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Supreme Court denies stay of execution for Texas death row inmate

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A Texas inmate faces execution Tuesday evening for fatally stabbing two Houston-area brothers during a robbery in their home more than 30 years ago.
Rick Rhoades was condemned for the September 1991 killings of Charles Allen, 31, and Bradley Allen, 33. The brothers were killed less than a day after Rhoades had been released on parole after serving a sentence for burglary. He is set to be executed by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville.
“We hope the Allen family finds peace after nearly 30 years of waiting for justice for their loved ones. The death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst, and a Harris County jury determined long ago that this defendant fits the bill. Let us honor the memory of the victims, Charles and Bradley Allen, and never forget that our focus has and always will be on the victims,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement.
The Supreme Court early Tuesday evening declined to halt Rhoades’ execution.
Rhoades’ attorneys had asked the high court to intervene, arguing his constitutional right to due process is being violated because he is being prevented from pursuing claims that some potential jurors at his trial might have been dismissed for racially discriminatory reasons.
In July, Rhoades’ attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against state District Judge Ana Martinez in Houston over a request they had made that the judge order prosecutors to release information related to allegations some jurors were dismissed based on racial discrimination. Martinez ruled she lacked jurisdiction to consider the request. The suit was dismissed earlier this month by a Houston federal judge, who also declined to stay the execution. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld the suit’s dismissal and also declined to stay the execution. The appeals court in 2019 had previously denied a similar claim by Rhoades’ attorneys on allegations that two Black jurors were dismissed due to racial bias. Rhoades is white.
Rhoades’ attorneys have previously unsuccessfully argued in other appeals: that his constitutional rights were violated when childhood photos depicting Rhoades in normal, happy activities and designed to show he was nonviolent and would do well in prison were excluded during his trial’s punishment phase; that a state investigator gave false testimony at his trial over whether Rhoades could receive an unaccompanied furlough if sentenced to life in prison; and that “evolving standards of decency” prohibit executions as a punishment for murder.
This undated handout photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows inmate Rick Rhoades. (Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP)
“A 2020 Gallup poll on Americans’ attitudes regarding capital punishment shows that public support for the death penalty is at its lowest in a half-century, with opposition higher than any time since 1996,” David Dow and Jeffrey Newberry wrote in a court motion last month.
Rhoades, 57, had a long criminal history, including convictions for burglary and auto theft in Florida, Iowa and Texas, when he broke into Charles Allen’s house in the Houston suburb of Pasadena.
The home, located near where the siblings’ parents lived, had just been custom built for Charles Allen and he had invited his brother to temporarily live with him. The two brothers had recently gone through separate divorces.
Charles Allen, who played the piano and had dreams of a musical career, worked as a chemical operator at a local refinery. Bradley Allen worked as a freelance artist.
At trial, prosecutors told jurors the siblings were asleep when Rhoades broke into their home in the early morning hours and attacked Charles Allen as he was in his bed. Bradley Allen was killed when he came to his brother’s defense.
An arrest in the case wasn’t made until about a month later when Rhoades was caught burglarizing an elementary school. While in custody, Rhoades confessed to killing the brothers. But he claimed it was done in self-defense after exchanging words with Charles Allen as Rhoades took a walk at 2:30 a.m.
“I was tired of running. I wanted to tell what happened,” Rhoades said in his confession.
If Rhoades is executed, he would be the third inmate put to death this year in Texas and the sixth in the U.S.

Three Washington State frat members get probation in alcohol-related death of freshman

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Three former members of a fraternity on the Washington State University campus were sentenced last week to eight months of supervised probation for the death of a 19-year-old freshman who died after drinking a large amount of liquor.
Maxwell Rovegno, Cameron Thomas, and Nolan Valcik each pleaded guilty to one count of furnishing liquor to Sam Martinez during a November 2019 Alpha Tau Omega fraternity chapter event. The Whitman County Medical Examiner ruled Martinez's death an accident by alcohol.
The three defendants were each ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, with $500 suspended, according to court documents. In total, 15 people were charged in the case. Other defendants have been granted continuances until March 2022.
Sam Martinez, 19, died after consuming a large amount of alcohol during a 2019 fraternity event at the Washington State University campus, a wrongful death lawsuit claims. (Sam Martinez)
In a Facebook post, Martinez's mother, Jolayne Houtz, said she read a statement in court during the sentencing.
“On Nov. 12, 2019, Bellevue Police knocked on our front door and spoke the words that are every parent's worst nightmare: Your beloved son is dead. We sank to our knees on the floor, and we wailed and screamed so long we grew hoarse. We could barely breathe from the pain of it,” the statement said.
“You called yourselves his brothers. You said you would have his back. Instead, you turned your backs on him when he needed you most. If just one of you had made the call that night for help, Sam would be with us today,” Houtz continued. “We believe some of you may know much more than you have shared with investigators about what happened that night. Some of you may even still be covering up in the name of your so-called brotherhood.”
Houtz and Hector Martinez, Sam's father, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university and the fraternity, which was suspended on the WSU campus until 2026.
Martinez lost consciousness within a few hours of drinking a half-gallon of rum on Nov.11, 2019 but emergency medical personnel were not contacted until the next morning “when it was far too late to save his life,” the lawsuit states.
The suit accused the fraternity of conducting hazing rituals, including forcing pledges to eat raw onions. Another activity called the “Blackout Date Dash” included allegedly handcuffing pledges from the fraternity and a sorority and locking them in a room.
The keys to the cuffs were at the bottom of a fifth of alcohol and the pair could only be freed once they consumed the bottle, the suit says.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gabby Petito Case: Brian Laundrie’s Florida home flooded with flowers addressed to late fiancée

close Video Gabby Petito's father honors his daughter at memorial: 'Gabby is the most amazing person I've ever met Gabby Petito's father, Joseph Petito, and stepfather, Jim Schmidt, gave remarks at a memorial service on Sunday for the slain 22-year-old
NORTH PORT, Fla. – A flood of flower deliveries addressed to Gabby Petito continue to arrive at Brian Laundrie’s family’s home in North Port, Florida, where she lived for roughly two years before departing on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé in June.
The initiative is meant to keep Gabby's memory alive as Brian Laundrie's parents keep facing backlash on several fronts.
Petito, 22, disappeared in late August and her remains were found on Sept. 19 in Wyoming’s Teton-Bridger National Forest. A coroner later declared her death a homicide.
Laundrie, 23, returned to the North Port home by himself on Sept. 1.
His parents then reported him missing on Sept. 17, three days after telling authorities they last saw him.
His parents, Chris and Roberta Laundrie, have laid low and refused to answer multiple questions from Fox News Digital reporters during their infrequent trips outside the house.
next Image 1 of 4 Several different delivery drivers have dropped off flowers at the Laundries' home.
prev next Image 2 of 4 A makeshift memorial outside the Laundries' home.
prev next Image 3 of 4 prev Image 4 of 4 One delivery driver who dropped off flowers at the Laundries' front porch for Petito on Tuesday afternoon was visibly shaken up about what her family is experiencing.
“I have a daughter who’s 30,” the delivery man told reporters outside the house. “I don’t know what the family is going through but I can only imagine.”
Another flower delivery was from a person in New Hampshire.
“RIP Gabbie,” a note on the flowers said. “We will not let the Laundrie family get away with this. We will fight for justice.”
Laundrie has been named a person of interest in Petito's disappearance and death.
Some of the flowers are being placed by a makeshift memorial near the road outside the Laundries' home, while others have been dropped off at the front door. A civilian parking enforcer briefly turned flower deliveries away on Monday, telling people to take them to a bigger memorial at city hall. Authorities were no longer interfering with the deliveries on Tuesday.
next Image 1 of 5 Gabby Petito disappeared in late August while on a cross-country road trip and her remains were found on Sept. 19. (@petitojoseph/Instagram )
prev next Image 2 of 5 (Steve Petito )
prev next Image 3 of 5 (Steve Petito)
prev next Image 4 of 5 (Steve Petito)
prev Image 5 of 5 (Steve Petito)
“She's a beautiful person,” a North Port resident who lives two miles away told Fox News on Monday. “Everybody's here – we're here for Gabby. And I just wanted them to be able to see some beauty.”
The Laundries' lawyer, Steven Bertolino, declined to comment on the flower deliveries Tuesday.
Police has spent more than a week searching for Brian Laundrie in the nearby Carlton Reserve, an unforgiving 24,000-acre expanse about 15 miles from the Laundries' home. On Sunday police said the search would be scaled back and based on “targeted intelligence.”
Attention shifted Monday to a campground about 75 miles north of North Port after Duane “Dog the Bounty Hunter” Chapman received a tip that the Laundrie family had gone camping there twice in early September.
“They were registered, went through the gate. They’re on camera. They were here,” Chapman told Fox News's Michael Ruiz on Monday. “We think at least if he’s not here right now, we are sure he was caught on camera as he went in the gate — that he was here for sure. Not over in the swamp.”
Park records obtained by Fox News show that Brian Laundrie's mom, Roberta, checked into the park on Sept. 6 and checked out on Sept. 8, three days before Petito was officially reported missing.
A federal arrest warrant was issued for Brian Laundrie on Sept. 23 for alleged debit card fraud between Aug. 30 and Sept. 1.

Mayorkas admits ‘tragic rise’ of delta variant at US-Mexico border ‘surprised’ him

close Video DHS Secretary Mayorkas on expected new wave of Haitian migrants, horse patrol DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas discusses the new wave of expected Haitian migrants, the Biden administration's immigration policies, horse patrol at the border and 'Remain in Mexico' policy.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas conceded Monday that the surge of the COVID-19 delta variant at the border took him by surprise.
Speaking virtually at the 18th Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference at Georgetown University, Mayorkas said, “What I didn't expect was the tragic rise of the delta variant. And we took a step back by reason of that. I did not expect to be in late September where we are.”
“We are confronted with a population of people that, as a general matter, that have a rate of illness of approximately 20%,” he continued. “When one is speaking of 7,000 or 7,500 people encountered at the border every day, if one takes a look at that the system, it is not built for that in a COVID environment where isolation is required.”
Mayorkas' comments came a day after he told “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace that approximately 12,000 Haitian migrants have been released into the United States amid the surge at the border in recent weeks.
“Approximately, I think it's about 10,000 or so, 12,000,” Mayorkas said regarding the number of those released. He also said that number could increase after 5,000 other cases are processed.
“It could be even higher. The number that are returned could be even higher. What we do is we follow the law as Congress has passed it,” he added.
Former President Trump released a statement Sunday blasting the Biden administration for releasing the migrants, claiming they are doing so “with no vetting, checking or even minimal understanding of who they are.”
“Some are very sick with extremely contagious diseases, even worse than the China Virus. They are not masked or mandated, but just let free to roam all over our Country and affect what was just a year ago, a great Nation,” Trump said.

Navy advocacy group urges DOD to fill gaping holes in leadership

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EXCLUSIVE: A Navy advocacy organization sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro urging the leaders to fill major holes in U.S. Navy leadership and address other issues facing the force.
“Sadly, the Navy in recent years has struggled in the face of what can only be called a policy neglect that has spanned several administrations and is incompatible with a country that boasts the strongest fleet on Earth,” the Association of the United States Navy said in a letter obtained by Fox News on Monday.
The AUSN represents Navy veterans and active duty sailors.
The organization noted that although the problems in the Navy have been “well-known,” the current administration has still not moved to fill “key positions in the Navy” that are instead “still being held by acting officials, not Senate-confirmed officials, which will further delay efforts to turn around this proud military institution.”
The letter noted that the roles of undersecretary of the Navy, assistant secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and assistant secretary for Research, Development, and Acquisition are all being held by “acting officials,” not Senate-confirmed leaders.
“As worrisome as this problem is, we are even more troubled by the lack of any nominations for these positions,” the letter said.
“We urge you to immediately prioritize the filling of these positions with nominees who are ready to make the case for a strong, well-organized Navy that is prepared to overcome the problems of the last few years and take on the large and growing number of missions we all know are critical to the defense of this nation,” the letter continued.
The organization pointed to problems that have plagued the Navy recently, including the recent crash of a training jet in Texas and the deaths of five sailors in a helicopter crash that took place off the coast of California.
The letter argued that the lack of commitment to growing the Navy and gaps in training will make it harder for the U.S. to “meet challenges around the world, including a need to deter China in the Indo-Pacific.”
“We at the Association of the United States Navy are prepared to meet with you as needed to discuss how to identify the best candidates for these positions and stand ready to support the nomination process,” the letter concluded.
The Navy could not immediately be reached for comment.

Charter jet with over 100 American evacuees departs Kabul

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A private charter jet is bringing over 100 Americans and green card holders, as well nine Special Immigrant Visa holders, back to the United States after they were left in Afghanistan.
“Groups of veterans and concerned Americans have come together utilizing their expertise gained from years of service to ensure that those Americans in need are not left behind,” Mark Geist, of The Shadow Warriors Project, told Fox News of the multi-group effort to bring the Americans home. The Shadow Warriors Project assisted Project Dynamo and the Human First Coalition.
Among the people who were evacuated from Kabul on Tuesday were 59 children under the age of 18, and 16 kids under the age of three. Geist could not provide the exact number of Americans aboard the plane and will have more information once it lands in the United Arab Emirates, before its final destination to the U.S.
“Project Dynamo’s goal has always been focused on bringing Americans and our allies home. In large part our success is due to the many partnerships we have developed with organizations, governments, and donors. The teamwork has been awe inspiring. We pray that we have more opportunities in the future to continue our mission and honor the promise,” said Bryan Stern, a founder of Project Dynamo.
“My experiences in Benghazi just reinforced my dedication,” Geist, who is a former Marine and a member of the Annex Security Team, which fought the Battle of Benghazi, Libya, said.
The State Department and the United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs also cooperated with the effort, and the Taliban facilitated the departure of the aircraft.
“We are proud to be a part of this effort and of the teamwork that helped to bring these Americans and allies home,” said Alex Plitsas, spokesman for Human First Coalition.
Biden administration officials estimated earlier this month that roughly 100 Americans remained in the country following the Aug. 31 withdrawal from the country.
The State Department has established a team to coordinate across government agencies and with advocacy groups, nonprofits and others for the evacuation effort, which is working closely with the Department of Defense, a State Department spokesperson told Fox News. The spokesperson added that the department will not go into details on involvement with any specific groups at this time.
Another jet earlier this month flew Americans and lawful permanent residents from Kabul in an evacuation effort, with the White House saying that the Taliban was “cooperative.”
“We are deeply grateful to the continued efforts of Qatar in facilitating operations at HKIA and helping to ensure the safety of these charter flights,” National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement on Sept. 9. “We have been working intensely across the U.S. government to ensure the accuracy of the manifest and the safe departure and transit of the aircraft, and today’s safe flight is the result of careful and hard diplomacy and engagement.”
President Biden has come under fierce criticisms for the withdrawal, most notably after 13 U.S. service members were killed in a suicide bombing last month.
“Joe Biden has blood on his hands. The buck stops with the President of the United States. This horrific national security and humanitarian disaster is solely the result of Joe Biden’s weak and incompetent leadership. He is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief,” Republican New York Rep. Elise Stefanik wrote on social media after their deaths.
This is a developing story and will be updated.

Brian Laundrie manhunt: Florida park documents confirm family camped out after Gabby Petito disappearance

close Video Gabby Petito case: Dog the Bounty Hunter joins search for Brian Laundrie Gabby Petito case: Dog the Bounty Hunter joins search for Brian Laundrie
NORTH PORT, Fla. – Brian Laundrie’s mom Roberta did check in to a Florida park about 75 miles north of the family’s home earlier this month, records obtained by Fox News show.
Laundrie, 23, vanished on Sept. 14 – although his parents didn’t say anything until three days later. His 22-year-old fiancée Gabby Petito was found dead in Wyoming on Sept. 19 – weeks after the couple was seen camping near the site of her remains. The coroner later ruled her death a homicide.
Duane “Dog” Chapman, also known as Dog the Bounty Hunter, announced Saturday he was entering the search for Laundrie, and tips quickly poured in. He told Fox News he received a heads-up on Monday that Laundrie’s parents spent the night in Fort De Soto Park with their son twice in early September from Sept. 1 to 3 and Sept. 6 to 8.
The documents confirm Chapman’s suspicion that the Laundries went camping at the Fort De Soto Park outside St. Petersburg between his return from out West on Sept. 1 and the day Petito’s mother reported her missing, Sept. 11. They show the family checked in on Sept. 6 and out on Sept. 8 – but there's no record on the document of them the week prior.
“I will no longer give that dog credibility or dignify his false claims with the time of my reply,” Steven Bertolino, Laundrie’s attorney, told Fox News. However he admitted told local media that the family camped out on Sept. 6 and 7 and that “they all left the park.”
(Fox News)
The documents show the checkout was actually recorded on Sept. 8 – three days before Petito officially became a missing person.
Thomas Rutherford, , another camper whos name appeared on the ledger, and his wife were celebrating their anniversary at the campground, three spots down from the Laundries, he told Fox News.
He could “vaguely remember” seeing their truck and camper because he and his wife rarely see campers attached to vehicles anymore. Other than that, he had no interaction with the family.
VideoChapman on Tuesday questioned why the family would go camping when Petito, who lived with them, was nowhere to be found. Neighbors had also raised concerns about the camping trip.
Online sleuths reported that a law enforcement helicopter flew over the area of the campground overnight. However a Pinellas County sheriff spokesperson told Fox News the department was not conducting an investigation at Fort De Soto.
Laundrie and Petito embarked on a cross-country journey in mid-June in a converted white Ford Transit van with the plan to visit national parks along the way. They had begun dating years earlier after meeting at their local Long Island, N.Y. high school and had moved to North Port, Florida, to live with Laundrie’s parents.
VideoLaundrie was subsequently named a person of interest in Petito’s disappearance, and on Thursday, the FBI issued an arrest warrant for bank card fraud. Authorities alleged he used someone’s Capital One Bank card and the personal identification number during the time when Petito was missing. Neither investigators nor a spokesperson for Petito’s family have said whether the card belonged to Petito.
Fox News recently obtained the missing persons’ report for Petito, in which her mother, Nichole Schmidt, stated that her daughter was last seen at 7 a.m. on Aug. 30 at Grand Teton National Park. Schmidt wrote in the report that her Long Island home was a “probable destination.”
But she never left Wyoming.
Fox News' Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.

CIA and State Department officials face increased Havana Syndrome attacks

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The Central Intelligence Agency was forced to evacuate an intelligence officer serving in Serbia after the officer suffered serious injuries consistent with those associated with Havana Syndrome, part of a rise of such attacks on U.S. officials overseas.
“We take each report we receive extremely seriously and are working to ensure that affected employees get the care and support they need,” a State Department spokesman said of continued attacks on American officials.
The most recent incident in Serbia is part of what officials have called an expansion of similar attacks on U.S. spies and diplomats stationed in overseas locations. Who is perpetrating the attacks remains a mystery, though government officials and scientists believe the assailants are using what they described as a “directed-energy source.”
The attacks have happened at multiple locations overseas and in the U.S. and have become more common.
Dr. James Giordano, a Georgetown University professor of neurology and adviser to the government, said in “the past 60 to 90 days, there have been a number of other reported cases” on U.S. soil and around the world.
“They are seen as valid reports with verified health indicators,” Giordano said.
The attacks can cause symptoms such as dizziness, memory loss and a range of other issues, resulting in a drop in morale within the State Department and the CIA and causing some officials to be reluctant to take overseas assignments.
Some attacks have even targeted top officials within the Biden administration, most recently when members of CIA Director William Burns' staff reported symptoms consistent with an attack during a trip to India earlier this month.
Most frustrating is that the U.S. government still doesn't know who is behind the attacks or have certainty about how they're being carried out.
“In terms of have we gotten closer? I think the answer is yes – but not close enough to make the analytic judgment that people are waiting for,” CIA Deputy Director David Cohen said earlier this month of the effort to get to the bottom of the mystery.
How to respond to the attacks if they are coming from a foreign adversary such as China or Russia is also unclear, with some current and former officials believing Russia could be behind them. Russia has denied it, and no evidence has so far emerged of Russian involvement.
But Jason Killmeyer, a counterterrorism and foreign policy expert formerly with Deloitte Consulting LLP, believes the U.S. should do more even without attribution, calling for increased defensive measures and applying pressure to foreign intelligence agencies to see how they react.
“We’re five years into this thing,” Killmeyer said. “There’s no ‘smoking gun’ coming.”

Texas Border Patrol agents discover stash houses packed with nearly 100 illegal immigrants

close Video Texas sheriff rips the Biden administration for Border Patrol’s ‘inundated’ resources Jackson County Sheriff AJ Louderback says the administration wants open borders as thousands of migrants are released into the country.
Border Patrol agents in Texas discovered two stash houses just a stone’s throw from the U.S.-Mexico border packed with nearly 100 illegal immigrants.
Laredo Sector Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement agencies discovered the first stash house at a home on Ligarde Street Thursday afternoon. The individuals were from Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.
One of two stash houses discovered last week in Texas. (
The second discovery came the following evening. Border Patrol agents received a tip about several illegal immigrants being housed at a home on Philadelphia Street – about five miles northwest of the first stash house.
Agents discovered more than 40 illegal immigrants inside the house. Those individuals had come from Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico.
CBP said none of the apprehended migrants had been wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). Agents provided them with PPE and they were medically screen before being processed.
CBP has not said whether any of the migrants tested positive for COVID-19. Fox News has reached out to CBP seeking additional information.
CBP said in a press release that the often “substandard conditions” encountered at stash houses can foster a breeding ground for illnesses or other communicable diseases.
The discovery of the stash houses comes after border officials in Del Rio, Texas cleared a camp following the flood of thousands of Haitian migrants earlier this month.
Fox News' Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.

3 men charged after national park incident involving brown bears

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Three men have been charged after getting too close to brown bears in Alaska's Katmai National Park and Preserve.
The U.S. attorney's office filed charges Thursday following the Aug. 9, 2018 incident.
“Every case is unique, and it takes varying amounts of time to bring forth criminal charges,” spokesperson Lisa Houghton told The Associated Press on Friday.
According to a Justice Department release, the three men illegally left a Brooks Falls viewing platform and entered a closed area of the Brooks River.
The men are all charged with creating a hazardous condition in a closed area and approaching within 50 yards of the brown bears.
All tourists at Katmai National Park must keep at least 50 yards between them and a bear.
The agency said that David Engelman, 56, of Sandia Park, New Mexico, and Ronald J. Engelman II, 54, and Steven Thomas, 30, of King Salmon, Alaska, approached the feeding bears and waded into the Brooks River.
If convicted. officials said that the men each face a maximum penalty of six months in prison, a $5,000 fine and a year of probation.
A federal district court judge is set to determine any sentence after considering U.S. sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
An online court records system did not show attorneys for the men.
The National Park Service (NPS) is investigating the case.
The Brooks River is a source of food for the approximately 2,200 brown bears that live in Katmai National Park and Preserve.
The NPS said that the river contains rainbow trout, arctic char and salmon.
“Its run of sockeye salmon, in particular, also attract one of the greatest gatherings of brown bears on Earth,” the organization said on its website.
VideoMature male brown bears at Katmai can weigh up to 900 pounds.
“A splashing fish sounds like food to a bear. Bears will often move in your direction to investigate a fish on a line. Always be prepared to cut or break your line, so that you can free the fish and move out of the water until the bear passes. Never let a bear acquire a fish from you,” the NPS wrote.
“It is easy to become so engaged in fishing, that you forget to be alert for bears. They are surprisingly quiet and difficult to see in dense grass or tall brush, so always have someone spot bears for you. At minimum, keep 50 yards between yourself and all bears. Stop fishing and move away well before a bear approaches within 50 yards, or you may find yourself in a situation with a fish on the line and a bear in pursuit,” it warned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.