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Student held in Alabama school shooting that killed 17-year-old girl

Published: Thursday, March 08, 2018 @ 11:58 AM

Student In Custody In Alleged Alabama School Shooting That Killed 17-Year-Old Girl

A 17-year-old student has been taken into custody in connection with a Wednesday afternoon shooting at an Alabama high school that left one girl dead. 

Birmingham police officials have not named the student, but they issued a statement Thursday morning that gave scant information on the investigation into the shooting at Huffman High School that left Courtlin La’shawn Arrington, also 17, dead. 

“Detectives of the Birmingham Police Department have been working through the night reviewing evidence, video and statements on the tragic incident that took place at Huffman High School yesterday,” read the statement, obtained by “Due to their diligent work, a person of interest has been taken into custody.”

The shooting took place around 3:45 p.m., during afternoon dismissal. Arrington, who reported received CPR at the scene, was taken to UAB Hospital, where she was pronounced dead about 30 minutes later. 

Charges are pending a review by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, the statement read. Because no charges have been filed, the department will not release information on the person in custody. reported that, although police officials initially reported that the shooting appeared to be accidental, that classification came into question when it was discovered that the shooting was caught on video.

The video led investigators to pursue charges against the student, a boy who suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the leg in the incident, said. He was treated and released from an emergency room before being taken in for questioning. 

Arrington, who was due to graduate in two months, planned to study nursing. Her Facebook page includes an introduction that reads, “SEN18R. Dream come true, gotta chase it. Future RN.”

Her last photo that she posted of herself appeared to be taken in the hallway of the school. It was posted the day before she was killed. 

Her photos also include images of her wearing scrubs. 

During a news conference held inside the school Wednesday night, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin spoke of the grief of losing a girl with a bright future. 

“I know that there’s an active investigation going on, but I just want to remind all of us we lost a person today, and not just a person, a student,” Woodfin said. “But I’m quickly reminded this is not just a student, this is someone’s daughter. Someone’s niece. Someone’s best friend. Someone’s granddaughter we lost. 

“This is a 17-year-old who, 30 days from now, would be 18. A graduating senior who had been accepted into college already, who had aspirations and dreams to be a nurse. So, we’re not just talking about some person. We’re talking about losing a part of our future. And our hearts are heavy.”

Birmingham police Chief Orlando Wilson offered condolences to the families of both teens, who at the time of the news conference were both classified as victims. 

“We have an ongoing investigation. With that investigation, we are going to sort out the information as it comes,” Wilson said. “Wherever (that information) takes us, then we’ll act accordingly. Right now, we have a lot of unanswered questions.”

Wilson choked up when asked about the task of telling a parent that their child was killed at school, where students are supposed to be safe. 

“The best I can say is that’s a hard one, and we had to do it,” Wilson said after pausing to collect his thoughts. “It has been done. That parent now knows what happened to their child.”

He paused again before shaking his head.

“I don’t know how you tell a parent,” Wilson said. 

Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring spoke about losing two of the city’s students, Arrington to her wounds and the other teen to the consequences of the shooting. 

“Our goal is to reassure our parents that, as much as we can, we’ll work to keep our schools safe,” Herring said. “But our hearts and our minds are on the families tonight.”

Herring questioned how school district officials can reassure parents, faculty and students that a school is safe following a shooting inside its walls, but said she and her staff would work to do so every day, including heightening security at Huffman and the city’s other 40-plus public schools. 

She also praised the response of Huffman’s administrators, faculty and staff. 

“Our principal and the staff here at Huffman High School, for as much as they have been able to tackle a very difficult day, have done an exceptional job of trying to provide care and concern for those who were in the building and those who exited out,” Herring said.  

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Though Herring initially said that the school would be open Thursday, and that a crisis team would be on hand to help students and staff through the day, district officials announced just before midnight that the school would be closed instead. 

“The magnitude of this event causes us to pause. I have decided to close Huffman High School tomorrow for students and staff,” Herring said in a statement. “This delay will provide us an opportunity to provide a thorough safety sweep of the school. This will also allow us to coordinate with organizations in the community to provide counseling support to both students and staff. 

“During this time, we will continue to collaborate with the chief of police and the Birmingham Police Department to implement additional safety precautions and provide additional police presence at the school when students return. We want to assure our parents, students, staff and community that safety and security are a top priority for Birmingham City Schools.”

Woodfin also ordered the flags at city facilities be flown at half-staff in mourning. 

The mayor said during Wednesday night’s news conference that it is important the public mourn with Arrington’s family and wrap its collective arms around the Huffman High School community. 

“The Birmingham City Schools system and our entire Birmingham community is in mourning and grief right now,” Woodfin said. 

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Keyless ignitions may be contributing to deaths across the United States

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 11:34 PM

(Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)
(Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)

Constance Petot didn't think twice about the push button starter on her car until it almost killed her and her toddler last Valentine's Day.

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"He just went completely limp in my arms. It's the most terrifying moment in my entire life," said Petot.

The busy mom was ending her work day with a conference call as she was pulling into the garage of her parents' Florida home, where she was staying.

"As I came in I wanted the garage door to be closed when the conference call started so I went ahead and pushed the button to close the door," Petot said. "And I think in my head I just told myself I had pushed this button instead of that button."

The mistake sent carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas, flooding through their home as she got 13-month-old Parker ready for bed.

The car was still on after Petot left the garage.

"My son woke up around 12:30 a.m. and was screaming," Petot recalls.

She got out of bed to pick him up.

Petot thinks her son, Parker, may have had a headache because she now knows the level of carbon monoxide at the time was high enough to have killed them within about 20 minutes.

"Once I got dizzy, I knew I needed to get out of there," Petot said. "And walked down the stairs, opened the garage door and saw that the taillight was on."

A WSB-TV investigation has tracked more than two dozen injuries and deaths around the country connected to cars with keyless ignitions being left on, with families left wondering how this could happen.

Cars with keyless ignition have no key and are designed to start with the push of a button. But it is also easier to forget to turn off the car.

The family of Bill Thomason and Eugenia (Woo) Thomason say the couple likely never realized their mistake. Their Toyota Avalon ran inside their closed garage for 32 hours as they slept.

"We know that they went to bed that night and didn't wake up the next morning," said Will Thomason, who now lives in Atlanta.

His brother Dave Thomason also lives in the metro area, and they both rushed to Greenville, South Carolina, to get to their parents, but it was too late.

"By the time they were found they were essentially brain dead," said Will Thomason. "You can't prepare for something like this."

The sons say the active retirees had just renewed their wedding vows after 50 years and adored their five grandchildren, who they won't get to see grow up.

"Oh, it's been just absolutely terrible," said Dave Thomason. "We all know that people can get killed in car accidents due to different things, but a car sitting alone, basically doing nothing but running?"

The brothers said their pain is worsened by the number of times they've now heard the same story, with reported deaths and injuries connected to running cars around the country.

The Thomason family has filed a lawsuit against Toyota, which has already settled with several of the other families.

"Hell yeah, that makes me angry. I mean, we've lost our parents," said Will Thomason.

"Nobody is in the car, it's been running for however long. The car should have an automatic cutoff. I mean, to me that's a very easy fix," said Dave Thomason.

Records show since 2011 the federal government has been studying the need for an external alert to be placed on cars that have button ignitions, but has yet to require car companies to do anything to include an external alert.

"There's probably 25 other things that car makers do ... for safety. Well, this is a life and death safety thing and it seems to me that this is an easy thing for them to address, and they aren't addressing it," Will Thomason said.

WSB-TV tested more than a dozen of the most popular cars to see what happens when you leave them running and walk away with the key fob.

Most of the cars had a dashboard display that notes that the key fob has left the vehicle. Some even emit a low interior sound, similar to the one that reminds drivers to fasten their seat belts. 

However, if a driver has left the vehicle, he or she wouldn't see that display or hear that warning. Very few of the cars made an exterior noise.

The loudest warning came from the Chevy Impala, which utilizes the car's horn.

Petot didn't hear the three low beeps her car made and she's lived with the guilt ever since.

"I absolutely take responsibility for what happened," she said. "And I think that it could happen to anybody."

But she said the price for being distracted or forgetful should not be death.

"We were incredibly lucky. We absolutely wouldn't be here," Petot said while watching Parker play in their new Marietta home. "He is definitely my little hero Valentine."

Petot said the day they moved in to their new home she purchased carbon monoxide detectors for each of the rooms.

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Red Ink Rising – National debt goes over $21 trillion

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 8:44 PM

A week after the feds announced the largest budget deficit in February in six years, the national debt edged over $21 trillion for the first time ever on Monday, as budget experts argue the U.S. is on a track that will likely again feature yearly deficits of $1 trillion, a level reached only during the Obama Administration.

“This is unsustainable,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI).

The $21 trillion debt milestone was hit as lawmakers in Congress were trying to place the finishing touches on a giant Omnibus funding bill which will increase deficits by well over $100 billion in 2018, because of extra spending approved for both domestic and defense accounts.

Even before that, budget watchdogs were warning of a new tide of red ink in the Trump Administration.

“Thanks to the recent budget-busting tax cuts and spending deal, the national debt is skyrocketing and on an unsustainable course,” said Maya MacGuineas, head of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

The February budget numbers had two main reasons why the monthly deficit jumped to $215 billion – up from $192 billion in 2017 – less revenue coming in to Uncle Sam, and more spending.

Tax revenues were $155 billion in February, down from $171 billion a year ago.

While deficits are heading back up, there’s no hint of action in the Congress on any plan to restrain spending, though only a handful GOP lawmakers publicly grumbled about the situation, as they waited to see what exactly was in the Omnibus.

But the Omnibus has become almost a normal spending tool for Congress, unable to get through the dozen yearly spending bills on time.

For the current 2018 Fiscal Year, lawmakers were supposed to have finished 12 funding measures by October 1 of last year – but that spending work has only been completed on time in four of the last 43 years – one reason there are calls to overhaul the system.

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Confessed Parkland school shooter’s brother arrested for allegedly trespassing at Stoneman Douglas

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 8:40 PM

West Boca High School students walked to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl., February 20, 2018. 
Melanie Bell / The Palm Beach Post
West Boca High School students walked to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl., February 20, 2018. (Melanie Bell / The Palm Beach Post)

The brother of confessed school shooter Nikolas Cruz was arrested Monday afternoon for trespassing on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas campus in Parkland, according to the Broward County Sheriff’ Office. 

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Zachary Cruz, 18, told deputies he went to the campus to “reflect on the school shooting and soak it in,” according to the arrest report. 

The sheriff’s office said he rode his skateboard through the campus, passing all locked doors and gates. Deputies said he was previously warned by school officials to stay away from the campus. 

The Worst School Shootings in US History

The sheriff’s office said Zachary Cruz has no connections to Broward County at this time. Before the shootings, he lived with his brother and family friend, Rocxanne Deschamps, in a Lantana-area mobile home. 

>> Related: Florida school shooting timeline: Seven minutes, three floors and 17 dead

Nikolas Cruz, 19, is charged in a 34-count indictment with killing 17 people and wounding 17 others. He is being held without bail at the Broward County Jail after the Feb. 14 school shooting that left 14 students and three adults dead. 

After the fatal shootings, Zachary Cruz was put under a mental-health evaluation. He told investigators that as he drove home with Deschamps after he heard about the shootings he said, "I don't want to be alive. I don't want to deal with this stuff."

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He has denied wanting either to kill or harm himself. 

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Latest Austin explosion has experts tweaking bomber profile

Published: Monday, March 19, 2018 @ 9:30 PM

Austin Mayor Steve Adler talks to reporters in the Travis Country neighborhood on Monday after a bomb exploded seriously injured two men. 
Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman
Austin Mayor Steve Adler talks to reporters in the Travis Country neighborhood on Monday after a bomb exploded seriously injured two men. (Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman)

Law enforcement and others seeking clues into the mind of what now appears to be a serial bomber say the latest explosive incident on Sunday night, the city’s fourth over 17 days, provided more trail crumbs than definitive signposts pointing toward a potential suspect.

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Austin interim Police Chief Brian Manley has said preliminary indications are that the newest bomb is similar enough in construction to be connected to the previous three. That doesn’t necessarily mean all were manufactured and planted by the same person.

But if that does turn out to be the case, experts said, the latest attack would slightly alter their profile of the serial bomber’s methods and motive.

Police on Monday said it appears as though a trip wire was used to trigger the latest blast in Southwest Austin, revealing two new important pieces of information about the bomber.

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The first is that the new form of detonation indicates the person making the explosive has a higher level of skill or sophistication, said Fred Milanowski, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ special agent in charge of the Houston field division.

The earlier bombs, which were hidden in packages, appear to have been detonated by movement devices, which would complete a circuit when the package was lifted or tilted, experts said. The latest incident means that investigators now must contemplate a bomber capable of using multiple methods to start an explosion, perhaps even by timer or remote control.

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A trip wire, which typically works by stringing a taut string across a pathway, detonates a bomb when a person pushes into it. Stringing a wire across or near a route used by multiple people could introduce a new element of randomness to the attacks, said James R. Fitzgerald, a former FBI profiler who worked on the Unabomber case.

Employing a detonating device that doesn’t target any particular person would indicate a dangerous capriciousness and callousness, he said — the bomber “wants to strike out at some perceived wrong, and anyone 

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By mixing his targets — from specific people who receive a package on their porch to anyone who stumbles by — the bomber could be trying to spread general fear and unease throughout the city, Fitzgerald said.

Or he might be purposefully trying to distract from his real intention.

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>> Related: BACKGROUND: Bombs in Austin attacks constructed from readily available materials

That was the case when, in December 1989, an Atlanta attorney named Robert Robertson was killed when he opened a brown package he received at home. Investigators at first thought his death was connected to a virtually identical fatal bomb detonated at the house of federal Judge Robert Vance two days earlier. But they later learned Walter Moody had killed Robertson as misdirection.

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