Man rams car into police, 1 killed
WASHINGTON — A Capitol Police officer was killed Friday after a man rammed a car into two officers at a barricade outside the U.S. Capitol and then emerged wielding a knife. It was the second line-of-duty death this year for a department still struggling to heal from the Jan. 6 insurrection. Video shows the driver of the crashed car emerging with a knife in his hand and starting to run at the pair of officers, Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman told reporters. Authorities shot the suspect, who died at a hospital. “I just ask that the public continue to keep U.S. Capitol Police and their families in your prayers,” Pittman said. “This has been an extremely difficult time for U.S. Capitol Police after the events of Jan. 6 and now the events that have occurred here today.” Police identified the slain officer as William “Billy” Evans, (pictured) an 18-year veteran who was a member of the department’s first responders unit. Investigators initially believed the suspect stabbed one of the officers, but it was later unclear whether the knife actually made contact, in part because vehicle struck the officers with such force. Authorities said there wasn’t an ongoing threat, though the Capitol was put on lockdown for a time as a precaution. There was also no immediate connection apparent between Friday’s crash and the Jan. 6 riot. Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as 25-year-old Noah Green. Investigators were digging into his background and examining whether he had any mental health history as they tried to discern a motive. They were working to obtain warrants to access his online accounts. Pittman said the suspect did not appear to have been on the police’s radar. But the attack underscored that the building and campus — and the officers charged with protecting them — remain potential targets for violence.
Italian officer held for spying
ROME — An Italian Navy captain accused of passing classified documents to Russia says he didn’t have access to any information that would have compromised the security or strategic operations of Italy or NATO, his lawyer said Friday. Attorney Roberto De Vita met with Capt. Walter Biot at Rome’s Regina Coeli prison, where the frigate captain and Defense Ministry policy officer is being held on espionage charges in an isolation cell, a normal procedure for new inmates during the pandemic to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks. Biot was arrested Tuesday after Italian special operations forces allegedly caught him handing over a flash drive with 181 documents stored on it to a Russian Embassy diplomat in exchange for 5,000 euros ($5,881). Italy expelled the Russian and another embassy diplomat for what Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio called a “hostile act of extreme gravity.” Biot’s relatives have said he would never betray his country. But they said he struggled to provide for his family of six and to pay his mortgage on a monthly Defense Ministry salary of 3,000 euros ($3,529). De Vita said his client was most concerned about the impact of the scandal on his family. The lawyer said the case raises geopolitical and institutional issues “beyond the judicial dimension” of the captain’s conduct. “He is convinced that he can reduce or put into perspective the significance of his actions compared to what was divulged and what was said,” De Vita said.
Train hits truck that slid onto track
HUALIEN COUNTY, Taiwan — A train barreled into an unmanned truck that had rolled onto the track Friday in Taiwan, leaving at least 51 people dead and dozens injured in the island’s deadliest rail disaster. Many passengers were crushed, while some survivors were forced to climb out of windows and walk along the train’s roof to safety. The truck’s emergency brake was not properly engaged, according to the government’s disaster relief center, and the vehicle slid about 20 meters (65 feet) down a hillside. Minutes later, the train’s lead car crashed into it, according to Railways Administration official Weng Hui-ping, just before the train entered a tunnel. The train, which was carrying more than 400 people, derailed near the Taroko Gorge scenic area on the first day of a long holiday weekend when many people were using Taiwan’s extensive rail system, including many families with children. Images from the scene showed the train’s cars wedged against the tunnel’s walls. Part of the wall of one car had smashed into a seat. “Many people were crushed under train seats in the collision. And there were other people on top of the seats. So those at the bottom were pressed and crushed and lost consciousness,” a passenger with gauze taped to her elbow told Taiwanese broadcaster EBC, which did not show her face or give her name. “At the beginning, they still responded when we called them. But I guess they lost consciousness afterward.”
5 years for injection death
A Dallas woman was sentenced to five years in prison for causing a nightclub dancer’s death by performing an illegal cosmetic butt injection on her in Missouri. Nitica Deonte Lee, 49, was sentenced for involuntary manslaughter in the 2015 death of Daysha Phillips. Prosecutors said Lee traveled from her Dallas home to a hotel in Edmundson, a suburb near St. Louis’ main airport, where she injected the liquid silicone. Phillips, who was 22, died four days later after the silicone entered her bloodstream and became trapped in her lungs. Three others accompanied Phillips. One backed out, and two others who received injections didn’t appear to suffer any ill effects, police said at the time. Lee, who previously served time in prison for robbery, burglary and theft, was charged a few months after Phillips died. But she was a fugitive for five years before being arrested by Dallas police in July. Prosecutors said she spent some of that time in Mexico. Cosmetic surgeons use fat from elsewhere in the body for enhancements, but black market practitioners sometimes use silicone sourced from hardware stores.
Teacher solicited sex with tot
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — An elementary school teacher is facing charges alleging he solicited online to have sex with a 2-year-old and traveled to meet the child. Xavier Donte Alexander, 28, was arrested Thursday on felony charges of soliciting sex with a minor and traveling to meet a minor for sex. Alexander is a fourth grade teacher at Grove Park Elementary School in Palm Beach Gardens and also advertised as a babysitter on various websites. Alexander was ordered held on $1 million bond. The Palm Beach County School District issued a statement saying it is “shocked and appalled” by the accusations and that it is cooperating with law enforcement. The district said Alexander has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation and that none of Alexander’s alleged crimes occurred at school. Alexander could get 20 years in prison.
UM board censures GOP regent
LANSING, Mich. — The University of Michigan’s governing board on Friday censured a Republican regent who called the state’s female Democratic leaders “witches” whom the GOP would prepare for a “burning at the stake” in the 2022 election. Ron Weiser, who chairs the Michigan Republican Party, said he took “full responsibility” for his “poorly chosen words” to activists but said he would not quit despite the board’s call for his resignation. “I pledge to be part of a respectful dialogue going forward and challenge my colleagues and others to do the same. I will not be canceled,” he said during a virtual meeting. Regents said they had no legal authority to remove Weiser because he was elected by the public. But they said he should step down because his “violent, sexist” language had endangered the lives of state and federal elected officials and brought the school negative attention. Weiser, 75, sparked outrage recently when he referred to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, state Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as “witches” multiple times. Also, he joked about “assassination” when pressed by crowd members who were angry that two GOP congressman voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump over the deadly Capitol riot. “Ma’am, other than assassination, I have no other way other than voting out,” he said March 25. “OK? You people have to go out there and support their opponents.” A censure is a formal statement of disapproval. Five Democratic regents of the university — which has roughly 61,000 students across campuses in Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn — also voted to remove Weiser from his committee assignments. Weiser and the board’s other Republican did not vote; a sixth Democrat was absent. Weiser founded an Ann Arbor-based real estate company and is a major Republican donor and fundraiser. He and his wife have given more than $120 million to the school, ranking among its top 10 individual donors.
MMA fighter has finger severed
PHILADELPHIA — A mixed martial arts fighter had his finger severed during a match in Philadelphia, but doctors were eventually able to reattach it. Khetag Pliev was injured Thursday night during the second round of his fight, which was stopped when the referee noticed Pliev was missing his left ring finger. “In the second round, he (opponent Devin Goodale) caught my glove with one hand and held it,” Pliev, 37, told ESPN. “I felt my finger snapped. He kept pulling my glove and my finger snapped. We kept fighting. When the second round was finished, I see my (bone) was out in the open. I wanted to keep fighting, because I felt like I had this guy. But the doctor saw that and stopped the fight. “ Event promoter Rob Haydak told ESPN that officials began searching inside the cage where the match was held, and an announcement was made to the crowd, asking them to look for it also. After several minutes, the finger was ultimately discovered inside Pliev’s glove, Haydak said. “It was crazy,” Haydak told ESPN. “He didn’t even flinch. He was getting ready to do the (official) decision and I was like, ‘Uh, guys, get him out of the cage and go put his finger back on.'” Pliev was taken to a hospital where the finger was reattached. He said the doctor told him he tore 50% of the tendon on the finger, and he may need another procedure. His opponent, Goodale, was ruled the winner by TKO. Pliev, though, said he will appeal the decision to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, claiming Goodale illegally grabbed his gloves.
Kneeling ‘totally unnecessary’
MINNEAPOLIS — Kneeling on George Floyd ‘s neck while he was handcuffed and lying on his stomach was top-tier, deadly force and “totally unnecessary,” the head of the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide division testified Friday. “If your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill him,” said Lt. Richard Zimmerman, adding that when a person is handcuffed behind their back, “your muscles are pulling back … and if you’re laying on your chest, that’s constricting your breathing even more.” Zimmerman, who said he is the most senior person on the police force, also testified at Derek Chauvin’s murder trial that once Floyd was handcuffed, he saw “no reason for why the officers felt they were in danger — if that’s what they felt — and that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.” “So in your opinion, should that restraint have stopped once he was handcuffed and thrown on the ground?” prosecutor Matthew Frank asked. “Absolutely,” replied Zimmerman, who said he has received use-of-force training annually — as all officers do — since joining the city force in 1985.
Few in GOP rush to defend Gaetz
WASHINGTON — The political peril for conservative Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz deepened Friday as the often outlandish Trump-styled provocateur appeared politically isolated amid a federal sex-trafficking investigation. Few Republicans rushed to offer any kind of support to the three-term Florida congressman known for espousing high-volume attacks — sometimes against those in his own party — during his frequent media appearances. Several GOP lawmakers and top aides who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive situation said Gaetz’s prospects for remaining in Congress were bleak and were complicated in particular by his unpopularity among colleagues in his own party. Federal prosecutors are examining whether Gaetz and a political ally who is facing sex trafficking allegations may have paid underage girls or offered them gifts in exchange for sex, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Friday. The scrutiny of Gaetz stemmed from the Justice Department’s probe into the political ally, Joel Greenberg, the people said. Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector, was indicted last year and is accused of a number of federal crimes. He has pleaded not guilty. Republican congressional leaders have largely been silent about the investigation, which continues.
April, online star giraffe, dies
HARPURSVILLE, N.Y. — April, the giraffe that became a sensation when a rural New York zoo livestreamed her 2017 pregnancy and delivery, was euthanized Friday because of advancing arthritis. “She is a precious member of our family, and while we knew this day would eventually come, our hearts are hurting,” Animal Adventure Park owner Jordan Patch said. She was 20.
April attracted a huge online audience as she carried her fourth calf in 2017 at the privately owned zoo in Harpursville, a village about 130 miles northwest of New York City. The giraffe cam became the second most-watched livestream in YouTube history, at least at the time, with more than 232 million views and 7.6 billion minutes of live watch time over several months. At least 1.2 million people watched as the male calf, eventually named Tajiri, was born — appropriately enough — in the month of April. An online fundraising campaign pulled in more than $150,000 for the care of April, her mate and the calf. Other ventures — including a Toys ‘R’ Us sponsorship of the YouTube stream, monetized text messages and a clothing line — also brought money to the zoo. The owners said it would be used for zoo upkeep, wildlife conservation in Africa and local children with unexpected medical expenses.
Man drove car into Walmart
CONCORD, N.C. — A North Carolina man was arrested Friday after driving a car through the front of a Walmart. O fficers received a call around 6 p.m. about a car having driven through the entrance to Walmart near Concord Mills. When officers arrived, they found Lacy Cordell Gentry, 32, of Charlotte driving the car and causing damage inside the store. No one was injured. An investigation determined that Gentry was a former Walmart employee, but no motive has been established for the incident. Gentry was charged with assault with a deadly weapon on a government official, breaking and entering, two misdemeanor counts of assault with a deadly weapon and other charges relating to property damage.
Rocket debris lands at farm
EPHRATA, Wash. — A piece of burning rocket debris seen streaking across the Pacific Northwest sky last week crashed on a farm in eastern Washington state. After the March 25 event, a farmer discovered a nearly intact piece of rocket in a private field. The approximately 5-foot composite-overwrapped pressure vessel used for storing helium left a nearly 4-inch dent in the ground. No one was hurt.
Ex-W.Va. official pleads not guilty
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — A former Parkersburg City Councilman pleaded not guilty this week to charges relating to the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol. Eric Barber, 42, appeared on Wednesday for a video arraignment before U.S. District Court Judge Christopher R. Cooper in Washington, D,C. on charges of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building or grounds; parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building; and theft. Barber claimed he got close enough to the building to look in a window but did not enter it. However, the criminal complaint alleges that photos and security video show Barber inside the Capitol wearing a “green combat style helmet and a green military style field jacket.” It said video reviewed by law enforcement recorded Barber saying, “They’re giving us the building,” and that he took selfie images in the Capitol Rotunda. It also claims he stole a portable power station from a C-SPAN media station in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall.
VW, Audi face safety probes
DETROIT — The U.S. government’s road safety agency has opened two investigations into problems with Volkswagen vehicles, including one that alleges serious gasoline leaks under the hood. Details of the probes, which cover nearly 215,000 vehicles, were posted Friday on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website. The largest investigation covers more than 191,000 VW Atlas SUVs from the 2018 through 2020 model years. The agency says it has three complaints and 11 field reports alleging leaks near the fuel injectors in 3.6-liter engines. Some complaints say that fuel spewed from the engine compartment, creating the risk of a fire. Agency documents say no fires have been linked to the issue so far, but fuel leaks increase the risk because the gasoline can hit high-temperature components. The probe could lead to a recall but so far there hasn’t been one. Volkswagen says any owner who smells gasoline should contact their dealer immediately. The other probe covers just over 23,000 Audi A8, S6, S7, S8 and RS7 vehicles from 2013 through 2016. Audi is Volkswagen’s luxury brand. The agency says it has 58 complaints and three field reports about 4-liter twin-turbocharged engines stalling without warning while in highway or city traffic. Several of the complaints blame the problem on a turbocharger failure due to a lack of oil flow.
CDC: Have vax can travel safely
NEW YORK — Add travel to the activities vaccinated Americans can safely enjoy again, according to new U.S. guidance issued Friday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward. Still, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky urged caution and said she would “advocate against general travel overall” given the rising number of infections. “If you are vaccinated, it is lower risk,” she said. According to the CDC, more than 100 million people in the U.S. — or about 30% of the population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose.
7 fired following inmate’s death
McKINNEY, Texas — Seven officers involved in the in-custody death of a Black jail inmate whose family members say may have been suffering a mental health crisis have been fired. The detention officers violated sheriff’s office policies and procedures leading up to the death of Marvin Scott III, Collin County Sheriff Jim Skinner said in a news release Thursday. An eighth officer resigned. Scott, 26, was arrested March 14 at an outlet mall in Allen on a marijuana possession charge, authorities have said. Allen officers took Scott to a hospital because he was reportedly acting erratically. Scott was released and police took him to the county jail. While at the jail, Scott began to exhibit “some strange behavior,” Skinner said at a March 19 news conference. Detention officers placed Scott on a restraint bed, used pepper spray and covered his face with a spit mask. Scott became unresponsive at some point and later was pronounced dead at a hospital.
US, Iran to begin nuke talks
The United States and Iran said Friday they will begin indirect negotiations with intermediaries next week to try to get both countries back into compliance with an accord limiting Iran’s nuclear program, nearly three years after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal. The announcement marks one of the first bits of tangible progress in efforts to return both nations to terms of the 2015 accord, which bound Iran to restrictions in return for relief from U.S. and international sanctions. President Joe Biden came into office saying that getting back into the accord and getting Iran’s nuclear program back under international restrictions was a priority. But Iran and the United States have disagreed over Iran’s demands that sanctions be lifted first, and that deadlock has threatened to become an early foreign policy setback for the new U.S. president. Administration officials played down expectations for next week’s talks. State Department spokesperson Ned Price called the resumption of negotiations, scheduled for Tuesday in Vienna, “a healthy step forward.” But Price added, “These remain early days, and we don’t anticipate an immediate breakthrough as there will be difficult discussions ahead.” “This is a first step,” Biden Iran envoy Rob Malley tweeted. He said diplomats were now “on the right path.”
Years needed for restoration
PARIS — The rector of Notre Dame said Friday that the burned-out Paris cathedral and its esplanade could remain a building site for another “15 or 20 years.” Rector Patrick Chauvet spoke to The Associated Press following Good Friday ceremonies, including venerating the “Crown of Thorns” at Notre Dame’s temporary liturgical base, the nearby church of Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois. He added that: “I can guarantee that there’s work to do!” Works planned include remodeling the cathedral’s esplanade, which before the blaze was visited every year by 20 million tourists.
Christians mark Good Friday
JERUSALEM — Christians in the Holy Land marked Good Friday without the mass pilgrimages usually seen in the days leading up to Easter because of the coronavirus, and worshippers in many other predominantly Christian countries where the virus is still raging observed their second annual Holy Week with tight restrictions on gatherings. In Jerusalem, many holy sites were open, thanks to an ambitious Israeli vaccination campaign. It was a stark contrast to last year, when the city was under lockdown. In neighboring Lebanon, Christians observed Good Friday under a lockdown and suffering a severe economic crisis. In Latin America, penitents from Mexico and Guatemala to Paraguay carried tree branches covered with thorns and large crosses in Passion Plays reenacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. At the Vatican, Pope Francis presided over a torch-lit Way of the Cross ceremony in St. Peter’s Square, foregoing for a second year the traditional Colosseum procession that draws thousands of pilgrims, tourists and Romans. Worshippers in the Philippines and France marked a second annual Holy Week under movement restrictions amid outbreaks fanned by more contagious strains. In the U.S., officials urged Christians to celebrate outdoors, while social distancing, or in virtual ceremonies. In Jerusalem’s Old City, Franciscan friars in brown robes led hundreds of worshippers down the Via Dolorosa, retracing what tradition holds were Jesus’ final steps, while reciting prayers through loudspeakers at the Stations of the Cross. Another group carried a large wooden cross, singing hymns and pausing to offer prayers.
Russia fines disobedient Twitter
MOSCOW — A court in Moscow on Friday fined Twitter for not taking down calls encouraging minors to take part in unauthorized rallies, the latest in a series of moves against the social media giant that has been used to amplify dissent in Russia. The court found Twitter guilty on three counts of violating regulations on restricting unlawful content, ordering the company to pay three fines adding up to 8.9 million rubles (about $117,000). The ruling comes two weeks after Russia’s state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor threatened to block Twitter within 30 days if it doesn’t take steps to remove banned content. Roskomnadzor last month accused Twitter of failing to remove content encouraging suicide among children, as well as information about drugs and child pornography.
Traffic jam eases further in Suez
CAIRO — The maritime traffic jam on both ends of the Suez Canal eased further on Friday, four days after the dislodging of a massive containership that had blocked the waterway. On Monday, salvage teams freed the skyscraper-sized Ever Given, ending a crisis that had clogged one of the world’s most vital waterways and halted billions of dollars a day in maritime commerce. At the time, canal officials said that more than 420 ships had been waiting for the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship to be freed so they could make the crossing. Lt. Gen. Osama Rabie, head of the Suez Canal Authority said 80 cargo ships carrying carrying a total load of 4.7 tons transited through the canal on Friday, including the American aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.