland is shown facing a judge to have her bond determined. In the video she stands facing a judge with her hands clasped in front of her answering questions.An autopsy released indicated that Bland committed suicide and did not show any signs of a struggle that would be associated with a violent death.But her family has called for a Department of Justice investigation and ordered an independent autopsy.Dash cam footage released of the arrest shows a heated confrontation between her and the officer before she was taken into custody.Questions have been raised about what occurred after her arrest as well.Sheriff's officials said that Bland told jailers that she was "fine" just hours before her death.A jail intake form indicated that she had tried to commit suicide at some point in 2014 or 2015 after she lost a baby, but also said that she was not suicidal on the day she was taken into jail.ABC US News | World NewsCopyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Cyclist's Helmet Cam Captures Moment SUV Hits Him Then Speeds Away


Trip Volpe(SEATTLE) -- A cyclist's GoPro camera on his helmet caught his recent close encounter with a SUV at an intersection in Seattle, Washington, where the driver crashed into the cyclist and sped away.The cyclist, Trip Volpe, was headed northbound on Dexter Avenue at Thomas Street when the SUV made a quick turn in front of him, ABC affiliate KOMO-TV reported. Volpe's helmet cam captured the sound of his bike braking hard and the moment the SUV crashed into his bike and then fleeing the scene.Volpe was knocked down and suffered minor injuries, KOMO reported."I was really angry at the guy because he pulled out in front of me, we collide, and he just flees the scene," Volpe told KOMO. "I could've been seriously injured. Hell, he could've run me over if I had somehow slipped under his tire. That's really not cool."A still from the video Volpe caught on his $400 GoPro also appears to show the SUV driver holding a cell phone, KOMO added."He was staring at his phone during the turn," Volpe told KOMO. "If you're driving, don't look at your phone. Please. You'll kill somebody."Seattle Police Department Sgt. Whitcomb told ABC News that the driver turned himself into police about an hour-and-a-half after the incident and that the case remains active under investigation. Whitcomb said he could not immediately identify the driver's age or name.Volpe did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for additional comment.ABC US News | World NewsCopyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Man Arrested In ISIS-Inspired Plot to Bomb Florida Beach, Officials Say


Jacob Ammentorp Lund/iStock/ThinkStock(KEY WEST, Fla.) -- The FBI has arrested a Florida man who allegedly wanted to detonate a bomb at a Florida beach in what authorities describe as an ISIS-inspired terror attack.Harlem Suarez, 23, of Key West, Florida, has been charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction against a person or property within the United States.“According to the complaint, Harlem Suarez, a self-professed ISIL adherent, knowingly attempted to use a weapon of mass destruction - a backpack bomb - in the United States,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “Stopping attacks on our homeland by those inspired or directed by designated foreign terrorist organizations is the highest priority of the National Security Division.”Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Teen Arrested for Murder After 8-Year-Old's Body Found in Recycling Bin, Police


Santa Cruz Police Department(SANTA CRUZ, Calif.) -- A 15-year-old has been arrested for allegedly murdering an 8-year-old girl whose body was found in a recycling bin in Santa Cruz, California, police said Tuesday.The teen, who lived on the same property at the Tannery Arts Center where 8-year-old Madyson Middleton's body was found, took her to his apartment and allegedly killed her there, Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel said at a news conference Tuesday.The teen then allegedly carried Madyson's body to a recycling bin below his apartment, Vogel said. The body was found concealed in the bin Monday night.According to Vogel, it's likely that Madyson was killed before she was reported missing Sunday night.Vogel said police have found evidence linking the teen to the crime. He said the teen and Madyson were acquaintances as they both lived at the same complex.Vogel also said Madyson willingly went up to his apartment."She knew him," Vogel said. "I think she had a reasonable amount of trust in him."The teen has been arrested for murder and is currently being housed at a juvenile detention facility, Vogel said, noting it's believed he acted alone.Vogel called the case "devastating."An autopsy will be conducted, Vogel said.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

How a Car Salesman Allegedly Kidnapped During a Test-Drive Escaped


iStock/Thinkstock(CONCORD, Calif.) — A California car salesman was in for the ride of his life after a customer test-driving the vehicle tried to steal it with him in it, police said.The salesman, from a dealership in Concord, California, 30 miles northeast of San Francisco, was on a test drive with a customer on Monday, according to the Concord Police Department. The dealership, Lehmer's Concord Buick GMC, made a copy of the suspect's driver's license before leaving, police said.During the test drive, investigators say, the customer told the salesman that he was stealing the car, according to ABC station KGO-TV in San Francisco.When the car reached the city of Pittsburg, about 10 miles away from Concord, "the victim was able to escape from the suspect by getting out of the car while it was stopped" and called the police, according to the Concord Police Department. The salesman is shaken up but okay, KGO-TV reported.The suspect fled the area and was later apprehended by Antioch Police Department, Concord Police said. There was a police chase that ended in a crash, KGO-TV reported. Lehmer's Concord Buick GMC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.Concord Police and Antioch Police did not immediately respond to a request for additional information from ABC News."The suspect was arrested and later transported to County jail for kidnapping, resisting arrest and for stealing a car," Concord Police said Monday. "The suspect’s identity has not been confirmed at this time and we are unable to release any identifying information. This is still an on-going investigation and no additional information will be released to the public at this time."Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Convicted Spy Jonathan Pollard Granted Parole


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Convicted spy Jonathan Pollard has been granted release from prison by the U.S. Parole Commission, according to a U.S. official.Pollard was sentenced to life in prison after being arrested in 1985 for stealing secrets for Israel. Laws at the time mandated eligibility for parole after serving 30 years, according to the Justice Department.He is now set to be released on Nov. 21. Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Teens Missing at Sea: Coast Guard Chopper Sent to Georgia Coast in Expanded Sear


U.S. Coast Guard press release(BRUNSWICK, Ga.) — The Coast Guard sent a chopper to waters off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia, Tuesday in the expanded search for two Florida teens who've been missing at sea for days, authorities said.The chopper responded Tuesday to a Good Samaritan's report of something small and rectangular in the water.The sighting was of an object that resembled a Styrofoam cooler lid, Coast Guard public affairs specialist Mark Barney told ABC News, but he added that it was unknown if the sighting was related to the teens' case.According to ABC television affiliate WPBF, the object was not connected to the teens' disappearance:On Monday, Coast Guard Captain Mark Fedor told ABC News the boys apparently had a cooler on board their boat.Officials said the search in the Atlantic Ocean for Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, both 14, goes as far north as Savannah, Georgia, and as far south as Cape Canaveral, Florida, according to WPBF.Austin and Perry left on a fishing trip in Florida on Friday morning and they were reported missing Friday evening, authorities said.On Sunday, their boat was found capsized and damaged off the Ponce de Leon Inlet in central Florida, the Coast Guard said, noting that neither boy was in or around the boat.Football Hall of Famer Joe Namath, a neighbor of the families who's known the boys for years, said Sunday he's confident that the boys "know what they're doing" at sea.“Austin’s been sharp and on the water a good while. Perry is just as sharp as can be," Namath said.The boys' mothers also expressed confidence.Perry's mother, Pamela Cohen, said, "Perry has been on a boat really since he was seven.""Austin, this is his fourth boat," said Carly Black, Austin's mother. "He's been around boats since before he could walk."But the search for the boys still remains a race against time. The seas where Austin and Perry went missing is relatively warm, Coast Guard Captain Mark Fedor said Monday, but he added that the environment is still dangerous. Fedor estimated that Austin and Perry could likely survive about four or five days at sea based in part on survivability charts.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Pilot Recalls Chilling Moment of Accident


Virgin Galactic(WASHINGTON) — The Virgin Galactic pilot who miraculously parachuted to safety after SpaceShipTwo disintegrated over the Mojave Desert last year felt as though something was trying to rip his helmet off as he fell to the ground.Peter Siebold’s interview was included in a release Tuesday by National Transportation Safety Board. Following a nine month investigation, the agency shared their findings in the Oct. 31, 2014 accident, saying it was caused by "premature repositioning" of the spacecraft's tail wings.The two tail wings of the spaceship are supposed to move when the vehicle hits a certain speed — a process known as "feathering." The co-pilot unlocked the feather early at a speed of Mach 0.8 instead of the intended speed of 1.4, triggering what Investigator in Charge Lorenda Ward called "catastrophic structural failure."While co-pilot Michael Alsbury died in the crash, Siebold was able to share his harrowing story of survival with investigators, beginning at the moment of the accident when he recalled experiencing the jolt of a "very violent, large pitch-up with high G’s and grunting noises."As the cabin tore apart, Siebold recalled hearing what sounded like "paper fluttering in the wind."When Siebold was outside the spacecraft, he told investigators he remembers hearing a high frequency whistling noise and realized his helmet and mask were twisted. Opening his eyes, he saw the desert below as he continued to fall in a stabilized position.Since SpaceShipTwo was a test flight, there was a great deal of data recorded by Virgin Galactic and its partner, Scaled Composites, which investigators were able to analyze as a part of their investigation.Though the executive summary, findings and probable cause were released Tuesday by the NTSB, the full 200-page report will not be released for a couple more weeks.ABC US News | World NewsCopyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

NY Prison Worker Joyce Mitchell Pleads Guilty to Aiding Escapees


G.N. Miller - Pool/Getty Images(PLATTSBURGH, N.Y.) -- Former New York prison employee Joyce Mitchell pleaded guilty Tuesday to helping two prisoners escape from a maximum security prison in June.Mitchell, who worked in the tailor shop at Clinton Correctional Facility, was jailed shortly after Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped on June 6.Following a three-week manhunt, Matt was shot and killed. Sweat was captured soon after and jailed.Mitchell, 51, pleaded guilty to first-degree promoting prison contraband and fourth-degree criminal facilitation. She faces a prison sentence ranging from two-and-a-third years to seven years.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thief Picks Up $150K in Bag Accidentally Left on Lawn by ATM Delivery Workers in


Ingram Publishing(MAHWAH, N.J.) — Two employees who deliver cash to ATM machines in the Mahwah, New Jersey area "inadvertently" left behind $150,000 worth of cash in a satchel on a lawn during a recent stop, according to police.Surveillance video from the area showed that shortly after the ATM delivery employees drove away, a white van drove up and a passenger from the vehicle steeped out, took the bag of money and drove away, the Mahwah Police Department said in a news release.Cops said they are now looking for the suspect.The Mahwah Police Department did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for additional information such as the identity of the ATM delivery employees or what company they work for.The employees who accidentally left behind the $150,000 told police they realized the cash-filled satchel was missing only 15 minutes after they drove away, police said, adding that when they returned to the location to try and recover the bag, it was missing.The white van, which appears to be a GMC Savana, is believed to have pulled into a nearby auto repair business, where the suspect who stole they money also tried to take used tires but was asked to stop by employees, police said in the news release that did not name the auto repair business.Police described the suspect as a "dark skinned male wearing a tee-shirt and long white athletic shorts with some type of dark stripe down the thigh area."Anyone with additional information is asked to contact Mahwah Detective Michael Grassi or Eric Larsen at 201-529-1000 extension 216 or 217.ABC US News | World NewsCopyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Government Officers in Oregon Receive Threatening Letters


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Oregon State Police along with other law enforcement agencies are investigating suspicious letters and packages -- some containing "an unknown substance" -- sent to government offices across the state, the police department said in a statement.Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer was taken to the hospital Monday night after opening up one piece of mail and developing a rash on his arms. But he was released within hours, according to KGW-TV in Portland.Efforts to reach Palmer were not successful.The Jackson County Sheriff's Office, meanwhile, had to be evacuated because of a suspicious package. About 60 people had to leave once it was noticed. At least two county courthouses in the state were also evacuated.The FBI and U.S. Postal Service are assisting local officials as they work to determine precisely what substance was sent through the mail system, and who sent it. Officials said at least 10 letters appeared to be from the same person.State officials will likely be testing the substance.Meanwhile, the state police is urging the public to look out for any mail "that has excessive postage, no return address, excessive tape to secure [it], misspelled words … strange odors, and oily stains, discolorations, [or] crystallization" on the packaging.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

NY Limo Driver Fired After Being Caught Texting Behind Wheel


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The driver of a limousine bus in New York was fired after he was caught scrolling and texting on his phone while behind the wheel.Amanda Castellano posted a video to Facebook on Sunday appearing to show the driver texting while driving. She said she was among a group on their way to the Hamptons."I was furious," she said. "I couldn't believe that a man who had 45 lives in his hands would do something so serious."The company said the driver was fired after the incident."To all of our valued clients and followers. I want you to know that we take safety very seriously and it is our number one priority," M and V Limousines Ltd. said in a Facebook post. "We have zero tolerance for texting/distracted driving as it is not only against the law but against our policies. When I was made aware of it the driver was fired immediately."In 2013, more than 3,000 people were killed in car crashes involving distracted drivers, which includes driving while eating, drinking, using a GPS, or adjusting the radio, according to Distraction.gov."Something can be established where you can't do illegal things, text and drive, especially when you have these lives in your hands," said Castellano.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Body Believed to Be Missing California Girl Found in Dumpster


Santa Cruz Police Department(SANTA CRUZ, Calif.) -- Police in California believe they have found the body of an 8-year-old girl who vanished over the weekend.The body was found in a dumpster at the Tannery Arts Center Monday night, the same housing unit where Madyson Middleton was reported missing the night before, said Santa Cruz Police Chief Kevin Vogel.While the body hasn't been positively identified, "we are fairly confident at this point it is Madyson Middleton," he said.A 15-year-old boy was taken into custody for questioning, Vogel said. Police were obtaining a search warrant for an apartment at the complex, according to the Santa Cruz Police Department."It's horrible. It's awful. It's heart-breaking," Vogel said.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Coast Guard Expands Search for Florida Teenagers Missing at Sea


U.S. Coast Guard press release(JUPITER, Fla.) -- The Coast Guard has searched 27,000 square miles for two teenagers believed to be lost at sea off the coast of Florida.An area roughly the size of West Virginia had been searched for Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen as of midnight Tuesday. The two 14-year-olds were last seen Friday when they left Jupiter, Florida, for a fishing trip.Their boat was found capsized off the coast of the Ponce de Leon Inlet, about 180 miles from Jupiter, on Sunday.Coast Guard Capt. Mark Fedor said on Monday that the two could likely survive about four or five days at sea based in part on survivability charts."I have a 13 and 14-year-old at home and this resonates with me," Fedor said.The Coast Guard's search is now focused north of where the boat was found, Fedor said.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Boy Scouts of America Votes to Remove Ban on Gay Adult Scout Leaders


gloch/iStock Editorial/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) -- The Boy Scouts of America voted to remove the ban on gay adult scout leaders on Monday. A statement posted to the organizations' website from the Boy Scouts National President (and former Defense Secretary) Robert Gates said, "For far too long this issue has divided and distracted us. Now it's time to unite behind our shared belief that the extraordinary power of scouting can be a force for good in the community and in the lives of its youth members." He added, "The best way to allow BSA to continue to focus on its mission and preserve its core values is to address the issue and set our own course. And that's what we've done." The full statement was posted to the organization's website. Despite the ban, loocal scout troops, according to the organization, "may continue to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders."Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

FBI Assisting in Search for Missing 8-Year-Old California Girl Madyson Middleton


Santa Cruz Police Department(SANTA CRUZ, Calif.) -- A state-wide search, assisted by the FBI, is underway after an 8-year-old California girl vanished over the weekend.The Santa Cruz Police Department was first called to the Tannery Arts Center, a housing unit for artists, when Madyson “Maddy” Middleton was reported missing from her home there Sunday evening.Madyson was last seen riding her white Razor scooter, wearing a purple knee-high dress with black leggings, and a black baseball-style helmet with long, dark hair pulled to the side in a braid.The FBI has joined the effort in addition to the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team. It was not immediately clear if foul play was involved and the investigation was in the early stages, police said.Specially trained K-9’s from the State Office of Emergency Services have helped track down Madyson’s scent in the city's main beach area about 2 miles away.The search is expected to continue near the beach during daylight hours and include the San Lorenzo River waterway and levees, where watercraft, aircraft and foot teams will be utilized.Madyson is described as being 4 feet tall, 48 pounds with long brown hair and blue eyes.

Second Person Dies in Houston Police Custody in 2 Weeks, Officials Say


Alex_Schmidt/iStock/ThinkStock(HOUSTON) -- A 29-year-old woman died in police custody in Houston Sunday, police said, marking the second custody death in the city in less than 10 days.The deaths, which are under investigation by the Houston Police Department, come amid an uproar into the case of Sandra Bland, who was found hanging in her cell in nearby Waller County on July 13.Although Waller County is part of the greater Houston metro area, the Waller County Jail and Waller County District Attorney’s office are not affiliated with the city of Houston or the Houston police.The woman in the Houston case, whose identity has not been released, was arrested for public intoxication, the Houston police said Monday.She was examined at the scene by paramedics and then taken to the Houston PD's Southeast Jail by a patrol officer, police said. "Upon arrival [at the jail] and before being booked into the jail, the woman was found to be unresponsive," police said.Jail personnel performed CPR, police said, and she was taken to Ben Taub General Hospital where she was declared dead.The incident is under investigation by the Houston Police Department's Homicide Division and Internal Affairs Division. Autopsy and toxicology results are pending, police said.Eight days earlier, a man who had been "showing signs of mental distress" also died in police custody, the Houston police said.On July 18, an officer was at a Houston convenience store when he saw a man "bleeding from the head," Houston police said in a release.The officer tried to help the man "who became combative and was showing signs of mental distress," the police said. "As the officer tried to get the suspect medical attention, the suspect charged the officer."The suspect then "charged at" other responding officers, "so the suspect was restrained," police said.Paramedics were attending to the suspect "when he went from fighting to suddenly being non-responsive," police said. The man, whose identity was not released, was taken to a hospital where he was declared dead.According to the police, witnesses said the man was injured before the incident and police had "made multiple attempts to calm the suspect in order for him to be treated for his injuries."This incident is also under investigation by the Houston Police Department's Homicide division and Internal Affairs division. Houston police said today they are still awaiting the man's autopsy results.Both of these deaths come on the heels of the widely-publicized arrest of Bland, who died at a jail in nearby Waller County, Texas, on July 13.On July 10, Bland was pulled over in a traffic stop in Prairie View, Texas, and after a confrontation with a Texas trooper, she was arrested on an assault charge.On July 13, Bland was found hanging in her Waller County Jail cell, with the plastic cell trash bin liner around her neck, officials said.Details from Bland's autopsy indicated that she died as a result of suicide and that there were no signs of struggle that would be consistent with a violent death.However, Bland's family is disputing the cause of death and is awaiting the results of an independent autopsy.A review committee will look into everything related to Bland's arrest and death, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis said Monday.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Why Detroit Has the Largest Satanist Temple Chapter in the US


WXYZ-TV(DETROIT) -- The "largest public satanic ceremony in history" took place Saturday in Detroit, a city that has the largest and oldest chapter of a national Satanist organization.The group unveiled a nearly 9-foot tall bronze statue of a goat-headed Baphomet in a private ceremony attended by 600 ticket holders, Lucien Graves, co-founder of the national Satanic Temple organization in Boston told ABC News. The Satanic Temple in Detroit has more than 200 registered members."They are so active and well-organized," Graves told ABC News. "There's probably been another wave of interest since this event."The Detroit chapter is the first of the national organization, Graves said. He credits the Detroit chapter's founder Jex Blackmore with the growth of the chapter since it was established there in August 2014."It's more or less because of her. She was just a very confident person who started working with us," Graves told ABC News. The pair met in Boston and then she moved to Detroit and set up a chapter there.Blackmore told ABC News it is largest chapter."I think the Temple appeals to the radical, politically-charged spirit of the city and many are drawn to us as a force of positive, effective change in this community," Blackmore told ABC News.The statue was originally planned to sit at the Oklahoma state capitol, but the state's supreme court banned all religious displays there, including the Ten Commandments. The statue was created through $28,180 fund-raised by 1,041 people on Indiegogo.com last year. The fundraising page said the statue's purpose was to contrast the Ten Commandments monument that was previously on display.Greaves said there are 20 chapters across the country with about 20,000 members as a whole.Tickets for Saturday's event were $25 and the location was revealed only to ticket-holders, ABC affiliate in Detroit WXYZ reported. Meanwhile, Christians in Detroit protested the event nearby. The event served "as a call-to-arms from which we’ll kick off our largest fight to date in the name of individual rights to free exercise against self-serving theocrats," according to the invitation."People are trying to push religious agenda, whether it’s part of the public opinion or not," Greaves said. "Groups will take it as slander against them and it’s just not the case. We don’t really care if they’re offended or not."According to its mission statement, the national organization, The Satanic Temple, "facilitates the communication and mobilization of politically aware Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty." Among the causes it supports are gay marriage, reproductive rights and eliminating corporal punishment in schools. The national organization does "not promote a belief in a personal Satan.""To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions," the FAQ of TheSatanicTemple.com indicates.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

WATCH: Florida Teens Missing at Sea -- First Look at Capsized Boat


MarkRubens/iStock/ThinkStock(PONCE INLET, Fla.) — As the search for two teenagers lost at sea continues, new video shows what the teens' recovered boat looked like as it floated off the central Florida coast Sunday.The boat, belonging to Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, both 14, was spotted around 11 a.m. Sunday, the Coast Guard said.It was found capsized and damaged 67 nautical miles off the Ponce de Leon Inlet, the Coast Guard said, noting that neither boy was in or around the boat.New video released by the Coast Guard captures waves crashing against the overturned, 19-foot, single-engine boat on Sunday, as crews inspect the scene.The boat was missing one personal flotation device as well as the boat cover, according to ABC affiliate WPBF.Austin and Perry left on a fishing trip Friday morning and were reported missing Friday evening.As of early Monday morning, the search for the boys had covered 26,000 nautical square miles, the Coast Guard said.ABC US News | World NewsCopyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Take a Tour of Washington's Ultimate Beach Ball Pit


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — It’s the beach without the heat and an ocean full of nearly one million small plastic balls.That’s right -- the ultimate ball pit. The 10,000-square-foot exhibit has taken over the Great Hall of the historic National Building Museum in the nation’s capital. Families are lining up to stream into the unique attraction, which has been breaking summer attendance records.ABC NewsIt's such a huge draw, ABC News reporters Mary Bruce and Kenneth Moton had to check it out.The giant, 4-foot deep ball pit has all the makings of a day on the shore. Umbrellas and beach chairs, usually filled with waiting and attentive parents, line the white “sand” floor. On a nearby wall, there are a list of rules for "swimmers" near a lifeguard who has his or her whistle ready for those not abiding by the rules.The ball pit was the idea of a Brooklyn-based firm hired to design a fun concept for the National Building Museum. The attraction is just one of the latest successes for the museum known for its out-of-the-box exhibits. While children are doing backflips and cannon balls, their sounds of laughter fill the Great Hall, where visitors are surrounded by beautiful architecture and floor-to-ceiling marble pillars.The cost of admission ranges from $5 to $16 and the giant ball pit will be open to "swimmers" until Sept. 7.ABC US News | World NewsCopyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Florida Teens Missing at Sea: What We Know About Their Survival Skills


U.S. Coast Guard press release(PONCE INLET, Fla.) — The families of two teenage boys who are missing off the Florida coast after they set out three days ago on a fishing trip said they are confident that their sons have the skills to survive at sea.The boat belonging to Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, both 14, was found capsized and damaged 67 nautical miles off the Ponce de Leon Inlet on Sunday, the Coast Guard said. Neither boy was in or around the boat.The boys left on a fishing trip Friday morning and were reported missing Friday evening. As of early Monday morning, the search for the boys had covered 26,000 nautical square miles, the Coast Guard said.As the search continues, here's what we know about the teens' survival skills and potential supplies.Boating licenses:“Both boys have their boaters certification,” said Pamela Cohen, Perry's mother.Boating experience:Football Hall of Famer Joe Namath, a neighbor of the families who's known the boys for years, said Sunday, "I know they know what they’re doing."“Austin’s been sharp and on the water a good while. Perry is just as sharp as can be," Namath said."Perry has been on a boat really since he was seven," said Pamela Cohen."Austin, this is his fourth boat," said Carly Black, Austin's mother. "He's been around boats since before he could walk."Perry's stepfather, Nick Korniloff, added, "I have all the confidence in Austin and his abilities to operate a boat."The boys may have a life jacket:Their recovered boat was missing one personal flotation device as well as the boat cover, according to ABC television affiliate WPBF.Korniloff said Sunday they don’t know how much food and water the boys have, but insisted the boys "know what they're doing out there.""From my understanding, the boys are avid fisherman. They've been fishing their whole entire lives," Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney said. "But at the same time, they're still 14-years old."A $100,000 reward has been issued for their safe return, Korniloff said."We are positive that our boys are still out there," Korniloff said. "We’ll do anything to get our children back."Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

WATCH: Missing Teens' Boat Found Capsized Off Florida Coast


MarkRubens/iStock/ThinkStockVIDEO: Teens' Capsized Boat Floats Off Florida Coast While Boys Remain Missing(PONCE INLET, Fla.) — As the search for two teenagers lost at sea continues, new video shows what the teens' recovered boat looked like as it floated off the central Florida coast Sunday.The boat, belonging to Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, both 14, was spotted around 11 a.m. Sunday, the Coast Guard said.It was found capsized and damaged 67 nautical miles off the Ponce de Leon Inlet, the Coast Guard said, noting that neither boy was in or around the boat.New video released by the Coast Guard captures waves crashing against the overturned, 19-foot, single-engine boat on Sunday, as crews inspect the scene.The boat was missing one personal flotation device as well as the boat cover, according to ABC affiliate WPBF.Austin and Perry left on a fishing trip Friday morning and were reported missing Friday evening.As of early Monday morning, the search for the boys had covered 26,000 nautical square miles, the Coast Guard said.ABC US News | World NewsCopyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Woman Narrowly Escapes After Tree Crashes Through Bedroom


iStock/Thinkstock(GREAT NECK, N.Y.) — A 20-year-old woman got an early wake-up call when a massive tree crashed into her bedroom Monday morning - trapping her for hours until rescuers could unpin her from its limbs.The 5,000-pound tree fell onto the woman's bedroom just after midnight in Great Neck, New York, a spokesperson for the Nassau County Police Department told ABC News Monday. The woman, who was in bed at the time, was trapped by the tree and debris for more than two hours, the spokesperson said.Firefighters told WABC that they had to take down power lines and created a hole through the roof before cutting the woman free.“They stabilized the tree as best they could ... and notched the tree out to lift the limb around eight inches off of her and were able to slide her out,” said Joshua Forst, chief of the Vigilant Fire Company in Great Neck.Steven Blocker, a paramedic firefighter with the Vigilant Fire Company, lives across the street and responded to the scene.“I hear this whooshing sound," he said, "It turns out it was the tree falling."He added, "I thought this was a tree falling on the house and hit a window, but it was a one in a million chance for it to fall directly on someone."Multiple fire departments worked with the Nassau County Police Department to free the victim, according to the press release from the Nassau County Police Department.The victim is being treated for multiple trauma injuries and is in serious but stable condition, according to the press release.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Missing Teens' Boat Found Capsized Off Florida Coast


MarkRubens/iStock/ThinkStock(MIAMI) --  A boat similar to the one a pair of Florida teenagers went missing in two days ago was found off the coast of the Ponce de Leon Inlet in central Florida, the Coast Guard said Sunday.The recovered boat was capsized and damaged, the Coast Guard said. It hasn't yet been determined whether the boat's tag matches the teens' boat.Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, both 14 years old, left Friday morning in their 19-foot, single-engine boat, for a fishing trip, according to the Coast Guard. The teenagers checked in with their parents at 11 a.m. and were Snapchatting photos of the boat and their fishing gear around noon.The teenagers were last seen at 1:30 p.m., buying more than $100 worth of fuel at a marina in Jupiter, Florida.The boys were reported missing by their parents about 5 p.m. Friday.Perry's stepfather, Nick Korniloff, said today they don’t know how much food and water the boys have, but insisted the boys "know what they're doing out there.""I have all the confidence in Austin and his abilities to operate a boat," Korniloff said at a press conference.“Both boys have their boaters certification,” said Pamela Cohen, Perry's mother. “Perry has been on a boat really since he was seven.""Austin, this is his fourth boat," said Carly Black, Austin's mother. "He's been around boats since before he could walk."A $100,000 reward has been issued for their safe return, Korniloff said."We are positive that our boys are still out there," Korniloff said. "We’ll do anything to get our children back."Football Hall of Famer Joe Namath, a neighbor of the families who's known the boys for years, joined the parents at a press conference Sunday."I know they know what they’re doing,” Namath said. “Austin’s been sharp and on the water a good while. Perry is just as sharp as can be.“We just keep on praying," Namath said.Searchers are looking at factors including weather, sea conditions and currents, Tequesta Police Chief Christopher Elg said at today's press conference.Searchers have covered more than 14,000 nautical square miles so far, Elg said, and search efforts are being expanded today, which could bring coverage up to 25,000 nautical square miles."From my understanding, the boys are avid fisherman. They've been fishing their whole entire lives," Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney said. "But at the same time, they're still 14 years old.""Both boys have siblings that are really looking forward to them coming home," Cohen said.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Man in Trouble for Climbing over Ohio Zoo's Fence, Petting Cougars


Fuse/Thinkstock(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- A visitor at Ohio’s Columbus Zoo is in hot water with zoo personnel for getting a bit too friendly with some cougars.With his camera rolling, Joshua Newell dropped his bag to the ground, climbed over a 4-foot fence, and petted two adult cougars through the final barrier on July 20. Zoo officials found out about Newell's antics after he later posted the video on YouTube.“It was very spontaneous,” Newell said. “I jumped the barrier and showed them some love.”Now, the 35-year-old has with a legal cat fight on his hands.“This is very alarming,” Tom Stalf, the president and CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, said on Sunday. “We will take action.”The zoo is ready to pounce, pressing charges against Newell with a misdemeanor count of trespassing and citing public safety and animal welfare as its top priorities.“They're a large carnivore,” Stalf said. “They have the potential of doing serious harm.”But Newell said he never felt threatened.“Why would I be afraid?” he asked. “They wanted me to pet them.”Overnight, Newell admitted he regretted his actions.“I do want to apologize to the Columbus Zoo,” he said. “I am concerned that other people will try it and that's why I'm on camera to persuade them to not do it.”Newell is set to appear in court on Wednesday.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Man Charged in TV Star Girlfriend's Murder Acted in Self-Defense: Attorney


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A lawyer for a man accused of killing his reality TV star girlfriend said his client acted in self-defense.Robert Reagan, 51, was charged with murdering Loredana Nesci, the star of the Sundance TV reality show Loredana, Esq., with a knife. Nescei's body was discovered on Wednesday after Reagan called police, authorities said.But Reagan's attorney said the woman, known as "the legal diva," attacked Reagan first with the knife."Robert tried to disarm her,” Reagan’s attorney, Shepard Kopp, said in a statement, “and in the intense struggle that ensued she tragically suffered a fatal wound."The couple's troubles were played out on the TV program that centered around the tough-talking attorney, who is a former Los Angeles Police Department officer and body builder.Friends said Nesci, 47, was tough but not violent."Loredana was just the nicest person you have ever met,” said friend Tori Moorhead. “She helped so many people. You'd come in and ask her for help and she would never tell you no and it was never about money with her clients.”But Nesci was known for her sharp tongue, and neighbors say the couple fought often.“They were always kind of yelling back and forth at each other,” said Nesci’s neighbor Adam Gorelick. “It was more often than not but nothing to where you would think someone would kill someone."The fighting was something even Nesci's family admits."I've heard plenty of arguments between the two of them,” said Robert Nesci, Loredana’s brother. “But I've never seen either one of them lay a hand on each other."Loredana Nesci’s brothers sat down with ABC News and said they're now caring for the couple's 5-year old son."We're just very, very distraught over the whole thing,” said Sal Nesci. “And we got a lot of healing ahead of us."Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Shots Fired on University of Florida Campus, One Person in Custody


iStock/Thinkstock(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- One person with a firearm was taken into custody early Monday morning after shots were fired at a dormitory on University of Florida’s campus."Suspect with firearm in custody. Poss witnesses in blue Mazda truck location unknown," the Gainesville, Florida university tweeted Monday.Earlier, the university said two white males in a blue Mazda truck were seen heading away from campus."Shots fired at Murphree Hall lot poss suspects 2 white males in a blue Mazda truck last seen heading north away from campus," the school tweeted.Anyone with information is asked to call the University of Florida Police Department at 352-392-1111.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Gun Used in Lafayette Louisiana Shooting Was Purchased Legally, Killer 'Methodic


ABC News(LAFAYETTE, La.) -- The gun that was used to kill two people and wound nine others in the horrific movie theater shooting in Louisiana was purchased legally in Alabama, police said Friday.Gov. Bobby Jindal said that John Houser, who died of a self-inflicted gun shot wound amid the carnage, methodically opened fire at the Grand 16 Theater in Lafayette Thursday night."It appears that the shooter actually took his time.. and was somewhat methodical as he shot folks from the top and the back of the theater," Jindal said. Mayci Breaux, 21, of Franklin, Louisiana and Jillian Johnson, 33, of Lafayette, were killed. Five people remained hospitalized Friday night.Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said Friday evening that the .40 caliber Hi-Point semiautomatic was legally purchased at a pawn shop in Phenix City, Alabama in February 2014.Police did not immediately say who made the purchase.The gun's history was the latest in a series of developments Friday in the case.Police said they found at least 13 shell casings at the scene.They say Houser opened fire around 7:30 p.m., reportedly during a screening of Amy Schumer's movie Trainwreck. Officials said 25 tickets to the movie were sold.Witnesses said that he stood up and fired a single shot, which some moviegoers mistook as being part of the movie.Then he began firing in a semi-circle, according to the witnesses, with the flashes from the gun lighting up the dark theater.Moviegoers ran for their lives, officials said, leaving their belongings behind. Some sprang into action, helping to save others, including a teacher who shielded another from a bullet."One of the teachers jumped in front of her fellow teacher, probably saving her life," Jindal said.  "That bullet may have ended up hitting her in the head if she hadn't done that. The second teacher was still shot in the leg, even though her friend jumped in front of her, was able to pull the fire alarm."After an initial round of gunfire, Houser tried to leave the theater through a side door, but spotted responding officers and went back inside, police said."He reentered the theater, fired some more rounds, we think three more rounds, and the fourth round he took his own life," Craft said.Authorities were still trying to piece together why Houser, who they described as a "drifter" living at a motel, opened fire.Police said he was "intent on shooting and escaping" and kept wigs and disguises in a nearby motel.Houser had applied for a pistol in Alabama in 2006, according to Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor. But he was denied because of an arson arrest and a report of domestic violence against him in 2005.The domestic violence complaint was never prosecuted.Houser allegedly threatened his family, who took out a temporary protective order against him in April 2008, according to court filings.The protective order was lifted the next month.He was also involuntarily committed to a hospital in Georgia and his wife said had a history of mental illness, including manic depression and bi-polar disorder, according to court filings.According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Houser was prolific in online message boards, and was "caught up with a number of far-right ideas and fascinated about 'the power of the lone wolf.'""At this time the family has no comment," said a statement released on behalf of Houser's estranged wife Kellie Houser and her family. "Our concern and our prayers are for the families of those who lost their lives or were wounded in LaFayette, LA. Please allow our family some privacy at this time."Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Lafayette Theater Shooting Survivor Describes 'Strange Calm' After First Shot


ABC News(LAFAYETTE, La.) -- Emily Mann had just finished laughing at a raunchy moment in the film Trainwreck Thursday evening when the mood in the Grand 16 Theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, changed dramatically.About 20 minutes in, Mann said a man about five seats down from her stood up, wearing a jacket and hat, and fired a single shot."The first shot, I thought it was a firecracker," Mann, 21, said.The audience became silent."After that first shot ... there was this very strange calm," Mann, said. "Because everybody was just trying to make sure it wasn't that ... anything but that."After what Mann described as a long pause, the gunman, identified by police as John Russell Houser, then proceeded to fire in a semi-circle. The blasts from the gun produced flashes of light in the dark theater, she said.By the time Houser's pistol reached Mann's direction, she was on her hands and knees, crawling through the aisle. She said she was waiting for a bullet to be fired into her back."There was no pushing each other. People were pulling each other out instead of trying to scramble on top of one another," Mann said. "I think that that says a lot about the people here.""There was an immediate understanding that every single person in that room was going through the same thing and that we all needed to get out," Mann said.Mann escaped around a corner, helped by a woman who pulled her to safety."By the time I got to the bottom of the stairs a woman pulled me around. And I’d left my purse and my phone everything was there. A shoe," she said."You could just see it in everybody's face that it was very real," she said.Mann then ran with a crowd of people into the lobby."I didn't really hear the screaming until we were out of the theater itself, out of 14 and running down the hall. I still didn't say anything. I hadn't screamed yet, it was just run. That’s what you're supposed to do, you’re supposed to run," Mann said.One of the two women who died from the shooting was 21-year-old Mayci Breaux -- who was the same age as Mann."She was 21," Mann said. "She had things she wanted to do."With tears in her eyes, Mann admitted she feels a strange sense of guilt she survived."I think it could have been any of us," she said. "They chose those seats.""I’ve replayed it a million times, just trying to figure out, you know, had he been a better shot, had he brought an automatic weapon..." Mann said. "All those things that could have gone worse, and it’s all those things that could have lined up to be there," Mann said. "Had he chosen a different movie, maybe a kids movie?"Mann also described the contrast between the comfort of the Lafayette community with the violence Houser brought to it."We've worked so hard to be known for something so much better," she said. "We're known for family and for food and for festivals and for comfort. That’s what you feel when you’re here.""I think Lafayette as a whole won’t think much of him because he wasn’t one of us," she said.ABC US News | World NewsCopyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Lafayette Louisiana Theater Gunman Threatened His Family, Was Involuntarily Comm


ABC News(LAFAYETTE, La.) -- The gunman who opened fire inside a packed movie theater in Louisiana Thursday night allegedly threatened his family and was involuntarily committed to a hospital in Georgia seven years ago, according to documents filed in court.Shooter John Russell Houser, whom police described as a drifter “who was intent on shooting and escaping," died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after being corned, authorities said. He was among three people who died at the Grand 16 Theatre in Lafayette, police said. Nine others were injured, one in critical condition, police said.Houser, 59, was estranged from his family, police said, adding that authorities spoke to some of them overnight.Houser and his wife were married and lived together from 1983 to 2012, according to court filings obtained by ABC News. The couple separated in December 2012, and she then filed for divorce in March 2015, the documents show.They have adult children together, according to the court filings.In April 2008, Houser's family members filed a temporary protective order against him in Georgia, according to court filings.The family members claimed that Houser didn't want his daughter getting married and he exhibited “extreme erratic behavior" and "made ominous as well as disturbing statements" that the marriage wouldn't occur, according to documents. Houser's wife allegedly "became so worried about the Defendant’s volatile mental state that she has removed all guns and/or weapons from their marital residence," according to documents.Houser also allegedly threatened his wife's aunt, the documents said.Houser was involuntarily committed to a hospital in Georgia, the documents said, and he allegedly threatened his wife that once he got out he would continue his erratic behavior and stop the marriage. He also allegedly harassed his daughter's future in-laws, the documents said.Houser's wife said he had a history of mental illness, including manic depression and bi-polar behavior, according to court filings. She said Houser took medication daily, but sometimes forgot to take it or would forget to eat, which affected his behavior, according to court filings.The protection order was lifted May 8, 2009, the documents said.Before that, when he lived in Alabama, Houser applied for a pistol permit in 2006, Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said Friday. But the permit was denied because he had been arrested in connection to an arson case in Georgia in 1989 or 1990, and there was a report of domestic violence against him in 2005, the sheriff said.A 2005 domestic violence complaint against Houser was filed with the police in Alabama, Taylor said, but it was never prosecuted.Police said Houser had no known connection to Lafayette.He had likely been in Lafayette since early this month, staying at a motel, they said.Wigs and glasses were found in Houser's car - a 1995 blue Lincoln Continental - and motel room, according to police.One weapon, a .40-caliber handgun, was recovered, police said. At least 13 rounds were fired, according to police.Separately, Houser was described in a report Friday by a legal advocacy group as someone who was “caught up with a number of far-right ideas and fascinated about ‘the power of the lone wolf.’”He wrote dozens of comments on Internet message boards, expressing “interest in white power groups, anti-Semitic ideas, the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.“Do not mistake yourselves for one minute, the enemy sees all posted on this website. I do not want to discourage the last hope for the best, but you must realize the power of the lone wolf, is the power that come forth in ALL situations,” Houser wrote on a forum dedicated to the New York chapter of Golden Dawn, Greece’s far-right neo-Nazi political party, according to SPLC. “Look within yourselves.”He also cited minimal political involvement and “hustling” among his interests, the law center wrote.Houser has referenced Adolf Hitler many times online, saying, for instance, “Hitler is loved for the results of his pragmatism,” last January on another website, SPLC said.But police emphasized that there is no known motive for the shooting.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Mass Shootings in US Increasingly Common and Deadly


Lafayette police guard the Grand Theatre on July 24, 2015 in Lafayette, Louisiana. Two people were killed and nine others wounded when a shooter identified as John Russell Houser, 59, opened fire in a movie theatre, killing himself after police arrived. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)(NEW YORK) -- The shooting at a Louisiana movie theater that left two dead victims and nine others injured was a shock to many local residents and politicians but does not qualify as a mass shooting according to federal standards.In 2013, President Obama signed a law qualifying a mass shooting as one where three or more victims die, meaning that Thursday night's shooting would not count since the third death was that of the shooter.The FBI has worked from a slightly higher count for more than a decade, as they consider a "serial murder" an incident where four or more victims were killed.Based off the FBI's definition, which was used by Mother Jones in a study of the frequency of mass murders in the United States, the most recent such incident was the shooting at a military recruiting office in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Lafayette movie theater shooting took place exactly one week after the Chattanooga shooting, where five service members died.The Chattanooga shooting came just shy of a month after the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting that left nine dead.A much larger gap existed for mass shootings between the Charleston incident and its predecessor, which happened at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Washington state in October. That gap marked a 236 day break between mass shootings.As the regularity of mass shootings increases, the number of fatalities increases as well.The figures for 2012 are particularly high because it includes the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, where 20 children and six adult staff members were killed, as well as the Aurora movie theater shooting, where 12 people were killed and 70 others injured.Mass shootings that occurred since 1982 tend to align somewhat with population centers, as many took place near the East Coast and along the West Coast.Similarly, there is a notable gap in the upper Great Plains-Rocky Mountain area.Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.The shooting at a Louisiana movie theater that left two dead victims and nine others injured was a shock to many local residents and politicians but does not qualify as a mass shooting according to federal standards.In 2013, President Obama signed a law qualifying a mass shooting as one where three or more victims die, meaning that Thursday night's shooting would not count since the third death was that of the shooter.The FBI has worked from a slightly higher count for more than a decade, as they consider a "serial murder" an incident where four or more victims were killed. Lafayette Louisiana Theater Gunman Threatened His Family, Was Involuntarily Committed, Documents Say  Lafayette, Louisiana, Theater Shooting: Inside the Building  Lafayette, Louisiana, Movie Theater Gunman Was 'Intent on Shooting and Escaping' Based off the FBI's definition, which was used by Mother Jones in a study of the frequency of mass murders in the United States, the most recent such incident was the shooting at a military recruiting office in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Lafayette movie theater shooting took place exactly one week after the Chattanooga shooting, where five service members died.The Chattanooga shooting came just shy of a month after the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting that left nine dead.A much larger gap existed for mass shootings between the Charleston incident and its predecessor, which happened at the Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Washington state in October. That gap marked a 236 day break between mass shootings.  As the regularity of mass shootings increases, the number of fatalities increases as well.The figures for 2012 are particularly high because it includes the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, where 20 children and six adult staff members were killed, as well as the Aurora movie theater shooting, where 12 people were killed and 70 others injured.  Mass shootings that occurred since 1982 tend to align somewhat with population centers, as many took place near the East Coast and along the West Coast.Similarly, there is a notable gap in the upper Great Plains-Rocky Mountain area.