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Blind couple says they were booted off Seattle bus

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A vision-impaired couple in Seattle said they were told to get off a metro-area transit bus Sunday afternoon because no ADA-accessible seats were available. 

Cindy Bennett and Mike Mello told Seattle TV station KIRO about their experience on a King County Metro bus Sunday afternoon.

"He kept saying the ADA section is full. You're going to have to get off the bus behind me," said Bennett, who was with her partner Mello trying to catch the 11 bus downtown. "He was yelling at us. It was in public. It was really demeaning."

The couple said they felt uncomfortable and exited the bus.

"Were we really in 2014 told to get off a bus? Did that just happen to us? That's ridiculous," said Mello.

Marci Carpenter is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington, and she filed a complaint over the incident.

"It's very hurtful because it could have been me. It could have been anyone," Carpenter added, "Something that's supposed to be an offer of an accommodation becomes something the driver thinks is mandatory."

Though the American Disabilities Act says that people with disabilities should be offered priority seating on buses, it's not required they sit only in those seats.

"Just because we are eligible to sit in that section, we have the choice not to do that. And we also have the choice to just be anywhere we want. And this guy's attitude was so rude and so hurtful I didn't know how to respond to him. I was in shock," said Mello.

Metro Transit spokesperson Jeff Switzer e-mailed a statement in response to the incident:

"We’re sorry for what these riders went through and the poor customer service they received. We’re taking steps to prevent it from happening again and we’ll be reminding all 2,500+ operators of the proper procedures for helping customers with disabilities. Blind passengers are not required to use the ADA priority seating area. We’ve identified the operator and his chief will be working with him on this issue and will take appropriate action. Every day our operators help riders get where they want to go, and we take great care to help riders with disabilities. What happened is unacceptable and we apologize."

Metro Transit said that the driver's supervisor will decide if he will face any disciplinary action.

Boyfriend slaps pregnant girlfriend with steaks, police say

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A 25-year-old Tennessee man was arrested and charged with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment after getting into a domestic argument with his pregnant girlfriend.

Millington Police said Jeremiah Genesis Taylor hit his girlfriend in the face and chest with some steaks after they got into an argument Sunday. According to an affidavit he told her, "If you call 911, tell them to bring an ambulance."

The girlfriend, who is three months pregnant, escaped with her other child in their car. Taylor then allegedly fired a shot at the car as his girlfriend escaped and a bullet struck the bumper.

When police arrived they set up a perimeter around the house. The girlfriend called Taylor, Who remained inside the residence. She says that he told her, "If the police come in, they're going to have to shoot me."

The incident was diffused as the Shelby County SWAT team was able to take Taylor into custody.

He is being held on $7,500 bond and is due to make his first appearance in Shelby County General Sessions Court Dec. 30.

System failed mom accused of abandoning baby in stranger's car, family says

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De’Jannay Raggins, 20, is now behind bars charged with child neglect, but her family says the young mother does not belong in jail.

“For the past few weeks I've noticed a change in her,” Raggins' sister Chasity Flemming told Jacksonville TV station ActionNewsJax.

Police say Raggins approached a stranger outside his Florida home Saturday, put her 9-month-old baby, Diva, into his truck, and then walked away.

Police issued a notice during their search for Raggins Saturday, and a tip from the child’s grandfather led police to Raggins at a Taco Bell hours later, where investigators say she told them "someone took my baby."

“One minute she's herself, the next minute she's not,” said Shanneria Thomas, Raggins' cousin.

Thomas said Raggins suffered a mental breakdown earlier this month and she was brought in for an involuntary mental health examination under the Baker Act from Dec.18-22.

“When she got out, she was back to normal, but then she lost the medicine somehow and started back having those episodes,” said Flemming.

The stranger Raggins approached Saturday requested to remain unidentified, but told ActionNewsJax Raggins wasn’t making sense. He said he was pulling out of his driveway, when Raggins stopped him, opened the passenger door of his truck and began putting the baby inside.

“I asked her what was going on and at first I thought she couldn’t hear, because she wasn’t responding, but then she started talking on the phone and she turned up my radio so I couldn’t hear what she was saying.”

The man said Raggins began walking down the road and tried to get into the car of another stranger. Together, he said, they attempted to follow Raggins, but lost track of her.

“We looked for about 30 minutes, and waited for her to come back, then I knew I had to call police.”

Raggins' family acknowledges her criminal history, but said she recently graduated and was on a better track. Then, they say, in December, she began seeing things that didn’t exist and saying things out of the ordinary. The family said they attempted to have her Baker Acted earlier in the day Saturday, but was told she didn't meet criteria because she wasn’t threatening herself and refused to be self-committed.

“So they basically waited until something like that to happen,” said Flemming, who said she is frustrated with the mental health system.

Now she’s hoping the court system will get Raggins the help she needs.

“We know what's wrong,” said Thomas, “We just need them to help us get her the help that she needs, because she's never been a bad mother.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Children and Families confirms that Raggins' 9-month-old daughter has been placed in foster care, and that a judge will determine if she will later be placed with a family member. Raggins' 6-year-old daughter was already in the custody of another family member prior to the incident on Saturday.

Raggins' next court appearance is scheduled for Jan. 20.

Notable deaths in 2014

Body cam video shows officer saving boy from choking

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To a Mesquite, Nevada mother and her three-year-old son, Officer Quinn Averett is a hero.

Averett was less than a block away when a call came in that three-year-old Damien Valencia was choking on a Jawbreaker at a convenience store.

The cop rushed to the store and immediately started performing a reverse-Heimlich maneuver on the boy, the entirety of which was recorded on Averett’s body cam.

Damien and his mother Mariana Cardiel visited the police station days later to give their hero an emotional thank you.

“When I saw him, I just started crying,” Cardiel said.

“I cried a little bit because it really touched me, because I have children of my own,” said Averett.

The Mesquite police department and city council are set to present Averett with an award for his bravery in January.


Teen dies after agreeing to take punch to settle dispute

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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A Washington state high school student who reportedly agreed to let another teen punch him to settle a party dispute hit his head on pavement as he fell backward and later died, the Snohomish County sheriff's office said.

The teen accused of delivering the blow has been ordered held for investigation of second-degree manslaughter.

Seattle TV station KIRO reports Jarom Thomas, 18, died from blunt force injuries of the head, injuries he apparently received when he was punched by Michael Galen, 18, and fell to the pavement. Galen was booked into the Snohomish County Jail. 

According to court documents Galen and Thomas agreed to settle a dispute by letting Galen punch the other teen in the face.

The men smoked cigarettes together, and shook on the their “agreement," detectives said.  The unconscious teen was later carried into a cabin. After efforts to wake him were unsuccessful, a friend drove him to a nearby medical center, where he died. 

Galen was ordered held on $10,000 bail Monday.

The suspect’s father broke down outside the courtroom and apologized to the victim’s family.

“To the parents of the kid it happened, please, I’m so sorry he did this. Please forgive me and forgive him,” said Mike Galen’s, suspect’s father.

“Michael said to me ‘Dad he’s my friend - he got in my face and told me to hit him.’ They were all drinking and things got out of hand,” Galen said.

The incident happened after a minor car crash outside a party in Snohomish early Sunday morning.

The young men knew each other and both attended Crossroads High School in Granite Falls, court documents show. According to investigators, Galen struck the teen in the face and knocked him to the ground. A witness told investigators the teen hit his head on the concrete. Friends, including Galen, helped carry him back into the cabin where there was a party.

When they couldn’t wake him up, a friend drove him to Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett. The teen died at the hospital Sunday.

When Galen found out the other teen died, investigators say he tried to get a witness to say it was self-defense.

The witness shared that with police. Detectives say Galen confessed when he was questioned. He was arrested and booked into jail.

Galen has been getting death threats on social media, according to court documents.

Mom who drove kids into ocean to be committed

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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A Florida judge said a South Carolina mother who drove her three children into the ocean off Daytona Beach should be involuntarily hospitalized for six months for mental health treatment.

Circuit Judge Leah Case read her decision about 33-year-old Ebony Wilkerson Tuesday in a Daytona Beach courtroom.

The judge said she found the Myrtle Beach woman incompetent and in need of further psychiatric help.

Her ruling followed two days of testimony last week from doctors and Wilkerson.

The judge previously ruled Wilkerson was not guilty by reason of insanity on charges of child abuse and prosecutors dropped attempted murder charges.

Her attorneys argued Wilkerson had made progress and needed only outpatient care.

Social media jumps on Obama's 'James Flacco' slip

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President Obama had a slip of the tongue Friday during a press conference, referring to actor James Franco as James Flacco.

Joe Flacco is the Baltimore Ravens quarterback and there has long been a debate whether he is considered an "elite" quarterback in the NFL.

Social media was quick to pile on the jokes after Obama's blunder.

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Georgia woman accused of biting teenager after bout of road rage

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An outraged 39-year-old driver was arrested this week after she pursued a teenage driver and bit her when she parked at her Georgia school, sheriff's office deputies said.

Jennifer Stegall Edge was angry because she believed the 17-year-old girl had cut her off in traffic, Newton County Sheriff Sgt. Cortney Morrison told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Friday.

A magistrate released Edge from jail on her own recognizance Thursday. She was charged with aggravated assault, battery and cruelty to children.

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The teenager, whose name was withheld from the report, was negotiating a roundabout Tuesday afternoon when she pulled in front of Edge’s 2002 Nissan.

Edge followed the teenager to the Alpha Omega Middle/High School in Covington, rapped on her car window and threatened to beat her, Morrison said.

After the girl got out of her car and tried to summon help from the school office, Edge attacked, biting her shoulder and threatening to strangle her with a rope, Morrison said

Edge, who had an infant in the car, drove off but witnesses got her license plate number and called the sheriff.

Deputy Mark Lovell investigated and found an indented mark on the teen’s shoulder. “Complainant stated the female attacking the student had a yellow cord and was trying to strangle her with it,” Lovell wrote in his report.

Deputies tracked Edge to her home in Oxford by her tag number and arrested her, Morrison said.

Family of toddler injured in SWAT raid faces $1M in medical bills

Information from ABC News was used in this report.

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Alecia and Bounkham Phonesavanh never imagined their family would be at the center of a controversy over the militarization of police. But that’s exactly where they found themselves when their toddler was seriously injured by a SWAT team, also leaving them with a $1 million medical bill they have no hope of paying.

“They messed up,” Alecia Phonesavanh told ABC News' "20/20." “They had a faulty search warrant. They raided the wrong house.”

In the spring of 2014, the Phonesavanh’s home in Janesville, Wisconsin, was destroyed by fire. Homeless with four young children, they packed one of their last remaining possessions – their minivan – and drove 850 miles to the home of Bounkham’s sister in Cornelia, Georgia.

At approximately 2 a.m. May 28, the family awakened to a blinding flash and loud explosion in their bedroom. A Special Response Team (aka SWAT team) from the Habersham County Sheriff's Office burst unannounced into the bedroom where they were sleeping. According to police reports, Habersham Deputy Charles Long threw a “flash-bang” grenade – a diversionary device used by police and military – into the room. It landed in Bou Bou’s pack-and-play.

“Bou Bou started screaming,” recalls Alecia Phonesavanh. “I immediately went to grab him.”

But Alecia says Habersham Deputy Jason Stribling picked up the child before she could reach him. “I kept telling him, ‘Just give me my son. He's scared. He needs me. The officer wouldn't. And then he walked out of the room with [Bou Bou] and I didn't see him again.”

What they didn’t realize at the time was that the blast from the flash-bang grenade severely burned Bou Bou’s face and torso and collapsed his left lung. Alecia says the officers wouldn’t allow her to see her child before he was whisked away in an ambulance.

“I asked if he got hurt. And they said, ‘No, your son is fine. He has not sustained any serious injury,” Alecia Phonesavanh remembers. “They ended up telling us that he had lost a tooth.”

But her husband became alarmed after seeing a pool of blood and the condition of the crib. “Burnt marks on the bottom of the crib where he sleep[s],” recalls Bounkham Phonesavanh. “And the pillow blown apart.”

Bou Bou was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta where doctors placed him in a medically induced coma. “His chest wall had torn down to muscle,” says Dr. Walter Ingram, head of Grady’s burn trauma unit. “And it tore his face down to bone, down to his teeth.”

Bou Bou’s parents say they were detained by the police for nearly two hours. When they arrived at the hospital they were shocked to learn the truth about their son’s injuries. “Why couldn't [the police] just be honest with us and tell us what happened?” asked Alecia Phonesavanh.

It all came about because a drug task force had been looking for Bounkham Phonesavanh’s nephew, 30-year-old Wanis Thonetheva, who police suspected was selling methamphetamine. Using information from a confidential informant, drug agent Nikki Autry had secured a “no-knock” search warrant that allowed the police to enter his mother’s home unannounced.

According to the warrant application, the informant had allegedly purchased drugs from Thonetheva at his mother’s house where the Phonesavnah’s were staying.

The use of “no knock” warrants has become controversial, according to Atlanta-based community activist Marcus Coleman. “There needs to be a strict criteria before you're able to knock someone's door down in the middle of the night,” says Coleman. “We also have to look real hard at how the police force has been militarized and what does that mean for your ordinary citizen.”

As Bou Bou lay in the hospital, agent Nikki Autry resigned from her job with the Mountain Judicial Circuit’s drug unit. Judge James Butterworth, the chief magistrate of Habersham County, who signed the “no-knock” warrant, announced his retirement within days of the raid.

The search warrant had identified his mother’s home as Wanis Thonetheva’s “residence.” But Alecia Phonesavanh says they never saw Thonetheva while they were staying in Georgia. She says his mother did suspect that her son had stolen valuables from her.

“He had broken into her room and stole some of her jewelry and stuff,” recalls Alecia Phonesavanh. “We knew him as a thief.”

Wanis Thonetheva was arrested hours after the raid without a “no-knock” warrant and without a SWAT team. He pleaded guilty to selling methamphetamine and is serving a 10-year sentence in a Georgia prison.

After more than five weeks in a coma, Bou Bou left the hospital and the family was relieved that they could finally return to Wisconsin.

In Georgia, Habersham County’s District Attorney Brian Rickman convened a grand jury to look into the botched police raid. After six days of testimony, the grand jury found “the drug investigation that led to these events was hurried, sloppy.”

They did not recommend criminal charges against any of the officers involved, which deeply upsets Bou Bou’s mother. “They made the mistake,” claims Alecia Phonesavanh. “And we got the backlash of everything.”

“The intelligence on the front end, in this particular situation,” says District Attorney Rickman, “is how the tragedy could have been avoided.”

The drug task force that gathered that intelligence was disbanded four months after the raid that injured Bou Bou Phonesavanh. It also happened to be the day after “20/20” arrived in Habersham County to investigate.

Since the incident, the toddler has undergone surgeries to repair his face and torso. The Phonesavanh family says they are facing close to $1 million in debt from hospital costs. Habersham County officials will not pay the medical bills, citing a "gratuity" law in Georgia that prohibits them from compensating the family.

But the Phonesavanh’s attorney, Mawuli Davis, believes the SWAT team’s actions during and after the raid make it accountable.

“The child was taken into their custody,” says Davis. “Taken from his family, as a result of an injury that was caused by the [sheriff’s department]. It would be our position that they should have to pay, and it is far from a gratuity.”

Under the state's law, the county government has sovereign immunity from negligence claims against it, and thus the payment would be an illegal "gratuity" to the family.

As the holidays approach, the Phonesavanh family is mired in debt with medical bills they have no hope of paying. “Before this we didn’t owe anybody anything,” says Alecia Phonesavanh. “And now after all this, they have completely financially crippled us.”

Who is responsible for Bou Bou Phonesavanh’s injuries may still be a question for the courts to decide. The Phonesavanh family still has the option to file a civil lawsuit. And a federal investigation is now underway by the office of Sally Yates, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

“As a parent, I can’t imagine the horrible nightmare that this family is enduring,” Yates said in a statement to ABC News. “Now that the state grand jury has declined to return an indictment, we are reviewing the matter and conducting our own investigation.”

You can donate to the family here.

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