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17 dead in Florida High School shooting; former student arrested

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 A former student went on a shooting rampage at a Florida high school Wednesday, leaving 17 dead while panicked students barricaded themselves inside classrooms and frantic parents raced to the scene.

Some of those mothers and fathers were still waiting into the night for word whether their child survived the massacre. Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said five of the 17 victims have still not been identified as of 9:30 p.m. ET — about seven hours after the shooting.

The gunman, who had been expelled and didn’t graduate, was identified as 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. Israel said Cruz was armed with “countless” magazines and an AR-15-style rifle.

Cruz was arrested a short distance from the school near a home, a law enforcement official who is not authorized to comment publicly told USA TODAY. Students recognized the suspect during the assault, he said.

Flanked by officers, the suspect was later escorted into a police station wearing a hospital gown.

“Another horrific day, a detestable day,” Israel said. “I’m absolutely sick to my stomach to see children who go to school armed with backpacks and pencils lose their lives.”

The shooting happened about 2 p.m. at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which is about 30 miles northwest of Fort Lauderdale, according to the Coral Springs Police Department.

The 17 dead include students and adults, Israel said. Others were injured and taken to local hospitals, including at least 14 who were treated at Broward Health Medical Center and Broward Health North in Deerfield Beach.

Several were in critical condition Wednesday night.

Students said chaos ensued when a fire alarm sounded in the school near dismissal time — then the gunfire started. Israel said Cruz started shooting outside then made his way through the school’s hallways.

He wore a gas mask and used smoke grenades “so the kids would come out in the hallways and thus, he had the opportunity with crowded hallways to start picking off people,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told MSNBC.

Student Rebecca Bogart, 17, wasn’t sure whether the reports of shooting were a drill at first.

The school had a fire drill earlier that day, and she knew it was somewhat common to do an active shooter drill.

It wasn’t until the windows of her first floor classroom shattered and Bogart saw a bullet near the shades did she understand what was happening.

“It was really hard to be calm,” Bogart said. “My friend was holding my hand.”

Bogart said that’s what she and her classmates tried to do as they hid from the shooter.

Though she couldn’t see them from under the teacher’s desk where she was hiding, Bogart said she could hear four of her classmates screaming in pain from injuries.

She added she didn’t know whether they had been shot.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel says there are multiple casualties in a shooting at a high school in South Florida. (Feb. 14) AP

When SWAT officers entered the classroom, they escorted students out. As Bogart walked down the hall, she saw students covered in blood.

Officers told the students to get as far away as possible. Bogart said she walked miles before stopping to get picked up by her father.

“I’m still in shock right now,” she said.

Television footage showed the terrifying moments outside the school. Students ran single file from the building with their hands in the air — throwing backpacks into a large pile and huddling under trees across the street.

As students scrambled to safety, law enforcers with weapons drawn approached the building.

The gunman was expelled from the school for “disciplinary reasons,” but Israel didn’t elaborate.

Cameras captured authorities taking Cruz into custody and to a local hospital. Police said the gunman was a member of the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) student military program.

Cruz would joke about shooting people or shooting up establishments, she said. At the time, she thought it was normal, violent teenage jokes, she said. Cruz would also talk a lot about having guns and using them in different situations, she said.

Math teacher Jim Gard told the Miami Herald he taught the suspect last year, who he said was troubled.

“We were told last year that he wasn’t allowed on campus with a backpack on him,” Gard told the newspaper. “There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus.”

Israel said authorities were scouring through anything that would lead them to a motive in the tragedy, including a website and social media pages.

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said it was a dark day in the county’s history.

“It’s a horrific situation. It’s just a horrible day for us,” he said. “… This is a day we prayed would never happen in our county.”

He said every high school in the county has a police presence, adding there are typically two officers at every school.

Worried parents crowded around the school, some asking television crews what they should do to get information on their child, and students cried when they were reunited with their mothers and fathers. Some of the injured were treated on sidewalks and loaded into ambulances.

Twelve of the victims were found inside the school, two were killed outside, and two others died in the hospital. One additional person was killed off the school’s campus, Israel said.

Melissa Falkowski, a teacher at the school, told CNN she hid with her students in a closet until law enforcement cleared them. Footage on local television stations showed SWAT officers entering a classroom with guns drawn and students shaking and crying as they held up their hands.

The shooting rekindled the debate over gun laws, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott was asked multiple times at a 9 p.m. news conference whether this tragedy marked a needed change.

Scott said there is a time and place for that conversation but this was not it, adding he concluded the whole incident was just “pure evil.”

The state has pledged to pay for funeral costs for the victims and cover all counseling.

The White House also released a statement as the tragedy was unfolding.

“The president has been made aware of the school shooting in Florida,” deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said. “We are monitoring the situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected.”

The incident comes just weeks after a rampage at a rural Kentucky high school. A 15-year-old faces two counts of murder and 12 counts of first-degree assault after police said he killed two and wounded more than a dozen others in a shooting spree at Marshall County High School in Benton.

There have been at least six school shootings in 2018.

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Police arrest stepfather of 4-year-old girl he claims was kidnapped

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The stepfather of missing 4-year-old Maleah Davis was arrested and charged in connection to her disappearance, one week after he told Texas police that she was kidnapped by three men who assaulted and knocked him unconscious.

Derion Vence, 26, was arrested by the Houston Police Department at a relative’s home and charged with tampering with evidence, human corpse, in the disappearance of his stepdaughter on the night of May 4.

Although a police source told ABC News that the young girl was still missing, they would not say whether she was believed to be dead or alive.

Police said in a statement on Saturday that they had obtained blood evidence linked to Maleah from Vence’s apartment and that he was seen leaving his apartment with a full laundry basket, which was found Thursday along with a gas can in the trunk of the silver Nissan Altima that he reported missing following the kidnapping.

At a late night hearing, the district attorney said cadaver dogs reacted to scents in the trunk and the laundry basket.

Vence reported the abduction on May 5, nearly 24 hours after it occurred, claiming that he had been unconscious for much of that time, according to the statement.

He told police that he was driving with Maleah and his 2-year-old son on the night of May 4 to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in north Houston to pick up the girl’s mother, Brittany Bowens, who was returning from a trip to Massachusetts, police said.

He said that on the way there, he heard a popping noise coming from his car that made him believe he had a flat tire, so he pulled over to check on it. When he got out of the car, he said that a blue pickup truck pulled up behind him and two men got out, police said during a news conference on May 5.

He told police that one of the men commented on Maleah’s appearance as the other hit him in the head, knocking him out, police said.

Vence told police that he kept going in and out of consciousness, but at one point realized that he was in the back of the pickup truck where there were actually three men and that he also saw Maleah and his son in the truck, police said.

He said that he regained consciousness the next day with only his son in Sugar Land, nearly 22 miles southwest of central Houston, and walked to Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital where he received treatment and reported Maleah missing, police said.

Although he told police that his car was taken during the kidnapping, surveillance footage showed someone in the Nissan dropping Vence off at Methodist Sugar Land Hospital on May 5, police said.

Vence’s public defender asked for a $5,000 bond, while the district attorney proposed $500,000.

Instead, the judge ruled Vence be held on $1 million bond since the ongoing investigation “is likely to result in a significant upgrade to this second-degree felony.”

Houston police are asking anyone with information about the case, the whereabouts of Maleah Davis or the person who sold the gas can to Vence to contact the department’s Homicide Division at 713-308-3600.

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Ethiopia Airlines Updates: Boeing 737 Crash Kills at Least 150

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An Ethiopian Airlines flight carrying more than 150 people crashed early Sunday shortly after departing from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, en route to Nairobi, Kenya, the airline said, killing everyone onboard.

The plane was identified by its manufacturer, Boeing, as one of its newest models, a 737 Max 8. The cause of the crash was unclear, but a Lion Air flight using the same model of plane went down in Indonesia in October and killed 189 people.

Officials are investigating whether changes to the Max 8’s automatic controls might have sent that flight into an unrecoverable nose-dive. The airline said the 737 had been subjected to a “rigorous” maintenance check in February.

Flight 302 was carrying passengers from at least 35 countries, according to the airline. The dead included 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians, eight each from the United States, China and Italy, and seven each from France and Britain, the airline said. Serbia’s Foreign Ministry said one citizen, a staff worker for the United Nations World Food Program, had died.

The office of Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian prime minister, expressed on Twitter “profound sadness at the loss of life,” as did President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya. The Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives declared Monday a national day of mourning. 

The airline said in a statement that 149 passengers and eight crew members were aboard the flight. The United States Embassy in Addis Ababa confirmed that Americans were on board and said it was working with the Ethiopian government and the airline to determine their identities.

The U.S. Embassy is aware of the crash this morning of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302.  We extend our sincerest sympathies to all who are impacted by this tragic event.

The flight on Sunday took off in good weather from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa at 8:38 a.m. local time and lost contact six minutes later, the airline said. The plane went down near Bishoftu, about 35 miles southeast of Addis Ababa.

Images from the vast crash site revealed a grim tableau. Workers loaded body bags into a truck, while plane fragments and various items from the flight — cigarettes, shoes, napkins with the Ethiopian Airlines logo — were scattered across the field.

Tewolde GebreMariam, the chief executive officer of Ethiopian Airlines, said at a news conference that the pilot had sought and had been given clearance to return to the airport in Addis Ababa after reporting difficulties. 

Mr. GebreMariam said that it was too early to determine a cause or rule anything out, adding that a team from the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States would be arriving shortly to work with civil aviation authorities in Ethiopia and officials from Boeing.

The N.T.S.B. said that it would be sending a four-person team. The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement, “We are in contact with the State Department and plan to join the N.T.S.B. in its assistance with Ethiopian civil aviation authorities to investigate the crash.”

The airline identified the pilot as Yared Getachew, saying he had more than 8,000 cumulative flight hours and describing his performance as “commendable.”

“Ethiopian Airlines is very, very highly regarded; it’s part of the Star Alliance,” Graham Braithwaite, a professor of safety and accident investigation at Cranfield University in Britain, said by phone on Sunday.

Professor Braithwaite was referring to the airline alliance that includes carriers like Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and United, and he described Ethiopian Airways as “one of the best operators in Africa.”

The lead investigation will start in the country where the crash happened, Ethiopia, he said, but other countries will also be involved — Kenya and the United States, independently of Boeing, because the aircraft was made in the United States.

“They’ll want to work quite swiftly,” Professor Braithwaite said. “It’s in nobody’s interest that a failure goes unknown.”

The priority will be to make sure there is no link between the crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia, and other countries and airlines will no doubt be watching closely. The plane is “the most populous aircraft out there,” he added.

Relatives anxiously waited for news, as journalists from around the world descended on Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. At least three buses carrying family members left the airport for a nearby hotel, and emergency responders were shielding them from the press.

“I came to the airport to receive my brother but I have been told there is a problem,” said Agnes Muilu, The Associated Press reported. “I just pray that he is safe or he was not on it.”

The Kenyan transport secretary, James Macharia, said his country was setting up two emergency response centers to assist those who had friends and relatives on the flight.

“The purpose of these centers is to provide the relatives with information as much as we have,” he said. “At the same time to provide them with an environment of privacy.”

There has not been a crash involving Ethiopian Airlines since January 2010, when a Boeing 737 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after it took off from Beirut, Lebanon. None of the 90 people onboard that flight — 82 passengers and eight crew members — survived.

The latest known accident involving the airline was in January 2015, when a Boeing 737-400 cargo aircraft veered off the runway with flat tires after it landed in Accra, Ghana. None of the three crew members onboard were injured.

The Lion Air Max 8 in Indonesia was a brand-new plane, like Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which was delivered to the African carrier late last year, according to websites that track commercial fleet updates.

Lynette Dray, an aviation expert and senior research associate at University College London, said that the Max model has a more efficient engine than the previous 737 aircraft, but, “It’s not revolutionary new.”

The flight took off in good weather, but the vertical speed of Flight 302 had been unstable after takeoff, fluctuating wildly, according to data published by FlightRadar24 on Twitter.

In the first three minutes of flight, the vertical speed varied from 0 feet per minute to 1,472 to minus 1,920 — unusual during ascent.

“During takeoff, one would expect sustained positive vertical speed indications,” Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for FlightRadar24, said in an email on Sunday.

Crashes involving new planes in good weather are rare. The Lion Air accident also involved a plane that crashed minutes after takeoff and after the crew requested permission to return to the airport.

Investigations by the Indonesian and American aviation authorities have determined that the Lion Air plane’s abrupt nose-dive may have been caused by updated Boeing software that is meant to prevent a stall but that can send the plane into a fatal descent if the altitude and angle information being fed into the computer system is incorrect.

The change in the flight control system, which can override manual motions in the Max model, was not explained to pilots, according to some pilots’ unions. Global alerts were sent to notify pilots flying the Max about how to counter the anti-stall system.

Ethiopia, with about 100 million people, is the second-most populous nation in Africa. After elections in March, the new prime minister has embarked on a series of political reforms, chiefly to officially end two decades of hostilities with neighboring Eritrea, a longtime rival.

The country’s flagship carrier has undergone a major expansion in past years, more than doubling its staff to 11,000 employees in the past decade, with the goal of easing air travel in a part of the world where flying is notoriously complicated. For instance, it added nonstop flights from Newark to Lomé, Togo, a hub for the airline, that then continued on to Addis Ababa.

In West Africa, Ethiopian is the technical and strategic partner for a relatively new airline, Asky, created with investment from the Economic Community of West African States. Asky offers a web of cross-border flights in West and Central Africa and connects with Ethiopian flights to expand its reach across the continent and beyond.

In Africa, Ethiopian has a reputation for having a newer fleet than other airlines, for operating flights that are mostly on time and for having accommodating schedules.

The airline has ordered 30 Boeing 737 Max jets, with the first being delivered last year. It currently has five of the models in its fleet, according to FlightRadar24.

Chinese news websites said that the eight Chinese killed on the flight included tourists and business people. One was Zhou Yuan, a worker for the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, which sells electronics, communications and security technology for civilian and military needs, the Beijing News reported, citing a press officer for the corporation.

Ethiopia and Kenya have drawn growing numbers of Chinese investors and tourists in recent years. The casualties may also include people from Hong Kong or Taiwan, whom China counts as its own citizens.

The Russian Embassy confirmed the deaths of three citizens and expressed its condolences, as did Canada, which had the second-highest number of victims on the flight. “Terrible news from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this morning,” the foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, wrote on Twitter. “My heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost loved ones.”

Ms. Freeland added that the Canadian government was in close contact with the Ethiopian authorities to gather additional information as quickly as possible.

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Luke Perry, star of ‘Beverly Hills 90210’, dead at 52

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Luke Perry, who played the beloved Dylan McKay on the hit coming-of-age series “Beverly Hills 90210,” has died.

Perry, 52, died Monday after suffering a massive stroke, his publicist Arnold Robinson told news outlets.

“He was surrounded by his children Jack and Sophie, fiancé Wendy Madison Bauer, ex-wife Minnie Sharp, mother Ann Bennett, step-father Steve Bennett, brother Tom Perry, sister Amy Coder, and other close family and friends. The family appreciates the outpouring of support and prayers that have been extended to Luke from around the world, and respectfully request privacy in this time of great mourning. No further details will be released at this time,” a statement from Robinson read.

Born Coy Luther Perry III in Mansfield, Ohio, and raised in the small community of Fredericktown, Perry moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting soon after graduating from high school.

There he worked a series of odd jobs as he tried to break into the business.

The Big Apple beckoned in 1988 after he scored an appearance as Ned Bates on the soap opera “Loving,” which required him to move to New York City.

In 2013 during an appearance on the radio show “Sway in the Morning,” Perry said it took him 256 auditions before he scored his first gig.

“I just kept thinking, ‘You know, I just walked out of a room full of fools,'” Perry said of how he maintained the confidence to keep going. “Those people have no idea.”

The same year as his “Loving” appearance, Perry landed a role on another soap, this time portraying Kenny on “Another World.”

But it was his role as seemingly bad boy Dylan McKay on Fox’s “Beverly Hills 90210” in 1990 which shot Perry into the atmosphere.

The series was both wildly popular and also criticized because of its willingness to take on topics such as teens being sexually active.

“We have done some shows that dealt with pretty some touchy topics and people weren’t altogether happy with how we dealt with it,” Perry said during an appearance on “The Arsenio Hall Show” in the 1990s. “I thought we handled it pretty intelligently and we were willing to answer the questions we brought up.”

Perry’s character was so popular among fans that in 1991 an expected crowd of 2,000 at a Florida mall turned into a stampede of 10,000 when he appeared at an autograph signing.

Several people were hospitalized and the mall was forced to shut its doors after the chaos.

The actor famously left the show in Season 6, seeking to break away from the Dylan character, but returned in Season 9.

Perry also appeared on the big screen with roles in films including “Good Intentions,” “Red Wing” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which later became a hit television series. 

He made his Broadway debut in 2002 as Brad in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

But it was the small screen that showed the actor the most love, with roles on “The Incredible Hulk,” “Jeremiah,” “Oz,” “Windfall” and “John from Cincinnati.”

More recently, Perry took on the role as Archie Andrews’ father Fred in the hit CW drama “Riverdale,” based on the characters from the Archie comics.

Perry married “Teen Wolf Too” actress Rachel Sharp in 1993 and the couple welcomed son Jack and daughter Sophie.

They divorced a decade later. 

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