Philadelphia police ask for public’s help searching for missing person

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia police have asked the public for help finding a missing endangered person. 

Jacques Rice, 67, lives on the unit block of East Baltimore Avenue in Media. He suffers from Schizophrenia.

Police say he was last seen Wednesday afternoon with a group, visiting from Media on the 700 block of Arch Street.

He is 6 feet tall, 180 lbs. He has brown eyes, black hair and was last seen wearing a navy blue hooded sweatshirt, tan pants, a blue walking boot on his left foot and a black shoe on his right foot.

If anyone has information, they are asked to Central Detectives at 215-686-3093 or call 911. 

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It’s National Pollinator Week and the buzz isn’t just about bees

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — It’s National Pollinator Week, a time to focus on the creatures that do some heavy lifting and help plants reproduce. They’re in trouble and need our help.

Matthew Shepherd of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation says that without pollinators, a lot of our favorite things would vanish.

“Something like one out of every three mouthfuls of food and drink that we consume, we get thanks to a pollinator,” Shepherd said. 

The job of moving pollen within and between flowers is done by flies, butterflies, beetles, bats, birds, even lizards. And of course, bees. Not just honey and bumble bees, but flashy little native ones, too.

“There are these amazing bright metallic green sweat bees, they’re just this glimmering emerald flying around. I just love them, because not only are they beautiful, but they just challenge everybody’s image of what a bee should look like,” he added. 

Human activity is rapidly shrinking the pollinator population, with pesticide and herbicide use, habitat destruction, and climate change all playing a part. 

But Shepherd says you can help pollinators survive and thrive, no matter where you live. A square foot of flowers is better than none.

“If all you’ve got room for is space to grow a couple of plants, then that’s great. That’s two more plants that weren’t there, and some insects and some pollinators will find those and benefit from them,” he said. 

For more information, click here.

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Staggering drug bust shows traffickers turning to East Coast

(AP) — If drug interdiction can be compared to a giant game of whack-a-mole, federal law enforcement officials delivered one mighty wallop this week when they raided a container ship at Philadelphia’s port and discovered a staggering amount of cocaine.

Hidden inside seven shipping containers were 33,000 pounds (15,000 kilograms) of the illicit drug, one of the largest caches ever intercepted on U.S. shores and a quantity that’s almost “beyond comprehension,” as Patrick Trainor, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Philadelphia, put it Wednesday. Federal officials estimated the seized drugs had a street value of more than $1 billion.

The feds’ find was another sign that traffickers are turning to East Coast seaports as a result of increased law enforcement pressure along the country’s southwest border, a development cited by the drug enforcement agency in its latest national threat assessment. It was at least the third major bust in Philadelphia and New York since February.

“As soon as interdiction puts pressure on one place, it just pops up somewhere else. We’ve continually seen that,” said Nicholas Magliocca, a University of Alabama researcher who studies how traffickers adapt to interdiction. “As long as the demand is there, and there’s money to be made, traffickers are going to find a way.”

Cocaine use and overdose deaths are on the rise in the U.S. after years of decline as production has surged to record levels in Colombia, the source of about 90% of the U.S. supply.

Related: Feds seize $1B worth of cocaine docked at Philly port

Agents were doing another sweep Wednesday through thousands of containers on MSC Gayane, a cargo ship owned by Swiss firm MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co., but had not found any cocaine since their initial search on Monday, according to Stephen Sapp of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Philadelphia.

Two crew members have been charged and both men confessed to hiding the bundles on the ship.

Homeland Security agents say Ivan Durasevic, the ship’s second mate, told them he personally operated the crane to load the drugs after departing Peru.

The first mate allegedly asked Durasevic to pluck nets full of sealed packages from the ocean. Durasevic says he loaded even more packages from boats driven by men in ski masks that pulled alongside the tanker in the middle of the night near Panama.

Fonofaave Tiasaga is also charged. He told federal agents he helped conceal the drugs within other merchandise on the ship, and he was expecting to be paid $50,000 for helping each of the first mate, second mate, the electrician and engineer cadet – $200,000 total. 

He says all of them allegedly coordinated their own individual load of coke.

Authorities say this wasn’t their first time doing a drug run.

So far, none of the other crew members have been charged. 

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KYW Newsradio’s Mike Dougherty contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Secret Service hosts Safe Schools training program in Delaware County

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Thousands of school administrators, police and first responders from up and down the East Coast were at Neumann University in Delaware County for a school safety program hosted by the United States Secret Service. 

A primary goal of the Secret Service’s Safe Schools Initiative is to prevent a school shooting or attack by identifying a potential threat beforehand.

“And that’s something the Secret Service is always interested in. Obviously it’s directly correlated to our protective mission. We want to prevent an attack certainly on anybody in our protection,” said James Henry, special agent in charge of the Philadelphia office. 

He says the Secret Service has been studying targeted school violence for 20 years since they partnered with the Department of Education after the Columbine shooting.

The Secret Service says their research finds there’s no profile of a student attacker. They could be male or female, a loner or popular, so it’s important to have a climate where other students are comfortable coming forward with concerns.

Bill Gleason is the safety and security program administrator for the Berks County Intermediate Unit. 

“Oh, it’s spot on. I think there’s too much emphasis on the response to school shooting with target hardening or run-hide-fight training. Not that it’s not important, but you assume something is taking place in the building when this type of training shows you just about all of that can be prevented if you have certain measures in place,” Gleason said.  

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72 Philly police officers placed on leave during racist Facebook posts investigation

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross confirmed 72 police officers have been placed on desk duty as officials continue to investigate racist Facebook posts allegedly made by those officers in question.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Ross said he is “equally disgusted” by the racist posts, and he plans to implement additional training measures from outside experts, like the Anti-Defamation League, who will come in this fall to go through additional anti-bias and anti-racist training. 

Because of the acts of a few, Ross noted this has deeply impacted and tarnished their relationship with the community, but he said they will work tirelessly to improve it. 

City officials and an outside law firm — reported to be Ballard Spahr — are reviewing each post on a case-by-case basis to determine if the posts were made by those alleged officers and verify their identities.

The posts were first brought to light by watchdog research group The Plain View Project. It compiled the comments in a database, which includes thousands of posts from police officers, active and retired, in eight cities. About 320 Philly officers posted problematic content, according to authorities.

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This is a developing story. Stay with KYW Newsradio for updates.

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People and businesses get used to life in spotted lanternfly quarantine zones

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is closely monitoring a spotted lanternfly quarantine that covers the entire Delaware Valley and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. 

State agriculture secretary Russell Redding says the quarantine has grown as the spotted lanternfly expands its territory.  

“We’ve gone from a municipality to a county to three, nine, to, this year, 14 counties.” Redding said. 

That includes Philadelphia and all surrounding counties.

Here’s how it works: any business that moves products within and out of a quarantine zone must have a permit.  

Redding says the state has issued about 800,000 permits so far.  

“We have authority to ask business, ‘have you done the permitting, are you moving product across state lines, were you moving it with the appropriate sort of oversight,'” he added. 

The lanternfly has a tendency to latch onto vehicles, so people living in or traveling to quarantine zones (that would be most of us) are supposed to inspect their cars, trucks and trailers and kill any lanternflies they find. 

Related:

The department offers a checklist for residents to go through before heading out that includes recreational or outdoor items such as balls, backpacks and tents; outdoor household items like firewood, propane tanks and shutters; building materials, yard and garden items and children’s playthings. 

The spotted lanternfly has caused a lot of damage since migrating to Pennsylvania from Asia around five years ago. It goes after a variety of plants and trees but poses a major threat to vineyards, fruit trees and lumber.     

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‘Unusual’ Amtrak power outages impede travelers for hours

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Travelers between New York state and Philadelphia were stop-and-go Wednesday morning, as Amtrak reported suspended service over nearly a three-hour span along the Northeast Corridor.

According to Amtrak, overhead power line issues in North Jersey disrupted its trains for several hours. It has since restored service, but thousands of commuters at 30th Street Station were forced to endure long delays — some longer than the train ride itself.

Passengers like Rebecca Rampp from Wilkes-Barre simply had to wait it out.

“I’m not super stressed out about it,” she admitted. “But I do have my son here, who’s not the most patient person. He’s 14, but he’s a little bit cranky about it.”

Power was restored and trains were rolling again by 12:30 p.m. — but not before Californian Leslie Falbo scrapped her trip to New York.

“I was just talking to my bosses and letting them know that unfortunately I probably won’t make it to the conference,” she said, “because by he time I get up there, I’ll miss half of it, and it’s just not really worth it. I actually just called my mom and I asked her to come and pick me up.”

Others like Laura McKeever from Conshohocken were scrambling for alternatives.

“I haven’t come up with a plan B yet,” she said. “I might be driving myself down to Virginia tonight.”

McKeever had to get to Alexandria to lead a publishing conference. “We’ll see. I have to get there some way,” she added. “I take Amtrak about once a month and it’s generally pretty reliable. So this, to me, is kind of an unusual situation.”

The outage also disrupted Regional Rail trains on SEPTA’s Trenton Line on and off for some time, as well as NJ Transit service.

There’s no word yet on what caused the disruption in the first place.

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Gov. Tom Wolf declares Juneteenth holiday throughout Pennsylvania

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania becomes the 45th state to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. 

The Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law in 1863, but it was not until June 19, 1865 when the last slaves in Galveston, Texas were told of the abolition of slavery.

That date is known as Juneteenth or Freedom Day and Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf declared it a holiday throughout the state.

Related: Germantown remembers, celebrates the 154th anniversary of Juneteenth

Juneteenth observances usually include the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation and the singing of different black American hymns, and in Philadelphia, many observed the day at the African American Museum.

Hannah and Jihan were at the museum and say they’re happy to see that the governor has made Juneteenth a holiday in the Commonwealth. 

“I think that’s really exciting. I’m overwhelmed,” said Hannah.

“I actually already considered it to be a holiday in Pennsylvania, so it goes right along with what it should be,” Jihan added. 

Yvonne Haughton, also celebrating the day at the museum, says she hopes the declaration of the day as a holiday helps educate more people on what it’s all about.

“I think it’s pretty nice. I think it’s really cool, but honestly I think it’s more important that people recognize Juneteenth than to have it recognized as a statewide holiday,” she said.

She also wants to see more done for the day than just a declaration.

“We can make something a state holiday, but if we still have to go to work and we still have to deal with the same conditions that we do on a regular basis, I don’t see it making much difference,” she added.

At the museum, crafts, history lessons and re-enactors took over and visitors celebrated the day.

“It’s really a time to reflect if we celebrated 154 years ago. I think we might as well keep up the tradition,” said Hannah Wallace, the museum’s educational programming manager.

Wallace says not only is the day a chance to look at breaking free from slavery, they’re also screening a film on reconstruction.

“So we’re looking at the before and the after,” she added. 

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KYW In Depth: Forgotten heroes of World War II

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — KYW Newsradio goes in depth with a special podcast presentation on the forgotten heroes of World War II: black soldiers.

African-American soldiers played a key role in D-Day, yet their stories remain largely untold.

KYW Newsradio community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg shared the story of several of those men from the Philadelphia area.

At 97 years old, William Thompson is still trying to honor fellow vet — and Overbrook High School classmate — Waverly Woodson, who died in 2005. Woodson was one of the few black soldiers known to have served on Omaha Beach that fateful day.

Related: Forgotten warriors: Recognizing the black soldiers of D-Day

Gregg and KYW Newsradio anchor Carol MacKenzie take a closer look at the layered, complex fight to honor Woodson 75 years later with the Congressional Medal of Honor — an award given to only a few black soldiers from World War II.

Below, they briefly discuss why the recognition is so important: 

Gregg: Now let me just tell you a little bit about Bill (William Thompson). Bill is … 97, but he has fire in his eyes like you would never believe. He had a walker, and if you blinked the man was gone. He was Speedy Gonzales. … And he has all these records from Waverly’s service.

MacKenzie: And you mentioned (Waverly’s) wife had said that he never really spoke about (the war). And when you talk to a lot of World War II veterans, they never spoke about it. One reason is because many of them are incredibly humble about what they did. But there is, of course, the other reason, which is, it was horrific.

Where does the push for Woodson’s recognition stand now? Listen to the full podcast below:

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After weekend of violence, Krasner defends approach to criminal justice

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — After a violent and deadly weekend in Philadelphia, District Attorney Larry Krasner is defending his office’s approach to criminal justice reform. 

The district attorney touched upon Police Commissioner Richard Ross’ comments on Monday about the spike in shootings in the city. Ross said, “Let’s not become so offender-centric that we forget abotu the people out there in these neighborhoods who are being victimized directly or indirectly.”

Some took that as a shot at Larry Krasner, but the district attorney says he’s on the same page with the commissioner, and he takes each gun case at face value. 

Related:

“We need to remember, individual justice in each case. We need to be very careful that what is given out is going to be constructive in terms of turning those people away from crime, either now or in the future, or both,” Krasner said.

He says it’s simply not true that more criminals are out because his office is lax. 

“The fact is the people who are out there shooting right now grew up with D.A.s who are all about enforcement. They’re all about long prison terms and it didn’t do a damn thing.”

Krasner says a holistic approach is needed to turn things around. He points at structural problems, kids dropping out of school, not seeing a future for themselves, not having a sense of self-worth, leading them to resort to crime.

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KYW Newsradio’s Kristen Johanson contributed to this report.

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City’s free Summer Meal program for kids, teens returns

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A free meal program for kids in Philadelphia returns this summer. 

Partners involved in the Philly Summer Meals program were not only letting the community know about the free food available to kids but also about other programs offered during the summer recess.    

Formers Eagles player Jason Avant was at the kickoff, stressing the importance of being active and nutrition. He was playing basketball and doing yoga with the kids.

“Take advantage of these sites and make sure that our kids know about the summer meals and making sure that we are providing them with the opportunity to become all that they can be,” Avant said. 

Mayor Jim Kenney was also at the launch. 

“When children participate in the Summer Meals program, we can nourish their growth and connect them to summer activities that will feed their minds as well, like the library’s Summer of Wonder, parks and recreations camps, and play streets and our new Play Streets of Wonder,” the mayor said. 

Jaylah Lucus, 5, is joining the program for a second year and knows all about eating right.

“Cupcakes, pizza, strawberries, hot dogs, everything!” she said. 

Her father Joseph says the city programs help him stretch his paycheck a little farther.

“So the fact that they got the meal program and out here mainly for the kids to get a bite to eat while running around here and be famished, its excellent. I like it,” he said. 

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Report: Clean energy jobs account for nearly 1 out of every 3 energy jobs in the Commonwealth

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A national nonpartisan business group backing policies that create jobs that are good for the environment says Pennsylvania’s clean jobs increased 6 percent last year, five times faster than statewide job growth. 

Noah Dubin of the group E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) says more than 90,000 Pennsylvanians now work clean energy jobs, including installing HVAC and LED lighting systems, solar panels and putting up wind turbines. 

“Here in Pennsylvania, 46 percent of the jobs are in construction, and a fifth of them are in manufacturing,” Dubin said. 

E2’s “2019 Clean Jobs PA Report” shows the clean energy sector now employs twice the number of workers (90,772) as Pennsylvania’s entire fossil fuel industry (43,306). In the last five years, E2 says Pa has increased its workforce in clean technologies by 60 percent. 

The founder and owner of Solar States, Micah Gold-Markel, says Pennsylvania lags neighboring states, only requiring 0.5 percent of the state’s energy mix to come from solar. 

“We have House and Senate bills that are coming up that could easily double the amount of jobs with good, sound state policy,” Gold-Markel said. 

Gold-Markel adds there could be more solar energy jobs if state policy was changed to increase Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) to get a larger solar generation carve out. 

“We should have 10 percent solar by 2030. It will lower bills in the state to have 10 percent of our energy come from solar” Gold-Markel said. 

He says Solar States has about 30 workers, many from the neighborhood, involved in installing solar arrays on homes, businesses and institutions as well as other positions. 

Related:

“We have engineers, we have drone pilots who survey our sites, we have sales people and solar technicians,” he explained. 

He says while Pennsylvania ranks 11th among all states in clean energy jobs, there’s no reason it couldn’t be number one, with stronger policies for renewable energy.

They held their briefing up on the roof of the Crane Arts Building along North American Street in South Kensington, where owner David Gleeson says the 20,000 square foot roof is covered in 450-photovoltaic solar panels. 

“It was the largest solar array in the city, and then we were quickly eclipsed by the Comcast Tower,” Gleeson said. 

Gleeson says Crane building was built in 1905 out of cast concrete faced with brick.

“I think it probably saves us about 10 percent a month on our electrical bills,” he added. 

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Mastery Charter principal resigns amid hit-and-run charges; trial moves onto higher court

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The now former principal of a Philadelphia elementary school has been arrested as a suspect in a fatal hit-and-run nearly two years ago. 

On Tuesday, he waived his preliminary hearing, and his trial will move onto a higher court.

Jovan Weaver, 37, was arrested in early April. Investigators believe he was driving a red Lexus near the intersection of City Avenue and 54th Street in the late evening of Dec. 26, 2017, when he hit 58-year old Anthony Rodgers as he was crossing the street.

Rodgers’ unconscious body was found in the street and taken to Lankenau Medical Center, where he died. 

Authorities believe Weaver fled the scene and drove his car from Wynnefield to North 19th Street in Logan, where he left it after allegedly trying to set the car on fire. 

Weaver’s employer, Mastery Charter Schools, wasn’t notified about his arrest until last week. When Mastery found out, Weaver was placed on administrative leave, but then resigned from his position as principal at John Wister Elementary School in Germantown.

Staff at Wister Elementary found out about Weaver’s resignation on Friday, while parents were told by school officials Monday. 

Weaver’s attorney, Fred Perri, said Tuesday his client has admitted to his wrongdoings.

“Mr. Weaver is deeply saddened and haunted by the consequences of his conduct related to this tragic accident,” he said. “Not a day goes by that he doesn’t say a prayer for the victim and his family members for the loss of a loved one.”

Outside the courthouse Tuesday, tensions were heightened after the victim’s family questioned why Weaver left Rodgers in the street.

Weaver was a celebrated educator, but he now faces charges of vehicular homicide and tampering with evidence, among others. 

Dressed in a gray suit and surrounded by family at the Criminal Justice Center, Weaver shared his remorse and echoed his love for his school and his community. The victim’s family continued to follow Weaver to his car.

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KYW Newsradio’s Dan Wing contributed to this report.

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Willow Grove couple on trial for murder, accused of beating 4-year-old to death because he spilled cereal

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — A Willow Grove couple is on trial for murder, accused of beating the woman’s 4-year-old son so badly he died from his injuries. Prosecutors say it was punishment for the boy spilling his cereal. 

Forensic pathologist Ian Hood told the jury that to cause the injuries he observed on 4-year-old Tahjir Smith, “you’d have to hit very hard and you would have to hit a lot.”

Hood says the little boy died from multiple blunt force injuries, burns to his back and from shock.

Prosecutors say the boy’s mother, 19-year-old Lisa Smith, and her boyfriend 26-year-old Kieff King, punished him after he spilled his cereal, hitting him dozens of times with a flip-flop and then putting him in a scalding hot shower.

King’s attorney Frank Genovese told the jury they could check off endangering the welfare of child, but he said like it or not, corporal punishment is still legal in Pennsylvania, and while they were reckless and negligent, this is not a murder as there was never intent or malice.

Smith’s lawyer Carrie Allman told the jury an outcome does not equal intent. She says it was a poor effort at discipline, but there was never intent to kill the boy.

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Federal agents seize $1B worth of cocaine at Philadelphia port

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Federal agents have seized more than $1 billion worth of cocaine from cargo containers Tuesday aboard a ship docked at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, located along the Delaware River in South Philadelphia.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 16.5 tons of cocaine have been seized from the MSC Gayane, a container ship operating under the Liberian flag. Officials are calling the bust the “largest drug seizure” in the district’s history.

The ship’s log shows it had made stops in Chile, Panama and the Bahamas.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman said federal agents are still going over the ship’s cargo and planning to move it from its berth at the terminal.

Members of the ship’s crew have been taken into custody by federal authorities and have been charged.

Agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Coast Guard, and the Philadelphia Police Department are assisting in the massive operation.

Federal agents are still going over the ship in a search for any other drugs or contraband.

U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain said in a tweet that the amount of cocaine seized is capable of killing “millions of people.”

This is the second major seizure of cocaine at a Philadelphia port this year.

In March, agents seized 450 bricks of cocaine, weighing nearly 1,200 pounds with an estimated street value of $38 million from the Port of Philadelphia.

Related:

The cocaine was found inside a shipping container aboard the MSC Desiree, a Portugal-flagged cargo ship that had traveled from the Netherlands to Peru and also had stops in Panama and the Bahamas. The cargo ship was last seen in Callao, Peru — the largest port of entry to Peru — less than a day ago.

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This is a developing story. Stay with KYW Newsradio for updates.

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