Paris police shot on Champs-Elysees; IS group claims attack

Published: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 3:37 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 3:35 PM


            Bystanders raise their arms as police seal off the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris, France, after a fatal shooting in which a police officer was killed along with an attacker, Thursday, April 20, 2017. French media are reporting that two police officers were shot Thursday on the famed shopping boulevard. Many police vehicles can be seen on the avenue that passes many of the city's most iconic landmarks. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

A gunman opened fire on police on Paris' iconic Champs-Elysees boulevard Thursday night, killing one officer and wounding three people before police shot and killed him. The Islamic State group quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, which hit just three days before a tense presidential election.

Security already has been a dominant theme in the campaign, and the violence on the sparkling avenue threatened to weigh on voters' decisions. Candidates canceled or rescheduled final campaign events ahead of Sunday's first round vote.

Investigators searched a home early Friday in an eastern suburb of Paris believed linked to the attack. A police document obtained by The Associated Press identifies the address searched in the town of Chelles as the family home of Karim Cheurfi, a 39-year-old with a criminal record.

Police tape surrounded the quiet, middle-class neighborhood in Chelles, and worried neighbors expressed surprise at the searches. Archive reports by French newspaper Le Parisien say that Cheurfi was convicted of attacking a police officer in 2001.

Authorities are trying to determine whether "one or more people" might have helped the attacker, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told reporters at the scene of the shooting.

One officer was killed and two police officers were seriously wounded when the attacker emerged from a car and used an automatic weapon to shoot at officers outside a Marks & Spencer's department store at the center of the Champs-Elysees, anti-terrorism prosecutor Francois Molins said.

A female foreign tourist also was wounded, Molins said.

The Islamic State group's claim of responsibility just a few hours after the attack came unusually swiftly for the extremist group, which has been losing territory in Iraq and Syria.

In a statement from its Amaq news agency, the group gave a pseudonym for the shooter, Abu Yusuf al-Beljiki, indicating he was Belgian or had lived in Belgium. Belgian authorities said they had no information about the suspect. IS described the shootings as an attack "in the heart of Paris."

The attacker had been flagged as an extremist, according to two police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the investigation.

Brandet said officers were "deliberately" targeted, as has happened repeatedly to French security forces in recent years, including preceding the 2012 election.

Police and soldiers sealed off the area, ordering tourists back into hotels and blocking people from approaching the scene.

Emergency vehicles blocked the wide Champs-Elysees, an avenue lined with boutiques and normally packed with cars and tourists that cuts across central Paris between the Arc de Triomphe and the Tuileries Gardens. Subway stations were closed off.

The gunfire sent scores of tourists fleeing into side streets.

"They were running, running," said 55-year-old Badi Ftaïti, who lives in the area. "Some were crying. There were tens, maybe even hundreds of them."

French President Francois Hollande said he was convinced the circumstances of the attack in a country pointed to a terrorist act. Hollande held an emergency meeting with the prime minister Thursday night and planned to convene the defense council Friday morning.

The incident recalled two recent attacks on soldiers providing security at prominent locations around Paris: one at the Louvre museum in February and one at Orly airport last month.

Speaking in Washington during a news conference with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, U.S. President Donald Trump said the shooting "looks like another terrorist attack" and sent condolences to France.

A French television station hosting an event with the 11 candidates running for president briefly interrupted its broadcast to report the shootings.

Conservative contender Francois Fillon, who has campaigned against "Islamic totalitarianism," said on France 2 television that he was canceling his planned campaign stops Friday.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who campaigns against immigration and Islamic fundamentalism, took to Twitter to offer her sympathy for law enforcement officers "once again targeted." She canceled a minor campaign stop, but scheduled another.

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron offered his thoughts to the family of the dead officer.

Socialist Benoit Hamon tweeted his "full support" to police against terrorism.

The two top finishers in Sunday's election will advance to a runoff on May 7.

___

Associated Press Writers Angela Charlton and Raphael Satter in Paris, Jeff Schaeffer and Nadine Achoui-Lesage in Chelles, France, and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.

10-year-old boy with autism arrested at school

Published: Sunday, April 23, 2017 @ 1:54 AM

Child arrested (stock photo)
jabejon/Getty Images

Luanne Haygood, the mother of a 10-year-old boy with autism, is angry that her son was arrested earlier this month at his Florida school for allegedly punching and kicking his teacher six months ago. Okeechobee County school resource officers put the child in handcuffs at Okeechobee Achievement Academy, but Haygood said the school district isn’t properly equipped to deal with autistic children.

“He has autism. He doesn’t know what’s going on,” she can be heard saying in the video that she recorded of her son’s arrest. “He’s scared to death. He’s 10 years old.”

>> Watch Haygood's video here (WARNING: Viewer discretion advised)

Haygood watched as her son was removed from his classroom for allegedly leaving a paraprofessional with scratches and other marks back in October. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant on allegations of felony battery on a school board authority.

“I was extremely angry. That I felt like this was a power play. I felt like this was a this is what you get. You can’t do anything about it. We’re going to arrest your son if he can’t abide by the rules,” Haygood told WFOR, adding that her son's disability is the reason behind his behavior. “To go and have him arrested on school grounds in front of other students, in front of personnel, during school hours – they could’ve come to my house at any time to tell me what was going on.”

>> Read more trending news

The boy reportedly spent one night in juvenile detention, according to the Washington Post. The child was then released on house arrest and is expected to appear in court next month.

Haygood said the incident would never have happened if the school had the proper services to address his disability.

“I want something done," she told WFOR. "I want other kids to not have to go through this.”

According to CNN, the school district released the following statement:

"It has been district procedure to invite students in to take the Florida Standards Assessment. The district would not invite someone to one of our campuses for the sole purpose to arrest.

"The district routinely assists students by providing services from our board certified behavioral analyst, licensed mental health counselors, school social workers, and psychologists. As a team, these individuals develop interventions, conduct assessments, and offer support both at school and in the home in order to assist students and families.

"The district is unable to provide specific information as to both current and past incidents regarding this or any other student due to educational laws and rules. It is our hope that we can continue to work with all families to help their students improve both behaviorally and academically."

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

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Rare, 400-pound crocodile gets surgery at Florida zoo

Published: Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 6:43 PM

A crocodile. (Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

A 13-year-old Orinoco crocodile was taken into surgery at the Zoo Hospital in Miami on Friday to treat an infected wound.

A team of zoo staff veterinarians operated on the croc’s left wrist when “something, probably another cranky crocodile, took a bite out of it,” the Miami Herald reports.

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Orinoco crocodiles are a rare, endangered species that reside in fresh-water areas of the Orinoco River in Colombia and Venezuela, the zoo told the Herald. They can grow up to 15 feet long.

The zoo’s 10-foot reptile resides at the “Amazon and Beyond” exhibit, according to the Herald. Veterinarians did routine screenings before operating on the crocodile, which included X-rays and blood tests.

The nearly 400-pound crocodile is currently recovering at the hospital and will remain there for a few days until the wound heals. 

Hernandez family thankful for condolences, asks for privacy at funeral

Published: Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 5:36 PM

Aaron Hernandez's fiancee Shayanna Jenkins. (Photo: WFXT)

The body of former football star and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez will be moved to a funeral home in Connecticut this weekend, just days after he apparently took his own life in jail. 

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His family sent a statement Saturday, thanking the public for offering condolences and complying with the family’s request for privacy:

"The family of Aaron Hernandez wishes to thank all of you for the thoughtful expressions of condolences. We wish to say goodbye to Aaron in a private ceremony and thank everyone in advance for affording us a measure of privacy during this difficult time."

The family wishes to remain private during the funeral, to which the media will not be allowed.

Hernandez’s body was taken from Massachusetts to the O’Brien Funeral Home in Bristol, Connecticut.

Earth Day 2017 prompts global #MarchForScience movement

Published: Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 8:44 AM

Earth Day 2017 will focus on the importance of science.

The March for Science movement is holding events around the globe to emphasize how important science is to mankind.

According to the March for Science’s Twitter profile, the organization “champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.”

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The Trump administration’s proposed cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency and executive orders targeting environmental regulations has sparked the March for Science movement into action.

Marches are taking place at major cities around the world, including Washington, D.C.