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Florence aftermath is a 'nightmare' of swollen rivers, flooding and rising deaths

Florence aftermath is a 'nightmare' of swollen rivers, flooding and rising deaths

(CNN) - After days of hoping for the best, Billy and Rita Sanderson waded in knee-high murky waters to see Florence's storm damage to their home of nearly 30 years. They passed a car buried in flo ... Continue Reading
Yo, ho, ho! International Talk Like a Pirate Day is upon us!

Yo, ho, ho! International Talk Like a Pirate Day is upon us!

(CNN) - Aye maties, 'tis the day we've all been waiting for: International Talk Like a Pirate Day.But avast! Before you grab your grog and parrot, let's get ye educated!The idea for the day was ... Continue Reading
5 things for September 19: Trade, Kavanaugh, Korea summit, Cameroon, Tesla

5 things for September 19: Trade, Kavanaugh, Korea summit, Cameroon, Tesla

(CNN) - Nearly 10.7 million teens are at risk for e-cigarette use and potential addiction, and now the FDA is trying to combat the fad by putting awareness posters in high school bathrooms across the ... Continue Reading
Climate change is making storms like Hurricane Florence worse

Climate change is making storms like Hurricane Florence worse

(CNN) - Extreme weather events, whether they're deadly heat waves or destructive hurricanes, are often pointed to as harbingers of what is to come thanks to manmade climate change. Unfortunately, Hur ... Continue Reading
Brooklyn diocese agrees to pay $27.5 million to victims of child sex abuse

Brooklyn diocese agrees to pay $27.5 million to victims of child sex abuse

(CNN) - The Diocese of Brooklyn and an after-school program will pay a $27.5 million settlement to four men who were sexually abused as children by a former church worker. Angelo Serrano entered i ... Continue Reading
Family of woman who escaped from Border Patrol agent says it's a 'miracle' she's alive

Family of woman who escaped from Border Patrol agent says it's a 'miracle' she's alive

(CNN) - Erika Peña is still fearful and shaken days after she managed to escape from the hands of a US Border Patrol supervisor accused of a string of killings in south Texas, her family says.The ... Continue Reading
Elizabeth Smart's kidnapper to leave prison Wednesday

Elizabeth Smart's kidnapper to leave prison Wednesday

(CNN) - Wanda Barzee, one of two people who abducted 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in 2002, will be released from a Utah prison sometime Wednesday.Barzee was serving a 15-year sentence when the Utah ... Continue Reading
Partner of Chicago police officer on trial for murder said victim was a threat

Partner of Chicago police officer on trial for murder said victim was a threat

(CNN) - The partner of a Chicago police officer on trial for killing Laquan McDonald testified Tuesday he believed the teenager was a threat when he headed for a Burger King and Dunkin' Donuts with a knife in his hand, according to CNN affiliate WGN.

Officer Joseph Walsh and Jason Van Dyke responded to assist officers dealing with McDonald, 17, on October 20, 2014. Prosecutors said Van Dyke fired 16 shots at McDonald within six seconds of arriving on the scene.

Van Dyke faces two counts of first-degree murder, 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm and an official misconduct charge.

Walsh, who was among nine prosecution witnesses who testified in the Chicago courtroom, said McDonald appeared to be acting in an erratic manner before Van Dyke shot him -- flailing his arms and waving his knife near his chest, the station reported.

Dashcam video of the shooting shows McDonald holding a knife about waist level, swinging his arms side to side, and slightly raising it at one point. Walsh said his perspective of the scene was different, the station reported.

Walsh said he "flinched and bent at the knees" when he heard Van Dyke fire at McDonald.

"I did not realize it was happening. ... It startled me," Walsh said.

Walsh is one of three officers indicted last June on charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice in the shooting. Walsh and the other officers were accused of making false statements to back up Van Dyke's account. When he testified Tuesday, he was given immunity from prosecution on any statements he made in court, WGN said.

Police initially said McDonald lunged at police. But the grainy dash camera video of the shooting released more than a year later showed McDonald walking away from officers, rather than charging at them. The release of the video led to protests, a Justice Department civil rights investigation, criticism of Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the eventual ouster of the city's police superintendent.

Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon has argued Van Dyke shot McDonald "when it was completely unnecessary" because the teenager was surrounded by five squad cars and nearly a dozen officers, not far from a chain link fence.

But defense attorney Daniel Herbert has argued Van Dyke was fearful for his life and those around him.

Xavier Torres, a utility worker who witnessed the shooting on his way to the hospital, told jurors he saw McDonald walking down the road, about six feet away from the chain-link fence.

"It just looked like he was trying to get away," Torres said.

Torres said he had a clear view and didn't see McDonald make any threatening moves to officers.

Minutes before the shooting, a police dispatcher had put a call out on the radio for assistance from an available unit with Taser.

Chicago police officer David Ivankovich testified he responded to the scene with a Taser. He arrived a minute after McDonald was shot at 9:57 p.m., Ivankovich said.

"I believe we were reaching 59th and Pulaski when the transmission came out that shots had been fired," he said.

Under cross examination from the defense, Ivankovich acknowledged that he was a responding to a "hot call," which is a call for officers needing assistance.

Cook County Sheriff's deputy Adam Murphy testified he didn't hear a call for assistance but saw multiple Chicago police cars pass him with their lights on. He decided to follow them to see if they needed his help, he testified.

He would learn months later that the man he saw laying on the street was McDonald.

"I observed the subject was grasping for air. I put on my rubber gloves and attempted first aid," he said.

McDonald didn't say anything, Murphy testified.

Murphy said he told McDonald an ambulance was on the way.

"I hear it in the distance," Murphy said he told him.

Testimony continues Wednesday.

A California couple is accused of drugging and raping women. Police suspect there are many more victims

A California couple is accused of drugging and raping women. Police suspect there are many more victims

(CNN) - A well-known surgeon from Newport Beach and his girlfriend are accused of drugging and sexually assaulting two women, and Southern California authorities said they believe there could be many ... Continue Reading
Killer border patrol agent held woman at gunpoint. She escaped, but that didn't stop his murder spree, police say

Killer border patrol agent held woman at gunpoint. She escaped, but that didn't stop his murder spree, police say

(CNN) - If not for the would-be victim's quick thinking, a supervisory Border Patrol agent accused in a string of killings in and around the south Texas border town of Laredo might still be on the loose.

But despite her heroic actions, the woman could not save two other women who were killed hours after she reported the agent to state police, according to a police affidavit.

Juan David Ortiz, a 10-year veteran of US Customs and Border Protection, is being held on four counts or first-degree murder, among other charges. Authorities are calling him a serial killer.

"The suspect was hunting for his victims," Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said.

Ortiz looked for victims who were vulnerable, authorities said -- people who struggled with drug or alcohol addiction, or who were involved in sex work, authorities said. He had a dislike for people in that community, officials said.

He got to know the people he targeted, meeting with them several times to gain their trust, according to Webb County Sheriff's Department Chief Federico Garza.

"The evidence that we have right now is that he committed these murders in a similar fashion, taking these individuals out to desolate areas, near or right outside the city limits, and executing them with a hand gun," Alainiz said.

The escape

The 35-year-old Navy veteran's arrest came Saturday, hours after Erika Pena narrowly escaped becoming his fifth murder victim, according to police affidavits.

Ortiz picked up Pena around 9 p.m. Friday on San Bernardo Avenue, a prostitution hub, and drove her to his home in the northern part of the city.

Pena knew Ortiz as "David," and she said he "began to act weird" when she brought up her acquaintance, Melissa Ramirez, who had been killed the week before, an affidavit says. Pena became ill and went outside to vomit in Ortiz's front yard.

Later, the two left in his white Dodge pickup truck and stopped at a gas station off the Texas 20 Loop, about 10 minutes from his home, where they again discussed Ramirez, police say.

"David then pulled out a (black) pistol and pointed it at her. Erika tried to leave the vehicle. David grabbed her shirt to prevent her from exiting the vehicle. Erika began to scream for help," the affidavit says.

Pena wrested herself from his grasp by pulling off her top and running shirtless to State Trooper Francisco Hernandez, who was fueling up at the gas station. Ortiz drove away, according to police.

Hunting Ortiz

At a sheriff's substation, Pena described Ortiz, his tattoos and his truck before accompanying investigators to his home. A property search identified Ortiz as the owner, the affidavit says.

Police issued an alert for law enforcement to be on the lookout for Ortiz and his white truck just after midnight. About 1 a.m., state police found him at a gas station off San Bernardo Avenue and approached him. Ortiz fled, according to police.

They found him about an hour and a half later, hiding in the bed of a truck in the parking garage of a Ramada Inn, Alaniz said.

Here, the story becomes downright shocking, as police say Ortiz confessed not only to assaulting Pena and committing four murders -- but also to killing two of his victims after Pena escaped from his truck.

Ramirez, 29, was his first victim, police say. Ortiz told police he picked her up September 3 near San Bernardo Avenue and drove her out to the edge of the city, where she exited his vehicle to urinate on the side of the road, the affidavit says. Ortiz shot her multiple times in the back of the head and drove away, according to police.

On Thursday, Ortiz picked up another woman -- 42-year-old Claudine Ann Luera -- and drove her outside of Laredo. After she became suspicious and accused Ortiz of being the last person seen with Ramirez, Luera got out of the vehicle, the affidavit says.

Ortiz shot her multiple times in the head and fled, police allege. A truck driver later found Luera's body on the side of the road.

Not deterred by escape

After Pena escaped from Ortiz's truck Friday, the Border Patrol agent continued on his predatory path, returning to the San Bernardo Avenue area, where he picked up another woman early Saturday and drove her north on Interstate 35. Near the unincorporated town of Webb, he ordered the woman -- identified only as Jane Doe -- out of the car and shot her repeatedly in the head, the affidavit says.

Later Saturday morning, Ortiz again returned to San Bernardo Avenue and picked up a transgender woman and drove back up Interstate 35. About five miles from where he killed Jane Doe, Ortiz ordered the woman out of the vehicle and shot her once in the back of the head, the affidavit says. Police identified the transgender woman as Humberto Ortiz; later, the DA's office said she went by Janelle. CNN is attempting to confirm the victim's preferred name and pronoun.

Ortiz told investigators they would find the body behind gravel pits located off Interstate 35, according to the affidavit. Police also found a spent shell casing there, the affidavit says.

US Rep. Henry Cuellar, who represents Laredo, expressed concern to CNN affiliate KGNS that Ortiz used his supervisory role with the Border Patrol to stay apprised of developments in the murder probes. He also said he spoke to US Customs and Border Protection Commission Kevin McAleenan about improving vetting for agents.

"This person worked for the intel, the intelligence part of the Border Patrol, so he was getting all the leads that the local law enforcement were given," he said, adding that he was relieved Pena was able to escape and lead authorities to Ortiz. "Otherwise, she could have been killed, would have been victim number five, and heaven knows if there would have been more after number five."

According to jail records, Ortiz stands charged with four counts of murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful restraint: expose to serious bodily injury and evading detention.

His bail is set at more than $2.5 million, according to jail records and handwritten notes on warrants for Ortiz's arrest.

Oritz has been placed on indefinite unpaid suspension, US Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost told reporters.

Provost said she was "sickened and saddened" by the alleged crimes.

"This was one rogue individual," Provost said.

Garza tried to assure the public that authorities feel they have the right suspect in custody.

"The killings will stop," he said.

Investigators are not confident they've found all Border Patrol agent's victims

Investigators are not confident they've found all Border Patrol agent's victims

(CNN) - Police say they have a confession from a US Border Patrol agent they suspect of being a serial killer, but many loose ends and questions remain -- chiefly, whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty.

It could take as long as 90 days to determine whether prosecutors will pursue capital murder charges against Juan David Ortiz, 35, accused of killing four women in and around the border town of Laredo, Texas, Webb County District Attorney Isidro Alaniz said during a Monday news conference.

And there's another loose end: Are there more victims?

Asked by a reporter if he was certain they had identified all of Ortiz's victims, Chief Deputy Federico Garza of the Webb County Sheriff's Office replied, "We're not confident (of) that, sir."

He added, "We will do historical research everywhere that he has been to see if we have a pattern of victims."

Garza provided additional details about what happened after would-be victim Erika Pena escaped Ortiz, who was holding her at gunpoint, and ran to a state trooper who was fueling up at a nearby gas station -- essentially cracking the case for police.

Ortiz, a supervisory Border Patrol agent with access to U.S. Customs and Border Protection intelligence, went home after Pena jumped out of his truck around 9:14 p.m. Friday, and Garza said he was ready for a showdown. He had numerous weapons at his home in north Laredo, the chief deputy said.

"He was loading up all those weapons thinking that the (state troopers were) going to confront him and he was looking at a confrontation," Garza said. "Thank God that didn't happen."

Ortiz also posted goodbye messages to his family after Pena escaped, telling his wife and kids he loved them and "Doc Ortiz checks out. Farewell," said Yanira de Leon, a spokeswoman for the Webb County District Attorney's Office.

Roughly three hours after Pena's escape, law enforcement officers were alerted to be on the lookout for Ortiz, and it took another hour before state troopers first encountered him. In that time, he killed two more victims, according to a police affidavit.

When the troopers found his truck at a gas station in Laredo, Ortiz had gone inside to use the restroom, Garza said. He had left a gun in his vehicle. Troopers confronted him and one tried to deploy a Taser on Ortiz, but he escaped. From there, he ran to Hotel Ava, formerly a Ramada Inn, and hid in the hotel's parking garage.

When a Webb County SWAT team and state troopers found him around 2:34 a.m. Saturday, Ortiz appeared ready to die, Garza said.

"He was trying to commit suicide by cop," he said. "He was going to try to use his phone to make it look like it was a weapon."

Police weren't fooled and took him into custody, where he gave a verbal confession to killing four women between September 3 and early Saturday, all of whom he picked up in a prostitution hub of Laredo.

He selected the women, who he knew, based on their vulnerability and "the dislike that he had for this community of people," Garza said.

"At one point, Ortiz was able to gain their trust and viciously shot them," he said.

Garza identified the victims as Melissa Ramirez, 29, Claudine Luera, 42, and Humberto Ortiz, 28. Humberto Ortiz was a transgender woman, according to police. Ortiz also went by the name Janelle, Webb County district attorney's spokesperson Yanira de Leon said. CNN is attempting to confirm the victim's preferred name and pronoun.

Authorities have identified the fourth victim, but authorities won't release her name until her relatives have been notified.

Fear near Cape Fear rises with the river, and the death toll from Florence keeps growing

Fear near Cape Fear rises with the river, and the death toll from Florence keeps growing

WILMINGTON, North Carolina (CNN) - Few places in North Carolina got rain on Tuesday, but that didn't stop some bloated rivers from rising.

Fourteen river gauges recorded levels above major flood stage, the North Carolina Emergency Management agency tweeted.

Many of those waterways were rising or cresting, though a few were receding.

The Cape Fear River near Fayetteville was rising and has quadrupled in depth, and it's only going to get worse -- likely bringing more misery.

But there are glimmers of hope in the wake of Florence. Some North Carolina residents were being told they can return home to the beachside community of Wrightsville.

'This isn't a river ... this is Interstate 40'

Four days ago, the Cape Fear River near Fayetteville was 15 feet deep. By Tuesday afternoon, it had topped 60 feet -- and it still hasn't crested.

Overflow from the river downstream has already created a new waterway on what used to be Interstate 40 in Pender County.

"This isn't a river ... this is Interstate 40," the state's transportation department tweeted, along with drone footage of the scene. "This illustrates our message that travel in this area is impassable and unsafe."

The good news was that the Lumber River, which has spilled into the town of Lumberton, was slowly receding -- though it was expected to still be at major flood stage on Sunday.

When it comes to flooding, no one cares that Florence has left the Carolinas. Rivers gushing downstream toward already flooded cities mean more homes are at risk.

"The next 48 hours are extremely critical," said Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Fayetteville City Manager Doug Hewett said 12,000 residents are "in harm's way" as the Cape Fear River keeps growing. He said the river is expected to crest at 61 to 62 feet around noon Wednesday.

New death in North Carolina

On Tuesday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper reported a 26th death in the state from Florence -- and warned the danger will continue.

"I can't stress enough: Never drive through floodwaters. Don't drive around barricades," Cooper said. "Roads remain dangerous, and new road closings are still happening."

More than 1,000 roads are closed across the state Tuesday, officials said, and about 343,000 people are still without power.

Residents get glimpses of damage after Florence

For the first time since Florence ravaged North Carolina, residents in the island town of Wrightsville Beach were allowed to return home Tuesday.

But it will be a while before life gets back to normal. A curfew will be in place from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., and access to the nearest big city on the mainland -- Wilmington -- is still greatly hampered.

"While the island itself did not sustain severe damage, at this time most roads leading to the Wilmington area are impassable due to flooding," the town's website says.

Flooding so bad, the river gauge broke

In North Carolina, cities such as Wilmington and Lumberton are bracing for more flooding.

Wilmington was the epicenter of Florence's destruction. Rainfall totals of 26.58 inches have submerged much of the city, effectively cutting it off from the rest of the state.

But by Tuesday morning, a bit of good news: Two roadways previously blocked are now passable, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said. Eastbound I-40 at Exit 373 and westbound US 421 at Exit 385 are now open.

In Lumberton, where residents scrambled to plug the levee system, parts of Interstate 95 will remain closed until the Lumber River drops below 21 feet. That might not happen until next week, said Corey Walters, the city's deputy director of public works.

But it's impossible to say how deep the Lumber River is now, because the official river gauge stopped working a few days ago. Walters estimated the current depth is about 25 feet.

High waters have kept even FEMA crews and Duke Energy trucks away.

Wilmington will have its wettest year in the city's 140 years of record-keeping. More than 86 inches of rain have fallen so far. On average, Wilmington gets about 43 inches by this time of the year.

More than a dozen tornadoes strike Virginia

Before Florence sputters out for good, it also struck Virginia with a litany of tornadoes. An estimated 15 to 20 tornadoes touched down in at least six counties Monday, the state's Department of Emergency Management Joint Information Center said.

One tornado caused the first Florence-related death in Virginia when a building collapsed in Chesterfield County south of Richmond.

Chesterfield Fire and EMS spokesman Lt. Jason Elmore tweeted drone footage of the tornado's destruction, including buildings that were annihilated.

Learning 'how vulnerable we all are'

In South Carolina, John Cassidy's 27-year-old printing business in Conway was on the brink of flooding Monday. Water was inches away from the door at Duplicates INK, but that didn't stop Cassidy or his employees.

They were trying to get one last big order out before the water moved in, and they put sandbags around the biggest, most expensive pieces of equipment hoping to safeguard them.

"It just makes you realize how vulnerable we all are," Cassidy said.

"I've accepted it, my building is gonna be flooded. We're just going to deal with what we have to deal with and be as tough as we can be and move through it. It sucks."

Cassidy said he continued working because he made commitments to his customers, and because 10 families rely on paychecks from the business.

"We can't just shut the door down," he said.

Cassidy plans to relocate his staff to a building in downtown Conway, CNN affiliate WBTW reported. He said several competitors and friends will help fill the company's orders for them.

33 deaths now linked to Florence

Of the 33 storm-related deaths, at least 26 were in North Carolina, six were in South Carolina and one was in Virginia. They include:

• A 3-month-old who died when a tree fell on a mobile home in Dallas, North Carolina.

• One-year-old Kaiden Lee-Welch, who was swept away by rushing waters Sunday and later found dead in Union County, North Carolina.

• An elderly Union County man whose body was found in his submerged car.

• Three people who died in flash flooding or "swift water on roads" in Duplin County, North Carolina.

• A woman who went into cardiac arrest in Pender County, North Carolina. When emergency responders tried to reach her, their path was blocked by fallen trees.

• An 81-year-old man who fell and struck his head while packing to evacuate in Wayne County, North Carolina.

Florence's finale: Heavy rainfall in the Northeast

On Tuesday, Florence was about 45 miles west-northwest of Boston, the National Weather Service said. It was moving northeast at 25 mph.

The storm is expected to produce "heavy to excessive rainfall" throughout Tuesday in parts of the northern Mid-Atlantic states and southern New England.

By Tuesday night, after its five-day assault on the East Coast, Florence was expected to finally move offshore into the Atlantic, where it will dissipate.

Flooding from Florence: Maps show why the worst is not behind us

Flooding from Florence: Maps show why the worst is not behind us

(CNN) - When a hurricane hits, people often focus too much on its category -- which only measures wind -- and not on the massive amounts of rain that accompany a storm.For days, federal and state ... Continue Reading
Before-and-after aerial photos show destruction, beach erosion on North Carolina coastline

Before-and-after aerial photos show destruction, beach erosion on North Carolina coastline

(CNN) - Aerial images captured the destruction Hurricane Florence inflicted on the North Carolina coastline, from lines of houses shorn of their shingles to sand-covered streets.The pictures were ... Continue Reading
North Carolina barrier island evacuees can check on their property via new aerial images

North Carolina barrier island evacuees can check on their property via new aerial images

(CNN) - New images from NOAA are giving evacuees a chance to check on their property from afar.NOAA's new "high-definition aerial photos" were taken by planes equipped with cameras taking the imag ... Continue Reading
Gas company donates $10 million to relief fund amid Senator inquiry and class-action lawsuit

Gas company donates $10 million to relief fund amid Senator inquiry and class-action lawsuit

(CNN) - The company responsible for gas distribution in a region where a series of fires and gas explosions displaced thousands of residents will donate $10 million to the recovery effort. The utilit ... Continue Reading
2016 Presidential Election Investigation Fast Facts

2016 Presidential Election Investigation Fast Facts

(CNN) - Here's a look at investigations into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. For details about computer hacking during the campaign, vi ... Continue Reading
Should the hurricane scale be expanded to a Category 6?

Should the hurricane scale be expanded to a Category 6?

(CNN) - Some experts are renewing calls to expand the scale used to measure hurricanes by adding a sixth category of storm as the flood-weary Carolinas battle the remnants of Hurricane Florence five ... Continue Reading
The biggest question for hurricane survivors is, 'What now?'

The biggest question for hurricane survivors is, 'What now?'

(CNN) - Rebuilding is not a glamorous process, and it's far from an easy one. Though Hurricane Florence has passed, the road ahead for survivors will take years to traverse, with innumerable question ... Continue Reading
5 things for September 18: Kavanaugh, Emmys, Russia probe, Yemen, Korea summit

5 things for September 18: Kavanaugh, Emmys, Russia probe, Yemen, Korea summit

(CNN) - People on opposite sides of the globe are still reeling after two monster storms: 32 people are now dead because of Florence, and dozens are still missing in a landslide in the Philippines c ... Continue Reading