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Scott Olson/Getty Images(CANNONBALL, N.D.) -- Authorities have ended negotiations with the remaining protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline and have moved into the camp after some occupiers refused to leave, despite an evacuation order set by state and federal authorities.

Some inside the camp were granted ceremonial arrests, authorities said, which involves them giving themselves up voluntarily to be peacefully arrested. Police used plastic zip ties to restrain the protesters who surrendered on the street.

At least nine people who did not surrender voluntarily have been arrested thus far after the evacuation deadline expired, authorities said in a briefing Wednesday afternoon, adding that they estimate about 50 to 75 people remain in the camp currently.

It is unclear what authorities plan to do to remove the protesters who refuse to leave and resist arrest.

Officials said earlier that the Oceti Sakowin camp, which is situated at the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation near Cannonball, North Dakota, must be evacuated Wednesday by 2 p.m. local time and re-entry would not be permitted. Camp residents there were seen lighting fires early this morning, just hours before the deadline.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has set up a travel assistance center that will offer each protester water, snacks, a food voucher, a personal hygiene kit, a health and wellness assessment, hotel lodging for one night, a taxi voucher to the bus terminal, and bus fare for a return trip home. Transportation will be provided from Oceti Sakowin camp to the travel assistance center in Bismarck.

“This free service will provide protesters with support as they prepare for their return home,” Burgum’s office said in a Facebook post on Tuesday night. “All camp residents are encouraged to take advantage of these amenities.”

 Last week, Burgum signed an emergency evacuation order for the Oceti Sakowin camp that reaffirmed a Feb. 22 deadline set by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began coordinating a cleanup in late January, but state officials said it wasn't happening fast enough. The governor’s emergency evacuation order cited increasing temperatures and the threat of flooding as the impetus in accelerating the camp’s cleanup.

"Warm temperatures have accelerated snowmelt in the area of the Oceti Sakowin protest camp, and the National Weather Service reports that the Cannonball River should be on the watch for rising water levels and an increased risk of ice jams later this week," the statement from Burgum’s office read.

"Due to these conditions, the governor’s emergency order addresses safety concerns to human life as anyone in the floodplain is at risk for possible injury or death. The order also addresses the need to protect the Missouri River from the waste that will flow into the Cannonball River and Lake Oahe if the camp is not cleared and the cleanup expedited," the statement added.

The Cannonball River is a tributary of the Missouri River.

How it all began

The 1,172-mile pipeline is nearly finished except for a 1.25-mile segment, part of which will run under Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota just upstream of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation. Construction of this final phase has been the focus of a contentious legal battle and massive protests in recent months.

While the Army Corps says this area is federally owned land, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe cites an 1851 treaty that it says designates the land for Native American tribes. The tribe, which claims its members were never meaningfully consulted before construction began, sued in July to block the four-state crude oil pipeline. That lawsuit is pending, and the Army Corps and the company behind the pipeline argued in court papers that they followed a standard review process.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been at the forefront of the fight against the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline. The protests have drawn thousands of Native Americans, environmental activists and their allies to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation. The protesters, who call themselves "water protectors," argue that the pipeline will threaten the reservation’s water supply and traverse culturally sacred sites.

Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the Texas-based developer behind the project, has said that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on local water supply are unfounded” and “multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route.”

Granting of the easement

In the final days of President Barack Obama’s administration, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, announced on Dec. 4 that an easement would not be granted for the pipeline to cross under the large reservoir on the Missouri River.

Darcy said at the time of the decision that the Army Corps would engage in additional review and analysis, including a “robust consideration and discussion of alternative locations for the pipeline crossing the Missouri River.” She also encouraged the Corps to share company documents containing risk analyses and spill models that had not been made available to the tribes during the initial environmental review.

All these steps, Darcy determined, would best be accomplished by the Army Corps’ preparing a full environmental impact statement allowing for public input -- a process that could have taken years. She is no longer in the position after the change in administrations.

 The move to deny the easement was hailed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other pipeline opponents as a major victory. But on his second weekday in office, President Trump signed a memorandum aimed at advancing the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as one directed at the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Robert Speer, the acting secretary of the Army, on Feb. 7 announced a decision to terminate the notice of intent to perform an environmental impact statement and to notify Congress of the Army’s intent to grant permission for the crossing under Lake Oahe. Speer said the decision was made based on a sufficient amount of available information.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said in a statement at the time that it will “challenge any easement decision” on the grounds that the environmental impact statement was “wrongfully terminated.” The tribe said it will also “demand a fair, accurate and lawful environmental impact statement to identify true risks to its treaty rights, including its water supply and sacred places.”

If the Dakota Access Pipeline is completed and begins operating, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said it will “seek to shut the pipeline operations down.”

The Army Corps on Feb. 8 granted an easement to the developer of the Dakota Access Pipeline, allowing it to install the final segment of the pipeline.

“The safety of those located on Corps-managed land is our top priority, in addition to preventing contaminants from entering the waterway,” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Omaha District Commander Col. John Henderson said in a statement at the time. “We appreciate the proactive efforts of the tribes to help clean the protest site ahead of potential flooding along the river, typical during the runoff season.”

Tribes challenge easement decision

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which is part of the Great Sioux Nation, joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit against the pipeline, filing a motion at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Feb. 9 seeking a temporary restraining order “to halt construction and drilling” under and on either side of the land surrounding Lake Oahe.

The tribe argued that the pipeline “will desecrate the waters upon which Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members rely on for their most important religious practices and therefore substantially burden the free exercise of their religion,” according to a court document obtained by ABC News.

The court on Feb. 13 denied that motion seeking a temporary restraining order.

 The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe also filed a separate motion seeking a preliminary injunction directing the Army Corps to withdraw the easement issued to the pipeline company. The tribe alleges that the easement granted is “entirely unlawful," according to court documents.

“The government has granted the easement, and Dakota Access has begun to drill. This court cannot wait until the harm begins to issue equitable relief. When the free exercise of religion is at stake, a threat certain to that right is enough to constitute irreparable harm,” the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe stated in a court document.

“And in view of the threat to the tribe’s and its members’ constitutional right, this court may not wait until the oil is slithering under the tribe’s sacred waters. The law entitles the tribe to relief as soon as the government acts to threaten their rights," the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe added in the court document.

A further hearing on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe's motion for a preliminary injunction against the pipeline is set for Feb. 27 in Washington, D.C.

In addition, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a motion on Feb. 14 seeking “expedited summary judgment" on its claims that this easement decision as well as the Army Corps regulatory actions "are arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law."

Construction resumes

After receiving the easement to build the pipeline across the land on both sides of Lake Oahe, Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners announced it would resume construction immediately. The Dakota Access pipeline will connect oil production areas in North Dakota to an existing crude oil terminal near Patoka, Illinois.

On Feb. 21, Energy Transfer Partners said in a filing to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that the company "estimates and targets that the pipeline will be complete and ready to flow oil anywhere between the week of March 6, 2017 and April 1, 2017." The court filing was required as part of the ongoing legal battle that is challenging the construction at the site by Lake Oahe.

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WFTS(NEW YORK) -- The wife of the former police captain accused of fatally shooting a man in a Florida movie theater testified in court Wednesday in a hearing that will determine if his claim of self-defense meets the criteria under Florida's Stand Your Ground law.

Curtis Reeves, 74, is accused of shooting and killing 43-year-old Chad Oulson on Jan. 13, 2014, during a confrontation over texting before a showing of "Lone Survivor" at a movie theater in Wesley Chapel, police said.

If Circuit Court Judge Susan Barthle rules in favor of Reeves, he will receive immunity from prosecution and will leave court as a free man with no criminal murder charges.

Should Barthle decide Reeves did not meet the criteria to "stand his ground" during the encounter with Oulson, he will proceed to a criminal trial at a later date, where he can claim self-defense in the shooting but will not be able to utilize the protection under the Stand Your Ground law.

Prosecutors say Reeves provoked the confrontation, The Associated Press reported, meaning he wouldn't be protected by the Stand Your Ground law.

Reeves has been present for the hearings, which began Monday and will run through March 3.

Curtis Reeves' wife, Vivian Reeves, testified in a Dade City courtroom Wednesday that she and her husband had made a "spur-of-the-minute" decision to see the movie with their son, Matt, because he had read the book of the same title. They chose a matinee showing since it was "cheaper," she said.

After the family bought popcorn and a drink at the concessions stands and used the restroom, they entered the theater, where Vivian Reeves said she noticed Oulson with his phone out and the screen lit. Oulson, who was sitting directly in front of her, was not talking on the phone, she said, and the previews had not yet started.

After a message instructing viewers to turn off their cellphones came on, Vivian Reeves said she saw her husband leaning toward Oulson, who was "very loud" as he was speaking to Reeves. She said he heard him use the word "f---" or "f---ing" and said something about texting his daughter.

“It scared me," she said of the initial encounter between Oulson and her husband. "I was horrified that somebody would act like that, especially in a movie theater.”

Her husband then told her, "I'm going to get the manager," she said. When he returned, she handed him the popcorn and he sat down, she said.

'Stand Your Ground' hearing: Reeves' wife heard Chad Oulson yell at her husband.."you told on me, who the f*** do you think you are?” pic.twitter.com/hSpYdDu0Ln

— ABC Action News (@abcactionnews) February 22, 2017

At this point, the previews were on and the theater lights dimmed, and Oulson and Curtis Reeves interacted again, Vivian Reeves said, adding that she didn't "know who spoke first." She saw her husband leaning toward Oulson, but said she couldn't hear what he said. Then, she said, Oulson spoke in a raised voice again.

"You told on me," Oulson told Curtis Reeves, according to his wife. "Who the f--- do you think you are?"

Before Oulson was shot, she said he was leaning toward them, and it appeared that he was going to go over the seat toward them.

“It happened very quickly, and his whole upper body just came forward, and I thought that he was coming over,” she said.

After she heard the shots go off, her husband said to her, "He hit me in the face," she said.

"I just didn't know what happened," she said.

Curtis Reeves then sat down and put his hands on his head before an off-duty sheriff's deputy approached him and took the gun out of his lap, Vivian Reeves said.

“I said something to Curtis," Vivian Reeves recalled. "I said, ‘What happened?’ You can’t shoot into a theater full of people.’ He said, ‘Not now.’”

Vivian Reeves said her husband never brought his police work home and that she couldn’t recall his ever losing his temper with her, adding that she didn’t see him showing violence or aggression to her or others.

When asked by Curtis Reeves’ defense attorney if he missed the “action” after retiring from the Tampa Police Department, Vivian Reeves replied, “No.”

'Stand Your Ground' hearing: Curtis Reeves' wife Vivian on the stand, married 49-years. First time she's testified in open court. pic.twitter.com/igBTjt9gs9

— ABC Action News (@abcactionnews) February 22, 2017

The couple has been married for 49 years, ABC Tampa affiliate WFTS reported.

 Witness Joanna Turner, who was in the Cobb Grove 16 theater during the shooting, testified Tuesday that she heard Oulson say, "I'm texting my daughter," before she saw a muzzle flash.

Curtis Reeves then put the gun in his lap and put his hands on the side of his head after Oulson had collapsed, Turner said.

Turner also testified that police never instructed witnesses not to talk to each other. Curtis Reeves' defense team alleges that the witnesses talked after the shooting, corrupting their accounts of what happened.

Prior to the shooting, Curtis Reeves had complained about Oulson's use of his phone to movie theater employees, authorities said at the time. When Curtis Reeves returned to the theater, the argument escalated.

Witnesses told police that Oulson threw a container of popcorn at Curtis Reeves before he was shot, police said. His widow, Nicole Oulson, was also shot in the hand. She told ABC News in 2014 that her husband was texting the babysitter, who was watching their young daughter.

"It was a couple of words. No threats. No harm. No nothing," Nicole Oulson said in 2014. "In the blink of an eye, 30 seconds, it just shattered my world."

Bond was initially denied for Curtis Reeves, but he was freed in July 2014 after spending six months in a Pasco County jail and posting a $150,000 bail, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Curtis Reeves has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming self-defense.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) --  It was five years ago this month that Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American 17-year-old from Miami Gardens, Florida, was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman.

Since his death, Trayvon’s parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin have been at the front of the charge to stem the wave of gun violence in the United States – a role they never expected to take on before their son was killed.

Across the country, an average of 309 people are shot every day, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Zimmerman’s subsequent trial and acquittal transfixed the nation and sparked the rallying cry now called “Black Lives Matter.” Many equate Trayvon’s death as the Emmett Till case for a new generation of activists. Till was a 14-year-old African American from Chicago when he was killed in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi.

“I think that Trayvon certainly re-energized a civil rights movement in this country,” Tracy Martin said. “This was a child who lost his life to a senseless act of violence. Gun violence. To someone who wanted to be a vigilante. And so it came to a point where people were just saying ‘enough is enough.’”

Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin recently penned a powerful memoir called Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin, a look back at the son they raised and the tragic event that would change their lives.

Trayvon would have been 22 years old this month. His mother said she has her “good days and bad days” when she thinks about him.

“I still think about him and cry. I also think about him and smile too,” she said. “If he was still with us, he would be graduating from college this year.”

His father described him as “fun, energetic” and an “innovator.”

“He was very outgoing. ‘Outdoorsman’ I used to call him,” Martin said. “He loved doing things outdoors, and so just to have his life cut short and taken away from him and not to see him continue to do the things that he liked, it was very devastating.”

Six weeks passed before Zimmerman was arrested for Trayvon’s death. He argued he acted in self-defense, citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows citizens to use deadly force if they feel threatened.

The case divided the nation, with many Americans asking, “What if Zimmerman had been black?” Celebrities and citizens alike launched protests and took a stand. The clinched fist that had been a symbol of solidarity during the Civil Rights Movement in 1960s was now the hoodie, like the one Trayvon was wearing the night he was killed.

The message eventually made its way to the White House, and President Obama delivered a personal statement about the case, saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

“Trayvon was dead on the ground at 17, unarmed, and he was given a drug and alcohol test and background check,” Fulton said. “But the person who has shot and killed him, who was still holding the gun … he went home. My son went to the medical examiners and this person went and got in his bed like as if nothing happened.”

Fulton and Martin painted a painful picture of the confusion and frustration that immediately followed their son’s death.

“When I returned to the residence that night, the crime scene tape had been taken down,” Martin said. “There was no sign of any altercations on the scene. And so … it still isn't clear to me.”

They said they weren’t initially given access to their son’s body and he was initially listed as “John Doe.”

“We had to fight just to get Trayvon's body back so that we can have the body shipped home,” Fulton said. “We didn't ask for anything that any other parents wouldn't have asked for a 17-year-old.”

Once the Zimmerman trial was underway a year later, Trayvon’s parents had to grapple with another difficult challenge – facing the man who killed their son in court.

Zimmerman was eventually found not guilty of all charges, which would mark the beginning of Martin's and Fulton’s new life as activists.

They founded the Trayvon Martin Foundation at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens. Fulton spoke at the Democratic National Convention last summer and campaigned heavily for Hillary Clinton’s presidential run. Fulton said she’s even thinking of running for office herself.

“Five years ago … I would not have imagined this,” she said. “But sometimes your life, you are dealt cards and you need to make sure that you are playing the hand right.”

When it comes to the current president, Fulton said, “We don’t know what to expect from President Trump.”

“We don't know what his plans are for gun violence,” she continued. “We don't know what his plans are for [the] African-American community.”

This past weekend, Fulton and Martin participated in a “remembrance march” that commemorated the life and death of their son. Just hours before, in that same neighborhood, three teens were shot on their way home from school in a drive-by shooting. All three are expected to make full recoveries.

“It’s something we need to deal with as citizens,” Martin said. “We just have to work at it piece by piece by piece.”

Although they are energized by Trayvon becoming the face of a movement, in many ways it is a tremendous burden. Fulton said she struggles because she would much prefer to have her son at home and thriving.

“I would much rather prefer that life to the life that I have now,” she said. “But I know … it's not just about Trayvon Martin. It’s about so many other Trayvon Martins. It's about our young ladies being shot and killed. It's about our teenagers being shot and killed. Men being shot and killed.”

She went on, “It's so much bigger than Trayvon that we didn't really understand initially. But I think we kind of get it now that it's very important that we continue this fight.”

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Indiana State Police(DELPHI, Ind.) — Police investigating the slayings of two girls in Indiana released new evidence Wednesday in hopes it will lead to the capture of their killer.

The evidence was a video clip captured by one of the victim's cellphones. When police played the audio from the clip at a news conference in the city of Delphi Wednesday morning, reporters heard just three words from a deep voice: "Down the hill."

The audio quality is not great, but police said it's enough for someone to recognize the person's voice. Investigators believe this clip recorded criminal behavior that was about to occur.

"Libby had the presence of mind to turn on her video camera," Capt. David Bursten, chief public information officer of the Indiana State Police, told reporters. "There's no doubt in our minds that that young lady is a hero."

The rest of the video will not be released at this time because of the ongoing investigation, Bursten said.

The girls — Liberty (Libby) German, 14, and Abigail (Abby) Williams, 13, both of Carroll County — were first reported missing by their families Feb. 13 after they did not return from their hike. After organized searches, the bodies of the two girls were found Feb. 14 outside Delphi in the woods near Deer Creek, about three-quarters of a mile from an abandoned railroad bridge where they were dropped off a day earlier to go hiking. An autopsy revealed their identities.

"Evidence in this case has led investigators to believe that this is a double homicide and that’s what we’re investigating at this time," Indiana State Police public information officer Sgt. Tony Slocum told reporters Wednesday morning.

Indiana State Police on Monday named a man in a photograph as the primary suspect in the double homicide investigation, but nothing is known about him at this time outside of a single image. The man, dressed in blue jeans, a blue jacket and a hoodie, was photographed on a nature trial around the same time the two girls disappeared. Previously, the man had been labeled a person of interest and police said he might only be a witness to the crime.

"We are actively looking for this person. We believe this person is our suspect," Sgt. Slocum said at the press conference Wednesday morning.

Police said there is a possibility of more than one suspect, and it's unclear if the voice heard in the audio clip belongs to the man seen in the photograph.


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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Two male models who were skateboarding in Central Park and paused to take a picture of the sunset ended up saving the lives of seven teenagers who had fallen through ice.

“It was all a matter of ‘right place at the right time’ for the two of us,” Ethan Turnbull said Wednesday on ABC News' Good Morning America.

Turnbull was with fellow model Bennett Jonas in New York City’s Central Park Monday when, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a group of teenagers playing on ice atop a pond.

“I said to Bennett, ‘Look, man, there’s some kids over there on the ice,’” Turnbull recalled. “Within the time it took me to say that to Bennett and look back, the ice had actually broken because they came together to take a photo.”

Turnbull and Jonas rushed to the scene and jumped into the freezing water to pull the teenagers to safety. The teenagers in the water were all boys ages 13 to 17, according to ABC New York City station WABC-TV.

“One of the first things I learned as a kid was never give your body to somebody drowning and I learned that the hard way,” Jonas said Wednesday on GMA. “The first two kids I got to heading into the water pulled me under.

“They had me completely under the water,” he said. “I had to get them up and get them to [Ethan].”

While other eyewitnesses captured Turnbull and Jonas’s heroic efforts on video, the two friends kept working to pull each of the seven boys to the shore.

“The only time I was really scared was as I was entering the water … it was chaotic,” Jonas said. “They were pulling each other under [and] just knowing you’re heading into the middle of that and they’re trying to get out as much as you’re trying to get them out.”

He added, “You’re their way out so they’re trying to get on top of you, get out any way they can.”

One of the victims was hospitalized overnight. The other teens were treated and released, according to WABC.

Jonas and Turnbull were not injured during the rescue. Jonas described how the pair survived the “brutal” water temperature.

“The adrenaline was so crazy; I don’t think either of us really realized how cold we were until after it all kind of subsided,” he said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) — As of early Wednesday morning, a crowdfunding campaign started by Muslim activists had raised nearly $60,000 in an effort to help repair a vandalized Jewish cemetery near St. Louis, Missouri.

"Muslim Americans stand in solidarity with the Jewish-American community to condemn this horrific act of desecration against the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery," read the crowdfunding campaign's website, which was spearheaded by Muslim-American activists Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi. "We also extend our deepest condolences to all those who have been affected and to the Jewish community at large."

The effort comes after headstones were damaged late Sunday or early Monday at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery.

As of early Wednesday morning, the LaunchGood-hosted campaign had raised more than $58,000, far surpassing the original $20,000 fundraising goal that the organizers said had been met in just three hours.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens called the cemetery vandalism a "senseless act of desecration" in a tweet on Monday.

The incident at the cemetery comes amid a spate of threats directed at Jewish centers across the nation this year. The FBI and the Justice Department announced earlier this week that they would investigate the multiple bomb threats directed toward at least 60 Jewish centers, including 11 threats made on Monday alone.

The Anti-Defamation League called the situation “alarming” and “disruptive” in a statement and said that the threats should be taken seriously.

In a speech on Tuesday, President Donald Trump denounced anti-Semitism after facing criticism that he had not acted strongly enough against the threats.

"The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil," said Trump after touring the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

The fundraisers for the "Muslims Unite to Repair Jewish Cemetery" campaign said they launched the campaign in an effort to "send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities" and to condemn "hate, desecration, and violence."

The campaign said the proceeds would go directly to the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, and that any additional funds leftover after the cost of restoration would "assist other vandalized Jewish centers nationwide.”

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ABC News(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Convicted Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof stopped at another AME church on the night of the shooting massacre, ABC News affiliate WCIV reported Tuesday, citing newly released court documents.

After the attack on June 17, 2015 that left nine black worshipers dead, Roof left Emanuel AME Church and traveled west to the Branch AME Church, according to WCIV, which cited GPS data that was not presented in court during his trial.

Roof, an avowed white supremacist, told FBI officials that he was too tired after the attack at the Emanuel AME church to continue shooting, according to the WCIV report.

Jurors Cry as Victims' Families Share Stories of Loss

Branch AME, located about 30 minutes away from Emanuel, also holds a Bible study class on Wednesday night, the WCIV report said.

Defense attorneys argued previously that there was no evidence to suggest that he planned to carry out a second church attack.

Roof, 22, was sentenced to death last month in a federal trial for the 2015 massacre in Charleston, South Carolina.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A statewide downpour brought chaos to Californians this week, but it also provided some welcome relief to the state's 20 million residents who have suffered from drought conditions for more than four years.

The record precipitation now has some experts declaring the drought over.

The beginning


The drought began in 2012, but California Gov. Jerry Brown did not declare a drought state of emergency until January 2014. A response team was later established, and state lawmakers have allocated over $3 billion for drought relief and water management improvements.

The U.S. Geological Survey said 2014 was the warmest year on record for California.

According to Park Williams, a climate scientist and an assistant professor at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the drought was exacerbated by high temperatures.

"These last five years in California were much warmer than you'd expect just based on the drought alone, and the reason is because the globe's overall temperature has been warming," he told ABC News. "California's relationship with water is one where they either have too much or too little. So California goes through swings very rapidly. That's what made this drought in California so rare ... [it's] very rare to get five dry years in a row."

He added, "Global warming did not cause this drought but nevertheless had a measuring amplifying effect."

Record rain this week


Flooding warnings were in effect Tuesday in Northern and Central California after storms wreaked havoc on the Golden State last weekend.

In Modesto, police went door to door evacuating residents as floodwaters rose. In San Jose, firefighters jumped on inflatable rafts to rescue two people trapped by a roaring river.

More than 2 inches of rain were recorded at the San Francisco International Airport on Monday. Since October, San Francisco has seen 25.6 inches of rain — nearly 2 inches more than the city usually gets in an entire year.

This extreme weather in Northern California came after powerful rain moved its way up the California coast; the rain first pounded San Diego and Los Angeles, stranding drivers in their cars and contributing to the deaths of least five people.

Is California's drought over?


The latest drought outlook from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center "shows drought in Southern California likely to resolve and drought in the Central Coast region of California as persistent but improving."

After this incredibly wet winter, Williams said, he considers the drought over; trees that survived the drought will likely begin recovering, and lakes are near capacity, he explained.

Michael Dettinger, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist and a researcher at the University of California at San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography, agrees with Williams' assessment.

"I believe that the drought is over at this point," he told ABC News. "If groundwater levels were lower than they should be because of the drought, then we wouldn't need to say it's over. But groundwater levels are down because of overpumping that's been going on ... for 50 to 70 years. To me, that's not drought — that's just a long-term imbalance of how we use water."

David Feldman, a UC Irvine professor of planning, policy and design, said he won't know if the drought is over until May, when the state's rainy season ends.

"If I were regulator working for the state water board, I'd probably lean on the conservative side," he said.

He added, "Things can dry out quickly. You can have a warm spell. You can have a warm period that melts snowpack in the [Sierra Nevada]. I think in May they'll have a good sense of if we can declare this thing over."

The impact


Williams considers groundwater pumping — pulling water out of the ground, much of it by farmers so their crops can grow in dry conditions — a major issue in droughts.

Groundwater is "essentially taking away from future water reserves to survive this current drought," he said.

"If we take groundwater out of the ground and we don't put water back in to replace it, then that is an unsustainable approach to the use of a very valuable resource," Williams said. "As we continue to reduce drought effects by pulling water out of the ground, we're stealing from the future. And so without prescribing any recommendation, I will say that the California government is beginning to try to regulate groundwater use ... The point of doing that is to try to find a more sustainable approach to using that valuable resource."

Dettinger said groundwater was originally treated as a local issue. Now state lawmakers are enacting laws to improve how groundwater is monitored and managed.

"That's I think one of the biggest things that came out of the drought, and it's a good thing. The other big thing that came out of the drought is water use restrictions and efficiency requirements were instituted," he said. "If we use less water, there will be more flexibility to carry us through droughts."

Sobering statistics


California's water comes from three main sources: snowpack, reservoirs and aquifers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Californians use an estimated 108 gallons of water per person on average every day, the EPA said.

Since 2012, the Golden State has endured not only record high temperatures but also record low levels of snowpack and precipitation, according to CaliforniaDrought.org, a project of the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit that researches solutions to freshwater issues, in Oakland.

The drought has hit rural communities harder than urban and suburban communities, which are better able to diversify their water sources, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Most farming relies on irrigation, which accounts for approximately 80 percent of California’s human water use, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. In 2015 farmers had about 50 percent less surface water because of the drought; they pumped more groundwater to make up the difference but still had 10 percent less water than usual, and farm sector losses reached nearly $2 billion, according to the institute.

Drought can be noxious to the environment. Wildfires could become more prevalent, and as many as 18 fish species could become extinct if the current drought continues, the Public Policy Institute of California said.

What the future holds


Brown has issued a series of executive orders to help the state cope with the drought, the most recent mandating "continued, long-term water savings as drought persists."

Nancy Vogel of the California Natural Resources Agency told ABC News that the governor will consider many factors when he revisits the emergency statewide drought declaration in coming weeks — including groundwater, snow pack and reservoir levels.

This winter's rain "doesn't come all the time," Dettinger said. "The worst thing we can do is forget about droughts just because it's wet right now."

He added, "Going forward, we definitely want to get a handle on the groundwater use because that is the piece that a winter like this can't even fix. We're going to have to fix it on our end by monitoring how much water we take. I would like to see them stop being called drought restrictions and call them sustainability restrictions."

Feldman said it's important to prepare for a drought before one is declared. He recommends that the U.S. follow Australia's example by harvesting rainwater and recycling wastewater.

Most of all, he urged Americans not to take the nation's water for granted.

"Droughts are not just limited to California and the Southwest," Feldman said. "Other areas of the U.S. have been through periods of water stress and drought from time to time. We want to do everything we can ... to protect our water, to conserve it ... to recycle it if we can, just to treat it more wisely than we have in the past."

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Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — On the eve of the deadline for anti-Dakota Access Pipeline protesters to vacate camps in North Dakota, the company in charge of construction said in a court filing on Tuesday that oil could start flowing in as early as two weeks, beating previous estimates.

Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners, the builder of the pipeline whose construction has sparked protests since last August over its location, said in the filing to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that the company "estimates and targets that the pipeline will be complete and ready to flow oil anywhere between the week of March 6, 2017 and April 1, 2017."

The court filing was required as part of an ongoing legal battle that is challenging the construction at the site by Lake Oahe.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum last week called for the Oceti Sakowin protest camp — located on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation — to be evacuated by Wednesday, Feb. 23., claiming ecological damage at the camp and rising post-winter floodwaters.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which is part of the Great Sioux Nation, has joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit against the pipeline, filing a motion at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Feb. 9 seeking a temporary restraining order “to halt construction and drilling” under and on either side of the land surrounding the lake.

The tribe argued that the pipeline “will desecrate the waters upon which Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members rely for their most important religious practices and therefore substantially burden the free exercise of their religion,” according to a court document obtained by ABC News.

Last Monday, the court denied that motion seeking a temporary restraining order. On Tuesday, the pipeline company said that the Cheyenne River Sioux legal claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act "has no chance of success on the merits."

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed a separate motion seeking a preliminary injunction directing the Army Corps to withdraw the easement issued to the pipeline company on Feb. 8. The tribe alleges that the easement granted is “entirely unlawful," according to court documents. A further hearing on the Cheyenne River Sioux's motion for a preliminary injunction against the pipeline is set for Feb. 27 in Washington, D.C.

After receiving the easement to build the pipeline across land on both sides of Lake Oahe, Energy Transfer Partners announced it would resume construction immediately, and indeed work has resumed.

The Dakota Access Pipeline, which would connect oil production areas in North Dakota to an existing crude oil terminal near Patoka, Illinois.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been at the forefront of massive and prolonged protests over the four-state crude oil pipeline. The demonstrations have drawn thousands of Native Americans, environmental activists and their allies to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation.

Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, has said that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on local water supply are unfounded” and “multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route.”

In the final days of President Barack Obama’s administration, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, announced on Dec. 4 that an easement would not be granted for the pipeline to cross under the large reservoir on the Missouri River.

The move to deny the easement was hailed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other pipeline opponents as a major victory. But on his second weekday in office, President Trump signed a memorandum aimed at advancing the Dakota Access Pipeline, as well as one directed at the Keystone XL pipeline.  

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Northampton Police Department(NORTHHAMPTON, Mass.) — A Massachusetts police department said it ended a program that aimed to "positively engage" with elementary school students after residents raised concerns that it may scare children who've had negative experiences with police.

The Northampton Police Department said it decided to scrap its High Five Friday program, which kicked off in December, after residents said that some children — particularly minorities and undocumented immigrants — may be uncomfortable with uniformed police officers greeting them at school in the morning.

Ninety percent of Northampton's approximately 30,000 residents, though, are white, according to the most recent U.S. Census data.

“Concerns were shared that some kids might respond negatively to a group of uniformed officers at their school,” the police department said in a post on its Facebook page last week. "People were specifically concerned about kids of color, undocumented children, or any children who may have had negative experiences with the police."

'High Five Friday' program slapped down https://t.co/Y9pywtYIDt pic.twitter.com/ZCWXpC1CM2

— WCVB-TV Boston (@WCVB) February 21, 2017

As of Wednesday morning, the post announcing the halt had racked up more more than 400 Facebook reactions and more than 300 comments.

Some Facebook users said the situation shedded light on the complex relationship between police and immigrants and/or people of color, but others were angry and unsympathetic to the complaints.

The program, intended to serve as a trust-building exercise, allowed officers to exchange "High Fives" with elementary school students once a month on a Friday. The department said it received mass support on social media, but concerns were raised at a recent school committee meeting.

The police chief, Jody Kasper, faced questions about the "long-term impacts of the program" and it was ultimately stopped, according to the department’s Facebook post.

The department said it enjoyed greeting the students and that it remains committed to exploring alternative programs to promote positive engagement.

"For a large portion of our population, this program may not seem controversial," according to the Facebook post. "However, we cannot overlook the fact that this program may be received differently by some members of our community."

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instagram/Vitoria Londero (NEW YORK) -- A banner that read "Refugees Welcome" was unfurled atop the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty on Tuesday.

According to U.S. Park Police, the banner, 20 feet by 3 feet, was illegally affixed to the wall of the public observation deck at the statue's base by nylon rope.

When rangers were alerted to the banner's presence, they immediately moved to its location and assessed how it was attached to the monument, police said. Rangers began removing the banner after it was determined it could be done without damaging the pedestal.

An investigation is underway to identify suspects.


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Michael Dodge/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The pilot of a plane that crashed into an Australian shopping center called "mayday" several times before the crash on Tuesday, authorities said.

The pilot did not specify the nature of the emergency before the twin-engine Beechcraft crashed near Melbourne, killing four American tourists, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in a press conference Wednesday morning local time.

Portions of the aircraft are still on the roof of the shopping center and in the parking lot, ATSB officials said. Investigators have completed of sweet of the runway for plane parts. Officials are also interviewing people who were on the runway at the time of the ill-dated takeoff, including pilots who also fly the Beechcraft and may have some helpful observations as to what they dash.

The crash was also documented on dashcam video, which investigators are looking into for clues.

The sister of one of four Americans killed when remembered her brother as "handsome" and "athletic."

"Dear friends and family, my handsome athletic big brother was killed Tuesday in a plane accident while on his 'once in a lifetime' trip to Australia. It was a charter flight with 2 of his friends flying to another island to play golf," Denelle Wicht, the sister of Greg Reynolds De Haven, wrote on Facebook.

Wicht told ABC News that her brother was traveling in a group, and that the husbands had split up with their wives for the day. She said that the group had been traveling for two weeks before the accident took place.

"Greg was on a vacation trip with a group of friends and wives. They were to spend three weeks in Australia, and I think they were there for two weeks plus when this happened. The group was spending the day going separate ways, there are other wives who lost their husbands. So so sad. Such a great guy," Wicht said in a Facebook message.

The plane had taken off from Essendon Airport around 9 a.m. local time and suffered a "catastrophic engine failure" in the air, according to Victoria Police assistant commissioner Stephen Leane.

The pilot attempted to return to the airport and crashed into the DFO shopping center, Leane said. There were no fatalities on the ground, he added.

A State Department official confirmed that four U.S. citizens were aboard the flight. “We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all those who died in Tuesday’s tragic crash," the official said.

Victoria's premier, Daniel Andrews, called the incident the “worst civil aviation accident in our state” in 30 years.

The identities of those who died and the nationality of the fifth victim were not immediately known.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who died in [Tuesday’s] tragic crash," a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Canberra said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(CONCORD, N.H.) -- A lawyer who was a member of the original defense team for Owen Labrie, the former prep school student convicted in 2015 of sexually assaulting a classmate, got emotional on the stand Tuesday as she recounted seeing what she says was an unprepared expert witness getting ready to testify during the trial for which she was a local co-counsel.

"That was possibly the most terrifying moment of my legal career," attorney Jaye Rancourt said Tuesday. "I was sitting in that room, thinking, I'm [going] to have to go in that courtroom and interrupt this trial and step in and say, 'I can't let it go on.'"

The testimony is part of an effort to argue that Labrie's counsel was ineffective and secure a new trial. Labrie, 21, was found guilty in August 2015 of a felony charge of using a computer to lure an underage female schoolmate at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, into a sexual encounter.

Although Labrie was acquitted of felony sexual assault, he was convicted of three misdemeanor sexual assault charges and one misdemeanor charge of child endangerment. He was sentenced to one year in jail.

Rancourt did not interrupt the trial. She said, instead, she made a decision to be more present and active during the trial and help as much as she could.

After Labrie's trial and conviction, however, Rancourt did file a motion for a new trial due to ineffective assistance of counsel. She was subsequently removed from his new defense team by a judge who ruled that she could not argue against the original group of lawyers of which she was a part. Rancourt testified Tuesday for Labrie's appeals team headed by Robin Melone.

Labrie's attorneys are arguing not only that his defense team was ineffective but also that the defense team should have pursued an intranet vs. internet distinction.

They say that when he contacted his then-15-year-old accuser, Chessy Prout, on a school email system, or intranet, that was limited to campus servers, and therefore may not be covered under state law that specifies internet service, according to a court petition obtained by ABC News in October 2016.

Prout made her identity public in August 2016 during a national TV appearance. She was not present at Tuesday's hearing.

In court documents filed in February, Labrie's former attorneys JW Carney and Samir Zaganjori responded to questions about their work on his case.

"My co-counsel and I carefully reviewed our options for trying this case. ... I met on numerous occasions with the defendant and had dozens of telephone calls with him. He participated in every aspect of the defense and agreed with the overall strategy and all of the specific tactics. If I were confronted with a situation, which we had not anticipatd, he always was complimentary afterwards to the approach I had taken on the fly," Carney said.

Zaganjori said Labrie played an "active role" in his defense.

"I cannot recall a single instance when he expressed displeasure or disapgreement with any decision or recommendation made by myself, Attorney Carney or Attorney Rancourt,” Zaganjori said.

Labrie spent two months incarcerated but is now out on bail pending appeal, and must wear a monitoring bracelet while he appeals his conviction.

After graduating from St. Paul's, one of the country's most prestigious prep schools, Labrie, who now lives with his family in Vermont, had intended to attend Harvard University. The Ivy League school rescinded its offer after he was accused of sexual assault.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The controversial shooting death of a 15-year-old by a Border Patrol agent across the U.S.-Mexico border nearly seven years ago made its way to the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, the court heard arguments in Hernández v. Mesa, which will determine whether the family of a non-American who was killed on the Mexican side of the United States border can sue over their son’s death in U.S. federal court.

Sergio Hernández Guereca, an unarmed Mexican national, was shot and killed in the summer of 2010 by U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa, who was patrolling the border by bicycle.

The case reached the Supreme Court at a time when immigration enforcement and border security have been thrust into the national spotlight by the Trump administration.

One of President Trump’s executive orders, issued on Jan. 25, called for the "immediate construction" of a physical wall on the southern border, as well as the hiring of an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

How we got here


In 2010, Mesa, while standing on the U.S. side of the border, pointed his service weapon at Hernández, who was on the Mexican side of the border, and struck the teen. Hernández died at the scene of the shooting.

Beyond that, there is little agreement about what happened between the two sides. The facts of the case have never been argued in court, so for the purposes of the Supreme Court hearing, both parties will rely on the account of the facts brought by the petitioners -- the Hernández family.

Hernández was playing a game with friends on the border between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico in which they would run up and touch the U.S. fence and then run back down, according to court documents.

After Mesa arrived on the U.S. side, he caught one of the boys and the other two ran behind a pillar on the Mexican side of the border. Mesa, who remained on U.S. soil, then shot Hernández as he peered out from pillar.

U.S. authorities initially claimed that Hernández was throwing rocks and Mesa had shot him in self-defense. But cellphone video later revealed that Hernández was shot as he peered his head out, according to the petitioner’s brief.

Hernández’s parents sued Mesa in federal court, but the district court dismissed the claim. The case then moved up to the Fifth Circuit of Appeals, which also sided with Mesa.

The Hernández family then appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to take the case in October of last year.

"We just want to prove our case in court," said Robert Hilliard, lead attorney representing the Hernández family.

Hernández’s "parents want justice," he said.

Mesa's side


The Department of Justice concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Mesa under a federal homicide charge and that prosecutors lacked jurisdiction under civil rights statutes because Hernández was "neither within the borders of the United States nor present on U.S. property" at the time of the shooting, according to a DOJ announcement in 2012 when the investigation was concluded.

Mesa was charged by Mexican authorities, but was never extradited to face those charges.

"We are very confident" that the Supreme Court will find that the opinion of the Fifth Circuit is in line with the case law,” said Randolph Ortega, Mesa's attorney.

Mesa, who is still with the Border Patrol, had to uproot his family and re-locate from the El Paso area because of death threats, said Ortega.

"It’s been extremely difficult," he said.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which oversees Border Patrol, declined to comment on pending litigation.

The issue before the Supreme Court


The case brings into question the constitutional rights of non-citizens, which could potentially impact other legislation and expand the scope of U.S law.

"The Fourth Amendment protects non-citizens against the arbitrary use of deadly force at the border, at least in the context of a close range, cross border shooting in a confined area patrolled by federal agents," argue attorneys in a brief for the petitioners.

The court is being asked to decide whether Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure should apply when someone is not on U.S. soil, which Hernández was not.

Attorneys for Hernández argue that protections under the Constitution should apply.

He "was an unarmed civilian and a "member of an intertwined, binational community," said the brief.

But the U.S. government, which is supporting Mesa, said in its brief that U.S. legal protections should not be expanded to non-citizens in this case. “An injury inflicted by the United States on a foreign citizen in another country’s sovereign territory is, by definition, an incident with international implications,” the brief said.

The Supreme Court will also weigh whether Mesa is entitled to "qualified immunity" -- whether an officer is immune from liability for a violation of constitutional rights.

And the justices will also determine whether Hernández’s parents have standing to bring forth the claim in the first place.

Larger implications


While this case is about one incident, Hernández’s parents argue that this is a recurring problem for foreign victims who wish to make claims against the Border Patrol.

In a recent five-year span, border agents shot across the border at least 10 times, killing a total of six Mexicans on Mexican soil, according to court documents.

"There is no constitutional constraint when U.S law enforcement stands in the U.S and shoots people. There is no law that governs their conduct," said Hilliard.

After the agency was criticized for transparency and enforcement abuse, former CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske worked to change the culture of the agency, ordering limits on when agents can use their weapons and called for more accountability when civilians are shot.

Kevin McAleenan has been serving as acting commissioner since Jan. 20, 2017.

Violent encounters between CBP officers with both immigrants and American citizens reached a four-year low in 2015, dropping 40 percent from two years earlier.

But those number began to rise again in 2016, with 978 violent encounters recorded in fiscal year 2016, as well as a five-year high of assaults against CBP law enforcement officers.

CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the use-of-force incidents.

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iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, Texas, has been given an all-clear after police responded to reports of gunfire on Tuesday.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said no one was shot and no suspect was found despite initial reports about an active shooter, a suspect described to police as a white male, on the second floor of the hospital.

Two searches were conducted by police, according to Acevedo, and there was "no evidence of shooter or shooting."

"I am confident that if there was a threat, that threat is not here now," he said.
When the hospital was in lockdown mode, some sheltered in place while hundreds of others, including staff, patients and family, were evacuated.

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