National News

School shooter chose Valentine's Day to ruin it forever

Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz calmly told a psychologist he picked Valentine’s Day for his massacre to ruin the holiday for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students forever. In video played at his penalty trial Thursday, he told a prosecution psychologist that's why he killed 17 at the Parkland school four years ago. Prosecutors are trying to bolster their contention that Cruz wasn’t driven to kill by a mental disorder he couldn’t control, but planned his attack and chose to carry it out. Cruz pleaded guilty a year ago. The jury will only decide whether he is sentenced to death or life without parole.

Live Updates: Russia-Ukraine War

The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development has met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss Ukraine’s humanitarian, economic and development needs. At a briefing in Kyiv on Thursday, USAID director Samantha Power said that “this war will be won on the battlefield, but it is also being won in Ukraine’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its democracy and its economy.” Power says her visit included meetings with Ukrainian farmers, civil society activists, journalists and groups working to identify and document war crimes. Earlier in the day, Power announced that USAID has committed an additional $55 million to assist Ukraine with repairs to heating pipes and other infrastructure and equipment. USAID has since February given $9.89 billion in aid to Ukraine.

Prison reform advocate gets 40-year sentence in jail scheme

A longtime prison reform advocate has been sentenced to 40 years behind bars for hiding guns, ammunition, handcuff keys and hacksaw blades inside the walls of Nashville’s new jail while it was being built. Judge Steve Dozier sentenced 53-year-old Alex Friedmann after a jury convicted him in July of vandalism that caused more than $250,000 in damage. Friedmann didn’t testify at his trial and investigators couldn't pinpoint a reason for his actions. But he has since said his actions were the result of a mental breakdown triggered by memories of being raped in jail decades ago. In a related case in federal court, Friedmann pleaded guilty in August to being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Hurricane hit areas led US with missing 2020 census data

Two Louisiana parishes devastated by two hurricanes and two rural Nebraska counties had among the highest rates of households with missing information about themselves during the 2020 census that required the U.S. Census Bureau to use a statistical technique to fill in gaps. That's according to figures released Thursday by the agency. Allen and Calcasieu parishes were hit hard by Hurricanes Laura and Delta in the last weeks of the once-a-decade census that determines how many congressional seats each state gets. Along with Logan and Banner counties in Nebraska, the parishes had rates of homes with missing information that required the technique ranging from 8.4% to 11.5%.

Uvalde schools fire ex-Texas trooper who was at shooting

Uvalde school officials have abruptly fired a former Texas state trooper who was on scene of the Robb Elementary School massacre in May and then hired by the school district. The firing Thursday came after CNN first reported that Crimson Elizondo had been hired by the Uvalde school district following one of the deadliest classroom shootings in U.S. history. In a statement, the school district said it apologized for “the pain that this revelation has caused.” Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde, said Elizondo’s hiring “slapped this community in the face.”

City to pay $12M to kin of Prude, Black man killed by police

Rochester officials have agreed to pay $12 million to the children of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died after police held him down until he stopped breathing on a snowy street in the upstate New York city. A federal judge approved the settlement in a court document filed Thursday. Rochester Mayor Malik D. Evans said in a statement that the agreement was “the best decision” for the city. Attorneys said the settlement money, minus lawyers’ fees and costs, will go to Prude’s five children.

Planned Parenthood pours $5M into vital North Carolina races

Planned Parenthood’s political arm has announced a $5 million investment in North Carolina’s battleground races. Democrats are fighting to preserve the governor’s veto power in one of the last abortion access points for the Southeast. Planned Parenthood Votes and Planned Parenthood Action PAC North Carolina are targeting 14 legislative swing districts with ads, mailings, phone banks and canvassing. The investment announced Thursday is part of an existing $50 million national campaign to protect reproductive rights in nine target states. GOP State Senate leader Phil Berger said Democrats’ accusations that Republicans would fully ban abortion in North Carolina if they obtain veto-proof majorities are misguided.

Fire reported at another Amazon warehouse in New York

A fire broke out late Wednesday at an Amazon facility in upstate New York that’s voting in a union election next week. Amazon is calling the incident a small fire, and says it was contained to a compactor located just outside the doors of a loading dock. Police in Schodack, the town where the facility is located, say the fire was likely caused by mechanical failure. Police say workers were evacuated and no injuries were reported. The company sent employees home with pay and has canceled the day shift on Thursday. The incident at the warehouse follows two other fires at Amazon facilities this week.

11 turkey farm workers charged with cruelty caught on video

Eleven people working for a leading turkey producer have been charged with animal cruelty in Pennsylvania after state police said they were caught on video kicking, stomping and beating turkeys at several farms. Pennsylvania State Police said Thursday that the Plainville Farms workers were responsible for capturing and crating turkeys destined for slaughter. An undercover investigator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals worked on a crew and captured graphic video showing workers appearing to mistreat the birds. Pennsylvania-based Plainville Farms says it has “zero tolerance” for such acts and has fired the implicated employees.

Kidnapped California family, including baby, found dead

The sheriff of Merced County in California says a baby girl and three other family members who were kidnapped at gunpoint from their business two days ago have been found dead. Sheriff Vern Warnke announced Wednesday that the bodies were found in a Merced County orchard and told reporters: “Our worst fears have been confirmed.” The announcement came after authorities released surveillance video of a man kidnapping 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her parents and uncle from their business Monday in Merced in the San Joaquin Valley southeast of San Francisco. Authorities earlier said the four were taken by a convicted robber who tried to kill himself a day after the kidnappings.

Judge temporarily blocks search of slain reporter’s devices

A Nevada judge has granted a temporary restraining order that bars authorities from immediately searching the personal devices of slain investigative reporter Jeff German. The Las Vegas Review-Journal filed a request for the emergency order earlier this week, after officials investigating German’s killing asserted that they could search the devices as early as Tuesday evening. Review-Journal Executive Editor Glenn Cook said the restraining order was requested to protect the identities of German’s confidential sources and the information they provided him. Robert Telles, a Clark County public administrator, has been jailed without bail on a murder charge since Sept. 7.

Florida drop tower will be taken down after teen's death

A towering amusement ride in central Florida’s tourism district where a Missouri teen fell to his death will be taken down because of the accident. The owner, Orlando Slingshot, said Thursday that the decision to take down the more than 400-foot (122-meter) ride in Orlando’s International Drive district was directly linked to the death of 14-year-old Tyre Sampson last March. The company also said it planned to create a scholarship in the teen’s name. An autopsy showed that Tyre Sampson suffered numerous broken bones and internal injuries in the fall, which was ruled an accidental death

Psych exam set for NYC man charged with killing EMS officer

A judge has ordered a psychiatric examination for a man charged with fatally stabbing a New York City emergency services officer in an unprovoked attack. Peter Zisopoulos entered a not guilty plea Thursday via his attorney. The 34-year-old Zisopoulos is charged with murder in the death of Lt. Alison Russo-Elling, who was posthumously promoted to captain. She was abruptly attacked last week near the Queens fire station where she worked. Zisopoulos initially said he didn’t consent to Thursdays' remote arraignment, but he then agreed to it. His lawyer says Zisopoulos has had mental health problems for four years.

New survey suggests little progress against U.S. teen vaping

The latest government study on teen vaping suggests there’s been little progress in keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of kids. The data seems to show an increase, with 14% of surveyed high schoolers saying they vaped recently, up from 11% the year before. But experts said a change in the online study makes it difficult to compare the two. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study Thursday. Educators say vaping is still a big problem. One principal says kids vaping in school bathrooms and stairwells remains “a constant battle.”

EXPLAINER: What's next in Musk's epic battle with Twitter?

Elon Musk’s monthslong tussle with Twitter took another twist this week after the Tesla billionaire seemed to return to where he started in April — offering to buy the company for $44 billion. But it’s not over yet. Twitter says it intends to close the deal at the agreed-upon price, but the two sides are still booked for an Oct. 17 trial in Delaware over Musk’s earlier attempts to terminate the deal. On Wednesday, the judge presiding over the case said she will continue to press on toward the trial because neither side has formally moved to stop it.

College football at 49? North Dakota lineman has right stuff

A North Dakota junior college has a senior statesman on its football team. North Dakota State College of Science has a 49-year-old backup defensive lineman named Ray Ruschel. He is a freshman who is a year older than his coach. The Army veteran is a night-shift mechanic at a local sugar beet factory. He is seeking a degree in business management after his most recent deployment with the National Guard. He hopes to become a supervisor at work. For now, he is holding his own with 19- and 20-year-old football players on a team with national title hopes.

Officials: Wildfire in Nebraska Sandhills nearly contained

Firefighters have nearly contained a large wildfire in the Nebraska Sandhills that has burned roughly 30 square miles and led to the death of a volunteer firefighter. The Bovee Fire began Sunday and spread quickly because of dry conditions. The Rocky Mountain Complex Incident Management Team said Thursday that the fire is 94% contained, with only a few short sections of the fire line surrounding the blaze still unsecure. A night shift of firefighters will no longer be needed. The fire destroyed several buildings at the Nebraska State 4-H Camp and burned part of the Nebraska National Forest. Assistant Chief of the Purdum Volunteer Fire Department Mike Moody died Sunday after suffering an apparent heart attack while fighting the fire.

Mississippi seeks to derail federal suits over mental health

The Mississippi solicitor general has argued to a federal appeals court that the U.S. Justice Department overreached in suing the state over its mental health system. A Justice Department attorney countered that there’s ample precedent to show the department has the power to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday in New Orleans. A ruling against the Justice Department could ultimately push the issue to the Supreme Court. The department sued Mississippi several years ago, saying the state violated federal law by confining people with mental illness in state hospitals instead of providing community-based services.