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Anti-gun violence group pledges $25 million to stop shootings


(NEW YORK) -- The nation’s largest gun violence prevention organization is stepping up efforts to address the scourge of recent shootings across the country as part of a new initiative unveiled exclusively by ABC News on Monday.

Everytown for Gun Safety is delivering millions of dollars in grants and providing support to local organizations that aim to reduce gun crimes by tapping into communities most impacted by firearms. The new initiative, known as the Everytown Community Safety Fund, is dedicating $25 million over five years to gun violence prevention programs. The first million is set to be distributed across organizations next month.

"It's an urgent moment," said Michael-Sean Spence, Everytown's director of community safety initiatives who is leading the rollout of the new initiative. "We're in the middle of a public health crisis -- one that has been brewing for a number of years and has really taken off over the last year, year and a half.”

The rate of homicides with a firearm is nearly 25 times higher in the U.S. compared to similar economically developed countries, according to a 2015 study published in the journal of Preventive Medicine. More recently, 2020 marked the highest number of firearm deaths in at least 20 years, according to Britannica, the group behind the famed encyclopedia, and the Gun Violence Archive.

On a recent week in July, a joint analysis by GVA and ABC News found that 2.4 people were killed and 5.5 people were wounded every hour.

"The trends we're seeing today don't approach the '90s levels of gun homicides that we fortunately were able to reverse,” Spence told ABC News. “But they are some of the highest numbers we have seen since the early 2000s, and we've also seen a prolonged, persistent spike."

The funds from Everytown will support 100 local intervention programs, building on its original list of 60 programs funded by the organization over the past two years.

"There are a number of factors that drive gun violence. One is the lack of opportunity,” Spence said. “Many of these programs, once they've identified individuals, can put them into workforce development programs and connect them with other opportunities to change their life."

One of the groups set to receive funding is No More Red Dots, which runs a handful of gun violence prevention programs in Louisville, Kentucky. The organization maintains a database of high-risk individuals in the area and works to prevent them from engaging in future shootings.

Led by Dr. Eddie Woods, who has more than 20 years of experience in community safety, No More Red Dots has deep roots in Louisville. Some of the organization's programs include an artist’s workshop and basketball league that are designed to build the skills and interests of at-risk youth and provide them with mentorship opportunities.

“We've been around forever, so a lot of the young people's parents, and maybe in some cases grandparents, were in our group sessions back in the day,” Woods told ABC News. “So we kind of got a feel for the culture in some families -- the personalities of some families.”

The hyper-local formula appears to be moving the community in a positive direction. Thousands of kids have gone through the program, Woods said, and more than 115 have gone from engaging in dangerous activity in the streets to obtaining a college education.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Florida HBCU doles out $16 million to pay off student debt

Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Students at a historically Black college received a huge parting gift from their school during commencement ceremonies Saturday.

Larry Robinson, the president of Florida A&M University, announced the school spent over $16 million to cover fees, tuition and unpaid student account balances during the 2020-2021 school year.

"This is an indication of our commitment to student success and our hope that your time on the 'Hill' has been transformative as you take on the challenges of the day, go out and make a difference," he told the graduates.

The university was able to use money from the federal Cares Act, which provides COVID-19 relief to organizations, to pay for the students' costs.

FAMU Vice President for Student Affairs William E. Hudson, Jr told students the school wanted to give them some assistance given the struggles caused by the pandemic.

"Clearing student account balances from the previous school year was a way of practicing our motto of “Excellence with Caring” by supporting students and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic," he said in a statement.

Florida A&M University is the latest HBCU to pay off their students' debts and costs with the federal relief money.

Other schools that have announced similar plans include Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina, South Carolina State University and Spelman College.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Gun-wielding masked men shoot 10 in New York City attack, speed off on mopeds

New York Police Department via Twitter

(NEW YORK) -- A pair of masked men unleashed a fusillade of gunfire on a crowded street in a New York City neighborhood Saturday night, wounding 10 people before getting on mopeds and speeding away, police said.

New York Police Department investigators said the episode appeared to be tied to gang violence, but that seven of the shooting victims were innocent bystanders, including a 72-year-old man.

"This was, as I can most accurately describe it, a brazen, coordinated attack," NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said at a news conference on Sunday.

No arrests have been made.

The shooting occurred about 10:38 p.m. outside a barbershop and a restaurant in the city's Queens borough.

The NYPD released a chilling surveillance video showing two men wearing masks and hooded sweatshirts walking east on 37th Avenue near 97th Street in Corona, Queens, both with their arms extended and firing handguns.

The video shows the pair of gunmen being trailed on the sidewalk by two other masked men, also wearing hooded sweatshirts, driving mopeds. Following the shooting, the gunmen calmly climbed onto the back of the mopeds and sped away.

At least 37 bullet shell casings were recovered, but Essig said police were combing the crime scene for evidence and suspect more shots were fired.

He said three of the people shot are members of the Trinitarios street gang and are believed to have been the intended targets of the shooting.

Essig said the shooting followed "reoccurring themes" police have recently noticed as the city has seen an alarming surge in gun violence.

"That's gang members, that's guns, multiple guns on the scene, scooters being used, masks and, lastly, unintended targets getting hit," Essig said. "This is unacceptable in our streets in New York City, and it has to stop."

He said the seven innocent bystanders left with non-life-threatening wounds ranged from age 19 to 72 and included two women.

He said the gunmen appeared initially to open fire on a group of people standing in front of a barbershop, but other people wounded were attending a party at a restaurant a few doors away.

NYPD Chief of Patrol Juanita Holmes pleaded with the public to help police catch the gunmen and their getaway drivers.

"We need the community's help on this one," Holmes said.

She asked people to closely review the security video of the shooting that showed both gunmen wearing dark masks and dark hooded sweatshirts. One gunman was wearing white pants and Nike sneakers, while the other was wearing dark pants and dark sneakers.

One of the moped drivers was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt and white pants, while the other driver had on what appeared to be a gray sweatshirt with a white hood and an American flag on the chest emblazoned with the letters "USA."

"They know the area. That's why they were wearing masks," Holmes said. "They know the area, they come over here. Someone's going to see that video, they're going to see those still photos, they're going to say, 'Oh, I know that clothing ... I know so-and-so walks that way.' And that is why we are really, really appealing to the public. Our biggest asset is the public when it comes to solving crimes like this."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Five shot, panic ensues in the heart of New Orleans' French Quarter


(NEW ORLEANS) — A barrage of gunfire erupted in the heart of New Orleans' French Quarter early Sunday leaving at least five people wounded and a panicked crowd running for cover.The shooting broke out about 3 a.m. on Bourbon Street at Orleans Avenue, about two blocks from Jackson Square and around the corner from the famed Preservation Hall, according to police.

The New Orleans Police Department said one person was detained and was being questioned about the shooting, but released no further details.

"The investigation remains active and ongoing," police said in a statement on Twitter.

An EarthCam video camera mounted on Cat's Meow Karaoke Bar, which normally provides a live feed of the party scene on Bourbon Street, captured the sound of multiple gunshots followed by chaos with panicked people running for cover in all directions. Several people narrowly avoided being hit by cars crossing Bourbon Street.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Superintendent Shaun Ferguson of the New Orleans Police Department both went to the scene of the shooting but did not make any public comments.

Around 4:40 a.m. Sunday, New Orleans police responded to another shooting scene in the adjacent Iberville neighborhood just northeast of the French Quarter in which at least four people were shot, including a juvenile who was killed, authorities said. No other information was available on the Iberville incident.

Like other major cities across the country, New Orleans has seen a surge in shootings and homicides in the first seven months of 2021.

New Orleans has recorded more than 250 shootings and more than 100 homicides already this year. In all of 2020, New Orleans police investigated 195 homicides, a 63% increase from 2019.

In April, Cantrell announced the city was creating the Office of Gun Violence Prevention to focus on ways to intervene and mediate conflicts before they result in shootings. The program also focuses on providing jobs and job training programs for young people in the city.

“Nothing stops a bullet like a job," Cantrell said at the time.

The weekend gun violence in New Orleans came as the Grant Parish Sheriff's Office in Colfax, about 200 miles north of New Orleans, continue to investigate a shooting that occurred on Friday at the Louisiana Mud Fest music festival. Chris Ardon, a Zydeco accordionist and singer, was shot and wounded on stage as his group was performing, according to ABC affiliate station WGNO-TV in New Orleans.

Ardon and a 14-year-old child in the crowd suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

In the aftermath of the shooting, thousands of people attending the music festival immediately began diving for cover and running for the exits, detectives told WGNO.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 live updates: Florida reports largest single-day increase in cases since pandemic began


(NEW YORK) -- The United States is facing a COVID-19 surge this summer as the more contagious delta variant spreads.

More than 612,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and over 4.1 million people have died worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Just 57.7% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC on Tuesday, citing new science on the transmissibility of the delta variant, changed its mask guidance to now recommend everyone in areas with substantial or high levels of transmission -- vaccinated or not -- wear a face covering in public, indoor settings.

Here's how the news is developing Sunday. All times Eastern:

Aug 01, 2:07 pm

'Steady increase' in vaccines in past month, White House says

The number of vaccinations has been increasing since the week of July 5, White House COVID-19 data director Cyrus Shahpar announced Sunday.

Aug 01, 12:52 pm

'Things are going to get worse' with COVID, Fauci warns

The nation's top infectious disease expert is warning that "things will get worse" in the pandemic as the rate of COVID-19 cases continues to surge.

Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an interview on “This Week” that while he does not believe the pandemic is worsening to the point where lockdowns will be necessary again, "We are seeing an outbreak of the unvaccinated," based on the seven-day average, which "has gone up substantially.”

"From the standpoint of illness, hospitalization, suffering and death, the unvaccinated are much more vulnerable because the vaccinated are protected from severe illness, for the most part, but when you look at the country as a whole. And getting us back to normal, the unvaccinated, by not being vaccinated, are allowing the propagation and the spread of the outbreak which ultimately impacts everybody," Fauci said.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Aug 01, 8:20 am

Israel to offer 3rd COVID-19 booster shot to older citizens: Reports

Israel's ministry of health has instructed that a third dose of vaccine should be administered to those over 60, beginning Sunday, Aug. 1, Israeli media is reporting.

The third jab will be given to those who have received the second dose at least five months ago. People who have recovered from COVID-19 will not be given the third dose.

Israel's prime minister and the minister of health are expected to speak on this Sunday morning.

ABC News' Bruno Nota

Jul 31, 5:38 pm

US reports another huge single-day increase in cases

The United States has reported over 100,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were 101,171 new COVID-19 cases reported to the CDC on July 30.

The last time the U.S. saw over 100,000 cases reported in a single day was nearly six months ago on Feb. 6.

On Friday, the CDC reported that the U.S. saw 86,000 cases in the previous 24 hours. That total had been the largest since Feb. 12, as the country began to come out of the surge seen in late December 2020 and early January.

Officials have said the delta variant is driving the increase in cases and continue to push the unvaccinated to get the shot.

Jul 31, 4:58 pm

Florida sees largest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases ever

Florida reported its largest single-day increase of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic on Saturday.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21,683 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the last 24 hours.

Cases have risen sharply in the past month in Florida, fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant. On Friday, the state reported over 110,000 new COVID-19 in the past week -- the highest weekly increase since the start of the year.

Jul 31, 4:37 pm

Austin, Texas, has just 9 ICU beds left

Austin, Texas, has just nine ICU beds available for its population of 2.3 million, as of Saturday, according to the state’s coronavirus tracker.

The Austin area is currently treating 400 COVID-19 patients in hospitals. The 7-day moving average for hospitalizations in a week has increased over 47% from 34 to 50 new admissions on July 30, according to an Austin Public Health news release.

“We are running out of time and our community must act now,” Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said on the crisis. “Our ICU capacity is reaching a critical point where the level of risk to the entire community has significantly increased, and not just to those who are needing treatment for COVID. If we fail to come together as a community now, we jeopardize the lives of loved ones who might need critical care.”

Jul 31, 2:16 pm

New Orleans runs out of capacity to respond to 911 calls 

New Orleans’ EMS department has become so hard hit by the pandemic and the rampant delta variant, it does not have the capacity to respond to 911 calls, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Friday.

“One of our primary and premiere public safety agencies, EMS, was hit very hard with COVID, we’re experiencing that this week, today, right now,” Cantrell said.

The crisis prompted Cantrell to issue an emergency contract to increase the city’s capacity on the ground, “because we currently do not have the capacity to respond to 911 calls that come from our community right now,” she said.

On Friday Cantrell enacted an indoor mask mandate, which requires all people regardless of vaccination status to wear a mask indoors. The mayor also announced that all city employees will be required to be vaccinated, hoping the decision will prompt private businesses to issue similar orders for their workers.

“Our children are dying,” she said. “From 2 weeks old to 2 years old to 4 years old, you cannot make it up.”

She cited that the city has recorded over 1,000 new cases just over this past week.

At the press briefing when Cantrell was asked whether she worries about losing employees who don't want to get a shot, she said, “Well I'm worried about city employees as it relates to death due to this virus."

-ABC News’ Joshua Hoyos and Will McDuffie.

Jul 31, 1:08 pm

White House says about 3 million received 1st COVID-19 shot in the past week

The White House offered a glimmer of hope in the COVID-19 crisis Saturday as the nation continues to grapple with the delta variant.

For the first time “in a long stretch” the U.S. recorded four days in a row where over 700,000 COVID-19 vaccines were given out, White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain tweeted Saturday.

Overall, about 3 million people got their first vaccine shot over the past seven days, Klain said.

Jul 31, 9:28 am

CDC director says ‘no federal vaccine mandate’

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky caused a stir on Fox News on Friday when asked, “Are you for mandating a vaccine on a federal level?” to which she replied, “That’s something that I think the administration is looking into.”

Walensky later clarified her comments on Twitter saying: “There will be no nationwide mandate. I was referring to mandates by private institutions and portions of the federal government. There will be no federal mandate.”

Jul 31, 4:23 am

4,058 new cases reported in Tokyo, a 217% increase since last week

At lest 4,058 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Saturday in Tokyo, according to the city's coronavirus information website.

Of those cases, 95 are severe and three have resulted in death.

The new figure marks a 217% increase in cases since last Saturday.

Jul 30, 7:09 pm
New Orleans to mandate indoor masking, city employee vaccinations  

New Orleans officials reissued a mask mandate Friday, requiring that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask indoors in public spaces due to rising COVID-19 cases.

"Thanks to the delta variant, the COVID pandemic is once again raging out of control," Mayor LaToya Cantrell said during a press briefing, noting the daily average of new COVID-19 cases increased from 104 last week to 272 this week. "This is a very dangerous number. We have been here before. ... And what was once unpreventable, today is preventable, and is through our people getting vaccinated."

The mayor also announced that city employees and contractors will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Over 71% of city employees are vaccinated, "but that is not good enough," the mayor said. "We want to get to 100%."

Jul 30, 7:02 pm
Austin facing 'dire' ICU bed shortage

In Austin, Texas, intensive care unit capacity has reached a "dire" point, the city's health department said Friday, with only 16 staffed beds available for over 2.3 million residents.

"We are running out of time and our community must act now," Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said in a statement. "Our ICU capacity is reaching a critical point where the level of risk to the entire community has significantly increased, and not just to those who are needing treatment for COVID. If we fail to come together as a community now, we jeopardize the lives of loved ones who might need critical care."

Fauci warns 'things are going to get worse' with COVID

J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — As the country grapples with a surge in the delta variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci believes that lockdowns the country saw last year are likely to not return, though he warned "things will get worse" during an interview on ABC's "This Week."

"I don't think we're gonna see lockdowns. I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country -- not enough to crush the outbreak -- but I believe enough to not allow us to get into the situation we were in last winter. But things are going to get worse," the nation's top infectious disease expert told "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl on Sunday.

"If you look at the acceleration of the number of cases, the seven-day average has gone up substantially. You know what we really need to do, Jon, we say it over and over again and it's the truth -- we have 100 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not getting vaccinated. We are seeing an outbreak of the unvaccinated," he added.

"From the standpoint of illness, hospitalization, suffering and death, the unvaccinated are much more vulnerable because the vaccinated are protected from severe illness, for the most part, but when you look at the country as a whole. And getting us back to normal, the unvaccinated, by not being vaccinated, are allowing the propagation and the spread of the outbreak which ultimately impacts everybody," Fauci said.

Concerns over the coronavirus resurged this week, as research about the outbreak of the virus in Provincetown, Massachusetts, indicated that the now-dominant delta variant may be able to spread among fully vaccinated people.

During an investigation of the outbreak, researchers learned that the amount of virus in the noses of vaccinated people experiencing a breakthrough infection was the same as in an unvaccinated person -- a concerning sign that vaccinated people can also spread the virus.

The data helped the CDC make its decision to bring mask guidelines back for vaccinated individuals in areas of high or substantial spread of the virus -- despite the fact that breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals are overwhelmingly mild and do not result in hospitalization or death.

"That has much more to do with transmission," Fauci said of the new guidelines.

"You want them to wear a mask, so that if in fact they do get infected, they don't spread it to vulnerable people, perhaps in their own household, children or people with underlying conditions," Fauci said of the new guidance for the vaccinated.

President Joe Biden on Thursday also announced a new vaccine policy for all federal workers and onsite contractors, requiring them to "attest to their vaccination status," and will require anyone not fully vaccinated to wear a mask at work, regardless of where they are located, social distance and get tested once or twice a week.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who also spoke with Karl Sunday morning, pushed back on criticism from some unions representing those workers, who argue the new requirement is a violation of civil liberties.

"Well, this is about protecting lives. This is about setting a good example. And to be clear, employees have a choice," Buttigieg said in a separate interview on "This Week."

"Look, we have so many obligations in so many dimensions of employee safety, to make sure that this is a safe workplace. This is part of that. But it's also important, I think, for our federal workforce to lead by example because we're asking the whole country to do what it takes to make sure that we get beyond this pandemic. And this is a very important part of how to do it," he added.

But the new guidance and the president's acknowledgement Friday that "in all probability," the country could see new guidance and restrictions due to the surge has drawn the continued ire of some Republican governors, including Arizona's Doug Ducey, and Florida's Ron DeSantis, who argue that individuals should be able to make decisions about masking and vaccines for themselves.

"What is your answer to these ... Republican governors in some of the largest states in our country?" Karl asked Fauci.

"I respectfully disagree with them," Fauci said. "The fact is, there are things that are individual responsibilities that one has. And there are things that have to do with you individually, which also impact others and get the spread of infection that we're seeing now -- the surge in cases, Jon, is impacting everyone in the country."

"So in essence, you are encroaching on their individual rights because you're making them vulnerable. So you could argue that situation both ways," he added.

ABC News' Sony Salzman contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Protests unfold as city reburies remains that could be linked to Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre

Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) —Protesters gathered outside an Oklahoma cemetery on Friday to decry the reburial of remains exhumed earlier this summer that could be linked to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

The remains of 19 people exhumed from Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa were reinterred Friday in the same place they were found. The remains were exhumed as a part of a city effort to find unmarked burials from the violent event -- which happened 100 years ago -- when a white mob stormed the Greenwood District of Tulsa, a predominantly Black area dubbed "Black Wall Street" on May 31, 1921. The mob destroyed and burned 35 city blocks of the thriving Black neighborhood to the ground.

Oklahoma originally recorded 36 deaths in the brazen attack, but a 2001 commission reported the number was as high as 300.

However, dozens of protesters had gathered to denounce the Friday reburial without a proper funeral ceremony. The burial process was closed to the public.

"It's disgusting and disrespectful that these are our family members and we are outside of the gate and they are inside of the gate where they are," Bobby Eaten, a descendant of a massacre victim, said to ABC Tulsa affiliate KTUL.

The city of Tulsa told ABC News that the reburial went on as planned based on a proposal presented to a public oversight committee that was approved in March, "as on-site forensic analysis, documentation and DNA sampling were complete."

Further, the city had to abide by permit requirements filed with the state's Department of Health and the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office, which required the remains be temporarily interred at Oaklawn Cemetery. An internment plan was required before moving forward with the excavation.

City spokeswoman Michelle Brooks told ABC News that the city remains "committed to transparency during this investigation" and research experts will report their findings from the excavation this fall as well as recommendations for next steps.

All public oversight committee members, the physical investigation team and North Tulsa clergy involved with the exhumation were invited to the reburial, Brooks said.

Brooks said analysis will be done on the remains to determine if they are massacre victims.

"If they are, then we will want to try to match DNA with descendants and let descendants decide where they want them to be buried. If they can't be identified, we would work to establish a permanent memorial," Brooks said.

While on-site forensic analysis and DNA sampling from the remains are complete, she noted DNA matching with potential descendants could take years.

There are two more sites the city is looking at for possible massacre victim remains, KTUL reported.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Woman and her dog are fatally stabbed in Atlanta park, FBI investigating


(ATLANTA) -- A woman and her dog were brutally stabbed to death early Wednesday at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park in what police described as a “gruesome” scene.

Katherine Janness, 40, was found dead at the park around 1 a.m., along with her slain dog Bowie. Police said that Janness had been stabbed multiple times.

Janess’ parter of seven years Emma Clark said that Janness went to walk Bowie after dinner but never returned, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. When she didn't come home, Clark tracked her phone's location and went to the park, where she discovered her girlfriend dead.

The FBI confirmed with ABC News it is now joining the Atlanta Police Department’s investigation into her death, So far, no arrests have been made in the case.

Police have shared a surveillance image showing Janness crossing a street near the park before she was found dead.

On Thursday more than 100 people attended a vigil for Janness at the park, where her partner’s father described the killer as a “monster.”

“What they did to her is ridiculous. There is a monster on the loose in the city of Atlanta,” Joe Clark said according to ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV.

“It’s a gruesome scene,” deputy police Chief Charles Hampton said to the outlet on the murder.

Police have since added five mounted patrol units to the park, a popular area for locals and dog walkers. Police have combed the area this week and divers went in and out of the lake for hours Wednesday searching for potential evidence.

A $10,000 reward is being offered for information that could help lead to an arrest.

If you can help, please call the Atlanta Police Homicide Unit or Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Gun violence in America: Newark

ngus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(NEWARK, N.J.) -- It's the most populous city in New Jersey with over 280,000 residents and regarded as one of its most dangerous. Crime has plagued the city for decades and in 1986, there were more than 40,000 index crimes, a trend that would continue into the 1990s. Meanwhile, through the early to mid-90s, each year, about 10,000 of those crimes were violent, according to New Jersey State Police Uniform Crime Reports. But Newark is trending downward, in a positive way, about 30 years later following those peak numbers.

Ras Baraka was elected as Newark's mayor in 2014 and taking over at a time when the city saw 112 murders the previous year, the most in 24 years. In addition to an increasing murder rate, the U.S. Justice Department issued a 49-page report of an investigation that began in May 2011, into abuse and misconduct within the Newark Police Department, just weeks after Baraka took office.

A DOJ press release stated that "NPD has engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional stops, searches, arrests, use of excessive force and theft by officers in violation of the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments." The DOJ said the practices of officers in Newark also "had a disparate impact on minorities in Newark."

Perhaps the most infamous case of civil unrest fueled by racial disparities in policing came in 1967. There were five days of unrest, known as the "Newark rebellion," after police pulled over John William Smith, a black cab driver, removed him from his car, beat him and then arrested him. As a result, more than two dozen people were killed, thousands were either injured or arrested, and millions of dollars were tallied in property damage.

Almost half a century later, in 2016, the city of Newark and the DOJ came to a consent decree to reform its police department. With the agreement, comprehensive reforms were expected to include the use of in-car and body-worn cameras, de-escalation techniques and a civilian oversight entity to help address the concerns of residents, among other areas.

Before the agreement with the DOJ, however, Baraka had already begun taking steps to help improve the city's issues through a community outreach strategy, dubbed the Newark Community Street Team. Aqeela Sherrills, a Los Angeles native, was tasked with leading the new program due to his work in his own community.

"He knew about the work that we had done in L.A. and also in other cities across the country," Sherrill told ABC News. "He tapped me to come and build out the infrastructure for his community-based public safety initiative." In 1992, Sherrills helped organize a peace treaty between Blood and Crip gang members in the Watts neighborhood of L.A.

The NCST is primarily funded through grants, funds from the city, and with the help from investors like the Victoria Foundation.

In 2016, Baraka created the Department of Public Safety by merging Police, Fire and the Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, in an effort to simplify operations and reduce costs. Anthony Ambrose, a former Newark police officer before rising through the ranks to chief of detectives for the Essex County Prosecutors Office, was appointed the director of the newly created department before his retirement in March. Brian O'Hara, who previously served as Newark's deputy police chief, took over following Ambrose's retirement.

"Baraka came in… with a reformed mentality. He understood violence as a public health issue," Sherrills said. "When he was on the city council, he advanced that framework, and so when he became mayor… folks knew that he would be coming in to clean house."

"The sacred Rural Council was a body that he commissioned to basically coordinate public safety strategies in the city, that not only just with law enforcement at the table, but also with faith community-based organizations…other municipal agencies, because he understood that it was an ecosystem of services that actually reduce violence and crime, as opposed to just law enforcement," Sherrills continued.

Since the city saw over 3,200 violent crimes in 2015, Newark has seen those numbers decrease every year since, to a low of less than 1,500 violent incidents in 2020. Due to police reforms stemming from the consent decree, not a single gunshot was fired by police officers in Newark last year. Overall crime has also dipped every year since 2016, nearly 500 guns were taken off the streets of Newark in 2020, and more than 270 recovered to-date in 2021, according to local officials.

"I think that is one of the factors that provided a vehicle to try and, you know, move some of these reforms forward that had been happening, at least begun to happen on a community level and begun through our mayor in the city. And just provided like sort of like the backing to ensure that the appropriate investments were made in these areas to focus around reform," O'Hara told ABC News. "There was significant efforts around community engagement that had been going on here in the last few years."

In 2019, rape was down 13%, shooting victims down 14%, and homicides were down 26%, seeing its lowest number of murders since 1961. Baraka praised these numbers at the time, while ensuring the troubled areas are also being policed effectively, "There's always this idea that the police are not working in those areas and allowing things to happen, they only protect downtown. Well, these numbers prove that to be false."

However, Sherrills said it's important to remember the role that the NCST has played in crime reduction. The trained outreach workers are members of the community who provide mentoring for people aged 14-30 years old, life management skills, as well as a high-risk intervention team to help those people avoid incarceration by connecting them with counseling and more.

"I can't discount man, the community-based effort, pulling public safety out of the abstract and putting it into the hands of the people," Sherrills told ABC News.

The NCST also provides what's called "Safe Passage," deploying its outreach workers to schools where violence is considered more common, and step-in if they see a conflict brewing. This also allows the outreach workers to build up a rapport with kids and their parents.

While Public Safety Director Brian O'Hara agrees with Sherrills, he also believes the work isn't done, "I would not be talking about 2020. That's ancient history at this point." O'Hara would go on to tell ABC News, " We need to invest in certain communities, where there's concentrated poverty, we need to invest in education, we need to invest in folks with jobs and invest in social services, invest in different ways of addressing cycles of retaliatory violence, social workers and those types of things."

This story is part of the series Gun Violence in America by ABC News Radio. Each day this week we're exploring a different topic, from what we mean when we say "gun violence" – it's not just mass shootings – to what can be done about it. You can hear an extended version of each report as an episode of the ABC News Radio Specials podcast. Subscribe and listen on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Navy sailor charged with setting blaze that destroyed billion-dollar ship last year

Lt. John J. Mike/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Navy has filed charges against a sailor in connection with the fire that destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard in San Diego last July, the service announced Thursday.

"Evidence collected during the investigation is sufficient to direct a preliminary hearing in accordance with due process under the military justice system. The Sailor was a member of Bonhomme Richard’s crew at the time and is accused of starting the fire," 3rd Fleet spokesperson Cmdr. Sean Robertson said in a statement.

Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, the 3rd Fleet commander, is considering court-martial charges, according to the statement.

The admiral has set a preliminary hearing before any trial proceedings, "including whether or not there is probable cause to believe an offense has been committed and to offer a recommendation as to the disposition of the case," Robertson said.

The accused sailor, a seaman apprentice, is being charged with aggravated arson and willfully hazarding a vessel under articles 126 and 110 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice but is not currently detained, Robertson told ABC News.

The Navy has not named the sailor.

Last November, U.S. officials told ABC News a sailor was being questioned by investigators about possible arson after allegedly starting the catastrophic ship fire. Robertson would not say whether this was the same person now being charged.

The Navy announced late last year it would scrap the aging amphibious assault ship.

The Bonhomme Richard was commissioned in 1998 at a cost of $750 million. Adjusted to 2020 dollars, that's $1.2 billion.

The damage to the ship from the days-long fire, that at times reached 1,000 degrees, was too much to repair for a ship that had already been in service for almost a quarter of a century, according to the Navy.

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New details on CDC's Provincetown investigation portray delta variant as serious threat


(WASHINGTON) -- Adding more insight into the CDC’s updated mask guidance, newly published details of the Provincetown outbreak raise concern that the now-dominant delta variant may be able to spread among fully vaccinated people.

Following multiple large gatherings in Provincetown, Mass., from July 3-17, investigators identified 469 COVID-19 cases, two-thirds of which were in fully vaccinated people. The delta variant was responsible for 90% of those cases. The breakthrough infections were among people vaccinated with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. None of the vaccinated people died, but most had some symptoms.

During the outbreak investigation, researchers learned that the amount of virus in the noses of vaccinated people experiencing a breakthrough infection was the same as in an unvaccinated person -- a worrying sign vaccinated people can spread the virus.

"This finding is concerning and was a pivotal discovery leading to CDC’s updated mask recommendation," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in a statement.

"This is a very concerning outbreak -- pretty much a 'super spreader event,'" said Dr. Carlos Del Rio, executive associate dean and global health expert at the Emory School of Medicine.

Experts caution that more studies are needed to understand if what happened in Provincetown holds up in subsequent outbreak investigations. The CDC report noted the social gatherings were "densely packed." And breakthrough infections are still relatively uncommon, with the majority of cases driven by spread among unvaccinated people. Meanwhile, an internal CDC briefing first published by the Washington Post and confirmed by ABC News outlined additional new data suggesting that the delta variant is different from prior variants in other ways. Chiefly, this variant appears to be extraordinarily contagious -- possibly more so than Ebola, Spanish flu, chickenpox and the common cold. It's also possible delta leads to more severe illness, but for now this is only a possibility and not firmly established.

Taken collectively, these new revelations prompted the CDC to update its mask guidance Tuesday to recommend that vaccinated people once again don masks indoors, especially in high-transmission areas. And that includes schools this fall.

"The rules have changed," said Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "We have a different epidemic now that we did in May."

Throughout the spring and summer, the CDC based its guidance on scientific studies of prior COVID-19 variants, including the then-dominant alpha variant, which was first identified in the U.K. and swept the United States during the 2020-2021 winter surge.

But the delta variant -- which only just surpassed alpha as the dominant variant on July 6 -- is different. It hit the U.S. so fast that only in the past few weeks has sufficient data emerged to show scientists just how significant those differences were.

That means that throughout the summer, the nation’s public health guidance may have been based on alpha variant rules while the nation was living in a delta variant world.

It's a game of catch-up that's all-too-familiar to doctors and scientists who have dedicated their lives to preventing infectious disease.

"This is what I always say in a pandemic: I wish I knew today what I’m going to learn tomorrow," Del Rio said.

"When we released our school guidance on July 9, we had less delta variant in the country, we had fewer cases in the country,” said Walensky, speaking at a Tuesday press conference. "And importantly, we were really hopeful that we would have more people vaccinated, especially in the demographic between 12 to 17 years old," she said.

Now, Del Rio said, new data is telling us "that the virus has changed -- it’s a lot more transmissible, and it has been able to adapt."

Although it now seems that vaccinated people can pass the virus, "the great majority of transmissions is still coming from vaccinated people," Del Rio said. "That’s why you’re seeing mandates come left and right. People are saying, enough is enough."

Experts say this is still a pandemic largely of the unvaccinated, with a majority of cases among unvaccinated people, meaning it's more important than ever for anyone who is not vaccinated to get vaccinated.

Crucially, current vaccines appear to work just as well against delta to dramatically reduce the risk of severe illness and death. But they may not work as well at preventing mild infections.

"Current vaccines continue to provide strong protection against severe illness and death, but the delta variant is likely responsible for increased numbers of breakthrough infections -- breakthroughs that could be as infectious as unvaccinated cases," said John Brownstein, Ph.D., the chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital and an ABC News contributor.

The CDC brief said one of the agency's biggest challenges moving forward is countering the public perception that vaccines don't work. But the fact that roughly half the nation is already vaccinated likely saved the United States from an even deadlier summer surge, experts agreed.

"If it were not for the vaccines, there likely would have been a massive overwhelming surge in this county," Barouch said.

Even still, large portions of the country -- including children -- remain unvaccinated. And what scientists are learning about the delta variant’s capacity to transmit between vaccinated people might mean we need to mask up again -- especially in those high transmission areas.

"We have to get the unvaccinated vaccinated. And in the meantime, masking is useful, but not sufficient so we have to also add testing to the mix of mitigation strategies," Del Rio said.

For now, the future remains uncertain. Many scientists worry about a winter surge, while others feel encouraged that the delta variant might fade away as suddenly as it arrived.

"There is some evidence -- first from India and now from the U.K. -- that the delta variant surges and then begins to dissolve,” Barouch said. "We don’t fully understand why the sparks catch fire, and we don’t fully understand why the flames go out."

ABC News' Sasha Pezenik, Anne Flaherty, Arielle Mitropoulos and Eric Strauss contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Why some states are pushing back on masks amid delta variant surge


(NEW YORK) -- It's a simple device that can save lives and keep people out of emergency rooms.

But masks are once again a flashpoint after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended this week that everyone in areas with substantial or high levels of transmission, regardless of their vaccination status, return to wearing a mask in public, indoor settings and in schools, amid a concerning rise in the delta variant.

Despite a rise in cases and hospitalizations, several states are pushing back against the CDC's new guidelines -- which have changed dramatically over the past few weeks. Some governors have balked at what they've criticized as a whiplash reversion to overly draconian measures, vowing no mask mandate would succeed in their state.

The CDC's reversal comes just two months after it announced it would no longer recommend masking for vaccinated Americans, and just as the nation was breathing a collective sigh of relief at the precipitous fall of cases and hospitalizations due to the rollout of mass vaccinations.

Here are some of the states battling back against the changing guidance, and why.

No 'one size fits all'

"The time for government mask mandates is over," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted after the CDC's announcement on Tuesday, adding that "now is the time for personal responsibility."

Texas' COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have seen a dramatic rise, with daily case averages roughly doubling in recent weeks. COVID-19 deaths in the state are also ticking up.

On Thursday, Abbott criticized President Joe Biden for the length of time it's taking the Food and Drug Administration to upgrade the vaccines to a permanent authorization from their current emergency authorization -- a concern often cited by those who are hesitant to get the shot.

For states like Texas and Iowa that have either passed laws or issued executive orders banning mask mandates, the latest CDC guidance is "counterproductive to vaccination efforts," said Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Reynolds called the CDC's recommendation "not grounded in reality or common sense," and praised herself for leading one of several states that have passed laws restricting mask mandates

"I'm concerned that this new guidance will be used as a vehicle to mandate masks in states and schools across the country, something I do not support," Reynolds tweeted.

In Arizona, another state where mask mandates are banned by law, Gov. Doug Ducey used the CDC's recommendations to criticize Biden, saying that the new mask guidance is an example of the Biden administration's "inability to effectively control the COVID-19 pandemic."

Alabama officials also said they would not be following the CDC's updated guidance. A spokesperson for Gov. Kay Ivey said the current circumstances do not warrant a "blanket one-size-fits-all" approach.

"The state of emergency has ended, and Alabama is moving forward," the spokesperson told ABC News.

'The vaccine works'

Following the CDC's announcement this week, Biden said the decision was not a relapse but "another step on our journey to defeating the virus."

"Unlike 2020, we have both the scientific knowledge and the tools to prevent the spread of this disease," Biden said. "We are not going back to that."

But some states' leaders are pointing to the vaccines' efficacy as a reason not to re-enforce masking.

"The vaccine works," said Gov. Henry McMaster of South Carolina, where a state law prohibits school administrators from requiring students to wear a mask.

Health officials stress that while the vaccines are indeed safe and effective, many states still have a substantial number of residents who are unvaccinated -- and with the exponential spread of the highly transmissible delta variant, a mask is meant to protect both wearer and bystander.

In Maryland, a health department spokesperson told ABC News that the state isn't affected by the new CDC guidance because it's not among the areas showing "high or substantial community transmission." The spokesperson said that Maryland is one of the most vaccinated states in the country, and that "blunts the impact of the delta variant."

For health experts like University of Washington professor of global health Ali Mokdad, who believes the CDC was late in reversing its guidance, the political debate over masks is "hurting our ability to contain COVID-19."

"I do not understand how masks and vaccines could be a political statement," Mokdad said. "Look at the new admissions in Florida for COVID-19 confirmed patients -- if this will not make governors pause and take this virus seriously, what will?"

Some states, like California, New Mexico and New Jersey, have welcomed the latest mask guidance.

"It's clear that the nation is at a critical moment in this COVID crisis," said Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, lauding the CDC for "a hard look at where we are."

"Illinois will follow this guidance, as we always have," he said.

Left vs. right

Like other coronavirus issues, the updated mask guidance has divided parts of the country along largely political lines -- even within states.

The attorney general of Missouri, where coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rage, has announced that the state government is suing St. Louis city and county for bringing back mask mandates. But that didn't stop Kansas City, on the other side of the state, from announcing Wednesday that it was also reinstating an indoor mask mandate.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, called the new CDC guidance "disappointing" and "concerning" Wednesday, adding that "it only serves to disrupt" the state's slow uptick in vaccination.

In Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, on Wednesday issued an executive order requiring masks in public indoor spaces -- despite Gov. Brian Kemp's longstanding opposition to any mask mandate.

"We don't need mandates," Kemp, a Republican, told ABC affiliate WSB-TV this week. "We need to continue to share the data and the facts."

Georgia's cases and hospitalizations are both at more than 10% and rising.

In Florida, a spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, told ABC News that imposing mask mandates would discourage people from getting vaccinated.

But Miami-Dade, the state's most populous county, is pushing back against the governor's ban on masks after reporting 11,000 new coronavirus infections in one day.

"When the health care system is overwhelmed, that is extremely dangerous for all of us, so we must do our part to keep people out of the hospital," Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. a Democrat, said Wednesday.

Dr. Rich Besser, former acting CDC director and president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told ABC News that the pandemic is far from over and that "we do need to do more."

"We're in a very fluid situation," Besser said. "You know, there are many who wanted to declare victory over this pandemic several months ago, but it's far from over."

"We will see the end of this pandemic," said Besser, who supports a "layered approach" out of the crisis. "But until that time, we are all at risk."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Husband surprises wife with long-lost wedding video on 14-year anniversary

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(EUGENE, Ore) -- Drew and Kayla Gottfried were heartbroken after they were told that their wedding video had been erased after they tied the knot in 2007.

In a fortunate twist this past spring, Drew Gottfried received a call from their church saying that an old VHS tape had been found in the basement. Astonishingly, it was their wedding video.

For two months, Gottfried kept the secret until July 27, the couple’s 14th anniversary.

On that night, the couple went out to dinner and a movie at a local theater in downtown Eugene, Oregon, where Gottfried surprised his wife with a private viewing of the recovered video.

Kayla Gottfried’s emotional response was caught on camera and has since been viewed 6.1 million times on TikTok.

“How do you have video of this?” Kayla Gottfried said when she was surprised with the video. She told “World News Tonight” that she was happy to have that memory back.

“Break out those old family videos and relive those special moment with your loved ones often,” she said.

Although he’s also happy to have the video back, Gottfried shared a message that the present is just as important as the past.

“Enjoy your life, the moment you’re in, with your families. Whatever they are -- birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, get-togethers,” said Gottfried. “Just enjoy your time with your family. Be present and be there.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Pilot reports 'possible jet pack man' near Los Angeles


(LOS ANGELES) — A Boeing 747 pilot near Los Angeles reported Wednesday night another "possible jet pack man in sight." It's the latest in a string of mysterious jet pack sightings near the City of Angels since last year.

"A Boeing 747 pilot reported seeing an object that might have resembled a jet pack 15 miles east of LAX at 5,000 feet altitude around 6:12 p.m. Wednesday," a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration told ABC News. "Out of an abundance of caution, air traffic controllers alerted other pilots in the vicinity.”

Air traffic controllers could be heard directing pilots in the area to "use caution towards the jet pack." The FAA spokesperson said there were no "unusual objects" that had appeared on the radar around LAX around that time on Wednesday.

"We were looking but we did not see Iron Man," one person said on the air traffic recording.

The supposed jet pack sighting follows several others dating back to early 2020. In December 2020, a Southern California pilot captured a video of what appeared to be a person with a jet pack flying off the Palos Verdes Peninsula at around 3,000 feet.

Another sighting was reported in August 2020, after two different commercial airline pilots reported seeing a man in a jet pack hovering near LAX, ABC News reported.

“Reports of unmanned aircraft sightings from pilots, law enforcement personnel and the general public have increased dramatically over the past two years,” the FAA said on its website.

The agency says it receives more than 100 such reports each month.

Unauthorized operators flying around airplanes, helicopters and airports is illegal and may be subject to fines and criminal charges, including jail time, the FAA Says. The FAA spokesperson said the agency works with the FBI to investigate these sightings.

“The FAA has worked closely with the FBI to investigate every possible jet pack sighting report,” said the spokesperson. “We have not been able to validate any of the reports.”

ABC News’ Alex Stone and Mina Kaji contributed to this report.

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Gunfight, crash after man calls police to say he killed his parents


(MT. LEBANON, Pa.) -- A horrific eruption of violence unfolded early Thursday in a Pennsylvania town when a 25-year-old man called police saying he killed his parents and wanted to surrender but then started a gunfight when officers arrived at his family's home, authorities said.

The deadly episode occurred in the Pittsburgh suburb of Mt. Lebanon. When it was over, the suspect was found dead and with a gunshot wound following a high-speed police chase that ended in a crash, police said.

Two officers were injured in the encounter, including one who was shot, officials said.

Just after midnight, a 911 dispatcher received a call from a man claiming to have killed his parents during a fight. When officers got on the phone with him, he told them he wanted to surrender, Deputy Chief Jason Haberman of the Mt. Lebanon Police Department said at an early morning news conference.

He said officers arrived at the man's house about 12:18 a.m. and confirmed both his parents were dead.

"He was very calm with the officers involved. They made phone contact with him. There was no indication he was not going to surrender," Haberman said.

Haberman said that even after officers initially arrived at the man's home, "there was no indication that he was going to turn this into a gunfight."

Without warning, the man, whose name was not immediately released, pulled a gun and started shooting at officers, hitting one from the neighboring Dormont Police Department, who was taken to a hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries, Haberman said.

Haberman said a second officer from the Mt. Lebanon Police Department suffered an unspecified non-shooting injury during the encounter and was treated at a hospital and released.

Officers from surrounding agencies set up a perimeter around the gunman's home, but the suspect somehow managed to get in a vehicle and breach the perimeter, Haberman said.

Haberman said officers were chasing the man south on Route 19 when he crashed. He said officers found the man dead in his vehicle and with a bullet wound.

Haberman said the man was not shot by police. He said Allegheny County police are investigating how the man was shot and whether that or the crash killed him.

The names of the suspect's parents were also being withheld, pending notification of relatives.

Haberman said Mt. Lebanon police had prior contact with the suspect and had gone to the family's home before to investigate reports of domestic violence.

"Thanks to the heroic acts of a number of officers involved and the assistance of a number of jurisdictions," Haberman said, "injuries were minimized and lives were saved."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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