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CINCINNATI, OHIO (BNO NEWS) — American astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, will be laid to rest during a private service in Ohio on Friday, NASA said on Monday. U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff on that day.

A NASA spokesperson said Armstrong, who is from the city of Wapakoneta in Ohio, will be laid to rest during a private, family memorial service in Cincinnati on Friday. Other details were not immediately released, although a number of officials, including U.S. Senator Rob Portman, are expected to attend.

Also on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a proclamation ordering the flag of the United States to be flown at half-staff on Friday. Ohio Governor John Kasich, meanwhile, ordered flags in the state to be flown at half-staff from Monday through Friday for the Ohio native.

“As a mark of respect for the memory of Neil Armstrong, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that on the day of his interment, the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds,” Obama said in the proclamation. U.S. flags will also be flown at half-staff at military posts, naval stations, U.S. embassies, ships and consular offices.

Armstrong served as commander during the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned lunar landing mission, in July 1969. He immediately rose to fame around the world for being the first man to land a craft on the moon and then the first man to step on its surface, after which he and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin explored it for over two hours.

People from around the world gathered around their television sets to watch coverage of the moon landing and to hear Armstrong’s famous words as he stepped onto the moon’s surface. “That is one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong said on July 20, 1969, as he became a part of history.

Armstrong died at a hospital in Ohio on Saturday afternoon as a result of complications from cardiovascular procedures. He had underwent surgery due to blocked coronary arteries earlier this month, just days after celebrating his 82nd birthday. It is not yet known if a national memorial service will be held for Armstrong, who often shunned publicity.

On Saturday, the family made a simple request for those who want to honor Armstrong. “Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink,” a family statement said.

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COLUMBUS, OHIO (BNO NEWS) — American astronaut Neil Armstrong, who made history when he stepped onto the moon’s surface as commander of the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, died at a hospital in Ohio on Saturday, his family said. He was 82.

Armstrong, from Wapakoneta, Ohio, had celebrated his birthday earlier this month just days before he underwent surgery due to blocked coronary arteries. Complications from the cardiovascular procedures ultimately caused his death at a hospital in Ohio on Saturday, according to his family.

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend,” his family said in a written statement released on Armstrong’s website.

It added: “While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.”

Armstrong served as commander during the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned lunar landing mission, in July 1969. He immediately rose to fame around the world for being the first man to land a craft on the moon and then the first man to step on its surface, after which he and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin explored it for over two hours.

People from around the world gathered around their television sets to watch coverage of the moon landing and to hear Armstrong’s famous words as he stepped onto the moon’s surface. “That is one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong said on July 20, 1969, as he became a part of history.

“Neil Armstrong was a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job,” Armstrong’s family said on Saturday. “He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.”

The family also made a simple request for those who want to honor Armstrong. “Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink,” the statement said.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden expressed his condolences on behalf of the organization. “As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them, remembered for taking humankind’s first small step on a world beyond our own,” he said. “Besides being one of America’s greatest explorers, Neil carried himself with a grace and humility that was an example to us all. When President Kennedy challenged the nation to send a human to the moon, Neil Armstrong accepted without reservation.”

U.S. President Barack Obama said he and his wife Michelle were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Armstrong. “Neil was among the greatest of American heroes – not just of his time, but of all time,” he said. “When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation.”

Obama added: “They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable – that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible. And when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.”

“Today, Neil’s spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown – including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further in space. That legacy will endure – sparked by a man who taught us the enormous power of one small step,” Obama concluded.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hailed Armstrong as one of America’s greatest heroes and Naval aviators. “We are bidding farewell to one of our own. As a decorated Korean War veteran, as an astronaut for NASA, and as the first man to walk on the moon, Neil inspired generations of Americans to believe that as a nation we are capable of achieving greatness that only comes with determination, perseverance, and hard work,” he said.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also expressed his sadness over Armstrong’s death. “Neil Armstrong today takes his place in the hall of heroes,” he said. “With courage unmeasured and unbounded love for his country, he walked where man had never walked before. The moon will miss its first son of earth.”

Armstrong is survived by his wife, two sons, a stepson, a stepdaughter, 10 grandchildren, and a brother and sister.

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MAYMANA, AFGHANISTAN (BNO NEWS) — The death toll from a suicide bombing outside a park in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday morning has risen to at least thirteen, including four Afghan soldiers and three American service members, officials said on Thursday.

The attack happened when an unidentified person riding a motorcycle detonated his explosives at the gate of a park in Maymana, the capital of Faryab province, approximately 420 kilometers (260 miles) northwest of Kabul. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) on Thursday confirmed at least thirteen people were killed. Among the casualties were three American service members, four Afghan National Security Force members, and six Afghan civilians. The explosion also wounded more than 30 others, including 16 American troops.

“Despicable is the only word to describe the cold, heartless way in which the enemies of peace carried out this attack – detonating an [improvised explosive device (IED)] in the middle of a large crowd of civilians,” said ISAF commander General John R. Allen on Thursday. “My deepest condolences are with all the families of those killed yesterday, and the entire ISAF community prays for the complete recovery of those injured.”

Ohio Adjutant General’s Department said the three American service members who were killed in the attack were members of the Ohio Army National Guard’s 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Their identities were not immediately released pending full notification of next of kin.

After the attack on Wednesday, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed responsibility and identified the bomber as Mullah Abdul Ghafar of Sar-e Pol province. “The attack was carried out by a lion of Islamic Emirate (Taliban) when he detonated his explosives belt in the middle of foreign invaders and their puppets while the enemy troops were on their way to a nearby park,” he said on Wednesday.

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CHARDON, Ohio (BNO NEWS) — A 16-year-old student died on Tuesday after a shooting rampage at his Ohio high school on Monday morning, hospital officials said, raising the death toll to three. The suspected gunman also appeared in court on Tuesday.

The incident occurred on early Monday morning at Chardon High School, which is located in Geauga County, when 17-year-old student T.J. Lane allegedly entered the school’s cafeteria and opened fire at students who were arriving at the school before the first period of the day.

Four students were shot in the school’s cafeteria while a fifth student was shot in the hallway, officials previously said. 16-year-old Daniel Parmertor died at MetroHealth’s Level One Trauma Center shortly after the shooting while 17-year-old Russell King died later on Monday.

MetroHealth officials said 16-year-old Demetrius Hewlin died of his injuries on Tuesday morning. “We are very saddened by the loss of our son and others in our Chardon community,” his family said in a statement. “Demetrius was a happy young man who loved life and his family and friends. We will miss him very much but we are proud that he will be able to help others through organ donation.”

Also on Tuesday, alleged gunman T.J. Lane made his first court appearance but gave no details as to why he allegedly carried out the shooting attack. He is expected to be charged with three counts of aggravated murder and other offenses, and juvenile court judges must determine whether Lane will be tried as an adult or as a juvenile.

The deadliest high school school massacre in U.S. history happened in April 1999 when 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold went on a killing spree at Columbine High School in Colorado, killing 12 students and one teacher before committing suicide. The massacre prompted changes in school security across the United States.

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CHARDON, Ohio (BNO NEWS) — At least one student was killed on early Monday morning when a student opened fire at his high school in northeastern Ohio, police said. Local media said a second student later died at a local hospital.

The incident occurred at around 7:30 a.m. local time at Chardon High School, which is located in Geauga County, around 30 miles (48.2 kilometers) east of Cleveland. Initial reports indicate that the gunman entered the school’s cafeteria in the morning and opened fire as the school day began but before the first period.

FBI and Geauga County Sheriff’s officials said the 17-year-old alleged shooter later turned himself in and is currently in the custody of law enforcement officials, but his name was not immediately released.

Among the five Chardong High School students shot, three were airlifted to Cleveland for treatment at the MetroHealth Medical Center, while two were transported to Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights. One student later died, and local media reports quoted sources as saying that a second student also passed away.

Chardon High School hosts around 1,150 students who were later evacuated at around 8:50 a.m. local time when a lockdown was lifted. They were taken to the Maple Elementary School which is across from the high school.

Some reports are indicating that students believe the shooter had specific targets and was not shooting at random, although few details have been made available about the attack. Local TV channels have interviewed students who named and identified the alleged shooter.

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CLEVELAND (BNO NEWS) — Seven members of an Amish community in Ohio were arrested on early Wednesday morning on hate crime charges following a series of Amish hair-cutting attacks, the U.S Department of Justice said in a statement.

A criminal complaint filed in Cleveland charged seven men with attacking others because of their actual or perceived religion. The maximum potential penalty for these violations is life in prison, the statement said.

According to an affidavit from the Department of Justice, the men forcibly restrained multiple Amish men and cut off their beards and head hair with scissors and battery-powered clippers, injuring them and others who attempted to stop the attacks. In the Amish religion, a man’s beard and head hair are sacred.

The spate of assaults, which have received international media coverage, have been blamed on a breakaway Amish group. Among the defendants are breakaway Amish group leader Samuel Muller Sr. and three of his sons, prosecutors said.

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ZANESVILLE, OHIO (BNO NEWS) — Dozens of exotic animals which escaped from an animal preserve in Ohio on Tuesday evening have been shot dead by police, officials said on Wednesday. Their owner apparently killed himself.

Terry Thompson, owner of the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, was found dead at the farm on late Tuesday afternoon. He apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

Authorities believe Thompson opened all the animal cages before he killed himself, allowing his animals to escape into the countryside. It was not immediately known what motivated Thompson to release the dangerous animals or why he took his own life.

When police responded to the area at around 5.30 p.m. local time on Tuesday, following reports of exotic animals running loose, armed officers shot and killed as many as 25 animals as they made their way to Thompson’s farm where they discovered more animals were missing.

Local authorities then began patrolling the area on the lookout for the missing animals, warning people to stay indoors until the animals were caught or killed. “These are wild animals. Wild animals that you would see on TV in Africa,” said Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz who gave ‘shoot to kill’ orders to his officers.

Deputies with assault rifles and thermal imaging equipment were deployed in search of the exotic animals, which Lutz described as “mature, very large, and aggressive.” However, some have criticized authorities for killing the animals, which include endangered Bengal tigers.

Members of the Columbus Zoo and The Wilds had brought tranquilizers to the scene, but Lutz said they were only there in the event that an animal got near residential houses where it would be unsafe for police officers to open fire.

In all, 49 of the 56 exotic animals which escaped from the farm were shot dead by police. Those killed include 18 Bengal tigers, nine male lions, eight female lions, six black bears, three mountain lions, two grizzly bears, one baboon and two wolves. One missing monkey is believed to have been eaten by a large cat.

Police, being assisted by animal experts and a SWAT team, managed to capture six animals alive before they were taken to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Lutz said the captured animals are a grizzly bear, three leopards and two monkeys.

The Columbus Zoo and the Muskingum County Humane Society had previously visited the animal preserve in June 2008 after several complaints were received, arguing that the animals were in poor condition. Thompson was not charged after the visit but between 2004 and 2009 he had 11 misdemeanor charges for either animal at large or animal cruelty.

Animal expert and zookeeper Jack Hanna described the situation as ‘tragic’ and strongly criticized animal auctions and Thompson’s ownership of the animals. Although Thompson had legal documents that allowed him to keep such animals at his property, Hanna said he should not have had them, comparing animal auctions to drug trafficking.

“It’s just like drugs,” Hanna said during an interview on local television. “This guy had the animals, but where do the animals come from? Where are they getting the animals from?”

“We have to get the source of [these animals] and some of them are animal auctions,” Hanna underlined, adding that it takes millions of dollars to adequately care for wild animals.

Thompson had just finished a one year and one day prison term, which he received in October 2010 for two federal counts of possessing illegal firearms. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched his home in 2008 and seized 133 weapons and a small amount of ammunition. Eight of those firearms did not have serial numbers. Thompson was also a former gun dealer.

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CLEVELAND, OHIO (BNO NEWS) — A U.S. judge on Friday sentenced to death serial killer Anthony Sowell who was previously convicted of 11 counts of aggravated murder and more than 70 other charges including rape and kidnapping.

On Wednesday, the 12-person jury voted unanimously to recommend a death sentence to be imposed for each of the slayings, but Cuyahoga County Judge Dick Ambrose still had the option to sentence Sowell to life in prison instead. However, Wednesday’s jury recommendation was required before Ambrose could sentence Sowell to death.

Sowell was arrested in October 2009 as a suspect in the murders of eleven women whose bodies were discovered at his Cleveland house. The victims ranged in age from 25 to 52 and had been raped.

Sowell was convicted late last month on the eleven counts of aggravated murder as well as 70 other charges which include rape and kidnapping. During the mitigation phase of the trial, Sowell pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and said he was “truly sorry” for the crimes he committed.

But Ambrose said during Friday’s sentencing that the court gives no weight to Sowell’s expression of remorse. The death sentence was welcomed by the victims’ relatives who told Sowell he would go to hell. The killer remained silent throughout Friday’s sentencing.

His lawyer previously claimed that Sowell and his crimes were the result of childhood abuse and said the lack of nurturing in his home made him unable to stand physical contact or any signs of affection.

Sowell had previously already served time in prison. In 1989, after a seven year career with the Marines and a failed marriage, Sowell began a 15-year sentence for attempted rape. After his release from jail, Sowell said, his health began to fail. In 2007, he suffered a major heart attack and began hearing voices.

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CLEVELAND, OHIO (BNO NEWS) — A U.S. jury on Wednesday recommended a death sentence for serial killer Anthony Sowell who was convicted last month of 11 counts of aggravated murder and more than 70 other charges including rape and kidnapping.

Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty for Sowell and, despite the defense allegations, the 12-person jury voted unanimously to recommend a death sentence to be imposed for each of the slayings. Cuyahoga County Judge Dick Ambrose is scheduled to sentence Sowell at 9 a.m. local time on Friday.

In the case of Sowell the judge would not have been able to impose the death penalty with a recommendation from the jury. But with the recommendation now given, Ambrose can decide to sentence Sowell to death or life in prison.

Sowell was arrested in October 2009 as a suspect in the murders of eleven women whose bodies were discovered at his Cleveland house. The victims ranged in age from 25 to 52 and had been raped.

Sowell was convicted late last month on the eleven counts of aggravated murder as well as 70 other charges which include rape and kidnapping. During the mitigation phase of the trial, Sowell pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and said he was “truly sorry” for the crimes he committed.

His lawyer has claimed that Sowell and his crimes were the result of childhood abuse and said the lack of nurturing in his home made him unable to stand physical contact or any signs of affection.

Sowell had previously served time in prison. In 1989, after a seven year career with the Marines and a failed marriage, Sowell began a 15-year sentence for attempted rape. After his release from jail, Sowell said, his health began to fail. In 2007, he suffered a major heart attack and began hearing voices.

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COPLEY TOWNSHIP, OHIO (BNO NEWS) — An Ohio gunman on Sunday killed seven people during a violent shooting spree before he was shot dead by local police, officials said Monday.

Police Chief Michael Mier told Fox 8 that the gunman opened fire in Copley, Ohio on Sunday at around 11 a.m. local time during an argument at a local home on Goodenough Avenue. According to reports, the gunman shot his girlfriend, then went next door to shoot her brother and four other people.

The media outlet said he continued the shooting spree by searching for those who had fled when he opened fire, chasing at least two others through backyards before shooting one of them outside a home near Schocalog Road. The gunman later shot down another victim who had sought refuge at another house in the neighborhood.

During the shooting spree, the unidentified gunman shot at a local citizen and former police officer, as well as a Copley police officer. The two men returned fire and shot the man dead. Among the seven fatal victims was an 11-year-old boy, while an eighth victim was shot and reportedly being treated at a the Akron General Hospital’s intensive care unit.

The victims’ bodies were found in four different locations within a two-block area between the two streets. Their identities have not been formally released until their family members are informed, but WEWS 5 reported that among the victims was 17-year-old Autumn Johnson, a Copley High School student, her grandfather Russ Johnson, her grandmother Gertie Johnson, Brian Johnson, one of Russ and Gertie’s son, and 11-year-old Scotty Deiter. The eighth victim being treated at the hospital was reportedly a woman.

Local police cordoned off the streets where the shootings took place and advised residents to avoid entering the area. A prayer and vigil for the victims was carried out on Sunday evening at Copley Community Park where over 100 people gathered.

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