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Moroccan National Wanted to Use Planes to Bomb Federal Courthouse, FBI Says

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 11:29am

FBI(BRIDGEPORT, Conn.) -- A Moroccan national arrested in Connecticut on immigration violations wanted to “use airplanes, possibly toy planes” to bomb a federal courthouse and an unnamed university, the FBI said Tuesday.

Various hand tools and a small black carrying case were found in the Bridgeport residence that El Mehdi Semlali Fathi shared with someone he met while in prison in Virginia, authorities said. According to court records, the FBI had secretly recorded him talking about pliers, a cutter and wires in his bedroom that he claimed were the materials for a bomb.

Fathi has been in the United States seven years, now on an expired student visa, and is an asylum seeker, the FBI said. In five separate recordings, the FBI said Fathi “repeatedly confirmed his desire to bomb an education university outside the State of Connecticut and a federal building in Connecticut.” The specific locations were not identified.

“Fathi stated in the recording that he would use airplanes, possibly toy planes to execute the bombing,” Special Agent Anabela Sharp said. “Specifically, Fathi stated that he was going to use a plane, a remote-controlled hobby-type airplane, to deliver the bomb.”

Fathi allegedly boasted that he made a chemical bomb while in high school in Morocco and he was recorded talking about making pipe bombs and chemical explosives with materials “available in Southern California on the border.”

For the moment Fathi faces no terrorism charges, only immigration violations, authorities said. His student visa expired when he flunked out of Virginia International University in Fairfax and the FBI said he made false statements about his asylum application.

He is accused of researching issues in Morocco that he used to bolster his asylum case “so that everything he wrote in his refugee application coincided with the actual events,” Sharp’s affidavit said.

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Support Swells for Single Mom Arrested for Allegedly Leaving Kids in Car

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 10:39am

Scottsdale Police Department(PHOENIX) -- Amanda Bishop doesn’t know Shanesha Taylor, the single mother who was arrested for allegedly leaving her kids in a car during a job interview, but she felt compelled to do something to help her.

“There are some of us that feel that Shanesha was in an unfortunate situation that, sadly, an economy like ours is putting many single mothers in a position to make terrible mistakes like this,” Bishop wrote on an online fundraising page.

Taylor’s striking mug shot and her story have attracted more than $95,000 in donations, to date.

The Phoenix mom said she was unable to find a babysitter when she went to a job interview at an insurance company on March 21, and so she left her 2-year-old son and 6-month-old baby alone in her car, according to the The Arizona Republic newspaper. An examination at a hospital found the children were unharmed.

Taylor was arrested that day on child-abuse charges, but released March 31 on $9,000 bond that was posted by a local church, according to an update on her fundraising page.

On Monday, she pleaded not guilty to two counts of child abuse.

More than 3,000 comments have been left on the fundraising page offering Taylor their well-wishes.

“Everyone makes mistakes Shanesha. I understand being a single parent of 2 infants is extremely difficult. I hope my contribution can help you fight through this process and hopefully help you re-unite with your children. Only GOD Can Judge You!!!” one donor wrote.

“No one should be punished for doing what they find best in a tough situation,” another donor wrote. “I pray that everything works out for your children and for you.”

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Washington State Landslide Death Toll Now 33

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 3:15am

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(OSO, Wash.) -- Officials in Snohomish County, Wash., have updated the death toll from the March 22 disaster near Oso to 33 after the remains of three more victims were found Monday.

Three of the 33 victims have not yet been identified. The number of those missing since the disaster is now 12.

With virtually no chance of finding anyone alive at this stage, hundreds of people are involved in recovery efforts. The operation includes 350 National Guard soldiers.

The site where 49 homes were buried under millions of pounds of mud and debris was visited last Sunday by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Craig Fugate.

Johnson issued a statement saying that all corresponding federal agencies are supporting state and local recovery efforts. Additionally, President Obama declared the region a major disaster area.

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UConn Beats Kentucky to Win NCAA Men's Basketball Championship

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 3:14am

Jamie Squire/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- University of Connecticut fooled all the experts to win the NCAA men's basketball championship Monday night in Dallas, defeating the University of Kentucky Wildcats, 60 to 54.

Neither team was expected to go this far. The seventh-seeded Huskies weren't allowed in last year's March madness because of grade problems that resulted in five players entering the NBA draft or transferring elsewhere.

Kentucky, although coached by the legendary John Calipari, was an eighth seed with five freshman starters.

The game was expected to be close and it was literally until the end. UConn senior point guard Shabazz Napier rose to the occasion, sinking 22 points along with six rebounds and three assists.

It was UConn's first national championship under Coach Kevin Ollie, in only his second season helming the Huskies.

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New Details Announced from Ft. Hood Shooting Investigation

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 10:51pm

(KILLEEN, Texas) -- Military officials announced Monday that the autopsy on the Fort Hood shooter confirms he took his own life. Speaking at the base, Army spokesman Chris Gray also confirmed Ivan Lopez had argued with someone about a request for leave.

"Within minutes of the altercation, the subject brandished a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun and fired multiple rounds, killing one soldier and wounding 10 additional solders," Gray told reporters Monday.

Lopez fired three dozen more shots from his car and in two other buildings during the eight-minute rampage that ended when, Gray said, Lopez was confronted by an MP.  She fired but did not hit him. Lopez then killed himself.

"Autopsy results of the alleged shooter from the armed forces medical examiner has confirmed that the subject was not struck by the military police officer's fire. The subject then allegedly placed his .45-caliber handgun to his head and took his own life," Gray said.

He added that investigators "have found no evidence that these crimes were connected to a terrorist or extremist organization."

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Navy’s Future on Video: Fly Choppers with Tablets, Blast Enemies with Rail Guns

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 9:06pm -- Think of it as reality catching up with science fiction as Navy researchers have unveiled three technological advancements that could not only change the battlefield of tomorrow but also have impacts in the civilian world.

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First off, Navy researchers have combined the smart-pad technology so prevalent in today’s society with navigational software that can be used to fly and land an unmanned helicopter.

Shown in a newly released demonstration video, working with the Marine Corps, the Office of Naval Research has adapted software that can be used to remotely pilot a helicopter with a smart pad – leaving the pilot’s seat eerily empty as the craft slices through the sky and hovers over a landing area of its own choosing.

In field testing conducted earlier this year at the Marine base at Quantico, Va., Marines were able to program a flight path for an unmanned helicopter from Point A to Point B.

When the helicopter arrived at its destination, another Marine equipped with a smart pad guided the unmanned helicopter to an unobstructed landing area with a click of the screen.

Because of the familiarity of smart-pad technology it took only a half-hour for the Marine guiding the helicopter to grasp how to land the helicopter safely. Known as the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS) the software has so far been tested on two small helicopters, the K-MAX and the Early Bird, though future testing is planned for larger helicopters, including the large CH-53 Sea Stallion. K-MAX helicopters have already been used for unmanned flights in Afghanistan but require a trained pilot and significant technical training.  The new software makes that a thing of the past.

Navy and Marine officials say the technology isn’t ready for a combat battlefield, but could prove useful in reducing the number of trained personnel needed for simple cargo deliveries to combat units.

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Since 2005 the Navy has been working on what it calls “rail gun” technology that uses electromagnetic energy to fire a piece of metal as a projectile at distances greater than conventional guns.  The Navy says it will conduct field testing of the technology in 2016.

The goal is to be able to fire a projectile to a range of 110 nautical miles against a wide range of threats.  The field testing will allow the Navy to determine how it can be put to use.  The rail gun will be mounted on a Joint High Speed Vehicle as the test platform.

But coming this summer the Navy is going to test its laser technology in the Persian Gulf. The Navy made waves last year when it showed video of a high-energy laser that was able to knock drones out of the sky.

Formally known as the Laser Weapon System, the laser will be tested aboard the USS Ponce which is permanently stationed in the Persian Gulf.  The laser’s intensity will be able to be scaled back so the ominous-sounding weapon could also be used in a non-lethal mode to warn potential adversaries at sea and in the air.

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In a less showy but potentially more world-changing study, scientists at the US Navy Naval Research Laboratory were able to convert seawater into a fuel that was able to power a radio-controlled model plane in flight.

How did they do that?  Navy researchers broke seawater into carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2) gas components.  Those gases were then converted into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel that was able to power the model plane’s engine.

Given how much of the Earth is covered in seawater, the conversion of seawater to fuel holds great promise, though it is likely a long way from a practical application.

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Nevada Rancher Threatens 'Range War' Against Feds

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 5:47pm

iStock/Thinkstock(BUNKERVILLE, Nev.) -- A Nevada rancher's threat to wage a "range war" with the Bureau of Land Management precipitated a standoff Monday between supporters of the embattled rancher, Cliven Bundy, and federal law enforcement officials.

Bundy posted a statement on the Bundy Ranch website on Sunday night saying: "They have my cattle and now they have one of my boys. Range War begins tomorrow."

He invited supporters to show up Monday morning on his property, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, near Bunkerville, just west of the Utah state line.

Bundy's beef with federal land management officials dates back to 1993, according to federal officials, when Bundy's allotment for grazing his cattle on public land was modified to include protections for the desert tortoise. Bundy, who says his family has been ranching this part of Nevada since the 1870s, did not accept the modified terms, and continued to let cattle graze anyway.

After legal maneuverings on both sides, a Nevada district court judge in 2013 permanently enjoined Bundy's cattle (some 600, by the government's count) from grazing on public property. The judge reiterated that decision in 2013 and authorized the U.S. government to impound the cattle.

The first phase of that impoundment started Saturday, with 58 head of cattle being removed from BLM land, federal officials said in a statement.

Bundy disputes the federal government's authority to take such action. The Nevada Sheriff's Office, he contends, is the only entity empowered to impound his cattle. The Bundy Ranch website calls the federal agents "cattle thieves." Cattle thieves, says the website, "Should be hung!" It urges supporters to "hang them with words of disapproval."

Mrs. Bundy, reached by ABC News, said the family and their supporters intended to hold a rally Monday "to show that we are not standing alone. People are getting tired of the federal government having unlimited power."

By noon Monday Nevada time, about 300 supporters had assembled, a Bundy spokesman, Dwayne Magoon, told ABC News. So, too, he said, had local and federal law enforcement officers. He described the federal agents as being heavily armed. He said that on his way driving to the Bundy ranch, he counted 12 law enforcement vehicles in the course of six miles.

Magoon described the situation as "very peaceful" -- for now. The protesters, he said, were busy erecting a big sign saying "We, The People" and displaying the flags of Mesquite County, Nev., and the U.S.

On the ranch website, Bundy says his son had been arrested. That was confirmed Monday by BLM, which said in a statement: "On April 6, Dave Bundy, 37, was taken into custody in Bunkerville, Nevada, following failure to comply with multiple requests by BLM law enforcement to leave the temporary closure area on public lands."

So far, the Nevada Cattlemen's Association (NCA), which represents some 700 ranchers in the state, is taking a hands-off stance on Bundy's protest.

In a statement, the association noted that Bundy's case had been reviewed by a federal judge, and that a legal decision had been rendered to remove the cattle. The statement said that NCA "does not feel it is in our best interest to interfere in the process of adjudication in this matter, and in addition NCA believes the matter is between Mr. Bundy and the federal courts."

Asked about the Bundy situation, NCA president Ron Torell told ABC News, "This has gotten way out of hand."

Asked if other Nevada cattlemen were as angry with the federal government as Bundy, Torell said, "absolutely not."

It's true, he said, that many NCA members are disgruntled at having to deal with BLM's bureaucracy. But, he noted, 87 percent of Nevada land is public land, so cattlemen cannot survive on private land alone. "It's important for our permitees to work with the land management agencies. We want to be good stewards of the land -- to protect natural resources."

Of the Bundy affair, he said, "These types of situations have a way of painting the entire industry with controversy."

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Colorado Rescuers Battle Storms in Search for Missing Hikers

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 3:59pm

Ashley Ritten(DENVER) -- Rescue teams are calling in reinforcements as they hold out hope they can brave tough conditions to find two missing hikers presumed lost in the Colorado Mountains.

The National Guard has joined a team of 20 volunteers in the search for Damian McManus, 51, and his son Evan, 18, who have been missing since last Wednesday, according to Bill Barnwick of the Alpine Rescue Team.  The father and son from St. Louis Park, Minn., never returned from a day hike in a popular Colorado park area where they were for the 18-year-old’s spring break.

“We have no idea what peak they were on or where they were going,” Barnwick told ABC News. “We have no direction of travel or any idea what kind of equipment they are using.”

McManus and his son were set to return to Minnesota over the weekend and never returned to their car or hotel after hiking at Echo Lake in Clear County, about two hours from Denver.

Barnick said that volunteers are currently braving 20-mile-per-hour winds and five feet of snow, and that it has been snowing on and off since the search began. He summed up the conditions in one word: “Terrible.”

Despite these conditions, rescue teams remain hopeful. Family and friends have set up a Facebook group to encourage support for the rescue mission, which has attracted over 2,000 members since its creation Sunday. A family friend who wishes to remain anonymous says that a fund has been set up to provide support to the family. She says those who wish to contribute can use the following bank information to donate:

Citizens Independent Bank
5000 West 36th Street
SLP MN 55416
Attn: Lambert Lum

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Deadly African Snake on the Loose, Has SC Community on Lockdown

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 3:56pm

iStock/Thinkstock(MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C.) -- A highly venomous snake, native to Africa, has been slithering around a South Carolina community, putting residents on edge.

“We walk our dogs every night and I have a flashlight with me everywhere I go, every step I take — it’s scary,” said Aaron Long, resident of the Harbour Pointe apartment complex in Mount Pleasant.

When a pest control company came last week to do a regular checkup on the bait boxes at the complex, the exterminator found snake skins nearby, took a picture, and reported it to the management office.

“The skin was still moist, indicating it was freshly shed,” Jennifer Bailey, an employee at the Harbor Pointe Apartments, told ABC News Monday.

To identify the snake, the office contacted a snake expert hours later. The expert came in and said that the skin came from a Gaboon viper, an exotic snake not indigenous to the U.S. Another local herpetologist confirmed the identity through a photograph the pest control took, Bailey said.

The Gaboon viper is a species that can grow up to six feet long, experts said. They’re known to have the largest fangs, herpetologist Terry Phillip told ABC News.

While they’re one of the most beautiful snakes in the world, they are highly venomous, he said. Even though the Gaboon viper usually feeds on rodents, when approached, it is defensive by nature like all snakes, he said.

“They have an incredibly loud, defensive hiss — it sounds like someone is letting a tire pressure out of a tire,” Phillip said.

Bites from the viper are extremely serious, he added. The venom could cause life-threatening symptoms; it destroys blood cells, veins and tissues, Phillip said.

A bite from the Gaboon viper can be particularly dangerous because local hospitals do not carry the anti-venom, he said.

To make the antidote, venom is milked from a snake and injected into a horse in small doses. Over a period of several months, the horse develops antibodies and resistance against the venom, Phillip said. Afterwards, blood is drawn from the horse and filtered for antibodies, he said. The anti-venom for this specific snake is made in Africa, which makes it hard to obtain.

The best course of action is to leave the snake alone, Phillip said. If you come across any snake, take a few steps back, and call animal control, rather than trying to capture it or tease it. He added that the Gaboon viper will not try to harm humans unless it feels threatened.

While state laws regarding snake possession differ in every city and state, it is illegal to keep or have any poisonous reptile or any other dangerous or carnivorous wild animal in Mount Pleasant, said Inspector Chip Googe of the Mount Pleasant Police Department.

A fine for possession of such an animal can be as high as $1,092, Googe said.

Warning notices were sent out last Thursday to residents. The flier states that the snake is extremely dangerous and that it could have been a pet that escaped or come on shore from ships at the nearby port. It cautions residents to avoid bushes and be aware of the surroundings when walking outside, according to a Harbour Pointe employee.

“There hasn’t been any kids outside playing since we got the notice,” Long said. “I know there are snakes in our area but not like this one.”

While local herpetologists and police have teamed up with the Edison Island Serpetarium to search for the Gaboon viper around the perimeters, it has not yet been found.

“We have two ponds nearby and it’s moist where we live, so we think the snake will stay in the area because it originally comes from the rainforest,” Bailey told ABC News.

However, employees at the apartment complex said they are expecting another snake expert to come later this week to help with the search. Meanwhile, officers will continue to be on the lookout for the deadly snake, police said.

“We’re all working together to get ahold of it and find it,” Googe said.

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Marriage Proposal Falls Flat in Fiery Air Balloon Crash

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 3:14pm

iStock/Thinkstock(NOBLESVILLE, Ind.) -- It was a romantic moment that suddenly turned almost deadly.

A hot air balloon crashed into live power lines with seven people on board this weekend in Noblesville, Ind. Among them was Stephen Richardson, who had just proposed to his girlfriend, Brandi Runyan.

“I don’t know if it was wind conditions or what,” Richardson told ABC News. “We knew we were going down and we saw the power lines coming right at us.”

The happy couple had been snapping photos a few minutes before the sparks flew in the most unexpected and horrifying way. It was utter chaos for the seven passengers as they were blinded by an explosion of light; then billowing black smoke crashed their balloon into an open field before completely catching fire.

“When we hit, the pilot told us to get down,” Richardson said. “All we saw were sparks all around us, and felt the sparks. We were all in shock and fear.”

There were no serious injuries, but several homes and businesses in the area did lose power. The FAA is investigating the cause of the crash, and the hot air balloon company, Midwest Balloon Rides of Fishers, Ind., told ABC News the incident is under review.

As for Richardson and Runyan, they don’t consider the incident a bad omen and just hope the “crashing” was reserved for the proposal and not the wedding.

“She wanted a story and she got one,” Richardson said. “Especially after this, we’ll just keep it simple.”

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2014 El Niño Warming Up to Be a Mighty One?

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 2:32pm

Rob Gutro/NASA(WASHINGTON) -- El Niño is a growing threat this year that could play havoc with weather patterns in the United States, forecasters say.

El Niño, named for the warm waters that occasionally occur in the Pacific Ocean near South America, brings fluctuating weather that includes droughts, flooding and heat waves.

“We have above-normal temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean and that often precedes an El Niño because there’s a large volume of above-average water temperature below the surface of the ocean,” Anthony Barnston, chief forecaster for the International Research Institute for Climate and Society, told ABC News. “Volume often tends to come up to the surface; often, but not always.

“That’s the uncertainty,” Barnston said. “It’s more likely to rise than not.”

Some of the larger El Niños in the past have resulted in flooding and landslides in southern and central California, he added.

Barnston notes a 70 percent probability of the United States’ experiencing an El Niño this year. He said the official outlook will be coming Thursday from the two agencies -- his research institute and the Climate Prediction Center -- and will most likely give a slightly lower probability of an El Niño event.

An El Niño affects the climate in certain seasons around the globe. Although they don’t necessarily mean drastic climate fluctuations, they are fairly reliable predictors, Barnston said.

If an El Niño persists, Barnston said, it will develop between April and June and last until the start of the next calendar year for a nine-to-10 month cycle.

The warmth below the surface is a result of a Kelvin wave that was kicked up last month by westerly wind events in the western tropical Pacific, Barnston said in a climate forecast briefing last month.

ABC News Meteorologist Melissa Griffin says the pending El Niño could be strong enough to make 2014 the globally warmest year on record, with 2015 possibly even warmer.

But there’s some good news in the event of an El Niño.

For the U.S. West Coast, California could be relieved from its extreme drought with a typically wetter-than-average season. Any rainfall would also extend along Southern California through Texas and all the way to Florida, Barnston said.

But it could possibly also bring too much rain and cause flooding and mudslides. The opposite effect could occur in the northwestern parts of the United States.

For the East Coast, the Atlantic Hurricane season may be less active during an El Niño, which alters the formation of hurricane winds, Barnston said.

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Police: Missing Calif. Hiker May Have Updated LinkedIn Profile

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 12:53pm

iStock/Thinkstock(MILL VALLEY, Calif.) -- The mystery of what happened to a missing California hiker deepened over the weekend after police said they received a tip that the woman may have updated her LinkedIn profile.

Police said a caller told them on Sunday that Magdalena Glinkowski, 33, may have made an update to her profile on the professional social networking site since she was last seen on March 30, the San Mateo County Times reported.

Police did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request to confirm the report.

The Menlo Park software developer had been unemployed for about two weeks when she went for a hike at Mt. Tamalpais State Park, leaving behind her phone and credit cards in her rental car, Marin County Sheriff’s Lt. Doug Pittman said.

Glinkowski was last seen on surveillance video near the parking lot. She is described as 5-foot-7, 120 pounds and was last seen wearing a bright pink top, light blue shorts and white and black running shoes.

An air search was launched over the weekend, while more than 80 volunteers and search dogs fanned out across the area looking for signs of Glinkowski.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Marin County Sheriff’s Investigations Unit at (916) 473-7265.

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Mormon Women Denied Entry to Priesthood

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 12:22pm

iStock/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- Hundreds of Mormon women descended on Temple Square in Salt Lake City over the weekend to demand entry into the Mormon priesthood, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But the women were turned away from the church's general conference, a move that signifies the church's unwillingness to let female members into the priesthood.

"Despite polite and respectful requests from church leaders not to make Temple Square a place of protest, a mixed group of men and women ignored that request and staged a demonstration outside the Tabernacle on General Conference weekend, refusing to accept ushers' directions and refusing to leave when asked," church spokesman Cody Craynor told the Salt Lake City Tribune.

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NYC Fire Leaves Two Cops Hospitalized

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 11:56am

WABC TV(NEW YORK) -- Two police officers remain hospitalized in critical condition and a teenage boy is in police custody following a fire on the Coney Island section of Brooklyn this weekend.

The blaze was reported on Sunday afternoon at a building, located at 2007 Surf Avenue. Police officials said housing officers Rosa Rodriguez, 36, and Dennis Guerra, 38, responded to the fire and took the building's elevator up to the 13th floor, where the fire was reported. The officers were overcome by smoke in a hallway.

"Fire Department personnel arrived at the building and made their way up to the 13th floor, where they located both police officers, unconscious and unresponsive, on the hallway floor," Police Commissioner William Bratton said in a statement.

Firefighters pulled both officers from the building, and they were taken to area hospitals for treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning and the effects of smoke inhalation.

Bratton said the cause of the fire has been deemed suspicious and remains under investigation.

A 16-year-old boy who lives in the building has been taken into custody, ABC's New York station WABC-TV reported.

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Students Support Teacher Accused of Pinning Their Classmate

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 10:43am

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SANTA MONICA, Calif.) -- People are lining up to defend a teacher at a California high school who was placed on leave after being accused of fighting a student, with video of the fight uploaded online and viewed more than a million times.

Mark Black, who is also the wrestling coach at Santa Monica High School, pinned the student to the ground in the fight.

Video appears to show Black using wrestling moves to subdue the student. That video was captured on students' phones and later uploaded to the website World Star Hip Hop, where it has been viewed more than a million times.

Students who witnessed the fight are supporting Black, saying the teacher was trying to confiscate something drug-related from the student.

While the teacher has been put on leave, students and parents have started a campaign to save his job, getting thousands to show support on Facebook and sign a petition.

Kylan Townsend, a student at the school, blames the student -- not Black. “He was trying to be a teacher and help, and I don’t think it was his fault,” he said.

Sandra Lyon, the superintendent at Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, wrote an email to parents calling the teacher’s actions “utterly alarming.” She later released another statement, writing, “Teachers are at times confronted with difficult, even threatening, situations, and they must make judgment calls to protect safety.”

No decision on potential punishments will be made until an independent investigation is complete.

Black did not respond to a request for comment.

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