Deadly storms leave thousands without power in eastern U.S

A view of clouds, part of a weather system seen from near Franklin, Texas, U.S., in this still image from social media video dated April 13, 2019. TWITTER @DOC_SANGER/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Tornadoes, wind gusts of up to 70 mph and pounding hail remained threats early on Monday from eastern New York and into New England, as the remnants of a deadly storm push out to sea, the National Weather Service said.

More than 79,000 homes and businesses were without power in Virginia, according to the tracking site PowerOutage.US, with 89,000 more outages reported across Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, Maryland and New York.

The affected areas will get heavy rains, winds with gusts of up to 70 mph (110 kph) and the possibility of hail, NWS Weather Prediction Center in Maryland said.

“This is an ongoing threat,” said Brian Hurley, from the center.

“There are short spin-ups, pockets of heavy rain and damaging winds that can still hit before this pushes off shore.”

The weekend’s storm brought tornadoes that killed at least five people, including three children, in the U.S. South, officials said.

The massive storm system sped from Texas eastward with dozens of twisters reported as touching down across the South from Texas through Georgia into Pennsylvania.

Nearly 2,300 U.S. flights were canceled by Sunday evening, more then 90 percent of them at airports in Chicago; Houston, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio and a dozen major airports on the Eastern Seaboard, according to FlightAware.com.

But no major flight delays were reported on the east coast before 6 a.m. Monday.

The storm’s cold front brought snow to Chicago on Sunday, with 1 to 3 inches (2.5-7.6 cm) reported in central Illinois.

Two children, siblings aged three and eight, were killed on Saturday when a tree fell on the car in which they were sitting in Pollok, Texas, said a spokeswoman for the Angelina County Sheriff’s Department.

A third child, Sebastian Omar Martinez, 13, drowned late on Saturday when he fell into a drainage ditch filled with flash floodwaters near Monroe, Louisiana, said Deputy Glenn Springfield of the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office.

In another storm death nearby, an unidentified victim’s body was trapped in a vehicle submerged in floodwaters in Calhoun, Louisiana, Springfield said.

In Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant said one person was killed and 11 injured over the weekend as tornadoes ripped through 17 counties and left 26,000 homes and businesses without electricity.

In addition, three people were killed when a private jet crashed in Mississippi on Saturday, although Bryant said it was unclear whether it was caused by the weather.

Soaking rains could snarl the Monday morning commute on the East Coast before the storm moves off to sea.

“The biggest impact rush hour-wise probably will be Boston, around 7 to 8 o’clock in the morning, and around New York City around 5 or 6 o’clock, before sunrise,” NWS meteorologist Bob Oravec said.

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, and Barbara Goldberg and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Alison Williams)

Louisiana man suspected of killing spree is arrested in Virginia

(Reuters) – Sheriff’s deputies in Virginia on Sunday arrested a 21-year-old man wanted on suspicion of shooting five people to death in Louisiana including his parents, his girlfriend and members of her family.

Following a multistate manhunt, Dakota Theriot was arrested in Richmond County, Virginia, after pointing a firearm out the window of a home, officials said.

“Deputies challenged him and he surrendered without incident and is at NNRJ (Northern Neck Regional Jail) without bond,” the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said on Twitter.

Theriot will be taken back to Louisiana to face charges including first-degree homicide, home invasion and illegal use of weapons, the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana said.

The Livingston Parish Sheriff’s office in Louisiana said he was wanted on two counts of first-degree homicide.

Both counties are in the Baton Rouge area and about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from where he was arrested a day after the killings.

Theriot was identified as the suspect in the Saturday morning slayings of Billy Ernest, 43, Tanner Ernest, 17, and Summer Ernest, 20, Livingston Parish officials said.

Investigators believed Summer Ernest was Theriot’s girlfriend, NBC News reported, citing authorities. Tanner was her brother and Billy their father.

Theriot is believed to have stolen their vehicle and driven to nearby Ascension Parish, to the home of his parents where he lived until recently when he was asked to leave, officials said.

“This is probably … one of the worst domestic violence incidents I have seen in quite a while, for a young man to walk into a bedroom and kill his mother and father, and then to kill the family in Livingston he had a connection with,” Ascension Parish Sheriff Bobby Webre told a news conference.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Five dead in California wildfire as second blaze forces Malibu evacuation

Firefighters battle flames overnight during a wildfire that burned dozens of homes in Thousand Oaks, California, U.S. November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

By Stephen Lam

PARADISE, Calif. (Reuters) – A rapidly moving wildfire in Northern California killed five people when flames engulfed their vehicles as they attempted to flee the mountain town of Paradise in one of three infernos raging across the state, authorities said on Friday.

Nearly 500 miles (800 km) to the south, a blaze forced the evacuation of the upscale oceanside city of Malibu, home to many celebrities, and threatened the beleaguered town of Thousand Oaks, where a gunman killed 12 people this week in a shooting rampage in a bar and dance hall.

Since it broke out on Thursday, the so-called Camp Fire has more than tripled in size to 70,000 acres (2,838 hectares) after engulfing Paradise, a town of nearly 30,000 people, and was only 5-percent contained by Friday.

“The town is devastated, everything is destroyed,” said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) spokesman Scott Mclean, referring to Paradise, which has a population of 26,000 including many retirees.

In addition to the five people found dead in their vehicles, many were forced to abandon their cars and run for their lives down the sole road through the mountain town. About 2,000 structures were destroyed in the area, officials said.

The death toll is expected to climb above five, Mclean said, because flames have blocked search and rescue crews from looking for victims in destroyed homes.

“The only reason they found the five is because they were still on the road,” Mclean said.

HOT WINDS

The fires in California have been driven by hot winds from the east reaching speeds of up to 40 miles per hour (64 kph), forcing firefighters to scramble to keep up with the fast-moving flames.

In Southern California, the 14,000-acre (5,666-hectare) Woolsey Fire led authorities on Friday morning to expand mandatory evacuation orders to the entire city of Malibu.

Flames completely engulfed large homes in at least one affluent neighborhood.

“Fire is now burning out of control and heading into populated areas of Malibu,” the city said in a statement online. “All residents must evacuate immediately.”

In all, the Woolsey Fire led authorities to issue evacuation orders for 75,000 homes in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

It was not immediately clear how many homes had been destroyed.

Video shot from a news helicopter showed cars at a standstill on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, about 30 miles (48 km) west of downtown Los Angeles. An unspecified number of homes were destroyed there, according to local media.

MOVIE SET TOWN ABLAZE

The Woolsey Fire broke out on Thursday and quickly jumped the 101 Freeway. On Friday, it climbed across the Santa Monica Mountains toward Malibu.

It also threatened parts of nearby Thousand Oaks in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, the site of the shooting massacre earlier this week, stunning a community with a reputation for safety.

Linda Parks, a Ventura County supervisor, whose district covers Thousand Oaks, lamented the timing of the wildfire. “We are still reeling, but we are also very resilient,” she said.

On its path of destruction, the fire destroyed a Western-themed movie and television set in Agoura, north of Malibu, a unit of the National Park Service said on Twitter.

Western Town was created in the 1950s for television shows such as “The Cisco Kid,” and more recently was used for television shows such as “Westworld” and “Weeds,” and was a draw for visitors.

California Acting Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday declared a state of emergency for areas affected by the Woolsey and Hill fires in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

In Los Angeles, another fire in Griffith Park forced the Los Angeles Zoo to evacuate a number of show birds and some small primates on Friday as flames came within less than 2 miles (3 km) of the facility, zoo officials said in a statement.

“Animals and employees are safe,” the statement said.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall and Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Sandra Maler)

Maryland man denied bail in newsroom rampage that killed five

A police car blocks the road in front of the Capital Gazette a day after a gunman opened fire at the newspaper, killing five people and injuring several others in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., June 29, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Warren Strobel

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Reuters) – A Maryland man charged with rampaging through a newsroom in Annapolis with a pump-action shotgun and killing five people was denied bail on Friday after one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history.

Jarrod Ramos, suspected of killing five people at the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., June 28, 2018 is seen in this Anne Arundel Police Department booking photo provided June 29, 2018. Anne Arundel Police/Handout via REUTERS

Jarrod Ramos, suspected of killing five people at the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., June 28, 2018 is seen in this Anne Arundel Police Department booking photo provided June 29, 2018. Anne Arundel Police/Handout via REUTERS

Jarrod Ramos, 38, from Laurel, 25 miles (40 km) west of Annapolis, is not cooperating with investigators, authorities said, and did not speak as he appeared by video link from a detention facility for a brief court hearing at Anne Arundel County criminal court.

Ramos had a longstanding grudge against the newspaper that was targeted and unsuccessfully sued it for defamation in 2012 over an article that reported how he harassed a former high school classmate, court records showed.

He is accused of entering the Capital Gazette office on Thursday afternoon and opening fire through a glass door, hunting for victims and spraying the newsroom with gunfire as reporters hid under their desks and begged for help on social media. Prosecutors said he barricaded a back door to stop people from fleeing.

“The fellow was there to kill as many people as he could,” Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare told a news conference, adding that the suspect was identified using facial-recognition technology.

Altomare said evidence found at the suspect’s home showed he planned the attack, and that the pump-action 12 gauge shotgun used by the shooter was legally purchased about a year ago.

Rob Hiaasen, 59, Wendi Winters, 65, Rebecca Smith, 34, Gerald Fischman, 61, and John McNamara were shot and killed. All were journalists except for Smith who was a sales assistant, police said. Hiaasen was the brother of best-selling author Carl Hiaasen.

The Capital newspaper, part of the Gazette group, published an edition on Friday with photographs of each of the victims and a headline “5 shot dead at The Capital” on its front page.

The newspaper’s editors left the editorial page blank with a note saying that they were speechless.

Photographs that were widely shared on social media showed newspaper staffers working on laptops in a parking garage to produce Friday’s edition while they waited to learn the fate of colleagues after the shooting.

‘LIKE A WAR ZONE’

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said he was so proud of the journalists who had “soldiered on.”

“These guys, they don’t make a lot of money. They do journalism because they love what they do. And they got a newspaper out today,” Buckley told Fox News.

A vigil for the victims was planned for 8:00 p.m. EDT on Friday. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan ordered state flags to be lowered to half-staff.

Ramos brought a defamation lawsuit in 2012 against Eric Hartley, a former staff writer and columnist with Capital Gazette, and Thomas Marquardt, then its editor and publisher, a court filing showed.

Neither Hartley nor Marquardt is still employed by the paper or were at its office on Thursday.

An article by Hartley had contended that Ramos had harassed a woman on Facebook and that he had pleaded guilty to criminal harassment, according to a legal document.

The court agreed the article was accurate and based on public records, the document showed. In 2015 Maryland’s second-highest court upheld the ruling, rejecting Ramos’s suit.

Ramos tweeted at the time that he had set up a Twitter account to defend himself, and wrote in his biographical notes that he was suing people in Anne Arundel County and “making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities.”

According to a WBAL-TV reporter who said she spoke with the woman who was harassed, Ramos became “fixated” with her for no apparent reason, causing her to move three times, change her name, and sleep with a gun.

Phil Davis, a Capital Gazette crime reporter, recounted how he was hiding under his desk along with other newspaper employees when the shooter stopped firing, the Capital Gazette reported on its website.

The newsroom looked “like a war zone,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “I don’t know why he stopped.”

Authorities responded to the scene within a minute of the shooting, and Ramos was arrested while also hiding under a desk with the shotgun on the floor nearby, police said.

He will face either a preliminary court hearing or grand jury indictment within the next 30 days.

Capital Gazette runs several newspapers out of its Annapolis office. They include one of the oldest newspapers in the United States, The Gazette, which traces its origins back to 1727.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Doina Chiacu in Washington, and Gina Cherelus in New York; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Gunman angry at Maryland newspaper kills five in targeted attack

Law enforcement officials survey the scene after a gunman fired through a glass door at the Capital Gazette newspaper and sprayed the newsroom with gunfire, killing at least five people and injuring several others, in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Warren Strobel

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Reuters) – A man who had a long-running feud with an Annapolis newspaper blasted his way through its newsroom with a shotgun on Thursday, killing at least five people in one of the deadliest attacks recorded on a U.S. media outlet, authorities said.

The suspect fired through a glass door, looked for victims and then sprayed the newsroom of the Capital Gazette newspaper group in Annapolis with gunfire, police and a witness said.

Acting police chief of the Anne Arundel County Police Department William Krampf told a news conference that Capital Gazette assistant editor Rob Hiaasen, 59, was among the victims.

Wendi Winters, 65, Rebecca Smith, 34, Gerald Fischman, 61, and John McNamara were also killed, he said. Smith was a sales assistant and the others were journalists.

“This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette,” Krampf said. “This person was prepared to shoot people. His intent was to cause harm.”

The suspect is Jarrod Ramos, 38, of Laurel, the Capital Gazette and Baltimore Sun reported, citing law enforcement.

Anne Arundel County police said on Twitter that due to investigative reasons, they have not released the name of the suspect in custody, adding that as of Thursday evening, the suspect has not been booked.

Jarrod Ramos, suspected of killing five people at the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., June 28, 2018 is seen in this 2013 Anne Arundel Police Department booking photo obtained from social media. Social media via REUTERS

Jarrod Ramos, suspected of killing five people at the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., June 28, 2018 is seen in this 2013 Anne Arundel Police Department booking photo obtained from social media. Social media via REUTERS

In 2012, Ramos brought a defamation lawsuit against Eric Hartley, formerly a staff writer and columnist with publication The Capital, and Thomas Marquardt, then editor and publisher of The Capital, according to a court filing.

In 2015, Maryland’s second-highest court upheld a ruling in favor of the Capital Gazette and a former reporter who were accused by Ramos of defamation.

According to a legal document, the article contended that Ramos had harassed a woman on Facebook and that he had pleaded guilty to criminal harassment. The court agreed that the contents of the article were accurate and based on public records, the document showed.

Ramos said on Twitter that he had set up an account to defend himself, and wrote in his bio that he was suing people in Anne Arundel County and “making corpses of corrupt careers and corporate entities.”

‘A WAR ZONE’

Phil Davis, a Capital Gazette crime reporter, said he was hiding under his desk along with other newspaper employees when the shooter stopped firing, the Capital Gazette reported on its website.

The newsroom looked “like a war zone,” he told the Baltimore Sun, adding, “I don’t know why he stopped.”

“As much as I’m going to try to articulate how traumatizing it is to be hiding under your desk, you don’t know until you’re there and you feel helpless,” Davis said.

Police officers in the Maryland capital of Annapolis responded within a minute to a 911 call about a shooting in progress and apprehended the suspect who was hiding under a desk, authorities said.

Police are treating the shooting as a local incident, with no links to terrorism, a law enforcement source told Reuters. Krampf did not say why the gunman may have targeted the newspaper or its employees.

Special tactical police gather after a gunman opened fire at the Capital Gazette newspaper, killing at least five people and injuring several others in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Special tactical police gather after a gunman opened fire at the Capital Gazette newspaper, killing at least five people and injuring several others in Annapolis, Maryland, U.S., June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

When police found the suspect, his weapon was on the ground and “not in his immediate proximity,” Steve Schuh, Anne Arundel county executive, told cable news station CNN.

Police said they recovered what they thought might have been an explosive device but Krampf later said the suspect had smoke grenades. Investigators were in the process of securing his Maryland residence and obtaining search warrants, he said.

The suspect appeared to have damaged his fingertips to try to avoid detection and was refusing to cooperate with law enforcement, Baltimore TV station WJZ and other local media reported. Krampf did not comment on those reports.

Capital Gazette runs multiple newspapers out of its Annapolis office and the group includes one of the oldest newspapers in the United States, The Gazette, which traces its origins back to 1727.

The company, part of the Tronc Inc <TRNC.O> media group, publishes newspapers in and around Annapolis, home of the U.S. Naval Academy. The papers have thrived by focusing on local news in the shadows of two much larger competitors, the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun.

‘WE’RE PUTTING OUT A PAPER’

Law enforcement in Baltimore and New York City deployed extra officers to the offices of the New York Times and other major media outlets as a precaution, authorities said.

The shooting drew the attention of media groups, including Reporters Without Borders, which said it was deeply disturbed by the events in Annapolis.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said that U.S. President Donald Trump had been briefed on the shooting.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. Thank you to all of the First Responders who are currently on the scene,” Trump said in a tweet.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Twitter, “A violent attack on innocent journalists doing their job is an attack on every American.”

Jimmy DeButts, an editor at the Capital Gazette, tweeted that he was devastated, heartbroken and numb.

“I’m in no position to speak, just know @capgaznews reporters & editors give all they have every day. There are no 40 hour weeks, no big paydays – just a passion for telling stories from our community,” he wrote.

One of the group’s flagship papers, The Capital, plans to publish a Friday edition, several reporters with the group said. “I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow,” reporter Chase Cook wrote on Twitter a few hours after the shooting.

(Reporting by Warren Strobel; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball and Jeff Mason in Washington, Colleen Jenkins in North Carolina, Diana Kruzman, Tea Kvetenadze, Frank McGurty and Peter Szekely in New York, Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Andrew Hay in New Mexico; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Richard Chang, Grant McCool, Toni Reinhold)