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Michigan school shooting: Suspect’s parents deny involuntary manslaughter

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bbc– The parents of a teenager suspected of a deadly school shooting have denied charges of involuntary manslaughter following their arrest on Saturday.

James and Jennifer Crumbley were found hiding in a Detroit basement having failed to show up in court on Friday.

The judge set bail at $500,000 each after agreeing with prosecutors that the Crumbleys posed a flight risk.

They are accused of ignoring warning signs before their son’s alleged rampage.

Prosecutors say Ethan Crumbley, 15, used his father’s gun to shoot classmates in the nearby Michigan town of Oxford, killing four and wounding seven.

The Crumbleys’ lawyers said that the pair had intended to turn themselves in to the authorities on Saturday morning, according to US media.

However reports in the US say the couple had withdrawn $4,000 (£3,000) from an ATM and had turned off their mobile phones.

Oakland County lead prosecutor Karen McDonald said the terrorism charge was neither “usual” nor “typical” but reflected the wider impact the shooting would have.

“What about all the children who ran, screaming, hiding under desks? What about all the children at home right now who can’t eat and can’t sleep and can’t imagine a world where they could ever step foot back in that school?” she said.

“Those are victims, too, and so are their families and so is the community. The charge of terrorism reflects that.”

Why have the parents been charged?

On Friday, Ms McDonald acknowledged that charging parents in a child’s alleged crime was also unusual.

According to her office’s investigation, the boy was with his father last Friday when Mr Crumbley bought the firearm believed to have been used in the shooting.

A post on the boy’s social media later that day showed off his dad’s new weapon as “my new beauty”, adding a heart emoji.

Just one day before the shooting, a teacher said she saw the boy searching online for ammunition, which prompted a meeting with school officials, Ms McDonald said. After being informed of the incident, Mrs Crumbley texted her son: “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

And on Tuesday morning – hours before the rampage – Mr and Mrs Crumbley were called into the school for an urgent meeting after teachers found a note by their son, including several drawings of guns and bloodied people alongside captions like “the thoughts won’t stop. Help me”, and “blood everywhere”. The boy had also written “My life is useless” and “The world is dead”, according to the prosecutor.

School officials told the pair they would have to seek counselling for their son.

But the boy’s parents did not want him to be removed from school that day, Ms McDonald said, and did not ask him whether he had the gun with him, or search his backpack.

At 13:22 later that day, Mrs Crumbley texted her son to say: “Ethan, don’t do it.” Minutes later her husband called police to report his gun was missing, said the prosecutor.

But authorities say the boy had already emerged from the school bathroom and opened fire on fellow students.

Ms McDonald said the charges were meant to hold the Crumbleys accountable and to send a message about responsible gun ownership.

“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable, and it’s criminal,” she said.

The prosecutor had previously noted that, although the gun had been purchased legally, it “seems to have just been freely available” for the child’s use. According to her, the suspect took the gun from an unlocked drawer in his parents’ bedroom and brought it to school.

Neither federal nor state law requires gun owners to keep their weapons locked away from their children.

In a video message posted to YouTube on Thursday, the school’s superintendent Tim Throne said that – while the boy and his parents had been called to the office – “no discipline was warranted” at the time.

He added that the school looked like a “war zone” and would not be ready to operate again for weeks.

Ms McDonald alleged on Friday that, when James Crumbley heard about the shooting, he “drove straight to his home to look for his gun” before calling authorities to say he suspected his son was the perpetrator.

“I’m angry as a mother. I’m angry as a prosecutor. I’m angry as a person that lives in this county,” she said. “There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent.”

She said her office had “a mountain of digital evidence” to show the suspect had planned the attack “well before the incident”.

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New York fire: At least 19 killed in apartment block blaze

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At least 19 people, including nine children, have died after a fire in a New York apartment building.

Another 32 people were sent to hospital, several of whom are in a critical condition, according to New York Mayor Eric Adams.

Fire department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said they had found victims on every floor of the 19-storey block, saying the smoke was “unprecedented”.

He told NBC News the death toll was the worst seen in New York for 30 years.

It comes days after an apartment fire in Philadelphia killed 12, with eight children among the dead.

Sunday’s fire broke out in an apartment that spans the second and third floors of the Bronx apartment block at about 11:00 local time (16:00 GMT), officials said.

Some 200 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze, which officials believe was sparked by a malfunctioning electric heater.

Commissioner Nigro said there were two floors of fire, but the smoke had spread everywhere.

The door to the apartment where the fire started was left open, and smoke then spread to every floor, Commissioner Nigro told reporters.

“Members found victims on every floor in stairwells and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest,” he said.

George King, who lives nearby, told AFP news agency people were waving from the windows as the flames took hold.

“I saw the smoke, a lot of people were panicking,” he said. “You could see that no-one wanted to jump from the building.”

A total of 63 people suffered injuries, including the 32 taken to hospital. Thirteen are in a critical condition, Stefan Ringel, a senior adviser to the mayor, told AP news agency.

“The impact of this fire is going to bring a level of pain and despair to our city,” Mr Adams told reporters. “The numbers are horrific.”

He told CNN on Monday that the incident was “a wake-up call for all our buildings” to ensure complaints are heard and protective measures are working.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul called Sunday’s events “a night of tragedy”, and pledged to create a victims’ compensation fund to support survivors.

“There will be money to find new housing, burial costs and whatever we need because that’s what we do here in New York,” Ms Hochul said.

The area of the Bronx where the fire occurred is home to a large Muslim immigrant population and many of those affected by the blaze are believed to have originally come to the US from the Gambia.

Mr Adams urged anyone impacted by the fire to seek assistance from the authorities, irrespective of immigration status. He assured residents that their details would not be passed on to immigration services.

Speaking alongside Mr Adams, New York Senator Chuck Schumer pledged to provide immigration support to allow families to come together to grieve.

The building hosts a number of affordable housing apartments and the blaze is likely to raise questions over the quality of such units in the city.

Representative Ritchie Torres, a Democratic lawmaker whose district includes the building, told the US network MSNBC that developments such as the building where the fire hit pose safety risks to residents.

“When we allow our affordable housing developments to be plagued by decades of disinvestment, we are putting lives at risk,” Mr Torres said.

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US flight cancellations hit new holiday peak amid Covid and bad weather

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bbc– Flight cancellations in the US have hit a new peak in a Christmas season hit hard by the Covid pandemic and bad weather.

Nearly 4,400 flights around the world were cancelled on Saturday, more than 2,500 of them in the US, air traffic site FlightAware reported.

Airlines have been struggling with staffing problems with crew quarantining after contracting Covid.

Adding to travellers’ woes, heavy snow has hit the central US.

From the US cancellations, more than 1,000 are from Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports.

“Today’s cancellations are driven by Omicron staffing and weather-related issues. We did pre-cancel flights in anticipation of inclement weather. We’ve been contacting passengers early if their flights are cancelled to give them time to rebook or make other plans,” United Airlines said in a statement.

Sunday, when many people often return home from their Christmas holidays, is likely to bring further disruption, with more snow and heavy winds forecast.

“It’s too long and there’s no space to spend the time, get something to eat, it’s a long time here,” one traveller stuck at O’Hara airport told ABC news in Chicago.

More on Covid around the world:

  • Antarctic outpost hit by Covid-19 outbreak
  • UAE bans foreign travel for citizens without booster jab
  • Omicron wave appears milder, but concern remains

Since 24 December, more than 12,000 flights have been cancelled in the US.

Airlines have being trying to woo crew with extra pay to tackle the staff shortages. But unions say workers fear contracting Covid or having to deal with angry passengers.

The US is facing a surge in Covid cases powered by the Omicron variant.

New York City has seen record cases despite high vaccination rates. The virus has hit everything from the police force to Broadway shows, although there has not yet been a significant hike in hospitalisations.

The city’s new mayor, Eric Adams, took office on Saturday after low key New Year celebrations.

In his first speech, he said the city would not be “controlled by crises”.

“This pandemic has not only impacted us physically, but emotionally, and I’m going to really encourage people in this city to just find that inner peace, no matter what we’re going through,” he said.

“We have been through tragedies before. This is a resilient city and a resilient country and I want to bring that energy,”

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US follows UK’s lead and shortens isolation for healthcare workers who test positive for Covid-19

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independent– Healthcare workers who test positive for Covid-19 and are asymptomatic only need to isolate for seven days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said.

The CDC reduced the recommended isolation time from 10 days in part due to concerns that the highly transmissible Omicron variant could cause even greater staffing shortages at hospitals.

In new guidance released on Thursday, the CDC said infected healthcare workers could return to work after a week as long as they were asymptomatic and produced a negative test.

The US recorded 261,339 new cases on Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Earlier this week, the UK Health Security Agency announced that essential workers would be allowed to return after a seven-day isolation period amid a worsening staffing crisis in hospitals.

In a statement, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said it was updating guidelines in response to an “anticipated surge” in patients due to the Omicron variant.

“Our priority, remains prevention—and I strongly encourage all healthcare personnel to get vaccinated and boosted.”

Dr Walensky added that health care workers who were fully vaccinated, including with a booster shot, did not need to isolate after a high-risk exposure.

On Friday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that essential workers who tested positive could return to their jobs after five days if they were fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, and had not had a fever within the past 72 hours.

“This is not Delta, or the first variant,” Ms Hochul said during a live address.

“This is Omicron, and thus far it has demonstrated it’s not as severe in its impact, and therefore we want to make sure that our critical workforce, who we’ve relied on from the beginning, can get back to work.”

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