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Pride organizers promise safety at festivities amid anti-LGBTQ rhetoric

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(NEW YORK) -- As Pride Month kicks off, the continuing anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and legislation that has grown over the past several years is on the minds of many people, and event organizers across the country say they have prepared for this and have implemented security protocols that ensure performers and attendees can have fun without fear.

“Are we increasing our plans for security? The answer is no, not because we don't see the need for it, but because our plans have been incredibly robust to begin with for many years,” said Dan Dimant, the media director for NYC Pride.

Cameron Jay Harrelson, the parade director for Georgia's Athens Pride, said that hosting such events in the deep South has always made organizers “hyper aware and hyper-focused” on safety.

“That feels a little more heavy this year with the attacks that we've seen in legislation, in politics across the country,” Harrelson said.

The Department of Homeland Security has recently sounded the alarm on the growing threat of violence or extremism, but queer communities nationwide say they have been prepared for backlash for years.

Since the Pulse club massacre in Orlando, Florida, in 2016 that left 49 dead at the LGBTQ+ venue – and after the recent November mass shooting at a Colorado queer bar that killed five – the community has been on high alert.

“We're in a very scary time,” said Harrelson. “We saw what happened in Colorado Springs not too long ago. We saw what happened at Pulse several years ago … we know what the next iteration of anti-LGBTQ protesters are capable of, so we have to be prepared, hyper aware and vigilant.”

Fears of violence aren't new for the LGBTQ+ community. According to DHS, about 20% of all hate crimes reported throughout the country in 2021 were motivated by bias linked to sexual orientation and gender.

Event goers can expect heavy security, blocked off streets, ample medical personnel, and more at Pride events throughout the country.

In states with few firearm restrictions like Texas, Jeremy Liebbe, director of security for Dallas Pride, told ABC News that there are layers of police, security and threat management both invisible and visible to the public for all events in the city.

“State law allows us to restrict who can possess a firearm at Dallas Pride,” Liebbe said. “Both unlicensed possession of firearms and licensed open carry of handguns will be prohibited with the requisite signs” during the festivities.

Where there are counterprotesters, event goers may be shielded by volunteers who block out the hate so attendees can enjoy the festivities in peace.

“We actually have a group of what we call our queer dads,” said Harrelson. “They are a group of fathers of queer kids, queer youth. And they are coming and holding these large sheets … and they just stand in front of protesters and completely block their signage, their sound, everything.”

In some cases, the themes of Pride events this year will be reflective of the issues going on around the country facing the queer community.

Organizers say they are highlighting the communities most vulnerable to legislative attacks in recent years, including restrictions facing drag performers and transgender health care.

“If you're going to try to take away our drag, we're just going to add more,” Kylan L. Durant, president of the Oklahoma City Pride Alliance, told ABC News.

“Then also we have always put – and even more so this year – putting emphasis on having trans performers on the stage, too, because we know that that is part of the community that is hard hit with a lot of this legislation.”

Event organizers say that it’s natural for participants to have a heightened sense of awareness amid the current political climate – but they say going back into hiding is exactly what hateful threats are aiming to do. Still, they say people should do what makes them feel the safest.

“We understand the reality of it and we understand people are gonna feel hesitant this year,” said Durant. “But I also want to remind folks that's the thing that they want to do. They want to instill fear so we don't have the celebration, so we don't show up to be around each other.”

Dimant added, “There are bad actors out there who are making threats, who are sharing falsehoods, who are just spreading hateful rhetoric. And they're doing that so that you'll stay home and you won't show up at Pride and live your truth.”

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Woman leaves 2 children in car that catches fire while allegedly shoplifting: Police


(FLORIDA) -- A 24-year-old Florida woman is facing criminal charges after she allegedly left two children in a car that caught fire while she was shoplifting at a mall, according to the Oviedo Police Department.

Alicia Moore, who was arrested for an unrelated warrant, was charged with aggravated child abuse and arson, according to a police report.

Moore parked her car in the parking lot of a Dillard's at the Oviedo Mall, leaving the children inside her car. Moore was then observed inside Dillard's with another male and began to shoplift items, according to police. The two were watched by security for an hour, police said.

Moore then began to exit Dillard's about an hour later, only to see her vehicle engulfed in flames. She then dropped the merchandise before exiting the store, according to the police report.

Citizens who saw the vehicle engulfed in flames helped the children escape, authorities said. Law enforcement and fire rescue were notified.

The children were rushed to Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital for medical attention and suffered first-degree burns from the fire, according to police.

The vehicle was totaled in the incident, according to police.

While in custody, the child neglect and arson charges were added. She faces a $15,000 bond for the child neglect charge.

Police said they do not know how the fire was started but placed blame on Moore, saying she was "neglectful," according to the police report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

West Virginia state trooper shot and killed, suspect in custody: Authorities


(WEST VIRGINIA) -- A 29-year-old man accused of fatally shooting a West Virginia state trooper is in police custody, according to the ATF's Louisville Office.

Law enforcement responded to a shooting complaint in Mingo County, West Virginia, on Friday where they encountered Timothy Kennedy who began shooting at police. Troopers said they were met with gunfire when they responded to a shooting complaint near Matewan.

A trooper was fatally shot in the ensuing gunfire.

"I am absolutely heartbroken tonight to report that Sergeant Cory Maynard of the West Virginia State Police was fatally wounded in an incident this afternoon near Matewan," West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said.

"The brave men and women of law enforcement, and all first responders who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, are an inspiration to us all," Justice said in a statement.

The governor's office has ordered all U.S. and West Virginia flags to be flown at half-staff to honor the following trooper starting immediately.

The manhunt for Kennedy delayed graduation ceremonies at Mingo Central High School and emergency workers urged area residents to stay indoors while police searched for the suspect.

Justice said multiple law enforcement agencies joined a widespread search of the Beech Creek area to look for the suspect ahead of his arrest.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Investigators probe Bryan Kohberger's social media in connection with Idaho college murders

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(IDAHO) -- Investigators are probing the digital footprint of Bryan Kohberger, the suspect accused of killing four Idaho college students in an early morning attack last year, according to new court documents.

The documents include search warrant applications for some of Kohberger's internet activity and some additional phone records, as well as some of the four victims' social media accounts. There is "probable cause to believe" that those records could yield evidence regarding the November killings of Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kernodle, Ethan Chapin and Madison Mogen at the girls' off-campus home in Moscow, Idaho, the documents say.

Though they do not reveal details of what the warrants obtained, the records indicate that prosecutors have launched an expansive examination of Kohberger's activities online as they probe the suspect's possible connection to the victims – and the crimes he is accused of committing.

"The case has only just begun once you make an arrest," said Robert Boyce, an ABC News contributor and retired chief of detectives in the New York Police Department. "You want to see what he was looking up. You want to know what he was saying, whether under his or under an assumed name on these platforms."

"They want to establish his state of mind, who he talks to and what he talks about," Boyce said. "There could be probative materials there."

The Latah County Prosecutor's Office, leading the case against Kohberger, did not reply to requests from ABC News for comment.

Kohberger, 28, was indicted last month on charges including four counts of first-degree murder and one count of burglary. At his arraignment last week, Kohberger declined to offer a plea, so the judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

A trial date was set for Oct. 2.

Prosecutors allege that in the early morning hours of November 13, 2022, Kohberger, a Ph.D. student at Washington State University's department of criminal justice and criminology, broke into an off-campus home and stabbed to death four University of Idaho students: Ethan Chapin, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kaylee Goncalves, 21.

After a more than six-week hunt police zeroed in on Kohberger as a suspect, tracking his white Hyundai Elantra, cell phone signal data, and recovering what authorities say was his DNA on a knife sheath found next to one of the victims bodies, according to court documents. He was arrested on December 30 in Pennsylvania, after driving cross-country to spend the holidays at his family home in Albrightsville, PA.

The murder weapon has not been recovered, authorities have said.

Among the new documents are search warrant applications for Kohberger's accounts on Reddit, Google and TikTok, as well as the four victims' Snapchat accounts, and additional records from AT&T.

Investigators obtained information from the suspect's Reddit account this spring, including his public posts and private messages with other users; saved files and photos; and location data, court documents show.

Investigators had also previously obtained records from Kaylee Goncalves' Reddit account, earlier court filings show.

In the affidavit for Kohberger's arrest, officials noted he had previously "posted a Reddit survey which ... asked for participants to provide information to 'understand how emotions and psychological traits influence decision making when committing a crime.'"

From Kohberger's Google account, investigators, according to the new filings, have also pulled extensive records: emails, including drafts and trash; "hangouts" and "chats" including photos; his Google Drive, including "documents, spreadsheets, presentations and files, and associated metadata."

The warrant also obtained information about his search and browsing history; calendar events and contacts, Google Play purchases, along with his Google Pay transactions; court documents show.

"You want to develop a profile of him in your case, sometimes a psychological profile," Boyce said.

"They want to put a knife in that sheath, because they don't have it right now. So you want to see if he bought it somewhere online, you're looking at credit card receipts," he added. "The more evidence you can put before a judge, the better you've got."

Investigators also obtained additional AT&T records for a subscriber "unknown at this time," for the specific time period of June 23, 2022 to August 1, 2022 "including any messages, records, files, logs, or information that have been deleted but are still available," including cell tower pings that transmitted outgoing and incoming calls.

Investigators previously used cell tower data to link Kohberger to the killings' crime scene, court documents show.

Records from "Strava," an internet service which allows users to track their physical exercise and share their performance on social networks, were also obtained, filings show – including "biometric information" like "exercise data," session logs, geolocation data, contacts and photos. Names and accounts obtained were redacted, but the search warrant application says there is "information related to the investigation" into the students' killings.

Records related to the four victims' Snapchat accounts were also obtained, according to the documents, including "communications or other messages sent or received by the accounts," logs of previous snaps, stories and chats, and "all records pertaining to communications between Snapchat and any person regarding the user or the user's Snapchat accounts, including contacts with support services, and all records of actions taken, including suspensions of the accounts."

"There's a lot to this case, technology-wise. It's an evolving and changing field but it's the best evidence you have – because it's irrefutable, unbiased, human error-free," Boyce said. "It may not be one knockout punch – but there could be overwhelming circumstantial evidence."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Viewing service held for 14-year-old killed by store owner, ahead of funeral

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(SOUTH CAROLINA) -- The viewing service for Cyrus Carmack-Belton, who was allegedly shot and killed by a South Carolina gas station owner, is being held Friday, according to Leevy's Funeral Home. His funeral is planned for Saturday.

Rick Chow, 58, was arrested and charged with murder in connection to 14-year-old Cyrus's death, the Richland County Sheriff's Department said. Chow wrongly believed Cyrus had shoplifted several bottles of water, police said.

"He did not shoplift anything," Sheriff Leon Lott said during a press conference Monday. "We have no evidence that he stole anything whatsoever."

Summit Parkway Middle School, where Cyrus was a student, released a statement on Facebook, Thursday remembering what it said was its "young Eagle."

"He was intelligent, humorous with quick wit and well-liked by his classmates," the post said. "We could always depend on Cyrus to ask questions beyond the scope of the topic as he often would seek to understand, rather than accept and move on."

The school noted that he had dreams of owning a tattoo shop.

During a press conference Monday by the Richland County Sheriff's Department, Lott said there was a verbal confrontation inside the store before Cyrus left and took off running.

Lott said the convenience store owner, who police said was armed with a pistol, and his son chased after the teen.

The sheriff told reporters that Cyrus fell during the chase, got up, and "at some point" during the chase, the store owner's son said that the teen had a gun.

"The father shot the young man in the back," Lott said. According to law enforcement, a gun was found close to the teen's body.

Veronica Hill, a public information officer for the Richland County Sheriff's Department, told ABC News in a statement Friday that "Cyrus was in possession of the gun, but in South Carolina a juvenile cannot legally own a handgun." She added that the office is investigating the gun's origin.

Naida Rutherford, the Richland County coroner, said during the press conference that Cyrus died from "a single gunshot wound to his right lower back" that caused "significant damage to his heart and hemorrhaging."

According to a sheriff's office incident report obtained by ABC News, the shooting is not believed to be "a bias motivated incident."

ABC News reached out to Chow's attorney, James Snell, Jr., in the wake of the murder charge, but his office declined to comment.

On Thursday, Fifth Circuit Solicitor Byron E. Gipson said in a statement his office will determine whether any additional charges will be made in the incident once it has conducted a full review.

This week's shooting was not the only alleged incident involving Chow.

Hill told ABC News in a statement Wednesday that Chow has had two prior confrontations with alleged shoplifters that resulted in him firing a weapon -- in 2015 and 2018 -- but his conduct in those incidents "did not meet the requirements under South Carolina law to support criminal charges."

Todd Rutherford, who represents Cyrus's family, told ABC News in a statement Wednesday that "what happened to [Cyrus] wasn't an accident. It's something that the Black community has experienced for generations: being racially profiled, then shot down in the street like a dog."

"One beacon of hope is seeing the resilience of the Black community as they wrap their arms around this family that has joined the club that no Black family ever wants to be a part of," he continued.

ABC News' Meredith Deliso and Teddy Grant contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

North Carolina's Fort Bragg drops Confederate namesake, renamed Fort Liberty

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(NEW YORK) -- North Carolina's Fort Bragg, named after Confederate Army Gen. Braxton Bragg, was officially redesignated to Fort Liberty on Friday.

The renaming ceremony Friday was part of a national campaign to change the names of nine U.S. Army installations, as recommended by the Department of Defense's Naming Commission to erase symbols that commemorate the Confederate States of America.

Last month, the U.S. Army base formerly known as Fort Hood in central Texas was changed to Fort Cavazos and Georgia's Fort Benning was renamed to Fort Moore. Fort Lee was renamed Fort Gregg-Adams in April, with more changes to come.

While the previously renamed bases were chosen to honor past soldiers or Army families, Fort Liberty was named after no one person.

"Every name was considered, debated. … Ultimately, any of them could have been chosen," said Lt. Gen. Chris Donahue, the XVIII Airborne Corps' commanding general. "A consensus could not be reached on just one. How could you choose any and leave any of those others behind? … There was no right name. There were no names that could define what this post is all about."

Among the names considered by the community team tasked with renaming the base were Medal of Honor recipients past and present, including Sergeant Alvin York and Sergeant Robert J. Miller.

Donahue detailed that names were considered from soldiers from "all legendary tenant units," including the 82nd Airborne Division, United States Army Special Operations Command, Joint Special Operations Command and 18th Airborne Corps.

The final decision on the new name was inspired when one of the American Gold Star Mothers, Patti Elliot, brought up the theme of liberty.

"The name Liberty honors the heroism, sacrifices, and values of the Soldiers, Service Members, Civilians, and Families who live and serve with this installation," the press release stated. "We view this as the next chapter in our history and look forward to honoring the stories of our military heroes from every generation and walk of life."

The three-day event began on May 30 with a sneak peek of the Sunset Liberty March, a new daily march the base will do to honor the "service, sacrifices and legacy of Liberty," according to the press release. The grand opening of the marching site was held on Thursday.

The Friday event included the casing of the Fort Bragg garrison colors, and uncasing of the Fort Liberty colors, signifying the redesignation of Fort Liberty.

"Liberty has always been here," Donahue said. "Liberty has always been ingrained in this area."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Judge approves settlement in "Rust" shooting lawsuit by Halyna Hutchins' family

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(NEW YORK) -- A settlement has been approved in the wrongful death suit filed by Matthew Hutchins and his son following the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the film set of Rust.

The cinematographer died in October 2021 after allegedly being shot by a prop gun that Alec Baldwin, also a producer for the film, was holding during rehearsals on the set, according to police. The actor was practicing a cross-draw when the gun fired, striking Hutchins. The film's director, Joel Souza, was also injured in the shooting.

A judge issued an order approving the settlement for a minor, Hutchins' son, on Thursday. All the parties have agreed to settle all claims against the defendants, according to court documents.

Hutchins' 10-year-old son, Andros Hutchins, will receive his portion of the settlement in annuities that will be paid out over time when he reaches the ages of 18 and 22, according to court documents.

Other documents and materials related to the settlement have been sealed by the court.

Matthew Hutchins filed a suit against the Rust film production company and a number of individuals involved in the production, including Baldwin and the production's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, in February 2022. The two sides came to an agreement in October 2022, but the judge finally signed off Thursday.

The terms of the settlement have not been released publicly and were sealed by a judge in April.

Attorneys for Hutchins' family filed the wrongful death suit after conducting an investigation into the incident leading them to believe there were numerous violations of industry standards by Baldwin and others charged with safety on the set of Rust, lawyers for the family said last year.

Shooting of the film was suspended after the deadly incident, but resumed in April with Matthew Hutchins as executive producer.

Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed were charged with involuntary manslaughter in February. First assistant director David Halls also agreed to plead no contest for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

The charges against Baldwin were dropped in April, at least in part because an investigation revealed the gun used in the incident was mechanically improper.

Investigators effectively conducted an autopsy of the Colt .45 revolver and found that there were worn joints and that the trigger control was not functioning properly, sources told ABC News.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Three killed, three hurt in California crime spree; suspect in custody


(NEW YORK) -- Three people have been killed and three others injured in a Northern California crime spree, the motive for which authorities say remains under investigation.

The suspect, whose name was not released, was taken into custody following the Thursday afternoon attacks.

The spree began at about 3:11 p.m. when the attacker stabbed and carjacked a victim in San Jose, according to police. The victim was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, San Jose police said.

The suspect then allegedly stole that victim's car, drove to a shopping center and tried to carjack another vehicle, police said. The suspect allegedly stabbed that second driver, who was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, according to police.

The suspect then tried to drive away, allegedly striking a pedestrian in the parking lot who suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Later on, the suspect was spotted at an intersection, appearing to intentionally ram two pedestrians, killing both of them, according to police.

The final incident was reported at about 4:30 p.m., when police in nearby Milpitas responded to a stabbing homicide in a shopping center parking lot, authorities said.

The suspect allegedly fled the Milpitas scene and was found by police hiding in a nearby neighborhood, authorities said.

No motive is known and it's not clear if the suspect knew any of the victims, police said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Scripps National Spelling Bee crowns champion after he confidently spells 'psammophile'

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(OXON HILL, Md.) -- Dev Shah hoisted the coveted Scripps Cup after correctly spelling the word psammophile -- an organism that prefers or thrives in sandy areas -- to win the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday.

"It felt good knowing that I accomplished something I worked hard for," Shah told Good Morning America Friday morning in the wake of his monumental accomplishment.

The eighth grader from Largo, Florida, previously competed in 2019 and tied for 51st place and again in 2021 when he tied for 76th place.

When asked, "were you ever in doubt when you first heard the word?" Shah replied confidently and succinctly, "no."

"When I heard the word, I was pretty sure I got it," he continued.

The 14-year-old, who was full of quiet confidence during the bee, said that stems from "practice and a lot of it."

Here's how Shah broke down his training habits for the big event: "By myself, I would just go through individual lists and I would just analyze the patterns behind them. And then my dad would just make lists for me of words that I struggle with. And my coach, Scott Reamer would quiz me [on] stems and roots."

When Shah isn't practicing spelling, he said, "I play the cello, I play tennis [and] I like to read."

While holding up the coveted Scripps Cup after the win, he said "it's surreal" and added, "My legs are still shaking."

Overall, Shah took out 228 competitors from around the country and took home a cash prize of $50,000.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Texas cheerleader who was shot after friend got into the wrong car speaks out

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Payton Washington, one of two Texas cheerleaders shot in April after her friend accidentally opened the door of the wrong car, is speaking out for the first time since the attack that left her in critical condition.

“My spleen was shattered. My stomach had two holes in it. And my diaphragm had two holes in it. And then they had to remove a lobe from my pancreas. I had 32 staples,” said Washington.

Washington, 18, described the terrifying incident in an exclusive interview with Good Morning America co-anchor Michael Strahan.

"I was actually texting and [eating] Twizzlers," Washington said of the moments before someone opened the door of her teammate's car.

Just after midnight on April 18, Washington and three of her fellow teammates with the Woodlands Elite Cheer Company finished practice and were in the HEB parking lot in Elgin, Texas.

One teammate, Heather Roth, 21, opened the door of a vehicle that she thought was hers, but a stranger, later identified by police as Pedro Tello Rodriguez Jr., 25, was in the passenger seat.

Roth, who later spoke out on Instagram Live after the incident, said she got out of the car and went back to her friend's vehicle where the three other cheerleaders, including Washington, were sitting. According to authorities, Rodriguez allegedly approached the vehicle with the cheerleaders, and when Roth rolled down the window to apologize, Rodriguez opened fire on the four cheerleaders, injuring Roth and shooting Washington three times.

Washington told Strahan she acted on instinct at the moment.

"I turned immediately with my blanket," she said. "I didn't know where it was coming from or anything, but it being so loud that my ears were ringing, I knew to turn and do something."

The cheerleaders drove off while the shots continued to fire. Washington said she began to notice she was having trouble breathing and realized she had been shot.

“We were tryin' to get away. I really was just telling myself to breathe. It was hard to breathe because of my diaphragm,” she said. “I was trying to stay as calm as possible for the other people in the car. I could tell how sad and scared they were.”

Very quickly, she knew “something was wrong.” “I saw blood on [my passenger] seat. So I knew somewhere I was bleeding. But I had so much adrenaline, I didn't really know where,” said Washington. “And then whenever we pulled over and opened the door, I was like, ‘Oh, gotta throw up.’ And that's when I was throwing up blood."

Rodriguez allegedly fled the scene, but was later arrested at his home, according to court documents. He's since been charged with deadly conduct, a third-degree felony, said police. Rodriguez's bail was initially set at $500,000 but was reduced to $100,000, according to his attorney. Rodriguez is currently released on bail and has yet to enter a plea.

Roth, who was grazed by a bullet, was treated for her injuries and released at the scene, while Washington was helicoptered to a hospital near Austin in critical condition.

Washington went through a series of lifesaving procedures to treat the two bullets that struck her backside and a shot through her left abdomen.

However, she said “the hardest part was after the surgeries.”

Before the shooting, Washington had been accepted to Baylor University and was set to join its acrobatics and tumbling team in the fall. Now, she said simple things, like getting up from bed or standing by yourself are challenging.

“It was hard … hurting to walk or stand is really weird when, a week before, you were doing a bunch of flips, running the track, and doing long jump, and all this stuff,” said Washington.

But she said she won’t dwell on the past.

“He did what he did, and I'm just gonna try and get through it. There's no point in me really thinking about what he did,” she said.

Only five weeks after the shooting, Washington joined her friends at graduation. She said she’s committed to getting her life back.

“You can literally do anything if you push and you persevere,” she said. “Don't doubt yourself ever because you can do anything as long as you're putting your 120% into it.”

ABC News' Marilyn Heck contributed to this report.

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With only dozens left, South Dakota zoo welcomes litter of 'critically endangered' red wolf pups

The Great Plains Zoo

(SIOUX FALLS, S.D.) -- A zoo in South Dakota has welcomed a litter of critically endangered red wolf pups -- a litter vital to the existence of the species with only an estimated two dozen left existing in the wild.

The Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said that they were “thrilled to announce the births of six critically endangered red wolves” on Thursday in a statement on the zoo’s website.

The six pups -- two females and four males -- were born to first-time parents Camelia and Uyosi, who only arrived at the Great Plains Zoo in October of last year from facilities in Washington and Texas, respectively.

These six pups are vital to the existence of the species with an estimated 23 to 25 red wolves remaining in the wild and only an estimated 278 alive in captivity, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Red Wolf Recovery Program.

“Camelia and Uyosi are amazing parents, I wouldn’t expect anything less from them,” said Joel Locke, the Animal Care Director of the Great Plains Zoo. “We are fortunate to have vet staff and animal care staff that have worked with red wolves for more than 15 years. We had our last litter from our previous pair of red wolves in 2016, so the team is well-versed in red wolf care.”

Red wolves are currently the most endangered canid species in the world, according to the zoo, and the red wolves at the facility are part of the Red Wolf Species Survival Plan, which aims to “breed pairs with the greatest possible genetic diversity, with the goal of bolstering the wild population.”

“We will soon see the pups wandering around the exhibit, as they get bigger and braver,” the Great Plains Zoo said in the birth announcement. “However, zookeepers request that everyone in the area continue to use low voices, as new wolf parents can be especially susceptible to environmental stressors.”

The pups are now under close observation by the zoo’s veterinary and animal care teams and are also being monitored very closely by camera as well as regular check-ups on their health and wellbeing.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Cadaver dogs arrive at Iowa building collapse in race against time to find survivors

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(DAVENPORT, Iowa) -- An elite task force with dogs trained to smell death is combing through a partially collapsed building in eastern Iowa as three people remain missing.

Iowa Task Force 1, a Cedar Rapids-based urban search and rescue team trained and equipped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, arrived in the city of Davenport on Thursday, four days after a section of a six-story residential building collapsed. The team brought "live and cadaver canines," or dogs trained to pick up the scent of humans both alive and dead, according to a press release from the city government.

The task force met with city officials and the Davenport Fire Department before entering the structure with the dogs. The team is now working to "re-verify and mark all rooms with standard FEMA markings," the city said.

It's become a race against time to find and rescue any survivors since part of The Davenport collapsed for unknown reasons on Sunday afternoon. The building, located in the heart of downtown Davenport, houses commercial space at the street level and residential units in the floors above. More than a dozen people evacuated at the time of the collapse, while eight others and several pets were rescued in the 24 hours that followed.

On Monday, officials said there was no credible information that anyone was missing and the city would move forward with plans to begin demolishing the remaining structure the next day. But that night, rescuers found a ninth person alive inside and pulled her out of a fourth-story window. It was unclear how the woman was not found earlier by crews using thermal imaging, drones and dogs. The development prompted protests from members of the community calling for the demolition to be delayed.

On Tuesday, the city's demolition plans were put on hold as officials announced that five residents were still unaccounted for, including two -- 42-year-old Branden Colvin and 51-year-old Ryan Hitchcock -- who may be inside. Crews rescued several more animals from inside the structure that afternoon but no human activity was detected, according to officials.

Then, on Thursday, officials announced that only three residents remain missing -- Colvin, Hitchcock and 60-year-old Daniel Prien. All three lived in apartments located in the collapse zone and were believed to be home at the time. However, officials have struggled to locate family for Prien to confirm his whereabouts. Officials called it a "recovery situation" for Colvin and Hitchcock, noting that they're likely inside the structure in an area that's "not sustainable for life."

Officials have warned that the structure is unstable and continues to degrade. Crews are working with structural engineers on how to best search the building while avoiding the pile of debris, which is currently contributing to the stability and its "removal could jeopardize or accelerate the inevitable collapse of the building," according to the city.

ABC News' Jianna Cousin, Laryssa Demkiw, Alexandra Faul, Andy Fies, Jessica Gorman, Ahmad Hemingway, Alex Perez, Darren Reynolds and Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.

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Judge rules Andrew Lester case to be partially sealed in the shooting of teenager Ralph Yarl

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(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) -- A judge on Thursday set preliminary hearing dates for Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 2023 in Lester's case, according to ABC affiliate in Kansas City, KMBC.

The hearing came one day after a Clay County judge agreed to partially seal the case in response to a protective order filed by Lester’s attorney, Steven Salmon.

The judge ruled the discovery in the case will be available to prosecutors and the defense, but will not be shared with the public, writing in the ruling obtained by ABC News, that the “wide-ranging publicity” of the case in the national media has cast Lester “in a negative light” and has continued to “erode [his] ability [to] empanel a fair and impartial venire in his future jury trial.”

A spokesperson for Clay County prosecuting attorney Zachary Thompson told ABC News that the office is “dedicated to following the law and accepts the ruling of the Court.”

“We can assure the public that our office will continue to be as transparent as legally permitted throughout this process. Our focus remains squarely on achieving justice in this case,” the spokesperson said.

Yarl's family criticized the decision to partially seal the case in a virtual press conference on Thursday, and his father, Paul Yarl, also attended Lester's hearing.

"It's been tough," Paul Yarl said while speaking to reporters outside the courtroom about his son's recovery after suffering a traumatic brain injury from the shooting.

Yarl's family said that he has been experiencing migraines after suffering a traumatic brain injury that has restricted his ability to participate in activities he loves like playing music.

"Yes, [Ralph is] recovering, but it's still a long way to recovery," he added. "He still gets headaches and some pain and emotional scars. But he's coming along and he's not there yet. But we are thankful for the progress."
Ralph Yarl shooting suspect posts bond, released from custody: Sheriff's office

Andrew Lester, an 84-year-old white man, was charged with one count of felony assault in the first-degree and one count of armed criminal action, also a felony, in the April 13 shooting of Ralph Yarl, a Black teenager who mistakenly went to the wrong address to pick up his siblings.

Lester pleaded not guilty and was released on April 18 on a $200,000 bond.

In arguing for the protective order, Salmon said in court that Lester’s home has been defaced and he has relocated three times since the incident, according to ABC affiliate in Kansas City, KMBC. He added that Lester is in poor health and has lost 40 pounds.

Yarl's aunt Faith Spoonmore criticized the judge’s decision to partially seal the case.

“Who are we protecting by granting this ruling, who are we trying to victimize in this case? People are too focused on Andrew Lester's age when they should be focused on Ralph Yarl and his age,” Spoonmore told ABC News in a phone interview on Wednesday. “He was only 16 years old when this happened. What type of message does this send to the people who think this behavior is ok? It's just sad that the justice system is protecting them and not the victim."

Salmon also argued that Lester has been harassed and has received death threats because of the attention the case has gotten across the country and the speculation the shooting was due to a racial motive.

“Such conjecture of a racial motive in the reporting of this case negatively affects Defendant's fundamental right to a fair trial on the merits,” the judge stated in the ruling.

ABC News has reached out to Salmon for further comment.

Yarl was 16 at the time of the shooting, but celebrated his 17th birthday last month. He has not spoken publicly about the incident, but his family continues to call for justice.

He attended a walk/run event in Kansas City, Missouri, on Monday to help raise money for traumatic brain injuries.

Ahead of the event, Spoonmore told ABC News in an interview last Friday that Yarl, who was shot in the neighborhood where he lived, is not ready to go back home and has been living with her and her family.

“He is not comfortable going back to that area,” she said. “He is not comfortable going back to his house, his home … which is so unfortunate because he had a lot of great memories in that home.”

“He's not doing the things that he loves to do and it's like he's a shell,” she added. And that's the problem, is that there is something that is missing within him.”

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South Carolina teen killed after shoplifting allegations remembered as 'intelligent, humorous'

Courtesy Rutherford Law

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) -- A South Carolina teenager who police say was fatally shot by a gas station owner who they say had falsely accused him of shoplifting was remembered by his middle school as a well-liked student who was "intelligent" and "humorous."

Cyrus Carmack-Belton, 14, died after being shot in the back on Monday, authorities said. The teen was chased from the gas station by the owner and the owner's son after they wrongly believed he had shoplifted several bottles of water and was shot during the pursuit, according to the Richland County Sheriff's Office.

The store's owner, 58-year-old Rick Chow, has since been arrested and charged with murder in connection with the teen's death.

Cyrus was a student at Summit Parkway Middle School in Columbia, where he was in its STEM magnet program, the school said.

"He was intelligent, humorous with quick wit and well-liked by his classmates," the school said in a statement on Facebook Thursday. "We remember his infectious smile and tenacity."

The teen often spoke of his dreams and aspirations, which included owning a tattoo shop and "being famous one day," the statement said.

The school said it was "blessed" to have Cyrus as a student and that he "will be remembered forever in our hearts."

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told reporters during a press conference Monday that the teenager did not shoplift from the Shell gas station, despite Chow's belief that he did.

Law enforcement said there was a verbal confrontation inside the store before Cyrus left and took off running.

Lott said that "at some point" during the chase, Chow's son reportedly said the teen had a gun.

Lott said the convenience store owner, who police said was armed with a pistol, and his son chased after the teenager toward an apartment complex.

Cyrus fell during the chase, got up and was allegedly shot in the back by Chow, police said.

According to law enforcement, a gun was found close to the teen's body. Lott said Monday that police currently "don't have anything that says that he did not have that gun on him" when asked if Cyrus was in possession of a gun during the incident.

Richland County coroner Naida Rutherford told reporters at Monday's press conference that Cyrus died from "a single gunshot wound to his right lower back" that caused "significant damage to his heart and hemorrhaging."

The Fifth Circuit Solicitor's Office said Thursday it will determine whether any additional charges will be made in the incident once it has conducted a full review.

Chow has had two prior confrontations with alleged shoplifters that resulted in him firing a weapon -- in 2015 and 2018 -- but his conduct in those incidents "did not meet the requirements under South Carolina law to support criminal charges," Richland County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Veronica Hill confirmed in a statement to ABC News.

Chow's attorney declined to comment to ABC News in the wake of the murder charge.

According to a sheriff's office incident report obtained by ABC News, the shooting was "not a bias motivated incident"; though an attorney for Cyrus' family contends the teen, who was Black, was racially profiled.

"What happened to [Cyrus] wasn't an accident. It's something that the Black community has experienced for generations: being racially profiled, then shot down in the street like a dog," the attorney, Todd Rutherford, told ABC News in a statement on Wednesday.

"One beacon of hope is seeing the resilience of the Black community as they wrap their arms around this family that has joined the club that no Black family ever wants to be a part of," the statement added.

ABC News' Teddy Grant, Deena Zaru and Brittany Gaddy contributed to this report.

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Former Houghton University employee claims he was fired for using pronouns in email signature

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As debate grows over how gender identity is handled in schools, many employees at educational institutions have said that they feel caught in the middle, and some also say that they've been disciplined because of it.

That includes Shua Wilmot, a former residence hall director, who says his former employer, Houghton University, fired him and another residence hall director after they added their gender pronouns to their work email signatures. Houghton University is a private Christian college in upstate New York that is affiliated with the Wesleyan Church, a Methodist denomination.

"While the details of individual personnel matters are confidential, Houghton University has never terminated an employment relationship based solely on the use of pronouns in staff email signatures," a university spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News. "Over the past years, we've required anything extraneous be removed from email signatures, including Scripture quotes. Houghton remains steadfastly committed to offering the Christian education that our students are promised."

ABC News' Linsey Davis spoke to Wilmot about what he says led up to his termination. Wilmot shared details about a letter he says he previously sent to the board of Wesleyan Church suggesting changes to their written statement on gender identity and expression.

LINSEY DAVIS: So you say that you were fired from the church, at least, in part, because you put your preferred pronoun in your email signature. Did the school tell you that that was their rationale for ending your career there?

SHUA WILMOT: Yeah. So, actually I was fired from the university, not from the church, but the university is an institution of the Wesleyan Church, and that's correct. They cited that as one of the two main reasons that I was fired.

DAVIS: A university spokesperson released a statement saying that personnel matters are confidential, but that Houghton has never terminated employment based on use of pronouns and signatures and over the years have required anything additional in signatures, including scriptures, removed. Were you aware of any such policies about signatures?

WILMOT: Yeah, that's a new policy, though. I mean, the phrase "over the years" kind of surprises me, because that policy was announced in September and sort of passed in October. This is after I had signed my contract for the year, and it was also never added to the employee handbook up until, you know, maybe to this day, but at least until the time that I was told my contract wouldn't be renewed. It was still not in the employee handbook, but it was communicated as a policy, this academic year, yeah.

DAVIS: I'm curious, did they give you a chance to get rid of that in your signature line – the pronouns in your signature line – before terminating you, or how did that process play out?

WILMOT: Yes. So my supervisor was asked to address it with me and with Reagan [Zelaya]. And so we were asked to comply with this policy, and we declined. And then I personally had to meet with the dean of my department to have a similar conversation. Reagan was never asked to have a conversation like that, because she had already resigned, effective at the end of the academic year.

But I had intended to continue working at Houghton, and so I had this conversation with the dean, and the long and short of it is, eventually I said, "I don't want to resign, and I don't want to comply with this policy." I gave him my reasons why, and he said, "I will take this news to the president and HR." And then after that, next thing I know, I'm told that my contract won't be renewed. It was never explicitly said to me that that could be an end result, until it was.

DAVIS: If you knew that you could just remove the pronoun from your signature line and could keep your job, would you have done that?

WILMOT: I think probably not. After a hard conversation with my dean, there were a few days that I did take my pronouns out of my email signature, thinking, "OK, maybe I can concede this one small thing." But I just didn't have peace with it throughout that weekend that I had my pronouns removed. I didn't have peace with it, because I don't want to actively play a role in making the community any less inclusive.

DAVIS: You've said that you believe that another reason for your firing includes a letter that you wrote to church officials about problems that you had with Wesleyan Church's views on gender identity and expression. You say the entire viewpoint makes unsupported claims to justify trans exclusion. What points do you take exception to?

WILMOT: Yeah, sure. Well, I would say most of my letter to the board of the Wesleyan Church was really making helpful suggestions to improve their view of gender and identity, to improve their statement on the Wesleyan view of gender expression and identity. And some of those suggestions include that — the Wesleyan view claims that transgender and transsexual are synonyms, which they're not and they long have not been. They also use the phrase "birth designated gender," which I recommend that they change to "sex assigned at birth," because doctors assign sex, which is anatomical, physiological, genetic and physical attributes. Doctors don't assign gender. But there are other things to it as well. I think that their theology on it should be reexamined, but I explicitly state in the letter that I am not asking them to change their convictions. I just want them to have accurate information and to consider making improvements to the statement.

DAVIS: Do you believe that your termination infringes on your First Amendment rights?

WILMOT: Yeah, I would say in a way it does, but Houghton University is a private institution, so free speech is not protected in the same ways that it is at public institutions. I know this, because I studied higher ed law in 2017. So yeah, I mean, that's not my complaint here.

DAVIS: I just want to follow up on that, because other faith-based organizations have argued for their own First Amendment rights, saying religious freedom protections allow them to create policies to treat LGBTQ and transgender people differently. What's your response to that argument?

WILMOT: Yeah, I think that they have that right. I don't think that it's a good practice. I think that there are plenty of ways in which Christian institutions will and do marginalize people in ways that are antithetical to the way that Jesus would have wanted them to be treated and still wants them to be treated. And that's a shame, but I think that they should have that right to make different sorts of policies.

DAVIS: Shua Wilmot, we thank you so much for talking with us tonight. Thank you.

WILMOT: Yeah, my pleasure.

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