SALISBURY, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina woman apparently seeking revenge on her ex-boyfriend tried to set fire to a house owned by someone else, according to a sheriff’s office.
The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said in a report that a homeowner in Gold Hill was awakened Friday by a neighbor who saw a woman trying to set fire to the house. There were bundles of wood and a fire on the front porch and deputies found a jug of oil that they say was used to start the fire.
As the homeowner went to get a garden hose, he saw burning pieces of wood around a propane tank. The garden hose didn’t work because the woman had apparently used a sealant to block the flow of water, deputies said.
The homeowner grabbed a rifle and confronted the woman, who was holding one of his dogs on a leash. With law enforcement and emergency personnel approaching, the woman drove off, the sheriff’s office reported.
Deputies arrested the woman and charged her with felony first-degree arson, assault with a deadly weapon, and larceny of an animal. Bond was set at $101,500. It couldn’t be determined Tuesday if she had an attorney.
Investigators estimate the home sustained approximately $20,000 in damage.
The thief stole some petty cash from Johnny Doughnuts’ office in the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday night, police said. In another twist, he also grabbed the keys to a bakery vehicle, but didn’t steal the vehicle itself.
San Rafael police are seeking the public’s help to identify the burglar, who used an unknown tool to “manipulate” the office’s doorknob and get inside around 10 p.m., according to Lt. Dan Fink. The crime was reported to police on Monday.
Surveillance video shows the man moving between the office and a back storage area, where he pried open a filing cabinet, Fink said.
The lieutenant said the thief took a bank bag with an unknown amount of cash.
“Part of the investigating is finding out why this specific business was targeted,” he said.
Craig Blum, founder of Johnny Doughnuts, said his company plans to deliver a few dozen doughnuts to the San Rafael police officers “who came to our aid to ensure that we can continue serving our community hand-crafted doughnuts without interruption.”
“It was an unfortunate incident, but we’re glad no doughnuts or team members were harmed,” Blum said. “Sometimes even the thought of a doughnut makes you do crazy things.”
JACKSON, Ky. (AP) — Search and rescue teams backed by the National Guard looked Friday for people missing in record floods that wiped out entire communities in some of the poorest places in America. Kentucky’s governor said 16 people have died, a toll he expected to grow.
Gov. Andy Beshear told The Associated Press that children were among the victims, and that the death toll could more than double as rescue teams search the disaster area.
“The tough news is 16 confirmed fatalities now, and folks that’s going to get a lot higher,” the governor said later at a briefing. He said the deaths were in four eastern Kentucky counties.
Powerful floodwaters swallowed towns that hug creeks and streams in Appalachian valleys and hollows, swamping homes and businesses, trashing vehicles in useless piles and crunching runaway equipment and debris against bridges. Mudslides marooned people on steep slopes and at least 33,000 customers were without power. Numerous state roads were blocked by high water or mud, and crews were “unable to even get to some of these roadways it is so bad,” Beshear said.
“We’ve still got a lot of searching to do,” said Jerry Stacy, the emergency management director in Kentucky’s hard-hit Perry County. “We still have missing people.”
Emergency crews made dozens of air rescues and hundreds of water rescues, and more people still needed help, Beshear said: “This is not only an ongoing disaster but an ongoing search and rescue. The water is not going to crest in some areas until tomorrow.”
Rachel Patton said floodwaters filled her Floyd County home so quickly that her mother, who is on oxygen, had to be evacuated on a door that was floated across the high water. Patton’s voice faltered as she described their harrowing escape.
“We had to swim out and it was cold. It was over my head so it was, it was scary,” she told WCHS TV.
The water was so swift that some people trapped in their homes couldn’t be reached on Thursday, said Floyd County Judge-Executive Robbie Williams.
Just to the west in Perry County, some people remained unaccounted for and almost everyone in the area had suffered some sort of damage, firefighter Glenn Caudil said.
“Probably 95% of the people in this area lost everything — houses, cars, animals. It’s heartbreaking,” Caudil told WCHS.
Determining the number of people unaccounted for is tough with cell service and electricity out across the disaster area, Beshear said: “This is so widespread, it’s a challenge on even local officials to put that number together.”
More than 330 people have sought shelter, Beshear said. He deployed National Guard soldiers to the hardest-hit areas. With property damage so extensive, the governor opened an online portal for donations to the victims. President Joe Biden called to express his support for what will be a lengthy recovery effort, Beshear said, predicting it will take more than a year to fully rebuild.
Biden also declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to more than a dozen Kentucky counties, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency appointed an officer to coordinate the recovery. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell joined Beshear at a briefing.
“We’re committed to bringing whatever resources are necessary to support the life-saving efforts as well as the ongoing recovery efforts,” Criswell said.
Even the governor had problems reaching the devastation. His plans to tour the disaster area on Friday were initially postponed because conditions at an airport where they planned to land were unsafe, his office said. The governor scheduled a flyover for later in the day.
Days of torrential rainfall in the region sent water gushing from hillsides and surging out of streambeds, inundating roads and forcing rescue crews to use helicopters and boats to reach trapped people. Flooding also damaged parts of western Virginia and southern West Virginia, across a region where poverty is endemic.
“There are hundreds of families that have lost everything,” Beshear said. “And many of these families didn’t have much to begin with. And so it hurts even more. But we’re going to be there for them.”
Poweroutage.us reported more than 33,000 customers remained without electricity Friday in eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, with the bulk of the outages in Kentucky.
Rescue crews also worked in Virginia and West Virginia to reach people in places where roads weren’t passable. Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six counties in West Virginia where the flooding downed trees, power outages and blocked roads. Gov. Glenn Youngkin also made an emergency declaration, enabling Virginia to mobilize resources across flooded areas of southwest Virginia.
“With more rainfall forecasted over the next few days, we want to lean forward in providing as many resources possible to assist those affected,” Youngkin said in a statement.
The National Weather Service said another storm front adding misery to flood victims in St. Louis, Missouri, on Friday could bring more thunderstorms to the Appalachians, where flash flooding remained possible through Friday evening in places across the region.
Brandon Bonds, a weather service meteorologist in Jackson, said some places could see more rain Friday afternoon and begin to dry out on Saturday “before things pick back up Sunday and into next week.”
The hardest hit areas of eastern Kentucky received between 8 and 10 1/2 inches (20-27 centimeters) over a 48-hour period ending Thursday, Bonds said. Some areas got more rain overnight, including Martin County, which was pounded with another 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) or so leading to the new flood warning.
The North Fork of the Kentucky River rose to broke records in at least two places. A river gauge recorded 20.9 feet (6.4 meters) in Whitesburg, more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) over the previous record, and the river crested at a record 43.47 feet (13.25 meters) in Jackson, Bonds said.
In Whitesburg, Kentucky, floodwaters seeped into Appalshop, an arts and education center renowned for promoting and preserving the region’s history and culture.
“We’re not sure exactly the full damage because we haven’t been able to safely go into the building or really get too close to it,” said Meredith Scalos, its communications director. “We do know that some of our archival materials have flooded out of the building into Whitesburg streets.”
Contributors include Rebecca Reynolds in Louisville, Ky., Timothy D. Easley in Jackson, Ky., and Sarah Brumfield in Silver Spring, Md.,
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. Marine Corps will keep its new amphibious combat vehicle — a kind of seafaring tank — out of the water while it investigates why two of the vehicles ran into trouble off Southern California’s coast this week amid high surf, military officials said Wednesday.
No Marines or sailors were injured when one of the vehicles rolled onto its side Tuesday in waves that were unusually high because of a storm in the southern hemisphere. The other one became disabled when waves as high as 8-feet (2.4 meters) slammed the coastline.
The mishaps prompted troops to leap out of the vehicles and make their way to shore at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego. The mishaps were first reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune.
The new vehicles were introduced to replace Vietnam War-era amphibious assault vehicles, one of which was involved in one of Marine Corps’ deadliest training accidents of its kind two years ago off Southern California’s coast.
Lt. Gen. David J. Furness, the deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for plans, policies, and operations, said the officials decided to halt waterborne operations involving the newer vehicles as a precaution while an investigation is underway. The Marine Corps will continue using the vehicles for land operations.
“This is the right thing to do,” Furness said in a statement. The effort will allow time to “ensure our assault amphibian community remains ready to support our nation,” he added.
In the July 30, 2020 amphibious vehicle accident, eight Marines and one sailor died when the vehicle sank rapidly in 385 feet (117 meters) of water off San Clemente Island. Seven of the Marines were rescued.
A Marine Corps investigation found that inadequate training, shabby maintenance and poor judgment by leaders led to the sinking.
The Marines use the amphibious vehicles to transport troops and their equipment from Navy ships to land. The armored vehicles that have machine guns and grenade launchers look like tanks as they roll ashore for beach attacks, with Marines pouring out of them to take up positions.
WAYNESBURG, Pa. (AP) — Authorities have filed charges against three more people in the case of a Pennsylvania 911 operator accused of failing to send an ambulance to the rural home of a woman who died of internal bleeding about a day later.
According to a criminal complaint, the three men were charged Monday with tampering with public records, tampering with or fabricating evidence and obstruction.
They are or were managers for Greene County’s emergency management. Prosecutors allege they failed to provide policy memo binders that detail standard operating procedures.
According to the criminal complaint, the three conspired to “knowingly and purposefully conceal, withhold, omit, obstruct or pervert the release of documents” to investigators.
Earlier this month, authorities charged 911 operator Leon “Lee” Price, 50, of Waynesburg, with involuntary manslaughter in the July 2020 death of Diania Kronk, 54, based on Price’s reluctance to dispatch help without getting more assurance that Kronk would actually go to the hospital.
“I believe she would be alive today if they would have sent an ambulance,” said Kronk’s daughter Kelly Titchenell, 38.
Price, who also was charged with reckless endangerment, official oppression and obstruction, questioned Titchenell repeatedly during the four-minute call about whether Kronk would agree to be taken for treatment.
VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — An Oregon man has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison in connection with a stolen firearms trafficking scheme that led to the shooting death of Clark County sheriff’s Sgt. Jeremy Brown in southwest Washington.
Brian Clement, 51, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court Tuesday to second-degree burglary and theft of a firearm, The Columbian reported. A charge of unlawful possession of a firearm was dismissed as part of his plea agreement.
The plea deal also requires Clement to testify against his co-defendant, Misty Raya. Prosecutors say he helped her break into a storage unit to steal firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Prosecutors have said one of the stolen guns was used by Raya’s brother-in-law, Guillermo Raya Leon, to shoot Brown as he was working undercover July 23, 2021 at an apartment complex in east Vancouver.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Smith said during Tuesday’s hearing that Clement was not directly involved in Brown’s death, but Clement’s actions set off a series of events that led to it. She said he helped Raya break into safes inside the storage unit to get to the guns and ammunition.
Defense attorney Kari Reardon said that under different circumstances, she likely would’ve asked Judge John Fairgrieve to sentence Clement to drug treatment court, because he had relapsed at the time.
Clement apologized to the Brown family Tuesday and said he wouldn’t have been involved if he knew someone would be killed.
“As a previous military police officer, my heart goes out to the family,” Clement said.
Fairgrieve ordered the agreed-upon 90-month sentence and acknowledged the compromises prosecutors have made to ensure cooperation agreements and stronger cases against those charged directly with Brown’s killing. He also recognized that Clement showed remorse for his role.
Investigators have said that Raya Leon admitted to shooting Brown, 46, while the detective was seated in an unmarked police SUV.
Detectives were following Raya Leon, his brother, Abran Raya Leon and his brother’s wife, Misty Raya that day as part of an investigation into the firearms and ammunition theft from the storage unit.
Court records say Misty Raya’s friend, Lani Kraabell, was helping them find buyers for the stolen guns when Guillermo Raya Leon shot Brown.
Kraabell pleaded guilty in June to second-degree manslaughter in connection with Brown’s death and also agreed to cooperate with the criminal cases against her co-defendants. She was sentenced to six years in prison.
Raya Leon has pleaded not guilty to first-degree aggravated murder and other charges. Misty Raya has pleaded not guilty to burglary, identity theft and multiple counts of firearm theft.
CHICAGO (AP) — A federal lawsuit filed Thursday alleges Chicago police misused “unreliable” gunshot detection technology and failed to pursue other leads in investigating a grandfather from the city’s South Side and charging him with killing a neighbor.
Chicago prosecutors used audio picked up by a network of sensors installed by the gunshot detection company ShotSpotter as critical evidence in charging Michael Williams with murder in 2020 for allegedly shooting the man inside his car. Williams spent nearly a year in jail, and The Associated Press reported last year that a judge dismissed his case at the request of prosecutors, who said they had insufficient evidence.
The lawsuit filed by the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University’s law school seeks damages from the city for mental anguish, loss of income and legal bills for the 65-year-old Williams, who said he still suffers from a tremor in his hand that developed while he was locked up. It also details the case of a second plaintiff Daniel Ortiz, a 36-year-old father who the lawsuit alleges was arbitrarily arrested and jailed by police who were responding to a ShotSpotter alert.
The suit seeks class-action status for any Chicago resident who was stopped on the basis of the alerts. And among other things, it seeks a court order barring the technology’s use in Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city.
“Even though now I’m so-called free, I don’t think I will ever be free of the thought of what they have done and the impact that has on me now, like the shaking with my hand,” Williams said. “I constantly go back to the thought of being in that place. … I just can’t get my mind to settle down.”
ShotSpotter isn’t named as a defendant in the 103-page filing though the lawsuit claims the company’s algorithm-powered technology is flawed. The suit also alleges the city’s decision to place most of its gunshot-detection sensors in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods is racially discriminatory.
Messages seeking comment were left with the city of Chicago and ShotSpotter after the lawsuit was filed late Thursday morning.
ShotSpotter has vigorously defended the reliability and validity of its system, saying evidence collected by its system has been admitted in more than 200 court cases around the country. It has also pointed to an audit the company commissioned to study the effectiveness of the technology.
ShotSpotter’s website has described the company as “a leader in precision policing technology solutions” that helps stop gun violence by using sensors, algorithms and artificial intelligence to classify 14 million sounds in its proprietary database as gunshots or something else.
Those named in the lawsuit include Police Superintendent David O’Neal Brown and more than a dozen officers involved in Williams’ case, alleging they violated a host of rights guaranteed to him under Illinois law and the U.S. Constitution, including the right to due process.
Chicago police have long praised the ShotSpotter system, saying it puts officers on the scene of shootings far faster than if they wait for someone to call 911. Police have also said crime rates — not residents’ race — determine where the technology is deployed.
The filing places blame for Williams’ arrest squarely on investigating officers, who it says “put blind faith in ShotSpotter evidence they knew or should have known was unreliable” in order to charge Williams with killing 25-year-old Safarian Herring. The lawsuit alleges investigators used ShotSpotter material in a way that went beyond its intended use, quoting a disclaimer in one document related to Williams’ case that says the investigative lead summary “should only be used for initial investigative purposes.”
The AP investigation identified a number of flaws in using ShotSpotter as evidentiary support for prosecutors, and found the system can miss live gunfire right under its microphones, or misclassify the sounds of fireworks or cars backfiring as gunshots. Last year, Chicago’s nonpartisan watchdog agency concluded that actual evidence of a gun-related crime was found in about 9% of ShotSpotter alerts that were confirmed as probable gunshots.
The suit also accuses investigators of not pursuing other leads that could have produced credible suspects, including reports that someone previously shot at Herring at a bus stop.
Police and prosecutors never established a motive for Williams to have shot Herring, never found witnesses to the shooting, and never recovered a weapon or physical evidence tying Williams to the killing, the suit alleges.
“The Defendant Officers engaged in tunnel vision to target Mr. Williams, arresting him for First-Degree murder, without probable cause,” the lawsuit said.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The meeting place? A secret. Agenda? Not public. Name tags? Take them off in public.
Even one of the main social events — trivia night — would be at an undisclosed location. This was no meeting of spies or undercover law enforcement agents. Instead, these were the security protocols for a gathering this week in Madison, Wisconsin, of state election bureaucrats from around the U.S.
While the hush-hush measures might seem a bit extreme, they were put in place because of the very real threats against election workers that have been escalating since the 2020 presidential election as former President Donald Trump continues to promote the lie that widespread fraud cost him re-election.
Security increased at meetings of government officials after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, “but not like this where the agenda is kept secret,” said Kevin Kennedy, who was Wisconsin’s top election official for nearly four decades before retiring in 2016. He has attended meetings of the National Association of State Election Directors for more than 30 years and said it was jarring that otherwise anonymous election workers are now being targeted.
“This is just at a different level, and it’s a reflection of the times and it’s unfortunate,” he said.
Three men have been charged by federal prosecutors, with one of them pleading guilty last month. In that case, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold was the subject of multiple threatening posts on social media.
Robert Heberle, deputy chief of the Justice Department’s public integrity section, told state election officials recently that dozens of cases were still under investigation and more prosecutions were expected.
Griswold, a Democrat who has received numerous death threats since the 2020 election, traveled to the National Association of Secretaries of State conference earlier this summer in Louisiana with private security.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Griswold said she won’t be intimidated by the threats and said a new state law she helped pass increases protections for election workers at all levels.
“We cannot allow violent threats to secretaries of state and election workers become an accepted norm in the United States,” she said.
Organizers of the secretaries of state meeting, held twice a year, have been increasing security measures since the 2020 election, said Maria Benson, the group’s communications director. That includes coordinating with law enforcement agencies before and during the conferences, she said.
At the group’s summer meeting earlier this month in Baton Rouge, local law enforcement officers were visible in the lobby and meeting areas of the hotel where the conference was being held. Members of the media were instructed to keep their credentials visible while in the meeting area.
It’s not just election officials who are commanding tighter security during their gatherings.
When the National Governors Association met earlier this month in Portland, Maine, security was the highest in the state in decades.
The heavy law enforcement presence included city police, state police and security details, including troopers from other states. Plainclothes police roamed the event, and extra officers were kept out of sight, in case they were needed.
The increased security presence took place as demonstrators gathered to protest new abortion restrictions in states such as Arkansas, home of outgoing association chairman and current Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican.
Security planning, which was in the works for months, also involved police K-9 units and patrol boats in the harbor.
“We are in different times right now,” said Shannon Moss, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. “Just look at recent events that happened in our country — mass shootings, violent and disruptive protests, a divisive political climate. Law enforcement has to be prepared to deal with these kinds of potential security threats.”
There were no protesters outside the gathering of election administrators this week in Wisconsin, but the threats of violence against election workers have become so pervasive that the group was taking no chances on security.
The exact location meeting — which ended up being just a block away from the state Capitol — wasn’t revealed to reporters who registered to cover it until four days before the event began. There were no signs in the hotel announcing the meeting. And the agenda detailing topics to be discussed, such as “understanding and preventing insider threats,” wasn’t handed out until the start of the meeting.
Amy Cohen, executive director of the state elections group, cautioned the 170 registered attendees from 33 states to wear their name tags when at the event, but to take them off when they left and went into the city.
“Don’t advertise who you are and exactly why you’re here,” she said.
Cohen said meeting organizers coordinated with federal, state and local law enforcement for the event. She encouraged attendees to report any suspicious activity they saw, and hotel staff had been trained to be vigilant.
She said the association did not live-stream any of the panels nor did it post any messages to its Twitter account during the gathering, although there were no social media prohibitions for those who attended.
“Please do be thoughtful about what you post and remember that some of the people in this room are dealing with serious security concerns and we need to be respectful to keep everyone safe,” Cohen said at the start of the gathering.
Judd Choate, Colorado’s state elections director for the past 13 years, attended the Wisconsin event and said he has been surprised at the level of rancor and hostility toward election workers. He said many of the attacks are coming from people with little understanding of how elections are run.
“We were kind of a sleepy part of government, and we’re not anymore,” he said.
Associated Press writers Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta; and David Sharp and Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.
PEARL RIVER COUNTY, Miss. (AP) — A volunteer fire department in a Mississippi community lost the use of three trucks when its own station went up in flames.
WLOX TV reports that the fire happened Monday night at the Nicholson Volunteer Fired Department station. Nicholson is a community in Pearl River County, near the Gulf Coast and the Louisiana state line. Five neighboring firefighting agencies assisted in fighting the blaze.
Three trucks were heavily damaged, according to the TV station. And a county press release says several other pieces of key firefighting equipment were destroyed in the fire.
Former Nicholson fire chief Bobby Robbins estimated the damage at $1 million and said it could take around 100 days to have the equipment replaced. There were no injuries. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
Robbins said the trucks were donated by Deep South, a company the team is now considering renting from. The Pearl River County Fire Marshal added they are working with other agencies in the meantime to borrow equipment.
Authorities must determine how the fire started as well as how to provide immediate protection in Nicholson without the fire trucks, equipment and a useable firehouse.
LITHONIA, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man became trapped while trying to crawl down through a vent from a strip mall roof into a pizza restaurant on Tuesday, forcing firefighters to slice open the vent to free him, police said.
The man was taken to a hospital and the extent of his injuries was unclear.
Police told local news outlets that emergency responders cut open the vent where it extended upward from a pizza oven at a Little Caesars outlet in suburban Lithonia, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) east of downtown Atlanta.
Brittany Davis, a U.S. Army recruiter, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she could hear the man yelling for help when she arrived for work at a neighboring recruiting office.
“I looked on the roof but couldn’t see anybody,” Davis said. She called 911.
Davis said a Little Caesars employee told her he could hear the man’s voice coming from inside the oven. Davis said she went inside the pizza restaurant and spoke to the man, who reported he was in pain and having a panic attack.
“I’m not sure what time the restaurant closes at night but the oven still gives off heat after they close I imagine,” DeKalb County Fire Cpt. Jason Daniels told WXIA-TV. “For him to get down into the pipe … he had to do it in a certain window of time when the oven was cool enough and obviously nobody was there.”
The man walked to an ambulance shortly after being removed and was taken to a hospital. Police did not identify him or announce any criminal charges.
Photographs showed the vent broken off and laying on the roof and firefighters cutting away the sheet metal vent while standing atop the oven.
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