CNN slammed for listing 26 Texas shooting victims as ‘25 and unborn child’

CNN slammed for listing 26 Texas shooting victims as ‘25 and unborn child’

Texas authorities have confirmed that 26 people were killed in last week’s Sutherland Springs church massacre, but according to CNN, it’s 25 plus an unborn child.

The network has come under criticism for adjusting its victim total after learning that Texas had included in its count the unborn child of Crystal Marie Holcombe, 36, who was pregnant when she was killed Nov. 5 by a gunman who opened fire at the First Baptist Church.

CNN tweeted a story Sunday citing the death toll as “25 people and an unborn child,” prompting a rash of respondents to tweet “26.”

“You mean 26 …,” said Jon Schweppe, spokesman for the American Principles Project.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has named “26 victims, including an unborn child,” in its official count. Texas and 22 other states have fetal homicide laws that apply to the earliest stages of gestation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

CNN spokesman Matt Dornic explained the reasons for the network’s decision.

“It was an effort to reconcile our news-gathering efforts, which identified the names of 25 victims, with the 26 number released by authorities,” said Mr. Dornic in an email. “And also to be specific as possible for our global audience.”

CNN initially described the number of victims as 26 but switched to “25 and an unborn child” after the state issued its list of 26 victims, who included “Carlin Brite ‘Billy Bob’ Holcombe (unborn).”

How to describe feticide victims has long been a source of contention, with pro-life groups holding that they should be included in homicide counts and pro-choice advocates arguing that doing so puts states on a slippery slope toward outlawing abortion.

CNN’s description puts the network at odds with most other major news outlets. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC have continued to cite 26 victims in their reports, as has the Associated Press.

Both The New York Times and Washington Post placed the number of those killed at 26 in weekend articles.

Ms. Holcombe, the mother of five, has been described in various news dispatches as eight months pregnant, although KSAT-TV in San Antonio reported she was almost four months pregnant.

Her husband, John Holcombe, released a statement last week on Facebook saying that the couple did not yet know the sex of the baby because “it was too soon to tell.”

Read more

One Easy Place to Find Proof of Your Social Security Benefits

One Easy Place to Find Proof of Your Social Security Benefits

When you’re applying for a mortgage, loan or housing, you may need proof of your Social Security benefits. Other times, you may need to prove you’ve never received or applied for retirement, disability, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicare benefits.  When this happens, your personal my Social Security account is the fastest and most efficient way to get your benefit verification letter — the proof you need. You can get a benefit verification letter, sometimes called a “budget letter,” a “benefits letter,” a “proof of income letter,” or a “proof of award letter,” online instantly by logging into your account.

Create your account

If you don’t have a my Social Security account, you can create one today.

It’s easy.  To set up your account, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount and select, “Sign In or Create an Account.” You will need to provide some personal information, like your email address or Social Security number, to verify your identity and choose a username and password. To protect your information, you’ll be asked to set up a second identification method to further verify your identity. You’ll need either your cell phone number or email address as your second identification every time you sign into your account.

It’s convenient

You can set up your account from the comfort of your home. Once you create your account, scroll down to the Benefits and  Payments section and choose “get benefit verification letter.” Then you can instantly view, print, or save your official letter. It takes only a few minutes.

It’s secure

Social Security has a robust cyber security system that we continuously evaluate and improve to keep your information safe.

Sign up for or log in to your personal my Social Security account and rest easy knowing that you’re in control.

Read more

What You Need to Know For Hurricane Irma Recovery

What You Need to Know For Hurricane Irma Recovery
What You Need to Know For Hurricane Irma Recovery | USAGov

JavaScript must be enabled in your browser in order to use some functions.

Skip to main content

September 5, 2017

As the Hurricane Irma recovery process continues, federal officials offer the following advice for people returning to their homes:  

  1. Apply for disaster assistance. The quickest way to apply for federal disaster assistance is online through DisasterAssistance.gov. If you don’t have access to the Internet, you can apply by phone. Call 1-800-621-3362. 
  2. Don’t return home until local officials tell you it’s safe. Before you enter your house, check for safety hazards like loose power lines, gas leaks, and structural damage. Learn what else to check before and after you enter.
  3. Be on the look out for scam artists and fraud. Remember you never have to pay a fee to apply for federal disaster assistance. If someone tells you that you do, it’s a scam. Other common fraud includes phony house inspectors and fake donation requests. Follow these tips to avoid scams and fraud after a disaster.
  4. Find help if you’re feeling distressed. You can talk to a professional who can help you cope with emotional distress from the storm by calling the Disaster Distress Line at 1-800-985-5990 or texting TalkWithUs to 66746.
  5. Know where to find trusted information. After major storms, rumors circulate and scammers may try to take advantage of you. Make sure you know what’s real and what’s fake. Check FEMA’s rumor control information for trusted storm and recovery updates. 

For the latest information (in multiple languages) on Irma, visit FEMA.gov or follow USAGov and FEMA on Twitter.

Back to Top

You might also like …

Back to Top

What you think matters!

Read more

Features | USAGov

Features | USAGov
Features | USAGov

JavaScript must be enabled in your browser in order to use some functions.

Skip to main content

You’re invited to read and use our bilingual articles covering trusted, timely, and valuable government information.


  • Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to friends and loved ones.


  • There has been confusion and rumors on social media about a U.S. Department of Defense drill that starts on November 4, 2017.


  • Your personal my Social Security account is one of the most powerful tools available to help you prepare for retirement.


  • Here are three things you should know to get the most out of your passport and your international travel experience.


  • When you’re applying for a mortgage, loan or housing, you may need proof of your Social Security benefits.

Pages

Back to Top

Read more

Features | USAGov

Features | USAGov
Features | USAGov

JavaScript must be enabled in your browser in order to use some functions.

Skip to main content

You’re invited to read and use our bilingual articles covering trusted, timely, and valuable government information.


  • Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to friends and loved ones.


  • There has been confusion and rumors on social media about a U.S. Department of Defense drill that starts on November 4, 2017.


  • Your personal my Social Security account is one of the most powerful tools available to help you prepare for retirement.


  • Here are three things you should know to get the most out of your passport and your international travel experience.


  • When you’re applying for a mortgage, loan or housing, you may need proof of your Social Security benefits.

Pages

Back to Top

Read more

USAGov’s Back to School Guide for Teachers and Parents

USAGov’s Back to School Guide for Teachers and Parents

Can you believe the kids are going back to school already?

Yep, it’s that time of the year! And to make it a little easier, USAGov has 3 resources to help get the school year started: 

Make sure your kids get those shots! 

Go to Vaccines.gov to find out which vaccinations your kids need for the start of the school year.

If you can’t afford to get your kids vaccinated, you may be eligible for the CDC’s free Vaccines for Children Program. Find out more at USA.gov/vaccinations.

2. Enrolling your kids in an afterschool program?  
Go to nces.ed.gov/globallocator  to find your school district online. Your state education department might also have programs your kids can join to pick up some cool skills and experiences after class is done. 
3. Teach your kids how to deal with bullying. 
Empower them with tips from Stopbullying.gov to help them stand up for themselves and stay safe on the playground and online. 

Get more tips for a great school year. Check out USAGov’s Back To School Guide for Teachers and Parents.

Connect with USAGov. Your guide to government information and services at USA.gov/explore. 

Contact us online, through email & chat, social media and by phone at 1-844-USAGOV1.

Read more

Texas lawyer fired after argument with Uber driver

Texas lawyer fired after argument with Uber driver

After a Dallas prosecutor was fired from her job in the district attorney’s office for an altercation with an Uber driver, she apologized today for her actions, saying she “was wrong.”

“I’m very sorry for the language I used. I’m not proud of it,” Jody Warner said at a press conference as she fought back tears. “I appreciate being given the opportunity to give my side. I’m not trying to make any accusations against that driver. I don’t know what’s in his heart. I can tell you that not everything he said was true I never touched him.”

She added, “I’m not ever going to justify anything that I said. There’s just a little bit more to it and I was wrong.”

Shaun Platt, 26, said he was driving Warner home from Capitol Pub in East Dallas last Friday night when she became upset about directions.

“She kept saying she’s an assistant DA and said who are they gonna believe you or me and I said, ‘You know what, you’re kind of right,’ so I took out my phone and I recorded it,” Platt told ABC News.

Warner, 32, began cursing and insulting Platt, calling him an “idiot.”

At one point she said, “I think this might be a kidnapping,” so Platt decided to pull over.

“You’re so stupid I want the cops to come so that they can f— you up,” Warner can be heard saying to Platt on the recording.

Platt says he asked Warner to get out of the car, but when she declined, Platt called the police.

“She actually hit me,” Platt claimed, which Warner later denied. “It was not how I expected the night to go.”

The ride-sharing service encourages both riders and drivers to call police or 911 if they feel unsafe or find themselves in an uncomfortable situation, as outlined in Uber’s driver safety tips. Moreover, drivers and passengers can end the trip at any time along the route and reach out to 24-hour customer support.

Once police arrived Platt said he declined to press charges.

“After reviewing this incident and speaking with the complainant who called 911, the Dallas Police Department has determined that the officer’s involvement was within departmental policies and procedures,” Dallas Police said in a statement. “Any further information relating to this incident should be directed to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. There are no criminal charges filed relating to this incident.”

“We expect riders to treat drivers with respect. This rider has been removed from the app while we continue to look into this incident,” a spokesperson for Uber told ABC News.

The argument led to Warner’s firing by Dallas District Attorney Faith Johnson on Monday.

“After careful consideration and a thorough investigation, I have decided to terminate Ms. Warner. Although criminal charges have not been filed, her behavior is contrary to this office’s core principle of integrity, and it will not be tolerated,” Johnson said in a statement. “As public servants, we represent the people of Dallas County and are examples of justice, professionalism, and ethical behavior both inside and outside of the courtroom. I will not waiver on my expectation of the highest integrity for myself or my staff. I will continue to run this office with transparency and respect for the justice system and the community we serve. I encourage you, the public, to look beyond this incident and recognize that our prosecutors work hard each day to seek justice on your behalf.”

Warner first responded to the video in a statement.

“I cringe whenever I hear or think about the things that I said that night. It was unacceptable, and no one deserves to be called names,” Warner said. “That being said, the audio doesn’t tell you that I was in a situation that made me feel very uncomfortable and I became defensive and eventually angry. I NEVER assaulted my driver or touched him in any way. All I wanted to do was get home safely that night.”

Platt said he was sorry the altercation “cost [Warner] her job. That was not my intent but you don’t treat people that way.”

Read more

4th person slain amid search for apparent serial killer: ‘This has got to stop’

4th person slain amid search for apparent serial killer: ‘This has got to stop’

The man “killed in cold blood” on a Tampa, Florida, street early this morning had been shot from behind in a case authorities say may be related to a string of unsolved slayings that has left a community on edge.

“This has got to stop,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said today in an emotional plea at a news conference. “We will hunt this person down until we find them.”

Police are investigating the slaying in the beleaguered Seminole Heights neighborhood where three people were shot to death in a span of 11 days in October.

“We are treating it as although it is related until we rule otherwise,” interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told reporters this morning.

Authorities have identified the latest victim as Ronald Felton, 60, who was supposed to “meet up with someone” when he was apparently targeted and killed, Dugan said.

“Someone came up from behind and shot him,” he said. “And he was left [on] the street.”

The suspect in this case has been identified as a slim black man, 6 to 6-foot-2, with light complexion and armed with a large black pistol, while last seen wearing all black clothing, authorities said.

“We do have a witness that we have been discussing [what happened],” Dugan said. “When I spoke to her she said, ‘If our officer had been five seconds earlier, he would’ve been able to stop it.’”

Police arrived “within seconds” of the 911 calls that were placed before 5 a.m., Dugan said.

Solving the killings has become personal, Mayor Buckhorn said, as he lamented having to bring bad news to Felton’s family.

“There will be one more family today that will be notified of a family member that was killed in cold blood,” Buckhorn said.

He said he believes police can stop the bloodshed.

“We need to catch this killer before we need to notify one more family that one of their loved ones is dead,” Buckhorn said.

The Tampa Police Department’s Twitter account alerted the public that an “active investigation” was underway, using the hashtag “#TRAFFIC.”

The homicide follows a string of three unsolved killings within blocks of each other days before Halloween and near a bus-line route where two of the victims had been commuting. Police say they believe those three killings were committed by the same person.

Resident Phyllis Gaines and her terrier poodle Buster were stirred awake this morning by what she thought was a neighbor taking out the trash, she said.

But it was deadly gunfire.

“It was maybe three or four [shots],” she told ABC News. “I was in my bedroom and I heard the shoots and I looked out from the living room and there were cops all over the corner.

“All you saw was red and blue lights flashing and the crime scene tape.”

The high school sign language teacher said she was forced “on lockdown” in her own home as police taped off her driveway on the corner of East McBerry Street.

Gaines exchanged text messages with neighbors who, like her, were in their homes looking on as cops tried to stop the terror outside their doors.

“It’s very scary and quite stressful,” she said. “I think we’re all on edge at this point.”

The first victim was 22-year-old Benjamin Mitchell, who attended George S. Middleton High School. He was shot and killed steps from his home while waiting for a bus at North 15th Street at Frierson Avenue Oct. 9.

Two days later, 32-year-old Monica Hoffa, who police say died October 11, was found slain a half-mile from Mitchell, officials confirmed.

Then on Oct. 19, Anthony Naiboa, a 20-year-old man with autism, was killed in the southeast Seminole Heights neighborhood while taking the wrong bus home from work.

The young man, who was waiting at a bus stop located at North 15th Street at Frierson Avenue, died steps away from his home

All three earlier killings remain unsolved.

Early on, police released pixelated photos of a slender individual wearing pants and a hooded windbreaker, initially walking near one of the crime scenes and then picking up the pace to a sprint.

“We believe this is the same person we saw walking just moments earlier,” Dugan, the police chief, said during a news conference last month, adding the person of interest likely has ties to the neighborhood.

“He is running in the other direction … We believe this is the same person, once again, running away from the scene of the shooting.”

In subsequently released surveillance video recordings that were released by police, the same individual is seen flipping and repeatedly staring at a cell phone with the right hand.

Read more

Sessions said he never lied about communications between Russia, Trump campaign

Sessions said he never lied about communications between Russia, Trump campaign

Attorney General Jeff Sessions denied suggestions Tuesday that he misled Congress in previous appearances before Senate committees in which he was asked about Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials.

Questions about the attorney general’s prior answers to Congress came during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers asked about the latest developments in the ongoing investigations into Russian interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election, including one Trump campaign adviser’s guilty plea to misleading investigators.

The questions focused on campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos’ attempts to coordinate a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and his presence at a March 2016 meeting also attended by Sessions. The attorney general’s response drew scrutiny from Democrats who believed that Sessions may have known more than he previously disclosed.

Sessions said he now recalled the meeting, following recent news reports on the matter, but that he “always told the truth” in appearances on Capitol Hill. He additionally added that he “wanted to make clear to [Papadopoulos] that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government.”

“But I did not recall this event, which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago,” he said.

Check back for live updates on the hearing throughout the day:

1:23 p.m.: “I’m not a fan of Wikileaks,” says Sessions

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. ended his line of questioning by asking for the attorney general’s opinion of WikiLeaks, the website founded by Julian Assange which the U.S. intelligence community has said was behind leaks of sensitive information and, during last year’s election, emails purportedly belonging to the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton presidential campaign officials.

“The CIA said that WikiLeaks is a hostile intelligence service. Candidate Trump said, ‘I love WikiLeaks,'” Swalwell said, referring to comments made by Trump on the campaign trail after the Clinton-related leaks began.

“Do you love WikiLeaks, Mr. attorney general?” the congressman asked.

“I’m not a fan of WikiLeaks,” Sessions said.

Sessions did not provide his opinion when asked if it was appropriate for Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr. to have communicated with a Twitter account belonging to the organization.

12:55 p.m.: Sessions faces questions about his memory of events

“If it’s an act to deceive, yes,” Sessions says. https://t.co/wKFtfUsUl1 pic.twitter.com/mseAzN9Rge

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., referring to transcripts of Sessions’ previous testimony on Capitol Hill, noted that the attorney general said “I don’t recall” upwards of 20 times in three prior appearances before congressional committees.

Jeffries went on to remind Sessions of his vote to remove President Bill Clinton from office over allegations of perjury, and his prosecution, while a U.S. attorney, of a police officer who lied during a deposition before later correcting himself.

Sessions described the apparent comparison to his previous testimony and insinuation that he had lied as “not fair.”

Earlier in the day, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, also called attention to Sessions’ non-answers after he repeatedly said, “I do not recall” in response to questions.

“I cannot imagine your memory failing so much,” said Jackson Lee.

12:45 p.m.: Rep. Richmond grills Sessions of African-American staff, U.S. attorneys

Sessions admitted that he has yet to hire an African-American to be a part of his senior staff at the Justice Department, as Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., expressed his desire that the department not take steps backwards when it comes to upholding the civil rights of minorities.

Richmond previously testified in January in opposition to Sessions’ nomination during his confirmation hearing.

11:49 a.m.: Committee stands in recess

After over an hour of questioning, the House Judiciary Committee has released Sessions and its members for a break.

11:40 a.m.: Sessions responds to request for additional special counsel

Jeff Sessions: “It would take a factual basis.” https://t.co/uDvs6AC6wT pic.twitter.com/J4gsZvpmyV

After Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, ran through a timeline of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the related actions of former FBI Director James Comey and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Sessions explained that the matter did not automatically warrant the use of a special counsel as Jordan suggested was necessary.

“It would take a factual basis that meets the standards of the appointment of a special counsel,” Sessions said, an answer that did not quell Jordan’s concerns.

“You can have your idea but sometimes we have to study what the facts are and to evaluate whether it… meets the standard required for a special counsel,” Sessions continued.

11:17 a.m.: “I have no reason to doubt” Moore accusers: Sessions

Though he said he believes he should not be involved in the campaign for his former U.S. Senate seat representing Alabama, Sessions said he has “no reason to doubt” the women accusing Republican candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct.

Moore is accused of pursuing relationships with teenage girls in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including attempting to engage in sexual activity with one girl as young as 14.

Jackson Lee asked Sessions whether he would introduce a Justice Department investigation into the alleged actions should Moore win election to the senate.

“We will do our duty,” Sessions said.

11:06 a.m.: Sessions doesn’t recall discussing Russia policies, meetings with Flynn

In response to questions from Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Sessions said he was not present when the Republican party’s platform committee met at the Republican National Convention last year, during which changes were made to the party’s foreign policy platform with regard to Russia.

He further said that he did not recall discussing policies related to Russia with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and denied awareness of a reported offer by the Turkish government to get Flynn to assist in extraditing a Turkish cleric.

10:59 a.m.: Sessions has not spoken about Papadopoulos with Mueller, FBI

10:57 a.m.: Did Sessions attempt to prevent further contact with Russians?

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y. pressed Sessions on his actions after a March 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in which Papadopoulos mentioned his outreach to Russia.

Sessions maintained that he “pushed back” on the suggestion of a meeting with Russia, but did not remember how Trump reacted to the specter of such interactions with the country.

When Nadler asked if the attorney general took additional steps later during the campaign to prevent contact with Russia, Sessions said that he had no further contact with Papadopoulos.

10:54 a.m.: Sessions stands by pledge to recuse himself from Clinton matters

Nadler asked Sessions if he would re-commit to a pledge he made during his January confirmation hearing that he would recuse himself for questions involving Hillary Clinton.

“Yes,” responded Sessions.

10:45 a.m.: DOJ shouldn’t “retaliate politically against opponents”

After the committee’s ranking member Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., showed Sessions several of President Trump’s tweets suggesting the Justice Department investigate former campaign rival Hillary Clinton, the attorney general was asked whether it was “common” for a country’s leader to “retaliate against his political opponents.”

“The Department of Justice can never be used to retaliate politically against opponents and that would be wrong,” Sessions said. He went on to add, following additional questioning, that the president should “take great care” not to influence a pending investigation

10:35 a.m.: Trump campaign was “a form of chaos every day from day one”

In explaining why he did not remember every moment from last year’s presidential campaign, Sessions described a hectic atmosphere surrounding Trump’s bid for the White House.

“None of you had a part in the Trump campaign, and it was a brilliant campaign, I think, in many ways, but it was a form of chaos every day from day one,” said Sessions. “We traveled sometimes to several places in one day, sleep was in short supply and I was still a full-time senator with a very full schedule.”

10:33 a.m.: Sessions says he “always told the truth,” but now recalls Papadopoulos meeting

In his opening statement, Sessions told the committee he has “always told the truth,” seemingly referencing his criticized appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October.

On the subject of meetings attended by campaign aides George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, Sessions said he “had no recollection” of the meetings until he saw recent news reports. He previously told the Senate Judiciary Committee he was “not aware” of attempts by the campaign to communicate with Russia.

“I do now recall the March 2016 meeting at the Trump Hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he said at that meeting,” said Sessions. “After reading his account, and to the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government, or any other foreign government, for that matter.”

He continued by saying he “gladly would have reported it” had he remembered it. Sessions said he “pushed back” against what he thought was an improper suggestion.

Sessions previously appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October and Senate Intelligence Committee in June.

Two of President Donald Trump’s campaign advisers, including one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort, have already been indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller‘s Russia investigation. Mueller’s probe is separate from congressional investigations.

Sessions was grilled Tuesday about Trump campaign contacts with Russia and political interference at the Justice Department.

The questions turned a routine oversight hearing into a marquee event on Capitol Hill, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the committee, told ABC News he was “amazed that [Sessions] agreed to come before the committee.”

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee told Sessions in a letter sent last week to expect questions on Russia. The letter notes that Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents, spoke with other campaign officials about his attempts to coordinate a meeting with Russian officials.

“The meeting in question was a meeting of the Trump campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee — a working group that you chaired,” the letter said.

It goes on to note that the revelations about Papadopoulos appear to run counter to previous statements Sessions gave under oath, including his insistence during his Senate confirmation hearing that he was “not aware” of communication “activities” between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

The attorney general later told Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., in October he was “not aware of anyone else” within the campaign who had communications with the Russians.

“There will be a lot about his sworn testimony to the Senate,” Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said of today’s hearing.

On the topic of political interference in his department’s work, Democrats want “assurances” that the Justice Department’s leaders aren’t being pressured by Trump into “protecting friends and punishing enemies.”

“What walls will he put in place to ensure that that’s not carried out?” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., asked.

The Democrats’ letter last week further raised the administration’s lack of “meaningful response” to “more than 40 letters” sent by committee members on issues related to everything from the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, to claims made by President Trump about the alleged “wiretapping” of Trump Tower, to the proposed suspension of White House adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s security clearance.

“The department’s inability to respond to these letters on a timely basis is unacceptable,” the letter said. “We expect a prompt response to every reasonable oversight request.”

Sessions may also be asked about the Justice Department’s response to the nation’s latest mass shooting. More than 20 people died after a gunman opened fire at a church about 40 miles southeast of San Antonio, Texas, Nov. 5.

Sessions last week traveled with Vice President Mike Pence to Texas to visit with victims of the shooting and first responders.

ABC News’ Mike Levine contributed to this report.

Read more

‘Hero’ father who thwarted alleged attempted kidnapping speaks out

‘Hero’ father who thwarted alleged attempted kidnapping speaks out

The father who thwarted the alleged attempted kidnapping of his daughter, and an attempted burglary of his home, said he is left reeling and praying for “peace of mind” after learning the extent of what authorities described as an elaborate plot devised by four armed teenagers.

“I’ve searched and I’ve prayed for peace of mind over this situation, and to get my sense of security back in my home,” Terry Brackney of Baker, Florida, said in an exclusive interview with “Good Morning America.”

Brackney, 51, added that his daughter, Amber Brackney, 17, who was the alleged target of the foiled kidnapping, has not returned to school since the incident.

On Nov. 7, four armed teenagers who had “concocted a plan to kidnap the teenage daughter” and then rob the Brackney family home were taken into custody by the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), the office said in a statement.

The teens were armed with a knife and guns, authorities said.

“The goal was to first force her out of her car by blocking the road with barrels and garbage cans,” the OCSO said per the results of their investigation, adding that Amber simply drove around the blockade and did not exit her vehicle. “They then planned to head to her house, confront and subdue her father — who they believed to be wealthy — and rob the home.”

Brackney said he was at home waiting for Amber to return from her job as a waitress when the attempt occurred.

“She called me to tell me someone had put barrels in the middle of the road and blocked it and I told her, ‘Well, they weren’t there when I came home so just drive around them,'” he recalled.

Brackney said he grew alarmed later in the evening, after Amber went to sleep, when his dogs started barking continuously and a motion sensor outdoor light turned on.

“The dogs seemed to be barking towards the garage,” he said, adding he took his gun with him when he went outside to look.

He told ABC News that when he stepped outside he spotted two people attempting to break into his garage.

“That’s when I yelled at them and fired three shots with my glock, and they took off running,” he said. “It was at that point that I went back in my house and called 911.”

Brackney said that when authorities arrived at the scene and uncovered the weapons, he began to realize the magnitude of the situation.

“At that point is when I got scared, because I knew then that what was going to happen wasn’t going to end up pretty had they ended up in my home,” he said.

Brackney said that he was shocked to eventually find out that he knew two of the teens allegedly involved.

“Saturday night, Amber and I were eating supper, and we really haven’t talked that much about this, but I told her at supper Saturday night, I said, ‘You know, had these individuals made it inside our house,’…I said, ‘Today would have probably been our funerals.'”

Brackney told ABC News that he had no idea why the teens thought he was a wealthy man or targeted him.

“I own a funeral home and a clothing store here in town,” he said. “The community has been very good to me over the years, and I lead a secluded life, or I did up until this point.”

Amber told ABC News that she considers her father a “hero” for his actions that night.

“I’m very grateful for my dad,” she told ABC News. “I don’t really have a mom in my life, so my dad is my hero, you could say.”

The high school student added that she was shocked to find out that one of the alleged perpetrators had been a friend “since elementary school.”

“I can even remember him coming over to my house and playing as a little child,” she said, adding that they have since “grown apart,” but she still never expected something like this.

“I see these kids every day walking down the hallway,” she said. “I never expected them to try to attempt to kidnap me and harm me and do such a thing to my family.”

Amber said she felt uneasy as soon as she saw the barrels on the road as she drove home.

“I automatically thought this is something that would happen in a scary movie,” she said. “So I called my dad and told him, and asked him if the barrels were there when he got home, and had said, ‘No,’ and then I really got scared.”

Amber added that she is “thankful” to be alive, but remains incredibly shaken by the incident.

“I’m scared to sleep in my own bedroom, I’m scared to go to my own school,” she said. “That shouldn’t be a thing. We’re a small town.”

The teens allegedly involved in the foiled plot, identified by the sheriff’s office as Keilon Johnson, 19, Austin French, 17, Tyree Johnson, 16, and Kamauri Horn, 15, were armed with a knife and guns, according to OCSO. The sheriff’s office added that “latex gloves, facial masks and dark clothing” were found in their car.

All four teenagers were charged with attempted kidnapping and attempted home invasion robbery, according to the OCSO. All four teens, including the juveniles, are being charged as adults, according to the Florida state’s attorney’s office.

None of the four have entered a plea and none have made bond, and they are all expected to be arraigned in about 2.5 weeks, according to the state’s attorney’s office.

Read more