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Pennsylvania Residents Complain About “Ugly” Christmas Tree

Pennsylvania Residents Complain About “Ugly” Christmas Tree

File photo. (The Image Bank/Getty Images)(READING, Pa.) -- The Christmas tree in downtown Reading, Pennsylvania, wasn’t exactly bringing holiday cheer.According to WFMZ.com, many residents complained that the 50-foot Norway Spruce was “ugly” and “pathetic,” and now it’s being replaced. "I think it does look a little pitiful," resident Teresa Rodriguez said of the scraggly spruce. "I think they picked the wrong tree."Another resident who works near the tree, Martin McNeil, added, "It was a waste of time for them to even come out here and put this tree up. Honestly, they might as well put nothing out here."In response to the bah-humbugs, the city has decided to replace the tree with one that's fuller and greener. The new tree is expected to be in place Monday or Tuesday. It will be decorated Friday and lit on Saturday. As for the poor old tree, it was adopted by a local business.

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Man Accused of Stealing 600 Combat Helmets

Man Accused of Stealing 600 Combat Helmets

Getty Images(HARRISBURG, Pa.) -- Life’s tough, get a helmet…or 600…A former Pennsylvania state employee is facing charges for allegedly stealing more than 600 military combat helmets, Philly.com reported. According to criminal charges filed Friday, 43-year-old Michael Gantz swiped the protective head gear from his job at the Pennsylvania Department of General Services’ surplus property warehouse.The helmets, which were allegedly stolen between July 2009 and January 2010, have an estimated value of more than $5,000. Prosecutors said Gantz has filed an agreement indicating he will plead guilty to a felony count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds. He faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.No word on what he actually did with the helmets after he stole them.

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Ferguson Grand Jury ‘Unfair,’ Michael Brown Family Lawyer Says

Ferguson Grand Jury ‘Unfair,’ Michael Brown Family Lawyer Says

Credit: Frances Twitty/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- A lawyer for the family of the black 18-year-old fatally shot by a white police officer said Sunday the grand jury process playing out in Missouri is unlike anything he's seen before and is unfair.The St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, Robert McCulloch, has said that, unlike with a typical grand jury, he would present to this grand jury all the evidence gathered in the police investigation and offer the jurors the opportunity to hear from any witness with relevant information.The target of the investigation, Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, was among those who testified.A spokesman for McCulloch has indicated that the prosecutor's office will not likely make a specific recommendation about charges, but would give the grand jurors a range of charges to consider, from involuntary manslaughter up to first-degree murder.The grand jury investigating the killing of Michael Brown by Wilson is not meeting this weekend and will reconvene Monday, sources told ABC News.

"When you think about it, if this prosecutor is saying we're just going to be fair, we're not going to recommend any charges, that's different from anything he's done in his past 28 years with grand juries," attorney Benjamin Crump said Sunday on This Week."So, now are we going to say he was unfair to all those people and he's going to be extra fair, get a police extra rights?" said Crump, who also represented the family of Trayvon Martin. " Why can't it be equal justice?"ABC News chief legal affairs anchor Dan Abrams said there is precedent for prosecutors presenting cases to grand juries without recommending charges, particularly high profile, controversial cases."I'm not going to dispute with you on the facts, but let's talk about the process and the law, which is that there are a lot of high profile cases, and I've seen them, where prosecutors say, 'You know what, I'm going to hand this one to the grand jury. I want the political cover on this one. I want to let them decide so I'm not the one who takes the heat on this decision,'" he said."So it is not sort of out of left field that in a high profile case a prosecutor hands it off to a grand jury to make that decision," he said.Speculation that a decision on whether to indict Wilson in the shooting was coming soon has increased tensions in a town that already was on edge.Federal, state and county officials have been ramping up their readiness in case there is a fresh wave of angry and, at times, violent protests over the jury's decision. Protesters have been demanding that Wilson be charged with murder for the Aug. 9 shooting of Brown.The Saint Louis County Police Department switched their officers to 12-hour shifts on Saturday.Metal and concrete barricades have been erected in areas around the St Louis County government buildings in Clayton, where the grand jury has been meeting. The justice center there also houses the prosecutor's office, the St. Louis County Police Department headquarters and the circuit courts.Preparations are being made there for specific areas for anticipated protests.There also appeared to be some minor increase in activity behind the strip mall in Jennings, the town next to Ferguson, where the Unified Command will be operating once they are notified a decision has been reached.Many stores have boarded up their windows for fear of destructive protesters. The manager of Beauty Town Plus, a salon on West Florissant Avenue where much of the protests centered during the summer, told ABC News that they decided to board up because their windows were broken three times following Brown's death.Law enforcement have taken the threat of violence seriously as well as two federal officials confirmed to ABC News that more than 100 FBI personnel are being sent to the St. Louis area to join those already in the area and opened an intelligence center to head up operations.On Friday, federal authorities in Missouri charged two men with lying on forms to purchase guns ahead of the grand jury decision.Olajuwon Davis and Brandon Baldwin faced only those charges as of late Friday, but sources told ABC News that authorities were looking into whether they tried to acquire ready-made explosives and other weapons ahead of the decision, which is expected soon.The two men are suspected of being associated with the New Black Panther party, said sources briefed on the arrests. The charges that were filed were intended to "take them out of the rotation," according to one source.Both Attorney General Eric Holder and Michael Brown Sr., the slain teenager's father, have released videos urging protesters to remain peaceful when the grand jury's decision is handed up.

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Boy Shot by Cleveland Police Dies

Boy Shot by Cleveland Police Dies

Credit: Adam Kazmierski/Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- A 12-year-old boy who was shot by Cleveland police officers while carrying a replica gun in a park playground has died, hospital officials said Sunday.The boy, who hasn't been identified, died at MetroHealth Medical Center after he was taken there for surgery Saturday afternoon.Officers were called to the Cudell Recreation Center after receiving reports of the boy waving a gun and pointing it at people, the Cleveland Division of Police said in a statement.Two officers found the boy in the playground and ordered him to raise his hands, but he instead reached for what the officers thought was a gun in his waistband, police said.The officers fired twice, hitting the boy in the torso.Officers learned the gun was fake after the shooting, police said. Made to resemble a semi-automatic pistol, the orange safety indicator had been removed from the "airsoft" replica gun the boy was holding.“We are not rushing to judgment," said Timothy Kurcharski, an attorney for the boy's mother. "The police are investigating the matter and we are waiting for the result of that investigation."The two officers involved in the shooting have been put on administrative leave, which is standard protocol.

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Ferguson Grand Jury to Reconvene Monday

Ferguson Grand Jury to Reconvene Monday

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- The grand jury investigating the killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson is not meeting this weekend and will reconvene Monday, sources told ABC News.Speculation that a decision on whether to indict Wilson in the shooting was coming soon has increased tensions in a town that already was on edge.Federal, state and county officials have been ramping up their readiness in case there is a fresh wave of angry and, at times, violent protests over the jury's decision. Protesters have been demanding that Wilson be charged with murder for the Aug. 9 shooting of Brown.The Saint Louis County Police Department switched their officers to 12-hour shifts on Saturday.Metal and concrete barricades have been erected in areas around the St Louis County government buildings in Clayton, where the grand jury has been meeting. The justice center there also houses the prosecutor's office, the St. Louis County Police Department headquarters and the circuit courts.Preparations are being made there for specific areas for anticipated protests.There also appeared to be some minor increase in activity behind the strip mall in Jennings, the town next to Ferguson, where the Unified Command will be operating once they are notified a decision has been reached.A lawyer for the Brown family described the city Friday as "nervous, on edge, scared" as people awaited the grand jury's decision."The city is really in a panic at this moment," attorney Anthony Gray said.Many stores have boarded up their windows for fear of destructive protesters. The manager of Beauty Town Plus, a salon on West Florissant Avenue where much of the protests centered during the summer, told ABC News that they decided to board up because their windows were broken three times following Brown's death.Law enforcement have taken the threat of violence seriously as well as two federal officials confirmed to ABC News that more than 100 FBI personnel are being sent to the St. Louis area to join those already in the area and opened an intelligence center to head up operations.On Friday, federal authorities in Missouri charged two men with lying on forms to purchase guns ahead of the grand jury decision.Olajuwon Davis and Brandon Baldwin faced only those charges as of late Friday, but sources told ABC News that authorities were looking into whether they tried to acquire ready-made explosives and other weapons ahead of the decision, which is expected soon.The two men are suspected of being associated with the New Black Panther party, said sources briefed on the arrests. The charges that were filed were intended to "take them out of the rotation," according to one source.Both Attorney General Eric Holder and Michael Brown Sr., the slain teenager's father, have released videos urging protesters to remain peaceful when the grand jury's decision is handed down.The DA is trying to present a case that if there is no indictment, they can say, 'Look, it was them,'" said ABC News chief legal affairs anchor Dan Abrams.

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University of Virginia Suspends Fraternity Activities Following “Rolling Stone” Report

University of Virginia Suspends Fraternity Activities Following “Rolling Stone” Report

Photo by Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan announced on Saturday that all fraternities and related activities would be suspended through at least Jan. 9.The action comes after a week in which a Rolling Stone magazine report detailed a sexual assault that allegedly occurred on the university's campus in 2012 that it says was handled improperly. Sullivan said in a letter to members of the university community that she has asked the Charlottesville Police Department to investigate the incident. "We can demand that incidents like those described in Rolling Stone never happen and that if they do, the responsible are held accountable to the law," Sullivan added. "this will require institutional change, cultural change and legislative change, and it will not be easy," the admitted, adding "we are making those changes."The university's Inter-Fraternity council said Saturday that all fraternities would voluntarily suspend social activities for the weekend, but Sullivan decided that was only a first step, deciding instead to suspend the organizations through the beginning of the Spring semester.In a letter sent to parents on Friday night, Sullivan said that sexual assault "has no place in our society, much less in an academic community characterized by freedom and civility."

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Boy Wakes Up From Coma After Surviving 225-Foot Fall From Cliff

Boy Wakes Up From Coma After Surviving 225-Foot Fall From Cliff

Credit: CZQS2000 / STS/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A 4-year-old California boy has awakened from an induced coma after he was injured in a 225-foot fall onto rocks from an ocean-side cliff, according to ABC News station KGO-TV in San Francisco.Jamie Guglielmino told ABC News that her son, Sebastion Johnson, woke up from the induced coma Wednesday, more than a week after he fell. The fall reportedly occurred on the evening of Nov. 10."All he knows is that he’s in pain and mommy’s there," said Guglielmino. "He looks at me. ... I can tell in his eyes, like, 'Where am I mommy?'"Guglielmino said her son had multiple broken bones, including two broken hips, and a broken leg, arm and jaw."He’s definitely in the arms of angels right now," Guglielmino told ABC News. "It’s been real touch and go, but he’s on the road to recovery."Sebastion was with Guglielmino, throwing rocks over a cliff in Bodega Bay, California, when he slipped and fell last week, according to KGO-TV. Sebastion's father and sister were also in the area and ran over after seeing him fall.“He just misstepped and the ground gave and he just flew right down,” Sebastian's father, Daryl Johnson, told KGO-TV. “The incident that happened was my worst nightmare.”Johnson said he could not see his son on the rocks, but a firefighter who rappelled down was able to spot Sebastian near the water, according to KGO-TV."He wasn't really talking, but I said, you know, 'If you like Spider-man or superheroes, you know, just try and think of them,' and just tried to keep him awake and moaning," firefighter Marcos Barros told KGO-TV.The boy was put into an induced coma after arriving at Children’s Hospital Oakland. After coming out of the coma, he was listed in fair condition by the hospital.Sebastion's family has created an online fundraiser to help deal with medical expenses from the accident."He’s very stubborn and a little fighter," said Johnson in an earlier interview with KGO-TV. "That’s why I’m a proud of him."An official with the California Department of Parks and Recreation said the area where Sebastion was injured can be dangerous and difficult for people who are unfamiliar with it.

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John Sheridan’s, Wife’s Deaths Lead to Investigation by NJ Attorney General

John Sheridan’s, Wife’s Deaths Lead to Investigation by NJ Attorney General

Credit: Tetra Image/Getty Images(TRENTON, N.J.) -- The New Jersey attorney general's office is launching an investigation into the mysterious deaths of a couple who were close friends with Gov. Chris Christie.Police found the bodies of John Sheridan and his wife Joyce Sherwood inside their home last September when a neighbor called police to report a suspicious fire."I believe my neighbor's house may be the beginnings of a fire," the neighbor told a 911 dispatcher.The deaths were initially deemed a murder-suicide, but a source close to the investigation told ABC News that the Sherdians were stabbed several times with at least three different weapons.Police have only retrieved two of those weapons, according to the source.The investigation by the attorney general's office will be parallel to the police's investigation. The office has sent investigators to provide "additional manpower and expertise" to local police amid concerns over the progress detectives have made, officials said."They sense and know and understand there's a lot of frustration and people feel like we should just know," said family spokesman Tom Wilson. "They understand that this isn't for lack of trying on the part of law enforcement."

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At Least Three Protesters Arrested in Ferguson Friday Night, Activist Groups and Local Authorities Aim to Keep Peace

At Least Three Protesters Arrested in Ferguson Friday Night, Activist Groups and Local Authorities Aim to Keep Peace

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- At least three protesters were arrested in Ferguson on Friday night during demonstrations in advance of a possible grand jury decision related to the August shooting of Michael Brown by local police officer Darren Wilson.According to the Saint Louis County Police Department, the three individuals were identified as Kenny Thomas, 55, David Rodriguez, 26, and William Morales, 23. Each of the three faces charges of unlawful assembly after they refused to leave the roadway when officers urged them to do so. The demonstrators, police say, were wearing "Anonymous" masks, and one of the demonstrators was using a bullhorn with a siren on it to shout profanities. On Friday, state and local officials had announced an agreement with activist groups on how police should respond to protesters once they grand jury decision is made on whether or not to indict Wilson. The so-called "rules of engagement" aim to prevent the tensions and violence that boiled over during protests over the shooting earlier this year.

The grand jury will not meet this weekend, however, and will instead reconvene on Monday.A U.S. delegation that reported to the United Nations Committee against Torture last week sent a letter to the U.N. on Friday calling for special rapporteurs to be sent to document possible human rights violations, should protests grow violent again.Also on Friday evening, the American Civil Liberties Union announced that it had signed an agreement with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the County of Saint Louis and the City of Ferguson to affirm the rights of protesters to record law enforcement officers, an agreement that the ACLU of Missouri's legal director Tony Rothers called protection of the First Amendment rights of journalists.

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Two in Ferguson Charged With Lying on Forms to Buy Guns Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

Two in Ferguson Charged With Lying on Forms to Buy Guns Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Federal authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, charged two men with lying on forms to purchase guns ahead of the grand jury decision in the police shooting of Michael Brown.Olajuwon Davis and Brandon Baldwin only faced those charges as of late Friday, but sources told ABC News that authorities were looking into whether they tried to acquire ready-made explosives and other weapons ahead of the decision, which is expected soon.Neither man had a lawyer listed on court documents.The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives played a part in the arrest.The two men are believed to be associated with radical groups and the charges that were filed were intended to "take them out of the rotation," said one source.

The FBI has sent about 100 agents to the St. Louis area to help deal with any problems that could arise from the grand jury decision.St. Louis authorities said earlier Friday that the grand jury was still meeting. The panel will decide whether to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Brown, who was unarmed, on Aug. 9.The FBI declined to comment on its operation in Ferguson.Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency earlier this week and activated the Missouri National Guard to help keep order if necessary.Michael Brown Sr., the father of the slain teen, issued a videotaped appeal this week for protester to remain peaceful whatever the verdict.

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Two Men Walk Free After 40 Years in Prison for Crime They Didn’t Commit

Two Men Walk Free After 40 Years in Prison for Crime They Didn’t Commit

iStock/Thinkstock(CLEVELAND) -- On May 25, 1975, Ricky Jackson and Wiley Bridgeman went to jail for a murder they didn’t commit. Sentenced to death on the testimony of a single juvenile witness, the men continued to protest their innocence through years of incarceration.

On Friday, nearly 40 years later, they walked out of prison as free men after the state’s witness in the case admitted that he concocted his testimony under police intimidation.

A case suffused with emotion culminated in exoneration Friday morning, when Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Richard McMonagle formally dismissed all charges against Jackson after a brief hearing. Bridgeman, whose case was heard separately, was exonerated two hours later by Judge David Matia.

The two joined Bridgeman’s younger brother Ronnie, now known as Kwame Ajamu, who was found guilty of the same crime and eventually paroled in 2003.

The three were originally jailed for the 1975 murder of Harry Franks, a Cleveland businessman, after a 12-year-old witness named Edward Vernon told police that he had seen them attack the victim. No physical evidence linked them to the crime scene. Jackson was just 19 years old when he was sentenced to die, Wiley Bridgeman was 20, and Ronnie Bridgeman was 17.

“The English language doesn’t have words to express how I’m feeling right now,” Jackson, now 58, told reporters.

Wiley Bridgeman, now 60, quietly thanked the judge and attorneys in the courthouse as his case was dismissed. He had once been less than three weeks away from execution, rescued when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Ohio’s previous capital punishment law in 1978.

The case was a major victory for the Ohio Innocence Project, which coordinated much of the investigation into the exonerating evidence and whose staff attorney, Brian Howe, represented Jackson. Terry Gilbert and David Mills, who together represent the brothers Bridgeman and Ajamu, worked with the Innocence Project during the case.

“It’s been years in the making,” Howe told ABC News. “Literally years of work, witness interviews, tracking people down -- all that culminated on Tuesday when the state withdrew its case.”

The first domino on the path to exoneration fell in 2011, when an investigation by reporter Kyle Swenson in The Cleveland Scene, an alternative weekly magazine, cast doubt on the 1975 convictions. Later, the Ohio Innocence Project took Jackson’s case and began investigating.

“Kyle Swenson did some great investigative journalism into the case before anyone had really heard about it, way before Ed Vernon had recanted his testimony,” Howe said. “Kyle’s article was the first thing I read when I took on this case, and that really compelled me to spend those extra nights and weekends digging into it.”

Vernon was sick and in the hospital, wracked with anxiety, when his minister convinced him to come clean. Later, the Innocence Project obtained a signed affidavit in which Vernon forswore the statements he made as a boy.

Last week, Vernon, now a 52-year-old man, took to the stand to give stunning, emotional testimony recanting his childhood statements.

“He was a wreck,” McMonagle, the judge who presided over Jackson’s trial, told ABC News.

“Eddie Vernon broke down on the stand frequently during testimony,” said Gilbert. “He talked about how his life was affected by the stress, the anguish, because for all these years he was afraid that if he came forward with the truth, then he would go to prison.”

Vernon testified that he had been on a school bus when he heard the gunshot that killed Franks. As a 12-year-old, he passed on rumors he had heard to the police incriminating Jackson and the Bridgeman brothers. When he tried to back out of his account at a police lineup, he testified that officers intimidated him into giving false testimony, yelling at him and banging on a table.

“He was a kid,” Gilbert told ABC News. “He hadn’t seen them do it. The police told him that he’d go to jail, that they’d send his mother to jail if he backed out, and he was a scared kid.”

Vernon’s testimony made a powerful impression on the hearing.

Judge McMonagle said, “One of the prosecutors said later that hearing all the evidence and the recanted testimony made her physically sick, that she felt terrible.”

After the hearing, the prosecutors totally conceded, Gilbert told ABC News.

“Everybody’s human," Gilbert said, "and when you hear this story and hear this man testify, it’s like something you can’t believe.”

On Tuesday, the prosecution withdrew its case after Jackson testified before the hearing.

“We’ve had a lot of emotion in this case this week,” Howe told ABC News. “Ricky spoke on Tuesday, talking about being sentenced to death as a teenager, and we could barely get through the testimony.”

By Friday, the case’s dismissal was a formality. By noon, both Jackson and Bridgeman walked away as free men.

In 1975, Judge McMonagle’s father, George, was the judge who presided over the case when it was first tried. At 9 a.m., he dismissed the case first heard by his father almost 40 years ago.

“It means something when I think about it, since he’s been gone for a while,” the younger McMonagle told ABC News of his father, who passed away in 2002. “I’m retiring at the end of the year myself, and this is certainly something I’ll remember.”

Ajamu, previously Ronnie Bridgeman, was released on parole in 2003, but his case will soon be heard for dismissal, as well. Gilbert told ABC News that, although Ajamu's team could apply for the case to be dismissed remotely, Ajamu wanted his day in court.

“Kwame wants to hear it from a judge,” he said. “He wants to hear it from a judge that he’s a free man.”

Ajamu, who has a wife now, will temporarily host his brother Bridgeman and Jackson while they sort out their new lives as free men.

“After all this time, they don’t have a penny to their name except for the money they had in their pockets when they were jailed,” Howe said. “We’re going to help Ricky get a wardrobe, and we’re going to tackle some paperwork to get him a birth certificate, some documentation to get him ready to get a driver’s license.”

Howe added that the Ohio Innocence Project had put together a fundraising campaign on GoFundMe to help Jackson get started on his new life out of prison.

“He’s not bitter or angry,” Howe said. “He’s just really looking forward to getting on with his life. He’s excited about getting a job, driving a car. He’s just processing the facts of being a free man.”

After the hearing, Jackson told reporters that he did not bear any resentment toward Vernon after those years of imprisonment.

“He’s a grown man today,” Jackson said. “He was just a boy back then."

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Ferguson ‘On Edge’ and Worried, Brown Family Lawyer Says

Ferguson ‘On Edge’ and Worried, Brown Family Lawyer Says

Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- The city of Ferguson is "nervous, on edge, scared" as they await the grand jury's decision on the police shooting of teenager Michael Brown, a lawyer for the Brown family and protest leaders said on Friday."The city is really in a panic at this moment," attorney Anthony Gray said in a press conference Friday afternoon.Federal, state and county officials have been ramping up their readiness in case there is a fresh wave of angry and at times violent protests over the jury's decision. Protesters have been demanding that Police Officer Darren Wilson be charged with murder for the Aug. 9 shooting of Brown.Gray said that he has received "numerous calls, emails and text messages expressing concern from members of our community about their safety," including from residents who specifically say they are worried about how they are going to get necessary medication.Many stores have boarded up their windows for fear of destructive protesters. The manager of Beauty Town Plus, a salon on West Florissant Avenue, where much of the protests centered during the summer, told ABC News that they decided to board up because their windows were broken three times following Brown’s death.Law enforcement have taken the threat of violence seriously as well as two federal officials confirmed to ABC News that more than 100 FBI personnel are being sent to the St. Louis area to join those already in the area and opened an intelligence center to head up operations.There were protests in the area both Wednesday and Thursday, though with less than half a dozen arrests at each, they were far smaller than those held this summer.“It’s a dicey situation right now,” Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told ABC News.“We’re preparing for the worst, but we’re really hoping that the leadership… understands the property rights of others and the value of human life,” he said.County Executive Charlie Dooley was more optimistic."I do not expect the worst and I said it then and I say it now. I expect the best in people. I am encouraged by conversations between law enforcement and protest groups," Dooley said.Both Attorney General Eric Holder and Michael Brown Sr., the slain teenager’s father, have released videos urging protesters to remain peaceful when the grand jury’s decision is handed down."It’s hard to sleep when you've got this looming," Jackson said.One business owner, Charles Davis, has remained optimistic about the possible protests and refused to take any extra precautions to fend off looters.Davis, who bought Ferguson Burger Bar & More the day before Brown was killed, said that he has received support from both locals and people across the country who have heard about his decision to stay open through any protests that come with the verdict.“I had a gentleman yesterday who drove from Memphis just to get a burger,” Davis told ABC News.“I’ve heard some things but that one brought me to tears,” he said.Davis said his restaurant will be open on Saturday but closed Sunday, as always.

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WWII Love Letters Reveal 3 Soldiers Vying for Same Woman’s Heart

WWII Love Letters Reveal 3 Soldiers Vying for Same Woman’s Heart

iStock/Thinkstock(RUTHERFORDTON, N.C.) -- They say true love knows no boundaries, and a collection of recently discovered World War II love letters between a soldier and the apple of his eye, a beauty whom he’d never even met, certainly proves that to be true.

“Mama always said that she let him chase her, until she turned around caught him,” Jane Simmons, the wartime lovebirds’ daughter, told ABC News.

Simmons and her brother, Larry Davis, who just recently suffered a fatal stroke, always knew their parents had something extraordinarily special.

They were “very much still in love to the end,” Davis’ wife, Beverly, said of her in-laws’ 55-year marriage.

But what it took to form that bond, however, was something even more extraordinary than their love itself—a story which the soldier’s children are only just now learning.

“That was what was surprising. Mama never said anything about them,” Simmons, 63, of Rutherfordton, North Carolina, explained of the antiqued stack of 18 handwritten love letters she’s just inherited.

The letters were, for the most part, penned from her father, Teal Davis, while he was stationed in Burma in 1945, to her mother, Evangeline Poteat, a 22-year-old factory worker in North Carolina. At the time of their writing, the two had never even met. Despite being separated by oceans, miles and war however, Davis knew Poteat would someday be his bride.

"It rains pennies from heaven,” he wrote of how it feels to receive a letter from Poteat.

“I'll be looking forward to the day when I can meet you in person, but for now a letter will do,” he said in another. “Be good, have fun this summer and write soon.”

The lovestruck couple was initially “introduced” by Poteat’s roommate at Appalachian State Teachers College at the time, Sarah Kate Davis, who suggested she write to her brother, Teal, while he was deployed in Burma.

Poteat did, and the two fell hard and fast.

But apparently Teal, an Army Air Force crew chief, wasn’t the only one who found Poteat irresistible.

“She was a beautiful woman with this auburn hair,” said Beverly. “She was the real deal.”

There were two other soldiers, both young men stationed in California, who were also writing to her—one of whom was even asking for her hand in marriage.

"I know that you think that I am crazy for asking you so many times," he writes from Camp Cooke. "Did you think the ring idea is OK with you, or is it? I love you."

The other soldier, a former beau from high school, separately wrote, “We used to really have a swell time until Uncle Sam nabbed me.”

Unfortunately for them though, Teal was the one who ultimately nabbed her.

All of the men’s love stories are chronicled in a complete stack of 18 love letters that the couple’s children, Simmons and Davis, came to unexpectedly inherit, all thanks to a reporter with the local paper, The Charlotte Observer.

“It’s odd to see that, but it’s wonderful too,” Simmons said of reading the 70-year-old letters from her mother’s other admirers.

Over time, Poteat’s World War II love letters somehow ended up in Oregon and were being sold by a historical collector on Ebay when Gary Schwab, a reporter with the Charlotte Observer found them, outbid everyone to purchase them, and tracked down the relatives to ensure they were safely returned home.

“We were just shocked,” Simmons said of the unexpected discovery. “Mama was good at keeping stuff. I just really don’t know how in the world they got to Oregon.”

“We can’t figure that out,” Beverly, Davis’ wife, added. “We’d really like to know how that happened.”

The family is thrilled to have the letters in their possession now— a treasure they never even knew was missing.

“It’s a keepsake to me that I never knew I had,” said Simmons. “It just means the world to me. I miss my mom and daddy every day. It’s been quite a few years since they passed and this just brought them back.”

Beverly knows her husband felt the same way, and knows his receiving these special letters just weeks before his sudden death was one of the best gifts he could have ever gotten.

And as for their mother’s additional admirers, “She wound up with the one she was supposed to have,” said Simmons.

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Phone Scams: Why People Keep Falling for the Oldest Scam in the Book

Phone Scams: Why People Keep Falling for the Oldest Scam in the Book

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It was 11 o’clock in the morning when Luann and Betty Ann’s world was shattered with a single phone call.

“He says, ‘Do you have a daughter or a son?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I have a daughter,’” Luann said. “And he said, ‘Oh boy, there’s been a terrible accident. Four cars at an intersection. Everyone is unconscious.’”

“He said, ‘What kind of car does she have?’ And I said, ‘It’s a Kia,’” she continued. “And he said, ‘Oh yeah, there’s a Kia here. She’s unconscious.’”

The two women, who asked that their full names not be used, didn’t know who the man on the phone was but, terrified for their daughter’s life, they jumped into their own car and headed out to look for her, staying on the phone with the stranger.

“I am thinking my daughter is laying on a highway somewhere unconscious,” Betty Ann said. “And the scariest part was we didn’t even know where she was. They wouldn’t say exactly where she was.”

But then, the story took an unexpected, and even more frightening, turn.

“I was like, ‘You have to tell me exactly where you are and what the hell is going on now,’” Luann said. “And then his whole demeanor changed and he was like, ‘Now you wait a minute. ... We have her, at gunpoint, and we are going to shoot her if you don’t give me $1,700.’”

But what Luann and Betty Ann didn't know at the time was that they were on the receiving end of a phone scam, where the latest tactic in an otherwise low-tech crime is for con artists to claim to have kidnapped a loved one and are holding them for ransom.

“I never felt terror before in my life,” Luann said. “This was absolute terror, having your child’s life in your hands.”

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that over 25 million Americans lose in excess of $2.5 billion to fraud each year, and phone scams, which account for a big chunk of that, have been surprisingly successful for decades. Past scams have included asking people to invest in an oil company, gas deal or gold coins. Con artists have also been known to pose as lottery officials or IRS agents calling about taxes owed. Whatever the pitch, phone scammers are like top-notch salespeople, and they are extremely effective.

“These are dangerous people you are on the phone with,” said Jimmy, a convicted con artist. “Make no bones about it. I am a dangerous person. On the telephone if I chose to be fraudulent in my practices there is nothing that is going to stop me taking lots of money from people, period.”

Choosing their next victim, what Jimmy called “the crush” or “the kill,” is emotionally driven. “It’s not logic,” he said. “If you apply logic to this concept it's 'No, I am not going to send you my hard earned money. I don’t even know who you are.'”

Doug Shadel, a former fraud investigator and current Senior State Director for AARP in Washington state, has interviewed Jimmy and more than a dozen con artists like him, trying to understand how they are able to pull off a scam most people think they would never fall for. The AARP runs their own Fraud Watch Network where they track the latest scams.

“We always ask them the same question: ‘What is your central strategy for defrauding people?’” Shadel said. “They all say the same thing, ‘get them under the ether.’ ... a heightened emotional state where you are no longer thinking rationally but you are reacting emotionally.”

A heightened emotional state, such as the con artist claiming he has kidnapped someone’s child.

“This explains why so many people who are doctors, lawyers, professors of chemistry have actually fallen for this stuff,” Shadel said. “How could somebody that smart fall for this? It’s not their intellect that’s engaged when they make that decision. It’s the emotion.”

Shadel said he has received piles of recordings from states attorney general investigations into phone scams, many filled with abusive and demeaning language, even threats.

“Whenever I get tired and need some motivation I listen to tapes like this to remind me that there are thousands of people out there who are suffering in silence. They are afraid ... and people comply out of that fear,” Shadel said. “Part of our goal is to give people an opportunity to come forward, shine a light on these things so that law enforcement can do something about it and we can help each other.”

But for law enforcement, tracking down scammers can be challenging. The New York Attorney General’s office is currently taking on the grandparent phone scam, where a grandparent gets a call from a scammer pretending to be a teenage grandchild in trouble.

The Attorney General’s office is reaching out to the supposed victims -- the grandkids -- to try to get them to warn their families about phony phone calls that could come their way. Investigators say they are up against crooks who have no problem tugging at a person’s heartstrings to rip them off.

Looking back on that day, Luann said she didn’t think there was anything she would have done differently.

“When they do that to you they pull right at your emotions and you are raw. You are terrorized, and you will do anything,” she said.

She and Betty Ann say they were lucky to be together when the supposed kidnapping call came in. While Luann was on the phone with the scammer, Betty Ann frantically tried to call their daughter.

“At first I called and there was no answer. I called again and said, ‘Where are you?’” Betty Ann recalled. “And then finally I get back a text, ‘I’m in class. What’s wrong?’”

“And then once I knew it was a scam I hung up,” Luann said.

And they weren’t the only one terrorized that day. Their daughter, Maxine, was also panicked.

“It killed me just to hear -- that’s my mom, I love and care for her, she’s my life. ... To hear her voice like that, I got upset and then I got angry,” she said. “I was like who was doing this to my mother? Who are you to do this to my mother. This is my mother, my family. You don’t do that.”

They filed a police report, but doubt the callers will ever be caught, which is why, in addition to not using their full names, they asked that their location not be revealed either.

“I have heard of scams. I’ve never heard of this,” Betty Ann said. “The way they just got the details and got the info and used it against me, that’s exactly what they did, they got the info they needed and used it against me.”

Investigators warn even if you keep your doors locked and passwords secured, crooks want into your life, and sometimes, they’re just a phone call away.

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Military Mom’s ‘Pride Packages’ Spread Love and Support Overseas

Military Mom’s ‘Pride Packages’ Spread Love and Support Overseas

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One mother’s care packages to her soldier son have now turned into gifts of love for untold numbers in war zones.Evan Garlick joined the Marines when he was 17. He was eventually deployed to Iraq, a combat zone filled with chaos and pain.He was injured by a roadside bomb in December 2006, but refused medical attention so a more seriously injured fellow Marine would be taken care of.“I could feel the shrapnel and I remember taking a piece out,” Garlick, now living in Pelham, Georgia, told ABC News. “They said the lieutenant was down and we ran to him.”Garlick earned a Purple Heart and both Marines recovered from their injuries. This wasn’t the first time Garlick had displayed such selflessness.In his first deployment in 2005, his mother, Pat Garlick, would send him letters every single day, along with a weekly care package. His nickname around the base quickly turned into “post office.”One day, however, Garlick noticed a buddy in his barracks wasn’t getting any mail at all.“He was disappointed because everyone had received mail,” Garlick said. “You can see the look on his face of disappointment when the mail came. And when it was all gone, he hadn’t received anything yet.”

So he put in a special request with his mom: To send his empty-handed friend a package and “keep it a secret.”“He goes, ‘Mom, can you send him a package?’” Garlick’s mom recalled. “’But don’t tell him where it came from. I don’t want him to know.’”The package was received and something magnificent began. Garlick and his mother’s act of kindness has now turned into an assembly line of love. More than 3,000 care packages filled with snacks, goodies and magazines, all packed into personalized boxes they’ve dubbed “Pride Packages.”Pat Garlick works with AnySoldier.com, a website that helps facilitate sending items to soldiers overseas, to get the names and addresses for where to send her “Pride Packages.”“My mission is to make sure those in need receive something from back home,” she said.Garlick and her team of volunteers in Shelbyville, Illinois, have sent more than 3,000 packages since her son’s deployment.ABC News found one of the recipients of Garlick's care packages, Navy Lt. Cheryl Collins.Collins, who was stationed in Afghanistan, had a message for Garlick."I am so thankful for you and what you mean to so many people," Collins said.

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FBI Sends 100 Agents to Ferguson Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

FBI Sends 100 Agents to Ferguson Ahead of Grand Jury Decision

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- The FBI has sent about 100 agents to the St. Louis area to help deal with any problems that could arise from the grand jury decision in the police shooting of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown.In addition to the FBI, other federal agencies have also mobilized staffers to get to St. Louis on Friday, sources told ABC News.A decision by the grand jury is expected soon, but St. Louis authorities said on Friday that the grand jury is still meeting. The panel will decide whether or not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Brown, who was unarmed, on Aug. 9.Authorities are braced for a recurrence of angry protests that turned violent at times during the summer.The FBI has ordered its Ferguson contingent to mobilize and arrive in the St. Louis area on Friday. In addition to FBI personnel already in the St. Louis area, about 100 more are being dispatched, law enforcement sources said. Additional FBI personnel have been put on alert so that they could be called in as part of a second emergency wave if necessary, ABC News has learned.The FBI is opening up its special St. Louis intelligence center on Friday. This facility will be in constant contact with the Missouri and St. Louis County Emergency Operations Center.The FBI declined to comment.Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency earlier this week and activated the Missouri National Guard to help keep order if necessary.Michael Brown Sr., the father of the slain teen, issued a videotaped appeal this week for protesters to remain peaceful whatever the verdict.

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Report Details Missed Opportunities to Treat Adam Lanza’s Mental Illness

Report Details Missed Opportunities to Treat Adam Lanza’s Mental Illness

Kateleen Foy/Getty Images(HARTFORD, Conn.) -- Two years after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Connecticut's Office of the Child Advocate has released a report detailing the mental health profile of gunman Adam Lanza, noting potential missed opportunities.The Office of the Child Advocate, which investigates all child deaths in Connecticut for prevention lessons, released the 114-page report on Friday.Lanza was 20 on Dec. 14, 2012 when he shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, and then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where he massacred 20 first-graders and six educators before taking his own life.The report's authors say they "looked for any warning signs, red flags, or other lessons that could be learned from a review of AL's life," referring to Lanza. "This report cannot and does not answer the question of 'why' AL committed murder," the authors wrote.Here are some of the things we learned about Lanza:1. Lanza had a falling out with his one and only friend months before.Among the factors that may have caused Lanza stress were the possibility of moving with his mother and a "falling out" with a friend."AL was acquainted with another adolescent that he played [video game Dance Dance Revolution] with on a regular basis," the report said. "They would meet a few times per month to either play the video game or go to the movies. AL and his friend talked about multiple topics, including computers, chimp society, human nature, morality, prejudice, and sometimes about his family. AL told his friend that he had a strained relationship with his mother.""AL would sometimes talk with this friend about the topic of mental health or depression, though he never indicated that he was diagnosed with anything. He did tell his friend that mental health issues were not a reflection of the character of a person, but were symptoms of something else going on inside a person," the report said."AL and the friend also talked about their interest in mass murderers or serial killers, but this was just considered to be a mutual morbid interest," the report said. "Both he and his acquaintance liked horror movies."But in June 2012, Lanza "and his primary acquaintance had a falling out and stopped spending time together," the report said, "after a dispute over a movie."2. His "social-emotional" challenges increased after fourth grade.Lanza was referred for special education preschool services at age 2."Adam Lanza was presented with significant developmental challenges from earliest childhood, including communication and sensory difficulties, socialization delays, and repetitive behaviors," the report states. "He was seen by the New Hampshire 'Birth to Three' intervention program when he was almost three years old and referred for special education preschool services."Early in the fourth grade, Lanza left the special education program because he had "met all speech goals," the report states.During Lanza's early elementary school years, his parents still lived together in the family home in Sandy Hook, but they separated in 2002 when Lanza was in the fifth grade."[Lanza] was described by some as seeming happy, smiling, and participating in community and school activities," the report states. "At the same time, however, more red flags for developmental and mental health concerns remained or emerged. AL began perseverative hand washing, avoiding contact with other people, and becoming increasingly fearful. By fifth grade, AL had written and submitted “The Big Book of Granny” — a significant and violent text — and following that school year, his struggles began to escalate."3. His preoccupation with violence may have been "largely unaddressed."The report raises questions about how there may have been missed opportunities with Lanza, including whether his family's wealth and race were factors."Would [Lanza's] caregivers’ reluctance to maintain him in school or a treatment program have gone under the radar if he were a child of color?" the report asks.Lanza's mother transferred him to a Catholic school for the fourth quarter of seventh grade."A teacher at the school later reported that he presented very differently from the other children," the report states.According to the teacher's account in the report, he had "very distinct anti-social issues.""AL would write ten pages obsessing about battles, destruction and war. I have known 7th grade boys to talk about things like this, but AL’s level of violence was disturbing. I remember showing the writings to the principal at the time, AL’s creative writing was so graphic that it could not be shared," the teacher's account in the report states."It was not the primary purpose of this investigation to explicitly examine the role of guns in the Sandy Hook shootings," the report said. "However, the conclusion cannot be avoided that access to guns is relevant to an examination of ways to improve the public health. Access to assault weapons with high capacity magazines did play a major role in this and other mass shootings in recent history."The report states, "[Lanza] and his parents did not appear to seek or participate in any mental health treatment after 2008."4. While he may have been described as "gifted," his cognitive abilities may have been just "average."On Oct. 24, 2006, almost a year after a community psychiatrist first evaluated Lanza, he was seen at the Yale Child Study Center by a clinical psychiatrist, the report states. "The evaluation was purportedly to determine if AL had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in the context of a putative diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome," it says.The report details how his parents said that their son was "angry" about having to go to Yale and he refused treatment."The Yale APRN [Advanced Practice Registered Nurse], in a present day interview, offered her view that AL may not, in fact, have had an Autism Spectrum Disorder, but rather that he suffered from disabling anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder," the report states.Meanwhile, the report indicates his parents may have had difficulty accepting his disabilities."While it is not uncommon for parents to struggle to identify and accept their child as suffering a disabling impairment, the Yale Child Study Center clinicians who evaluated and treated AL felt that his parents, and certainly his mother, may have had greater than average difficulty with accepting the extent of AL’s disabilities," the report states. "Yale did not think that AL was gifted and unique, pointing to the average cognitive abilities captured by the school’s psychological testing.""Adam Lanza's parents (and the school) appeared to conceptualize him as intellectually gifted, and much of [his] high school experience catered to his curricular needs," the report says. "In actuality, psychological testing performed by the school district in high school indicated AL’s cognitive abilities were average."5. Why Lanza and his father had a "falling out."Lanza stopped responding to his father's emails around 2010, the report states."After AL began declining to spend time with Mr. Lanza, Mr. Lanza would regularly send emails to him asking him how he was doing," the report states. "He asked AL to join him at events or other activities they had previously enjoyed, including arcades, shooting ranges, or coin shows."The "falling out" may have had to do with Lanza's desire to take college courses at Norwalk Community College, the report states."AL wanted to carry a full course load but Mr. Lanza said he couldn’t handle that and wasn’t being realistic," the report states. "This may have been the last time that AL and Mr. Lanza actually spoke or emailed reciprocally. Mr. Lanza continued to let AL know that he wanted to see him."

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Former Sheriff’s Deputy Accused in Wife’s 2012 Shooting Death

Former Sheriff’s Deputy Accused in Wife’s 2012 Shooting Death

KMGH(DENVER) -- A former sheriff’s deputy in Colorado is in custody, accused of killing his wife nearly three years ago, a death that was originally ruled a suicide.Tom Fallis, 34, who now lives in Bloomington, Indiana, appeared in court Thursday for an extradition hearing. He will soon be moved to Colorado to formally face charges for the New Year’s 2012 murder of his wife Ashley Fallis, 28.According to a grand jury indictment, the husband “became irate” at the end of a New Year’s party, stormed into their master bedroom, grabbed a handgun and shot his wife. He is charged with two felony charges of murder.Tom Fallis’ attorney said the man is innocent.The husband called 911 to report his wife’s death. “My wife just shot herself in the head. Please help me! Please help me!” he told dispatchers at the time.Four different agencies initially agreed it was a suicide, police said.

Dan Recht, an attorney for Ashley Fallis’ family, said her relatives could never accept that analysis.“They just knew their daughter, she was very happy, a young mother with three young children. And the idea that she would somehow decide to commit suicide, they would never accept it,” Recht said.As new witness testimony came to light, police reopened the investigation, leading to the grand jury that brought charges against Tom Fallis.Jenna Fox, Ashley’s mother, said she’s stunned by the arrest.“Shock, elation, sadnes …it encompasses every emotion you could have,” Fox said.

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Why Adrian Peterson Says He ‘Won’t Ever Use a Switch Again’

Why Adrian Peterson Says He ‘Won’t Ever Use a Switch Again’

Bob Levey/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Running back Adrian Peterson says he has changed his perspective on child discipline after facing child abuse charges and an ongoing suspension from the NFL.“I won’t ever use a switch again,” he said in an interview published Thursday by USA Today, his first extensive comments since being charged with felony child abuse in September in Texas.“There’s different situations where a child needs to be disciplined as far as timeout, taking their toys away, making them take a nap. There’s so many different ways to discipline your child.”The six-time All-Pro was charged for using a wooden switch to discipline his 4-year-old son, leaving bruises and welts. He agreed to a plea deal with no jail time earlier this month, pleading no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault.Peterson’s bail terms prohibit him from having face-to-face contact with the boy, but Peterson said they recently spoke over the phone, their first conversation in five months.“I was like, ‘Hey buddy, how you doing?’” Peterson, 29, said, recounting the conversation to USA Today.“I’m doing OK,” the boy said.“I was like, ‘I love you.’”“He was like, ‘I love you too, Dad. Can I come over to your house?’”Peterson’s latest comments mark a departure from his statements days after he was indicted. At the time, he said, “I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child.” Without that discipline, “I could have been one of those kids that was lost in the streets,” he said.Peterson acknowledged that leaving the Minnesota Vikings might be the best for both him and the team."I would love to go back and play in Minnesota to get a feel and just see if my family still feels comfortable there," he told USA Today. "But if there's word out that, hey, they might release me, then so be it. I would feel good knowing that I've given everything I had in me."The former NFL MVP is suspended by the league without pay, a punishment the NFL Players Association has appealed.

Peterson disagrees with the sentiments of Commissioner Roger Goodell, who stated that Peterson failed to show “meaningful remorse” for his conduct."Ultimately, I know I'll have my opportunity to sit down with Roger face to face, and I'll be able to say a lot of the same things that I've said to you," Peterson told USA Today. "Don't say that I'm not remorseful, because in my statement, I showed that I was remorseful. I regretted everything that took place. I love my child, more than anyone could ever imagine."

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FSU Gunman Myron May Sent Packages to Eight Friends

FSU Gunman Myron May Sent Packages to Eight Friends

Myron May is seen in this undated handout photo. Courtesy Daunton Family(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — Eight acquaintances of Myron May are said to be expecting packages in the mail sent before police say May opened fire on Florida State University’s campus.Joe Paul said he was a former student at the university with May, and the two reconnected while living in Houston. May sent a message alerting the acquaintances -- who evidently don’t know one another -- that they would receive packages, Paul told ABC affiliate WSB-TV in Atlanta.Paul contacted police, and has been advised to call local authorities when the package arrives.“What did he send everyone? Was it a manifesto? Was it a message? I don’t know. I think I’m just as curious as everyone else,” Paul said in the interview.May, 31, was identified by police as the shooter who opened fire at the Florida State University library early Thursday morning, wounding three people before police shot him to death. Authorities said they have no motive for May's rampage, other than to say that May was "in a state of crisis."May was a foster child who succeeded in becoming a lawyer, but he recently deteriorated to the point where his ex-girlfriend called police saying he was acting erratically and she feared for his life.

His foster mother, Abigail Taunton, said she is shocked by May’s inexplicable actions."It has to be some mental illness going on that we were not aware," Taunton said.One of the students in the shooting was listed in critical condition Thursday, with two others suffering non-life-threatening injuries.

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