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Gym mat death: New evidence points to foul play, expert says
Oct-09-2013 604 0


For the local sheriff's department, the death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson is a closed book: A tragedy, but an accident.

State medical examiners concluded that Johnson suffocated in January after getting stuck in a rolled-up gym mat while reaching for a sneaker. That's a finding his family has never accepted, and one challenged by the findings of a second autopsy they commissioned.

Now, death scene imagery obtained by CNN has led a former FBI agent to question how the three-sport athlete died.

"I don't believe this was an accident. I think this young man met with foul play," said Harold Copus, now an Atlanta private investigator.

And Johnson's father, Kenneth Johnson, said he believes authorities aren't leveling with his family.

What happened to Kendrick Johnson?
"They know something happened in that gym, and they don't want it to come out," he said.

'Accidental' death challenged by new autopsy

A 15-minute video and nearly 700 photos taken by sheriff's investigators in Lowndes County documented the horrific scene. Johnson's body, clad in jeans and and layered orange and white T-shirts, was found wedged into a rolled-up wrestling mat in January. His face was bloated with pooled blood, some of which had poured out of his body, soaking his dreadlocks and spilling onto the floor.

There were more streaks of blood on a nearby wall -- but it wasn't Johnson's, according to investigators. Meanwhile, Copus said there appeared to be no blood on a sneaker that the teen supposedly was attempting to reach, located inches beneath him.

A pair of orange-and-black gym shoes found a few yards from the body had a substance that looked like blood on them, but investigators told CNN the stains weren't blood -- and so the shoes weren't collected as potential evidence. The same went for a hooded sweatshirt found a few feet away from the teen.

Copus said he can't explain how investigators handled items found around the gym.

"If you're running a crime scene, then you're going to say 'That's potential evidence. Obviously, we're going to check this out and find out who does it belong to,' " he said.

Lowndes County Sheriff Chris Prine refused to discuss the case with CNN, saying, "Our case is closed." But in June, an independent pathologist who conducted a second autopsy for the Johnson family found the teen suffered a blow to the right side of his neck that was "consistent with inflicted injury."

In May, sheriff's Lt. Stryde Jones told CNN that investigators tested the bloodstains on the nearby wall, "and it was not the blood of Kendrick Johnson." Investigators haven't determined whose blood it was, "but it doesn't appear to be involved in our crime in any way," he said.

"In the opinion of our crime scene personnel, after looking at it closely, the blood appeared as if it'd been there for an extended period of time. It didn't appear to be very fresh," Jones said.

But Copus said it's difficult to believe that old bloodstains weren't cleaned up.

"There is no way that they would allow whoever was supposed to clean this gym to leave that blood on that wall," he said.

In September, the Justice Department said it wouldn't open a civil rights investigation into Johnson's death. But federal prosecutors in south Georgia are reviewing the imagery to determine whether a separate investigation is necessary, the U.S. attorney's office in Macon told CNN.

For Johnson's father, the evidence is clear.

"Someone murdered him," he said. "They should be in jail."

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Reuters Aug-28-2015 183 0
A student at Savannah State University in Georgia died on Friday after being shot on campus, prompting a two-hour lockdown as police swept the area for the shooter, a school official said.

Christopher Starks, a junior from the Atlanta area, was shot during an "altercation" late on Thursday at the university's student union and transported to a local hospital where he died, said school spokeswoman Loretta Heyward.

"Mr. Starks was the only individual transported to a medical facility following the incident," she said in an emailed statement. No arrests had been made, she added.

The campus of the historically black university is in the heart of Savannah, an Atlantic seaport that is Georgia's oldest city.

The incident came a day after two television journalists were killed by a gunman during a live broadcast in Virginia.





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AP Aug-28-2015 129 0
Al Sharpton is losing his daily show on MSNBC, with the network saying he'll be downshifted to the weekend.

Sharpton's "Politics Nation" has aired at 6 p.m. EDT on weeknights for the past four years at the ratings-challenged news network. MSNBC is in the midst of wholesale changes under NBC News boss Andrew Lack, deemphasizing its left-leaning programming during the daytime hours in favor of more straight news shows.

Sharpton's show occasionally put MSNBC in awkward positions, since he continued his political activism while doing some stories where there was racial controversy while remaining host of a news program.

MSNBC said Wednesday that starting Oct. 4, Sharpton's "Politics Nation" will air at 8 a.m. Sundays. His daily show ends Sept. 4.

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Mark Gray Aug-28-2015 325 0
The court has ruled! Judge Joe Brown, who was once one of the most popular TV judges, is now behind bars after being ruled in contempt of court.

Joe, now a former judge, was sentenced to five days in jail for exploding on another judge during a child support case last year in Tennessee.

In March 2014, Joe, who had a successful run of his self-titled series on syndicated TV, was acting as a lawyer when he showed up in juvenile court and went berserk when the court clerk said that they had no record of the case he was working on.

In a recording from the courtroom, Joe scolds the current judge for setting another court date, "I will file a petition for habeas corpus and close this place down like I did before if you make her come back here one more time."

The judge warned Joe about his combative behavior and eventually found him in contempt of court. The sentence had been delayed for nearly a year and a half as he fought to appeal his sentence. However, after the Tennessee Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal, he turned himself in.

In a statement, he said, "I will not apologize for vigorously defending my client and demanding that the court follow the law. What I saw was a miscarriage of justice and I did what needed to be done. I will serve the time and I will continue stand up and speak out for justice as I have done throughout my 40-year legal career. When our courts don't follow the rule of law, justice is in jeopardy for everyone. Thank you to all of my supporters. Your prayers and well wishes are appreciated."

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Breanna Edwards Aug-27-2015 167 0
A Michigan man who robbed a local credit union reportedly did so in a desperate attempt to help pay for his daughter’s chemotherapy, according to authorities, ABC News reports.

Brian Randolph, 23, is accused of entering the Vibe Credit Union in South Lyon earlier this month, and passing a note demanding money. The note said that he had a gun hidden in his clothes, but Randolph reportedly never showed a firearm and, according to the authorities, did not actually have a gun with him.

The young father has been charged with armed robbery. His bond was set at $500,000.

According to ABC News, Randolph’s troubles began when his insurance company reportedly stopped paying for his daughter’s chemotherapy treatment. Brialynn, who is one, has retinoblastoma, a cancer that forms in the eye, and needs treatment, that costs thousands of dollars, every four weeks, the site notes.

Randolph told the authorities that it was a last-ditch attempt to get money for Brialynn’s upcoming session.

"I guess it was desperation. Time was ticking right before her actual appointment came up," Brialynn’s mother, Asia Dupree told WXYZ-TV. “This was after the insurance was cancelled…[We] kept calling. No answer. Voicemails. No answer. No callbacks.”

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DARLENE SUPERVILLE Aug-27-2015 212 0
Walking door to door in a city reborn after tragedy, President Barack Obama says New Orleans is moving forward a decade after Hurricane Katrina. He offered the city as an example of what can happen when people rally to build a better future after suffering a devastating blow.

The president's first stop on a visit marking the storm's 10th anniversary was Treme, one of the oldest black neighborhoods in America and an area that experienced significant flooding during Katrina. A cheering crowd welcomed him to an area where homes inundated by the storm have been rebuilt.

As the president went from house to house, he chatted with residents, calling out, "How you doing?" and, "We appreciate you."

Reflecting on the improved surroundings, Obama declared, "The fact that we can make this many strides 10 years after a terrible epic disaster, I think, is an indication of the kind of spirit we have in this city."

It was an informal version of the broader message Obama planned to deliver later at a newly opened community center in the Lower 9th Ward, one of the hardest-hit areas of the city and one that is still struggling to recover.

"Not long ago, our gathering here in the Lower 9th might have seemed unlikely," Obama said in speech excerpts released in advance by the White House. "But today, this new community center stands as a symbol of the extraordinary resilience of this city and its people, of the entire Gulf Coast, indeed, of the United States of America. You are an example of what's possible when, in the face of tragedy and hardship, good people come together to lend a hand, and to build a better future."

"That, more than any other reason, is why I've come back here today," said Obama, making his ninth visit to the city. He also visited on the hurricane's fifth anniversary in 2010.

The president stopped for lunch in Treme with some local young men at Willie Mae's corner restaurant, apparently a return visit. Obama noted that on his last visit, he didn't have the fried chicken.

Obama was a new U.S. senator when Katrina's powerful winds and driving rain bore down on Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005. The storm caused major damage to the Gulf Coast from Texas to central Florida while powering a storm surge that breached the system of levees meant to protect New Orleans from flooding.

Nearly 2,000 people died, most in New Orleans. Eighty percent of the city was flooded for weeks. One million people were displaced.

In his planned speech, Obama said Katrina helped expose structural inequalities that long plagued New Orleans and left too many people, especially minorities, without good jobs, affordable health care or decent housing and too many kids growing up in the midst of violent crime and attending inefficient schools.

Ten years out from Katrina, the rebirth underway in New Orleans has been helped by billions of dollars in federal recovery money, much of it funneled to the city under Obama's watch. The city has recovered much of its pre-storm population, new businesses are opening faster than the national average and better flood protection plans are in place.

Still, income inequality and rising crime rates are among the challenges that remain in a place Mayor Mitch Landrieu calls "America's comeback city."

Obama says acknowledging the loss and pain Katrina caused is important, "not to harp on what happened, but to memorialize it."

"We do this not in order to dwell in the past, but in order to keep moving forward," he says. "Because this is a city that slowly, unmistakably, together, is moving forward."

Obama says the rebuilding was not simply to restore New Orleans as it had been. "It was to build a city as it should be — a city where everyone, no matter who they are or what they look like or how much money they've got has an opportunity to make it."

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama would stress that the federal government and communities need to start investing in "resilience" so that they will be ready for the more intense storms and wildfires that a warming planet will bring.

"There's no denying what scientists tell us, which is that there's reason to be concerned about these storms getting worse and more violent," he told reporters.

Obama's plan to sound a fresh alarm about climate change didn't sit well with Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican waging a long-shot bid for his party's presidential nomination who told the president that the anniversary is a time to mourn the loss of loved ones, not espouse "the divisive political agenda

"A lecture on climate change would do nothing to improve upon what we are already doing," Jindal told Obama in a letter Wednesday. "Quite the opposite; it would distract from the losses we have suffered, diminish the restoration effort we have made and overshadow the miracle that has been the Louisiana comeback."

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MELISSA CHAN Aug-26-2015 282 0
The gunman who fatally shot a Virginia TV news reporter and cameraman during a live broadcast Wednesday was a former model and "high-paid companion" before he turned into a disgruntled former employee.

Vester Lee Flanagan II, who went by his on-air name Bryce Williams, had tweeted several revealing photos last week showing his glory days during his earlier acting and modeling career.

“Headshot used for getting acting/modeling gigs back when lol,” the 41-year-old wrote on Aug. 20. “And, wasn’t I a cute baby?”

“Hell yeah I’ve been a high paid ‘companion.’ You wish u could too!! Lol," he said in another tweet.

The series of photos, including one of his “sexy bedroom,” came to an end Wednesday when the former WDBJ correspondent used the account to live tweet his fatal war path.

Flanagan airs out his gripes against WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, who he accused of making bigoted remarks when they were colleagues.

"Alison made racist comments," he tweeted. "EEOC report filed...They hired her after that???...Adam went to hr on me after working with me one time!!!...I filmed the shooting see Facebook."

He also posted a chilling video showing the moment he walked up to Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, pointing a gun at their heads before his account was suspended.

Flanagan joined WDBJ in 2012 as a multimedia journalist and general assignment reporter. He was fired in Feb. 2013 for unknown reasons.

WDBJ-TV president and general manager Jeff Marks said Flanagan had a “reputation for being difficult to work with” and needed to be escorted out by police when he was given the boot.

“Vester was an unhappy man,” Marks said during the station’s noon broadcast. “Eventually, after many incidents of his anger coming to the fore, we dismissed him. And he did not take that well.”

Flanagan said on Twitter he had filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He also sent a 23-page fax to ABC News, the media outlet said.

The outraged journalist had sued a local NBC affiliate in 2000 claiming producers and managers made racist remarks about blacks and fired him for complaining about it, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Flanagan claims he and another black employee were referred to as "monkeys." A supervisor, he said, also once said "blacks are lazy and do not take advantage of free money," according to the Democrat.

Flanagan said on Twitter he had filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He also sent a 23-page fax to ABC News, the media outlet said.

The outraged journalist had sued a local NBC affiliate in 2000 claiming producers and managers made racist remarks about blacks and fired him for complaining about it, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

Flanagan claims he and another black employee were referred to as "monkeys." A supervisor, he said, also once said "blacks are lazy and do not take advantage of free money," according to the Democrat.

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Julia Jenaé Aug-26-2015 149 0
The attorney for a seventeen year old who was shot several times by a police officer in Longview said his client is in the hospital and not under arrest as of Tuesday evening.

Joshua Thomas was shot around 3:45 a.m. on Tuesday as he was leaving This Our Store on Mobberly Avenue. Surveillance video from the store shows Thomas turning a corner before police confronted him. Seconds later, the video shows Thomas fall to the ground after one of the officers opens fire.

Longview police say the officer shot Thomas because he started to pull out what appeared to be a handgun. Authorities later discovered it was a CO2 pistol. Police say officers were responding to a report of suspicious activity.

Read More: Longview police: Three officers on leave after shooting

This Our Store owner, Huey Smith, was inside his 24-hour store when he said he heard Thomas try to tell police the gun was not real.

"I did hear [Thomas] say, 'I'm trying to put it down, I'm trying to put it down,'" said Smith. "Then there were just a lot of shots and [an officer] said, 'I told you to drop it,' and [Thomas] said, 'I was dropping it, it's fake, it's not real."

Smith said he believes the disturbance that officers were responding to involved an incident between a couple across the street from his store.

Police said in a press release that Thomas was transported for non life threatening injuries. Thomas' attorney, Daryll Bennett said he is surprised his client survived the shooting.

"He's hurt pretty bad, I think he's got six shots in him, two of them right in the chest, and he's still alive," said Bennett. "So far, [police have] told him he hasn't been arrested for anything, but when they put him in the ambulance, he was handcuffed behind his back and laying flat on the gurney, and [officers] wouldn't take the handcuffs off."

Family members said Thomas is stable, but will require at least one surgery to remove a bullet lodged near his heart.

Though police and family members confirmed that Thomas was transported to and is being treated at Good Shepherd Hospital in Longview, hospital officials say they have no record of the teenager being a patient.

A Good Shepherd supervisor said due to legal reasons, the hospital has to say that there is no one on record named Joshua Thomas.

Officer Kristie Brian with the Longview Police Department said the hospital's 'no record' response is not due to the police investigation.

Brian also said that the three officers were not wearing body cameras. The Texas Rangers have joined the investigation into the shooting.

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Nick Schwartz Aug-26-2015 162 0
Coach Otis Newell, a former defensive coordinator at Simi Valley High School in California, was fired from his job after a fellow coach found a music video for the song “U Need It, I Got It,” in which Newell appears to sell drugs out of an ice cream truck.

Newell says that the video was simply meant to show how he used football to escape drug use and gang violence.

Via the L.A. Times:

“I just think this just went way too far, way too fast. It’s a depiction of pretty much how I grew up, and there’s no secret that in the city where I come from, drugs and gang violence were everyday parts of my life.”

In an email Newell shared with KTLA, the Simi Valley Unified School District stated that it was not questioning Newell’s character, but “cannot support” his appearance in the video.

Via KTLA:

“In an email to Newell, the district went on to state that, “Although the music video and song lyrics are not reflective of how you are currently living your life as a husband, father, or coach, the images and activities portrayed in the video are ones we cannot support.”

“Therefore, reinstating you as a football coach with Simi Valley Unified is not possible,” the email continued. “We do wish you the best of luck with your personal and professional endeavors moving forward.”

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Laurie Hanna Aug-25-2015 192 0
A teenager has been hailed a hero after helping a kidnapped woman escape from the clutches of her ex-boyfriend.

Police praised Malyk Bonnet, 17, after his quick thinking saved the woman’s life when he stayed with her until he could alert police.

Humble Bonnet initially laughed off the plaudits, but said: "Now I realize what I did and wow…it's really awesome. I mean, I saved a life!"

On August 1, Bonnet was waiting for a bus home after finishing his shift as a cook at a restaurant in Montreal when he noticed the couple arguing, reported CBC News.

The couple asked him for money to take the bus, and he agreed to get some change at a convenience store and give them some money.

Bonnet had a moment alone with the terrified woman and decided he had to help rescue her.

"My plan was to keep them in a public place, where there's a lot of people. I decided to make myself friendly with the man, so he would trust me. So I played my game," Bonnet said.

Police were already looking for the woman and described the man as “very dangerous”, said Laval police Lt. Daniel Guérin.

Guérin said the man had already been found guilty of assault and death threats against his ex-girlfriend last year, and he was under a court order to stay away from her.

Bonnet waiting for the right moment and took the couple for food in order to keep them in a public place.

After his cellphone battery had died, he pretended to go to the washroom and borrowed a phone from someone in the restaurant to call police, who arrived within minutes.

Bonnet said the abducted woman was overcome with relief and added: "She was almost crying. She was so happy, so happy not to be with him."

Police arrested the man on the spot and he appeared in court Monday on charges of kidnapping, forcible confinement and assault.

Lt. Guérin said Laval police now intend to nominate Bonnet for a provincial award for bravery and added: "He managed the situation very well and took good decisions that probably saved the life of this woman.”

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