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ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- Dozens of people were arrested and their cars were impounded following a street racing bust in Los Angeles.

More than 40 people were arrested in the sting, which occurred at about 12:30 a.m. Monday, police said. Hundreds of police swooped in, trapping hundreds of vehicles near West Imperial Highway during the sweep.

"The operation included 44 arrests that ranged from warrant arrests to drug related offenses," read a statement by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Information Bureau. "Unlicensed drivers and those driving on a suspended license were also part of the 209 citations issued, in addition to the 54 vehicles that were towed."

The street races, which have been publicized through social media, are an ongoing problem for authorities in Los Angeles, officials said.

The bust came two months after a speeding Mustang swerved into a crowd, killing two people -- Eric Siguenza, 26, and Wilson Wong, 50 -- in Los Angeles' Chatsworth neighborhood.

Authorities are worried that street racing will increase during the summer months. California Highway Patrol Officer Edgar Figueroa said police remain committed to keeping the streets safe.

“Anytime somebody gets killed as a result of something like this...we are going to do everything we can to crush this type of criminal activity,” Figueroa said.

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ABC News(CLINTON, Md.) — Marcus McCoy awoke to smoke.

The 13-year-old says he realized something wasn’t right as soon as he woke up Sunday in his family’s Clinton, Maryland, home. His sister, Aaliyah, was across the room.

“I turned on my phone flashlight and I couldn’t really see nothing, and it was all smoky,” Marcus told ABC News. “So that’s when I said, ‘I have to do something.’ So I called and...[made] sure I was good myself, then checked on Aaliyah and kept talking to the dispatcher.”

That 11-minute phone call is being credited with keeping his family alive, featuring Marcus calmly telling authorities how to get inside. At one point, the sister said, "We're going to die!" and her brother responded, "Stop! Please don't say that!"

At various times in the call, Marcus called out to his family, making sure everyone was OK. He told the dispatcher he was in the home with his older brother, mother and stepfather, as well as his 9-year-old sister.

Unbeknown to Marcus, his mother, Bonnie McCoy Strickland, had already escaped, before realizing her children were still trapped inside.

“I kept saying, ‘My kids are in the house, they're in the house,’ but the firemen showed up quick and they came out,” she said.

Marcus stayed on the phone with a dispatcher until the moment he and Aaliyah were rescued.

“I was happy when they broke the window and got in,” he said later.

Marcus toured the home Monday, using a flashlight to study the fire’s impact.

Aaliyah considers her brother her biggest hero. “He was trying to save our life,” she said, “and he did.”

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Courtesy Joe Paydock/Kent State Army ROTC(NEW YORK) -- There are many unsung heroes in war, but there was a team of female American soldiers who assisted Special Operations forces during the Afghanistan War that few had heard about until now.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command created a program in 2010 called the Cultural Support Teams. They were special units of female Army soldiers that were meant to build relationships with Afghan citizens as Green Berets and Army Rangers searched compounds in the rugged desert of Kandahar.

In a new book, Ashley’s War, best-selling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon details what these women went through in training and on these dangerous missions, focusing on 1st Lt. Ashley White Stumpf, who was among the first group of female soldiers to go into combat zones as part of a Cultural Support Team, or “CST.” Considered by many of her fellow soldiers as the "quiet professional" and the "heart of the team," she was the first member of the special unit to be killed in action.

At the time, women were officially banned from combat, but they could be “attached” to one of these Special Ops forces for this purpose, which meant they were inherently in the line of danger.

“Women have participated in conflict for hundreds of years…but these wars are different,” said retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, who served as the 32nd Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 2008 to 2012. “From the time you entered in the countries of Iraq or Afghanistan, you were in harm’s way, whether you were male or female.”

The “CSTs” would do essential work that the male soldiers could not: they would interface with local women and children to gather information, because in traditional Islamic culture it was considered inappropriate for men to commingle with women.

“This was 2011, the combat ban was still in place,” Lemmon said. “Most of America still doesn’t know that these women were out there. So they knew that everything they did would be not just their mistake, but every female’s mistake, and so I think they worked even harder.”

Capt. Meghan Curran, 28 from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, served alongside White in Afghanistan and said she was drawn to the Cultural Support Team when she first saw a flyer that said “Become a Part of History.”

"It kind of drew you in, you know, with the big bold heading,” she said.

“But, I don’t think that’s really what it was about for any of us,” she continued, “what it was about was the Army was asking for a certain set of women that were willing and able to do this certain mission.”

“We had that bond, that sisterhood,” said Emily Miller, 28 from Evansville, Indiana, a former platoon leader in Iraq, who also served with White and Curran in Afghanistan.

“I have always wanted to serve,” Miller added. “That’s why I wanted to be in the Army…and I wanted to prove that I could be valuable out there and really make a difference.”

One hundred women from across the Army tried out for the program, but only half survived the brutal training known as “100 hours of hell.”

“The common denominator was athletic, fierce and absolutely determined,” Lemmon said. “It’s about intensity and fierceness… and I think they all understood that.”

Curran said women would workout at the gym three times a day to stay physically fit and competitive.

“Girls would go workout during lunch, come back all sweaty and eat their lunch while the next class started,” she said. “Everyone knew that [physical fitness] was going to be a concern.”

Their training at Fort Bragg pushed them to the limits of human endurance in suffocating temperatures. Curran and Miller said they marched about 20 miles while carrying 35 to 40 pounds of gear, which included ammo crates. They also had to practice carrying a “buddy,” or fallen comrade, out of a combat zone.

“If I lacked at something, or if I had a weakness, one of the girls could make up for that weakness,” Miller said. “Somebody else always had the upper body strength that could help me carry the fallen comrade.”

At Fort Bragg, one trainer called Ashley White “the Megatron Quiet Blonde.”

“In the military, strength is so revered…and Ashley had it,” Miller said. “It was very much about showing it, not telling it…and I think they really respected that, the idea of the quiet professional.”

Her comrades said White could knock out 20 pull-ups at the gym, and yet loved to bake bread on base.

“She wasn’t afraid to be feminine,” Curran said. “She was a wife and she was a daughter…she had a soft side and she wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t afraid to be feminine and be a warrior at the same time.”

White, along with Miller and Curran, were at the top of their class and made the cut for this special ops attachment group. They headed to Afghanistan to join the rangers in 2011. The work was so secret, they could not even share details with their families.

Within one week of landing, Miller said she was given her first mission.

When she ran out of the helicopter upon first landing, she said, “all I could see, taste was just dust, just all around me…I couldn’t even find the area where I needed to be to, to rendezvous with the team and I just remember thinking, ‘how did I get here?’”

Miller said her biggest fear right off the bat was “messing up” around the men they were there to help.

“It was the fear of making a mistake that would hurt the team or not accomplish the mission,” Miller said. “That was the thing that weighed on my mind all the time.”

“We were attached, but we were not assigned,” Miller said. “They knew we weren’t Rangers, but we were on the same team.”

The women in the Cultural Support Team quickly learned how to interact with the foreign culture of a very conservative country.

“I learned the phrase, how to say ‘I’m a woman, don’t be afraid,’ and I would call out to them,” Curran said. “That would put them at ease right off the bat.”

Even their hair, the women said, was a feminine asset they relied upon.

“We would take off our helmet once the compound was secure and just kind of let our hair down,” Curran said. “Some girls wore braids…just to make -- be able to make that connection, let them see that we were women.”

However, they said, their uniforms made for men, looked not quite right on women’s bodies.

“Tight in all the wrong places, loose in all the wrong places is how I remember mine feeling,” Miller said. “That was one more reason to let your hair down when you were with the women and children…that was really important to really gain their trust.”

Ashley White’s mother Debbie White said her tiny, 5-foot-2 warrior daughter was shy as a child and struggled to keep up with her athletic siblings, so she never dreamed that Ashley would sign up with the military.

"She was always the quiet one from the day she was born,” Debbie White said. “She always had strength that… amazed us.”

When Ashley got her assignment, her mother said she thought her daughter was going over to “set up medical tents and take care of the women and children of Afghanistan.” Her daughter’s mission was so confidential that, up until her death, White’s family never knew the dangerous path she had chosen.

“The first we learned is when they brought her home,” her mother Debbie White said. “At Dover Air Force Base, they told us what she was really doing.”

In October 2011, Ashley White was on a routine mission when a nest of improvised explosive devices at a compound exploded and White was killed, along with two other Rangers.

“What they walked into was basically a booby-trapped compound,” Lemmon said. “And they were trying to figure out what was going on, and as they did, another soldier stepped on what was a daisy chain of IED.”

“It was hard because she was doing things I never, ever would have thought she would have done,” Debbie White added. “She did was she set out to do, and I’m proud of her.”

The last thing she every said to her daughter, Debbie said, was to “be careful.”

“And she hugged me and she says, ‘Mom, I’m with the best of the best. I’m going to be fine. I’ll be home quicker than you know,’ and she walked through the doors and that’s the last thing we said,” Debbie White said.

Hundreds of people attended Ashley White’s funeral to show their respect for the fallen soldier. Debbie White has left her childhood bedroom in their Ohio home as a sort of legacy to her daughter, with her combat boots, helmet and various awards on display.

“There are so many women out there who put themselves in harm’s way throughout the 13 years of this conflict,” said Chiarelli. He said the CSTs performed “magnificently” and made a huge impact, showing some of the previous barriers in front of female soldiers have been “totally artificial.”

“Women are not as braggadocio as men are -- they just aren’t and they haven’t told these stories,” he continued. “But these stories need to be told -- they need to be told for their children, for their families, for everyone.”

Lt. Ashley White’s fellow comrades continue to remember her as one of the bravest who fought alongside of them.

“[Ashley] was incredibly selfless,” Miller said. “And that’s, I think, one of the things you want out of your warriors.”

“When America and the Army asked for women to do this mission, she felt the need to say, ‘Send me,’ and I think that level of selflessness is extraordinary and uncommon and I’ll never forget that about her,” Curran added.

Watch the full story on ABC News' Nightline Tuesday night at 12:35 a.m. ET.

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Mesquite Police Department(MESQUITE, Texas) -- The harrowing moment when police officers approach a burning car and break the window to save the unconscious driver was caught on video.

The dash camera from the patrol car captured the intense early Sunday morning rescue in Mesquite, Texas.

In the video, one officer punches the window of the vehicle -- allowing him to open the driver's door, while a second cops helps pull the seemingly unconscious driver out of the car. The officers can then be heard trying to communicate with the driver -- and towards the end of the video, he appears to be responding to them, confirming that there was no one else in the car.

Footage from two police patrol cars that responded to the scene on a southbound service road on IH-30 was released by the Mesquite Police Department this afternoon.

The driver was identified by police as Hector Valles. Police said he was the only person in the vehicle.

Valles was transported to Baylor Hospital in Dallas and was treated for burns and internal injuries, police said.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.


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ABC News(BOSTON) -- Returning to the race that caused her to become an amputee, Boston Marathon bombing victim Rebekah Gregory has crossed the finish line.

She ran 26.2 miles on her good leg and a prosthetic.

"This is the day....I take my life back," she wrote on Facebook earlier Monday, posting a photo of herself decked out in race gear.

 

She did it! @bostonmarathon bombing survivor @rebekahmgregory runs again. #RebekahStrong pic.twitter.com/EEZcmtjkob

— espnW (@espnW) April 20, 2015



Gregory was at the finish line of the Boston Marathon when a bomb exploded two years ago, and she wrote that she thought she would die on the pavement. After undergoing several operations, doctors amputated her leg in November. Gregory became one of 16 marathon victims to lose a limb.

Last year, she was pushed through the finish line in a wheelchair, but this year, she ran the full 26.2 miles with the help of a prosthetic leg.

"This time I won't be laying on the ground in pieces, or having to be assisted because I can't do things on my own," she wrote in a viral Facebook post. "This time...the only thing hitting the ground will be my running shoe, as I show myself and the rest of the world that I am back, stronger than ever....and there is NO stopping me now."

Gregory wrote in an email to ABC News that she started strength training one week before her leg was amputated last November. Since her surgery, she has tried to train five days a week for at least an hour, focusing on both strength and endurance.

"Running has been a huge release to me with all of the craziness going on," she wrote in an email to ABC News.


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welcomia/iStock/Thinkstock(ROYAL OAK, Mich.) -- The Detroit Zoo is planning to turn a major byproduct of its animal inhabitants into reusable energy.

The Detroit Zoological Society and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation launched a crowdfunding campaign on Monday to build an energy-producing biodigester at the zoo.

The biodigester will turn 400 tons of animal manure generated annually at the Detroit Zoo, as well as other organic waste, into a methane-rich gas, officials said in a press release.

The biogas will then be used to help power the Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex, and is expected to save the zoo around $70,000 to $80,000 a year in energy costs.

“We'll be the first zoo in North America to have a dry biodigester on grounds -- turning the dry animal waste into electricity," Detroit Zoological Society COO Gerry VanAker told ABC News affiliate WXYZ-TV.

The system will also convert manure into compost that will be used to fertilize animal habitats, gardens and public spaces throughout the 125-acre zoo.

If the Detroit Zoological Society reaches its crowdfunding goal of $55,000 by June 15, 2015 on the crowdfunding platform Patronicity, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will provide a $55,000 matching grant to the zoo.

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iStock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- Baltimore officials said Monday they share residents’ frustration with the lack of answers for why Freddie Gray, whose family says he was injured during his arrest last week by Baltimore police, died Sunday.

“This is a very, very tense time for Baltimore city,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “And I understand the community’s frustration. I understand it because I’m frustrated. I’m angry that we are here again. That we have had to tell another mother that their child is dead.”

“I’m frustrated that not only that we're here but we don’t have all of the answers,” she said.

She complimented the city’s “peaceful demonstrations” and added that officials are “moving as quickly as possible to determine exactly how his death occurred.”

Gray "clung to life for seven days" before he died Sunday, according to his family's attorney.

Gray was a "healthy" man when he was "chased" by police last Sunday "without any evidence he had committed a crime,” William Murphy Jr., an attorney for Gray's family, said.

Baltimore police said Gray, 25, had been trying to flee from officers, according to ABC News affiliate WMAR-TV.

According to the charging document, Gray "fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence" and was apprehended after a brief foot chase.

"This officer noticed a knife clipped to the inside of his front right pants pocket. The defendant was arrested without force or incident. The knife was recovered," the charging document said.

The charging document also states that during transport, Gray suffered a medical emergency and was immediately transported to Shock Trauma.

Cellphone video appeared to capture Gray screaming as officers dragged him to a police van, according to WMAR-TV.

"His take-down and arrest without probable cause occurred under a police video camera, which taped everything including the police dragging and throwing Freddie into a police vehicle while he screamed in pain," Murphy said in a statement to ABC News.

Murphy said, "While in police custody, his spine was 80 percent severed at his neck. He lapsed into a coma, died, was resuscitated, stayed in a coma and last Monday, underwent extensive surgery at Shock Trauma to save his life."

Gray "clung to life for seven days" before he died Sunday morning, according to Murphy.

Police had said last week it was unclear whether Gray suffered a medical emergency or was injured during the arrest, WMAR-TV reported.

Murphy added, "We believe the police are keeping the circumstances of Freddie’s death secret until they develop a version of events that will absolve them of all responsibility. However, his family and the citizens of Baltimore deserve to know the real truth; and we will not stop until we get justice for Freddie."

The officers involved are suspended with pay, as per policy, according to Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.


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Fuse/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- It wasn’t an NSA surveillance program or even some overseas CIA source that launched the FBI on a path to unraveling the largest group of alleged ISIS recruits in America. Instead, it was an alert and quick-thinking passport specialist, according to federal law enforcement officials and details outlined in court documents.

Last year, when the FBI office in Minneapolis received a call from the city’s passport office, U.S. counterterrorism officials had never heard of Abdullahi Yusuf -- the 18-year-old college student who allegedly tried to join ISIS one month later and whose friends are now at the center of a high-stakes terrorism investigation spanning two continents.

On April 28, 2014, Yusuf showed up alone at the Minneapolis Passport Agency and applied for an expedited passport. He wanted to go “sightseeing” in Istanbul, where he was planning to meet someone he recently connected with on Facebook, he allegedly told the passport specialist.

“It’s a guy, just a friend,” he told the specialist, according to court documents.

But when the specialist pressed him for more information about his “friend” in Istanbul and his plans while there, Yusuf couldn’t offer any details, the documents allege.

“[He] became visibly nervous, more soft-spoken, and began to avoid eye contact,” the documents say. “Yusuf did not appear excited or happy to be traveling to Turkey for vacation.”

In fact, the passport specialist “found his interaction with Yusuf so unusual that he contacted his supervisor who, in turn, alerted the FBI to Yusuf’s travel,” according to the court documents.

Within days, the FBI placed Yusuf under surveillance, according to the documents. And a month later, FBI agents watched as his father dropped him off at a local mosque, and then Yusuf worked his way to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Apparent destination: Syria.

But FBI agents stopped him from leaving the country, and further investigation tied him to a 20-year-old named Abdi Nur, according to the documents. The next day, however, Nur successfully slipped out of the country before the FBI could stop him, too.

“Nur unfortunately made it to Syria, where today he is an active recruiter for ISI[S],” U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said at a news conference Monday morning. “He is in regular contact with his friends, he advises them, and he serves as a source of inspiration to those who want to replicate his success.”

After an FBI investigation that began more than 10 months ago, six of those friends were arrested in the United States on Sunday, accused of trying to join ISIS. Yusuf and another friend were arrested late last year.

And it all began with a skeptical passport office worker.

“That passport official played an important role” in taking down the ISIS recruitment pipeline in Minneapolis, one Justice Department official said.

Yusuf has since pleaded guilty to conspiring to support ISIS. While he awaits sentencing, he has been living in a halfway house in Minneapolis, working at a local Best Buy and regularly meeting with a local group that hopes to “foster his connections to his future and his community.”

His attorney has argued Yusuf planned to join ISIS before it began beheading Americans and others. In addition, ISIS had yet to be designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government when Yusuf applied for his passport and began taking steps to go to Syria.

But prosecutors have insisted the group's brutal ways and anti-American sentiments were still well-established at the time.


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Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(AURORA, Colo.) -- A Colorado police department is crediting Facebook for helping to find the parents of a young girl who was unattended at a restaurant.

On Sunday afternoon, a small child approximately 2 years of age, with her hair in pony tails, wearing a red Minnie Mouse shirt, shoeless, sockless and speaking only Spanish, was found alone at the Los Toritos Restaurant 2 in Aurora, according to the Aurora Police Department Facebook page.

No missing child report had been made to local authorities, according to police, so the Aurora Police Department shared the girl's photo and description to its Facebook and Twitter accounts. The police said the child was safe and in the custody of social services.

On Sunday night, the police said the child's parents had been found, and the department gave a shout-out to social media for making it happen.

The Aurora Police wrote on its own Facebook page, "Thanks to Facebook the parents of the little girl who was left at the Los Toritos Restaurant have been located and are being interviewed by investigators. Thanks for all of the shares and tips."

Among the tips on the police page were people attempting to identify the girl and her parents from other pictures on the Internet.

However, a police spokeswoman said the parents, themselves, saw the post and reclaimed their child.

"It was a miscommunication between the adults that the [child] was left behind," Diana Cooley of the Aurora Police Department told ABC News Monday via email. "They realized through the sharing of the Facebook post that she was not [with] who she was supposed to be with. They contacted PD after they saw post. No charges. We are not releasing the identity of the individuals."

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RuthBlack/iStock/Thinkstock(SHAKOPEE, Minn) -- More than 400 strangers showed up to Mackenzie Moretter’s 10th birthday party this past Saturday at a park in Shakopee, Minnesota, after all the girls originally invited cancelled last minute or never RSVP’d.

Mackenzie’s mother, Jenny Moretter, told ABC News on Monday that her daughter has Sotos syndrome, a form of gigantism that causes kids with it to grow faster, experience speech and learning delays and have social disabilities.

“I originally invited 10 girls three weeks prior, but we got two cancellations and the other girls’ moms didn’t RSVP at all,” said Moretter, 38. “It’s happened to her on previous birthdays where she would end up sitting alone with family. I didn’t want it to happen to my daughter again this year.”

Last Friday, Moretter posted on several local community Facebook pages inviting families with daughters Mackenzie’s age to stop by.

She thought maybe 15 girls would show up, but more than 400 people came throughout the day, including Minnesota Vikings player Charles Johnson and his family, "Elsa" and "Snoopy" from a local amusement park, and local firemen, she said.

“There was a DJ, arts and crafts tables, balloons for kids, a bubble machine where kids could run through, and local businesses donated food and supplies,” Moretter said. “I was amazed at how quickly the community pulled together this huge birthday party in less than 24 hours.”

A stranger even set up a GoFundMe page, originally intending to help pay for the costs of the party, but Moretter said her family is planning to donate most of the money to other families in similar situations, charities and a foundation researching Sotos syndrome.

Keighla Anderson, a local photographer who volunteered to take pictures of the event, said she was especially touched when her own sister, who has special needs, was greeted by Mackenzie.

“My sister, Isabelle, who has her own developmental disabilities, had this pretty big gift bag, and she was walking up to the event when Mackenzie saw her,” Anderson told ABC News Monday.

“Mackenzie gave her a hug and then showed off all the things Isabelle gave her to her mom. The back of the card my sister gave was signed, ‘Your new friend, Isabelle,’ along with her number and a request to schedule a play date. Mackenzie was thrilled, and seeing their meeting was just so cute and touching.”

Mackenzie’s mom added that a few of the original 10 girls invited actually stopped by to apologize and wish Mackenzie a happy birthday.

Mackenzie officially will turn 10 on Tuesday, when she can go open all her presents that fill an entire room, Moretter said.

“We’re planning on donating a lot of the gifts to other children with similar needs like Mackenzie at our local children’s hospital,” she said.

Moretter added she hopes the occasion will inspire other families similar to theirs and encourage tolerance for children who are different.

“I just want people to know they should accept their children for who they are,” Moretter said. “And for kids who see other kids alone, I’d love to encourage them to go say hi and definitely not make fun of them. I hope parents educate their children more and that this can be a learning project for everybody."

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iStock/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- A young Minneapolis man who successfully slipped out of the United States last year to join ISIS in Syria has been working to recruit his friends to the terrorist cause, federal authorities revealed on Monday.

Abdi Nur, 18, flew overseas in May 2014, eventually making his way to Syria, officials said.

“From his locale in Syria, Nur recruits individuals and provides assistance to those who want to leave Minneapolis to fight abroad,” according to court documents filed Monday as part of a 10-month FBI investigation.

The FBI have charged six Minneapolis men with trying to join Nur in Syria, joining like-minded friends connected through Facebook and other social media.

According to what Nur's family told federal authorities, he started to become more religious in the months before his departure.

When the FBI identified Nur and realized he may be looking to join the terror group, Nur had already boarded a plane in Minneapolis only hours earlier, authorities said.

Then in late May, a “close relative” reported him as missing to police and showed authorities messages the pair had exchanged online.

Nur said he had gone “to the brothers” and “I’m not coming back,” according to court documents.

The relative implored him to change his mind, saying “going to kill poor people is not the answer.”

But Nur was undeterred, allegedly responding: “I want [heaven] for all of us."

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Chris Graythen/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Five years after the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 people and triggered the greatest oil spill in U.S. history, the company is waiting for a federal court to decide just how much it will have to pay in fines for violating the Clear Water Act.

After months of litigation, the final ruling is expected out this summer. It will set a penalty for the company ranging from $1,100 to $4,300 per barrel -- for each of the nearly four million barrels spilled during the 87 days before the well was capped.

Last September, in the first phase of the Clean Water Act trial, the U.S. District Court for Eastern Louisiana charged BP with “gross negligence," in regards to equipment and safety precautions.

"BP was reckless," the ruling stated.

If the gross negligence charge stands, BP could the face the maximum penalty per barrel of oil spilled.

In a second phase of the litigation related to the cleanup, the judge did not find the company grossly negligent and refrained from ruling on a lesser charge of "negligence."

“We have argued that not only were our actions that night not grossly negligent, but that there are several mitigating factors that need to be taken into account when we are ultimately determining the penalty,” BP’s spokesperson, Geoff Morrell, told ABC News’ Matt Gutman in a one-on-one interview this week.

Such factors include the fact that the company committed $1 billion to early restoration projects, which BP argues should be taken into account when determining the penalty. To date, BP has paid nearly $30 billion for clean-up, initial settlements and environmental studies.

But many on the ground believe that money only covers the first mile in a marathon race for restoration of the Gulf.

“Clean-up isn’t restoration,” argued Alisha Renfro, a staff scientist for the National Wildlife Federation’s Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign. “You don’t get a cookie for doing what you are required to do by law. Clean-up is absolutely essential and it is the first step, but this continues and will continue to be a problem for years to come.”

While some of the worst fears from the spill years ago were never realized, scientists like Renfro point to issues like erosion, which has been a problem in the Gulf from years, but found by some studies to be dramatically hastened in the months following the spill. According to scientists from the University of Florida, the spill more than doubled the rate of erosion for 18 months along the edge of marshlands after the oil killed grasses and roots that hold the sediment together.

The science is ongoing.

“We are looking at it. The federal government and state governments are looking at whether or not the exposure to oil in any way hastened the erosion of barrier islands or marshes,” Morrell said.

The official report on the long-term environmental impacts of the spill is still confidential and not expected to be released for another year or so. Still, it is indirect consequences of what happened five years ago that could influence the court’s final decision.

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iStock/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) — Federal authorities announced charges Monday against six Minnesota men who — along with a broader group of friends — allegedly conspired together to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

“These were not confused young men,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said at a news conference Monday morning in Minneapolis. “These are focused young men who were intent on joining a terrorist organization by any means possible.”

Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman, 19, Adnan Farah, 19, Hanad Mustafe Musse, 19, and Guled Ali Omar, 20, were arrested in Minneapolis on Sunday. Abdirahman Yasin Daud, 21, and Mohamed Abdihamid Farah, 21, were arrested the same day in California after driving from Minneapolis to San Diego, according to the Justice Department.

Authorities said the arrests cap a 10-month FBI investigation into ISIS recruitment in Minneapolis, where recruitment has been outpacing most other U.S. cities.

At least nine Minnesotans are known to have gone to Syria for ISIS or tried to join the group there. A least three of them have since been killed in the fighting, authorities said.

In December, federal prosecutors in Minneapolis called the recruitment pipeline in Minneapolis "a longstanding criminal conspiracy with members known and unknown."

Furthermore, some of those Minnesotans persuaded to take up arms with the brutal terrorist group obtained money and other support from "a person or persons unknown" to the U.S. government, federal prosecutors said in December.

But when asked in late February about ISIS recruiters inside the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder said the FBI and Justice Department "have a good handle on who they are."

"We are pretty effective in monitoring those people who would serve as recruiters," Holder told ABC News' Pierre Thomas.

In the past two years, nearly 50 Americans have been charged with trying to join ISIS or are otherwise suspected of being radicalized by the group.


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File photo. (Hemera/Thinkstock)(LOS ANGELES) -- The Los Angeles Police Department is asking the public for help to find four thieves who took a baby sea lion from its mother.

Police say that the suspects were seen taking a baby sea lion from Dockweiler State Beach in Playa Del Rey early Sunday morning at around 3 a.m.

"When officers arrived they met with a witness who observed two male suspects and two female suspects harassing and taunting two baby sea lions at Dockweiler Beach," the police statement read. "The suspects were seen taking one baby sea lion, entered a vehicle and fled from the location with the baby sea lion."

The car is described as a two-door Honda Civic with a California license plate ending in 56.

"The suspects are described as two male Hispanics and two female Hispanics" between the ages of 20 and 25 years old, the police statement read.

The Marine Animal Rescue rescued the second baby sea lion, the police said.

The LAPD is "initiating a cruelty to animal criminal investigation" and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating, because the baby sea lion is a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Anyone with information are encouraged to contact Pacific Station at (310) 482-6334, 1-877-LAPD-24-7 or visit LAPDOonline.org.


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ABC News(RUSKIN, Fla.) — The Florida mailman who flew a gyrocopter through restricted airspace and landed on the Capitol lawn last week said he made “every effort” to notify authorities ahead of his flight -- and said he wasn’t worried about getting shot down.

“I don’t know if that message didn’t get through, but I made every effort to give them advance notice because I didn’t want to get shot down and, thankfully, I wasn’t,” Doug Hughes told ABC News Monday.

Hughes is under house arrest at his Ruskin, Florida, home following his flight from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Washington, D.C. He was charged with operating an unregistered aircraft and violating national airspace, and faces a potential four years in prison, plus fines.

Hughes was hoping to distribute letters to members of Congress, attempting to raise awareness about monetary influence in politics.

Hughes said he enjoyed his flight.

“At the time that I was flying up the Capitol Mall, and it was a huge thrill, I wasn’t worried about getting shot down. I was worried about my flying, and I was getting focused on making my landing, and I think that’s the same thing that every pilot does when they’re making a final approach,” he said. “This is different than any other landing I’ve made, and it had a very surreal nature to it. I didn’t have a hand free to pinch myself to see if it was happening, but that’s what was happening.”

Despite being able to land on the lawn, Hughes said he doesn't believe Washington, D.C., has a security problem.

"The security around D.C. is ironclad," he said. “I seriously suspect that if you were to get into a gyro tomorrow, it wouldn't work.”

Though the Secret Service had learned of Hughes’ general plan more than a year earlier, federal authorities insisted they had no reason to know he would actually carry it out.


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