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Mike Watson Images/iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- The death of giant rabbit after a United flight from London to Chicago has shined a spotlight on the safety of pets flying in cargo holds.

Traveling with pets often proves to be a challenging and stressful experience for both humans and their companions. A number of U.S. airlines -- including American, Delta and United -- offer customers the option to check their pets on a plane, but in the interest of safety, there are a number of boxes the humans must check before booking their furry friends a spot in the cargo hold.

Flying animals on U.S. commercial airliners is generally safe. The U.S. Department of Transportation reported less than one incident per 10,000 animals transported via air in 2016. DOT defines an incident as the injury, death or loss of an animal during air transportation. For the purpose of these statistics, DOT defines an "animal" as any pet in a U.S. family household or any dog or cat shipped as part of a commercial shipment on a scheduled passenger flight.

The rabbit survived the trip, according to the airline, but died sometime after being unloaded from the plane. The airline offered to conduct a necropsy but the owner declined. The cause of death is unclear. United said in a statement that it was "saddened" by the news and is reviewing the incident.

The Animal Welfare Act, first signed into law in 1966 and amended at least eight times since, enforced by the Department of Agriculture, dictates the rules the owner and the airlines must respect.

Dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old, and those younger than 16 weeks traveling for more than 12 hours must be provided food and water. Older animals must be fed at least every 24 hours and water at least every 12 hours, and they must be accompanied by written instructions on how to do so. Rules from the Department of Agriculture also protect animals from being shipped in harmful temperatures.

Along with a veterinarian's stamp of approval for the pet's health, airlines generally require owners to give the pet a kennel large enough for it to stand, turn, sit and lie down in a natural position. Additionally, the kennel must have good ventilation and food and watering dishes.

The strength of the kennel is also critical, as an animal getting loose in the cargo hold could be dangerous, according to DOT.

Animals always fly in pressurized and climate-controlled sections of the cargo hold and are usually kept in designated animal care facilities at major airports, according to DOT.

Airlines typically employ or contract specialists to handle the animals on each end of the flight, including loading the animals last and removing them first from the airplane.

Federal data indicates United Airlines has the most incidents with animals between 2012 and 2016, with 90 incidents. Alaska Airlines had the second most with 61 incidents. In 2016, United's incident rate was 2.11 per 10,000 animals transported. Alaska's was 0.27 per 10,000. American and Delta reported a rate of 0.62 and 1.23, respectively.

A spokesperson for DOT did not answer ABC News' request for more data prior to 2016 or whether the reporting method has changed since 2012.

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artolympic/iStock/Thinkstock(BEAR, Del.) -- A Delaware state trooper has died after he was shot in the parking lot of a Wawa convenience store, according to Delaware State Police.

At around 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, the trooper had observed a vehicle in the parking lot, and when he made contact with its occupants, a struggle ensued, police said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

One of the two suspects then exited the vehicle and fired several rounds at the trooper, striking him, police said. The trooper was treated at the scene and transported to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, police said. His identity is being withheld pending family notification.

One of the suspects was taken into custody without incident, police said. The second suspect fled on foot before additional troopers arrived.

That suspect has since barricaded himself in his home on St. Michaels Drive in the Brick Mill Farm development, firing rounds at police officers, a spokesperson for the Delaware State Police told reporters. The suspect has refused orders to surrender while continuing to fire at police officers, the spokesperson said.

Hostage negotiators are on the scene trying to get information from the suspect and obtain a "peaceful resolution," police said. The suspect's family is not home at this time.

Police know who the suspect is but have not yet released his identity, the spokesperson said. It is not clear what kind of firearm the suspect was using to shoot at police.

Several residents in the area have been evacuated due to the gunfire. The Appoquinimink School District in the Middletown, Delaware, area was on lockdown amid the search for the suspect, police said.

The investigation is in its early stages and the exact circumstance of the shooting is unknown.

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(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) -- A baby has celebrated his parents in an adorable photo session by honoring their civil service professions.

Enzo Anthony Crnolic, 1 month, was captured posing with his mom's firefighter hat and dad's policeman cap. Both of Enzo's parents serve in Jacksonville, Florida.

"It means a lot knowing that we're both public servants, and I wanted to do a photo that included both him as a police officer and me as a firefighter," said mom Caroline Crnolic, 27, a firefighter for the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. "We keep saying Enzo's famous now."

The photos were shot by EP Photography when Enzo was 9 days old, but were shared on Tuesday by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, where dad Mirza Crnolic has served for nine years.

"I love it," Crnolic, 31, told ABC News of the photo shoot. "It represents both our careers and hopefully he'll choose the best one of those two."

Enzo also posed with his parents, who were both dressed in uniform, and inside his mother's firefighter helmet.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order calling for a review of lands designated as national monuments, saying the practice had turned into a "massive federal land grab."

The review will focus on millions of acres of land that have been designated as national monuments.

He criticized the previous administration's decision to put "over 265 million acres ... under federal control through the abuse of the monuments designation."

"The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water," he said, citing the 1906 law that authorizes presidents to declare land as a federal monument that then restricts its use.

He added that it was "time to end this abusive practice" that he said has "gotten worse and worse.”

The executive order was a step "to end another egregious abuse of federal power and to give that power back to the states and to the people where it belongs," Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, said during a brief ceremony.

Trump also praised the work of the Department of the Interior, saying they appreciate "the splendor and the beauty of America's natural resources."

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iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- A federal judge in San Francisco ruled Tuesday that President Donald Trump cannot punish so-called sanctuary cities by withholding federal funds.

The policies of sanctuary cities vary but in most cases provide some protections to unauthorized immigrants by not fully cooperating with federal immigration authorities. Trump has repeatedly called for cutting federal funding to these cities, which include New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, Seattle and Boston.

Tuesday's ruling grants a request for a preliminary injunction halting part of an executive order signed by Trump that involved stopping the flow of money to communities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The City and County of San Francisco and Santa Clara County filed the lawsuit in question, saying billions of dollars of funding are at risk. However, the Trump administration has said the amount of funding that will be withheld is much lower. The government argued in its response that the suit lacks standing because the order did not change existing law and because the counties that filed it were not named as "sanctuary jurisdictions" in the order.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus responded to the ruling in a briefing with reporters Tuesday night, calling it "clear forum shopping" and "an example of the ninth circuit going bananas." The Trump administration previously criticized the ninth circuit following its decision to uphold a block of Trump's executive order temporarily halting travel from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Priebus added that the White House would be taking action to appeal the ruling and expressed confidence in the situation's future, saying, "we'll win at the Supreme Court level at some point."

A subsequent statement from the White House Tuesday night said, "Today, the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our nation."

Executive Order 13768, titled "Enhancing the Public Safety in the Interior of the United States," was issued on Jan. 25 and outlines a number of immigration enforcement policies, including one to "[e]nsure that jurisdictions that fail to comply with applicable Federal law do not receive Federal funds, except as mandated by law."

In his decision, U.S. District Judge William Orrick expressed concern at the broadness of the order and sided with the counties, saying the order "by its plain language, attempts to reach all federal grants not merely the three mentioned at the hearing."

The judge called the order "an example of the President's use of the bully pulpit," saying he cannot threaten to withhold funds so broadly.

"And if there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments," Orrick wrote. "The President has called it 'a weapon' to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration enforcement, and his press secretary has reiterated that the President intends to ensure that 'counties and other institutions that remain sanctuary cities don't get federal funding in compliance with the executive order.'"

The counties have demonstrated that they are currently suffering irreparable harm because the order will deprive them of billions that support core services in their jurisdictions, according to the judge's decision.

"Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves," Orrick wrote.

The Trump administration has said that sanctuary cities allow dangerous criminals back on the street and that the order is needed to keep the country safe.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said that city officials have the responsibility to "make sure all of our residents feel that they are a part of the community" and that they can keep the streets "safe."

"This is why we have courts -- to halt the overreach of a president and attorney general who either don't understand the Constitution or choose to ignore it," Herrera said, adding that about $2 billion in funds were at stake in San Francisco alone.

The city would have lost access to funds for medical care, roads and transportation, among other services, Herrera said.

"Because San Francisco stood firm, that's not going to happen here or anywhere else in the United States," the city attorney added.

In a statement, the Department of Justice said, "The Court upheld the 'Government’s ability to use lawful means to enforce existing conditions of federal grants or 8 U.S.C. 1373.' The Department of Justice previously stated to the Court, and reiterates now, that it will follow the law with respect to regulation of sanctuary jurisdictions.

"Accordingly, the Department will continue to enforce existing grant conditions and will continue to enforce 8 U.S.C. 1373. Further, the order does not purport to enjoin the Department’s independent legal authority to enforce the requirements of federal law applicable to communities that violate federal immigration law or federal grant conditions."

The injunction marks the second setback for Trump's immigration agenda. The first iteration of Trump's controversial travel ban -- a major part of his campaign platform -- was blocked in federal court and then withdrawn in favor of the second iteration, which has also been blocked by a federal court.

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iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- The capital of Massachusetts is under attack -- by turkeys.

The Boston Globe reports that the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, or MassWildlife, issued a notice urging citizens to be vigilant in the event of a turkey attack.

Officials from MassWildlife said, “March through May is breeding season for wild turkeys, which means some turkeys may be seen acting aggressively or completely ignoring the presence of people. Males will puff out their feathers, fan their tails, and ‘strut their stuff.’”

The best way to scare off a wild turkey, they said, is to make loud noises. You can also spray the birds with a hose. Dogs may also be “an effective deterrent.”

Wild turkeys have been spotted in and around the city. On April 6, two turkeys crossed six lanes of traffic on I-95 during rush hour, forcing cars to swerve around them.

MassWildlife said the birds are relentless and should be avoided: “Turkeys may attempt to dominate or attack people that they view as subordinates. And this behavior is observed most often during breeding season.”

The birds have charged people in acts of aggression in the neighborhood of Brookline and terrorized residents in Foxborough, where the Patriots play.

Luckily for some, breeding season makes for good hunting. Licensed wild turkey hunting is permitted in the spring and fall, with spring season running from Monday, April 24, to May 20.

Jack Buckley, director of MassWildlife, said, “We want to make both hunters and potential hunters aware of Wild Turkey Hunting Season because it is a great recreational activity for individuals and families.”

Not so much for the turkeys.

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KTRK-TV(HUNTSVILLE, Texas) -- The NTSB is investigating a small plane crash in Texas on Tuesday.

The Cessna 421 crashed into a small pond in Huntsville around 10:38 a.m., Texas Department of Public Safety Public Information Officer Sgt. Eric Burse told ABC News. The plane was departing Conroe-North Houston Regional Airport, but it is unclear where it was headed to, Burse said.

The body of the pilot has been recovered, according to ABC Houston station KTRK-TV.

Witnesses told authorities that the plane was on fire when it struck some trees before crashing into the pond, near FM 980.

Chopper footage from KTRK-TV showed the downed trees as well as several first responders, which included the Huntsville Fire Department as well as a search-and-rescue team.

Further details about the incident were not immediately available.

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Marion County Sherrifs Office(SUMMERFIELD, Fla.) -- Sheriff's deputies in Central Florida said they pulled a suspect from a burning car after the man led them on a pursuit.

Dash cam video from the Marion County Sheriff's Office shows four sheriff's deputies as they extract the man from an overturned van and extinguish the fire.

On Sunday, deputies received a tip that a man known by the alias "Gold Teeth" was en route in a white Dodge van to rob a home in Summerfield, Florida, the sheriff's office said in a Facebook post.

Deputies searching the area located a van matching the description at a convenience store and attempted a traffic stop when the driver, identified as 28-year-old Scott Michael Beekman, left the location, the sheriff's office said.

Beekman led officers on a pursuit while "driving recklessly and endangering other motorists in the east and west bound lanes," the sheriff's office said in the post. Another motorist attempted to block the westbound lane with his vehicle, but Beekman was able to avoid him.

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During the pursuit, Beekman swerved abruptly on Southeast Highway 467 before he struck a stop sign and a tree, police said. Beekman was trapped on the driver's side when the van caught fire, according to the sheriff's office.

In the video, two deputies "carefully advanced" toward the van with their guns drawn while another deputy walks toward the van with a fire extinguisher to deter the flames.

Deputies then broke the van's windshield and were able to pull Beekman out, police said. In the van, deputies found a loaded .32 caliber pistol and a loaded .22 caliber rifle, both located near the driver's seat.

Marion County Fire Rescue arrived and put out the rest of the fire and Beekman was taken to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries. He was later released and booked into the Marion County Jail, where he remains, Marion County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Lauren Lettelier told ABC News.

In a statement, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods praised the deputies for their bravery and the citizens who intervened for their help.

"The deputies involved in the search, the pursuit and the rescue of this suspect performed their duties valiantly," Woods said. "They not only prevented what could have been a major crime, but they also saved this individual’s life despite the danger involved. We are also thankful for the citizens who jumped into action to help our law enforcement. They are all heroes and we are proud to have these deputies serving the citizens of Marion County."

Beekman was charged with fleeing with disregard to safety of person or property, three counts of possession of a weapon or ammo by a convicted felon, possession of a short barreled gun, rifle or machine gun and driving with a suspended or revoked license, the sheriff's office said. It is unclear if he has retained an attorney.

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Christopher Furlong/Getty Images(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) -- Police in Grand Rapids, Michigan, are saying they followed protocol after a video was released showing officers holding a group of unarmed black teens at gunpoint on the ground.

"Guys, get on the ground. Keep your hands out," a Grand Rapids police officer tells a group of youths in the video. "Just follow our directions and we'll be all right, OK?"

This March 24 exchange, which was caught on body camera, came after a report of a group of teenagers carrying a gun; however, police later learned these youths weren't armed. A police spokesman said the officers' actions followed protocol and displayed "professionalism ... throughout the entire ordeal," though the spokesman added that "it is unfortunate ... the teens had to endure this."

But some parents are outraged by the stop. "We can't stop thinking of the fact that -- what if one of our babies had made the wrong move?" Shawndryka Moore, whose 14-year-old son was among the teens forced to the ground, said at a community meeting with police earlier this month, according to Michigan Live. "And they wouldn't be here with us tonight -- would you be OK? Would it be proper protocol then?"

The March 24 incident happened after Grand Rapids police responded to a report of 100 teenagers fighting, but police only found about 20 or 25 youths and no fight, Grand Rapids Police Public Information Officer Terry Dixon told ABC News Tuesday.

A citizen flagged down an officer at the scene and asked the officer if the police were looking for group of teenagers with a gun, Dixon said. The citizen gave the officer a description of five or six teens; one teen allegedly dropped a revolver, picked it up and tucked it in his waistband, the citizen told police, according to Dixon. Police shared that information with other officers via radio, Dixon said.

About two blocks away from where the witness said he saw a teenager with a gun, an officer approached five boys, including some who appeared to match the descriptions given by the citizen.

The officer told the youths to get on the ground and waited for other officers to arrive, Dixon said.

Body camera footage, provided to ABC News by ABC affiliate WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, shows a cop standing next to the driver's door of his patrol car, using the door as a shield, and pointing his gun at a group of people.

"Guys, get on the ground. Keep your hands out," the officer says, and some of the youths comply.

"Come over here. Keep your hands where I can see them and get on the ground," the officer says.

While all five youths were on lying face down on the ground, one youth asked, "What did we do?"

"Just follow our directions and we'll be all right, OK?" the officer says. "Calm down, calm down, calm down, OK. It'll be all right."

After other officers responded, "One by one they had each teen stand up, put their hands above their heads and walk toward the officers," Dixon said. "Each one of them was put into the back of a police car ... until the officer was able to determine there was no gun."

Officers then called the teens' parents and after a series of quick interviews, they discovered there was no gun and this was the wrong group of teenagers, Dixon said.

The teens were all "very cooperative" and "nothing illegal was found on any of them,” according to the incident report.

The five youths included two sets of brothers and all of the teens’ mothers came to the scene, police said. One officer said in the incident report, "I explained the situation and the reasoning as to why we proceeded the way we did to all three of the mothers."

The mothers "were all a little shaken," but two "seemed to understand," the incident report said. The third mother "was very upset with police and was not willing to hear our reasoning and explanation," the incident report said.

The officer said in the incident report that they "attempted to explain ... that the boys matched the descriptions of males that allegedly had a gun” but that mother “was very upset and unwilling to listen."

One parent, seen on body cam footage, appeared emotional talking to officers; she said, "All this stuff that goes on in this world, I worry about my kids every day. That's why I don't let them go nowhere."

An officer responded to her, "He just happens to be possibly in the wrong place in the wrong time, matching the clothing these kids had, OK?"

Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky later sat with the youths and their families and showed them the video, walking them through why the officers did what they did, Dixon said. Rahinsky also apologized to the youths and their families, Dixon said.

"We were responding to credible information from a witness who said he saw a gun ... the officers acted according to procedure," Dixon said. "There was professionalism displayed throughout the entire ordeal."

"It is unfortunate, on the flip side of this, that the teens had to endure this," Dixon added.

On April 11, at the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting, Moore said, “We ask for something to be changed. ... We don't want this to happen to any other child."

“The department certainly is empathetic towards the families," Rahinsky said, according to WZZM-TV. "If that’s your teenaged son being ordered to the ground at gunpoint, I recognize the emotional response that that elicits."

"I wish we lived in a community or a country where we don’t take guns off of young men ... but we do," Rahinsky said, WZZM-TV reported. "We take guns off of teenagers with some frequency."

Dixon said last Friday police found themselves in a similar situation with a group of teenagers and responded the same way, and police did recover a gun. Dixon said that seven guns have been recovered from juveniles this year.

Since the incident, Rahinsky has held an "Open Office Initiative" to hear from community members, and he has scheduled another "Open Office Initiative" for this Friday.

"I know that the same level of energy and engagement that ensued after the incident on March 24 will also be directed at the issue of youth violence," Rahinsky said in a statement. "This community and this department places the utmost importance on our most valuable resource, our youth. This Friday, April 28, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., I will once again hold open office hours. No agenda, no appointment, just collaboration."

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Keri Locke(SILVER SPRINGS, Fla.) -- A monkey on the loose in Florida has surfaced in photographs and caught the attention of state wildlife officials.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers, the snapshots and video taken over the weekend appear to be that of a rhesus macaque.

Primate researchers say a large and feral colony of these monkeys live in the Silver Springs area, but Sunday’s sighting happened 50 miles south in Apopka.

“It was a little too big to be a raccoon, a little too brown, and as we got a little closer it kind of turned and looked at us and it was a monkey,” Apopka resident Keri Locke told ABC Orlando affiliate WFTV-TV.

Elena Lamar, deputy director of animal operations at Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, warns against getting too close to these monkeys.

“They’re not really keen on eye contact,” Lamar added.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- ABC News has confirmed that the Trump administration has settled on a new appointment for U.S. Secret Service director.

Former Marine general and Acting Deputy Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Randolph "Tex" Alles is the pick for the position, law enforcement and government sources tell ABC News.

Selecting an outsider would be a big shift for the insular agency, which has long promoted its leaders through the ranks.

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WPLG/ABC News(TAMARAC, Fla.) -- A trapper in Florida sealed his rescue of an injured alligator with a kiss.

The 8-foot alligator was visibly injured and bleeding Sunday while resting on the median strip along a road in Tamarac, Florida, according to authorities.

“It appeared that maybe it was hit by a car, because it had some road rash from the nose up to its spine,” Broward Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Will Medina told ABC Miami affiliate WPLG-TV.

Enter a trapper whose job was to contain the reptile, an ordeal captured on cellphone video that lasted nine minutes.

Wrapping the gator’s mouth with duct tape, the trapper puckered up and delivered the reptile a kiss on its snout.

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iStock/supparsorn(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) -- Arkansas has executed Marcel Williams, 52, just after 10:30 PM local time on Monday. His was the second execution of the night, making this the first double execution in the country since 2000.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker had halted Williams' execution while his attorneys argued whether the night’s first execution had gone properly. Williams was sentenced to death for the 1994 rape and murder of 22-year-old Stacy Rae Errickson after kidnapping her at gunpoint from a gas station in Jacksonville, Arkansas.

The first executed inmate, Jack Jones, was declared dead at 7:20pm local time on Monday, at the state’s Cummins Unit. He was sentenced to death for the 1995 rape and murder of 34-year-old bookkeeper Mary Phillips in Bald Knob, Arkansas.

Arkansas had scheduled eight executions over an 11-day period before the end of April, when its supply of a lethal injection drug expires. One inmate was put to death last week, though the first three executions were canceled because of court rulings.

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Siskiyou County Sheriff(YREKA, Calif.) -- The former Tennessee teacher who authorities say kidnapped his 15-year-old student then allegedly spent over a month on the run with her had planned to flee to Mexico, federal prosecutors said.

Tad Cummins, 50, a married father and grandfather, went missing with 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas on March 13, authorities said. An Amber Alert was issued for Elizabeth, while Cummins was wanted on allegations of aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor. The duo was found on April 20; the teen was "healthy and unharmed," authorities said, and Cummins was taken into custody.

Cummins allegedly plotted their getaway from the moment he was suspected of having an improper relationship with the teen, according to a motion filed by federal prosecutors Monday supporting detention for Cummins.

"The logical inference is that the defendant ... fled to avoid criminal charges," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Cummins planned to reach the Mexico border and then head to countries further south.

Cummins allegedly obtained a "small watercraft and conducted a test run to cross into Mexico across the water from San Diego," prosecutors said. "The defendant also considered the feasibility of a land crossing into Mexico."

Prosecutors claim that in an effort to evade capture, Cummins deliberately left a "misleading note with his wife regarding" which direction he was traveling. Cummins also allegedly altered his appearance, switched license plates twice, disabled the car's GPS system and used aliases for himself and the teenager, prosecutors said.

Cummins and Elizabeth were found on April 20 at a remote cabin in northern California near the Oregon border after over a month on the run.

Cummins was arrested on a state warrant for aggravated kidnapping and he faces a federal charge of transporting a minor in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. He appeared in federal court in Sacramento, California, Monday, where he did not enter a plea. Cummins is expected to be extradited to Tennessee.

The teenager was found "healthy and unharmed," authorities said. She has returned to Tennessee and is in a "safe location with family and friends where she is comfortable and resting," said attorney Jason Whatley, who is representing the Thomas family.

Cummins, who was fired one day after the alleged kidnapping, had allegedly researched teen marriage online, specifically the age of consent, according to law enforcement officials.

One of Elizabeth's schoolmates reported seeing her and Cummins kiss in his classroom on Jan. 23, according to a school district investigative report, but both denied the claim. A school report from January reads that neither one "admitted to behaving inappropriately towards the other."

Elizabeth’s father, Anthony Thomas, told ABC News after Elizabeth was found, “She may not be exactly ... the person she was because there’s a lot of experiences she’s had."

"I'm not allowed to ask her about things that happened along the way right now," he said.

Elizabeth’s father said the family is instead keeping "things positive."

"I go in there and tell her how much I missed her, how much I love her and how much her dog missed her," Anthony Thomas said.

"I think she has the determination to really go somewhere in life," he said. "But right now she really needs a lot of help."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW ORLEANS) -- New Orleans has become the latest place in the South to take down monuments or symbols to the Confederacy.

Workers early Monday dismantled a 35-foot granite obelisk, the Liberty Place monument, which honored whites who tried to defeat a racially integrated government installed in New Orleans after the Civil War. The city will also remove three statues to Confederate military officers in coming days.

"We will no longer allow the Confederacy to literally be put on a pedestal in the heart of our city," Mayor Mitch Landrieu vowed.

New Orleans' toppling of Confederate monuments is part of a trend that gained speed and momentum after a mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, when avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine African Americans in a bible-study session.

In the aftermath of the massacre, calls came from both Republicans and Democrats in South Carolina to take down a Confederate battle flag that flew atop the statehouse in Charleston.

South Carolina's public grappling with symbols of its history sparked calls from activists and politicians around the country to take down Confederate flags and monuments in other places.

Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy and research organization focused on fighting bigotry and discrimination, published a survey in the wake of the Charleston shooting that found more than 1,503 symbols of the Confederacy in public spaces in the U.S., nearly all of them in the South.

The group asserted in its study that the symbols of the Confederacy can't be separated from the ideology underlying the Southern states' defense of slavery after the Civil War.

"There is no doubt among reputable historians that the Confederacy was established upon the premise of white supremacy and that the South fought the Civil War to preserve its slave labor," the study states.

South Carolina took the Confederate battle flag down from its perch on the statehouse on July 10, 2015, little more than three weeks after the church killings.

Since then, Confederate flags have also been taken down at other locations including the Alabama statehouse, Oklahoma Baptist University and St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. Souvenir Confederate flags were also taken off the shelves at major retailers like Sears and Walmart and at small gift shops such as at the Civil War Museum of the Western Theater in Kentucky and at Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland.

Defenders of public displays of Confederate monuments and symbols say they are important markers of history.

Robert Bonner, a 63-year-old who participates in Civil War re-enactments, protested the removal of the Liberty Place monument in New Orleans, telling The Associated Press that the city's decision to take it down was "terrible."

"It's a terrible thing," Bonner said. "When you start removing the history of the city ... you start losing where you came from and where you've been."

Aware of opposition to removing the Liberty Place monument, the workers who took it down did so while it was still dark and wore both masks and bulletproof vests.

Some historians, echoing the view of the Southern Poverty Law Center, say many of the monuments to the Confederacy were put up less to commemorate history than to make a statement after the Civil War against any granting of full rights and political power to former slaves.

"Many of these statues were mounted in the 1890s and during the time of Jim Crow," when laws enforcing racial separation took hold, said Matt Karp, associate professor of history at Princeton University and author of a book on the legacy of slavery.

"These were political [statements] and not meant to be viewed as neutral symbols" of history, Karp said.

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