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JROTC cadet who died saving fellow students posthumously admitted to West Point

A 15-year-old Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School freshman who, dressed in his JROTC uniform, died while holding a door open so his fellow classmates could escape a gunman with an assault rifle, has been posthumously admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

One of Peter Wang’s life goals was to attend West Point. Though that dream died on Feb. 14 with Wang and 16 of his classmates and teachers, officials at West Point offered him admission to the prestigious program on Tuesday, the day of his funeral. 

Officials took to West Point’s Facebook page to honor Wang, who they said lost his life in service to others.

“The U.S. Military Academy honors Peter Wang with an honorary admission for his bravery and selflessness,” the post read. “One of West Point's priorities is to develop leaders of character who are committed to the values of duty, honor, and country. Peter Wang's actions on February 14th are an example of those very principles and for this reason, the academy honors his dream of being a West Point cadet with a 2025 letter of acceptance.”

“It was an appropriate way for USMA to honor this brave young man,” an official statement from West Point’s public affairs office stated. “West Point has given posthumous offers of admissions in very rare instances for those candidates or potential candidates whose actions exemplified the tenets of duty, honor and country.”

The statement also offered the officials’ deepest condolences to Wang’s family and the Stoneman Douglas community. 

Wang has also been awarded the JROTC Medal of Heroism, along with two of his fellow slain freshmen. The Miami Herald reported that Wang would be buried with the medal pinned to his chest.

“It’s my understanding that this is an open casket service and the family requested their son be buried in his JROTC uniform,” U.S. Army Cadet Command spokesman Michael Maddox told the Herald. “The JROTC heroism medal will be on his uniform, but a second ‘keepsake’ medal will be given to the family.”

Maddox told the newspaper that Alaina Petty’s family received her medal Monday at the 14-year-old’s funeral, held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Coral Springs. The family of Martin Duque, also 14, will be presented with his metal at his funeral on Saturday. 

Like Wang, Petty and Duque were members of Stoneman Douglas’s JROTC program.

JROTC.com indicates that the Medal of Heroism is a “U.S. military decoration given by the Department of the Army to a JROTC cadet who performs a heroic act.

“The achievement must be an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding that it clearly sets the individual apart from fellow students or from other persons in similar circumstances,” the website states. “The performance must have involved the acceptance of danger and extraordinary responsibilities, exemplifying praiseworthy fortitude and courage.”  

Maddox told the Herald that additional cadets at Stoneman Douglas may receive awards for courageous actions they took the day of the massacre. For example, junior Colton Haab and other cadets, upon hearing gunshots, ushered several dozen students into the JROTC room.

The cadets grabbed Kevlar sheets used for marksmanship practice and held them up in front of their terrified classmates to shield them from bullets.

“We took those sheets and we put them in front of everybody so they weren’t seen, because they were behind a solid object and the Kevlar would slow the bullet down,” Colton told CNN the day after the shooting. “I didn’t think it was going to stop it, but it would definitely slow it down to make it from a catastrophic to a lifesaving thing.”

“However, the immediate focus right now is on supporting the funerals with dignity and honor, so deserved by these cadets and their families,” Maddox told the Herald. 

Wang became one of the heroes in the shooting after witnesses reported that he held open doors for several other students to flee the gunfire coming from the AR-15 in the hands of accused gunman Nikolas Cruz. Cruz, 19, a former Stoneman Douglas student who was expelled last year, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. 

Wang’s friends and supporters established a White House petition seeking full military honors for his burial. By Tuesday afternoon, more than 66,000 people had signed the petition.

A petition must reach 100,000 signatures to get a response from the White House. 

Sheriff on little girl’s murder: ‘This case has weighed on us’

North Carolina authorities announced Tuesday that the adoptive parents of a missing 13-year-old girl are now facing murder charges in connection with her disappearance and death.

>> Read more trending news 

Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten said Casey and Sandy Parsons, the adoptive parents of Erica Parsons, will be charged with murder in the girl’s death, nearly five years after the girl was reported missing and some seven years after she disappeared.

A Rowan County grand jury indicted Casey and Sandy on charges of first-degree murder, felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury, felony concealment of death, and felony obstruction of justice, Auten said.

February 17 would have been Erica's 20th birthday.

>> Related: Special Section: Erica Parsons Case

Erica's case has haunted the community since 2013, and Auten expressed pride when announcing authorities had gotten the break they had been waiting for that allowed murder charges to be brought forth.

"This case has weighed on us pretty heavy," the sheriff said during a news conference. "We just did not want to leave a little girl out there. We wanted to bring her home."

>> Related: Timeline: Erica Parsons case

Erica's adopted brother reported her missing in July 2013, but investigators discovered the Rowan County girl had not been seen since 2011.

Her remains were eventually discovered in September 2016 in rural Chesterfield County, South Carolina, and the horrific details of her autopsy were released last month.

>> Related: Officials: Woman started massive blaze after losing home in divorce 

Casey and Sandy Parsons are both in federal prison, sentenced in 2015 for accepting Erica's federal benefits after she disappeared. Neither had been charged with her death until Tuesday.

The pair will be brought back to Rowan County sometime in the coming weeks to answer for the state charges.

Man falls off cliff, dies while trying to save his dog

A 67-year-old man died Monday after he fell from a 500-foot cliff in California while trying to help his dog, who was partway down the cliff, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

The man, who was not identified, had been hiking with his dog when it went over the edge of a cliff at Thornton State Beach, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The dog became stranded partway down the cliff, KGO reported. The man attempted to help his dog, but slipped and fell from the cliff, according to the news station. Officials with the CHP said the section of cliff from which the man fell was about 500 feet tall.

With the help of a CHP helicopter, first responders found the man in grave condition. He was pronounced dead at the scene a short while later.

Officials said the man’s dog was recovered safely. It was reunited with its family Monday.

Thief uses oxygen tank to blow up ATM, police say

Courtney Brimanson and her husband were sound asleep when they heard an explosion miles away from their Mableton home. 

>> Read more trending news 

“It just woke me up, out of a dead sleep,” she told WSB-TV, “and I was trying to figure out what had happened.” 

That explosion was a thief using an oxygen tank to blow up an ATM on Veterans Memorial Parkway, Cobb County police said. 

Cobb fire officials said a suspect is in custody, but the name has not been released, WSB reported.

Police do not know how much money was stolen from the machine, which hasn’t been replaced. 

Officials are still investigating what the thief used with the oxygen tank to make the ATM explode. 

>> Related: Police: Teen girl staged robbery, set up friend to be victim

“I was really thankful everybody was OK,” Brimanson said. “I was worried somebody got hurt.”

Mueller investigation: Lawyer pleads guilty to lying to investigators in Russia probe

An attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to the FBI in the agency's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump's campaign.

The charges against lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan are the latest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

READ MORE: Who is Rick Gates and why was he indicted by Robert Mueller?Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation?What are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with?MORE

Bride stuck in elevator almost misses reception

You don’t want to be late for a wedding reception, especially if you’re the bride.

That’s what happened to a bride in Rhode Island, The Associated Press reported.

Melissa Rodger was on her way to the 18th floor at the Providence Biltmore hotel over the weekend.

>> Read more trending news 

The elevator stopped 4 feet short of the floor, the AP reported.

It took the aid of firefighters to get the bride on her way to her party.

The rescue took about 45 minutes to happen, but the reception was only delayed for about 20 minutes, the AP reported.

A repair person got the elevator working later.

Missing Uber, Lyft driver found at LA hospital

A California man who worked for two ride sharing services and had been missing for more than a week was found Monday night in a Los Angeles hospital, KABC reported

>> Read more trending news

Joshua Thiede, an Uber and Lyft driver, was last seen around 11:30 a.m. Feb. 11 in Los Angeles, KABC reported.

The next day, his mother said a 911 call had been made from his home but the caller had hung up.

On Monday, Thiede’s car was found in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles, KABC reported.

Details were sketchy about how Thiede was found, and his friends did not release any further information, the station reported.

Thiede’s mother  released a statement early Tuesday morning on Facebook, thanking her friends and family who helped her check and verify leads. She ended the post with the hashtag #JoshThiedeHasBeenFound.

FBI: Partygoer broke off 2,000-year-old statue’s thumb, took it home after selfie shot

A statue that stood guard, buried and undamaged for more than 2,000 years, couldn’t contend with a man at a private party in Philadelphia who just had to sneak off and take a selfie, according to multiple media reports.

The man, later identified as Michael Rohana, 24, was seen in a restricted area at the Franklin Institute during a party on Dec. 21 that was held after-hours at the museum, The New York Times reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The museum discovered the missing digit on Jan. 8. FBI officials then identified Rohana as a suspect a week later.

FBI officials said Rohana used his cellphone’s flash as a light source to see the displays. He then put his arm around one of the famous Terracotta warriors to snap a selfie, The New York Times reported. After the photo-op, the FBI said Rohana then snapped off the thumb from the statue’s left hand and took it home to Delaware.

FBI officials said Rohana admitted to taking the thumb from the statue. He then took agents to his bedroom to retrieve the thumb from his desk, The Washington Post reported.

The statue is at the Franklin Institute with nine others currently on loan from China. It is worth $4.5 million, USAToday reported.

The installation runs until March 4.

Rohana has been charged with theft of an object of cultural heritage from a museum, concealment of the object and interstate transportation of stolen goods. He’s free on $15,000 personal recognizance bond, The Washington Post reported.

Museum officials said that a security contractor didn’t follow the museum’s closing procedures after the party, The New York Times reported.

For more on the history of the Terracotta warriors, click here.

Officials: Woman started massive blaze after losing home in divorce

Authorities said a Georgia woman accused of setting a fire that spread to 19 houses started it in the house she lost in a divorce.

>> Read more trending news

Paulding County fire officials said Adrienne Satterly, 41, of Hiram, stacked a pile of mattresses in the living room of the home, on Rosemont Court in Hiram, early Sunday morning.

She then lit the mattresses on fire and left the house with her two cats, fire officials said.

The fire spread to 19 separate homes in the Greystone Subdivision, destroying four homes and damaging 16 others, firefighters said. The fire was reported at 3:25 a.m.

Satterly is charged with 14 counts of first-degree arson and three counts of aggravated animal cruelty.

Neighbors told WSBTV that they ran out of their homes with almost nothing but their lives.

“I lost my two dogs, which is the hardest thing because material things can be replaced, but my dogs is my -- that breaks my heart,” neighbor Auzalea Godfrey said.

Fire investigators said Satterly called 911 after walking about an hour to a nearby Walmart after starting the fire.

Satterly remained jailed Tuesday in Paulding County, where she is being held without bond.

Neighbors said she gave them no warning.

Police: Teen girl staged robbery, set up friend to be victim

A 17-year-old Texas girl and two underage accomplices are accused of staging a robbery and subsequent carjacking in a bid for cash, according to investigators.

Susan Marie Mize, of Spring, is charged with aggravated felony robbery, according to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. The two alleged accomplices, ages 16 and 15, are also being charged in the case. 

Lt. Scott Spencer, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said in a news release Monday that deputies were called to a grocery store near Spring on Friday because two teens had reported to Harris County deputies that they’d been robbed in Montgomery County. 

The responding deputies learned that their Harris County counterparts were called to two separate homes where Mize and her friend, whose name is being withheld because he is a victim of a crime, each said they were robbed, Spencer said

Investigators learned that Mize asked her male friend if he wanted to earn $150 by driving a couple of her friends to Houston, Spencer said. He agreed, and the pair drove to a park in Montgomery County to pick up Mize’s friends.

They met with the 16-year-old boy and, while awaiting their second alleged passenger, the 15-year-old boy, wearing a mask, approached the driver’s side door of the male victim’s car and brandished what the victim thought was a handgun, according to the news release.

The 15-year-old ordered the victim into the backseat of the car while the older suspect waved a knife around and ordered that the victim be tied up with Mize’s shoelaces, Spencer said.

“The two males then robbed (the victim) of the money in his wallet while striking him numerous times and threatening his life with the knife and gun,” Spencer said

The two male suspects then drove the victim to a store and untied him so he could use the ATM inside to withdraw cash from his account, the news release stated. The 16-year-old went inside with him.

“The suspect and (victim) return to the car, at which time (the victim) is tied back up with Susan’s shoelaces,” Spencer said. “The suspects then take Susan home, per her request. Susan is dropped off at her residence, but never calls 911 to report what was happening to (the victim).”

The victim convinced the underage boys that he had more cash at home that he would hand over if they drove him there. When the trio arrived at the boy’s home, the suspects waited for him in the car while he went inside.

The victim immediately locked the door and told his parents what happened, Spencer said. His parents called the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. 

>> Read more trending news

The boys fled in the victim’s vehicle, which Harris County deputies soon found at another park, along with the teens. Both were taken into custody. 

During the subsequent investigation, detectives learned that Mize was part of the plan, Spencer said. 

“Susan believed (the victim) was an easy target and the plan was for the males to rob him for the money in his wallet,” Spencer said. “Susan advised (that) tying (him) up and taking his car was not her idea or part of the plan.”

Investigators who searched the car said they found a kitchen knife and two guns, both of which turned out to be BB guns, the news release stated. 

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