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Arrest made in Phipps Plaza, Edgewood carjackings

A teenage suspect arrested for the Aug. 4 beating of a woman during a carjacking outside Phipps Plaza is also being charged with a string of area robberies and carjackings, Atlanta police said Thursday afternoon.

Atlanta police Sgt. Greg Lyon said that in addition to the Phipps Plaza carjacking, 17-year-old Steven Spigner has also been charged with the July 5 beating and carjacking of a woman at the Edgewood Retail District on Caroline Street, a July 7 robbery on East Lake Boulevard in which the victim was hit in the face and robbed and a July 12 carjacking on Moreland Avenue where the victim was threatened with a gun.

On July 5, a woman was punched in the head in the parking deck of the Target store in the Edgewood Retail District on Caroline Street at Moreland Avenue by a man who then stole her Mercedes Benz ML350. That victim was taken to Piedmont Hospital for treatment of head injuries.

In the July 7 robbery, Spigner was driving the vehicle taken in the Caroline Street carjacking, Lyon said.

In the latest carjacking, Michelle Wing told police that she was leaving the Twist Restaurant & Tapas Bar at Phipps Plaza just before midnight Aug. 4 when she was assaulted by two men who beat her for about two minutes before taking her keys and purse and driving away in her 2007 BMW 5 Series.

Wing sustained “severe bruising as well as swelling and lacerations to her face,” police said. She was taken to Atlanta Medical Center for treatment.

Wing’s stolen car was found earlier this week.

Lyon said Spigner has been charged with two counts of hijacking a motor vehicle, two counts of robbery by force, one count of aggravated battery and two counts of battery. He has not yet been booked into the Fulton County Jail, according to jail spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan.

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  • The Latest on an oil tanker fire in Pakistan that killed more than 140 people (all times local): 8:20 p.m. An overturned oil tanker burst into flames in Pakistan on Sunday, killing 153 people who had rushed to the scene of the highway accident to gather leaking fuel. A doctor at Bahawalpur's Victoria Hospital in south Punjab said the latest deaths occurred at a hospital in Multan where some of the 50 critically injured were taken, many of them suffering extensive burns. A senior rescue official in the area said the death toll could rise further as dozens are still in critical condition. Local news channels showed black smoke billowing skyward and scores of burned bodies, as well as rescue officials speeding the injured to hospital and army helicopters ferrying the wounded. ___ 2:30 p.m. A rescue official says the death toll from an oil tanker fire in Pakistan has risen to 148, with dozens more in critical condition. The disaster occurred when hundreds of residents of a nearby village gathered at the site of an overturned oil tanker to collect the leaking fuel. It's believed that a spark from the many cars and motorcycles that raced to the scene ignited the fuel. Dr. Mohammad Baqar, a senior rescue official in the area, confirmed the latest toll, updating a previous figure. He says many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition and will have to be identified through DNA testing. Some of the most badly burned were evacuated by army helicopters to Multan, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. The dead included men, women and children. ___ 10 a.m. A Pakistani official says more than 100 people have been killed after an oil tanker overturned and burst into flames. The tanker flipped over Sunday and the fire from the oil spill engulfed scores of residents who had rushed to collect leaking fuel. Another 50 people have been seriously injured. Dr. Rizwan Naseer, director of Punjab provincial rescue services, says rescuers are collecting the badly burned bodies, many beyond recognition. He says the death toll is likely to rise.
  • SeaWorld is under investigation by two federal agencies who subpoenaed statements made by the company and its executives on or before August 2014 regarding the impact of the “Blackfish Documentary,” according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings published Friday.  The theme-park company reports receiving subpoenas in June from the U.S. Department of Justice as part of an investigation into statements about the 2013 anti-captivity documentary “and trading in the Company’s securities.” >> Read more trending news The filing also indicates the company received similar subpoenas from the SEC, although it is unclear when those were received.  “The Company has cooperated with these government inquiries and intends to continue to cooperate with any government requests or inquiries,” the filing says.  The filing also indicates the company’s board of directors formed a special committee with legal counsel to determine how to handle these investigations on June 16, two days after the company’s shareholder meeting.  The full SEC disclosure reads as follows:  In June 2017, the Company received a subpoena in connection with an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice concerning disclosures and public statements made by the Company and certain executives and/or individuals on or before August 2014, including those regarding the impact of the ‘Blackfish’ documentary, and trading in the Company’s securities. The Company also has received subpoenas from the staff of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with these matters. On June 16, 2017, the Company’s Board of Directors formed a Special Committee comprised of independent directors with respect to these inquiries. The Special Committee has engaged counsel to advise and assist the Committee. The Company has cooperated with these government inquiries and intends to continue to cooperate with any government requests or inquiries.
  • President Donald Trump did not hold a White House dinner to mark the end of Ramadan, breaking an annual tradition dating back to President Bill Clinton's administration. >> Read more trending news CNN reported that Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama held yearly iftar dinners celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. Additionally, President Thomas Jefferson in 1805 made sure a formal White House dinner attended by Tunisian envoy Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, who observed Ramadan, occurred 'precisely at sunset' instead of the usual 3:30 p.m., according to the Washington Post. >> 5 things you should know about Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting Trump and first lady Melania Trump issued the following statement Saturday: >> Muslims in America, by the numbers 'On behalf of the American people, Melania and I send our warm greetings to Muslims as they celebrate Eid al-Fitr. 'Muslims in the United States joined those around the world during the holy month of Ramadan to focus on acts of faith and charity. Now, as they commemorate Eid with family and friends, they carry on the tradition of helping neighbors and breaking bread with people from all walks of life. 'During this holiday, we are reminded of the importance of mercy, compassion and goodwill. With Muslims around the world, the United States renews our commitment to honor these values. Eid Mubarak.' CNN, citing two unnamed administration officials, also reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson turned down 'a request by the State Department's Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host a reception marking Eid al-Fitr.' The department had held iftar dinners or Eid al-Fitr receptions since 1999, according to CNN. Read more here or here.
  • Britain's fire-safety crisis expanded substantially Saturday as authorities said 34 high-rise apartment blocks across the country had cladding that failed fire safety tests. London officials scrambled to evacuate four public housing towers after experts found them 'not safe for people to sleep in overnight.' Hundreds of residents hastily packed their bags and sought emergency shelter, with many angry and confused about the chaotic situation. Some refused to leave their high-rise apartments. Scores of evacuees slept on inflatable beds in a gym while officials sought better accommodations for them. Camden Council leader Georgia Gould said it decided to evacuate four blocks in north London's Chalcots Estate late Friday after fire inspectors uncovered problems with 'gas insulation and door stops,' which, combined with the presence of flammable cladding encasing the buildings, meant residents had to leave immediately. The evacuation comes amid widening worries about the safety of high-rise apartment blocks across the country following the inferno that engulfed Grenfell Tower in west London on June 14, killing at least 79 people. Attention has focused on the 24-story tower's external cladding material, which has been blamed for the rapid spread of that blaze, but multiple other fire risks have now been identified in some housing blocks. The government said Saturday that the cladding samples that failed fire safety tests came from 34 apartment towers in cities including London, Manchester, Plymouth and Portsmouth. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said further testing 'is running around the clock.' So far, Camden Council has been the only local authority to have asked residents to leave as a precaution. It said about 650 apartments were evacuated, though initial reports put the figure at 800 apartments. The council said residents would be out of their homes for three to four weeks while it completes fire-safety upgrades. 'I know some residents are angry and upset, but I want to be very clear that Camden Council acted to protect them,' Gould said in a statement. 'Grenfell changed everything, and when told our blocks were unsafe to remain in, we acted.' Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, who has been criticized for her slow response to the Grenfell tragedy, said Saturday that the government was supporting Camden officials to ensure residents have somewhere to stay while building work is done. In response, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said May needed to 'get a grip' and lead a stronger response to what is now a 'national threat.' Residents — including families with babies and elderly relatives — trooped out of the buildings late Friday night with suitcases and plastic bags stuffed with clothes. Council workers guided dozens to a nearby gym, where they spent the night on inflatable mattresses. Others were being put up in hotels or other housing projects. Many residents complained about a lack of information and confusion. Officials first announced the evacuation of one building, then expanded it to five before reducing it to four. Some residents said they learned about the evacuation from the television news hours before officials came knocking on doors. Renee Williams, 90, who has lived in Taplow Tower since 1968, told Britain's Press Association: 'No official came and told us what's going on. I saw it on the TV, so I packed an overnight bag. 'It's unbelievable. I understand that it's for our safety but they can't just ask us to evacuate with such short notice. There's no organization and it's chaos,' she said. Carl McDowell, 31, said he took one look at the inflatable beds at the gym and went back to his Taplow apartment to sleep there overnight. Other residents were distraught that they were ordered to evacuate, but were told to leave their pets behind in buildings that could be dangerous. Fire-safety experts say the Grenfell Tower blaze, which police said was touched off by a fire at a refrigerator, was probably due to a string of failures, not just the cladding, which is widely used to provide insulation and enhance the appearance of buildings. Police said Friday they are considering filing manslaughter charges in the Grenfell disaster and they were conducting a wide-ranging investigation that will look at everything that contributed to it. The Metropolitan Police said cladding attached to Grenfell during a recent renovation failed safety tests conducted by investigators. 'We are looking at every criminal offense from manslaughter onwards,' Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack told reporters. 'We are looking at all health and safety and fire safety offenses, and we are reviewing every company at the moment involved in the building and refurbishment of Grenfell Tower.' The government has ordered an immediate examination of the refrigerator model that started the blaze, the Hotpoint model FF175BP refrigerator-freezer. The government also urged building owners, public and private, to submit samples of their cladding. One hotel chain, Premier Inn, has calling in experts to check its buildings. Police say 79 people are either confirmed or presumed dead in the Grenfell blaze, although that number may change, and it will take weeks to find and identify remains. To encourage cooperation with authorities, May said the government won't penalize any Grenfell fire survivors who were in the country illegally. ___ Sheila Norman-Culp, Gregory Katz and Alastair J. Grant contributed to this report.
  • Officer Jeffrey Leach traded a chance to write a ticket for an opportunity to teach a lesson, Dunwoody police said. Leach, who joined the Dunwoody Police Department last March, pulled a car over when he suspected a child wasn’t properly seated in a car seat, police said. The driver admitted he didn’t have a seat for his youngest child and Leach, who works as one of the department’s car seat installation technicians, gave the man a choice. Rather than pay a citation, the driver and his two children followed Leach to Target, where he helped them choose a safe and affordable seat. Then, Leach installed it. “We're super proud of Officer Leach for exercising a little compassion and helping keep our Dunwoody streets safe,” Lt. Fidel Espinoza said on Facebook.  RELATED: Sheriff reduces jail time for Georgia inmates who saved officer  In other news:
  • The three once-homeless sisters recited all the athletes they met at nationals and the souvenirs they received as they slurped shaved ice. Nine-year-old Brooke Sheppard got pointers from high jumper Vashti Cunningham . Rainn, 11, showed off the shirt she picked out at the merchandise tent. And 12-year-old Tai, well, her family's story moved Justin Gatlin so much that he gave her the first-place medal he won in the 100 meters at the U.S. track and field championships. The siblings from New York City were guests of USA track and field after their rise to prominence in the sport, with their exploits bringing them medals, TV appearances and a magazine cover. It also helped get them something more — a home. They and their mom moved out of a homeless shelter and into a two-bedroom apartment in April. 'A whole different world,' Brooke said, referring to all the paths that have opened up through track. For a few days at nationals, they were treated like royalty. The sisters were accompanied by their coach Jean Bell, their 'track mom,' since their actual mother, Tonia Handy, couldn't make the trip because of work. 'Their lives have changed so much,' said Bell, who helped develop the talent of the sisters through the Jeuness Track Club in Brooklyn. 'Track keeps them focused and positive. They're good at it. They're really good at it.' The trio earned medals at the AAU Junior Olympics in Houston last summer, with Rainn winning the 3,000 meters, Tai finishing runner-up in the 80-meter hurdles and Brooke taking second in the high jump. In December, the sisters appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated Kids . Gatlin was touched by all they've gone through. 'I wanted them to take the medal as a symbol of believing in yourself,' Gatlin said. 'People are going to say that you can't or you're too young or you don't have the will to do so, but I wanted them to know they can do it. If they believe in themselves, they can do it. That's what that medal meant to me.' With wide eyes, they went behind-the-scenes at nationals. They even presented medals — Brooke to the women's high jumpers, Rainn to the women's 1,500 winners and Tai to the 100-meter hurdlers. They socialized with 800-meter runner Ajee Wilson, along with sprinters Tori Bowie and Allyson Felix. They talked to Hall of Famer John Carlos and received gift bags containing Team USA running apparel and Nike shoes. Brooke also came away with a new appreciation for the high jump after chatting with Cunningham. 'She's really tall and kind and talented,' Brooke said. 'She jumped 6 feet, 6 inches. 'One day, I'll jump 6-6, too.' Many athletes stopped to pose for pictures with the sisters, including Olympic shot put gold medalist Michelle Carter and decathlete Trey Hardee, who showed them a picture of his new baby wearing the first-place medal he captured at nationals. 'It's been so fun,' Rainn said. 'I learned new tips on how to think in my mind when I run.' They got into track around January 2015 when their baby sitter signed them up for a track meet that did not require any entry fees. Bell happened to be there looking for new talent. She had given her business cards to each of the girls separately with the instructions to have their mother call her or just show up to practice. 'They came to practice together and I'm like, 'You three are sisters?'' Bell recounted. 'That was a bonus, because I had three good athletes, from one family. That's easy to hold on to. They just took off from there.' According to Bell, the Sheppard family had been homeless for around two years. They made an appearance on ABC's 'The View' in November, when co-host Whoopi Goldberg presented the family with $10,000, along with $40,000 to their track club. Handy took a job working in the financial department of a hospital in February, with the goal of going back to school in September. They moved into their new place on April 1. At first, the family had no furniture, so they slept on air mattresses. Entertainer Tyler Perry saw their story and pledged to help out. Bell said Perry had the family's apartment redecorated, with the family surprised by the remodel on a recent episode of 'The View.' Being invited to nationals meant quite a bit to them. The sisters hope to come back again — as participants. 'They're there (in a few years) and they're on the podium,' Bell said. 'They have the talent. They have everything it takes.