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2 ex-officers: Rewarded for use of force

GEORGETOWN, Texas -- Two former employees of a Texas sheriff's office say leaders rewarded officers with steakhouse gift cards when they used force on the job.

The Texas Rangers and the Williamson County prosecutor's office are investigating at least five use-of-force incidents involving the Williamson County sheriff's office in suburban Austin. A former deputy whose use of force is under investigation told investigators about the gift cards in a recorded interview obtained by the Austin American Statesman and KVUE-TV. A second former deputy confirmed the account to the outlets.

Deputies who received the gift cards include two involved in the 2019 death of Javier Ambler, according to former deputy Christopher Pisa. The two deputies, J.J. Johnson and Zach Camden, repeatedly used stun guns on the 40-year-old Black man, despite his pleas that he was sick and couldn't breathe. Pisa did not say what incident led to Cmdr. Steve Deaton giving Johnson and Camden the gift cards, and the investigator did not ask, according to the Statesman.

Former Sgt. Troy Brogden, who resigned from the department in 2019, corroborated Pisa's allegation, telling the newspaper and TV station that Deaton gave the cards "for what he considered good uses of force." Deaton resigned from the department last year after facing criticism for Facebook posts making light of date rape, kidnapping and a Black football player's amputation.

Gunfire outside house party kills student

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- An 18-year-old Indiana State University student died early Friday in a shooting outside a college house party, police said.

Valentina Delva of Indianapolis was pronounced dead after the 1:55 a.m. gunfire, Terre Haute Police Chief Shawn Keen said.

Two males at the party also were shot, police said, adding that they were treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

Delva was a front-seat passenger in a car being driven from the scene when she was struck by gunfire, Keen said.

Indiana State University issued a statement noting that counseling services were available and asking faculty members "for their understanding and flexibility" with grieving students.

Judge: Ballots must be sent by Nov. 2

LANSING, Mich. -- A judge Friday cleared the way for more absentee ballots to be counted in Michigan, saying envelopes postmarked by the eve of the Nov. 3 election are eligible, even if they show up days later.

The decision is significant in a state that is anticipating waves of absentee ballots this fall. About 2.3 million such ballots have already been requested. For absentee ballots to be counted, Michigan law requires them to be received by the time polls close on Election Day.

But Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens said there's a crucial need for flexibility in November, especially after more than 6,400 ballots were disqualified in the state's August primary election.

An absentee ballot can be counted if postmarked by Nov. 2 and received within 14 days after the election, said Stephens, who noted that it can take two weeks to certify Michigan election results anyway.

The judge's order could cause a delay in declaring winners in some races. President Donald Trump won Michigan by only 10,000 votes in 2016.

The state doesn't plan to appeal Stephens' decision or a ruling from a different judge about driving voters to polling places, said Ryan Jarvi, a spokesman for Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat.

Trump releases $13B for Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump announced the release Friday of $13 billion in assistance to repair years-old hurricane damage in Puerto Rico and pledged to restore its economy, setting aside his past bitter treatment of the island and its leaders as he courts Puerto Rican voters in the U.S.

Trump has spent much of his administration blasting Puerto Rican officials as corrupt and inept, and he has opposed spending to rebuild a power grid and other infrastructure that was wiped out by Hurricane Maria in September 2017. He's now portraying himself as the territory's best friend.

"I'm the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico," he said at a White House news conference, "no one even close."

Residents of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of more than 3 million people, cannot vote in the general election. But there are more people of Puerto Rican descent on the mainland than on the island, and they could play a key role in the Nov. 3 vote.

The hurricane slammed into the island with winds of 155 mph, causing an estimated $100 billion in damage and killing nearly 3,000 people, according to an official death toll that Trump has said was exaggerated to make him look bad.

The grant announced Friday includes nearly $10 billion to rebuild an electrical grid that was wiped out by the storm and resulted in the longest blackout in U.S. history.

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