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Latest from Veronica Waters

    It's a case of coronavirus that may illustrate as well as anything the benefits of sheltering in place.  A Fulton County jail inmate was diagnosed with COVID-19.  The 38-year-old inmate has a chronic health condition, but had otherwise been fine as he had been behind bars on Rice Street for more than two months.  What changed?  'He had been with us since early January. He'd been in jail 77 days as of this past Sunday and had been doing well, other than his other underlying medical issues,' says the jail's commander, Fulton County Sheriff's Colonel Mark Adger. 'He had gone to court on March 9th, and then two or three days after that, he started complaining about a temperature.'  >>LISTEN TO VERONICA WATERS’ FULL ON-AIR REPORT BELOW. The man was immediately isolated in a negative-pressure cell.  Before complaining of any symptoms, the detainee had been on lockdown with one other person. That inmate has also been isolated, and has shown no signs or symptoms of infection, according to Col. Adger. Adger says medical staff monitored the man, but his fever was not consistently responding to treatment. The man complained of body chills, and the fever began spiking by the 15th or 16th of March. He was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital, where tests confirmed COVID-19.  'He's been discharged from the jail, but he is still a patient at Grady Hospital,' says Adger, who says the man was granted a $1,000 signature bond. The jail had already begun evaluating the cases of non-violent detainees to determine who might be eligible for early release in an effort to stem any chances of infection.  'I don't think there was a high risk of violence,' he says. 'He was charged with two drug offenses--both bondable offenses--and quite honestly, having someone in a jail setting with coronavirus in custody would pose probably more of a public health risk than otherwise.'  Adger recently detailed the extraordinary steps the Fulton County Jail was taking to keep staffers and inmates safe. A jail that he said often won praise from visitors for its cleanliness had stepped up to an even stricter cleaning regimen. Staffers were greeted with questions about travel or any other possible exposure to the coronavirus. A kitchen worker with a cold was sent home, not allowed to come in to work, out of an abundance of caution. Inmates were given the same series of questions before even leaving the transport vehicles, says Adger. The jail capped the capacity of its in-house court hearings, and cleaned the courtroom after every 10 inmates. In-house video visitation was stopped; visitation can only be done remotely now. They regularly disinfected the attorney booths and holding tanks with an electrostatic sprayer.  'The importance of the electrostatic part of the sprayer is that it turns the disinfectant into a mist, and that mist, with a negative charge, then sticks to everything it comes in contact with,' explains Adger. The colonel even ordered two infrared touchless thermometers via Amazon with his own money, with plans to donate them to the jail, so Fulton County could do a thorough job screening incoming people--including visitors to the public lobby and deputies--by checking their temperatures. The regular procurement process would take weeks, he said, and he didn't want to wait. Plus, he needs at least seven of them--one for each entrance at all jail facilities.  Adger says he'd even stopped on-site roll call to keep deputies from congregating in small spaces.  No surprise, then, that with all the steps taken to protect the jail population and its staffers from COVID-19, Col. Adger was taken aback by the inmate falling ill.  'It was like a gut punch getting that first case,' Adger tells WSB, 'but I think we responded well. We looked at the procedures we use here in the jail; I don't think there was any lapse in procedure, especially when you consider that he had been here 77 days. So he couldn't have come in infected.'  Adger says they have consulted with the Centers for Disease Control and Emory University to ensure they are using best practices to limit exposure--as well as reached out to their criminal justice contact to express a major concern.  'We need very little movement of prisoners between the jail and the courthouse during this time of the emergency, so we're working to do more video court and less in-person court hearings so that we don't jeopardize either the jail or the court system and their facilities,' says Col. Adger.  A problem the jail had already been mulling over was what to do if an incoming detainee seemed to have or be at risk of the disease. Fulton County Jail holds about 2,850 inmates.  'How do we isolate someone for 14 days?' he wondered. 'We just don't have the space.'  The tier on which the 38-year-old inmate was living has been sanitized, and those who had or may have had contact with him before, during, and after his hearing trip to Fulton County courtroom 2-F have been alerted. Many have been urged to self-quarantine, says Adger, and it's a wait-and-see at this point.  'We have to protect this environment because we cannot sustain large numbers of employees or our criminal justice partners being waylaid by this,' Adger says.  The first of the two touchless thermometers Adger ordered arrived Wednesday, and deputies began using it right away.
  • The only coronavirus patient to be isolated at Georgia’s special quarantine site in Morgan County is happy to be home again. Joey Camp, a former Georgia National Guardsmen who cooked at a Waffle House in Canton before he became ill, told WSB’s Veronica Waters that he previously understood he would be staying at Hard Labor Creek State Park near Rutledge for a 14-day quarantine. However, Camp said the Georgia Health Department has since informed him that he no longer has a fever or other symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Suffering from a fever, chills and aching joints, Camp first visited Northside Hospital Cherokee on March 5. >>LISTEN TO VERONICA WATERS’ FULL ON-AIR REPORT BELOW. A diabetic, Camp explained that he was diagnosed with pneumonia and tested positive for COVID-19 there. After being discharged on March 9, he was sent by ambulance to the remote isolation site at Hard Labor Creek Park. State officials have set up seven emergency trailers at the park to isolate and monitor coronavirus patients. “I can now join society,” Camp said, emphasizing how happy he was to leave his quarantine. Camp said he hopes to return to work cooking for Waffle House, which announced last week that it had closed its 1849 Marietta Highway location in Canton and was preparing to sanitize it after one of its employees tested positive for the disease. State health officials said Sunday Camp did not need to be retested for COVID-19 and could be released from the park because he has been asymptomatic for a full week, adding he is considered “cured.” “That is the new CDC guidance being followed by states,” the Georgia Department of Public Health said. “He was also hospitalized for some time before isolation at the park.” After several days symptom-free, he came home Sunday to celebrate with friends, and some Corona beer, at a Mexican restaurant. His advice to everyone: Don't panic, and stay positive—even if you get COVID 19.
  • Will Baggett, a cybersecurity consultant in Atlanta, tells WSB that tech firm Reason Labs has already found infected coronavirus maps online.    'It's a heat map of the coronavirus spread, mirrored from the Johns Hopkins [University] site, but the back end of the site loads malware so they can access your e-mail accounts and your bank accounts,' Baggett tells WSB. 'The malicious site has code to pull in the real map.'  The nasty program can also snatch passwords, usernames, cookies, and other information stored in a web browser.  Baggett says the hackers may be spreading it with spam e-mails, and they are also using simple attachments.  'Traditional Word document attacks that we've seen since the '90s are back,' he says.  There have also been Android apps which look like the maps, but those fake trackers lock up a phone and demand a bitcoin ransom to free it.  Details from Krebs on Security say that late last month, someone on several Russian language cybercrime forums started selling a digital Coronavirus infection kit that claims to mirror the real-time data of the and interactive nature of the Johns Hopkins map, and can also go viral to their friends when users grab it.  'It's very simple to set up malware with a cloned image of something that looks desirable,' Baggett says. 'People want to know where this virus is spreading.'  Baggett warns that self-quarantining telecommuters could be more at risk, because people working from home may be without the advanced firewall protections of their offices. He noted that a company he's consulting for has software that was catching this malware as employees clicked on things--but at home, workers may not be looped into that.  'The corporate network keeps their anti-virus up to date on a regular basis. The home network people don't do that,' Baggett says. 'They're avoiding the physical virus, but they're vulnerable to the electronic virus.'  He notes that as long as this pandemic is in the headlines, this won't go away, and employees may ultimately be putting their employers' systems at risk.  'These are going to be constant threats as more people work from home until the crisis passes,' says Baggett.
  • Coronavirus concerns mean an annual meeting of leaders in the nation's capitol are not getting as 'hands-on' as in years past. Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore is attending the 55th annual National League of Cities Congressional City Conference in Washington, DC. Elected officials from America's cities, towns, and villages gather to share ideas, and advocate for public policy important to their communities with congressional leaders.  Moore says this year, people are greeting each other differently.  'We have a handshake-free meeting,' she says. 'So, no one is shaking hands. There's sanitation, there are wipes, there's antibacterial lotion and everything around, and we're really encouraging everyone to use that and people have.'  Moore posted a photo of the big no-handshake strikethrough illustration greeting delegates.  While some events around the country are being postponed or canceled because of Covid-19 precautions, Moore notes that the NLC is still extremely well-attended as the focus is the 2020 Cities Agenda in this election year. Key agenda issues include infrastructure, creating a skilled workforce, ending housing instability and homelessness, and reducing gun violence.  'There's over 2,000 participants, and maybe only 40 people canceled,' says Moore. 'Local elected officials are braving our fears. We've come and we all are sharing information on how we're dealing with the contravirus because we're the closest thing to the people.'  Moore says Covid-19 is, of course, a major topic this year as the outbreak continues.  'Even with the virus issue, we have to think about how do we serve our homeless population. They are amongst us and they do share public spaces with us,' says Moore.
  • Surrounded by family members, 58-year-old Jimmy Meders was told Thursday afternoon his bid for clemency was granted -- six hours shy of his scheduled execution. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles announced Thursday it was commuting his sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Christian Boone , Meders became the sixth inmate to be granted clemency in Georgia since 2002 and the first in nearly six years. For more on the story, WSB’s Veronica Waters spoke with one of Jimmy Meders’ lawyers, Mike Admirand, staff attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights, as well as WSB Radio senior legal analyst Ron Carlson, and Steve Hayes, spokesman for the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. >>LISTEN TO VERONICA WATERS’ FULL ON-AIR REPORT BELOW.
  • I started hating coming home. When you start hating where you live, it's time to go.'  Today, Melissa Thompson loves where she lives: an immaculate three-bedroom home decorated in greys and jewel tones, with a long front porch and a spacious backyard that's the perfect place for cookouts and her granddaughter's games, and a neighbor who not only greeted her with a pound cake when she moved in, but cut low trees between their houses--without permission--just so she could keep an eye on the happenings next door.  But in 2015, Thompson was a 45-year-old, living in a two-bedroom apartment with her son and granddaughter; the young girl alternately slept in a room with her dad or her grandmother. She had lost both her parents within months of each other; the grief ripped most of her family apart to the point where some were not on speaking terms with others. >>LISTEN TO VERONICA WATERS’ FULL ON-AIR REPORT BELOW. She spiraled into depression, eating emotionally and gaining weight and worrying her doctor. Thompson was sick of apartment life and neighbors who didn't seem to care about the property where they lived when she applied, and was approved, to become a homeowner with Atlanta Habitat for Humanity.  'I knew financially, I couldn't afford a house the traditional way,' says Thompson. 'And what I mean by that: Where can you get a house with no interest built from the ground up? So I went through the program and I got approved.'  Atlanta Habitat for Humanity offers qualified applicants the opportunity to build and buy a quality, affordable, energy-efficient home in select neighborhoods with a 30-year, zero-interest mortgage. So armed with the organization's financial and home education classes, her savings, and backed by hundreds of volunteer hours of what Atlanta Habitat calls her 'sweat equity,' Thompson plunged ahead. She was thrilled to learn that her her home's sponsor was Clark Howard, the consumer guru whose advice she and her late mom always follow and whose other Atlanta Habitat home builds she admits 'stalking' during the process, dreaming about what could be hers one day, how she'd decorate, what color appliances she wanted.  'He's the number-one people want as their sponsor,' she confides.  The acceptance into Atlanta Habitat's program also gave her hope and permission to dream. She set goals and began taking care of herself again and looking forward to the future.  In January of 2016, Thompson began building her home alongside volunteers. She remembers pounding in the first nail of what would be her three-bedroom, two-bath ranch home--or at least, trying to--and her son laughing at her attempt.  'You put the first nail into your foundation at the warehouse,' Thompson explains. 'Simple job! Just nail it, just tap.  'I missed the entire nail and everything. And he said, 'You had one job to do, Mom! One job!'' she laughs. 'You start, you build, you paint. The only thing I didn't do to my house was the insulation. That's itchy.'  For eight Saturdays that winter, Thompson and various teams of volunteers worked on the house; the only weather that stops construction is dangerously hard rainstorms. And every day on her way home from work, Thompson would drive by her lot, park, and marvel at the way the house was coming along.  As it turns out, Howard's sponsorship made for special bonuses in the house.  'I had Clark. With him, I got an additional dishwasher, and garbage disposal, and ceiling fans in the bedrooms, and mattresses. Different perks. And that's something he got his sponsors to do, which was awesome!  'When I say he's highly sought, it's like, 'I gotta time it because he builds in January! I want him!'' Thompson laughs. 'Trust me, he is. And he was a joy. Every Saturday he was out here with us, in the cold, too, and I enjoyed it.'  Through all that, she says, she was delighted to know that Clark Howard is the same person in person that he appears to be on TV. A friend who was one of the volunteers on her home asked excitedly, 'Do you think it'll be possible if I ask him some questions?' It was. Clark answered every one of her friend's queries. She was sad that her mom was no longer around to meet him.  While Atlanta Habitat also rehabs homes and provides repairs for some, Thompson says she wouldn't have traded the new-construction experience for the world.  'It's the longest eight weeks of your life, to a person who's ready to move in! But it's so worth it,' Thompson says.  When Dedication Day came, Thompson was excited and happy. She spent the first night in her new home without any bed covers, which she'd forgotten to buy. But waking up in the chilly new home of her own was worth it, she says, as she listened to the creaks and cracks of the new home settling. She walked around and gazed at everything, grateful, because 'I really never thought I'd be able to afford a home.' Asked to compare that joyful feeling to something else, she says it was equal only to 'the day I had my son.' Melissa Thompson can't say enough good things about Atlanta Habitat for Humanity.  'I speak highly of it because it is a good program. It helps a lot of people to have a home. I know it's a lot of people out there who probably feel like I felt: 'Couldn't afford a home.' And you can. You really can,' says Thompson. She says people don't always know what Habitat has to offer.  'They think you're getting this little basic house and then when they come in my house, they're blown away. I'm like, 'What did you think I was getting?!' I got a three-bedroom, two-bath house with yard. Now I've got two girlfriends applying for the program.'  She believes that she would still be able to meet her house payment even if her job circumstances took a turn for the worse, and she credits the program for that.  'Thirty years seems like a long time, but it's 30 years that I can pay my mortgage,' she says. Thompson loves Atlanta Habitat so much that she says if she comes into money, she's going to sponsor builds herself. She's already convinced the higher-ups at her job to sponsor one.  While her ranch home's walls can't talk, she has a story about each one, remembering the people who helped put them up and paint them along the way.  'When I say I love my house, I really love my house,' says Thompson. 'It's not a day that goes by that I'm not thankful for it. I sit out there on that porch and one day if you're riding by, you might see me out there. I sit out on the porch and we have the grill going and we just have a good time.'  Thompson was healthier, bringing her family together again, hosting a holiday dinner late that year. Her doctor was once again happy when she went for checkups. Today, nearly four years later, she describes herself as 'at peace.'  'That's why I say Habitat saved me,' Thompson says. 'And I truly believe that.' This year, Howard is building three houses with Atlanta Habitat, starting Jan. 16. The homes will be built in Sylvan Hills alongside three home-buyers and hundreds of volunteers over the next eight Saturdays.
  • 'Tis the season to be bawly. At photographer Jeff Roffman's Atlanta studio, tots' temper tantrums don't elicit lectures; they elicit laughs. Asher Powell, 1, sat stoically on Santa Clause's lap for the first part of his photo session. But as his face began to crumple, and he began to pout and cry, the adults gathered around watching smiled and chorused happily, 'There we go!' Roffman's camera snapped away. Asher gazed alternatively up at Santa and over at his parents, as someone fed his dog peanut butter to get the pose just so. After the photo session was over, Asher's mom and dad said they were happy. 'Captured the real Asher. He's not always happy all the time,' said Joey Powell. He says the crying photos are the 'quintessential Jeff Roffman thing.'  'Everybody was all excited about his crying,' said Elizabeth Powell. 'I just wanted to run over and grab him!' 'Was it hard?' WSB's Veronica Waters asked. 'Yes! Especially when he was making the sad little face at the end,' Powell replied. 'But we got some good smiles.' 'Makes for good photos,' Joey Powell said.    Stephanie Boyea calls it 'the truth of parenting. It's not all fun and games,' she laughs, a perspective repeated by several parents talking to a reporter about why these crying photos are so in demand. Lindsey Torrens says she's been dealing with the terrible twos with son Chase, so she admits to being disappointed--and 'completely shocked'--when he sat happily for his photos without one tear. 'After a certain age it's just smiles, so it's good to get those crying moments, that toddler face. Exactly what every mom deals with all the time,' she laughs. Roffman never expected kids-crying-with-Santa photos to become such a hot trend. When he began his Santa sessions, he thought it was a disaster when 'the kids screamed bloody murder. But the parents loved the crying photos.  'Over the couple of years that we were posting on social media, we were getting the reaction from the crying ones more than the laughing ones,' Roffman says. 'At some point I just said, 'You know what? I'm just going to take a leap of faith and put in the crying ones.' And that's when things really took off.' There were millions of clicks on the photos, and parents clamored to get an appointment at his Poncey-Highland studio. It's mostly the children between one and three years old, says Roffman, who will get weepy. Like Roffman, Santa tells WSB that it tugs at his heartstrings to see the kids cry. 'Yeah, I've welled up a couple of times,' Santa says. 'But the children, they'll be fine within a moment or two and then we're high-fiving each other.' Santa retired from Lockheed-Martin in February, and says he felt he had a calling to do this, so he grew his snow-white hair and beard long and ended up working joyfully in Roffman's studio.  'It just amazes me that I'm a native Atlantan who aspired to be a Phipps Plaza Santa, and now Phipps Plaza parents are bringing their kids to see me!'  Now, parents ask to be on Roffman's 'Naughty List,' a compilation he posts about every two weeks of the best runners and pouty faces.  Atlanta photographer Jeff Roffman details why his photos of kids crying with Santa are so dynamic 'When they get on the Naughty List, it's like they won the lottery. And it's fun to see how they play on the kids' emotions [on their family Christmas cards]. When they have siblings, they have one kid that's nice, and one that's naughty. I love the ones they send and the kid's crying their heads off and they write 'Joy' at the bottom.” Listen to Roffman’s breakdown of what separates him from your standard mall Santa photo op by clicking the link below. It's not unusual for children to cry when placed on the lap of a bearded stranger in red and white, but Roffman says the way he takes the pictures--the lens, distance, and perspective--adds something different and dynamic to the piece of Americana that seemed relegated to far-away shots of kids with mall Santas. Forget 'You better not cry, I'm telling you why.' Parents hoping for a pout from their well-behaved babies even pretend to walk out, saying, 'Bye,' and are disappointed when the kids stay all smiles, waving back happily. Before and after the photos sessions, kids and families can enjoy warm and cold drinks--cocoa for kids, beer and mimosas for adults--and activities, including a snow pit and a long cookie decorating table. The decor changes from year to year, taking months to prepare. And Roffman reveals that the studio bought about 26,000 cookies this year.  Roffman tells the parents disappointed over a non-crier that if their kid happens to fall in the snow pit while playing or gets otherwise tantrumy while there, to bring them back over immediately and plop them in Santa's lap so they can capture the picture. Parents do. Jetrin Carlton, 1, didn't need any help. He wailed for long minutes in his photo session. 'It was awesome,' said his mom, Ashley Carlton. 'I mean, your heart feels a little pitter-patter because they're upset, but you know that the memories will be forever, and he'll laugh about it when he is older. 'It's easier when you're right there and you can get him,' she added. Jet's dad, Vor, was proud of his son's performance and looks forward to the photos of the 19-month-old dashing away from Santa as Roffman's camera lens aims upward at the boy's outstretched arms. 'Oh, it was glorious!' he says. 'The crying? It was all I asked for. The more tears, runny nose? Perfect.' Roffman's three-minute sessions sell out within minutes, a year in advance. Sometimes kids surprise him and their parents. One even proudly held up both middle fingers for his photos. Six years in, Roffman says, he finally got a first. 'I've always had a single-bubble booger. And this year, I mean it was like magic. The kid was so happy and just had the largest two booger bubbles in their nose. I got such accolades on that on Facebook.'  Roffman says he takes about 30,000 photos a day during Santa season. 'We probably saw about 7,000 kids this year,' he says. 'So I've had a lot of therapy.'  Roffman is available at 404-437-7437 or jeffroffman.com.
  • Let's not turn Cyber Monday into Porch Pirate Tuesday.' That's the advice from Marietta Police spokesman Chuck McPhilamy, as the first weekday shopping day after Black Friday was expected to ring up more than $9 billion in online sales, according to Adobe Analytics.McPhilamy is urging buyers to send incoming packages to places other than their homes, if no one will be available to immediately bring them inside and out of a thief's reach. He also suggests that buyers request delivery verification through signatures.'Our goal is to make sure that you ship safe,' says McPhilamy. 'Ship it to someone that will be able to be there to sign for it.' Having something delivered to a neighbor who works from home could be convenient for some. Other options include having a package sent to your workplace, to the Post Office, or to a shipping store or distribution hub for you to pick up later.Signature deliveries can cost extra money, and other options may give buyers a bit of an extra commute, but McPhilamy says it's worth it to keep your packages out of crooks' hands.'All of these are items that might cost a dollar or two more for the package, because it's slowing down the driver and requiring a little more time.But the value of that is worth its weight in gold.
  • For many of us, Thanksgiving is a time to gather 'round the table with family. A soldier from Atlanta is one of the many military members who has to celebrate far from home and family this year.  'You have a different type of a family here,' says Army Specialist Zachary Taylor.  Taylor, an aircraft powerplant repairer with the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, spends his duty hours rebuilding engines on Apache, Blackhawk, and Chinook helicopters. In the military for 2.5 years now, he's already on his second overseas deployment--and his second Thanksgiving away from home.  >>LISTEN TO VERONICA WATERS’ FULL ON-AIR REPORT BELOW. A Soldier of the 3rd Infantry Division, with its home base at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, Taylor spent a year in Korea from 2018-19. Then, he shipped out again in early October--right after his wedding. He's now in Illesheim, Germany.  'Even though it's hard being away from home, it's something you gotta do for the bigger picture,' Taylor tells WSB.  As proud as Taylor is to serve his nation, this Thanksgiving is different. Not only does he miss the traditional feast and warm fun of his close-knit family, now, he's a newlywed.  'We're learning to love each other from a distance,' he says, talking about the frequent video calls he and his wife, Jessica Kettell, share. Kettell is an ICU nurse at Grady Memorial Hospital.  For Spec. Taylor, missing his family is easily the hardest part of being away from home. He and his fellow soldiers are all going through the same thing, he says, and though they all empathize with one another, it takes time to build personal relationships.  'It's a camaraderie-type of a family,' says Taylor, 'people that come from all different places of the world that you don't really know, but the only thing that you really have in common is your line of work and what you're going through together. You have to build off of that versus knowing someone your entire life.'  The 2010 graduate of Chapel Hill High School in Douglasville says the military helps with that in the way they help soldiers celebrate. The Army plans a huge Thanksgiving feast, with games and fun touches ranging from cake decorating to cornhole contests to charades. It's good, Taylor says, yet nothing compares to being home: being with family; being able to get in your car and drive somewhere; being treated to a really good home-cooked meal and the love shared with it. 'Being in the military, you're connected because you have to be connected. It's a different type of love,' he says.  In 2018, the wide-ranging menu for troops overseas and on the border included more than 60,000 pounds of turkey, some 34 tons of shrimp, more than 81,000 pies and 19,000 cakes, and nearly 8,000 gallons of eggnog. Traditionally, Army commanders serve junior personnel during the Thanksgiving feast by dishing up dinner.  'Seeing your superiors and stuff like that, you're seeing them more on a personal level than professional level,' says Taylor. 'So it's nice to have that type of experience during the holidays of, 'Hey, we all wear the same uniform at the end of the day. Regardless of what your rank is, we're all in this together, and we're all family.''  On the phone in his XO's office, 27-year-old nearly swoons when describing the missed, tasty tradition making him the most homesick over the holiday.  'Ahhh, man. That would have to be my mother's stuffing that she makes. It's always just perfect with the turkey and everything that goes together with it. It's almost as good as Christmas dinner,' he laughs. 'The smell of the cookies. She always goes through baking tons of different types of cookies around this time of year and it's just absolutely wonderful. The smell of it, the aura that you get with it is completely seasonal and probably the thing I miss the most.'  Taylor is thankful for family, who stay connected to him even though he's six hours ahead and almost 4,800 miles away; and friends, who help the new husband keep the romance going in his absence in the home, by delivering flowers to his new wife. He says Kettell has been working long hours in hopes of being able to flying to Germany during the Christmas holiday season, and she's already excited about seeing the vibrant markets. He's looking forward to what he's heard will be a beautiful winter near Illesheim, and hoping for a white Christmas so he can snowboard.  'She's going to be the best Christmas present I could ask for, coming over here,' says Spec. Taylor.
  • An outraged and heartbroken mother has seen video of her son banging on the door, calling for help, and then dying in the Rockdale County, GA jail after being locked up for nine days for misdemeanor disorderly conduct. Atlanta attorney Mawuli Davis says an anonymous whistleblower sent them video of Shali Tilson’s final eight hours alive in a solitary confinement cell, one without a bed, toilet, or running water.  A lawsuit in the 22-year-old’s death contends he died in March 2018 of blood clots in his lungs caused by dehydration.  It names Rockdale County, Sheriff Eric Levett and several deputies and has been amended to include details from the videos.  Tilson had been arrested as he was in the midst of a mental health crisis on March 3, Davis says, for allegedly trying to kick in a stranger’s door on Lakeview Drive. An incident report says Tilson was rambling, yelling profanities, and pacing back and forth.  He wriggled out of handcuffs the first time Rockdale County deputies tried to put him in the patrol car.  He was labeled “disruptive” and the lawsuit says Tilson was placed on “suicide watch” at the jail, which is meant to segregate mentally ill inmates into solitary confinement. Tilson lost more than 20 pounds during his nine days in custody and despite being on suicide watch, no doctor ever saw him, the lawsuit alleges. Tynesha Tilson tells WSB she felt as if she had to watch the video so she would know what her son went through in his final hours.   “He went through torture and agony,” she says, explaining that she wanted the video released so other people could see what her son endured. The video, while without audio, captures Tilson's desperate pleas for help and show him repeatedly pressing a call button that was not operational, trying to climb the door, and banging on the door before collapsing to the floor. Even though Sheriff's Department policy required him to be checked every 15 minutes, he lay motionless on the floor of his cell for more than two hours before jailers discovered him.  “We want the world to know what happened to Shali Tilson,” says attorney Harold Spence, “A young man who died naked, alone, afraid.” The cell remained brightly lit for 24 hours a day, says attorney Davis, who points out trash littering the floor of Tilson’s otherwise barren cell.  “The grate in the middle of the floor was where he was supposed to defecate and urinate,” says Davis.   On the day Tilson died, the lawsuit says, deputies pushed a food tray into Tilson’s cell at 4 p.m. and he pushed the broken buzzer 45 minutes later. He sat against the wall of his cell at 5 p.m. and lost consciousness minutes later. No one checked on Tilson from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. His mother says that was the hardest part to see. “When I watched Shali sit down on the floor and his back up against the door, and his head slump,” Mrs. Tilson says, her voice cracking.  “I watched his head slump and I watched him sit there in that same position for over three hours, I think it was?  “I watched my son take his last breath on video.”  Mrs. Tilson says the sheriff and the jailers should lose their jobs.  “They need to be in prison. They need to pay for this,” she says. The Rockdale County sheriff’s office declined to address the updated allegations specifically, when contacted, but a lawyer representing the county, the sheriff, and others named in the suit replied to an e-mail seeking comment. “In an effort to preserve the integrity of the judicial process and avoid any potential to bias jurors who may be asked to decide the case in the future, it is the policy of our office to avoid commenting on the substance of pending litigation against our clients. My clients have all filed motions to dismiss the federal lawsuit, and those motions remain pending,” attorney Jason Waymire tells WSB in a written statement. As lawyers played video clips for reporters on Wednesday, Mrs. Tilson and one of Shali’s sisters, Diamond, wept.  Shali’s mother excoriated the Rockdale County District Attorney Alisha Johnson, whom she contends has seen the video, too, for not taking action against the jailers.   “They treated my son worse than an animal! And you want to tell me what she saw, nobody’s being held accountable?” she said angrily. During an internal investigation, jail supervisor Sgt. Dan Lang admitted to falsifying the suicide watch logs to show the mandatory 15-minute checks. The next time anyone actually checked on Tilson was around 8:25 p.m., according to the lawsuit.  Davis points out that Lang is the same deputy who had been under investigation for taking guns from the agency’s evidence room and selling them to pawn shops for cash. He was transferred to the jail after that. “You can’t trust him with property, but you’ll put the lives of human beings under his care,” Davis says. “What kind of decision is that?”  The Georgia Bureau of Investigation examined the circumstances surrounding Tilson’s death and turned over its files to a district attorney who has convened a special grand jury to investigate Tilson’s death, Davis said. The lawsuit asks for a jury trial and seeks unspecified damages and attorney’s fees. Davis contends someone should be held criminally responsible for Tilson’s death.   “This was essentially a death chamber. That’s what this amounts to.  A death chamber,” says Davis.
  • Veronica  Waters

    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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  • A group of protesters ignored a stay-at-home order so they could gather in front of a North Carolina women’s clinic. The city of Charlotte received complaints Saturday morning about people possibly not following Mecklenburg County’s stay-at-home order. There was a protest at a preferred women’s health center in the Grier Heights neighborhood. “They’re putting our first responders at risk if they have to show up,” Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt said. “I just think it’s unconscionable. You can agree or disagree with reproductive health care, but it doesn’t matter. It’s legal. It’s deemed an essential business.”
  • Residents of several communities have come up with a fun way to keep kids entertained while school is out. Cities and towns such as Boston, Walpole, Haverhill, Leominster and others have organized “bear hunts,” where residents place teddy bears in their windows so kids can drive or walk around spotting the bears. “As we take our daily walks, we look at everybody’s windows to see if we can find a teddy bear,” said Candida Shepard, a mother. Shepard’s 4-year-old twins, Payton and Ayden, have taken up the fun activity in their Hyde Park neighborhood as more neighbors join in on the fun. “We saw the teddies in the window,” said Payton. The “bear hunts” are inspired by a children’s book, and residents can add their streets to a map on social media that parents use to trace the route they will take their kids on walks or drives, looking - at a safe distance - for the bears displayed in the windows. “It’s something nice to chime in about rather than something dismal, which is going on right now,” said Mary Francis, who put a teddy bear in her window. The Shepard twins’ grandmother placed teddy bears in her window, enjoying the cheer they bring to the youngest neighbors who have been home from school and stuck in the house. “People are actually walking by with a big smile on their face,” said Francis. Kids and adults alike are entertained and uplifted by the sight of the bears in the windows, a heartwarming illustration of how communities are doing everything they can to take care of each other. As volunteers step up to produce masks and donate supplies to medical workers, initiatives like the bear hunt aim to help keep people’s mental health strong. Something as simple as a teddy bear on a windowsill can be the light in someone’s day. As the twins write encouraging messages for others to stay hopeful during a scary time with their mom, a health care worker, they’re also thinking of their family in Italy. The country has been hit the hardest by the virus, where the outbreak has been the most rampant. “Stay safe from the ‘Canola’ virus,” Ayden wrote. If you want to participate, just search in your local community’s Facebook group to find a bear hunt near you.
  • With more states imposing “safer at home” and quarantine orders because of the coronavirus, families and friends are searching for ways to stay connected. Sure, the telephone works, but more people are using video apps for face-to-face contact. It’s a good way for older citizens to connect with grandchildren without worrying about coming in contact. While hugs may be precious, people are becoming more aware of staying isolated. There are plenty of ways to connect. Here is a look at 12 video-chatting applications: Zoom: This app appears to be geared toward business, but families can use Zoom too. Users initiating a meeting are taken to a virtual room that looks like a table in a conference room. Personal groups of up to 100 people can meet online for free. Business options include packages for sale that allow up to 1,000 participants. Facebook Live: Viewers can connect in real-time from their cellphones, computers and even through their television set. FaceTime: This app, though the Apple store, allows users to make video and audio calls to groups of up to 32 people. FaceTime is available on Apple products including iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Facebook Messenger: Similar to FaceTime, Messenger allows free video calling around the world for individuals or groups of up to six. It can be used on cellphones, tablets and computers. Skype: This app has been around for a while. Skype can accommodate groups of up to 50 people worldwide, It can be used on computers, mobile devices, XBox One and even smartwatches. WhatsApp: More than 2 billion users take advantage of the WhatsApp. The mobile app works on Android and iOS platforms, making it a good choice for people with friends owning diverse types of devices. The free app allows groups of up to four users per session. Tango: You know the old phrase. It takes two to Tango, and this app restricts video contact to two people. This free app is good but only two! The free app is good for video calling one other person at a time. You can also make voice calls, send messages and play games using Tango. Google Hangouts: This app is free in its basic form. Google Hangouts allows up to 10 participants at a time. You can even video chat through your Gmail accounts. Instagram: Up to six people can video chat at once via Instagram. Houseparty: This video chat app is owned by Epic Games, which developed Fortnite. Houseparty allows people to play video games or test trivia skills through its interface. It is available through Android, iOS, MacOs and Chrome. Snapchat: With Chat 2.0, Snapchat users can use a full, featured video chat service. Snapchat is free to use, but can chew up a lot of data time. It is recommended to connect to a wireless network before making your call. Viber: The Viber app is good for international calls and one-on-one video calls. Calls between Viber users are free, but a fee will apply for calling people without the app.
  • More than a fifth of Detroit's police force is quarantined; two officers have died from coronavirus and at least 39 have tested positive, including the chief of police. For the 2,200-person department, that has meant officers working doubles and swapping between units to fill patrols. And everyone has their temperature checked before they start work. An increasing number of police departments around the country are watching their ranks get sick as the number of coronavirus cases explodes across the U.S. The growing tally raises questions about how laws can and should be enforced during the pandemic, and about how departments will hold up as the virus spreads among those whose work puts them at increased risk of infection.  »Sign up for our new coronavirus newsletter “I don’t think it’s too far to say that officers are scared out there,” said Sgt. Manny Ramirez, president of Fort Worth Police Officers Association. Nearly 690 officers and civilian employees at police departments and sheriff’s offices around the country have tested positive for COVID-19, according to an Associated Press survey this week of over 40 law enforcement agencies, mostly in major cities. The number of those in isolation as they await test results is far higher in many places. Anticipating shortages, police academies are accelerating coursework to provide reinforcements. Masks, gloves and huge volumes of hand sanitizer have been distributed. Roll call and staff meetings are happening outside, over the phone or online. Precinct offices, squad cars and equipment get deep cleaned in keeping with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. Yet, many are worried it's not enough. This week, groups representing American police and fire chiefs, sheriffs, mayors and county leaders asked President Donald Trump in a letter to use the Korean War-era Defense Production Act to ensure they have enough protective gear. “We’re in war footing against an invisible enemy and we are on the verge of running out' of protective supplies, said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. “We’ve got hospitals calling police departments, police departments calling each other, and it’s time to nationalize in terms of our response.” Police are accustomed to meeting staffing crunches by canceling vacations and leave, putting officers on 12-hour on, 12-hour off schedules and, when necessary, by shifting detectives and other specialized personnel to patrol. And officers are used to risk. It's part of the job. But at a time when Americans are being advised to stay six feet from each other to combat an insidious virus that can live on surfaces for days, the perils and anxieties are new. This crisis is unlike any American police forces have dealt with before, said former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. “We're in unprecedented territory here,” said Davis, who led the police department when the Boston Marathon bombing happened in 2013. Streets are less crowded as people hunker in their homes. But police must prepare for the possibility of civil unrest among people who become anxious or unhappy about government orders or hospitals that get overrun with patients, he said. In New York, which has rapidly become the American epicenter of the pandemic, more than 500 NYPD personnel have come down with COVID-19, including 442 officers, and the department's head of counter-terrorism was hospitalized with symptoms. Two NYPD employees have died. On a single day this week, Friday, 4,111 uniformed officers called in sick, more than 10% of the force and more than three times the daily average. Leadership at America’s largest police department maintains that it’s continuing enforcement as usual. But they’ve also said that if the disease continues to affect manpower the NYPD could switch patrol hours, or pull officers from specialized units and other parts of the city to fill gaps -- steps also taken after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. But the U.S. is now leading the world in the number of confirmed cases; more than 100,000. Over 1,700 people have died in the country. And doctors say cases are nowhere near peaking. Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, based in Washington, D.C., said police can't just go out of business. “They need to have ways so that if one person goes down, who’s going to back that person up, so departments are having to be innovative,” he said. In big cities and remote areas alike, officers are being told to issue tickets or summons rather than making arrests for minor crimes. More crime reports are being taken by phone or online. These steps to limit exposure come as police must beef up patrols in shuttered business districts and manage spikes in domestic violence. In Detroit, officials say many of those quarantined should return to duty soon. In the meantime, an assistant chief recently released from quarantine is heading up day-to-day operations while Chief James Craig is out. Many officers are also worried about whether they'll be able to draw workers compensation benefits if they get sick, since the coronavirus is not spelled out in the list of covered conditions. “No one really knows,” said Robert Jenkins, president of the Florida State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police union, which covers 22,000 officers. “Unfortunately, we have to be out there. We don’t have a choice.” While the pandemic has so far hit American cities hardest, rural law enforcement agencies with few staff are in some ways most vulnerable. In the tiny West Texas community of Marfa, Police Chief Estevan Marquez instructed his four officers not to pull over cars for minor traffic infractions, especially if they're passing through from areas already hit by the virus. He can't afford for anyone to get sick.
  • Tom Coburn, a former U.S. senator from Oklahoma known as a conservative political maverick, died after a battle with prostate cancer, according to The Associated Press. He was 72. Coburn retired from the Senate in 2015 after being diagnosed with cancer. He served two terms from 2005 to 2015, KOKI reported. “Oklahoma has lost a tremendous leader, and I lost a great friend today,' U.S. Sen. James Lankford said in a statement. “Dr. Coburn was an inspiration to many in our state and our nation. He was unwavering in his conservative values, but he had deep and meaningful friendships with people from all political and personal backgrounds. He was truly respected by people on both sides of the aisle.” In the Senate, Coburn was the ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security and also served on the committees on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; and Intelligence. From 1995 to 2001, Coburn represented Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. A family physician, Coburn was a member of the Committee on Commerce, where he sat on the subcommittees on Health and Environment as vice-chairman, Energy & Power, and Oversight and Investigations. Coburn was also selected co-chair of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS in 2001. Services for Coburn have not been announced, KOKI reported.
  • Florida senior citizens who live in a downtown Orlando high-rise flickered the lights of their apartments Friday in a show of support for the doctors and nurses who are trying to thwart the spread of the coronavirus. Residents of Westminster Towers flickered their apartment lights at 9 p.m. to show support for the medical professionals working at Orlando Health. “Tonight, we flashed all of our lights to show our thanks to the hero health care workers at Orlando Regional Medical Center as they work hard to treat the sick and keep us safe from COVID-19,” Westminster Towers said on Facebook. “Thank you.” The display could be seen from the hospital campus, which is near the apartment building. “Thank you (Westminster Towers) for lighting up the night and our hearts,” the hospital network said on Facebook. “We’re all in this together.”