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Georgetown Running Club(WASHINGTON) -- The viral hashtags #MilesforMollie and #dcrunners4wendy are reflecting an all-too-scary reality for women today.

Runners in the Washington, D.C., area started #dcrunners4wendy after Wendy Martinez, 35 and newly-engaged, was stabbed to death Tuesday while jogging around 8 p.m. in a busy, well-lit area of the nation’s capital.

Mollie Tibbetts, the inspiration behind #MilesforMollie, was found dead on Aug. 21, more than a month after she went missing during an evening jog in Brooklyn, Iowa.

The killings of two young women while doing something as innocent as running outdoors have sparked fear and outrage.

"It's the unfortunate reality of being a woman," said Alex Morris, a 24-year-old runner in Washington, D.C., and member of the Georgetown Running Club, a competitive running club. "You always have to think extra carefully and it's not even just running."

The deaths of Tibbetts and Martinez came on the heels of two killings last year that also rocked women.

Karina Vetrano, 30, was killed while on an evening jog in Queens, New York, in August 2016.

Five days later, Vanessa Marcotte, a 27-year-old Google employee who lived in New York City, was killed after she left her mother’s home in Princeton, Massachusetts, for a run in broad daylight, officials said.

It's not just women runners who are in danger. Just this week, a 22-year-old collegiate golf player was killed while she was golfing alone on a course in Ames, Iowa.

A conversation that men don't have


And lost among those high-profile, tragic killings are the countless instances the mass public rarely hears about of women who escape attacks, who are cat-called, who are scared, who have to run with pepper spray or alter their routes or skip an activity altogether just because they are trying to exist in this world as a woman on her own.

"We have a big group chat and we’re always talking about how people can be safe and that we should be meeting up more often to go on runs because strength in numbers just makes everyone feel safer," Morris said of her running club. "It's just a topic of conversation that the men’s team doesn’t have to talk about."

A survey last year by Runner's World found more than half of women who run said they are concerned that they could be physically assaulted or receive unwanted physical contact during a run.

In addition to the fear they face, women also face pressure from society to do something ("Don't wear headphones!" "Change your route!" "Never run at night!"), as though the behaviors of often-male perpetrators are their fault.

"I’ve felt frustrated when the media coverage after these incidents focuses on what women should be doing differently with the subtext that they did something wrong, or that they shouldn’t have been running at that time," said Kerry Allen, a 30-year-old elite marathoner and Georgetown Running Club member. "At the end of the day, we have to get to a place that every woman feels safe while moving about the city, whether it’s walking, running, biking, anything."

Allen, who also works full-time on Capitol Hill, said she often has to run early in the morning or late at night, a reality of many women who have to squeeze in workouts wherever and whenever they can.

"I think the unfortunate answer is you can’t always prevent attacks," she said. "I love running. I’m going to keep doing that."

A self-defense expert's advice for women

It is impossible to prevent every attack, experts say, and women should not feel the pressure to do so.

What women can do is empower themselves so they feel stronger and more confident out in the world, says Jennifer Cassetta, a self-defense expert and creator of the Stilettos and Self Defense DVDs.

"I’m personally not going to wait around for men to stop raping," Cassetta told "Good Morning America." "That’s not going to happen in our lifetime so how can we get ahead of that and be empowered to do what we want to do and live our lives."

"It’s about knowing that you have that power," she said.

Cassetta stays away from the stereotypical advice for women like not running alone and not wearing headphones, she adds.

"A man would say that," she said.

Instead, she gives women self-defense advice that doesn't "punish" them.

"For me, teaching is about giving as many choices as possible in these horrible situations," said Cassetta, who notes that even taking one self-defense class can make a huge difference. "There are so many examples of women fighting back and getting away. It does work. Not all the time, but it can."

Cassetta's top 3 empowering tips for women

1. Know the weapons you have on your body and how to use them

Run or walk powerfully with your shoulders back and head up, making eye contact with every person in your path, Cassetta recommends.

If you are attacked, dropping down to a squat or a lunge will drop your center of gravity and make you harder to the throw to the ground, according to Cassetta.

To fight back, Cassetta says to "acquire and fire."

"The eyes, throat and groin are most effective targets because they are all soft targets where you can do the most amount of damage with the least amount of effort," she said. "Scratch or gouge the eyes, give a punch to the throat to disrupt breathing and give a punch or a knee or an elbow to the groin."

2. Be aware of your surroundings

Women should be "alert but calm" when they're out and about, scanning for red flags and not getting too deep into thought, Cassetta says.

"When we’re being alert, our intuition is our inner GPS, it gives us signals and sends us messages," she said. "If we’re too caught up in our to-do list or what we’re stressed about, we can’t hear it."

When it comes to hearing, Cassetta also says don't forgo headphones, but do have the volume low enough so that you can hear the sounds around you.

Also, let other people know of your surroundings too. Designate a friend or family member as your "safety buddy," the person you text to let know when and where you are running and when you will return.

3. Arm yourself

The types of "non-lethal weapons" Cassetta recommends women arm themselves with include pepper spray, a personal alarm, and a sharp object worn as a piece of jewelry, what she calls "weapon jewelry."

"They make you that much more aware because you’re holding onto it and aware of it," she said. "But you need to make sure you know how to use them. If you have pepper spray, make sure you know how to use it and have it accessible."

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iStock/Thinkstock(ABERDEEN, Md.) -- Three people were killed and another three were injured after a woman opened fire at a Rite Aid distribution center in northeast Maryland on Thursday morning.

The 26-year-old female suspect, identified by police as Snochia Moseley, was a temporary employee at the Aberdeen location. She died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler told reporters.

Gahler said the shooter was a Baltimore County resident who showed up for work around 9 a.m. A few minutes later, police received a call about the shooting.

Two victims were killed at the scene and a third died at the hospital, Gahler said. The three other victims are expected to survive, he added.

The shooting occurred at Spesutia Road and Perryman Road in Aberdeen. The Rite Aid facility employs 1,000 workers and manufactures and processes items for delivery to individual stores. A Rite Aid spokesman said the company is "cooperating fully" with the police investigation.

The suspect used a handgun in the attack, Gahler said, adding that police have been scouring the 210,000-square-foot building and interviewing employees for additional information. The shooting likely started outside the large complex, Gahler said.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the FBI assisted local police at the scene.

Former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, herself a victim of gun violence, issued a statement Thursday on the shooting.

"Three workplace active shooting attacks in just the last 24 hours should spark outrage in every American," she said. "Today, it was a drugstore distribution center in Maryland. Yesterday, a software firm in Wisconsin and a municipal building in Pennsylvania. No matter where you work, learn, play, or live - you have a right to feel safe, and I’m horrified that that’s no longer the reality in America."

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.) -- Lauren Hayden said she sensed something was wrong when she went on a date with prominent doctor Grant Robicheaux last year.

"I was in the pool with him, or jacuzzi, and he started trying to rip my top off," she told Good Morning America.

"When I said 'no' it was like he wasn't even hearing me, he just kept going at it," Hayden continued. "He had no concept of personal autonomy, no concept of consent, no concept of no."

Hayden is looking back on the date now because Robicheaux, a Newport Beach orthopedic surgeon who appeared on a reality dating show, and a female companion are facing multiple rape and other felony charges.

The charges against Robicheaux and Cerissa Laura Riley announced earlier this week stem from the accounts of two alleged victims.

Now, more than six other women have come forward with accusations against the pair, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said.

The attorneys for Robicheaux and Riley released a statement Tuesday night "unequivocally" denying "all allegations of non-consensual sex."

"They have been aware of these accusations for a number of months, and each of them will formally deny the truth of these allegations at their first opportunity in court. Dr. Robicheaux and Ms. Riley believe that such allegations do a disservice to, and dangerously undermine, the true victims of sexual assault, and they are eager to have the proper spotlight shed on this case in a public trial," the statement from the attorneys said.

Rackauckas described the process the pair allegedly used to lure women in. They allegedly sent Riley to approach the women first, then proceeded to use drugs or alcohol to incapacitate them and then rape them, often shooting video of the assaults.

During a news conference announcing the charges on Tuesday, Rackauckas said that prosecutors had found "thousands" of videos on Robicheaux's phone that they believe could include other potential victims.

The six other potential victims who have come forward are from at least two other states, New York and Nevada, and a different California county.

Rackauckas said that in these types of crimes, the perpetrators develop a process and continue to use it.

"Usually with MO's [modus operandi], if they work they maintain those consistently," he said.

Hayden said that she went on a date with Robicheaux in 2017 after matching with him on Tinder. She learned about the charges against him when she happened to be reading news on her phone.

"His face came up and I just started screaming," Hayden said. "I just started sobbing."

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iStock/Thinkstock(AMES, Iowa) -- As hundreds of students held an emotional vigil on the campus of Iowa State University, their tears glistening in candlelight, the mother of slain champion college golfer Celia Barquín Arozamena spoke out half a world away.

"It has been bad luck," Miriam Arozamena said Wednesday, addressing reporters for the first time near her family home in Spain. "This could have happened anywhere in the world. This guy went to kill a woman and he came across my girl."
 
Barquín Arozamena, who was named Iowa State female athlete of the year after winning the Big 12 women's golf championship earlier this year, was attacked and stabbed to death on Monday morning on a golf course near Iowa State in what authorities called "a random act of violence."

The suspect in her killing, Collin Daniel Richards, 22, who had been living in a tent next to the golf course, had purportedly told an acquaintance that he wanted to "rape and kill a woman," according to a criminal complaint.

Barquín Arozamena's boyfriend, Carlos Negrin Bolanos, spoke at the vigil, telling the crowd of the life they dreamed of having together.

"We imagined and dreamed our wedding, we dreamed the music for our wedding, we dreamed our dream house," said Negrin Bolanos. "We had named our kids. We were thinking ahead really quick. But you know, you know..."

He said he is not surprised by the outpouring of grief from around the world.

Good people like her "shine so bright that they outcast any wrong action," he said.

Hundreds of students gathered Wednesday night for the vigil near the Campanile, a bell tower on the Iowa State campus in Ames.

They held candles and comforted each other with hugs. Many wrote condolence notes and shared stories of Barquín Arozamena.

"There's a new angel in heaven with an extra bright halo," Jim Alleman, Barquín Arozamena's engineering professor, told the crowd.

Investigators in Iowa are still trying to determine why Richards, who police said has no known address, targeted Barquín Arozamena on Monday morning.

She was stabbed multiple times — suffering wounds to her torso, neck and head — before her body was dumped in a pond on the golf course, according to a criminal complaint against Richards.

Richards was charged Monday with first-degree murder and is being held in jail on $5 million bail.

"I hope people reserve judgment until after the trial," Richards' attorney, Paul Rounds of the Story County Public Defender's Office, told ABC News when reached by phone on Tuesday. He declined to comment further.

Richards, who has a lengthy criminal history, was arrested on Monday after approaching police on a tent encampment next to the Coldwater Links public golf course. He had several fresh scratches on his face and was attempting to conceal a deep laceration to his left hand, the criminal complaint said.

After allegedly killing Barquín Arozamena, Richards showed up at an acquaintance's home near the golf course covered in blood, sand and water and asked if he could take a bath, according to the complaint.

Richards was ordered to return to court Sept. 28 for a preliminary hearing.

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Sonitus(ALEXANDRIA, Virginia) -- Think your new wireless Apple Airpod ear buds are pretty special, don't you?

The U.S. Department of Defense is working with a Silicon Valley startup to fine-tune a crystal-clear, two-way radio so small it clips to your tooth.

The device, nicknamed the "molar mic," is designed to transmit an encrypted, wireless signal clear enough to whisper in a hurricane and hear back with equal clarity -- all inside your head, with no earpiece.

Since the sound of the voice is captured at its source, the cheek and gums create a natural barrier to outside sound, so the radio is designed to work virtually anywhere, according to ABC News interviews with its developers, as well as military officials and experts who have tested the device.

Incoming wireless signals beam directly into the mouth and are converted by the chip into mechanical energy, which imperceptibly vibrates the tooth and travels up through the jawbone –- essentially bypassing the ears -- directly into the brain’s auditory nerves.

The device channels the body’s natural ability to transmit sound internally.

Chew on some crunchy potato chips and you’ll grasp the concept immediately.

Last month, Sonitus – the California firm behind the device -- was awarded a $10 million Department of Defense (DoD) contract to customize the technology to meet the military’s needs. After that, it’s expected to hit the commercial market.

Real-time deals

The "molar mic" project is an early success for the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), a relatively new, specialized team of technology scouts whose mission is to identify existing commercial technology solutions that can be swiftly adapted to meet military needs and make deals in real time.

Traditionally, the Pentagon's contracts with big defense companies to build tanks, ships and planes for the U.S. military can be years in the making and require extensive review, testing and oversight procedures before a product ever rolls off the assembly line. It’s an approach thoroughly unsuited to the technology sector.

In 2015, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the creation of DIU, a small, experimental unit with a modest budget, comprised of civilians, active duty military, reservists and commercial tech executives.

Headquartered in Silicon Valley and designed to operate outside the more traditional, deliberative military bidding process, DIU has so far inked 81 deals worth about $240 million in Pentagon contracts, officials said.

Independent military technology experts told ABC News that DIU is a small but vital component of a larger Pentagon campaign launched under Carter and maintained under current Secretary of State James Mattis to keep pace with technological innovation. Mattis visited DIU's headquarters in Mountain View, California, last year and expressed his support for the program, according to the Associated Press.

"The regular acquisition process is pretty bureaucratic and slow and can be inefficient -- that’s just the reality of it," said Peter W. Singer, a military technology expert who specializes in 21st century warfare.

"So you develop these other projects and programs almost as workarounds to that,” he said. “So much of the key [emerging] technology is already marketized -- whether it’s AI [artificial intelligence] or big data or robotics -- it’s increasingly available on the private market."

Since the commercial developers have usually already brought the product to market, DIU is able to sidestep the steep research and development costs traditionally borne by the government.

They work with the developers to adapt existing technology to meet the relentless needs of a sprawling bureaucracy tasked with protecting the nation from a widening spectrum of threats.

The "molar mic" prototype is based on a concept originally conceived for hearing aids.

Prioritizing AI

Another pilot project involves a high-tech fleet of autonomous drones that was developed with technology for a real estate app, Defense Department officials said.

"Instead of a [military] unit having to kick in a door to a multiple-story building, now they can release multiple small, smart drones into that space that are AI-enabled and autonomous, and not only map the entire structure, but highlight potential threats," Mike Madsen, DIU’s director of strategic engagement, told ABC News.

The unit is also tapping into the rapidly-evolving commercial satellite market, working with companies whose regular customers are futures traders monitoring petroleum holding tanks, or box store executives measuring car traffic in mall parking lots.

Yet another new project DIU is developing is AI-enabled software that predicts the deterioration of parts and the need for maintenance before they actually break down.

Madsen, a former C-17 pilot in the Air Force, recalled one time that a broken part delayed a mission for days.

"We hard broke on an austere airfield and waited five days for a parts and maintenance official," he said.

The evolving AI pilot program, Madsen said, "can crunch billions of data points to understand so many factors."

"We’ll know before parts break, before we leave home station," he added.

AI is one of the chief priorities of an American military establishment that for the first time in its history is falling behind the private sector in a vitally important defense space.

In May, Secretary Mattis wrote a memo imploring President Donald Trump to create a national strategy for artificial intelligence development, according to a report last month in the New York Times, which noted that, to date, the president's response to the memo remains unclear.

Another issue that’s driving the military’s need for a more contemporary approach to technology is competition from the Chinese.

"China has a strategic plan to be the artificial intelligence world leader by 2030," Singer said, "and this effort is being backed by massive investment from the government, the military and the industrial sectors there."

"That has deeply concerned the [U.S.] military, and that’s been the spark for a lot of these efforts," Singer added.

For his part, Madsen seems to have internalized the need for speed in his position.

On the government side, he said, "we work with the DoD to fully and clearly and simply identify their problem -- not with a voluminous list of requirements and explanations of the problem."

On the flip side, DIU seeks solutions from Silicon Valley that can be explained in a five-page white paper or a 15-slide presentation deck, Madsen said.

"We’re looking to put that proposal into a contract award within 60 to 90 days," Madsen said. "Our fastest was 31 days."

'No longer an experiment'

It hasn’t always gone smoothly.

The unit has at times faced resistance from a tech sector still wary of working with the U.S. military and intelligence communities in the wake of analyst Edward Snowden’s staggering 2015 revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) had secretly penetrated the internal systems of Google, Facebook and others.

A $131 million contract known as "Project Maven" that DIU struck with Google to use machine-learning technology to swiftly analyze drone images captured on the battlefield was scuttled after thousands of Google employees, including some who resigned over the issue, objected to the Pentagon contract.

More than 4,000 employees signed a petition which argued that “Google should not be in the business of war," according to Gizmodo, which first reported the development.

Still, DIU appears to maintain the support of the Pentagon’s top brass. When it was launched three years ago, DIU was called DIUx –- with the ‘x’ representing "experimental."

Last month the "x" was removed, marking a vital milestone for the young unit, which since its inception has expanded to include satellite offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Austin, Texas, and the Pentagon.

"Though DIU will continue to experiment with new ways of delivering capability to the warfighter, the organization itself is no longer an experiment," Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan wrote in a memo announcing the name change.

'Safety first'


Many of the DIU pilot projects get on-the-spot testing in real world conditions.

During Hurricane Harvey last year, thousands of first responders and search-and-rescue teams poured into Houston from a range of agencies. Among them was a small unit of Air National Guard pararescuers -- elite, quasi-military rescue specialists trained to operate in the roughest environments on the planet –- who field tested the "molar mic."

Sonitus Chief Operating Officer Peter Hadrovic said that the "Air National Guard unit working with us generally has a dual mission."

"They have an internal, domestic mission and a military mission, so many of the guys that have been outfitted with these systems, in the process of prototyping them, have used them in, for example, Hurricane Harvey, when they were on a civilian search-and-rescue mission," he explained.

While Hadrovic declined to detail all of the new device’s capabilities, the underlying wireless technology -- called "near-field magnetic induction" – is known to be operable underwater, according to outside experts who spoke with ABC News.

The Air National Guard's pararescuer jumpers, or "PJs" as they are known, frequently drop from whirring helicopters into deep floodwaters to execute rescues in hurricanes and other national disasters.

Hadrovic said the device will eventually be marketed commercially to a variety of industries, particularly firefighters, police, search-and-rescue squads and other types of first responders, whose needs in this instance mirror those of the military -- reliable communication in unpredictable conditions.

"Rule number one is clear communication," Hadrovic said. "Communication is safety. Number two is the ability to operate freely."

In many dangerous situations, he said, external headgear can be self-defeating.

"You put equipment on to protect yourself and you impair your ability to communicate," Hadrovic explained. "So putting on respiratory protection, like a firefighter, can break rule number one –- don’t lose communication."

Still, Hadrovic took pains in his interview with ABC News to highlight not just the virtues but the limitations of the "molar mic."

"This is not a brain-machine interface," he stressed, referring to a specific concept of a direct pathway between a human brain and an external device, known as a BMI. "But it’s what we’re moving towards."

He characterized the "molar mic" as something of an early predecessor to even more fascinating future innovations.

"Essentially, when we think of technology -- whether it’s the very first stone that someone picked up to flying a drone, we’ve always used our little monkey fingertips," Hadrovic said.

"And now we’re moving into a world where increasingly it will not just be hands-free and voice-free but even with a connection to the human brain," he added.

"There are all these cool projects [underway] on brain-machine interfaces, allowing [the wearer] to do everything from flying drones with their mind to ordering pizza to a dorm room without every vocalizing it," Hadrovic said. "This is just the start."

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ABC News(CULLEOKA, Tennessee) -- It’s been a year and a half now since high school teacher Tad Cummins ran off with his then 15-year-old student Elizabeth Thomas.

Across the country and in the small town of Culleoka, Tennessee, where the two lived, many have made up their minds about the exact nature of the relationship between Cummins and Thomas.

But Thomas, now 17, is sharing what she says is the real truth about what happened to her.

“[People] think they know what happened,” Thomas told “20/20” in an exclusive interview. “They think that I'm a whore. They think that I like old men and that's not the case.”

Before she was assigned to Cummins’ class, Thomas had been home-schooled her entire life. She and her sister Sarah Thomas told “20/20” their mother abused them at home.

“She would beat our heads up against the dressers,” Sarah Thomas said.

The abuse was so severe, Elizabeth said, that she and her sister finally reported their mother Kimberly Thomas to Child Protective Services. Kimberly Thomas has denied all wrongdoing, but was removed from the home in 2016 and charged with child abuse and neglect. In one case, she was acquitted, but is scheduled for trial on the remaining charges.

The girls’ father, Anthony Thomas, told "20/20" last year that he often worked around the clock as an exterminator to support his five children and insisted he didn’t know that things were so bad at home.

Their mother’s removal prompted Elizabeth Thomas to go to public high school for the first time. She said her classmates bullied her, and she eventually confided in her popular and friendly health teacher, Tad Cummins, then 50 years old.

Over time, Jill Cummins, Cummins’ wife of 30 years, said Elizabeth Thomas became like another member of their family. She said she saw the interactions between her husband and Elizabeth as a “father-daughter relationship,” and Elizabeth started attending church with them.

“In fact, I called her our third daughter sometimes,” Jill Cummins told “20/20” in a previous interview.

The relationship seemed fine until there was a strange interaction between her and Cummins in the school cafeteria, Thomas said.

“I was standing there with a few friends … and then they said, ‘Are you hungry?’ And I went, ‘I don't have a soul or if I did, I'd be hungry,’ or something like that,” Elizabeth Thomas said. “And then he came to me and he pointed at me and said, ‘My soul sees your soul.’ Kind of scary.”

However, in Cummins, Thomas said she thought she finally found an adult she could trust.

“He made me feel like I didn’t have anyone else, and no one really cared about me like he did,” Thomas said.

In an interview last year, Thomas family attorney Jason Whatley told “20/20” soon after the incident began that he believed Cummins targeted Thomas.

“He was specifically grooming this child for a very specific purpose, and that was a relationship. He chose a girl that was clearly having issues, because she went to him for, quote, unquote, counseling. She was the perfect victim,” Whatley said.

Thomas said Cummins convinced her not to seek mental health help.

“Whenever I tried to seek mental help, he told me no,” Thomas said. “I was feeling real low, and I was wanting to get on anti-depressants and try to go to a therapist. And he told me no and not to do it ‘cause it’d change who I was.”

Thomas said Cummins, whom she viewed as “a guardian or a mentor” to her, would tell her lies about himself she knew weren’t true.

“He would describe it as he went in and he killed people and he saved people and he killed Bin Laden,” said Thomas.

Cummins’ behavior became inappropriate when he would message her over Instagram.

“Most of them from him would be sexual text … like sexting. If you know what that — I’m pretty sure you know what that means,” Thomas said with a laugh. “I’m sorry.”

When they were alone in his classroom, she said the verbal communication was just as explicit.

“It was fourth period or fourth block. I can’t remember the conversation. And then next thing I know, he said, ‘You’d look pretty nice naked,’” said Thomas.

But there came a point when Thomas knew it had gone too far.

“Whenever he first kissed me, that was whenever I realized, ‘This is getting too far,’” she recalled. “I didn’t want anyone to really know. I was scared of what would happen if anyone did know. I didn’t want to make him mad or make him want to come after me or anything like that.”

Thomas called Cummins a “head pusher,” explaining that Cummins would sometimes physically push her head and that she was afraid of him most of the time.

“I was afraid to see him angry. He doesn’t take ‘no’ well,” said Thomas.

A student reported seeing Thomas kissing Cummins inside of his classroom to school officials. Over the course of a week, the school — and eventually, local police — investigated, but Thomas denied everything.

But even while the investigation was continuing, Thomas says that the school allowed her to go on a class field trip, where she says Cummins was the chaperone.

Thomas said Cummins took the opportunity to proposition her for sex, but she refused.

Days after the field trip, the school directed both Cummins and Thomas not to have contact with each other.

When Cummins was interviewed by detectives, he described the relationship as “that of a father figure at school” and denied “ever kissing” Thomas. A few days later, Cummins was suspended from the Culleoka Unit School after he was reprimanded for once again allowing Thomas to be in his classroom.

When students found what was happening, “there were a lot of names and teasing that came around and a lot of bullying outside and inside of school,” Thomas said.

“They felt like I ruined his life,” she added.

Even teachers, Thomas said, participated in the teasing.

“A lot of them were made aware, and they also did a lot of the teasing and a lot of the name calling,” Thomas said.

Thomas said Cummins forced her to send him secret messages through social media, even after he was suspended.

“I had to keep in communication with him while he was suspended. And any time that I wouldn't post for a few hours, he would go crazy and say that I was cheating on him and saying if he found out that I was with another boy, he'd kill them,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the bullying at school became intolerable, and Cummins threatened her, saying she had to go on the run with him or else.

“So he started calling my phone … sometimes he’d be threatening to kill himself or ending someone else’s life if I didn’t go,” Thomas said. “He said if he couldn't have me, he'd kill himself. Any time he threatened himself, he'd threaten my family.”

Thomas said she felt trapped, especially when he threatened her with guns.

“He threatened to shoot himself, to use the guns. He had two of them,” said Thomas.

Thomas said she reluctantly agreed to leave town with Cummins.

“I felt really bad about leaving, and I didn’t want to leave, but I knew if I didn’t, something would happen,” said Thomas.

Thomas said she went to a restaurant with an overnight bag at the agreed upon time, but Cummins was late, so she said she left the bag on the ground. Inside the bag was a note that Thomas said she hoped would tip off authorities.

“He told me to write that I was going to New York. That way it’d seem like the police would go up there. He thought they were dumb, but they weren’t,” Thomas said. “That was his plan, but I wrote that I was going to New York City, and I made it sound unbelievable, so they knew I was going the opposite way.”

Thomas said she had also told her sister Sarah, “Call the police if I’m not home by 6.”

“I just wanted the police to be called because I knew once I got in that car, I wasn’t getting out,” Thomas said.

Cummins picked Thomas up at the restaurant after stopping at a local gas station to fill up his tank.

“As soon as we went to go leave, he set a gun in the middle console, and I knew that I wasn’t getting out of the car,” Thomas said. “He made me throw my phone off a bridge and his phone as well, that way the police couldn’t track us. And then he disconnected the GPS by a screwdriver in the glove compartment, and he broke off the front, and then he unhooked the radio and unhooked the GPS.”

As their journey began, Thomas said Cummins kept careful watch over her.

“It was a like a kidnapping. I had to stay in the car with him at all times, and I wasn’t allowed to be in a store without him. And if he was in the store, all the doors had to stay locked, and he’d turn on the alarm.”

Thomas said when they were in Oklahoma, Cummins dyed his beard and got her dye to change her hair color. And when they stayed at hotels, Thomas said she had to sleep next to Cummins.

“At the hotels, I would shower every morning because I felt dirty and disgusting every morning. And he didn’t help at all,” said Thomas.

“The things he would make you do,” Thomas said with a sigh. “It wouldn't help the way that I was feeling. And I'd just try to shower to get away from him, but sometimes he wouldn't let me shower alone 'cause I had to be in the same space with him at the exact same time.”

Thomas said she couldn’t leave the room when he was sleeping.

“He made me sleep naked, and my clothes would be put somewhere else. And he was a light sleeper, so if I moved, he’d be awake. And I couldn’t even use the bathroom at night without him having to stand right there,” said Thomas. “He was really mean and said hurtful things a lot of the time. He called me his wife sometimes and said that we were going to get married and I was going to live with him until I died.”

Cummins even controlled what Thomas ate, she said.

“He told me he likes skinny girls. And I ate what he told me to ‘cause if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get it at all,” said Thomas. “I was hungry.”

Along the way, Thomas said the two stopped in Colorado, including in Aspen, and then Utah, which is where they were when Cummins started buying alcohol for her, Thomas said.

“Because I was having problems, and he was done dealing with them,” said Thomas.

The drive took them across several states, and Thomas said that she covertly collected evidence on the journey.

“From each state that I took, I had rocks, and I’d write what county or wherever we were and then what state. That was if I did get caught or he got caught, and I got rescued, that someone would see the rocks and hopefully he could be charged for each one that he was in,” she said.

Thomas said she knew there was a search for her and Cummins after seeing a news report once on the TV at one of the hotels they stayed at.

“I remember it was a girl announcing it, a nationwide Amber Alert, and I knew it was for me,” said Thomas.

Cummins wanted to continue their journey down south of the border, Thomas said.

“He wanted to go to Mexico 'cause apparently that's free land. And he wanted to go to try to go to Panama because that's where he was before on mission trips,” Thomas said.

Thomas said Cummins bought a kayak, hoping they could kayak all the way to Panama, but when that failed, Thomas decided they were going to go to the Black Bear Ranch commune.

“Because nobody would recognize us, and it was the last, like, free place on Earth, that, where, people come to be free or something like that,” Thomas said. “I knew that once I was at Black Bear Ranch, I couldn’t go anywhere. There was literally nobody out there.”

The commune, which is located off the grid in California, took the pair in, giving them a bed and sharing their food.

But things quickly went south as the couple openly defied the commune’s work rules, staying in bed all day, and Cummins insisted on carrying around a pocket knife for protection.

“The people, they liked me a lot. A lot of them did. It was, kind of, ‘cause I didn’t argue. I’d clean up after myself. I didn’t make too much noise. I was quiet,” said Thomas.

Thomas and Cummins were asked to leave the commune.

“He got mad and took out his knife and then dropped it on the ground and started screaming,” Thomas said. “I thought, ‘This is going to be the end. He’s going to shoot somebody.’”

Down on their luck, the two were taken in by a caretaker, Griffin Barry, who gave them a place to stay in a cabin.

Barry told a neighbor nearby about the couple, and later that night, the neighbor warned him that the two might be the fugitives featured in an Amber Alert. Barry and the neighbor called police. With the tip, authorities raced to the small town in North California and surrounded the cabin.

“I came out of the cabin and it was early morning. I think he went to go wash out our dishes from the night before. But then I saw someone up on the hill,” Thomas said. “I knew it was the police. And as soon as he walked around the bush, all you hear is, ‘Hands up. It’s over.’”

Thirty-eight days after Thomas left her home in Tennessee, she was finally found.

“That was the best day of my life,” she said.

Before police could take Cummins away, she said he whispered one last thing to her.

“He said not to tell them that we have done anything, that he forced me to go. Say that I went willingly. Say that he was trying to protect me,” Thomas said. “He told me to go along with it.”

Eventually, Thomas detailed her story to the police, no longer afraid of what her teacher could do to her.

“I know he’s a bad man, and I’ve blamed myself a lot. But now I know that he’s at fault. He himself made him do it. Other people don’t choose your actions. You do,” she said.

Cummins' attorney declined to comment for this report.

Going home was overwhelming for the teen, who said she was bombarded by people and their questions for her. Thomas entered inpatient counseling.

Thomas’ family is suing the school board for allegedly failing to protect her from Cummins. The school board referred ABC News to the response it filed in court, which “denies it failed in any of its obligations” OR “permitted conditions to empower a predator” and that injures were solely "the result of the acts of Tad Eric Cummins."

Thomas insists adults around her could have saved her from what she experienced.

“Why didn’t they notice? They knew. And they know that they knew. And I really hope they feel guilty about it,” Thomas said. “I pray that one day they might say something and speak up that they knew. And if they don’t, great shame on them.”

Cummins pleaded guilty to crossing state lines for sex with a minor and faces up to 30 years in prison.

Today, Thomas is living with her older brother back in her hometown in Tennessee.

“It’s like home, and some people recognize me and call me out. Some people don’t,” she said. “This where I’m going to be at. They’re going to have to deal with it.”

She is focusing on what she can: moving on. She works at a coffee shop and has a boyfriend and a new puppy. She is working on getting her GED and then plans on going to college with the hopes of becoming a medical examiner.

When asked what her dreams are for her life, Thomas said, “To have a family and protect them and not let them lead down the road like I was and make them have a better life. I am a stronger person than I was and I’m not afraid.”

Watch the full story on ABC News' "20/20" FRIDAY at 10 p.m. ET.

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Twitter/@lmedsker(WASHINGTON) -- Dozens of senior citizens were saved from a raging apartment fire thanks to Washington D.C. firefighters and several U.S. Marines, eyewitness video showed.

The Marines, who weren't wearing fire gear, sprinted toward the two-alarm fire at the Arthur Capper Senior Public Housing building in Washington on Wednesday.

"Marines rushed into the building to rescue those who needed assistance and evacuated residents to the Marine Barracks Washington Annex where they were checked and treated for any injuries and sheltered until their loved ones arrived," according to a statement from the Marines posted on Facebook.

The Marines who responded were from a barracks located just down the street from the inflamed building.

Flames burst through the roof of the four-story building as firefighters climbed ladders and entered to search for residents, D.C. Fire Chief Milton Douglas said at a press conference.

"We had four transports to local hospitals," Douglas added.

Although no fatalities have been reported, searches were still being conducted in the building.

The cause of the fire, Douglas added, remains under investigation.

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KABC(LOS ANGELES) -- A pair of Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies were injured in a fatal shootout on Wednesday after responding to a call about a man with a deadly weapon, authorities said.

The deputies were responding to a scene near a park in East Los Angeles around 6:30 p.m. when three suspects opened fire as the officers approached them, according to police. At least one of the deputies managed to fire back and one of the suspects were killed.

"They approached the vehicle, and the suspects inside the vehicle got out and engaged them with gunfire," L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said during a Wednesday press conference. "Both our deputies were hit. They went down and additional units responded and also, I believe, engaged the suspects.”

McDonnell said the officers were shot in the upper body area and were transported to a trauma center in serious but stable condition.

He would not disclose their identities, but McDonnell said the deputies were in their early 30s and "very season," with more than 10 years of experience.

Police have not disclosed details about the suspects other than confirming one was killed at the scene, one was wounded and hospitalized and the third was arrested.

The department said it planned to conduct a "long and exhaustive" investigation over the next few days and is asking anyone with knowledge about the shootout to come forward.

"We really need your help. If people do not come forward, then it empowers people who are willing to do these kinds of acts of senseless violence," McDonnell said. "We need to take a stand as residents of Los Angeles County [to show] that we won’t tolerate this."

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(WASHINGTON) -- A suspect has been arrested in the fatal attack of a woman who was stabbed multiple times while jogging in a trendy neighborhood in the nation's capital just a few miles from the White House.

Police sources told ABC News Thursday morning that an arrest was made in the slaying of Wendy Karina Martinez and that the suspect is expected to appear in court later today. The suspect's name was not immediately released.

Washington D.C. Chief of Police Peter Newsham and Mayor Muriel Bowser are expected to provide details of the arrest at a press conference.

Martinez, 35, stumbled into a Chinese restaurant in Washington D.C.’s Logan Circle on Tuesday night, suffering from multiple stab wounds to the neck, police said. Martinez tried to alert customers to her attacker, but the suspect had already fled the scene, witnesses said.

She was transported to a nearby hospital where she succumbed to her injuries, police said.

"They tried to provide medical assistance to her. Unfortunately, she was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead," D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said Wednesday. "It is more likely a random act than anything else, but we're going to look at all possibilities."

"It's horrible to see something like this happen in the city," he added, describing the area as a "very safe neighborhood."

Martinez was an "avid runner" and worked for a local software company, according to her family. She and her fiancé, Daniel Hincapie, were engaged last week.

"We are deeply saddened by this senseless tragedy. Wendy Karina Martinez was the light of our lives," her mother, Cora Martinez, wrote in a statement. "Not only was she an avid runner, but she was a devout Christian, a wonderful friend, and a driven professional. Everything you hope that a daughter and a friend could be."

FiscalNote, where Wendy Martinez served as chief of staff, tweeted its condolences to her family on Wednesday.

"The entire FiscalNote family is shocked and deeply saddened to learn that Wendy Martinez, our Chief of Staff, was killed last night," the company wrote. "Wendy was an invaluable member of our team and a vibrant member of the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with Wendy's family and friends."

The Metropolitan Police Department released surveillance footage of a suspect that showed a man wearing a long-sleeved mustard-colored shirt, flip flops and white socks.

The police department had put up a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

"We ask that you respect our privacy as we grieve the passing of her beautiful soul and inform her friends and family of this terrible news," the victim's mother said in her statement. "We also want to encourage the community to please contact the police with any information that may lead to finding justice for Wendy."

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iStock/Thinkstock(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) -- For over 16 hours on Sept. 20, 2017, an island of more than 3 million people was battered by the Category 4-hurricane-force winds and rain of Maria.

The toll taken on Puerto Rico became evident immediately: total destruction of an electrical grid and telecommunication services, and an economic cost of nearly $140 billion.

But it was the human toll that took the longest to grasp.

"I said we all have some sort of PTSD. It's a trauma. It's not, it's not a shock, it's a trauma," San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz told ABC News on Wednesday.

Death by heart attack, flying debris, suicide -- those were among the earliest causes after the storm.

Outflows of information became close to impossible in the days after the storm, yet anecdotes of those who died reverberated across the island.

A month after Maria, the government reported the death toll at 51, acknowledging that there had been more than 900 cremations on the island after Maria.

The following months saw a flurry of academic and journalistic reporting that showed the death toll was in the thousands.

Nearly 11 months after the storm, an independent study from George Washington University reported that an estimated 2,975 had died after Maria.

The report's findings were accepted by the Puerto Rican government, which revised its death toll from the storm up from 64. The report was criticized by President Donald Trump, who on Wednesday said that Hurricane Florence was "one of the wettest we've ever seen from the standpoint of water" and who tweeted after the independent report on Puerto Rico was released, "3000 people did not die," based on no evidence whatsoever.

"When I left the Island," Trump's tweet continued, "AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000." The president added, "This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!"

Cruz, who has sparred with the president over the federal government's response to the storm, called his remarks "unhinged," adding, "He has a total lack of touch with reality. ... What did he think he was going to gain by continuing to politicize this? You know this is not about the president."

More than 130 lawmakers sent a letter to Trump a day before the anniversary of the storm’s landfall, calling his comments "grossly inaccurate, callous, embarrassing and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President of the United States." The lawmakers added: "You sought to distort the truth and, in doing so, gravely insulted the mourning families of the thousands of American citizens who died from Maria and the storm's aftermath."

Following the president's tweets, Gov. Ricardo Rossello said, "The victims in Puerto Rico, and the people of Puerto Rico, do not deserve that their pain is questioned."

"This is not a moment to fight, or to make political noise, or to use this to benefit one side or another," Rossello added. "This is a moment to remember all those that lost their lives. It is a moment to recognize their pain and sacrifice that all have made for the recovery efforts."

In a statement referring to its study of the death toll after the storm, George Washington University said: "We stand by the science underlying our study, which found there were an estimated 2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria," adding, "This study, commissioned by the Government of Puerto Rico, was carried out with complete independence and freedom from any kind of interference."

"The duty that every government has is doing the simplest task to make sure that people live," said Cruz, thinking back to the president's October trip to Puerto Rico. "When I met him, I shook his hand and said, 'This is not about politics sir. It's about saving lives.'"

The anniversary of the storm will be marked throughout the island with ceremonies to remember the death and to celebrate those who survived. The main commemoration will take place this afternoon in San Juan.

Today "will be a day of reckoning, a day of understanding, a day of sorrow," Cruz said. "But it will also, I think, I hope, it will be the beginning of starting anew."

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iStock/Thinkstock(WAUKESHA, Wisconsin) -- A Wisconsin woman was caught on tape breaking out of her handcuffs and escaping from a local police station, authorities said.

Thirty-year-old Amber Gonzales was arrested last Friday at the Beaumont Hotel for theft and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Officers took Gonzales to a holding cell in the Waukesha Police Department, where surveillance video shows her alone in the holding cell on her cell phone, allegedly trying to coordinate bail and a ride home.

Video footage captures the 97-pound-woman wiggling and pulling her hand through the cuffs in less than a minute -- despite police telling ABC News affiliate WFRV that they placed the handcuffs on the tightest setting.

The defendant stated in the complaint from the Clerk of Circuit Court Waukesha County reviewed by ABC News that she became anxious about going to jail and not seeing her children.

Once she freed herself, Gonzales proceeded to escape the holding cell and walk out of the building from an emergency exit.

She further explained in the complaint that she “took the keys from a door handle and used them to open the door and get outside.”

She then went to a gas station and met up with a truck driver -- since identified as James W. Humbert, according to the complaint.

The pair went back to the same hotel where she was initially arrested and the truck driver then allegedly paid Gonzales for sex.

Humbert told police in the complaint that he had met Gonzales at a nearby Wendy’s location two weeks prior to the incident.

“He eventually admitted that he was going to the hotel to engage in prostitution with the defendant”, a law enforcement official noted in the complaint.

About an hour after her escape, police re-arrested her at the hotel on prostitution charges.

This time officers booked her at the Waukesha County Jail, where she was released Monday on bail.

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Google Maps(CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- Two South Carolina sheriff's deputies who were transporting a pair of mental patients in a van that was overcome by flood waters -- drowning the two women, who were chained in the back of the van -- have been placed on administrative leave, authorities said on Wednesday.

Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson identified the deputies as Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop.

“We are sorry," Thompson told ABC affiliate WPDE, moments after the bodies were recovered and with tears in his eyes. "We take a lot of pride in what we do. We work hard to protect and serve our citizens. We are just so very sorry this event has taken place."

The bodies of Windy Newton, 45, of Shallotte, N.C. and Nicolette Green, 43, of Myrtle Beach, were taken to Charleston, South Carolina, for an autopsy, the Horry County Sheriff's Office said in a statement Wednesday, according to WPDE.

The women were being transported following involuntary commitments by a physician, according to the sheriff's office. They were on Highway 76 in Conway, South Carolina, when the roadway was washed out, the released stated.

The deputies who were transporting the two women to a different facility in South Carolina were saved, local law enforcement officials told ABC News late Tuesday.

The sheriff's office is "pleased" that the victims' bodies were recovered, thanking all of the responding agencies for their efforts.

The deputies who were in the van tried to extricate the patients, but, due to rapidly rising floodwaters, were unable to open the van's doors to reach the shackled women, according to a statement from County Sheriff Phillip Thompson. Rescue teams responded in time to save the deputies.

The coroner in neighboring Marion County confirmed the two deceased patients were female, and the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division is investigating the incident, according to the statement.

"Tonight's incident is a tragedy,” Thompson said in the statement. "Just like you, we have questions we want answered. We are fully cooperating with the State Law Enforcement Division to support their investigation of this event."

The patients were being transported from Loris Hospital Waccamaw Center for Mental Health to McLeod Health, which runs multiple facilities in the region, according to WPDE.

The incident happened in the area of the Little Pee Dee River, which branches off from the Lumber River, in Mullins, South Carolina. The Lumber River overflowed its banks following the record rains dumped by Hurricane Florence.

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iStock/Thinkstock(MASONTOWN, Pa.) -- The gunman who opened fire at a Pennsylvania courthouse Wednesday afternoon was scheduled for a hearing on assault charges he received weeks ago, according to authorities.

Four people were shot at the municipal building that houses the Fayette County Magistrate Court in Masontown, Pennsylvania, a spokesperson for the Fayette County Emergency Management told ABC News.

The gunman entered the lobby shortly after 2 p.m. and began shooting with a handgun, said Lt. Steven Dowlin, station commander of the Pennsylvania Police Department's Troop B, which handles Fayette County.

Police officers from the Masontown Borough Police Department and German Township Police Department then entered the lobby, and Masontown Police Sgt. R. Scott Miller was shot after he engaged the gunman, Dowlin said.

After Miller took cover, the gunman continued into the building and shot two males and one female, said Fayette County District Attorney Rich Bower. At the time, several people were in the courtroom, including Fayette County Magisterial District Judge Daniel Shimshock, his staff, an assistant district attorney, several defense attorneys and multiple police officers, Bower said. But, the gunman never made it inside the room.

A German township police officer then shot the gunman multiple times, killing him, Dowlin said. He was pronounced dead at the scene but was not identified pending next of kin.

The suspect was scheduled for his hearing on charges of strangulation, aggravated assault and simple assault from an incident that occurred a few weeks ago, Bower said. He had an order of protection issued against him as a result of the strangulation charge, the district attorney added.

All four of the injured were taken to local hospitals with non-life threatening injuries, Dowlin said. Miller is currently recovering in the hospital in good condition, Bower said.

More people would have been lost had it not been for the "rapid" response of the officers, Dowlin said.

Although Shimshock's office is located in the building, neither he or any of his staff were targets of the shooting, Bower said. There were 30 to 40 cases scheduled for hearings that day, Bower said.

More than a dozen police officers surrounded the building in the aftermath of the shooting, aerial footage shot by ABC Pittsburgh affiliate WTAE-TV showed. The entrance of the building was cordoned off with yellow police tape, and the glass on the front door appeared to be broken.

A medical helicopter could be seen hovering nearby, waiting to airlift possible patients to the hospital.

A witness told WTAE-TV that a man opened fire on a woman running across the street.

Broadwater said the number of shootings in the areas are "getting out of hand," referencing a mass shooting that occurred in January in Fayette County and a potential shooting at Uniontown High School that was thwarted.

A nearby school was placed on lockdown in the aftermath of the shooting.

The investigation is ongoing.


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iStock/Thinkstock(GOODRICH, Texas) -- A great-grandmother in Texas hit an alligator in the bullseye earlier this week, killing the massive reptile with one shot to its head, she told a local news station.

Livingston Mayor Judy Cochran believes the gator she found on her family ranch along the Trinity River in Goodrich, Texas, is responsible for her miniature horse who went missing three years ago, she told ABC Houston station KTRK-TV.

The gator likely ate the horse, which was about the size of a Labrador retriever, she said.

On Monday, Cochran shot the gator in the same pond where her grandson killed one in 2009, the Houston Chronicle reported. He was only 5 years old at the time, the Chronicle reported.

"One shot in the head and he went under," Cochran said of her kill. "Typically, they'll do a death roll and roll over and over and over, but this one didn't."

The alligator, which measured in a 12 feet and 580 pounds, was taken to a local taxidermist. Cochran plans to mount its head and tail in her office, make boots from its hide and eat the meat, she said.

Residents in Polk County are only permitted to kill alligators 20 days out of the year, according to KTRK-TV. The gator must be baited and caught before it's killed, the station reported.

This year was full of firsts for Cochran, according to KTRK-TV. She was elected as mayor in May, became a great-grandmother for the first time earlier this month and can now call herself a killer of predators.

"Don't mess with Nana," she said.

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WKOW(MIDDLETON, Wisconsin) -- Three people were shot and injured in a workplace shooting in Middleton, Wisc., on Wednesday morning, a city about 6 miles outside of Madison.

The suspect was shot by officers after the incident at WTS Paradigm, a software company, Middleton Police Chief Charles Foulke said at a news conference.

The victims and suspect have been taken to area hospitals, police said.

Middleton police initially advised residents to lock their doors and stay inside. Police later declared that no other suspects are outstanding and the public is no longer in danger.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tweeted, "We are closely following this situation. Our thanks go out to first responders on the scene."

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WJTN Headlines for Sept. 20, 2018

There are problems with an overpopulation of deer in some parts of Jamestown, but now there is also an issue with the predators that hunt them....     That was brought into c...

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