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Phototreat/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of U.S. Border Patrol agents has declined over the past year, despite President Donald Trump’s emphasis on increasing the ranks of the agency to carry out his border security agenda.

There are currently 19,407 agents, which is 335 fewer agents than 10 months ago, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data.

However, CBP, which oversees Border Patrol hiring, said it expects that it will hire more agents before the end of the fiscal year is over. And the agency expects it will hire more total agents this year compared to last year.

The numbers "don’t tell the whole story," said CBP Office of Human Resources Management Assistant Commissioner Linda Jacksta.

"We’re starting to see some momentum. We’re starting to see some traction. We’ve implemented a number of improvements over the past two years. Those are starting to mature and take root," she told ABC News.

She acknowledged those implementations "take time," but said that for the first time in the last two years, the agency was starting to see "real gains."

In January, Trump signed an executive order directing CBP to immediately begin the process of hiring 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents. The order also called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hire 10,000 federal agents and officers.

A recent Department of Homeland Security inspector general report found that both agencies are facing "significant challenges" in identifying, recruiting and hiring the number of law enforcement officers mandated in the executive orders.

The report also found that neither CBP nor ICE could provide "complete data to support the operational need or deployment strategies" for the additional 15,000 agents and officers they were directed to hire.

“We know that the president wants us to hire 5,000 agents, so we look forward to seeing how Congress enacts the budget for ’18 and that will tell us what we’re funded to hire, recognizing that we want to meet or exceed those goals to the greatest extent that we can," said Jacksta.

Another inspector general report, released in August, found that CBP administered polygraph tests to applicants after they had already given information "disqualifying" them from being hired.

The testing cost CBP about $5.1 million on more than 2,300 polygraphs, between 2013 and 2016, for applicants with “significant pre-test admissions of wrongdoing," including illegal drug use, drug smuggling, human trafficking, and in once case an applicant who, during the pre-test interview, admitted to participating in the gang rape of an intoxicated and unconscious woman.

This "slows the process for qualified applicants; wastes polygraph resources on unsuitable applicants; and will make it more difficult for CBP to achieve its hiring goals,” read the report.

CBP agreed with the report's findings and said it was taking steps to "aggressively" fix the testing issues.

Even before the executive order was issued, the agency was authorized by Congress to employ 21,370 agents, a number it hasn’t reached since 2013, according to the agency's watchdog.

Trump’s budget request for next year includes the hiring of 500 agents.

"We’re hopeful that Congress will approve the president’s budget,” Jacksta said.

She said the agency is looking ahead to fiscal year 2018, saying that 2017 was a “ramp-up year” in order to implement the capability to hire the agents that Trump has requested. “We’re well positioned,” to hire the 500 agents next year, she said.

Jacksta said that she’s "optimistic" for future hiring because of certain human resource metrics.

For example, CBP said that the attrition rate has dropped by about a percentage point since 2015, as well as a reduction in the time it takes to hire an agent.

“This applicant pool, we’re competing with a lot of other state, local, federal law enforcement organizations, we need to maintain our competitive edge and have an efficient hiring process so we don’t have people dropping out and taking other jobs,” she said.

Jacksta said that the department has “shored up its recruiting efforts,” citing a 106 percent increase in applicants for Border Patrol over the past two quarters, as well as a 54 percent increase in the number of veterans applying.

She also said that the "pass rate" for Border Patrol applicants has more than doubled in the past two years.

Today, the department has to go through around 100 people to hire one agent, but two years ago, CBP needed 270 applicants to hire one person, according to the department. Jacksta attributed that to the agencies’ increased “transparency” about the requirements to complete the hiring process.

However, according to the inspector general, Border Patrol would need around 750,000 applicants to meet the president’s goals.

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Popartic/iStock/Thinkstock(HOPE, Alaska) -- Daniel Hartung's very first kayaking trip on powerful whitewater rapids almost became his last, if it weren't for the heroics of a stranger.

On Saturday, Hartung, 64, of Indian, Alaska, attended a bluegrass and whitewater festival near Hope, Alaska, with his wife.

Hartung, who'd been kayaking on flat water for more than 10 years, said that as he and his wife surveyed the waters, she told him that she had a bad feeling about him getting into the churning waters.

But Hartung went anyway.

"There were other more experienced kayakers than me," he told ABC News today. "So I thought I would go there and felt a little bit safe on trying my first whitewater with experienced kayakers around."

He went over a set of falls and then hit a rock. Water flooded the kayak and Hartung was tossed into Six-Mile Creek. As he traveled down the river, he hit another rock and then became stuck on a tree.

Other kayakers tried to rescue him as he fought against the raging current.

"The water was so forceful that I could not get myself out of it. I could lift my head slightly above the water to breathe," he said. "The more I tried to extract myself, the lower my head went until I was not able to breathe anymore."

As minutes continued went by, Hartung eventually dipped underwater and found himself giving up.

"I kept trying and trying and after a while it just became apparent to me that it was not going, that I was not going to get myself out of this," he said. "It was very calming. Everything whited out and I blacked out. ... No fear, no other thoughts."

What Hartung didn't know was that a man named Obadiah Jenkins had appeared.

He pulled Hartung free from under the tree and got him to shore. A group of people, including Hartung's wife, helped get him up a hill in blankets, where they were met by emergency personnel.

"I just knew at that point there was no way I could let this man die," Jenkins said. "If I had 1 percent chance of saving his life, I was gonna try it."

Rescuers performed CPR to revive Hartung. Jenkins, who had turned 33 that day, said there was no better present than seeing Hartung live.

"I remember, first time he opened his eyes, that I could tell he was breathing on his own, I said to him, 'Nobody dies on my birthday,'" Jenkins said. "I could tell I got a little rise out of him because his eyes went to the side a little bit like, 'Yeah, OK.'"

Hartung, who is now home recovering from a broken rib, said he plans to stick to calmer waters and would like to buy Jenkins a big steak dinner.

"This guy is a true hero," he said.

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MattGush/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- New and disturbing information has been released about James Alex Fields Jr., the man who allegedly drove into a group protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville,
Virginia, Saturday, killing a woman and injuring several others.

ABC News has obtained transcripts of three 911 calls from 2010 and 2011, in which Fields was accused of terrorizing his mother, Samantha Bloom, who requires the use of a wheelchair.

In one call, according to dispatcher reports, Bloom told police that Fields "smacked [her] in the head" and "put his hands over her mouth."

Bloom had made the call after locking herself in the bathroom.

In another call, according to dispatcher reports, Fields allegedly stood behind Bloom with a 12-inch knife and "scared mom to death not knowing if he was going to do something."

Fields is charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count related to leaving the scene in connection with this weekend's violence.

Fields was denied bail Monday and his next scheduled court hearing is Aug. 25.

His appointed attorney did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

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SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Officials broke ground in Boston Wednesday for a new park dedicated to Martin Richard, the youngest victim of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

Martin was 8 years old when he killed on April 15, 2013, as he watched the marathon from near the finish line with his family. His mother was gravely injured, and his sister, who was 7 at the time,
lost a leg.

Photos from Wednesday's ceremonial groundbreaking show children in hard hats using shovels to dig dirt. Martin's Park, located next to the Boston Children's Museum at the Smith Family Waterfront,
is expected to open in the fall of 2018, according to a press release from the office of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

"This park will bring light & hope to that darkness, honoring his memory & allowing kids to be kids," Baker wrote on Twitter.

#MartinRichard lost his life to terror. This park will bring light & hope to that darkness, honoring his memory & allowing kids to be kids. pic.twitter.com/lYUTMyZNxV

— Charlie Baker (@MassGovernor) August 16, 2017

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wrote on Twitter that the park will remind its visitors of "hope, compassion & love."

"Martin's spirit will always live on in Boston & in Martin's Park," Walsh wrote.

This park reminds us of hope, compassion & love a young boy taught us all. Martin's spirit will always live on in Boston & in Martin's Park. pic.twitter.com/w6Plokx6D7

— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) August 16, 2017

Both Baker and Walsh spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony, as well as Martin's family.

Martin's sister, Jane Richard, said she knows that her brother is happy that the community is coming together.

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mokee81/iStock/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- Someone call the fashion police.

Missouri police poked fun at a "jorts-wearing bandit" who has burglarized multiple Walgreens stores in the St. Louis County area.

On Aug. 9, the St. Louis County Police Department tweeted a photo of the suspect, instructing the public to contact either them or the fashion police if they are able to identify the man.

This guy wears jorts and robs Walgreens stores. Contact us or the fashion police if you can identify. pic.twitter.com/mZgxVp4knh

— St. Louis County PD (@stlcountypd) August 9, 2017

On Monday, the police department tweeted that the man in the questionable garb was at it again.

"The jorts-wearing bandit is back," police wrote. "His disregard for the laugh is as offensive as his disregard for fashion trends."

In both instances, the man is seen wearing a baseball cap, short-sleeved shirt and "jorts," which are shorts made of denim.

It is unclear how many stores the unstylish suspect has robbed.

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Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- White nationalist Richard Spencer has been denied a request to rent space at the University of Florida to give a speech next month, according to a school statement.

The "likelihood of violence and potential injury – not the words or ideas – has caused us to take this action" to deny Spencer's request for a Sept. 12 speaking engagement at the Gainesville
campus, the school president W. Kent Fuchs said in the statement released today.

The denial comes after an eruption of violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, another college town, where a white nationalist rally Spencer attended and promoted on social media
collapsed into chaos and resulted in the death of woman protesting the gathering that included white supremacists.

Spencer has said he is neither a racist nor a white supremacist, which is someone who believes that white people are superior to other races. Instead, under the label of “alt-right,” which Spencer
is credited with coining, white nationalists like him espouse “white separatist ideologies,” as defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a legal advocacy organization that monitors
extremist groups.

But it’s difficult for many critics, including the SPLC, to make a distinction.

“The term alt-right is really nothing more than a re-branding of white supremacy for the digital age,” Southern Poverty Law Center president Richard Cohen told ABC News in December. “I don’t think
anybody should be fooled by what it is at its core and that is white supremacy.”

Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, which says it is a white nationalist organization “dedicated to the heritage, identity and future of people of European descent in the United

States,” has become a lightning rod for criticism since the election of Donald Trump.

A December 2016 event he held at Texas A&M was swarmed with protesters.

“We triggered the world,” Spencer told ABC News at the time. “I think it’s good to trigger people a little bit. When you get triggered it means that you’re shocked, you thought something that you
haven’t thought before. It means that you have an open mind and you can start to see the world differently.”

Fuchs, the University of Florida president, addressed Spencer's ideology directly in his statement.

"I find the racist rhetoric of Richard Spencer and white nationalism repugnant and counter to everything the university and this nation stands for," he wrote.

Spencer did not immediately respond today to ABC News’ request for comment.

He came to national attention when video surfaced of him at a Washington, D.C., conference in November shouting “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory,” as some members of the crowd raised
their hands in a Nazi salute.

Spencer said he yelled out “Hail Trump” in the “spirit of irony and exuberance.” He added that he saw the then-president-elect as someone who “sling-shotted our movement into fame.”

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garytog/iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- More than 700 teachers and staff members from Charlottesville, Virginia, public schools broke into song Tuesday at a back-to-school convocation just days after protests
and deadly violence shook their city.

The school officials sang “Lean On Me” and held glow sticks to symbolize light coming from darkness during the convocation at the Martin Luther King Jr. Performing Arts Center at Charlottesville
High School.

“It was emotional,” Rachel Wilson, a photography teacher at the high school who posted video of the moment on Facebook, told ABC News. “We’re all still kind of processing what happened here and
figuring out how to help our students process it and also continue on with what we need to do as educators.”

The convocation was planned before the protests at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville on Saturday, according to Beth Cheuk, the community relations liaison for Charlottesville City
Schools.

The tone of the event -- which was held on teachers’ first day back for the new school year -- was changed on Monday after a meeting among district officials and school principals.

“They were very emotional as they came together for the first time after the news [and] realized they needed an event where they could meet people where they were,” Cheuk told ABC News.

One woman was killed in the protests -- local resident Heather Heyer -- while two officers -- Virginia State Police Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates -- died in a helicopter
crash while responding to the violence. The three were honored at the convocation by a display of three heart shapes made out of glow sticks on seats in the auditorium.

Charlottesville City Schools will hold its first day of classes on Aug. 23.

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dreamnikon/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You've probably heard by now to watch out for a total solar eclipse in the United States on Aug. 21. But do you know exactly what it is and what will happen when it occurs?

Here's what you need to know:

What is a total solar eclipse?

To truly understand a total solar eclipse, you must be familiar with the different types of eclipses.

An eclipse is when one astronomical body, such as a moon or planet, moves into the shadow of another astronomical body. There are two types of eclipses on Earth: a lunar eclipse and a solar
eclipse.

A lunar eclipse occurs when Earth moves between the sun and the moon, with its shadow blocking the sunlight that causes the moon to shine. This can only occur when the moon is full, according to
NASA.

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and Earth, blocking the sunlight and casting a shadow onto Earth. There are four main types of solar eclipses: partial, annular, total and
hybrid, according to NASA.

A total solar eclipse is when the moon moves between the sun and Earth, lasting for up to about three hours from beginning to end.

Total solar eclipses occur once every 12 to 18 months while partial solar eclipses, when the moon blocks only part of the sun, occur more frequently, though visibility varies, according to NASA.

You must be in the path of totality to witness a total solar eclipse. The path of totality for the Aug. 21 eclipse is a 70-mile-wide ribbon that will arc across the continental United States from
west to east. This stretches from Lincoln Beach, Oregon, at 9:05 a.m. PDT to Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:48 p.m. EDT.

From there, the moon's shadow leaves the country at 4:09 EDT.

What happens during a total solar eclipse?

During a total solar eclipse, the lunar shadow will darken the sky and temperatures will drop while bright stars and planets will appear at a time that is normally broad daylight.

Retired NASA astrophysicist and photographer Fred Espenak said the experience usually lasts for just a couple minutes, but it's truly out of this world.

"It is unlike any other experience you've ever had," Espenak, popularly known as Mr. Eclipse, told ABC News. "It's a visceral experience; you feel it. The hair on your arms, on the back of your
neck, stand up. You get goosebumps.

"You have to be there," he added.

Espenak said the rare and striking astronomical event can last as long as seven minutes. For the Aug. 21 eclipse, NASA anticipates the longest period when the moon obscures the sun's entire surface
from any given location along its path will last about two minutes and 40 seconds.

Some animals may react strangely to the celestial phenomenon. Rick Schwartz, an animal behavior expert with the San Diego Zoo, said there have been observations of animals going to sleep during
total solar eclipses.

"The animals take the visual cues of the light dimming, and the temperature cues," Schwartz told ABC News.

"You hear the increase of bird calls and insects that you usually associate with nightfall," he added. "Farmers have said that the cows lay down on the field or the chickens go back into the coop."

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zabelin/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The heads of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps have weighed in on Twitter in the wake of last weekend's violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, condemning racism and standing up for military values.

It is rare for the nation's top military leaders to weigh in on political events because of the Department of Defense's tradition of remaining apolitical.

Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, first posted on Saturday night, calling the events in Charlottesville "unacceptable" and saying the U.S. Navy "stands against intolerance and hatred."

Earlier that day, a woman was killed and several others were injured after a car rammed into demonstrators protesting against white nationalists. James Alex Fields Jr., 20, is charged with second-
degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count related to leaving the scene in the incident.

The Army confirmed Sunday evening that Fields had briefly attended Army basic training in 2015, but was released due to a failure to meet training standards.

Gen. Mark Milley, the Army's chief of staff, tweeted Wednesday morning, "The Army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It's against our Values and everything we've stood for
since 1775."

Also weighing in was Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, who posted on social media Tuesday, shortly after it was reported that a leader of a white supremacist group -- whose
members marched in Charlottesville over the weekend -- was a former Marine recruiter.

Neller tweeted that there is "no place for racial hatred or extremism" in the Marines.

Former Staff Sgt. Dillon Hopper, the reported leader of the neo-Nazi group "Vanguard America," served in the Marine Corps for 11 years and completed two deployments, later becoming a recruiter.

The Marines issued a statement in response to Hopper's service, condemning hate and extremist groups.

"We are proud of the fact that Marines come from every race, creed, cultural background and walk of life," the statement said, adding, "The guidance to Marines is clear: participation in supremacist or extremist organizations or activities is a violation of Department of Defense/Marine Corps orders and will lead to mandatory processing for separation."

On Wednesday morning, Gen. Dave Goldfein, chief of staff for the Air Force, joined his fellow service chiefs, saying "we're always stronger together" and espousing Air Force values of "integrity,
service and excellence."

On Monday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters he was "very saddened" by the violence he saw in Charlottesville, but wouldn't comment further about the events of that weekend or
Fields' military service.

“I don't know the circumstances around this young man's four months,” he said in reference to Fields' short stint in Army basic training.

“I don't want to comment on it, but generally speaking we don't sign people up for four-month tours of duty. So, once the full reality is out, I'm sure you'll have an explanation how he came in and out, but I can't comment on it. Right now, I just haven't seen it," Mattis said.

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La_Corivo/iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- At a memorial service on Wednesday Heather Heyer, the woman killed Saturday when a car rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Heyer's mother was met with a standing ovation as she said, "They tried to kill my child to shut her up -- well, guess what -- you just magnified her."

"Although Heather was a caring, compassionate, person, so are a lot of you. A lot of you go that extra mile," Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, said to those at the memorial service. "And I think the
reason that what happened to Heather has struck a chord is because we know that what she did was achievable."

Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville, had dialogues on Facebook, her mother said, telling the mourners, "Conversations have to happen. That's the only way we're going to carry Heather's spark through.

"Find what's wrong, don't ignore it, don't look the other way," Bro said. "Say to yourself, 'What can I do to make a difference?' And that's how you're going to make my child's death worthwhile.

"I'd rather have my child, but by golly, if I have to give her up, we're going to make it count," Bro said to a round of applause.

"I want this to spread, I don't want this to die," she said. "This is just the beginning of Heather's legacy."

Heyer's memorial was held Wednesday morning at Charlottesville's Paramount Theater. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., were among the over 1,000 attendees.

"You never think you're going to bury your child," Bro said at the service, adding that a public memorial is what her daughter would have wanted.

She "had to have the world involved, because that's my child," Bro said. "Always has been."

Heyer's grandfather, Elwood Shrader, said at the service, "She showed her passion at an early age."

As a child, when Heyer would return home from school, she was animated as she explained her day, Shrader recounted. She would stand at the corner of the dining room table, waving her hands, almost
dancing as she went over a story, Shrader said.

Heyer wanted fairness and justice in her early years, he said, and "could call out something that didn't seem right to her." And even if she didn't agree with someone's viewpoint, she still wanted
to understand it, he said.

Heyer, who worked as a paralegal, had that desire for justice throughout her life, Shrader said, adding, "how ironic that she ended up in a law office."

"She realized we all need forgiveness and we all must extend forgiveness," he said. "As we think about her today, we're very proud of her."

Shrader also expressed his appreciation for the community's support at this time.

Heyer's father, Mark Heyer, gave an emotional speech, saying, "No father should have to do this."

"She wanted equality," he said, "and in this issue of the day of her passing, she wanted to put down hate. And for my part, we just need to stop all this stuff and just forgive each other.

"I came here today and I was overwhelmed," he said. "I was overwhelmed at the rainbow of colors in this room. That's how Heather was. It didn't matter who you were or where you were from. If she
loved you, that was it. You were stuck. So for that, I'm truly proud of my daughter. "

The Saturday crash that killed Heather Heyer took place at a Unite the Right rally spurred by Charlottesville's plan to remove a Confederate statue from a local park. The rally was attended by
neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members. They were met with hundreds of counterprotesters, which led to street brawls and violent clashes.

A driver plowed into counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring several others. The suspected driver is in custody, facing charges including second-degree murder.

Two Virginia State troopers helping with the response to the clashes also died that day in a helicopter crash.

The Paramount said friends and family attending the service were asked to wear purple, Heather Heyer's favorite color.

Heather Heyer's cousin, Diana Ratcliff, read a letter at the service she said she wished she could have shared with her.

Emotionally, Ratcliff read, "Did I ever tell you how much I loved you? Heather, when my children ask me who I admire most I will tell them you. My baby cousin, who is larger than life and too good
for this world.

"You will always be in our hearts," she added.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Responders are searching for five missing crewmen after receiving a report of a downed U.S. Army helicopter off the coast of Hawaii, the U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday.

The search was reported late-Tuesday night local time, about 2 miles west of Kaena Point, the westernmost tip of land on the island of Oahu.

Lt. Colonel Curtis Kellogg, a spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division, said two helicopters were taking part in a nighttime training mission off the shore of Kaena Point Tuesday night and, at 9:30 p.m., the second helicopter lost visual and radio contact with the first one.

The helicopter was reported down and a search-and-rescue mission was launched immediately, Kellogg said.

A debris field was spotted near Kaena Point at 11:28 p.m. local time Tuesday, the Coast Guard said.

Helicopter and boat crews are involved in the search, the Coast Guard said.

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- Four Confederate monuments were removed in Baltimore, Maryland overnight, days after Charlottesville, Virginia, became the center of a deadly clash over the planned removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

The removed statues, according to ABC's Baltimore affiliate WMAR, included the monument of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas. J. “Stonewall” Jackson; the Confederate Women's Monument; the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument; and the monument of Roger B. Taney, who wrote the 1856 Supreme Court ruling that denied citizenship to African Americans.

Dozens of people cheered as the statues came down, WMAR reported.

According to The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said the removal process began Tuesday at 11:30 p.m. and was completed today at 5:30 a.m.

Pugh said at a news conference this morning, "I felt that the best way to remove the monuments was to remove them overnight."

She thought it was important to move quickly and quietly because of "the climate of this nation," she said.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement Tuesday that he is asking the State House Trust to remove the Justice Roger B. Taney statue from the State House grounds.

"As I said at my inauguration, Maryland has always been a state of middle temperament, which is a guiding principle of our administration. While we cannot hide from our history – nor should we – the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history," Hogan said.

The removal of Baltimore's statues comes days after a protest in Charlottesville turned deadly.

White nationalists, neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members joined together in a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville to protest the removal of the Lee statue. Hundreds of counterprotesters also showed up, which led to street brawls and violent clashes.

A driver plowed into a group of people who were protesting the white nationalists, killing one and injuring many others. The suspected driver is in custody and facing charges.

Two Virginia State Troopers helping with the response to the clashes also died that day in a helicopter crash.

Beyond Baltimore, the violence in Charlottesville has put a new spotlight on Confederate monuments around the nation, and from California, to Kentucky, to New York, there are calls for some Confederate symbols to be removed.

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New Mexico State Land Office(NEW YORK) -- New Mexico is tired of Texas playing dirty, and now the two states are digging in for a turf war -- over actual soil.

The Lone Star State has come under fire after years of allegedly dispatching road workers across state lines to collect protected New Mexico State Trust land soil to repair a spartan two-lane dirt road across the border. The road crews are accused of pirating the prized dirt from a parcel of New Mexico’s land just north of Road 506 in Otero County and then allegedly making a four-mile trip to Dell City, a small hamlet with a population of 425 people in Hudspeth County, Texas.

“They’re likely the same three or four guys in a road crew and they cross state lines and took the dirt and went to use it on their roads in Texas," New Mexico’s State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn told ABC News. “We’re calling them dirty bandits and dirt desperados for doing this to the [school] kids."

Dunn said New Mexico uses the profits from minerals found in the soil to fund its public schools, hospitals, and infrastructure, which is why they're fighting back against the alleged theft. But that blame game isn’t sitting well with Hudspeth County Judge Mike Doyal in Texas, who said he is considering taking New Mexico to task for enjoying all the years of what he calls cost-free road maintenance.

The result is a battle over uninhabited dirt -- an irony not lost on either side.

“It’s the Wild West, what can I say?” Dunn said.

 Doyal said Texas doesn't plan to back down anytime soon.

“It’s my thought if they want to push the issue, we’ll push the issue for 20 years of maintenance [of the state line road],” Doyal told ABC News.

He acknowledges the workers decided to use that soil as "a matter of convenience," wheeling their front-end loaders and dump trucks to scoop it up and transport it back to Texas.

“These workers are typically so far away it’s easier for them to handle it right close by,” Doyal said. “It’s there.”

Doyal also said state borders around the “uninhabited” territory are arbitrary.

“There’s no line drawn in the dirt,” he said. “You’ll find signs, but there are times it gets a little vague on that state line road.”

Standing on principle

But New Mexico officials disagree, claiming that Texas is encroaching on the state's 9 million acres of surface estate, which have been held in the trust since 1850. Surface estate refers to the land itself, not including any minerals, oil or gas beneath it. Today, the state also has 13 million mineral acres.

While some may mock Dunn making a fuss over Texans “pilfering” New Mexico’s dirt, Dunn believes he’s standing on principle.

“It’s bad to take anybody’s property no matter what it is,” he said. “It could be a sign out on a yard, a mailbox, or a car -- it’s still theft.”

 Dunn explained that his office has proof that the Texans have been caught "red-handed" stealing sand and gravel.

To prove their case, Dunn said his department supplied Hudspeth County officials with before-and-after images taken from Google Earth that show a swath of purported New Mexican terrain on Jan. 29, 2012 transform into a barren cavity by March 16, 2014. Dunn said removing the soil has left a gaping 8-feet-deep hole that is approximately “15-feet long by 20-feet wide.”

On July 18, Dunn's commission sent a stern letter to three Hudspeth County Commissioners and their attorney demanding mining operations “cease and desist” until its office has assessed the totality of mining and “has been paid for the minerals mined and removed to date."

Dunn's letter also referenced the Google Earth images, and described the Texans' alleged land extraction as "greatly expanded mining activity occurring on the site."

 The letter also mentioned how the mining and removal of state-owned minerals "without authorization from the Commissioner of Public Lands, or just compensation, constitutes a taking in violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution."

A line in the sand

For its part, Texas officials are not denying that they have taken the soil, but rather arguing that the state boundaries are unclear.

In a July 27 letter sent by C.R. “Kit” Bramblett, the attorney for the Hudspeth County Commissioners, he asked how Dunn or anyone else can certain of where the state borders are.

“My first question is where is the line between Texas and New Mexico,” wrote Bramblett, who said he’d “lived in Hudspeth all my life” as a rancher, farmer and now a lawyer. “There is a fence just north of the road in the picture and we have always thought that was the state line between Texas and New Mexico. How do you suggest that we determine exactly where the line is?”

In response, Dunn’s team conducted a field assessment to determine exactly where tire marks appear to have breached the brass caps set into the ground that designate where Texas ends and New Mexico begins.

 In an Aug. 9 letter, the attorney for the New Mexican commission responded to Bramblett, saying that the State Land Office’s field inspection “included a visual ground search for survey markers.”

The conclusions from that inspection, the letter claimed, confirmed that the site where the valuable sand and gravel was sourced allegedly without authorization “is located north of New Mexico Road 506” and north of the brass caps that designate state lines.

“From this evidence,” the letter stated, “the State Land Office determined that the mineral removal occurred on New Mexico State Trust land.”

Dirt worth fighting for

The states’ dust-up over dirt, first reported by the Albuquerque Journal, has raised the issue of how lush and lucrative the grounds are.

According to the New Mexico State Trust Land Office, revenue from oil, gas, and minerals -- as well as ranching, farming, and commercial development -- is used to fund public schools, universities, hospitals and correctional facilities.

Grazing land rights claimed by cattle ranchers can fetch “a dollar an acre” in funds for public projects, Dunn said.

“We own these minerals,” Dunn added, pointing out that the state also has 13 million acres containing oil, gas, and minerals.

Profits from these resources generated almost $545 million in revenue in the fiscal year 2017, according to New Mexico State Land Commission data.

 The dirt itself, Dunn and experts agree, is also ideal for patching roads.

“It’s got a lot more limestone in it, so it packs real well,” Dunn said.

Dunn said the Texas road crews are loading up on a caked layer of earth made up of accumulated calcium carbonate, also known as caliche, to help firm up their road surfaces.

Caliche is essentially crystallized calcium carbonate, or as Nancy McMillan, a New Mexico State University geology professor, calls it: “the white stuff that forms inside your shower.”

“It’s nature’s concrete,” McMillan told ABC News. “It’s fairly hard, fairly durable and it crystallizes around sand grains.”

New Mexico’s mix of arid and rainy conditions creates a lot of caliche.

Cliff Lucas, the district lab supervisor in the Roswell office of New Mexico Department of Transportation, said caliche is also convenient and binds well.

“Native caliche is a good road building material, and if you’re 50 or 90 miles from anywhere, it can be cost prohibitive to a construction project if you don't use native building materials,” Lucas told ABC News. “Most caliche pits are all over the state and a lot of alternate roads and county roads are paved with it.”

But caliche's sand and gravel makeup is a draw for road construction projects because it naturally wards off erosion and "doesn't get polished by tires and become slick easily," McMillan said.

'We're just hoping they pay us'

Doyal, who said he was a sheriff’s deputy before becoming a judge, said that the fight over dirt has him trying to make peace.

“How much is caliche worth?” he asked. “It’s something that the road is [made of], yea, but it’s still dirt.”

But Dunn said the dirt allegedly stolen by the Texans is worth thousands of dollars.

And if Texas wants peace, Dunn said they could get it by cutting a check.

“We’re hoping they just pay us,” he added.

But failing that, Dunn said New Mexico is willing to “fight this battle in court” if it comes down to it.

Doyal is confident that things can be settled as they used to be -- with both states working together.

"You gotta understand the old country way of things: if it helps you out on this deal, then we want to do that. But we also want to help our citizens, too," he said.

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Facebook(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- A memorial service is set for Wednesday morning for the 32-year-old woman killed after a car rammed into a crowd of people who were counter-protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday.

The memorial for Heather Heyer of Charlottesville is expected to begin at 11 a.m. at Charlottesville's Paramount Theater.

The Saturday crash that killed Heyer took place at a Unite the Right rally spurred by Charlottesville's plan to remove a Confederate statue from a local park. The rally was attended by neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members, and the white nationalists were met with hundreds of counter-protesters, which led to street brawls and violent clashes.

A driver plowed into counter-protesters, killing Heyer and injuring several others. The suspected driver is in custody, facing charges including second-degree murder.

Two Virginia State Troopers helping with the response to the clashes also died that day in a helicopter crash.

Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, told ABC News that her daughter, who worked as a paralegal, was a "very passionate person. ... She had very strong beliefs, and even as a small child she was fierce about defending her beliefs."

According to a statement from the Paramount, Heyer "was an outspoken, outgoing, determined and passionate individual and had a special regard for social injustices and especially those concerning race relations."

Bro told ABC News she is numb over the loss of her daughter, but she doesn't want "more hate brought by my daughter's death. ... I want peace that she would want. I want change. I want equality. I want fairness, and I want it done peacefully."

The Paramount said seating at the memorial service will be on a first-come, first-served basis, and that friends and family attending the service are asked to wear purple, Heyer's favorite color.

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iStock/Thinkstock(DURHAM, N.C.) -- Deputies in North Carolina arrested a woman on Tuesday, who says she helped pull down a Confederate statue in Durham.

According to ABC affiliate WTVD, Takiyah Thompson, 22, is charged with disorderly conduct by injury to a statue, damage to real property, participation in a riot with property damage in excess of $1,500 and inciting others to riot where there is property damage in excess of $1,500.

North Carolina sheriff's deputies arrest woman who said she took part in toppling Confederate statue in Durham. https://t.co/SLW5d8z2TI pic.twitter.com/LXmHI489vj

— ABC News (@ABC) August 15, 2017


Thompson said her actions were justified because Confederate statues represent white supremacy.

She climbed a ladder to the top of the statue to tie a rope around its neck before the crowd tore it down.

A video showing protesters pulling down the statue in downtown Durham, North Carolina, went viral Monday.

Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews on Tuesday referred to the action as "civil disobedience that is no longer civil."

“I am grateful the events that unfolded Monday evening did not result in serious injury or the loss of life, but the planned demonstration should serve as a sobering example of the price we all pay when civil disobedience is no longer civil," Andrews said in a statement.

 The sheriff said his office focused on "restraint and public safety" during the protest, but it would use the video to investigate the incident as an act of vandalism.

"As the sheriff, I am not blind to the offensive conduct of some demonstrators nor will I ignore their criminal conduct," the statement said. "With the help of video captured at the scene, my investigators are working to identify those responsible for the removal and vandalism of the statue."

Andrews said restraint does not mean inaction, adding that if had he instructed his deputies to engage with the hostile crowd, there would have been injuries and further chaos.

Damaging the Confederate statue was a blatant violation of the law, he said, and his department plans to pursue felony charges against those who did it.

The statue, which had sat in front of the city's old courthouse since 1924, depicts a Confederate soldier wielding a muzzle rifle and lugging a canteen and bedroll, and is dedicated "in memory of the boys who wore gray."

It is unclear if Thompson has an attorney.

 

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