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Aug 032013

Arizona Cardinals | Scottsdale Police Department – Obtained by ABC News(SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.) — An Iraq War veteran turned NFL cheerleader was arrested for aggravated assault and disorderly conduct after she allegedly attacked her boyfriend, who captured the incident on his cell phone.

Megan Welter, 29, of Scottsdale, Ariz., is seen on cell phone video obtained by ABC News angrily questioning her boyfriend about text messages between him and a female friend.

“Who is she!” Welter is heard screaming in the footage as her boyfriend, who has not been identified, tries to calm her down.

Police were called to the couple’s home after Welter placed a 911 call and accused her boyfriend of attacking her.

“He smashed my head into tile,” she is heard saying on the recording.

Video footage released by the Scottsdale Police Department that was shot at the scene of the alleged domestic dispute shows Welter pleading with officers to get her boyfriend out of the home.

But it was Welter who ended up being taken into custody on July 20 after her boyfriend countered with his side of the story. “I was asking her to stop, I was trying to leave, she was pulling out my hair, she was scratching me, she was punching me in my face and I have everything on tape,” her boyfriend said.

Authorities said both parties admit to drinking heavily on the night of the argument. Welter was reportedly so drunk she could not say what had happened.

Welter has cheered for the Arizona Cardinals for two years, according to the team’s website. But she’s recently made headlines for her service in the Iraq War, where she spent 16 months.

“Our country has given us so many freedoms and to be a part of fighting for that and maintaining that, it means a lot,” she told ABC’s Phoenix affiliate KNXV-TV.

Welter’s boyfriend told ABC’s Good Morning America that he hopes the incident “doesn’t take away from the good things she’s done for the NFL and for her country.”

“I want people to know that she’s a wonderful, beautiful woman who had a momentary lapse of judgment,” he said.

A representative for the Arizona Cardinals did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jul 042013

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images(YARNELL, Ariz.) — The Arizona wildfire that killed 19 men continues to burn, however, crews are making progress with the flames as the blaze is about 45 percent contained.

The conditions are very dry, so officials are being overly cautious. They hope to deliberately work to determine the best way to operate against the flames, according to Fire Information Officer Suzanne Flory.

Nearly 700 firefighters are working to contain and extinguish the flames, reports ABC’s affiliate KNXV-TV in Phoenix. The goal is to contain the east side of the wildfire on Thursday and if all goes as planned, some residents could begin returning to their neighborhoods this weekend.

Memorial services for the 19 firefighters killed are scheduled for July 9 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 252013

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images(MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz.) — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is famous for chasing after undocumented immigrants in his Arizona jurisdiction.

But the man known as “America’s Toughest Sheriff” hasn’t been following the law, according to a decision issued by a federal judge on Friday.

The judge found that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has systematically employed racial profiling against Hispanics. The office was ordered to stop using Hispanic ancestry as a factor in making law-enforcement decisions.

“The MCSO is disappointed by the outcome in this decision,” said Tim Casey, a lawyer for the sheriff’s office. “The MCSO’s position is that it has never used race and will never use race in making its law-enforcement decisions.”

Arpaio can appeal the decision, but Casey said that they would begin working internally to remedy any problems raised in the ruling.

“The sheriff respects the court and its authority and it will comply,” Casey said.

The four-and-a-half-year case involved several plaintiffs, including two Latino siblings from Chicago who believed they had been subject to racial profiling, according to The Arizona Republic.

The parties were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and pro-bono attorneys from a Bay-Area law firm.

Dan Pochoda, the legal director for the ACLU of Arizona, said this was a victory for community members in Maricopa who have spoken out against Arpaio over this exact issue.

“The sheriff’s pronouncement that he’s never been found to do anything wrong is going to have to go by the wayside,” Pochoda said.

The practical implications are unclear — it’s possible the office may need to undergo monitoring for the use of racial profiling, or supply data to the court to authenticate its practices, but not certain. The parties are scheduled to reconvene on June 14 to discuss implementation of the decision.

The ruling is a long-awaited victory for immigrant-rights activists who have criticized Arpaio’s tactics for years. The judge’s ruling explicitly points out that Arpaio overstepped the line when trying to enforce immigration laws.

“The evidence introduced at trial establishes that, in the past, the MCSO has aggressively protected its right to engage in immigration and immigration-related enforcement operations even when it had no accurate legal basis for doing so,” U.S. District Judge Murray Snow wrote.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

May 112013

ABC News(PHOENIX) — For one man in Arizona, getting pulled over by a police officer might have been the best thing to ever happen to him.

Phoenix Police Sgt. Natalie Simonick, 46, was on patrol around 11 p.m., when she saw a young man walking alone in a dark and desolate area who she thought might be violating curfew.

“And I pulled over and I asked him what he was doing,” Simonick told ABC News. “He said, ‘Walking home, I missed the bus.’”

After the young man, Christian Felix, showed Simonick his ID proving he was 18 years old, the sergeant offered Felix a courtesy ride home. Then Simonick learned Felix had never ridden a bike before.

“He never had a father in his life, so he had no one to teach him,” Simonick said.

By the end of the ride home Simonick was shocked.  It turned out Felix would walk the 9 mile distance to his home from his job at McDonald’s if he missed his bus.

Simonick was impressed by the young man. “He doesn’t drink and doesn’t smoke,” she said. “He had never had any contact with police as far as negative contact.”

After that night, Simonick spoke to her husband, who said she could give Felix their extra bike.  The other members of her squad agreed to help teach Felix how to ride a bike.

“It’s really something when someone comes up on the street and offers to do a kindness for you,” Felix told ABC affiliate KNXV. “These days you don’t see anything like that.”

Last month, Felix had his first bike lesson at the Phoenix police precinct parking lot.

“Two of my officers stood on either side of him and pushed him,” Simonick said. “He was a little wobbly and rode into one of the poles, but my guys were right there to catch him.”

After 45 minutes, Felix was riding on his own, and he and Simonick rode together around the lot.

Since then, the two have kept in touch, and Simonick said she wants to continue to help Felix.  So what’s Simonick’s next project?

“Well he did say that he’s never driven a car before,” Simonick joked.  “First things first I’ll see how he does with the bicycle.”

As for the attention, Simonick said she just wanted to show Felix that there are people out there who care.

“If everybody could help just one person in the world like this, I think it would definitely be a better place to life.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 272013

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images(NOGALES, Ariz.) — Four of the U.S. senators leading the charge on immigration reform got more than they expected Wednesday when they came to Nogales, Ariz., to check on border security.

Just a few steps away from where they stood with Customs and Border Patrol officials, the problem facing the nation unfolded before their eyes: A young woman was sprinting her way out of Mexico, then climbing a security fence, only to be caught by the border patrol within seconds.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted about the event, saying: “Just witnessed a woman successfully climb an 18-ft bollard fence a few yards from us in Nogales. And Border Patrol successfully apprehended her, but incident is another reminder that threats to our border security are real.”

Arizona’s Senate delegation, McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake, both Republicans, hosted Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., for a tour along the border in Nogales, part of the Tucson sector. All four senators are members of the so-called “Gang of Eight” that is working on a solution to the nation’s immigration issues.

ABC News was at the scene of the apprehension exclusively and later asked the senators from out of state what they thought of the experience.

“Well, I’d have to know all the details there to give you a judgment,” Schumer said. “One of the things we learned is that a lot of people cross the border are doing it for drug purposes, too. But I don’t know what happened in this situation.”

The incident was “surprising” to Bennet.

“I just have never seen it before,” he said.

For McCain, the incident was all too normal.

“One of the sad things about all of this is that most of those people who jump over the fence are doing that because they want a better life,” he said at the news conference following the tour. “And I understand that. So we separate the drug cartels from individuals or somebody trying to cross over so they improve their lives.”

The Border Patrol has more agents than ever, nearly 22,000, with 651 miles of fence along the 1,969-mile-long border.

Technology assists the boots on the ground, with 125 airplanes and six drones patrolling the Mexican frontier working with Border Patrol agents to make crossing the border illegally more difficult than ever.

In fact, apprehensions like the ones the senators saw are down 78 percent from their peak in 2000.

President Obama, in interviews with ABC News’ partner, Univision, said Wednesday he believes the border is secure enough to begin the reforms that would bring the 11 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.

“It’s never going to be 110-percent perfect, but what we can do is to continue to improve it and, at the same time, provide a clear pathway for those who are already here and who’ve invested their lives here,” the president said.

Counter to stereotype, six of the nation’s 10 safest cities are on or near the border. El Paso, Texas, which sits just a few miles from Juarez, Mexico, has the lowest crime rate in the nation three years running.

El Paso Mayor John Cook said it’s time to start immigration reform now “because [the] border is secure.”

“For the most part, people who come into the United States don’t want to get in trouble. They don’t want to commit crimes,” he said. “They just want to make a living. I call them economic refugees [because] they just came to try to secure the American dream and a better life for their families, not to commit crimes.”

Back in Arizona, McCain was in his home state to convince skeptics from his base that border security is improving. He gave this qualified endorsement.

“With the proper use of technology, with the proper coordination between different agencies, [I believe] that we will be able to say that we have a degree of border security that would allow people to move forward to a path of citizenship,” McCain said.

The senators said they hope to have an agreement on an immigration reform bill soon.

“We hope to have a bill agreed to and done the day we come back,” Schumer said.

Both McCain and Schumer recognized that compromise was key.

“With this legislation, no one will be totally happy because we are having to make compromises, and that’s what makes for good legislation, is compromise that brings everybody together,” McCain said.

They added that the reforms cannot be passed piecemeal and will need to be passed as a complete unit.

The four senators who did not make the tour hope to make one in the near future. They already had plans for the recess when it was organized.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio