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Hunter Biden targets chief critics in legal counterattack

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A revamped legal team representing Hunter Biden is taking the first steps in what appears to be a more aggressive approach to his defense, disseminating on Wednesday a batch of criminal referrals and cease-and-desist letters targeting some of his most vocal detractors.

Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, wrote to the Justice Department and the Delaware attorney general's office asking investigators to examine the conduct of several operatives who allegedly played a role in "accessing, copying, manipulating, and/or disseminating Mr. Biden's personal computer data," including Rudy Giuliani, Steve Bannon, and other supporters of former President Donald Trump.

"The actions described above more than merit a full investigation and, depending on the resulting facts, may merit prosecution under various statutes," Lowell said. "It is not a common thing for a private person and his counsel to seek someone else being investigated, but the actions and motives here require it."

Law enforcement agencies are not obligated to act on such referrals, nor are they required to acknowledge them.

Lowell also wrote to the Internal Revenue Service requesting a probe into Garrett Ziegler, a former Trump White House aide who recently published a trove of emails allegedly tied to Hunter Biden. That letter challenges the tax-exempt status of Ziegler's organization, Marco Polo, which is filed as a 501(c)(3).

Ziegler's organization "has failed to operate solely for charitable purposes," Lowell wrote to the agency. "To the contrary, [Marco Polo] has operated as little more than a thinly disguised political operation to attack the Biden administration and the Biden family."

Bryan Sullivan, a defamation lawyer retained by Hunter Biden, also sent a cease-and-desist letter to Fox News and Tucker Carlson, asking the network and its primetime host to retract and correct a report they ran about alleged rent payments Hunter Biden made to his father, which they have claimed as evidence that the president was more closely tied to his son's financial arrangements.

Carlson's promulgation of the story stands in "flagrant violation of all journalistic professionalism," wrote Sullivan, who also warned of "potential litigation" if the network fails to agree to a retraction by the end of the day on Thursday. Sullivan also asked that Fox News preserve any records related to its handling of the story.

The change in tack by lawyers for the president's only living son comes at a precarious time for the younger Biden, as Republican scrutiny of his business dealings ramps up and federal prosecutors reportedly near the conclusion of their years-long probe into his tax affairs.

Federal authorities in the Delaware U.S. attorney's office, led by U.S. Attorney David Weiss, a Trump-era appointee, have been investigating Hunter Biden since 2018, ABC News has previously reported, but paused for several months ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

The probe spilled into public view in December 2020, shortly after Joe Biden secured the presidency, when Hunter Biden confirmed the probe into his "tax affairs." Prosecutors have since examined whether he paid adequate taxes on millions of dollars of his income, including money he made from multiple overseas business ventures.

Hunter Biden has repeatedly said he is cooperating with investigators and remains "100% certain" that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing. President Biden has said he and his son never discussed his foreign business dealings, and there are no indications that the federal investigation involves the president in any way. The White House has repeatedly sought to distance the president from the probe.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Republicans have taken their first investigative steps in a long-awaited congressional probe into the younger Biden. House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer and Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, have called investigations into the president's family a "top priority" and have pledged to "pursue all avenues" of wrongdoing. They said they "would love" to speak with Hunter Biden, but did not announce plans to issue a subpoena.

Lowell, a celebrated defense lawyer, joined Hunter Biden's legal team in December to assist with congressional oversight inquiries. He has represented a number of high-profile political figures, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump; Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; and former Sen. John Edwards.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Police continue search for 3 Detroit rappers who went missing after canceled event

Detroit Police Dept.

(DETROIT) -- Detroit police are searching for three local rappers who went missing after they were expected to perform at an event almost two weeks ago.

Police are looking for leads in the search for 38-year-old Armani Kelly, 31-year-old Dante Wicker and 31-year-old Montoya Givens, saying their phone records are very concerning.

"We are very concerned because there has been no activity on any of their phones," Detroit Police Chief James White said during a press conference.

Police obtained search warrants for the three men's phone records and said the phones are not hitting any towers nor have their owners communicated with anyone. There also has not been any activity on their online accounts.

The three men were together for a rap event at Lounge 31 on Jan. 21, but that event was canceled at the last minute. Police said they are unaware if the three men left the local bar together. Police are unsure what happened from that point, but White said they know the three men were together at some point that evening.

White said police are looking at video in the area as they continue their investigation.

A representative for Lounge 31 could not confirm to ABC News if the three men arrived at the venue the day of the performance, but said they are cooperating with police.

The event was canceled due to an issue with the DJ about 30 minutes before it was scheduled to begin, the representative said.

Police were able to locate a vehicle that belonged to an acquaintance of Kelly, but White said there were no signs of the three men. Police are also looking into an individual who was in possession of the vehicle when they found it to see if they are connected to the disappearance, according to White.

Detroit police asked members of the public to come forward with any information they have about the men.

"The case is wide open and extremely active," White said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Police find 2 homicide victims while searching for Oregon man who tortured woman: Police

Grants Pass Police Department

(GRANTS PASS, Ore.) -- A man who was accused of torturing a woman, and who evaded police for a week, also appears to be responsible for a double murder, Oregon police said Wednesday. The man was found dead late Tuesday following an hourslong standoff from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Benjamin Obadiah Foster, 36, was wanted for attempted murder, kidnapping and assault, police said.

The Grants Pass Police Department announced late Tuesday that Foster was in custody following a standoff. Lt. Jeff Hattersley, a spokesperson for the police department, confirmed to ABC News that Foster subsequently died.

Police said Wednesday that while searching for Foster they found a double homicide scene near the scene of where the woman was allegedly tortured. The victims were not identified and it was not clear the relationship to Foster, but police said they believe he was their killer.

The standoff occurred after a man police believed to be Foster was spotted walking a small dog in the Grants Pass area Tuesday morning, the department had said. He was considered an "extremely dangerous suspect," the department warned in an update on Sunday amid the manhunt.

Authorities said Wednesday that Foster was found under the home where the alleged torture took place and police had to rip up the floorboards of the home to find him. He was breathing when he was found, but died overnight of a gunshot wound to the head.

Police began looking for Foster on Jan. 24, after responding to a home in Grants Pass for an assault. At the home, officers found a woman in critical condition who had been "bound and severely beaten into unconsciousness," police said.

The suspect had already fled the scene before officers arrived but was identified as Foster, of Wolf Creek, police said.

"It's essentially an all-hands-on-deck operation," Grants Pass Police Chief Warren Hensman told ABC News earlier this week. "We are laser-focused."

Hensman told reporters during a press briefing on Jan. 26 that they were still working on a timeline, but said the assaults are believed to have occurred over a "protracted period of time." He would not elaborate on the nature of the suspect's relationship with the victim.

"The scene was horrific," Hensman told ABC News. "This is a bad man that needs to be captured."

Amid the manhunt, authorities located Foster's car and executed a search warrant in a home in Wolf Creek last week. The suspect "evaded capture and likely received assistance in fleeing the area," police said.

"The investigation has revealed that the suspect is actively using online dating applications to contact unsuspecting individuals who may be lured into assisting with the suspect's escape or potentially as additional victims," police said.

During the search of the home, a 68-year-old woman, Tina Marie Jones, was arrested for allegedly hindering prosecution. She remains in custody at the Josephine County Jail.

The victim, identified by her family as Justine Siemens, was transported to an area hospital and remains on life support.

"She will survive this and as her family, we implore the nation to help bring her attacker to justice," her family said in a statement.

Foster had been convicted on domestic violence charges for two assaults that occurred within the past five years in Las Vegas, court records show.

In 2019, he was accused of holding his then-girlfriend captive inside her Las Vegas apartment for more than two weeks and beating her, according to an arrest report obtained by ABC News. He was charged with four counts of battery and two counts of assault, though in August 2021 he pleaded guilty to two of the battery charges as part of a plea deal, online court records show. A judge sentenced him to up to 1.5 years in prison, with credit for the 729 days he had already spent in jail awaiting trial, according to court records.

In August 2021, he reached another plea deal in a 2018 domestic violence case and was sentenced to credit for time served for a misdemeanor battery charge, court records show.

"Am I troubled by what I know already? The answer is yes," Hensman told reporters when asked about the prior Las Vegas cases. "We're laser-focused on capturing this man and bringing him to justice."

The Grants Pass Police Department was offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of Foster in the attempted murder case.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Involuntary manslaughter charges formally filed against Alec Baldwin in 'Rust' shooting

Mike Coppola/Getty Images for 2022 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Gala

(SANTA FE, N.M.) -- Involuntary manslaughter charges were formally filed Tuesday against actor Alec Baldwin over the fatal shooting on the New Mexico set of the film "Rust."

Both Baldwin and the film's armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, have been charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter over the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in October 2021. They are scheduled to make their first court appearance virtually on Feb. 24.

First assistant director David Halls has already agreed to plead no contest for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. The plea agreement is pending a judge's approval, prosecutors said Tuesday. A plea conference has been scheduled for March 8.

The filing detailed several reasons for the charges, including prosecutors saying that Baldwin's interviews with media and law enforcement were inconsistent.

"Many media interviews and law enforcement interviews were conducted by Baldwin, and he displayed very inconsistent accounts of what happened during the incident when firing the gun that killed Hutchins," investigator Robert Shilling wrote in the statement of probable cause.

For one, evidence showed that Baldwin had his finger inside the trigger, and that the trigger was pulled -- contradicting his statements saying he never pulled the trigger -- according to Shilling. Baldwin had told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in December 2021 that he would "never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger."

Photos and video "clearly show Baldwin, multiple times, with his finger inside of the trigger guard and on the trigger, while manipulating the hammer and while drawing, pointing, and holstering the revolver," Shilling wrote.

Shilling also stated that Baldwin had limited firearms training on the set and that no safety meeting was conducted on the day of the fatal shooting, based on statements and evidence.

As a producer, Shilling stated that Baldwin knew the production company hired Guiterrez-Reed as lead armorer despite evidence that she was unqualified, including having "no certification or certifiable training, or union 'card' for this practice." With Guiterrez-Reed also assigned to be an assistant prop master -- and thus not focused on her primary responsibility as armorer -- Baldwin "violated industry standards and practices by allowing this reckless and generally prohibited practice, resulting in reckless action(s) taking place prior to and on the day of the shooting," Shilling wrote.

Baldwin, who was listed as the primary producer of "Rust," "failed to act to mitigate or correct the reckless safety violations, neither in his capacity as actor nor producer," Shilling wrote.

In Gutierrez-Reed's charging document, Shilling claimed that the armorer's "deviation from known standards, practice and protocol directly caused the fatal death of Hutchins." That included failing to insist that Baldwin have proper firearm training nor correct him on "dangerous" safety violations such as pointing the weapon at people and having his finger on the trigger, not ensuring that a fake gun was used in a rehearsal scene, leaving the set before the fatal shooting and allowing Halls to handle the firearm unsupervised, according to Shilling.

"Her absence from the set allowed the reckless behavior to happen and continue, resulting in the fatal shooting," Shilling wrote.

In addition to the spent casing of the live round that killed Hutchins, five unspent live rounds were seized from the set, according to the charging document. Gutierrez-Reed "should have caught this live ammunition on set but put everyone on the Rust set in danger by failing to do her job," Shilling wrote.

Santa Fe First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and special prosecutor Andrea Reeb announced their decision to file charges on Jan. 19, nearly three months after receiving the local sheriff's investigation into the shooting.

Carmack-Altwies said Tuesday that her office has "taken another important step in securing justice for Halyna Hutchins."

“In New Mexico, no one is above the law and justice will be served," she said in a statement.

Baldwin's lawyer, Luke Nikas, called the charging decision "a terrible miscarriage of justice" and vowed to fight the charges.

"Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun -- or anywhere on the movie set," Nikas said in a statement following the announcement of charges. "He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds."

Gutierrez-Reed's attorneys, Jason Bowles and Todd Bullion, said in a statement Tuesday that they will "fight these charges and expect that a jury will find Hannah not guilty."

"The filed probable cause statement reveals that the district attorney has completely misunderstood the facts and has reached the wrong conclusions," the attorneys said in a joint statement. "Hannah pleaded to provide more firearms training. She was denied and brushed aside. Hannah asked to be able to perform her armorer duties more for safety reasons. She was told by production to focus on props. Hannah asked Halls if they could use a plastic gun for the rehearsal scene and he said no, wanting a 'real gun.' Hannah asked to be called back into the church if Baldwin was going to use the gun at all and Halls failed to do that."

"The tragedy of this is had Hannah just been called back into the church by Halls, she would have performed the inspection and prevented this tragedy," the statement continued.

During a preliminary hearing, a judge will decide whether there is probable cause to move forward with a trial.

Should the case go to trial, a jury would have to decide under which definition of involuntary manslaughter Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed were guilty. For the first count of involuntary manslaughter, prosecutors must prove "underlying negligence," while the second count, involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act, "requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death," the district attorney's office said.

Both counts are fourth-degree felonies punishable by up to 18 months in jail, however, a firearm enhancement on the second charge could carry a mandatory sentence of five years in prison, prosecutors said.

Lisa Torraco, attorney for Halls, told ABC News he signed his plea agreement on Jan. 18 and that they both were "disappointed" that he was charged at all.

"We believe that criminally he should have been completely exonerated," Torraco said following the district attorney's announcement. "But we are happy with the resolution that she did propose, and that is the petty misdemeanor negligent use of a weapon."

Hutchins, 42, was working as a cinematographer on the Western when she was shot and killed by the film's star, Baldwin, during an accident while he was practicing using a Colt .45 revolver on set. Director Joel Souza was also injured in the shooting.

No charges will be filed in the shooting of Souza, the district attorney's office said.

Hutchins' family settled its wrongful death lawsuit against the film's producers, including Baldwin and Rust Movie Productions, LLC, in October.

ABC News' Alyssa Pone, Lissette Rodriguez and Vera Drymon contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Mother of Karon Blake speaks out about her son's death

omersukrugoksu/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The mother of Karon Blake, the 13-year-old boy who was shot and killed on Jan. 7 in Washington, D.C., has spoken out about her son’s death for the first time since the tragic incident.

The Wednesday press conference was located at the offices of The Cochran Firm in Washington, D.C., the firm representing Karon’s mother, Londen Blake. Her attorneys are Brian McDaniel and David Haynes.

This press conference comes just a day after Jason Lewis, the man accused of killing Karon, was charged with second-degree murder while armed. Lewis, 41, appeared in court Tuesday afternoon where he pleaded not guilty to the charge. The case will be revisited on Feb. 13.

“What I can say is that Karon came from a good home and I try my best with him,” Londen Blake said. “But Jason Lewis ain’t have no right. He had no right. … It could’ve went a whole different way.”

Londen Blake said she is satisfied with the charges against Lewis. “I really hope that I get justice for my child, and I really hope this man is convicted to the highest.”

In an interview with ABC News, Karon's grandfather Sean Long thanked D.C. police for their quick turnaround regarding chargers and hopes more evidence is revealed.

"I'd like to thank everybody. I’d like to thank the 2 or 300 people that came to the meeting a love for the family and showed love to little Karon," Long said. "I like to thank the chief of police. [I] know people's on your back and the people on the Mayor’s back. I know yall had to do what yall had to do, but sometimes you gotta just wait it out and let it all fall into place."

According to the arrest warrant, Lewis called officers claiming that "he shot a juvenile male who ran toward him."

"Based upon the information that we have recieved and the informatin that has been public, it does not appear that there was any interaction between Karon and Mr. Lewis prior to Mr. Lewis deciding that he was going to discharge his frearm and shoot Karon," McDaniel said.

Although Lewis’ original statement to police included that he shot at a stolen parked vehicle then Karon and an unidentified person ran toward him after the warning shot. D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee told reporters it appeared Karon was trying to run back to the car and to the other individuals before attempting to drive away prior crashing.

Lewis told police he fired his registered gun twice, but authorities found three casings at the scene. Lewis claimed that Karon yelled "I'm a kid, I'm a kid," before collapsing, according to the arrest warrant.

While the video footage has not yet been released, according to police, the individuals who were seen with Blake– who are also believed to be teenagers– were seen breaking into cars. The U.S. Attorney’s office will release any evidence to the public at their discretion.

“Kids get into things that the parents are not always aware about… Things happen. We just have to keep our babies close to us," Londen Blake said.

ABC News’ Teddy Grant, Tesfaye Negussie and Beatrice Peterson contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Texas ice storm live updates: Over 340,000 customers without power

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A massive ice storm is freezing Texas and the southern United States on Wednesday.

Some 60 million people in 22 states -- from New Mexico to Maine -- are on alert for dangerously cold weather, ice and flooding.

Freezing rain and sleet are in the forecast from Texas to Tennessee, before slowly transitioning into just rain as temperatures warm up late Wednesday into Thursday.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Feb 01, 4:18 PM EST
Over 340,000 without power in Texas

More than 340,000 customers are without power in Texas on Wednesday afternoon as a massive ice storm slams the South.

Feb 01, 2:06 PM EST
Latest forecast

Officials are urging residents to avoid travel across much of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi as the dangerous ice storm coats roadways.

On Wednesday evening, another wave of freezing rain and sleet will move in across much of Texas, leading to additional ice accumulation and significant travel concerns.

By Thursday morning, the ice and rain will be ongoing from Texas to Mississippi. A forecast of 1 to 3 inches of rain has prompted flood alerts in the lower Mississippi River Valley.

Feb 01, 12:54 PM EST
Pistons stuck in Dallas, Wizards vs. Pistons game postponed

Wednesdays night’s basketball game between the Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons has been postponed because the ice storm has stranded the Pistons in Dallas.

The Pistons were in Texas for a Monday night game, and now the weather conditions are preventing the team from returning home, according to the NBA.

Feb 01, 12:32 PM EST
Dallas airports face major flight cancellations

More than 2,200 flights have been canceled amid the storm.

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport has canceled 75% of its flights while Dallas Love Field Airport has called off 68% of its flights.

-ABC News’ Sam Sweeney

Feb 01, 9:55 AM EST
Over 250,000 without power in Texas

More than 250,000 customers are without power in Texas on Wednesday morning as a massive ice storm slams the South.

Feb 01, 9:26 AM EST
Latest forecast

The latest weather forecast for Wednesday shows waves of freezing rain and sleet continuing to move through the southern Plains and the Mid-Mississippi River Valley, from western Texas to western Tennessee.

Some areas have already accumulated more than a half an inch of freezing rain, as well as 1 to 2 inches of sleet.

Numerous roads and highways have been shut down, many schools have been closed and state of emergencies have been declared in the South due to the icy storm.

Freezing rain and sleet will continue from Texas to Tennessee, before slowly transitioning into just rain as temperatures warm up late Wednesday into Thursday.

The Texas cities of Austin, Dallas and Midland as well as Arkansas’ capital, Little Rock, can expect to see freezing rain on Wednesday evening at around 7 p.m. CT. That ice will turn into rain the next morning at 6 a.m. CT.

Up to half an inch of additional ice accumulation is in the forecast for these areas.

The brutal cold is not expected to last long, however. Much warmer weather is in the forecast by Sunday and into early next week.

Feb 01, 9:03 AM EST
Over 1,400 flights already canceled nationwide

More than 1,400 flights scheduled for Wednesday nationwide had already been canceled by the morning, according to the tracking service FlightAware.

The list for cancellations included both major airports in Dallas, as well as airports in Austin and Nashville.

Feb 01, 8:56 AM EST
Over 200,000 without power in Texas

More than 200,000 customers were without power in Texas on Wednesday morning, as a massive ice storm slams the South.

Power was out for 231,081 customers across the Lone Star State as of 7:08 a.m. CT, according to data collected by the website PowerOutage.us.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


AP African American studies revised framework released after conservative backlash

Jetta Productions/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The College Board released its official framework Wednesday for the incoming Advanced Placement African American Studies course after weeks of debate and criticism from conservatives over the course content.

The course was first piloted during this 2022-23 school year in just 60 schools and will be expanded to hundreds of additional schools for the next round of pilot courses in the 2023-24 school year.

All schools can begin offering AP African American Studies in the 2024-25 school year.

"This course is an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture," said David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, in a press release.

The College Board said it consulted more than 300 African American Studies professors from more than 200 colleges across the country to build the coursework.

"No one is excluded from this course: the Black artists and inventors whose achievements have come to light; the Black women and men, including gay Americans, who played pivotal roles in the civil rights movement; and people of faith from all backgrounds who contributed to the antislavery and civil rights causes. Everyone is seen," Coleman's statement read.

The official framework is missing some of its most controversial material – including lessons on intersectionality, Black queer studies, Black Lives Matter and critical race theory, which particularly angered conservatives.

However, some of the topics will or can be broached within other subjects as projects.

It is standard for the College Board to pilot and revise its course framework, saying the "frameworks often change significantly as a result."

College Board did not say if recent critics had any bearing on the final result.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' Department of Education initially rejected the course on Jan. 12 in a letter obtained by ABC News, calling it "inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value."

Florida's "Stop WOKE" Act restricts certain race-related content in workplaces, schools and colleges in the state. Supporters of the legislation argued that some lessons taught "kids to hate our country or to hate each other," according to DeSantis in a 2021 statement on the law.

However, the law has been temporarily blocked from impacting higher education and is being battled in the courts.

Several Florida students said they plan to sue the state and DeSantis over the state's rejection of the course.

"There are many gaps in American history regarding the African American population," one student said at the press conference. "The implementation of an AP African American History class could fill in those gaps."

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump urged DeSantis and the state to negotiate with the College Board to allow AP African American studies to avoid the lawsuit.

State DOE Communications Director Alex Lanfranconi called the potential lawsuit "nothing more than a meritless publicity stunt."

The Florida DOE said it would reconsider its decision pending review of the official framework.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


VP Harris addresses mourners at Tyre Nichols' funeral

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

(MEMPHIS, Tenn.) -- Tyre Nichols' family will gather in Memphis, Tennessee, on Wednesday for his funeral, weeks after the 29-year-old died following a violent encounter with Memphis police officers caught on body camera.

The graphic footage of Nichols' traffic stop and beating was released to the public on Friday and sparked nationwide outrage. Nichols, a young father who loved skateboarding, died on Jan. 10.

"This video illustrates exactly what happened on those streets that night. This also justifies our son showing that he was no threat to them," Nichols' stepfather, Rodney Wells, told ABC News Live. "We needed the public to see it so that they could make their own judgment."

Five officers involved in the Jan. 7 traffic stop have been fired and arrested on charges including second-degree murder.

Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, said, "I just feel like my son was sent here on an assignment. His assignment was fulfilled and God took him home."

"That's what keeps me going, because I'm not going to stop until I get justice by my side," she said.

Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Memphis for the funeral. Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, and George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, will also be in attendance.

The service begins at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Feb 01, 3:57 PM EST
Nichols' mom addresses mourners through tears

The Rev. Al Sharpton said “nobody has shown more strength and dignity” than Tyre Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells.

Through tears, Wells said her son was a “beautiful person.”

She said the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act must be passed by Congress, otherwise “the next child that dies, that blood is gonna be on their hands.”

Tyre Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told the crowd, “We’re looking forward to passing some bills” and getting justice for “all the families.”

“This is a continuous fight,” he said.

Feb 01, 3:32 PM EST
Tyre Nichols' 'legacy will be one of equal justice'

Tyre Nichols' family attorney, Ben Crump, “made a plea for justice” at the service.

“When we watch, we don’t see the Memphis Police Department SCORPION unit extend one ounce of humanity during that 1 hour and 7 minute video,” Crump said. “Why wouldn’t they see the humanity in Tyre?”

To Nichols' family, Crump said, "His legacy will be one of equal justice. It will be the blueprint going forward, because we have to remember that in less than 20 days ... they were terminated, they were arrested and they were charged."

Feb 01, 3:14 PM EST
Sharpton: ‘We won’t stop until we hold you accountable'

The Rev. Al Sharpton told mourners that the body camera video “speaks for itself.”

“We understand that there are concerns about public safety. But you don’t fight crime by becoming criminals yourself,” Sharpton said.

He vowed, “We won’t stop until we hold you accountable and change this system.”

Sharpton said he wants to see the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed so “you have to think twice before you beat Tyre Nichols. You think twice before you shoot at someone unarmed.”

He added, "If that man had been white, you wouldn't have beat him. ... We're asking to be treated equal."

Sharpton, who was raised by a single mother, said he was "touched" when he heard Tyre Nichols calling for his mother on the video, "just like George Floyd was calling for his mother."

"All he wanted to do was get home."

Feb 01, 3:08 PM EST
Harris to family: 'You have been extraordinary'

Vice President Kamala Harris said to Tyre Nichols’ mother and stepfather, “You have been extraordinary in terms of your strength, your courage and your grace.”

“Mothers around the world, when their babies are born, pray to God when they hold that child, that that body and that life will be safe,” Harris said. “Yet we have a mother and a father who mourn the life of a young man who should be here today. They have a grandson who now does not have a father.”

Nichols died in an "act of violence at the hands and the feet of the people who have been charged with keeping them safe," she said. "This violent act was not in pursuit of public safety."

She said passing The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is "non-negotiable."

Feb 01, 2:49 PM EST
Families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Botham Jean attend service

Families of other Black Americans killed by police -- George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner and Botham Jean -- came to pay their respects at Wednesday’s funeral.

“They’ve come to be with you on this day from all over the country,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said.

Feb 01, 2:35 PM EST
VP Harris hugs Tyre Nichols’ mom

Vice President Kamala Harris had a long embrace with Tyre Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, when she arrived at the service.

Harris is sitting next to Wells in the front pew.

-ABC News' Steph Wash

Feb 01, 2:28 PM EST
Fellow grieving mom offers condolences

Tiffany Rachal, whose son, Jalen Randle, was shot and killed by an officer in Houston last year, said at Tyre Nichols’ funeral service, “I’m here to offer my condolence to you.”

“I pray that God heal your broken heart,” she said to Nichols' family. “We are fighting together. And all the mothers all over the world need to come together.”

Feb 01, 9:09 AM EST
Funeral delayed to 2 p.m. ET

Wednesday’s funeral has been delayed to 2 p.m. ET due to an ice storm in Memphis.

Feb 01, 6:11 AM EST
Memphis bridges to be lit up for Tyre Nichols

Two bridges in Memphis will be lit red and gold Wednesday night in honor of Tyre Nichols’ favorite football team, the San Francisco 49ers.

Feb 01, 5:23 AM EST
Vice President Harris to attend

Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Memphis, Tennessee, to attend Tyre Nichols' funeral.

Nichols family attorney Ben Crump said Nichols' parents spoke with Harris on the phone for over 30 minutes.

Harris and Nichols' mother, RowVaughn Wells, "spoke exclusively, and during this emotional time, the Vice President was able to console Ms. Wells and even help her smile," Crump said in a statement on Tuesday.

Principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton said Tuesday, "When President Biden spoke with Mr. Nichols’ families last week, he told them that he was going to be making the case to Congress to pass the George Floyd justice and policing act."

Dalton added the administration's usual caveat that Biden has basically maxed out his executive authorities on the issue, and that Congress needs to act to effect further change.

"President Biden is committed to doing everything in his power to ensure our criminal justice system lives up to the promise of fair and impartial justice, equal treatment and dignity for all,” she said.

“We need Congress to come together and take action to ensure our justice system lives up to its name," she added.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Judge poised to render verdict against former officer charged in George Floyd's death

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Former Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao's attorney is asking a judge to acquit him on a state charge stemming from George Floyd's death, contending he "never touched" the 46-year-old Black man and was only doing what he was trained to do during the 2020 incident that sparked protests across the globe.

Defense attorney Robert Paule and state prosecutors filed written closing arguments in the state criminal case on Tuesday, leaving it up to Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill to reach a verdict on a charge of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Cahill has until mid-February to reach a verdict based on a review of evidence stipulated by prosecutors and defense attorneys.

"Thao is innocent of the charges against him because he did not intend that his specific actions were done to assist in the commission of a crime," Paule wrote in his closing argument. "Every one of Thao's actions was done based upon the training he received from the Minneapolis Police Department."

Prosecutors from the state Attorney General's office asked Cahill to find Thao guilty, contending in their closing argument that "the evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Tou Thao aided and abetted the second-degree manslaughter of George Floyd."

The prosecutors added, Thao "actively encouraged his colleagues' dangerous prone restraint, and held back a crowd of concerned onlookers who begged the officers to render medical aid."

The 36-year-old Thao has already been convicted on federal charges of violating Floyd's civil rights and is currently serving a 3 1/2-year prison sentence.

Thao is one of four former officers to face both state and federal charges in Floyd's death, including 46-year-old Derek Chauvin, who was captured on security video and witness cell phone footage digging his knee into the back of Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, rendering the handcuffed and prone man unconscious and without a pulse.

Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

A Hennepin County jury convicted Chauvin in April 2021 of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Cahill, who presided over Chauvin's trial, sentenced the veteran cop to 22 1/2 years in prison.

Chauvin later pleaded guilty to federal charges of violating Floyd's civil rights and was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison, which he is serving concurrently with his state sentence.

Last month, Chauvin's attorney filed an appeal of his state court conviction, arguing pretrial publicity, the ongoing civil unrest, alleged exclusion of evidence and "misconduct" from the prosecution led to an unfair trial.

Former officers J. Alexander Kueng, 30, and Thomas Lane, 40, both pleaded guilty last year to state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter after they were convicted along with Thao in the federal case.

Lane and Kueng are both serving 2 1/2-year prison sentences in the federal case. Lane also received a sentence of three years in the state case, while Kueng was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in the state case.

On Oct. 24, the day their state trial was set to begin, Lane and Kueng pleaded guilty. On the same day, Thao opted to proceed with the trial, but said didn't want a jury to render a verdict. He asked Cahill to decide his fate.

On Memorial Day 2020, all four officers responded to a Cups Food store in Minneapolis on a complaint that Floyd attempted to use a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes. When the handcuffed Floyd resisted getting into the back of a police SUV, Lane, Kueng and Chauvin held him in a prone position on the pavement as Thao stood by keeping witnesses at bay, according to evidence in the case.

In his written closing argument, Thao's attorney claimed his client did not recognize Chauvin was committing a criminal act because the restraint he was using on Floyd, having his knee on the back of Floyd's neck, was taught in the police academy, a claim disputed by prosecutors.

The defense attorney also argued that Thao, based on his training, thought Floyd was on drugs and experiencing "excited delirium," a syndrome in which a subject displays wild agitation and violent behavior that can sometimes lead to death. Thao's attorney contends that Thao suggested an alternative restraint of placing Floyd in a hobble, but Chauvin rejected the idea.

Thao's attorney also claimed his client radioed for paramedics to step up their response to Code 3 with lights and sirens, and that he turned on the emergency lights of his squad car to pinpoint the location of the incident to paramedics.

Prosecutors noted in their closing argument that the Minneapolis Police Department's motto is "to protect with courage, to serve with compassion."

"But on May 25, 2020, Tou Thao acted without courage to serve and displayed no compassion," prosecutors wrote.

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Twelve-year-old shot in NYC building lobby while group played with gun, police say

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(NEW YORK) -- A young man playing with a gun pointed it at a 12-year-old boy and opened fire, shooting him in the lobby of a Brooklyn apartment building, police said.

The boy was shot in the left shoulder at the apartment building in the Brownsville neighborhood just before 9:20 p.m. Tuesday, police said.

He was rushed to Maimonides Medical Center in stable condition and is expected to survive.

A group of eight to 12 youths were "playing or hanging out" in the lobby of the apartment building when the incident occurred, according to police.

The youths were reportedly playing with a gun when, based on video or witness accounts, detectives believe one of them removed a magazine from the firearm, pointed it at the victim and pulled the trigger.

"That's the way the investigation is leaning right now. He takes out the magazine, there is one still in the chamber. He points it, fires and according to witnesses, they say 'what did you do. what did you do,''' NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said.

There were no prior disputes or arguments prior to this incident, Essig said. Police recovered one .380 shell casing and a .380 Smith & Wesson firearm at the scene, he said.

The group scattered after the shot was fired, dropping the weapon behind, Essig said.

No arrests were immediately made. Detectives are pleading for the public's help to find the suspect who shot the 12-year-old.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


DC subway employee fatally shot as gunman opens fire in multiple locations

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(WASHINGTON) -- A gunman opened fire in several locations in a string of random shootings Wednesday, killing a Washington, D.C., Metro subway employee and injuring three others.

The DC Metro worker was fatally shot after trying to intervene when the gunman got into a confrontation with a woman on the subway platform at the Potomac Avenue station, according to police.

"His heroism has to be recognized here today," Ashan Benedict, the executive assistant chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, said at a press conference Wednesday morning.

The employee was identified by DC Metro as Robert Cunningham, 64, a mechanic in its power department.

"Metro is mourning the loss of a heroic employee, Robert Cunningham, who intervened on behalf of a customer today at Potomac Avenue Station and was a victim of senseless gun violence," the agency said in a statement. "In his remembrance, Metro has lowered its flags to half-staff during this time of grief."

Police said they believe the shooter may have been trying to rob the young woman.

Benedict said a second employee was able to deescalate the situation and stop the string of attacks. He suffered minor injuries by shrapnel from the shooting of the other employee, police said.

The shootings began at about 9 a.m. on a Metrobus, where the gunman allegedly shot someone in the leg. The individual shot in the leg ran off and has since been interviewed by police and was transferred to an area hospital.

The suspect then shot another person in the leg inside the nearby subway station. The person was attempting to purchase a metro card when an altercation occurred and they were shot. The suspect then took the individual over the turnstile before they broke free.

Both of those shooting victims are being treated for non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

"The fact that our citizens have to intervene with an armed gunman is disturbing to me," Benedict said.

Officers found the suspect on the Potomac Avenue Metro Station train platform and took him into custody, but police do not yet know the motive for the attacks. A weapon was recovered on the train tracks.

"We have a gun violence problem in America, and sometimes unfortunately that comes into Metro. But this is not a Metro-specific safety issue. It's an American gun violence issue. And I think that's becoming increasingly clear all over America day in and day out," said Randy Clarke, general manager and CEO for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

ABC News' Beatrice Peterson contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Could ChatGPT be your child's next tutor? AI experts, politicians weigh in

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(WASHINGTON) -- The artificial intelligence-fueled, text-generating chatbot, ChatGPT, has made its way to the halls of Congress.

Massachusetts Rep. Jake Auchincloss said the technology's biggest impact could be on the education system.

"This is a complement to teachers, not a substitute," Auchincloss told ABC News. "The single thing I'm most excited about is the applications in education."

"The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests," OpenAI also stated on its site.

Testing ChatGPT has gone viral on social media platofrms, with users performing tasks like writing poetry, creating music lyrics and debugging code with the text bot.

AI's use in pandemic-related learning losses

Auchinloss tols ABC News that AI can scale one-on-one tutoring for students who've suffered historic learning loss after schools shuttered during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There's very strong evidence that one-on-one tutoring is a highly effective way to get kids educated, whether it's math, reading, [or] anything else" he said, adding, "the problem is it's never scaled, right? How do you make one-on-one scale? [You] make one-on-one scale with something like this. [The] video generation and text generation is not hard, they can have real-time conversations with kids."

However, some AI experts who spoke with ABC News expressed concerns about the chatbot tutor.

It "makes stuff up," said "Rebooting AI" author, Gary Marcus.

"The systems aren't that reliable and I don't know if it's going to help kids to have stuff that's sort of 80% true and 20% false," Marcus explained, adding "it's predicting things that sound plausible and some things that sound plausible are true when it says them and some things that sound plausible are false and it says some of those, too. So, I worry about it being used as a tutor.

A spokesperson for OpenAI, told ABC News that the lab is constantly incorporating feedback and lessons learned from the research preview of the chatbot.

However, Auchincloss, who worked in tech for five years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that ChatGPT could aid teachers and tutors, though he said he sees a generational divide with how many view the chatbot.

Concerns that AI in schools can urge cheating, students not working

Meanwhile, others have cautions about the new AI technology's use in schooling.

"Students are endlessly creative about not doing work," Dr. Mark Schneider, director of the Institute of Education Sciences , told ABC News. "They spend more time thinking about how not to do something than they would spend doing the work," he said.

The OpenAI spokesperson told ABC News that the chatbot's developers don't want it used for "misleading purposes in schools or anywhere else."

"We're already developing mitigations to help anyone identify text generated by that system," the spokesperson added.

Marcus said he fears ChatGPT could even mass produce plagiarism at a scale we've "never seen before," saying education would suffer in the long run.

"Our traditional ways of evaluating students based on take home, open book, term papers, just won't really work anymore, because you're not really going to know whether the student really wrote that paper," he told ABC News. "Students will suffer for that because they're not really doing the mental exercise that we wanted them to do in writing the papers."

But Rep. Foxx, the House Education and the Workforce committee chairwoman, downplayed AI's affect on academic integrity because cheating has been around for decades.

"I think technology is good, but to me this is an age-old issue that faculty are going to have to figure out how to get around," she said. "And it may be a little bit challenging for them, but I think they'll figure it out," she continued.

The former educator also said her committee does not expect to investigate ChatGPT in any upcoming hearings.

"We, in the federal government, don't have the job of monitoring cheating in education," Foxx said, adding, "the institutions must do that themselves."

Schneider and IES partnered with the National Science Foundation to award $20 million in funding to establish the AI Institute for Transforming Education for Children with Speech and Language Processing Challenges, but he is not sold on the "unreliable" chatbot. So far, he says, it's prone to mistakes and uses "boring prose."

"We used to do encyclopedias, then we did Wikipedia, now we're doing ChatGPT, but you need to know that this is not infallible," Schneider told ABC News.

AI in education: 'Risks' and 'opportunities'

Patrick Harris II, a humanities teacher and author at The Roeper School outside of Detroit, said he felt a weight lifted off his shoulders when he first started using the ChatGPT for planning lessons.

"I think educators should be open-minded to AI ChatGPT and how it could be helpful," Harris II wrote in a statement to ABC News. "They should experiment with it, as they would with any new technology. But also, they should know that it is still very imperfect, biased and needs humans eyes," he added.

OpenAI said it looks forward to working with educators on useful solutions, and other ways to help teachers and students benefit from artificial intelligence.

Still, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona expressed AI skepticism.

"You know, obviously, there's a lot of risk out there," Cardona said. "But there's also a lot of opportunities. And I think what we need to do is embrace it and use it in a manner that helps our students be better prepared for life after school," he said in a comment to ABC News.

Schneider said humans should prepare for the future of AI.

"It may be the case that the chatbot will get better in my concerns about accuracy and reliability," he said. "But in the meantime, we need to start rethinking what kind of skills people need in a world where the chatbot is for real."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


New York City woman charged with financing terrorist groups in Syria through cryptocurrency

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(NEW YORK) -- A New York City woman has been charged with using cryptocurrency to provide financial support to terrorist groups in Syria, a rare prosecution involving virtual currency to fund terrorism.

The 11-count indictment charged Victoria Jacobs, 43, who was known as Bakhrom Talipov, with providing support for an act of terrorism, money laundering and other crimes.

Jacobs provided material support to Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, a U.S. State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization, and provided more than $5,000 to the terrorist training group Malhama Tactical, which fought with and provided special tactical and military training to Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, the indictment said.

"This case marks the first time that terrorism financing is being prosecuted in New York State Court and is one of the rare cases worldwide where cryptocurrency is alleged to have financed terrorism," Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement.

Jacobs allegedly laundered $10,661 on behalf of Malhama Tactical by receiving cryptocurrency and Western Union and MoneyGram wires from supporters around the globe and sending the funds to Bitcoin wallets controlled by Malhama Tactical. In addition to sending cryptocurrency, she also purchased Google Play gift cards for the organization, according to the indictment.

In October 2018, the defendant saved notes on her cellphone, which the indictment quoted as saying "Assalamu aleykum my dear brothers and sisters, we currently are buildings new place (train camp), it's getting cold and we need new place, who want help us and support can do this safely and anonymously by Bitcoin wallet. Send me DM for details. Retweet."

In December 2019, Jacobs provided a comprehensive U.S. Army Improvised Munitions Handbook to an online group -- which she believed was associated with both Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and al-Qaeda affiliated Jihadist group Hurras al-Din -- to facilitate their bomb-making efforts in Syria, the indictment said.

Prosecutors said Jacobs bought military-style combat knives, metal knuckles and throwing stars in August 2021 that were found in her Upper East Side apartment.

"Disturbingly, approximately one month later, on September 21-22, 2021, the defendant, in a Telegram chat, claimed to be a 'brother' who was 'behind enemy lines' and asked for prayers for the 'courage, strength, guidance, and wisdom to carry out certain missions,'" Assistant District Attorney Edward Burns said in a statement.

"Along with these statements, defendant posted a 15-second video clip of an unknown person ominously moving around with a firearm," he continued. "The timing of this post and the defendant's acquisition of the weapons supports the conclusion that she intended to use the weapons in an unlawful manner."

Jacobs is being held without bail.

In a parallel investigation, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged four defendants in December with crowdfunding support for ISIS using cryptocurrency, Bitcoin wallets, GoFundMe and PayPal to collect what they called "blood money." It's alleged Jacobs was using some of the same crypto wallets as the federal defendants, according to a source familiar with the case.

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TikToker who claimed she had cancer allegedly scammed hundreds

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(ELDRIDGE, Iowa) -- Authorities say a 19-year-old woman scammed more than 400 donors, accumulating over $37,000, with false claims that she suffered from cancer, which she had allegedly touted on social media.

Madison Russo was charged with theft on Jan. 23, according to the Eldridge Police Department in Eldridge, Iowa.

According to the press release, Russo allegedly made false claims including that "she suffered acute lymphoblastic leukemia, stage 2 pancreatic cancer and a tumor the size of a football."

In an investigation, subpoenas for medical records were obtained and confirmed Russo has never been diagnosed with any kind of cancer or tumor from any medical facilities in the area.

Authorities confirmed to Good Morning America that they are using Russo's social media as evidence in her case, but will not confirm which social media.

A GoFundMe page was allegedy established on behalf of Russo and was highlighted in a local newspaper, and she was also a guest speaker at St. Ambrose University, the National Pancreas Foundation in Chicago and on a podcast for Project Purple, the press release said.

Authorities said witnesses "who have medical experience" worked with an investigating officer to find "medical discrepancies" in Russo's photos posted on her social media, discovering Russo allegedly accepted private donations from "other businesses, nonprofit organizations, school districts and private citizens."

ABC News medical contributor Dr. Darien Sutton reviewed some of Russo's photo posts and said, "You can see that the actual positioning of the port per se, is not accurate. Also, the way that it's secured, the type of tape that's used, it's not the same clinical tape that we would use in the hospital."

ABC News reached out to Russo regarding the allegations but has not received a response at this time.

The National Pancreas Foundation shared a statement with ABC News about the ongoing investigation.

"The National Pancreas Foundation does not condone the actions of Maddie Russo regarding her deceit to fraudulently secure donors for her false cancer diagnosis. There are thousands of patients, families and caregivers battling this terrible disease, and Ms. Russo's actions have taken away valuable resources from these patients," CEO David Bakelman said in a statement.

Similarly, GoFundMe told ABC News that it has a "zero tolerance policy for misuse" and is cooperating with law enforcement on investigations of those accused of wrongdoing.

"All donors have been refunded and we have removed this fundraiser. The beneficiary has also been banned from using the platform for any future fundraisers. GoFundMe's Giving Guarantee offers a full refund in the rare case when something isn't right; this is the first and only donor protection guarantee in the crowdfunding industry," GoFundMe said, in part, in a statement.

Louis Frillman was one of the many donors who had given money to the GoFundMe set up on behalf of Russo. His $500 donation was later refunded to him and afterward, he told ABC affiliate WQAD, "My thinking is, say a prayer for this young kid, because she is going to have a lot of terrible consequences as a result of this."

Police urged citizens and businesses who believe that they may have donated to Russo to contact the Eldridge Police Department.

Russo and her family have not repsonded to multiple requests for comment by ABC News. Following her arrest, Russo posted $10,000 bond and is now due in court next month.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Man dies after brawl breaks out at Vermont middle school basketball game: Police

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(ALBURGH, Vt.) -- A 60-year-old man died after a brawl broke out between spectators at a middle school basketball game in Vermont, according to state police.

The fight occurred shortly before 7 p.m. local time Tuesday at a school in Alburgh, located near the Canadian border, according to Vermont State Police.

State police responded to the Alburgh Community Education Center following the report of a "large fight involving multiple spectators" during a boys middle school basketball game, state police said in a release.

Alburgh school officials confirmed there was a "physical altercation between multiple adults" attending the game between Alburgh and St. Albans City Schools.

The "melee" had ended by the time troopers arrived and some of the participants had already left the school, including Russell Giroux, police said.

Giroux, of Alburgh, subsequently sought medical attention and was transported via ambulance to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

"The circumstances of his death are under active investigation," state police said, adding that they are working with the Grand Isle County state's attorney on the case.

The Chief Medical Examiner's Office in Burlington will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause and manner of his death, police said.

School officials with the Grand Isle Supervisory Union, which includes Alburgh, called the incident "tragic."

"Our immediate goal is to remind and educate our students and families that our school culture is one of family, community, and kindness. We need our students and community to commit to the positive culture that our school community expects and deserves," Principal Beth Hemingway, Superintendent Michael Clark and Director of Student Services Nick DeVita wrote in a letter to the school community. "We commend the coaches and players of both teams as well as the Alburgh and St. Albans City staff in attendance who supported the students."

School officials said they have arranged support for students and staff.

The superintendent of Maple Run Unified School District, which includes the opposing school, St. Albans, said the school community is "shocked and saddened" by the death and is also working to offer students support.

"Since our students observed the altercation, we are working in the next days to support our students and families in dealing with the consequences of the altercation and Mr. Giroux's death," Superintendent Bill Kimball said in a statement. "The Maple Run Unified School District condemns the violence that occurred during the basketball game. We expect better from our communities."

"The tragic events that preceded Mr. Giroux's death have caused our schools to evaluate school programs and community involvement," the statement continued.

The Vermont Principals' Association, which oversees school sports in the state, said it has "no substantiated information as to what occurred."

"Although we can not speak specifically about the events at this individual game, we would like to once again emphasize that middle and high school sports are educational and are for the benefit of the student-athletes," Jay Nichols, executive director of the organization, said in a statement. "Spectators that cannot behave appropriately can be barred from events and can face criminal charges. We ask all attendees at these events to please behave in an appropriate manner."

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