Also trending on your Friday: Indian police fatally shoot 4 suspects held in gang-rape case, NC Christmas parades with Confederate floats canceled amid disruption threats, Guatemalan boy who died in federal custody was on the floor for hours before anyone found him, video shows.
Chase with stolen UPS truck ends with shootout, 4 dead
MIRAMAR, Fla. (AP) — Four people, including a UPS driver, were killed Thursday after robbers stole the driver’s truck and led police on a chase that ended in gunfire at a busy South Florida intersection during rush hour, the FBI said.
Both robbers were shot and killed, and the fourth victim was in a nearby vehicle when shots rang out at a crowded intersection in Miramar, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of where the incident began, FBI Special Agent in Charge George Piro said during a news conference Thursday night.
Television news helicopters showed first responders tending to at least one person who fell out of the UPS truck, moments after several shots were fired when the chase ended.
“It’s very early in the investigative process,” Piro said. “There are a lot of questions that are still unanswered.”
In Coral Gables, where the incident began, police said a jewelry store worker was also injured but did not say if she had been shot. There was no immediate update on her condition.
It all started shortly after 4 p.m., when police in Coral Gables received a silent alarm at the Regent Jewelers store in the city's Miracle Mile area, about 5 miles (8 kilometers) west of Miami. Coral Gables Police Chief Ed Hudak said during a news conference that two suspects were at the store and that shots were being fired when police, summoned by a silent alarm from inside the store, arrived.
The suspects fled in a truck, then carjacked the UPS delivery truck and its driver not long afterward to start the chase into the southern portion of Broward County, running red lights and narrowly avoiding some crashes along the way. The UPS truck finally stopped in one of the middle lanes of a busy roadway, caught behind a wall of other vehicles waiting for a red light to turn green. Television footage showed several officers on foot, some with guns drawn, approaching the truck from the rear and the driver’s side once it stopped.
Katherine Gonzalez said officers were in front of her vehicle, a few feet away from the UPS truck, when the shootout started “out of nowhere."
“It was shocking," she said.
News helicopters were following the chase and at least one showed the conclusion live, with one person falling out of the vehicle’s passenger side after several shots were fired. It was unclear if the shots were fired from inside the truck, from law enforcement who were moving in or some combination thereof. The fourth victim, in another car at the intersection, was “an innocent bystander,” Piro said.
“This is what dangerous people do to get away,” Hudak said. “And this is what people will do to avoid capture.”
Piro was asked if there was a chance that either the driver or the bystander may have been hit by a bullet fired by police.
“It is very, very early on in the investigation and it would be completely inappropriate to discuss that,” Piro said. “We have just began to process the crime scene. As you can imagine, this is going to be a very complicated crime scene.”
UPS spokesman David Graves said the company would cooperate with authorities.
“We are deeply saddened to learn a UPS service provider was a victim of this senseless act of violence," Graves said in a statement. “We extend our condolences to the family and friends of our employee and the other innocent victims involved in this incident."
Uber reports more than 3,000 sexual assaults on 2018 rides
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Uber, as part of a long anticipated safety report, revealed that more than 3,000 sexual assaults were reported during its U.S. rides in 2018.
That figure includes 235 rapes across the company's 1.3 billion rides last year. The ride-hailing company noted that drivers and riders were both attacked and that some assaults occurred between riders.
The Thursday report, which the company hailed as the first of its kind, provides a rare look into the traffic deaths, murders and reported sexual assaults that took place during billions of rides arranged in the U.S. using Uber's service. It is part of the company's effort to be more transparent after years of criticism over its safety record.
In 2017, the company counted 2,936 reported sexual assaults — including 229 rapes — during 1 billion U.S. trips. Uber bases its numbers on reports from riders and drivers, meaning the actual numbers could be much higher. Sexual assaults commonly go unreported.
“I suspect many people will be surprised at how rare these incidents are; others will understandably think they’re still too common,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted about the report. “Some people will appreciate how much we’ve done on safety; others will say we have more work to do. They will all be right.”
Uber's share price dropped more than 1% in after-hours trading.
Uber and competitor Lyft have faced harsh criticism for not doing enough to protect the safety of their riders and drivers. Dozens of women are suing Lyft, claiming the company should have done more to protect them from driver assaults.
London refused to renew Uber's license to operate in the city in November after the company was plagued with safety issues including concerns about impostor drivers. Uber said it will appeal the decision.
The companies have both formed partnerships with sexual assault prevention networks and other safety groups, and have touted their background check policies for drivers. But many say they haven't gone far enough to protect passengers and drivers, who are contract workers for the companies.
“Keeping this information in the dark doesn’t make anyone safer,” Uber said in a statement announcing the report. It plans to release its safety report every two years going forward.
Lyft said last year it would also release a safety report. A company spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that it "remained committed" to releasing a report, but did not say when it would be released.
A 5-year-old boy's entire kindergarten class showed up for his adoption hearing
(CNN) -- A boy in Michigan showed up at the courthouse in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Thursday for an adoption hearing with his foster parents, and he had a crowd of unusual supporters.
Five-year-old Michael's entire kindergarten class sat in the audience behind him waving big red hearts mounted on wooden sticks to show their support.
Michael's adoptive father told CNN his favorite part was when the judge asked everyone present in the room to explain what Michael means to them.
The kindergartners offered the most touching answers, standing up and telling the court, "I love Michael" or "Michael's my best friend," his father said.
He added that the judge said it was the first time she'd ever hosted a whole kindergarten class for a hearing in her courtroom.
Michael's parents fostered him for a year
Michael's mother told CNN that her new son's teacher, Mrs. McKee, floated the idea to her one day when she dropped Michael off at Wealthy Elementary School.
McKee knew the adoption would be finalized soon, and the two agreed on how to make the big day particularly special for Michael.
From there, McKee organized the whole class outing, procuring a school bus, and gave her students a field trip to remember.
Michael's new father and mother have been married for nearly 10 years, and he's been living with them as a foster child since last Thanksgiving.
"We didn't have any kids prior to that, and things got pretty chaotic in a hurry," his father said.
The proud parents said their charismatic son loves to dance and swim, and to play basketball and soccer.
They say they're amazed at how many friends he has, and his father says one of the most beautiful parts of the past year has been the many children "welcoming (Michael) into their homes and onto play dates."
Indian police fatally shoot 4 suspects held in gang-rape case
SHADNAGAR, India (AP) — Police on Friday fatally shot four men being held on suspicion of raping and killing a woman in southern India after investigators took them to the crime scene, drawing both praise and condemnation in a case that has sparked protests across the country.
The burned body of the woman — a 27-year-old veterinarian —was found last week by a passer-by near the city of Hyderabad, India's tech hub, after she went missing the previous night.
At around 3 a.m. Friday, police took the suspects, who had not been formally charged with any crime, to the sites where the rape and killing are believed to have taken place and the spot in an underpass where the woman's body was burned about half a kilometer (a third of a mile) away, said V.C. Sajjanar, the local police commissioner.
The police brought the suspects to help them locate evidence, including the victim's phone, Sajjanar said at a news conference.
“The suspects seized some weapons from policemen who had taken them there and started firing," Sajjanar said.
“Even though our officers maintained restraint and asked them to surrender, but without listening to us they continued to fire and continued to attack us," Sajjanar said, adding that police returned fire, killing the suspects.
The woman's death is the latest gruesome case of sexual violence against women to rile India and comes despite efforts to strengthen the penalties for such crimes. Some advocates say those efforts have failed to deter predators.
Hours after the police shootings, the crime scene in Shadnagar, a town in the state of Telangana about an hour southwest of Hyderabad, had the appearance of a fairground.
About 300 people gathered to celebrate the suspects' deaths.
Some hugged officers and lifted them into the air, chanting "Long live police," while others showered them with flowers.
Indians had rallied on the streets of Hyderabad, New Delhi and Mumbai and called on social media for swift justice in a country where sentencing is notoriously delayed by backlogged courts.
After the veterinarian's killing, Swati Maliwal, the head of the Delhi Commission for Women, started an indefinite hunger strike, demanding that the perpetrators be hanged within six months.
Maliwal said Friday that police “had no choice but to shoot."
She said she is continuing her fast to demand swift hangings in other sexual violence cases because she thinks capital punishment will act as a deterrent.
“Hang the rapists!” shouted some of the hundreds of Maliwal's mainly women supporters who gathered Friday at the site of her strike, the mausoleum of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.
The Congress party and other opposition groups raised the police killings in Parliament, and demanded a probe into the incident.
The National Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous body within India's Parliament, said it was sending a fact-finding mission to the crime scene.
“This type of justice is counterfeit,” said Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association.
"The killings are a ploy to shut down our demand of accountability from governments, judiciary and police, and dignity and justice for women. We demand a thorough investigation into this,” she said.
Maneka Gandhi, a lawmaker from India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and a former Cabinet minister, accused police of taking the law into their own hands.
"They would've been hanged by court anyway. If you're going to kill the accused before any due process of law has been followed, then what's the point of having courts, law and police?” she said.
Avinash Kumar, executive director of Amnesty International India, echoed the sentiment in a statement, saying that “extrajudicial killings are not a solution to preventing rape."
NC Christmas parades with Confederate floats canceled amid disruption threats
RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake Forest is canceling its Dec. 14 Christmas parade because of concerns of public safety after the planned participation of a local Confederate group, according to a news release.
The Wake Forest Downtown Inc. Board of Directors, the nonprofit organizing the parade, voted Wednesday to cancel the parade due to “potential for violence,” the release said. This would have been the 72nd year of the parade.
The decision comes a week after the town of Garner canceled its Christmas parade, citing similar concerns. Garner had plans to include a float sponsored by a chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans but said social media chatter led them to believe “the event could be targeted for disruption,” The News & Observer reported.
In Wake Forest, the town said it supported WFD’s decision after police reported receiving information from “growing numbers of outside groups” who planned to attend to support or oppose the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy, according to a press release from Wake Forest.
Wake Forest Police Chief Jeff Leonard said only one group had told the town of its intent to protest, but he said there could be others, according to the news release. Town spokesman Bill Crabtree added that the number of protesters possibly coming together created the potential of violence.
“Groups that contact us about their plans to protest tend to follow our rules and regulations,” Leonard said in the press release. “We’re concerned about outside agitators that don’t notify us. Radicals don’t typically call ahead. These aren’t area residents we’re talking about. These are professional protesters who have no regard for the safety and well-being of others.”
The decision is a reversal from the town’s announcement Nov. 27, which said the parade would go on. In a Facebook post, the town said it is unable to “exclude groups some may find objectionable.”
The statement said: “For over two decades, the Sons & Daughters of the Confederacy has participated peacefully and without incident in the parade. The group’s entry traditionally features participants in period costumes and a banner that includes an image of the Confederate flag.
“Make no mistake about it — the Town of Wake Forest is extremely sensitive to the emotion the confederate flag stirs among those on both sides of this issue. We recognize that for some the flag represents racism, hatred and bigotry, while others see it as a representation of Southern heritage protected as a matter of freedom of speech/freedom of expression.”
The town said in the statement that it consulted with lawyers in 2018 about options to exclude some groups from the parade. But the town was told it has no legal basis to exclude a group “based on the flag or symbol they display.”
Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones recorded an emotional video message to address the parade’s cancellation, adding in a statement that she is “angry, disappointed and heartbroken.”
“The decision to cancel the parade is not a reflection on our community or our wonderful people,” Jones said in the video, her voice catching. “Rather it is an unfortunate consequence for what happens when outside agitators make it known that they will use local events like our parade to sow hate and spark chaos.
“Clearly, it is not the most popular decision, but it is the safest decision,” Jones said.
In last week’s statement, the town said residents should see the parade as an opportunity to unite the community and not let the parade become “political and divisive.”
Guatemalan boy who died in federal custody was on the floor for hours before anyone found him, video shows
** WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS GRAPHIC FOOTAGE SOME READERS MAY FIND DISTURBING **
(CNN) -- A sick Guatemalan boy who died in government custody was lying on the floor for hours before someone found him dead, a video first obtained by ProPublica shows.
The boy, identified by a US Customs and Border Protection official as Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, 16, died on May 20 at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Texas, days after he crossed into the US and was apprehended by immigration officials, CBP said.
Surveillance video of a holding cell at the Weslaco facility first obtained by ProPublica and published on Thursday show the last moments of the boy's life. ProPublica analyzed the video and compared it with police and emergency services records to create a timeline. CNN later obtained a copy of the video.
The boy was waiting to be transferred to the custody of the Health and Human Services Department, as is customary for unaccompanied minors, when he was diagnosed with the flu and taken to the Weslaco facility, the CBP official said.
In the video, Carlos first appears walking inside a cell in the Weslaco facility, wearing blue jeans, a dark long-sleeve shirt and a disposable white mask. He lays down on a cement bench as another boy, who was not identified, is sleeping under a Mylar blanket on a bench across from him.
The teen shifts around on the bench and moves out of the camera's view for some time before he can be seen again as he collapses, face down on the ground.
Carlos stays mostly still on the floor for about 10 minutes, based on ProPublica's analysis of the footage.
He gets up, walks to the toilet and appears to collapse soon after. He is moving and bending his legs for a few minutes until he stretches them out and stops moving. Only Carlos' legs, an arm and part of his torso are visible in the video. The rest of his body is blocked by a privacy wall on the toilet area.
The video abruptly ends and restarts about four hours later, ProPublica's analysis found, and shows Carlos in the same position as his cellmate wakes up, finds him in the toilet area and flags a Border Patrol agent.
The Weslaco Police Department, the agency that provided the video to ProPublica and briefly investigated the boy's death, said the footage was turned over to their investigators, split in two parts, according to the media outlet.
CBP had previously said in a statement that agents at the Weslaco station found Carlos unresponsive during a welfare check.
When asked about the video, a CBP spokesperson said the investigation into Carlos' death was ongoing.
CNN reached out to the Hidalgo County coroner's office but did receive an immediate reply. ProPublica said the autopsy listed the cause of death as flu respiratory infection, complicated by bronchopneumonia, sepsis and an immune system disorder.