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NY state troopers fly friend of school massacre victim to Florida for funeral

Two New York state troopers are being credited with an immense kindness after they paid for the flight of a young woman to Florida to say goodbye to her friend, one of the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. 

Jordana Judson, 23, told NBC News that she was devastated to learn that her childhood friend, Meadow Pollack, was among the victims of the Valentine’s Day shooting at her alma mater. Former Stoneman Douglas student Nikolas Cruz, 19, is accused of killing 14 students and three faculty members with an AR-15 rifle. 

>> Read more trending news

Pollack, an 18-year-old senior, and Judson were lifelong friends, NBC News reported.

“They were like our second family our whole lives,” Judson said of the Pollacks.

Judson said she showed up at LaGuardia Airport on Thursday, the day after the shooting, frantic to get a flight home to Florida, where she’d grown up. 

“As soon as I got out of the car at the airport, I started hysterically crying,” she said. 

Troopers Robert Troy and Thomas Karasinski spotted the distraught young woman and asked if she was all right. She tearfully explained that a friend was killed in the school shooting in Florida and that she needed help figuring out where to buy her ticket. 

The troopers led her inside to the JetBlue counter, where an agent told her a one-way ticket to Florida would be almost $700, Judson told the news station. Unable to afford the cost, she begged the agent to lower the price or allow her a bereavement discount.

The agent could not accommodate her, and was about to give the ticket to another passenger when Troy and Karasinski stepped in.

“I look up, and the state troopers are standing there and they’re both handing over their credit cards,” Judson told NBC News. “I’m telling them that they don’t have to do this. This is crazy. They said, ‘It’s already done. We want you to be home with their families.’”

A rabbi who sat Shiva with the Pollack family confirmed that Judson made it home to be with the family and to attend Meadow’s funeral on Friday, where the Miami Herald reported that she was described as a star with “a smile like sunshine.”

Meadow’s father, Andrew Pollack, and her older brother, Hunter, both lamented the fact that they couldn’t protect her when she needed them.

“This piece of (expletive) killed my kid, and I couldn’t do anything about it,” Andrew Pollack said, according to the Herald. “That’s never happened to me in my life. I’m always able to protect my family in any situation.”

Hunter Pollack said he always looked out for his sister. 

“I wanted to be the over-supportive brother my whole life, and I feel like I failed,” Hunter said. “So all I can do is hope that (her killer) gets what he deserves.”

Judson told NBC News that the troopers’ gesture to get her to the funeral made her heart “full and heavy at the same time.”

New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II told the news station in a statement that, as law enforcement officials, all troopers take an oath to protect and serve. 

“We also instill in our members the importance of acting with respect and empathy for the people they encounter,” Beach said

Troy told the news station that he sympathized with Judson’s dilemma.

“The sense of just being there for your family and friends, you want to be there for them,” Troy said. “You’re going to go through anything to get there.”

Explaining that he has five younger sisters, the trooper said it was a “sigh of relief” to be able to help Judson.

“If that was one of them, I’d want someone to help them out,” he said. 

Uber Eats driver accused of killing customer turns himself in

An Uber Eats driver who police said shot and killed a customer turned himself in Monday afternoon.

>> Read more trending news

According to WSB-TV, Robert Bivens, 37, arrived at the jail with his attorney. The Atlanta Police Department's Homicide Unit secured an arrest warrant for felony murder Monday.

The shooting happened Saturday night at a condominium on Pharr Road in Buckhead, Georgia.

Police said Ryan Thornton ordered food from Uber Eats and the driver delivered the food around 11:30 p.m. At some point, authorities said words were exchanged between Thornton and the driver.

The Uber Eats driver then shot the 30-year-old, police said.

Thornton died at Grady Memorial Hospital. 

Uber said in a statement on Monday, saying Bivens no longer has access to the app:

“We are shocked and saddened by this senseless act of violence and our hearts go out to Ryan’s friends and family. We have been working with the Atlanta Police Department, and the driver can no longer access the app.”

A spokesperson for Uber told WSB-TV Bivens passed a background check and had only been an Uber Eats driver for about a week. Bivens was an Uber Eats delivery partner only and did not drive passengers.

Uber is working closely with the Atlanta Police Department on this investigation.

Florida gun owner surrenders assault rifle after Parkland high school massacre

A Florida man spurred by the massacre that killed 17 people at a Parkland high school last week has “put (his) money where (his) mouth is” and surrendered his assault rifle to authorities.

Ben Dickmann, 40, wrote on Friday, in a Facebook post that has since gone viral, that he decided to lead by example.

“I own this rifle,” Dickmann wrote, sharing multiple photos of the semiautomatic AR-57 as he turned it in at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. “It’s a caliber variant of the AR-15.”

The suspected gunman in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, former student Nikolas Cruz, is accused of using an AR-15 to gun down 14 students and three faculty members on Valentine’s Day. 

“I am a responsible, highly-trained gun owner. (I am not a police officer or sheriff’s deputy),” Dickmann wrote. “However, I do not need this rifle.”

Dickmann wrote that no one without a police badge needs an AR-57.

“This rifle is not a ‘tool’ I have use for. A tool, by definition, makes a job/work easier,” Dickmann wrote. “Any ‘job’ I can think of legally needing doing can be done better by a different firearm.”

Dickmann wrote that, although he enjoyed shooting the weapon, he has other types of guns that he can shoot for recreation. He could have sold the rifle, he wrote, but “no person needs this.”

“I will be the change I want to see in this world,” Dickmann wrote. “If our lawmakers will continue to close their eyes and open their wallets, I will lead by example. #outofcirculation.”

Officials with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office praised Dickmann for his decision.

“We commend Ben for helping us get one more dangerous weapon off the streets,” a post on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page read.

The post also offered two ways for the public to turn in an unloaded, unwanted weapon. A citizen can call the department’s non-emergency line, 954-765-HELP, and inform a deputy that they have a weapon to surrender for destruction. 

“Leave the firearm in a location away from you in the home/business, allowing the responding deputy to retrieve it when they arrive,” the post read. “The deputy will take possession of the weapon (and) ammunition for disposal.”

The second way to turn the weapon in is to secure the gun in the trunk of a vehicle and drive to the nearest Sheriff’s Office substation. After parking in the visitors’ lot, a citizen can go inside and tell the deputy at the desk that he or she has a firearm and/or ammunition in the vehicle for surrender. 

“A deputy will meet with you and retrieve the weapon from your vehicle for disposal,” the post read

Dickmann, who lives about 30 minutes from Parkland in Fort Lauderdale, told NPR in an interview that the decision to give up his assault rifle came after “a lot of soul searching.” He said that, like others, he sees a lot of “thoughts and prayers” being offered, but not much else.

“I thought, ‘Well, this is something I can do that I think is right,” Dickmann said. “And it’s something I can do that might spark a change. You know, my whole goal was maybe to inspire one friend on my Facebook page to do the same thing. And maybe that friend would inspire one other person.”

Dickmann said he considered taking action after the Las Vegas shooting, but thought that his gun was not hurting anyone sitting in his gun safe. The Stoneman Douglas massacre, however, hit close to home. 

He said response to a Facebook post he wrote the day after the school shooting is what spurred that action. In that long post, Dickmann wrote that it was past time to do something about the mass violence undertaken with firearms in the United States.

>> Read more trending news

“I can now say I know people who have been directly affected by three of the most horrific gun violence events in our history (Northern Illinois University, Las Vegas, Stoneman Douglas), and a couple more single events,” he wrote. “This makes me sick. This makes me mad. I’m tired.”

In the Northern Illinois University shooting, which took place 10 years to the day before the Stoneman Douglas massacre, former NIU student Steven Kazmierczak walked onto the stage in an auditorium where class was taking place and gunned down five students before killing himself. More than a dozen more were injured.

Commenters on Dickmann’s post, who numbered in the thousands, varied in their responses. Some thought he spoke common sense, while others accused him of being a paid lackey for the anti-gun crowd. 

Dickmann told NPR that it was sarcasm from one man who told him, “Well, if you feel this way, why don’t you go turn your gun in?” The man even offered to drive Dickmann to the station. 

“Even though he was being extremely sarcastic about it because he’s a very staunch conservative, gun rights activist person, it kind of spurred me to say, ‘You know what? Yeah, I’ll do that,’” he said

Dickmann said he’s glad that his actions sparked a debate.

“I hope somebody, be it the students, be it the next generation, picks up the torch and does something,” he said

Girl, 16, killed when UTV crashes into Georgia lake

A 16-year-old girl was killed when the utility terrain vehicle in which she was riding crashed and went into a lake, authorities said.

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Kate Jones, 16, of Athens, was submerged when the UTV rolled into the lake on private property, Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry said on Facebook. The incident happened about midnight.

A deputy and a firefighter dived into the water, which was about 10 feet deep, and freed Jones from the vehicle, Berry said.

Four other people were in the vehicle when it crashed. One of them is being treated for serious injuries at an Athens hospital.

The crash was in the 5000 block of High Shoals Road in Bishop.

The Georgia State Patrol is investigating the crash.

Fire department raffles AR-15 rifle, draws criticism

A California fire department is facing criticism after offering an AR-15 rifle as a raffle prize at a fundraiser just days after police said a 19-year-old used the same weapon to gun down 17 people at a high school in Florida.

>> Read more trending news

Allison Merrill told the Sacramento Bee that she was so offended by the gun, which was raffled Saturday during the Cameron Park Fire Department’s crab feed, that she and her friends walked out of the event.

“When we walked out, the flag was at half-mast in front of the community center, and it was just so striking, how tone-deaf the whole event was,” she told the Bee. “We walk out and there’s the flag at half-mast for all those kids.”

Police believe the shooter in last week’s deadly attack in Parkland, Florida, used an AR-15 when he killed 14 students and three teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“To have our first responders be the ones kind of offering a military-style assault rifle as a prize – putting that out into our community, especially right now – it was appalling,” Merrill told KOVR.

>> Related: Florida school shooting: Probe focuses on gunman's motives, victims' lives

Merrill told the news station that she spoke with the fire chief, who apologized and acknowledged that the gun raffle could be seen as insensitive. She told the Bee that event organizers refunded her and each of her three friends the $40 fee for the event, although she added to KCRA that “the money wasn’t really an issue.”

“I was deeply disturbed by it,” Nancy Lugo, who attended the event with Merrill, told the Bee. “Not only the timing of the recent shootings but also the fact that it’s that easy to get an AR-15.”

>> Related: Third-graders in Missouri selling raffle tickets for AR-15 weapon

Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean told KCRA that the Cameron Park Fire Department has held similar fundraisers since 2002. The fire department is under contract with Cal Fire, according to KCRA.

“These weapons are not any different than anything you could go into the gun store and buy,” McLean told the Bee, adding that the fundraiser was planned before last week’s deadly shooting.

The gun was taken to a gun store after the raffle, McLean said, where it will stay for a 10-day waiting period required by law as officials run background checks to ensure the winner of the raffle can legally own the firearm.

"I understand the concerns, by all means," McLean told KCRA. "No harm was intended."

’Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ celebrates 50th anniversary

It’s been “a beautiful day in this neighborhood” for 50 years.

Feb. 19, 1968, was the day that PBS aired the first episode of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and the lessons that Fred Rogers taught still resonate today. A re-imagined tales of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” several televised tributes and even a feature-length movie remind us of the legacy of Mr. Rogers. 

According to his official biography from the foundation that carries on his mission of education, Rogers was born in 1928 in the small town of Latrobe, Penn., east of Pittsburgh. After getting a degree in music composition, he was hired by NBC in New York as an assistant producer and eventually a floor director for some of the network’s programming in the ’50s.

History was made in 1953 when WQED in Pittsburgh asked Rogers to come up with their first schedule. He produced a show called “The Children’s Corner,” where he  introduced characters such as Daniel Striped Tiger, X the Owl and Henrietta Pussycat.

Those characters have found new life on “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” where children now learn those positive messages not in puppet form, but from cartoons. 

Fred Rogers’ belief in kindness led him to seminary, where he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Instead of moving toward a traditional religious calling, his charge was “to continue his work with children and families through the mass media.”

In 1963, he was offered the opportunity to start a show in Canada called “Misterogers.” Three years later, he went back to Pittsburgh and created a new show called “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which went national 50 years ago, on what would become PBS.

Fred Rogers died on Feb. 27, 2003, in Pittsburgh and was survived by his wife, Joanne, and their two sons and three grandsons.

>> Read more trending news 

Rogers’ message of love and kindness still resonates today. When there is a national tragedy, memes or video clips of Fred Rogers telling children and adults alike to “look for the helpers” gives those who need it a moment of reassurance that everything will be OK.

“Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” also helped launch the careers of some current stars. 

Actress Ming-Na Wen, known for her role as Agent Melinda May on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and as the voice of Disney’s Mulan, appeared on the show.

Bill Nye the Science Guy appeared on an episode in 1997 to help everyone’s neighbor perform an experiment, Entertainment Weekly reported.

Rogers also introduced kids to various genres of music, thanks to guest stars who dropped by, including Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma and Tony Bennett, Entertainment Weekly reported.

Michael Keaton, who went by his original name at the time, Michael Douglas, had one of his first jobs working as a stagehand on the show. He helped operate the iconic trolley, CBS News reported. He was also one of the “Flying Zookeeni Brothers,” Parade reported.

Keaton will host a one-night-only PBS special that pays tribute to Rogers on March 6. “Mister Rogers, It’s You I Like” will feature Keaton and cast regulars, including Joe Negri, who portrayed Handyman Negri, and David Newell, who portrayed Mr. McFeely.

Rogers will also be remembered by guests Judd Apatow, Whoopi Goldberg and Sarah Silverman, according to PBS.

But that’s not the only remembrance planned for Mr. Rogers. Starting on Feb. 26, PBS Kids will run a weeklong tribute to Rogers, PBS announced

A forever stamp will also honor Rogers this year and is scheduled to be released on March 23, WPXI reportedAnd a biopic has been announced in which Tom Hanks has been slated to star as Rogers.

Petition seeks military burial for Parkland JROTC cadet who died saving fellow students

Peter Wang died proudly wearing his gray JROTC uniform, holding open doors so several of his classmates could escape the gunfire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week. 

Though those classmates made it, Peter did not. And now, a White House petition has been established seeking full military honors at the burial of the 15-year-old freshman who was among 17 people killed in the Valentine’s Day school shooting.

As of Monday morning, the petition had reached just over 23,000 signatures. A petition must reach 100,000 signatures to get a response from the White House. 

The petition states that Peter was last seen, in uniform, holding doors open so that other students, teachers and staff members could escape.

“His selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens in the area,” the petition states. “Wang died a hero, and deserves to be treated as such, and deserves a full honors military burial.”

Friends of the teen said they want people to know how selfless he was, according to WPLG News 10 in Pembroke Park

“I want people to know that he died a hero; that he died saving many people,” friend and classmate Aiden Ortiz told the news station

His selflessness extended into his everyday actions, classmate Rachel Kuperman said. She recalled the last time she saw Peter, the day before he was slain. 

“I forgot my lunch that day, and he went to the vending machine with me and he bought me Sprite and candy and snacks,” Rachel said. “He put others before himself.”

Fox News reported that it would take government intervention for Peter to receive a military funeral, since JROTC does not provide basic training and thus does not count as military service. JROTC, or the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, is a federal program for middle and high school students that focuses on citizenship, service to the community and country and personal achievement.  

Peter was not the only JROTC cadet credited with springing into action that day. Colton Haab, a junior at Stoneman Douglas, heard gunshots and ushered several dozen people into the JROTC room.

>> Read more trending news

There, he and other cadets grabbed Kevlar sheets used for marksmanship practice and held them up in front of the students huddled together.

“We took those sheets and we put them in front of everybody so they weren’t seen, because they were behind a solid object and the Kevlar would slow the bullet down,” Colton told CNN the day after the shooting. “I didn’t think it was going to stop it, but it would definitely slow it down to make it from a catastrophic to a lifesaving thing.”

Peter’s cousin, Aaron Chen, described him to the Miami Herald as brave, while Peter’s best friend, Gabriel Ammirata, said he was “funny, nice and a great friend.”

“He’s been my best friend since third grade,” Gabriel told the Herald

Gabriel planned to celebrate Chinese New Year with Peter the day after the shooting at the Chinese restaurant Peter’s family owns, the Herald reported. Instead, he and members of Peter’s family started the new day frantically searching for information on Peter’s whereabouts. 

The teen’s parents speak Mandarin and very little English. 

Jesse Pan, a neighbor of Peter’s, has been sharing information about him and his funeral arrangements on social media. Peter’s family has a funeral planned for Tuesday at Kraeer Funeral Home, in Coral Springs.

An obituary on the funeral home’s website reiterates Peter’s ultimate sacrifice in the face of danger.

“He loved being in the JROTC and planned on attending (the) United States Military Academy at West Point,” the obituary read

Peter loved the Houston Rockets, hip-hop music, playing basketball and spending time with friends. He also aspired to become a world-renowned chef. 

He is survived by his parents and two younger brothers.

GoFundMe page created to help his family with expenses exceeded its $15,000 goal in just three days. 

Originally, proceeds (were) going to the help with misc. expenses, but the family has decided that they want to donate the money to Stoneman Douglas for their ROTC program,” the page creator, Chino Leong, wrote. “They want to ensure that future generations of kids are taught the same values that the program has instilled in Peter.”

Retired Florida deputy fatally shot son-in-law, investigators say

A retired Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed his son-in-law — the father of his two young grandsons — Sunday night in The Acreage, according to authorities.

>> Read more trending news

Carlton Nebergall Jr., 61, was arrested early Monday on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Jacob Lodge, 36, who was in divorce proceedings with Nebergall’s daughter, court records show. Nebergall appeared Monday morning with his attorney, Michael Salnick, in front of Judge Ted Booras. Booras recused himself from the case, though, saying, “I’ve known the defendant for too many years.”

Nebergall will remain in the Palm Beach County Jail until at least Wednesday, when another judge can rule on his bond requirements.

Nebergall was taken into custody late Sunday after deputies responded to a home on the far east end of Mellow Court, near the Pond Cypress Natural Area, following a shooting. Authorities found Lodge fatally shot at about 8:30 that night. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Sheriff’s authorities have not commented on what may have motivated the retired deputy to shoot Lodge. Court records indicate Nebergall’s daughter filed for a divorce from Lodge last month.

Lodge’s younger brother, Clint, said Monday that Nebergall’s daughter and Lodge had an “off-and-on, love-hate relationship” for about a decade. They had two boys, ages 9 and 5, according to Clint Lodge. They had been living separately prior to Lodge’s death, his brother said.

He said Lodge and Nebergall had argued before over Nebergall’s daughter. He wasn’t sure what led up to his brother’s killing.

“He was far from perfect, but he didn’t deserve that,” Clint Lodge said about his brother, calling him “one of the best, just somebody you could really look up to.” Records indicate Jacob Lodge was scheduled to be on probation until May 2019 in a theft-related case. He had another open theft case in which he was accused of stealing from his former employer, an air-conditioning company. He pleaded not guilty to those charges.

His in-laws’ law enforcement backgrounds led to conflict about being on “the right side of the law,” Clint Lodge said.

Nebergall worked at the Lantana Police Department from 1981 to 1985, when he joined the sheriff’s office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement records state. He worked at the sheriff’s office until his retirement in 2012.

His son, Jason Nebergall, joined him at the sheriff’s office in 2007, state records show. However, during his nine years on the job, the younger Nebergall was accused of being overly aggressive, pulling a gun on a fellow deputy and engaging in sexual misconduct at a West Palm Beach-area nightclub while on duty and in full uniform.

In December 2016, Jason Nebergall, a U.S. Air Force member, was arrested after a then-26-year-old woman accused him of sexually battering her. He had responded to the woman’s home earlier that night for a disturbance call and returned to “check in” on her, he said. He denied inappropriately touching her, though his DNA was found on her breasts.

He was placed on paid administrative leave when the sheriff’s office was alerted to the allegations in July 2016. It was not immediately known whether he is still on the sheriff’s office’s payroll.

Salnick is representing the younger Nebergall through the legal proceedings of that case, which remains open while Nebergall is out of jail on a $100,000 surety bond. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to be torn down

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School won’t return to the building where Nikolas Cruz is accused of shooting into classrooms, killing 17 people on Valentine’s Day, according to a reporter for CBS4 News in Miami. 

>> Read more trending news

The building, which is one of several on the campus, will be torn down and replaced with a memorial, assuming the school district receives funding from state lawmakers, reporter Jim DeFede said in a series of tweets Friday afternoon. 

Roughly 900 students attended class in the building, and the school is already at capacity, according to the report.

Magically delicious: Unicorns added to Lucky Charms lineup

Unicorns are now magically delicious as Lucky Charms has introduced the first permanent change to its product in 10 years.

>> Read more trending news

General Mills, the parent company for the cereal, announced in a news release that magical unicorn marshmallows will be a permanent part of the breakfast food. It replaces the hourglass marshmallow that was retired earlier this month.

General Mills went on social media and asked consumers to choose the newest design. After tapping “into the imagination and creativity of young minds,” the decision to choose the unicorn form was “unanimous.”

“Our goal is to not only create a cereal that families and cereal fans will love and enjoy, but to inspire magical possibilities and help spark imagination and fun no matter what the age,” Josh DeWitt, marketing manager of Lucky Charms, said in the release. “That's why, after 10 years, we decided to introduce a new charm with the help of the keepers of magic themselves – kids. They spoke, and after hearing their love for the magical unicorn, we listened.”

The Magical Unicorn product will join the original and chocolate brands of Lucky Charms on shelves and will be available in three different sizes, the company said: 11.5 ounces ($3.99), 16 ounces ($4.49) and 20.5 ounces ($4.99). It will be available more widely at major grocery retailers and big box stores in March, according to the news release.

The new unicorn charms already have been appearing in the original and chocolate brands of the cereal. They will join hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers, blue moons, rainbows and red balloons.

Here is a Lucky Charms commercial from the 1960s:

And here is one from 2017:

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