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U.S. firearm production, imports ramp up in recent decades: Report

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(NEW YORK) -- The production of firearms in the U.S. has ramped up exponentially in recent decades with domestic manufacturing more than doubling and imports more than quadrupling, according to a new study by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The increases between the years 2000 and 2020 were fueled by the mass proliferation of the pistol as the most widespread firearm type and a 24,080% percent increase in manufacturing of short-barreled rifles, according to the ATF report. The number of firearms made in the U.S. increased by 187% and the number imported increased by 350% over the same period.

The report comes as the nation is still reeling from a mass shooting that left 10 Black people dead in a Buffalo, New York, supermarket last weekend. The suspected gunman legally purchased the Bushmaster rifle used to carry out the shooting with some modifications currently illegal in the state of New York, sources familiar with the investigation told ABC News.

The nation's patchwork of gun laws has been largely relaxed by Supreme Court decisions as well as state and federal legislation over the time period studied. Two Supreme Court cases that struck down local gun control ordinances in Chicago and Washington, D.C, paved the way for fewer restrictions on individual firearm purchases.

The report also looked at the more recent adoption of untraceable firearms called "ghost guns" -- often assembled from parts bought online or made at a private residence.

"One of the most significant developments affecting lawful firearm commerce and law enforcement's ability to reduce illegal access to guns in this period has been the proliferation of privately made firearms also known as “ghost guns," the ATF Los Angeles Field Office said in a statement on the report.

The number of firearms recovered by law enforcement believed to be privately made increased 1,000% between 2016 and 2021, according to the report.

The U.S. ranks first in the world for the number of firearms in the hands of civilians, according to a 2018 report by the nonpartisan Small Arms Survey. Yemen, Montenegro, Serbia and Canada round out the top five when adjusted for population size, although all have less than half the number of firearms per capita than the U.S.

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Family of former suspect in disappearance of Brittanee Drexel 'devastated' by investigation

Georgetown County Sheriff's Office

(MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.) -- The family of the man who had previously been named a suspect in the 2009 disappearance of 17-year-old Brittanee Drexel in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, said the investigation had ruined their lives for years.

Timothy Taylor was named by the FBI as a suspect in Drexel's disappearance in 2016, ABC Charleston affiliate WCIV reported. An informant told FBI agents that he saw Taylor, who was 16 at the time of Drexel's disappearance, and others sexually abusing Drexel at a home in McClellanville, South Carolina, about 60 miles south of Myrtle Beach.

Drexel had been on a spring break trip when she disappeared.

On Monday, authorities announced that Raymond Moody, 62, had been arrested for Drexel's murder after her remains were found in a wooded area in Georgetown County, South Carolina, last week.

Timothy Taylor's mother, the Rev. Joanne Taylor, for years insisted her son was innocent, saying the teen spent time in church, had a strict bedtime and could not have been involved in Drexel's murder.

When federal agents named Timothy Taylor a suspect, he was in federal court on unrelated charges stemming from a 2011 robbery at a McDonald's.

He was convicted on state and federal armed robbery charges and was sentenced in 2019 to three years of probation.

The FBI told WCIV Monday that Taylor was no longer a suspect in Drexel's disappearance after a man who had been named a person of interest as early as 2012 was arrested. The portion that included the investigation into Taylor's alleged involvement "has been concluded," the FBI spokesperson said.

"We are confident that with Moody's arrest we have the man responsible for Brittanee's murder," the FBI spokesperson told the station.

During a press conference on Thursday, Taylor's family and friends expressed how devastating the investigation had been.

"Following investigations is one thing, but deliberately and intentionally making them strange fruit that is hung before the court system at the hand of a gavel, and unjust investigators is definitely unfair," said the Rev. Lawrence Bratton. "This family has been devastated, ruined for the last 15 years, emotionally, psychologically, financially, and in every way that you can imagine down to the next generation."

An FBI spokesperson did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment on the family's statement.

Bratton said that even as the criminal justice system abandoned them, the community, as well as groups such as the National Action Network, the NAACP and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance stood firmly beside the Taylor family.

"How do you do that? How do you take a family, devastate them and walk away and say no harm, no foul," Bratton said in response to the FBI's announcement that Timothy Taylor had been cleared.

The Rev. Joanne Taylor said that while the family's heart goes out to the loved ones of Drexel, her son was "suspected without any credible evidence of a crime he did not commit" and "maintained his innocence in the face of relentless pursuit by local and federal law enforcement, investigators and the media."

"The years long fight against accusations, false accusations, and the media frenzy that shoot us has traumatized us, affecting every aspect of our lives," she said. "It has publicly questioned without reason our family, our families character, and it has shaken us to the core."

Timothy Taylor did not appear at the press conference with his family.

Drexel traveled to Myrtle Beach from her parents' home in the Rochester, New York, area in April 2009, despite her mother denying her permission to go, Melissa Drexel told ABC News. She was last seen on April 25, 2009, on a hotel surveillance camera as she was leaving a friend’s room at the Blue Water Resort to walk back to the hotel where she was staying -- about a mile-and-a-half walk down the busy Myrtle Beach strip, ABC Rochester station WHAM reported.

Her remains were found less than 3 miles from a motel where Moody had been living at the time of Drexel's disappearance, Georgetown County Sheriff Carter Weaver said.

Authorities said that Moody buried Drexel's body, but did not answer questions on how Drexel's remains were found.

Moody is being held without bond at the Georgetown County jail and is expected to be charged with rape, murder and kidnapping, said Jimmy Richardson, solicitor for Horry and Georgetown Counties, on Monday.

"In the last week, we've confirmed that Brittanee lost her life in a tragic way, at the hands of a horrible criminal who was walking our streets," said FBI special agent in charge Susan Ferensic during a press conference on Monday.

In 2012, Moody had been identified as a person of interest in the disappearance but there was not enough evidence to name him as a suspect, officials said.

Even though Timothy Taylor's name has been cleared, his "name and face will forever be linked to Brittanee Drexel," his mother said.

"I call for law enforcement to halt the practice of disclosing unfounded leads and names of potential suspects without credible evidence," she said. "Doing this has real life consequences and a lasting dispersion effect on so many, particularly us Black families."

ABC News' Ben Stein contributed to this report.

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Oklahoma Legislature passes bill that would ban nearly all abortions

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(NEW YORK) -- The Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill that would ban abortion at conception, making it the most restrictive abortion ban in the country if it goes into effect.

There are exceptions in cases of saving the life of the mother, rape or incest.

The bill, HB 4327, which would go into effect immediately if signed by the governor, is modeled after a controversial Texas law that opens up providers and anyone who "aids and abets" an abortion to civil lawsuits.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a similar six-week ban into law earlier this month.

Planned Parenthood has already said it plans to challenge the state's latest, more-restrictive abortion ban.

"This ban must be stopped -- along with the other abortion bans the state passed just last month," Planned Parenthood Action said.

Stitt seems likely to sign the bill into law. When the governor signed the so-called "heartbeat act" into law this month, he said he wanted Oklahoma "to be the most pro-life state in the country."

Last month, Stitt signed another abortion bill that would make it a felony to perform abortions except when the mother's life is in danger.

The GOP-led Oklahoma House of Representatives called HB 4327 the "most strongly pro-life bill of its kind by allowing civil liability from conception."

"It is my sincere hope that, in addition to the criminal bill passed this session, this civil liability bill will provide strong, additional protection of the life of unborn children in Oklahoma," state Rep. Wendi Stearman, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.

The Center for Reproductive Rights said Thursday it plans to fight the ban if it goes into effect.

"Multiple generations of Oklahomans have relied on abortion access to shape their lives and futures. They have never known a world without that right," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. "But under this bill, people will be forced to travel hundreds of miles for an abortion, and those who cannot afford to travel will be forced to give birth against their will or attempt to end their pregnancies on their own. This is the cruel reality that politicians are creating for their own residents."

The string of abortion legislation in Oklahoma comes as the U.S. Supreme Court debates a case that could impact Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide. The conservative majority of the court appeared poised to overturn the nearly 50-year precedent, according to a leaked draft opinion initially reported by Politico earlier this month.

Several other Republican-led states -- including Arizona, Kentucky and Wyoming -- have similarly passed abortion legislation ahead of the decision, which is expected next month.

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911 dispatcher may be fired over hanging up on Buffalo shooting caller: Official

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(NEW YORK) -- An Erie County, New York, 911 dispatcher could be fired after an employee at the Tops supermarket said the dispatcher hung up on her during Saturday's attack that killed 10 people.

Latisha Rogers, an assistant store manager, told The Buffalo News that the dispatcher "was yelling at me" during those terrifying moments when the shooter was firing in the store.

"You don't have to whisper," Rogers said the dispatcher told her as she tried to stay quiet so the gunman wouldn't find her. "And I was telling her, 'Ma'am he's still in the store. He's shooting,'" according to the paper's account.

The county will seek the dispatcher's termination following a review of the 911 call, a spokesman for the Erie County Executive's Office told ABC News.

The spokesman, Peter Anderson, said dispatching officers to the scene was unaffected by the actions. Police have said officers arrived a minute after the shooting began.

Rogers told The New York Times she was behind the customer service counter when the shooting began. She ducked behind the counter to call 911 and told the paper she whispered, "There's someone shooting in the store."

Rogers said the dispatcher asked why she was whispering and told her she couldn't hear her, according to the Times. The line then cut out.

Payton Gendron, 18, has been charged in the mass shooting, which authorities have said was racially motivated. All 10 people killed in the attack were Black.

Rogers, who is also Black, was uninjured in the shooting.

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Brandon Woodruff, convicted of killing parents in 2009, fighting for his freedom

ABC

(NEW YORK) -- Brandon Woodruff had appeared to live the normal life of a 19-year-old, small-town Texas kid - but that changed in 2005, when both of his parents were brutally murdered. After an investigation, Woodruff was charged with capital murder, found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

Now, Woodruff has served 13 years of his life sentence and said he’s finally ready to share his story in the first interview after his conviction.

“I’m innocent. I did not kill my parents at all,” Woodruff told “20/20” in an interview. “I think that you should look at the totality of the evidence.”

Woodruff grew up in a community outside of Dallas with his mother Norma Woodruff, father Dennis Woodruff and older sister Charla Woodruff.

Watch the full story on "20/20" FRIDAY at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

Growing up, former high school classmates said they remember Woodruff as a popular, outgoing, animal lover who was the president of the Future Farmers of America. The teen was voted most school spirit and had a steady girlfriend.

But during the investigation of his parents' murders, authorities discovered that while Woodruff attended Abilene Christian University, he would go dancing at gay clubs, was dating men and had even traveled out of state to participate in adult movies.

On Sunday October 16, 2005, Woodruff visited his parents at their new home in Royse City, Texas. The couple was downsizing to help pay college tuition for their two children. He told police he left after the family enjoyed a pizza dinner together. Woodruff was the last known person to see both of them alive.

Two days later, Dennis and Norma Woodruff were found murdered in their new home. According to authorities, Dennis Woodruff was found shot once and stabbed nine times. Norma Woodruff sustained multiple gunshot wounds and had her neck slashed, investigators said.

Police concluded that Norma and Dennis Woodruff must have likely been killed sometime between 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday night. However, the medical examiner was not able to confirm the time of death. Norma Woodruff's last phone conversation was with her mother around 9 p.m. and the next person to try and contact the couple was Charla Woodruff, who was at college in Arkansas, just after 11 p.m. Charla Woodruff was unable to reach them. When Woodruff was questioned by police about his whereabouts that night, there were inconsistencies in his timeline.

Michelle Lee, the mother of Woodruff's girlfriend, also contacted law enforcement to report that a gun and bullets were missing from her home. Woodruff had been in her home the weekend before his parents were found dead. Investigators compared a bullet found at the crime scene with a bullet from the Lee home and said they believed they were consistent. The Lee's gun was never found, but investigators believe it was the same caliber as the weapon used in the crime. A murder weapon was never recovered and Woodruff denies stealing the gun.

Woodruff was arrested and charged with capital murder.

In June 2008, a family member found a dagger in the barn of the Woodruff’s old house in Heath, Texas. Dennis Woodruff’s blood was on this weapon. Brandon Woodruff’s former college roommate testified that dagger was the same one Woodruff had in his dorm room. Authorities could not conclude if the dagger found was the murder weapon and Woodruff denies that the weapon is his.

Woodruff’s grandmother Bonnie Woodruff has supported Woodruff from the beginning and still maintains her grandson is innocent.

“I know Brandon was wrongfully judged. And murder? Now I know Brandon didn't do that. Someone else is letting him take the blame for it,” said Bonnie Woodruff.

Over the past decade, advocates for Woodruff say there are red flags surrounding the investigation and his subsequent trial. Woodruff claims his sexuality played a role in his arrest and conviction.

“I do believe that that’s a major factor. I felt like the investigators were able to use that. They would say, well, ‘Did you know that he was dancing in gay bars? Did you know he had a boyfriend, did you know?'” said Woodruff.

During the investigation, police told friends and family of Woodruff that they "don't care" if he is gay.

During jury selection, eight out of twelve jurors told the court that they believed homosexuality was morally wrong, but they were still allowed to serve on the jury after promising the court they could be fair toward Woodruff.

“Guess what? In 2005 people still felt that homosexuality was immoral because eight of the 12 jurors on Brandon's case specifically said it was immoral,” said Philip Crawford, the author of a book called "Railroaded" about Woodruff's case.

ABC News spoke with several jurors who said Woodruff’s sexuality wasn’t a factor in the jury's decision.

While in prison, supporters have started a movement to free Brandon and now the Innocence Project of Texas has taken his case.

Allison Clayton, the deputy director with the Innocence Project of Texas claims that the prosecution’s case against Woodruff relied heavily on a timeline because they say Woodruff's whereabouts were not accounted for at the time that authorities estimate the couple was killed. Clayton points to cell phone records that would further compress the window of opportunity to commit the murders.

“Brandon kills his parents in, what? the most, 19 minutes? He has to act fast or he is taking calls during the course of committing these murders,” said Clayton. “That's the only way the timeline makes sense, that he does something to one of his parents, and then takes a call and chats with [a friend] like nothing's wrong.”

In addition to the timeline, Clayton said one of the other biggest potential breakthroughs for this case would be taking DNA evidence from hair found in Norma Woodruff’s hand.

“In Norma's hand, police found a clump of longer blonde hairs. Now, that would normally be an indicator that she had somehow grabbed her attacker and that she pulled his or her hair,” said Clayton. “Law enforcement never tested that hair. And one of the things that we've been fighting for in the case is trying to figure out who has that hair because we want it tested.”

In 2000, Woodruff’s direct appeal to the state was denied. In order for Woodruff to be released, he needs to prove to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that he is innocent.

“As it stands right now, if we don't have a break in the case, then there's nothing we can do for Brandon,” said Clayton. “He is going to be in prison for the rest of his life, but maybe there will be evidence that can help him, maybe someone is out there, who knows something, who's willing to step forward.”

Bonnie Woodruff said that she still hopes that one day she can hug her grandson again and tell him “he’s home now.”

​​”We are all still a family unit and we all love one another. People can live with what they think, I can live with what I think because I know the truth and the truth's gonna come out,” said Bonnie Woodruff.

Woodruff said he won’t stop fighting to prove his innocence.

“I'm not gonna stop. I'm gonna keep fighting and I'm gonna keep fighting to prove my innocence,” he said. “I do believe in my heart that it will happen."

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Two national forests in New Mexico now closed to public due to extreme fire danger

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(SANTA FE, N.M.) -- Two national forests in New Mexico are fully closed to the public due to extreme fire danger as several wildfires, including the largest in the state's history, also burn.

The Carson National Forest and the Santa Fe National Forest in northern New Mexico are barring visitors, effective Thursday, due to fire risk that is only expected to get worse due to drought conditions.

"The hot and dry conditions we're experiencing pose a dire risk for wildfires to quickly ignite and spread rapidly," Carson National Forest supervisor James Duran said in a statement. "Community compliance will be essential for our success in protecting the forest amid these conditions."

Campgrounds, trails and National Forest System roads in the forests are closed until conditions improve and there is "significant moisture," forest officials said. The restrictions are currently scheduled to last until July 18.

Those who violate the closure order -- a misdemeanor -- could face a fine upwards of $5,000 or imprisonment.

The decision comes as over 2,100 fire personnel battle the massive Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire east of Santa Fe, which this week became the largest fire in the state's history. As of Thursday morning, the fire had burned over 303,000 acres and was 34% contained, state fire officials said. A red flag warning is in effect Thursday for hot, dry and windy conditions.

"Right now with the conditions as dry as they are, all it takes is a spark from an exhaust and you can have another huge fire happen," Stefani Spencer of the Carson National Forest told Albuquerque ABC affiliate KOAT.

A third national forest in New Mexico -- the Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands, west of Albuquerque -- is also partially closed to the public due to extreme fire danger.

Additionally, state officials announced on Wednesday that Pecos Canyon State Park in north central New Mexico is closed until further notice due to extreme fire danger.

"The ongoing and adjacent Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak Fires have demonstrated the severity of current fire conditions," the state's Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department State Parks Division said in a statement.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a state of emergency in several counties last month as multiple wildfires burned, including the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire.

Biden approved a disaster declaration earlier this month for New Mexico that brings financial resources to the areas battling the fires.

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Buffalo mass shooting suspect called 'coward' while exiting court hearing

Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- As loved ones of the victims looked on, an 18-year-old suspect accused of fatally shooting 10 people in what authorities described as a racially motivated rampage, appeared in court Thursday and was called a "coward" by someone at the hearing.

The suspect, Payton Gendron, entered the Buffalo, New York, City Court wearing an orange jumpsuit, a white face mask and chains on his legs and hands and surrounded by numerous court officers.

Prosecutors said a grand jury had indicted him on first-degree murder, but all the charges remain under seal.

Judge Craig D. Hannah adjourned Thursday's one-minute hearing. The hearing was scheduled to be a felony hearing, but because Gendron has been indicted, the judge scheduled his next hearing for June 9, when he is expected to be arraigned on charges in the grand jury indictment.

Gendron was represented at the hearing by three court-appointed attorneys.

Erie County Assistant District Attorney Gary Hackbush informed the judge that the grand jury indictment of Gendron was handed up on Wednesday.

Relatives and family members of victims killed in the shooting at a grocery store Saturday crowded into the courtroom to watch. Gendron entered and left under heavy guard.

A woman in sitting in the courtroom gallery was overheard yelling, "Payton, you're a coward" as he exited the courtroom.

"The defendant continues to remain held without bail. There will be no further comment from our office until there is a report following an investigation by the Grand Jury," Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said in a statement. "As are all persons accused of a crime, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law."

No additional charges have been made public.

Gendron made no comments in court.

Gendron was initially charged with one count of murder following Saturday afternoon's massacre at a Tops Friendly Market in which police officials alleged he intentionally targeted Black people in the attack he planned for months. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered to be held without bail.

Three additional people, including two white victims, were wounded in the shooting, police said.

Gendron is expected to face additional murder and attempted murder counts and state hate crime charges. The FBI is also conducting a parallel investigation, which the Department of Justice said could lead to federal hate crime and terrorism charges.

During a visit to Buffalo on Tuesday, President Joe Biden called the mass shooting an act of "domestic terrorism."

All 10 of the people killed in the attack were Black, six women and four men. Three other people were wounded in the shooting, including one Black victim and two white victims.

Investigators said Gendron drove three hours from his home in Conklin, New York, and alleged he spent Friday conducting a final reconnaissance on the store before committing the mass shooting Saturday afternoon.

Authorities allege Gendron was wielding an AR-15-style rifle, dressed in military fatigues, body armor and wearing a tactical helmet with a camera attached when he stormed the store around 2:30 p.m., shooting four people outside the business and nine others inside. Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said the suspect fired a barrage of 50 shots during the rampage.

Police said Gendron allegedly livestreamed the attack on the gaming website Twitch before the company took down the live feed two minutes into the shooting.

Among those killed was 55-year-old Aaron Salter Jr., a retired Buffalo police officer who was working as a security guard at the supermarket. Authorities said Salter fired at the gunman, but the bullets had no effect due to the bulletproof vest the suspect wore.

Buffalo police officers arrived at the store one minute after getting the first calls of an active shooter and confronted the suspect, who responded by placing the barrel of the rifle to his chin and threatening to kill himself, according to Gramaglia. He said the officers de-escalated the situation and talked Gendron into surrendering.

Meanwhile, Tops Friendly Markets announced Thursday that it plans to reopen the store where the massacre occurred.

During a news conference Thursday afternoon, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown announced that the evidence collection phase of the investigation has been completed and the store is being turned back over to Tops.

Tops President John Persons, who attended the news conference, said the store will not reopen until the company can assess what repairs and renovations will be needed to "open it in a respectful manner for our associates, our employees and for the community at large."

Persons said the renovations will include some way to memorialize the victims of the shooting.

"We have been committed to the city of Buffalo since our founding 60 years ago and this event doesn't stop that commitment," Persons said. "We will be here. We will be in this store."

Stephen Belongia, the special agent in charge of the FBI Buffalo field office, said that during the evidence collection phase, the FBI used state-of-the-art scene-scanning tools, spherical and drone photography, conducted a bullet trajectory analysis of the shooting and reconstructed the crime. He said the evidence will allow the FBI to produce sophisticated digital 3D and physical recreation of the incident.

"We are determined to hold the person responsible for this horrific attack accountable," Belongia said. "Our work to collect evidence is a critical part of that effort."

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Federal hate crime charges announced against man accused of plotting racist shooting in Georgia

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(JONESBORO, Ga.) -- Hate crime charges have been announced against a man accused of planning to fatally shoot customers and employees of two Jonesboro, Georgia, convenience stores.

Larry Edward Foxworth allegedly fired a gun repeatedly into two convenience stores at 2:30 a.m. on July 30, 2021. Both stores were open for business.

The indictment alleges that Foxworth, who is white, was motivated to shoot into the stores because of the perceived race, color or national origin of the people inside the stores.

“No person should be afraid to shop or go to work in our community. Nor should people have to worry that they may be violently attacked because of the color of their skin,” U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said in a statement.

Foxworth was charged with two counts of committing a federal hate crime and discharging a firearm to commit a violent crime. He has not yet entered a plea.

He is being charged under the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crime Prevention Act, which makes it a federal crime to willfully cause bodily injury, or attempt to do so using a dangerous weapon because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion or national origin.

Clayton County is a predominantly Black community, making up 72.8% of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The charges against Foxworth come in the wake of the mass shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket.

The 18-year-old suspect in Buffalo shot and killed 10 people, injuring three others, in what authorities have described as a racially motivated rampage.

“Hate-fueled violence has no place in a civilized society,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said. “Thankfully no one was injured by the conduct alleged in this case, but the Justice Department is committed to using all the tools in our law enforcement arsenal to prosecute allegations of hate crimes.”

This is the first time in about eight years that hate crime charges have been filed in the Northern District of Georgia, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office told ABC News.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Clayton County Police Department.

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DOJ accuses casino mogul Steve Wynn of lobbying on behalf of China

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department is suing Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn to compel him to register as a foreign agent for the People's Republic of China because of alleged lobbying he did on behalf of the Chinese government during the Trump administration.

The civil lawsuit targeting Wynn outlines his alleged efforts in 2017 to push then-President Donald Trump and senior members of his administration to deport a Chinese businessman living in New York at the request of China's vice minister of the Ministry of Public Security, Sun Lijun.

The Chinese businessman had been charged with corruption in China and had sought political asylum in America, according to court documents.

"Wynn conveyed the request directly to [Trump] over dinner and by phone, and he had multiple discussions with the then-President and senior officials at the White House and National Security Council about organizing a meeting with [Vice Minister Lijun] and other PRC government officials," according to the Justice Department.

Trump allegedly told Wynn he would look into the matter, according to the lawsuit. At the time, Wynn was finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Nothing would ultimately come of the efforts to get the Chinese national deported, the DOJ said.

In a statement to ABC News, Wynn's legal team said they plan to fight the DOJ's lawsuit.

"Steve Wynn has never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and had no obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act," Wynn attorneys, Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig, said in the statement. "We respectfully disagree with the Department of Justice's legal interpretation of FARA and look forward to proving our case in court."

While the Chinese businessman in question is not named in the court documents, the description matches that of Guo Wengui, a billionaire real estate mogul and vocal critic of the Chinese government. Wengui fled China in 2014 and is viewed as a fugitive by the PRC.

The DOJ also alleges that Wynn was motivated by a desire to protect his business interests in China, noting that "during the time that he engaged in this conduct, Wynn's company owned and operated casinos in Macau, a special administrative region in the PRC."

The Justice Department says it has warned Wynn repeatedly over a four-year period, starting in 2018 during the Trump administration, about his obligation to register as an agent under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, or FARA, for acting on behalf of Lijun and the PRC itself.

Wynn, however, declined to register as an agent.

Following his refusal, the DOJ said in court documents that Wynn's failure to file constitutes an ongoing violation of FARA, "and given the likelihood that this violation will continue in the absence of court action, a permanent injunction is necessary."

"The filing of this suit -- the first affirmative civil lawsuit under FARA in more than three decades -- demonstrates the department's commitment to ensuring transparency in our democratic system," said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division. "Where a foreign government uses an American as its agent to influence policy decisions in the United States, FARA gives the American people a right to know."

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Buffalo supermarket at center of deadly shooting a community lifeline

Libby March for The Washington Post via Getty Images

(BUFFALO, N.Y.) -- On the east side of Buffalo, New York, community is the neighborhood's greatest asset and the local Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Ave. serves as a vital hub, according to area leaders.

In this predominantly Black community, which has struggled to thrive after years of historic segregation and divestment, residents say the area’s lone grocery store is a central resource and gathering place providing access to fresh food and medicine.

“We don't got the YMCA no more in the community, so Tops is it for us,” Jeffrey Watkins, a 64-year-old long-time resident of East Buffalo, told ABC News' "Nightline." “It's like a community center. We meet there every day. We’re in Tops every single day. That's where we live.”

But on Saturday, May 14, all of that changed when an 18-year-old white male allegedly opened fire in what authorities say was a racially motivated attack, shooting and killing 10 people and injuring 3 others. Eleven of the victims are Black.

“It was a planned attack. He took away a food source. Now there's nowhere people can eat right now,” Julien Guy, an East Buffalo resident, said.

Buffalo Councilman Ulysees Wingo said the shooting suspect "attacked an oasis in the middle of a food desert," telling ABC News that he "wasn't just trying to kill Black people, he was trying to starve them."“With this store being closed - it has completely disrupted the lives of residents; it has completely interrupted the flow of how people fellowship and how we come together,” the councilman told ABC News.

An assault on the disenfranchised

Nearly 20 years ago, residents living in East Buffalo lacked access to healthy, affordable food within walking distance. The nearest grocery store was more than 3 miles away.

“Years ago, some of us worked very hard to bring this supermarket to Buffalo’s east side,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown told ABC News. “This was a food desert previously,” he added.

Community leaders and city officials advocated and lobbied for a supermarket and won, opening Tops Friendly Market with much fanfare in 2003.

Since then, the grocery store has been a pinnacle of pride for the food equality and resources for which residents long fought.

“It was a really big thing about us even getting a Tops in an inner-city neighborhood,” said Roberto Archie, a resident. “It was something we really needed. We finally got it; now it’s gone again.”

Wingo said the systemic racism that ultimately perpetuated years of divestment is a major factor that makes Saturday’s deadly rampage even more devastating to a community that has struggled with historic disenfranchisement.

“This country was founded on principles that suggested Black folks were lesser than other folks. We have these nationalists and these white supremacists who think that they're entitled to this country when the fact of the matter is this country was built on the backs of my ancestors,” Wingo said.

Banding together in the face of tragedy

In the aftermath of this tragedy, city officials have collaborated with corporations to help residents get the resources they need.

Tops Supermarket offered ongoing transportation to neighboring store chains, saying in a statement, “While the Tops location at Jefferson Avenue will remain closed until further notice, we are steadfast in our commitment to serving every corner of our community as we have for the past 60 years. Knowing the importance of this location and serving families on the east side of the city, we have taken immediate steps to ensure our neighbors are able to meet their grocery and pharmacy needs by providing free bus shuttle service starting today [May 15]."

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a partnership with Uber and Lyft to provide residents free rides.

“They have offered to take people from the [local] ZIP codes, and they need to go to a grocery store in another area because a lot of people in this neighborhood walk to the grocery store. They don't have transportation,” Hochul said on Sunday, May 15.

Resident Dayna Overton-Burns, 53, has been working around the clock to gather donations and deliver food and resources to people in need, one of several city residents who are rallying together to ensure that the community's most vulnerable are fed.

“This is my city. This is my community. These are my people. I don't care if you're Black, white, or purple,” Overton-Burns told ABC News. “It's important for me to help where I live and build community. We should be one, and not just wait for tragedy to happen in order to come together. We should be doing that work every single day.”

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Texas authorities share more details on inmate's escape from bus

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(LEON COUNTY, Texas) -- An inmate serving a life sentence for murder managed to free himself of restraints and cut through a caged area of a bus transporting him before overpowering a bus driver and escaping, Texas authorities said as the search for the inmate continued.

Gonzalo Lopez, 46, was on a transport bus en route from Gatesville to Huntsville for a medical appointment when he escaped in Leon County on May 12, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

"Due to his criminal history and restrictive housing status, inmate Lopez was being transported in a separate, caged area of the bus, designated for high-risk inmates," the department said in an update Wednesday. "During the transport, inmate Lopez defeated his restraints, cut through the expanded metal, crawled out through the bottom of the cage, and attacked the driver."

During the altercation with Lopez, the officer driving the bus was stabbed in the hand and punctured in the chest, suffering non-life-threatening injuries, officials said last week. Lopez allegedly tried to grab the driver's service weapon but couldn't remove it from the holster, officials said.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice did not provide any updates on what Lopez allegedly used to cut through the cage.

"He used some type of device, we don't know what some type of device, to cut out the bottom of the door," Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Robert Hurst told reporters last week.

The driver, Lopez and a second officer at the rear of the bus exited the vehicle, the department said Wednesday. As the second officer approached Lopez, the inmate got back on the bus and started driving away, it said.

Both officers fired at the bus, striking the rear tire. Lopez continued to drive for about a mile before crashing, officials said. Lopez then jumped off the bus and fled into the woods off Highway 7 in Leon County, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

As the search for Lopez continues, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also released new photos Wednesday of the inmate taken from surveillance footage on the morning of the escape as he was being escorted to the prison bus.

Visitation at more than 40 Texas Department of Criminal Justice units, including prisons, will be canceled until further notice starting Thursday "due to the ongoing efforts in the apprehension of escaped inmate Gonzalo Lopez," the department announced Wednesday.

Lopez is serving a life sentence for a capital murder in Hidalgo County and an attempted capital murder in Webb County, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said. The murder was committed with a pickaxe, according to Hurst.

Several local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have been involved in the search, including horse and K9 teams.

A reward for information leading to Lopez's arrest has grown to $50,000.

ABC News' Emily Shapiro contributed to this report.

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Did the fentanyl crisis thrive because the US ignored opioid abuse?

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(NEW YORK) -- As the fentanyl crisis continues to sweep across the United States, lawmakers are focused on trying to stop the flow of fentanyl into their communities, but many are saying that curbing the supply from dealers is only part of the larger problem. There’s demand.

After five decades since the start of the war on drugs, critics say these efforts haven't helped curb drug use.

One in 14 Americans are suffering from some form of addiction to legal or illegal substances, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some say the rise in fentanyl deaths has been exacerbated by ignoring the opioid crisis and the millions of people who are already suffering from addiction who continue to seek available opioids - in many cases, fentanyl.

Ryan, who wished to be identified by first name only, said he has been living with an opioid addiction for decades. He said he just recently started using fentanyl.

“I stopped for many years. I just relapsed three months ago and I hadn't used in 10 years,” said Ryan. “Fentanyl is in everything now.”

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, fentanyl is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Despite the risk, for many people like Ryan, despite how addictive it is, fentanyl quickly becomes their drug of choice because it is so potent.

Sam Rivera runs the nation’s first overdose prevention clinic in Harlem, New York. The aim is to not stop people from using drugs, but to supervise them when they do by offering medical support and safety.

Rivera said that goal is harm reduction and preventing overdose deaths.

“We've had a number of overdoses today. It seems like a potential bad batch [of fentanyl],” said Rivera. “We're there when the overdose happens, and we're there immediately.”

Rivera added that not a single person has ever died at his clinic.

Studies show that similar programs in other countries have successfully reduced fatal overdoses and increased access to health services, according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

Rivera said by giving people living with addiction a safe space to use drugs, it gets them into a supervised facility that can help them stay alive until they are ready to try to quit.

“Beautiful, hurting people are coming in with those drugs, to use them safely and stay alive,” said Rivera.

Other approaches include a clinic named Rock to Recovery In Nashville, Tennessee. They are using the power of music as therapy.

Phil Bogard, a former rock musician, is the program administrator at Rock to Recovery. He said he struggled with addiction and has been “clean and sober” for almost 14 years.

“We've got people playing keyboard parts, and I'm on a guitar. We're going to write a chorus together that we can all sing along to. An hour and a half passes by and we lived in the moment,” said Bogard, who adds that music fosters a sense of belonging and community. “And hopefully we got some people to get on the other side of ‘I can't, I won't, I'm not able to.’”

Activists say there is no easy answer to stopping both the enduring opioid crisis and the growing fentanyl crisis, those who are struggling with an addiction and need more resources and help now.

“They're going to use,” said Rivera. “I have people in that room right now who want to stop, they're right there saying, ‘I want to stop.’ But at least now they're talking about it.”

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Interstate highway shootings surged during pandemic, ABC News analysis shows

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As the nation continues to grapple with mass shootings in New York and California this past weekend, a new analysis by ABC News and ABC's owned stations shows a startling rise in gun violence along interstate highways across the country over the last few years.

The analysis, which examined nearly 3,000 shootings that occurred on or near U.S. interstates from January 2018 through March 2022, found that interstate highway shootings across the country spiked alongside the overall surge in gun violence over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, with New Orleans, Chicago and Memphis seeing some of the biggest spikes.

Interstate highway shootings rose from 540 incidents in 2019 to 846 incidents in 2021 -- in increase of 57% -- according to the data, which was collected by the Gun Violence Archive, an independent research group.

In just the first three months of this year, at least 149 shooting incidents occurred along or near interstate highways, the data shows.

In all, the incidents resulted in 680 people killed and more than 1,600 people injured over the last four years and three months, according to the data.

The full report by ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas, "Highway Gunplay: An ABC News Investigation," will stream on ABC News Live Prime with Linsey Davis, Wednesday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

The data collected by the Gun Violence Archive helps shed light on some of the nation's most dangerous stretches of highway out of the more than 47,000 miles of interstates across the country.

According to the data, I-10 in the New Orleans area has been the single most violent stretch of interstate in terms of gun incidents between 2019 and 2021. It's followed by I-94 in the Chicago area, I-240 in the Memphis area, I-35 in the Austin area and I-70 in the St. Louis area.

Courtney Bradford, a young man who was about to be married, was shot and killed late last year while riding as a passenger in a car on I-240 in Memphis. He and his fiancé had just bought a new home to share with their 5-year-old daughter.

"I've called him by mistake. It's very hard," Bradford's fiancé, Latoya Henley, told ABC News' Thomas about dealing with Bradford's death seven months ago.

The shooting that took Bradford's life was one of 121 interstate shootings Memphis Police responded to in 2021, according to data provided by the police department.

"What's even more unsettling is the fact that they're so reckless," Bradford's mother Tonja Rounds told ABC News. "You could be aiming at one particular individual -- but you're shooting on the expressway and people are driving by, so you could shoot anybody."

"It's very insane," Henley said. "I get antsy when I'm on the expressway."

Seven months after the shooting, Henley and Rounds say police don't appear to be any closer to determining who took Bradford's life. The shooting occurred at night, and surveillance cameras were unable to provide any details about the car that the shots came from.

"We just keep trusting and believing that someone is going to come forward," Rounds said.

Memphis, New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit are among the cities that have been hit hardest by the surge in highway shootings over the last few years, with the number of shootings increasing even more as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the U.S.

Eight of the 10 stretches of interstates with the highest number of gun incidents between 2019 and 2021 are in those four cities, according to the Gun Violence Archive data. Shooting incidents on or near interstates in those cities alone killed at least 63 people and injured at least 284 others during that time, accounting for nearly 12% of all deaths and 23% of all injuries reported from interstate gun violence nationwide during those years.

I-10, which runs across the southern U.S. from Florida to California, had the highest number of interstate highway shootings during the pandemic period, including at least 79 incidents in Louisiana -- many of them occurring around New Orleans.

"You've got what police chiefs are calling the pandemic impact on crime," Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told ABC News. "It cannot be underestimated."

"Traffic stops have decreased, so now a small altercation -- someone cuts someone off on the road -- that can quickly escalate," Wexler said. "And that altercation becomes a shooting, becomes a homicide."

During the pandemic years, between 2020 and 2021, the Gun Violence Archive data showed at least 121 interstate shootings in the Chicago area, averaging out to one incident every six days. The group found 73 incidents in the New Orleans area, 58 incidents in the Detroit area, 57 incidents in the Memphis are and 38 incidents in the St. Louis area.

The spike in highway shootings during the pandemic mirrors a surge in overall gun violence.

According to data released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gun homicides increased 35% across the country during the pandemic, to the highest level in 25 years.

Firearm murders increased most markedly among youths and young adults, with the number of victims age 10-24 rising by 40%. People of color experienced the highest increase, as the number of Black male shooting victims age 10-24 years -- already 21 times higher than the number of white male victims of the same age -- increased even further in 2020.

An analysis of data provided by the Houston Police Department by ABC13 showed that homicides along the city's highways and streets doubled during the pandemic, driving a surge in the overall number of homicides in the city during the two pandemic years. Among those killed in Houston road rage incidents was 17-year-old David Castro, who was fatally shot last summer on I-10 while leaving an Astros baseball game, and Tyler Mitchell, who died earlier this month after being shot along the same interstate just before his 22nd birthday.

In California, the Gun Violence Archive identified more than 200 interstate highway shootings between January 2018 and March of 2022, with many of them occurring on I-5, I-80 and I-580. And additional shootings occurred on Southern California freeways that aren't part of the interstate system; last year, the California Highway Patrol reported at least 80 incidents of cars being shot at while traveling on SoCal freeways in just the one-month span between late April and late May, with the majority of them occurring along the 91 Freeway that runs from east of the 15 Freeway west toward the 605 Freeway.

Law enforcement officials say the nature of highway shootings typically makes them more difficult to track and solve that other types of shootings.

"The evidence and the crime scene is moving, sometimes 70, 80, 90 miles an hour," said Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly.

As a result, said Kelly, the Illinois State Police are adding patrols and increasing searches to identify people with illegal weapons in their cars. They've also added new cameras along interstates to try to better track suspects.

"We will use license plate readers, we will use our air operations, we will use our patrol officers that are out there, we will use canines, we will use all the tools at our disposal to be able to pursue the people that are responsible for this violence," Kelly said.

In the Detroit area, where the Detroit Police Department says they've seen an average of five freeway shootings a month over the past three years, the city has teamed up with more than three dozen other law enforcement agencies to launch "Operation Brison," a multi-city effort to crack down on freeway shootings after two-year-old Brison Christian was killed last year when someone opened fire on his family's vehicle on I-17 in what the police say was a case of mistaken identity.

Two alleged gang members have been charged with murder in the case.

But in Memphis, Latoya Henley is still waiting for resolution to her fiancé's murder.

"We don't know what happened at all," Henley told ABC News. "We don't know who's involved."

"I don't want anyone to ever feel what I feel," she said. "I pray a lot, 'cause the one thing I don't want to be is angry. Because that's what I was at first -- I was angry. I was confused. And I was in disbelief. And you know, some days, I'm still in disbelief."

ABC News’ Jack Date, Luke Barr and Alexandra Myers contributed to this report, along with Ross Weidner of WLS in Chicago, Courtney Carpenter of KTRK in Houston and Lindsey Feingold of KGO in San Francisco.

Watch "Highway Gunplay: An ABC News Investigation" on ABC News Live Prime with Linsey Davis, Wednesday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


One dead, 1 rescued after sand collapses at Jersey Shore beach: Police

WPVI

(TOMS RIVER, N.J.) -- One person is dead and another has been rescued after two siblings became trapped under sand while digging at a Jersey Shore beach, authorities said.

Police and emergency medical services responded to a barrier island beach in Toms River, New Jersey, shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday "for reports of juveniles trapped in the sand as it collapsed around them while digging," the Toms River Police Department said on Facebook.

First responders were able to rescue a 17-year-old girl, who was treated at the scene, but her brother, 18, died, police said.

The victim was identified by police as Levi Caverly of Maine.

The teen was visiting the region with his family, police said.

His father, Todd Caverly, described his son as a "tech nut" who loved to program, played the drums in a young adult worship band and was involved in his church's worship team.

"Levi was himself. He was odd. He was quirky. He was not real concerned with what others thought," Todd Caverly said in a statement.

Police urged people not to respond to the area while the rescue was in progress.

Live footage from the scene Tuesday evening showed more than a dozen first responders near the shoreline. Emergency crews from several neighboring towns aided in the rescue effort.

A 911 caller told a dispatcher that the two siblings had dug about 6 feet down when the sand collapsed on top of them, according to audio of the call obtained by WABC-TV. Bystanders were working to help dig them out until first responders arrived. The girl's head was above the sand, but they couldn't see her brother, the 911 caller said.

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Mars lander losing power because of dust on solar panels

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- NASA's Mars lander, called Insight, is slowly losing power because its two solar panels are covered in dust and it will need to mostly shut down by the end of May.
NASA is being forced to end its Mars lander mission early because of dust.Officials announced Tuesday the InSight spacecraft is slowly losing power because its two solar panels are covered in dust.Morever, the dust levels in the atmosphere are only increasing and sunlight is decreasing as Mars enters winter, which is speeding up the loss of power.

Power levels will likely die out in July -- effectively ending operations -- and, by the end of the year, project leaders expect InSight will be "inoperative."

"People can obviously relate to, in their own homes, they have to dust because dust settles," Chuck Scott, InSight’s project manager, told ABC News. "It's the same sort of thing with these solar panels. We have dust in the Mars atmosphere that gets kicked up because of the local weather ... storms where you get the dust kicked up because you have lot of wind."

"Since Mars's atmosphere is thinner, it goes up into the upper atmosphere and it can get distributed more widely than it would on Earth and it'll deposit back down on whatever's below including our spacecraft and the solar panels," he added.

InSight is currently generating about one-tenth of the power it was when it landed on Mars in November 2018.

When the spacecraft first landed, the solar panels were producing 5,000 watt-hour for each Martian day, enough to power an electric oven for an hour and 40 minutes, NASA said. Currently, the panels are producing 500 watt-hour per Martian day, only enough to power an electric oven for 10 minutes.

Project leaders had expected the gradual dust buildup on the solar panels, but had hoped passing whirlwinds on Mars might have cleaned some of it off, but none have so far.

"Two rovers we sent back in 2003, they both experienced what we would call 'natural cleaning' or 'dust cleaning events,'" Scott said. "Those winds went over the vehicles and cleared a lot fo the dust off the solar panels of those vehicles. We were were kind of hoping this would occur with a stationary lander."

Due to the lower power, the team will put InSight's robotic arm in a resting position known as "retirement pose" later this month. Then, by the end of the summer, the lander's seismometer will only be turned on at certain times, such as night when winds are not as high.

Because energy is being preserved for the seismometer, NASA said non-seismic instruments "will rarely be turned on" starting next month.

InSight has detected more than 1,300 quakes since its landing, the most recent of which occurred on May 4. The data gathered from the marsquakes have helped scientists understand the composition of Mars's deep interior, including the planet's crust, mantle and core.

NASA said the lander had completed its primary goals during its first two years on Mars and was currently on an extended mission.

"There wasn't really anything known about the interior of Mars," Scott said. "Why that's important is NASA had been looking at how our own planets formed in the Solar System. especially the rocky ones like Venus, Earth, Mars and even our own Moon."

This is not the first time NASA has ended a Mars lander due to dust.

Opportunity, a robotic rover, landed on the planet in 2004 and was in operation until June 2018, when a global dust storm completely covered its solar panels, which ended communications with project leaders.

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