WLS-TV(CHICAGO) — Two brothers — just 2 and 4 years old — are dead after they were found unresponsive in a river, authorities said.The incident unfolded when concerned witnesses called 911 at the Kankakee River by the Illinois and Indiana state line on Tuesday, said Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr.Witnesses said the boys’ father was in and out of consciousness and “acting strangely,” Martinez said at a news conference Wednesday.The witnesses “felt that he was under the influence of something,” Martinez said, and noticed him “jumping in the water. And the witnesses were confused of where the kids were at and started looking for the kids.”Witnesses found one child floating in the water and the second child under the water and unresponsive, he said.The boys, Evan Patillo, 2, and Levi Patillo, 4, both died, Martinez said.The boys’ mother has been contacted, Martinez said.Their causes of death are under investigation, he added.“It’s a tragedy,” Martinez told reporters. “It hits us hard.”The boys’ father, Eric Patillo, was interviewed at the Lake County Police detective bureau, Martinez said, and was then taken into custody and booked on two probable cause charges of neglect of a dependent resulting in death.Authorities are awaiting test results that would reveal if Patillo was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, Martinez said.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — Firefighters in Massachusetts are battling dozens of fires believed to have been caused by gas explosions.The Massachusetts State Police Watch Center has responded to 39 different addresses spread across dozens of block in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover — in Massachusetts’ Merrimack Valley, the department wrote on Twitter.Evacuations are taking place in multiple neighborhoods where residents have smelled gas, according to state police.Authorities also warned residents in the area who are served by Columbia Gas to “evacuate their homes immediately,” as gas lines are currently being depressurized by the company.Aerial footage taken by ABC Boston affiliate WCVB-TV showed firefighters battling flames in a residential neighborhood that sent thick plumes of smoke into the air.Residents in Andover were evacuated to a local senior center, while residents in North Andover were directed to a nearby middle school.The Massachusetts State Fire Marshal’s Office told WCVB-TV that it sent investigators to the area to respond to a high-pressure gas line issue affecting homes nearby.Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera told WCVB-TV that the incidents are believed to have stemmed from a rise in gas pressure.Additional information was not immediately available.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office(NORTH YARMOUTH, Maine) — The death of a Maine teacher who was reported missing on Monday has been ruled a suicide, according to local authorities.A body found Friday morning in a wooded area roughly 500 feet off Gray Road in North Yarmouth, Maine, has been identified as 47-year-old Kristin Westra, who was last seen by her husband, Jay Westra, last Sunday night.The Cumberland County Medical Examiner ruled Kristin Westra’s death a suicide, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office announced Sunday. Her cause of death was not released.Jay Westra reported his wife missing Monday morning after he woke up and discovered she was not home, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Stewart told ABC News Tuesday. He last saw her before he went to bed that night, after she returned home from a jog, Stewart said.Kristin Westra’s brother, Eric Rohrbach, told ABC News that she had trouble falling asleep Sunday night and that her husband assumed she was going to try and sleep in an empty room when she got out of bed around 3 a.m.When Jay Westra woke up, he “realized she wasn’t there,” Rohrbach said.Rohrbach said his sister had been under “some stress” due to work and home renovations but described her disappearance as “very abnormal,” and said she didn’t do drugs or drink alcohol.“The thought of her doing this to her family is completely out of the norm,” Rohrbach said.When Jay Westra attempted to call her cell phone Monday morning, it rang inside the house, Rohrbach said. She did not have her keys or wallet, he said.Kristin Westra was an elementary school teacher and mother to a 9-year-old daughter and 16-year-old stepson, Rohrbach said, calling her a “pillar in her community.”Dozens of volunteers searched for Kristin Westra earlier this week. Cumberland County Sheriff’s Capt. Craig Smith did not disclose who located the remains or in what condition they were found.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) — The mother of the woman who was killed when a protester rammed his car into a crowd of people at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 spoke about how her family has coped in the wake of her death.Heather Heyer was killed by James Alex Fields, who was found guilty of first-degree murder and other charges. Her mother, Susan Bro, was one of several people who gave victim impact statements in court on Monday.“Almost all members of our family have gone into grief therapy as the darkness has tried to swallow us whole,” Bro said in court, according to The Washington Post.“We are survivors but we are much sadder survivors. We are forever scarred by the pain,” she said.Jurors listened to the impact statements from Bro and several others who were injured. They are expected to make their sentencing recommendation on Tuesday.Fields, 21, was found guilty of five counts of aggravated malicious wounding and three counts of malicious wounding in addition to the first-degree murder count. He could face multiple counts of life sentences, based on the guidelines for those charges.Jeanne “Star” Peterson was one of the victims who spoke in court, saying that her life has been “a living nightmare” after the crash, going through five surgeries to repair her shattered right leg.“I saw Heather fly into the air before I was struck,” Peterson said, according to ABC affiliate WVAW-TV. “I will never forget the look in her eyes.”She spoke about how difficult it was to be in the same room as the man whose actions injured her and killed Heyer, her friend.“It’s been really hard to be in the courtroom with him … I watched the people I love testify about the worst day of their lives and he just doesn’t show any emotion,” Peterson said, according to WVAW-TV.“I didn’t realize that I have been carrying this heavy weight and I mean since the car attack really and now I feel so so light,” she said.Another victim who gave an impact statement, going only by the name Lisa Q., explained the painful process of recovering from her various injuries.She said that she has gone through months of physical therapy in the wake of the August 2017 attack and “today I came close to making a fist.”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The family of the 7-year-old girl who died while in border patrol custody is calling for a “transparent and neutral investigation” into the circumstances that led to her death, attorneys representing her heartbroken family said in a statement Saturday.The tragic death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, who was just five days past her birthday when she died after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this month, should be investigated within “nationally recognized standards for the arrest and custody of children,” said Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House, a non-profit organization that is working with her family.“The family intends to assist in such an investigation into the cause and circumstances of Jakelin’s death,” Garcia read from a statement prepared by the family’s attorneys, during a Saturday afternoon press conference in El Paso, Texas.Garcia spoke on behalf of Jakelin’s parents: her father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cruz, with whom she crossed the border; and her mom, Claudia Marivel Maquin Coc.Jakelin “was a beautiful and loving child,” Garcia said during the news conference.“Jakelin and her father came to the United States seeking something that thousands have been seeking for years: An escape from the dangerous situation in their home country,” Garcia read, referring to Guatemala. “This was their right under U.S. and international law.”Late Saturday evening, Guatemalan Consul Tekandi Paniagua told ABC News that Cruz — Jakelin’s father — was grateful to the border patrol and the doctors who tried to save his daughter’s life.“When I spoke to the father he actually said he was very grateful for the effort of both the Border Patrol agents that assisted his daugther at the station as well as the medical staff at the hospital,” Paniagua said.Cruz’ sentiments were first reported earlier Saturday by CNN.Jakelin’s death became public Thursday, five days after she died from dehydration and cardiac arrest, and sparked out sparked outrage from Democrats and immigration advocates alike.“There are no words to capture the horror of a seven-year-old girl dying of dehydration in U.S. custody,” former presidential candidate and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted Friday. “What’s happening at our borders is a humanitarian crisis.”Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol officials on Friday defended their handling of the incident. Among the challenges cited, DHS and CBP said it took 90 minutes to get Jakelin medical attention after Caal Cruz alerted agents that she was sick.Four border patrol agents apprehended a group of 160 migrants — among them Jakelin and her father — and there was no medical staff nearby.Finally, a CBP official with direct knowledge of the investigation told ABC News that a single bus equipped to transport children from a remote part of the New Mexico border had to make two trips to take everyone. Jakelin had to wait four hours for the bus to return for her and her father, the official said.Jakelin later had a 105.9-degree fever and had to be airlifted to a children’s hospital in El Paso. That’s when she went into cardiac arrest, suffered brain swelling and liver failure, according to CBP and DHS officials.She died less than 24 hours later, DHS said.But Jakelin’s family said through Garcia the little girl had been taken care of by her father, who made sure she had eaten and was hydrated.“She had suffered from a lack of water or food prior to approaching the border,” Garcia said Saturday.Garcia added that Jakelin and her family who speak Q’eqchi, and Spanish as a second language. They don’t speak English, Garcia added, yet Caal Cruz filled out an English form during processing.“It is unacceptable for any government agency to have persons in custody sign documents in a language that they clearly do not understand,” Garcia said.They urged patience while the medical examiner in El Paso County, which conducted Jakelin’s autopsy, makes a public statement regarding the cause of death.Her body has left El Paso and is being transported to a funeral home in Laredo that works with Guatemalan consulate. From there, her body will be repatriated to Guatemala, Garcia said.“The family of Jakelin … is still coping with their profound loss,” Garcia said. “The death of a child is the most painful experience that a parent or family can endure.” Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
400tmax/iStock(CHICAGO) — Four Chicago police officers have been fired over their alleged cover-up of the 2014 murder of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by former officer Jason Van Dyke. The Chicago Police Board voted on Thursday to discharge Sgt. Stephen Franko and officers Janet Modragon, Daphne Sebastian and Ricardo Viramontes. They have the right to appeal the decision, which went into effect immediately.“The department is bound by the decision of the board,” Chicago Police Department spokesman Thomas Ahern told ABC News in a statement Thursday night. “The affected members have further options they may exercise if they so choose.”The four former officers were accused of making false statements about the shooting, which took place on the night of Oct. 20, 2014. Van Dkye, who fired 16 shots at the 17-year-old McDonald in a span of 15 seconds, was convicted by a jury last year of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.The Chicago Police Board wrote in its findings and decision that Franko “failed to properly supervise his officers” that night, nearly five years ago. The sergeant reviewed and approved “critical case reports” that contained “several demonstrable and known falsehoods,” according to the board.Meanwhile, Modragon, Sebastian and Viramontes were all present when McDonald was killed. They gave statements that night to a detective and again early the next morning to Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority, according to the board.“It was their statements that would be used by the investigators to determine whether the fatal shooting of Mr. McDonald was justified — or whether a crime by their fellow officer had been committed,” the board wrote. “As sworn officers, each understood the importance of their statements to that investigation and understood that their statements must be truthful and complete. Each of the three officers failed in their duty — either by outright lying or by shading the truth.”The Chicago police union, the Fraternal Order of Police, lambasted the board’s ruling, saying it will “no doubt lead to more violence in the city and quite likely more violence against the police.”“These officers served the citizens of this city with courage, integrity, and adherence to the rule of law,” Martin Preib, second vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said in a statement. “Too bad you couldn’t do the same.”Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
dlewis33/iStock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — California lawmakers are moving to put a ban on police officers using facial recognition technology in body cameras, arguing in a bill that the technology infringes on privacy and often misidentifies women, people of color and young people.The California state Senate passed AB1215 bill, a three-year ban on the technology, on Wednesday, and it cleared the state Assembly in a vote Thursday afternoon. If signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, California could become the largest state to ban facial recognition and biometric technology in police body cameras in the nation when it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.“This is not just a California concern, this is a national concern, people have really … been much more sensitive to their privacy recently,” California Assemblymember Phil Ting, who drafted the bill, said on a call with reporters Thursday afternoon.Ting added that the facial recognition technology “seems to have a higher misidentification rate for people of color,” and that “having all these questions make these highly problematic” for use with law enforcement.“We did the test with different California state legislators,” he said. “Twenty-six out of 120 of us got misidentified.”The three-year moratorium on the technology also allows lawmakers to revisit the idea if technology does advance, according to Ting. While facial recognition technology in body cams is currently not widely used by law enforcement, Ting said that they wanted to be “proactive” with this legislation.“Face-scanning police body cameras have no place on our streets, where they can be used for dragnet surveillance of people going about their private lives, including their locations and personal associations,” Matt Cagle, the technology and civil liberties attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said in a statement.“With this bill, California is poised to become one of the first states in the country to prevent its residents from becoming test subjects for an invasive tracking technology proven to be fundamentally incompatible with civil liberties and human rights,” Cagle added. “Other states should follow suit.”The bill, drafted by Ting, states, “Facial recognition and other biometric surveillance technology has been repeatedly demonstrated to misidentify women, young people, and people of color and to create an elevated risk of harmful ‘false positive’ identifications.”It also argues that if police employ facial recognition tech on their body cams it could hurt their relationship with the community.“Its use would also diminish effective policing and public safety by discouraging people in these communities, including victims of crime, undocumented persons, people with unpaid fines and fees, and those with prior criminal history from seeking police assistance or from assisting the police,” the bill argues.Some law enforcement groups, however, including the California Peace Officers’ Association, announced on their website that they oppose the bill.A U.K. report from earlier this year claimed that 81% of suspects flagged by facial recognition technology used by London’s Metropolitan Police were innocent.San Francisco and Oakland, the fourth- and eighth-largest cities in California, respectively, already banned their respective police departments from using facial recognition technology earlier this year. Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
L. Carter/National Park Service(KING SALMON, Alaska) –All hail this year’s “Queen of Corpulence.”A national park in Alaska declared 435 Holly the winner of its 2019 Fat Bear Week competition on Tuesday.“She is fat. She is fabulous,” the Katmai National Park & Preserve wrote on Facebook.In photos from July, 435 Holly touted a slimmer figure but she managed to beautifully pack on the pounds for hibernation and dominate the competition.The public votes online in the annual contest to name the fattest and baddest bear of the state’s Brook River.Katmai called it a “March Madness-style competition.”During hibernation, which can last for up to half a year, a bear can lose one third of its body mass, making the weight a bear gains before all the more important.“There is no shame in winning this contest as large amounts of body fat in brown bears is indicative of good health and strong chances of survival,” the park said in a statement.Bears in Katmai are among the largest in the world, according to the park. Adult males typically weight 600-900 pounds before hibernation, but clock in at well over 1,000 pounds as hibernation begins. Adult females usually weigh about one third less than adult males.Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
maroke/iStock(CHICAGO) — After 10 days on the picket line, the Chicago Teachers Union has voted to accept a tentative deal with the city — but that still doesn’t mean teachers in the Windy City will be returning to work Thursday.The union has requested that the school system schedule make-up days for time lost to the strike, but Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said the days won’t be made up. As a result, classes will again not be session Thursday. “We believe this is an agreement that will produce real, lasting benefits in our schools. It’s a contract we can believe in. It has meaningful improvements in class size, in staffing and in a number of other features which we believe will help transform public schools in Chicago,” teachers union president Jesse Sharkey said in announcing the agreement Wednesday night.“There’s one issue, however, that’s an important issue,” he said. “Our union does not have a return to work agreement. Our delegates told us in no uncertain terms they were not going back to work unless there was a provision made for making up the instructional days that have been lost over the last ten days. Our members want to return to work. Everyone was clear about that. However, the mayor of the city of Chicago has said that we will not be able to make up lost instructional days.”Lightfoot, who had previously said any lost days would not be made up, reiterated that point late Wednesday night.Discussing the sides’ most recent meeting in which they hammered out the union’s six remaining issues on Tuesday, Lightfoot said, “In response to my concerns that the CTU had appeared to repeatedly move the goalposts on issue after issue, President Sharkey made a dramatic gesture and said, ‘Mayor, I give you my word that these last six issues are the last issues that we need to resolve in order for a contract to be ratified.’”“Not once during that 3 1/2 hour meeting did they raise compensation for strike days — not once. The issue never came up,” the mayor said. “I’ve been clear from Day One that CPS would not make up any strike days. And at this late hour, we are not adding any new issues.”Despite the mayor’s insistence, Illinois state law says that after nine days, district students are required to make those days up in school, according to Chicago ABC station WLS-TV. Under those rules, at least two days of school will be added to the end of the year based on how long the strike has gone on to this point.Teachers are not paid for lost days that are not made up.The Chicago Teachers Union represents the city’s 25,000 teachers and educational support staff. The strike, in the nation’s third-largest school district, has kept more than 360,000 students out of school. Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
Courtesy Nancy Organ(FORT SMITH, Ark.) — A former Arkansas 911 dispatcher was cleared of wrongdoing following accusations that she mishandled a call with a drowning woman and told her to “shut up” just moments before she died. An internal investigation concluded that operator Donna Reneau violated policy by being rude during an August call with Debbie Stevens shortly before her death, but she did nothing that would have warranted her termination, according to the Fort Smith Police Department. “No evidence of criminal negligence or activities on former Operator Reneau’s part. In fact, the evidence shows that while Operator Reneau spoke rudely to Mrs. Stevens during the call, she actually bumped the call up in the order of importance shortly after receiving it,” the department said in a report released Friday.Stevens’ death made national news earlier this year when the department released audio of the 911 call. Stevens only had minutes to live, but Reneau appeared unconcerned and even scolded the 47-year-old woman for driving into such deep waters.Fort Smith police got a call from Stevens, 47, at around 4:38 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 24. She had been delivering newspapers for the Southwest Times Record when her sport utility vehicle was swept away in a flood and then trapped among trees as the waters continued to rise, police said. Stevens first called a family member, Fort Smith police said, and then she called 911. “I have an emergency — a severe emergency,” Stevens said during the call. “I can’t get out, and I’m scared to death, ma’am. Can you please help me?” “I’m going to die,” Stevens cried later.“You’re not going to die,” Reneau responded. “I don’t know why you’re freaking out … You freaking out is doing nothing but losing your oxygen in there. So, calm down.” Later on during the 911 call, the dispatcher assures Stevens that she is not going to die. “I don’t know why you are freaking out. It’s OK. I know the water level is high,” the operator said. “I’m scared!” Stevens said. “I understand that but you freaking out, doing nothing but losing oxygen up in there,” the operator said. “So calm down.” Stevens could be heard crying on the phone.“I’m scared. I’ve never had anything happen to me like this before,” she said. “Well, this will teach you next time, don’t drive in the water,” the operator said. “I couldn’t see it, ma’am. I’m sorry I wouldn’t have,” Steven said. “I don’t see how you didn’t see it. You had to go right over it so,” the operator said. At one point, Stevens got frantic and had this exchange with the dispatcher. “These people are all standing out here watching me,” Stevens said. “Miss Debbie, you’re gong to have to shut up. OK. I need you to listen,” said the dispatcher. The recording intensified outrage over the operator’s response even though authorities insisted that “sincere efforts were being made” to save the drowning woman’s life during the call. Reneau had submitted her resignation earlier in August and was on her last shift when Stevens’s call came in.Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.