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Texas court: State flag-desecration law unconstitutional

AUSTIN (AP) -- A longtime Texas law against desecrating the U.S. or state flag has been ruled unconstitutional by the state's highest criminal court.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday rebuked the 26-year-old ban that state lawmakers had approved shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court tossed a nearly identical law in 1989. There are few reported cases of the law having ever been enforced.

But it was challenged after police in the small Texas town of Lovelady arrested then-20-year-old Terence Johnson in 2012 after he threw a store's U.S. flag onto the street. Johnson, who is black, told authorities he was upset over alleged racial comments made by a clerk.

Writing for the Republican-dominated appeals court in a 6-3 decision, Judge Sharon Keller said the law is "invalid on its face."

Missing Hardin County man found

HARDIN COUNTY -- The Hardin County Sheriff's Office said today Robert Howard Davis has been found.

Deputies reported that Davis' family  last heard from the 48-year-old man on September 9 when they reported him missing.

If you have any questions please contact Sgt. Mark Minton at the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office.

Accident in Orange County kills driver

ORANGE COUNTY - A driver from Louisiana has died in an accident in Orange County.

The Department of Public Safety says at about 1 p.m. Wednesday a driver traveling at a high rate of speed lost control of his car at the Simmons Drive exit on I-10 East. The vehicle went down the exit ramp in a side skid, continued over a curb and struck a metal beam.  

The driver, a 23-year-old man from Louisiana, was pronounced dead at the scene by Justice of the Peace Derry Dunn. 

The victim's name will not be released until his family has been notified.  

This is an ongoing crash investigation and there are no further details to be released at this time.


Police: First responders at UCC are military vets who ran toward gunfire, 'saved lives'

ROSEBURG, Ore. (Sinclair Broadcast Group) -- In a press conference updating the investigation of the shooting at Umpqua Community College, authorities confirmed the names of the two officers who engaged in gunfire with the shooter, shortly before he killed himself.

Chief Jim Burge of the Roseburg Police Department said Sgt. Joe Kaney, and Det. Todd Spingath were first to arrive on-scene. They were in plain clothes, without body armor, but still ran toward the gunfire at Snyder Hall.

"They knew that they could be injured or killed as they ran toward the sound of gunfire" he said.



According to Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin, both officers saw 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer in the doorway of a classroom, firing rounds at the students inside. The officers fired a total of three rounds, one of which hit Mercer "in the right side."

Shortly after being hit, the sheriff said Mercer waked to the front of the classroom and killed himself.

"I want everyone to know of the selfless acts of these officers that they made in responding to this scene" Hanlin said.



Chief Burge described the two public servants during the press conference, both hardened veterans of the military and police department.

Sgt. Kaney, a former Marine, has been with the department for 23 years, receiving a medal of honor and purple heart for his service in a previous shooting incident in 2005 - where he was wounded in the ankle.

His coworker, Det. Spingath, was described as an Air Force veteran, employed with the department for 16 years. He was the recipient of a medal of valor for his role in the same 2005 shooting.

Two Special Tactics Airmen passing through on cross-country march

SILSBEE  -- Two Special Tactics Airmen walk through town just north of Beaumont today in a march across the country to honor their 19 fallen airmen.

Stay tuned to KFDM at noon  and for updates.

The photo is from the two walking near Silsbee in the 24/7 walk. 

You can get updates on the march through twitter: @USAFSpecTactics

This march is in remembrance of Capt Roland and SSgt Sibley (see attached photos), who were killed in action last month. The ten-day march is held only when a Special Tactics Airman is killed in action.

They invite the locals to join the  march, as well as opportunities to share the story of sacrifice and service within Air Force Special Tactics. 


'Unconfirmed threat' closes Southern Oregon U. Ashland campus

ASHLAND, Ore. (Sinclair Broadcast Group) — Southern Oregon University's Ashland campus was closed Wednesday due to an "unconfirmed threat," according to an alert posted on the school's website.



A post on SOU's Facebook page alleges the threat came in the form of a handwritten note that was found in a campus building. KATU reports the note was found in a women's bathroom in the education/psychology building.


The university said Ashland Police are investigating the threat and Campus Public Safety would also have a "highly increased" presence.



"We take all these threats against us and we assess 'em and we make decisions based on how comfortable we feel with exposing our students and our employees to threats," SOU Director of Public Safety Frederick Creek told KTVL, adding that students are in good spirits despite the threat. "And we've made a decision to take this posture and we stand by it."


Students were notified of the closure Tuesday night.



And we've made a decision to take this posture and we stand by it." Students were notified of the closure Tuesday night. All classes and activities--including active shooter training--were canceled Wednesday on the Ashland campus and only essential personnel were required to report for duty.


Students who live on campus were instructed to remain in their dorms until further notice. Counselors were available to meet with students on campus. SOU's Higher Education Center in Medford was expected to remain open.


The SOU threat comes just six days after nine people were killed in a shooting rampage at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, a roughly 120-mile drive north of Ashland. On Monday, Rogue Community College campuses in Grants Pass, Medford and White Citywere evacuated due to a bomb threat.

New auto safety technologies leave some drivers bewildered

JOAN LOWY, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Many Americans buying new cars these days are baffled by a torrent of new safety technology.

Some features will automatically turn a car back into its lane if it begins to drift, or hit the brakes if sensors detect that it's about to rear-end someone else. There are lane-change and blind-spot monitors, drowsiness alerts and cars that can park themselves. 

Technologies once limited to high-end models like adaptive cruise control, tire-pressure indicators and rear-view cameras have become more common.

The features hold tremendous potential to reduce deaths and injuries by eliminating collisions or mitigating their severity, safety advocates say.

But there's one problem: Education on how to use them doesn't come standard. Bewildered drivers sometimes just turn them off, defeating the safety potential.

"If people don't understand how that works or what the car is doing, it may startle them or make them uncomfortable," said Deborah Hersman, president of the National Safety Council. "We want to make sure we're explaining things to people so that the technology that can make them safer is actually taken advantage of."

The council and the University of Iowa, along with the Department of Transportation, kicked off an education campaign Wednesday to inform drivers on how the safety features work. 

The effort includes a website,, with video demonstrations, and new public service announcements designed to raise awareness of the technologies online, at gas pumps around the country, in print and television.

Drivers express uncertainty over how technologies work

In a survey by the university, a majority of drivers expressed uncertainty about the way many of the safety technologies work. About 40 percent reported that their vehicles had behaved in unexpected ways. 

The least understood technology was adaptive cruise control, which can slow or speed up a vehicle in order to maintain a constant following distance. That technology has been available in some models for at least a decade.

The features vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, from model to model and from one options package to another.

Joe Kraemer, 70, a retired accountant from Arlington, Virginia, said the first time he drove his wife's 2015 E-Series Mercedes he nearly jumped out of his seat. He was beginning to change lanes when suddenly there was a piercing "beep beep beep beep. ..."

Now when that happens, his wife tells him: "Relax. It's just that you have somebody in your blind spot and you're about to kill us."

Kraemer's wife, who has been driving for 50 years, has been back to the dealer twice for hour-long lessons on how to use the car's features.

"She's really learning a computer," he said.

Dealers may not be willing to spend much time with drivers

But as the technologies become more available in lower-priced models, dealers may not be willing to spend as much time with drivers as Mercedes has with Kraemer's wife.

Owner's manuals are also falling short, safety advocates say. They have become "documents written by lawyers for lawyers," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director at the Center for Auto Safety.

"From perhaps a 50-page understandable document 20 years ago, they have gone to a 500-page opus that is intimidating to all but the most studious car buyer," he said.

Some manufacturers offer CDs or DVDs on how to use safety systems, but "most of the time drivers don't actually take the time to review them," said Peter Kissinger, president of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Up to drivers to hit brakes

A study by the foundation of early safety technology adopters found that some drivers believed collision warning systems would brake to stop their vehicles for them, when actually the systems only alert drivers to an impending collision. It's still up to the driver to hit the brakes.

"That's a dangerous scenario," Kissinger said.

Some collision mitigation systems, increasing in availability, do more than warn, actually applying the brake if the driver doesn't act quickly enough. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced last month that it has reached voluntary agreements with 10 automakers to make automatic braking standard in their cars, although there is no timeline yet.

Ray Harbin, 67, AARP's state volunteer coordinator for driver safety courses in Montana, said the frustration seniors experience learning new-car technology is similar to what they feel when they are forced to adapt to software changes in computers like a new version of the operating system.

"I'm confident that we're never going to get people to understand all the things their cars can do," he said. "It's just like buying a new computer. You're never going to understand all the capabilities of your computer. The cars are made now for the very best and most intuitive drivers, and we're not all that way."

Classes for drivers

Tom Pecoraro, a retired police officer who owns "I Drive Smart" schools in California, Maryland and Virginia, said the state-required curriculums taught in driving schools are typically about 15 years behind the latest technology. 

Classes introduce students to anti-lock brakes and airbags but are unlikely to mention adaptive cruise control and automatic braking.

"Most people don't even know how to get to their spare tire, let alone understand the technology," he said. "People want to get in their cars and drive. They want to turn the key and have it all work."



University of Iowa/National Safety Council


Alabama sheriff's deputy comforts child after crash on I-20

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Alabama ( -- A car accident can be traumatizing for anyone, especially for an infant or toddler.


A child who was involved in a crash on Interstate 20 near Leeds found comfort in the arms of Deputy Ric Lindley of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. A photo of Lindley holding the child was shared on social media, and it has since gone viral.


"There was a lady getting out of the car, and she had a small infant with her, and so I went to talk to her and she was shaken up, that's understandable," Lindley said. "And so I asked if I could hold the baby while she composed herself."




Lindley, a father of three and a "Pop" to his 12-year-old granddaughter, said his experiences as a parent trained him for today's heartwarming encounter with the child. (Here's a fun fact about Lindley: He delivered two of his three sons himself!)


"We can be hard sometimes, that's just the nature of the beast, but at other times, we're not machines, we're not computers, we are human beings," he said. "We have feelings and we try to treat people out here just like we would want someone to treat our children or our spouses or our parents."


Lindley was quick to credit his partner for his help at the crash scene.


"If it wasn't for Deputy Tim Sanford, we wouldn't be standing here."


One of ABC 33/40's followers on Facebook shared the following comment after seeing the touching photo:


"This is what most officers are made of. Thank you for your everyday work and thank you for your kind heart.. May God bless you and may God also watch all that was in the accident!!"

Another viewer said, "Awww that's absolutely beautiful! That's a papa right there!"


Authorities said multiple vehicles, including an ambulance and 18-wheeler, were involved in the wreck.

Round 2: Downstream South Carolina towns brace for flooding

GEORGETOWN, S.C. (AP) --Along South Carolina's coast, residents were preparing for a second round of flooding as rivers swollen from days of devastating rains make their way toward the Atlantic.


Residents near a dam in Richland County were told to evacuate Wednesday morning, with authorities saying the dam could breach at any time.


Crews worked overnight to try to stabilize the Beaver Dam after a sinkhole formed nearby, pumping water out of the pond to relieve pressure on the dam.


The President has declared South Carolina a Major Disaster zone. Several counties are already qualified for FEMA assistance, and we are continuing to assess and add to that number over the next few days and weeks. If you have sustained losses or damage due to the flooding, you can register with FEMA to see whether you are eligible for assistance. To apply, call 1-800-621-3362 or go to

A photo posted by Governor Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) on Oct 6, 2015 at 3:00pm PDT


Videos: Georgetown cleans up while waiting for Upstate floodwater to flow

In Georgetown, one of America's oldest cities, Scott Youngblood was putting more sandbags Tuesday by the door of the Augustus & Carolina furniture store on Front Street, the popular tourist attraction that runs along the Sampit River.


Each day since last weekend's storm which sent more than a foot of water washing down the street water at high tide has lapped against those sandbags. Residents are concerned there may be more flooding on the Black and Waccamaw rivers two waterways cited as worrisome by Gov. Nikki Haley. Both drain into Georgetown County.


The Waccamaw was expected to crest at 5 feet above flood stage in Conway, in Horry County, on Thursday. The Black crested Tuesday upstream at Kingstree at about 10 feet above flood stage, breaking a record, town officials said.


Youngblood hopes things won't be as bad this time as earlier in the week.


"We're hanging our hat on that we're not going to have that combination of tide and rain and such," he said. "We had so much rain but the primary thing we were experiencing was the water table coming up through the bottom bubbling up from beneath the flooring. We had quite a bit of damage."


Tom and Christine Doran, retired teachers who recently moved to a riverfront apartment in Georgetown, were moving their belongings out Tuesday after battling tides and rain for four days.


"The first flooding was Saturday afternoon and we kept ahead of that with a wet vac and we thought, 'We've got this,'" Tom Doran said. "Then it just started coming in from all sides. It was just too high. Every afternoon with the high tide it floods up to 5 inches."


After taking an aerial tour of damaged areas on Tuesday, Haley said that while the sunshine was a good sign, the state still needs to be cautious.


"We are going to be extremely careful. We are watching this minute by minute," she said. She said evacuations may be needed toward the coast because of rivers swollen from the storm, which has killed 15 in South Carolina and also claimed two lives in North Carolina.


Rescue crews were searching Wednesday morning for two people who went missing in Lower Richland County when their pickup truck entered flood water. Sheriff's deputies told local news outlets they were called out at around 3 a.m. Wednesday to a road that had been closed for several days after being washed out.


The driver of the pickup drove around barricades that had been set up to block traffic, authorities said. Three people managed to get out safely but told emergency crews two others did not.


In Effingham, about 80 miles east of Columbia, the Lynches River was about 5 feet above flood stage Tuesday. Scott Goodwin, his wife and their two dogs left their home on the river's bank on Saturday afternoon, concerned the day's intense rain would flood their gravel road and leave them marooned. The water on the road was already up to the bumpers of their pickup trucks as they left, said Goodwin, 44, who works as a welder.


Goodwin said they packed clothes to stay a couple of days with his wife's parents, never expecting the river could rise as much as it has. It will be at least this weekend before the road clears enough for them to be able to reach their home. Goodwin is resigned to the possibility that the home and their belongings are a total loss, but comforted by the knowledge they have the maximum amount of flood insurance.


Haley said it was too soon to estimate the damage statewide, which she said could be "any amount of dollars." The Republican governor quickly got a federal disaster declaration from President Barack Obama, freeing up money and resources.


Distributing safe drinking water was a challenge. In the region around Columbia, as many as 40,000 homes lacked water, although some service was restored Tuesday. Mayor Steve Benjamin said 375,000 water customers will likely have to boil their water before drinking or cooking for "quite some time."


The power grid was returning to normal after nearly 30,000 customers lost electricity. Roads and bridges were taking longer to restore: Some 200 engineers were inspecting more than 470 spots that remained closed Tuesday, including parts of Interstate 95. As of late Tuesday, that number had dropped to 436, the South Carolina Department of Transportation said in a news release.


South Carolina was soaked by what experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called a "fire hose" of tropical moisture spun off by Hurricane Joaquin, which mostly missed the East Coast.


Authorities have made hundreds of water rescues since then, lifting people and animals to safety. About 800 people were in two dozen shelters, but the governor expects that number to rise.


The Black River reached 10 feet above flood stage in Kingstree, breaking a 1973 record by more than 3 feet, according to Town Manager Dan Wells, who found himself involved in a porcine rescue mission Tuesday.


After a wild hog fell into the rushing river and slammed into the town bridge, Wells and a colleague shot the exhausted porker with a stun gun, trussed its legs with duct tape and pulled it into a pickup truck to be released in a nearby forest.


"It wasn't on my list of things to do today, I can tell you that," said Wells.


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