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Woman says her fake cop act was prank, laughs it off in court

An accused police impersonator laughed in court Tuesday as she faced a judge. Quitina Helms, 38, is facing serious charges after telling police she was just trying to pull a prank.

Police in Gwinnett, Georgia, said Helms was wearing a T-shirt with the word “police” on the front and back when she demanded four victims give her their IDs and forced them to sit on the curb in a neighborhood off Jimmy Carter Boulevard early Sunday morning.

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The victims said that, when the woman could not show them a badge, they became suspicious. 

"She shined a light inside the vehicles. She asked them to get out of the vehicle, asked them to sit on the curb, asked them to not talk, and she also asked them for names and identification so she could check for possible warrants," said Cpl. Michele Pihera, of the Gwinnett County Police Department.

After about 20 minutes, police said, one of the victims jumped into Helms' car and drove off. Others called 911.

Police arrived a few minutes later and found Helms nearby.

Residents who live in front of where the incident happened said they saw all the activity but had no idea an alleged impersonator was involved.

"I came out here and she was talking to a police officer," resident Charles Seiple said.

"She said she was doing it as a prank," Pihera said.

Helms apparently still thought it was funny as she appeared in court Tuesday. She kept trying to hide her face from the camera and laughed several times. 

"Your bond is $22,000," the judge told Helms. 

"I don't know if her motivations were to eventually tell the victims that this was a prank and this was just a joke, but this was very serious," Pihera said.

Police charged Helms with impersonating an officer and false imprisonment. Both are felonies.

Family traumatized after 'kidnapping prank' in North Carolina

Shelly Clark was walking in a Charlotte, North Carolina neighborhood with her 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son Sunday when her son was grabbed in an apparent prank.

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"On the sidewalk was a young man and a young lady and a baby in a stroller," Clark said.

Clark said the family was taking up most of the sidewalk, so they had to go around them in a single-file line.

They were passing the couple and Clark noticed the man pick up his cellphone and start recording what seemed like a video or Facebook Live. She said her children were behind her to get around him and told them to avoid getting in his shot. Then she heard the man say something that caused her to turn back around.

"I hear the word 'kidnapped' and as I turn, when I hear the word ‘kidnapped,’ I see him grab my son in a bear hug and he literally starts running down the street," Clark said. "My daughter is then running after him, holding onto my son's leg and trying to beat on the guy."

Clark started running after them.

"When I reach him, he drops my son on the ground and he crouches down to the ground and he says, 'Ma'am, ma'am, this is a kidnap pranking, I'm pranking you.'"

Stunned and furious, she said she yelled at the man for a few minutes before returning home safely.

"I didn't see anything funny about it,” Clark said. “It may have only lasted a couple of minutes but it was detrimental and traumatic for my children and for myself."

She said she feels the need to speak out for other parents.

"Hold your kids tight and always be aware," Clark said.

Clark said she contacted police to give them a suspect description and is in the process of filing a report.

She said even though she's talked to her children before about what to do if something like this happens, she now wants to start an actual group that teaches small children self-defense.

Reward climbs to $20,000 to track down serial cat killer in Washington

The reward continues to climb to help track down a serial cat killer in Thurston County, Washington.

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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced it’s donating $5,000 to the fund, bringing the total reward money to $15,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person killing cats in Thurston County.

The reward was increased again to a total of $20,000. 

“An animal can’t speak, it can’t scream and it’s a vulnerable victim,” said Erika Johnson, lead investigator for Thurston County Joint Animal Services.

Becoming a voice for the voiceless, on Sunday dozens of people met in Olympia’s Decatur Woods Park to work together to keep the community safe.

The park is a spot where multiple cats’ bodies have been found mutilated, including Angi Swan’s 2-year-old cat, Callie.

“It’s been important for our family’s healing to figure out who did this and to kind of share the grief with others and find out who this person is,” she said.

Swan said Callie went missing July 3.

“Initially, we thought it was fireworks-related and maybe (she) got confused or distracted, and then apparently she was killed that night,” she said.

Callie was the fourth mutilated cat found. Swan said the person committing these awful crimes is tearing families apart.

“This person needs to turn themselves in. I don’t know what their issue is, I don’t know what’s wrong with them, but they need to be stopped,” she said.

Johnson said she’s never seen a case quite like this.

“They’re part of the family and people don’t want part of their family being taken from them and being abused,” said Johnson. “The only thing I would say to (the killer) is, 'I’m going to find you and I’m going to put you in jail.'”

Johnson said investigators are working around the clock to go through hundreds of tips. She said they have good leads on this case.

Anyone with information about this case should contact Thurston County Animal Services at 360-352-2510.

Police respond to shooting at Walmart in Pennsylvania

Two people were arrested Tuesday following reports of a shooting at a Walmart near Philadelphia. 

Emergency dispatchers in Montgomery County said gunfire was reported just after 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Cedarbrook Plaza Shopping Center in Cheltenham Township.

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Philadelphia police, who were among those responding, said the male suspect and a female passenger fled the scene and tossed the gun from the car. Police say the suspects then ran into a police vehicle, injuring two officers.

According to the Associated Press, the officers were taken to a hospital along with the female passenger. The male suspect was apprehended but tried to kick out the window of a police vehicle and was hit with a stun gun, after which he also was taken to a hospital.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Father charged after 13-day-old son suffers life-threatening injuries

A Minnesota man is facing charges after police said he inflicted life-threatening injuries on his 13-day-old son.

Michael Herkal, 32, has been charged with first-degree assault and malicious punishment of a child.

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Police responded Sunday to the Herkal residence after receiving a 911 call about an infant who was not breathing, according to the complaint filed in the Dakota County court. When police arrived, they observed that the infant was turning blue and purple and a pulse could not be detected. As officers attempted to revive the child, they noticed bruises on the child's body, the complaint said. The infant was transported to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a skull fracture and blood on his brain. The child is not breathing on his own and is not expected to survive, authorities said.

The infant's mother told police said she had gotten in an argument with Herkal earlier in the day, and had left the infant in the custody of Herkal, according to the complaint. Herkal attempted to call the infant's mother twice before calling 911, the complaint noted.

Authorities said Herkal gave varying stories about how the child was injured, at first blaming his toddler son, claiming the older child pulled the newborn off the sofa. Later, while giving a statement at the Apple Valley Police Department, Herkal changed his story, claiming that the baby has slipped while he was changing the baby's diaper.

The complaint said that a forensic examination of Herkal's cellphone found the following Google searches:

  • "Someone threw a baby on the floor"
  • "Baby breathing hard"
  • "Noisy baby breathing: What's normal and what's not"
  • "Babys butt is blue"
  • "Babys butt is blue s[p]anking"

Herkal is being held at the Dakota County Jail. If the baby dies, Herkal could face murder charges, KARE11 reported.

'I'll never drink Sam Adams again!' tweets Massachusetts mayor as he criticizes Boston Beer Co. founder

The mayor in Somerville, Massachusetts, has sworn off Boston’s largest beer after the company’s founder had dinner with President Donald Trump and thanked him for tax cuts. 

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Mayor Joseph Curtatone tweeted Sunday in response to a story about Sam Adams’ founder and his comments at Trump’s dinner. 

“I will never drink Sam Adam’s beer again!” Curatone tweeted. 

He went on to condemn “Trump’s white nationalist agenda” and called Sam Adams founder Jim Koch a “complicit profiteer.” 

Koch attended a dinner with other business leaders hosted by Trump. Koch, when asked to introduce himself, remarked about feeling out of place among large company owners and then thanked Trump for tax cuts, saying it has helped micro-breweries. 

Curtatone responded to critics on Twitter saying, “Got some people insisting they're going to make Sam Adams their beer of choice now because of something I tweeted. No, they won't.”

Boston Beer Company (SAM) was trading at $289 per share at the time of this posting. The company’s brands include Samuel Adams, Twisted Tea, Angry Orchard, Truly Spiked & Sparkling brands, The Traveler Beer Company, Coney Island Brewing Company, Angel City Brewing Company and Concrete Beach Brewing Company.

Delta Air Lines to hire 1,000 flight attendants

Delta Air Lines said Tuesday that it plans to hire more than 1,000 flight attendants for 2019.

Last year, the airline had about 1,700 flight attendant openings and said it got more than 270,000 applicants.

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In order to qualify for the job of flight attendant at Delta, applicants must be able to work a flexible schedule, have a high school degree or GED, be at least 21 years old by Jan. 1, 2019, be able to work in the United States and be fluent in English.

Additionally, new hires would complete eight weeks of training in Atlanta. During this time, participants receive a training wage of $7.25 per hour and some meals, as well as lodging for those who don't live in Atlanta.

Those most likely to get the job would have additional education, fluency in another language, more than a year of work experience, experience in customer service or experience in roles requiring specialized safety training or care of others.

Get more information on job openings for flight attendants and other positions at Delta here.

Questions after a man stole an airplane for a joyride | Your Daily Pitch

Questions after a man stole an airplane for a joyride | Your Daily Pitch

Mom killed shielding children from car on 1st day of school

The first day of class at a Texas elementary school quickly went from a day of excitement to one of tragedy Monday as a mother was killed shielding several children from a car in the school’s parking lot. 

Kharisma Ashlee James, 33, died at the scene at Mary N. Tippin Elementary School, in El Paso. Three students were also injured, including two of the James’ children, school officials said. They were taken to the hospital for treatment. 

Victor Araiza, chief of the El Paso Independent School District’s police force, said at a media briefing Tuesday morning that the victim’s 6-year-old daughter, her 7-year-old son and the third child, a 10-year-old fellow student, are in serious condition but are getting better.

“All of those children are expected to survive,” Araiza said. 

Araiza told reporters at the scene Monday afternoon that James was walking through the parking lot with the children around 3:30 p.m. when Roger Hawking, 58, started to back the car he was driving out of a parking spot. Hawking was picking his grandchildren up from school. 

After backing into another car, Hawking apparently hit the accelerator instead of the brake. James tried to get in front of the children so they would not be struck, school district officials said. 

“The parent attempted to get the attention of the driver and intervene, and that parent was also struck by the vehicle,” Araiza said.  

Victoria Bruce, another parent who was friends with James, told KFOX-TV she heard the collision take place. 

“You heard the metal crash so loud that you knew that something awful had happened,” Bruce told the news station Tuesday morning. “Everybody went running over. I kept my kids back because I knew at that point there was nothing I could do and I didn’t want ... (my children) to see whatever had happened. You could hear people shouting, ‘Is there a doctor or nurse?’”

Bruce said she found out later that it was a friend who was killed and that she died protecting her children.

James’ Facebook page indicated that she was a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq. After eight years in the service, she went back to school with the help of a scholarship from the Women’s Fund of El Paso, according to a May 2017 blog post on the organization’s website.  

A May 2017 graduate of the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, she started working at the Hospitals of Providence in November, her Facebook page said

The Women’s Fund of El Paso shared photos from James’ graduation on its own Facebook page, including pictures of the beaming graduate with her children and other family members. 

Araiza said Tuesday that investigators were trying to determine if Hawking was suffering a medical issue when the accident happened. 

“We just don’t know yet,” Araiza said. 

The chief said school administrators are doing everything in their power to ensure traffic moves smoothly in the school’s parking lot. 

“It’s difficult to describe how this could have been prevented,” Araiza said. “The actuality is that the responsible person for this is the driver of that vehicle. The fault does not rest on the school administration. The fault rests on the individual who was operating that vehicle and was not familiar with it.”

It was not clear why Hawking was not familiar with the vehicle. He could face charges in the accident. 

Counselors were provided almost immediately after the collision to help students, faculty and parents who witnessed the accident. Araiza said police and school officials worked through the night Monday to ensure that the school was ready for its students to arrive on the second day of class. 

Counselors will be on hand the remainder of this week, as well as next week. 

“We want to make sure that our kids are able to get through this and that our parents that are bringing their kids to our schools understand that we’re doing everything that we possibly can to keep them safe,” Araiza said. “This is a very tragic accident.”

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School resumed Tuesday morning, with several police officers on the scene as parents arrived to drop their children off. One motorcycle officer could be seen issuing traffic citations, according to the El Paso Times

El Paso Superintendent Juan Cabrera was also at the school, where he told reporters an accident like the one that took place is something no one could ever prepare for. 

“We literally do thousands and thousands of pickups and drop-offs every week across the city with 92 schools,” Cabrera said. “We are right now just really focused on the students.”

He said there were an extra 50 adults on campus to help care for the children. 

“Our No. 1 priority is to take care of the kids,” Cabrera said. “What we’re trying to make sure of is that the buses are running on time and the kids feel safe and secure.

“This is the second day of school. It should be one of the most joyous times of the year. All of us have kids; many of us have kids here at the district, so we know how important the start of school is.”

Abuse in Catholic Church: 300 predator priests and 1,000 children identified in Pennsylvania case

A church sex abuse grand jury report released Tuesday includes the names of nearly 300 priests accused of being predators, and it has garnered strong reaction from churchgoers and other laypeople around Pennsylvania.

While the reactions range from fire and brimstone to offering forgiveness, those who spoke to WPXI made it clear they are praying for the victims.

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“Unfortunately, it’s a sad day for everybody, but we just have to come together and that’s what we've been doing I think for the past three or four years,” parishioner Janet Rebhun said. “I think that we’ve been trying to regroup, maybe, preparing for this day, but we do we have faith in God and that's what's going to bring everybody through.”

Related: LIVE UPDATES: Catholic church abuse report names 300 alleged predator priests

Parishioner Mark Bibro told WPXI he believes it’s already time to move on.

“I think at some point, it has to be made clear it can't be covered up anymore and we've gotta move on get it behind us, forgive the sinner and get it behind us and move on,” he said.

According to the Catholic sex abuse grand jury report released Tuesday, more than 1,000 child victims and 300 predator priests were identified in the six dioceses involved. The list of the accused priests in Pittsburgh and Greensburg, Pennsylvania, is at

Related: WPXI coverage of Pennsylvania Catholic church scandal

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that he would  to continue fighting against abuse in all institutions. 

“For too long, the Church has shielded pedophiles, pushing their victims into the shadows. 

“No longer. Today, we publish the truth,” Shapiro said of the list.

Live updates on the Catholic church abuse report can be found at

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