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‘Captive’ Ashley Smith Describes Being Held by Escaped Courthouse Shooter for 7 Hours

Paul Zimmerman/WireImage(NEW YORK) — For Ashley Smith, March 11, 2005, was just like any other day in Georgia.

But early the next day, Smith became the captive of escaped convict Brian Nichols for seven of the 26 hours he was on the run.

More than 10 years later, Smith, then 26, is reliving the seven-hour ordeal that changed her life in the new movie, “Captive.”

“Honestly, the first time I saw it, I didn’t think much because I lived it and thought you can’t get much more emotional than that. But when I saw it with my daughter — the first scene — next to me, I asked for a box of tissues,” Smith, now 37, told ABC News’ “Nightline.” “Each time I watch it, I cry, or grip the edge of my seat with suspense, and I already know what happens.”

In March 2005, Smith, who is portrayed by actress Kate Mara, was a recovering meth addict, who lived alone and worked as a waitress. She lost custody of her 5-year-old daughter Paige after the murder of her husband years earlier.

“I thought what I did was so bad God wouldn’t love me. But I really believe that’s why I stayed addicted. [It] was because I thought I was too bad,” Smith said.

For 26 hours, the city of Atlanta was on lockdown after defendant Brian Nichols, who was standing trial at Fulton County Courthouse for rape, overpowered a courthouse deputy, beat her unconscious and took her gun on March 11, 2005. The beating was so severe that the deputy was left with permanent brain damage.

Nichols, who is portrayed by actor David Oyelowo, then went on a rampage, shooting and killing the judge and a court stenographer. During his getaway, Nichols gunned down another law enforcement officer and seemed to have vanished. While on the run, he shot and killed a plain clothes ICE agent.

Meanwhile, Smith, oblivious to the manhunt, was unpacking at her new apartment at a complex in Duluth, Georgia. Around 2 a.m. on March 12, 2005, she went out for cigarettes and noticed a man parked in a pickup truck, who was still there minutes later when she returned.

The man, Nichols, put a gun to her back and pushed his way into her apartment, Smith told ABC News in an interview.

The seven hours Smith and Nichols spent together is brought to life in the film “Captive,” which is based largely on Ashley’s recollection from her book, “Unlikely Angel.”

“She’s always been very, very open about talking about that point in her life and very, very unashamed,” Kate Mara told “Nightline.” “I was attracted to playing this person. I’ve never played any character like it before.”

“The thing I really walked away with having played Brian is a great deal of thankfulness,” David Oyelowo told “Nightline.” “For me personally, standing in his shoes momentarily, I guess in a different world, under different circumstances, I could be him.”

In one powerful scene from the movie, Nichols tried to force Smith to take her own meth along with …read more […]

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Arizona Governor Announces Arrest in Freeway Shooting Spree

iStock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) — An arrest has been made in connection with a string of shootings in Arizona.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s office announced Friday night that a SWAT team was in custody of the individual suspected of the I-10 shootings in Phoenix, Arizona.

“Great work by @Arizona_DPS investigators and SWAT team. Investigation remains ongoing,” tweeted the governor.

There have been 11 confirmed attacks targeting vehicles on the freeway since late August. Only one person was injured, a teenager who was cut by broken glass.

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Alligator Steals Pet Pot-Bellied Pig’s Bagel in Florida

Georgina Miller(JUPITER FARMS, Fla.) — A woman’s pet pot-bellied pig recently had a close encounter with an alligator in her Jupiter Farms, Florida, yard.

The woman, Georgina Miller, filmed the incredible moment the gator stole a bagel she was feeding to her pig, Penelope, ABC News affiliate WPBF-TV reported.

Just before Penelope took a bite, the gator surfaced above the water surrounding her flooded yard and snatched the bagel, the video shows. Penelope can then be seen snorting, wagged her tail and then backing up as the gator swims away with the bagel in its mouth.

Miller told WPBF that her yard had been flooded from recent heavy rain and that the gator may have come from a nearby canal.

She didn’t immediately respond to ABC News’ calls for additional comment on the close encounter.

One thing’s for sure, thought, Penelope is lucky the gator chose the bagel rather than her.

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Go For a Ride in a Hot Air Balloon

Jason Hupe(GLENS FALLS, N.Y.) — Who knew hot air could be so cool?

ABC News got to take a ride on a hot air balloon ahead of the Adirondack Balloon Festival, the largest and oldest balloon event on the East Coast, according to its organizers.

The balloon is one of the 100 that will be flying over the weekend as part of the event, in its 43rd year, in Glens Falls, New York.

Volunteers run the event, and an estimated 150,000 people will visit over the four-day festival.

Pilots manning the balloons are from all over the country, and also include ones from Canada and Japan. While the festival is free, rides range from roughly $175-225 per person. They take place just after sunrise or right before sunset.

Starting this weekend, the event location moves to Floyd Bennett Memorial Airport.

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Three of ‘Elkhart 4’ Have Felony Murder Conviction Reversed

ABC News(ELKHART, Ind.) — Three of the four Indiana men, who became known as the “Elkhart Four” after they were given decades-long prison sentences in a highly controversial felony murder case, had their murder convictions overturned on Friday.

Blake Layman, now 18, Levi Sparks and Anthony Sharp, both now 20, and Jose Quiroz, now 19, became known as the Elkhart Four when they were charged in 2012 with felony murder after they broke into a home in Elkhart, Indiana, and the homeowner shot and killed their accomplice, 21-year-old Danzele Johnson.

Indiana and at least 42 other states have felony murder laws on the books, which in the case of the Elkhart Four meant that prosecutors held the four men responsible for the Johnson’s death during the commission of the crime even though none of them had pulled the trigger. However, prosecutors did not charge them with burglary.

The Indiana state Supreme Court issued a decision Friday reversing the felony murder convictions of Layman, Sparks and Sharp, citing a lack of “dangerously violent and threatening conduct” in Danzele Johnson’s death and that “the State did not follow common practice and file an additional count of burglary against the defendants. It chose instead to file a single count of felony murder in the perpetration of a burglary.”

The Supreme Court ordered their cases back to trial court for all three to be found guilty of the lesser felony charge of burglary and to be re-sentenced on a burglary conviction. A sentencing date for the three men has not been set.

ABC News Nightline first profiled the “Elkhart Four’s” case last year. Levi Sparks’ mother April Sparks told “Nightline” on Friday that she found out this morning when her attorney called her and she picked up the phone, “and he said, ‘we won, we won, we won.'”

“It’s an incredible day for so many of us,” April Sparks said. “No more 45 years hanging over our heads.”

Sparks added that her son Levi and Layman both graduated with their G.E.D.s on Friday in prison. “It couldn’t have been better timing,” she said. “We still have to go back to court and we are hoping they get time served.”

Jose Quiroz pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 45 years in prison and 10 years probation in December 2012. He was not mentioned in the appeal.

Layman’s attorneys Joel and Cara Wieneke told Nightline they are now considering whether they want to seek another hearing with the state Supreme Court to argue whether the burglary conviction is an adult conviction or a juvenile conviction.

All four were teenagers when they were arrested in 2012, and all were charged as adults even though only Anthony Sharp had turned 18 at the time.

The homeowner, Rodney Scott, was not charged with a crime because prosecutors determined he acted in self-defense.

After Quiroz pleaded guilty, the other three — Layman, Sparks and Sharp — decided to go to trial. On August 22, 2013, a jury convicted all three of felony murder.

Sparks was sentenced to to 50 years in prison. Layman …read more […]

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Georgia Parents ‘Forgive’ Sons Accused of Trying to Kill Them

Gwinnett County Sheriff(SNELLVILLE, Ga.) — The parents of two Georgia brothers accused of trying to kill them, said outside court Friday that they forgive their sons and “love them unconditionally.”

The parents, Yvonne and Zachery Ervin, spoke out for the first time on Friday since the alleged attack following a hearing for their sons at Gwinnett County Court, ABC News affiliate WSB-TV reported.

“Those were not our boys that did that to us,” Yvonne, who appeared to have scars on her face, told WSB-TV. “We did not raise them that way. We understand there are consequences for what they did. They understand that, but we’re just praying the world forgives them in the same way we forgive them.”

The couple’s sons — Cameron Ervin, 17, and Christopher Ervin, 22 — are accused of drugging their parents and trying to blow up their home in Snellville, Georgia, according to the Gwinnett County Police Department.

Their mother had called 911 on Sept. 5, “stating her children were trying to kill her and her husband,” police said in a news release.

During interviews, the boys “admitted to attempting to set the residence on fire, strangling their parents with a pillow and/or plastic bag, and stabbing the father,” according to a search warrant affidavit ABC News obtained from WSB-TV. One of the sons “wanted to cover up the evidence by setting the house on fire,” the document said.

During the attack, one of sons also “asked the parents if they enjoyed the Xanax cocktail last night,” and that the sons “poured an unknown substance” on their mother and “she felt heat on the back of her leg,” according to the affidavit. Police seized items including lighters, flammable substances, weapons, plastic wrap, Xanax pills and a knife, the affidavit added.

But Zachary Ervin told WSB-TV Friday that “why” their children allegedly attacked them “doesn’t matter” and that “there’s no malice, contempt.”

“We forgive our sons, we love them unconditionally,” he said. “We have to make sure that they understand that to strengthen themselves.”

His wife added, “God has done miraculous healing with us. We’re doing great. We’re healing both mentally and physically.”

The two also thanked their friends, family and community “for all of the love and support they’ve given us.”

Cameron Ervin and Christopher Ervin have been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and arson in the first degree to endanger human life, the police told ABC News. Both brothers remain in the Gwinnett County Detention Center, according to Sheriff’s Department records.

In Georgia, 17 is considered adult age for prosecution of criminal offenses.

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CA Cops Under Scrutiny After Teen’s ‘Jaywalking’ Arrest Caught on Video

iStock/Thinkstock(STOCKTON, Calif.) — The Stockton Police Department in California is now under fire after cellphone video of a 16-year-old’s recent arrest showed the unarmed teen crying as he was tackled to the ground by multiple officers and handcuffed.

The teen, identified by his family as Emilio Mayfield, was rushing on his way to school this past Tuesday morning because he was late when he walked out of the crosswalk and started “jaywalking” near a Stockton bus stop in an attempt to get to school faster, according to his grandfather, Reginald Duncan, who told ABC News that he is the acting spokesman for Mayfield and his mother because they were “too upset” and “traumatized” to speak publicly at this time.

“My grandson told me that he was walking when he felt a tug, but the person who tugged him didn’t identify himself, and so Emilio kept on going,” said Duncan, 66. “The area where this happened is a pretty bad area of Stockton, and he’s always been taught to keep it moving there.”

The 16-year-old “was then pulled back in a rough manner, and he realized that it was a police officer that tugged him,” Duncan said. “He said the cop looked very agitated and then threw him against a planter, took out his baton and started trying to move his baton in such a way that it was pushing him down and choking him.”

Police told ABC News that Mayfield was seen walking in a bus-only lane where “a sign was posted explicitly saying you can’t be there,” according to Joe Silva, a public information officer for the Stockton Police Department.

“When our officer asked the kid to not be in the lane, the kid immediately cussed, saying, ‘I’m not going to listen to you’ and kept walking,” Silva said. “The officer then went to legally detain the kid and in doing so, the kid pulled away from the officer and a scuffle ensued, during which, the officer’s body camera got knocked off.”

Silva added that Mayfield tried to grab the cop’s baton during the “scuffle” and that was how he ended up in the planter.

Cellphone video recorded by bystander Edgar Avendaño starts at this point, showing the officer holding the baton against Mayfield in a planter. Mayfield can be heard shouting, “Get off!” as he appears to be holding onto the baton in “self-defense,” according to Duncan.

Another woman in the background of the video can be heard yelling, “He’s a f****** kid!” as the officer continues holding the baton against Mayfield and saying “Stop resisting.”

Mayfield can be then seen trying to hold the baton again after the cop appears to be forcing it down against his ankles. The cop brings it up and appears to swing at Mayfield’s face two times.

Though it’s not clear from the video if the baton hit the teen’s face, Mayfield brings his hand to his face, and Duncan said his grandson “was hit three times.”

As Mayfield continues sitting on the planter, holding his face, the video shows the cop putting …read more […]

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Bowe Bergdahl Hearing: Squad Leader Calls Him ‘Quiet,’ ‘Introverted’

U.S. Army via Getty Images(SAN ANTONIO) — Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s former squad leader testified Friday about Bergdahl’s demeanor during his deployment to Afghanistan, describing him as “introverted” and “quiet.”

Friday morning, Bergdahl’s squad leader Greg Leatherman said Bergdahl was a good soldier and “everyone wanted him on his squad,” but at the same time he was not adjusting well to his deployment to Afghanistan.

He suggested at one point to his First Sergeant that Bergdahl “should talk with someone” but that sergeant reacted negatively to the request .

The hearing at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio will determine whether Bergdahl should face a military tribunal for leaving his post in Afghanistan in 2009, which military officials said led to his being captured by the Taliban. Bergdahl was returned to the U.S. as part of a prisoner exchange with the Taliban in 2014.

Bergdahl has been charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Should the case be referred to a court martial, he could face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted.

Also testifying Friday, Curtis Aberle, a nurse practitioner who testified that the cruel treatment Bergdahl endured during his five year captivity has left him with permanent nerve damage in his legs that will require a lifetime of care. Aberle said Bergdahl should not remain in the Army as he is not up to physical standards and he has also been diagnosed with PTSD.

The hearing is ongoing.

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Group Petitions School to Apologize, Reverse Suspension of Ahmed Mohamed

ABC News(IRVING, Texas) — A group of parents is petitioning the school district that suspended freshman Ahmed Mohamed for bringing a clock that was mistaken for a bomb to school to reverse its decision and apologize.

The parents’ group, which held a news conference outside MacArthur High School, in Irving, Texas, Friday, have penned a petition that states, “Texas Schools: Stop the Profiling,” and “Being brown is not a crime.”

A small group of supporters held signs on the steps of the school with slogans like, “Keep making, Ahmed,” “Creativity can’t be criminalized,” “Parent for science” and “Yes to STEM, No to fear.”

“Ahmed could have been any of our children, and I see him in my boys,” said Kathleen Thompson, a mother of two young sons ages 6 and 10, presenting 92 pages with about 13,400 signatures.

The parents said they hope the school re-evaluates its disciplinary policy and balances it with safety.

“I’m a concerned parent and I would like to see more students like Ahmed, not less,” she said, saying she is concerned about Islamophobia.

Since the incident, Mohamed, 14, and his family have said they are considering changing schools or choosing home-schooling. The school has said that Ahmed can come back to school after he finishes serving his suspension.

“I don’t want him to leave Irving ISD,” Thompson said, referring to Irving Independent School District.

Shayan Elahi, a civil rights attorney and an Irving property owner, said the school should have brought Mohamed’s parents to the interrogation and the school had determined that the device was not a bomb before the situation escalated.

“My understanding is that Irving is a very diverse and very cosmopolitan city and we don’t want to tarnish its reputation ever,” Elahi said, adding later, “We believe no other child should ever have to deal with this, not in this great city.”

Mohamed was taken into custody this week when a teacher mistakenly thought his homemade clock might be a bomb at the suburban Dallas school. No charges were filed against him.

“There was no probable cause for arresting this child,” Elahi said, adding that Mohamed was reportedly never read his Miranda rights. “The constitution doesn’t stop at the doors of the school. We do believe school safety is very important…The whole period of an hour and a half was basically discretionary.”

Nationwide, supporters of Mohamed are using the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed. He has since been invited to the White House, Facebook headquarters and MIT for a tour.

As for the teacher’s actions, the school is supporting her decision to report the clock as a suspicious object.

“We do stand behind what the teacher did,” the school’s director of communications Lesley Weaver told ABC News Thursday. “We believe she was acting in the best interest for the safety of all 2,800 students at MacArthur High School. She followed the correct procedures.”

Terry Meza, a parent of a college student, said the school is built on what was once her family’s farm.

“We want to be seen as a city that sees that diversity as an asset,” she said.

She called …read more […]

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Boston ‘Baby Doe’ ID’d as ‘Bella’ After Months-Long Mystery

Massachusetts State Police(BOSTON) — There may finally be a break in the mysterious case of a young girl found dead inside a trash bag whose identity and manner of death have been unknown for months.

The girl nicknamed by authorities as “Baby Doe” was a girl named “Bella,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said on Friday.

Baker said at one point the child was involved with the Department of Children and Families — he believed the case opened and closed in 2013. The DCF has not been involved in this case since, he said.

Baker said he believes the girl’s mother has other, much older children.

Boston Police said on Friday they received a tip that led authorities to a house in Dorchester, Massachusetts, where a search warrant was executed in connection to the Baby Doe case.

Boston Police deferred comment to the Massachusetts State Police. State Police spokesman Dave Procopio said the investigation is ongoing and the department has nothing more to add.

On June 25, a dog walker found a girl’s body on the western shore of Deer Island in Winthrop, a peninsula in Boston Harbor opposite Logan Airport, the Massachusetts State Police said. The girl, approximately 4 years old, was found with a fleece blanket and wrapped in a trash bag, police said.

“We’re trying to put all these pieces together,” Procopio told ABC News earlier this month. “Trying to get a picture of her life … and by learning about how she lived, hopefully we’ll be able to focus our efforts to identify her on specific areas, and learn the circumstances of how she died.”

Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley, told ABC News this summer that, “At the heart of this investigation is determining the identity of an innocent child and giving her the dignity of a burial under her true name.”

Police released a computer-generated composite image of the girl this summer, prepared by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, to depict what she may have looked like. The girl was described as having brown eyes and brown hair. She weighed about 30 pounds and stood about 3 feet 6 inches tall, police said.

Police also released images of the leggings she was wearing when discovered, as well as the zebra-striped blanket found with her body.

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