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Breaking news & local stories from Camden City, Berlin, Laurel Springs and more

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    The cocaine bust marked the largest since 2007.

    Officials came across the largest influx of cocaine seen in 10 years at a Philadelphia port last month, and say it first arrived at a Pennsauken seaport. 

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers from the Area Port of Philadelphia seized 709 pounds of cocaine hidden in cabinets shipped from Puerto Rico, the agency announced Monday. The shipment has a street value of $22 million, authorities said. 

    The seizure marked the sixth largest cocaine grab to date, as well as the 10th largest of any illicit drug seizure in the Port of Philadelphia, authorities said. It was the largest cocaine bust in Philadelphia since 2007, when officers found 864 pounds in a shipment from the Dominican Republic. 

    The shipment first raised concerns in November, when border protection officers at a seaport in Pennsauken noticed something strange in a shipping container, and had it sent to a centralized station for closer examination in Philadelphia. 

    There, officials emptied the container and began to inspect the furniture, finding fake walls in many cabinets that concealed 256 bricks of a powdery substance later determined to be cocaine, authorities said. 

    At the same seaport later that month, officers found 30 pounds of cocaine hidden in a wooden chest, officials said. That shipment, valued at around $900,000, was sent from Puerto Rico and addressed to a location in Cinnaminson. 

    Joseph Martella, the acting port director in Philadelphia, said that drug trafficking organizations look for opportunities after natural disasters hinder an area's ability to enforce rules. As Puerto Rico continues to recover from last year's devastating Hurricane Maria, it's possible that organized criminals are skirting usual regulations out of the island.

    "CBP officers remain ever vigilant to interdict narcotics loads, and we are pleased to have stopped this deadly poison shipment before it could hurt our communities," Martella said in a statement. 

    This is CBP's largest cocaine seizure in Philadelphia since officers intercepted 864 pounds of cocaine concealed in a shipping container from the Dominican Republic March 8, 2007.

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Cherry Hill are continuing to investigate the case.  

    Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    No one had won the jackpot for five days before Monday night Watch video

    A Jersey Cash 5 ticket that matched all the winning numbers for Monday's $644,068 drawing was sold at a gas station in Camden County.

    The ticket was purchased at a Citgo on Mt. Ephraim Avenue in Woodlynne, state lottery officials said Tuesday morning.

    Monday's winning numbers were 17, 26, 30, 28 and 39. The XTRA number was 5X.

    The jackpot climbed after five consecutive daily drawings without a ticket being sold that matched all five numbers. Retailers across the state sold 602,763 tickets for Monday's drawing.  

    The odds of a $1 ticket winning the jackpot are 962,598 to 1. 

    The top prize for Wednesday's drawing resets to $75,000.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     

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    Who shined in the past week on the basketball court?


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    The incident occurred on Monday.

    A 17-year-old Camden youth was fatally shot Monday afternoon in East Camden, authorities said. It was the first homicide of the year.

    A local official briefed on the homicide confirmed the victim was Harrison Javier, a student who had apparently dropped out of school this past year after attending Camden Academy Charter High School. 

    A call for comment from the charter school network was not immediately returned Tuesday.

    Tributes to Javier lit up social media channels Tuesday as news of his passing spread.

    "I still can't believe this bro you really was chilling...knew you since the 5th grade this is so crazy...Rest Up Harrison Javier," said a post from Razhea Arline.

    "Prayers go out to Harrison Javier family & friends...everybody try and keep their head up," another post from Haafiz Walker said.

    Gunfire erupted shortly before 1:20 p.m. in near the area of S. 29th and Clinton streets. The boy, found lying in the street, was taken by ambulance to Cooper University Hospital in Camden where he died at 1:51 p.m.,  the Camden County Prosecutor said.

    A mix of ice and snow covered much of the sidewalks and streets in the area Tuesday afternoon as some neighbors continued to try to cope with the violence on their doorsteps.

    "I've been living here for 15 years and nothing like that has ever happened," said one woman who declined to give her name after cracking her door open and peeking out. 

    Another neighbor, who spoke very little English, said she looked out of her front door shortly after the shooting.

    "I saw someone laying on the ground," the woman said. "There were people around him."

    Grief counselors were on hand at several schools in East Camden on Tuesday, a city school official said.

    "Camden is a very small community so while this wasn't one of our students we know that many of our students may have been impacted by the tragedy," said Maita Soukup, a spokeswoman for Camden public schools.

    Anyone with information is urged to contact Camden County Prosecutor's Office at 856-225-8475 or Camden County police at 856-757-7420.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

     

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    The 49-year-old owns a home in Lower but spends time in two Camden county towns, police said

    Police in Cape May County are searching for a 49-year-old woman who has been missing for more than seven weeks. 

    Almodovar.jpgDawn Almodovar (Photo courtesy Lower Township police) 

    Dawn Almodovar, of Lower Township, was last seen by her family Nov. 20, but police weren't notified until Monday, according to Det. Brian McEwing.

    She is described as 5-feet, 2-inches tall with black hair and blue eyes. Almodovar owns a home in Lower Township, but also spends time in Clementon and Berlin, police said. 

    Almodovar drives a four-door 2005 Mercedes E500 sedan with New Jersey license plate Y37-DKC. 

    Almodovar's parent reported her missing. McEwing said he didn't have any information about why the family waited to notify police.

    Lower Township police are collaborating with authorities in Camden County in an effort to determine her whereabouts, McEwing said. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Which players stole the show this week?


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    A woman is suing the Delaware River Port Authority after a holding cell surveillance camera filmed her using the toilet.

    A woman who was filmed using the toilet while in police custody is suing the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) for invading her privacy, alleging that the practices used by the agency's police department are unconstitutional. 

    The suit, filed Monday in federal court in Camden, states that a hidden surveillance camera in a holding cell captured footage of Lanese Gerachis, a Camden County woman, using the toilet. She claims that the camera constituted unreasonable search as well as invasion of privacy, and led her to suffer emotional and mental harm. 

    The alleged incident took place two years ago, when three DRPA officers stopped Gerachis' vehicle on the New Jersey side of the Ben Franklin Bridge for suspicion of driving under the influence and took her into custody. She was placed in a holding cell, where there was a toilet, but no enclosures or barriers to give her privacy, according to the suit. 

    While held there, Gerachis used the toilet, but did not become aware of a camera monitoring the cell until later that year when her attorney received the footage in the discovery phase of the trial, the claim states. 

    The camera allegedly has a small dot or fuzzed part of the screen, intended to give privacy to those using the toilet. Gerachis' suit contends that the minor adjustment to the camera is not sufficient, and that parts of her body were clearly depicted in footage. 

    She is suing the authority, as well as DRPA Police Chief John Stief, for unspecified damages. 

    Kyle Anderson, a spokesman for the DRPA, said Tuesday morning that the authority had not yet been served with the lawsuit, and could not immediately comment on the allegations. 

    Cherry Hill's police department faced a similar suit in 2010 after a woman was caught on surveillance footage using the bathroom in a holding cell. The township paid out $28,000 in a settlement, and also placed signage informing those detained of the cameras' presence. 

     Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find NJ.com on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

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    There is a new No. 1 at 152 pounds plus other changes in the second NJ.com weight class rankings of 2018.


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    The fatal shooting occurred on Monday afternoon.

    Authorities released a video Tuesday afternoon of two women on a surveillance camera near the scene of the city's first homicide of the year.

    The women were near the corner of S. 29th and Clinton streets less than 30 minutes before a 17-year-old was fatally shot. Police have not released the teen's name but a local official with knowledge of the investigation confirmed the teen was Harrison Javier, a student who had apparently dropped out of school this past year after attending Camden Academy Charter High School.

    The Camden County Prosecutor's Office released the video of the women along with a request for help from the public to identify them. 

    "Detectives would like to speak with these women," a statement from the prosecutor said.

    Tributes to Javier lit up social media channels Tuesday as news of his passing spread.

    Gunfire erupted shortly before 1:20 p.m. in near the area of S. 29th and Clinton streets. The boy, found lying in the street, was taken by ambulance to Cooper University Hospital in Camden where he died at 1:51 p.m.,  the Camden County Prosecutor said.

    A mix of ice and snow covered much of the sidewalks and streets in the area Tuesday afternoon as some neighbors continued to try to cope with the violence on their doorsteps.

    "I've been living here for 15 years and nothing like that has ever happened," said one woman who declined to give her name after cracking her door open and peeking out. 

    Another neighbor, who spoke very little English, said she looked out of her front door shortly after the shooting.

    "I saw someone laying on the ground," the woman said. "There were people around him."

    Grief counselors were on hand at several schools in East Camden on Tuesday, a city school official said.

    "Camden is a very small community so while this wasn't one of our students we know that many of our students may have been impacted by the tragedy," said Maita Soukup, a spokeswoman for Camden public schools.

    Anyone with information is urged to contact Camden County Prosecutor's Office at 856-225-8475 or Camden County police at 856-757-7420.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    Niche.com released its latest best school rankings; click here to see where your school checks in.


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    The officers were employed by the now-disbanded Camden City Police Department.

    Seventy-four former officers with the Camden City Police Department are suing the city, claiming they're owed overtime pay earned before the city force was disbanded in 2013.

    "Plaintiffs regularly worked more hours than they were permitted to record," the suit claims.

    The officers said in a civil complaint filed last week that when they worked for the department between 2009 and 2012, they were not paid time and a half, despite working extra hours, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

    It's not the first time they're making the claims. The dozens of officers also sought to be added as plaintiffs to an identical lawsuit filed by three officers in 2012, but a judge ruled they could not be part of the settlement that was ultimately reached in 2016, according to court records.

    To settle that lawsuit, the city agreed to pay $750 -- before taxes -- to Edgar Feliciano, Robert Chew and Xemaril Cruz and $14,000 in lawyers' fees and costs, according to court documents.

    Camden is trying to stop police shootings

    Now, the officers who were not able to claim a piece of the settlement in 2016 are trying again to get the overtime pay they say is owed to them, damages and attorneys' fees and costs.

    A city spokesman said Camden does not generally comment on ongoing litigation.

    The period during which the officers claim they were underpaid includes the difficult time in the department after the city, grappling with huge budget shortfalls, laid off nearly half its police force in 2011.

    The city ultimately decided to disband the former department and join the newly-created Camden County Police Department, which began policing the city in May 2013.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    Updated ranking based on the past week's results


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    It happened outside Skeeter's Pub.

    A man who spit on and kicked police officers in Gloucester Township as they tried to apprehend him was arrested Monday night, according to police. 

    The alleged assault took place just hours before the start of National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, a day on which communities recognize the service of their officials and often buy officers lunch or send thank you notes. 

    Around 8:21 p.m. that evening, police responded to Skeeter's Pub in Blackwood for a report of an unruly patron who was kicked out of the bar for hitting a bartender and bouncer. 

    Officers found the man outside of the bar and stumbling in the roadway, police said. They approached him and tried to talk, while also keeping him away from vehicles driving along the road, before he allegedly ran from the officers. 

    When officers caught up to him, the man, later identified as 25-year-old Joshua Fee, resisted arrest and began kicking the officers, police said. Once in custody, Fee allegedly spit on two of the officers. 

    Police Chief Harry Earle said in a statement these assaults on officers are too common, with 17 officers in the department experiencing some kind of assault last year. 

    "This assault last evening is another example of the dangers officers everywhere face on a daily basis. Despite such attacks on officers we are thankful for today - National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day - where so many hard working people greatly appreciate the work of all law enforcement officers," Earle said. "I know as well that officers are thankful for the partnership and support regularly expressed by so many members of the community."

    Fee, of Stratford, faces charges of aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer, throwing bodily fluids and resisting arrest by physical force or violence, police said. 

    Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find NJ.com on Facebook

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    See which players are at the top of each statistical list early in the season.


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    A look at the top statistical leaders from across the state.


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    A Winslow officer and his child lost their home in a fire on Dec. 26.

    The Christmas lights may be out and the ornaments packed up for another year, but Santa's work isn't done in South Jersey.

    When a Winslow Township police officer and his son lost their home and possessions in a fire the day after Christmas, a group of emergency responders teamed up to lend a hand and enlisted St. Nick to assist.

    Lucas meets Santa.jpgSanta greets young Lucas on Tuesday night at the Monroe Township Ambulance and Rescue Association building. (Submitted photo)
     

    Joe DiGirolamo and his son Lucas saw their Atco home destroyed in the blaze, meaning they needed to start from scratch. Everything from clothing to Christmas gifts was gone.

    A family friend reached out for help on social media and Monroe Township Ambulance and Rescue Association stepped up.

    Joined by Williamstown and Waterford fire departments, members of the rescue association hosted a surprise Christmas gathering at their headquarters on Tuesday night to present the father and son with donations that included toys, clothes and gift cards.

    To make the evening extra special for Lucas, the emergency responders met up at Williamstown Fire Company, where Santa joined them for a parade to the Monroe rescue squad building.

    Inside, they found gifts, a Christmas tree and had a chance to meet Santa and his South Jersey helpers.

    opening toys.jpgLucas opens toys as his father, Joe DiGirolamo, looks on Tuesday night. They lost their home in a fire on Dec. 26. (Submitted photo)
     

    "They were really happy," said rescue association President Rebecca Hadry. "Dad was really thankful and Lucas was really excited opening all of his toys."

    DiGirolamo told 6ABC that he was overwhelmed and grateful for the support.

    Organizers were just happy to help a local family in need.

    "Everyone was really grateful to be involved," Hadry observed, adding that seeing the father and son happy made it all worthwhile.

    Following the gifts, attendees gathered for a dinner to cap off the evening.

    Matt Gray may be reached at mgray@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattGraySJT. Find the South Jersey Times on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us: nj.com/tips.


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    The Camden aquarium will host an inaugural event along with Big Brothers, big Sisters, on Sunday.

    The Camden Adventure Aquarium will be closed to the public Sunday for a "Family Day" event with Gov.-elect Phil Murphy. 

    The event is part of Murphy's inaugural festivities, and will be held in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Tickets are free to those who register in advance.

    The aquarium did not immediately return a call seeking more information about the event, but posted the following on Facebook: 

    "The event taking place on Sunday is being hosted by Big Brothers, Big Sisters and will provide children from the all over the State of New Jersey, some who may be visiting for the very first time, aquarium admission that day."

    The aquarium will remain open for normal hours Saturday and on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

    Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find NJ.com on Facebook

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips 


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    Police said the girl had her head shaved and was found whimpering in the freezing basement.

    The 16-year-old girl who was allegedly held and tortured in a Massachusetts basement Dec. 27 was a resident of Sicklerville in Camden County who went to Massachusetts for a job training program, according to authorities.

    Police have said that the girl ended up at a home in 10 White Terrace in Auburn on Christmas, and two days later was tied to a chair and tortured because the four defendants suspected she had orchestrated a home invasion there. After being rescued by police Dec. 27, the girl reported that she was also drugged and sexually assaulted by several of the defendants.

    Her alleged captors, siblings Krystal Lugo, 23, and Christopher Lugo, 19, and friends Yariel Torres-Abee, 22, and Yuleny Ortiz, 19, were ordered held in jail by a Worcester District Court judge Jan. 5, according to MassLive.com, which first reported the story Dec. 29.

    A search warrant affidavit obtained by MassLive.com said that the girl told Auburn detectives that she was a runaway from New Jersey who had been in Massachusetts for about six weeks. However, it's not clear if she was officially a missing person or if her family knew she was in the Massachusetts program.

    On Wednesday, Auburn Police Sgt. Scott Mills said the girl hails from Sicklerville and was reunited with her mother at the police station in Massachusetts after officers rescued her from the basement.

    She was released to her mother after her interviews with police, but Mills said he does not know if she is still with her family because she remains in Massachusetts.

    Mills said that detectives on Tuesday arrested two people they believe committed the armed home invasion that the girl was accused of setting up. They are Xabiel Feliciano, 22, and Ibrahim Burale, 24, of Worcester. MassLive.com reported they are being held pending a detention hearing.

    Police believe the girl did know Burale, who goes by the nickname Ace, he said. But he said Wednesday afternoon that he was not aware of any evidence to support the theory that she was involved in the home invasion.

    auburn-invasion.jpgXabiel Feliciano, 22, left, and Ibrahim Burale, 24, both of Worcester, were arrested in connection with a home invasion Dec. 27, police said. (Auburn Police)
     

    Burale is the one the picked the girl up in Leominster on Christmas Day, with two of the defendants in the car, and took her to the Auburn home, according to statements she made to police detailed in the search warrant affidavit.

    Mills said the girl also knew at least one of the defendants from the program she was participating in -- JobCorps, a residential education and job training program for those 16-24 at the former Fort Devens.

    She told police that they gave her Xanax pills and a blunt laced with Xanax, which she said Lugo later told her was so two of them could have sex with her. She said that several defendants took turns sexually assaulted her that day, but only Christopher Lugo is charged with rape.

    On the morning of Dec. 27, she told police she overheard the home invasion, in which two people demanded "weed" and money, fired shots, and pistol whipped Christopher Lugo, according to the affidavit.

    Convinced the girl was involved, Krystal Lugo took her outside barefoot and hit her, before they took her to the basement and interrogated her, the girl told police. She reported they duct taped her to a chair, shaved her head, burned her with cigarettes and a clothes iron, and repeatedly threatened her with a machete held to her throat.

    Police received a tip near midnight about the girl and went to the home, the affidavit said. When police found her in the basement, they also found a Christmas bag with her hair in it, a pot of what MassLive reported was water she was given to drink, an iron, cigarettes, duct tape, four used condoms, and jars of marijuana, according to the search warrant.

    Mills said White Terrace is a "nice little neighborhood" but police were familiar Christopher Lugo, who owns the home, and have responded to 146 calls there since 2002. It had no heat or water, he said, a result of someone stealing the copper pipes. Lugo was heating it with the electric oven and a fan, he said. It has since been condemned.

    While Krystal Lugo lives in Webster, Mills said, she did have her 18-month-old child at the Auburn home the morning of the home invasion. He said the child is now with other family members.

    Attorneys for the defendants argued unsuccessfully in court that they should be released on bail and have denied some parts of the girl's story, MassLive reported.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The highways and bi-ways and everything in-between in the Garden State.

    When I first got my driver's license -- back in 19 mumble, mumble -- there was no Global Positioning System. There also weren't smart phones, let alone apps that told you how to get somewhere or how to avoid traffic jams.

    We relied solely on our memories and, of course, maps. Not all that long ago, I pulled out a map when one of my children asked how to get somewhere. As I unfolded it, I was met with a blank stare; it was a foreign sight to my millennial. I imagine I'd get the same reaction if I leafed through a TV guide while sitting in front of our flat screen.

    I like maps. And, as someone who has charted many trips with the help of Rand McNally, I've wondered about the labeling of roadways.

    Matt Soniak offered some explanation on mentalfloss.com.

    Soniak writes about science, history, etymology and Bruce Springsteen for both the website and the print magazine. His work has appeared in print and online for Men's Health, Scientific American, The Atlantic, and Philly.com.

    According to Soniak, "roads" run between two distant points -- two towns, for example. In those towns, you'll find "streets," lined with houses and other buildings.

    An "avenue" is traditionally a straight road with a line of trees or shrubs running along each side; a "boulevard" is usually a widened, multi-lane street with a median and landscaping between the curbs and sidewalks on either side.

    A "court?" A short street that ends as a cul de sac. "Drive" can be short for "driveway," a private road for local access to one, or a small group of structures. Other times it refers to meandering, rather than straight, roads and highways.

    A "lane" is a narrow road or street usually lacking a shoulder or a median, while a "way" is a minor street off a road in a town.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    For larger thoroughfares, an "expressway" is a divided highway meant for high-speed traffic. A "freeway" is a road designed for safe high-speed traffic by the elimination of intersections at the same grade or level. A "highway" is a main road intended for travel between destinations like cities and towns.

    "Routes" can be interstate highways, designated by "U.S." as in U.S. Route 1 or county routes, also referred to as "state secondary routes."

    I grew up on Chimes Terrace; I have no idea what that means.

    Here's a gallery of New Jersey streets and roads. And here are links to similar galleries from the past.

    Vintage photos of streets and roads in N.J.

    Vintage photos of street scenes in N.J.

    Vintage photos of New Jersey street scenes

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    A fire badly damaged the Country Town Diner overnight in Camden County

    The Country Town Diner was badly damaged in a fire early Thursday that forced the closure of the White Horse Pike in Berlin for several hours as firefighters battled the blaze, police said.

    Flames were visible through the roof of the diner when police and firefighters arrived. The fire was discovered around midnight. No injures were reported.

    Police said the White Horse Pike was reopened around 3 a.m.


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