May 9, 2018

Three black Airbnb guests who were questioned by cops plan to take legal action

Carl Court/Getty Images(RIALTO, Calif.) -- Three black Airbnb guests are planning to take legal action against the Rialto Police Department in California after police responded to a 911 caller who wrongly reported a burglary at the location of their Airbnb stay. A neighbor of the Airbnb reported a burglary to police, and she claimed she saw four unfamiliar people loading luggage into a vehicle in the driveway across the street. The police dispatched six officers and a patrol helicopter, securing the perimeter while the people in question drove away. After making contact with the occupants of the vehicle, officers determined they were, in fact, Airbnb guests by contacting the homeowner. The four Airbnb guests who were detained by police were then released without incident and the April 30 encounter, according to police, lasted for a total of 22 minutes. While responding to the call, officers state they refrained from using any form of restraints and allowed the people involved to exit the vehicle while attempting to contact the Airbnb owner. This was the first time this particular home was rented out on Airbnb, Lt. Dean Hardin of the Rialto Police Department told ABC News. Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, one of the four Airbnb renters, posted on Facebook after the incident, writing that “a neighbor across the street saw three black people packing luggage into their car and assumed we were stealing from the house.” Fyffe-Marshall disputed the police statement, saying they were detained for 45 minutes and were surrounded by seven police cars. She went on to claim in the post that officers demanded they put their hands up, locked down the neighborhood and accused them of lying about staying in the Airbnb. Jasmine Rand, one of the lawyers representing the three renters who plan to sue, told ABC News that a lawsuit has not yet been filed but that legal action against the police department is imminent. Rand wouldn't elaborate on the details of the legal actions they're planning to take at this point. Rand confirmed that the three people involved in the lawsuit are black, including two females and one male. “You want to laugh about this but it’s not funny. The trauma is real. I’ve been angry, frustrated and sad,” Fyffe-Marshall wrote in her Facebook post about the incident. She could not be reached for further comments on the case. Fyffe-Marshall along with Donisha Prendergast and Komi-Oluwa Olafimihan are the three individuals from the incident who will be involved in the forthcoming litigation. Hardin cannot confirm if the individuals were targeted based on their race because he “can’t get into the reporting party’s head,” but he did confirm with ABC News that the call was made from a white woman who did not recognize the people in the driveway across the street. In regards to the conflicting timeline provided by Fyffe-Marshall, Hardin explained that the times provided in the department’s statement are based on their computerized dispatch system where all times are logged. The dispatch of the patrol helicopter and securing a perimeter is standard procedure for any in-progress felony, Hardin told ABC News. The Rialto Police Department said in a statement that they're “confident officers treated the involved individuals with dignity, respect, and professionalism.” The four people in question were cooperative throughout the encounter, Hardin said. The department is preparing for legal action by preserving all evidence of the call, including the recordings from the responding officers' body cameras. An Airbnb spokesperson told ABC News in a statement that what happened “is unconscionable and a reminder of how far we still have to go as a society,” and believes that this was an issue with a neighbor who's not a member of the Airbnb community. In a letter to Rialto’s mayor and interim police chief, Airbnb’s senior advisor and director of national partnerships state that they're "deeply disturbed by the public reports suggesting that the police department’s response was dictated by the guests' race," and called for a meeting to "ensure that these kinds of incidents do not happen again." Airbnb has also reached out to the victims to express their sympathy and full support, the statement said. This all comes at a time of heightened tensions between minority communities and law enforcement agencies across America. Just last month the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks sparked a firestorm after they were accused of trespassing because they had not purchased anything. Rand will be co-counseling the case with Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney known for his work representing Trayvon Martin’s family and most recently the family of Stephon Clark. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
May 9, 2018

New volcano vents prompt more evacuations in Hawaii

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Volcanic activity resumed on the Big Island of Hawaii early Tuesday evening, causing further destruction and prompting new safety concerns in the wake of last week's eruption, authorities said. The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency confirmed in a Facebook post that two new vents had opened during the day on Tuesday and were spewing hazardous gases and pouring lava into nearby neighborhoods. Those additions mean that a total of 14 vents, also known as fissures, had opened after Thursday's eruption, the agency said. The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency confirmed the new vents Tuesday afternoon, noting that at 2:30 p.m. local time the vents were "actively erupting," prompting an evacuation order of the residents in the nearby Lanipuna neighborhood. By 7:00 p.m., the vents were "paused but continue to release hazardous gases," the agency said. The agency reported that 104 acres are now covered in lava and a total of 36 structures had been destroyed. Some 1,800 residents have been evacuated from the two neighborhoods where cracks have opened. Residents in certain areas have been allowed to go back into their homes to check on their property and collect items during the day, but the agency warned that they must "be prepared to evacuate at a moment's notice." The agency added that "the county is taking care of all animals whose evacuated owners reported them left behind." Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
May 9, 2018

Flooding forces evacuations in Montana as storms head for Midwest, Northeast

ABC News(MISSOULA, Mont.) -- Heavy rain combining with snow melt has forced rivers and streams above their banks in Montana and parts of the Pacific Northwest. The Missoula County Sheriff's Office has issued a mandatory evacuation for dozens of homes, as Missouri River tributaries are surging and forecast for major flooding through the weekend. It could be the region's worst flooding since 1981. In eastern Washington, several rivers are coming out of their banks and could contribute to record flooding. Flood watches and advisories have been issued from Montana to Washington, as several areas nearby could see 2 to 3 inches of rain over the next few days. The active weather pattern producing that precipitation also may bring several days of severe weather all the way from the Plains into the Northeast. Illinois, Indiana and Michigan are expecting severe weather on Wednesday, including damaging winds and possibly even tornadoes. A severe weather threat will continue into Thursday for the Plains as a new system moves in from the West. The current storm in the Midwest may bring severe weather to the inland Northeast and parts of the mid-Atlantic. Looking ahead to Thursday, the Plains are being threatened by strong winds and hail, and the Northeast may see thunderstorms, gusty winds and hail. Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
May 9, 2018

USS Fitzgerald Officer pleads guilty to role in deadly collision

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK CITY) -- A junior Navy officer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to her role in last year's deadly collision involving the destroyer USS Fitzgerald off the coast of Japan that killed seven sailors. Lt. j.g. Sarah Coppock's guilty plea came on the first day of Navy court proceedings for four of the destroyer's officers, including the ship's commanding officer. About 1:30 a.m. on June 17, 2017, the USS Fitzgerald collided with the container ship MCX Crystal as both ships transited through the busy shipping lanes outside of Tokyo Bay. At the time of the collision, Coppock was serving as the Officer of the Deck, the officer overseeing the bridge team that was steering the ship. At Tuesday's hearing, Coppock entered a guilty plea to a charge of “dereliction in the performance of duties through neglect contributing to the deaths” of the seven sailors. Coppock acknowledged that, in violation of the commanding officer's standing orders and navigation rules, she had failed to communicate with the ship's Combat Information Center, did not report ship contacts with the commanding officer and did not alert the ship's crew of an imminent collision. During questioning from Capt. Charles Purnell, the presiding judge at Tuesday's special court-martial, Coppock admitted that in violation of Cmdr. Bryce Benson's order, she had not contacted him whenever a ship sailed within 6,000 yards of the destroyer. That happened 13 times during her four-hour watch the night of the collision, with some ships coming as close as 650 yards of the destroyer. Coppock acknowledged she had "low confidence" in some of the sailors standing watch in the ship's Combat Information Center (CIC), one reason why she never checked with the sailors manning the sophisticated radars in the CIC who could have also checked the distances of passing commercial ships. In sentencing arguments Lt. Cmdr. Paul Hochmuth noted that Coppock was not solely to blame for the collision and has taken responsibility for her actions. But he cited her "loss of complete situational awareness" of the destroyer's passage through the busy shipping lane. "She chose to be blind and never asked for help from the CIC," said Hochmuth. Coppock's attorney, Lt. Ryan Mooney, noted that she had not shied away from her role in the collision, but pointed to staffing shortfalls aboard the Fitzgerald and a lack of training among officers as indicators of broader issues aboard the ship and the U.S.-based fleet in Japan. Under the guilty plea agreement, Coppock was sentenced to receive a letter of reprimand and three months of half-pay. But because she had earlier received a similar non-judicial punishment, the new sentence only added an additional month of half-pay for the junior officer. The Navy's comprehensive investigation into the collision found that it was avoidable and was the result of a series of basic failures by the ship's crew and officers. After the investigation, the Navy filed criminal charges against four of the ship's officers, including Benson. Preliminary court hearings for two junior officers will be held at the Washington Navy Yard on Wednesday, Benson's court hearing is slated for May 21. The seven sailors killed in the collision were Gunner's Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Va.;Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, Calif.; Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Conn.; Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas; Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlosvictor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, Calif.; Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Md. and Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio. As part of the sentencing hearing that followed Coppock's guilty plea family members of some of the fallen sailors gave emotional statements about the emotional trauma they have lived through since the sudden loss of their loved ones. "I am perpetually sad and I cry all the time," said Terri Rigsby, Dakota Rigsby's stepmother. "This collision should have never occurred." "I blame the Navy for the loss of my son," she said reading from a statement written by her husband Lloyd who also wrote he could not forgive the Navy for his son's death. Xavier Alec Martin's father Darrold Martin told the court: "It's not right for a parent to bury a child." Speaking through tears, Dora Hernandez, described how her three-year-old son will not have personal memories of his father, Noe Hernandez. In emotional testimony of her own, Coppock expressed her remorse to the family members in the courtroom and said: "All I can do now is take responsibility." As a memorial to those that perished in the collision, Coppock has a tattoo on her left wrist that includes the latitude and longitude of the location of the collision, as well as seven green clovers representing the seven fallen sailors and the ship's motto "Protect Your People". Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.