National News

Boater allegedly involved in teen's death had 'no knowledge' of accident: Lawyer

Alder Family

(KEY BISCAYNE, Fla.) -- The boater accused of fatally striking a Florida teenager has released surveillance footage that he said shows he was unaware his boat had collided with the teen, according to his attorney.

In the video, which was released by ABC affiliate WPLG, the boat operator appears to be calm after arriving back to the dock. The boat operator's attorney said this supports the claim that her client was unaware of the collision. Ella Adler, 15, was killed in the collision.

"This was an unthinkable tragedy and our hearts break for Ella and her family. We hope this video helps to shut down some of the awful and unfounded rumors going around about Bill, who is absolutely devastated," Lauren Krasnoff, the boater's attorney, said in a statement to WPLG.

"As the video shows, Bill was alone. He was not drinking. And he had no clue that he may have hit someone – he parked the boat at his home, he was calm, he didn’t clean the boat, and he did not try to hide anything. Bill will continue to cooperate with law enforcement in every possible way," Krasnoff said.

ABC has not independently obtained, confirmed or verified the video released by the attorney.

The boater previously said he had "no knowledge" of the accident and is "devastated" to learn he may have been involved, according to his attorney.

Adler had fallen while wakeboarding near Nixon Beach in Key Biscayne on Saturday and was waiting for her vessel when another boat struck her and didn't stop, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.

FWC said it seized a boat believed to be connected to the hit-and-run and identified the vessel's owner and operator on Wednesday as a 78-year-old Coral Gables resident. He is cooperating with the investigation, the FWC said. No charges have been announced in the case.

Krasnoff previously released a video statement on his behalf Thursday in response to "numerous" media inquiries.

"This is the worst possible tragedy and before saying anything else, we want to express our deepest sympathies to Ella Adler’s family and friends," Krasnoff said.

"Because this is an ongoing investigation with which he is fully cooperating, he will not be making any statements to the media other than to say that he was beyond devastated to learn that he may have been involved in this awful tragedy," she continued.

Krasnoff said that the man is a "very experienced boater" who is familiar with the bay. He was boating by himself on Saturday and "has no knowledge whatsoever of having been involved in this accident," she said.

"If he hit Ella that day, he certainly did not know it," she said, adding that he "absolutely would have stopped" if he realized he had.

"He docked his boat in plain sight right behind his house, and did not even know there was an accident on the water that day until officers showed up at his door," she said.

He is "absolutely devastated by the loss of this intelligent, accomplished and beautiful young woman," she said.

Krasnoff said the operator of the boat will continue to cooperate with law enforcement in the ongoing investigation.

The FWC announced Tuesday it had found a boat matching the description given by witnesses of the striking vessel. The 42-foot Boston Whaler has been transported to an FWC evidence compound, the agency said.

FWC officers have called for anyone with information or footage to contact them.

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State Department issues travel alert for LGBTQ people, events abroad

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(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. State Department issued a "Worldwide Caution" alert on Friday, warning U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution due to "the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events."

According to an administration official familiar with the matter, the alert is connected to the recent announcement from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security that foreign terrorist organizations might seek to exploit "LGBTQIA+-related events and venues," including events during 2024 Pride month, which begins in June.

The alert comes on the same day the State Department is commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia, and Transphobia.

Last year's Pride month was also marked by safety concerns after the Department of Homeland Security issued a report warning that domestic violence extremists and people who commit hate crimes have increased threats of violence against the LGBTQIA+ community in recent years.

LGBTQ advocacy groups have issued a "state of emergency" in the U.S. following record-breaking waves of anti-LGBTQ legislation as well as a spike in reports of hate incidents.

The State Department alert also advises traveling Americans to exercise increased caution because of the potential for more generalized terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions "against U.S. citizens and interests."

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US Airman Roger Fortson, killed by deputy in his own home, honored at funeral

US Air Force

(ATLANTA) -- Dozens of Air Force members came together at a suburban Atlanta church Friday with the family and friends of Senior Airman Roger Fortson to honor the serviceman, who was shot and killed in his Florida home by a sheriff’s deputy on May 3.

Fortson, 23, was in his home in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, when he was shot by an Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office deputy, according to law enforcement authorities.

At Friday's service, Fortson was laid out wearing his Air Force uniform and his coffin was draped with the American flag.

“As you can see from the sea of Air Force blue, I am not alone in my admiration of Senior Airman Fortson,” Col. Patrick Dierig told mourners at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, referring to the many service members in attendance who paid their respects to Fortson.

"We would love to take credit for making him great, but the truth is he was great before he came to us," said Dierig, the commander of First Special Operations Wing Hurlburt Field, where Fortson was stationed. "The Air Force, we merely polished a diamond that you forged. Senior Airman Fortson was a combat veteran. He answered the nation's call to take the fight to our enemies over the skies of Iraq, Syria. He took part in Special Operations missions, taking care of U.S. national security impact, and for the efforts he was awarded the Air Medal with a combat device in 2023."

The Rev. Jamal Bryant’s eulogy included a story about civil rights icon Medgar Evers and Evers’ Army service during World War II.

Bryant also referred to Fortson’s killing as “murder.”

“We’ve got to call it what it is: It was murder,” Bryant said. “He died of stone-cold murder. And somebody has got to be held accountable. Roger was better to America than America was to Roger.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton, in a recorded video played at the service, highlighted Fortson’s military service and called for his death to not go unpunished.

"He, as a young black man, stood up, signed up to fight for this country. The question now is: ‘Will the country stand up and fight for him?’" Sharpton said. "The family, the mother, brokenhearted. Do we have, though, a broken system? That is the question. And that is what we intend to get an answer to."

After the service, airmen saluted as Fortson’s casket was carried to a horse-drawn carriage and led away from the church.

The deputy in the fatal incident was responding to a call of a disturbance around 4:30 p.m., according to a released statement from the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Eric Aden of the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office played the body camera footage of the deputy who shot Fortson in a press conference last week following a news conference with Fortson's family. In the video the deputy can be heard announcing twice that he is with the sheriff's office. Fortson can then be seen opening the door for the deputy with what appears to be a gun in his hand. The officer shot Fortson within seconds of the door opening. Fortson later succumbed to his injuries, according to the sheriff's office.

"Hearing sounds of a disturbance, he reacted in self-defense after he encountered a 23-year-old man armed with a gun,” according to a sheriff’s office statement. "[This was] after the deputy had identified himself as law enforcement."

The deputy involved has been put on administrative leave and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the state attorney’s office will conduct their own investigations, according to the sheriff’s office.

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Man in custody for punching actor Steve Buscemi in Manhattan: Authorities

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(NEW YORK) -- A 50-year-old man has been taken into custody for allegedly assaulting actor Steve Buscemi on a New York City street earlier this month, authorities said.

Buscemi was walking down the street just before noon on May 8 when he was punched in the face, suffering bruising, swelling and bleeding to his left eye, according to the NYPD.

Clifton Williams, who was identified as a suspect earlier in the week, was taken into custody in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood Friday afternoon, authorities said. The officers were responding to a harassment call of a man yelling at people when they realized the suspect was Williams, authorities said.

A representative for Buscemi said the 66-year-old "Boardwalk Empire" star "is ok and appreciates everyone’s well wishes."

Buscemi, a native of Brooklyn, has starred in movies such as "Reservoir Dogs," "Fargo" and "Armageddon." He also has one Emmy win and eight nominations for his TV work.

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Houston storm: At least five killed, more than 600,000 without power

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(HOUSTON) -- At least five people were killed when a powerful storm tore through Houston on Thursday night, officials said.

Fallen trees appeared to cause at least two of the deaths, according to officials.

Straight-line winds peaked at around 100 mph in downtown Houston, and residents told ABC News the winds sounded like a freight train.

The winds were so powerful, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said they were comparable to Hurricane Alicia in 1983.

One tornado was confirmed near Cypress, officials said.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire urged residents to stay home Friday following the "exceptionally" strong storm, noting 2,500 traffic lights are not functioning.

Houston schools closed on Friday and more than 600,000 customers remain without power.

For some, the power could be out for weeks, Hidalgo said.

The mayor said Houston is in "recovery mode."

"Please ... stay away from downtown -- it's dangerous. There's broken glass in every direction," Whitmire said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is working with state and local counterparts and is "ready to provide federal assistance as needed."

She said the White House is "praying for four people who tragically lost their lives in Houston" and "also thinking of those who were injured and the communities that were affected by this extreme weather."

The intense winds came after a rare "high risk" warning for flash flooding was issued in Texas and Louisiana, with the states bracing for up to 9 inches of rain in 24 hours.

"The high risk area has seen over 600% of their normal rainfall for the past two weeks alone," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned, and the flash flooding could be life-threatening.

"High risk" days account for just 4% of days, but they are responsible for more than one-third of flooding deaths, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

The storm in Houston is now over, allowing residents to begin to cleaning up on Friday.

The severe weather threat has now moved east, with flood watches in effect from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. The heaviest rain is expected Friday and this weekend in parts of southern Mississippi, Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle.

Jean-Pierre said Friday, "We continue to monitor the storm's path as it moves east, and more severe weather is likely across the Gulf Coast today. Residents in the affected area as well as those in the path of the storm should heed warnings from state and local officials."

ABC News' Mireya Villarreal, Justin Ryan Gomez and Daniel Amarante contributed to this report.

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Paul Pelosi attacker David DePape sentenced to 30 years on federal charges

In this screen grab from police body cam footage released by the San Francisco Police Department, Paul Pelosi, the husband of Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, is shown with his assailant, David DePape, at the Pelosi home, in San Francisco, Oct 28, 2022. -- San Francisco Police Dept

(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The man convicted of breaking into former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's home and attacking her husband Paul Pelosi with a hammer has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison.

The Pelosis' daughter, Christine Pelosi, appeared in court Friday and read victim impact statements from the family, according to San Francisco ABC station KGO.

David DePape was convicted in November 2023 for the Oct. 28, 2022, break-in and attack at the Pelosis' San Francisco home.

DePape admitted that he was looking for Nancy Pelosi to question her about Russian influence on the 2016 election and planned to hold her hostage, but only Paul Pelosi was home when he broke in.

DePape told investigators that if Nancy Pelosi told the truth, he planned to "let her go, and if she 'lied' he was going to break 'her kneecaps,'" according to the criminal complaint.

Paul Pelosi said on the stand that DePape repeatedly asked him, "Where is Nancy?"

DePape hit Paul Pelosi, then 82 years old, with a hammer, causing major injuries, including a skull fracture.

"I'm sorry that he got hurt," DePape said at trial. "I reacted because my plan was basically ruined."

Federal prosecutors wanted DePape to serve 40 years for his conviction on charges of attempted kidnapping of a federal officer or employee and assault of an immediate family member of a federal official.

"The defendant planned a violent hostage-taking of the Speaker Emerita, and then nearly killed her husband," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. "The defendant planned and unleashed violence and has stayed true to his belief that the actions were necessary."

"The violent lessons that the defendant wanted to teach are not permitted in this country, and the sentence that this court imposes must reflect the nature and circumstances of the offense," prosecutors said.

DePape is also facing state charges, including attempted murder, and has pleaded not guilty. His state trial is set to start on May 22.

ABC News' Annie Pong, Ivan Pereira and Meredith Deliso contributed to this report.

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Menopause, women's health focus of new book by Dr. Sharon Malone

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(NEW YORK) -- Dr. Sharon Malone, a board-certified OB/GYN, is on a mission to help women understand the importance of critical thinking when it comes to health products. She advises readers to scrutinize everything they consume, even items marketed as 'natural' or 'organic', as she says these terms can often be misleading marketing ploys.

Malone discussed her new book, "Grown Woman Talk: Your Guide to Getting and Staying Healthy," with ABC News, and focused on how women over 40 should take care of themselves and be their best health advocates.

She also tackles vitamins and supplements in her book, stating that most are harmless. Some do nothing, she says, despite their claims, while others are known to interact poorly with certain prescription medications.

Malone also spoke about the importance of a healthy diet consisting of whole foods, whole grains and unprocessed foods.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Former first lady Michelle Obama has called our next guest one of the smartest, funniest and most charismatic women she knows. And now, leading OB-GYN Dr. Sharon Malone is sharing some of her wisdom, experience and humor with readers when it comes to women's health.

Philadelphia still the 6th-biggest U.S. city, but San Antonio catching up, census data shows
Her new book, "Grown Women Talk: Your Guide to Getting and Staying Healthy," gives a practical guide to aging and being a woman who has felt disregarded or disempowered in the health care system. Dr. Malone gives a personal and relatable look into how you can be the best and most important advocate for your health.

And joining us now is none other than Dr. Sharon Malone, chief medical adviser for Alloy Women's Health. Doctor, thank you so much for joining us.

MALONE: Thank you for having me.

ABC NEWS LIVE: OK. So you've been practicing medicine for more than 30 years in our nation's capital. Why did you decide: 'You know what? I'm going to write a book.'

SHARON MALONE: You know, when I stopped practicing, I did it rather abruptly because, you know, I was part of that great COVID-19 resignation. And I left the end of 2020, and I didn't really feel like I was done. And I wanted to be able to use all of this wisdom, all of this knowledge and expertise and sort of leverage it over many, many, many women as opposed to just one-on-one in my office.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You mentioned your mom. You talk a lot in the book about your upbringing growing up in Alabama, losing your mom to colon cancer early on. And I thought it was really interesting. You talked about the idea of those medical records that die and knowing the family history medically, how important that is. Explain why people need to really talk about that.

MALONE: You know, the thing that we don't talk a lot about is our health, and particularly to our elders. And I think medical history and our family history is so important because it gives us just the signposts. It gives us the warning signs, not necessarily what we will have, but what we may be predisposed to. And that's why I think it's important that everyone know your family history does not destine you to repeat that, but it lets you know what things you need to watch out for.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You talk about vitamins and supplements, and you say most are harmless. Some do nothing, including what they claim. Some vitamins are known to interact poorly with certain prescription meds.

You go on to say you should pay close attention to anything you ingest, including things that are purported to be good for you. Be aware that natural and organic are marketing schemes. You know what else is natural and organic? Bull bleep. And that's where it gets into the real, the real grown woman talk.

But what should we be looking for? What should we know? I think I'm doing something good for my body, but who knows?

MALONE Yeah, I think that you should think of supplements just as that. Nothing substitutes for a healthy diet of whole foods and whole grains and non-processed foods.

So, just understand that the supplement market isn't really regulated the same way as drugs are. So there's really no duty to prove that it's effective. And there's really no duty to prove that what's actually in it actually is in it.

So, you know, I always say buy and beware when it comes to supplements. If you're spending, you know, $100 a month on supplements, you're probably spending a little bit too much on that.

ABC NEWS LIVE: And you talk also about women who are 45, which I'm in that category, should start thinking about menopausal hormone therapy, something that I never thought of.

MALONE: You know, the thing about perimenopause and menopause is that it sneaks up on you way sooner than you think. And I think that a lot of women think that menopause is something that happens to you when you're older.

But know that transition really starts in your early 40s. And for some women, even in their late 30s. And that is really why when I left my practice, I did a lot of menopausal care, and I transitioned to Alloy Women's Health because there are so few doctors out there that really know how to treat and how to counsel women about this very important phase of their lives.

I mean, imagine we're going to spend a third of our lives in menopause. And yet most of us walk into this blindly, and we are not really helped by our doctors, and we're not really talking to each other either.

ABC NEWS LIVE: While this is for all women, you do talk about some of those scary medical issues that often confront Black women. Maternity mortality rate, for example. Quite often we hear the statistics. We know that they're out there. But what should we actually do about it? What can we do?

MALONE: Prevention is a big message in this book. And that's really what I want people to understand, is that this is not something that you should be afraid of or fearful about. There's a lot that we can do. And so whether you enter this story and whether you're 20-something, 30-something or 70-something, as long as you're a grown woman, there's something in this book for you.

And I like to say, if when I was assembling the stories for my book, you know, everyone knows that book: "What to Expect When You're Expecting." Well, my book is what to expect if you expect to live beyond 40.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Oh, that's good. I like that. All right. Not only a D.J. and a doctor and an author. You're all of these things. Thank you, Dr. Malone. Thank you so much for coming on the show. And we want to let our viewers know her book, "Grown Woman Talk: Your Guide to Getting and Staying Healthy" is available now wherever books are sold.

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Photo of upside-down flag at Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's house raises concerns: Report

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(NEW YORK) -- The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday called on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to recuse himself from cases related to the 2020 election after a photo of an upside-down American flag flying at his home in January 2021 was published in The New York Times.

Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said in a statement Friday that, "Flying an upside-down American flag -- a symbol of the so-called 'Stop the Steal' movement -- clearly creates the appearance of bias."

Since a mob of then-President Donald Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol riots on Jan. 6, 2021, rioters and affiliated groups have been known to fly the American flag upside-down in protest of Joe Biden's election victory -- an expression of false claims that Biden stole the election.

Durbin called on Alito to recuse himself from all cases related to the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 riot, including U.S. v. Donald Trump, in which Trump argues as a former president he is protected from criminal prosecution by "absolute immunity" for official acts while in office.

"The Court is in an ethical crisis of its own making, and Justice Alito and the rest of the Court should be doing everything in their power to regain public trust," Durbin said in a statement.

The cases are currently before the court and decisions are expected in the next few weeks.

Alito's chambers has not responded to an ABC News request for comment.

In a statement to The New York Times, Alito did not dispute the image. He said he had no involvement in its flying, saying the flag was placed by his wife Martha-Ann Alito, who had been offended by a neighbor's yard signs.

"I had no involvement whatsoever in the flying of the flag," Justice Alito said in an emailed statement to the New York Times. "It was briefly placed by Mrs. Alito in response to a neighbor's use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard signs."

The Times reported that the yard signs were anti-Donald Trump.

The flag was "aloft on Jan. 17, 2021," according to the NYT report, just days before President Joe Biden's inauguration.

ABC News has reached out to Martha-Ann Alito for comment.

Legal ethics experts, as cited by The New York Times, say this could possibly violate the spirit of the court's ethics code as well as the recent pledge by Supreme Court justices to avoid the mere appearance of conflict or impropriety or expression of political opinion. Spouses of justices, however, are not bound by judicial ethics codes.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on two cases regarding the Jan. 6 riots, including whether Trump has immunity for his actions during the riots. The decisions are expected to determine whether the former president can be held accountable for his alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

James Sample, a professor and judicial ethics expert at Hofstra Law School, told ABC News that this could present a real headache for the Supreme Court.

"Two scenarios are plausible and neither one of them is attractive: either the flag was trivial pettiness that ought to be beneath the dignity of the Court or it is was intended as meaningful symbolism in which case it is a real problem - especially in the context of Jan. 6 litigation," Sample said. "Collectively, the scenarios amplify the need for Congress to impose meaningful ethics enforcement on a Court that steadfastly refuses to police itself."

Durbin also pushed for the passage of the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act, which would require Supreme Court justices to adopt a binding code of conduct, create a mechanism to investigate alleged violations of the code of conduct and other laws, and require justices to explain their recusal decisions to the public.

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70 years after Brown v. Board of Education, many schools remain segregated: Data analysis

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(NEW YORK) -- In the Mississippi Delta, farms, wildlife refuges and churches dot the landscape alongside the Magnolia State's country highways.

In some ways, the region looks on the surface in 2024 as it did in 1954. Yet a quick drive reveals that even though the area's population has long been on the decline, something in the Delta has increased over the last seven decades – the number of private schools.

In Tunica, a private school opened its doors in 1964. The next year, Deer Creek School opened in the former white-only Arcola Public School that had been consolidated with Hollandale. Today, 96% of Deer Creek's students are white, even though the school-aged children living in its neighborhood are majority-non-white.

Indianola Academy also opened in 1965. Today, Black students make up less than nine percent of the private school's student body, but nearly two-thirds of school-aged children in the surrounding neighborhood are Black.

These schools are just three of the dozens of private K-12 institutions that were developed throughout the Delta in the years since the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision.

The decision, which was announced 70 years ago on Friday, ruled that public school segregation was unconstitutional. It overturned the "separate but equal" doctrine, which allowed for segregated public spaces and had been the basis for deciding discrimination cases for over 50 years.

But seven decades later, while racial mandates no longer dictate enrollment, schools across the country remain segregated for a variety of reasons.

The Brown v. Board of Education decision and subsequent rulings were met with significant resistance from some elected officials and members of the public throughout the following decades. In southern states like Virginia, some public schools even closed their doors to avoid complying with court-ordered integration.

"These small, rural schools in the South, in particular, were the most resistant to school desegregation," Virginia Commonwealth University professor Genevieve Siegel-Hawley told ABC News.

The Southern Education Foundation found that between 1950 and 1965, the South had the largest growth in American private school enrollment. Many of the independent schools created during this time were later called "segregation academies."

"They were basically a place to educate white children and keep the school system white, and so what they did over time was they ended up draining enrollment from the schools," said Mara Tieken, associate professor of education at Bates College.

Today, the Delta still has some of the country's largest racial disparities between public and private education, according to an ABC News analysis.

National Center for Education Statistics data shows that in Mississippi's North Bolivar Consolidated School District, private school students are 125 times as likely to be non-Hispanic white as public school students are.

In Hollandale, that number jumps to 200. And in Yazoo City, private school students are 932 times as likely as public school students to be non-Hispanic white.

"The earlier kids learn to care about one another and to share with each other, and to listen to each other's needs and perspectives, the healthier our society and our democracy will be," Siegel-Hawley said.

'You still have really racially segregated schools'
While the Delta might be an extreme example, racial disparities between traditional public schools and schools that operate outside the conventional system can be found nationwide.

In Chicago and Houston, roughly 45% of white students attend private schools – compared to just 13% and 7% of non-white students, respectively.

"A lot of the folks with economic means, who are more likely to be white, are now sending their kids to private schools at a higher rate," said University of California Merced associate professor Whitney Pirtle.

ABC News' data analysis found that private school students are about 36% more likely than public school students to attend a school where four out of five students are the same race as they are.

"White flight" to private schools leaves urban public schools disproportionately non-white compared to the students who live in their districts. At the typical city public school, white and Asian students are underrepresented by about 20% and Black students are overrepresented by nine percent, the data showed.

At the time of Brown v. Board of Education, charter and magnet schools – publicly funded institutions that can differ from traditional district schools in structure and curriculum – largely did not exist. But today, these schools exacerbate segregation in many districts, according to ABC News' analysis of NCES data.

In Philadelphia, just 38% of public school students attend their designated neighborhood school – and this rate is on the decline.

Nationally, when compared to all public school students living in their district, Black and Asian students are the most underrepresented at charter schools, followed by Hispanic students. Black students are especially underrepresented at charters in suburban and rural districts.

In Los Angeles, 109 of the district’s public schools are more than twice as white as the students who live there. Over a third of these are charters, compared to 15% of schools where Asian students are significantly overrepresented and just three percent of the dozens of schools where Black students are overrepresented.

"Charter schools do pull money that could go to public schools," Pirtle said. "We thought that charter schools might be an answer, it might increase access. But I think an unintended consequence of that is that it still was extracting resources from the folks who had the biggest need for those resources."

Magnet schools were created in the 1960s to encourage voluntary desegregation by attracting diverse students with a shared interest or learning style. But today, they are more than twice as likely as non-magnet schools to have at least one racial group represented at double its district rate, ABC News' analysis found.

Magnet schools pull a different – but also racially unrepresentative – slice of public school students. Black students tend to be overrepresented and Hispanic students are slightly underrepresented at magnet schools in many cities and towns alike, data showed. In other places, magnet schools have disproportionately white and Asian students.

In Hartford and Bridgeport, Connecticut, the vast majority of students are Black or Hispanic. But over a third of Hartford's public schools and nearly two-thirds of Bridgeport's are more than twice as white as the students living there. All but one of those disproportionately white schools in Hartford and about a third of those in Bridgeport are magnets, data showed.

"Choice seems to perpetuate segregation," Tieken said.

Tieken said that efforts to desegregate American education peaked in the 1980s, explaining that she thinks school segregation is now on the rise.

'Outdated and unhelpful'
In 1954 when Brown v. Board of Education was decided, American suburbia was reaching unprecedented levels, with new neighborhoods popping up outside cities across the country.

While many of these new communities were not far from cities, they often were in separate school districts, creating a pattern that still exists today in some parts of the country with nearby school systems having vastly different demographics.

"The Northeast and the Midwest are defined by lots of tiny school districts in a bigger metropolitan area, and that fragmentation fragments family choices about where to live and send their kids to school," Siegel-Hawley said.

In some cases, these racial differences can even appear within the same county.

In suburban Burlington County, New Jersey, non-white students make up roughly 75% of public school students in Beverly, where the population has largely been declining for decades.

Three train stops away, around 75% of the students in the growing community of Cinnaminson are white, according to federal data.

"Families have unequal purchasing power to get into these exclusive, high-wealth school districts [where] they can't afford a house," Siegel-Hawley said. "That reinforces school segregation too, because they can't access the district because of the housing policies."

A 2019 EdBuild report found that in communities where school districts are run locally, the system of financing education through local property taxes has led to major racial and economic gaps between districts.

Pirtle said this "is really an outdated and unhelpful way to fund schools."

'A pretty unique opportunity'
In states where district lines are drawn at the county level, each school within a district can have vastly different demographics from other nearby schools.

These disparities often result from residential segregation within the district. Residential segregation has persisted across America for decades, driven by economic disparities and a history of redlining – a racially discriminatory practice of grading neighborhoods by perceived lending risk, which was banned by the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

The legacy of redlining and its effects on school segregation are evident in Birmingham, Alabama, and its surrounding area, where neighborhoods given the highest grade nearly a century ago are still 94% white, and zones marked in red as "hazardous" are about 80% Black.

In the Jefferson County School District, which serves primarily rural areas outside Birmingham, 41% of public school students are white. However, nine of the district's schools each have a student population that is at least 90% white.

ABC News' analysis found patterns like this in rural areas nationwide.

To Tieken, despite their current segregation, districts like these composed of towns with different populations present the ability to increase diversity within individual schools since students already live in the same district.

"Rural districts actually have a pretty unique opportunity ... if they're pulling together several small towns," she said. "Oftentimes people value an integrated education. We just need to give them the political tools to be able to enjoy that."

Some scholars say that even when schools make progress in integrating their student body, segregation can often still exist within the walls of the building if programs such as gifted or remedial classes do not resemble the school's demographics.

"You don't really see that as segregation because all the kids are going to the public school down the road, but it can play out in that way," Pirtle said.

Concerns have been raised each year since Brown v. Board of Education over whether America's schools are still too segregated, but researchers are divided on how to level the academic playing field.

"We have not committed to addressing any of [the problems] for decades, so the scope and landscape of school segregation is not surprising because of our lack of intentionality to tackle the underlying system," Siegel-Hawley said.

Controversial efforts were made decades ago to create more integrated school environments, such as busing students to distant neighborhoods or consolidating districts.

In 1966, Massachusetts developed the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity to desegregate classrooms in and around Boston by enabling Black students to attend suburban schools, but the initiative was met with protests and, on some occasions, violence.

Although its effectiveness has been questioned in recent years, METCO still exists today and researchers have touted it as a unique way to bring together diverse students across Boston and its suburbs.

Siegel-Hawley said Cambridge, Massachusetts, Berkeley, California, and Jefferson County, Kentucky, have made particularly strong strides recently when it comes to creating systems of voluntary integration that bring students of all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds from different neighborhoods together to learn.

"Desegregation is getting the numbers right," Siegel-Hawley said. "Integration is that work within the school around truly sharing power and resources and seeing everybody as equally worthy of dignity and belonging."

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Missing 23-year-old climber found dead in Rocky Mountains

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(GRAND LAKE, Colo.) -- The body of 23-year-old Lucas Macaj was recovered in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park on Thursday after he took a "significant fall," according to an initial investigation, the park said.

Search and rescue teams had been looking for Macaj on Mills Glacier since Monday.

His body was flown by helicopter to a landing zone in Rocky Mountain National Park before being transferred to the Boulder County Coroner's Office. Park rangers completed an on-scene investigation.

The search for Macaj began when he was reported overdue following an attempt to summit Longs Peak on Sunday. He was last heard from at about 1 p.m. on Sunday when he texted a friend indicating that he was on the summit of Longs Peak.

Macaj's vehicle was found parked at the Longs Peak Trailhead on Monday. The search for Macaj included several agencies as well as air, ground and dog teams.

There were significant storms moving through the high elevations of the park on Sunday afternoon, according to the National Park Service.

The Boulder County Coroner's office will release the official cause of death.

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'Overlooked' workers who train AI can face harsh conditions, advocates say


(NEW YORK) -- Krystal Kauffman, a gig worker, spent one workday watching footage captured by a camera that had been placed on a baby's head, labeling objects as they came into view, she said. For another job, she said she looked at images of feet, while on another, she marked aerial photographs of animals.

Over nearly a decade, Kauffman has performed thousands of tiny tasks that have helped companies assemble the immense data sets used to train artificial intelligence (AI), she said.

"It's supposed to look like these products are magic," Kauffman, who performs tasks on the platform Amazon Mechanical Turk and advocates for workers as a lead organizer for the group Turkopticon, told ABC News. "People don't know that behind all of this is a workforce – a human workforce."

AI has reshaped everything from medical diagnoses, to wedding vows, to stock market gains, but the technology wouldn't be possible without gig workers across the globe, like Kauffman.

However, analysts and advocates said the workers whose efforts help train AI are often denied knowledge of the end product they help create, or the company behind it. They also risk rejection of their work after it has been completed, which can leave them without pay or recourse to collect it.

Philadelphia still the 6th-biggest U.S. city, but San Antonio catching up, census data shows
"If we want to build a better society, we can't ignore the tens of millions of people who are doing this work," Sonam Jindal told ABC News. Jindal is the lead of AI, labor and the economy at the Partnership on AI, a coalition of AI organizations. "If they're overlooked and facing precarious conditions, that's a problem," she said.

To mimic human discernment, AI products typically use an algorithm that responds to queries based on lessons learned from scanning a large quantity of text, images or video. An AI tool that helps doctors diagnose cancer, for instance, may train on digital copies of CT scans.

The training material, however, oftentimes must first be curated by human workers, who make the content legible for an AI model, Jindal said.

"AI models don't know on their own how to distinguish between cats and dogs, whether or not someone has cancer or not, whether something is a stop sign or not," Jindal explained. "People are very heavily involved in building these datasets."

A worldwide gig workforce began to swell a decade ago, in part to complete such AI-related tasks, according to a report published in 2021 by Open Research Europe. Roughly 14 million workers have obtained work through online platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk and Upwork, the study found, which operate as go-betweens for freelance workers and tech firms.

Many of those global workers live in the U.S. Roughly 96% of workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk, for example, log in from the U.S., according to data site MTurk Tracker.

Online gig workers in the U.S. retain flexible schedules, but their tasks carry many of the key characteristics of a "bad job," Matt Beane, an assistant professor in the Technology Management Program at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told ABC News.

"A bad job basically is one that doesn't give you a lot of autonomy around what you get to do," Beane said. "In other words, you don't feel like there's a meaningful connection between what you're doing and some valuable output in the world."

The lack of meaning stems in part from the mundane nature of the tasks, and the dearth of information provided to freelance workers about the product being developed or the company making it, Jindal said.

"Transparency is a huge problem," Jindal said. "This partially has to do with a very utilitarian approach to building AI models. People will say, 'I just need the data.'"

"It gets passed on to someone else who may not have the full context," Jindal added.

In addition to a lack of clarity about the final product, the AI gig workers run the risk of what they refer to as "mass rejection," which is when a company declines a batch of work after it has been completed.

In such cases, a worker both loses out on pay and lacks a means for appealing the judgment, Kauffman said, while the company keeps the data the worker produced. Sometimes, she added, companies offering work on Amazon Mechanical Turk reject the data without cause, and change their username as a means of avoiding accountability.

Workers consequently not only lose out on the immediate income, but they also suffer a blow to their approval rating on the platform, which determines the quality of work made available to them, Kauffman said.

"So the more rejections you have, the worse your approval rating gets," Kauffman explained. "Something like that can take away a person's entire livelihood."

In response to ABC News' request for comment, Amazon said Mechanical Turk monitors for mass rejections and takes appropriate action if they encounter them, up to and including suspension.

The average rejection rate on the platform is less than 1%, Amazon added. Further, the company said it has a Participation Agreement and an Acceptable Use Policy to ensure there is no abuse in the marketplace by either those requesting work, or those agreeing to do tasks.

In her work for Turkopticon, Kauffman and other workers put pressure on Amazon to improve the conditions for the AI gig workforce, she said. The explosion in the popularity of AI products, she added, has generated a surge in public attention around the challenges such workers face.

"It just feels like the power is building and the awareness is building," Kauffman said. "It's this incredible feeling."

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Betrayal turned deadly: The killing of a celebrity hair stylist


(WOODLAND HILLS, Ca.) -- When famed stylist and hair care executive Fabio Sementilli’ was found him stabbed to death on the patio of his home in Woodland Hills, California, on January 23, 2017, the crime was assumed to be a burglary gone wrong. Since 2012, police were noticing a rising trend of burglaries in upscale neighborhoods in Los Angeles that were causing alarm among residents.

As detectives got to work and looked deeper, they began to realize something more sinister than a burglary gone wrong happened at the home, something that would lead them on what they described as a trail of love and murder.

“However this went down,” Fabio Sementilli’s sister Mirella Sementilli told ABC News, “it was executed brilliantly because we were deceived.”

A monthslong investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department would result in Sementilli’s wife Monica and her lover Robert Baker arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Documents obtained by “20/20” provide a chilling firsthand account of how Baker said he plotted and carried out Sementilli’s murder.

“The ultimate goal of the killing was so that he and Monica could be together,” according to Baker’s account.

A new “20/20” airing Friday, May 17, at 9 p.m. ET and streaming the next day on Hulu, examines the investigation that revealed what authorities said was a deeply plotted murder coverup, the surprising discovery about who investigators allege would want Fabio Sementilli dead and details recently uncovered in new court documents obtained by ABC News.

Fabio Sementilli was a larger-than-life father of three who had made a major name for himself in the hair industry. Family and friends said the 49-year-old was beloved by all.

“He used to tell stories and he would engage people for hours,” Mirella Sementilli said in a new “20/20” interview. “He’d always make everything really funny.”

A buoyant hair stylist in Canada, Fabio Sementilli worked his way to the top of high-stakes hair competitions across the globe, the pride of his Italian immigrant family. He moved to Southern California in 2007, living with his second wife Monica Sementilli and their two teen daughters.

Friends who visited Fabio and Monica Sementilli’s home described the welcoming atmosphere, full of friends and family gathering for food and drinks.

Elyse Bleuel, a friend of Monica's who often visited the Sementilli home, recalled how Monica Sementilli relayed that "everything's really great" in her almost 20-year marriage to Fabio Sementilli.

“Monica was my fancy friend,” Bleuel said. “Everything she touched was elegant. Her home was elegant.”

When Monica Sementilli urgently texted Elyse in January 2017, asking her to come over, she rushed to the house. Bleuel recalled the unusual way she was a greeted when she got to the house: A stranger escorted her inside with a warning: “Don’t step in the blood.”

Inside, police discovered what they described as an extremely gruesome and bloody scene. Fabio Sementilli was stabbed multiple times in his neck, face and chest. His prized red Porsche, which was later found 5 miles away with droplets of blood on the inside, was missing.

“I'm sitting with Monica,” Bleuel remembered about that visit. “She could not put words together. She was like, ‘I’m not a wife anymore,’ over and over. That was her mantra, like she was processing this.”

Family described the disbelief they felt after learning about the hair industry executive’s murder.

“It felt like a nightmare,” Fabio Sementilli’s son from his first marriage, Luigi Sementilli, said in an interview with “20/20.” “After a while, it just feels surreal…When you go through this kind of tragedy, it just doesn't feel real.”

As family and friends mourned Fabio Sementilli’s passing, police were on the lookout for possible suspects. They were tipped off about a mystery man who showed up unexpectedly at a memorial gathering at the family home. “It seemed out of place because this was more of a memorial for Fabio. This was more of Fabio's people,” Bleuel recalled.

One friend at the memorial found the man’s presence so unnerving that they took a photo of him and turned it over to police. Detectives learned that this mystery man was Robert Baker – a popular racquetball coach in the Los Angeles area.

“Rob always had a smile. And he's a good-looking man…He presents this super charismatic personality and he always seems happy,” says Alana Evans, who knew Baker from his previous career in the adult film industry.

However, Evans discovered a darker side of Baker years later. He was a registered sex offender after a conviction for lewd and lascivious acts with a minor in the early 1990s.

Baker also shared a surprising connection with Fabio Sementilli’s inner circle: he was Monica’s racquetball coach. Investigators studied that photo from the memorial more closely and saw what appeared to be an adhesive bandage on Baker’s finger. Baker’s DNA was already in the law enforcement database from his prior conviction. Detectives compared it to blood droplets found in Fabio Sementilli’s Porsche which they had recovered early in the investigation -- and it was a match.

With investigators now believing they had enough evidence to put Baker at the scene of Fabio Sementilli’s murder, they set up surveillance and obtained search warrants for his communications. As the Sementilli family continued to mourn for days, weeks and months – investigators finally moved in on a car Baker was driving on June 14, 2017. They put Baker under arrest for the murder of Fabio Sementilli – but he was not the only one in handcuffs.

“Detective Parshal called us… and he said, 'OK -- we've made an arrest for your brother's murder. We arrested Monica Sementilli and Robert Baker,'” Mirella Sementilli recalled. “I blacked out.”

Investigators claimed Fabio’s wife Monica didn’t actually commit Fabio’s murder – but they allege that she did have a role in planning it. According to the indictment, Monica Sementilli and Robert Baker had been having an ongoing affair and conspired to kill Fabio so the couple could be together and collect life insurance money. This was unfathomable news to the tight-knit Sementilli family.

“I don't know what to think in that moment. I'm, like—‘Are you sure this is right?’…This all seems so, so far-fetched,” Luigi Sementilli told ABC News. "And then, of course, I learn about the quote/unquote "real investigation" and everything else that was going on that was held private from everyone – up until that point.”

The felony complaint against Monica Sementilli and Robert Baker details what investigators depict as an elaborate scheme for the two lovers to get away with murder. Prosecutors say with Monica at the helm, she and Robert Baker orchestrated a plan to murder her husband Fabio. They allege critical to the plot was Monica ensuring Fabio would be home alone the day of the murder.

Court documents state Monica drove to a nearby Target to establish her alibi, aware that her daughters would be out of the house at the time of the murder. While at the Target, court documents state that Baker and another unknown assailant entered the Sementilli home, stabbed Fabio multiple times, and staged a burglary – fleeing the scene in the victim’s Porche and leaving behind blood evidence from Baker’s cut finger.

Investigators discovered Monica had given Robert access to the Sementilli family’s home security system and prosecutors allege she had been monitoring the security camera feed on her phone while Baker entered the Sementilli house, to let Baker know when the victim would be home alone. Prosecutors also allege Monica intentionally planned for her youngest daughter, Isabella, to arrive home first and find her father’s body.

“When all of it came out…my brain just shattered with the dichotomy of the mother and the wife and the home and the life that they created,” Bleuel said.

Robert Baker and Monica Sementilli were charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The two pleaded not guilty to all charges.

“The affair has been known, that's a given,” Monica’s defense lawyer Leonard Levine told "20/20."

“But it doesn't mean she had anything to do with the murder of her husband, and she denies it totally and has since the very beginning.”

As the pair awaited trial, Robert Baker decided last July to plead “no contest” to all charges relating to the murder of Fabio Sementilli, including admitting to the special circumstance allegations of murder for financial gain and murder while lying in wait. Pleading no contest means Baker did not contest the charges and accepts the facts alleged by prosecutors without admitting to being guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“It sounded like I was listening to the Devil speak,” said Mirella Sementilli when asked what it was like to hear Baker’s voice in the courtroom. She and other family members gave victim’s rights statements at the hearing.

After his sentencing, Baker said he planned to testify at Monica Sementilli’s upcoming trial. Court documents obtained by “20/20” revealed that in February 2024 Baker gave a detailed account of what he claimed was his role in the murder to Monica Sementilli’s defense team.

In the documents, Baker alleged “Monica had nothing to do with the planning or execution of the murder.” He said he acted alone after she told him, “divorce was not an option, her family does not do divorces.” Baker described the murder in chilling detail, saying he “slipped into the house with a hunting knife…looking to kill Fabio so he and Monica could be together.” He said he rushed Fabio, stabbing him “anywhere there was open skin.”

“He says he’s going to get up in front of the jury and tell the truth,” Monica Sementilli’s defense attorney Leonard Levine told “20/20.” “If he testifies and testifies truthfully, then we’re hopeful his testimony will be believed by the jury.”

As of May 2024, 10 months after Baker’s sentencing – Monica Sementilli remains in jail, denied bail. Her trial has been delayed by one legal proceeding after another but is currently scheduled to begin December 2024.

As Monica Sementilli’s fate hangs in the balance, those close with Fabio tell ABC News they feel they are moving toward some semblance of closure. Monica’s daughters, however, are continuing to support their mother leading up to her trial.

At Robert Baker’s sentencing, Monica's daughter Gessica proclaimed that she and her sister “want to clearly state that we'll continue to stand by our mother as we have done for the last six years and we'll fight for her innocence.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

How experts are trying to save the Florida panther

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(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- The fate of the endangered Florida panther, also known as the North American cougar, could depend on a network of wildlife corridors and panther crossings currently being established by conservation groups and state officials.

The North American cougar once roamed throughout the southern U.S., Elise Bennett, Florida and Caribbean director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told ABC News. The species has even been documented as far north as Louisiana, Tiffany Burns, senior director of animal programs at ZooTampa, told ABC News.

The panthers have been confined to a small geographic area in southwest Florida after being hunted to near-extinction. The population is capped due to the limited amount to space to house them and a lack of safe passage elsewhere in the state, according to panther experts.

There are only about 200 panthers left in the wild. Experts say the only way for the species to recover is to expand their range northward.

"In order to get that panther population to grow and sustain, we need them to move further up the coast," Burns said.

The goal is to create three separate panther populations with at least 240 adults in order to support the genetic flow of the species, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which listed the Florida panther under the Endangered Species Act in 1967. There is currently only one group in Florida.

The development of highways and roads in Florida has "bottlenecked" the panthers in an area south of the Caloosahatchee River, Bennett said.

Panthers are typically found in three counties in Florida: Lee, Henry and Collier counties, according to Brent Setchell, district drainage design engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation.

The Florida Department of Transportation has collaborated with researchers and wildlife conservation groups to build wildlife crossings across the state to allow animals like panthers, bears and deer a safe passage across roadways. These crossings are meant to deter animals from entering highways and more than 50 have been constructed since planning began in 1972. A new crossing at Interstate 4 near the State Road 57 interchange in Polk County is near completion and more than a dozen are in the works, Setchell said.

Cars are one of the biggest hazards to panthers, Bennett said. Thirteen panthers were hit and killed by cars in 2023, Burns said. At least 13 have been killed on roadways so far this year.

The Florida DOT decides where to build the crossings based on a number of factors, including wildlife cameras and information from the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a statewide network of 18 million acres of connected lands and waters. Finding funding can be a challenge, and the agency often relies on grants to complete the projects, Setchell said.

"One of the biggest challenges is the non-connecting conservation areas here in Florida," Burns said. "That's a huge initiative the Florida Wildlife Corridor foundation is actually trying to face."

Panthers are solitary animals and extremely territorial. Males claim 200-square-mile territories and have been known to fight other males -- sometimes to the death -- if their territories overlap.

"If panthers are squeezed into an area that's too small, they'll fight each other and can even kill each other," Bennett said.

Agencies have seen "great progress" for panther populations south of the Caloosahatchee River, Setchell said.

In 2017, panther researchers were delighted to document the first-ever panther in more than 40 years seen north of Caloosahatchee River, which flows from Lake Okeechobee to Fort Myers, essentially cutting the state in half. The female panther was leading her kittens through a wildlife crossing along Interstate 4, Setchell said.

Community planners in Florida, one of the fastest-growing states in the country, will need to consider wildlife before constructing new subdivisions and roadways to accompany them, experts said. A century ago, when traffic and human populations were much less dense, officials did not foresee the need for wildlife crossings.

"When one of these major highways needs construction, [engineers are] actually looking how they can put in a wildlife crossing while they're doing the construction, because it's gonna be a lot cheaper," Burns said.

Learning how to live with panthers again as their populations grow will also be necessary, as panthers could target the prized horses that live on ranches in the north, Burns said.

But the success for panther conservation still faces many hurdles.

"We have a long way to go," Bennett said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

'I can't believe this': Truck driver recounts harrowing moments dangling off bridge


(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- The driver of a semi truck that careened off the Clark Memorial Bridge in Louisiana is speaking out for the first time since her miraculous 40-minute rescue.

"It happened so fast," Sydney Thomas told ABC News Louisville affiliate WHAS.

"I was like, I can't believe this, that I'm really hanging over the river," she said.

It all began when the driver of a pickup truck, 33-year-old Trevor Branham, swerved to avoid a stalled car on the bridge. Branham then slammed into the semi Thomas was driving.

As a result, the semi crashed through the railing, leaving Thomas dangling above the Ohio River.

"I'm going to have to jump. I can't swim either," she told herself. "I didn't know how bad it was. I thought the trailer was still on the bridge, I didn't know it was like this," she added, using her hands to demonstrate the steep angle.

Thomas said she wondered what would happen to her 5-year-old son if she died.

"It was really hard for me to think about like leaving him behind on Earth," Thomas told WHAS.

A crew of firefighters from the Louisville Fire Department rushed to the bridge to help rescue Thomas.

"It was terrifying to be that high up in the air and all you see is the Ohio River," she said.

Firefighter Bryce Carden reached Thomas first.

"He was like, 'Are you a praying woman?' I was like 'Yep,' and we just started praying," she recalled.

She added: "Sometimes you pray and I'm guilty of this, I pray and I don't think God is listening, but he was that day."

Branham was charged with endangerment and driving on a suspended license, according to authorities.

Thomas said she hopes to get back on the road in June.

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Exclusive: Members of 'Little Rock Nine' reflect on 70 years since Brown v. Board of Education

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(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) -- Seventy years after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision ended racial segregation in public schools, members of the "Little Rock Nine" -- the first group of African American students to attend Little Rock Central High School -- sat down with ABC News to discuss the challenges they faced in education then and the challenges that remain today.

Minnijean Brown, Terrence Roberts, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Pattillo, Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas and Carlotta Walls LaNier, known as the Little Rock Nine, began attending Little Rock Central High School in 1957, three years after the historic decision, making them the first students to desegregate the school.

The Nine were all volunteers recruited by the NAACP, under the leadership of Daisy Bates, the president of the Arkansas chapter, to be part of the first official enactment of the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the "separate but equal" doctrine. Their journey to the classroom was not simple.

"We are young black kids and literally having experienced legalized segregation for the better part of our lives," Roberts told ABC News, "In truth, there was always separatism but never equality. I thought this was a short window or door of opportunity opening, probably wouldn't last very long, based on my knowledge of the history of the country. So I was eager to volunteer to see what I could do to promote this whole notion of change."

On Sept. 3, 1957, the Nine were set to begin their first day at the formerly all-white high school. They arrived to find the National Guard blocking their entrance to the school on Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus' orders, despite the Supreme Court's then-recent decision that deemed segregation unconstitutional.

They returned the next day to again find the National Guard, this time joined by a mob protesting against integration.

"First day, it did not bother me. I saw the crowd. I heard the name-calling. I recognized that there would be people out there that did not want me there. That, I expected, okay ... not for it to last as long as it did," LaNier, who is the youngest of the Nine, recalled.

With testimony from the Nine, United States District Judge Ronald N. Davies ordered the removal of the National Guard on Sept. 20, 1957. Three days later, the Nine finally entered Little Rock Central High School - through a side door and escorted by Little Rock police. On their first day, the Nine were able to attend class for three hours before being sent home for their safety.

In response to the continued concerns and threats to the students' safety, then-President Dwight Eisenhower sent troops from the U.S. Army to guard and escort the Nine. On Sept. 25, 1957, the Little Rock Nine finally began regularly attending classes at Little Rock Central High School.

At Central, the Nine hoped to get access to the resources that were absent in all-Black schools. They sought the educational opportunities that the 1954 Court decision said segregation was depriving minority children of.

"But we didn't have time to think about those things because our focus was on staying alive," Roberts said. "Believe it or not, this was a life-threatening situation. People threatened to kill us every hour, every day. But in spite of that, we were willing to stay there because it was important to be there."

Derrick Johnson, the current president of the NAACP, highlighted the importance of acknowledging the hardship the Nine went through.

"What we need to do is celebrate those individuals, think about the Little Rock Nine, here are young people who was put in harm's way with trauma. Those individuals had to carry that trauma from their childhood through adulthood, we just need to say thank you. We have the Brown litigants and their families and their descendants," he said.

Johnson also pointed out that efforts to ban or censor teaching Black history in schools may exclude teaching about segregation, Brown v. Board, and the Little Rock Nine.

Friday, in honor of the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board, the NAACP and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture are honoring the Little Rock Nine. Johnson says it's important to acknowledge the Brown litigants, their families and their descendants too.

Cheryl Brown Henderson is the daughter of Oliver Brown, a main plaintiff in the case whom Brown vs. Board of Education was named after. Born, raised and buried in Topeka, Kansas, Brown partook in the lawsuit because his oldest daughter, Linda - Cheryl's sister - had to travel 24 blocks to attend the nearest African American school.

Addressing the media following a closed meeting with President Biden and other Brown-involved parties, Brown Henderson said that the fight is not over, saying that public education should be funded well and can be improved.

"Anytime we can talk about failing underfunded public schools, there is a problem. There should be no such thing. Public institutions, where most of us got our education, should be world-class, educational institutions," Brown Henderson said. "So I'm not understanding that and I want us to roll up our sleeves and get back to the hard work of educating our children."

LaNier echoed this sentiment and called upon young people to "stand up," as she and her eight classmates once did.

"I'm disappointed over these 60-plus years that all the achievements that we have made here in this country is now being taken away from us," LaNier said. "If young people don't stand up and stop some of this process and strategize as to how they're gonna go about changing these things or at least put some rush to what is being changed by others, we're in a mess the way I see it."

ABC News' Tesfaye Neguisse, Abby Cruz, Adisa Hargett-Robinson, Sabina Ghebremedhin, and Michelle Stoddart contributed to this report.

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