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Delta employees claim they were fired for ‘speaking Korean’

Four former Delta Airlines employees have filed a lawsuit against the airline, claiming they were “singled out and admonished” for speaking Korean.

Ji-Won Kim, Lilian Park, Jean Yi and Jongjin An have a combined total of 50 years of experience working for Delta Airlines at Sea-Tac Airport.

“I treated all Delta passengers as my family -- brothers and sisters, parents,” Park told KIRO 7.

“Everything came from the heart.”

>> Read more trending news 

All four women were born in Korea. Park, Yi and An are now U.S. citizens. Kim expects to be one soon.

All four women believe their fluency in the Korean language was one of the reasons they were all hired by Delta, which flies daily between Sea-Tac and South Korea.

According to Yi, Korean-speaking passengers “were so glad to see me. They say, ‘Oh I feel so comfortable. You know, they don’t speak English.’”

All worked in customer service as desk and gate agents, “helping people, helping passengers” An said.

However, all of them were fired by Delta in May 2017.

According to a lawsuit filed recently in King County Superior Court, “Though assigned to work flights to and from Korea, composed of many Korean-speaking passengers, they were singled out and admonished for speaking Korean.”

An said she was told by her Delta manager there were complaints “from the other non-Korean-speaking agents. They feel uncomfortable, so please limit speaking Korean.” But the women -- who are all over 40 and all plaintiffs in the lawsuit -- claim other foreign language-speaking Delta employees were never told to limit their speech and that only the Korean speakers were.

Kim, Park, Yi and An also claim to have been sexually harassed by the same Delta employee, numerous times, on the job.

“I tried to avoid touching,” Yi told KIRO 7. “So when he came to the gate, I just moved out of sight. I didn’t want to deal with him touching, whispering.” “It was a daily thing” for the agent to touch her, Park said. She and Kim reported the unwanted touching to Delta supervisors and said they were promised another incident would get the male gate agent fired.

“That agent is still working there and the touching has not stopped,” their attorney, Jennifer Song, said.

“We also suspect that their termination is related to the reporting of sexual harassment.”

According to Song, who works at the Law Offices of Judith A. Lonnquist in Seattle, “I thought this was a pretty clear case of discrimination.” 

The lawsuit alleges “race and national origin discrimination and retaliation.”

The complaint for damages also reveals the women “were suspended and ultimately terminated for allegedly offering unauthorized upgrades.” The woman said those upgrades are standard.

“Offering free upgrades, especially on an oversold flight, is a common practice, but suddenly, it became a reason to be terminated, just for us, for Korean women,” Kim said.

Song described the behavior for which the women were terminated as “a common occurrence on over-sold flights. Other agents do it, on a daily basis.”

However, only the four Korean-born women were fired by Delta Airlines, according to their lawsuit.

It’s not the treatment Park expected in this country, at a company that caters to international clients.

“No, not at all. Country of freedom, and this is what I got from the company,” Park said. “This is United States. Everybody should be treated equally.”

Delta Air Lines spokesman Morgan Durrant declined KIRO 7’s request for an on-camera interview and instead emailed the following statement:

“Delta does not tolerate workplace discrimination or harassment of any kind. Such behavior runs counter to our core values of diversity and inclusion and our mission of connecting the world. “We take allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination very seriously and our investigations into allegations made by these former employees were found to be without merit. “These former employees were unfortunately but appropriately terminated because the company determined they violated ticketing and fare rules.  “Delta is confident that these claims will ultimately be determined to be without merit.”

Suspect captured in Houston ‘rampage’ shootings that left 3 people dead, officials say

A registered sex offender wanted in three separate Houston-area slayings since Friday was caught early Tuesday morning following a brief police chase not far from where authorities say his alleged crime spree began.

Jose Gilberto Rodriguez, 46, of Houston, was taken into custody while driving a gray 2017 Nissan Sentra that law enforcement officials said was stolen from one of the victims. 

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said during a media briefing Tuesday morning that an observant citizen called authorities shortly after 6 a.m. to report seeing the vehicle in Cypress, an unincorporated community northwest of Houston. 

“It’s possible that he was casing the area in search of his next victim,” Gonzalez said during the briefing, which was attended and recorded by the Houston Chronicle

A deputy in the area spotted the car and a 14-minute pursuit ensued. Rodriguez was taken into custody just before 7 a.m.

A pistol was recovered from the stolen car, the sheriff said. 

“We’re very relieved this morning,” Gonzalez said about Rodriguez’s capture. 

>> Related story: Shooting deaths at mattress stores in Houston are linked, police say

The sheriff said his agency had deputies positioned in the Cypress area before the suspect was spotted because the first crime attributed to Rodriguez, a July 9 home invasion and robbery, took place less than half a mile from where he was ultimately captured. 

Rodriguez’s parents also live in the area and he grew up there, the sheriff confirmed. 

The first homicide that Rodriguez is suspected of committing also took place in Cypress. Pamela Johnson, 62, was found shot to death in her home there Friday evening. 

Gonzalez said during a news conference over the weekend that Johnson’s family became worried when no one could get in touch with her. The last time family members spoke to Johnson was around noon on July 10, the day after the home invasion about two and a half miles away. 

>> Read more trending news

Detectives investigating Johnson’s slaying found that personal property was stolen, including Johnson’s maroon 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser, the sheriff said. The PT Cruiser was found Saturday evening at Willowbrook Mall after a citizen reported seeing the vehicle aedbandoned in the parking lot.

Mall surveillance video footage showed a man -- later identified by investigators as Rodriguez -- park the vehicle around 11 a.m. that morning. The man was seen on video walking through the mall and exiting the building on the opposite side from where he abandoned the victim’s car. 

Around 7 p.m. that same night, the body of Mattress Firm manager Allie Barrow, 28, was found by a fellow employee, stuffed between two mattresses in the back of the store. The Mattress Firm store where Barrow was slain is in a strip mall across the street from Willowbrook Mall. 

Barrow had been shot in the head, investigators said. 

Gonzalez and Houston police Chief Art Acevedo, who held a joint news conference Monday afternoon to identify Rodriguez as a person of “strong interest” and ask for the public’s help in tracking him down, reported that a third homicide took place that morning at a Mattress One store in Houston, where a man was found shot to death. 

The Nissan Rodriguez was driving when captured was taken from the scene of the Mattress One homicide, officials said. KPRC in Houston identified the victim of that killing as Edward Magana, 57. 

A fourth person, a 22-year-old Metro Lift driver, was also shot in the abdomen and robbed Monday morning in Houston. Acevedo said that the bus driver was expected to survive. 

The motive for the crimes was not known, Gonzalez said Tuesday morning. Neither he nor Acevedo detailed how Rodriguez was tied to all the crimes. 

Rodriguez was released from prison in September, the Chronicle reported. Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel told the newspaper that his release was mandated by law, due to the amount of time he’d already served.

Rodriguez, whose violent criminal history dates back to at least 1989, was on parole and was supposed to be on supervised release until 2023. He was ordered to wear an ankle monitor, but the Chronicle reported that he had tampered with it in the days before police and sheriff’s deputies began searching for him in connection with the homicides. 

It was unclear if he was still wearing the disabled device when he was arrested. 

Records accessed by the Chronicle showed that Rodriguez was sent to prison for attempted sex abuse, burglary and auto theft charges in 1989. Then 17, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

While in prison, he was charged in a theft case out of Montgomery County, for which he was sentenced to 10 years, with that time to run concurrently with his sentence on the previous charges. 

Rodriguez was also found with a weapon while serving time, the Chronicle reported. Another 10 years was added to his sentence. 

He served 28 years in prison before his release on parole last fall. Texas’ sex offender registry shows that Rodriguez was classified as high risk. 

IHOP partners with DoorDash for pancake delivery

IHOP has joined food delivery service DoorDash to launch a delivery service of its own.

The restaurant chain, which recently admitted its pivot to burgers and name change to IHOb was a PR stunt, announced the delivery program Tuesday.

Select U.S. IHOP restaurants are introducing the service through a partnership with DoorDash.

>> Read more trending news 

“As a leading delivery provider with extensive national reach and a focus on strategically – and rapidly – expanding, DoorDash is an ideal partner to help us kick off the next phase of IHOP ‘N GO,” IHOP President Darren Rebelez said in a statement. “Right now, about 300 IHOP restaurants are signed up with DoorDash with more coming online every day. Given the national matchup between where there's an IHOP and DoorDash's current and anticipated service areas, I expect to have close to 1,000 restaurants added to the DoorDash platform before the end of the year.”

Related: IHOb goes back to IHOP, says it 'faked it to promote new burgers'

Some IHOP locations have previously participated in delivery through UberEats or another food delivery service. It is not clear if those will end as the DoorDash partnership expands.

Related: IHOP celebrating 60th birthday with pancakes for 60 cents

The timing of the service coincides with the restaurant's 60th birthday. Participating locations are offering short stacks of pancakes for 60 cents from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. In addition to the short stacks offer, DoorDash customers can get free delivery on IHOP orders totaling $10 or more from July 18 to July 22 at participating restaurants.

Missing teen linked to site of Rainbow Family gathering found in South Carolina

A missing teen whose cellphone was found at the site of the Rainbow Family counterculture gathering in Georgia is safe, according to the Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office.

>> Read more trending news 

Williams Johnson, 18, was found in Ridgeville, South Carolina, alive and well, the sheriff’s office said Tuesday in a Facebook post.

Johnson was the second missing person case connected to the recent Rainbow Family gathering at the Chattahoochee National Forest in Lumpkin County. Last Tuesday, 20-year-old Curtis Jay “CJ” Elliott was reported missing after attending the gathering.

>> Related: Man reported missing after attending Rainbow gathering is found

The sheriff announced Saturday that Ellliott was found in Minnesota. No other details were released.

And an 18-year-old woman identified as Amber Robinson was allegedly killed by a man she met at the gathering, authorities said.

Joseph Bryan Capstraw, 20, of Jacksonville, Florida, confessed to killing Robinson in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, authorities said. However, he does not recall the incident, according to police.

>> Related: Woman ID’d who was allegedly killed by man she met at Rainbow gathering

Capstraw has been charged with murder in connection with Robinson’s death.

Mother charged in baby’s death after feeding him breast milk laced with drugs

A Pennsylvania woman who is addicted to painkillers is facing charges of allegedly killing her 11-week-old son with a lethal mix of drugs in her breast milk.

Samantha Jones, 30, was charged Friday with homicide in the April 2 death of her baby, according to The Associated Press.

>> Read more trending news 

The boy died from a mixture of methadone, amphetamine and methamphetamine, the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office said.

Jones told police she decided to breastfeed her son around 3 a.m. that morning after she was too tired to prepare a bottle, Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

A couple of hours later, she told police he turned pale and had bloody mucus coming out of his nose, the Associated Press reports.

Jones’ mother began CPR on the child after calling 911, court documents state. When police arrived, the child was in cardiac arrest and he later died at a nearby hospital.

Jones told police she had been primarily breastfeeding the child but switched to formula a few days before his death.

Jones told police she had been prescribed methadone because of an addiction to painkillers.

She told police she took methadone during her pregnancy and was taking it when the baby died.

What You Need To Know: IHOP

What You Need To Know: IHOP

Who is Mariia Butina, the woman charged with acting as a Russian agent in the US?

A Russian national was charged in federal court Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States.

Mariia Butina, 29, was charged with “undertaking activities without officially disclosing the fact that she was acting as an agent of the Russian government.” The criminal complaint accused Butina of failing to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. That is the same charge filed against President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

The affidavit in the complaint claims that Butina corresponded with a Russian official using email, Twitter and other electronic means, and worked with two U.S. citizens in an effort to influence American politics.

According to the Justice Department, “from as early as 2015 and continuing through at least February 2017, Butina worked at the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank. This Russian official was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control in April 2018.”

Butina served as the deputy to Alexander Torshin, a former member of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party and the deputy head of the Central Bank of Russia. He is believed to be the “Russian Official” named in court papers.

Torshin was among the 24 Russian oligarchs and senior Russian government officials sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department this year for profiting from the Russian government’s illegal and subversive activities in the United States and around the world. They were banned from the United States.

The two U.S. citizens mentioned in the affidavit were not named in the complaint. One is described as an “American political operative,” and the other as having email communications with Butina about setting up dinners between Russians and influential Americans in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

The charges were filed by Justice Department national security prosecutors, not special counsel Robert Mueller who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Butina’s arrest came 48 hours after the U.S. indicted 12 Russians for cyber attacks on the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Here is what we know from the indictment about Butina and what she is accused of doing.

  • The indictment said that Butina was attempting to "establish a 'back channel' communication for representatives of the Government of Russia."
  • She is a Russian national who entered the United States in August 2016 on a student visa. She studied international relations at American University in Washington D.C.
  • She is a former Siberian furniture store owner.
  • She co-founded a Russian gun rights group called the Right to Bear Arms.
  • In the complaint, Butina is accused of trying to infiltrate an unnamed “gun rights organization” believed to be the National Rifle Association. She described the organization as “the largest sponsor of the elections to the U.S. Congress.” 
  • Butina made contact with NRA members, attended NRA meetings in the United States and hosted NRA executives and gun activists in Moscow.
  • According to court documents, Butina told associates that what she was doing in the United States was approved by Putin.
  • Butina asked Trump a question about US-Russia relations during FreedomFest in Las Vegas in July 2015. FreedomFest, according to its organizers, is “an annual festival where free minds meet to celebrate great books, great ideas, and great thinkers in an open-minded environment. It is independent, non-partisan, and not affiliated with any organization or think tank.” Butina asked Trump, “My question will be about foreign politics. If you will be elected as president, what will be your foreign politics especially in the relationships with my country? And do you want to continue the politics of sanctions that are damaging of both economy [sic]? Or you have any other ideas?" 
  • Court documents said that an “American political operative” – U.S. Person 1 in the complaint – helped Butina to target political, business and news media officials for her plans. She met with the American political operative in Moscow, prosecutors said. The person introduced her to the gun rights organization officials.
  • U.S. Person 2 in the complaint is a U.S. citizen “who was included among the participants in a series of email communications in 2016 and 2017 that reveal Butina’s efforts to arrange a series of dinners in the District of Columbia and New York City involving Russian nationals and U.S. persons having influence in American politics.
  • Her home was searched by FBI agents in April, according to her attorney, Robert Neil Driscoll. Driscoll told U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Robinson that his client has “has been offering to cooperate with the government the entire time."


Man accused of trying to kill wife with ant poison charged with attempted murder

A North Carolina man is facing charges after he was accused of attempting to kill his wife by feeding her ant poison, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

Authorities on Monday charged Eugene Richard Pittman, 52, with attempted first-degree murder, The Fayetteville Observer reported

According to the newspaper, the charge was filed after Pittman put Terro Ant Killer on his wife’s food on May 12. Pittman was charged with attempting to kill his wife “with malice and with specific intent to kill formed after premeditation and deliberation,” the Observer reported.

An arrest warrant obtained by WTVD showed that Pittman’s wife “noticed a funny taste in her meal” while she was eating in May. She told authorities that she later fell asleep.

“The woman said she woke up later to find that her hands and mouth were duct taped, and Eugene was holding her nose shut,” WTVD reported. “She said Eugene told her she had two choice: that she could leave or she could die.”

Jail records showed Pittman had been released on bail by Tuesday afternoon.

Rat crawls out of sink drain, eventually scurries back down

A New York City urban legend came true for one couple who had a furry surprise emerge from their bathroom sink.

Bari Finkel told WNBC a small rat emerged from the drain Friday night.

“It looked like a zombie coming out of the grave,” Finkel told WNBC.

Her boyfriend actually saw it first and let out a small scream. She thought he had hurt himself, but when she saw her new roommate, she screamed, too.

Then, she laughed.

“It was just so insane, I couldn’t not laugh,” she told WNBC.

>> Read more trending news 

Finkel made sure the dogs didn’t come in to investigate the commotion while she let her boyfriend try to deal with the critter. He trapped it in a bag, but it started making noises. That’s when Finkel lifted the bag to try to get a photo and the rat went back down the pipe, WNBC reported.

They spoke to the landlord, who told them the rat visitor was a first. 

The sink had been missing the stopper, but they said they will be replacing it now. 

Mother says teen died of peanut allergy after unknowingly eating Reese's Chips Ahoy! cookie

A Florida mother posted a warning on Facebook after her teenage daughter, who had a peanut allergy, died after eating a Chewy Chips Ahoy! cookie made with Reese's peanut butter.

WTVJ reported Monday that Alexi Ryann Stafford, 15, was at a friend’s house in Weston, Florida, when she ate a cookie.

>> Read more trending news 

According to a Facebook post from her mother, Kelli Travers-Stafford, the incident happened June 25.

“There was an open package of Chips Ahoy cookies,” Travers-Stafford wrote. “The top flap of the package was pulled back and the packaging was too similar to what we had previously deemed ‘safe’ to her. She ate one cookie of Chewy Chips Ahoy thinking it was safe because of the red packaging, only to find out too late that there was an added ingredient.... Reese peanut butter cups/chips. She started feeling tingling in her mouth and came straight home. Her condition rapidly deteriorated. She went into anaphylactic shock, stopped breathing and went unconscious. We administered two epi pens while she was conscious and waited on paramedics for what felt like an eternity.”

Travers-Stafford said her daughter died within 90 minutes of eating the cookie. She ended the post by calling for more prominent food labels and awareness.

“A small added indication on the pulled back flap on a familiar red package wasn’t enough to call out to her that there was ‘peanut product’ in the cookies before it was too late,” the mother said.

“I want to share our story with everyone because we want to spread awareness. The company has different colored packaging to indicate chunky, chewy, or regular but NO screaming warnings about such a fatal ingredient to many people. Especially children.”

Travers-Stafford declined to be interviewed about the post when contacted by WTVJ and the “Today” show.

“Today” reported that Nabisco's parent company, Mondelez International, issued the following statement:

"We were very saddened to hear about this situation. We always encourage consumers to read the packaging labeling when purchasing and consuming any of our products for information about product ingredients, including presence of allergens.”

Following the spread of Travers-Stafford’s post, customers commented with concerns on the Chips Ahoy! Facebook page.

“We take allergies very seriously and all of our products are clearly labeled on the information panel of the packaging for the major food allergens in the U.S. (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans),” the brand said in a comment on Facebook

“Across our Chips Ahoy! product portfolio, packaging color is indicative of product texture (i.e.,Chewy, Chunky, Original) and is not indicative of the presence of allergens. 

The packaging for Chips Ahoy! made with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups prominently indicates, on both the front and side panels, the presence of peanut butter cups through both words and visuals. 

We always encourage consumers to read the packaging labeling when purchasing and consuming any of our products for information about product ingredients, including presence of allergens.”

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