‘Apparent suicide’ of Parkland student days after massacre survivor took her life

An empty chair is seen in front of flowers and mementoes placed on a fence to commemorate the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

(Reuters) – A student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida has died in “an apparent suicide,” police said on Sunday, less than a week after a 19-year-old survivor of the 2018 massacre at the school took her own life.

The student’s death occurred on Saturday evening and is under investigation, said Coral Springs Police spokesman Tyler Reik. The student’s name, age and gender were not disclosed, he said.

“We’re calling it an apparent suicide because we don’t have the exact results back from the medical examiner’s office,” Reik said by phone.

The Miami Herald reported that the suicide victim was a male sophomore who attend the Parkland, Florida, school when 14 other students and three staff members were killed on Feb. 14, 2018, in the deadliest-ever U.S. high school shooting.

A week ago, former Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Sydney Aiello took her own life, according to her family. Aiello, who survived the 2018 shooting, was suffering from survivor’s guilt and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, her mother told CBS Miami.

Aiello was a senior at Stoneman Douglas when a former student with a semi-automatic rifle shot dead her friend Meadow Pollack, the family said.

The deaths drew calls in Florida for increased spending on mental health services for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community and other schools.

“Now is the time for the Florida Legislature to help,” Jared Moskowitz, Florida’s emergency management director and a former state representative from Parkland, posted on Twitter.

David Hogg, who survived the 2018 shooting and became a gun control advocate, said schools needed serious mental health funding and proper guidance counselors.

“How many more kids have to be taken from us as a result of suicide for the government/school district to do anything?” he tweeted.

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Additional reporting by Andrew Hay in New Mexico; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Teacher, student injured in Indiana school shooting: police

Police is seen near Noblesville West Middle School in Noblesville, Indiana, U.S., May 25, 2018 in this still image obtained from social media video. COURTESY CHRISTOPHER REILY/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – A teacher and a teenage student were injured in a shooting at an Indiana middle school on Friday morning and another student was in custody, police said.

The male student, who is a suspect in the shooting, has been detained, Noblesville Police Chief Kevin Jowitt told a news conference.

The incident was the latest in a series of shootings at U.S. schools and colleges, some of which have claimed dozens of lives, stretching back decades.

The only people injured in Friday’s incident at Noblesville West Middle School were the teenage student and the teacher, according to Jowitt. Local TV station WTTV, citing a source at the scene, said the student victim suffered a fractured ankle.

The police chief said the school, attended by more than 1,350 students, has been cleared, but he did not provide details of the incident.

“The situation is contained,” he said.

The shooting occurred shortly after 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) at the school about 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Indianapolis, and authorities said the school was placed on lockdown.

A student interviewed by WTTV said the shooter entered a science class and the teacher swatted a gun away from the shooter.

Danielle Sirilla, a spokeswoman for Indiana University Methodist Hospital said an adult was taken to the hospital while a teenager was taken to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health nearby. She said no information was available on their conditions.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, flying back from Europe, said in a statement that he was monitoring the situation.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected by this horrible situation,” he said, adding that about 100 State Police officers had been made available to work with local responders.

The incident occurred a week after a 17-year-old high school student in Santa Fe, Texas, near Houston shot and killed eight classmates and two teachers.

In contrast to Florida, where the killing of 17 teens and educators in February sparked a youth-led movement calling for new restrictions on gun ownership, the Texas tragedy saw elected officials and survivors alike voicing support for gun rights.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas and Ben Klayman in Detroit; editing by Tom Brown and Jonathan Oatis)

Head bowed, Florida shooting suspect returns to court for hearing

Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Stocker/Pool

By Katanga Johnson

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Reuters) – A former student accused of last week’s deadly shooting at a Florida high school returned to court for a hearing on Monday in a case that has galvanized advocates of stricter gun control, including many of the rampage survivors.

Nikolas Cruz, his head bowed, hands shackled at his waist and wearing a red, jail-issued jumpsuit, showed no emotion during the procedural session in Fort Lauderdale.

The hearing ended with Broward Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer ruling that a defense motion filed last week remain sealed from public view. The content of the motion, sealed by another judge, was not described in the hearing.

A man mourns next to the crosses and Stars of David placed in front of the fence of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to commemorate the victims of the mass shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

A man mourns next to the crosses and Stars of David placed in front of the fence of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to commemorate the victims of the mass shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

In a second hearing, Broward Circuit Court Judge Charles Greene ordered the release of parts of a mental health assessment of Cruz by the Florida Department of Children and Families in November 2016. The report has already been leaked to South Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper.

Cruz, who did not attend the second hearing, is facing 17 counts of premeditated murder after the attack on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, near Fort Lauderdale. It is the deadliest shooting ever at a U.S. high school.

The suspect, whose mother died in November, was investigated by authorities after videos surfaced on the social media platform Snapchat showing him cutting himself, the assessment by the Department of Children and Families said.

“Mr. Cruz has fresh cuts on both his arms. Mr. Cruz stated he plans to go out and buy a gun. It is unknown what he is buying the gun for,” the released report said.

In a statement, department secretary Mike Carroll said the records showed Cruz was getting mental health services before, during and after the assessment. Cruz was living with his mother and attending school when it concluded, he said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has acknowledged it failed to act on a tip called in last month warning that Cruz possessed a gun and the desire to kill.

Greene agreed to the request by Cruz’s team of public defenders to release the assessment. But he stopped short of allowing the release of details of Cruz’s mental health history and child abuse records.

Student survivors gathered with teachers and gun safety advocates to plan a visit to the state capital of Tallahassee on Wednesday. They will demand state lawmakers enact a ban on the sale of assault weapons in Florida.

The White House said on Monday that President Donald Trump supports efforts to improve federal background checks for gun purchases. Trump angered some students by suggesting in a tweet on Saturday that the FBI had missed signs that the shooter was troubled because it was distracted by its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Frank McGurty and Ian Simpson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler)

Pakistan court convicts 31 over campus lynching of student accused of blasphemy

Policemen keep guard near the central prison where a court convicted 31people over the campus lynching of a university student last year who was falsely accused of blasphemy, and sentenced one of them to death, in Haripur, Pakistan February 7, 2018.

By Jibran Ahmed

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – A Pakistani court on Wednesday convicted 31 people over the campus lynching of a university student who was falsely accused of blasphemy, and sentenced one of them to death, a defense lawyer said.

The killing of student Mashal Khan, 23, last year sparked an outcry and raised fresh questions about the misuse of a harsh blasphemy law, which stipulates the death sentence for insulting Islam or the Prophet Muhammad.

Barrister Ameerullah Chamkani told Reuters one of the 31 accused had been sentenced to death, five were jailed for life and the other 25 were jailed for four years.

The court acquitted 26 others out of a total of 57 people indicted by a court late last year.

Chamkani said one of the convicts, Imran Ali, had been sentenced to death because he had shot Mashal three times.

The accused were students, teachers and some officials of Abdul Wali Khan University named after a secular political leader in northwest Pakistan.

They all pleaded not guilty in the trial conducted at a high-security prison due to threats to defense lawyers and government prosecutors, Chamkani said.

Lawyers for those convicted were not available for comment.

Khan, a Muslim, was known as an intellectually curious student who liked to debate controversial social, political and religious issues.

He was attacked and killed by a mob on the campus on April 13 after a dormitory debate about religion.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue in Pakistan, where insulting Islam’s prophet is punishable by death, though no executions have been carried out for blasphemy.

Even a rumor of blasphemy can spark mob violence and there have been cases of people misusing the law to settle scores.

At least 67 people have been killed over unproven blasphemy allegations since 1990, according to human rights groups.

‘CONTINUE MY STRUGGLE’

In 2011, a bodyguard assassinated the liberal governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, after he called for the blasphemy laws to be reformed.

His killer, Mumtaz Qadri, who was executed last year, has been hailed as a martyr by religious hardliners.

A political party founded in Qadri’s honor has made blasphemy its central issue in the run-up to a general election later this year.

The party last year forced the government to retract within a day a change in electoral laws that it deemed blasphemous.

Party supporters also blocked the main road into Islamabad for nearly three weeks last year in a protest against a law minister they accused of blasphemy.

The government eventually gave in, agreeing to an army-brokered deal that included the resignation of the minister.

Khan’s father, Iqbal Khan, expressed satisfaction about the verdicts.

“I appreciate the court decision,” he told reporters in London in remarks broadcast live by Pakistan’s Geo TV.

Asked about the acquittals, the father said: “I will continue my struggle.”

Khan is visiting London to talk at various forums about his son’s case and the blasphemy law.

Khan’s family say they have been threatened since his death and his two sisters have had to drop out of school. Police guard his grave.

(Writing by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Robert Birsel)

U.S. student held in North Korea died of oxygen starved brain: coroner

FILE PHOTO: U.S. student Otto Warmbier speaks at a news conference in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 29, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA/File Photo

By Suzannah Gonzales

(Reuters) – An American student who had been imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months died from lack of oxygen and blood to the brain, an Ohio coroner said on Wednesday.

Otto Warmbier’s death on June 19 was due to an unknown injury that occurred more than a year before his death, Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said at a news conference.

“We don’t know what happened to him and that’s the bottom line,” Sammarco said.

Warmbier’s parents could not be reached for comment on the coroner’s report.

The University of Virginia student was held by North Korea from January 2016 until his release on June 15. Warmbier, 22, was returned to the United States in a coma.

The coroner and a Sept. 11 report by her office cited complications of chronic deficiency of oxygen and blood supply to the brain in Warmbier’s death. Only an external examination of the body rather than a full autopsy was conducted at the request of Warmbier’s family.

North Korea had blamed botulism and the ingestion of a sleeping pill for Otto Warmbier’s problems and dismissed torture claims.

Warmbier died days after arriving back in the United States.

The native of Wyoming, Ohio, had been arrested at the airport in Pyongyang as he prepared to leave the reclusive communist country. He had been traveling with a tour group.

Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for trying to take from his hotel an item bearing a propaganda slogan, North Korea’s state media reported.

Saying his son had been tortured, Fred Warmbier told Fox News in an interview on Tuesday, “As we looked at him and tried to comfort him, it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.”

“Great interview on @foxandfriends with the parents of Otto Warmbier: 1994 – 2017. Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea,” President Donald Trump said on Twitter following the interview’s broadcast.

In response to a question at the news conference, the coroner said there was no evidence of trauma to Warmbier’s teeth nor was there evidence of broken bones.

The coroner’s report said that Warmbier’s body had multiple scars varying in size, including a large irregular one measuring 4.3 by 1.6 inches on the right foot.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Iran denies appeal of jailed Princeton student: university

Xiyue Wang, a naturalized American citizen from China, arrested in Iran last August while researching Persian history for his doctoral thesis at Princeton University, is shown with his wife and son in this family photo released in Princeton, New Jersey, U.S. on July 18, 2017. Courtesy Wang Family photo via Princeton University/Handout via REUTERS

By Yeganeh Torbati

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Iranian authorities have denied the appeal of a Princeton University student who had been convicted on espionage charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison, the university and his wife said on Thursday.

Xiyue Wang, a history doctoral student and U.S. citizen who was conducting dissertation research in Iran in 2016 when he was detained by Iranian authorities, was accused by Iran of “spying under the cover of research,” a claim his family and university deny.

“Iranian authorities have denied Xiyue Wang’s appeal of his conviction and 10-year prison sentence for espionage that he did not attempt or commit,” Princeton University said in a statement. “We are distressed that his appeal was denied, and that he remains unjustly imprisoned.”

It was not immediately clear when exactly Wang’s appeal was denied. News of his detention in Iran and his 10-year sentence first came in mid-July.

“I am devastated that my husband’s appeal has been denied, and that he continues to be unjustly imprisoned in Iran on groundless accusations of espionage and collaboration with a hostile government against the Iranian state,” Wang’s wife, Hua Qu, said in a statement on Princeton’s website. “Our young son and I have not seen Xiyue in more than a year, and we miss him very much.”

Iran had said Wang was an American spy.

Qu said she worries about Wang’s health and well-being while he is in prison.

“We hope the Iranian officials can release him immediately so he can resume his studies at home and so that our family will be together again,” she said.

A spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A State Department official declined to offer specific information on Wang’s case, citing privacy concerns.

“We call for the immediate release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained in Iran so they can return to their families,” the official said.

President Donald Trump has taken a hard line against Iran and his administration has vowed to counter what it sees as Iran’s destabilizing policies in the Middle East.

Last month, the White House said Trump “is prepared to impose new and serious consequences on Iran unless all unjustly imprisoned American citizens are released and returned,” though it did not specify what those consequences might be.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

U.S. judge rejects Texas professors’ bid to halt student gun carry

FILE PHOTO: Members of the University of Texas of the Guns Free UT group that includes faculty and staff protest against a state law that allows for guns in classrooms at college campuses, in Austin, Texas, U.S. August 24, 2016. REUTERS/Jon Herskovitz/File Photo

By Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – A U.S. judge rejected efforts by three University of Texas professors to ban students from bringing guns to their classrooms after the state granted them that right last year, court documents showed on Friday.

Professors Jennifer Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter had argued in a federal district court in Austin that academic freedom and classroom debate could be chilled under the so-called “campus carry” law backed by the state’s Republican political leaders.

The law allows concealed handgun license holders aged 21 and older to bring handguns into classrooms and other university facilities, including the University of Texas system, one of the nation’s largest with more than 221,000 students.

“Plaintiffs present no concrete evidence to substantiate their fear,” U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel wrote in his decision dismissing the professors’ complaint. Defendants included Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, University President Gregory Fenves and the university’s Board of Regents.

Paxton, who backed the law, praised the decision.

“The fact that a small group of professors dislike a law and speculate about a ‘chilling effect’ is hardly a valid basis to set the law aside,” he said in a statement.

University of Texas professors had lobbied unsuccessfully to prevent the law, arguing the combination of youth, firearms and college life could make for a deadly situation. Fenves reluctantly allowed campus carry, saying last year he was compelled to do so under state law.

Republican lawmakers said campus carry could help prevent a mass shooting.

A lawyer for the professors said the ruling was narrow and did not address the plaintiffs’ constitutional concerns.

“The order accompanying the dismissal doesn’t reach the merits of either the professors’ substantive First Amendment claims or any aspect of their Second Amendment and Equal Protection claims,” attorney Renea Hicks said in an email.

As of the start of May, 10 states had provisions allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on public college campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks state laws.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

U.S. student, said to be in coma, released by North Korea

Otto Frederick Warmbier (C), a University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea since early January, is taken to North Korea's top court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo March 16, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo

By Eric Walsh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Otto Warmbier, a U.S. university student held captive in North Korea for 17 months, has been released, but a former U.S. official said on Tuesday he is in a coma and in urgent need of medical care.

Warmbier, 22, a University of Virginia student from suburban Cincinnati, was on his way back to the United States, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

“Otto has been in a coma for over a year now and urgently needs proper medical care in the United States,” said Bill Richardson, a veteran former diplomat and politician who has played a role in past negotiations with North Korea, said after speaking to Warmbier’s parents.

The family said they were told by North Korean officials, through contacts with American envoys, that Warmbier fell ill from botulism sometime after his March 2016 trial and lapsed into a coma after taking a sleeping pill, the Washington Post reported.

“In no uncertain terms North Korea must explain the causes of his coma,” Richardson, whose Center for Global Engagement had directly sought Warmbier’s release with the North Korean government, said in a statement.

Tillerson, at a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday, declined to comment on Warmbier’s condition. A person who answered the phone at Warmbier’s family’s Ohio residence said: “No comment, thank you” and hung up.

Warmbier’s release came as former U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea on Tuesday, returning to the increasingly isolated nuclear-armed country where he has previously met leader Kim Jong Un.

U.S. officials appeared to brush aside any speculation of a connection between Rodman’s controversial visit and Warmbier’s release.

A senior administration official said the Trump administration did not authorize Rodman’s trip. “This is him freelancing,” the official told Reuters.

The State Department is continuing to discuss the situation of three other detained Americans with North Korea, Tillerson said.

Since taking office in January, U.S. President Donald Trump has faced growing tensions with North Korea, which has conducted a series of ballistic missile tests in defiance of U.S. and international sanctions.

Warmbier was detained in January 2016 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March last year for trying to steal an item with a propaganda slogan, according to North Korean media.

“At the direction of the president, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea,” Tillerson said.

Richardson, a former Democratic congressman, U.N. Ambassador, U.S. energy secretary and ex-governor of New Mexico, welcomed Warmbier’s release but said “we are deeply concerned regarding his health.”

U.S. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio said: “Otto’s detainment and sentence was unnecessary and appalling, and North Korea should be universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior. Otto should have been released from the start.”

“Our son is coming home,” Fred Warmbier told the Washington Post. “At the moment, we’re just treating this like he’s been in an accident. We get to see our son Otto tonight.”

(Reporting by Eric Walsh; Additional reporting Steve Holland and Mark Hosenball; Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Marguerita Choy and James Dalgleish)

Arrest made in killing of University of Texas student

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – A 17-year-old boy has been arrested in connection with the killing of a University of Texas first-year dance student whose body was found on campus earlier this week, a local television station and Austin police said on Friday.

The arrest came the day after the victim was identified as Haruka Weiser, 18, of Oregon, who also was studying theater.

“A suspect is in custody,” the Austin Police Department said in a message on Twitter. Police did not provide details on the suspect, pending a news conference scheduled for Friday morning.

Austin television station KVUE, citing unnamed law enforcement sources, described the suspect as a 17-year-old boy and said firefighters provided an important tip that led helped police make the arrest.

Weiser was reported missing on Monday. Her body was found on Tuesday behind the university’s alumni center, near the main football stadium on the Austin campus, which is used by about 64,000 students, faculty and staff. Police have not released a cause of death.

Police had previously told reporters they had a person of interest in the death – a man seen in surveillance video on a bicycle near where the body was found.

Weiser left the drama building on Sunday night, likely headed for her dormitory, but never made it there, police said.

Her death sent shock waves through the university community, which held a vigil for Weiser on Thursday that was attended by hundreds of students, and it prompted a campus security review.

Gregory Fenves, president of the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement on Friday that increased police patrols will continue on campus.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Bill Trott)

Texas Cop Attends Graduation For Teen Who Lost His Parents

A Texas police officer went the extra mile when he attended the graduation of a senior who recently lost his parents.

Only a few days before Kazzie Portie’s high school graduation, officer Eric Ellison delivered bad news to the 18-year-old: Portie’s parents had been killed in a car accident. Without his parents to attend his upcoming graduation, Portie wasn’t sure if he would walk on stage. However, Ellison stepped in and encouraged the young man.

“I said, ‘You’re going to walk!’ Your mom and dad will have front-row seats looking down from heaven, and I’ll stand in their place. I’ve got your back,” Ellison told BuzzFeed News.

Portie not only received his diploma on Friday, but he also received a hug from Officer Ellison in front of a standing ovation from the audience.

“Seeing Officer Ellison there to congratulate me meant the world to me,” Portie stated to BuzzFeed News. “It was so nice to see that he actually showed a genuine care for me and my family’s situation instead of just being another ‘case.'”

Portie intends on attending college.