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NYPD Chokehold Death Ruled a Homicide

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The death of a Staten Island man, who was put into a choke hold by the New York Police Department, was ruled a homicide Friday by the city's medical examiner.

The incident provoked outrage last month after a witness filmed NYPD cops placing Eric Garner in what appeared to be a chokehold while arresting Garner for selling cigarettes illegally. Garner, who was 6-foot-3 and 350 pounds, could be heard yelling that he could not breathe.

After his death, officers told supervisors that they did not think excess force was used and initially blamed Garner's death on a heart attack before the film went viral.

On Friday, the New York City Medical Examiner ruled that the cause of death was "compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest, and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."

The examiner said that acute and chronic bronchial asthma, obesity and hypersensitive cardiovascular disease were "contributing conditions" but still ruled the manner of death a "homicide."

The officer who was seen in the video placing Garner in the choke hold, Daniel Pantaleo, an eight-year veteran, was placed on modified assignment pending the outcome of investigations into the incident by the district attorney and NYPD Internal Affairs unit. The FBI also said it was monitoring the case.

Pantaleo's gun and badge were taken away pending the outcome of the investigations.

The District Attorney's office said it had seen the medical examiner's results and the investigation was ongoing. No charges have yet been filed in the death.

“We have been in contact with the Medical Examiner’s Office, who has indicated to us the cause and manner of death of Eric Garner on July 17, 2014. We await the issuance of the official death certificate and the autopsy report. The investigation into Mr. Garner’s death continues,” the DA's office said in a statement.

The city's police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, released a strongly-worded statement saying that if Garner hadn't resisted arrest his death would not have occurred. They also called for a full "analysis" of Garner's death, citing his health problems.

"Police Officers don’t start their days expecting or wanting something like this to occur in the performance of their duties," PBA president Patrick J. Lynch said. “The ME’s report indicates that Mr. Garner was a man with serious health problems so there will have to be a complete and thorough analysis of all the factors that played a part in this tragedy."

"We believe, however, that if he had not resisted the lawful order of the police officers placing him under arrest, this tragedy would not have occurred," the statement said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Funeral for Murdered Teen April Millsap Held as Police Search for Killer

iStock/Thinkstock(DETROIT) -- About 100 people Friday attended the funeral for April Millsap, the teenage girl murdered in Michigan on July 24 while walking her dog.

The funeral took place at around the same time that a father and son were arraigned for growing marijuana inside a house that the Michigan State Police and FBI searched as part of the ongoing investigation into Millsap's murder, according to the FBI and Michigan State Police.

James Bernard VanCallis, a 66-year-old registered sex offender, and his 32-year-old son, James Donald VanCallis, both had bail set at $75,000, according to state police.

Police searched the VanCallis home on Wednesday as part of the murder investigation but Michigan State Police spokesman Lt. Michael Shaw made it clear that the arrests were separate from the homicide investigation. No arrests have been made in connection to Millsap's murder.

The younger VanCallis began to cry during the arraignment and his father pleaded to be allowed to go home on account of his pets.

"I love my dogs. I just wanna go home to my dogs. I didn't do nothing," VanCallis Sr said according to WXYZ.

VanCallis Jr. has a medical marijuana license and is allowed to have 36 plants in his home, but during the search of Goodell, Michigan house, investigators found 52 plants inside, according to WXYZ.

Both men have criminal records: VanCallis Jr. was convicted of breaking and entering in 2005 and failing to pay child support. His father is a tier-3 registered sex offender and was convicted on two counts of criminal sexual misconduct, both in 1995. The second-degree charge related to a person under the age of 13 and the fourth-degree charge involved a victim between the ages of 13 and 16 years old, according to the Michigan sex offender registry.

Neither of the men have a lawyer, WXYZ reported, so the judge entered a not guilty pleas for both.

The Michigan State Police and the FBI are continuing to search for leads in Millsap's murder. The girl, who was walking her dog on a hiking path, was killed and left in a drainage ditch, where joggers found her body. The cause of death has not been revealed.

Police stopped all traffic going in and out of Millsap's hometown of Armadad for three hours on Thursday evening in a hunt for leads. Shaw explained that they chose that time because it is the exact time frame when the 14-year-old was killed a week earlier.

"Humans are creatures of habit so we were hoping to speak to some of the same people who had been there when April disappeared," Shaw told ABC.

He said that the efforts paid off and investigators got "five to eight good tips that we didn't have before from people who weren't sure if they should call us or not."

WXYZ reported that police were seen searching and dredging Omo Lake on Friday, which is near the area where the victim's phone was found.

Police already issued search warrants for phone records- though they would not specify which phone records- as part of the investigation.

Early reports about Millsap's murder included claims from a relative that she had texted her boyfriend on July 24 saying "OMG. ... I think I'm being kidnapped." But Michigan State Police spokesman Lt. Michael Shaw told ABC News that the message was phrased differently and may not have come from April herself.

Police still have no formal suspects in the case.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Hammerhead Shark Spooks Swimmers at Florida Beach

iStock/Thinkstock(NAVARRE, Fla.) -- A hammerhead shark shocked beachgoers in Florida when it swam right up to the shore, prompting terrified swimmers to frantically flee from the water.

And the man who caught it all on video, Dan Flynn, said the hectic scene was "extraordinary."

"I've seen sharks before but I've never seen a shark get that close," he told ABC News on Thursday. "It was almost interacting with humans. From our vantage point, we could see the shark going towards a lady swimmer. And her back was to the shark, and she was unaware. You can hear people screaming in the video. I yelled, 'Get out of the water!'"

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Flynn, who lives in New Orleans, watched the scene unfold Tuesday from the fishing pier in Navarre, Fla., while on vacation with his family.

From above, he could see directly into the clear water. The shark was probably 10-feet-long, he said.

"Someone just yelled shark and I started taping," he said.

Flynn estimates that the shark got within 10 feet of the shore. It swam around for about 10 or 15 minutes, he said, before retreating back into the sea.

Swimmers were spooked but wasted no time getting back into the water, he said. His videos of the shark quickly went viral after he posted them on Facebook.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Abby Hernandez Saw Reports About Her Disappearance While She Was Missing

ABC/Randy Holmes(CONWAY, N.H.) -- Abigail Hernandez's mother told their local newspaper the teen saw reports about her disappearance while she was missing for nine months.

Hernandez and her mother stopped by The Conway Daily Sun's offices and cited a daily ticker box feature in the paper that showed how many days Hernandez had been missing, as Hernandez gave the paper her first media interview since she returned home July 20.

"Abby saw that [ticker box] off and on," her mother, Zenya Hernandez, told the paper on Thursday. "She didn't see it every day. It gave her hope that people were looking. It was one of the first things she said to me when she returned home, is, 'Thank you to The Conway Daily Sun.'"

The teen returned to her mother's home in Conway, New Hampshire, on July 20 after vanishing during her walk home from school on Oct. 9, 2013.

Police have arrested Nathaniel Kibby, a 34-year-old man from a town 34 miles away, in connection to Abby's disappearance. He was arraigned Tuesday and Abigail was sitting in the front row alongside her mother during the hearing.

"I'm taking it a little at a time but I'm feeling a lot better every day," the 15-year-old said during the informal meeting at the local newspaper.

Abigail, who was reportedly malnourished and unable to eat solid foods when she first returned home, was pictured smiling at the newspaper offices with her mother and a family friend while wearing a t-shirt that said "C.S.I. Can't Stand Idiots."

She told the paper that she wants to "be treated like a normal person" and revisit old pastimes like horseback riding.

"I really miss that," she said.

Neither the Hernandezes nor police have released any information about where she was or what happened to her during her disappearance because the investigation is ongoing.

The only charge listed against Kibby claimed he "confined [Hernandez] with a purpose to commit an offense against her." No plea was entered at the hearing. Authorities may bring more charges at the next hearing in the case on Aug. 12.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

What to Expect from Tropical Storm Bertha this Weekend

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The second storm of the season has formed in the Atlantic Ocean and Tropical Storm Bertha is expected to hit Puerto Rico this weekend.

Bertha is currently located 70 miles Northeast of Barbados and is moving at 21 mph, packing maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.

Luckily, the predicted path shows that the U.S. mainland will not be impacted. Puerto Rico, on the other hand, isn't so lucky.

Tropical Storm warnings are in effect for Puerto Rico as well as surrounding islands, with heavy rain and tropical storm force gusts likely this weekend.

As Bertha continues moving northwest, it could bring some wind-driven rain to the Bahamas on Sunday night into Monday. As a result, there is also the possibility of strong rip currents in Florida by early next week.

Tropical Storm Bertha is not expected to strengthen into a hurricane since it will go out to sea before reaching the East Coast.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Girl Accused in 'Slender Man' Stabbing Ruled Incompetent

iStock/Thinkstock(WAUKESHA, Wis.) -- One of two Wisconsin girls accused of stabbing their friend so they could meet the fictional character "Slender Man" simply shrugged on Friday before a judge ruled that she was incompetent to stand trial.

Morgan Geyser had twice been found not competent to stand trial and Friday's decision marks the third incompetency ruling. Geyser and Anissa Weier, both 12, are charged with first degree attempted murder after prosecutors said they lured their friend into the woods and stabbed her 19 times.

Geyser was seen fidgeting in her seat and playing with her hair during the hearing, even pulling a blond strand directly in front of her face at one point. She smiled while watching Weier being led out of the room.

Two mental health professionals gave testimony in the Waukesha County Courthouse on Friday, speaking about their evaluations of Geyser before Judge Michael Bohren ruled that she is unfit to stand trial.

Dr. Brooke Lundbohm, who evaluated Geyser on June 18, 2014, said that Geyser's unusual behavior -- including what she said was nonsensical rambling and inappropriate, near-hysterical laughter -- contributed to her decision that Geyser is incompetent.

Lundbohm said that Geyser spoke with her at length about fictional characters she believes in, including unicorns, Slender Man and Harry Potter villain Voldemort, who Geyser reportedly called "Voldy." She added that Geyser claims that she has Vulcan Mind Control.

Dr. Kenneth Robbins also examined Geyser and told the court that Geyser told him she has to be careful about what she says because she believes speaking about Slender Man could cause him to harm her or her family.

Robbins said Geyser claims she and Slender Man can communicate telepathically and Lundbohm said Voldemort "gives her direction."

Both doctors concluded that the pre-teen does not appear to understand the seriousness of her charge, and that was echoed in court when she shrugged as the judge asked if she was competent to assist her attorneys.

The mental health experts described Geyser as a bright student who got good grades and had no behavioral issues at school except one time when she brought a mallet to class.

Weier, Geyser's alleged co-conspirator, was also in court Friday because her legal team unsuccessfully tried to argue that they should be given hard copies of Geyser's mental evaluations. Weier has not had to undergo any mental evaluations of her own because her attorneys have not yet requested one.

Geyser and Weier are being tried as adults because Wisconsin law dictates that anyone above the age of 10 charged with first degree murder or attempted murder will not be considered juveniles.

The 12-year-old victim, who has not been identified because of her age, was said to have nearly died from her wounds, but has since been released from the hospital and her parents recently released new details about her recovery.

"She's doing great," family spokesperson and media adviser for the Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. law firm Stephen Lyon told ABC News. "She's healing well. Both physically and emotionally she's getting better."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

FBI After 'Good Grammar Bandit' in Colorado

iStock/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- Authorities in Colorado are searching for a bank robber in the Denver area whose tactics would make his high school English teachers proud.

The FBI calls him the "Good Grammar Bandit," and he's wanted in connection with seven bank robberies in Colorado.

All of the robberies happened the same way: A guy walks in and demands money by handing the teller a typed letter, filled with proper spelling, grammar and punctuation.

The bandit is said to be between 5 feet, 9 inches and 6 feet tall.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Man Killed After Lightning Strike at Calif. Beach Was Electrocuted

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- It's now clear how a 20-year-old man died last weekend after a rare lightning strike at California's Venice Beach.

An autopsy confirmed on Thursday that Nick Fagnano was electrocuted when a bolt of lightning struck the ocean water. He was swimming when the lightning hit, electrifying the water.

Fagnano was with a group of friends before the incident occurred on Sunday. They were about to leave Venice Beach but his friends say Fagnano went back in the water to rinse sand off his feet.

After the lightning strike, he was missing for about an hour before lifeguards found him.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Shot FSU Professor Waited 19 Minutes for Ambulance

Courtesy FSU(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- It took paramedics 19 minutes to arrive at the home of a Florida State University professor shot in his garage after a neighbor called 911 -- with the dispatcher’s confusion contributing to the delay and one EMS unit replaced by another, authorities said.

Dan Markel, 41, was shot as he drove his car into his garage on July 18. The killer fired a single bullet through the driver’s window, striking him just beneath the jawline, sources told ABC News.

A neighbor called 911, noting that he happened upon Markel’s car because he’d been worried about a recent string of break-ins. The neighbor said he found Markel sitting in the driver’s seat of his car, his head covered in blood. Markel was still alive, the man told a dispatcher. But he wasn’t responsive.

“You need to send an ambulance in a hurry, an EMT,” the neighbor said, according to audio of the call released by police Thursday. “I think you need to hurry.”

Because the dispatcher didn’t initially hear the caller mention anything about a gunshot wound, the response was delayed.

“The officer is going to be there first. [The EMT] is not going to come until we figure out what’s going on, but they are on the way as well, OK?” the dispatcher said.

“They better be if this guy’s got a shot…living,” the neighbor responded.

Markel died at the hospital 14 hours later.

Timothy Lee, the head of the dispatch center, acknowledged to ABC News that confusion contributed to the slowed response.

“On the onset of the call, it was entered into the computer system as a man down versus a gunshot wound,” Lee said. “We are making changes in this review to make sure that this atmosphere doesn’t happen again.”

The release of the 911 audio comes as authorities increased the reward in the case to $10,000, with Markel’s shooter still unknown. Investigators are trying to find the person driving a Toyota Prius seen nearby after the shooting.

The criminal law professor was pulling into his driveway and talking on his cellphone when he was fatally shot, sources said.

Markel left behind two young sons and an ex-wife, Wendi Jill Adelson, also an FSU professor. Police have spent hours questioning Adelson and others who knew Markel, but have named no suspects.

Police believe Markel was targeted, but the shooter’s motive remains unclear.

ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams said the direction of the investigation -- with police focusing on different places where Markel was seen in the days before the shooting -- shows that the shooter’s motive could be anything, from Markel’s blog to his legal research.

“They’re looking beyond the people that he knew best and worked with closest, and they’re really expanding this investigation beyond his inner circle,” Abrams said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Huge Butter Spill Creates Jam on Indianapolis Highway

File photo. (Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock)(INDIANAPOLIS) -- Butter and jam usually conjures up images of warm toast, but on an Indianapolis highway Friday, it meant a huge slippery mess that closed part of the busy highway during the morning rush hour.

A dairy truck crashed overnight on Interstate 465 and spilled over 45,000 pounds of butter, margarine and whipped cream.

"Our preliminary conclusion is that the truck driver fell asleep while driving, hit a barrier, and crashed at around 3:30 a.m.," Capt. David Dursten, spokesman for the Indiana State Police told ABC News.

The semi split in half, spilling tubes of butter and tins of whipped cream.

"Our crew is using a sand truck and a front-end loader to absorb and scoop up the sticky coat on the road into trash bins," Dursten said.

The right two lanes of the interstate highway are expected to be closed until about noon while the crew removes the mess, the officer said.

There was a passenger in the truck. No one was injured.

"I was joking with my colleagues, wonder if anyone called IHOP and ordered 2,000 pounds of pancakes," Dursten said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Lotto Luck: Indiana Man Wins Big Twice in Three Months

Hoosier Lottery(INDIANAPOLIS) -- Indianapolis resident Robert Hamilton has the kind of luck that’s won him two separate $1 million lottery prizes in the span of three months. What are the odds of that?

According to the Hoosier Lottery, the odds of winning a $1 million top prize in the Hoosier Lottery's $120 Million Cash Spectacular scratch-off game are one in more than 2.1 million.

The Marion County man won his first $1 million playing the $10 game on April 28. Hamilton was on his way to a conference when he stopped at a store located about an hour-and-a-half away from his home and purchased a ticket, according to the Hoosier Lottery. He bought his most recent winner -- playing the same game -- at a store in Indianapolis.

When Hamilton collected his most recent winnings on July 22 he called it “the icing on the cake.”

He used his first lottery million to “pay off all his financial obligations,” plus buy a house, invest in his business, go on a beach vacation and buy his father a truck, according to Hoosier Lottery. He plans to buy a motorcycle with his latest million and also plans to keep working.

The lottery said Hamilton was “grateful for the opportunity” to buy new equipment for his business.

ABC News couldn’t reach Hamilton or his wife, Donna, for comment on Thursday, but in the news release they said their double windfall wouldn’t change them.

"We're just everyday, normal people," Donna Hamilton said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Are Deadly Small Plane Accidents on the Rise?

Photo Credit: Zack Arceneaux(NEW YORK) -- Despite two deadly small plane accidents this week that killed a total of three people, including a young girl, and one Thursday that injured a family of four, experts say that it isn't necessarily a trend.

"Summer weather is better for flying so we have increased flying activity so we always see an increase in accidents in the summer unfortunately," said Steve Hedges, the head of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

A family of four -- the pilot, his wife and their teenage children — were pulled from the wreckage of a small plane that crashed Thursday in Helena, Alabama. They all suffered injuries.

On Wednesday, pilot Devon Logan, 52, a real estate investor, missed the airport landing and clipped a store roof before crashing into a San Diego, California, shopping center parking lot.

She was seriously injured. The other passenger, 78, was killed.

And on Sunday, a father and his young daughter, 9, were hit by a small plane making an emergency landing on a Florida beach.

Neither the pilot, Karl Kokomoor, 57, nor the passenger on the plane, David Theen, 60, were injured in the landing. Kokomoor, an engineering company president, expressed his sorrow, saying he'd intended to put the plane in water but the nose had ended up on the beach.

He said he never saw the pair. The girl later died.

Despite the recent spate of accidents, small-plane deaths are actually dropping, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). In the last five years, the number of deaths has decreased from 479 to 387 and that number dipped significantly last year.

But private flying still had the highest accident rate, according to the NTSB, which has promoted more training for pilots.

"I don't believe it's a trouble category," said Earl Weener of the NTSB. "I think it's just an area that is ripe for safety improvements and it would be very fruitful to make safety improvements."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Company 'Shocked' After Demoted Employee Allegedly Shot CEO

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- A gunman killed himself Thursday after shooting his boss repeatedly in the Bank of America building in Chicago's financial district, authorities said.

The victim was Steven LaVoie, the CEO of ArrowStream, for which the suspect also worked, the company said. LaVoie remains in critical condition.

The suspect, identified as Tony DeFrances, had been demoted last Friday, police said. The company website listed DeFrances as Chief Technology Officer.

The suspect allegedly shot LaVoie before turning the gun on himself, police said.

"We are deeply saddened and shocked by the events that have occurred today," ArrowStream said in a statement released Thursday evening. "Our focus during this tragedy is to ensure the well being of our ArrowStream family. We want to assure our customers that our business continuity plan is in place, and our operations will continue to function normally."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Police Search Kidnapping Suspect's Home, Storage Container

iStock/Thinkstock(GORHAM, N.H.) -- Police have searched the home and storage unit of Nathaniel Kibby, the man being held in connection with the disappearance of Abigail Hernandez.

Kibby, 34, is being held on $1 million bail after being charged with kidnapping Hernandez in October of last year.

Photos have surfaced showing police searching Kibby's property in a trailer park in Gorham, New Hampshire, on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Hernandez returned to her Conway, New Hampshire, home on July 20 and is now back in the care of her mother, but questions remain about her disappearance.

The charging document said Kibby "confined [Hernandez] with a purpose to commit an offense against her" but the rest of the case documents are sealed.

The attorney general's office, which has been heading the investigation alongside the FBI, has said it will not be releasing any further information about the search warrant issued for Kibby's property or anything they've learned from their conversations with Abigail until Kibby returns to court on Aug. 12.

That hasn't stopped the investigation from moving forward, however.

Photos of the search on Kibby's home and nearby shipping container showed signs posted on the container that said "Beware of the Dog" and "No Trespassing."

When Kibby was arrested at his home Monday, Associate Attorney General Jane Young told ABC News that there were no other suspects.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

Several Injured After Car Crashes into Palo Alto Restaurant

iStock/Thinkstock(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- Multiple people are injured after a car crashed into a building in Palo Alto, California on Thursday.

Around lunch time, an elderly driver accidentally drove onto the curb at University Cafe-- a restaurant by Stanford University-- hitting five people.

One victim is in critical condition. The other four victims and the driver suffered minor injuries.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio



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