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The Gorilla Foundation/ YORK) -- Koko, the western lowland gorilla who learned sign language and became a pop-culture phenomenon, has died at the age of 46, the group that cared for her announced Thursday.

The Gorilla Foundation, headed by Dr. Francine "Penny" Patterson, the animal psychologist who taught Koko sign language, announced that the famed super-simian died in her sleep Tuesday morning at the organization's preserve in Woodside, California.

"I'm totally aware of how blessed and magical my life has been with her," an emotional Patterson, 71, told ABC News. "She was perfect. That's my sense. She taught me so much."

Born on the Fourth of July in 1971 at the San Francisco Zoo, Koko was loaned to Patterson at the age of 1 for a research project at Stanford University on interspecies communications. At birth, she was given the name Hanabi-ko, Japanese for "Fireworks Child," but she soon became widely known by her nickname, Koko.

When the San Francisco Zoo wanted Koko back for breeding, Patterson raised more than $12,000 to officially adopt the primate.

"Koko touched the lives of millions as an ambassador for all gorillas and an icon for interspecies communication and empathy. She was beloved and will be deeply missed," the Gorilla Foundation said in a statement.

She stayed with Patterson for the rest of her life and became renowned as one of the most intellectual apes in history, beloved by millions of people around the world.

"And she loves 'em back, even though we're pretty flawed as a species," Patterson said.

Through the years, Koko was visited by numerous celebrities.

She became friends with Leonardo DiCaprio. She taught Mr. Rogers the sign for love and cradled the children's TV show host in her lap. She once grabbed William Shatner by the testicles after he entered her cage and repeatedly told the animal he loved her. Koko also caused actor and comedian Robin Williams to crack up laughing by raising his shirt and tickling him.

"To look into the eyes of a 300-pound gorilla and have her tell you what she's thinking is truly humbling," actress Betty White said after visiting Koko in 2012.

In 2016, Koko even jammed with Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea.

"This is the greatest thing that could happen," Flea said after he handed Koko his bass and she plucked it. “This is a day that I will never forget in my life."

The gorilla was featured in multiple documentaries, including "Koko: A Talking Gorilla" that was screened at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival.

Koko was also featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine twice.

She became so famous she learned how to autograph photos for fans.

The Gorilla Foundation said that through Patterson's tutelage, Koko learned more than 1,000 words in sign language and came to understand more than 2,000 words spoken to her in English.

While she never had offspring of her own, in 1983 Koko "adopted" a kitten, a gray male Manx named "All Ball." When the cat was hit by a car and killed in 1985, Koko grieved for months and once signed "sad bad trouble" when asked about the kitty.

She even helped Patterson pen a children's book about "All Ball" titled, "Koko's Kitten."

In 2015, the staff at the Gorilla Foundation surprised Koko with a box containing a litter of kittens. Koko picked out two, naming them "Ms. Gray" and "Ms. Black" and used sign language to communicate to her trainer that the kittens were her babies.

"Koko's capacity for language and empathy has opened the minds and hearts of millions," the foundation said in its statement.

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KOMO-TV(OAKVILLE, Wash.) -- The pistol-packing pastor who gunned down a man allegedly on a carjacking rampage that left three people shot in Tumwater, Washington, on Father's Day, says he acted to "protect my family and others."

David George, a pastor at an Assembly of God Church in Oakville, Washington, and a paramedic for the town's fire department, broke his silence after being cleared of any wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of Tim Day, 44, who police said was on a one-man crime spree.

"I carry a firearm for the same reason I carry a first aid bag, hoping never to have to use them but always being prepared nonetheless," George, 47, said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

At times George was overcome with emotion as he spoke of the "tragic and shocking" event that occurred on Sunday outside a Walmart store in Tumwater.

"I acted on Sunday to protect my family and others from the gunman and his display of obvious deadly intent," George said. "This is in accordance with both my training as an emergency responder and calling as a pastor, husband, father, and grandfather."

He said he was shopping at the Walmart with his wife, daughter, and granddaughter around 5 p.m. on Sunday when he heard gunshots inside the store.

Tumwater Police Department spokeswoman Laura Wohl told ABC News that Day, who had already shot and wounded two people in a series of carjackings, entered the store and proceeded to the sporting goods section where he fired at a locked ammunition display case, removed some ammunition and exited the store.

George said that when he heard the gunshots he quickly rounded up his daughter and grandchild and got them out of the store.

"I did not see my wife and so I continued to look for her as people began to realize the situation and run out of the building," George said. "At no time did I draw my firearm in the building."

He said that while searching for his wife, the gunman walked past him "waving and pointing his gun" as he continued to walk out the exit.

Wohl said that once in the parking lot, Day allegedly accosted Rick Fievez and his wife, who works at the Walmart store, and ordered them at gunpoint to give him their car. He shot Rick Fievez twice when he did not comply, Wohl said.

George said he has a permit to carry a concealed weapon and has significant training in the use of firearms.

"As a volunteer firefighter, I have also received active shooter training. In addition, I am also a credentialed range safety officer. I train regularly to be proficient with the firearm I carry and to do so in a safe and responsible manner," George said.

George said he and another armed citizen followed the gunman out of the store. He said the gunman began moving in the "direction that I thought my family to be" after Day had shot Fievez.

"At this point, I left cover and moved to intercept the gunman," George said. "When the gunman began threatening another person for the use of their car, I moved in order to have a safe shot at the gunman. He entered the vehicle, which I considered an even bigger threat and fired to stop the shooter.

"After being hit, the gunman tried to exit the vehicle and fell to the ground. I moved to clear the gunman, yelling to him to drop the gun and show me his hands," George said. "I determined the gunman was incapacitated and unable to respond at this time."

He then heard Rick Fievez's wife yelling for help. He said he rushed to his car, retrieved his first aid bag and went to treat Rick Fievez, who police said was shot twice by Day.

"I responded as my duty and training instructed," said George, an emergency medical technician for the Oakville Fire Department.

Rick Fievez's son, Kyle Fievez, said his father was the most seriously injured of the three victims Day allegedly shot. Rick Fievez, 47, remains in critical condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Kyle Fievez said he has spoken with George by phone and thanked him for saving his father's life.

"I would definitely say, 'he's a hero,'" Kyle Fievez told ABC News.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration is considering housing up to 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children on U.S. military bases, according to a U.S. official.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made the request to the Department of Defense (DOD), and Congress has been notified, the official said.

The story was first reported by The Washington Post.

Last month, ABC News reported that HHS officials were touring four U.S. military bases to see if they could be used to house migrants in the event that other facilities reached capacity. Those bases were Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, and Little Rock Air Force Base in Little Rock, Ark.

While officials have completed their tours of those installations, no final determination has been made as to where the unaccompanied migrant children would be located.

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters that DOD would support the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) if requested.

"We have housed refugees, we have housed people thrown out of their homes by earthquakes and hurricanes. We do whatever is in the best interest of the country," Mattis said.

HHS has used facilities on U.S. military bases to house migrants in the past.

In 2014, the department used bases in Texas, Oklahoma, and California to house 7,000 unaccompanied migrant children after HHS facilities reached capacity.

Mattis has already signed a memo allowing up to 4,000 National Guard troops to assist DHS with the security of the U.S./Mexico border. About 2,000 troops, mostly from the National Guards of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, are serving there now -- but as support services to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, not in a law enforcement capacity.

Several governors have pulled their small contingencies of Guard troops from participating in the southern border security mission in protest over the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance policy" on immigration that forcibly separated migrant children from their families.

On Wednesday, President Trump signed an Executive Order, ending the forced separation of children, so that families who cross the border illegally will now be detained together.

Mattis told reporters on Wednesday that the withdrawal of Guard troops was not having an immediate impact on the border security mission.

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Antwon Rose/Facebook(PITTSBURGH) -- The family of an unarmed teenager shot and killed by police while he was fleeing a traffic stop doesn't "want him to have died in vain," a family attorney said.

Antwon Rose, 17, who was African-American, was shot dead by an East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, police officer Tuesday after the teen and two others were pulled over in a car believed to have been connected to an earlier shooting that night.

The deadly shooting was caught on cellphone video, which is being reviewed by authorities.

Rose's family is "devastated" and "stunned," family attorney Fred Rabner told ABC News Thursday morning.

Rabner described Rose as a "beautiful" and "kind" teenager who worked with young children at a gymnastics gym as well as at a local Domino's Pizza.

"This is not someone who was in trouble ever," Rabner said. "This is not a family that was anything but doting and loving about their son."

"It doesn't seem to me that there is any justification ever for shooting an individual who is fleeing in the back," Rabner said, adding that the officer was standing "poised" and appeared to shoot from 15 to 30 feet away.

Demonstrators took over local streets during a downpour Wednesday, holding "Black Lives Matter" signs, blocking traffic and confronting officers.

At the peaceful protest was Rose's cousin Theresa Lynn Rose Monroe, who said the family is distraught and demanding answers.

"It's senseless," she told ABC News. "He wasn't a threat. And I just don't understand why -- why does it got to keep happening?"

The deadly incident began with a separate shooting about 15 minutes earlier, when someone in a passing car shot and wounded a 22-year-old man. The victim also returned fire at the passing car, police said.

"Witnesses described the vehicle involved in the shooting, and the description was broadcast" to officers, police said.

An East Pittsburgh police officer spotted a car matching the description -- a silver Chevy Cruze -- and pulled the car over at 8:40 p.m., police said. The driver was ordered out of the car and directed to the ground, but Rose and another individual in that car fled on foot, police said.

The officer shot three times at Rose as he fled -- and struck him three times, police said.

The other passenger, who has not been identified, remains at large, police said.

The officer had been sworn in with the department hours before the shooting, ABC station WTAE-TV reported. He has been placed on administrative leave, police said.

Police said Rose did not have a weapon on him, and none of the three suspects fired at officers, adding that "two firearms were later recovered from the suspect vehicle."

The driver was detained and later released, police said.

"We are committed to finding the truth in this investigation," Coleman McDonough, superintendent of Allegheny County Police Department, told ABC News on Wednesday.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Thursday marks the first day of summer and the longest day of the year across much of the Northern Hemisphere.

New York City will experience 15 hours and 6 minutes of daylight, while Los Angeles will see 14 hours and 26 minutes of daylight. In Fairbanks, Alaska, residents will experience a whopping 21 hours and 48 minutes of daylight.

But the first day of summer has also brought some extreme weather across the country.

Flooding from Pennsylvania to Texas

Major flash flooding hit western Pennsylvania Wednesday afternoon and evening.

Nearly 3 inches of rain were reported in just two hours in the Pittsburgh area, flooding roadways and leaving people stranded. Several people had to be rescued from their cars.

Pittsburgh has had nearly 150 percent of its average yearly rainfall so far, and 2018 is far from over.

In south Texas, flash flooding has swamped neighborhoods and covered roadways. Some areas saw nearly 15 inches of rain in just 72 hours.

More heavy rain has been falling Thursday morning, and flash flood watches remain in effect.

Three to 4 inches of rain are possible in south Texas. But relief is on the way -- much of Texas will be dry on Friday and Saturday.

Extreme heat

Dangerous heat is building in the Southwest.

Temperatures are set to reach or exceed 110 degrees in Palm Springs, Las Vegas and Phoenix on Thursday. The heat will last several days and will reach Northern and Central California on Friday and Saturday.

Temperatures in Sacramento Valley are set to rise above 100 degrees both days.

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U.S. Geological Survey(HONOLULU) -- Lava from the Kilauea volcano eruption on the Big Island in Hawaii makes for very photogenic selfies and social media posts, but authorities are cracking down on thrill-seekers who are getting too close for comfort.

Since the volcano first erupted on May 3, bubbling lava, molten rock and fissures have forced thousands of residents to evacuate the area. Some visitors, however, have posted selfies standing mere feet away from rivers of lava.

Seattle resident Ruth Groza posted a photo on Instagram early Thursday morning and said in the caption that she and a friend went to the location, thanks to a local resident. "We were the first people he took out here and some of the first people on earth to stand next to this flow," she wrote.

Groza told ABC News she was traveling with her friend Braden Lood, who also posted a selfie on Instagram.

Government officials in Hawaii have arrested or cited at least a dozen people in the past 10 days.

Officials told ABC News they are increasing fines to $5,000 and adding up to a year behind bars if someone is caught taking photos.

Hawaii police have also set up roadblocks to prevent nonresidents from entering nearby neighborhoods to take photos.

The Kilauea volcano eruption shows no signs of abating, and new video shows a raging river of lava spewing from an open fissure. The fast-moving lava has reportedly flowed at a rate of 15 mph in some places.

More than 500 homes have been destroyed or damaged from the hot lava as the National Guard continues its efforts to assess the damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the lava flow continues with "little change."

Access for news crews has become even more limited since the first eruption, and ABC News correspondents were required to wear special masks as officials monitored air quality on-site.

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iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- After the University of Chicago announced late last week it's scrapping a requirement for applicants to submit SAT or ACT test scores, some experts predict other colleges may soon do the same.

"I know other schools will follow," Bob Schaeffer, public education director at the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing, told Good Morning America. "It's a huge trend."

"Evidence shows that there are better ways to determine which applicants are likely to succeed as undergraduates," Schaeffer said. "You don't need the ACT or SAT test to do that. High school record predicts undergraduate success and graduation better than any test has ever done."

The University of Chicago's vice president and dean of admissions, James G. Nondorf, touted the new test-optional application process as a way for the school to become more accessible for "under-resourced and underrepresented students."

The school's revamped admissions process and new financial aid initiative "levels the playing field, allowing first-generation and low-income students to use technology and other resources to present themselves as well as any other college applicant," Nondorf said in a statement. "We want students to understand the application does not define you -- you define the application."

Schaeffer argued that "non-academic" factors such as extracurricular activities, leadership skills, community service and "whether you've overcome obstacles in your life," are also often key indicators of whether a student will thrive at a university.

"Most of that is ignored when filling out bubbles on a Saturday morning, which is all those tests are," he said.

As the standardized test-prep tutoring industry has also grown into a multimillion-dollar industry, many question how equitable the tests are for low-income students who can't afford the extra coaching.

The College Board, the organization that publishes and develops the SAT, told ABC News that it's continuing to "help students clear a path to college across a changing college admission landscape."

"With our members," the organization said in a statement, "we redesigned the SAT to make it a more fair test for all students, and we revolutionized test prep with free, personalized practice. We will always bet on students and firmly believe that all students can practice, improve and show they're ready for college."

A report published this year by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, a trade group of more than 16,000 college counselors and admissions professionals, looked at 28 schools that have adopted a test-optional policy. Researchers found a majority of the institutions reported an increase in overall applications as well as an increase in applications from students with more diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds traditionally underrepresented in college populations.

Schools that go test-optional "can choose from a better pool that better reflects where the United States is," Schaeffer said. Moreover, "it creates pathways for college degrees for many kids that would have been shut out."

Going test-optional also does not necessarily hurt those who performed well on standardized tests, according to Schaeffer, but rather gives students the choice to submit their scores only if they feel it helps their application.

"A kid who has very high SAT and ACT scores and a weak academic record can still apply with those test scores," he said.

A test-optional application simply "allows teenagers to put their best foot forward," Schaeffer said. "If it's test scores, so be it. But if it's not test scores, it's not a barrier for them."

The ACT told ABC News in a statement that it "respects the right of each institution to establish the admission policies that best meet the needs of the college and its students," but urged institutions considering going test-optional to "determine whether or not students and the institution will benefit from such a move."

"We believe -- and research suggests -- that ACT scores add meaningful insight and significant value above and beyond other predictors of success in the college admission decision process," the statement added. "ACT scores provide a common, standardized metric that allows colleges to evaluate students who attend different high schools, live in different states, complete difference courses with different teachers and receive different grades on a level playing field."

The ACT added, "Comparing students based on widely different sources of information with no common metric increases the subjectivity of admissions decisions."

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Amid the Trump administration's crackdown on illegal immigration, thousands of children were separated from their families, while parents were prosecuted under a "zero-tolerance" policy.

On Wednesday afternoon, Donald Trump signed an executive order that he said would keep immigrant families at the border together "while ensuring we have a powerful, very strong border."

From May -- when the policy was enacted -- through June 9, almost 2,300 children have been separated from their parents, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Those children have been placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement under the Department of Health and Human Services, which manages care for unaccompanied minors.

Despite the new executive order, it's unclear when or how those children will be returned to their parents.

'Still very early'

"It is still very early, and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter," Brian Marriott, a spokesman at the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said in a statement late Wednesday. He added that the department's focus is on "continuing to provide quality services and care to the minors" in the facilities and "reunifying minors with a relative or appropriate sponsor."

Under the current process, HHS works "expeditiously" to place children in care of a sponsor, although there is no time limit in "terms of days," said Steve Wagner, an acting assistant secretary at HHS.

The president faced mounting pressure from advocacy groups, lawmakers, foreign governments and even family members to end the policy separating families at the border. Images of the children shown to him by his daughter, Ivanka, are said to have helped sway him.

Advocates slammed Trump's executive order, saying it ended the separation of families only to require that DHS jail children along with their parents while criminal prosecutions proceeded.

'It was barbaric'

"We're not fooled by this bait and switch," said Archi Pyati, chief of policy at Tahirih Justice Center. "It was barbaric to separate children from their parents. Family detention is also inhumane and harmful to children. Prison is no place for kids."

As of earlier this week, there were 11,786 children in HHS custody -- both children separated from their parents and unaccompanied minors who illegally crossed the border alone.

In recent weeks, HHS opened facilities containing temporary, tent-like structures in Florida and Texas to deal with the influx of children.

"They are under constant supervision and observation to address any health or medical concerns while they are in our care," Wagner said.

57 days

The average stay in custody for an unaccompanied minor is 57 days.

There is no official policy for keeping parents in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody informed of where their children are -- other than a 2017 directive that provides guidance regarding undocumented parents "who have a direct interest in family court or child welfare proceedings in the United States."

Once a parent is prosecuted and the child is placed in HHS custody, ICE "will make every effort to reunite the child with the parent once the parent’s immigration case has been adjudicated," a spokesperson for ICE said before the executive order was signed.

"ICE is committed to connecting family members as quickly as possible after separation so that parents know the location of their children," the spokesperson added.

The executive order does not overturn the administration's "zero-tolerance" policy, as Trump said during the Oval Office signing, but rather allows the Department of Homeland Security to maintain custody of undocumented families pending immigration proceedings.

The order also said DHS can construct new housing facilities. There are currently three family detention facilities -- one in Pennsylvania and two in Texas. As of June 4, the total population of the facilities was around 2,600. ICE said it does not disclose capacity of those facilities because it is proprietary information held by the contractors.

20 days

Now, under what's called the Flores consent decree, children can be detained by ICE for only 20 days. The president will instruct the Department of Justice to challenge that decree and not abide by it while it is being challenged, a source told ABC Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl.

"It's certainly the case that right now we have the lawful authority to detain a family unit for up to 20 days," said Gene Hamilton, counselor to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

He referred questions about family reunification to HHS and DHS.

On May 7, Sessions discussed the "zero-tolerance" policy for illegal entry on the southwest border.

"If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you," he said. "If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law."

The attorney general directed the department to prosecute all illegal crossings. Most adults usually get a short jail sentence. But while parents served their time in jail, their children were forced into government custody because they couldn't be jailed.

That led to confusion and difficulty for parents as they tried to reunite with their children, who in some cases were sent across the country.

'It's a terrible thing'

"It's a terrible thing, the experience we've had," Jocelyn, who was separated from her son for months, told ABC News.

Jocelyn was in U.S. federal criminal custody for almost a month for her misdemeanor charge of entering the country illegally, and then spent another six months in detention facilities. She was living in a West Texas shelter, while her son James was sent to a center in Chicago.

They were only recently reunited.

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iStock/Thinkstock(BROWNSVILLE, Texas) -- Texas state inspectors identified nearly 250 violations at facilities run by Southwest Key, the non-profit organization now housing migrant children separated from their parents in a converted Walmart in Brownsville, Texas, according to records obtained by ABC.

Reports filed with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) show 246 "deficiencies" -- defined as failures to comply with regulations governing child care -- at Southwest Key residential programs across Texas since the fall of 2014.

The company's largest shelter for undocumented children, Casa Padre, which is a converted Walmart in Brownsville, has become a flash-point in the debate over President Donald Trump's "zero-tolerance" policy that separated children from parents caught attempting to cross the border illegally. On Wednesday, the president signed an executive order ending the family separation policy.

ABC News' Tom Llamas visited the facility late last week, which now houses 1,500 migrant boys ages 10 to 17, and observed it was clean and well staffed, with several activities to keep the kids busy during his tour.

However, HHSC records filed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services show that at Casa Padre alone, inspectors identified 13 deficiencies over the past year.

In one particularly worrisome report, dated October 2017, the facility's medical coordinator "failed to follow up with treatment" for a resident who tested positive for an STD for a full two weeks.

At other Southwest Key residential facilities, which also house children apprehended at the border, reports noted a child with "unsupervised access to a tool/knife," a child "clearly in pain" not given prompt medical care, and a child administered Tylenol despite an allergy to the medication.

HHSC records also documented children wearing "dirty clothing" and gathering in rooms that reached an "unsafe temperature" following an air conditioning outage.

Staff members were accused of showing up to work drunk, writing obscene language on a chalkboard, and repeatedly speaking to children in a "belittling" or "harsh" manner.

One staffer allegedly engaged in an "inappropriate relationship" with a child, one deficiency report said.

Southwest Key tells ABC News they undertook an "extensive investigation" for each violation, noting that in some cases, employees were retrained and disciplined, and some were terminated.

The company notes that over the past three years, Texas investigators evaluated Southwest Key on 78,570 issues, including many self-reported to regulators by the company, and found deficiencies in just 0.3 percent.

"We strive to provide the highest quality of care possible," the company said in a statement, adding that every shelter employee completes 40 hours of training prior to working with children, and an additional 40 hours of on-the-job training before they supervise kids.

A spokesperson for HHSC, which documented the violations, told ABC the agency's job "is to inspect and look for violations of our state standards... when we find them, we cite them and work with the facility to correct the issues."

"Our focus is to help ensure safety," he said.

The company’s large footprint

Austin-based Southwest Key operates at least 16 residential facilities across Texas, with 10 more in Arizona and California. About 10 percent of the children currently in their care were separated from their parents under Trump's "zero-tolerance" policy, according to the company.

A spokesperson for Southwest Key told ABC News that they welcomed Wednesday's order, saying: "We were pleased to learn that the president also signed a bill that will end the separation policy."

Public records indicate the company employs around 4,500 people, and the company says it has served more than 23,000 children over the past two years.

So far this year, they've been awarded $458.7 million in federal money to care for kids detained at the border, including children separated from their parents and minors attempting to cross the border alone.

Just last week, the federal government awarded the company $1,147.8 million, the most money they've ever received in one sum, according to HHS records dating back to 2007.

Bob Carey, who oversaw Southwest Key's contracts while serving as director of U.S. Health and Human Services’ office of refugee resettlement during the Obama administration, told ABC News that the company had a sizeable footprint.

Southwest Key Programs was “one of if not the largest government contractor for this purpose,” he said. “These are big, big grants, particularly if you’re doing on an emergency basis, extremely complex."

The company’s CEO Juan Sanchez has defended their actions amid the new scrutiny.

"We're not the bad guys. We're the good guys," Sanchez told ABC affiliate KVUE last week. "We're the people that are taking these kids putting them in a shelter, providing the best service that we can for them and reuniting them with their family."

"Somebody's gotta take care of these children, no matter what," Sanchez added. "If we don't take care of them, who's gonna take care of them? They're going to wind up in a detention center, a real detention center, and other facilities that are not adequate for children."

On the page dedicated to the company's mission, it states that the company "is committed to keeping kids out of institutions and home with their families, in their communities."

Sanchez -- who, according to the company's website, was "shaped by his experiences as a migrant worker" -- has drawn ire for his high salary. In 2016, his compensation was listed as $770,860, which included $249,065 in bonuses and incentive compensation.

"Dr. Sanchez’s salary is well below the average, when measured in terms of a percentage of the organization's revenue, in comparison to CEOs at non-profits of similar size," Southwest Key said in a statement to ABC News, adding that his salary accounted for less than 1 percent of the group's revenue.

While that compensation figure may strike some as large for the head of a non-profit, a spokesperson for watchdog group Charity Navigator told ABC News that such a salary “would not be considered atypical” because of the size of the organization.

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Google(NEW YORK) -- The room being used at one of the so-called "tender age" facilities designated to house immigrant children looked "home-y" but something seemed wrong.

Colleen Kraft, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told ABC News that a concerned pediatrician working near the border called her to come and visit a facility housing children under 12 years old in Combes, Texas.

She was able to visit the facility, run by the company Southwest Key Programs, in April, and she said that it was unsettling because the children were "so abnormally quiet."

In one room reserved for toddlers, there were beds, cribs, toys, books and a play mat, Kraft said.

"It was actually kind of a home-y setting," she said.

“What was really striking about the place, it was a room full of toddlers [and if you’ve ever been in a room full of toddlers you’d know] they're active, they’re loud and they’re playing and they’re rambunctious. This room, all of the children except for one were very quiet and were playing quietly... except for one little girl who was crying and sobbing and wailing and just inconsolable.”

The girl looked like she was under 2 years old, Kraft said.

“The worker was trying to give her toys and trying to give her books but she couldn’t pick her up or hold her,” Kraft added.

“We were told that the policy was that they couldn’t actually hold or pick up the kids,” she said.

Asked if she would have held the kids if that were allowed, she said she absolutely would have done so.

“It’s a logical comforting thing to do we just do that as human beings,” she explained.

“Here you have a bunch of quiet little toddlers and one inconsolable crying toddler who couldn’t be helped... we knew that none of us could help these kids because they didn’t have what they needed which was their mother,” she said.

“They were traumatized.”

Southwest Key Programs did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

In response to a different story, where a former employee said that he was told to tell boys in the care of Southwest Key Programs that they could not hug each other, the company released a statement saying, "hugging is absolutely allowed."

Kraft told ABC News she also went into the room for preschoolers, between ages 4 to 6, and said that the kids were playing with toys and looking at some books.

The pediatricians that flagged the centers to Kraft said: “They knew what kind of stress would do to these poor little developing brains.”

Kraft explained that people have stress responses, “and we have increases in our cortisol, in our fight or flight hormones and they're there for a reason..."

"For a developing child, that stress when buffered by a loving parent helps them to become resilient ... these hormones come into play when a child falls down and hurts themselves," Kraft said. "But these same hormones when they are prolonged, when there’s prolonged exposure and there’s no parent to buffer these hormones, they cause disruption in the neuro synapses. And they cause disruption to the developing brain architecture."

In summary, Kraft says that sort environment without the emotional support of a parent can likely cause brain damage for a child.

“The pathways that develop, that lay the foundation for speech for social-emotional development, for gross and fine motor movements are happening during this young time when these toddlers are still developing," Kraft explained, "and this prolonged stress or what we call exposure to toxic stress, it disrupts the developing brain.”

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John Moore/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Their names are a mystery and in some cases, their faces are too.

But the stories of the children caught in the crosshairs of the "zero tolerance" policy at the border are resonating with people across the country.

Here are some of the stories of children whose experiences have captured the nation's attention.

The girl pictured crying for her mother

One of the most iconic images of the border crisis featured a 2-year-old girl from Honduras.

John Moore, a special correspondent and senior staff photographer for Getty Images, took the photo after spotting the girl in her mother's arms while he was participating in a ride-along with Customs and Border Protection agents in Texas.

He saw a group of roughly 20 mothers and children late on June 12, "gathered on a dirt road" in a part of the Rio Grande Valley and, upon approaching the group, he saw the girl in her mother's arms.

Moore said that he saw that the mother was breastfeeding her daughter "to keep her calm" and that, later, one of the agents asked the mother to put her daughter down.

"Once the mother put her on the ground she started screaming immediately," Moore said.

The mother and daughter were taken away from the scene together, and because their names are unknown, it remains unclear if they were separated, though the policy mandates that if the mother faced charges they would be separated.

Read more about Moore's experience here.

The boy put in foster care with American parents

When a 9-year-old Guatemalan boy arrived at a Michigan foster care home, he was so afraid he couldn't eat.

Over time, the boy, whose name has not been released, confided to his foster parents that he and his father had escaped violence and poverty in their homeland only to be greeted with more hardship when they arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border, where the boy watched his dad being taken from him in handcuffs.

"When he came to us, he was extraordinarily fearful,"said Jen, the new foster mother of the boy, who asked ABC News not to use her last name to protect the family's privacy. "He came in all-black clothes, we learned, because he traveled at night with his dad and they didn't want to be seen."

The child handed them a piece of paper from a packet his mother had sewn into his pants before he and his father left home. The paper contained phone numbers of people his family knew in the United States, as well his mother's phone number in Guatemala.

While a Michigan caseworker was collecting the father and son's intake information, she called the mom's phone and she answered.

"He was overcome," said Jen. "He couldn't talk. He was crying so hard he was almost to the point of being sick."

Over the past eight months, the boy, now 10, opened up - telling caseworkers the story of his and his father's treacherous journey to what they thought would be the land of promise.

Read more about the boy's journey here.

The heartbreaking audio

The recording first reported and released by ProPublica of crying children in one of the shelters included the voices of a number of distraught children, and one of them has since been identified.

Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid is a 6-year-old girl who fled gang violence in El Salvador with her mother.

She's heard on the tape asking an official in Spanish, "Are you going to call my aunt so that when I'm done eating, she can pick me up?"

She memorized her aunt's phone number, and the aunt told ProPublica that she was allowed to make the phone call, but it was still heartbreaking.

"She’s crying and begging me to go get her. She says, ‘I promise I’ll behave, but please get me out of here. I’m all alone,'" the aunt told ProPublica.

Watch our video report about her story here.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- One thing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and immigration activists can agree on is that there is a huge backlog of immigration court cases at the southern border.

And they’ve been increasing since 2016, according to Syracuse University's TRAC Immigration database, which monitors U.S. federal immigration enforcement.

As of now, there are 714,067 pending immigration cases, according to the database.

By comparison, there were just over 400,000 in 2014, just over 450,000 in 2015 and more than 515,000 in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available.

The courts in New York, Los Angles, San Francisco and Houston are experiencing the biggest backlogs, data show.

In response, the U.S. Justice Department sent 35 more prosecutors to the Southwestern border last month. The department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which adjudicates immigration cases, also added 18 immigration judges to hear cases in person and via video conference.

The assistant U.S. attorneys are allocated along the southern border states of Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico.

In a speech earlier this month at the EOIR, Sessions talked about a 50 percent increase in the number of U.S. immigration judges hearing cases in the coming year.

Because the Department of Justice now refers all immigration cases for prosecution, there could be a bigger increase of backlogged cases.

At an event last month, EOIR Director James McHenry said his office is always looking for ways to expiate the process but ensure due process.

There are more than 320 immigration judges around the country but Sessions has signaled that he wants to hire more to address the problem.

To that end, Congress has given the DOJ room to hire up 150 new judges, McHenry said.

But President Trump expressed a different view in his reaction to a proposal by Senate Republicans, saying that adding judges on the southwest border would be "crazy."

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- There were nearly 150 damaging storm reports Tuesday from Washington, D.C., to Denver, including five reported tornadoes, with many of the areas looking at more rain and possible flooding on Wednesday.

Some of the worst damage on Tuesday was reported in Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas, where hail bigger than baseballs covered the ground and damaged cars. More than 10 inches of rain fell Tuesday in parts of Texas and up to 8 inches of fell in the Plains, producing flash flooding from Corpus Christi, Texas, to Kansas and Nebraska.

Flash flooding is possible on Wednesday from Montana to Texas. Flood watches have been issued in southeast Texas and across much of the Plains.

The bull's-eye will stretch from Texas to Illinois, where some areas could see more than 4 inches of rain.

Excessive heat

A huge area of high pressure is moving into the Southwest, drying the air out and heating it up.

Excessive heat warnings and watches were issued for California, Nevada and Arizona for the next several days as temperatures soar into the 110s.

The heat will spread into central and northern California as well, with cities such as Sacramento and Redding heating up into the 100s.

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Jackson County Sheriff’s Office(VANCLEAVE, Miss.) -- A mother in southern Mississippi has been charged with second-degree murder after her 10-month-old son was left in a hot car and died, authorities said.

The child, Kash Barhonovich, died last Thursday after being left in his mother’s parked car for an unknown length of time outside her home, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.

The temperature reached 90 degrees with a heat index of 98 degrees that day.

The preliminary autopsy results show that Kash's death was consistent with hyperthermia, or having a body temperature greatly above normal, according to the sheriff's office.

Elizabeth Marie Barhonovich, 28, of Vancleave, Mississippi, was jailed Tuesday without bond on the second-degree murder charge, the sheriff's office said. She made her first court appearance Wednesday morning without an attorney, and did not enter a plea, the sheriff's office said.

Kash was one of at least 15 children to die from hot cars so far this year, after 43 died in 2017, according to

Another baby died Tuesday after being found in a hot car in Kingsland, Georgia, according to The Florida Times-Union. Authorities declined to confirm the place or cause of the baby's death, citing a pending autopsy report, Donald Belcher of the Kingsland Police Department told ABC News.

In general, it takes little time for a car to get too hot for babies and kids.

Children's bodies heat up much faster than adults' do, and children's internal organs begin to shut down after their core body temperature reaches 104 degrees, according to a report from the National Safety Council.

On an 86-degree day, for example, it would take only about 10 minutes for the inside of a car to reach a dangerous 105 degrees, the report said.

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iStock/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) -- Pennsylvania police shot and killed a 17-year-old boy near Pittsburgh Tuesday night after pulling over a vehicle believed to have been connected to an earlier shooting incident, authorities said Wednesday.

Officials have not released the names of anyone involved.

The Allegheny County Police Department reported receiving multiple 911 calls of shots fired in the borough of North Braddock at about 8:20 p.m.

Callers reported that a vehicle was seen fleeing the scene, according to authorities. Descriptions of the vehicle were relayed to neighboring police departments to assist in the search.

North Braddock police and paramedics responded to the scene and discovered a 22-year-old man who had been shot, authorities said. He was transported to a trauma center where he was treated and released.

Meanwhile, an East Pittsburgh police officer stopped the vehicle matching the descriptions, Allegheny County police said, and the driver was taken into custody.

But, during the arrest, two other people in the vehicle fled, according to authorities.

“One individual -- a 17-year-old male -- was shot by police," the Allegheny County Police Department said in a Facebook post Wednesday morning.

Police provided no additional information about the fatal shooting.

The teen was transported to McKeesport Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

There is an ongoing search for the other person who fled the scene, authorities said.

Multiple police agencies are assisting, including Pennsylvania State Police, which has provided a helicopter to help in the search, according to ABC Pittsburgh affiliate WTAE-TV.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Allegheny County Police Department’s anonymous tip line at 833-ALL-TIPS (833-255-8477). The department can also be reached via its social media sites.

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