Otto Warmbier dies from injuries sustained in N. Korea prison

Published: Thursday, June 15, 2017 @ 7:23 AM
Updated: Monday, June 19, 2017 @ 5:43 PM

Warmbier begs N. Korean panel for leniency

UPDATE @ 5:40 p.m.

President Donald J. Trump made the following statement regarding Warmbier’s death: `Bad things' happened in `brutal' North Korea but at least American died at home with parents.

UPDATE @ 5 p.m.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) issued the following statement on the passing of Otto Warmbier: 


"Otto Warmbier was such a promising young man. He was kind, generous and accomplished. He had all the talent you could ever ask for and a bright future ahead of him. His passing today is a loss for Ohio and for all of us. Jane and I are lifting up the Warmbier family in our prayers at this difficult time, and we are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this remarkable young Ohioan."

UPDATE @ 4:37 p.m. (June 19)

Otto Warmbier, 22, of Wyoming, Ohio, has died from injuries sustained during detainment in North Korea. 

University of Cincinnati Medical Center released a statement on behalf of Fred and Cindy Warmbier, Monday afternoon. 

“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20 p.m. 

It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost future time that won't be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds. But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. You can tell from the outpouring of emotion from the communities that he touched Wyoming, Ohio and the University of Virginia to name just two that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family. 

We would like to thank the wonderful professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who did everything they could for Otto. Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today. 

When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13th he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that. 

We thank everyone around the world who has kept him and our family in their thoughts and prayers. We are at peace and at home too.”

— Fred & Cindy Warmbier and Family


A southwest Ohio college student held captive by North Korea for more than a year — most of that time in a coma — was released this week. Here’s what we know today after Otto Warmbier’s father and doctors spoke Thursday: 

Extensive brain damage: Doctors said Warmbier, 22, shows no sign of understanding language nor has the ability to verbally respond. An MRI revealed “extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of the brain,” said Dr. Daniel Kanter of UC Health. Warmbier has spontaneous moments of eye opening but has neither spoken nor made any purposeful movements, according to doctors.

» RELATED: Doctors say Otto Warmbier has ‘extensive loss of brain tissue’ on return from N. Korea 

Kanter said Otto’s vital signs were stable upon arrival, his skin was in good condition and he was well nourished.

Father speaks: Fred Warmbier called the return of his son “bittersweet.” He is relieved his son is home but angry “that he was so brutally treated for so long.” Cindy Warmbier remains by her son’s side at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. 

Quiet diplomacy: New details emerged Thursday about the role of U.S. special envoy Joseph Yun in the release of Warmbier. Yun spoke and met secretly with North Korean counterparts in the months since President Donald Trump took office. Yun was the first to verify Warmbier’s condition during an extraordinarily rare visit to North Korea by a U.S. diplomat. 

» RELATED: US official's 'quiet diplomacy' led to Warmbier's release 

More on the story:

Arrives in U.S.: A small jet carrying Warmbier, 22, landed at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati on Tuesday night about 10:20 p.m.

In need of care: Warmbier is in a coma. News photos showed him with a tube in his nose being carried from the aircraft before he was taken by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for medical care.

» RELATED: US college student released by North Korea home, but in coma

Warmbier has been in a coma for “over a year now and urgently needs proper medical care,” said Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, who has been in touch with the Warmbier family and served periodically as a negotiator with the North Korean government.

Cincinnati-area man released from North Korea

‘Not in great shape’: Fred Warmbier discussed his son’s captivity with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Wednesday: "Otto is not in great shape right now," Fred Warmbier said. "Otto has been terrorized and brutalized for 18 months by a pariah regime in North Korea."

» RELATED: Family of freed student adjusting to 'different reality'

‘Repeatedly beaten’: The New York Times reports that a senior U.S. official said it was only in recent weeks that the “United States obtained intelligence reports indicating that Warmbier had been repeatedly beaten while in North Korean custody.”

Local ties: Warmbier is a 2013 graduate of Wyoming High School in Hamilton County where he was class salutatorian and played soccer. He is an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia. 

Charge of subversion: During a one-hour trial in March 2016, North Korea’s highest court sentenced Warmbier to 15 years in prison with hard labor for subversion after he tearfully confessed that he had tried to steal a propaganda banner. 

Government intervention: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement Tuesday reading: “At the direction of the President, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea.”

North Korea statement: North Korea said in a one-line statement it released Warmbier for what it calls humanitarian reasons. In the country’s first official comment since Warmbier’s return, the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Thursday said Otto Warmbier had been sentenced to hard labor but didn't comment on his medical condition.

» RELATED: Rodman's N. Korea trip off to uncharacteristic low-key start

Flight path home: According to The New York Times, people close to the negotiations said Warmbier was flown to Japan and then Alaska before arriving in Cincinnati. 

Others held: The State Department continues to have discussions with North Korea about three other detained Americans. 

Another Ohioan previously held by North Korea: Warmbier is the second southwest Ohio resident to be held captive and released by North Korea in the past three years. Moraine resident Jeff Fowle was detained for six months after leaving a Bible in a nightclub, considered a crime in North Korea. He was was released in 2014.

The Associated Press and New York Times contributed to this report.

» RELATED: 3 things we learned when North Korea detained a local man

» RELATED: Freed captive explains his secret Bible plan

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Perilous times for historically black colleges

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 12:23 PM

A half-empty classroom at Paine College in Augusta. Many HBCUs are flourishing, but tiny Paine is facing serious problems, including an enrollment decline of nearly 50 percent from 2010 to 2015.
Chris Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A half-empty classroom at Paine College in Augusta. Many HBCUs are flourishing, but tiny Paine is facing serious problems, including an enrollment decline of nearly 50 percent from 2010 to 2015.(Chris Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Two years ago, Amelia Smith received the one thing she thought she always wanted – a blue envelope from Spelman College. She had been accepted to what many consider the finest black college in America.

>> Read more trending news

Her grandmother went to Spelman. So did her mother. And her aunt. And her sister, who’s a senior there now. So Smith wasn’t surprised when she was accepted, too. 

She is just wrapping up her sophomore year. But not at Spelman. She’s studying biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech. 

“I am kind of the black sheep in the family,” Smith said. “When I got accepted into Tech, I felt very proud of myself. My grandmother (a dean at Fort Valley State University) was very proud of me. She said if she had had the opportunity to go to Tech when she was choosing a college, she would have gone. But she never got that chance.”

To read the complete story, visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Neon sign sparks small fire outside Quincy’s in Dayton

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 4:58 AM
Updated: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 5:16 AM

A neon sign caught fire outside of the restaurant at 865 North Main Street around 3:30 a.m., according to our first responder.

A neon sign caught fire early this morning outside Quincy’s restaurant.

Crews were called around 3:30 a.m. to 865 N. Main St. The road was closed at Miami Boulevard for a few hours as Dayton fire crews were on scene.

>>17-year-old arrested in death of Dayton mother shot in front of 2 children

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Here comes more rain: Severe weather with strong winds, flooding possible

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 2:01 PM

            More rain is expected in the region tonight increasing the chances of flooding.
More rain is expected in the region tonight increasing the chances of flooding.

The Miami Valley region is under a flood watch until 10 a.m. Sunday, and strong winds are possible that could down trees and knock out power to local residents.

A good chunk of the region has a “marginal risk” for severe weather, including near U.S. 36 north of Troy and the area stretching from the city of Dayton to Xenia and Springfield, said McCall Vrydaghs, WHIO-TV meteorologist.

“There are concerns of damaging winds and the threat for flooding,” she said.

The areas most prone to this flooding will be along creeks and streams and low-lying properties, she said.

RELATED: Flood watch, advisory in effect: heavy rain throughout the day

There are a few locations along the Great Miami river that are at risk as well, including Troy and Sidney, where some roads close by may be overtaken by water, Vrydaghs said.

“Both of these locations are projected to reach their crest stage (highest water level) Sunday afternoon before receding,” she said.

The ground is saturated from recent rainfall, meaning more rain could flood people’s basements and overrun storm sewer systems.

There could be between 1 to 2 inches of rainfall in the next 12 to 24 hours, Vrydaghs said.

At 12:30 p.m. today, the river level at Dayton was about five feet above normal for this time of year, said Brenda Gibson, public relations manager for the Miami Conservancy District.

The Englewood dam is the only one of the five dry dams that is currently storing water in the system, but all would go into storage if there is 1 and a half to 2 inches of rain, she said.

But Gibson said they do not anticipate any flooding in the area’s protected by the district’s dams and levies because the system is designed to handle the 1913 Great Flood, plus 40 percent more water.

“The system we have of dams and levies is designed to handle about 14 inches in 72 hours,” she said. “This could be a medium-sized event, depending on what happens.”

There also could be strong wind gusts tonight, reaching speeds of between 40 to 50 mph, which could lead to downed electric lines and sporadic power outages.

Rain and thunderstorms may start to develop around 7 or 8 tonight, and they are expected to ramp up past the 9 p.m. hour.

The rain looks to start tapering by 11 p.m., but the most intense winds may move in right around that time.

Showers are expected to come to an end by 5:30 a.m., Sunday as the cold front passes on.

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School expert: How to help at-risk students and know where ‘the line’ is

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 12:09 PM

Susan Austin (right) and Jen Volk of Shaw Elementary say the PAX program boosts their classrooms

Schools aiming to minimize violent incidents should teach students and staff how to reach out to at-risk students, as well identify which types of warning signs are most serious, an Ohio school psychologist says.

Local schools have fortified doors, added cameras and in some cases armed staff in recent years, but Erich Merkle, past president of the Ohio School Psychologists Association, said interpersonal work is critically important to school safety.

At-risk students

Merkle encouraged students and school staff to reach out to three groups of students specifically – those who are marginalized, bullied or disconnected from the school society; those who are having academic and significant behavioral problems; and those who have gone through some painful, life-changing event.

RELATED: Schools focus on behavior management plans

“There is a fairly consistent set of features from these active shooter situations,” Merkle said. “These are kids that typically are marginalized. They may be bullied or tormented. They are outliers, not part of major social groups.”

He cautioned that plenty of students fit those profiles without having outbursts. But he encouraged schools to try to bring those students into the larger social group of the school and help them build connections rather than letting them be mocked or ostracized.

Merkle said obvious signs – clear threats in person or on social media, or a spate of behavioral incidents – should be dealt with immediately. He pointed to Akron schools’ threat assessment matrix, which includes flow charts for clear steps to take depending on the severity of the issue.

RELATED: Threats rock local schools; four arrests made

And he encouraged schools not to get lost solely in the discipline side of such cases, instead making sure that counseling or mental health angles are explored so the root causes can be addressed.

“Students finally reach a point where they’re not able to deal with it, and they emotionally react,” Merkle said.

He added that while there is value to school safety drills, school psychologists worry about the impact that intense active-shooter drills can have on young students. He urged schools to give kids a chance to talk about and process those events after they happen.

To report or not report

Many schools repeat the safety mantra, “If you see something, say something.” But one of the hardest things for students to do is decide whether they should report a certain behavior or comment to school officials – especially when it came from a friend or teammate.

Merkle said schools have to establish that it’s OK to let somebody know what’s going on if you’re concerned about a person’s welfare. He said schools that use the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports system (PBIS) try to build that culture on a regular basis, not just when there’s an incident.

RELATED: Frustrated students plan walkout protests

But there’s still that question – where’s the line? Merkle said that decision involves determining the seriousness and specificity of the comment, and the ability and resources of a person to carry it out. He advised starting a threat assessment anytime there is a threat of “death, disfigurement or intractable pain, suffering or harm.”

“You do hear all the time – I’m gonna kill him, or I could just kill him,” Merkle said. “That does imply death, but the next question is, does this person have the capacity and resources to pull it off. If a kindergartener says I’m going to blow up Ms. Jones’ house, more than likely, they don’t have the capacity or resources to do it. But when a high schooler says, I’m going to jump Ms. Jones, key up her car and choke her, now there is an impending sense that this actually could occur.”

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