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    Rain is falling across metro Atlanta, making for a messy commute, and it won’t be stopping any time soon. “It’s going to be a mess of a morning and it’s going to be a mess later today,” Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brian Monahan said. Triple Team Traffic reported more than a dozen crashes as of 7 a.m. Severe Weather Team 2 is tracking rain in your neighborhood on Channel 2 Action News at Noon. [Download the FREE Severe Weather Team 2 for alerts about weather where you live]
  • Police say they know someone out there can help find a man and a woman involved in a violent carjacking. The victim is still in the hospital a week after the attack. The level of violence toward a 74-year-old woman got everyone’s attention in the police department. They’ve got one of their suspects already and they want two others to join him in jail. “It was a collective sense of outrage,” said DeKalb County Detective Q. Starnes. Finding the people who beat up and carjacked the woman has been a top priority for DeKalb County police. “We're never going to stop looking for you until you guys are captured. It's best to just bring yourself in,” Starnes said. Joshua Bryant, 20, is the one police believe punched the victim in the face repeatedly before stealing her car with her dog inside. It happened Dec. 5 at a Chevron gas station on Gresham Road. Thankfully someone found her dog days later. Tips from the community led police to the identify of their main suspect. “There's no reason why Mr. Bryant should have done what he did. He could have easily gotten the car away from her without resorting to the level of violence that he did. She's still in the hospital recovering from her injuries,” DeKalb County Detective Jay Kearney said. Tiffany Swanson, 19, is an accomplice in the carjacking, as well. Another alleged accomplice, 17-year-old Aaron Johnson, turned himself in to police Tuesday. Police said the two suspects they're looking for have already done the unthinkable and are capable of doing it again. “They are still a danger to this community,” Kearney said. There are active warrants for the two people they're looking for. Anyone with information can call crime stoppers at 404-577-TIPS or 911.
  • They are some of the most dangerous and deadly drugs: fentanyl, morphine and now DEA has added some poppy seeds to that list. Specifically, contaminated or unwashed poppy seeds. Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Justin Gray has been investigating this problem all year and learned the DEA is now taking action. To the naked eye, the products look just like what’s in your spice rack. But the poppy seeds are different and dangerous. The labels use code words like unwashed and raw. They are poppy seeds contaminated by opium that scientists say can have the same dangerous effects as heroin or morphine. The DEA has posted a new warning about unwashed poppy seeds. The warning on the DEA website says that “unwashed poppy seeds are a danger to the user” and are “in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.” The seeds are now clearly categorized as schedule II controlled substances just like morphine and fentanyl. “If you sell these products and don’t take steps to make sure they are not contaminated, you can be prosecuted for drug related offenses,” said Sarah Sorcher, from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Unless a special test is done, these looks like any other opioid overdose. Investigators found poppy seeds and a water bottle with seeds and liquid in Todd Shirley’s Dahlonega, Georgia home after he died in the spring. “The more I learn about it, the angrier I become because it shouldn’t have happened,” said Linda Golden, Todd’s mother. Lumpkin County Corner Jim Sheppard has now confirmed with toxicology tests what he suspected in the spring telling us '...the cause of death for Todd Shirley is classified as acute toxicity of drugs including morphine... the toxicology test results are consistent with poppy seed tea representing the source of the morphine.” Amazon tells us it has new guidelines for poppy seeds and are monitoring to keep only safe poppy seeds on its site. But on eBay, we found several poppy seeds products that appeared suspicious. One bag of poppy seeds was labeled unprocessed and priced at $244 for something that should only cost a few dollars. eBay pulled those suspect poppy seeds off the site after we reached out to the company, telling us they are prohibited and against eBay policy. “I think industry is taking notice of this issue and working to make sure their supply chains are safe,” said Sorcher. The warning from the DEA with this new notice is that it will treat selling these contaminated poppy seeds like those selling any other illegal drug.
  • Grady Memorial Hospital will begin accepting more patients after a pipe broke over the weekend and flooded a floor of the hospital. The hospital said beginning at 7 a.m. Friday, Grady will be accepting trauma, stroke, and burn patients only. The 24-inch water pipe burst Saturday afternoon, causing flooding on the sixth floor of the medical center. Repairs to the pipe are complete, but the hospital suffered water damage on three floors and electrical issues, Grady officials said in a statement. It could take up to three months before repairs are complete. The hospital also transferred 150 of its 700 patients to other medical centers; many of those transfers have already been completed. Grady officials said they will continue to divert serious patients to other facilities and work with the doctors at those other locations. Read the full statement from Grady Memorial Hospital: 'Beginning at 7am on Friday, December 13, Grady will begin accepting trauma, stroke, and burn patients only. Grady will immediately assume the role of operating the Atlanta Metro EMS coordination center. All ambulances transporting adult patients to hospitals within the perimeter (I-285) will contact this coordination center. Centralizing the coordination of Metro Atlanta EMS Services will ensure patients are being transported to the appropriate facilities based on their medical needs. By phasing off diversion and opening our doors to trauma, stroke and burn patients, Grady will again be able to provide the critical services other hospitals and the community rely on Grady for. And we hope to relieve some of the burden experienced by other metro Atlanta hospitals during our current facility crisis.
  • Longtime WSB Radio, Atlanta Reporter Pete Combs has died after a short illness. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in September, just over a month after his 60th birthday and was in hospice care near Atlanta when he died. Combs had two stints at WSB. He reported and anchored for the heritage news station from 2006-2015, and returned in May, 2018 to report for WSB and ABC News Radio, covering events in Atlanta and the Southeastern US. In between, he reported and anchored for KOMO-AM, Seattle. Combs also reported for CBS News Radio as a freelance journalist from 2003-2015. His earlier career path was typical of many broadcasters, who tend to move from city to city. There were stops in Tulsa, Pittsburg and Topeka, Kansas, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Dallas, Charlotte and other towns. He was a journalist for many legendary news operations including WGST-AM, Atlanta, KRLD-AM and the Texas State Network, Dallas, USA Radio News, Dallas, WINK-AM Fort Myers, FL, and WBT-AM, Charlotte. He also reported for TV station in Charlotte and Tulsa during the early 1990s. After his arrival in Atlanta in 2006, WSB sent him to big stories in the region-and occasionally to far flung places. His last travel assignment was to cover Hurricane Dorian as it approached the Carolina coast last summer for ABC and WSB. But sometimes he went much further. In July 2011, he reported on NASA’s final Space Shuttle Mission from the Kennedy Space Center. In January, 2010, he went to Haiti to report on the earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people for WSB and CBS. Just a few months later, and closer to home, he wound up in the Gulf, commandeering a boat and reporting on the BP Oil Spill, up close and personal, for WSB, CBS and the radio stations of the Cox Radio Group. He covered numerous hurricanes for WSB, CBS and ABC while based in Atlanta. Longtime WSB News Director Chris Camp was glad to get Combs back to Atlanta last year. He calls him a “reporter’s reporter” who knew a good story and always had his bag packed and ready to go. That included the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in the Florida panhandle, where, he says, “I’m not sure if Pete ever gave anyone the shirt off his back but he did give up his shoes to a poor soul who’d survived the storm but lost everything.” He says Combs returned in December for follow up reporting. “He was struck by all the blue tarps on damaged roofs in place of homes and businesses with Christmas decorations.” The result was an award winning documentary, appropriately called Blue Tarp Christmas. When Combs returned to WSB last year, it was under a joint agreement with ABC News Radio that provided WSB with another in-house journalist while giving the network a dedicated radio reporter in the South. Andrew Kalb was ABC’s Executive Director of Programming and News at the time and calls Combs a “unique all-star storyteller. You always wanted to hear more Pete. It didn’t matter what the story was. When the opportunity came about to have Pete join ABC News Radio, it was a very easy decision. He was among the best at his craft….and an even better person.” Marshall Adams was the Program Director at WBT, Charlotte, when he –and CBS- hired Combs for the legendary station’s news department, and to give the network another reporter in the Southeast- in 2005. Adams recalls his first assignment…the aftermath of a drag racing crash that wrecked a Dairy Queen store. “Pete brought the story alive -- trotting around the building during live shots tethered to a cell phone headset, waving his arms and “showing” listeners the damage, stamping his lively storytelling skills on an event that without him would have been told flat. I listened from the front seat of the news car and knew we had something special.” His other assignments there included coverage of what was expected to be Billy Graham’s last Crusade in New York, and Hurricane Ophelia, when he brought back an invoice for the motel room door he knocked down after locking himself out. “He didn’t want to miss a live shot,” Adams says, with a laugh. “The station sent the motel owner a check, quickly. “Pete’s expense reports,” he says, “were always intriguing.” CBS News Radio Correspondent Peter King covered several stories with Combs, and remembers sharing a hotel room with him in Kenner, Louisiana, during the BP Gulf oil spill. He says, “One morning, Pete was doing live reports for several of the Cox radio stations, not just WSB. He was really scrambling to keep up and was SO busy, he had a network reporter-me-fetching his coffee every few minutes! He never let me forget that I’d been his ‘coffee boy’ for a morning!” King says they had already become lifelong friends in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley in 2004, and though they often lived in separate states, he says they saw each other often on assignment-or during personal visits. “He was a fine reporter, extremely industrious, and never turned down an assignment. He was dedicated to a fault. But he was also a good human being and our bond went far beyond our work. We helped each other through all kinds of personal and professional things and you couldn’t have found a better listener than Pete.” Combs loved technology and gadgets and was always on top of new ones that could help him get his job done, but occasionally, they worked too well. WSB’s Camp recalls he bought a strong battery powered lamp to be used in a power outage, when he was working out of one of the station’s news vehicles. “It was so hot, he melted the back seat of the truck! We never had it repaired and we laughed about it many times.” Combs’ career includes 5 Edward R Murrow Regional Awards, and nearly three dozen other awards from Associated Press Broadcasters Associations in Georgia, Florida and Oklahoma as well as other organizations starting in 1985. Combs was a licensed pilot and an avid aviation enthusiast who wrote and produced podcasts for the National Business Aviation Association, and founded two companies, Human Factor Productions and Earful Productions. He also reported while serving as Senior Editor for Aero-News.Net in the early 2000s. Family members recall that he loved great restaurants, great food, especially barbeque, and wine. In his spare time, he also loved playing his guitar, although his sister, Cathy Williamson, remembers that he played “Stairway to Heaven” one too many times during junior high and says she nearly hit him over the head with it to make him stop. Combs was an Air Force veteran, serving as a Broadcast Information Specialist in the US and overseas. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism from Georgia State University, attending classes while working professionally in Atlanta. When he learned that his cancer was spreading rapidly, Combs’ friends say, he kept his sense of humor (enjoying the gift of a Looney Toons DVD Box set during his final weeks) and never gave up hope. He was buoyed by text and Facebook messages on a special “Pete’s Journey” page set up by his wife, Karen, for friends and family. CBS’s King says during their last visit, Combs said he hoped the two of them would be able to watch the Atlanta Braves opening day game for 2020 together. Perhaps more prophetically, he told him that he knew his time was probably short, and that “every day is a gift.” Combs was born in Arlington, Virginia, on August 8th, 1959, but considered Tulsa Oklahoma, his home town. He’s survived by his wife, Karen Hewitt Combs, the co-founder and President of the couple’s Earful Productions, their dog, a silky coat, wire hair Doxie named Stella, his son Daniel, of Seattle WA, Morgan Roberson of Peachtree City, Blake Floyd of McDonough, a brother, Stephen, and his wife, Ann, of Keller, TX, and a sister, Cathy Williamson of Houston, TX. Funeral or Memorial arrangements will be announced when plans are complete. This article was written by WSB Radio
  • The machete-wielding robbers who hit local drug stores planned out the attacks and executed their scheme in two days, police said. A joint investigation between Cobb County police and Smyrna police revealed the suspected robbers are Timothy Soulsby and Vincent McClure. Surveillance video given to Channel 2’s Chris Jose shows a man in a grey hoodie walk up with a machete and point it at a Walgreens cashier. In fear for her life, the worker cried and opened the register. The robbers walked out with the entire drawer filled with cash. The men hit Walgreens and CVS, five Smryna-area stores in two days, but detectives revealed the pair didn’t get away with money in all the robberies. “(The cashier) eventually decided to jump over the counter and tried to run to the back of the store,” said Stephen Sinatra, a Cobb County police detective. Sinatra testified in a Cobb County courtroom that McClure grabbed the Walgreen’s employee, but he broke free. Investigators revealed someone in the parking lot got a partial plate number and that helped them find the men with the machete. No victims were hurt in the robberies. McClure and Soulsby remain at the Cobb County jail without bond. ​
  • The most Americans on record are expected to travel this holiday season, so you may want to pack your patience before Christmas Day. Data compiled by AAA reports 115.6 million people will travel from Sunday, Dec. 21, to Wednesday, Jan. 1. That’s an increase of 3.9 % over last year and more than 104 million folks plan on hitting the road. “Holiday cheer is at an all-time high this year, with unemployment at historically low levels, and noted improvements in both disposable income and household net worth,” Paula Twidale, vice president of AAA Travel, said in a news release. “Travelers should be getting used to crowded highways and airports, as this marks the eighth straight year of new record-high travel volumes for the year-end holidays.” Global travel analytics company INRIX anticipates delays to be the worst on Thursday, Dec. 26. Afternoon delays will almost double drive times across major U.S. cities. In Georgia, more than 3 million travelers are expected, with 187,000 driving and just as many taking flight. That’s a 3.7% increase in Georgia drivers from last year and 4% increase from 2018 in those flying. AAA predicts there will be only marginal delays during the holiday week. But U.S. drivers may see double the travel times on Thursday and Friday afternoon. In Georgia, the delays are expected to be 1.3 times the usual amount. In cities like New York and Washington, D.C., it could be three times as much. Worst day to travel in Atlanta Thursday, Dec. 26 Peak congestion period: 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. AAA encourages people to remain calm as they drive in order to avoid road rage incidents. Tips include not offending other drivers by forcing them to hit the breaks or change direction, remaining tolerant and forgiving, and not responding with eye contact or gestures. But it’s not all bad. TripAdvisor search data obtained by Forbes says it’s best to fly Monday, Dec. 16, and Tuesday Dec. 17. You can also opt to fly on Christmas Eve for less, with the average domestic flighing costing about $374. This article was written by Kiersten Willis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Channel 2 Action News was there when federal agents raided six local grocery stores. Agents locked the doors so customers couldn’t walk in. Channel 2’s Tyisha Fernandes learned the investigation is tied to alleged tax evasion. We were there when agents carried out boxes and boxes of evidence. According to the secretary of state’s website, all six of the Super Mercado Jalisco stores spread across metro Atlanta -- from Gwinnett to Cobb to Fulton counties -- all owned by the same man. Fernandes watched as agents spent more than five hours inside the Marietta grocery store on South Cobb Drive after serving a warrant here around 10 a.m. Thursday. It was one of six stores federal agents had warrants for and raided at the same time. Homeland Security and IRS agents told Channel 2 Action News they can’t talk about why they were there, but a worker told us it’s a tax evasion investigation and illegal immigrants are involved. Fernandes tried talking to customers who stood outside the store watching officers do their work, but no one wanted to talk on camera. So Fernandes went to a nearby plaza and asked people what they thought about multi-county investigation. “It sounds scary, and they had better know why they’re specifically going there,” said one resident. Investigators couldn’t say how many people were arrested today because many of these raids were still going on. The CEO of Super Mercado Jalisco said: “Super Mercado Jalisco is disappointed in the heavy-handed tactics of the federal government. Super Mercado Jalisco maintains the strictest standards on compliance and completion of all of the necessary paperwork required by the federal government.”
  • Police have arrested a 17-year-old boy in connection with a violent DeKalb County carjacking that sent a 74-year-old woman to a hospital last week. Aaron Johnson is facing charges of robbery by force and elder abuse in the incident last Thursday at a Chevron gas station on the corner of Gresham and Cook roads. The victim, Rosa Smith, was punched repeatedly in the face before her attacker took off in her red Nissan Rogue, according to DeKalb police. Carjacking Arrest: Aaron Johnson, 17, one of the accomplices in last week's violent carjacking attack of a 74-year-old woman, is behind bars! DKPD arrested Johnson on Wednesday, Dec. 11. He's charged with Robbery by Force and Elder Abuse. Two other suspects remain. #DKPD — DeKalb County Police Department (@DeKalbCountyPD) December 12, 2019 Smith’s terrier mix Daphne was still inside the vehicle. The dog was found wandering in the road later Thursday night in southwest Atlanta and has been reunited with her family. Smith, a retired attorney, was hospitalized following the attack. She didn’t suffer any broken bones, but she was left battered and bruised with gashes on her forehead, mouth and cheeks, according to police. She also complained of extreme pain in her hips. In surveillance video of the incident, Smith was left on the ground in the parking lot. Investigators later released photos of the carjacking suspect as well as two accomplices, identified as Joshua Bryant and Tiffany Swanson, they said got into the Nissan before it left the gas station. The vehicle has not been recovered. Joshua Bryant (20) and Tiffany Swanson (19) are the final two suspects wanted for last week’s violent carjacking attack. Pls dial 911 if you have seen them! #DKPD pic.twitter.com/2NdmomcuqW — DeKalb County Police Department (@DeKalbCountyPD) December 12, 2019 Johnson turned himself in Wednesday after police coordinated with his parents. He was arrested without incident and is being held in the DeKalb County Jail without bond. Johnson is not the primary carjacking suspect, who was shown with a beard in the photos released by police, department spokeswoman Michaela Vincent said. Carjacking Update: Thanks to tips, we’ve learned that 1 of the 3 suspects in last week’s carjacking is a female (red shirt w/arm tattoo). All suspects (2 males & 1 female) are still wanted, including the primary male suspect who is wearing a grey jacket & red shirt. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/Qong5hFgnk — DeKalb County Police Department (@DeKalbCountyPD) December 9, 2019 Anyone with information about the two remaining suspects is asked to call DeKalb detectives at 404-786-7990. Tipsters can remain anonymous, and be eligible for rewards of up to $2,000, by contacting Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477, texting information to 274637 or visiting the Crime Stoppers website. This article was written by Chelsea Prince, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

News

  • The remains of six victims of a deadly volcano eruption in New Zealand have been recovered. Sixteen people were killed on White Island when a volcano there unexpectedly erupted Monday, The Associated Press reported. Eight military specialists recovered six of the eight victims believed to be on the island, and the bodies will be taken to Auckland for identification, CNN reported. Due to toxic gases still being released from the volcano, the team had to wear protective suits and breathing gear to be on the island, the AP reported. The search had to end as air supplies ran low, the New York Times reported. An additional recovery mission is planned to find a tour guide and boat captain who had taken tourists to the island. At least one of them is expected to be in the water, but the other person’s location is unknown, the AP reported. Forty-seven tourists, many from a Royal Caribbean cruise, and guides were on the island when the volcano exploded. Many of the people who survived were burned. Fifteen tourists not from Australia are in burn units across the country with 11 listed as very critical. Thirteen Australians who were part of the tour have all returned to their home country, the AP reported. Skin banks are sending tissues to hospitals to help treat the burns, as medical teams from Australia, Britain and the U.S. travel to New Zealand to help treat patients, the AP reported.
  • A Minnesota man was sentenced Wednesday to more than 24 years in prison in the death of his 13-day-old son. Michael Herkal, 33, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, nearly 16 months to the day after Apple Valley police responded to an Aug. 12, 2018, medical call for an infant not breathing, WCCO reported. The child died two days later, after doctors determined he had suffered a skull fracture and bleeding in his brain. Herkal was charged initially with felony assault and malicious punishment of a child, but three additional charges of murder were filed after authorities received the autopsy report, KARE11 reported. According to WCCO, Herkal initially told authorities his toddler pulled the newborn off the couch twice but later claimed the baby slipped from his hands and fell onto a coffee table during a diaper change. During his plea hearing, however, Herkal admitted he also shook the infant violently and slapped him, the TV station reported.
  • Major League Baseball announced substantial changes Thursday to its drug use and testing policy, multiple news outlets reported. In addition to removing marijuana from its “drugs of abuse” category – making it the first major US sports league to do so – the organization announced mandatory testing for the presence of opioids, cocaine, synthetic THC, LSD and fentanyl, ABC News reported. Per the policy revisions, players will still be tested for “natural cannabinoids” such as THC, CBD, and marijuana, but punishment for violations will now be treated similarly to those of the alcohol and violence policies, ABC News reported. 'Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct under the Parties’ Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct, which provides mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and the possibility of discipline by a Player’s Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving Natural Cannabinoids,” the league, in association with its players union, stated. According to NPR, the policy changes will take effect during 2020 spring training.  “The opioid epidemic in our country is an issue of significant concern to Major League Baseball,” MLB Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem said in a prepared statement, adding, “It is our hope that this agreement - which is based on principles of prevention, treatment, awareness and education - will help protect the health and safety of our Players.” Read more here and here.
  • Seeking emergency mental health assistance could soon be as simple as dialing 988, federal regulators announced Thursday. The Federal Communications Commission formally began the process Thursday to designate 988 as a nationwide suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. “The three-digit number is really going to be a breakthrough in terms of reaching people in a crisis,” Dwight Holton, CEO of suicide prevention nonprofit Lines for Life, told USA Today. “No one is embarrassed to call 911 for a fire or an emergency. No one should be embarrassed to call 988 for a mental health emergency.' According to The Wall Street Journal, the new hotline is intended to simplify access to services available currently by dialing 1-800-273-TALK, the existing National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Once operational, dialing 988 would connect callers to the existing hotline and then route them to nearby crisis centers equipped to provide assistance. “We believe this historical and critical effort will turn the tide on reducing suicides and promote mental wellness in the United States,” said a statement from Kimberly Williams, chief executive of Vibrant Emotional Health, the nonprofit that administers the lifeline, The Journal reported. Read more here and here.
  • An emergency landing by a single-engine plane snarled traffic Thursday night on Interstate 5 in San Diego, multiple news outlets reported. Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, told KNSD the Cessna 182 made a hard landing on the southbound lanes around 7:15 p.m. Within 30 minutes authorities had re-opened two southbound lanes, KFMB reported. Carlsbad Fire Division Chief Mike Lopez told KNSD a man and a woman were on board traveling from the San Gabriel Airport in Los Angeles to McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad. According to KFMB, no injuries were reported, and the plane did not strike any motorists. “They did a pretty good job landing this thing,” Lopez told KNSD, adding, “The skill of that pilot, he did a stellar job.”
  • A Fort Gibson man recently showed off his blacksmith skills by taking first place in a competition television show. Nic Overton, 23, earned the top spot on the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire,” which is centered around blacksmith work. Along with bragging rights, Overton won a $10,000 prize. Overton told KOKI he’s been fascinated with blacksmithing since he was a child and crafted his first knife out of a railroad spike. He managed to turn his hobby into a career. He owns his own business called Nix Knives.