National

Authorities seize 20 tons of cannabis in massive California bust

Santa Barbara County Sheriffs Office(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) -- Around 350,000 plants and 20 tons of processed cannabis have been seized by a sheriff in California.

The bust was so massive, it took authorities four days to complete, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, which directed the Cannabis Compliance Team to conduct the seizure earlier this month.

Complaints from the public, as well as tips provided to the sheriff’s office, prompted a two-month investigation into the cultivation site that lead to the bust, according to authorities.

Four search warrants were obtained for an agricultural property located northwest of Santa Barbara, where officials found cannabis growing on 40 acres, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.

It took a 35-person team composed of detectives, investigators and wildlife officers to complete the operation, according to officials.

Authorities are now looking for the owner of the property, who has not yet been identified.

Officials are also looking into potential fraudulently obtained cannabis licenses, as well as possible illegal cannabis sales.

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Chinese scholar killer heard confessing to killing her, compares himself to Ted Bundy on tape

Courtesy of Christine Cornell(CHICAGO) -- The killer of a young Chinese visiting scholar who was studying at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (U of I) can be heard chuckling in an audio recording obtained by ABC News after he says that he "hit her with a baseball bat" and decapitated her.

Brendt Christensen, a now-30-year-old former teaching assistant at the university, described to an FBI informant on secretly recorded audiotape how he kidnapped and killed Yingying Zhang shortly after picking her up on June 9, 2017.

Zhang, a 26-year-old Chinese visiting scholar and agriculture researcher at U of I, was last seen on video entering a black Saturn Astra on June 9, 2017. Although Christensen had pleaded not guilty, his own attorney admitted Christensen kidnapped and killed Zhang in his opening statement earlier this month. The defense added that it took issues with "the way the government says the events occurred."

Terra Bullis, Christensen’s girlfriend at the time, agreed to secretly record him for the FBI. Bullis recorded Christensen a total of nine times in June 2017. Christensen’s alleged confession took place while the two were attending a campus vigil for Zhang.

"Did she fight?" asked Bullis, who wore an undercover wire, in the recording.

"More than anyone else," replied Christensen.

In the recording, Christensen says Zhang was his 13th victim. "She was stronger than any victim I have ever had."

The audio recording took place on June 29, 2017, the day before Christensen was arrested.

In the recording, Christensen says Zhang was his 13th victim. "She was stronger than any victim I have ever had."

The audio recording took place on June 29, 2017, the day before Christensen was arrested

Christensen's lawyers argued that he was intoxicated when this conversation was recorded and that he exaggerated his claims. Bullis, who testified in court last week, told defense attorney Robert Tucker that although Christensen was drinking, he was not drunk.

On the recording, Christensen went on to describe to Bullis what he did to Zhang in detail. "I just cut her clothes off and just started doin' stuff to her," Christensen is heard saying.

Also in the recording, Christensen is heard describing Zhang's "valiant" efforts to fight back, saying it was "supernatural, almost, how [Zhang] just didn't give up."

Bullis told jurors that at the time Christensen seemed "boastful.”

After claiming he sexually assaulted her in his bedroom, Christensen is heard on the tape saying he was surprised she was "still alive." He tells Bullis that he eventually took her to the bathroom, attacked her with a baseball bat, and decapitated her.

"So I chopped her head off and said that was the end of it," Christensen said with laughter, which could be heard on the recording.

Bullis testified that Christensen said he "admired" serial killers like Ted Bundy.

"The last person I would ever consider at my level that actually did anything was Ted Bundy," Christensen is heard telling Bullis in the recording while commenting on the "legacy" he wishes to leave behind.

"Do you really think that you might be the next successful serial killer?" asked Bullis.

"I already am," replied Christensen. "I already am."

Prosecutors and investigators alike say they have not found any evidence linking Christensen to other crimes. In the audio, Christensen says Zhang’s case is the first to put him on investigators’ radar.

"Yingying is the only person that has produced evidence that leads back to me," Christensen is heard telling Bullis. "Number 13.”

When Bullis inquires about the whereabouts of Zhang's body in the recording, Christensen says he'll never tell.

He goes on to say Zhang's family will "leave empty handed."

Zhang’s father was present in court last week when this audio was played for the first time. He received a Chinese translation via a one-way headset. He kept his head down throughout the recording, but stared directly at Christensen upon its conclusion and held his gaze until the end of the day’s court proceedings.

Christensen was found guilty Monday on all counts: one count of kidnapping resulting in death and two counts of providing false statements to the FBI. It took the jury less than 90 minutes to reach a verdict. Christensen is expected to be sentenced in mid-July and could face the death penalty.

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Wisconsin fire at multi-family building kills 6, including 4 children: Coroner

MattGush/iStock(AINSWORTH, Wisc.) -- A fire at a multi-family building in Wisconsin has killed six people, including four children, according to officials.

The children's ages ranged between 10 months and 7 years old, Langlade County Coroner Larry Shadick told ABC News. The adults who died were male and female, Shadick said.

The fire began at the building in the Township of Ainsworth just before 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to a press release from the Langlade County Sheriff's Office. It appears to have started from an electrical issue, Shadick said.

Two people were able to escape the blaze, Shadick said.

Foul play is not suspected at this time, authorities said. The investigation is ongoing.

Additional information was not immediately available.

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Pilot who crashed helicopter onto NYC building was lost, flying in and out of clouds: NTSB report

FDNY(NEW YORK) -- A pilot who crashed on top of a New York City high rise building was lost and flying in and out of clouds just before the accident, according to a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

Tim McCormack was killed after he conducted a hard landing on top of the Midtown building on the afternoon on June 10. The crash filled the air with smoke and clogged nearby streets with firetrucks.

McCormack did not have an instrument rating and did not report anything mechanically wrong with the aircraft, which was severely damaged in the crash, according to the report.

McCormack had first dropped off a passenger at a heliport on 34th street in New York City after taking off from Westchester County, Doug Brazy, an NTSB air safety investigator, told reporters the day after the crash.

He then waited and reviewed the weather before leaving the heliport to head to Linden, New Jersey, Brazy said.

Before the fatal flight, McCormack mentioned to staff at the heliport that due to weather he had a 20 minute window "to make it out," according to records from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). After taking off, he made a request to return to the heliport about five to seven minutes after departure because he "did not know where he was," records show.

Video recorded by a witness showed the helicopter flying erratically in and out of clouds over Manhattan and the East River before the crash, according to the records.

While over the East River, McCormack changed course and altitude several times before making a 270-degree turn back toward Manhattan, the report states.

The crash occurred inside an area of Manhattan with flight restrictions that require pilots to obtain permission from air traffic control to enter, according to the FAA. McCormack was not in contact with air traffic control, nor was he required to be for his flight plan, according to the NTSB.

McCormack was the only one on board the Agusta A109E. No one else was injured in the accident.

He decided to crash onto the roof of the high-rise building on 7th Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets to put "other lives first," his family said in a statement after the crash.

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11-year-old Girl Scout killed by fallen tree at Indiana campground

jetcityimage/iStock(CANNELTON, Ind.) -- An 11-year-old Girl Scout was killed when a tree fell in a "freak accident" at an Indiana campground on Monday, officials said.

A 10-year-old girl and two women were also injured in the incident.

The Perry County Sheriff's Office said it received a call at around 11:30 a.m. local time about a tree that had fallen on several campers and volunteers at Camp Koch, the Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana's resident camp facility, nestled along the Ohio River near the small city of Cannelton.

The victims were out for a morning hike on a gravel road on a fairly steep incline when the tree fell in what Perry County Sheriff Alan Malone called "very bad timing."

The group was heading back down the incline toward the mess hall when they were struck and became trapped under the tree, Malone said.

The 11-year old, Isabelle Meyer, died after suffering head and abdominal injuries, Perry County EMS officials said at a news conference on Tuesday.

A 10-year-old girl had a hand injury and has been treated and released, Malone said.

A 50-year-old woman suffered head, neck and chest injuries, while a 55-year-old woman had a pelvic injury. The two adults are believed to be in stable condition, the sheriff said.

The sheriff called it a "freak accident" and said there won't be a criminal investigation. Malone, overcome with emotion, said, "they were there to have a good time."

Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana confirmed the "tragic death" of one of its members attending camp and said it has closed Camp Koch while the incident is being investigated.

"There is nothing we take more seriously than the safety and well-being of our girls and volunteers," the youth organization said in a statement. "During this difficult time, the entire Girl Scout family mourns the loss of one of our girls, and we ask for privacy for the individuals and their families as they grieve and mourn this tragic loss."

The "Girl Scouts of Southwest Indiana were extremely helpful and also cooperated throughout this investigation," Malone said.

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Man charged with gunning down dentist outside office was allegedly 'lying in wait'

Newport News Police Department(NEWPORT NEWS, Va.) -- A man charged with gunning down a Virginia dentist was allegedly "lying in wait" outside the doctor's office before the killing, according to court documents.

Newport News dentist William Trolenberg, 65, was found shot in a parking lot outside his office just after 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Newport News Police Department.

His suspected killer, 42-year-old Kelly Michael Vance, was arrested on Friday and charged with first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

While a motive has not been released.

Police say the killing was caught on surveillance video, which shows Trolenberg leaving his practice and getting into his car. It then shows the suspect putting his hands on the trunk and the dentist stopping the car, the complaint said.

It appeared the two had a conversation, and the suspect then went to the passenger side and the dentist fell out of his car and onto the ground, the complaint said.

The gunman then walked over to Trolenberg, stood over him and fired, the documents said.

Trolenberg was shot three times, including at least once at close range, the documents said.

As the manhunt began, police released surveillance images of the suspect. On Thursday, a tipster told authorities that the suspect looked like a man named Kelly Vance, the document said.

A photo spread was shown to a person who was at the dentist's office, and that witness identified Vance as the person the witness saw at the dental practice about 26 minutes before the murder, the criminal complaint said.

A photo of the suspect on surveillance camera matched what Vance was seen wearing at a garden center the criminal complaint said.

Vance was in the area hours before the murder, the documents said, and 30 minutes before the killing, Vance was walking up and down the road near the dental practice, leading authorities to believe he was "lying in wait" for the victim.

Vance made his first court appearance on Monday. His preliminary hearing was set for Sept. 20.

it was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.

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Why one California resident opened his $4M home and heart to a homeless couple

akurtz/iStock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- After 10 years of living on the streets in Oakland, Calif., Greg Dunston and Marie McKenzie have a new normal thanks to a generous Bay Area homeowner who wanted to improve their lives and share the message that homelessness is not "contagious."

The pair now live in a $4 million mansion in the upper-class East Bay neighborhood of Piedmont with Terry McGrath, who was determined to commit a simple act of kindness after a story was published about them in the San Francisco Chronicle.

When asked if they were worried about adjusting to life in a house, McKenzie said, "absolutely not."

"I don't want to live on the streets. A lot of people do, but I want to get in," she added. "I love to cook a lot so I wanted a kitchen, bed and shower."

"We wanted to do that," Dunston said about moving into McGrath's home. "There are a lot of people out on the streets but they have no choice."

But their "moving on up” tale of humanity was initially met with both positive and negative attention from local reporters and nearby residents.

Watch the full story on "Nightline" TONIGHT at 12:35 a.m. ET


One neighbor who was unaware of the situation called 911 and told dispatchers, "I just pulled into the driveway and there's some strange folks hanging around the house."

Another called Piedmont Police and Fire Dispatch, saying, "I just wanted to notify you that this woman is sitting at Lexford and Hampton ... She's smoking a cigarette -- could be drugs."

The couple has put a face on the growing homeless crisis in San Francisco.

The city by the bay is the wealthiest in the nation with more billionaires per capita than any other city in the country, according to the Wealth-X Billionaire Census 2019. San Francisco's homeless population has also hit a record high, with nearly 8,000 people living on the street and in their cars.

Otis Taylor, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle who writes about homelessness in the Bay Area, has detailed the glaring disparity between the density of wealth and those who have little to nothing.

"You have people able to purchase multimillion-dollar homes in cash and then you have people who don't even have enough money to eat on a daily basis. Who sleep in the same clothes in rags, they sleep in doorways and parking lots next to dumpsters," Taylor told ABC News.

When he first met Dunston, who is blind in one eye, and McKenzie, who has a bone disease that makes it difficult to stand or walk, Taylor said they weren't bitter despite any of their disabilities.

"They were still engaged with meeting people and they still had love for each other through it all that bond," he explained of what he called a "vibrancy of life" when he first wrote about the pair for the paper.

Real estate developer Terry McGrath, a divorced, empty nester and homeowner in the hilltop town of Piedmont in the East Bay, had nothing but space on his property and in his heart and wanted to connect with the homeless couple.

"The thing that struck me and got me right away was the love between Greg and Marie and how it was able to survive in probably one of the harshest environments on earth," McGrath explained. "I could feel it."

He met with Taylor and the couple in a cafe and said he was immediately moved to help them.

"There was no decision, there was no thought, there was no judgement. I was just like 'this is done,'" Taylor recalled. "I didn't vet them. These are human beings and they're not serial killers. They want to get in out of the weather. They want a roof over their head. They want to be warm."

McGrath offered the couple his in-law unit where his own children grew up and other relatives had previously lived and reached out to the Piedmont chief of police, Jeremy Bowers.

"His email was very matter of fact," Chief Bowers said. "[Terry] let me know he was opening his home to some folks."

And once 911 calls started to come in from neighbors, the officers had already been counseled on how to handle it. He added that if the calls had been about a white couple at the house, the officers would have responded the same way.

Taylor said that Piedmont's residents are 74 percent white, 18 percent Asian and less than 2 percent black.

"You have two black people sitting on the steps, people are driving by, you get homeowners looking out the window. That is unheard of in Piedmont," he said.

McGrath said he never got calls about previous tenants that included an intern.

"I got a call at 9:30 at night on my cellphone -- I thought she was calling about organizing the neighborhood summer block party," McGrath said of one of the first responses. "I realized when she mentioned the word 'situation' that she was referencing Marie and Greg. And I said, 'What situation?' Are they vandalizing cars? Are they burglarizing homes?'"

He continued, "I just said, 'This is one of the most offensive conversations I've ever had.'"

Despite the complaints from a few neighbors, McGrath said it was a simple decision to get closer to the problem that he thinks many other wealthy people avoid.

"Our natural tendency is to move away from that kind of pain," he said. "That's why we avert our eyes. That's why they just become part of the background, part of of the wallpaper and it's easier to just move past it."

Taylor said a lot of his own coverage has centered on how people view homelessness.

"In fact, many of us choose not to see it. We've become numb to this despair and the plight of others who are obviously suffering," the SF Chronicle reporter explained.

The issue has become a large one in San Francisco, capturing people's attention in the bustling city.

City landmarks have been obscured by cardboard boxes and makeshift tents which highlights a clear juxtaposition in San Francisco with big name companies like Twitter just neighborhoods away from streets littered with syringe needles.

London Breed, the city's mayor, said she decided to run for office in part to fix the homeless problem in the city she grew up in.

Breed has proposed a new kind of shelter that allows daytime stays and offers safer conditions and on-site job programs that could be built around all the neighborhoods in San Francisco.

"People aren't just going to disappear because we don't want to see them," she said. "And that's why we need solutions."

McGrath called the mayor his hero for bringing the issue of homelessness to the forefront.

"Here's a mayor in the most liberal city arguably probably in the United States, in the honeymoon phase of her mayoral term and she's getting shouted down because [she] wants to build affordable housing in the neighborhoods," he said. "It's unconscionable -- homeless is not contagious."

He added that residents want homeless issues handled "but they don't want it handled in their neighborhoods."

"It's not going to go away because you don't want to see it," McGrath said.

Although he knows his own efforts to fight homelessness is not a universal solution, McGrath felt like it could inspire others to not look away from the problem.

McGrath wants Dunston and McKenzie to get back on their feet and find jobs but there's no timetable for them to leave his home.

"They're like family. There's no way I'm going to let them go back to the street," he said. "Most people who know me well know it's easy to start and it's hard to finish. And I'm never not going to finish."

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Murder suspect stabs sheriff's deputy before being gunned down by authorities

ChiccoDodiFC/iStock(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- A man on the run for murder in Tennessee stabbed a sheriff's deputy before he was gunned down by law enforcement in Texas on Monday, authorities said.

Peter Bohning, 34, of Kent, Connecticut, was spotted by authorities in Gaines County, Texas, some 1,000 miles away from where he allegedly attacked a couple on Friday in Nashville, Tennessee.

Bohning died in a Texas hospital on Monday morning after being shot during the altercation with the sheriff's deputy, according to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.

Nashville police initially named Bohning as a person of interest in the stabbing that left Donald Zirkle, 59, dead and his 58-year-old wife, Leigh Ann Zirkle, seriously injured. Police identified him as a suspect on Monday.

The Zirkles were sitting on their back porch in Nashville on Friday afternoon when Bohning allegedly approached them to ask for directions, police said. Investigators aren't exactly sure what happened next, but the encounter suddenly turned deadly when Bohning allegedly began stabbing the couple.

Leigh Ann Zirkle fled the scene and collapsed in the street after sustaining "significant" stab wounds, including one to her neck, police said. Her husband was found critically wounded inside the home and transported to a local hospital where he later died, police said.

Bohning's car, a silver Subaru sedan with Connecticut license plates, was found "inexplicably parked" at the side of the home with its rear doors open. He allegedly fled the scene in the Zirkle's 2010 gray Toyota Camry, police said.

The Gaines County sheriff's deputy in Texas encountered Bohning on Monday morning while answering a call about a suspicious vehicle. That vehicle was the Zirkle's Toyota Camry, police said.

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Midwest bracing for severe storms as Northeast expecting rain

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Among the almost 200 damaging storms reported from Texas all the way to Pennsylvania over the last 24 hours were four tornadoes -- two in Texas and two in West Virginia.

Damage also was reported in Atlanta where wind gusts of up to 60 mph were reported. Thousands were without power.

The Houston metro area on Monday saw 3 inches of rain in about an hour, flooding streets and roads, and requiring water rescues.

Strong but not severe thunderstorms are targeting the Northeast, including Philadelphia and New York, on Tuesday.

A new storm system and a cold front is heading for the Midwest and Great Lakes. Severe storms there could produce damaging winds, hail and a few tornadoes.

Major cities on Tuesday that may see storms include Kansas City, Milwaukee and Chicago.

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Man found guilty of killing visiting Chinese scholar Yingying Zhang

Macon County Sheriffs Office(CHICAGO) -- Six days before the two-year anniversary of his arrest -- as well as his 30th birthday -- Brendt Christensen, a former teaching assistant at the University of Illinois, was found guilty of one count of kidnapping resulting in death and two counts of providing false statements to the FBI in the disappearance of Yingying Zhang.

Zhang, a 26-year-old Chinese visiting scholar and agriculture researcher at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, was last seen entering a black Saturn Astra on June 9, 2017, only a few yards away from a bus stop outside the university's PBS radio and television station.

The FBI became involved after video of her getting into the vehicle surfaced and the case moved from a disappearance to a possible kidnapping. Within days, investigators tracked the Saturn Astra back to Christensen but Zhang's body has not been found.

Although Christensen had pleaded not guilty, his attorney said that Christensen kidnapped and killed Zhang in his opening statement earlier this month. The defense added that it took issues with "the way the government says the events occurred."

On Wednesday, Terra Bullis, Christensen's former girlfriend who recorded his alleged admission of brutally killing Zhang, testified that he had seemed "proud" and "excited" when describing how he killed her.

Bullis, who said she started dating Christensen in April 2017 after meeting on OkCupid, agreed to use a hidden audio device for the FBI on June 16, 2017. She said on the stand Wednesday that she'd recorded Christensen, 29, a total of nine times and that his alleged admission was recorded on June 29, 2017, as he and Bullis attended a vigil for Zhang.

In that June 29 audio, which was played in court, Christensen is heard telling Bullis several times that Zhang was his 13th victim -- adding that he had been killing since he was 19 years old. He went on to say in the recording that he'd decapitated Zhang to ensure she was deceased after assaulting her with a baseball bat.

On that same audio recording, Christensen is also heard describing Zhang's "valiant" efforts to fight back, saying it was "supernatural almost how [Zhang] just didn't give up."

The defense did not dispute that Christensen’s voice was on the recording.

During the cross-examination, defense attorney Robert Tucker noted that Christensen had been drinking at the time of this conversation. Bullis agreed, but said Christensen was not drunk at the time of his statements on tape.

In the last clip heard from the June 29 audio, Christensen tells Bullis he would not tell her nor anyone else what he did with Zhang's body.

"No one will ever know where she is," he is heard saying on the recording. "She's gone forever."

During a police interrogation, video of which was also played in court, Christensen did not admit to investigators that it was his car seen on surveillance video of Zhang getting into a black Saturn Astra.

Christensen, however, did admit in the police interview to picking up a young Asian female matching the description of Zhang.

He told investigators he'd let her out in a "residential area" shortly after she got in his car. He struggled to explain where he allegedly dropped her off and could not provide a precise location to investigators.

Christensen is expected to be sentenced in mid-July and could face the death penalty.

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Missing University of Utah student last seen when Lyft driver dropped her off at park

Family Photo(SALT LAKE CITY) -- One week after a University of Utah senior mysteriously vanished, police say she was last seen when her Lyft driver dropped her off at a Salt Lake City park.

At 2:42 a.m on June 17, Mackenzie Lueck, 23, took a Lyft from Salt Lake City's airport to Hatch Park in north Salt Lake City, Salt Lake City Police assistant chief Tim Doubt said at a news conference Monday.

The Lyft driver told police that an individual met Lueck at the park and the 23-year-old did not appear to be in distress, Doubt said.

No information has led police to believe she was harmed, Doubt said.

Lyft officials and the driver have spoken to police and have cooperated with the investigation, authorities said.

Lueck, from Southern California, had gone home for her grandmother's funeral, and when she landed in Salt Lake City early that morning, she texted her mother to say she had arrived safely, ABC Los Angeles station KABC-TV reported.

The family reported her missing on Thursday afternoon, said police.

The college senior has missed a midterm exam, Doubt said. She was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Sunday, June 23, but wasn't on the flight, Doubt said.

"The University of Utah is deeply concerned about the well-being of Mackenzie 'Kenzie' Lueck and her family," university officials said in a statement. "Mackenzie is enrolled part-time as a senior and is majoring in kinesiology and pre-nursing and minoring in health. She has been enrolled since fall 2014."

The university is cooperating with the police, according to the school statement.

"The university's dean of students has spoken with Mackenzie’s family to offer support and to express the campus community’s shared hope for her safe return," the statement said. "The dean’s office is also talking with and providing support to Mackenzie’s classmates."

Doubt called this case a "high priority" for the department and ask anyone with information to call the tip line at 801-799-4420.

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Police release video of Jussie Smollett with noose around his neck

Chicago Police Department(CHICAGO) -- Portions of police video obtained in connection to the Jussie Smollett case have been released, giving a never-before-seen-look into the controversial case.

Some 69 hours of police video were released Monday, with two videos showing the moment when police first arrived at the actor's residence after receiving a 911 call that alleged he was the victim of a hate crime.

In the police body camera footage, Smollett is seen with a noose around his neck. The video also records Smollett asking the officers to turn off their recordings.

Another group of video clips shows the moment when the police apprehend the two brothers who allege they helped Smollett stage the attack.

The videos show Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo as they were arrested on Feb. 13.

The two men, Smollett initially said, shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him as a rope was wrapped around his neck and an unknown chemical was poured on him. The alleged assailants, police were told, yelled "MAGA country," an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's "Make American Great Again" slogan.

The brothers have since filed a federal defamation lawsuit against Smollett's attorneys, claiming that the lawyers publicly blamed the brothers for the attack.

The new release of the video tapes comes days after a judge decided to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the Cook County prosecutor's original decision to dismiss charges against Smollett.

Smollett, an actor who starred on the television show "Empire," had all of the charges against him dropped, despite prosecutors saying they believed he fabricated the attack. Smollett has maintained that he did not stage the attack.

The new special prosecutor investigation isn't the only one that will be giving a second look at the case. Two law enforcement sources told ABC News in March that the FBI would be reviewing the case.

The decision to drop the charges against Smollett was met with an immediate backlash, as the city's police department had already made public comments about the case, laying out what they said was the evidence that proved Smollett arranged the alleged attack.

Shortly after the charges were dropped, the city sued the actor in an effort to recoup some of the tens of thousands of dollars they say the police department spent investigating the case.

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'Execution' of Missouri police officer comes amid deadly week for police nationwide

Evgen_Prozhyrko/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A 26-year-old woman on the job for six months.

A father of two with 24 years of experience in law enforcement.

These are just two of the four police officers shot and killed in the United States this week -- part of what one expert calls a disturbing "multi-year" trend of violence toward police.

June 23: Wellston, Missouri

In Wellston, Missouri, officer Michael Langsdorf from the North County Police Cooperative was shot and killed on Sunday night in what police described as an execution.

Langsdorf was responding to a report of a person trying to cash a bad check, and when he confronted the suspect, a struggle broke out between the two on the floor, said North County Police assistant chief Ron Martin.

The suspect pulled a gun from his waistband and hit the officer on the side of the head several times, causing Langsdorf to lose his hold, Martin said.

The suspect then got up and stood over Langdorf who was on the ground, facedown; the suspect pointed the gun at the back of Langdorf’s head and fired one shot, striking him in the neck, Martin said.

The suspected gunman has been arrested, police said.

Martin said, who knew Langdorf, was overcome with emotion when asked about the attack.

The gunman "was successful in executing a cop yesterday," Martin said, his voice shaking.

Langsdorf, 40, leaves behind two children, his parents and his fiancé, said police.

Langsdorf had 17 years of police experience and joined the North County Police Cooperative this April.

"There's no such thing as a routine call," Martin said. "This is the danger that our police officers in this community face every day."

June 20: Mission, Texas

Cpl. Jose Espericueta of the Mission, Texas, Police Department was shot and killed on Thursday, June 20, authorities said.

Espericueta, a 13-year veteran, leaves behind a wife and two children, police said.

The shooting unfolded when a woman waved down an officer Thursday to say her son had fired shots at her car, police said.

Espericueta responded and tried to make contact with the suspect, who then ran away from him, police said. As the suspect ran, he turned around and began firing, police said, and he exchanged gunfire with Espericueta and other officers.

It was the first time the town saw the loss of a police officer in the line of duty since 1978, police said.

A suspect was taken into custody.

June 19: Sacramento, California

Tara O'Sullivan, a 26-year-old Sacramento police officer who graduated from the police academy in December and was hired in January, was shot and killed on June 19, authorities said.

O'Sullivan, who had partnered with a training officer and was accompanied by others from the department, had responded to a domestic dispute and was standing by while a woman gathered some of her belongings, police said. The young officer was shot in an ambush attack, police said.

Multiple officers fired back in the intense firefight, police said. About 50 minutes after O'Sullivan was shot, officers rushed in with an armored car to rescue her and take her to a hospital, according to police.

The standoff lasted hours before the suspected shooter surrendered, police said.

O'Sullivan was a member of Sacramento State's Law Enforcement Candidate Scholars' Program, which "allows young men and women to go directly into the academy to serve," Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen said.

"We lost a hero. We lost a leader," Nelsen said at a news conference on Thursday. "We will never forget her... and we will aspire to be as good as she is."

June 17: Racine, Wisconsin

Officer John Hetland, a 24-year veteran of the Racine, Wisconsin, Police Department, had worked the day shift on Monday, June 17. He was off-duty and at a bar that night when he saw an armed robbery unfolding, police said. He tried to intervene and was shot, police said.

Hetland is survived by two children, Racine Mayor Cory Mason said.

"I just really can't express how deeply we feel the loss of this officer," the mayor told reporters last week. "It's been more than 40 decades since we've had a loss in this city."

Hetland will be laid to rest on Wednesday, Racine Police Chief Art Howell said.

Police are still searching for the gunman; the Kenosha County Sheriff's Department on Sunday released three updated photos of the suspect. Authorities also ask residents to check their security cameras from that night and contact police if they notice anything suspicious.

'Part of a multi-year trend'

Beyond the four police officers shot and killed this week, a Nebraska State Patrol trooper died in a car crash on Thursday.

Monday also marks the funeral for Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy Joseph Gilbert Solano who was shot while off-duty at a Jack in the Box on June 10. Solano, 50, died two days later.

But officer deaths overall, as well as officer deaths by gunfire, are down this year from last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund. Twenty-five officers have been shot dead this year, compared with 31 deaths at this time last year.

However, John Cohen, a former acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and current ABC News contributor, called the slayings "part of a multi-year trend of increased acts of violence directed at law enforcement."

"While the numbers may be less when compared to the same time period last year, if you look at it on a multi-year basis we've seen a significant level of violence directed toward law enforcement officers," he said. "It's an issue that has police chiefs and rank-and-file police officers very concerned."

This causes officers to fear for their safety, which may impact their mental health and make them more forceful and aggressive while interacting with the public, Cohen said.

"It's not just simply a matter of police officers feeling more threatened," he said. "They're much more likely to be wary when responding to a call... they may be more willing to escalate to the use of force when they perceive that they may be threatened. That may result in a violent reaction by the person they're contacting."

Cohen calls the "multi-year trend" of violence toward police as "a reflection of the broader levels of anger and violent behavior that's becoming all too common across our society."

"These increased acts of violence against police come at a time where we're also seeing an increase in targeted attacks and hate crimes," Cohen said. "We're a society that has become increasingly polarized, increasingly angry and increasingly willing to use violence as a way to express that anger."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Driver who plowed into motorcyclists in New Hampshire charged in all 7 deaths

Chalabala/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The driver of a pickup truck that plowed into a group of motorcyclists in New Hampshire has been charged with seven counts of murder.

Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, was arrested near his home in West Springfield, Massachusetts, Monday morning, Jane Young, deputy attorney general for New Hampshire, said in a press release.

Zhukovskyy was taken into custody on a fugitive from justice charge, based on an arrest warrant issued Monday charging him with seven counts of negligent homicide, Young said.

The victims were hit by a Ford 2500 truck while driving on Route 2 in Randolph, New Hampshire, a few miles from Mount Washington on Friday afternoon, according to New Hampshire State Police.

Three people who were injured in the accident were transported to area hospitals.

The ages of the victims ranged from 42 to 62, according to officials. All seven victims died of blunt trauma, said New Hampshire Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Jennie Duval.

Photos from the scene of the accident shows pieces of several smashed motorcycles scattered throughout the highway.

Zhukovskyy was arraigned in Springfield Monday afternoon. He pleaded not guilty on the fugitive of justice charge, and waived his extradition to New Hampshire, where he will face murder charges.

ABC News could not immediately reach Zhukovskyy or his attorney for comment.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Missing woman may have disappeared 'Gone Girl' style, says husband's attorney

New Canaan Police Department(NEW YORK) -- Connecticut mom of five Jennifer Dulos, who vanished last month amid a custody battle with her estranged husband, may have disappeared intentionally in a "'Gone Girl'-type case," her husband's attorney alleges.

But Dulos' decades-old friend has shut down that theory.

Dulos was last seen on May 24, police said. Investigators believe she suffered a "serious physical assault" in the garage at her New Canaan home, where bloodstains were found, according to arrest warrants.

 Clothes and sponges with Dulos' blood were found in trash cans in Hartford, where surveillance cameras captured a man appearing to be her estranged husband, Fotis Dulos, disposing of garbage bags, according to the documents. A woman in the man's car fit the appearance of his live-in girlfriend, Michelle Troconis, according to the documents.

Fotis Dulos and Troconis are charged with tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and hindering prosecution. Both have pleaded not guilty.

More charges are likely, prosecutors said.

 Fotis Dulos' attorney, Norm Pattis, insists his client didn't kill his wife and doesn't know where she is.

Pattis told ABC News this week that he's "investigating the possibility that this is a 'Gone Girl'-type case and considering the possibility that no third party was involved in foul play."

In the "Gone Girl" book-turned-film, a wife fakes her own disappearance, framing her husband.

Carrie Luft, a spokeswoman for Jennifer Dulos' family, called the defense's "Gone Girl" theory a "smokescreen."

"I think that drawing any comparison to a work of fiction does an incredible disservice to the family," Luft told "Good Morning America" on Sunday. "This is not a film, this is not a novel, this is our real life."

"Someone we love is missing," said Luft, a friend of 28 years. "This is about someone who is missing following a violent attack and people are doing everything they can to solve the mystery."

Luft described the missing mother as stable, responsible and reliable and "not a woman that would ever, ever leave her children."

"She loves them more than anything in the world," she said.

The five kids are in the custody of Jennifer Dulos' mother.

"The kids are well cared for and are surrounded by people who love them," Luft said.

Luft said she's holding out hope that Jennifer Dulos survived and can be rescued.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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