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Possibly record-breaking cold temperatures hit Northeast: Latest forecast

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A dangerous and possibly record-shattering freeze is invading the Northeast.

The cold moved into the Northeast Friday morning, with a wind chill -- what the temperature feels like -- reaching minus 21 degrees in Maine, minus 22 degrees in Vermont and minus 7 degrees in Buffalo, New York.

Boston is bracing for its coldest temperatures since 2016. By Saturday morning, it'll feel like minus 31 degrees in Boston.

Public schools in Boston are closed on Friday and sports are canceled through the weekend due to the extreme cold.

The coldest air for the Northeast will hit Saturday morning, when wind chills are forecast to plunge to a bone-chilling minus 9 degrees in New York City, minus 42 degrees in Burlington, Vermont, and minus 51 degrees in Lake Placid, New York.

The most extreme forecast is for Caribou, Maine, near the Canadian border, where wind chills could be as low as minus 55 degrees on Saturday morning. Caribou's lowest wind chill ever recorded was minus 58 degrees in 1951.

Portland, Maine, could break its all-time record low windchill of minus 41 degrees.

At Mount Washington in New Hampshire -- the highest mountain in the Northeast -- the wind chill could reach its coldest on record: minus 102 degrees.

Parts of northern Maine are also under a blizzard warning as the high winds are expected to blow snow, creating whiteout conditions.

But the bitter blast won’t last long. On Sunday and Monday, Boston is forecast to thaw to the mid-40s. New York City could reach 50 degrees by Monday.

Click here for tips on how to stay safe in the cold.

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Chinese balloon live updates: Moving eastward, over central US, Pentagon says

Matt Anderson Photography/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. officials say a massive surveillance balloon believed to be from China and seen above Montana is being tracked as it flies over the continental United States.

"The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is flying over the continental United States right now," Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement on Thursday. "NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] continues to track and monitor it closely."

China's foreign ministry has claimed it is a civilian balloon used for meteorological purposes, but U.S. politicians, many on the right, are already demanding President Joe Biden shoot it down.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Feb 03, 2:16 PM EST
Biden first briefed Tuesday, took military’s recommendation on balloon: WH

President Joe Biden was first briefed about the Chinese surveillance balloon on Tuesday, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, two days before the news was publicly confirmed by U.S. officials.

"He asked the military to present options," she told reporters in a gaggle on Air Force One. "It was the strong recommendation by Secretary Austin, Chairman Milley, the commander of Northern Command, not to take kinetic action because of the risk to safety and security of the people on the ground. President Biden took that recommendation from the military seriously."

"The president will always put the safety of the security of the American people first," she said.

Jean-Pierre said Biden continues to receive regular briefings from national security team, and that he "agreed" with Secretary of State Blinken's decision to delay his trip to China.

"We are tracking closely and keeping all options on the table," the press secretary said.

Feb 03, 1:41 PM EST
Biden again ignores questions on Chinese balloon

President Joe Biden didn’t answer questions reporters shouted about the Chinese surveillance balloon as he left the White House and boarded Marine One shortly after 1 p.m. Friday.

Biden has yet to publicly comment on the balloon since it was confirmed to be flying over the continental U.S. by officials on Thursday.

Biden is heading to Philadelphia, where he and Vice President Kamala Harris will appear at an infrastructure event in the afternoon and then later will speak at the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting.

Feb 03, 1:27 PM EST
'Gang of 8' staff received classified briefing on Chinese surveillance balloon

Staff to the so-called "Gang of 8" received a classified briefing on the balloon by the administration Thursday afternoon, according to multiple congressional officials.

The "Gang of 8" refers to the group of congressional leaders who are briefed on classified intelligence matters. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., requested a meeting with the group on Thursday.

"China's brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent," McCarthy said.

It's unclear if the classified briefing for the staff is a precursor to their bosses being briefed. No meeting appears to be on the books so far.

-ABC News' Trish Turner

Feb 03, 12:50 PM EST
Surveillance balloon is 'maneuverable,' Pentagon says

After saying the Chinese surveillance ballon was headed eastward, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the balloon is "maneuverable."

"So, the balloon is maneuverable. Clearly, it's violated U.S. air space, and again we've communicated that fact to the PRC," Ryder said.

"The balloon has changed its course, which is why we are monitoring it. That is as specific as I can get," he said, not giving further details on how it could be maneuvered.

"We continue to assess and make appropriate decisions based on how we are going to address what we perceive as a potential threat," Ryder added. "The safety and security of the American people is paramount. At this time we assess it does not pose a physical threat to people on the ground."

Feb 03, 10:26 AM EST
Pentagon to hold press briefing at noon

Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder will conduct an on-camera press briefing at noon on Friday as the Biden administration faces questions about what U.S. officials call a Chinese surveillance balloon flying over the U.S.

Ryder said in a statement Thursday that the government was tracking the balloon and that it didn't present a military threat.

"Instances of this kind of balloon activity have been observed previously over the past several years. Once the balloon was detected, the U.S. government acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information," Ryder said.

Feb 03, 9:36 AM EST
Secretary of state delays visit

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is postponing his visit to China after the balloon was tracked soaring across the country.

Blinken will delay his upcoming trip to Beijing, originally scheduled for next week. The official noted that Blinken did not want to blow the situation out of proportion by canceling his visit, but also does not want the balloon to dominate his meetings with Chinese officials.

Feb 03, 9:29 AM EST
China claims balloon is civilian in nature

The Chinese Foreign Ministry is saying the balloon is civilian in nature and used for scientific research, "mainly meteorological."

"The airship is from China," the foreign ministry said. "Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure."

It continued, "The Chinese side will continue communicating with the US side and properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure."

"Force majeure" refers to something that is done beyond the control of the government.

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Two in custody after six relatives, including baby, gunned down in targeted 'massacre'

Tulare County Sheriff's Office

(GOSHEN, Calif.) -- Two suspects are in custody after six family members, including a 16-year-old mom and her baby, were gunned down in a targeted and likely gang-related "massacre," according to the sheriff.

When the gunfire broke out on Jan. 16 in the farming community of Goshen, the 16-year-old grabbed her baby and ran, and placed her son over a fence to try to save him, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said. But the gunmen approached them and shot them both in the back of the head, he said.

The other slain victims were ages 19, 49 and 52, as well as a 72-year-old grandmother, who was sleeping in her bed, Boudreaux said.

"This family was targeted by cold-blooded killers" who carried out a "cartel-like" shooting, Boudreaux said at a news conference Friday.

The suspects and two members of the victims' family were in rival gangs, but the specific motive is not exactly clear, Boudreaux said.

Two suspects were taken into custody early Friday morning when authorities executed three search warrants as part of "Operation Nightmare," Boudreaux said.

One was taken into custody without incident, but the second suspect "engaged in a gun battle" with ATF agents, the sheriff said.

The suspect was shot and is undergoing surgery, Boudreaux said. He's in stable condition and expected to survive, the sheriff said.

The suspects had been under 24/7 surveillance since they were identified on Jan. 23, the sheriff said.

"The public was not at risk," the sheriff said. "We didn't have enough evidence ... to make the arrest."

"Once we did have the DNA information, we jumped," he said.

Authorities also searched about eight gang-associated prison cells at the same time as the search warrants, he said.

Boudreaux pleaded with California Gov. Gavin Newsom to lift the moratorium on the death penalty, calling the suspects "baby-killing murderers."

ABC News' Alex Stone contributed to this report.

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Man arrested in connection with monkeys stolen from Dallas Zoo: Police

Davion Irvin is arrested in connection to the Dallas Zoo monkey theft case. - Dallas County Jail

(DALLAS) -- Dallas police arrested a man in connection with the theft of two emperor tamarin monkeys from the Dallas Zoo. The two monkeys were found safe on Tuesday after they went missing a day prior.

Police arrested 24-year-old Davion Irvin and charged him with six counts of animal cruelty. He has been taken to the Dallas County jail, police said in a statement.

Authorities were able to identify Irvin as the man they were looking to speak with regarding the missing monkeys after releasing a photo of a person of interest and with help from the public, police said.

On Thursday, Dallas police received a tip Irvin was seen at the Dallas Aquarium near animal exhibits. When officers responded, Irvin get on a Dallas Area Rapid Transit train before he was spotted again and taken into custody.

The investigation into the case is still ongoing and further charges are possible, according to police.

The monkeys were found safe at an abandoned home in Lancaster and returned to the zoo.

The monkey theft was the latest in a series of suspicious incidents at the Dallas Zoo.

In January, a clouded leopard escaped her enclosure at the Dallas Zoo after the fence of her habitat was "intentionally cut," the leopard was found the same day it went missing, according to officials. A second fence inside the zoo's langur monkey habitat was cut although no monkeys escaped or were harmed.

The Dallas Zoo also found a rare and endangered vulture dead in its enclosure in January, with officials saying it did not appear to have died from natural causes.

Police have not said whether Irvin is connected to the other incidents.

The Dallas Zoo is offering a $25,000 reward for information on the person tampering with animal habitats.

Separately, 12 monkeys were stolen from a Louisiana zoo last weekend and are still missing, days later. The thief first tried to break into another habitat and steal a marmoset monkey, but was unsuccessful.

As of now, there is no indication there is a connection between the Texas and Louisiana zoo break-ins, according to the Broussard Police Department.

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Civil lawsuit filed year after police-related death of Minneapolis man, Amir Locke

Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images

(MINNEAPOLIS) -- One year after the death of Amir Locke, a 22-year-old man shot and killed by Minneapolis police, attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci and Jeff Storms announced they've filed a civil lawsuit.

Locke was fatally shot in February 2022 by Minneapolis police officers executing a no-knock search warrant on the apartment he was in.

"Our son didn't do anything wrong. It could have been anyone's son," Andre Locke, father of Amir, said to ABC News affiliate KTSP. "But it happened to be ours, and people don't understand how it feels until it actually happens to them."

Amir was asleep on the couch when Minneapolis officers entered the residence. Officer Mark Hanneman shot Amir Locke as he emerged from under a blanket holding a gun that he legally owned, according to his family.

"If I did not use deadly force myself, I would likely be killed," Hanneman told investigators when describing that moment on the body camera footage.

Procesutors declined to file charges.

As a result of the shooting, the Minneapolis police department no longer allows for the application or practice of no-knock search warrants, the city's mayor Jacob Frey announced in April of last year.

No-knock warrants have come under scrutiny, most prominently in the 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor during a botched drug raid.

This lawsuit announcement comes a day after multiple organizations held a vigil at the Minnesota State Capitol rotunda for the anniversary of Locke's death.

ABC News' Kiara Alfonseca contributed to this report.

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Three bodies found in search for Detroit rappers who went missing last month

kali9/Getty Images

(HYLAND PARK, Mich.) -- Detroit police found three bodies in the basement of an abandoned apartment complex in Hyland Park, Michigan, as they searched for three local rappers who went missing last month.

As of Friday morning, the three male victims found in the basement could not be identified. Due to weather conditions and the conditions of the bodies, identifications could not be made by sight alone, Michigan State Police 1st Lt. Mike Shaw said Friday.

Police have been searching for three Detroit rappers -- 38-year-old Armani Kelly, 31-year-old Dante Wicker and 31-year-old Montoya Givens -- who went missing after they were scheduled to perform at an event on Jan. 21.

Earlier this week, Detroit police said they were very concerned because there had not been any activity on the three men's cellphones or online accounts.

The three men were together for a rap event at Lounge 31 on Jan. 21, but that event was canceled at the last minute due to an issue with the DJ.

Police said they were unaware if the three men left the local bar together or what happened from that point, but know that the three men were together at some point that evening.

A representative for Lounge 31 could not confirm to ABC News whether the three men arrived at the venue the day of the performance, but said they were cooperating with police.

The Homicide Task Force responded to the scene where the bodies were found, contacted the crime lab and started its investigation.

The bodies of the victims have been transported to the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office and police are awaiting autopsy results. The results may take up to 48 hours because of the extreme cold, Shaw said.

Police are currently looking at all the evidence they gathered in the apartment complex and are continuing their investigation, Shaw said.

Earlier this week, police were able to find a vehicle that belonged to an acquaintance of Kelly, but police said there were no signs of the three men.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Central Park Zoo owl on the loose after exhibit vandalized, zoo says

The New York City Mayor's Office released an image of a Eurasian eagle owl that escaped from the Central Park Zoo after its exhibit was vandalized. - NYC Mayor's Office/Twitter

(NEW YORK) -- A large owl is on the loose from the Central Park Zoo after its exhibit was vandalized, zoo officials said.

A Eurasian eagle owl at the Manhattan zoo was discovered missing from its exhibit at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, zoo officials said.

"The exhibit had been vandalized and the stainless steel mesh cut," the Central Park Zoo said in a statement.

A zoo team has been searching for the bird, one of the largest species of owl, ever since.

Citizens and police spotted it Thursday night on the sidewalk several blocks from the zoo. Officers from the NYPD's Emergency Services Unit attempted to get it in a cage, though the owl flew off.

"Well, that was a hoot," the NYPD's 19th Precinct tweeted. "We tried to help this lil wise guy, but he had enough of his growing audience & flew off."

The New York City Mayor's Office erroneously tweeted that the bird had been saved while sharing photos of it on the sidewalk near a cage.

The owl remained perched in a tree near the zoo overnight before flying off into Central Park Friday morning "where we continue to have visual contact with the bird," zoo officials said.

Multiple agencies are currently assisting in attempts to bring the owl, named Flaco, down from a tree in the southeast corner of the park near an area known as the Hallett Nature Sanctuary.

"Our focus and effort at this time is on the safe recovery of the owl," the zoo said.

The owl's escape comes following reports of vandalism and missing animals at other zoos in the U.S.

On Friday, Dallas police arrested a man in connection with the theft of two emperor tamarin monkeys from the Dallas Zoo. The case of the missing monkeys, which were found safe on Tuesday a day after they were discovered missing, marked the latest in a string of suspicious activity under investigation at the zoo.

Also, 12 squirrel monkeys were stolen from Zoosiana, a Louisiana zoo, shortly before midnight on Saturday. The thief evidently brought tools to cut the wire, break locks and destroy the enclosure. The monkeys remain missing.

ABC News' Mark Crudele and Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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FBI looking for man who brought pistol to San Francisco synagogue, fired apparent blanks

FBI San Francisco

(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The FBI said it's looking for a man who walked into a San Francisco synagogue with a pistol and fired several rounds, believed to be blanks.

No one was injured and no damage was reported during the Wednesday evening incident at the Schneerson Jewish Center, the San Francisco Police Department said.

The man walked into the synagogue during a gathering and around 7:20 p.m. he "made a verbal statement, pulled out a firearm, and shot several times," police said.

The suspect then fled the scene, police said.

News of the shooting left Rabbi Alon Chanukov in shock and disbelief, he told ABC News.

"I couldn't even imagine something like that happening," he said.

Chanukov wasn't at the synagogue at the time. He said he was terrified thinking about if his kids happened to be there.

He said the synagogue will have a police presence this weekend and he urged the local Jewish community to not be scared.

"Don't let this person win," he said. "Come to synagogue, especially this week."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Dangerous and possibly record-breaking freeze heading to Northeast: What to expect

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A dangerous and possibly record-shattering freeze is invading the Northeast.

The cold moved into the Northeast Friday morning, with a wind chill -- what temperature it feels like -- expected to reach minus 21 degrees in Maine, minus 22 degrees in Vermont and minus 7 degrees in Buffalo, New York.

Boston is bracing for its coldest temperatures since 2016, when a temperature of minus 9 degrees was recorded. Overnight, Boston could fall to minus 6 degrees.

Public schools in Boston are closed on Friday and sports are canceled through the weekend due to the extreme cold.

By Friday night, Portland, Maine, could near its record for lowest wind chill, which stands at minus 41 degrees.

The coldest air for the Northeast will hit Saturday morning, when wind chills are forecast to plunge to a bone-chilling minus 36 degrees in Boston; minus 29 degrees in Albany, New York; minus 27 degrees in Hartford, Connecticut; and minus 14 degrees in New York City.

The most extreme forecast is for Caribou, Maine, near the Canadian border, where wind chills could be as low as minus 63 degrees on Saturday morning. That would clock in as the coldest wind chill in the region on record.

But the bitter blast won’t last long. On Sunday and Monday, Boston is forecast to thaw to the mid-40s.

 

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


California cyclist dies after being hit by car and stabbed by driver, authorities say

Oliver Helbig/Getty Images

(DANA POINT, Calif.) -- A California cyclist died on Thursday after being struck by a car and then stabbed to death by the driver, authorities said.

The alleged attack occurred at around 3 p.m. PT near the intersection of the Pacific Coast Highway and Crown Valley Parkway in Dana Point, a cliffside beach town located in Southern California's Orange County, some 60 miles southwest of Los Angeles. Deputies arrived at the scene to find a cyclist -- identified as 58-year-old Michael John Mammone -- "lying in the intersection suffering from severe injuries," the Orange County Sheriff's Department said in a press release.

Mammone was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to the sheriff's department. He worked as an emergency room physician at Providence Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach, according to Los Angeles ABC station KABC-TV.

Investigators learned that Mammone had been riding his bicycle northbound on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway when he was hit from behind by a vehicle. The driver -- identified as 39-year-old Vanroy Evan Smith, of Long Beach -- then got out of the car and "assaulted Mammone with a knife," the sheriff's department said.

The moment of impact was captured on video by a Ring doorbell camera mounted in front of a nearby home, KABC reported.

When deputies arrived on scene, Smith was being detained by bystanders. He was subsequently taken into custody and booked into the Orange County Jail on suspicion of murder, according to the sheriff's department.

A knife believed to be used in the alleged assault was recovered from the scene, the sheriff's department said. The incident is being investigated by the Orange County Sheriff's Department Homicide Detail.

"At this time, there is no known connection between the suspect and the victim," the sheriff's department added. "Investigators will work to determine what led to this incident."

Anyone with information on the case is urged to contact the Orange County Sheriff's Department at 714-288-6740. Information may also be provided anonymously through Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS.

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Coast Guard probing deaths, injuries of Americans on vessels in Antarctic waters

CT757fan/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) said it's investigating several deaths and injuries of U.S. citizens that took place on passenger vessels recently traveling in Antarctic waters.

The Coast Guard, the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies from around the world are deploying teams to Ushuaia, Argentina to investigate four instances that took place between Nov. 15 and Dec. 1, 2022, the agency said.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of those impacted by these tragedies,” Capt. Gretchen Bailey, the Coast Guard Activities Europe commanding officer, said in a statement. “We are proud to work alongside the NTSB and our international partners to investigate these incidents and make meaningful safety improvements for worldwide passenger vessel operations, especially in unique high-risk environments like the Antarctic."

In one incident, two U.S. citizens died when an inflatable boat from the Portuguese-flagged passenger vessel, World Explorer, capsized with six passengers aboard near Elephant Island, Antarctica, the USCG said.

A U.S. citizen was injured when an inflatable boat from the Norwegian-flagged passenger vessel, Viking Polaris, sustained a keel-bladder failure near Damoy Point, Antarctica, according to the USCG.

One U.S. citizen died, and four others were injured in a third incident when the Viking Polaris was struck by a large wave in the Drake Passage while transiting to Ushuaia, Argentina, the USCG confirmed. Passengers on board the ship described choppy conditions leading up to the incident, which officials said was caused by a "rogue wave."

A U.S. citizen died from "an injury sustained" aboard the Netherlands-flagged passenger vessel, Plancius, in a fourth incident, the U.S. Coast Guard.

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Manhattan DA threatens former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg with new charges

Marilyn Nieves/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The Manhattan district attorney's office has recently threatened to file new criminal charges against former Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

Weisselberg, 75, is currently serving jail time at New York's Rikers Island after he pleaded guilty to tax fraud in August.

The new charges, the sources said, would involve insurance fraud, a detail first reported by The New York Times.

Prosecutors in Manhattan, New York are using the threat of additional charges to pressure Weisselberg into cooperating with their ongoing criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump and his business, the sources said.

A spokesperson for District Attorney Alvin Bragg declined to comment to ABC News. An attorney for Weisselberg also declined to comment.

Weisselberg testified against the Trump Organization at its criminal trial last year as part of a plea agreement, but he did not implicate the former president in the company's tax fraud.

Insurance fraud was mentioned in New York Attorney General Letitia James' $250 million civil lawsuit that the AG brought in September against Trump, his eldest children, and his business. The lawsuit, which also names Weisselberg and other executives, alleges that the former CFO lied to an insurance company about an appraisal of Trump's real estate portfolio.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and has called James' investigation a politically motivated "witch hunt."

This week, prosecutors began presenting evidence to a grand jury investigating whether Trump played a role in the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Among the initial witnesses, ABC News has previously reported, were former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker and Trump Organization controller Jeff McConney.

Trump has denied knowing about the payment, which was arranged through his then-personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

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Large Chinese reconnaissance balloon spotted over the US, officials say

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- A massive spy balloon believed to be from China was seen above Montana and is being tracked as it flies across the continental United States, with President Joe Biden for now deciding against "military options" because of the risk to civilians, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Still, officials insisted, they continue to closely monitor the vessel as they have since it entered the country -- while voicing their concern to the Chinese.

"The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is flying over the continental United States right now," Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement on Thursday.

"NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command] continues to track and monitor it closely," Ryder said.

NORAD later said in a statement that its commander, Gen. Glen VanHerck, "assesses the balloon does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground at this time. The balloon is currently traveling at altitude well above commercial air traffic."

The Canadian Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are working with NORAD and "other partners" to assess the situation, the agency said in a statement, adding that Canada is "taking steps to ensure the security of its airspace, including the monitoring of a potential second incident."

The high-altitude reconnaissance balloon was not the first such craft to pass over the U.S. in this way, a senior defense official said in a briefing.

A separate senior official told ABC News the balloon is the size of three buses and complete with a technology bay, which the defense official said they "wouldn't characterize" as "revolutionary."

The defense official said they "are confident" the balloon was sent by China.

"Instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including prior to this administration," the official said, noting that "it's happened a handful of other times over the past few years ... It is appearing to hang out for a longer period of time this time around."

Beijing's first official response to the balloon came Friday, with Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning telling reporters that authorities are still "gathering the facts."

"I want to stress that, before it becomes clear what happened, any deliberate speculation or hyping up will not help," Mao said during a routine press conference. "The Chinese side is gathering the facts and hopes all sides will handle this matter in a cool-headed manner."

"We act in accordance with international law," she added. "We have no intention to violate other country's sovereignty and bearing the facts, we hope relevant parties would and would handle the matter in a clear-headed way."

When asked whether the balloon would affect U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's expected visit to Beijing next week, Mao told reporters: "I have nothing to share at this moment."

One outside expert predicted the balloon could be essentially scientific and set off course, though other sources said it appeared to be "purposeful."

Retired Col. Steve Ganyard, an ABC News contributor, said the balloon looked to be a standard research vessel -- which would mean it was unpowered and drifted with the jet stream.

A senior U.S. official, however, told ABC that the military balloon was specially designed, with a purposeful path. They believe the balloon can take high-resolution pictures and is flying along areas where there are missiles and bases.

Echoing that, the defense official told reporters: "I'm not trying to be a wise guy, but the goal was surveillance and clearly they're trying to fly this balloon over sensitive sites ... to collect information."

The defense official said the U.S. had used "multiple channels" to tell China how seriously they are taking this incident.

"We have made clear we will do whatever is necessary to protect our people and our homeland," said the official, who added that if the risk does increase then "we will have options to deal with this balloon."

Biden was briefed about the balloon and "asked for military options," the defense official said. The president agreed with the recommendation of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and U.S. Northern Command Gen. Glen D. VanHerck to not "take kinetic action due to the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field."

A senior administration official echoed that view and said in a statement, "We acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information."

A U.S. official said Thursday night that the U.S. is closely monitoring the situation with the balloon and "keeping all options open."

The balloon was seen over Montana on Wednesday and military aircraft spotted in the sky above Billings were U.S. Air Force F-22s, according to a U.S. official.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that there was a ground stop in Billings on Wednesday but an agency spokesperson did not share more details.

The senior defense official said the presence of the F-22s and the FAA's ground stop were put in place in case the decision was made to shoot down the balloon.

"We didn't take the shot, but that's why you saw the reports that you saw," the official said.

"Why not shoot?" reporters asked.

"The first question is, does it pose a threat?" the official said. "Our assessment is it does not."

"We have been tracking it for some time. And we have had custody of it the entire time. It's been over U.S. airspace, entered the continental United States' airspace, a couple days ago," the official said.

"Currently, we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collection perspective," the official said. "But we are taking steps nevertheless to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information."

The official wouldn't say where the balloon is now. But they said it is not posing a risk to civilian aviation because it's at such a high altitude -- "significantly above where civilian air traffic is active."

Military expert's view

Ganyard predicted the balloon was an experiment gone awry.

Such balloons are not controlled after their release and while they are normally equipped with mechanisms to deflate over an open area, the mechanisms can fail, Ganyard said. So it's possible the balloon would have drifted over from China after multiple days, rather than being nefariously deployed.

China intentionally deploying a reconnaissance balloon over the U.S. would be highly provocative, with little value, Ganyard said, noting that Chinese satellites are able to collect information in a similar manner.

Regardless, the senior defense official said on Thursday that "we know exactly where this balloon is, exactly what it is passing over, and we are taking steps to be extra vigilant so that we can mitigate any foreign intelligence risk."

Lawmakers react

Members of Congress on Thursday pushed for more answers.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy requested a "Gang of Eight" briefing on the Chinese balloon, and a U.S. official told ABC News that their staff was briefed Thursday afternoon and that they've offered additional briefings.

"We briefed Gang of Eight staff in the afternoon to get this information to Congress expeditiously and offered additional briefings," the official said.

The so-called "Gang of Eight" includes the top House and Senate leaders, as well as the heads of the intelligence committees in each chamber.

McCarthy tweeted: "China's brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent. I am requesting a Gang of Eight briefing."

"The Department of Defense owes Congress and the American people a full and accurate accounting of why U.S. forces did not take proactive measures to address this," Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

Wicker argued that "information strongly suggests the Department failed to act with urgency."

Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines requested a security briefing from the Biden administration. In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Daines called it "imperative" that the government affirm the American people's safety and security.

A spokesperson for Montana's Democratic senator, Jon Tester, said he was "monitoring this situation closely and will continue to receive updates from DOD."

Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke tweeted to "shoot it down."

"The Chinese spy balloon is clear provocation. In Montana we do not bow. We shoot it down," he wrote. "Take the shot."

The state's other top Republican representative, Matt Rosendale, wrote: "It's unacceptable to allow communist China to invade our airspace -- this is another clear example of Chinese aggression. President Biden must start putting the American people first and recognize that China is a threat to our freedom, values and way of life."

The top Republican and Democrat on the House's select committee on China also shared their outrage, saying in a statement that the balloon represented a "violation of American sovereignty."

"This incident demonstrates that the CCP threat is not confined to distant shores—it is here at home and we must act to counter this threat," Chair Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said.

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Suspect charged after high-powered rifles, shotguns, handguns found in man's home: Police

Los Angeles Police Dept.

(LOS ANGELES) -- A suspect has been charged with possession of a high-powered weapon and making criminal threats after a cache of high-powered rifles, shotguns and handguns were recovered at a man's Los Angeles apartment.

Braxton Johnson, 25, was arrested for criminal threats on Thursday, according to police.

Authorities initially said a mass shooting may have been thwarted, but the Los Angeles Police Department later issued a statement saying, in part: "At this point of the investigation, there are no indications that any persons were threatened with a firearm nor have we identified any intent by Johnson to plan a mass shooting incident."

On Tuesday morning, officers in Hollywood responded to a call from building security of a man making threats, according to law enforcement sources.

The officers "determined the elements of Criminal Threats had been met" and they obtained a search warrant, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

Police said they recovered "several high-powered rifles, shotguns, handguns and a large cache of various munitions" in the home. Some guns were found in front of a window, according to law enforcement sources.

Lt. Leonid Tsap had told reporters, "There's a high chance that the officers, and obviously security staff and the people who called, prevented a mass shooting from happening."

Johnson was set to be arraigned later in the day on with two counts of possession of an assault weapon, one count of criminal threats and one count of solicitation of murder, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.

"Los Angeles County is still reeling over the tragic mass shooting in Monterey Park," the DA said in a statement. "Were it not for the brave actions of the witnesses in this case, this could have also been an incredible tragedy

Johnson served in the Army as an Infantryman from July 2016 to February 2020, according to an Army spokesperson. He had no deployments.

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New Jersey councilwoman shot and killed in possible targeted attack outside her home

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A New Jersey councilwoman was shot and killed in a possible attack outside her home, an incident officials are calling "shocking" and "senseless."

Eunice Dwumfour was the first sitting elected official in recent memory who had been shot and killed in office in the state, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told reporters Thursday.

"I am stunned by the news of Sayreville Councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour's murder last evening in an act of gun violence," Murphy said. "Her career of public service was just beginning, and by all accounts she had already built a reputation as a committed member of the Borough Council who took her responsibility with the utmost diligence and seriousness."

Dwumfour was inside her white SUV when she was shot Wednesday night, officials said. She sustained multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Dwumfour lived in the townhouse complex where she was killed. A motive for the shooting was not immediately disclosed. Police did not say if a suspect was identified or an arrest had been made.

Mahesh Chitnis, who serves on Sayreville's Human Relations Commission, posted on Facebook that Dwumfour, his neighbor, was "killed 300 feet from my home ... she was shot while returning back home. She was a woman full of life."

Police have no clear motive for Dwumfour’s killing, according to law enforcement sources briefed on the investigation. However, detectives have her phone and they are looking at every aspect of her life - personal, professional, religious - to figure out why this happened, sources told ABC News.

Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone told ABC News the councilwoman’s political position does not yet appear to have played any role in the homicide.

Dwumfour had just dropped someone off at her townhome and was heading somewhere else when the assailant approached on foot, according to sources.

No words appear to have been exchanged between the two, sources told ABC News.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing more than 10 shots, sources added.

Dwumfour was elected to the council in 2021 and worked as a business analyst and part-time emergency medical technician. She was recently married and had a 12-year-old daughter. Dwumfour was also known to be a leader of her church in Newark.

New Jersey Republican State Committee Chair Bob Hugin said Dwumfour's murder was "senseless violence."

"We will remember Eunice for her steadfast dedication to the community, as well as her deep and abiding Christian faith," Hugin said. "We have the utmost confidence that law enforcement will bring the perpetrators of this heartbreaking tragedy to justice. God Bless Councilwoman Dwumfour and her family."

Anyone with information or surveillance footage of the area is asked to call Detective Rebecca Morales of the Sayreville Police Department at 732-727-4444 or Detective Michelle Coppola of the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office 732-745-3477.

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