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Cancer-causing chemical found in Michigan pond

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(NEW YORK) -- Michigan state investigators said test samples taken Thursday from Hubbell Pond in Milford showed low-level presence of a toxic chemical that was released into the Huron River System by the Tribar Manufacturing company in Wixom last weekend.

Two crews from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy sampled waters upstream, downstream and within the pond on Friday to gather more information on the presence of hexavalent chromium, a known cancer-causing chemical.

According to Michigan authorities, hexavalent chromium is known carcinogen that can cause a number of adverse health effects through ingestion, skin contact or inhalation.

State officials are still investigating why the release occurred, the exact volume and product that was released and the timeline of events.

The Hubbell Pond samples were the only ones where hexavalent chromium was detected, out of the more than 30 samples that were taken from varying depths from near the point of release downstream to Barton Pond in Ann Arbor.

"Liquid containing 5% hexavalent chromium was discharged to the sanitary sewer system from Tribar Manufacturing in Wixom last weekend and routed to the Wixom wastewater treatment facility," Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy said in a statement.

Michigan authorities advised people and pets to avoid contact with the Huron River water between North Wixom Road in Oakland County and Kensington Road in Livingston County. This includes Norton Creek downstream of the Wixom Wastewater Treatment Plant (Oakland County), Hubbell Pond (also known as Mill Pond in Oakland County) and Kent Lake (Oakland and Livingston counties).

Residents are also warned not to water their plants with river water or eat fish caught in that section of the river.

Authorities also warned this recommendation could be expanded to other areas of the river as it receives additional test results.

Properly constructed and permitted drinking water wells not influenced by surface water are unlikely to be contaminated by chromium from the river, they said.

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Multistate manhunt for person of interest sought after four people fatally shot in Ohio

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(BUTLER TOWNSHIP, Ohio) -- The FBI is involved in a multistate manhunt for a person of interest sought in the fatal shooting of four people in Ohio.

The person of interest, identified by police as 39-year-old Stephen Marlow, should be considered "armed and dangerous," FBI Cincinnati said on Twitter. He has ties to Indianapolis, Chicago and Lexington, Kentucky, and "could be in one of these cities," FBI Cincinnati said.

Marlow is wanted in connection with the shooting deaths of four people in Butler Township, a small town north of Dayton on Friday, police said.

Police responding to reports of gunfire shortly before noon found the four victims suffering from gunshot wounds at "multiple crime scenes" in a residential area, the Butler Township Police Department said.

The four victims were pronounced dead at the scenes. They have not been identified by police.

Butler Township Police Chief John Porter said they don't believe there is a continued threat to the neighborhood but "we will continue to have crews in the area in case Marlow would return," he told reporters on Friday. The Dayton Police Department Bomb Squad was also contacted "out of an abundance of caution," he said.

Neighbors were asked to review any video camera footage from that day.

Porter said police were working to determine "if there were any motive to this horrible tragedy" and did not have any further information on the investigation.

"This is the first violent crime in this neighborhood in recent memory," Porter said.

Marlow is believed to have fled the area in a white 2007 Ford Edge SUV with the Ohio license plate JES9806, police said.

He was described by police as approximately 5’11”, 160 pounds with short brown hair and was last seen wearing shorts and a yellow T-shirt.

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Flash flooding threats and extreme heat on tap this weekend

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Flooding is possible on Saturday for large swaths of the country -- including hard-hit eastern Kentucky -- as millions of Americans are also under heat advisories.

Flash flooding is possible in the Ohio River Valley, as some parts may see 2 to 4 inches of rain.

Areas from Knoxville, Tennessee, to Pittsburgh, including nearly the entire state of West Virginia, have the greatest chances for flooding on Saturday, where slow-moving heavy downpours are expected.

That also includes eastern Kentucky, which was the site of devastating floods in late July. At least 37 people have been confirmed dead in the catastrophic flooding. Parts of the region were also hit with heavy rainfall on Friday. By midday Saturday, the heaviest rain had so far stayed clear of the worst-hit areas in last week's flooding. The flash flood threat is expected to subside in this region on Sunday.

In the Upper Mississippi Valley, areas between Minneapolis and Dubuque, Iowa, may also see flooding rains on Saturday, with 3 to 5 inches possible.

Saturday storms are expected to cause flight disruptions from New York to Florida and parts of Texas, Denver and Washington state, the Federal Aviation Administration warned. That comes after severe weather Friday night forced airlines to cancel more than 1,200 flights.

Meanwhile, more than 70 million Americans are under heat alerts this weekend, with heat alerts issued from Oklahoma to Maine.

In the Northeast, heat advisories extend from Delaware to Maine. Temperatures will feel like the mid-upper 90s for much of the Northeast coast Saturday.

Excessive heat warnings are in effect for Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska, where the heat index is expected to surpass 110 degrees on Saturday.

Triple-digit temperatures are also forecast from Texas to Iowa.

The scorching temperatures are expected to persist in many of the same areas on Sunday.

ABC News' Dan Peck contributed to this report.

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Former WNBA star Niesha Butler opens first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp in New York City

S.T.E.A.M. Champs

(NEW YORK) -- Former WNBA player Niesha Butler has opened the first Afro-Latina-owned STEM camp, S.T.E.A.M. Champs, in New York City to reduce accessibility barriers to tech educational resources for Brooklyn youth.

"If a kid could actually say that they can be LeBron James, and roll it off their tongue as easy as that, then they can literally say 'yeah, I can also put a man on the moon,' or 'I can also create the next app,'" Butler told ABC News.

Butler, a New York City native, says "there's talent in Brooklyn." She established S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) Champs in the middle of Brooklyn to encourage inner-city youth to channel their ambition into educational opportunities. Butler also hires interns, may of whom have tried coding for the first time with the program, she says.

"People sell basketball dreams every other second in our community. I thought it was really important to, let's sell these tech dreams," Butler said.

Prior to opening her doors in Brooklyn, Butler partnered with organizations like Girl Scouts, BronxWorks and a local AAU basketball team to host STEM-focused workshops reaching over 300 New York City students. Monday was the first day of camp in the newly opened facility.

"There's not a lot of people of color in tech," Butler said. "These jobs are open for everybody and they're empty…so obviously we need to do a better job at educating our kids and in recruiting them."

Other tech education camps and workshops across the nation have worked to close the gap and make tech careers interesting and accessible to students of underserved communities.

Black Girls CODE is one of those resources providing workshops and public speaking opportunities for Black girls. Program alumni Kimora Oliver and Azure Butler say that the program's first chapter in California's Bay Area created an environment that allowed local Black female students to envision themselves in the tech industry.

"Unfortunately, STEM is a white and male dominated field," Oliver told ABC News. "I feel like [Black Girls CODE] is giving a diverse group of Black girls the exposure that they need to decide for themselves whether they want to continue with STEM in the future."

For almost 40 years, another program called Academically Interest Minds (AIM) at Kettering University has tailored its pre-college curriculum to expose youth of color to STEM coursework and campus life.

"49% of African American students who attend Kettering University now, are AIM graduates," Ricky D. Brown, the university's director of multicultural student initiatives and the AIM program, told ABC News.

For many, STEM educational resources introduce an element of choice in considering STEM and exploring pathways of academic interests.

A study released in July by the National Bureau of Economic Research says that early intervention programs like S.T.E.A.M Champs, AIM and Black Girls CODE are effective in helping students achieve academic success in higher education and STEM majors.

"Some of these kids don't have a computer at home to study," Butler said. "When I go to some of these centers, they don't have good Wi-Fi…they have outdated computers."

According to the study, underrepresentation in STEM is due to a lack of preparation and access to educational resources.

"Given that STEM preparation and college access are shaped prior to college entrance, STEM focused enrichment programs for high school students are promising vehicles to reduce disparities in STEM degree attainment," the study's authors wrote.

In the coming weeks, Butler plans to meet prospective students halfway with a "Code on the Court" event at local Brooklyn basketball courts offering free signups to 10 students.

As the program grows, Butler says she looks forward to partnering with large tech companies like Google and Microsoft to reduce limitations and doubts in the minds of students.

"If I could just affect one kid, we're affecting hundreds of kids," Butler says.

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Hundreds stranded in Death Valley National Park amid flooding

Death Valley National Park

(NEW YORK) -- All roads in and out of Death Valley National Park are closed after unprecedented amounts of rainfall caused substantial flooding in the area, park officials said Friday.

Approximately 500 visitors and 500 staff are currently unable to exit the park, which straddles the California-Nevada border, the officials said in a statement. No injuries to staff or visitors have been reported.

The California Department of Transportation expects it will take several hours to open a road on Highway 190 east of the park to allow an exit, park officials said.

Dozens of cars belonging to visitors and staff are buried in several feet of debris and many facilities are flooded including hotel rooms and business offices.

Additionally, the Cow Creek Water system, which provides water to the Cow Creek area for park residents and offices, has failed, according to park officials. A major break in the line due to the flooding is being repaired, officials said.

The park received at least 1.46 inches of rain in the Furnace Creek area, almost an entire year’s worth of rain in one morning, as the park’s annual average is 1.9 inches of rainwater, the park reported.

This was the second-highest amount of rainfall in a day at Furnace Creek, just behind 1.47 inches recorded on April 15, 1988.

The park is working with the California Department of Transportation, and state and county emergency services on assessing the situation and damage.

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Two dead, five missing after boat capsizes off Florida Keys, Coast Guard says

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(NEW YORK) -- Two people are dead and five are missing after a boat capsized near the Florida Keys, the U.S. Coast Guard said Friday night.

The boat, which was determined to have been carrying migrants, had 15 people aboard before it capsized south of Sugarloaf Key, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Local search crews and good Samaritans rescued 8 people. Six were taken for medical evaluation, the statement said.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those who lost their lives off the Lower Keys," Rear Admiral Brendan McPherson, commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District, said in the statement. "Our search continues for others that may have survived this tragic incident."

U.S. Border Patrol reported more than 130 migrants had been apprehended along the island chain in the last two days, according to Miami ABC affiliate WPLG.

"This situation highlights the risks these migrants face as they attempt to enter the United States illegally by sea," McPherson said.

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Alex Jones ordered to pay Sandy Hook parents more than $45M in punitive damages

Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Alex Jones has been ordered to pay more than $45 million in punitive damages to Sandy Hook parents, a Texas jury found on Friday.

The development comes a day after the jury ordered Jones to pay them $4.1 million in compensatory damages.

The conspiracy theorist and Infowars founder was successfully sued by the parents of a 6-year-old boy who was killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre after he claimed that the shooting -- where 20 children and six adults were killed -- was a hoax, a claim he said he now thinks is "100% real."

The parents sued Jones for $150 million.

The punitive damages total $45.2 million, with total damages awarded amounting to $49.3 million.

A lawyer representing the Sandy Hook families had said in court on Thursday that he intends to hand over two years' worth of Jones' text messages to the House committee investigating Jan. 6, after they were inadvertently provided to him by Jones' lawyers.

"I've been asked to turn them over. I certainly intend to do that unless you tell me not to," Mark Bankston told the judge, saying he's been asked by the Jan. 6 committee to turn them over.

A source familiar with the matter also told ABC News that the committee and Bankston have been in touch about receiving the messages.

Bankston revealed Wednesday that Jones' lawyers mistakenly sent him two years' worth of text messages.

Bankston referenced "intimate messages with Roger Stone" that he said were not "confidential" or "trade secrets." He said that "various federal agencies and law enforcement" contacted him about the information.

"There has been no protection ever asserted over these documents," Bankston said.

Cases involving Jones will go before two different judges in Connecticut next week, as more Sandy Hook families seek to hold him accountable for the lies he told about the 2012 massacre being a hoax staged by actors.

A federal bankruptcy court judge in Bridgeport agreed to hold an expedited hearing on the plaintiffs' motion to proceed against Jones while his company, Free Speech Systems, goes through bankruptcy.

The plaintiffs, immediate family members of children and educators killed in the 2012 massacre as well as one first responder, successfully sued Jones for defamation and are now seeking to hold him financially liable for his comments on the shooting.

The damages phase was scheduled to begin Sept. 6, when 15 plaintiffs have said they would testify about the extreme emotional distress they suffered as a result of Jones' claims about them.

The presentation of evidence in the trial on damages is estimated to take three to four weeks. The families have not specified an amount they are seeking.

The hearing is scheduled for Aug. 10 at 2 p.m.

Earlier that same day, a Connecticut trial judge will also hold a hearing on the conduct of Jones' lawyer, Norm Pattis, who has been accused of violating confidentiality rules by sharing the medical and psychiatric records of the Sandy Hook families with Jones' Texas attorney.

ABC News' Meredith Deliso and Matthew Fuhrman contributed to this report.

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10 dead, including three children, after house fire in Pennsylvania, police say

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(NESCOPECK, Pa.) -- Ten people are dead, including three children, after an intense fire tore through a home in central Pennsylvania on Friday, authorities said.

Crews responding to the early morning fire in Nescopeck could not initially get inside the two-story home due to the flames and heat, according to Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Derek Felsman.

Three bodies were initially recovered in the fire, which was reported shortly after 2:30 a.m., according to police.

State police confirmed Friday evening that 10 bodies have been found dead in the home. The victims ranged in age from 5 to 79, police said. They included a 7-year-old girl and two boys, ages 5 and 6. Their names were not released.

The adult victims were identified by state police as Dale Baker, 19; Star Baker, 22; David Daubert, Sr., 79; Brian Daubert, 42; Shannon Daubert, 45; Laura Daubert, 47; and Marian Slusser, 54.

Three men were able to make it out of the home safely, police said.

Nescopeck volunteer firefighter Harold Baker, one of the first on scene, said 14 people were in the home, many of them his family members. He said he had not heard from 10 of them and expected that he lost his son and daughter as well as several grandchildren and his father-in-law, sister-in-law and brother-in-law.

"When we came, pulled up, the whole place was fully involved," Baker told Scranton ABC affiliate WNEP. "We tried to get into them; there wasn't no way we could get into them."

Mike Swank, who lives across the street from the home, told WNEP that he was watching TV when he heard a "pop" outside. When he looked out the window he saw the front porch of the house "almost totally engulfed."

"There was a gentleman out here running around in the street and he was yelling, really upset, saying that not everybody made it out," he told the station.

The Red Cross is on scene to provide grief counseling and other support.

The investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing.

ABC News' Leo Mayorga contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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What Kansas' abortion vote could mean for other states

ABC News Photo Illustration

(NEW YORK) -- After Kansas voters decisively rejected a bid to remove abortion protections from its state constitution earlier this week, researchers and activists say state lawmakers are likely to continue efforts to restrict access to abortion.

The Kansas vote was the first state-level test after the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, leaving it up to states to regulate access to abortion. At least four other states will have abortion-related questions on the ballot this November, leaving voters to decide on access to abortion in some areas.

As of Thursday, ABC News reported that 59% of Kansas voters voted "No" to repealing the right to abortion access in the state's constitution. Researchers told ABC News the margin by which the vote was won was surprising.

The vote came after the state's Supreme Court decided in 2019 that the Kansas constitution establishes a fundamental right to abortion.

Not the end of the story in Kansas or elsewhere

Despite that ruling, a majority of lawmakers in the state Senate oppose abortion rights and have passed several laws that restrict access to abortion, which are being challenged in the courts, Elisabeth Smith, the director of state policy and advocacy at the Center for Reproductive Rights, told ABC News in an interview.

"We have seen lawmakers hostile to abortion rights in Kansas and other states, continuously enact unconstitutional abortion bans and restrictions," Smith said.

She added, "It would not surprise me if anti-abortion legislators in Kansas continued to push the issue by passing unconstitutional bans that then the state has to pay to defend, by potentially continuing to attack the state Supreme Court or utilizing other tactics to try and enforce their -- clearly unpopular -- view."

Elizabeth Nash, principal policy associate for state issues at the Guttmacher Institute, which researches reproductive rights, said this vote is not the end of the story.

"What we'd seen for the past decade are four other states that adopted similar measures -- in Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia -- and all of them were approved by voters," Nash said.

Nash said the margin with which the amendment was rejected was surprising because she said lawmakers had "stacked the deck" against the vote, putting it on a primary ballot and in somewhat confusing language. She said it is likely people started to get a better sense of the harm abortion bans can bring.

The Value Them Both coalition that supported the amendment blamed the results of the vote on "misinformation from radical left organizations." The group vowed in their statement: "We will be back."

Despite the vote, Kansas already has a number of restrictions in place with abortions currently banned after 22 weeks. According to Guttmacher, restrictions in place in Kansas include patients having to wait 24 hours after counseling before they can receive abortion, state Medicaid coverage of abortion care is banned except in very limited circumstances, and medication abortions must be given in person because of state bans on telehealth and mailing pills.

What does this vote mean for other states?

Voters in California and Vermont will vote on whether to add protections for abortion to their state constitutions. In Kentucky, voters will decide whether to amend their constitution to say abortion is not a constitutional right. Meanwhile, Montana voters will vote on a statute that says infants born alive at any stage of development are legal persons.

There is also an effort in Michigan to get a proactive constitutional amendment protecting abortion on the ballot. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has filed a lawsuit blocking a 1931 abortion ban already on the books, asking a court to determine whether it is constitutional. A judge granted a temporary pause on enforcement of the law after state prosecutors had said they plan to use it to to bring charges against abortion providers.

While every state is different, Smith said it is very likely that other states that put abortion to a vote could have a similar result to Kansas, but it is unlikely more states will put abortion on the ballot this year. Nash also said elections will be key on abortion issues for years to come.

Kimberly McGuire, the executive director of pro-abortion rights group Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, which was on the executive committee for the campaign to vote no on the Kansas measure, hailed the vote as a victory.

She also highlighted efforts in other conservative states to enact protections despite bans, including that legislators in San Antonio, Texas, voted to enact protections for abortion Monday, and legislators in Atlanta, Georgia, enacted legislation to provide funds for abortions.

"This is a taste of what is to come. People across the country, in particular young people, are angry about the attacks on abortion rights, they're angry about abortion bans, and they are fired up," McGuire said.

McGuire said the results of the Kansas vote are in line with the popularity of abortion rights among Americans.

An ABC News poll released in May showed that 57% of Americans oppose a ban on abortions after 15 weeks and 58% say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Nash said a lot of political back and forth can be expected as abortion policy continues to be "in flux" across the country.

Hurdles to access in and around Kansas

An updated map from Guttmacher shows abortion is highly restricted in states surrounding Kansas.

"Most of the states touching Kansas are states that either have implemented abortion bans or are seeking to implement abortion bans. And so it's really Colorado to the west that will maintain abortion access," Nash said.

Nash said there is limited access to abortion in the western half of Kansas as well, so maintaining the limited access in the state is "incredibly important."

She described abortion access in the region as "absolutely bleak."

"Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri, have total criminal abortion bans in effect right now, and other surrounding states are moving in that direction," Nash said. "So Kansas has always been and will continue to be an incredibly important access point for abortion care."
 

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Suspect arrested for allegedly setting Planned Parenthood clinic on fire in Kalamazoo

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(KALAMAZOO, Mich.) -- Federal prosecutors have charged a 25-year-old man for allegedly setting a Michigan Planned Parenthood clinic on fire.

Joshua Brereton allegedly set fire to the Planned Parenthood in Kalamazoo on July 31 around 4 p.m., when the clinic was closed and no patients were inside, according to authorities.

Officials said the suspect breached the fence outside the clinic then used a fuel to ignite bushes surrounding the building before lighting a fireplace starter log that he threw onto the building's roof.

Investigators found evidence that Brereton purchased torch fuel and a Duraflame starter log from a nearby Walmart, as well as a baseball cap that he apparently wore during the arson attack.

According to investigators, Brereton posted to his personal YouTube channel before the incident, where he spoke about abortion policy in a video and called abortion "genocide."

In the same video, officials said Brereton told viewers to "step out of your comfort zone" and lend a hand in the fight.

If convicted, Brereton faces up to 20 years in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. It is currently unclear if Brereton has an attorney.

After the fire last week, Planned Parenthood of Michigan said its alarm systems appeared to have worked properly and it thanked firefighters for their quick response.

"As always, our top priority is the health and safety of our patients and staff, and we are grateful that no one was hurt," Paula Thornton Greear, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, said in a statement to ABC News. "We remain committed to serving our patients -- no matter what."

According to officials, the fire was extinguished in less than ten minutes and only resulted in minimal damage to the exterior of the clinic. The clinic was able to open at 1 p.m. the next day, according to the clinic's website.

"Yesterday I saw the destruction at Planned Parenthood in Kalamazoo with my own eyes. This is a heinous and reprehensible act and I am hopeful that law enforcement will bring the person responsible to justice," Michigan state Sen. Sean McCann tweeted Aug. 1.

The fire was set just one day before a Michigan judge ruled to temporarily block the state's 1931 abortion ban. The block came just hours after a different judge ruled to allow the state to prosecute based on the law.

"This lack of legal clarity -- that took place within the span of a workday -- is yet another textbook example of why the Michigan Supreme Court must take up my lawsuit against the 1931 extreme abortion ban as soon as possible," Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement that day.

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Arrest made after four people found dead in reports of explosion, fires at Nebraska homes

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(LAUREL, Neb.) -- A suspect is in custody after four people were found dead at two homes in a small Nebraska town Thursday morning following reports of an explosion and fires, authorities said.

A SWAT team located the suspect about 24 hours after the investigation first began into the "multiple crime scenes" in Laurel, in northeastern Nebraska, state police announced Friday morning.

Evidence collected at the scene of two residential fires led police to a suspect who lived across the street from one of the homes, Nebraska State Patrol Superintendent Col. John Bolduc said during a press briefing Friday.

Police entered the suspect's home at around 2:30 a.m. Friday, where they found 42-year-old Jason Jones with "serious burns" over a large part of his body, Bolduc said. He was airlifted to a hospital, where he is believed to be in serious condition. Jones was arrested on probable cause for homicide and has not yet been booked while he remains hospitalized, Bolduc said.

Bolduc acknowledged the "betrayal of trust" the residents of Laurel may feel "because a community member here is alleged to have committed these crimes."

Authorities first responded to a home shortly after 3 a.m. after a 911 caller reported an explosion at the residence, Bolduc said during a press briefing Thursday afternoon. There was a fire at the home, which is located across the street from the suspect's, according to Nebraska State Patrol.

Once inside, responding officers and deputies found one person dead with suspected gunshot wounds, authorities said. The victim was identified on Friday by Nebraska State Patrol as Michele Ebeling, 53, a resident of the home.

While at the first home, a fire was reported at a second home about three blocks away, Bolduc said. Three people were found dead inside that home, each also with suspected gunshot wounds, authorities said. The victims were identified by Nebraska State Patrol as Gene Twiford, 86, Janet Twiford, 85, and Dana Twiford, 55, who were all residents of the home.

Bolduc had initially said that foul play was suspected in the four deaths. Fire investigators believe accelerants may have been used in both fires at the homes, and Bolduc had previously said the suspect or suspects may have burn injuries.

Fire crews responding to both homes worked to preserve evidence while putting out the fire that "led us directly to the suspect," said Bolduc, who called the responders' efforts "heroic." He could not elaborate on the evidence due to the ongoing investigation and said it was too premature to discuss a possible motive or connection between the victims.

It is unclear if any other suspects will be arrested in connection with the incidents, but authorities said they believe there is no further threat to the community.

Authorities were working with local residents and businesses to obtain any relevant security camera footage as part of their investigation.

Police initially were searching for a silver sedan in connection with the investigation, but Bolduc said that lead ultimately became less significant once investigators were able to access the residences.

The cause of death for the victims will be determined following an autopsy, Bolduc said.

Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda said Thursday the community of 1,000 is shaken by what happened.

"Everybody knows everybody in this small community," he said.

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Two dead, two in critical condition after lightning strike near White House

DC Fire and EMS/Twitter

(WASHINGTON) -- Two Wisconsin residents have died following a lightning strike near the White House on Thursday night, police confirmed to ABC News Friday.

Police said 76-year-old James Mueller and 75-year-old Donna Meuller, both from Janesville, Wisconsin, died after being injured in the strike in Lafayette Park in front of the White House.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert Contee confirmed Friday that the Muellers were married and Madison.com reported they were in Washington to celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary.

Thursday night, D.C. Fire and EMS said it had responded and was treating four patients that were found in "the vicinity of a tree."

It said the two men and two women were transported to area hospitals with "life-threatening injuries."

Officials said it's still unclear what the adults were doing prior to the lightning strike, if they knew each other and why they were in the park.

Uniformed U.S. Park Police officers and members of the Secret Service were also on the scene and immediately rendered aid to the victims, an EMS official said during a news conference.

The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area Thursday evening.

ABC News' Beatrice Peterson contributed to this report.

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Eight years before Uvalde, Arredondo was demoted from previous law enforcement position: Report

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(SAN ANTONIO) -- Eight years before Uvalde school Police Chief Pete Arredondo led the controversial law enforcement response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, he was demoted from a high-ranking position at the Webb County Sheriff's Office, according to reporting by a local news outlet Thursday.

Arredondo "couldn't get along with people," Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar told the San Antonio Express-News, according to the report. Cuellar also said that he demoted Arredondo from assistant chief to commander in 2014.

"He just didn't fit the qualifications or the work that I set out for him," Cuellar said, according to the report.

Arredondo has come under immense scrutiny for his role in the police response to the May 24 massacre, which claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers. Police waited 77 minutes after arriving at the school to breach the door to the classroom containing the 18-year-old gunman.

A special committee in the Texas legislature issued a report last month that found Arredondo had "failed to perform or to transfer to another person the role of incident commander."

Arredondo previously told the Texas Tribune that he did not consider himself the on-scene commander during the shooting.

According to documents first reported by the San Antonio Express-News and obtained by ABC News, Arredondo, while working for Webb County, was "reassigned from Assistant Chief to Commander" in October 2014, and that two days earlier, a Webb County employee had written "demotion" on his payroll worksheet.

Arredondo left the Webb County Sheriff's Office in 2017 and took a role in Laredo as a school district police captain, where he stayed for three years. When he applied for the position in Laredo, Arredondo highlighted his role in a hostage negotiation during his time in Webb County.

Cuellar, the Webb County sheriff who demoted Arredondo in 2014, told the San Antonio Express-News that Arredondo "exaggerated a little bit" his role in the hostage negotiations he mentioned in his application to Laredo.

"It wasn't him completely. I think he exaggerated a little bit," Cuellar was quoted telling the newspaper, adding that it was a team effort.

Arredondo was announced as the new police chief of the Uvalde Independent School District in February 2020.

Neither Arredondo or Cuellar, or officials with the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, immediately responded to ABC News’ requests for comment.

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New Orleans renews search for missing remains of victims of notorious 1973 fire

Marilyn LeBlanc-Downey and her son, Skip Bailey, remember Ferris LeBlanc as a brother, uncle and father figure. - ABC News

(NEW ORLEANS) -- The New Orleans City Council is reviving an effort to locate the lost remains of several victims of an arson that killed 32 people at a popular French Quarter gay bar in 1973.

The fire at the UpStairs Lounge was the largest mass murder of LGBTQ citizens in United States history until the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016.

The council passed a motion on Thursday directing the city's property management and legal departments to "take any and all appropriate steps necessary" to "facilitate the recovery" of three unidentified fire victims and one identified victim, Ferris LeBlanc, who were buried in an unmarked graves somewhere in the city's potter's field.

LeBlanc, a World War II veteran, has yet to be located despite a years-long effort led by his family to find his remains and return them to California for a military burial.

"Poor record-keeping and indifference continue to hamper the efforts of surviving family members to reclaim the bodies of victims and to provide them the dignity of a proper burial," wrote Councilmember JP Morrell, whose office is spearheading the effort, in the motion. "The Council believes the City has a moral obligation to take all steps within its power to facilitate the recovery and dignified interment of the victims of the UpStairs Lounge massacre."

LeBlanc's family told ABC News that they are encouraged that the city's leaders are taking action on their behalf.

"The council has promised to get to the bottom of this issue and do everything they can to help us bring an end to this story," LeBlanc's family wrote in a statement. "We are cautiously optimistic for this renewed interest and are hopeful it will end in a positive resolution."

In 2018, five members of Mayor LaToya Cantrell's office were tasked with the search for LeBlanc's remains shortly after the release of an ABC News documentary investigating the city's response to the fire and highlighting pleas from LeBlanc's family -- including his sister Marilyn LeBlanc Downey -- for help.

But after several months of searching, officials were unable to locate his remains, telling ABC News they "remain stymied by lost or incomplete records," and the inquiry was quietly discontinued.

On the eve of the tragedy's 49th anniversary, however, as the New Orleans City Council issued a formal apology to the victims, survivors and families affected by the fire, Councilmember Morrell pledged to take up the search.

"The City of New Orleans' lack of response to the deadliest fire in our history has kept individuals from mourning their loved ones, but today we took a step in the right direction," Morrell said in a statement on June 23. "Moving forward, my office will be working with the family of Ferris LeBlanc, a WWII veteran who died in the fire, to exhume his remains and properly memorialize him with full military honors."

Survivors, family members, first responders, activists and journalists interviewed by ABC News agreed that the city's response to the tragedy exposed pervasive prejudices toward the gay community in the otherwise famously tolerant city, an attitude that resulted in, among other indignities, the burial of several unidentified victims in unmarked graves in the city's potter's field -- LeBlanc among them.

According to Robert Fieseler, author of Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation, shock and sympathy were quickly replaced by ignorance and apathy when people learned "what kind of bar had burned down and who the victims had been."

"The deadliest fire in New Orleans history provoked not an outpouring of grief for the dead," Fieseler told ABC News, "but instead, among mainstream residents, humiliation for the release of the dead's secrets: their unconventional sexual tastes, at a time when the mere discussion of homosexuality was taboo."

It was the failure of the city's leaders and institutions to recognize and respond to the tragedy in 1973 that prompted a rare public statement of "historic regret" in 2022.

"The City Council deems it not only necessary but past due to formally apologize," reads the resolution, adopted unanimously last month, "for the way that those who perished were not adequately and publicly mourned as valuable and irreplaceable members of the community."

Local media hailed the move as a "small but significant step" in the healing process that acknowledged the city's "indifference, if not hostility, toward the gay community" at the time, the painful legacy of which lingers to this day.

"We will continue," LeBlanc's family wrote in a statement. "We all hope for the day when this story will end as it should."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Mall of America lockdown lifted after shots fired: Police

Raymond Boyd/Getty Images, FILE

(BLOOMINGTON, Minn.) -- Shoppers were sent running for safety at the Mall of America Thursday, after police said shots were fired at the Minnesota shopping center.

Police responded to an "active incident" on the northwest side of the mall Thursday evening, the Bloomington Police Department tweeted, saying at that time that "numerous officers are on scene."

Within an hour, the police department said officers had secured the scene. A suspect has not been apprehended, and no injuries have been reported, police said.

Bloomington Police Department Chief Booker Hodges said during a press conference that shots were fired near the Nike store, and that officers on the scene within 30 seconds.

"After looking at video, we see two groups getting into some type of altercation at the cash register of the Nike store," Hodges said. "One of the groups left but instead of walking away, they decided to display a complete lack of respect for human life -- they decided to fire multiple rounds into a store with people."

The individuals responsible have not yet been located, the chief said.

"This is an isolated incident," the department said on Twitter. "The suspect fled the MOA on foot and officers are in the process of interviewing witnesses."

The Mall of America alerted via Twitter that it was on lockdown "following a confirmed isolated incident" at one of its tenant spaces.

Footage taken by shoppers showed people sheltering in place, including a large crowd in the basement of the mall.

The lockdown has since been lifted. Shoppers on the mall's second level have been asked to wait for an escort, while all others were advised to leave.

The mall will be closed for the rest of the evening.

The shopping mall is located in Bloomington, a suburb of the Twin Cities.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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