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Ohio man charged in crash into Charlottesville crowd; 3 dead, 35 hurt

Published: Saturday, August 12, 2017 @ 5:00 PM
Updated: Sunday, August 13, 2017 @ 12:30 AM

Ohio man charged with plowing car into Virginia rally crowd

An Ohio man is accused of driving into a crowd of people, killing a 32-year-old Virginia woman and injuring 35 others.

  • Suspect identified as James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee
  • Fields faces second-degree murder, other charges
  • Woman killed is Heather Heyer of Virginia
  • 2 troopers die in helicopter crash linked to incident

UPDATE @ 12:30 a.m. (Aug. 13)

A woman who identified herself as the mother of James Alex Fields Jr. said she was aware her son was headed to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

Samantha Bloom said her son sent a text message last week that he had time off work and was going to the rally. Bloom told her son “to be careful” and peaceful, she said.

She and Fields had just moved to the Toledo area from Florence, Kentucky, not far from Cincinnati, she said.

RELATED: Wright State University men’s soccer team returns from Charlottesville, takes to the field

Fields is charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit and run attended failure to stop with injury, the Charlottesville Police Department announced Saturday. He is being held in the Albermarle-Charlottesville County Regional Jail for the deadly crash at Fourth and Water streets in the city that claimed the life of 32-year-old Heather Hayer and injured 35 others.

RELATED: 3 dead, 35 injured after ‘Unite the Right’ rally sparks violence in Charlottesville

On Saturday, Virginia State Police also connected the deaths of two troopers who died in a helicopter crash to the rally. Police said Lt. Jay Cullen and trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates were killed in the crash that happened outside Charlottesville a few hours after the car plowed into the group of people.

The organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville told the Associated Press that the man who drove into the group of counter-protesters “did the wrong thing.” He also criticized law enforcement’s response to the event and its ability to control chaos to allow free speech.

UPDATE @ 9:10 p.m.

A 20-year-old Ohio man is identified as the suspect who rammed a car into a crowd of people Saturday afternoon as they dispersed in Charlottesville.

The suspect is James Alex Fields Jr., of Maumee, Ohio, according to Superintendent Martin Kumer with the Albermarle-Charlottesville County Regional Jail, CNN reported. Fields is held on suspicion of second-degree murder, malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death, CNN reported.

A 32-year-old woman who was crossing the street was killed and 19 people were injured, the Associated Press confirmed with hospital officials.

The car allegedly driven by Fields around 2 p.m. plowed into the crowd of counter-protesters of the “Unite the Right” rally, which opposed the state’s decision to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Ohio plates on car that plowed Virginia crowd

FIRST REPORT

A car that plowed into a group of people Saturday afternoon after crowds dispersed in Charlottesville has Ohio plates.

One person was killed and 19 injured when the car that appears to be a gray Dodge Challenger with Ohio plates crashed into a crowd of protesters leaving a “Unite the Right” rally. Officials declared the rally an “unlawful assembly” and shut it down before it began because of clashes between protesters and counter-protesters.

Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into a large group of protesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The rally was to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)(AP)

The driver, whose name has not been released, is in custody, according to state officials.

The Ohio license plate shows a county code of 48 in the bottom left; this corresponds to Lucas County in northwest Ohio, according to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Toledo is the largest city in the county, which has a border with Lake Erie.

The protest was sparked by the state’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Former middle school PE teacher accused of molesting student

Published: Wednesday, August 16, 2017 @ 7:51 AM

Former Middle School PE Teacher Accused Of Molesting Student

A former Union County, Georgia, middle school physical education teacher was arrested on child molestation and sexual assault charges, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Monday.

>> Teacher accused of sex with student, having child with him 

Shawnetta D. Reece, 40, of Blairsville, allegedly was sexually involved with a 15-year-old student in 2013, according to a news release.

>> Alabama's teacher-student sex law is unconstitutional, judge rules

"The student was moving from the eighth grade into the ninth grade during this time," the news release said.

The GBI joined the Union County Sheriff’s Office investigation after recently learning of the alleged relationship

>> Read more trending news

Upon completion of the investigation, the case will be provided to the Enotah Judicial Circuit District Attorney for prosecution. 

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Teacher accused of sex with student, having child with him

Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2017 @ 2:15 AM

Teacher Accused Of Having Child With Student

A former Ohio schoolteacher is accused of having a sexual relationship with a student over a three-year period.

>> Watch the news report here

And according to an interview conducted with the boy’s father by WEWS-TV in Cleveland, the boy and teacher had a baby together.

>> Ex-'teacher of the year' gets 10 years in prison for hosting teen sex parties

Laura Lynn Cross, 36, has been indicted on three counts of sexual battery over a period allegedly spanning from Aug. 1, 2013, through Sept. 6, 2016. She was a teacher at Buchtel High School in Tallmadge, Ohio, just outside Akron.

>> Woman, 38, sentenced to prison time for sex with teen boys

The boy’s father told WEWS that he first went to Buchtel High School officials and Tallmadge police about the teacher in 2012, when his son was a freshman. But he said no charges were filed.

>> Teacher convicted of sex with student sues him for damaging her reputation

“First of all, she’s a schoolteacher,” the boy’s father said. “To get aroused by a child, basically, you have to be a sick individual.”

Cross quit teaching at the school in January 2015.

>> Florida teacher accused of sexually abusing, grooming 8 students

WEWS reported that Cross apparently convinced the boy’s mother, who had custody of her son, to allow the teen to move in with Cross through a court-approved “partial parental custody” arrangement. She reportedly convinced the mother that she could “mentor” the boy.

>> Teacher pleads guilty to sexual abuse of female student

Charges weren’t filed, however, until police learned that Cross and the boy allegedly had a baby together in 2015, WEWS reported. The boy’s father knew nothing about that until a tipster phoned him and asked him if he knew he was a grandfather, he said in the WEWS interview.

>> Alabama's teacher-student sex law is unconstitutional, judge rules

“It was a straight failure from the system,” said the boy’s father said. “From the school and … definitely [from the police].”

>> Read more trending news

An Akron School System spokesperson said the district was unaware of the case until a WEWS investigation alerted them, but said officials are now “doing [their] own internal investigation going back to 2012 to determine what exactly happened and when it happened.”

Cross has been jailed, and her bond has been set at $100,000.

'Safe injection' sites planned for drug users stir controversy, prompt petition

Published: Sunday, July 30, 2017 @ 2:40 AM
Updated: Sunday, July 30, 2017 @ 7:04 AM

What You Need To Know About Heroin

Last week, the supporters behind Initiative 27 to ban "safe injection" sites for drug users in King County, Washington, turned in more than enough signatures to have the measure put on the ballot. They’re pushing for the King County Council to put it on the November ballot so voters can weigh in before two approved safe injection sites open.

>> Watch the news report here

The King County Board of Health unanimously approved the recommendations of an Opioid Task Force to open two sites in King County where users can take any drugs. The locations haven’t been determined, but the plan is to open them by the end of the year.

“This petition is not about shaming the user,” said Joshua Freed of IMPACtion, the political action group behind the initiative. “What's neat about this initiative process is it's non-partisan. It's an idea you can get behind.”

Freed says more than 1,000 volunteers helped collect signatures since May. They turned in 69,245 signatures to the King County Clerk on Monday, a week ahead of the July 31st deadline. To get on the ballot, 47,000 verified signatures are needed.

The safe injection sites would be similar to the one in Vancouver, B.C. KIRO-TV traveled north to see how they work. Read the full story here.

>> On KIRO7.com: As Seattle considers 'safe injection' sites, how does it work in BC?

People are allowed to use any drugs, no questions asked. Health professionals and outreach workers ensure there are no overdoses and provide services and counseling. King County Health Officials touted the idea in a Facebook live video in June.

“There have been zero, zero overdose deaths in any of these facilities worldwide,” said Brad Finegood of the Heroin Addiction Task Force.

Freed emphasizes that they agree with most of the recommendations from the King County Opioid Task Force, just not injection sites.

“We see that as a facility that is enabling and encouraging people to use opioids,” said Freed. “Let's spend that money on treatment. Let's get people into beds that need the help and interim treatment.”

>> Read more trending news

Once the signatures are validated, the King County Council has 90 days to take action. They could as a council pass the initiative as written. They could re-write it and have their re-written initiative and this initiative on the ballot. Or they could put it on the ballot as is. 

Initiative 27 would go on the November or February ballot, and its supporters are pushing for November.

Questions still unanswered about Dayton police chief’s missing gun

Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2017 @ 8:15 PM


            Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl speaks at a police promotion ceremony. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF FILE
Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl speaks at a police promotion ceremony. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF FILE

Questions remain unanswered about the theft of Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl’s department-issued gun, as the city manager on Tuesday said the matter remains under criminal and administrative investigation.

The incident — which stripped Biehl of his service gun and other undisclosed personal and city-issued property — appears to have been reported the morning of July 28, according to a police report, but it is unclear if Biehl was the person who reported it.

MORE: Chief Biehl’s gun stolen

In a prepared statement, City Manager Shelly Dickstein said, “City leadership was made aware of the theft immediately following the incident.”

“In addition to the criminal investigation, an administrative/internal investigation is also being conducted,” Dickstein said, reiterating what the police department already disclosed Monday. “This is the standard procedure when city property is damaged and/or stolen.”

“Since the investigation began, city leadership has been kept apprised and briefed regularly,” she said. “As with any ongoing investigation, the city and/or police department will not make comments prior to the conclusion of both investigations.”

MORE: 19 guns were unaccounted for in Riverside police property room

The statement made no indication of discipline or support for Biehl, who declined through a spokeswoman to comment for this story.

Biehl’s name was not on the initial incident report, police spokeswoman Cara Zinski-Neace said, “because the City of Dayton is the owner of the property.”

Records released so far do not clarify where the theft occurred and whether the theft was from Biehl’s vehicle, house, person or office. Zinski-Neace said the report lists the address of the East Patrol Operations Division’s Wayne Avenue substation “in lieu of using an off-duty law enforcement officer’s address which, for safety purposes, is not subject to public release.”

The police department’s initial statement indicates the theft occurred “during a recent series of thefts in a Dayton neighborhood.”

MORE: Crime falling in Dayton: ‘We’re a safer city,’ police chief says

City officials have not said if the neighborhood referenced is Biehl’s own, but police records show four thefts from motor vehicles in Biehl’s northeast Dayton neighborhood for the week preceding the incident.

“There is currently no Dayton Police Department policy governing ‘keeping service weapons in city vehicles,’” Zinski-Neace said.

Biehl’s incident is not the first involving a Dayton police officer and the safekeeping of his firearm.

In November 2004, a Dayton Police officer left a Huber Heights Fricker’s restaurant at 12:30 a.m. and found his truck had been broken into, according to newspaper coverage at the time. A submachine gun, two rifles and a shotgun were taken from the SWAT officer and were eventually recovered. He did not face discipline — a lieutenant at the time called him “a crime victim” — but said he would buy a car with a trunk to better secure his gear.

In 2013, Wright State University’s then-police chief, Michael Martinsen, disciplined himself to four hours of firearm safety training after he left his service weapon in a restroom.

MORE: Details emerge in Wright State police chief case

Confronting gun violence has been central to Biehl’s career in Dayton and previously during his nearly 25 years in the Cincinnati Police Department.

In 2006, Biehl implemented a neighborhood gun violence reduction initiative called CeaseFire Cincinnati, according to his biography. Biehl joined Dayton police in January 2008 and has partnered with other agencies to introduce the Community Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence.

In March, Biehl announced a reorganization of the Dayton Police Department to create a Violent Crimes Bureau with a special unit that focuses on “group offenders” who drive gun violence as well as robbery offenses and all other gun offenses.

MORE: Violent Dayton gun crimes prompt police changes

Part 1 violent crimes — which include murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault — have declined by about 6 percent through the end of July, compared to the same period in 2016, according to police data.

There were 535 firearm-related crimes in Dayton in 2016, an increase of nearly 21 percent, according to police data. There were 111 gun-crimes that resulted in injuries, which was a small increase from 2015. Violent crimes not involving guns declined 11 percent in 2016.

In July, the Center for American Progress, a progressive policy research and advocacy organization, published a report analyzing federal data showing the frequency of gun theft. The report found an estimated 37,271 firearms were stolen in Ohio between 2012 and 2015 — an estimated $16.7 million worth of missing firearms.

Staff Writers Cornelius Frolik and Melisa Lyons contributed reporting.