Hawaii lava flow ramps up as new magma mixes with old

Lava oozing out of cracks for two weeks in rural Hawaii neighborhoods took on new characteristics as fresher magma mixed with decades-old magma, sending a flow toward the ocean Saturday.

Since a first fissure opened in a community on May 3, lava was mostly spattering up and collecting at the edges of the cracks in the ground. Two neighborhoods with nearly 2,000 people were forced to evacuate as lava claimed 40 structures.

On Friday afternoon, the lava changed dramatically with one fissure ramping up and sending a flow across a road, destroying four more homes and isolating residents, some of whom had to be air-lifted to safety.

The change is attributed to new magma mixing with 1955-era magma in the ground, creating hotter and more fluid flows, scientists said.

“There’s much more stuff coming out of the ground and it’s going to produce flows that move further away,” said Wendy Stovall, a U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist.

By Saturday morning, two of 22 fissures had merged, creating a wide flow advancing at rates of up to 300 yards (274 meters) per hour. Aerial footage from the USGS showed fast-moving lava advancing to the southeast. The flow was 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from the ocean, scientists said.

In the background, the footage showed lava fountaining 328 feet (100 meters) high at one of the fissures. The fountains are created by vents closing, forcing magma to burst through a single outpoint, Stovall said.

If lava threatens main highways, more people will be told to prepare for voluntary evacuation.

A lava flow was less than a mile (kilometer) away from Highway 137 and would reach it in a matter of hours, officials warned Saturday afternoon. No one lives in its path and another highway remained open as an escape route, said Hawaii County spokeswoman Janet Snyder.

A handful of people were trapped when lava crossed a road Friday and some of them needed to be airlifted to safety.

“They shouldn’t be in that area,” said County Managing Director Wil Okabe. He wants people to heed evacuation warnings.

Edwin Montoya, who lives with his daughter on her farm near the site where lava crossed the road and cut off access, said the fissure opened and grew quickly.

“It was just a little crack in the ground, with a little lava coming out,” he said. “Now it’s a big crater that opened up where the small little crack in the ground was.”

Experts are uncertain about when the volcano might calm down.

The Big Island volcano released a small explosion at its summit just before midnight Friday, sending an ash cloud 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) into the sky. The USGS’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said eruptions that create even minor amounts of ashfall could occur at any time.

This follows the more explosive eruption Thursday, which emitted ash and rocks thousands of feet into the sky. No one was injured and there were no reports of damaged property.

It came two weeks after the volcano began sending lava flows into neighborhoods 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the east of the summit.

Several open fissure vents are still producing lava splatter and flow in evacuated areas. Gas is also pouring from the vents, cloaking homes and trees in smoke.

Meanwhile, more explosive eruptions from the summit are possible.

“We have no way of knowing whether this is really the beginning or toward the end of this eruption,” said Tom Shea, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaii. “We’re kind of all right now in this world of uncertainty.”

U.S. government scientists, however, are trying to pin down those signals “so we have a little better warning,” said Wendy Stovall, a volcanologist with the observatory.

The greatest ongoing hazard stems from the lava flows and the hot, toxic gases spewing from open fissure vents close to homes and critical infrastructure, said Charles Mandeville of the U.S. Geological Survey’s volcano hazards program.

Authorities have been measuring gases, including sulfur dioxide, rising in little puffs from open vents.

The area affected by lava and ash is small compared to the Big Island, which is about 4,000 square miles. Most of the island and the rest of the Hawaiian chain is unaffected by the volcanic activity on Kilauea.

State and local officials have been reminding tourists that flights in and out of the entire state, including the Big Island, have not been impacted. Even on the Big Island, most tourist activities are still available and businesses are open.


Kelleher reported from Honolulu. Associated Press journalists Jae Hong and Marco Garcia in Pahoa, Sophia Yan and Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu, Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska, Seth Borenstein in Washington, D.C., and Alina Hartounian in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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Santa Fe High School survivors at vigil: shooter had ‘seemed fine’

Then, he remembers with absolute clarity, he heard two loud blasts.

Muehe says he turned and saw one of his classmates, junior Dimitrios Pagourtzis, standing there, dressed as usual in his long, dark duster — apparently the same one that Pagourtzis had posted photos of with an Iron Cross and hammer-and-sickle insignia pinned to it.

He was holding a shotgun.

Muehe stared for a moment in shock.

One of his other classmates — he wasn’t sure which one — sprawled on the floor. Pagourtzis cradled the shotgun in one hand and lifted a .38 revolver with the other.

“He pointed the revolver at her and shot her,” Muehe said.

These are the victims of the Santa Fe High School shooting

As the classroom erupted into pandemonium, Muehe jumped up and ran.

“All that was going through my head was to get out,” he recalled, recounting, just before a Friday night vigil held down the road from the high school, the moment when a shooting began that claimed the lives of eight students and two teachers, and that left 13 other people wounded.

On Friday morning, Santa Fe High became the site of the 22nd US school shooting in the first 20 weeks of this year. Pagourtzis, 17, was taken into custody and has cooperated with police, Galveston County Magistrate Mark Henry said.

Four weeks earlier, a handful of the 1,400 students at this high school, in a small town southeast of Houston, had taken part in the nationwide April 20 walkout to protest gun violence in schools. Now the violence had come to them.

In April, they walked out to protest school shootings. Today, they were victims of one

In the second art classroom next door, freshman Aidan Porras said at the vigil on Friday night, he and the other students heard the three shots.

“Everybody freaked out and ran to the back of the classroom, but the door was locked,” he said. “Me and a couple of other people went to the ceramics room,” a small space between the Art 1 and Art 2 classrooms. They hid there, behind the heavy door inset with a glass window.

Muehe, too, had run toward the ceramics room, but then veered out into the hallway to the door of the classroom opposite.

“I banged on the door and shouted, ‘he has a gun!'” Muehe said. Then he ran out and across campus toward a nearby gas station, where he pulled out his phone and called 911.

The students hiding in the ceramics room heard other shots. Then a blast blew out the glass in the window of the door.

Pagourtzis, Muehe said, stuck the barrel of the shotgun through the window and fired.

Porras identified two particular students he shot. Then Pagourtzis forced open the door and shot a third student through the doorway, Porras said.

But then the police arrived, and Pagourtzis turned.

“He was arguing with the cops. They wanted him to put down his guns and surrender, but he said they’d shoot him. He was firing off rounds every so often.”

Porras didn’t see what happened between the police and Pagourtzis to end the shooting.

Alleged Texas school shooter spared people he liked, court document says

Through the day Friday, the school grounds remained closed as police searched for pipe bombs and other explosive devices Pagourtzis had allegedly scattered.

That evening, at the vigil, surrounded by other students and family and seemingly most of the town’s population, Porras, Muehe and other students remained baffled. As the late afternoon sun waned, a large crowd milled slowly in a grassy park next to a strip mall. Students chatted and hugged one another, many of them standing with their parents and siblings, holding candles. On a table at one end of the park, ten candles in glass jars were lit, one for each of the deceased, with flowers placed between them.

As local leaders gave comments and prayers through a set of underpowered speakers, the students only occasionally listened. It seemed to be just being together that mattered.

Pagourtzis had been quiet, according to classmates — he was a bit odd and kept to himself, wearing his long coat regardless of the weather. But nothing about him had seemed threatening, a number of students said. Muehe, whose locker was next to Pagourtzis’s, and who played on the junior varsity football team with him, said he wouldn’t have ever guessed he would do something so terrible.

One sophomore student, who asked not to be named, said he had been part of a small circle of Pagourtzis’s friends, for a time. “He was very interested in guns, and in World War II history, fascism, communism, military history.”

The day before the shooting, senior Tyler Ray said that Pagourtzis had been with him among a group of students who took a school trip to the Schlitterbahn water park in Galveston. He had seemed to enjoy himself just as they all had, he said.

Ray struggled to understand Pagourtzis. “He had to have been thinking about this for a while,” he said. But he gave no sign of anything amiss.

After they returned to the school from the water park, Ray said he’d chatted with Pagourtzis.

“He said hi to me and we talked for at least 15 minutes,” Ray said. “He seemed fine.”

Another classmate, Brooke Williams, reached by Facebook, agreed that there had been no inkling this week of the violence to come.

“He was friendly to me and funny,” Williams said. “I was just talking to him yesterday in our class and he didn’t show any signs of what was to happen today. … I’m horrified that it was my friend that did it. But it happened, and now it’s something he’s going to live with and so is all of the community.”

This story has been updated with information about the victims of the shooting.

CNN’s Curt Devine contributed reporting.

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Texas school shooter ‘nonemotional,’ lawyer says as motive sought

SANTA FE, Texas (Reuters) – The 17-year-old student charged with killing 10 people when he opened fire in an art class at his Houston-area high school appeared “weirdly nonemotional” on the morning after the rampage, one of his lawyers said on Saturday.

The teenager, identified by law enforcement as Dimitrios Pagourtzis, has been charged with capital murder and is being held without bail in Santa Fe, Texas, where authorities said he went on a shooting spree shortly before 8 a.m. CDT on Friday.

In addition to 10 fatalities, the gunman wounded at least 13 people, with two of them in critical condition. One of those in critical condition was one of the two school resource officers who engaged the shooter before his surrender.

For graphic on the timeline of major mass shootings in the United States since 2007 click tmsnrt.rs/2LfKug6

Nicholas Poehl, one of two lawyers hired by the suspect’s parents to represent him, told Reuters he had spent a total of one hour with Pagourtzis on Friday night and Saturday morning.

“He’s very emotional and weirdly nonemotional,” the attorney said when asked to describe his client’s state of mind. “There are aspects of it he understands and there are aspects he doesn’t understand.”

As the shooting unfolded, Pagourtzis spared people he liked so he could have his side of the story told, a charging document showed.

While authorities have given no indication why he apparently targeted the art class, a mother of one of the victims told the Los Angeles Times that her daughter, Shana Fisher, 16, had rejected four months of aggressive advances from Pagourtzis.

Fisher finally stood up to him and embarrassed him in class, the newspaper quoted her mother Sadie Rodriguez as writing in a private message to the Times.

“A week later he opens fire on everyone he didn’t like,” she said. “Shana being the first one.”

Rodriguez did not say how she knew her daughter was the first victim, according to the newspaper.

Rodriguez could not independently be reached for comment.


Pagourtzis’ family said in a statement they were “saddened and dismayed” by the shooting and “as shocked as anyone else” by the events. They said they are cooperating with authorities.

“While we remain mostly in the dark about the specifics of (Friday’s) tragedy, what we have learned from media reports seems incompatible with the boy we love,” the family said.

Investigators had seen a photo of a T-shirt that read “Born to Kill” on the suspect’s Facebook page and authorities were examining his journal, Texas Governor Greg Abbott told reporters, but there were no outward signs he had been planning an attack.

Pagourtzis waived his right to remain silent and made a statement to authorities admitting to the shooting, according to an affidavit ahead of his arrest.

Asked if Pagourtzis had provided authorities with information about the shootings, Poehl said: “Honestly because of his emotional state, I don’t have a lot on that.”


Santa Fe High School, southeast of Houston, became the scene of the fourth-deadliest mass shooting at a U.S. public school in modern history, joining a long list of campuses where students and faculty have fallen victim to gunfire.

Christian Cardenas 10, helps Jaydon Johnson 8, light a candle during a vigil for the victims of a shooting at Santa Fe High School that left several dead and injured in Santa Fe, Texas, U.S., May 18, 2018. REUTERS/Pu Ying Huang

The Texas rampage again stoked the country’s long-running debate over gun ownership, three months after a student-led gun control movement emerged from a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 teens and educators dead.

Students and faculty, bussed on to campus in small groups, were allowed to enter the high school on Saturday to retrieve belongings, though investigators closed off part of the grounds. Police kept reporters about 100 yards (91 meters) away.

All schools in the Santa Fe school district will remain closed on Monday and Tuesday, officials said.

In a letter to parents dated Friday but posted on the district’s website on Saturday, Superintendent Leigh Wall said eight of the dead were students and two were teachers. Authorities had earlier said that nine students and one teacher were killed.

National Football League star J.J. Watt, who plays defensive end for the Houston Texans, said he will pay for the funerals of the deceased, local media reported.

“Absolutely horrific,” he tweeted about the shooting.


Classmates at the school of some 1,460 students described Pagourtzis as a quiet loner who played on the football team. On Friday, they said he wore a trench coat to school on a day when temperatures topped 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).

Texas’ governor told reporters that Pagourtzis obtained firearms from his father, who had likely acquired them legally, and also left behind explosive devices.

Abbott said Pagourtzis wanted to commit suicide, citing the suspect’s journals, but did not have the courage to do so.

Some aspects of the shooting had echoes of the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. The two teenaged killers in that incident wore trench coats, used shotguns and planted improvised explosives, killing 10 before committing suicide themselves.

Slideshow (7 Images)

It was the second mass shooting in Texas in less than seven months. A man armed with an assault rifle shot dead 26 people during Sunday prayers at a rural church last November.

Reporting by Erwin Seba; Writing by Frank McGurty; editing by Daniel Wallis, Matthew Lewis and G Crosse

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Princess Charlotte sticks her tongue out as George hides behind his mother’s legs

It was the merest flash of mischief in what was otherwise an impressively poised performance from the youngest members of the bridal party.

As three vintage Rolls Royces carrying the troop of six beautifully dressed bridesmaids and two of the four pageboys rolled towards St George’s Chapel, little Princess Charlotte (who at just three is already becoming an expert performer) cheekily stuck her tongue out and waved at the crowd.

The children appeared to take it all in their stride as they hopped out of the car and were quickly gathered together by their mothers and herded up the steps to the chapel, going as fast as their little legs could carry them.

The Duchess of Cambridge took charge and – holding her daughter’s hand, and that of three-year-old Florence van Cutsem – lead the way into the chapel, while  Meghan Markle’s best friends Jessica Mulroney and Benita Litt followed with their daughters Ivy, four, Remi, six and Rylan, seven, and Zoe Warren (wife of Harry’s close friend Jake Warren) brought up the rear with the youngest member of the brood, two-year-old Zalie.

As the bride’s car pulled up, two more little faces peered out, eager to see the crowds. Twins Brian and John Mulroney, seven, had the important job of accompanying Meghan down the aisle.

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Students wipe away tears as they returning to Santa Fe high school Video

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    How the 30-minute attack unfolded


    Listen as police enter Santa Fe High school during a shooting that left at least 8 dead and one injured officer.

    SANTA FE, Texas — Students were just starting their day. It was first-period art class.

    Then it became a war zone.

    For 30 minutes, authorities say Santa Fe High School was under siege by a teenager armed with a shotgun and .38 caliber revolver. In the end, 10 were killed and another 13 were injured. 

    Dimitrios Pagourtzis carried out Friday’s deadly rampage entirely within the art complex at the high school, barricading himself inside from the fusillade of police officers’ bullets that followed him there, Galveston County Judge Mark Henry said. 
    Law enforcement received the first calls at 7:32 a.m., according to an affidavit filed in Galveston County court Friday evening. It wasn’t until 30 minutes later that Pagourtzis would surrender and admit to targeting students he didn’t like inside the school, authorities said. 

    The art complex is made up of four rooms, each interconnected by interior hallways.  Pagourtzis walked into the area Friday morning and began shooting students and teachers, said Henry, the county’s top administrator.

    All of the injuries and deaths occurred within the art complex, he said. Henry said he didn’t know how many total students were in that part of the school when the shooting began. 
    “It’s tragic,” Henry said. “I don’t know how you make any sense of this.”

    More: Santa Fe residents awake to a grim reality as authorities look for motive in Texas shooting

    More: Texas school shooting suspect Dimitrios Pagourtzis hid firearms under long coat

    Zachary Muehe, a sophomore at the school of roughly 1,400 students, was in one of the rooms in the art complex when he heard three loud booms.

    Muehe told The New York Times that he recognized Pagourtzis from the school’s football team — then he realized he was holding a shotgun. 

    “It was crazy watching him shoot and then pump. I remember seeing the shrapnel from the tables, whatever he hit. I remember seeing the shrapnel go past my face,” he told the Times.

    As he ran from the classroom, he told the newspaper he looked back and saw students lying on the ground.

    “There was a girl on the ground, and he shot her in the head one or two times,” he said.


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    The first one to confront Pagourtzis was one of the school’s police officers, John Barnes,  who tried entering the art complex looking for the shooter, Henry said.

    But Pagourtzis appeared to be ready for Barnes and fired at him, hitting him in the upper arm, Henry said. Barnes was in stable but critical condition at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston as of Saturday afternoon. 

    “He was going to try to neutralize the shooter and the shooter was waiting for him,” he said. 

    More: After Texas school shooting, Houston police chief says he’s ‘hit rock bottom’ with inaction on gun control

    As the shooting unfolded in the art complex, students and teachers in other parts of the school braced for the shooter or fled the scene.

    Kaylee Haaga, 17, was just settling into Steve Rose’s first-period economics class when an individual in the hall outside told Rose someone had a shotgun in the school.

    The teacher immediately closed the door, ordered all the students to hide under their desks and crouched next to the door, waiting to jump on the shooter if he came in, Haaga said.

    “It’s my life before y’alls,” he told the class.

    Haaga hid under Rose’s desk and pulled a chair over the opening. She texted her mom and dad and frantically tried to reach her little sister, Shelby, 15, a freshman at the school.

    After a while, she put her phone away. “I already told the people I love that I loved them,” she said.

    After what seemed like an hour, police officers entered her class and told the students to move out. The halls were filled with officers in tactical gear armed with long guns, searching classrooms and closets. One of the officers instructed Haaga and her classmates to go out to the front of the school, rather than the back, she said.


    Ten people were killed and ten others were injured in a shooting at Santa Fe High School outside Houston.

    “He told me if you hear any shots, run as fast as you can,” Haaga said. “Soon as you get out those doors, take your shoes off, run to the other side and don’t look back.”

    She did just that.

    Inside the art complex, Pagourtzis roamed from room to room, taunting students and shooting at them as they scrambled behind desks or hid in closets. When a group of students hid in a supply closet, the shooter yelled “Surprise!” followed by an expletive, and opened fire, killing two of the eight students hiding in there, according to a Facebook post by Deedra Van Ness, whose daughter, Isabelle, survived the ordeal. 

    “She and her friends had been in the same room with the gunman the ENTIRE TIME,” Van Ness wrote. 

    More law enforcement officers — from Santa Fe Police, Texas Department of Public Safety and other agencies — poured into campus and zeroed in on the art complex. There was an exchange of gunfire with the suspect, Henry said. “There were a lot of spent rounds on the ground,” he said.

    It wasn’t until 8:02 a.m. — 30 minutes after the shooting started — that Pagourtzis exited one of the art classrooms and surrendered, authorities wrote in a court filing. 

    “Our officers went in there and did what they could,” Walter Braun, Santa Fe school district police chief, said Saturday. “They did what they’re trained for and went in immediately.”

    Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the head of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, said the teen suspect “sort of fell to the ground and surrendered” in an apparent hope of avoiding a police confrontation. 

    It’s unclear how long Pagourtzis was actively shooting and whether the teen was holed up with injured students, potentially slowing first responders from treating them. 

    Authorities recovered a couple of explosive devices at the school and “several” in Pagourtzis’ vehicle and home, McCaul said, and they’ve been sent for testing to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va.

    It’s still unclear whether any of the devices were used in the shooting. 

    Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2IuffjT

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    Santa Fe shooting: substitute teachers and Pakistani student among victims | US news

    Two substitute teachers and a student from Pakistan were among 10 people killed in the mass shooting at a Texas high school on Friday in which at least 10 more were injured. Other students who were killed were also identified on Saturday, though official identification was not immediately forthcoming.

    The 17-year-old suspect, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, was held on a capital murder charge after the shooting in Santa Fe, about 30 miles south-east of Houston.

    Family members confirmed that a substitute teacher, Cynthia Tisdale, was among the dead. Tisdale’s niece, Leia Olinde, said Tisdale was like a mother to her and helped her shop for wedding dresses last year.

    “She helped me put it on, she helped fix my hair,” Olinde, 25, told the Associated Press, through tears. “She was wonderful. She was just so loving. I’ve never met a woman who loved her family so much.”

    Cynthia Tisdale, top right, with her husband Recicie Tisdale, center and niece Olinde, left.

    Cynthia Tisdale, top right, with her husband, Recicie Tisdale, center, and niece Olinde, left. Photograph: Eric Sanders/AP

    She said Tisdale was married for close to 40 years and had three children and eight grandchildren. Olinde’s fiance, Eric Sanders, said: “Words don’t explain her lust for life and the joy she got from helping people.”

    Tisdale’s brother-in-law, John, wrote on Facebook: “We never know when our death will come. Cynthia planned on one day retiring and being a full-time grandmother. It will never happen.”

    A dance studio in Santa Fe posted a picture on Facebook of Ann Perkins, 64, another substitute teacher. “She was an amazing mom and an adored substitute who was loved by all,” the studio said.

    The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, issued a statement about the Pakistani student who died, sending his “deepest condolences to the family and friends of Sabika Sheikh”. Pompeo said Sabika, 17, was in the US on the state department-sponsored Youth Exchange and Study program, “helping to build ties between the US and her native Pakistan”. The Pakistani embassy in Washington also identified Sabika as a victim.

    Sabika’s father, Abdul Aziz Sheikh, told the AP from his home in Karachi that his daughter, the oldest of four children, had left Pakistan last August and was expected to return home in a few weeks for Eid al-Fitr, a three-day holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.

    “We are still in a state of denial,” he said, choking back tears. “We can’t believe it. It’s like a nightmare.”

    Sheikh said he had learned of the tragedy from TV reports. “I called her but she did not reply. I kept calling and sending her messages. My daughter always replies. Or at least sends a message saying she’ll call back soon. But yesterday, that didn’t happen.”

    Chris Stone was also killed. “He was the class clown, everybody loved him,” David Sustaita, 18, told the Guardian. “The nicest guy you’d ever meet, he’d crack jokes, everybody liked him, all the teachers liked him. We played football together; knew him since I was a kid, good guy.”

    Christian “Riley” Garcia was 15. “Whenever I needed him he was always there,” said Brandon Santell, also 15. “To be honest, he was like my brother. And it was just so hard to hear that he went out being a hero. People are telling me that Chris was shot pushing two people out of the way and later on they found his body with those two bodies.

    “He would always like to make people smile, he would always crack jokes. He could always make you feel more confident about yourself. Without him I probably would not be who I am.”

    Christian’s church posted a picture on Facebook that it said had been taken about 10 days ago, showing he had written a Bible verse on a wooden door frame of what was to be his bedroom in a house under construction.

    Students Angelique Ramirez, 15; Jared Conard Black, 17; Aaron Kyle McLeod, 15; Shana Fisher, 16; and Kimberly Vaughan were also killed.

    Ramirez, who had flame-red dyed hair, was confirmed dead by her aunt, Sylvia Pritchett, in a Facebook post. Kimberly Vaughan’s death was confirmed by her mother, Rhonda Hart, also via Facebook. Hart later wrote: “Folks – call your damn senators. Call your congressmen. We need GUN CONTROL. WE NEED TO PROTECT OUR KIDS.”

    Shana Fisher’s mother told the Houston Chronicle her daughter was a “beautiful, smart, funny and talented” girl who turned 16 on 9 May. “She had a lot of love in her heart,” she said.

    Among those injured on Friday were a school resource officer and a sophomore baseball player.

    Officer John Barnes was shot in the arm, requiring surgery, said David Marshall, chief nursing officer at the University of Texas medical branch. Barnes was the first to engage Pagourtzis, Marshall said.

    The sophomore baseball player Rome Shubert said the gunman walked into his classroom and tossed something on to desks. Shubert told the Chronicle he then heard “three loud pops” before the attacker fled into the hall. Shubert said he realized he had been wounded as he was running out of the back door. Shubert said he was hit in the back of his head with what he said was a bullet, but that it “missed everything vital”. He also tweeted that he was OK and stable.

    On Saturday, a hospital treating three of the injured said one patient, a minor, was in good condition. Of the other two patients, one was in serious condition and one was in critical condition.

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    Former Playboy centerfold apparently jumps to death with son



    4:42 PM

    NEW YORK (AP) — A former Playboy centerfold involved in a custody battle apparently jumped with her 7-year-old son to their deaths from the 25th floor of a Manhattan hotel, law enforcement officials said Friday.

    Stephanie Adams and her son Vincent fell 23 floors and were found on a second-floor balcony at about 8:15 a.m. Friday in the rear courtyard of the Gotham Hotel.

    They had checked into the hotel’s penthouse suite at about 6 p.m. Thursday, officials said, just hours after she told the New York Post that her husband and his lawyer were blocking her from taking her son away on vacation.

    “All I want to do is take my son and get away from this nightmare for a few days,” the Post quoted Adams as saying. “But they won’t let me.”

    The law enforcement officials said the 46-year-old Adams, who first posed for Playboy in 1992, was involved in a custody dispute over Vincent with her estranged husband, a Manhattan chiropractor named Charles Nicolai. They said police had been called to their home several times in the past few months. The officials were not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

    Nicolai’s lawyer did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the case. A receptionist who answered the phone at Nicolai’s office said he would not comment and was unreachable.

    Adams and Nicolai had been in “a very tough custody case,” said Raoul Felder, a divorce lawyer who represented her for a time. The standoff was contentious enough that the former couple handed off their son to each other at a police precinct, an arrangement that’s unusual but not unheard of, Felder said.

    Felder said he had been friends with Adams for 20 years but stopped representing her in the divorce case a couple of months ago. Recently, she had been hoping to go to Europe to be with a boyfriend there, and that had become an issue in the case, he said.

    Still, “she was never depressed while I knew her. She had certain problems, but depression wasn’t one of them,” Felder said.

    Felder recalled her as “sweet and ultra-polite” — she always called him “Mr. Felder” despite their long friendship. She would sometimes stop by his office to say hello, bringing her son, who loved to play with a Superman statue in the office, Felder recalled.

    And she routinely sent him birthday cards, until his birthday passed this month without one.

    She also stayed in touch with Sanford Rubenstein, an attorney who represented her in a 2006 lawsuit against the police department, a taxi company and a cab driver.

    Her suit said that the driver falsely told police she had a gun and that police then assaulted her. Officers forced her to the ground, although they could see she didn’t have a gun in her hand and there was nowhere she could have concealed one in her clothes, according to a judge’s decision. A jury awarded her $1.2 million in city money, but the judge later reduced it to $373,000.

    Rubenstein said he knew she’d been dealing lately with a custody clash but would never have foreseen a suicide.

    “She was a vibrant woman, she had strong opinions, and she loved her kid,” he said. “She loved that child. It’s unexplainable.”

    Adams was Playboy’s “Miss November” centerfold in 1992. She appeared again in Playboy in 2003, and she had also worked with Elite Model Management. The New York Post profiled Adams in 2013, saying that she had by then written more than 25 self-help books, ran an online beauty products company called Goddessy Organics, and managed the finances in her husband’s office.

    “The stereotypes are sexist and unfair,” Adams told the Post in the 2013 profile. “Just because I look a certain way and have expensive tastes, it doesn’t mean I’m shallow. Style and looks don’t mean lack of brains, sweetheart!”

    Adams was also facing a lawsuit brought by a massage therapist who said she’d been fired from Nicolai’s chiropractic office because Adams was jealous. Adams denied the claims. Court papers filed Friday show the massage therapist agreed this week to end the claims against Nicolai. Lawyers for Adams and Nicolai in that case declined to comment. The massage therapist’s lawyer didn’t immediately return a call.

    The Gotham Hotel is on 46th street, about four blocks from Grand Central Terminal.


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    The Latest: Blanchett arrives at Cannes awards ceremony

    The Latest on the awards ceremony for the 71st Cannes Film Festival being presented Saturday night (all times local):

    7:15 p.m.

    Cannes jury president Cate Blanchett has arrived at the Cannes awards ceremony in a silk gown with a large red bow on the back.

    She told journalists Saturday evening that it had been “a very rich and powerful festival” and the deliberations in the jury had been “amicable.”

    Blanchett says jurors didn’t “judge” the winner but they “chose” it.

    The actress is one of the few women to head the jury in the festival’s 71 year history. She has been a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement and used the role as a platform to highlight sexism in the film industry. Other jury members arrived shortly after, including actresses Kristen Stewart and Lea Seydoux.


    7 p.m.

    Lebanese director Nadine Labaki is among the first contenders for the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or to hit the red carpet at the Palais des Festivals in a fitted one shoulders gown.

    Labaki is considered one of the front runners for the film festival’s top prize as her film “Capernaum” received the longest standing ovation of the competition, at 15 minutes.

     Spike Lee also was seen on Saturday night’s red carpet, telling journalists that he’d been in New York “yesterday.” Lee, a Cannes veteran, said he first came to the festival in 1986. His film “BlackKklansman” debuted at the festival and is due to be released in August.

    Organizers often call winning contenders for them to come back and attend the ceremony, leading some to speculate on the potential winners based on who graces the red carpet at the end of the 12 day festival.


    5 p.m.

    The makers of 21 movies are vying to win the Palme d’Or, the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize.

    The star-studded awards ceremony is taking place Saturday night in the French Riviera city.

    Australian actress and campaigner against sexual harassment Cate Blanchett led this year’s jury, which also included actress Kristen Stewart.

    The May 8-19 festival, the first since the downfall of film mogul Harvey Weinstein over accusations of sexual misconduct by dozens of women, was dominated by the #MeToo movement.

    A movie by one of three female directors in the lineup, “Capernaum” by Lebanon’s Nadine Labaki, is considered by some a front-runner for the Palme d’Or.

    Other favorites include “BlacKkKlansman” by Spike Lee, “Burning” by South Korea’s Lee Chang-dong and “The Wild Pear Tree” by Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

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    New anti-corruption boss warns IBAC too shackled to investigate police properly

    Mr Redlich’s candid insights were given during a private hearing for a parliamentary inquiry into the oversight of police corruption and misconduct in Victoria.

    But they are likely to prove sensitive for Victoria Police, which has come under fire in recent months following revelations about police brutality and cover-ups, and vile comments made under a pseudonym by former head of Police Standards Command, Brett Guerin.

    It is understood that police and IBAC are said to be “worlds apart” on what they think parliament should do to improve the situation: the former believes the current oversight model is “appropriate and effective”; the latter, while agreeing that police should continue conducting internal inquiries, is seeking greater powers to do its own job.

    “Curiously, IBAC is the only commission throughout Australia whose investigators do not have the same powers as a police officer,” Mr Redlich said. “I can see no sound reason for that situation.”

    Mr Redlich told the committee that IBAC’s inability to search people meant, for example, that if a warrant was issued and an investigator asked a police officer for his phone, the officer could falsely claim he didn’t have one – even if the phone was ringing in his pocket.

    Text messages and call records could be wiped, yet IBAC could not prosecute the officer for destroying or concealing evidence.

    Nor could IBAC arrest a suspect even if the commission concluded they had committed a criminal offence. It would have to rely on police to do so, briefing them on the details of their investigation. Then, if police did decide to make the arrest, it was up to them to make a record of interview, but this might not always happen.

    Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton

    Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton

    Photo: Jason South

    “In all of those cases where the absence of these powers impedes our ability to adequately investigate the matter, we are as a matter of course, obliged to return the matter to the Chief Commissioner,” Mr Redlich said.

    “We have had to do that on a number of occasions where it would have been plainly better had IBAC investigated the matter itself.”

    Victoria’s anti-corruption watchdog was established under the Coalition government five years ago to investigate allegations of public sector corruption and police misconduct.

    But while it has significant powers to search and seize documents, enter and search premises and use surveillance devices, its other limitations come at a time when some are pushing for a new independent body to investigate police complaints.

    The Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre, for instance, has repeatedly called for a new oversight framework, warning that the way police investigated its own officers could create bias and lead to mistrust in the system.

    A recent audit by IBAC gives weight to concerns, finding half of internal reviews by police into the involvement of its officers in deaths, injuries and other serious events failed to consider critical evidence such as witness statements – relying instead on police statements.

    But a spokesman for Victoria Police said the current model “strikes the right balance”.

    “Whilst Victoria Police acknowledges there is work to be done to existing practices, it holds a strong view that the existing oversight model is the most appropriate and effective,” a spokesman said.

    Farrah Tomazin

    Farrah Tomazin is an Investigative Reporter for The Age, with interests in politics, social justice, and legal affairs.

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