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Latest from Veronica Waters

    The Gwinnett County woman accused of starving her stepdaughter to death and burning the 10-year-old’s body in 2013 has learned the date of her death penalty trial. Superior Court Judge George Hutchinson set the first phase of Tiffany Moss's jury selection and orientation for April 8, 2019. That's when the people who received jury summonses will be in hearings as they seek to be excused from the jury pool. The heart of jury selection begins the following week, April 15.  In court Thursday afternoon, Tiffany Moss had little to say in a status conference that lasted barely five minutes. Shackled and wearing a green jumpsuit, she responded politely, with a 'No, sir,' when the judge asked her if she needed anything as she prepares to represent herself in her death penalty case. She told him she had no questions.  Emani Moss, her stepdaughter, weighed only 32 pounds when her burned body was found in a trash bin outside her family's Lawrenceville apartment. The girl's father, Eman Moss, has already pleaded guilty and agreed to testify for the state. He is serving life without the possibility of parole. While Moss says she has received divine guidance to act as her own attorney, lawyers Brad Gardner and Emily Gilbert from the state Office of the Capital Defender remain her legal advisors on standby in the case. The state Supreme Court has essentially said that Moss has made no mistakes representing herself and can continue to act as her own attorney. Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter says he has never tried a death penalty case in which the defendant does not have legal representation.  He's aware of another case--though not in his jurisdiction--in which a death penalty defendant represented himself at trial. Jamie Hood, accused of killing an Athens-Clarke County police officer, did not get himself acquitted but he did get a sentence of life without the possibility of parole instead of being sent to death row. He says Hood did not need help in the case because he seemed to know what he was doing. But Moss, he notes, is not preparing for her death penalty trial in any traditional way.  'There are boxes of discovery out at the jail. She has not requested access to that, and she has not requested access to the law library,' says Porter.  Is it a fair fight?  'I’m going to do everything I can to make sure it's as fair as it can be under the circumstances,' says Porter, “and that’s going to be part of the challenge of the case.” He says it remains to be seen just how much help Moss will need at trial. He already knows that he will have to do certain things and ask certain questions to protect the record, because there’s no defense attorney making tactical decisions. But maybe she’s preparing in another way, he says. 'She's confident. In hearings, she's very confident. She's completely ready to go, is what she says.' 
  • A rookie policeman ousted from the force after he used his squad car to stop a man from getting away is filing suit against his former boss. Robert Taylor Saulters is seeking a jury trial and damages as he sues the Athens-Clarke County former police chief, government, and others. 'Former Chief [R. Scott] Freeman and Athens-Clarke County failed to their job, and in the course of doing that, they sacrificed Mr. Saulters' reputation at the altar of political expediency,' says Saulters attorney, Phil Holloway, who filed the lawsuit Thursday.  Saulters was one of two officers trying to arrest Timmy Patmon on a probation violation for non-violent drug possession offenses on June 1, 2018. As Patmon ran down the street, Saulters used his patrol car to try to block Patmon; the car ultimately ran into Patmon and knocked him down.  Body-cam video shows the chase and its aftermath, when Patmon was then handcuffed while lying on the ground.  The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia use-of-force investigation into the incident determined Patmon changed direction and ran into the path of the patrol car after a series of back-and-forth movements as he tried to duck police.  'The end result of this cat and mouse pursuit was a collision between Patmon and Saulters' patrol car which occurred on the front quarter panel of the passenger side of the car,' wrote PACG's executive director Peter Skandalakis. 'Patmon suffered minor scrapes and the investigating agent found no damage to the patrol car. Based on these factors, Officer Saulters acted within the scope of his duties. His Use of Force in this case was reasonable and, therefore, further investigation and/or criminal prosecution is not warranted.'  Saulters had graduated from the police academy less than a year before the incident, and was fired within two days of it. He was hired a day later by another law enforcement agency, Oglethorpe County's sheriff's office.  Holloway responded to a question about whether Saulters' reputation really suffered, since he had a new job offer within hours of his firing.  'The former chief and the police department effectively accused him of committing a crime. By definition, they have defamed him. By definition, they have harmed his reputation,' says Holloway. [They] owed it to Taylor Saulters to do a thorough investigation before they announced to the whole world--wrongly, I might add--that he intentionally ran over somebody.' 
  • Dangerous drugs, and dozens of people accused of selling them, are now off the street.  Spalding County police are in the process of locking up 60+ offenders for selling and distributing methamphetamine and heroin across metro Atlanta, and out of Georgia into other states.  Investigators say they obtained more than 100 arrest warrants. About 10 of those arrested are affiliated with the Ghostface Gangsters, Sheriff Darrell Dix tells WSB Radio.  “The Ghostfaced are predominantly Caucasian,” Dix adds, and explains, “They have a lot of beliefs very similar to neo-Nazi, Aryan-type beliefs and they are extremely violent.”  Dix says that after three people died of suspected fentanyl-laced meth or heroin, they used wiretaps to track that drug network. “We started getting information about a local dealer here,” Dix explains, adding, “His name is Kevin Pitts.  “We initially went up on a wire on his phone, and then we found his source who was dealing in the metro area.”  A second wiretapping led deputies to their main target – Amanda Pugh.  Dix says that Pugh was the source of methamphetamine that came into Spalding County that police believe could be connected to multiple deaths.  Pugh's drug network had customers as far away as West Virginia, with some arrests also coming in Florida and South Carolina. As the investigation grew, Spalding County investigators found that some of the suspects were already on the radar of other agencies. Other information that was uncovered was turned over to the DEA.  The two-month long investigation was dubbed “Operation Say No More.” Dix tells WSB that was a catchphrase used repeatedly by one of the main suspects. “On the phone, when people were ordering drugs or wanting guns from him, he would just always end the conversation with, ‘Say no more,’” Dix says.  He adds that overall, this is a major blow to this trafficking network. “As I have said before, if you sell narcotics, or are a gang member, you are a criminal,” Dix affirms, saying, “You have three choices. You can stop, you can leave Spalding County, or you can begin counting down your days of freedom because we are coming for you.  “If you choose to be a criminal, thug, or gang member, you’ve made your choice, so get used to seeing us on a regular basis. We are not backing down and we will do everything we can to make our county safer.”
  • It's not all fun when the games get this big. As the Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots are now worth more than $2 billion combined, some convenience stores are seeing long lines of hopeful winners coming to buy lottery tickets. At QuikTrip, the frenzy means long hours for employees.  'What we've learned is when you get massive lines like this, our people get worn out,' QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh tells WSB. 'You know, the monotony of just pushing a button over and over and over again. 'So we spend a lot of time trying to relieve people because believe it or not, it's hard on your back, and it's really hard on your index finger!'  Thornbrugh says for the most part, stores have only one lottery machine, so the lines for tickets are handled by only one worker at at a time. The stores have to increase the frequency of breaks, and also bring in extra staffers to help.  'It's just been constant, 24 hours a day selling these tickets,' he says.  Even though the crowds are large, it doesn't necessarily translate to big business for the stores, Thornbrugh reveals.  'The downside of it is when you get jackpots this high, the discretionary money that somebody would spend maybe on a hot dog, a sandwich, or a fountain drink, that money's really being used for the lottery ticket. So the other inside sales, they suffer a little bit on this,' he says.  Thornbrugh says while QuikTrip is happy to help, they can see their personnel getting tired.  'We want somebody to win,' he laughs.  He also says he just might buy a lottery ticket himself--provided the lines are not too long.
  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms pulled an expected vote on the Gulch deal from the agenda of a Wednesday special-called meeting of the City Council. Thursday, the council's president, Felicia Moore, called a special meeting for October 24th, which was to focus on water and sewer bonds. Moore also included the public financing package for the $5 billion Gulch development. The next day, Friday, Bottoms' Chief of Staff Marva Lewis wrote in a memo to Moore stating that the mayor’s office wanted the legislation removed from the agenda, saying the plan to include it was based on the understanding that outside counsel would have details of the new plan ready for review by October 17.
  • The city of Atlanta has settled with its ousted fire chief Kelvin Cochran, who was let go amid a hubbub over a book he wrote which compared homosexuality to bestiality. The city council Monday approved by an 11-3 vote paying $1.2 million to Cochran. Cochran's 2015 dismissal came after he wrote a book called 'Who Told You That You Were Naked?' in late 2013, giving it to some subordinates at work.
  • A now-fired Atlanta Police sergeant has been indicted on four charges stemming from the February 2017 shooting of a North Carolina tourist near the Georgia Dome.  A Fulton County grand jury handed up an indictment Wednesday against Mathieu Cadeau, 52, on counts of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and two counts of violation of his oath of office.   The man who was shot, Noel Hall, says he is happy to hear about the charges.  'I think it's a good start going forward, and it looks like things are moving in the right direction of what I feel needs to happen,' said Hall.
  • You have probably heard the “Objection! Hearsay!” line in your favorite legal drama.  A Cobb County judge must decide whether alleged hearsay can be used against an accused child molester.  The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously ruled that when the case against Antonio Almanza goes to trial, hearsay evidence identifying him as the alleged abuser is not categorically barred under Georgia’s new rules of evidence.  In May 2014, a Cobb County girl told her mother that a relative had molested her. The mother alerted authorities, who told her to take the child to the doctor for an examination.  At the hospital, the mom told an ER doctor that Almanza had touched and raped the girl. Almanza was indicted for aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery, statutory rape, child molestation, and incest.  Since that outcry, the mom and the little girl have vanished, and prosecutors have not been able to find her. They believe the pair may have left the country. The Cobb County District Attorney sought to have the mother's statements at the hospital, and later to the girl's pediatrician, admitted as evidence.  Almanza's lawyers objected, saying that the testimony from doctors does not fall under the typical medical exceptions to the hearsay rule. Hearsay testimony is usually barred because defendants have the right to cross-examine witnesses, which they cannot do if the speaker is not in court. The trial judge, then the Court of Appeals, said that the testimony was inadmissible hearsay.  WSB legal analyst Phil Holloway says one exception to the hearsay rule is for medical diagnosis and treatment – and what is considered 'pertinent.'  'If a child or a parent goes to the doctor and says the child has been molested or abused, it's important for the doctor to know how the child was molested or abused so the child can be treated properly,' Holloway explains, adding, 'What's not so important to diagnosis or treatment is the alleged identity of the abuser.'  Prosecutors contended, however, that the statements should be allowed under newer federal evidence rules which pushed out Georgia's older ones.  Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds says he is pleased with the justices' 'well thought-out' opinion.  'The mother of that victim had made statements to the treating physicians about what happened to her daughter. We believe that should have been admissible in a court of law based on the opinions that we've read throughout the United States,' Reynolds says.  He adds, 'We were convinced in the end that the Supreme Court would agree with us and rule in our favor, and thankfully, they did.'  Holloway says the justices essentially punted the case back to the trial judge to decide, using the newer federal rules of evidence, whether the mother's statements can be heard by a jury.  'It's like a math teacher telling you got the problem wrong because you worked the equation wrong, even if you may have stumbled onto the correct final answer,' he says. 'The Cobb judge may well reach the same conclusion because under federal precedent, the state has a tough hill to climb.'  Reynolds is confident the statements pass the test, noting that the justices said both the trial court and the Appeals Court were wrong to use Georgia's outdated evidence rules in excluding the mom's statements. He calls the state Supreme Court's ruling a 'strong opinion in favor of all victims of crime.”
  • Dockless scooters dot sidewalks across Atlanta, but that is not always a guarantee that you can find one in a hurry.  Now, Bird is getting ready to launch Bird Delivery, which will drop off a scooter at your personal nest -- home or office -- and reserve it for you to ride all day.  Currently, scooter renters have to do a sort of seek-and-retrieve to hop on one of the rides, using a map on an app to find where the Birds are nested, as they can be ditched wherever a rider wants.  Some riders in midtown Atlanta seem intrigued by the idea, even as Bird has yet to release pricing information for the upcoming service, or a roll-out date.  Matthew Quinn began riding the electric scooters in recent months, and says the time of day affects how difficult they are to locate. He often needs one in the evening hours, when he says Birds seem to be more scarce, but Limes are not. The idea of scheduling a delivery could be worth exploring, he speculates.  'The pros would be getting it; the cons would be we'd probably still have to wait for it,' says Quinn. 'Like, they're driving around Atlanta in a truck?'  Bird charges $1.00 to unlock the scooter, and 15 cents per minute after that. Krysta Silva, a university student, says she's curious to know what the upcharge would be for a reserved rental. She says it could be worth the time saved.  'Where my apartment complex is, there's usually not that many,” says Silva, adding, “Every now and again there will be one, but it's like, 'Oh, I want to go to class [and] get there in five minutes,' and there's not one there. So it would be convenient.” Bird says the vehicle would be dropped off at your doorstep by 8:00 A.M.  The all-day reservation could be a move to give rideshare car services like Lyft or Uber a run for their money.  Dylan Atanasov frequents midtown and Buckhead for work and socializing, and rides the scooters daily.  'I don't drive in midtown, and I take MARTA to work every day, so this is just really convenient when I'm going somewhere besides home,' he says.  He expects that he will be a customer who has a Bird delivered to him, since he's had times when he walked out of his home and spent 20 minutes looking for a scooter. The pricing, he said, is not likely to deter him.  'It's probably still going to be better than an Uber most of the time,' says Atansov. 'This right now, I'm going to a friend's house that's like three miles away, and it's going to cost me about three dollars, or four.  'And I don't have to sit in traffic.'  Andy Watson is a scooter commuter who rides every day, but who would not have much use to schedule a delivery, he says. As he got ready to unlock a Bird off Peachtree Street, he says he usually finds scooters in the same spot daily as he heads back to his car in a parking lot.  'They're always right here, so it's not really a big issue. There's been a few days where there hasn't been one out in front of the building, but it's like 200 yards to walk, so it's not that bad,' he laughs.  As Watson opened his Bird app, there was the invitation to schedule a delivery. He entered his ZIP code and the app promised to let him know when the service was available.
  • Time, pain, and compensation. Those were the themes of attorney Neal Pope's closing arguments at the trial over a botched circumcision in Clayton County.  His first 18 days of life, said Pope, were Baby D.'s only normal ones of his life. 
  • Veronica  Waters

    Reporter

    Veronica Waters is an anchor and reporter for News/Talk WSB. She is also the staff expert on legal affairs and the courts. In 2007, the Radio-Television News Directors Association named Waters' series on "Snaring Internet Predators" best in the region with an Edward R. Murrow award for Investigative Reporting.She has been honored by several professional organizations for news and sports feature reporting, and was named in 2003 as the Atlanta Press Club's Radio Journalist of the Year. Waters has covered an assortment of high-profile cases from Mayor Bill Campbell's corruption trial to the murder trials of activist-turned imam Jamil Al-Amin and of former DeKalb County, GA Sheriff Sidney Dorsey.She served as the station's correspondent for the murder trial of accused "Black Widow" Lynn Turner, and the death penalty case of double murderer Stacey Humphreys. One of the biggest legal cases in Atlanta history involved the notorious Gold Club racketeering trial. Waters covered this unfolding drama not only for WSB Radio and radio stations throughout America, but also for a worldwide audience on BBC Radio. Waters joined WSB in 1997 as an anchor and reporter. She began her journalism career at the Southern Urban Network and Mississippi Network in Jackson, MS. Waters attended Alcorn State University and Mississippi State University, and enjoys cheering for the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

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  • The Fulton County Animal Shelter is dealing with a rat problem. But to get rid of them, they need your help. The shelter is planning a renovation to the help get rid of the vermin, but that means all of the animals need to go.  The big fixes the shelter needs to address, on Channel 2 Action News at 4:44 p.m. Lifeline Animal Project runs the Fulton County Animal Shelter, which is offering free adoptions through the Super Bowl. The shelter says there are more than 500 dogs and 60 plus cats that they’re calling MVPs, or most valuable pets. 
  • After just over two years in office, President Donald Trump’s White House has clearly decided that the televised White House briefing – a regular staple since Bill Clinton came into office – is no longer needed, as Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has not formally taken questions from reporters at the podium in the Brady Briefing Room in over a month. “I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway!” President Trump tweeted on Tuesday. Before the briefings became a daily televised event in the Clinton Administration, White House briefings were mainly what’s known as ‘pen and pad’ gatherings – that is, no television, no radio recording, a throwback to the days when newspaper and magazine reporters dominated those covering the White House. The reason Sarah Sanders does not go to the “podium” much anymore is that the press covers her so rudely & inaccurately, in particular certain members of the press. I told her not to bother, the word gets out anyway! Most will never cover us fairly & hence, the term, Fake News! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2019 The number of briefings dwindled throughout 2018 – for example, Sanders held only three in July, only once in both November and December. The last formal briefing was on December 18. Critics of the briefings say it’s become a place for reporters to grandstand – the President in his tweet today said reporters acted ‘rudely’ – but it’s also been an important venue over the years for a President, in order to get out the message of that administration. Before the Clinton White House – with Communications Director George Stephanopoulos and Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers – made the briefing into a daily televised event which kept the focus on the White House, standard procedure allowed for only a few minutes of televised proceedings at the start of a briefing. After about five minutes, the TV lights would be turned off, the microphone would go silent, and the briefing would continue to be on the record, but not for broadcast. The White House Correspondents Association on Tuesday urged the President to reconsider. Statement on White House news briefings from WHCA President Olivier Knox. pic.twitter.com/jhQjVrz1bC — WHCA (@whca) January 22, 2019 While Sanders has not been on television much in recent months, the President has made himself available repeatedly, often entertaining questions as he departs the White House, or in photo opportunities with reporters. Mr. Trump has held only two formal, solo news conferences; the last one – the day after the November elections – included a verbal showdown with CNN reporter Jim Acosta.
  • Officials in Kentucky said a Catholic school at the center of a controversial encounter among white teenagers, Native American protesters and others was closed Tuesday after officials learned of a planned protest at the school. >> Read more trending news In a statement, officials with the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School said police warned them of the planned protest in the days after video surfaced online that appeared to show teenagers from the school surrounding a Native American man outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. “Due to threats of violence and the possibility of large crowds the Diocese was advised to close Covington Catholic High School, the Diocesan Curia and neighboring Covington Latin School,” officials said in the statement. >> Teen wearing MAGA hat in protest video speaks out A video surfaced online last week of a student, who identified himself in a statement as Covington Catholic High School junior Nick Sandmann, smirking as a Native American elder beat a ceremonial drum near his face. The video sparked outrage nationwide, though longer videos from wider perspectives later revealed that the drummer -- Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips -- had intervened between the boys and members of a black religious sect, according to The Associated Press. Phillips appeared to intervene at a time when the teens seemed to be getting rowdier and the black street preacher who had been shouting racist statements against both groups was escalating his rhetoric, the AP reported. >> Trump says Catholic students ‘treated unfairly’ after encounter at National Mall The incident drew the attention of President Donald Trump, who said Monday on Twitter that Sandmann and his classmates “were treated unfairly with early judgement s proving out to be false – smeared by media.” Officials with the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School said a third-party investigation of the incident at the Lincoln Memorial will be launched this week. “This is a very serious matter that has already permanently altered the lives of many people,” officials said. “It is important for us to gather the facts that will allow us to determine what corrective actions, if any, are appropriate. We pray that we may come to the truth and that this unfortunate situation may be resolved peacefully and amicably and ask others to join us in this prayer.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A young couple from India who wrote a travel blog were intoxicated when they died in a fall from a scenic overlook in Yosemite National Park in California, according to an autopsy report released Tuesday. Menakshi Moorthy, 30, and her husband Vishnu Viswanath, 29, each had intoxicating levels of ethyl alcohol, a substance found in most alcoholic drinks, the Mariposa County coroner said. The report didn't provide a blood-alcohol ratio. Viswanarth's tripod was later discovered on the edge of the overlook. His brother, Jishnu Viswanath said it appeared the couple died trying to take a photo. Moorthy described herself and her husband as 'travel obsessed' on their blog, 'Holidays & Happily Ever Afters,' which was taken down Tuesday. It had been filled with photos of the couple in front of snowy peaks and on romantic trips across Europe, where they took selfies from a gondola in Venice, at the Leaning Tower of Pisa and at the Vatican. Moorthy described herself in the blog as a 'quirky free spirit' and 'an ardent adrenaline junkie — roller coasters and skydiving does not scare me.' She once posed at the edge of the Grand Canyon wearing a Wonder Woman costume, writing, 'A lot of us including yours truly is a fan of daredevilry attempts of standing at the edge of cliffs — and skyscrapers. But did you know that wind gust can be FATAL??? Is our life just worth one photo?' Park rangers found the couple's bodies in October 800 feet (245 meters) below popular Taft Point in Yosemite. Moorthy and Viswanath were born in India and had lived in the United States for a few years, most recently in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cisco India said Viswanath was a software engineer at the company's headquarters in Silicon Valley. Moorthy and Viswanath graduated in 2010 from the College of Engineering, Chengannur, in the Alapuzha district of India's Kerala state, said Nisha Kuruvilla, one of their professors. She said Moorthy and Viswanath were good students who were fond of traveling and had married at a Hindu temple in Kerala in southern India in 2014. Viswanath Facebook cover photo shows the couple smiling, with arms around each other standing at a Grand Canyon precipice. 'Living life on the edge,' he wrote. Moorthy also blogged about depression. In a post from April, she apologized to readers for going silent and 'disappearing for more than a year.' 'Between battling the tightening tentacles of depression and blustering in the tempest of moving madness, I am afraid social media is taking a back seat??' she wrote. The couple's pictures indicated they liked to pose in scenic spots at sunset, which was the last time they were seen alive.
  • A 23-year-old woman last seen Saturday night has been found alive in Charlestown, Massachusetts, nearly a mile from where she was out with friends barely three days prior, a source told WFXT.  >> Read more trending news Olivia Ambrose was last seen outside Hennessey's Bar in downtown Boston around 11 p.m. Saturday night.  She had been out with her twin sister, Francesca, and some friends after moving to the city recently. She worked for Toast, a Boston software company, and had just relocated to Jamaica Plain. >> RELATED: Mom of 4, including newborn twins, vanishes after leaving bar But Olivia, or Liviy, wasn't heard from the next morning and hadn't been seen since. Boston police said earlier in the day they had been searching for a man caught on surveillance footage with Ambrose. The following timeline was released to accompany surveillance pictures.   11:04 p.m.: Ambrose is seen leaving a bar located at 25 Union Street (Hennessy’s) with a white male who has since been determined to not be involved in her disappearance.  11:42 p.m.: Approximately 40 minutes later, two unknown males are observed inviting Ms. Ambrose to walk with them in the area of Congress Street and State Street. One of the males appears to walk ahead while the second male places his arm around Ms. Ambrose and directs her towards the State Street MBTA Station.  12:01 a.m.: Approximately 20 minutes later, additional video shows Ms. Ambrose being accompanied by that same male, still with his arm around her, exiting the Bunker Hill Community MBTA Station in Charlestown. The other male party is no longer observed in any surveillance video moving forward. 12:13 a.m.: Approximately 10 minutes later, Ms. Ambrose and the unknown male are observed again in the area of Green Street walking together towards Bartlett Street. A short time later, phone records indicate Ms. Ambrose’s phone was in the general area of the Bunker Hill Housing Development.
  • A University of Georgia graduate student is under fire for comments alluding to violence and white people.  The man at the center of the controversy is Irami Osei-Frampong -- a philosophy graduate student employed by the university as a teacher's assistant. He speaks frequently about race and equality, but some critics believe he crossed the line when he made a post online that stated, 'Some white people may have to die for black communities to be made whole.'  The teaching assistant told Channel 2's Tony Thomas he's confused by the backlash. Osei-Frampong said he's standing firm and not backing down. The grad student details what he meant by his recent statements and Thomas gets reaction from students and school leaders, for Channel 2 Action News at 5 p.m. TRENDING STORIES: Mom of 4 mysteriously disappears after leaving bar Several Georgia Tech students robbed, kidnapped during doughnut run 'Saints got robbed': Fan buys billboards near Mercedes-Benz Stadium