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Local News

  • The partial government shutdown continues and many federal workers haven't been paid in weeks, so a local church stepped in to help its members who have been impacted. [READ MORE: Government shutdown becomes longest in U.S. history] Church members at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church were able to raise enough money to give fellow members affected by the government shutdown nearly $300 each in cash. Pastor Dr. Jamal Bryant, who joined the church in December as the new senior pastor, said he felt he and his congregation had a responsibility to help those in need. He said 30 people went to the altar Sunday, Jan. 6 seeking aid. [READ MORE: Jamal Bryant named as new senior pastor of New Birth] “When the government shuts down is when the church needs to be wide open,” Bryant said. 'When I originally brought them down, I was just going to pray for them.' TRENDING STORIES: Police: Officer attacked with own Taser after dangerous suspect resists arrest Former Kasim Reed aide collapses in court as judge sentences her to prison Passengers arrive hours early at Atlanta airport after massive security lines But the pastor said God spoke to him and asked him to do more. 'I ain't waiting on the Democrats or the Republicans,' Bryant said. The pastor asked members to dig in their pockets and give to those not getting paid. 'I was absolutely blown away. I've only been in here a month. I had no idea that compassion was this high in Atlanta,' Bryant said. Now the pastor is looking at other ways to help those affected by the shutdown. 'Whether or not we can do potluck dinners for families to be able to come -- gift cards to grocery stores,' Bryant said. He said there are more people in need based on the comments he got from those who missed the service. 'You can't imagine how many people said, 'Oh I missed last Sunday. Are y'all going to do it again?'' Bryant said. Bryant said his team is looking at ways to help members on an ongoing basis until the shutdown ends. He said it's the church's job to help those in need.
  • The Georgia Department of Transportation will start a project to replace a 50-year-old bridge in Gwinnett County on Monday. Channel 2's Berndt Petersen is in northeast Gwinnett, where crews will begin work to replace the overpass on Spout Springs Road over I-85. The bridge is near the Chateau Elan Golf Club and is a major thoroughfare into Hall County.  Some residents in NE Gwinnett say rebab of this bridge will give them headaches 5pm pic.twitter.com/V3aQWhKC6N — Berndt Petersen (@BPetersenWSB) January 15, 2019 Not only will the bridge be replaced, but the road will also be widened. It's part of a much larger project to widen the interstate and relive congestion in the corridor.  Petersen spoke to parents, who were concerned about warnings from the school district that buses will be delayed.  'It's a total inconvenience for them to shut down a road during the school year,' Cherylann McGee said. 'For six months! That's absolutely absurd.' McGee isn't the only one upset about the inconvenience.  'It's gonna cause a big problem with school buses,' homeowner Rick Whitley said. 'Especially the ones that use that bridge.' The state has set up detours on either side of the span, but one bus driver privately told Petersen it'll add 26 minutes to her route.  TRENDING STORIES: Missing South Georgia children found buried endured violent chaos at home Newlywed charged with bride's murder outside Popeye's Three children die after being found locked in chest freezer, police say Petersen called a school system spokesperson, who said the schedule of some pickups and drop-offs could change by half an hour, but she insists students won't be late to school.  GDOT said they've tried to make the detours as short and direct as possible and they have notified first responders of potential delays.  McGee said she wishes there were another way.  'Maybe we could shut down on half the road,' McGee said. 'Like they do sometimes, instead of the complete road.' Locals do want a safer, wider bridge. John Maddalena often sees high school students walking right along the edge of the bridge.  'It's very dangerous going across it, especially with how narrow the bridge is,' Maddalena said.   Parents whose children are on one of the 25 bus routes that cross the bridge are afraid they're going to be tardy.  'Anytime during school, traffic is heavy,' McGee said. 'Anytime people get off of work, traffic is heavy.' A school official told Petersen the first week of detours may be a little tough because all drivers, not just bus drivers, will be trying to figure it out. 
  • On his first day in office, Gov. Brian Kemp kept a campaign promise, ordering state government to reform the way employees’ sexual harassment claims are handled. His executive order creates a centralized system with uniform standards to replace a disjointed, haphazard one that left victims seeking justice. But the reforms won’t happen overnight. They will require time to develop new training programs and more money and staff to ensure complaints are thoroughly investigated. The reforms were prompted by an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation into more than 200 sexual harassment complaints across state government. The newspaper found sexual harassment victims were subjected to wildly different treatment depending on where they worked, with complaints often dismissed as harmless “cutting up” or interpreted as a mutual flirtation gone wrong. As part of the investigation, the AJC asked both major gubernatorial campaigns what they would do to address the problem. Kemp responded with a promise to issue reforms on his first day in office. Kemp’s executive order Monday requires every department and agency under his authority to designate “at least two persons, not of the same gender” to investigate complaints and report their findings to the state Office of Inspector General, which will collect and audit investigations from across state government. Sexual harassment investigators will be required to have “standardized investigative training … to ensure consistency among all sexual harassment investigations across the state.” In addition, Kemp ordered a new sexual harassment prevention training program which every state employee will be required to take when they are first hired and annually after that. The order also bans retaliation against those who file complaints. The order came as good news to Lynne Troha, a Georgia State Patrol employee and one of the victims of alleged harassment who spoke to the AJC for its series. Troha filed a complaint against a state trooper in 2017 whom she said harassed her on several occasions. Investigative documents show it took eight weeks for the Department of Public Safety to open an investigation. The department disciplined the trooper but did not find that he sexually harassed her, even though he admitted telling Troha about his sex dreams and about having an erection. In their report, investigators said the trooper “did not perceive that any of these sexual comments were offensive or unwelcome” and decided the conversations were mutual. Troha said she believes the investigation might have been handled differently if someone from outside the department had audited it. “As a female today, with the #metoo movement you feel like you should be able to go to someone and say, ‘This is what happened,’” she said. “But they are still going to say, ‘Well, you caused it.’” Karla Jacobs, a member of the Georgia Commission on Women, said it is important that sexual harassment complaints be handled “in a way that is transparent and fair to all parties.” “Gov. Kemp’s executive order overhauling how executive branch agencies handle sexual harassment claims is a welcome start,” she said. “The AJC shined a light on the unequal handling of sexual harassment claims across government agencies, and we appreciate Gov. Kemp making it a top priority to ensure Georgia’s state employees can do their jobs in a harassment-free environment.” The state Department of Administrative Services has been assigned the task of developing new training programs in consultation with the governor’s office. The reforms also will tax the small Office of Inspector General. The OIG was created in 2003 to investigate waste, fraud and abuse within state government. The executive order greatly expands its mission and workload. In its investigation, the AJC obtained about five years’ of records from nearly 30 executive agencies, finding employees filed an average of more than three dozen complaints annually. But many other state departments, offices and commissions not included in the newspaper’s investigation may also field complaints. To handle the increased workload, the inspector general likely require additional staff and a larger budget. Kemp is expected to release details about his first budget this week. While the new governor took strides to make government more accountable in handling sexual harassment, Senate leaders were lambasted for adopting rules narrowing the time for lodging complaints against its members. The rules also said alleged victims who talked publicly about being harassed could have their complaints dismissed and could even be fined. The new rules come after a female lobbyist last year accused then-Sen. David Shafer of harassing her in 2011. Shafer’s fellow senators dismissed the complaint in a closed-door session. At the time, Shafer was a candidate for lieutenant governor, but he lost in the Republican primary to eventual winner Geoff Duncan. Sen. Renee Unterman, one of only two women Republicans in the chamber, blasted the rule in a charged speech from the well Tuesday. “It’s a shame,” she said. “In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had sexual harassment against me. I know personally what it feels like. It’s not a good feeling. We need rules and regulations, desperately, to protect people.” Unterman, one of the state’s most powerful female politicians, said she would reveal more about her own harassment later this week. State Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Decatur, also vented her frustration at the rule change. “We need to be in a time of opening up the doors to invite those who have been victimized to have a pathway for justice to be served,” said Orrock. “To put in this two-year time limit sends the wrong message.” Duncan, sworn in as president of the Senate on Monday, said he was not a party to drawing up the rules. But the Republican former health executive said he wouldn’t rule out an attempt to urge the chamber to revisit the decision. “This was always an issue I took seriously as a business owner,” he said. “In the role as lieutenant governor, I can assure you we will look at every opportunity to allow folks who have a grievance to speak up.” Staff writer Maya Prabhu contributed to this report.
  • A Roswell couple is facing charges after police say they left their 2-year-old daughter home alone while they went shopping for more than an hour. Police didn't learn about what happened until the parents had called them.  'The father of a child stated that his mom took away his kid without his permission,' Roswell Officer Lisa Holland told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik. Romi Aziz and his wife Felicia Michilene eventually admitted to police they had left the child alone to go shopping. 'It's the parents' responsibility to look over after a child to make sure they are in a safe environment and then they left their child home alone in a crib, unattended,' Holland said. TRENDING STORIES Newlywed man, 2 gang suspects charged in bride's death outside Popeyes Three children die after being found locked in chest freezer, police say New Birth gives members affected by government shutdown nearly $300 each Family friend Lianicia Weijaya says the girl's grandmother suspected something wasn't right and found the child home alone in her crib. 'She was worried about the little girl,' Weijaya said.  Petchenik went to the parents' apartment Tuesday and tried to speak with the child's mother about what happened. Michilene answered and said the father was the one that decided to leave their daughter. 'I don't know, he asked to watch a movie,' she said. Both parents are out of jail, but their daughter will remain with grandparents pending the outcome of the Division of Family and Child Services investigation.
  • Police told Channel 2 Action News an injured officer was rushed to an emergency room after a 'dangerous' suspect resisted arrest and grabbed a weapon from the officer's partner. Police said they were trying to arrest Mark Anthony Antunez, 20, on felony drug charges when he resisted, fought the officers and grabbed an officer's Taser. The fight happened Monday morning outside a home on Burbank Circle, according to police. According to an arrest warrant, “Antunez gained control of a Taser, discharged the weapon -- incapacitating the officer.” The Taser hit the officer, identified as Quentin Hale, twice; once on the body and then once in the groin area, police said. Channel 2’s Cobb County bureau chief Chris Jose learned the officer is a father and a veteran of the Smyrna Police Department. TRENDING STORIES: Newlywed man, 2 gang suspects charged in bride's death outside Popeyes Former Kasim Reed aide collapses in court as judge sentences her to prison Passengers arrive hours early at Atlanta airport after massive security lines The alleged assault has neighbors concerned. 'We’re not safe again, if you’re going to attack the officer, what about me?' neighbor Edwin John said. Jose knocked on the door where police said Antunez was before the incident happened, but no one answered.  Police said first responders rushed Hale to the hospital. He is now back home with his family. A spokesman with the Smyrna Police Department said the alleged actions of Antunez made it dangerous for officers.  Police said Antunez didn’t reach for the officer’s gun but said anything was possible when he resisted arrest. Antunez is facing several charges including obstruction and aggravated assault of an officer. He's at the Cobb County Jail with no bond. 
  • Officials hope new technology will bring relief to thousands of MARTA riders and drivers by making red lights faster.. Next month, crews in DeKalb County will start installing new equipment at traffic signals that will turn the lights green when a MARTA bus approaches.  Channel 2's Sophia Choi was on Cascade Road, one of the busiest bus routes in metro Atlanta, to learn how the new technology works.  Officials say the system is already in use on Buford Highway and really does work to keep traffic moving. The equipment automatically extends green lights for MARTA rapid transit buses or turns them green quicker.  The first wave of the new technology was installed when the I-85 bridge collapsed from a fire in March 2017. Many drivers were forced to detour through Buford Highway -- and MARTA also added more buses on the road during that time.  'It was a good test for our system,' said Peggy Allen, the DeKalb Public Works director. 'The system was working. We were not only getting vehicles through faster, but the MARTA buses through faster. So it helped us move traffic during that critical period.' TRENDING STORIES: Newlywed charged with bride's murder outside Popeye's Three children die after being found locked in chest freezer, police say Missing South Georgia children found buried endured violent chaos at home Officials say the technology will also keep traffic moving on Candler Road, the seventth busiest bus cooridor for MARTA, which some 3,000 people ride every day.  Choi talked to bus rider Brittany Chandler, who was looking forward to the changes.  'I'd love to be on time,' Chandler said '(It would be) a lot better.' DeKalb County is spending $500,000 in federal funds to install the system. Crews will start working on the traffic signals on Candler Road next month. The system will go live in November. 
  • With Super Bowl 53 only days away, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and public safety officials have unveiled their security plans for events leading up to the big game. More than 1 million visitors to Atlanta are expected for the game, concerts and other events happening around the Super Bowl.  Only Channel 2's Dave Huddleston received access to the joint operation center, where more than a dozen agencies will monitor the area around Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  Officials want to reassure the public they have been working for two years on security and prepardness. They also want citizens to be vigilant and report if they see anything suspicious. Media gearing up for Mayor @KeishaBottoms and safety officials to discuss #SuperBowlLIII @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/hSgpnMvc24 — Dave Huddleston (@DaveHWSB) January 15, 2019 RELATED STORIES: 10 things you didn't know about Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta Super Bowl 53: Concerts, music festivals in Atlanta leading up to the big game Not a football fan? Here are some non-sports things to do Super Bowl weekend Starting Jan. 26, Atlanta police will work 12-hour shifts through Feb. 5. Huddleston asked Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields how she plans to keep her officers from getting  fatigued.  'We've built in an off day for everyone, so they do have a break.  But really what makes this manageable is the fact that we have so much afforded to us from other agencies,' Shields said. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, FBI, Georgia State Patrol and more than a dozen other law enforcement agencies will work with APD during the 10-day period surrounding the Super Bowl.  The chief said they have prepared and drilled for the worst-case scenarios. On Tuesday, Huddleston saw workers covering the stadium and downtown buildings with Super Bowl posters to prepare for Super Bowl Live. Almost 350 workers are busy building a free fan village, featuring two team houses for each conference champion and a stage for concerts. Bottoms says initially she was nervous about the city hosting, but with so much assistance from state and federal partners, she says she's confident the city is prepared.   'This event will be all that we hope it to be,' Bottoms said. 
  • An overnight fire at a southwest Atlanta apartment complex left one man injured and two units damaged.  Channel 2's Tyisha Fernandes was at the Santa Fe Villla Apartments on Metropolitan Parkway, where the fire broke out Monday night. Neighbors say a space heater started the fire that left a man trapped in his home until a neighbor heard his cries for help. Firefighters say the blaze started near the bathroom and the flames spread so quickly the door was blocked.  Firefighters broke out the windows to get the man out and ended up pulling him out of a back window.  A neighbor who heard his neighbor's screams said it was terrifying to hear, but he was glad to be able to help.  Jonathan Green had just gotten home from work Monday around 9 a.m. when he heard his neighbor in distress.  'I was scared myself. It was like a nightmare for me,' Green said. 'I was hearing that kind of noise, somebody saying, 'Help me! Help me!'' When Green and his neighbors couldn't rescue the man themselves, they called 911.  'The firemen came. They had to come with a ladder and they pried him out of there,' Green said.  “I saved a life, so God is good” is what a SW Atlanta resident said to me, after he heard his neighbor crying for help & did something about it. I have a live report on this fire that was very close to being deadly, coming at Noon on Ch2 pic.twitter.com/Vn4axKLo6U — Tyisha Fernandes (@TyishaWSB) January 15, 2019 TRENDING STORIES: Newlywed charged with bride's murder outside Popeye's Passengers arrive hours early at Atlanta airport after massive security lines Former Kasim Reed aide collapses in court as judge sentences her to prison Green said he and other neighbors tried to help by getting the front door open with a mallet, but when they busted the door open there was nothing but flames.  Firefighters pulled the victim to safety. He was taken to a hospital but is expected to recover.  Green said the space heater caused the fire, though firefighters say said they are still investigating how it started.  'You've gotta keep things like that in a safe spot,' Green said. 

News

  • A woman in Maitland, Florida, said an otter charged at her, bit her calf and scratched her while she was walking her dog last week at Lake Lily Park. >> Read more trending news Ann-Christine Langselius said the encounter happened Jan. 8 while she was walking on a bridge that traces the lake's eastern shore. She said she visits the park daily, but she had never before seen an otter at the lake. 'I saw an otter coming ... just looking at me. It went straight for me,' Langselius said. 'It went for the calf and then it bit first; once in my Achilles. And then it got a really good hold a little further down.' >> Photos: 25 ways Florida could kill you Langselius said she started running and the otter held onto her until she was off the bridge. 'It was so fast,' she said, when asked how large the otter was. 'Maybe like a dog (in terms of size); short legs and very wet.' On Wednesday, the city of Maitland posted flyers, warning visitors to keep their distance, to not feed wildlife and to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission if they spotted any aggressive otters.  The Maitland Police Department said it had received several complaints about an aggressive otter attacking people and pets. The agency said a police officer fatally shot an otter Thursday near Lake Maitland. The Florida Department of Health said the otter tested positive for rabies. Langselius said she suspects it is the same otter that attacked her. The virus is almost always fatal if left untreated. The health department said it has treated three people for rabies in connection with aggressive otters.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand entered the growing field of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders Tuesday, telling television host Stephen Colbert that she's launching an exploratory committee. 'It's an important first step, and it's one I am taking because I am going to run,' the New York senator said on 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.' She listed a series of issues she'd tackle as president, including better health care for families, stronger public schools and more accessible job training. Gillibrand, 52, has already made plans to campaign in Iowa over the weekend, more than a year before the leadoff caucus state votes. She joins what is expected to be a crowded primary field for the Democratic nomination that could feature more than a dozen candidates. Already, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has announced her own exploratory efforts, and decisions by a number of other senators are expected in the coming weeks. Gillibrand, who was appointed to the Senate in 2009 to fill the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, has been among the Senate's most vocal members on issues like sexual harassment, military sexual assault, equal pay for women and family leave, issues that could be central to her presidential campaign. 'I'm going to fight for other people's kids as hard as I would fight for my own,' said Gillibrand, a mother of two sons, ages 10 and 15. As she works to distinguish herself from likely rivals, Gillibrand will be able to draw from the more than $10.5 million left over from her 2018 re-election campaign that she can use toward a presidential run. Gillibrand pledged during her Senate campaign that she would serve out her six-year term if re-elected. She will use Troy, New York, where she lives, as a home base for her presidential efforts. Near the end of their interview, Colbert presented Gillibrand with a basket of campaign gifts, including an ear of yellow corn to wave in Iowa, a piece of granite for New Hampshire and a one-of-a-kind button that reads 'I announced on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
  • A day after travelers waited nearly 90 minutes in snail-speed security lines at the world's busiest airport, Atlanta's mayor is concerned about the waits that could result when the city hosts the 2019 Super Bowl. The ongoing partial government shutdown is 'uncharted territory' amid planning for one of the world's biggest sporting events, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Tuesday. 'Obviously, we are in uncharted territory with the shutdown that's gone on this long, and we are preparing as best we can from our vantage point,' Bottoms said. The mayor and others at a Tuesday news conference said two years of planning have them well-prepared to protect the public. 'Our goal is for our officers to be visible, for the public to feel safe, be safe, and be able to position ourselves so that we can react immediately to whatever scenario we are confronted with,' Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said. 'I think that with anything you can go in with a spirit of confidence if you have prepared, and we have prepared well.' But the government shutdown is a wild card that arose relatively late in that planning process. 'Certainly there are factors that we don't control such as what's happening with our federal government shutdown and with the long TSA lines,' Bottoms said. 'We are continuing to encourage people to get to the airport very early.' The expected crush of travelers is significantly more than normal. On a typical day, 60,000 to 80,000 passengers are screened at Atlanta's airport before departing, airport statistics show. On Feb. 4, the day Bottoms calls 'Mass Exodus Monday,' about 110,000 passengers are expected to be departing from Atlanta's airport one day after the Super Bowl. The partial government shutdown has meant missed paychecks for Transportation Security Administration screeners at airports nationwide. TSA workers have been calling in sick at a rate that's been more than double what it normally is, the agency has said. That's led to a shortage of screeners at some airports across the country. No-shows among screeners jumped Sunday and again Monday. The TSA had a national absence rate of nearly 7 percent Monday, compared to 2.5 percent on a comparable day a year ago, the agency reported Tuesday after getting complete numbers on the absences. A chaotic scene unfolded at Atlanta's airport on Monday, the first business day after screeners did not receive a paycheck for the first time. Mondays are typically busy for the airport as Atlanta business travelers depart for the work week, and some security lanes went unstaffed as lines backed up. Atlanta passengers led the nation Monday in terms of longest screening delays: The 'maximum standard wait time' was 88 minutes, the TSA reported. Passengers who went through TSA PreCheck — an expedited screening program which is typically faster than regular lines — waited 55 minutes, statistics showed.
  • Washington state's lieutenant governor declined to preside at Gov. Jay Inslee's State of the State speech Tuesday, saying he was concerned people might bring concealed weapons to the joint session of the Legislature. Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib, a Democrat, noted that the state House of Representatives, where the speech was given, does not have a policy banning concealed weapons, The Daily Herald newspaper of Everett reported . 'There is no specific threat to me. There is no specific threat we know of, period,' Habib said. 'It's about the policy.' The House and Senate ban openly carried weapons in their galleries, and in the Senate, where Habib is the presiding officer; he extended that ban to cover concealed weapons as well. Habib, who is blind, said he was concerned the House policy leaves elected officials vulnerable. Other statewide elected officials, from the nine Washington Supreme Court justices to the commissioner of public lands, attended. In an emailed response, the office of the chief House clerk, Bernard Dean, called Habib's decision regrettable. 'Washington state law is clear: Properly licensed concealed carry permit holders are allowed to carry concealed weapons on the state capitol campus, including the galleries,' the statement said. 'Absent any specific security issue, and in accordance with the law, the House kept the galleries open so that the public could see its government in action.' Democratic Rep. John Lovick, of Mill Creek, the speaker pro tem in the House, presided over the joint legislative session for Inslee's speech in Habib's absence. Inslee, who is mulling a possible 2020 Democratic presidential bid, highlighted climate as his top issue in his annual address to lawmakers, who started their 105-day legislative session this week. ___ Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldnet.com
  • The White House says Ivanka Trump will take part in the nomination process for a new head of the World Bank. The senior adviser was asked to participate by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin because she has worked with World Bank leaders on a variety of projects. The White House said she is not a contender for the post. Jim Yong Kim, the current president of the World Bank, announced last week that he is resigning. With Kim's exit, President Donald Trump will have the opportunity to nominate his own choice to fill the position. The leaders at the 189-nation World Bank have all been Americans. But other countries have complained about this pattern. Kim's permanent successor will be decided by the World Bank's board of directors.