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File photo. (clintspencer/iStock)(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) -- Three fatalities have been confirmed near Jefferson City after a "violent" tornado hit Missouri late Wednesday night and into the early hours of Thursday morning.

Gov. Mike Parson confirmed the fatalities in a Thursday morning news conference, saying they "lived on the outskirts of Golden City," which is about 170 miles southwest of Jefferson City, the state's capital.

"Those are the only three [fatalities] we know of at this time," Parson said. "There's nobody missing that we know of ... that's a good thing."

"You never know what this weather is going to do," Parson said.

"We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than we did, and we're very thankful that we didn't have any more fatalities than we did," he said.

While there were three fatalities near Jefferson City Wednesday night into Thursday morning, at least seven people were killed in three states over the past two days due to the storms crossing the Plains.

Four people died on Tuesday, including one woman killed after a tornado hit her home in Iowa. Two others died in a car accident in heavy rain near Springfield, Missouri, and one woman drove around a barricade and drowned in Oklahoma.

Significant damage was also reported in Jefferson City, and 20 people in the area were transported to hospitals to treat injuries, though officials expected that the number of injuries could go up over the course of the morning.

"There was a lot of debris flying, we had trees [flying]," said Jefferson City Police Department Lt. David Williams, describing what caused the injuries. "At this point, nothing in the serious [injury] declaration, as I've been told by emergency services."

Tornado sirens went off in the city, which has a population of about 42,000, at 11:10 p.m. on Wednesday, and the first damage in Cole County was reported at about 11:38 p.m., according to Williams.

Williams also said they had received multiple calls of people trapped in their homes.

"We realize that we still have a lot of things we have to do," Williams said at a news conference Thursday morning.

The National Weather Service office in St. Louis confirmed a "violent tornado" was on the ground in Jefferson City, telling people to "shelter now" at about 11:48 p.m. local time.

Parson said that due to damage sustained by some state buildings in Jefferson City, only essential state employees are being asked to report for work Thursday, urging the others to stay at home.

"We need to have people that are not affected stay out of the area," Williams said at an earlier press conference. "Right now we have emergency personnel from all venues trying to get to the people that need our assistance the most and we can't do that if there are citizens out trying to assess themselves and post on social media and other venues."

Williams also said they did not need volunteers to help at this time.

Boone County Fire said it was sending its Missouri Task Force 1 -- a group consisting of search-and-rescue assets, six search K-9s, two technical search managers, four structural engineers, one trauma surgeon and two medical specialists. Boone County is just north of Jefferson City.

Missouri Department of Public Safety reported "extensive damage" in Jefferson City along "Ellis Boulevard near Highway 54." 

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TARIQ MAHMOOD,---/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- John Walker Lindh is expected to be released from prison Thursday after more than 17 years behind bars on charges of providing support to terrorists, a case that captivated Americans and earned him the nickname of the "American Taliban."

Lindh, 38, was the first prisoner brought into a U.S. courtroom to face charges in the War on Terror, following the Sept. 11 attacks. His release comes 2 1/2 years before the completion of his 20-year sentence, which the Department of Justice's Bureau of Prisons said in a statement is attributed to Lindh's "good conduct" during his time in prison.

Lindh is expected to reside in northern Virginia, outside Washington, and is said by multiple sources to still be radicalized with extremist beliefs.

The conditions of Lindh's release include a demand that he go through mental health counseling, that he not communicate or espouse extremist views and there are several restrictions related to his internet use -- including a stipulation that he can only communicate online in English.

But Lindh's release is still not without controversy.

Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., released a joint statement Tuesday expressing concern over his release and demanding more information on steps that will be taken to ensure Lindh is not a threat to public safety.

"Our highest priority is keeping America safe, secure and free," they said in the statement. "To that end, we must consider the security and safety implications for our citizens and communities who will receive individuals like John Walker Lindh who continue to openly call for extremist violence."

Shelby had previously said in April that President Donald Trump had told him he opposed Lindh not serving his full sentence, but it's unclear whether Trump plans to weigh in publicly on the matter. The Department of Justice's public affairs office did not respond to a request for comment.

According to court documents filed in 2002, the government said that Lindh crossed the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban.

Lindh stayed in Osama bin Laden's guest house -- eventually meeting and "thanking" the leader of the terrorist organization, court documents said.

He trained with 20 other Taliban fighters at a camp in Afghanistan on "weapons, orienteering, navigation, explosives and battlefield combat, which included the use of shoulder weapons, pistols, and rocket-propelled grenades, and the construction of Molotov cocktails," court documents said.

According to court documents, Lindh "swore allegiance to jihad," and stayed with the Taliban despite knowing that bin Laden carried out the attacks on Sept. 11.

He was captured by Northern Alliance fighters after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

CIA paramilitary officer Johnny "Mike" Spann, 34, was killed in a Taliban prisoner uprising, shortly after questioning the captured Lindh. He was initially charged with conspiracy in Spann's murder, but those charges were dropped as part of an eventual plea bargain.

Spann's father, Johnny Spann, told ABC News in an interview on Sunday that he objects to Lindh getting out three years early for good behavior.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Legendary highwire acrobat Nik Wallenda announced on ABC News' Good Morning America Thursday that he and his sister will embark on a never-before-attempted high wire walk 25 stories above New York City's Times Square in June.

He also talked about the harrowing 2017 accident for the first time since new video of it was released earlier this year.

Wallenda's death-defying stunts and high wire theatrics have earned the seventh generation wire walker the nickname the "King of the Wire."

In 2012, the world watched in awe as he crossed a wire positioned 1800 feet above Niagara Falls. The following year, he traversed a two-inch wide cable across the Grand Canyon without a safety harness.

In 2014, he completed back-to-back walks in the space between two Chicago skyscrapers -- both without a safety net or harness, and one of them blindfolded.

But in 2017, a devastating accident during a rehearsal at Circus Sarasota had many wondering if Wallenda's luck had run out. During a practice session for an eight-person pyramid stunt, five high-wire performers lost their balance and plummeted more than 30 feet to the ground while three others, including Wallenda, clung to the wire.

The harrowing fall was captured on video that was only released in March of this year.

All of the performers survived, but Nik Wallenda's sister, Lijana Wallenda, broke all of the bones in her face.

The siblings, however, are not letting the setback keep them from pursuing their passions. Wallenda said he and his sister will return to the skies to cross a 1,300-foot long high wire 25 stories above street level across Times Square.

The never-before-attempted walk will be broadcast live on ABC on Sunday, June 23.

The walk will be Lijana Wallenda's first high wire act since the 2017 accident.

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Tucson Police Department(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- A Border Patrol agent has been arrested and charged with three counts of sexual assault and three counts of aggravated assault that took place over the past seven years.

A woman told Tucson, Arizona, police that Steven Charles Holmes sexually assaulted her after the two met through a dating app. Holmes identified himself as a Border Patrol agent for the U.S. government's Customs and Border Protection.

After checking into Holmes' past, the Tucson Police Department said, "The investigation uncovered multiple victims with similar reports occurring from January 2012 to January 2019."

The 33-year-old Holmes was arrested on Tuesday and booked into Pima County Jail.

The suspect has worked for the Border Patrol for seven years, according to the agency.

He has been placed on administrative duties pending the results of the case, a spokesperson for CBP told Tucson ABC affiliate KGUN-TV.

"We do not tolerate misconduct on, or off duty, and will fully cooperate with all investigations of alleged misconduct by our personnel," CBP said in a statement.

Holmes is being held on $25,000 cash bond.

The Tucson Police Department said it is still investigating whether there could be other cases, and urged anyone with information to call authorities.

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alfexe/iStock(PHOENIX) -- Attorneys representing a woman who was raped while incapacitated and later gave birth at a Phoenix clinic have filed a $45 million claim against the state.

The victim, 29, may have been impregnated before an encounter that led to her giving birth in December, according to multiple reports.

Nathan Sutherland, 37, a former employee at Hacienda Healthcare, a long-term care facility, pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse and abusing a vulnerable adult. His DNA matched that of the newborn baby, investigators said.

That baby is being cared for by the family of the woman, who's been in long-term care since she nearly drowned at age 3.

Medical records cited in the claim allege the woman was "violently and repeatedly raped" while living at Hacienda. A doctor present the day she gave birth said she could've been pregnant previously.

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Arpad Benedek/iStock(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) -- A Florida day care owner was arrested on child neglect charges on Wednesday after a baby girl died in a scorching hot van outside of the facility.

Police arrested 56-year-old Darryl Ewing, co-owner of the Ewing's Love & Hope Preschool and Academy in Jacksonville, where an employee found the infant unconscious inside of a blazing hot van, authorities said Wednesday evening.

The 4-month-old girl had been in the vehicle for nearly five hours, Jacksonville Sheriff's Assistant Chief Brian Kee said at a news conference.

It's believed she suffered a "heat-related injury," Kee said. Her name was not released. No other children were hurt, Kee said, adding that interviews were ongoing.

The temperature reached 92 degrees in Jacksonville on Wednesday. The baby had been in a van outside the day care from about 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Kee said.

Investigators said Ewing was the driver and responsible for loading the children on and off the van.

"The suspect, Darryl Ewing, was the sole driver of the van the entire time. No other employees were on the transport van during the transit to the center," the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said in a statement Wednesday evening. "The suspect parked the van in front of the daycare and left the vehicle unattended with the victim still strapped in her car seat in the third row of the van."

Officers said a day care worker made the harrowing discovery at around 1 p.m. when the child's mother called to make after-school arrangements. The worker told her that the infant had never been checked in.

"Daycare employees went to the van and discovered the victim still strapped in her child seat unresponsive and called emergency services," the sheriff's office said. "Further investigative efforts revealed the suspect was responsible for maintaining a separate driver’s log documenting all children that are placed onto the van."

"Interviews of other daycare center employees indicated it is the van driver’s responsibility to check and make sure children are offloaded from the van at the daycare center," it added.

The driver’s log, which is separate from the daily log signed by parents, showed that Ewing had logged in two of the baby girl's siblings, but not her.

ABC News' call to the day care was not immediately returned.
 
The Department of Children and Families in Duvall County has begun the process of issuing an emergency suspension order to cease operations at the facility, the agency said in a statement. The facility has been licensed with DCF since 2016.

"We are all just beyond devastated," Amber Rollins, director of the national nonprofit KidsAndCars.org, told ABC News on Wednesday.

The group is advocating for mandatory alarm technology in cars.

"We have to do more," Rollins said. "This cannot continue to happen week after week, year after year when the solution is right at our fingertips."

Hot car deaths reached a record level last year with at least 52 children killed, according to KidsAndCars.org.

Just this week, a 2-year-old boy was rescued after he was left in a hot car in Georgia.

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Torrington Police Department(TORRINGTON, Conn.) -- Authorities in Connecticut are asking for the public's help in capturing a suspect who teased police officers online with an unusual deal to turn himself in.

Police in Torrington, Connecticut, said Jose Simms, 29, reached out to the town's lieutenant on Facebook earlier this week, saying he'd turn himself in if a Facebook post with his wanted poster received at least 15,000 likes.

Simms has four arrest warrants for first-degree failure to appear in court and three warrants for second-degree failure to appear, police said. They did not offer details on any additional charges against him.

The Torrington Police Department shared the wanted poster on Facebook early Wednesday morning, asking followers to help by liking and sharing the post.

The department said Simms initially asked for 20,000 likes, but "negotiated" to bring him down to 15,000.

"It will be difficult but is doable," the department wrote in a light-hearted post. "So please, 'like' this post, and while you're at it share it, Tweet it, Instagram it, Snapchat it, WUPHF it … or use whatever other platforms are out there that I don't know about."

Social media users took the challenge to heart and the post had more than 17,000 Facebook reactions, including a few "ha ha" reactions, within 13 hours.

Simms was still on the run as of late Wednesday.

The department issued an updated statement in the wake of the overwhelming response Wednesday night, thanking those who helped to spread the word.

"We are getting a lot of inquiries as to if Mr. Simms has turned himself in yet. As of now he has not," the department said. "We will update the post again when he does turn himself in. Thank you to everyone who liked the post and messaged us with info. It's all appreciated."

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Casimiro/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A wave of new abortion bans in states like Alabama and Georgia, and a long list of subsequent lawsuits challenging them, has led to confusion about where the law stands from state to state.

The confusion over the laws comes as little surprise, given how many have appeared in recent months.

More than 350 pieces of legislation that would restrict abortion access have been introduced in states across the country this year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research group that was initially formed under Planned Parenthood but has been operating separately for years.

So far in 2019, 17 bans have been signed in 10 states -- but every type of bans is facing a legal challenge, and none of the laws have been enacted. In addition, while the passage of so-called "heartbeat" bans have received much attention in recent weeks, none of those laws are currently in effect.

Abortion remains legal in every state. State laws that restrict abortion are almost always challenged in court, and the 1973 landmark Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade, remains the law of the land for deciding if those state laws are constitutional.

In recent history, states have tried to chip away at Roe by passing restrictive new rules, like a requirement that abortions are performed in ambulatory surgical centers. But that law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016, and the court has responded similarly to other challenges. But more recently, with the ascent of more conservative judges to the high court, anti-abortion lawmakers have pushed through much more restrictive measures -- criminalizing abortion altogether, or blocking abortion after certain gestational periods, or specific abortion procedures or for certain reasons.

But an introduced bill is not a passed bill, and a passed bill is neither necessarily signed nor enacted. It's nuances like that that cause confusion over abortion rights.

Outright Ban

ALABAMA

On May 15, Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill into law that would ban almost all abortions in Alabama, the only exception being in cases where the mother's health is at risk.

The law -- the most restrictive signed this year -- would make it a felony for a doctor to perform any abortion where the mother's life is not at risk, with the threat of a 99-year prison sentence if they do.

Much of the controversy stems from the fact that common exceptions, such as for rape or incest, were not included in the law.

The authors of the bill have said they expected the law to be dismissed by lower courts and that they hope it is taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.

'Heartbeat' Bans

GEORGIA

On May 7, Georgia became the latest state to ban abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can come as soon six weeks into a pregnancy. Like all of the so-called “heartbeat” bans signed into law this year, the Georgia law immediately prompted a legal challenge.

OHIO

Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed a so-called "heartbeat" ban in April, meaning that abortions after roughly six weeks would be outlawed if the law went into effect. Because the law was almost immediately challenged by the state's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the law will not immediately take effect.

Similar bills had been proposed in Ohio in the past, but they were vetoed by the state's last Republican governor, John Kasich, who said they were unconstitutional.

KENTUCKY

When Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, signed a similar "heartbeat" ban in March, the law included an "emergency" declaration. The idea was that the ban would take effect immediately, but that didn't last long. As in other states, the law was immediately challenged in court, and a district judge issued a temporary restraining order against the bill, The Courier Journal reported.

MISSISSIPPI

A little over a week after the Kentucky ban was signed, Mississippi's state legislature passed a similar "heartbeat" ban, which was then signed into law by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.

Again, the law was challenged in court, and the sponsors said they hoped it would end up before the Supreme Court.

The legal process is still unfolding. The state's court had previously shot down a 15-week ban in late 2018, making abortion rights advocates optimistic that the same court would reject this even more restrictive bill.

Expected: LOUISIANA

A "heartbeat" ban has passed through the state legislature in Louisiana and Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who has been vocal about his anti-abortion beliefs throughout his political life, has said he plans to sign it.

The law has exceptions for cases where the mother's health is at risk, but no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. The law is expected to be challenged in court. Even if that wasn’t the case, the Louisiana law is tied to a law passed in Mississippi.

According to USA Today, the Louisiana bill was amended to say that it would only be implemented if the Mississippi law is upheld by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Expected: MISSOURI

The bill passed by the Missouri state legislature is slightly different from other “heartbeat” bills in that it would ban abortions after eight weeks -- rather than six weeks -- into a pregnancy. The abortion ban was one in a series of bills that was passed in the state's governing body. They also passed a trigger law, which would “trigger” an automatic ban on all abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

In addition, the legislature tweaked the existing parental notification law so that it now requires the consent of both parents, rather than just one, and approved an abortion ban in cases where the reason for the procedure is a Down Syndrome diagnosis or the race or sex of the child.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson has not signed the bill yet, but has said that he plans to. Like in all of the other states with similar laws, it is expected to be challenged in court if it becomes a law.

18-week bans

ARKANSAS

Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an 18-week abortion ban this spring. The ACLU of Arkansas said in a statement after Hutchinson's signing in March that they'd see him in court.

In terms of an 18-week ban's precedent in court, laws banning abortion at under 20 weeks have been found unconstitutional by courts, and in March, a federal judge in North Carolina ruled a 20-week ban unconstitutional.

UTAH

In March, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill banning abortions after 18 weeks and then a second bill that banned the procedure in cases where the reason for the procedure was a Down syndrome diagnoses.

The ACLU of Utah and Planned Parenthood Association of Utah filed a lawsuit against that state's law. The Utah attorney general issued a preliminary injunction to keep the ban from taking effect, per The Salt Lake Tribune.

Dilation and Evacuation Bans

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum both signed bills banning the dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortion procedure, which is the primary procedure used for second-trimester abortions, in April. These laws effectively ban second-trimester abortions.

The ACLU challenged the Indiana bill, the Indianapolis Star reported in April. A preliminary injunction was issued, blocking the bill from being enacted, and the case is ongoing.

The Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, the only abortion provider in North Dakota, said they would wait for a decision in an Arkansas case before deciding if they'll sue over the law, USA Today reported.

That's not the only ongoing legislation: the Kansas Supreme Court ruled their version of a D&E ban unconstitutional in a late April ruling.

Discrimination Bans

Some states have begun attempting to ban abortions based on the reason that patients choose to get them. Anti-abortion lawmakers refer to these as abortion "discrimination."

This year, such bills were signed in Arkansas and Kentucky. Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson signed a bill banning abortions done on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed a bill that bans abortions done on the basis of the gender, race or disability diagnosis of a fetus. The ACLU challenged that law and it has been blocked from going into effect. The case is ongoing.

"Trigger" Bans

Meanwhile, some states have enacted preemptive bans. So-called "trigger" laws have been put in place in Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee this year that would make abortion illegal in those states should Roe be overturned on the federal level.

Supreme Court Possibilities

While this year's bills are just beginning to face legal challenges, others have already started down the pipeline, with the possibility of reaching the Supreme Court and impacting federal precedent.

The main contenders for cases that could end up before the Supreme Court include bills from Kentucky, Louisiana and Indiana.

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Atlanta Police(ATLANTA) -- A white Atlanta police sergeant was fired after a cell phone video surfaced showing him allegedly yanking a black woman from her car, slamming her to the ground, punching her in the face and deploying a stun gun on her during an arrest this month in front of her 4-year-old daughter.

All charges against the woman, Maggie Thomas, are expected to be dropped after a cell phone video surfaced of the incident earlier this month and demands from the woman and her attorney that Sgt. James Hines be fired.

In a statement released to ABC News on Wednesday, Atlanta police officials said they were made aware of the incident on May 10, and launched an investigation that led to the sergeant's dismissal and a recommendation from police to prosecutors to drop the charges against the woman.

"Accordingly, the Chief of Police directed the Office of Professional Standards to immediately begin investigating the circumstances surrounding this incident," the police statement reads. "Following its investigation, the Office of Professional Standards determined that the force used during the arrest was unnecessary and inconsistent with Atlanta Police Department training. Subsequently, Sergeant Hines was dismissed from employment on May 17, 2019."

Thomas said the episode unfolded on May 1 when Hines approached her car as she and her child sat inside and began questioning her. The incident, according to her attorney, quickly escalated into police brutality.

"A recommendation has been made to the City Solicitor that consideration be given to the dismissal of the charge against Ms. Thomas," the police department's statement reads.

Thomas' attorney, Gerald Griggs of Atlanta, told ABC News that Thomas was arrested on a traffic warrant that he said was issued in error and disorderly conduct.

In an incident report released by police, Hines wrote: "I asked Ms. Thomas if the car was hers and she said it was. I then told her that the car had no insurance and to make sure that she did not drive it."

Hines wrote that Thomas became "agitated" and told him, "There shouldn't be a white officer harassing her" and asked for the name of his supervisor.

He claimed that he gave Thomas the name of his supervisor and left the scene.

"As I got a block or so away I began to wonder why she became so agitated at my mere presence and ran her name," he wrote.

Hines wrote that a warrant came back on Thomas for failing to appear in court for a speeding ticket.

Hines, according to his report, went back to Thomas' car and demanded to see her driver's license and the incident quickly escalated.

He wrote that Thomas refused to cooperate and that when he attempted to take her into custody, a struggled ensued.

"I then took Ms. Thomas to the ground and she still refused to give me her right hand. I took out my Taser and drive-stunned her in the back," Hines wrote. "She then began to comply and I eventually was able to get both hands cuffed."

He wrote that as he was walking Thomas to her car, she began struggling with him again and "bent over and bit my right hand."

"I immediately punched her in the face and she fell to the ground," Hines wrote.

Hines could not be reached by ABC News for comment.

Griggs said Thomas never bit the officer's hands, and that the circumstances of the episode did not warrant such brutal force.

"She wasn't driving. She hadn't been driving and he made contact with her twice," Griggs said of the officer.

When the officer approached Thomas the second time and asked for her name, she told him, according to Griggs, "'I just gave you my name when you ran everything the first time.'"

"She starts asking him what's the warrant for and then her baby, the 4-year-old, latches onto her and he Tasers her," Griggs said.

In a cell phone video Griggs shared with ABC News, the officer is seen slamming Thomas to the ground, and punching her in the face before he deploys a stun gun on her and places her in handcuffs.

Griggs said Thomas was punched in the left eye during the encounter.

"She still has headaches. You can still see the bruising," Griggs said. "She's getting counseling for the traumatic effects of this incident and her daughter is getting counseling as well."

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ChiccoDodiFC/iStock(ATLANTA) -- A 2-year-old boy was rescued from a scorching hot car in a Walmart parking lot on Tuesday in a moment caught on video.

Video obtained by ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB-TV shows shoppers at the Georgia Walmart spot the little boy inside the parked car.

When officers raced to the scene in McDonough, outside Atlanta, they found the little boy in a locked car which was turned off and with the windows rolled up, according to the McDonough Police Department.

Officers forced their way into the car, removing the 2-year-old, said police. Video also showed the concerned citizens and officers comforting the little boy once he was rescued.

The 2-year-old was taken to Henry Piedmont Hospital and later released, said police.

The boy's father, Christopher Urgent, was arrested for cruelty to children, according to police.

The temperature climbed to 86 degrees near McDonough on Tuesday. With sunny skies, the inside of the car could have heated up to 104 degrees in just 10 minutes, according to ABC News meteorologists.

It's not clear how long the boy was locked inside the car, according to police.

Amber Rollins, director of the national nonprofit KidsAndCars.org, said the citizens' and officers' "quick action quite literally could have been the difference between life and death for this young child."

"If you see a child or animal alone in a car, do something," Rollins told ABC News. "If they are in distress, you need to get them out immediately and begin to cool them."

Hot car deaths reached a record level last year with at least 52 children killed, according to KidsAndCars.org.

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Zolnierek/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A former New York City teacher was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison for providing the materials and paying for teenagers to build explosives, prosecutors announced on Wednesday.

Christian Toro pleaded guilty earlier this year to Manhattan Federal Court Judge Richard M. Berman that he instructed unsuspecting students from a New York City high school where he used to work to assist in building the bombs. Toro, 28, and his twin brother, Tyler Toro, were busted by federal investigators in February 2018 after a court-authorized search of their Bronx, New York, home.

"Today’s sentence serves as a message that building and stockpiling destructive devices are grave offenses in and of themselves," said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in a statement. "Thanks to the outstanding work of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in eliminating this destructive threat in its nascent stages, Christian Toro and his brother were apprehended before they could carry out any attack with the device they were building."

Christian Toro stored information on how to manufacture explosive devices on his school-issued laptop. He then paid the students $50 an hour to take apart fireworks and store the explosive powder contained within them in containers, prosecutors said. The former teacher encouraged one of those students to call in a bomb threat to the school in December 2017, prosecutors said.

During the search of the Toro twins' bedroom, investigators found a slew of explosive-making materials, including a strip of magnesium metal, approximately 20 pounds of iron oxide, approximately 5 pounds of aluminum powder, a mixture of iron oxide and aluminum powder, key ingredients for thermite (used in incendiary bombs) and approximately 5 pounds of potassium nitrate, prosecutors said. There was also a notebook with the label "Operation Flash" in their room.

Tyler Toro also pleaded guilty and is expected to be sentenced on May 29.

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(Courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo) An eastern black rhinoceros named Kapuki gave birth to a calf at Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, May 19, 2019.(CHICAGO) -- Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo recently welcomed the birth of a critically endangered black rhinoceros after more than a year of waiting.

A 13-year-old eastern black rhino named Kapuki went into labor Sunday, after 15 months of pregnancy, and gave birth to a healthy calf in her enclosure that evening. The zoo has not yet named the newborn or announced its sex.

The calf began to stand on its own after just 53 minutes and has been seen nursing several times, which are "important milestones," according to the zoo.

Animal care and veterinary staff are giving Kapuki and her calf privacy while closely monitoring them from afar via video cameras. The pair will not be visible to the public until further notice.

"The first 48 hours of a calf's life are critical and we remain cautiously optimistic," Lincoln Park Zoo said in a Facebook post on Monday.

The eastern black rhino, also known as the East African black rhino, is a subspecies of the black rhino and is listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

“The potential of a successful calf means much more than a cute face at the zoo," Mike Murray, curator of mammals at Lincoln Park Zoo, said in a March 20 statement. "A birth represents preservation of a critically endangered species that faces a lot of challenges.”

The global population of black rhinos has declined by more than 97% since 1960, mainly due to poaching and the soaring demand for their horns in Asia, where they are coveted for their perceived healing properties, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The population has steadily increased since bottoming out in 1995, but the numbers are still 90% lower today than three generations ago.

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David McNew/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Federal prosecutors in New York charged Michael Avenatti with additional financial crimes Wednesday, including allegedly forging the signature of his former client Stormy Daniels and diverting nearly $300,000 owed to her for a book advance into his own account, according to court records filed on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said that he then used money he took from Daniels to make monthly payments on his Ferrari, as well as to cover airfare, dry cleaning, hotels and restaurant bills, as well as payroll and insurance costs for his law firm's employees.

The new charges accuse Avenatti of misappropriating money that was supposed to be paid to Daniels when Avenatti was representing the adult film actress in her public battle against President Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen.

"Avenatti used misrepresentations and a fraudulent document purporting to bear his client's name and signature to convince his client's literary agent to divert money owed to Avenatti's client to an account controlled by Avenatti," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement. "Avenatti then spent the money principally for his own personal and business purposes."

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan -- who have already accused Avenatti of extortion in a case involving Nike -- also indicted him separately on extortion charges in the Nike case on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Avenatti denied the fraud and identity theft charges to ABC News, saying that “No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled."

"She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we expended huge sums in expenses," he wrote in a statement to ABC News.

"She directly paid only $100.00 (not a typo) for all that she received."

Not so, said Berman in a statement.

Federal prosecutors charge in court papers that Avenatti forged Daniels signature on a document for the purpose of diverting the funds she was owed into an account of his own, and leaving Daniels with the impression that the publishing house she was contracted with to write a book had not delivered the promised advances.

"A month after diverting one payment of $148,750 into his own account, Avenatti allegedly used funds received from another source to pay" Daniels, prosecutors said in the statement.

One week after that, according to prosecutors, Avenatti diverted a second payment of $148,750 to Daniels into his own account.

"To conceal his scheme, and despite repeated requests to Avenatti as [Daniels'] lawyer, for assistance in obtaining the book payment that [Daniels] believed was missing, Avenatti led [her] to believe that [her] publisher was refusing to make the payment...," prosecutors claim.

An attorney for Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, did not immediately respond to a request from ABC News for comment.

Avenatti "abused and violated the core duty of an attorney -- the duty to his client," Berman charged in the statement. "As alleged, he used his position of trust to steal an advance on the client's book deal. As alleged, he blatantly lied to and stole from his client to maintain his extravagant lifestyle, including to pay for, among other things, a monthly car payment on a Ferrari. Far from zealously representing his client, Avenatti, as alleged, instead engaged in outright deception and theft, victimizing rather than advocating for his client."

In a subsequent statement to ABC News after the charges were filed, Avenatti again reiterated his innocence and said he was entitled to the money from the book advance.

"I look forward to a jury hearing all of the evidence and passing judgment on my conduct," Avenatti wrote in the statement. "At no time was any money misappropriated or mishandled. I will be fully exonerated once the relevant emails, contracts, text messages, and documents are presented. I was entitled to any monies retained relating to a book per my agreement with the client. It was part of my agreement for representation and compensation.

Daniels' current attorney, Clark Brewster, had a different take when contacted by ABC News.

“I doubt Michael Avenatti is looking forward to jury hearing evidence about his blatant dishonesty and embezzlement of Stormy’s book advances," Brewster told ABC News. "If that sentiment is true he has a delusional disorder that merits attention.”

News of prosecutors’ inquiry into his business dealings with Daniels marks the latest legal blow for Avenatti, coming after federal prosecutors on both coasts unsealed charges against the controversial 48-year-old attorney.

The Daniels investigation is not related to those charges. But it is being run by the same team of federal officials who slapped Avenatti with two counts of extortion for his alleged role in what prosecutors called “an old-fashioned shakedown” of Nike.

He and another celebrity lawyer, Mark Geragos, allegedly threatened to release damaging information about the sportswear giant if it refused to pay the two attorneys millions of dollars. Geragos was not charged with a crime.

In the Central District of California, prosecutors targeted Avenatti with wire- and bank-fraud charges in a scheme that included stealing funds from a client to pay off his own expenses.

Avenatti gained prominence last year when he began representing Daniels in a defamation lawsuit against Trump. A federal judge in California later threw out the suit and ordered Daniels to reimburse Trump for legal fees.

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

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ftwitty/iStock(HOPKINSVILLE, Ky.) -- A commercial airline pilot was arraigned Wednesday on three counts of murder stemming from the brutal 2015 killings of three of his neighbors, including two whose bodies were found burned beyond recognition in a torched car.

Christian R. "Kit" Martin, 51, a former Army Ranger major and a pilot for the American Airlines subsidiary PSA Airlines, made his first appearance in Christian County Justice Center in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. He was arrested on May 11 at the Muhammad Ali International Airport in Louisville and pulled off an airplane full of passengers just before it was set for takeoff.

Martin, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit with the words "Christian County Jail" written on the back, was brought into the courtroom shackled and stood in front of the bench of Judge John L. Atkins to be arraigned in the killings of Calvin and Pamela Phillips and their neighbor, Edward Dansereau.

Martin's attorney, Michael Thompson, entered pleas of not guilty on behalf of Martin and waived a formal reading of the charges.

In addition to the three counts of murder, Martin was arraigned on charges of first-degree burglary, first-degree arson and tampering with physical evidence. If convicted of the charges, he could face the death penalty.

Atkins ordered Martin to return to court on July 10 for a preliminary hearing and to remain in jail without bail.

Relatives of Calvin and Pamela Phillips, including their son, Matt Phillips, attended Wednesday's hearing but did not speak to reporters afterward.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said at a news conference earlier this month that his office took over the investigation after Matt Phillips met with him two years ago and expressed fears the case might never be solved.

At the time of the slayings, Martin lived across the street from the Phillips couple and Dansereau.

Martin allegedly broke into the Phillips' home in Pembroke, Kentucky, on Nov. 18, 2015, and fatally shot Calvin Phillips with a .45 caliber pistol, an indictment filed against him alleges. That same day, he allegedly shot and killed Pamela Phillips and Dansereau with a .22 caliber firearm, according to the indictment.

Martin allegedly put the bodies of Dansereau and Pamela Phillips in a car and drove into a cornfield several miles from their neighborhood, where he set the vehicle on fire with the victims' bodies inside, according to the indictment.

The killings occurred just days before Martin faced a military court-martial on charges of sexual assault, child abuse and conduct unbecoming an officer, according to military records.

Calvin Phillips was expected to testify at Martin's court-martial proceedings, said Martin's former attorney, Tucker Richardson.

Richardson told ABC Nashville affiliate WKRN earlier this month that Phillips was going to be the defense's "star witness" in the court-martial hearing.

"If their motive is he killed Calvin Phillips 'cause he was going to testify in his upcoming court-martial, well that was nothing further than the truth," Richardson told WKRN.

Martin was ultimately found guilty on lesser charges of mishandling classified information and simple assault, according to Richardson. He was dismissed from the military and placed under "confinement for 90 days," according to the records.

Martin's fiancée and daughter also defended him, saying he is innocent.

"He's an honest man," Martin's fiancée, Laura Spencer, said in an interview this month with ABC station WTVD-TV in Durham, North Carolina. "So his family and I believe he is 100% innocent."

Martin's daughter, McKenzie, also expressed support for her father, telling ABC News in a statement, "My dad is an American hero."



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aluxum/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A New Jersey man who threatened to shoot everyone at a pro-Israel rally and said he wanted to “bomb Trump Tower,” was arrested Wednesday on charges of trying to provide support to Hamas.

Jonathan Xie, 20, of Basking Ridge, allegedly had social media accounts loaded with terror propaganda, according to the FBI. The agency said he had also declared support for Syrian leader Bashar al Assad, former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein and North Korea.

In April, Xie allegedly appeared in an Instagram Live video in which he said he was against Zionism and the neo-liberal establishment. In the same video he displayed a Hamas flag, retrieved a handgun and stated “I’m gonna go to the [expletive] pro-Israel march and I’m going to shoot everybody.”

In another Instagram post quoted in court documents, Xie said, “I want to shoot the pro-Israel demonstrators…you can get a gun and shoot your way through or use a vehicle and ram people…all you need is a gun or a vehicle to go on a rampage.”

FBI surveillance observed Xie outside of the Trump Tower building in New York City around April 20 of this year. Shortly thereafter, Xie posted two photos to his Instagram account, according to Instagram records.

One photo had the words “I want to bomb Trump Tower" imposed over the building image, and the other photo had the words “[S]hould I bomb Trump Tower,” a “Yes/No” poll, and an emoji of a bomb imposed over an image of the Trump Tower building.

Xie subsequently posted on Instagram, “Okay, so I went to NYC today and passed by Trump Tower and then I started laughing hysterically...I forgot to visit the Israeli embassy in NYC...i want to bomb this place along with trump tower.”

He was arrested without incident on Wednesday morning, and is due to make an initial appearance in federal court in Newark in the afternoon.

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

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