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Capitol riot defendant claims he was attacked by DC jail guards, lawyer says

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FILE photo – Dennis Swanson – Studio 101 West Photography/iStockBy Alexander Mallin and Luke Barr, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — A Pennsylvania man charged with assaulting officers at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection says he was brutally beaten by two guards at the D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility late last month, according to his lawyer.

Ryan Samsel, who was arrested in late January after authorities identified him as the man seen on video pushing against a police barricade that knocked a female officer to the ground as a pro-Trump mob descended on the Capitol, relayed details of his alleged assault to his attorney, Elisabeth Pasqualani.

In a phone interview with ABC News Thursday, Pasqualani said she believes the incident is being investigated by both the D.C. Department of Corrections and the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

“The Department of Corrections takes the safety and well-being of all residents, staff, and contractors extremely seriously,” a Department of Corrections representative said in a statement to ABC News. “We are aware of the allegation made by an inmate and it is under investigation by the Department of Justice.”

FBI officials, in a brief statement, said they were “aware of the allegations, however, as a matter of policy, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.”

Pasqualani said Thursday that she was told by Samsel that two guards came to his cell late last month in the early morning hours and ordered him to put on zip-tie handcuffs before taking him to another nearby cell.

Pasqualani said Samsel told her that one of the officers then proceeded to “punch him, hit him, kick him” as he lay on the ground.

According to Pasqualani, Samsel was taken to a hospital and suffered a broken nose and a fractured orbital floor in his eye socket, and that he still cannot see out of his right eye, which “might be permanent,” she said.

Samsel has since been relocated to a separate facility, Pasqualani said, after she requested his transfer following the alleged assault.

Samsel is not the first defendant to raise accusations of harsh treatment and poor conditions in the D.C. jail.

During a hearing this week, Capitol riot defendant Ronald Sandlin told a judge that guards have harassed his fellow defendants with threats of violence, and he cited Samsel’s alleged beating as he pleaded for release from pretrial detention.

Other defendants have complained to the court that they’ve been kept in lockdown for 23 hours each day, with some alleging decrepit conditions inside their cells like freezing temperatures and insect infestations.

Last month, a former Trump appointee arrested for his alleged role during the riot complained to a judge that there were “cockroaches literally everywhere” in his detention facility.

“I’m wondering if there’s a place I could stay in detention where I don’t have cockroaches crawling on me while I’m trying to sleep,” Federico Klein, who was an active government appointee when he allegedly participated in the riot, asked a federal judge.

A deputy warden at the jail confirmed to a federal judge last month that defendants being held on charges related to the Capitol riot were being held in a restrictive housing unit, citing “their own safety and security.”

In a separate detention hearing for an accused Capitol rioter on Thursday, a senior judge in the D.C. district court, Emmet Sullivan, said he and several of his colleagues had set a Friday meeting with the director of the D.C. Department of Corrections to get answers on some of the “rumors” they had been hearing from defense attorneys in their cases.

Sullivan expressed concern that attorneys for accused rioter Jeffrey Sabol said they have not received an explanation as to why Sabol and others are being placed in lockdown for 23 hours a day.

“Like everything else, we want to separate fact from fiction,” Sullivan said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Suspect in mass shooting that killed five in South Carolina played in the NFL

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carlballou/iStockBy William Mansell and Emily Shapiro, ABC News

(ROCK HILL, S.C.) — Five people are dead, including a doctor and two of his grandchildren, following a shooting at a home in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on Wednesday afternoon, according to the York County Sheriff’s Office.

The suspect, 32-year-old Phillip Adams, was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at a nearby home, the York County Sheriff’s Office said.

Adams, a Rock Hill native, was a former NFL player, according to ESPN. He was drafted by San Francisco in the seventh round out of South Carolina State in 2010 and played as a reserve defensive back for five teams in six years from 2010 to 2015.

The victims were identified as Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70; his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69; their grandchildren, 9-year-old Adah Lesslie and 5-year-old Noah Lesslie; and James Lewis, 39, who was working at the home at the time he was shot, authorities said.

A sixth person was also shot and survived, officials said.

Lewis and the surviving victim — who was in critical condition Thursday morning — were air conditioning techs who were found shot beside their work vans, York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said.

Lewis leaves behind a daughter and two sons, according to a GoFundMe.

Robert Lesslie was a well-known doctor in Rock Hill, ABC Charlotte affiliate WSOC reported. He spent many years working in emergency rooms in the Charlotte area, according to his website biography.

The sheriff said, “Dr. Lesslie was a pillar in this community.”

“He had treated me in the past,” he said.

Robert Lesslie and his wife had four children and five grandchildren, his website biography said.

The Lesslie family said in a statement, “We are truly in the midst of the unimaginable. The losses we are suffering cannot be uttered at this time.”

The family said, “If you would like to do something for the family, Adah and Noah would want you to stock the free pantries and libraries in your community. Barbara and Robert would want you to be good stewards of what you are given, leaving every place better than it was before you got there.”

All the deaths are being investigated as homicides, according to the York County Coroner’s Office.

The York County Coroner’s Office said Adams was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at a nearby home on the same road as the Lesslies, following a standoff.

“We did recover evidence at the scene that linked Mr. Adams to that area definitively,” Tolson said at a news conference Thursday.

A motive has not been determined, Tolson said.

“There is nothing about this right now that makes sense to any of us,” the sheriff said.

Rock Hill is about 26 miles south of Charlotte, North Carolina.

South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman said Robert and Barbara Lesslie were his close friends.

“Through the decades, they made such an incredible impact on our area and the lives of countless people,” Norman said in a statement.

“It is impossible to imagine the grief that the extended Lesslie family must be feeling,” he said. “I also want to send my sincere condolences to the family of James Lewis.”

Joel and Steven Long, co-owners of GSM Services, the company which employed Lewis and the man who was shot and survived, said in a statement, “Our team at GSM Services is heart broken.”

“Both men involved in this incident are long-standing, beloved members of our family at GSM. These men embody the values we strive to achieve at GSM and are family focused, up-beat, and wonderful team members who cared about all the people they encountered,” the Longs said. “In the coming days, our focus is on helping these families and our team members cope with this tragedy.”

The NFL said in a statement, “Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the victims of these devastating tragedies.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Medical witnesses clash with defense over George Floyd's death

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imaginima/iStockBy Marlene Lenthang, ABC News

(MINNEAPOLIS) — Medical personnel from various backgrounds have testified in Derek Chauvin’s trial, often painting a grave picture of George Floyd’s final moments.

Paramedics found Floyd had no pulse upon arriving at the scene, and a respiratory expert said even a healthy person would have died under the restraints Chauvin used on Floyd.

The testimony of these medical experts is expected to carry great sway over the jury, as defense attorneys contend Floyd’s death was caused by drugs he’d ingested, underlying health conditions and his own adrenaline, not the pressure of Chauvin’s knee on his neck for more than nine minutes.

An autopsy found fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system.

Here’s the latest testimony from expert witnesses:

Dr. Martin Tobin

A pulmonologist and national expert on breathing, Dr. Martin Tobin, testified on April 8 that even “a healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died.”

He said the cause of Floyd’s death was low oxygen levels caused by shallow breaths due to Floyd’s body position and the pressure of Chauvin’s knee on his neck.

“Mr. Floyd died from a low level of oxygen. And this caused damage to his brain that we see, and it also caused a PEA arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop,” Tobin said.

Tobin used detailed graphs and photos of the incident to support his contention that Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck and back made it impossible for him to breathe. He asked jurors to feel their own necks as he walked through the mechanics of breathing.

He calculated that Chauvin’s left knee was on Floyd’s neck for more than 90% of the incident.

Citing footage of the incident, Tobin testified that Chauvin placed about 91.5 pounds of pressure just on Floyd’s neck, and that Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than three minutes after there wasn’t “an ounce of oxygen” left in Floyd’s body.

Tobin dismissed a theory presented by the defense that Floyd’s fentanyl use depressed his breathing and led to the high carbon dioxide levels detected in his blood at the hospital. That increase in carbon dioxide was because his body was deprived of oxygen for so long, Tobin testified.

Dr. Daniel Isenschmid

Dr. Daniel Isenschmid, a forensic toxicology expert who did lab work for Floyd’s case, testified on April 8 that Floyd’s hospital blood and autopsy urine contained low levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

He said Floyd’s blood sample had 11 nanograms of fentanyl per milliliter and 5.6 nanograms of norfentanyl per milliliter. He said the level of methamphetamine was “low” and consistent with a prescription dose.

He said those levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine are significantly lower than the average amount seen in blood samples of DUI suspects, and much lower than post-mortem cases for individuals who die from drug overdoses.

Dr. William Smock

Dr. William Smock, an emergency medicine physician who specializes in legal forensic medicine, said Floyd died of positional asphyxia.

Smock said that after reviewing the case there was no evidence Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose, a methamphetamine overdose or any sort of combination of the two, nor from a heart attack. He also ruled out excited delirium.

“He’s breathing. He’s talking. He’s not snoring. He is saying, ‘Please, please get off of me. I want to breathe. I can’t breathe.’ That is not a fentanyl overdose. That is somebody begging to breathe,” Smock said.

The defense tried to suggest during cross-examination that the combination of drugs in Floyd’s system could have played a major role in his death.

Breahna Giles

A forensic scientist for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Breahna Giles, said some of the pills in Floyd’s SUV contained methamphetamine and fentanyl.

She testified on April 7 about evidence collected at the crime scene, in Floyd’s SUV and in the squad car officers tried to place Floyd.

Susan Neith

Susan Neith, a forensic chemic at NMS labs in Pennsylvania, testified on April 7 that two pills found in Floyd’s SUV and a partial pill found in the squad car contained a fentanyl concentration of less than 1%, which she said is common.

The pills contained a methamphetamine concentration of 1.9% to 2.9%, which she described as significantly lower than “street” meth. “The majority of the time I see 90 to 100% methamphetamine,” she added.

Dr. Bradford Langenfeld

Bradford Langenfeld, who was a senior resident in the emergency room at Hennepin County Medical Center in May 2020, testified on April 5 that officers decreased Floyd’s chances of survival by not administering CPR.

“It’s well known that any amount of time that a patient spends in cardiac arrest without immediate CPR markedly decreases the chance of a good outcome — approximately a 10 to 15% decrease in survival for every minute that CPR is not administered,” he said.

Langenfeld was the doctor who declared Floyd dead and said Floyd likely died from asphyxia. This is contrary to the defense’s angle that Floyd died of a heart attack or drug overdose.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson tried to tie Floyd’s death to using fentanyl and methamphetamine — drugs found in his system during an autopsy. Langenfeld agreed that the use of those drugs can cause shortness of breath and suppress breathing.

Floyd was in cardiac arrest for at least an hour — a half-hour as paramedics worked on him and another half hour at the hospital, where Langenfeld and his team worked on him before his death.

Seth Z. Bravinder

Seth Z. Bravinder, who drove the ambulance that transported Floyd to the hospital, testified on April 1 that Floyd wasn’t responsive or breathing when the ambulance arrived.

Video played at the trial shows Bravinder and his partner paramedic, Derek Smith, working on Floyd, placing him on a Lucas device, which does chest compressions, starting an airway, and administering an IV to deliver medicine for his heart.

They moved Floyd into the ambulance and drove a few blocks away to administer care because the initial scene was becoming so crowded.

A monitor showed that Floyd had flat-lined, meaning his heart had stopped. Bravinder said they were never able to restore a pulse.

“Did it appear to you that he was dead when you got there?” prosecutor Erin Eldridge asked.

“I wouldn’t know when I first pulled up,” Bravinder said, “but I didn’t see him moving or breathing.”

Derek Smith

Paramedic Derek Smith appeared nervous to deliver testimony on April 1, and he repeatedly clarified that he felt Floyd was dead when the ambulance arrived.

Video showed at the trial depicts him checking Floyd’s neck for a pulse as Chauvin remained on top of him.

“In a living person, there would be a pulse there,” Smith said. “I didn’t detect one, so I thought this patient to be dead.”

Smith appeared frustrated that the officers hadn’t provided medical care.

“When I arrived to the scene, there was no medical services being provided to the patient,” he said.

He later added: “I don’t know why Minneapolis [Police] didn’t start compressions.”

Genevieve Hansen

Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter, testified on March 30 that she tried to render aid to Floyd but was prevented from doing so.

She said she was off work and walking home when she came upon the scene.

She said Chauvin had his hands in his pockets and looked “so comfortable” while kneeling on Floyd’s neck. She said she felt “totally distressed” when she could not get access to help Floyd.

Instead of being allowed to examine Floyd, she said now-former officer Tou Thao ordered her to get on the sidewalk, telling her, “If you’re really a Minneapolis firefighter, you know better than to get involved.”

“That’s not right — that’s exactly what I should have done,” Hansen said. “There was a man being killed, and I would have — had I had access to a call similar to that — I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities. And this human was denied that right.”

Nicole Mackenzie

A medical support coordinator for the Minneapolis Police Department, Nicole Mackenzie, said on April 6 that officers at the scene should have rendered aid to Floyd.

She’s involved in the medical training of MPD officers, including Chauvin, and said officers are trained to begin CPR immediately and call an ambulance if they do not detect a pulse on a subject.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked her about a phrase officers are heard saying to Floyd in video footage: “If you can talk, you can breathe.”

“That would be incomplete to say,” Mackenzie explained. “Just because they can talk doesn’t mean they can breathe adequately.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

More than 30 million people on alert for severe weather

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ABC NewsBy Max Golembo, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — A new storm will move into the Gulf Coast states Friday with the second-highest alert risk possible for damaging straight-line winds and tornadoes.

States that are in the bullseye Friday are Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.

More than 30 million people are on alert for severe weather in the next 24 hours from Texas to Georgia.

The severe weather threat will not move much Saturday, with tornadoes and damaging winds possible from New Orleans to Atlanta.

Meanwhile, in the West, it’s very dry, windy and warm with high fire danger.

In Arizona Thursday, a 500-acre wildfire forced 200 residents to evacuate north of Tucson. At least 12 structures have been destroyed.

The forward progress of the fire has been stopped. The fire is 20% contained, but evacuations remain in effect in Dudleyville, Arizona.

Nine states from California to North Dakota are under wind alerts and red flag warnings Friday due to low humidity and gusty winds that could quickly spread wildfires.

Several reported tornadoes in eastern Tennessee produced damage to buildings and uprooted trees Thursday. One of the tornadoes in Cumberland was rated as an EF-0 with winds of up to 80 mph.

Tennis ball size hail was reported in Texas, where it covered the ground.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Key takeaways in the Derek Chauvin trial, Day 9

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kuzma/iStockBy BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News

(MINNEAPOLIS) — A world-renowned pulmonologist, who authored the bible on treating breathing disorders, testified on Thursday that George Floyd died from a lack of oxygen to his brain resulting from former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin jamming his knee into the back of Floyd’s neck as he laid pinned to the ground in handcuffs.

Dr. Martin Tobin, a physician in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Loyola University Medical Center and at the Hines Veteran Administration Hospital in Illinois, was called as an expert medical witness for the prosecution.

Tobin, who said he’s not being paid for his testimony, used graphics and 3D images to lead jurors through a series of demonstrations that illustrated the horrific death Floyd suffered. Tobin even provided a second-by-second timeline showing the precise moments the 46-year-old Black man lost consciousness, stopped breathing and suffered a traumatic, irreversible brain injury.

“Mr. Floyd died from a low level of oxygen. And this caused damage to his brain that we see, and it also caused a [Pulseless Electrical Activity] arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop,” Tobin explained.

He testified that he based his opinion on medical and investigative evidence that included hundreds of viewings of numerous videos, filmed from different angles, that showed Chauvin and two other officers taking a handcuffed Floyd to the pavement just after 8 p.m. on May 25 outside a Cup Foods store in south Minneapolis.

Tobin, author of a 1,500-page textbook titled “Principles and Practice of Mechanical Ventilation” — described by the medical journal The Lancet as the bible on the topic — said the manner of Floyd’s death is often referred to as asphyxia.

Asked by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell if he had formed an opinion “to a reasonable degree of medical certainty” about what caused Floyd to suffer a fatal loss of oxygen, Tobin answered that it was shallow breathing to the point where air wasn’t able to get through his lungs and the lower regions of his respiratory tract that filters out carbon dioxide.

That’s the moment the life goes out of his body.

Tobin testified that Floyd’s shallow breathing was the direct result of being handcuffed in a prone position “and then that he has a knee on his neck, and then that he has a knee on his back and down his side.”

The physician said Chauvin’s left knee was on the back of Floyd’s neck for more than 90% of nine minutes and 29 seconds prosecutors said Floyd was restrained on the ground. Tobin said the former officer’s right knee was on Floyd’s back or rammed against the left side of his chest for at least 57% of the time.

He said during the entire episode, Chauvin and former officer J. Alexander Kueng applied additional force by pulling Floyd’s handcuffed wrists up high behind his back.

Tobin said Floyd essentially was squeezed to death as if he were in a vice. Chauvin’s knee jammed into Floyd’s neck narrowed the hypopharynx in his throat, normally the size of a dime, severely restricting his ability to take in air.

During the ordeal, Floyd, who was arrested for the misdemeanor offense of allegedly using a phony $20 bill to buy cigarettes, repeatedly cried out, “I can’t breathe” and complained of pain in his stomach, neck and back.

“I mean, when you have to breathe through a narrow passageway,” Tobin said, “it’s like breathing through a drinking straw.”

The exact moment Floyd died
On Tuesday, the lead investigator in the case, Special Agent James Reyerson of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, testified that Chauvin weighed 140 pounds and had an additional 30 to 40 pounds of equipment on him during the encounter with Floyd.

Reviewing a photo showing Chauvin’s left knee on Floyd’s neck, Tobin noted that at one point the officer’s left boot was raised off the ground and that half his weight was pressing down on the man.

“So, we’re taking half his body weight plus the weight of … half the gear, and all of that is coming directly down on Mr. Floyd’s neck,” Tobin said.

Tobin ruled out the possibility that the fentanyl found in Floyd’s system during the autopsy played a role in his death because he had a normal respiratory rate when the restraint began, and that fentanyl, or at least a significant dose of it, would have lowered his respiratory rate.

Tobin also said his analysis rejected the possibility that Floyd, who suffered from undiagnosed heart disease, died from a sudden heart attack. If that were the case, Floyd would have likely complained about chest pains, and his respiratory rate would have skyrocketed.

At times during his testimony, Tobin asked jurors to place their hands on their throats and the back of their necks as he spoke of certain parts of the anatomy. Defense attorney Eric Nelson objected, prompting Judge Peter Cahill to tell the jury they were not obligated to follow the doctor’s directions but could if they wanted to.

In one dramatic moment, Tobin noted the exact times Floyd went unconscious, stopped breathing and died. At 8:22 p.m. and 22 seconds on May 25, Tobin said, “That’s the moment the life goes out of his body.”

He said that despite the officers checking and realizing Floyd no longer had a pulse, Chauvin kept his knee smashed into Floyd’s neck for another two minutes and 44 seconds, until paramedics arrived and put Floyd’s lifeless body on a gurney.

During cross-examination, Nelson asked Tobin whether he was aware that Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker, whom prosecutors plan to call to the witness stand on Friday, found no bruising on Floyd’s neck nor any injuries to his hypopharynx.

“I’m aware,” Tobin answered.

Nelson challenged Tobin on his opinion that fentanyl played no medical role in Floyd’s death. The defense lawyer asked a hypothetical question of whether peak fentanyl respiratory depression occurs five minutes after ingestion.

“Correct,” Tobin answered.

On redirect questioning, Blackwell asked Tobin why no bruising was found on Floyd’s neck or injuries to his hypopharynx.

“I wouldn’t expect anything to be found there,” he said, “because the effects are not something that will remain at the time of autopsy.”

Toxicology tests
Daniel Isenschmid, a forensic toxicologist for the NMS Labs in Pennsylvania, testified that he was asked by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office to test blood drawn from Floyd’s body the night he died.

Isenschmid, testifying for the prosecution, said Floyd’s blood contained 11 nanograms of fentanyl per milliliter and 19 nanograms of methamphetamine per milliliter. He said he also found 5.6 nanograms of norfentanyl, or metabolize fentanyl, in Floyd’s blood samples as well as traces of caffeine and THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

Isenschmid, the former chief toxicologist for the Wayne County, Michigan, Medical Examiner’s Office, described the fentanyl and methamphetamine found in Floyd’s blood as “low level” traces.

Dr. Bill Smock, the police surgeon for the Louisville Metro Police Department and an expert in emergency medical care and forensic medicine, also said Floyd didn’t die from a drug overdose.

Smock, testifying as a paid prosecution expert, said medical records he reviewed showed that Floyd had been a chronic drug user for years and had built up a tolerance to fentanyl and methamphetamine.

He said the drugs found in Floyd’s system during the post-mortem examination were not at levels close to those required for him to overdose.

“The more you use any drug — in this case, fentanyl — you build up that tolerance, so it takes more drug to give you that high, to affect your brain,” Smock said.

He said that had Floyd been suffering from an overdose, he would have been nearly comatose, likely snoring and unable to speak to the officers.

“He gave appropriate responses: Name, date of birth,” he said, describing what he saw in videos showing Floyd’s arrest. “He knew exactly where he was and what he was doing, and responded appropriately to the questions that were asked of him.”

Smock also said he found no evidence that Floyd possibly died of a sudden heart attack nor that his death was the result of excited delirium, a physical and psychiatric state that produces an imbalance in the brain and causes some people to exhibit “superhuman strength.”

Smock went through a 10-point checklist used to determine whether someone is experiencing excited delirium, including feeling excessively hot, sweating excessively, breathing rapidly, feeling an unusual attraction to glass and mirrors, and failing to respond to a police presence. He said that someone experiencing excited delirium would exhibit at least six of the 10 symptoms.

“So, Dr. Smock,” Blackwell, the prosecutor, asked, “if we have to have a minimum of six of these items — six of 10 for excited delirium — how many did you see?”

Smock responded: “Zip.”

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