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North Carolina Department of Public Safety(FAYETTEVILLE, N.C.) -- An Amber Alert has been issued for a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety sent out an Amber Alert for Nevia Maihyanna Nixon, of Fayetteville, on Thursday morning.

Nixon was last seen on Sept. 25 along the 600 block of Welsh Place, according to police. She was reported as a runaway the next day and Fayettesville police initially issued a "runaway/missing person" notice about her, but the case has since been upgraded to an Amber Alert.

Sgt. Ranessa Wallace, spokeswoman for Fayetteville police, told ABC News that the department received "new information that raised concern, as well as she hadn't reached out to family members or friends, so that caused us to raise it to the level of an Amber Alert."

She said it was a possibility that Nixon was in danger.

"We can't rule it out," Wallace said.

Wallace would not say what information police received or where the information came from.

She did note that there has not been a confirmed sighting of Nixon since her disappearance.

Nevia's father, Carton Adams, pleaded for her return, saying she is a loving girl. Adams said she spends a lot of time on social media, but has not posted anything since Sept. 25.

"I would like to keep positive and believe that my baby is not in any danger, but she loves her family and Nevi would have reached out and came home or said something," he told ABC Fayetteville affiliate WTVD.

Nevia is described as 5'3" or 5'0" and weighing 170 lbs. She has dyed red hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information on her disappearance is urged to contact the Fayetteville Police Department at (910) 676-1538 or the tip line at (910) 484-8477.

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iStock(NEW YORK) -- Deaths by suicide among correctional officers so far in 2019 have tied the highest total ever recorded, according to the head of their union.

Year to date, 13 cases have been documented.

"We're on course for an all-time record of suicide of staff," Shane Fausey, the new CPL-33 Correctional Officers Union president, told ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.

Bureau of Prisons union officials for years have been calling for an increase in staffing to match skyrocketing incarceration rates.

Fausey said insufficient staffing and other job-related stressors could be contributing to the suicides, but the Bureau of Prisons doesn't have hard data on that.

"Unfortunately, the staffing crisis has lead into other issues for employees of the Bureau of Prisons," Fausey said. "There's a human factor to this staffing crisis."

According to a University of California, Berkeley Study in 2018, correctional officers are at a high risk for depression, PTSD and suicide.

The study, which focuses on California state prisons, and a survey conducted in 2017 showed that 10% of correctional officers said they'd considered taking their own life. Among adults in the U.S., about 3% reported having suicidal thoughts, while retired correctional officers, according to the study, reported a rate of 31%.

About 1 in 3 are dealing with PTSD, according to the study, with about half of the correctional officers surveyed reporting that they don't feel safe at work. Depression also affects about one-third of the officers.

Fausey said the Bureau of Prisons has no plan in place to track the deaths by suicide of correctional officers.

The Bureau of Prisons told ABC News the agency has an employee assistance program for staff and their immediate families. The bureau also said each facility around the country conducts training specific to preventing suicides, and if a location suffers one, more resources and support can be committed to that facility.

Suicides among those working in law enforcement have been dramatically increasing, with BLUE H.E.L.P., a group that tracks that data, reporting 2019 is on pace to be the deadliest year ever recorded.

New York City alone has lost 10 police officers in 2019.

"It's tragic that law enforcement suicides are on the rise, and it's important that officers know they aren't alone and there are resources available," said Don Mihalek, an ABC News contributor and former Secret Service Agent.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Three months after gunfire shattered a neighborhood block party, killing one person and injuring 11 in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, N.Y., police say they have a suspect in custody.

Brooklyn resident Kyle Williams, 20, has been charged with murder, attempted murder, criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment in connection with the shooting, which took place during the neighborhood's annual Old Timers Day event at Brownsville Playground on July 27.

Williams, who had no prior criminal history, was taken into custody on Wednesday following a wave of tips, authorities said.

"This was an important case to make," Police Commissioner James O'Neill said Thursday morning. "You think about what happened that night -- there's a crowd of hundreds of people [at a] "family event."

"It was important that we all work together to make sure we were able to identify who the shooter was and bring them to justice," O'Neill said.

The incident, which police at the time said may have been gang related, left the neighborhood badly shaken. The shots may have been an exchange of gunfire between two or more suspects, authorities said.

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kali9/iStock(KATY, Texas) -- A 29-year-old man was shot dead by intruders in his Texas home, though his wife and young children, who were also there, escaped without injury, authorities said.

Authorities rushed to the house in Katy, near Houston, just after midnight Wednesday morning, where they found neighbors performing CPR on resident Brenton Estorffe, said Jessica Reyes, spokeswoman for the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office.

Responders took over and 29-year-old Estorffe was pronounced dead at the scene, Reyes said.

The young dad was killed in a home invasion when intruders shot their way into the back of the house, Reyes told ABC News on Thursday.

Estorffe's wife and his 1-year-old and 3-year-old children were home at the time but all three were not hurt, said Reyes.

The intruders fled without stealing anything, Reyes said, and investigators are working to determine a motive.

The victim's wife reported two male suspects, but investigators do not have any additional suspect information, said Reyes.

"We have a homeowner here in Fort Bend County who's no longer with us. A father of two small children, breaks your heart," Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said, according to ABC Houston station KTRK. "Pray for this young wife and her two small children because they are without their father. He was there to protect his family."

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Over half a million people are in the dark across New England Thursday morning after a powerful Nor'easter struck overnight, bringing heavy rain, flooding and violent winds.

In the coastal Massachusetts town of Duxbury, Fire Capt. Rob Reardon told ABC News, "This whole town got hit pretty hard. You can tell by just the amount of trees, the wires, the damage to houses."

"Roads are blocked, schools are shut down because school buses can't access these streets at all," Reardon said. "We're having a difficult time trying to get to calls from one side of town to the other."

"Luckily no injuries," he added.

Over 500,000 customers were without power early Thursday across five states: Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

As the Nor'easter hammered the New England coast Wednesday night, the pounding wind gusts reached 90 mph on Cape Cod in Provincetown, and 70 mph in Boston.

On Long Island, winds gusted up to 54 mph and in Greenwich, Connecticut, winds reached 52 mph.

The most rainfall struck upstate New York, where some areas north of Albany saw up to 5 inches.

New London, Connecticut, saw 3 to 4 inches of rain, stranding people in cars. One person had to be rescued from a basement apartment, firefighters said.

The heaviest rain has left Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston, and is now hitting northern New York state and northern New England.

But strong wind gusts will be a major threat to D.C., New York City and Boston Thursday with winds forecast to reach more than 50 mph.

Northern New York and into Maine could see up to 3 more inches of rain Thursday.

Flooding is possible in northern New England Thursday morning and early afternoon.

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Courtesy Miguel Martinez(WASHINGTON) -- For asylum-seeker Miguel Angel Giron Martinez, getting to the U.S. border was the easy part.

It was the eight months afterward that he says was a nightmare.

In an interview with ABC News, Giron Martinez -- a 23-year-old student activist from Honduras who had his life threatened by the government -- claimed that he was kept in cramped conditions where men lined up for hours to use one of only three showers and was bounced around to different facilities in what he described as "endless detention."

At one point, he says he suffered a botched dental surgery in U.S. custody that was so painful he had no choice but to later extract part of the tooth himself, using only toilet paper to stop the bleeding.

Giron Martinez is one of several named plaintiffs seeking injunctive relief and class certification in a lawsuit against Kevin McAleenan, the former acting director of the Department of Homeland Security who stepped down last week, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcemen (ICE), Matthew Albence, and two other ICE officials.

The plaintiffs claim in the suit, which is ongoing in Washington, D.C. federal court, that the New Orleans field office of ICE has failed to follow agency directives for parole -- temporary release for those who have a "credible fear of persecution or torture" -- and instead have subjected them to indefinite detention "in remote immigration jails across the Deep South" despite satisfying the grounds for release, according to the complaint.

Giron Martinez claimed he was repeatedly denied parole despite being an ideal candidate; he had no criminal history, had a U.S. citizen willing to sponsor him, and was not considered to be a flight risk, according to his lawyers. He has since been granted asylum in the United States.

But some immigration lawyers say the harrowing details of Giron Martinez’s story raise serious questions about the U.S. treatment of asylum seekers. They say it highlights how unfair it is to deny parole to detainees who have no criminal history, who do not pose a flight risk, and should, under ICE's own parole directive, be granted parole.

Parole rates for detainees have been plummeting under the Trump administration and conditions under which detainees are held have come under scrutiny by advocates as well as the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General.

During his ordeal, Giron Martinez said it was his faith that helped him pull through.

“At nine at night, we would make our own religious circle,” he told ABC News. “Because we were asking God to help us. Because only God could help us.”

The ‘Ice Box’

Giron Martinez was a student political leader and a member of an opposition party who marched for justice and an end to corruption in his home country. In court documents and an interview, he said local police "threatened me with disappearance and death." But when his friends were murdered and his own life was threatened, he said he decided in October 2018 to leave home and family behind to seek asylum in the United States.

He traveled on foot with a caravan to the American border and said he received "death threats by narcotraffickers" along the way, according to his declaration in the federal lawsuit.

Upon arriving in Tijuana in November 2018, Giron Martinez faced the first obstacle -- a flood of migrants, like him, who were trying to enter the United States to seek asylum.

For more than two months, he said he patiently waited his turn. Then, on Jan. 14, 2019, Giron Martinez was granted entry at the San Ysidro port, near San Diego.

His first stop was the so-called “ice box” -- also known as the "hielera"-- a frigid holding room for migrants inside a facility run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Giron Martinez echoed what other migrants before him said about the "ice box." He claims he wasn’t provided a bed and had to sleep sitting up. The only thing officials gave him for warmth was an aluminum blanket, he maintained.

CBP has said its facilities are intended to hold people briefly -- the goal is no more than 72 hours -- until they can be processed and moved to other government facilities. But 2019 marked a radical increase in the number of people trying to cross the border -- nearly one million undocumented migrants -- almost double the amount in prior years.

Giron Martinez said he spent nearly a week in the "ice box" before being handed over to ICE on Jan. 20.

The Pain

Giron Martinez said he was cuffed and taken to a detention center in Mississippi. From there, he says he was transferred to another detention center, this time in Louisiana, and then another. He would spend the greater part of a year under the jurisdiction of the New Orleans ICE Field Office.

While he was being held in the Jackson Parish Correctional Center in Louisiana, where he was transferred around March 21, Giron Martinez said he started experiencing severe pain in one of his teeth, so he asked to have it removed.

“I was asking every day for six weeks,” Giron Martinez told ABC News. “And they finally came to take it out. And when they took it out, they somehow botched the job. They left a little bit of molar still in there and they sewed me back up.”

He says the pain never stopped. According to his declaration, the dentist told him he needed to see a specialist to have the rest of the tooth removed, but when he was moved to a different facility, Winn, over the summer, he claims he was told there were no specialists.

About three months later, he said he noticed the rest of that tooth was protruding a little. So he decided to take matters into his own hands, removing his own tooth, without anesthetic. To help clot the blood, he shoved toilet paper into his mouth, he said in an interview.

Giron Martinez said he couldn't access his health records because he had been transferred and was not able to see a dentist at Winn, according to his declaration.

He also claims that he was confined to a room about the size of a tennis court with what he estimated to be 140 other men. There was no air conditioning and only three showers for the men he shared the room with, he claimed. The officers put two giant fans at either end of the room, but it still stunk with heat and sweat, he said.

Giron Martinez said he was rarely away from the stench and was let outside for 30 minutes once a week. Rusted iron bunk beds filled the entire space. Some of the men spent their days laying down, others huddled in conversation, and many lined up for hours waiting for a shower, he said during the interview.

ICE disputes some of the details of the conditions at the Jackson Parish Correctional Center. A spokesman said the room’s capacity was only 100 men and that they were allowed outside for one hour a day, weather permitting. ICE also said Giron Martinez would have had access to six showers and that the air conditioning worked every day but two while he was at Jackson Parish.

Giron Martinez’s description of deficiencies at the detention centers tracks with conditions described by an internal DHS watchdog. In other ICE facilities around the country in 2018, the Homeland Security inspector general reported expired and moldy foods were in kitchen refrigerators and some migrants were kept in "standing-room-only conditions.”

“Cruelty is the point,” said Luz Lopez, a senior attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, which represents Giron Martinez and others in the federal class action lawsuit.

“They want to be as cruel as possible so everyone will talk,” Lopez said. ”And then they will tell anyone who is thinking of coming to not because the conditions are so horrible.”

0% Parole Rate

Giron Martinez passed his credible fear interview (which is part of an asylum claim), proved his identity and that he was not a danger to society -- the general qualifications for parole barring other considerations. He also had a U.S. citizen, Tanya Hartley, willing to sponsor him -- a strong indication that he was not a flight risk, according to his lawyers. Hartley told ABC News that she met Giron Martinez in December 2018 at the border where she was volunteering. After a few weeks of 'vetting' him herself, she said, she agreed to become his sponsor. Giron Martinez was the first -- and is the only -- asylum seeker Hartley has sponsored.

But for each of the three times Giron Martinez requested parole from the New Orleans ICE Field Office, he was denied. ICE claims he was a flight risk, but did not give any guidance or specific proof to this claim other than checking a box on his form. He was not the only one. According to a September memorandum opinion by Judge James Boasberg in Giron Martinez's case, no one has been released on parole by the New Orleans office this year.

Three years ago, under President Barack Obama, the office operated very differently. In 2016, more than 75% of asylum seekers under its jurisdiction were granted parole, Boasberg's memo said.

While parole remains largely discretionary and based on a case-by-case basis, Boasberg said it is likely that the New Orleans ICE field office is ignoring ICE's own parole procedures by denying parole on such a large scale.

"The numbers and the affidavits provide a powerful case - one the Government barely attempts to rebut - that the New Orleans Field Office no longer follows the dictates of the Parole Directive," Boasberg wrote in the September opinion.

In an order in September, Boasberg granted the plaintiffs' motions for class certification and preliminary injunction against the New Orleans field office, and ordered them to follow their own rules and grant parole on an individualized basis for ‘arriving aliens.’

The order prohibits the field office from denying parole without going through the parole process for each individual.

In October, Boasberg ruled that the field office would have to produce a report for all parolees denied before Sept. 5, 2019 (the day of the preliminary injunction) and a monthly report for all those who arrive after and give detainees notice of the class action lawsuit and contact information for the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

$31,000 Jail Bill for Taxpayers

Bryan Cox, a spokesman for ICE, declined to comment on the court case, noting that “ICE generally does not comment on pending litigation.” But he advised that ICE complies "with court orders” and that “the agency is currently reviewing the court’s ruling to determine appropriate next steps."

On Aug. 13, 2019, Giron Martinez was granted asylum by an immigration judge, but he still wasn’t allowed to go free. The Department of Homeland Security appealed the ruling, so Giron Martinez was forced to spend an additional 30 days in detention, according to his lawyer. When asked about the appeal, ICE had no comment.

DHS has not responded to ABC News' request for comment.

Finally, on Sept. 13 -- almost eight months to the day since crossing the border legally -- Giron Martinez was released and granted full asylum. He now lives in Southern California with a U.S. citizen host, Rachel Bruhnke, who knows Honduras well since she lived there for three years as a Peace Corps volunteer. She is providing him housing and support, as well as helping him assimilate to American life. He is currently studying English.

All in, Giron Martinez spent 236 days in ICE custody, costing the U.S. taxpayer roughly $31,621 -- based on the average per bed cost for an adult of $133.99 per day according to ICE’s 2018 budget.

Giron Martinez looks at his suffering from a bigger picture.

“I feel like God has always been with me,” Giron Martinez said. “Because no matter what, I seem to be getting out of it.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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mrtom-uk/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A Georgia school district backtracked on its progressive transgender bathroom policy on Wednesday after staff members said they received death threats over the issue.

Pickens County Superintendent Carlton Wilson reversed a decision that allowed transgender students to use the restroom that best matches their gender identity, claiming the move had caused harassment, vandalism and even death threats.

The district had implemented the policy in the wake of the Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County case, which ruled that Drew Adams, a transgender student at Nease High School in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, could use the boys’ bathroom during his final year there.

Pickens County cited "many serious safety concerns" in a statement on Wednesday when it announced its decision to roll back the pro-trans gender policy.

"School board members, staff, and students have been threatened due to the administration's implementation of Adams v. School Board of St. Johns County School District," the Pickens County Board of Education said in a statement Wednesday. "There have been death threats, student harassment, and vandalism of school property."

The district, which said it has several students who identify as transgender, said it will revert back to its previous bathroom procedures "until it can consult with law enforcement and other safety professionals so that these concerns can be addressed." The reversal means transgender students will go back to using single-stall private bathrooms that were once reserved only for faculty members.

"The district understands and acknowledges that it has the responsibility to protect its staff and students. However, the district has concerns that it may not be able to meet these increased demands," the statement said. "We ask that all of our stakeholders exercise patience and discretion until these matters can be resolved."

Wilson told Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB-TV that he was shocked by the extreme hatred ignited by the policy. He said he experienced the threats firsthand.

"The way some called names has been embarrassing and disappointing to me, and that's hard to get over," Wilson said. "One of them said, 'You know, situations like this brings out crazy people from both sides and sometimes people die.'"

"They're kids. They are all kids and none deserved to be treated the way some of them have been treated," he added.

Multiple federal courts have ruled students should be able to use bathrooms that match their preferred genders, but many Pickens County residents said they disapproved.

"I think the boys ought to go to the boys' and girls ought to go to girls' bathroom," Pickens County resident Barbara Padgett told WSB.

Similarly, Becky Hernandez, a Pickens County parent, suggested a separate, but equal type of policy.

"There are multiple bathrooms throughout schools," she said. "Make one set your transgender bathrooms and keep the other ones so everyone has an option."

"I'm not against the transgender students. ... I want to make sure everybody's safe," she added.

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Utah Highway Patrol via Twitter(CENTERVILLE, Utah) -- An officer with the Utah Highway Patrol said he was still trying to "process" the terrifying moment when he pulled a man out of the path of an oncoming train.

The rescue of the dramatic save was caught on Utah State Trooper Ruben Correa's dashboard camera.

The video, taken Wednesday around 6:50 a.m. in Centerville, Utah, showed Correa stopping his patrol vehicle and racing up a short embankment toward a car that was parked on the train tracks with its lights on.

Correa risked his life to pull the man out as a train barreled toward them.

Correa had been making a traffic stop when a call came in about a car stuck on the tracks, he told Salt Lake City ABC affiliate KTVX-TV on Wednesday after the incident.

"I looked to my left, and I was able to observe that train was coming fast. Anywhere from 50 to 80 miles an hour," Correa told KTVX.

In the dashboard video, lights from the front of a train can be seen growing brighter as it gets closer.

The video shows Correa reaching the car and tugging on a person in the vehicle. Correa said later during the news interview that the driver was unconscious.

"Let's go! Get out of here! We've got a train coming! We've got a train coming!" he can be heard yelling desperately as the train sounds its horn. "We've got a train coming!"

With just seconds before the train struck the vehicle, dragging it along the tracks, Correa could be seen pulling the man's body from the car. The two tumbled down the embankment and rolled into a fence. The train could be seen stopping.

"Come on! Come on!" Correa tells the man, who has started to move and walk, as the two try to get away from the train.

"I got the driver out," he can be heard saying on his radio.

Correa estimated that the car had been thrown about 30 feet in front of him and the driver.

"I was within seconds of that collision. Maybe just a second later it would have been a different outcome," he said.

KTVX-TV said there were no known injuries to the driver or to those on the train. Correa said it appeared that the driver of the vehicle, who has not been identified, had been suffering an "unknown medical condition."

He said the driver was grateful for being rescued and a little confused about the incident. As for Correa, he said he was just doing his job.

"I'm still trying to process everything that happened," Correa said. "I’m just very grateful I was able to get him out alive. He's back with his family now."

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Broward Sheriffs Office(HOLLYWOOD, Fla.) -- Two women spiked a tourist's drink at a South Florida casino before bringing him back to his hotel room and robbing him of $1,000 cash and a Rolex worth $15,000, authorities said.

Newly released surveillance video from the Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood shows the victim talking to the pair after they approached him while he was playing poker.

Afterward, the group moves over to the slot machines. The surveillance video, recorded Sept. 13, shows one of the women pouring a substance into the man's drink and giving it to him, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.

The man told police he began to feel the effects of the drug and had difficulty moving. The video shows the women escorting the victim to a vehicle outside the casino. All three of them were dropped off at the man's hotel in nearby Dania Beach, authorities said.

According to police, the man says he lost consciousness after returning to his hotel room. When the man woke up the next day he realized he was missing $1,000 as well as a gold and silver Rolex worth about $15,000.

Detectives released security video of the incident hoping that someone might help identify the women. A reward of up to $3,000 has been offered in the case.

Authorities did not say what substance may have been added to the man's drink.

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vmargineanu/iStock(SEMINOLE, Fla.) -- Police arrested a Florida teenager on Wednesday when he allegedly threatened to carry out a mass shooting at school after getting into a fight.

The 14-year-old student at LiFT Academy School in Seminole allegedly told a classmate that he planned to shoot up the school shortly after he was forced to withdraw from classes due to an altercation, police said.

School officials gave his parents the option to withdraw him or have him expelled on Tuesday over an altercation that occurred last week, police said. Shortly after being withdrawn, the teen allegedly sent text messages to a female classmate, saying, "I'm finna shoot that school up," the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

He allegedly expressed plans to target at least two students and a school faculty member specifically, the statement said. Investigators said they became aware of the threats when a parent of the classmate notified the school, triggering a temporary lockdown.

Police located the suspect at his home on Wednesday. They said he admitted to sending the messages, but investigators confirmed that he did not have a weapon, according to the statement.

"An adult family member allowed deputies to search the residence and it was determined that [the suspect] had no access to any firearms," the statement said. "He admitted to deputies he sent the threats because he was 'mad.'"

He was arrested on charges of written threats to kill or do bodily injury and was transported to the Pinellas County Juvenile Assessment Center without incident.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said it is still investigating the incident.

"The Sheriff's Office will continue to investigate all complaints of this nature," the statement said. "We encourage the public to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately and we will diligently investigate all reported information."

There have been several similar arrests in recent months, including a number in Florida. Two students were arrested on Aug. 22 in unrelated incidents in Davie, Florida, and Brandon, Florida. A 16-year-old was arrested on Sept. 12 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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boonsom/iStock(WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla.) -- A Florida school resource officer was terminated for accidentally discharging his weapon while fidgeting with it in a school cafeteria.

Jonathan Cross, an officer at Thomas E. Weightman Middle School in Pasco County, was fired on Wednesday, concluding a months-long investigation that began earlier this year when his service pistol accidentally discharged just a few feet away from students, police said.

Investigators concluded that Cross had been moving the gun up and down in its holster, which caused the weapon to fire on April 30.

Cross, 45, admitted that he had a terrible habit of fidgeting with his weapon, Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said Wednesday.

There were about 10 students in the cafeteria at the time. At least one student claimed to have seen Cross fidgeting with his gun in the past.

"His actions with his weapon caused it to fire,” Nocco said. "I just want to thank God that no one's kids in that lunch room were hurt. … It's sad what we have to do today. It would have been tragic if a child was harmed."

Nocco said surveillance footage showed Cross leaning on a wall and lifting the pistol up and down, but it’s unclear if his finger was on the trigger. The bullet hit the wall behind him and no one was hurt.

He said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted an independent test of the weapon and confirmed that it did not malfunction.

“Ultimately, it comes down to, if you leave the gun in the holster, it’s not going to go off,” Nocco said. "Our members are trained on our weapons on proper handling. The actions the former member displayed are nothing that we train."

"We train for the opposite, that every time you use that weapon, you have to remember it is a deadly weapon," he added.

He said the officer was terminated for "conduct unbecoming and use and mishandling of a weapon." The officer had been placed on administrative leave pending investigation.

The sheriff's office presented the case to the State Attorney's Office, which decided against criminal charges.

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JSABBOTT/iStock(CROCKETT, Calif.) -- California officials are investigating the cause of a fire this week at an energy facility that brought a major interstate highway to a halt and forced thousands of residents to shelter in place for hours, including the possibility that it was sparked by the 4.5 magnitude earthquake on Monday.

“I’m confident our investigators can work around the structure to determine the cause of the fire,” said Contra Costa County Fire Department Public Information Officer Steve Hill, whose department is leading the investigation. He added: “Anything related to the earthquake would be speculation at this point."

The inferno, which began Tuesday afternoon at the NuStar Energy plant in Crockett, involved two large tanks that held ethanol, an additive used for vehicle fuel. The tanks contained at least 250,000 gallons, according to the Contra Costa Fire Department. NuStar said that that volume makes up only about 1% of the tank capacity.

One of the tanks exploded, sending its roof flying into the air and then crashing to the ground. Nearby residents said the explosion was so powerful that they thought it was a second earthquake on the heels of Monday’s 4.5 tremor, which hit around 15 miles from the energy plant.

Thick black smoke rose through the air, impeding the work of first responders. A related vegetation fire also broke out in the area, affecting approximately 14 acres.

Immediately following the outbreak, NuStar enacted it’s emergency response procedures, which includes cooling adjacent tanks “to minimize the risk of the fire spreading” and contacting all regulatory agencies, the energy facility said in a statement.

Contra Costa Fire, which responded to the alarm, used water and foam to fight the blaze and has since been keeping foam blankets to smother the fire and prevent oxygen from getting to the ethanol. These blankets also help to protect flareups so nearby tanks, which hold ethanol and jet fuel, don’t catch fire too. Officials say these tanks are being examined to ensure structural integrity.

“We’re examining one in particular,” said Hill.

“We believe that it is safe. We want to make absolutely sure and so that assessment team is in there looking at that one tank right now. The rest of the tanks we were concerned about all day yesterday, we determined they maintained their structural integrity. They are safe,” he continued.

While there were no employee injuries, one NuStar employee was unable to evacuate and was forced to hid in a culvert until he was rescued by first responders. One firefighter, however, did sustain minor injuries.

The fire, which shut down both directions of Interstate 80, caused major delays during the rush hour period and forced frustrated drivers to seek alternate routes. The highway eventually reopened late Tuesday night.

Residents in surrounding areas were forced to shelter in place for several hours, including children who were forced to shelter in schools as the air conditions were not safe enough to allow parents to pick up their kids. By Wednesday though, officials say there is no ongoing public health threat and the shelter in place had been lifted.

“One of the things that the assessment team that is in the facility right now is doing is they are looking at a solution of mitigating the vapor emissions that are coming off of both of those where the tanks location were,” said Hill.

“What’s happened is the two tanks that burned were more or less destroyed in the fires and the secondary containment facilities which are earth and berms around those tanks are now holding the remainders of the materials that were in the tanks,” he added.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Heavy rain, gusty winds and possibly flash flooding are headed to the Northeast as a nor'easter strengthens off the coast.

The heavy rain is pushing across Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia Wednesday afternoon.

The heavy rain will then move to New York City, bringing a rough evening commute for those in Philadelphia, New York and parts of New England.

Some spots in New Jersey and New York could see up to 4 inches of rain as well as flash flooding.

The rain will last in New York City until about 10 p.m. Boston will see its heaviest rain overnight, clearing out after 4 a.m.

By Thursday morning the heavy rain will be confined to northern New England. It'll clear out early afternoon.

Winds are also a major concern.

Wind gusts along the New Jersey coast and Long Island could reach 60 mph Wednesday night through Thursday morning. The highest gusts will likely be in southeastern New England, with gusts possibly reaching 70 mph.

On Thursday, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston could all see gusts reaching 50 mph -- which could cause flight delays and cancellations.

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tillsonburg/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The death by suicide suffered on Tuesday by the New York Police Department was the second in the U.S. within 24 hours, continuing a worrying trend among law enforcement.

It was the NYPD's 10th so far this year, and it came on the heels of an officer in Montgomery County, Maryland, originally presumed murdered, dying by suicide less than a day earlier.

The NYPD confirmed a 35-year-old, off-duty sergeant died by suicide Tuesday night. The officer was discovered at his home in Queens with a self-inflicted gunshot wound and pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital in Queens around 10 p.m.

In Maryland, a manhunt spawned by the death of an on-duty police officer, including a SWAT team and highway closures, was suspended after the medical examiner's office on ruled that he'd also died of a self-inflicted wound.

The two deaths highlight a growing epidemic in the U.S., as Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit that tracks law enforcement suicides, has reported that 169 officers have taken their lives so far in 2019.

"This is a problem that affects every police department, whether it's large or small. More officers will take their own life than die in the line the duty," Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told ABC News.

PERF hosted a summit on law enforcement suicide in New York in April, bringing together departments from around the country to try and address the problem. The Big Apple has been hit especially hard this year.

"The tempo for the New York City Police Department is unforgiving -- job demands, financial restraints and living in New York is a challenge," said Jon Adler, the former Bureau of Justice Programs director at the Department of Justice and a former law enforcement officer in New York.

Adler said being in a large city could mean many officers are exposed to more or more stressful events, which Adler described as "a greater frequency and horrible scenes and scenarios, and what can knock down an officer's mental wall -- a sheer volume of negative memories can have a dire impact."

Nick Steen, a retired Secret Service Agent, told ABC News he believes the tides are changing for the law enforcement community, in terms of addressing the issue.

"As a senior leader, I believe that attitude is changing a bit, and I can say that the issue of suicide is being addressed, albeit slowly," Steen told ABC News. "Little things like having official ceremonies and having suicide recognized as in the line of duty death are helping."

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Chris Ryan/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A Wisconsin man who claimed that the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting never happened was ordered to pay $450,000 to the father of a boy killed in the massacre.

Lenny Pozner, whose son, Noah, was killed in the shooting at the Connecticut elementary school that left 26 dead, filed a defamation lawsuit against James Fetzer in November 2018.

On Tuesday, a Dane County jury decided on the amount Fetzer must pay Pozner, according to one of Pozner's attorneys.

Fetzer co-authored a book titled Nobody Died at Sandy Hook. In it, he argued that the shooting was a hoax meant to promote gun control. Fetzer has made similar claims on his website.

Fetzer maintained his position Tuesday in a statement to ABC News, calling those who died in the shooting "alleged 'victims'" who had their death certificates fabricated. He also said the law was used against him "as an instrument of oppression."

He plans to appeal.

Pozner thanked the jury "for recognizing the pain and terror that Mr. Fetzer has purposefully inflicted on me and on other victims of these horrific mass casualty events, like the Sandy Hook shooting," according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

"Mr. Fetzer has the right to believe that Sandy Hook never happened," he said. "He has the right to express his ignorance. This award, however, further illustrates the difference between the right of people like Mr. Fetzer to be wrong and the right of victims like myself and my child to be free from defamation, free from harassment and free from the intentional infliction of terror."

Emily Feinstein, one of Pozner's attorneys, said the team was very pleased with the outcome. She also applauded Pozner's courage for testifying in the two-day trial, which was attended by many supporters of Fetzer.

"I can't even imagine how hard it was for our client," Feinstein said.

Pozner created his nonprofit, HONR Network, to end the continued harassment he said he faced online from people claiming Sandy Hook was a hoax.

"People like Fetzer who hide behind their computer screen and terrorize people grappling with the most unimagined grief were put on notice today … We will continue to stand up for our rights to be free of your attempts to use our tragedy and our pain to line your pockets or gain internet 'likes,'" he said in a statement back in June.

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