3 West Virginia corrections workers fired over disturbing Nazi salute photo

A total of 34 correction workers were suspended without pay.

Three corrections employees in West Virginia have been fired over an image of them performing a Nazi salute.

The state’s Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation announced the firings, which included two correctional academy trainers and one of the Basic Training Class #18 cadets in the photo, on Friday as authorities investigated the image. The department initially only announced suspensions of the employees in a letter on Wednesday, calling the image “distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive and completely inappropriate.”

In addition to those were fired, another 34 were suspended without pay, according to the department.

The offensive image, which was printed on state letterhead, showed about 30 trainees in uniform displaying the Nazi salute under a sign that read “HAIL BYRD!” The Basic Training Class No. 18 was conducted Oct. 21 through Nov. 27.

ABC News obtained a copy of the photo from the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

Jeff Sandy, the director of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said in a statement that the names of those in the photo will not be released until the investigation is complete. He said the end of the investigation was near.

“We are committed to a full and complete investigation that we will present to Governor Justice and to the public once it is finished,” Sandy said. “As terrible as this incident has been, it is critically important that we go by the book to arrive at the whole truth of what occurred and why.”

He had previously said he condemned the image in “the strongest possible terms,” Sandy wrote in a letter. “It betrays the professionalism I have seen time and time again displayed and practiced by our brave correctional employees.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said Friday that those in the photo “deserve to be exposed,” but he doesn’t know legally if he is able to identify them.

“We should, and do, condemn these actions in every way shape, form or fashion,” Justice said at a press conference.

He said that while it would be easy for him to say “it’s a bad thing, but we got to move on … I don’t want you to move on past it because it’s just that important.”

West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Commissioner Betsy Jividen has ordered that all copies of the image be destroyed, sent to her office or otherwise taken out of circulation “to keep its harm from spreading,” according to a letter sent to employees.

Alabama mourns 7th police officer killed in line of duty in 2019

Officer Billy Fred Clardy III was killed during a drug bust on Friday.

The state of Alabama is mourning the seventh law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty this year.

During a drug bust investigation in Huntsville on Friday, officer Billy Fred Clardy III was shot by “a known offender,” who was expected to drop off a large amount of drugs to the undercover officers, according to a statement issued by the Hunstville Police Department on Saturday.

The gunman, identified by police as LaJeromeny Brown, allegedly shot Clardy in an area not covered by his bulletproof vest before fleeing on foot. Brown, 41, was taken into custody on Friday night and charged with capital murder of a police officer, according to Madison County online records.

Hunstiville Police Chief Mark McMurray said Clardy died at the hospital Friday night and the doctors “did everything they could” to save his life. Clardy was 48.

“Our City is broken hearted tonight,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle in a statement issued on Friday.

Clardy’s father, Billy Fred Clardy Jr., was killed in the line of duty with the Huntsville Police Department on May 3, 1978, officials said.

“[He was] also an exceptional police officer with many career accomplishments,” the police department said in a statement. “He started his career working North Huntsville as a patrol officer. He quickly moved to become a Community Relations Officer for several years, became a part of the very first HPD Anti-Crime Team and then became a STAC Agent.”

Clardy, an Army veteran, is survived by his wife and five children.

“It has been an exceptionally tough year for our law enforcement community, and this will be felt across our state,” said Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in a statement Friday.

At the end of November 2019, Lowndes County Sheriff John “Big John” Williams was shot and killed as he was reporting to a convenient store where a group was loitering in the parking lot. William Chase Johnson, the son of a law enforcement officer, was arrested and charged for the capital murder of the 62-year-old.

Two months earlier, Tuscaloosa police officer Dornell Cousette was shot and killed while pursing robbery suspect Luther Bernard Watkins. Watkins, 20, was charged with capital murder.

Monroe County Deputy Sheriff Julius Jamal Dailey lost control of his patrol car on June 11, 2019, and crashed. Dailey, 29, was responding to a burglary in progress, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP) which tracks line-of-duty deaths of law enforcement officers.

Auburn police officer William Ray Buechner Jr. and two other officers responded to a domestic disturbance on May 19, 2019 when shots were fired from the residence. All three officers were shot, but Buechner died. Grady Wayne Wilkes was arrested the following day and charged with capital murder.

The year began with Alabama losing two officers within a seven-day period.

Mobile police officer Sean Paul Tuder was shot and killed while attempting to arrest 18-year-old Marco Perez on Jan. 20, 2019. Prosecutors filed a motion in October 2019 to seek the death penalty for Perez who is charged with capital murder.

Seven days prior to Tuder’s death, Birmingham Sgt. WyTasha Lamar Carter was shot and killed during an attempted robbery. Michael Todd, 18, and Jeremy Owens, 31, were charged in connection with Carter’s death. Owens is charged with capital murder.

In total, 113 law enforcement officers were killed while on duty across the country in 2019, according to ODMP. Only three states, all which much larger populations — New York, Texas and California — have had more deaths in the line of duty this year than Alabama.

After Mike Bloombergs well spoken comment, Cory Booker says he shouldnt have to school former mayor on race

Bloomberg was answering a question on the lack of diversity in the 2020 race.

Cory Booker shot back at Mike Bloomberg after the former New York City mayor said the New Jersey senator was “well spoken” — saying he shouldn’t have to take him to school on race.

“It’s not up to me to be his teacher on this issue,” Booker told ABC News’ Rachel Scott in an interview Friday afternoon in Grinnell, Iowa. “It’s not enough to say, ‘I’m not a racist.’ If racism exists, you need to be an anti-racist. You need to be working every day on these issues.

“Whoever is our nominee should not have to be explained to about why comments like that could be found to be offensive to a very important part of our constituency,” Booker added.

The back-and-forth between the 2020 presidential hopefuls comes less than two weeks into Bloomberg’s entry into the race.

During an interview, Bloomberg, who is white, was asked about the lack of diversity in the Democratic field and the possibility of an upcoming debate featuring only white candidates. Bloomberg said he and Booker endorsed each other a few times.

“He’s very well-spoken,” Bloomberg said on “CBS This Morning.” “He’s got some good ideas.”

Bloomberg later told ABC News that he “probably shouldn’t have used the word.”

“But I can just tell you, he is a friend of mine and he is a Rhodes Scholar, which is much more impressive than my academic background,” he added, referring to Booker. “I envy him. And he can certainly speak for himself.”

Following the suspension of California Sen. Kamala Harris’ campaign, Democrats have been met with a shrinking diversity on the campaign trail. As of Saturday afternoon, no candidates of color have qualified for the sixth democratic debate, set to take place in Los Angeles later this month.

Despite a concerted push to qualify for the Los Angeles debate, Booker still needs four Democratic National Committee approved polls to appear on the stage.

In the ABC News interview, Booker criticized the DNC for instituting “artificial barriers” that make it easier for billionaires to get on the stage.

“It’s a problem that we now have an overall campaign for the 2020 presidency, that has more billionaires in it than black people,” he said in speech to supporters on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.

He also pushed back against DNC chair Tom Perez’s argument that no candidate who has been under 4% at this point in the cycle has been able to win the primary.

Booker is not alone in urging for more diversity on the debate stage. Fellow presidential hopeful and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who is Latino, has also used the conversation to bring attention to his campaign.

The Dec. 19 debate will currently feature former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Tom Steyer.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and businessman Andrew Yang both need one poll to make the debate stage. Candidates have until Thursday to qualify.

Following his controversial comments, Booker confirmed to ABC News that Bloomberg has reached out to him.

He said he still considers Bloomberg a “friend” and there is “no beef,” but Booker spoke of the importance of having leaders who “can authentically connect” to African Americans — a critical base for the Democratic party.

“We all say things we shouldn’t, but this is something our eventual nominee should know,” he said. “If they don’t it is going to hurt them in our ability to win.”

ABC News’ Alisa Wiersema, Briana Stewart and Ely Brown contributed to this report.

UPS driver, bystander, suspects identified from Florida shootout that left 4 dead

“You have chills in your body,” one witness said.

An attempted jewelry store robbery that led to the theft of a UPS truck, a hostage situation and a police shootout that ultimately left two “innocent civilians,” including a UPS driver, dead has shaken the Florida community to its core.

UPS identified the driver as Frank Ordonez, according to a statement obtained by ABC News on Friday.

He’d had worked with the company since July 2016, first as a package handler and then as a service provider, also known as a driver.

“We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends and the other innocent victims involved in this incident,” UPS said in the statement.

The incident started around 4:15 p.m. local time when two men attempted to rob Regent Jewelers in Coral Gables, authorities said. After shots were fired, the suspects carjacked the UPS truck, held the driver, Ordonez, hostage and led police on a high-speed pursuit before engaging in a shootout.

The two suspects, identified by the FBI as Lamar Alexander, 41, and Ronnie Jerome Hill, 41, both of Miami-Dade County, were killed in the shootout, FBI Special Agent in Charge George Piro told reporters.

Two “innocent civilians,” Ordonez and a bystander, were killed amid gunfire, Piro said. Family members told ABC News that Richard Cutshaw, a 70-year-old union representative, was the bystander shot and killed.

It’s not yet clear whether the two died from gunfire by law enforcement or the suspects.

Alex Melo, a witness, told ABC News he has been “nervous beyond belief” since seeing the incident unfold.

“You have chills in your body seeing the scene. … It’s not something, an ordeal, you live through on a daily basis,” Melo said Friday morning.

Melo was in a car with Sheila Cabrera when the two said they were stuck in an intersection of the highway in Miramar as the shootout erupted during rush hour Thursday afternoon.

As the shootout broke out, Cabrera said she and Melo “could not move” from their car.

“Next thing you know, we were in the middle of it all,” she told ABC News. “All I could think of was a stray bullet coming towards us.”

She described seeing “a river of police” flooding the highway in pursuit of the UPS truck.

Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam called the deadly incident an “unprecedented event that took place in our quiet community.”

Messam said authorities are still gathering information, with the FBI taking the lead in the case and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement also investigating.

Joe Merino, the stepfather of Ordonez, told ABC News the family is looking for answers as to exactly what happened and condemned what he called “excessive force” by the police.

“Officers are here to serve and protect. Well, where was the protection offered of my son? Where was his protection?” Merino said. “He was a victim. He was a hostage.”

He called Ordonez’s death “avoidable.”

“It could’ve been handled differently,” Merino said.

Ordonez leaves behind two daughters, ages 3 and 5. Cutshaw leaves behind his 99-year-old mother and five brothers and sisters.

ABC News’ Jim Vojtech, Will Gretsky, Justin Doom and Karma Allen contributed to this report.

American student Xiyue Wang jailed in Iran for 3 years freed in prisoner exchange

Xiyue Wang had been held in Iran’s notorious Evin prison since August 2016.

An American graduate student who was jailed for more than three years in Iran is headed home after a prisoner swap.

Xiyue Wang, 38, a Princeton University student, was exchanged for Iranian scientist Professor Massoud Soleimani early on Saturday as part of a prisoner exchange brokered by the Switzerland government. Wang had been held in Iran’s notorious Evin prison since August 2016 on charges of espionage.

President Trump said Wang had been held under the “pretense” of espionage.”

“The highest priority of the United States is the safety and well-being of its citizens,” the president said in a statement. “Freeing Americans held captive is of vital importance to my Administration, and we will continue to work hard to bring home all our citizens wrongfully held captive overseas.”

A senior administration official said Switzerland had been negotiating for Wang’s release for more than three weeks. Wang, who is currently in Germany, is in good spirits, the official said.

Wang, who is married with a son, was a Eurasian history scholar. He traveled to Iran in 2016 to study Persian and conduct research for his dissertation.

Before traveling, Wang wrote to the Iranian Interest Section at the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C., which issued his visa. He also wrote to the libraries in Iran he planned to visit, according to Princeton University.

He was transparent about what he wanted to study and why, according to the university, and about his desire to access documents housed at Iranian libraries and archives.

“He was not involved in any political activities or social activism; he was simply a scholar trying to gain access to materials he needed for his dissertation,” the school said in a statement about his case.

Wang’s wife, Hua Qu, tweeted that their family was “complete once again.”

“Our son Shaofan and I have waited three long years for this day and it’s hard to express in words how excited we are to be reunited with Xiyue,” the tweet read. “We are thankful to everyone who helped make this happen.”

In exchange for Wang’s release, Professor Massoud Soleimani, who was arrested at a Chicago airport last year and charged with violating trade sanctions against Iran, was headed home, too.

A stem cell researcher who had been working in Minnesota, Soleimani was charged after he was reportedly seeking to transfer biological material back to Iran without a license.

His lawyers argued that he was innocent, saying the sanctions law was ambiguous.

Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, was there to greet him at the airport; he flew with Wang from Tehran to Switzerland.

In a tweet, Zarif said: “Glad that Professor Massoud Soleimani and Mr. Xiyue Wang will be joining their families shortly. Many thanks to all engaged, particularly the Swiss Government.”

ABC News’ Elizabeth Thomas contributed to this report.

White House wont participate in any House impeachment proceedings: Official

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler had asked to be notified by Friday.

The White House sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler Friday afternoon blasting the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, and while it doesn’t say explicitly that President Donald Trump and his lawyers will not participate in their upcoming proceedings, a senior White House official told ABC News the point of the letter is that they won’t take part.

“House Democrats have wasted enough of America’s time with this charade,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote. “You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings.”

“Adopting articles of impeachment would be a reckless abuse of power by House Democrats, and would constitute the most unjust, highly partisan, and unconstitutional attempt at impeachment in our Nation’s history,” he said.

“We don’t see any reason to participate because the process is unfair. Speaker Pelosi had already announced the predetermined result. They will not give us the ability to call any witnesses,” a senior administration official told ABC News.

In a letter last week, Nadler asked the president to notify the committee by Friday at 5 p.m. whether his lawyers would participate in any of their proceedings and whether they plan to present a defense. The Judiciary Committee announced a hearing on Monday in which lawyers for the Democrats and Republicans from the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committee’s will present findings from the investigations.

The absence of White House participation follows weeks of vocal protests from the president and Republicans in Congress, who have accused Democrats of blocking their due process rights. In a previous letter to Nadler, the White House argued it could not be expected to participate in the hearing with constitutional scholars because the committee provided them little information about it. The White House said it would consider participating in upcoming proceedings if the committee conducted a “fair process going forward.”

However, the White House is preparing an aggressive defense of the president for a Senate trial if and when the House sends over articles of impeachment.

“The underlying impeachment rules of the Senate afford the president a full suite of rights to argue his case on the facts and on the merits,” Eric Ueland, legislative affairs director for the White House, told reporters. “That’s why we believe quite strongly that in order to make the president’s whole case, in contradiction to a partisan process which doesn’t allow him to make his full case, that we need both a full trial and the opportunity to call witnesses and work a trial over here on the Senate floor.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday she had instructed House Democrats to draw up articles of impeachment of Trump, saying he’d abused his power.

“Sadly, but with confidence and humility … today I am asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment,” she said. “The facts are uncontested. The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security by withholding military aid and a crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival.”

Articles of impeachment could be drafted and introduced next week. That will set up a public committee hearing to mark up and approve the articles, sending them to the House floor. That could happen as early as the week after the Monday hearing.

Democrats are still on track to vote and pass articles of impeachment out of the House the week before Christmas.

Rep. Duncan Hunter to resign shortly after the holidays

He pleaded guilty this week to conspiracy to misuse campaign donations.

Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California will resign shortly after the holidays after pleading guilty earlier this week to one count of conspiracy in a case surrounding his alleged misuse of $250,000 in campaign donations for personal expenses such as family vacations and oral surgeries.

“Shortly after the Holidays I will resign from Congress,” he said in an email sent from his congressional office. ” It has been an honor to serve the people of California’s 50th District, and I greatly appreciate the trust they have put in me over these last 11 years.”

He once called the investigation a politically-motivated “witch hunt.”

On Thursday, the House Ethics Committee sent a letter to Hunter asking him to cease participation in floor votes following his guilty plea, citing a House rule that advises members convicted of crimes for which, “under federal law, you may receive a sentence of two or more years of imprisonment” to “refrain” from voting.”

The letter cites that though the provision is not mandatory, “If you violate the clear principles of this provision- that is, by voting in the House- you risk subjecting yourself to action by this Committee, and by the House, in addition to other disciplinary action that may be initiated in connection with your… conviction,” the letter reads.

Hunter was the second House Republican to endorse then-candidate Trump during the 2016 election. Trump’s first House endorsement came from GOP New York Rep. Chris Collins, who resigned in September before pleading guilty to insider trading related charges.

Together, the two co-chaired Trump’s House Leadership Committee in 2016, before Trump won the nomination.

He narrowly won re-election in 2018 after being indicted, along with his wife Margaret, on dozens of charges of improperly using campaign funds.

Hunter also allegedly tapped into some of that money to also finance romantic trysts with multiple congressional aides and lobbyists, according to federal prosecutors in court filings.

Hunter told KUSI in an interview that aired on Monday he decided to plead guilty for the sake of his children. Hunter is due to be sentenced in March. His wife, Margaret, who was also charged in the case and pleaded guilty on a single corruption count, is slated to be sentenced in April.

Hunter’s move opens up the possibility of another special election in California, in addition to the one set to take place in the state’s 25th Congressional District, where Democrat Rep. Katie Hill resigned from Congress amid multiple scandals.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on its GOP counterpart to return the $220,000 in contributions Hunter donated to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Texas police use drone to nab burglary suspect

Drone technology is giving a lift to police departments of all sizes.

It used to be that police departments needed to have a helicopter to identify and locate fleeing suspects from the air.

But not anymore. The advent of drone technology is putting that capability into the hands of even small law enforcement agencies.

“It took a helicopter to chase bad guys in the past, and it was very expensive to do that — something that an agency our size could never possibly afford,” Lt. Russell Brown of the Bellaire Police Department in Texas told Houston ABC station KTRK.

Now Bellaire police have three drones at their disposal, and officers say they’re helping save lives. When police in the nearby town of West University were trying to locate a fleeing burglary suspect, the call went out to Officer Aarob Lysack, one of four licensed drone pilots with the Bellaire Police.

Lysack, who was patrolling in his police cruiser, put his drone in the air sent it in search of the suspect.

“That drone was able to locate the suspect before the officers could, and basically lead officers to the suspect,” Brown told KTRK.

The drone located the suspect running through a backyard, and it recorded him as he tried to get rid of a backpack.

When officers recovered it, authorities say the backpack was filled with the stolen items — as well as a gun.

“The drone was able to see that, document that on film, and have that video ready for court if needed,” Brown said.

For Lysack, drone technology represents a giant leap forward for law enforcement.

“It goes about 50 miles an hour. It’s got a range of about three miles, as long as we can see it visually. It can go up to 400 feet high,” said Lysack. “The thermal camera on it can see a human walking down the street or even a warm vehicle that was recently parked. The zoom goes up to 30 times optical and 180 times digital.”

“I think this is a big game changer,” he said.

US added 266K jobs in November, unemployment remains at 50-year low

The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows continued signs of growth.

The U.S. economy added a solid 266,000 jobs in November, exceeding economists’ exceptions, according to the latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday.

Average hourly earnings rose by 7 cents to $28.29 and unemployment remained at a 50-year low of 3.5%.

Employers added the most jobs in the health care and professional and technical services industries, the data showed.

November also saw a rise in manufacturing jobs, though this was likely due to unionized autoworkers returning to work after the strike at General Motors.

Western storm will cross country and bring snow, rain from California to New York

Storm alerts have been issued from Oregon to California.

A brand new storm will be moving into Northern California and Southern Oregon later today with heavy rain all the way down to the San Francisco Bay area and heavy snow in the mountains.

Storm alerts have been issued from Oregon to California this morning.

Heavy rain will move into the northern San Francisco Bay area Friday evening to finish off the rush hour. Flash flooding is possible and there is a threat of mudslides.

Friday night through Saturday night, heavy rain will begin to spread through most of the West Coast from Seattle to San Diego — but these areas will not see a flooding threat like Northern California.

In the mountains, very heavy snow is expected, especially in the Sierra Nevada range where 4 feet of snow is expected.

By Sunday, the storm system will cross the Rockies bringing a chance of heavy snow from Colorado to Montana, where more than a foot is possible.

By Sunday night and into Monday, this storm system will redevelop in the Plains and join another system coming from Canada to produce several inches of snow in the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes, just in time for the Monday morning commute.

Further south, rain — heavy at times — is expected from Chicago to Atlanta and eventually into Washington, D.C. and New York City by Monday late morning into the afternoon.

Behind this cross-country storm system, the coldest air of the season will invade the northern Plains and the Midwest with wind chills well below zero and actual temperatures falling below zero as well.