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Records: Superintendent lied to jury investigating massacre - ABC News
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The superintendent of the Florida school district where 17 students and staff died in a 2018 high school massacre was arrested Wednesday after investigators said he lied to a grand jury investigating events surrounding the shooting. Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie was arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at district headquarters and charged with perjury in an official proceeding, which is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. According to an indictment issued by the grand jury last week and released after Runcies arrest, the superintendent lied when he testified before the panel three weeks ago, but it gave no specifics about the alleged falsehood. The jury is investigating whether districts are following school safety laws, including those implemented after the Feb. 14, 2018, slayings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. The grand jury, which was empaneled two years ago, is also investigating whether: Public agencies are using state safety grants for other purposes. Broward school officials misappropriated millions of dollars from a bond measure partially aimed at improving campus safety. Officials intentionally underreported on-campus crimes committed by students. Since the shooting, Runcie and district administrators have been accused by critics of lying about school crime rates and discipline problems. To prove perjury, prosecutors must show Runcie knew his statements to the grand jury were false and not just a mistake. Attorneys for Runcie, 59, released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying he plans to plead not guilty. We are confident that he will be exonerated and he intends to continue to carry out his responsibilities with the highest level of integrity and moral standards, as he has done for nearly ten years in his role as Superintendent, the statement said. Jail records show Runcie has been released on his own recognizance. Rosalind Osgood, chair of the Broward County school board, issued a statement Wednesday saying the district will provide transparency, accountability and integrity." The statement did not say whether Runcie has been suspended and the district's media relations office did not immediately know the answer to that question. Broward County is the nations sixth-largest school district with more than 270,000 students. Tony Montalto, president of the group that represents Stoneman Douglas victims families, said Wednesday he is thankful that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the grand jury investigation into Runcie and the district. It is important that we get the facts about what happened and then hold those responsible accountable and implement positive change, said Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter Gina died in the shooting. Also arrested Wednesday was Barbara Myrick, the school districts attorney. Myrick, 72, is accused of unlawfully disclosing grand jury proceedings, a felony. Her indictment also didn't disclose details. It was unclear whether she has an attorney who could comment. One Broward administrator was previously arrested on charges that he rigged contracts with vendors and accepted bribes. He has pleaded not guilty. Runcie and Scott Israel, then the county sheriff, became the public face for Broward County's response to the shooting, both in mourning and then in criticism for their handling of the aftermath. DeSantis removed Israel from office days after his inauguration in January 2019 under his authority to discipline elected local officials, but said he couldn't touch Runcie because he was appointed by the Broward County school board. Runcies supporters have praised him for increasing the districts graduation rate, improving schools districtwide and reaching out to minority communities. He came into the national spotlight after the massacre when some parents criticized him for programs they felt had been lenient toward the shooter. Runcie, by a 6-3 vote, survived a 2019 motion before the school board that sought to have him removed. The attempt was led by member Lori Alhadef, whose 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was killed in the shooting. Alhadef said in a statement that she has asked district staff to examine how board policies pertain to Runcies and Myricks arrests. As more specific details come to light, I will act accordingly, in the best interests of the students and staff, she said. The superintendents critics said crimes, bullying and other school problems were routinely underreported by Stoneman Douglas and other district schools and few did voluntary security assessments. Stoneman Douglas reported zero incidents of bullying among its 3,200 students between 2014 and 2017 and three incidents of vandalism, for example. Another target of criticism has been the districts Promise Program, a student disciplinary system Runcie instituted shortly after he became superintendent. Under Promise, students who fight or commit petty vandalism, theft, harassment or other minor crimes, are referred to an off-campus site for up to 10 days instead of the courts. Critics say Promise created a lenient atmosphere that allowed shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz to briefly attend Stoneman Douglas a year before the massacre despite a history of fights, threats and behavioral problems. The district says while the program needed changes, it was a success overall. Associated Press writer Curt Anderson in Tampa, Florida, contributed to this report.
Body found in Mississippi River identified as missing LSU student Kori Gauthier - ABC News
A body recovered in the Mississippi River Tuesday has been identified as missing Louisiana State University student Kori Gauthier, authorities said. Gauthier, an 18-year-old freshman at LSU, was last seen April 6, her family said. Police found her car abandoned on a Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge early the following day after someone crashed into it. A massive search effort involved multiple agencies and hundreds of volunteers in the days after she was reported missing. LSU confirmed Wednesday a body found in St. John the Baptist Parish near Reserve, which is about 44 miles southeast of Baton Rouge, was Gauthier. "Since Kori was first reported missing, the LSU Police Department, Baton Rouge Police Department and other law enforcement agencies and volunteers have taken exhaustive measures to locate her and, in the process, to determine what led to her disappearance," LSU Chief of Police Bart Thompson said in a statement. "This is a difficult conclusion for all of us, but we hope this will bring closure for the Gauthier family." Thompson said no criminal activity or foul play was involved, based on cellphone tracking, video footage and other evidence only shared with Gauthier's parents "out of respect for their privacy." Her family thanked those who showed support and helped in the search efforts. "Not the end result that we were hoping for, but at least we have her body and can start the healing process," her uncle, Spencer Gauthier, said in an emotional video posted to Facebook. He talked about her love of music, especially country, and asked people to listen to Stevie Wonder's "These Three Words" in honor of his niece. "Listen to that song, hold on to those words, and live life," he said. Interim LSU President Tom Galligan said the school community is "devastated to learn of the loss of Kori Gauthier." "Our thoughts are with her parents, her family, and all who knew her during this very difficult time," he said in a statement. "We offer our deepest condolences to her family and friends." Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome also offered her condolences. "Our entire community is heartbroken by the loss of this amazing young woman," Broome said in a statement. "I send my most heartfelt condolences to Kori's family and loved ones. Please keep them in your prayers during this time."
Maryland state trooper fatally shoots 16-year-old after responding to reports of an armed man - ABC News
Maryland State Police are investigating a trooper-involved shooting in Leonardtown that ended in the death of a 16-year-old. Just before 1:30 p.m. local time Tuesday, police received two separate 911 calls about a man acting suspicious while holding what looked like a gun, police said in a statement Tuesday night. A uniformed Maryland state trooper then arrived at the scene and confronted a male teenager, who has now been identified as Peyton Ham. The teen was was armed with what looked like a gun and a knife, police said. The Maryland State Police Leonardtown Barrack shared the news of the shooting on Facebook Tuesday afternoon, saying a trooper had responded to a report of a possibly armed man. According to the police statement, a witness told investigators they saw Ham take a shooting stance and point his gun at the trooper, at which point, the trooper fired at Ham, wounding him. A second witness allegedly told investigators that after the trooper fired the first time, they saw Ham pull out a knife and try to get up. The trooper then ordered Ham to drop the knife, before he fired again, the statement reads. The trooper -- who was assigned to the Leonardtown Barrack and has been a Maryland state trooper for nearly three years -- reported the shooting and called for EMS, police said. Ham was transported to MedStar St. Marys Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the statement reads. An autopsy will be conducted soon. After the incident, a knife was recovered at the scene. Ham's gun was later determined to be an airsoft gun, which is "a close representation of an actual handgun," police said. The Maryland State Police Homicide Unit is now conducting a criminal investigation, as is the Maryland State Police Internal Affairs Division -- both which are regular procedures in all trooper-involved shootings, according to the statement. Investigators are also continuing to interview witnesses. The trooper was not injured in the incident. He has been placed on administrative leave while the investigation continues, something which police said is the standard procedure in trooper-involved shootings.
St. Vincent covered in ash as volcano activity continues - ABC News
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad -- Much of St. Vincent remains covered in ash, following eruptions at the island's La Soufriere volcano. After nearly 42 years without an explosion, the volcano in the northern part of the eastern Caribbean island, erupted Friday. "There's been three explosive events that occurred during the day," University of the West Indies Seismic Research Center director, Dr. Erouscilla Joseph, said in an audio statement on the center's Facebook page. The ash plume reached as high as six miles into the air, with wind taking it as far as 25,000 feet east of St. Vincent, according to official estimates. Activity at the volcano continued into Saturday, with Vincentians living close enough reporting that rumblings could be heard coming from La Soufriere, overnight. "Overnight, we have had more or less an almost continued period of the venting of many ash up into the atmosphere," Richard Robertson, the UWI Seismic Research Center's lead scientist monitoring the volcano, said Saturday during a national radio address. There have been reports of some people's homes being damaged by the weight of the ash, the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ralph Gonsalves said, but he also said those reports have yet to be confirmed. Officials are now left trying to figure out how to remove the ash. On Saturday Gonsalves announced during the radio address plans to mount a cleanup operation, beginning in Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. "It's a complicated business, you can't leave it," Gonsalves said. "But, in the disposal of it, you have challenges." Officials were looking into using street sweepers and water from fire trucks. Friday's eruptions came less than 24 hours after Gonsalves gave the order for people living closest to the volcano -- an area declared the "red zone" -- to evacuate their homes. Shelters have been set up to house evacuees, while the government has also booked hotel rooms for people to take shelter. Over 3,200 people have opted to use shelters. Gonsalves said there may be delays in getting food supplies to evacuees in shelters, with numbers constantly changing. Gonsalves asked those impacted by the volacano's eruption to have patience and remain calm, and said "additional supplies" will be sent. Some countries have also publicly pledged to send supplies or even personnel, to aid St. Vincent with recovery efforts. Gonzalves said the United States is among those countries Gonsalves said hes been speaking with. A number of neighboring Caribbean countries have offered to take in evacuees. Several cruise ship companies have also offered to send ships to transport those evacuees to other islands. "Those countries are not going to take you unless you are vaccinated, which is understandable in the time of the pandemic," Gonsalves said. The last time St. Vincent's La Soufriere volcano erupted was on April 13, 1979. On Friday, around 8:41 a.m. local time, officials confirmed the first explosive eruption since then. Later that day, two more eruptions occurred.
1-year-old shot in head during apparent road rage incident in Chicago, police say - ABC News
A 1-year-old is in grave condition after he was shot in the head during an apparent road rage incident in Chicago, officials said. The shooting occurred around 11 a.m. local time Tuesday on Lake Shore Drive, police said. Shots were fired for approximately two blocks along the expressway, during which a nearly 2-year-old child was struck in the head, Cmdr. Jake Alderden of the Chicago Police Department's 1st District told reporters during a press briefing a few hours after the incident. Multiple shell casing were recovered across those two blocks, he said. The drivers appear to be "completely unknown to each other," Alderden said. "There was a dispute possibly over somebody not letting somebody into a lane of traffic," he said. The vehicle carrying the child continued driving before crashing shortly after on Lake Shore Drive. A good Samaritan took the toddler and other occupants of the car to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, police said. From there, he was transferred to Lurie Children's Hospital, where he was in critical condition, Alderden said. Police recovered a handgun from the crashed car and are determining if it was fired during the incident, the commander said. The police district plans to release a description of the car involved in the incident, Alderden said. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that detectives have a suspect and are "actively pursuing the other car." "Obviously any time anyone is shot in Chicago it is tragic, particularly when it is a child," the mayor said during a press briefing Tuesday afternoon. "This was simple, but stupid, road rage." The victim was receiving full critical care support, including the use of a ventilator, in the pediatric intensive care unit, Lurie Children's Hospital officials said Tuesday afternoon. "He is in grave condition," Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marcelo Malakooti told reporters during a press briefing outside the hospital. "It's a very serious bullet injury." The child was believed to have suffered one bullet wound and sustained a brain injury, Malakooti said. "It's a very tenuous situation," he said. "It can change hourly for us." Ja'Mal Green, a Chicago community activist, is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the gunman. "This should not be our reality," Green, who is the father of a 2-year-old, said at a media event Tuesday. "We have to bring this horrible person to justice."
Arkansas state legislature overrides governor's veto on transgender health care bill - ABC News
The Arkansas state legislature voted Tuesday to override a veto by Gov. Asa Hutchinson on a bill that would ban gender-affirming treatments for transgender youths in the state. The House voted 71-24, and the Senate 25-8, to override the governor's veto a day after it was announced. The "Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act" bars doctors from providing gender-affirming health care to transgender minors, including hormones, puberty blockers and transition-related surgeries. During a press briefing Monday, Hutchinson called the bill "government overreach," and called on state leaders to rethink the issue again before acting. "You are starting to let lawmakers interfere with health care and set a standard for legislation overriding health care," the Republican governor said. "The state should not presume to jump into every ethical health decision." The SAFE Act is one of dozens of state bills introduced this year that LGTBQ advocates say diminish the rights of transgender Americans. Arkansas is the first state to pass a bill restricting transgender minors access to gender-affirming health care. LGBTQ rights groups say the legislation, which would go into effect this summer, is unnecessary and detrimental for trans youth. Following the Senate vote, the ACLU tweeted, "We are preparing litigation as we speak." "Attempting to block trans youth from the care they need simply because of who they are is not only wrong, its also illegal, and we will be filing a lawsuit to challenge this law in court," Holly Dickson, ACLU of Arkansas executive director, said in a statement. "We are hearing from concerned families all over the state who are afraid about the impact of this bill and others like it. We are committed to doing all we can to support these families and ensure they know how to continue to fight for their rights and get the care and resources they need." Sponsors say the bill is meant to protect minors, who they say are too young to make decisions on transition-related medical care. "These children need to be protected," Republican Rep. Robin Lundstrum, the lead sponsor of the act, told reporters Monday, The Associated Press reported. Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David called the SAFE Act "deeply dangerous" and that it would prevent children from seeking potentially lifesaving treatments. "By overriding the veto on this legislation, Arkansas would put itself in the lead of a race to the bottom, fueled by fear and disinformation," he said during a press briefing Tuesday ahead of the vote. The American Academy of Pediatrics has spoken out against bills like the SAFE Act that target transgender youth. "The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that youth who identify as transgender have access to comprehensive, gender-affirming, and developmentally appropriate health care that is provided in a safe and inclusive clinical space," AAP President Dr. Lee Savio Beers said in a statement last month. "[The] legislation would allow policymakers rather than pediatricians to determine the best course of care for our patients, and in some medically underserved states, it could mean losing an already limited number of pediatric practitioners who care for transgender youth." ABC News' Meg Cunningham and Ivan Pereira contributed to this report.