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Source: MedleyStory

TSA: 3 batarangs confiscated at Charlotte airport

Three bat-shaped weapons known as batarangs were confiscated at Charlotte Douglas International Airport this week, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
 
A batarang is a throwing weapon used by comic book vigilante Batman. It gets its name from looking like it's half bat and half boomerang.
 
In addition to the batarangs, the TSA seized nationally 57 firearms and other contraband at airports.

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Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 22:49:01 -0400

Money stolen from nonprofit honoring young cancer victim

Someone took everything a nonprofit has raised to honor the life of a girl who lost her battle with leukemia.
 
Her mother, Melissa Carmichael, can't understand why someone would take from the account.
 
Mercede was 9 years old when she died three years ago. While she was in the hospital, she wanted to help others. 
 
So she started Mercede's Hat Shop. 
 
At first, it was a small nonprofit that Mercede used to raise money to help childhood cancer research. Then it grew into a cause, raising $3,000.
 
“She would give hats away to the other kids who were fighting cancer,” Carmichael said.
 
Mercede's mother found Friday morning that the account had been drained, even overdrawn by $100.
 
The money was stolen on Mercede’s birthday, which was Wednesday.
 
“That just really made me angry,” Carmichael said. “She's gone and we did this for her legacy to carry on what she was doing in the hospital.”
 
The family notified the bank and plans to investigate, but in the meantime, friends set up a GoFundMe account that has already raised hundreds of dollars.
 
“I feel really angry that someone would do that,” Carmichael said. “Somebody would steal from something like this." 
 
The nonprofit has donated hundreds of hats to kids fighting cancer and its leaders hope they find out how this fraud happened.

LINK: Mercede's Hat Shop GoFundMe

Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 22:13:34 -0400

State transportation says ‘No’ to crosswalk where boy died

The North Carolina Department of Transportation said it won’t allow a Gaston County asphalt company to install a crosswalk where a Cramerton Middle School student was hit and killed by a car six months ago.

Teen hit, killed walking to school remembered 

The community has been pushing for safety changes to South New Hope Road since 14-year-old Steven Canipe’s death in October.

Sources: 14-year-old boy dies after being hit by car
 
“We understand the community’s input and appreciate the effort, but typically we don’t place crosswalks in areas where there are no pedestrian facilities,” said North Carolina Department of Transportation communications officer Jordan-Ashley Baker over the phone Friday.
 
Baker said that a lack of sidewalks on South New Hope Road would make a crosswalk less than ideal.

Death of student prompts community to push for crosswalk
 
“We don’t want to encourage people to cross where there are no sidewalks,” said Baker. 
 
Furthermore, the Department of Transportation cited location concerns. Baker said if a crosswalk were added it would likely be at the intersection of South New Hope and Crammer Mountain roads. The state said this location is not in close proximity to either entrance of the school and wouldn’t be convenient for pedestrians, thus rarely utilized.
 
Eyewitness News reporter Alexa Ashwell asked if this decision had anything to do with cost. 
 
“No,” said Baker. “We have funds, safety funds set up to make those improvements following investigations. This is not an issue of cost.”
 
Baker added the North Carolina Highway Patrol, Gaston County School District and Cramerton Middle School contributed to this investigation and weighed in on recommendations.  
 
The superintendent has vowed to work with any student and their parents to provide bus transportation to anyone along New Hope Road.
 
Officials did agree to extend the school zone leading to Cramerton Middle School, which would require drivers to obey a lower speed limit. When asked when that would be completed, Baker said in early April the department set a timeline of about four weeks. Officials told Channel 9 that is the time it takes to get the ordinance approved and to install signage.
 
The community is still not satisfied with the final decision and has enlisted the help of state Sen. Kathy Harrington.
 
Channel 9 reached out to Harrington’s office, which said she is calling on the state to reconsider its decision and investigate further. 

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Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 21:33:50 -0400

Police warn students of suspicious man near UNCC

 Charlotte-Mecklenberg police are warning young women to be on the lookout for a suspicious man lurking near an apartment complex. He's following them and even assaulted one woman at the Circle Apartments in University City.
The complex is filled with students and sits right across the street from UNC Charlotte.
 
"I'm a girl, I live in the first floor,” said student resident Jessica Parker. “I don't want anyone lurking outside my window."
 
Channel 9 obtained the police report that shows a 20-year-old victim told police a "suspect walked beside her and placed his hand on her buttocks."
 
Other women accuse a man with the same description of following them around the area, police said.
 
The suspect is described as an Asian or Latino male around 20 years old, 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall, with tribal tattoos on his right bicep.
 
Student and resident Brooke McGrath said she hasn't seen a man fitting that description but this isn't the first time she's heard these concerns.
 
"Just hear about people all the time following other people and random people lurking," she said.
 
Within an hour of reaching out to Circle managers for a comment, Channel 9 was there when Parker received what she said was her first alert about the situation.
 
"It makes me feel a little more worried that they're actually reaching out to everybody, a little anxious," said Parker.
 
Both women agree it's a reminder to be more aware of their surroundings.
 
"You have to be; you never know who is following you," McGrath said.
 
The victim filed the assault report at the end of March but police have received multiple complaints that this man is following women in this area.
 
A spokesperson from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department told Channel 9 officers are working with apartment managers to make sure students are aware of the suspect's description.

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Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 21:16:55 -0400

Escaped herd of buffalo shot dead after crossing NY highway

Authorities gave the order to fire after 15 buffaloes that escaped from a farm crossed a major highway and approached schools.

Three men hired by the farm killed the animals in the town of Coeymans, about 10 miles south of Albany, N.Y.

Experts told authorities tranquilizers would not work and there was no way to transport the animals.

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The buffaloes escaped from the farm Thursday, then apparently swam across a river to the town of Bethlehem, then wandered across a busy part of Interstate 87 and into Coeymans.

A police helicopter followed the herd.

The buffaloes escaped from GEM Farms, which raises the animals for their meat. However, the animals that were destroyed Friday cannot by law be sold for meat.

AP contributed to this report.

Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 20:47:08 -0400

Customers get free Starbucks coffee after computer glitch

Some customers at Starbucks in various locations in the United States and Canada got free coffee Friday evening after a computer glitch.

Reports of the glitch started on social media shortly after 4 p.m. on the west coast.

KIRO-TV  reporter Alison Grande went into a North Seattle Starbucks to check it out.  The baristas saw her red KIRO coat and were reluctant to comment. When she ordered a latte, Grande was told, "it's on us" when trying to pay.  Customers going through the drive-thru were told there was a computer glitch. One woman held up a Frappucino and a Venti iced tea—both free.

http://twitter.com/passantino/status/591753283783434240

In Los Angeles, BuzzFeed deputy news director Jon Passantino tweeted that all drinks were free to those in line because of a computer issue. 

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Starbucks issued this statement about an hour 45 minutes after the outage:

"We are aware of the point of sale register outage at company-operated Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada. We are actively working to resolve the outage and our stores will remain open and continue to serve our customers. The outage was caused by a failure during a daily system refresh. We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience or confusion and will update this statement once systems are back online. This outage also effects our Evolution Fresh and Teavana stores."

Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 20:43:11 -0400

Official: Carowinds resets Fury 325 due to safety mechanism

Carowinds had to reset its newest thrill ride Fury 325 Friday afternoon due to a safety mechanism, park officials said.
 
Channel 9 received a tip that the ride was stuck and Channel 9 dispatched Chopper 9 to the amusement park.
 
From Chopper 9, empty cars could be seen running the track.

Chopper 9 Video: Empty cars running on Fury 325 

Carowinds officials did not confirm if the ride stopped or that it failed and stopped.
 
They run empty car cycles as part of a reset, officials said.

PAST ARTICLE: Problems plague several rides at Carowinds 

It is like when a vehicle’s check engine light turns on, officials said.
 
They run hundreds of rides a day on each coaster.
 
Park employees also run empty car cycles randomly as routine maintenance to make sure the ride runs properly.

Carowinds Special Section
 
On Saturday, a faulty switch in the tunnel where Fury 325 goes under a park entrance caused a shutdown, a state labor inspector said. 

PAST ARTICLE: Riders stuck on Fury 325 at Carowinds for nearly 20 minutes

“In case water would build up, they don't want the coaster coming through with water in it. So one of the float switches malfunctioned,” the inspector said.
               
Carowinds reported five incidents prior to last week’s Fury 325 shutdown this year. 

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Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 20:08:19 -0400

3 found guilty of manslaughter in FAMU hazing trial

Jurors have convicted the last three defendants of manslaughter and hazing in the death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, ending a three-year-old case that shined a light on ritualized hazing within the school's famed band

The six-member jury deliberated for 2-1/2 hours Friday before reaching a verdict.

Jurors left the courtroom around 3:50 p.m. to being deliberating, following closing arguments and jury instructions Friday.

In his closings, a prosecutor said the three remaining defendants on trial for the hazing death of a Florida A&M drum major didn't beat him because they disliked him but because it was tradition.

A total of 15 defendants were charged originally, but most took plea deals.

State Attorney Jeff Ashton said Friday during closing arguments that Robert Champion's death was the result of a hazing tradition that was ingrained in the school's famed band.

Closing arguments were delayed after Ashton wanted to find out if jurors were influenced by the sight of two defendants praying outside the courtroom.

Five of the six jurors said they saw Aaron Golson and Benjamin McNamee praying.

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Judge Renee Roche questioned the jurors but no one said it would influence them.

McNamee, Golson and Darryl Cearnel are the final three defendants charged with manslaughter and hazing in Champion's death.

Champion's beating death aboard a band bus parked outside an Orlando hotel after a football game exposed a culture of hazing within the school's famed band.

The medical examiner testified Thursday morning. She told the court how the hazing ritual killed FAMU drum major Robert Champion.

Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 18:34:16 -0400

Deep fryers in Texas schools: 'It's not about French fries, it's about freedom'

The top official in the Texas Department of Agriculture says yes, deep fat fryers should return to Texas school districts. (Source: TexasTribune.com

Commissioner Sid Miller says “it isn't about french fries, it's about freedom.”

Miller wants to see a state policy banning deep fat fryers and soda machines from schools repealed.

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Miller also wants schools to be allowed more days (six instead of one per week) to sell cupcakes and other high-fat, high-sugar foods during the school day.

To make his point about local control, Millers’s first official act as commissioner was to grant “full amnesty to  cupcakes.” 

“This is not about force-feeding cupcakes to our children,”Miller said. “It is about local control.” 

Miller’s critics say the restrictions on fatty, sugar-laden foods came in response to an increase in child obesity in Texas, and repealing them is a step backward.

Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 17:45:05 -0400

School resource officers to be replaced by private firm

There's major controversy over sudden changes made to safety at Chester County schools.

The School Board decided to remove deputies that serve as school resource officers and hire a private company.

Reporter Greg Suskin spoke to the sheriff about why he believes this was an unsafe move.

Sheriff Alex Underwood was extremely upset when we talked to him about this.

Since the Sandy Hook shootings the school district felt that it wasn't enough to have only four resource officers, but they wanted an officer on all nine campuses.

They felt the way to do that was to hire a private security company and the contract with that company was signed Friday.

The sheriff reacted angrily to the board's decision saying he couldn’t understand why they would replace law enforcement with security guards, saying his animal control officers have more training than these people will, even though they will carry guns and have arrest powers.

"For people that are supposed to have such a high quality education and be so educated, I think it's the stupidest idea I’ve heard in my life," Underwood said.

Underwood also said he will take his own son out of Chester County schools feeling that he would no longer be safe.

The schools pay half of the SRO’s salaries and the Sheriff's Office pays the other half.  It's possible there won't be money in the budget now so those deputies could be lost.

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Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 17:41:04 -0400

Gastonia house set on fire three times in several weeks

A Gastonia family woke up to fires set on each side of their house Thursday. They told Channel 9 it's the third time it's happened in several weeks.
 
Police charged a man with setting one of the three fires at the family of four’s home.
 
Charles Vann was expected in court Friday, facing trespassing charges. But before his hearing Channel 9 watched as Gastonia police arrested him on charges of first-degree arson.
 
The family said all of the fires were set while the family was sleeping in the home.
 
Herbert James, one of the family members, said that he thinks Vann set all three fires at his home even though police have only tied him to one fire.
 
The fires began after his future stepdaughter ended her relationship with Vann.
 
"He is trying to kill us," James said.
 
Family members said they actually saw Vann driving away as the first fire was lit about a month and a half ago.
 
Thursday morning they said they awoke and found the front door kicked open. They realized someone set fire on both sides of their home.
 
After the fires, the family installed cameras with sensors that pinged as someone walks near the house.
 
Police said they haven't charged Charles Vann with the other fires, because arson is difficult to prove without a witness.

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Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 17:26:54 -0400

Photo: Woman says this worm was in McDonald’s sandwich

It's certainly enough to turn your stomach.

Joyce Fedd said she didn’t find just one purple worm inside her McDonald’s McChicken sandwich; she found two.

“I went to the drive-through and ordered two chicken sandwiches for my kids. When I bit into this one. something...” Fedd said. “I tasted something. Took it out my mouth and [it had] a worm in it.”’

The owner of the McDonald’s quickly issued a response to the incident.

“Food safety is a top priority and we take incidents such as this very seriously, as it is highly unusual,” Jim Van Laere, the McDonald’s owner/operator, said. “When the customer returned to the restaurant and brought it to our attention, we refunded her money and replaced her sandwich, and quickly reviewed our entire kitchen to ensure this type of occurrence could not happen.”

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Action News reporter Alyana Gomez was at the McDonald’s covering a triple shooting that happened the night before when Fedd approached her and showed her the worm in the sandwich.

Action News reached out to the McDonald’s location, but they said the chicken didn't come from them — it came from wherever the meat was shipped from.

Fedd said she wasn't satisfied with how the McDonald’s location handled the situation. She said they asked her if she wanted another McChicken.

“They asked ‘Did I want another one’?” Fedd said. “I said ‘No, I don't want anything else.’”

Fedd did receive a refund for two sandwiches she bought. It added up to $3.

“There's no telling what else is in those sandwiches,” Fedd said. “If it came from the shipping, I am pretty sure it's not just one chicken sandwich.”

Fedd said she was hiring an attorney to find out -- so no one else takes a bite like that.

(Source: ActionNewsJax)

Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:58:46 -0400

Transportation officials look at Cornelius superstreet plan

West Catawba Avenue in Cornelius often gets congested and Susan Drake has experienced the frustration of traffic. 

"A 15-minute drive would take you about 45 minutes," she said.
 
The North Carolina Department of Transportation wants to use a new concept to keep traffic moving by widening the road to four lanes and creating a superstreet.
 
With the superstreet design, an intersection would look different to drivers.
 
They would not be allowed to turn left, but instead turn right, then make a U-turn to travel in the opposite direction.
 
Transportation officials said this will help drivers avoid waiting at lights.
 
Drake disagreed. 
 
"I think it would be maddening for people, especially for visitors coming to the lake," she said.
 
Commissioner Dave Gilroy told Channel 9 business owners also worry the superstreet will block customer access.
 
"The Chamber of Commerce is certainly up in arms against this concept and they're representing the local businesses," he said.
 
NCDOT Spokesperson, Jordan-Ashley Baker showed Eyewitness News statistics showing superstreets reduce the chances of crashes between cars and pedestrians.

“At a conventional intersection there are about 32 conflict points where your car could come into conflict with another vehicle with the superstreet. We're reducing those conflict points by half," Baker said.
 
The $22 million project set to start in 2022 includes the super street at the intersections of West Catawba Boulevard at Nantz Road and Westmoreland and Sam Furr roads.
 
Gilroy hopes the town can negotiate so safety improves but businesses don't suffer.
 
NCDOT said the only superstreet intersection in the Charlotte area similar to the Cornelius idea is located on Poplar Tent Church Road in Concord.

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Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:27:56 -0400

Veteran back on the road months after horse-drawn trailer hit

A Vietnam veteran is back on the road after his horse-drawn trailer was hit by a truck in October 2014.
 
A WSOC-TV viewer snapped this photo Friday in China Grove.
 
Roger Howell travels the country with his two horses, his dog and all of his belongings. His homemade trailer was hit by a tractor-trailer in Union County.
 
Chopper 9 flew over the scene, where crews were cleaning up debris that was scattered all over the highway.
 
Read our past coverage:

Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:27:33 -0400

9 Investigates authorities tracking down deadbeat parents

Local counties are doing more to crack down on deadbeat parents who do nothing to help while their exes struggle to feed and clothe their children.

Tina Alexander shared her story with Eyewitness News.

Alexander and her 16-year-old son, Jacob, love to cook together.

He dreams of becoming a chef but Alexander worries about how she'll afford college as a single parent.

According to Social Services, Jacob's father owes child support.



"He owes us right at $20,000 or 21,000 right now in back child support," said Alexander.

Alexander said they often desperately need the monthly money they rarely receive.

"When you're a single parent, every penny helps. I mean, we scrounge sometimes," she said.

Alexander's case is one of thousands, Iredell County DSS workers are tracking.

"We cant give up, we have to keep trying," said Child Support supervisor, Donna Rufty.

 Rufty told Channel 9 many deadbeat parents run from court orders to pay up.



"We have cases we track and track and chase and chase," she said.

The deputies who work full time to find them allowed Eyewitness News to follow them for two days.

Deputies frequently hit dead ends.

But at a Statesville motel, they found Deanna Simpson, who they said owed $1,620 in child support.



Deputies gave Simpson a show cause order which stated she must appear in court.

When Eyewitness News questioned her about the unpaid child support, Simpson said, "I don't have a job.  I'm pregnant and it's hard enough for me to pay my bills here."

If parents  can't afford what they owe, DSS helps families reach agreements but can also recoup child support from people who refuse to pay through liens on bank accounts, revoking or denying passports or going after their paychecks.



"We have the right under statutes to garnish their wages without their permission," said Rufty.

Statewide last year DSS collected more than $700 million.

In March 2015, Iredell County DSS recovered a monthly record of $1.3 million in child support but caseworkers need the public's help in locating parents who owe.



"Turn them in help us as much as we're trying to help the judge and help our children," Alexander pleaded.

Alexander works several jobs to support Jacob but wishes his father made that sacrifice too.

"It is a struggle every day, It really is but I do what I can," said Alexander.  "I do my very best and that's all I can do."

If you suspect someone is avoiding paying child support you can give an anonymous tip to state officials through their hotline.

Some local sheriff's offices have created Facebook pages to try to find parents who owe.

RESOURCES:

Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:03:39 -0400

Officials: Accused gang member ordered killing of couple from jail

Six suspected Charlotte gang members now face a possible death penalty in the October killings of a Lake Wylie couple.

IMAGES: Scene of Lake Wylie double homicide from Chopper 9

Four of those charged in the connection with the murders of Doug and Debbie London were already in custody.

Two more suspects were arrested Wednesday after an early morning FBI raid on the Charlotte cell of United Blood Nation, an East Coast gang with strong criminal ties across the region.

Five other UBN members were taken into custody Wednesday on a variety of charges.

Jamell Lamon Cureton, Nana Yaw Adoma, David Lee Fudge, Daquan Lamar Everett, Randall Avery Hankins II, Malcolm Jarrel Hartley, Nehemijel Maurice Houston, Briana Shakeyah Johnson, IBN Rashaan Kornegay, Centrilia Shardon Leach, Ahkeem Tahja McDonald and Rahkeen Lee McDonald are the gang members listed in the federal indictment.

IMAGES: Suspected gang members charged in federal indictment

The indictment said Cureton, Adoma and Fudge committed an armed robbery at the Mattress Warehouse on May 25, 2014 on South Boulevard. Debbie London told Channel 9 her husband was inside when the attempted robbery happened. He shot one of the suspects.

The FBI said on Oct. 1, 2014, Hartley and Johnson went to the Mattress Warehouse to locate the Londons. They planned to initimidate or kill the Londons to prevent them from testifying at court dates, the document said.

On Oct. 7, 2014, Cureton, Hankins and Hartley had a telephone gang meeting in which they planned the murders of the Londons. They discussed how Ahkeem McDonald was failing to accomplish that goal, according to officials.

On a date unknown to the grand jury, Cureton sent a letter to Hartley and other suspected gang members containing an order to kill the Londons.

On Oct. 15, 2014, Cureton gave additional instructions to Hartley about the planned murders via phone. On another date unknown to the grand jury, Cureton sent a letter to Harley and other members of the gang ordering to kill the Londons.

Everett, Hankins II, Hartley, Nehemijel Houston and Briana Houston met to plan and prepare the murder on Oct. 23, 2014.  Hartley was the shooter and Johnson was the driver to and from the scene of the murders.

PDF: Indictment after suspected gang members arrested in connection with killings

The document indicates Hartley told Cureton about the murders on Oct. 25, 2014. Cureton thanked him.

Cureton and McDonald have been implicated in a second murder, the August 2013 killing in York County of Kwamne Clyburn, whom authorities say was killed by United Blood Nation after trying to pass himself off as a member of the gang.

In February, pictures found in Cureton's jail cell prompted the protection of two judges and Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann.

Police said Doug London was the only witness to the robbery of a south Charlotte mattress store last May. Cureton was one of three men charged in the mattress store robbery.

Timeline of events:

Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 15:38:25 -0400

Parents share heartbreaking story of accidentally killing son

It was a cold February day earlier this year, and Brian Bayers just wanted to warm up his truck and back it up to his house before taking his son, Jackson, to daycare.

It's a moment seared into his memory, and one he wishes every day he could change.

Bayers and his wife Amanda sat down with a local television crew to tell the story of how they lost their son, made worse by the fact that it was a terrible accident that might have been prevented. 

Brian Bayers said after moving his truck, he hopped out of it and bounded toward the back door, only to see it wide open, with Jackson nowhere in sight.

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After calling out his name several times, Brian went back outside and saw that his son had been killed instantly as he backed toward the house.

"I went flying out the back door basically to see him on the driveway, and um … he had already been hit at that point in time and I had backed over him,” said Brian Bayers. “I never saw him at any point in time. Jackson was hit by the front wheels of the vehicle backing up. When the front wheels back around, he essentially walked right into the side of the vehicle.”

The pain of losing their son has been almost unbearable for Amanda, who said she cradled him for hours after he died. 

The couple had tried for more than 3 1/2 years to get pregnant with Jackson, and said their goal now is to spread the word to other parents about how common these types of accidents are.

According to statistics provided by kidsandcars.org, 50 children are backed over by a vehicle - usually by a family member or loved one - every week. 

The couple have started a GoFundMe account to pay for a park in Jackson's honor.

"You always think ‘this can't happen to me,' but, it can," said Brian Bayers.

Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 14:38:17 -0400

Police: Victim robbed near fast-food restaurant

Witnesses are helping police piece together a robbery Friday that happened near a fast-food restaurant off North Tryon Street.

Witnesses said the robbers were firing shots as they ran away from an area near Bojangles.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department had a police chopper in the air Friday morning, looking for people involved in the robbery.

Police said they had to get their information from eyewitnesses because when they arrived, there was no victim.

They did find shell casings.

Witnesses told police that a group of men tried to rob someone near Bojangles before they fled the scene, shooting while they were running. 

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Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 14:30:39 -0400

Q&A: What's listeria and how is it traced to ice cream?

New technologies account for one way that the government is tracking a life-threatening outbreak of listeria linked to Blue Bell ice cream products.

Texas-based Blue Bell Creameries recalled all its products this week after listeria was found in a variety of the company's frozen treats. The massive recall followed several smaller recalls as health officials across the country rapidly worked to track the outbreak, which is linked so far to 10 listeria illnesses in four states, including three deaths.

The investigation has been helped by technology called whole genome sequencing, which maps all an organism's DNA. While the sequencing has been a staple of medical research, it has only recently been used regularly to track listeria outbreaks. With help from that technique, federal and state officials realized the outbreak was not just a recent event — the ice cream had likely made people sick since 2010.

Questions consumers may have about the outbreak and how it's tracked:

___

WHAT IS LISTERIA?

Listeria is a hardy bacteria found in soil and water that can be tracked into a plant or carried by animals. It can be very difficult to get rid of once it contaminates a processing facility, partly because it grows well in refrigeration. It is commonly found in processed meats, unpasteurized cheeses and unpasteurized milk, and it is sometimes found in other foods as well — listeria in cantaloupes was linked to 30 deaths in a 2011 outbreak.

___

WHAT HAS BEEN RECALLED?

As of Monday, Blue Bell ice cream has recalled all of its products. That follows more limited recalls of Blue Bell products made on production lines in Texas and Oklahoma after the ice cream was linked to deaths and illnesses in Kansas and Texas. The company issued Monday's recall after two samples of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream tested positive for listeria.

___

HOW DID THEY LINK THE ILLNESSES TO THE ICE CREAM?

The first indication of listeria contamination in Blue Bell products came in January, when the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control collected samples from a Blue Bell distribution plant as part of a random sampling program. The South Carolina officials had no reason to suspect the ice cream was contaminated, but they found that two of Blue Bell's products contained high amounts of listeria. South Carolina notified the Food and Drug Administration, which began an investigation that led to Monday's massive recall.

___

WHAT ELSE DID THEY FIND?

Testing in Texas and Kansas found more contaminated samples that could be linked to illnesses in those states. The CDC also found past cases of listeria illnesses that could be linked to the Blue Bell products using whole genome sequencing.

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WHAT IS WHOLE GENOME SEQUENCING?

Whole genome sequencing maps all an organism's DNA, instead of just part of it, as other tests do. Dr. Robert Tauxe of the CDC says it has enabled health officials to get better results when trying to link a person's listeria illness to a particular food. Government investigators take stool or blood samples from patients and use the tests to link them to strains of the pathogen — listeria in this case — found in the food.

Tauxe says the whole genome sequencing gives officials hope that future outbreaks can be tracked faster and more accurately.

___

WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF LISTERIA?

When a person contracts the disease, it can cause fever, muscle aches, gastrointestinal symptoms and even death.

___

AM I AT RISK?

Listeria generally only affects the elderly, people with compromised immune systems and pregnant women. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and premature labor for women and serious illness or death in newborn babies. Healthy, younger adults and most children can consume listeria with no ill effects or only mild illness.

___

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

State and federal inspectors are still investigating the outbreak and have not released a cause. In past outbreaks, contamination has been the result of dirty equipment or unsanitary conditions in a plant.

Blue Bell says it is expanding its cleaning and sanitization system, beefing up its employee training, expanding its swabbing system by 800 percent to include more surfaces and sending daily samples to a microbiology laboratory for testing. The 108-year-old company said it will also test all products produced at its facilities before sending them to retailers.

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Find Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter: http://twitter.com/mcjalonick

Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 14:22:35 -0400

Troopers investigate fatal crash involving 2 log trucks

Two tractor trailers carrying logs collided in Marshville on Friday, the North Carolina Highway Patrol said.

Officials said the crash was fatal.
 
The crash happened around 11:45 a.m. on Highway 74.
 
Hazmat crews also responded to the scene. Check back for updates to this developing story.

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Published: Fri, 24 Apr 2015 13:25:34 -0400