JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Four New Jersey police officers suspended after a video showed them kicking and dragging a bystander following a fiery auto crash have been reinstated.
The Jersey City officers will be on modified administrative duty and will not be on patrol, city spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill told NorthJersey.com (http://bit.ly/1rIPr1W).
She said federal investigators have asked the department not to bring departmental charges against Lt. Keith Ludwig and Officers M.D. Khan, Erik Kosinski and Francisco Rodriguez as a federal probe continues.
The June 4 video showed Miguel Feliz exiting his car before being kicked by the officers. The officers had been chasing a different man whose car resembled one used in a shooting several days earlier.
Officials have said the officers violated several guidelines during the chase.
Public Safety Director James Shea said earlier this month Ludwig, a 24-year veteran of the force, has an “excellent” record, and that the four officers, one of whom has been on the force for a year, “are average police officers.” He didn’t say if any had had previous disciplinary violations.
Feliz wasn’t the only person injured in the chase. Suspect Leo Pinkston suffered a leg injury after officers fired shots at his moving vehicle. They initially stopped the car because it matched the description of one that had been used in a shooting several nights earlier, Shea said.
Shea said at least 20 officers were involved in some aspect of the response to the high-speed chase, which lasted for several miles. Several protocols were violated, he said, including the length of the chase, the firing of shots at a moving vehicle and the placing of a car as a roadblock without approval from a supervisor.
Ludwig was the supervisor of the officers who started the chase and was involved from the beginning, Shea said, “and he allowed it to go on long after the point where, under the attorney general’s guidelines, he should have called it off.”
ROCKWALL, Texas (AP) — A Texas man’s 3-mile (5 kilometer) daily walk to work has inspired a group of strangers to collect enough money to buy him a car.
Andy Mitchell spotted 20-year-old Justin Korva walking to the suburban Dallas taco restaurant where he works and offered him a ride. WDAF-TV reports (http://bit.ly/2uhnQuw ) Korva told Mitchell he was trying to better himself and saving up for a car.
Korva’s story inspired Mitchell and some of his friends to secretly set up a donation box at a local restaurant.
The group surprised Korva with a used Toyota Camry on Friday, and the worker’s overwhelmed reaction was caught on video by Mitchell’s wife.
Enough money was left over to pay for a year’s worth of insurance, two years of oil changes and a $500 gas card.
BEIJING (AP) — A self-described “farm boy from Iowa” who befriended China’s president three decades ago is tasked with smoothing relations between the world’s two largest economies amid increased unpredictability in American foreign diplomacy under President Donald Trump.
Terry Branstad, 70, a former six-term governor of Iowa, made his debut Wednesday as the new U.S. ambassador in Beijing. He’s known China’s president since Xi Jinping visited Iowa as a county-level Communist Party cadre on a 1985 trade trip.
The two struck up a lasting friendship that’s expected to be a major asset as Branstad seeks to ease strains over the U.S.-China trade imbalance, China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
Less certain is how much influence Branstad will have with Trump.
The two first met during the 2016 election campaign. Their dynamic will be closely watched by China as it seeks to make sense of the new administration’s sometimes volatile shifts in policy, said professor Shi Yinhong with Beijing’s Renmin University.
“His task is going to be complicated,” Shi said. “The ambassador is a good choice, but he does not decide Sino-U.S. relations. Everything depends on Trump and his policy toward China.”
In a video greeting to the Chinese public, Branstad said he will focus on resolving the trade imbalance and neutralizing the North Korea threat. Both areas have proven fertile ground for disagreement between Washington and Beijing, North Korea’s biggest trade partner and source of diplomatic and economic assistance.
U.S. lawmakers have long complained Beijing’s protectionism disadvantages foreign companies and helps drive America’s multi-billion dollar trade deficit with China.
On North Korea, China strongly opposed U.S. sponsorship of a missile defense system in South Korea in part because it has a radar system that Beijing said could be used for spying on China’s military.
Trump has said he hoped China could use its influence with North Korea to convince Pyongyang to cease its nuclear and missiles tests. However, this week he tweeted that Xi and China’s efforts to help with North Korea have “not worked out.”
Trump has also seemed to toy with dropping Washington’s decades-old commitment not to recognize Taiwan by accepting a congratulatory phone call from the island’s president. However, shortly afterward he reaffirmed the “One China” policy that recognizes only Beijing.
Against that background and amid Trump’s “bombastic and erratic statements about China,” Branstad’s appointment gives Beijing some assurance that the U.S. remains interested in stability, said Paul Haenle, director of the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy.
Immediately upon his arrival, Branstad was forced to confront another area of disagreement between the two nations — China’s human rights record.
Controversy over the authoritarian nation’s treatment of dissidents resurfaced this week with news that imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo had been hospitalized and diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer. Branstad said Liu should have the chance to seek medical treatment outside China if it could help.
How hard he pushes Beijing on the matter remains to be seen, but he’s already signaled a willingness to confront Xi.
During a May confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Branstad expressed disappointment on the slow pace of political reforms in China since he first visited in 1984. He told lawmakers that the problem has continued under Xi and that he would be willing to challenge his “old friend” on the issue.
“He has not done what I’d hoped would happen, and that is become more open and more willing to accept freedom of press and stop the repression of minorities,” Branstad testified. “He’s got to recognize that some of the things that are being done in China today are very much against what I think (are) the right policies for a world leader.”
Early in the 2016 campaign, Branstad expressed doubts Trump would last after the candidate arrived at the Iowa State fairgrounds aboard a private plane. He later said he’d been wrong about the New York billionaire and appeared unfazed by the many controversies that erupted around Trump in the lead-up to the election.
On Wednesday, Branstad remarked that he’s developed “a lot of personal relationship” with the Trumps and recently had dinner at one of the family’s namesake hotels with the president’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner.
Branstad grew up on a farm in Leland, Iowa, and predicted when he was still in elementary school that he would one day become the state’s governor, according to his former law partner, Richard Schwarm. Schwarm said he’d first heard that story from Branstad’s mother and it had been repeated so many times that it “was taken as gospel.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Iowa, Branstad was drafted and served as a military policeman in the U.S. Army at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Branstad was quoted by the website togovern.com as saying he arrested actress and activist Jane Fonda during a 1969 protest against the Vietnam War. He’s clarified that in recent interviews and said that while he compiled a dossier on why Fonda should have been arrested, he did not do it himself.
Several years after his military stint and while still attending law school at Drake University, he entered politics with a successful run for the Iowa House of Representatives. He never lost an election and by the time he resigned to become ambassador, Branstad was the longest-serving governor in U.S. history.
His arrival in China came just weeks after the top-ranking career U.S. diplomat in Beijing, David Rank, resigned after criticizing Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
China’s leaders also have criticized the U.S. withdrawal. During his confirmation hearing, which took place before Trump’s withdrawal announcement, Branstad emphasized future opportunities to collaborate with China on renewable energy projects “in a way that can benefit air quality and the whole world.”
Associated Press writers Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City and Barbara Rodriguez in Des Moines contributed to this report.
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NEW YORK (AP) — A subway train that derailed Tuesday as it entered a station, tossing people to the floor and forcing hundreds of shaken-up passengers to evacuate through darkened tunnels was caused by an “improperly secured piece of replacement rail” that was stored on the tracks, New York City transit officials said.
Nearly three dozen people suffered minor injuries in the derailment, which happened in Harlem just before 10 a.m.
“Storing equipment in between tracks is a common practice employed by railroads across the country to accelerate rail repairs,” the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said in a statement late Tuesday. “The key to this being an effective and safe practice is making sure that the extra equipment is properly bolted down, which does not appear to have happened in this case.”
The MTA said crews are inspecting “every inch of rail” to ensure that every replacement part “is properly stored and secured.”
Photos of the train posted on social media showed its metal side deeply scraped and dented from being dragged along the wall of the subway tunnel. Debris, including broken signaling equipment and chunks of concrete, were left in the train’s wake.
Passengers on the A train said it suddenly jerked and began shaking violently as it approached the station at 125th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.
“We started seeing sparks through the windows. People were falling,” said passenger Susan Pak, of Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
Sparks from the skidding train briefly ignited garbage on the track, but there was no serious fire and the train stayed upright, said Joe Lhota, chairman of the MTA.
The derailment came after a winter and spring marked by mechanical failures, power outages and several episodes in which passengers were trapped on stuck trains for an hour or more. Some state lawmakers demanded that the Legislature take up emergency funding for the system in a special session scheduled for Wednesday.
Jack Cox, a software developer, said he felt a “large thump” and heard and felt the train grinding for as long as 30 seconds.
“During the whole time, it was just like ‘What’s going on? What’s going to happen?’ Then it stopped,” he said. “I didn’t have time to be scared before then, but I looked around and the woman next to me was curled up in some sort of fetal tuck.”
Cox said smoke started coming in from one end of the car.
“It wasn’t heavy smoke, but it was frightening,” he said.
Passengers ended up walking through the darkened cars using their cellphone lights and exiting onto the platform.
Three other trains approaching the station halted in their tracks. Emergency crews shut off track power after derailments to prevent evacuees from being electrocuted.
Julian Robinson said he was stuck on one of them for about an hour before rescuers arrived to escort passengers along the tracks into the station. Pictures and video posted online showed passengers evacuating through darkened subway tunnels.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the derailment “an unacceptable manifestation of the system’s current state.”
“It is my expectation that with new leadership brought by Joe Lhota, the MTA will address the fundamental issues plaguing the transit system and overhaul the organizational structure of the MTA,” the Democratic governor said.
The derailment spoiled what should’ve been a bright day for the system, coming roughly two hours before the reopening of a subway station at the southern tip of Manhattan that had been closed since it was flooded by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. The South Ferry station on the No. 1 line reopened after $340 million worth of repairs.
Lhota, who was appointed as the MTA’s chairman last week with a mandate to get the system back on track, had to skip a planned media tour of the refurbished station to deal with the derailment.
The number of subway delays has tripled in the past five years, to 70,000 per month. In recent months, several high-profile incidents have occurred, including subway trains stuck in tunnels for an hour or more. In April, a power outage backed up trains around the city and closed a key Manhattan station for 12 hours.
Commuter railroads also have had problems. A report this month found rush hour cancellations and delays on the Long Island Rail Road at the highest level in 10 years.
Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela and Karen Matthews contributed to this report.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — The FBI has located the car that a missing Chinese scholar studying at the University of Illinois was last seen getting into earlier this month, the FBI said Tuesday.
The University of Illinois Police Department and the FBI received numerous leads regarding the black Saturn Astra that surveillance video showed Yingying Zhang getting into on June 9, the agency said in a statement.
FBI spokesman Brad Ware declined to provide further details, including where and when the car was found. But in the statement, the agency said: “We have developed several additional leads and would like to remind the public that this is still an active investigation.”
The FBI is offering up to $10,000 for information leading to the location of the 26-year-old woman.
The disappearance has been labeled a kidnapping but police have not ruled out other scenarios. Local police and the FBI said her case is top priority.
The agriculture sciences scholar disappeared moments after stepping off a bus on her way to sign an apartment lease. Zhang has been researching crop photosynthesis and was expected to begin work on her Ph.D. in the fall at the University of Illinois, according to the school.
Zhang’s family members have traveled to the 44,000-student campus in Champaign, a city about 140 miles (225 kilometers) south of Chicago. They are staying in university housing as the search continues.
The University of Illinois has the largest Chinese student population of any U.S. college, with 5,600 students enrolled, according to U.S. government data.
NEW YORK (AP) — A subway train derailed Tuesday as it entered a station, tossing people to the floor, forcing hundreds of shaken-up passengers to evacuate through darkened tunnels and delivering another jolt to a transit system plagued by aging equipment and reliability problems.
Sparks from the skidding train briefly ignited garbage on the track, but there was no serious fire and the train stayed upright, said Joe Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The cause was under investigation.
Lhota said the emergency braking system on the train triggered, but it was unclear why. He said he didn’t know if a passenger had pulled the emergency brake.
“This, to the best of my knowledge, does not look like a failure on the part of equipment, does not look like a failure on the part of the track itself,” Lhota said.