<![CDATA[NBC Connecticut - Top Stories]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC_Connecticut.png NBC Connecticut http://www.nbcconnecticut.com en-us Thu, 28 May 2015 02:10:13 -0400 Thu, 28 May 2015 02:10:13 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Stabbing is Hartford's 12th Homicide of 2015]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 23:41:45 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/hartford+liquor+store+stabbing.JPG

A man was stabbed and killed Wednesday night at a Hartford liquor store, marking the city's 12th homicide of the year, according to Hartford police.

Police said the victim and perpetrator got into a fight in Blue's Package Store at 139 Barbour Street. The fight turned deadly when the perpetrator took out a knife.

Witnesses said the victim was stabbed in the chest and appeared to have been a customer at the store.

Officers chased down the suspect as he ran from the scene and took him into custody, according to police. He was still holding the knife.

Police said detectives will interview the suspect and formally arrest him overnight.

Neither the suspect nor victim have been publicly identified.

It's the second Hartford homicide and the third act of violence in 24 hours.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Amtrak Train Involved in Collision in Groton]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 23:41:33 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/amtrak+groton+crash.jpg

Authorities were called to an Amtrak crash off Depot Road in Groton on Wednesday night, according to Groton Town Police.

The New London Day reports that a pedestrian was struck.

The Amtrak website listed a service disruption along the Acela Express line, which travels from Boston to New York and passes through Groton.

Groton police said they're helping Amtrak at the scene but that Amtrak police are leading the investigation. Calls to Amtrak representatives were not immediately returned.

It's the second train crash of the day in Connecticut. A man died Wednesday afternoon when he jumped in front of a Metro-North train in Fairfield.

Photo Credit: Steven Frischling/@flyingwithfish]]>
<![CDATA[Elementary Student Faked Kidnapping Attempt in Vernon: Police]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 22:44:32 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/lake+street+school+vernon.jpg

The elementary school student who told police a strange man had grabbed and tried to kidnap him while he was walking home from school Tuesday fabricated the story, according to police.

The child originally told officers he was walking home from Lake Street School between 2:30 and 2:50 p.m. Tuesday when a man in a red four-door vehicle drove through oncoming traffic, approached the boy and tried to force him into the car.

Police stepped up patrols near the school and interviewed residents, parents and drivers who were in the area at the time of the supposed incident. Investigators also reviewed surveillance footage and said nothing corroborated the child's account.

Authorities spoke with the child again Wednesday and said he admitted to making up the story.

Police are no longer looking for a suspect and said the public is not in any danger.

<![CDATA[Man Dies After Jumping in Front of Metro-North Train]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 20:56:41 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/metro+north+pedestrian+struck+fairfield.jpg

A middle-aged man has died after jumping in front of a Metro-North train near the Fairfield Metro station late Wednesday afternoon, according to police.

Railroad officials said the collision happened around 3:40 p.m. Wednesday. The train department New York City at 2:04 p.m. and was due to arrive in New Haven at 4:06 p.m.

According to Fairfield police spokesman Lt. James Perez, the train was just pulling away from the Fairfield Metro station when a conductor or engineer spotted a man standing on the side of the tracks. The man jumped in front of the moving train and was struck.

Police have not identified the man but said he appears to be middle aged. Metro-North is handling the investigation.

The New Haven Line was delayed for several hours as a result and service was temporarily suspended between Southport and Bridgeport as a result.

No additional information was immediately available.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Photo Credit: Fred Shepard]]>
<![CDATA[1 Dead, 1 Hurt After Truck Crashes Off Highway in Guilford ]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 14:57:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Guilford+crash+1200.jpg

A Bronx, New York man is dead and a Greenwich man is hospitalized with serious injuries after a pickup crashed off Interstate 95 in Guilford on Wednesday morning and landed in the woods below, according to state police.

The driver of the pickup, Kastriot Lulaj, 44, of the Bronx, died after being transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital, according to state police.

The passenger, Scott Phillips, 53, of Greenwich, was also taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he is reported to be in serious condition. His injuries are not considered life-threatening, police said. 

Police said the two men were in the pickup when it went off the highway about a mile north of the exit 58 ramp at 5:43 a.m., landed several feet below in the woods off State Street, which runs below the highway, state police said.


State police are trying to determine why the driver lost control and they ask anyone with information to call Troop F in Westbrook at 860-399-2100.


Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA["American Idol" Winner Nick Fradiani Performs in Hartford]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 23:29:55 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/179*120/473224476.jpg

After traveling to Hollywood and winning "American Idol," Guilford native Nick Fradiani gave his first performance since his crowning moment on Wednesday night, playing at The Russian Lady in Hartford with his band, Beach Avenue.

It's undoubtedly the first of many concerts to come from the rising star, including another one in Hartford Thursday that you need to win tickets in order to attend.

He and Beach Avenue played acoustic versions of his new single, "Beautiful Life," the original song they played on "America's Got Talent" last year and a couple covers in a private Acoustic Cafe concert in Hartford, hosted by 96.5 TIC and sponsored by Miller Lite. You had to win tickets from the radio station to go, but all the fans had the chance to meet Fradiani afterward for professional photos, selfies and autographs.

"These are the ones I won't forget.This is what I was doing before I came out here. Playing at a bar back in Connecticut," he said, adding that he used to play every other Friday night at City Steam.

And he won't, as Beach Avenue drummer Ryan Zipp took a lot of photos and videos at the event to continue documenting the journey of Fradiani and the band.

Fradiani tweeted that it's his first acoustic show in his home state since winning "American Idol." He said it was very special and that it feels good to be back in his home state.

So how does it feel to be the new American Idol?

"It's funny because I always get asked that and I'm kind of like, I don't know. I don't think it's really set in yet," Fradiani said. "It's only been a few weeks, but it's a hard thing to kind of put into words. It's just been so amazing. Sometime a couple months down the road I think I'm going to be able to sit down and take it all in, but it's been amazing. It's kind of like living your dream."

It's been a good year for Fradiani and his band, which had been together for about two and a half years before they ever went on TV for a talent competition. Before "Idol," Fradiani and his Beach Avenue buddies, guitarist Nick Abraham and percussionist Zipp competed on NBC's "America's Got Talent." 

While Abraham said that it was hard for the band for a little while with Fradiani away, but they threw their full support behind him when he first talked about auditioning for "American Idol" the last year he could before the age cut-off of 28. After "Idol," they weren't sure when they'd be able to work with him again and they are happy it's been so soon as they travel a lot with him for radio spots.

"It was amazing seeing him progress through 'Idol' and to see his success," said Abraham, who also served as Fradiani's music mentor to help prep him for the final and was rewarded with a free Ford car.

He said that Fradiani has been loyal to the band and is a good friend and a natural talent. The band members, who live with Fradiani in West Haven, were featured on "Idol" when he returned home to visit his hometown of Guilford, where about 10,000 people attended a parade in his honor. Ford also sponsored a trip for Abraham and Zipp to fly to California to see Fradiani in the final round live.

"It was kind of an amazing experience being there live," Abraham said. "We got all choked up seeing him win, so it was incredible."

"American Idol" has built upon the band's success after "America's Got Talent" and given them more national exposure and concert opportunities, growing their national fan base on top of their home-state support.

While the Hollywood experienced and being on TV was different for them, when they got on stage and played, nothing changed and they felt like they were at home, Abraham said. "Idol" really helped Fradiani become more comfortable being in front of cameras, Zipp said. The musical ride has been "wild," he said.

As Fradiani works on promoting his single, they'll perform with him at radio spots and some concerts.

On Memorial Day, Fradiani sang the national anthem at the National Memorial Day services in Washington D.C.

After his appearances on two TV shows, Fradiani said he's looking forward to devoting his time to making music in the real world and focusing on his upcoming album and working with some "great co-writers."

"That's what I was born to do," he said. "That's what I love to do."

Now they will have another private performance at Spotlight Theatres in Hartford as part of the Dunkin' Donuts Music Lounge. The concert is Thursday at noon and the only way you can get into the concert, hosted by iHeart Radio and affiliated local radio stations, is by winning passes on radio stations like KISS 95.7, Country 92.5, The River 105.9 and KC 101.3.

Spotlight Theatres is located at 39 Front Street in Hartford.

How has winning "American Idol" changed his life? Well, Fradiani said Wednesday was the first day in awhile he has gotten to relax and sleep in. He is doing a lot of interviews and has some performances lined up.

"I almost cried when I found out I could sleep. I was so pumped," he quipped. "It's just been a lot of craziness. It'll be a lot of going city to city and I'm ready for it. I've been waiting to do this. I'm ready to go."

While he is the man with the talent, he said his Connecticut fans and his "insane hometown support" gave him the advantage and edge he needed to win the title of American Idol.

"Just thank you. Without all my Connecticut fans, I wouldn't have won," he said. "It feels great to be home."

Fradiani will spend all summer on his "American Idol" tour from July 7 to Aug. 28.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[New Law Targets Use of Seclusion Rooms]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 23:04:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/219*120/seclusion+rooms.jpg

State lawmakers approved a new bill Wednesday that limits the controversial practice of using seclusion rooms and restraining children in schools.

The law now increases monitoring and reporting the practice and also mandates that parents be notified within 24 hours if their child has been placed in seclusion. It strictly limits the use of restraint on a child and requires seclusion rooms to have windows.

"A lot of times, kids were being secluded for reasons that didn't have anything to do with an emergency," said child advocate Sarah Eagan. "A child might be secluded because he didn't put his toy away."

Under current law, children were locked in seclusion rooms for indefinite periods of time. Now, there are strict time limits, which vary based on the child's age.

"There are hundreds of children who have been kept in a room for over an hour," said State Rep. Andy Fleishman, a Democrat from West Hartford, "dozens of children who have been restrained or secluded more than 50 times in school year."

Official from the Office of the Child Advocate said many parents have criticized the practice. They also found that children as young as pre-school age were being placed in seclusion and were suffering from various levels of autism and were disproportionately African American or Hispanic.

Over the last three years, "more than 1,300 incidents occurred where Connecticut Children were injured during restraint or seclusion," according to Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff.

In addition to stricter limits on use, school staff will be required to undergo new training about seclusion and restraint. The law takes effect starting this coming July 1, and is multi-tiered with some parts that will be implemented as late as 2019.

<![CDATA[Teachers Union Alarmed Over Use of Student Data]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 21:41:47 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/hamden+public+schools.jpg

The Hamden school system turned over data to an education research group and leaders with one of Connecticut's largest teachers' unions say the group is worried about how it will be used.

"We’re very very concerned about the rights of students and parents of such education data," said Mark Waxenberg, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association.

At issue is a study commissioned by the Hamden Board of Education through a memorandum of understanding with the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a group commissioned by former Gov. Jodi Rell.

The non-profit organization provides data analysis and reports to school districts free of charge. The study in Hamden was focused on system-wide expenditures.

The CEA is critical of the wide-ranging data that includes information about students, layouts of schools and that fact that parents were not informed that the information had been released at all.

"They’re capable of selling all of this information to be used to manipulate a variety of different ways for purposes that are unknown to us other than they own the data," Waxenberg said.

Hamden Public School officials couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of CCER, said he was "disturbed" by the way the CEA characterized the work done by the non-profit. He said the study has a value of $103,000 based on consulting fees.

Villar said a district attorney reviewed the group's agreement with Hamden and the memorandum of understanding has a clear confidentiality clause that prevents anything the CEA alleged from happening.

"The data is not student or personally identifiable. We don’t receive a full data set that would allow us to put things together to determine that this is an individual student’s record. We don’t need that data. We’re not interested in that. We’re looking to do a high level district analysis," Villar said.

CCER has conducted analyses for multiple large school systems, including Waterbury, Meriden and Bridgeport.

Villar said the group takes safeguards to make sure the data, which does include information about students, is safe from hackers.

"We use secure protocols on servers, we don’t send emails with files, we don’t use thumb drives or that sort of thing," he said.

Waxenberg isn't convinced and wants to see policies at the state level that ensure that all student data is kept in the right place.

"We do not believe that that data should be allowed outside of the local board of education, the state board of education, and without parental consent to a third party," he said.

Parents waiting outside a school in Hamden said they want to be informed before the school system enters any agreement that involves the sharing of student information.

"Well it depends what it is but still they should talk to the parents first" said Yerika Cruz. "Doesn’t matter what it is. They should just let the parents know before they do anything."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Fire Forces 2 Families From Manchester Home]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 21:17:49 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/manchester+eighth+district+fire.jpg

Two women and two children are without a home after flames ripped through their three-story house on Park Street in Manchester on Wednesday afternoon, according to the fire department.

Fire officials said a woman living on the first floor of the house at 11-13 Park Street discovered a fire on her porch around 4:30 p.m. She made it out safely and called 911.

Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke, fire and intense heat throughout the building as flames spread from the porch. They searched the second-floor unit to make sure no one was trapped and had the flames under control shortly after 5 p.m., according to the fire department.

Two Manchester departments responded and crews from East Hartford, Bolton, Glastonbury and South Windsor provided mutual aid.

No firefighters or residents were hurt, but the home sustained heavy damage to all three floors, forcing the four people who live there, including a woman with two children, to stay elsewhere.

<![CDATA[Idaho Man Survives Lightning Strike]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 21:46:39 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/72814+Lightning.jpg

An Idaho man escaped a brush with death this weekend when a lightning bolt arced through a stormy sky and struck him in the head.

Ryan Cross, 34, was camping near Idaho City on Sunday with two friends on ATVs when a thunderstorm swept through the area, his wife Heather told NBC affiliate KTVB. As hail started to fall, Ryan dismounted from his ATV and took cover under the only shelter around — a nearby pine tree.

"He was under the tree, looking at a map on his phone, and that's when it all happened," Heather said.

The lightning bolt hit Ryan in the head, coursed through his body and exited through his back, Heather said. The lightning left a scarlet scar down his chest and in a spot on his back.

One of Ryan's friends was briefly knocked unconscious by the lightning. When he regained consciousness, he ran to a nearby road, where he met up with people in a SUV and summoned help.

"That helped save his life," Heather said.

When he arrived at the Saint Alphonsus intensive care unit in nearby Boise, Ryan had bleeding in his brain. He is now alert, eating and starting to get back on his feet, his wife said.

The powerful bolt shredded Ryan's gear and left it hot to the touch.

Experts recommend moving to shelter immediately in the event of an electrical storm. If no shelter is available, people should stay low to the ground.

"Storms can develop so fast, and based on the ruggedness of the mountains, you can't see it coming," KTVB meteorologist Larry Gebert said. "The best thing to do in a storm when you have no protection is to be the smallest thing out there."

Photo Credit: Joey]]>
<![CDATA[East Hartford Officer Settles With Town]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 23:22:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/officer+woodrow+tinsley.jpg

An East Hartford officer is cleared after a mother accused him of assaulting her 12-year-old son.

Veteran Officer Woodrow Tinsley will now receive full pay for the two weeks he was suspended back in 2012 after being accused of using excessive force.

Karla Huaman said Officer Tinsley struck her son, giving him bruises and abrasions.

He'd been dispatched to the home to help when the 12-year-old was refusing to go to a psychological evaluation. East Hartford's police union disputed Huaman's claim, and Police Chief Scott Sansom eventually agreed.

In addition to receiving his back pay, Tinsley was retrained on how to deal with youth at a scene call.

Tinsley and the town are still being sued for $20 million in a federal civil suit. Neither Huaman or her attorney could be reached for comment.

Photo Credit: Town of East Hartford]]>
<![CDATA[Man Found With Missing Teen Charged With Sex Assault]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 18:47:34 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/wallingford+gregory+mooney.jpg

A 15-year-old reported missing from Massachusetts hitchhiked to Connecticut with a 20-year-old man, who has been charged with sexual assault, according to police.

Police said the teen, who lives in Edgartown, Massachusetts, was last seen over the weekend in Providence, Rhode Island.

Investigators learned she was bound for New York with Gregory Mooney, 20, of Mashpee, Massachusetts.

Police said Mooney and the teen hitched a ride from Cheshire to Wallingford and stopped at the Colony Diner at 611 North Colony Road on Tuesday evening. According to authorities, Mooney used a customer's phone to call a friend, who in turn contacted Edgartown police.

Officers from Wallingford interviewed employees and customers at the diner and searched the area of Mooney and the teen, who had left before police arrived.

They searched parks, woods and stores through the night, and around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, an off-duty Meriden officer reported seeing the couple at the Wal-Mart on North Colony Road, according to police.

Wallingford police found the couple at the Wal-Mart store and arrested Mooney for shoplifting. He was also charged with second-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor.

Mooney was held on a total of $55,000 bond and is due in court June 8.

Police said the teen was sent home with her parents.

Photo Credit: Wallingford Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Man Shot in Back at Mr. Sparkle Car Wash in Hartford]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 22:52:29 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/hartford+car+wash+shooting.jpg

Police are investigating after a man was shot in the back at a Hartford car wash Wednesday afternoon.

It happened around 3:30 p.m at the Mr. Sparkle car wash at the corner of Kane Street and New Park Avenue. Wednesday. Investigators have shut down the car wash and taped off the crime scene.

Police said the victim managed to run from the scene under an Interstate 84 overpass to the Gabrielli Truck Rental at 277 New Park Avenue, where police administered first aid.

He was taken by ambulance to a local hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries, according to police.

Residents of the area told NBC Connecticut they heard loud pops of gunfire and rode their bikes down to the scene to see what was happening.

The Hartford Police Department's Shooting Task Force is investigating. Police said they're working to develop a suspect.

No additional information was immediately available.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

<![CDATA[Charging Cellphone Sets Bed on Fire at Hamden Home]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 23:35:39 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/hamden+cellphone+fire.jpg

Fire officials are warning residents to be careful charging their devices after a cellphone ignited a bed and pillow in Hamden overnight Friday, according to the fire department.

Firefighters said they were called to 204 Franklin Road in Hamden just before 4 a.m. May 22 after a charging cellphone caught fire in a resident's bed.

"I saw the flames," said Hamden resident Kimberly Johnson, who said the fire broke out in her 15-year-old son's bedroom. "When I ran upstairs, his entire left side of the bed was on fire."

Residents ventilated the home and the fire was extinguished before emergency crews arrived, but fire officials say it's a warning to residents about the dangers of charging electronics.

"I was just scared because all I saw was the flames and my son was laying there," Johnson said.

Chargers "need space to breathe" because they generate heat while in use, according to the Hamden Fire Department.

"The cell phone was left on the bed. These devices need areas to be ventilated," said Hamden Fire Chief David Berardesca. "It is recommended that you leave these type of devices on a hard surface so the heat can dissipate. The batteries heat up, they could melt – in some cases, explode – and cause a fire."

Never block the air vents on the back and sides of a laptop or leave charging devices on a bed while sleeping. Bedding and pillows can block airflow, fire officials said.

Check power cords and chargeres regularly for damage, and throw them out if they're frayed. Damaged cords can emit electrical sparks and ignite a fire.

Always unplug chargers that are not in use. They consume electricity even when the device is not charging.

More information is available through the Hamden Fire Marshal’s Office at 203-407-3182.

Photo Credit: Hamden Fire Department]]>
<![CDATA[Fairfield Teens Hurt, 1 Critically, in Crash After Leaving School]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 16:14:36 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/fairfield+police+cruiser+generic.jpg

Two Fairfield teens were hurt, one critically, when their Jeep skidded out and struck a utility pole while they were leaving Fairfield Ward High School on Wednesday, according to police.

Police said the students left school around 11 a.m. and drove westbound on Knapp Highway "at a high rate of speed." The Jeep skidded sideways when the driver tried to turn, smashing into a utility pole and snapping it in two places just down the road from the school.

The passenger suffered critical injuries. Both teens were taken to St. Vincent Medical Center for treatment and first responders called their parents, according to police.

School staff and emergency responders rushed to the scene of the crash. Police said counselors are available to provide emotional support to students and faculty members.

Knapp Highway is closed at Knapp Park Drive and will remain shut down through the evening, according to police. Authorities are asking drivers to avoid the area.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Thieves Break Into Bridgeport Home, Tie Up Residents]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 16:27:51 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/bridgeport+police+cruiser+2.jpg

Police are searching for two men who forced their way into a Bridgeport home, tied up the residents and stole $4,000 cash, according to a spokesperson for the mayor's office.

The men, one of whom was armed with a handgun, broke into a house on Bretton Street overnight Tuesday into Wednesday and tied and bound the people who live there, the mayor's office said. They grabbed the money and ran.

Police brought in K-9s in an effort to track the perpetrators but couldn't find them. It's not clear if they have identified the people responsible for the crime.

Anyone with information is urged to call Bridgeport police at 203-581-5201.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Broken Pole Causes Outages in East Hartford, Manchester]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 18:47:48 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/eversource.jpg

More than 1,000 residents of East Hartford and Manchester are without power Wednesday evening while crews work to repair a broken utility pole in East Hartford, according to Eversource.

A representative for the power company said the broken pole is located near Oak Street in East Hartford. It's not clear what caused the pole to break.

Eversource said crews have been working for "some time" to make repairs. It's not clear how long it will take to fix the pole.

In the meantime, nearly 1,000 East Hartford residents and two dozen Manchester residents are without power, down from 400 earlier in the evening, according to Eversource.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Police Make Arrest in LA Fire]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 21:49:24 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/AP298796397152.jpg

Police have made an arrest in the "devastating" downtown Los Angeles blaze that torched an under-construction apartment complex, officials confirmed on Wednesday.

The fire destroyed the seven-story Da Vinci Apartments complex at 900 West Temple Street in December 2014, covering some 180,000 square feet. Flames billowed into the air, making smoke visible for miles and radiating enough heat to shatter the windows of nearby office towers.

Dawud Abdulwali, 56, of Los Angeles was arrested without incident Tuesday morning on an unrelated traffic charge and was later booked on suspicion of aggravated arson and arson of a structure, according to a written statement from the Los Angeles Fire Department.

There were no additional suspects, said Special Agent Carlos Canino of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Abdulwali was exposed as a squatter by the NBC4 I-Team in 2010, when he was found to be living in a foreclosed mansion in Woodland Hills. At the time he identified himself as Dawud Walli on what appeared to be a falsified lease for the vacant three-story home.

Multiple law enforcement sources identified "Damud Walli" as the suspected arsonist Dawud Abdulwali to NBC4.

Law enforcement sources earlier told NBC4 Abdulwali was booked on charges of suspicion of malicious arson and reckless arson, but it was not clear what charges the district attorney would be filing.

Booking records show Abdulwali was being held on more than $1 million bail. If convicted, Abdulwali faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to the LAFD.

Officials offered no motive and released few details on how the investigation led them to Abdulwali.

"All the evidence that we have right now points to this person as a suspect," Canino said. "We have zero evidence at this time that this was a terrorism event."

Canino said there was no indication that Abdulwali had a connection to the Da Vinci complex.

The blaze damaged nearby high-rise structures, melted overhead signs on the Harbor (110) Freeway and melted computers of a neighboring office building on Figueroa Street.

Investigators said mid-December they found an accelerant pointing to arson.

Rewards totaling an unprecedented $170,000 were announced in January to help make an arrest. However, Mayor Eric Garcetti said public tips did not lead to the arrest.

Authorities also released surveillance images of two people spotted near the scene after the fire, but police said Abdulwali was not the person in either of those images.

Terrazas has called the "devastating" fire "one of the largest structure fires the LAFD has had in recent memory."

The blaze caused up to $30 million in damage to the under-construction Da Vinci Apartments.

The fire also caused between $50 and $60 million in damage to the adjacent city building, according to the fire department.

Phil Drechsler contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Driver in Crash With Tractor-Trailer Fell Asleep: Cops]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 20:59:15 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Monroe+crash+with+injuries+1200.jpg

Three people suffered serious injuries when a Chevrolet Malibu and a tractor-trailer carrying heating fuel crashed in Monroe on Wednesday morning, according to police.

Police said Giovanni Thompson, 20, of Bridgeport, was driving southbound on Route 25/Main Street when he crossed over the center line and struck a tractor-trailer traveling northbound around 7:40 a.m. He told police he must have fallen asleep at the wheel.

The tractor-trailer, driven by Robert Colburn, 66, of New Milford, drove off the righthand side of the road. Colburn swerved to miss utility poles and crashed into several large pine trees.

Thompson and a passenger were trapped in the Malibu and had to be extricated, according to police. Police said all three people involved were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of serious but non-life threatening injuries.

Route 25 was closed for hours after one of the tractor-trailer's fuel tanks ruptured, spilling diesel fuel onto the roadway. Police said the tanker carrying heating fuel was not compromised and is not leaking.

Crews from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection were called to the scene to coordinate the clean-up effort.

Thompson was issued an infraction for failure to drive in the proper lane.

Photo Credit: Monroe Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Mass. Man Charged With Sex Assault in Wallingford]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 17:48:14 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/wallingford+gregory+mooney.jpg

A 20-year-old Massachusetts man has been arrested in connection with a sexual assault in Wallingford.

Police said Gregory Mooney, of Mashpee, Massachusetts, sexually assaulted a person he knew in Wallingford on Wednesday.

He was arrested and charged with second-degree sexual assault. Mooney is being held on $50,000 bond and is due in court June 8.

Photo Credit: Newington Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Police Identify Man Killed in Crash With Newington Officer]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 17:29:04 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Newington+Police+Involved+Fatal+Crash.jpg

A driver died Monday morning after running a red light on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington and colliding with a police cruiser on its way to an emergency call, according to police.

Police said Jason Augeri, 41, of Southington, drove through a red light at the intersection with Deming Road around 7 a.m. and crossed into the path of the police cruiser, which had activated its lights and sirens. Augeri was pronounced dead at the scene.

The officer, Ryan Williams, a more than seven-year veteran of the department, was taken to the hospital for treatment. Police said Williams has since been released.


The highway was closed for several hours while authorities responded to the scene.

Police said Williams was responding to the report of a violent disturbance at the Grantmoore Motor Lodge at the time of the crash.

Newington resident Jennifer Lacoste was sleeping in her home more than a quarter-mile away when she heard the crash.

"You just heard the crash. Just a crunch," she said.

She and others looked on as members of the Mid-State Accident Reconstruction Squad investigated. Police said the Mid-State Major Crime Unit was also called out to gather evidence and interview witnesses.

"Such an unfortunate situation... someone losing their life early in the morning," said New Britain resident Luis Santana.

The crash remains under investigation. Police said the chief medical examiner's office is working to determine Augeri's cause of death and will perform a chemical analysis. Investigators from New Britain Superior Court are also involved.

Witnesses are urged to call Newington police at 860-666-8445.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Hostages Rescued at Gas Station]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 21:03:01 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/ANTIOCH-HOSTAGE-CHOPPER-PART-2---02063110.jpg

SWAT teams officers handcuffed a suspected hostage taker outside a Bay Area gas station on Wednesday after he reportedly took two hostages.

The California Highway Patrol was assisting Antioch police in the standoff.

One of the two hostages being held inside the ARCO gas station at 2610 Contra Loma Blvd. was released at about 2:50 p.m. (5:50 p.m. ET). The other hostage exited the gas station about half an hour later followed by the suspect.

He came out with his arms up, lay face down in the parking lot and was quickly handcuffed. No injuries were reported.

Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando said the incident started with a reported traffic collision at West 10th Street and Auto Center Drive. A male suspect was seen running from the crash ran to a nearby business, where he stole a car while a man was in it, he said. According to Cantado, the suspect eventually resurfaced in Concord, where he had stolen another vehicle.

Cantando said officers pursued the suspect's vehicle to the shut-down L Street off-ramp of Highway 4, where he crashed. The suspect then attempted to steal another car from two women, but they said he was deterred by their pit bull.

A CHP officer did fire a single shot at the suspect after the suspect pointed a weapon, Cantando said. The suspect was able to run into the gas station in Antioch where he took a pair of hostages. It was not immediately clear whether the hostages worked at the gas station or if they were customers.

An employee of a nearby company said nearby businesses have been advised to stay indoors while police deal with a “possible abduction” next door. The employee declined to give her name.

The L Street off-ramp from Highway 4 was shut down due to the police activity, according to CHP.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Photo of Cops, Black Man Sparks Ire]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 15:46:16 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/cops+antler+photo+with+blur.jpg

A photo of two white Chicago police officers posing with rifles as they stand over a black man lying on his stomach with deer antlers on his head has sparked outrage.

The photo, showing Officers Timothy McDermott and Jerome Finnigan, was published Tuesday by the Chicago Sun-Times. It was released in March by a Cook County, Illinois, judge and is believed to have been taken in a West Side police station between 1999 and 2003, the Sun-Times reports.

The Polaroid image was given to the police department in January of 2013 and immediately prompted an investigation that led to McDermott being fired in 2014, police said Wednesday.

McDermott was stripped of his police powers and charges were filed with the Police Board, which terminated him in October of 2014.

“This picture is disgusting," Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said in a statement issued to NBC Chicago, "and the despicable actions of these two former officers have no place in our police department or in our society."

McDermott has reportedly appealed to a dismissal court, but attorneys for the police department and McDermott asked that the photo be sealed earlier this year. The judge refused that request in March and the photo was recently obtained by the Sun-Times.

The other officer in the photo, Finnigan, is also the face of a scandal involving the Special Operations Section of the police department and is currently serving a 12-year sentence in a federal prison in Florida. He pleaded guilty to charges in a murder-for-hire scheme and income tax evasion, relating to money he stole as a police officer.

"As the Superintendent of this department, and as a resident of our city," McCarthy said, "I will not tolerate this kind of behavior, and that is why neither of these officers works for CPD today. I fired one of the officers, and would have fired the other if he hadn't already been fired by the time I found out about the picture, which is why I fired the officer involved as soon as I learned about photo. Our residents deserve better than this, as do the thousands of good men and women in this department.”

The man in the photo has not been identified.

Photo Credit: Chicago Sun-Times]]>
<![CDATA[Man Accused of Slashing Wife Now in Milford Police Custody]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 15:25:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Amado+Rodriguez+1200.jpg

A man suspected of slashing the throat of his estranged wife, then stabbing an elderly man for whom she was caring in Milford is now in Milford police custody after being arrested in Philadelphia last month.

Milford police took custody of Amado Rodriguez, 48, in Pennsylvania in March. He is being held on $500,000 and he is due in Milford Superior Court on Thursday.

Rodriguez is accused of entering a home on Washington Street just after 7:30 p.m. on April 19, going into her bedroom and cutting her throat as she slept, then attacking the elderly man, who is visually impaired, and leaving in the man's car.

FBI officials in Philadelphia said their counterparts in Connecticut contacted them the day after the stabbing, when they developed information that Rodriguez had fled the state.

The Milford warrant charges  him eith first-degree assault, first-degree assault on an elderly person, home invasion, first-degree burglary, second-degree larceny and criminal violation of a restraining order.

Photo Credit: Milford Police]]>
<![CDATA[Man Assaulted Pregnant Woman in Front of Toddler: Police]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 15:01:06 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/middletown+police+department.JPG

Middletown police have arrested a 32-year-old local man who is accused of assaulting a pregnant woman in front of a toddler.

Police said they investigated the report of a past physical domestic incident on Tuesday and met with the victim, a woman who is 27-weeks pregnant, who said the abuse happened in front of a toddler.

When police interviewed the suspect, Jonathan Santiago, 32, of Middletown, tried to leave and elude investigators, police said.

He also became aggressive and combative and injured police officers who tried to arrest him, according to the arraignment report.

Santiago was charged with assault on a pregnant person, assault on public safety personnel, interfering with arrest, disorderly conduct and risk of injury to a child.

He was held on a $500,000 surety bond and was due in court on Wednesday.

<![CDATA[Man Gets 12 Years in Prison for Tax Refund Scheme]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 14:57:50 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/IRS+Breach.jpg

A Waterbury man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for a stolen identity tax refund scheme that federal officials said cost the U.S. Treasury $7.5 million.

Julio Lara Trinidad, 28, of Waterbury, was sentenced on Wednesday to 144 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly.
“One of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division’s highest priorities is prosecuting people who use stolen identities to steal money from the U.S. Treasury by filing false tax returns,” Daly said in a statement. “This scheme involved nearly $6.8 million dollars in fraudulent refunds – money stolen from law abiding taxpayers at an enormous cost to the Treasury. We hope that this lengthy prison term will deter other potential offenders as these prosecutions will continue to be a priority for our Office.”
According to court documents and statements made in court, the investigation was into people who obtained fraudulent U.S. Treasury tax refund checks using stolen identities, then sold the checks for less than face value or deposited them into bank accounts that had been opened using fraudulent identifying documents, then quickly withdrawn.
In 2011, Trinidad was arrested in New Jersey, accused of stealing U.S. Treasury tax refund checks from mailboxes, and pleaded guilty to a related charge in in January 2012.
Trinidad failed to appear for sentencing in May 2012 and was arrested on Nov. 23, 2013, and charged by indictment in the District of Connecticut.
While he was a fugitive from justice, Trinidad and his co-conspirators opened at least 59 bank accounts in the names of identity theft victims, deposited U.S. Treasury tax refund checks into the accounts, and then quickly withdrew the funds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Between December 2012 and February 2013, one of the accounts was used to buy six licenses for a brand of tax preparation software, which were used to file more than 36,000 federal income tax returns, with more than $234 million in refunds, intended to be issued to Trinidad and his co-conspirators, officials said.
U.S. officials said Trinidad’s co-defendants, Jerry De Los Santos Rodriguez and Cesar Penson-Perez, admitted to working with Trinidad to open bank accounts using fraudulent identities.
In addition, between July and October 2013, Trinidad and Ramon Mena sold more than $60,000 in fraudulently-obtained U.S. Treasury checks to someone who was working with law enforcement, officials said.
On February 10, he pleaded guilty to one count of theft of public money and one count of aggravated identity theft.

<![CDATA[Injuries Reported in Crash on I-95 in Norwalk]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 14:40:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Norwalk+crash+May+27+I+95+1200.jpg

Injuries have been reported in a crash on Interstate 95 northbound in Norwalk, according to police.

The crash is in the right lanes between exits 15 and 16.

The fire department and medics have responded.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Crews Respond to Fire on South Quaker Lane in West Hartford]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 14:55:17 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/South+Quaker+Fire+1200.jpg

Firefighters are battling a fire at 198 South Quaker Lane in West Hartford and the intersection at Boulevard is closed to traffic.

A photo from the scene shows some destroyed siding, but no additional information was immediately available.


Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Merriam-Webster Adds 1,700 Words, Including "Jeggings," "NSFW"]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 14:52:42 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/27167011.jpg

The Merriam-Webster unabridged dictionary has included new words that will have some people saying “WTF.”

The company announced Tuesday it has added 1,700 new terms, many of which are influenced by the internet and social media.

Such entries include meme, NSFW, emoji, clickbait, and photobomb.

Others refer to popular culture, such as jeggings, photobomb, twerk and vocal fry.

For a word to be included, it has to be “used in a substantial number of citations that come from a wide range of publications over a considerable period of time,” according to Merriam-Webster. “Specifically, the word must have enough citations to allow accurate judgments about its establishment, currency, and meaning.”

Here are some other new entries:

Net Neutrality (Noun)

Definition: the idea, principle or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source or destination.

Clickbait (Noun)

Definition: something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink, especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.

Sriracha (Noun)

Definition: a pungent sauce that is made from hot peppers pureed with usually garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar and that is typically used as a condiment.

Slendro (Noun)

Definition: a pentatonic tuning employed for Javanese gamelans that divides the octave into five roughly similar internals.

Dark Money (Noun)

Definition: money contributed to nonprofit organizations that is used to fund political campaigns without disclosure of the donors' identities.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Waterbury Church Leader Sentenced for Enticing Teen]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 13:30:36 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/miguel+torres.jpg

A Waterbury church leader has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to federal charges for persuading a 14-year-old to send him sexually explicit photos and videos, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Miguel Torres, 45, met the girl through his wife's youth group at the Iglesia Cristiana Fuente de Agua Viva Church in Waterbury. According to the warrant for his arrest, Torres told the teen he would be her mentor.

Federal prosecutors said Torres swapped cellphone numbers with the teen and started asking her for sexually explicit photos and videos in June 2013. The conversations turned graphic, and both sent each other sexual images.

Torres told the teen he had "engaged in sexual conduct with other girls" in an effort to make her more comfortable, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

The criminal complaint also alleges the two had sexual contact in church.

"I met him in the hallway," the teen told authorities, according to court paperwork. "Miguel came close to me and started... kissing me."

The teen's mother discovered the text messages in August 2013 and called the police, according to the arrest warrant.

Torres pleaded guilty in federal court in March  to one count of enticing a minor and he was sentenced 10 years prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release.

The church pastor declined to comment on the case at the time of Torres' arrest.

Photo Credit: Waterbury Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Lucky Day! $2,000 Tip on $93 Bill]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 13:12:09 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/20150526+Big+Tip.jpg

The staff at one D.C. restaurant received a big surprise this weekend -- a $2,000 tip on a $93 bill.

A customer at Blue 44 in Chevy Chase visited the restaurant on Monday to pick up a few quarts of gumbo, the staff said. When bartender Laura Dally told the regular his order would be free, he not only paid his bill, he left an extra $2,000.

The customer -- who asked not to be named -- scrawled out on the bill that he wanted the chef to have $1,000, Dally to get $500 and owner Chris Nardelli to get the remaining $500.

"We gave them a couple quarts of gumbo on the house after their meal, but never expected anything like this," Nardelli said in a statement.

Blue 44, at 5507 Connecticut Ave. NW, opened in April 2011.

<![CDATA[Thunderstorms Move Through State]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 21:18:06 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/thunderstorms+may+27+night.png

Heavy rain and thunderstorms are moving east across the state, but the threat of severe storms has passed and all warnings and watches have been canceled.

Heat and humidity fueled storms through the afternoon and into the evening. Despite the potential for winds of up to 60 mph and small hail, most damage has been reported over the state line in western Massachusetts.

A cold front comes through Thursday, likely early enough to preclude any significant weather.

A spot shower or storm is possible midday; otherwise, a mix of sun and clouds is anticipated.
Expect mostly sunny skies Friday. Not only will there be a break from the shower and thunderstorm threat, but the humidity will be gone for the day. Temperatures will be in the low 80s inland, upper 70s at the water.

At this point, the weekend looks split. A strong cold front will come through Sunday. That means increasing clouds, breezy and warm conditions on Saturday with temperatures in the mid-80s. A pop-up shower can’t be ruled out, but the vast majority of the rain and possibly thunder will occur Sunday.

Early indications for the start of next week show high pressure building down from Canada, meaning much cooler conditions. Temperatures will be stuck in the 60s! There is the chance for showers on both Monday and Tuesday, especially in southern areas, as a frontal boundary will be stalled to the south.

Stay with the NBC Connecticut First Alert weather team for the very latest forecast on-air, online and on the app.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Three Connecticut Competitors Compete in Scripps National Spelling Bee]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 15:07:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/spellingbeecrop.jpg

Three Connecticut students are hoping to spell victory as they compete in the 2015 Scripps National Seplling Bee in Washington D.C.

Anika R. Malayappan, 12, of Danbury, a sixth-grader at Broadview Middle School; Aahil T. Nishad, 9, of Danbury, a fourth-grader at Stadley Rough Elementary School; and Arjun Javjivan, 13, of West Hartford, an eighth-grader at Sedgwick Middle School, are all competing.

The preliminaries test was on Tuesday and rounds two and three are on Wednesday.

Malayappan's word in rourd 2 was chary,  which means cautiously or suspiciously reluctant to do something; Nishad's word was mahal, which means a mansion or palace; and Javjivan's word was regime.

The semifinals test will be Wednesday night and the semifinals will be held 10  a.m. to 1 p.m. eastern time on Thursday, followed by the championship finals on Thursday from 8 to 10 p.m. eastern time.

The semifinalists will be announced live on ESPN3 and the finalists will be announced live on ESPN2.

How well can you spell? Test yourself on these words that stumped past Scripps National Spelling Bee contenders.

Photo Credit: Scripps National Spelling Bee]]>
<![CDATA[Airline Calls in the Pizza Guy]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 16:31:04 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Delta+Plane+Pizza+Philly+Knoxville+Atlanta+Pizza+Delta.jpg

Call in the pizza guy!

That’s what the crew of a Delta flight from Philadelphia did after the Atlanta-bound aircraft landed in Knoxville, Tennessee instead Tuesday afternoon.

Bad weather in Atlanta caused the crew of Delta Flight 561, which took off from Philly just after 2 p.m., to land more than 200 miles from their destination.

The diverted flight landed in Knoxville around 3:50 p.m. As dinner time began to approach, the pilot announced to the passengers that they ordered pizza. A short time later dozens of pizza pies arrived.

“It’s part of a standing procedure at Delta to get food and beverages to delayed customers – whether it be a severe weather event that drove the diversion last night or a delay in airport due to an aircraft mechanical issue,” said Delta Air Lines spokesman Morgan Durrant.

The pizzas came from Marco's Pizza in Maryville, Tennessee. The pizza chain, which also has locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, delivered about 65 pizzas to the airport Tuesday.

The Philly flight, originally scheduled to last about two hours, finally took off from Knoxville around 6:15 p.m. and passengers, with bellies full of pizza, arrived in Atlanta just after 7 p.m.

The Philly flight wasn’t the only Atlanta-bound Delta plane forced to land in Knoxville that got pizza delivered Tuesday.

Wittenmyer was on an Atlanta-bound plane from California.

Vazquez, who was on a diverted flight from Denver, told NBC10 that the delivery “made everyone so much happier. When they announced they ordered pizza the plane erupted in cheer and applause.”

Delivering pizzas to diverted planes was a “team effort with the flight crew and our airport representatives,” said Durrant.

Delta even delivered pizza to passengers on an Atlanta-bound flight that wound up diverted to Columbia, South Carolina.

And, in case you were wondering, passengers had their choice between plain, pepperoni or supreme, according to passengers.

Photo Credit: Twitter - @BillyTheKidWit / Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[2 Seriously Hurt When Car Smashes Into Wethersfield Home]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 15:23:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Car+into+house+in+Wethersfield+may+26+1200.jpg

A driver and passenger were seriously hurt Wednesday when their car smashed into a house on Route 3 in Wethersfield, according to police.

Police said the crash happened around noon at the intersection of Route 3/Maple Street and Route 287/Prospect Street. The home sustained heavy damage.

Police, firefighters and medical personnel responded to the scene and started treating the injured driver and passenger. Both people were taken to the hospital for treatment of serious injuries, according to police.

The Wethersfield building inspector was called in to assess damage to the home, which police described as significant.

Maple Street was closed between Prospect Street and the Route 99/Silas Deane Highway while authorities responded to the scene. The area reopened to traffic around 2:30 p.m.

Members of the Midstate Accident Reconstruction Team responded to the scene and continue to investigate.

Police said it's not clear whether the driver suffered a medical issue or if there was a mechanical problem with the car.

Witnesses or those with information are asked to call Wethersfield Officer Newton at 860-721-2712.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Rescuers Remove Blade From Wounded Sea Lion]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 14:42:58 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/214*120/5-26-15+Injured+Sea+Lion.JPG

Volunteers and a professional rescue team from SeaWorld came to the aid of a sea lion that appeared Saturday on a dock in Channel Islands Harbor with the handle of a bladed weapon protruding from his body.

"This animal would have died because of this impalement," said Keith Yip, curator of mammals at SeaWorld San Diego and leader of its rescue team.

The male sea lion, estimated to weigh 600 pounds or more, had been overnighting on an empty dock, then disappearing during the day. Concerned boaters and live-aboards in the harbor dubbed him Bubba and worried that he might not survive until rescuers could get him help.

Rescuers arrived early Tuesday morning, shortly after Bubba had disappeared again into the water, and they awaited his return. One search boat, the Captain Jax, patrolled the harbor the entire day without a sighting until just before 5:30 p.m., when Heidi Dinkler checked back at the spot near the end of dock B where the sea lion had been overnighting and found him swimming nearby. Dinkler, a retired Kern County Fire Battalion Chief, radioed the second rescue boat.

"He's back!" Dinkler said in lowered voice as not to startle the animal. Within minutes the sea lion perched itself atop the end of the dock.

NBC4 was riding with Dinkler at the time of the sighting, and remained in the Captain Jax for the duration of the mission, affording an up-close view of the rescue.

On the dock, the sea lion was darted twice with a tranquilizer, then dove into the water and resisted the efforts of rescuers to capture him for nearly two frustrating hours. With the effect of the tranquilizer starting to wear off, a third dart was fired and stuck, but still the sea lion was able to back out of a net every time it was placed over his head.

Team members were beginning to worry that they would have to postpone the effort on account of darkness when he was finally netted using an extra-long net provided by the Coast Guard. Harbor Patrol also assisted in spotting and herding the sea lion.

After Bubba was brought to shore, Yip and veterinarian Sam Dover, DVM, discovered the blade was so deeply embedded it had to be cut out with a scalpel.

"It angers me," said Yip as he held up the weapon. "You know, it's not right. There's no animal that deserves this kind of treatment."

"Clearly it was done intentionally," said Dover, founder of the Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (CIMWI), which organized the rescue effort.

The blade was taken as evidence for follow up investigation. Harming a sea lion is a federal offense under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, enforced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA's office of investigation will attempt to determine how the sea lion was wounded, Martina Sagapolu, deputy special agent in charge, said.

Who stabbed the sea lion remains unknown. NOAA is encouraging anyone with information to call its hotline number, 800-853-1964.

Boaters were stunned and angry over the wound that was inflicted.

"I've seen him about three days ago, it was the first time it was here," said Kenny Knoll, who lives aboard a boat near the dock where Bubba appeared.

"But this was vicious, this was," Tony Raimondo said. "I think someone must have gashed the thing because when you look at that gash, it was continuous -- it didn't happen by accident."

Sometimes loud and aggressive -- even known to steal fish from a catch -- sea lions are not always popular in harbors.

Just last month, sport fisherman Dan Carlin was holding a fish for a photo while motoring back to dock in San Diego's Mission Bay when a sea lion leapt to snatch it from his grasp.

The sea lion bit Carlin's hand and pulled him down some 20 feet underwater before he broke free and escaped, he told interviewers.

In Channel Islands Harbor on New Year's Day, a fisherman who had been cutting bait on a dock was bitten in the leg by a sea lion and sent into the water. The same sea lion continued to loiter near the dock for another month and at one point he struck it with a pole to ward it off, the fisherman said. The fisherman identified himself as Jerry and his account of the January incident was corroborated by others in the harbor.

That sea lion had different coloration from the wounded one that was rescued Tuesday, Jerry said, and he expressed doubt they are the same animal.

From his dinghy, Knoll was able to follow the rescue until its conclusion. After Bubba was placed in a safety cage for transport to San Diego, Knoll was able to get a close look.

"Amazing!" he exclaimed, visibly relieved that the days of suspense were over.

Dover and Yip expressed confidence that after treatment, the sea lion will be able to return to the ocean.

Yip returned to SeaWorld with Bubba. Dover said planned to return to Santa Barbara to resume working with mammals oiled by last week's spill. Its draw on resources was a factor that kept volunteers from getting to the sea lion sooner, he said.

Photo Credit: Courtesy: NBC4 Viewer]]>
<![CDATA[Task Force Aims to Improve Police-Community Relations]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 13:25:34 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/nhpd05122015.jpg

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp has announced a new task force designed to improve the relationship between city residents and the police department.

"New Haven has got to be a place that sees everybody and hears everybody," Harp said during a news conference on Wednesday.

The New Haven Community and Police Relations Task Force announced on Wednesday comprises 17 members and seven ex-officio members, including peace advocates, members of the New Haven and Yale University police department, clergy members and community representatives, according to the mayor's office.

Harp has chosen Dr. Leroy Williams and Eli Greer as the co-chairs of the taskforce. 

"I am thrilled that we are now developing this task force to kick it up a notch, as Emeril would say," Mayor Harp said. 

The task force will take a more broad-based view of community relations with police, evaluate the current relationship between city residents and the police force and look at ways to improve that relationship, according to the mayor's office.

Among the task force's responsibilities will be to assess and evaluate community policing, to look at policies and procedures and police department protocol, including police use of force.

They will also address the photographing and videotaping of policing, including guidelines for police as well as residents. 

The group will also make recommendations to improve community policing.

The recommendations will go to the mayor, as well as the board of police commissioners.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Author of "To Die For" Appeals for Pamela Smart's Release]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 15:56:52 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/SmartAndCamerasCropped.jpg

The author of “To Die For,” a novel inspired by Pamela Smart and the murder of her husband by her teenage lover, is asking the governor of New Hampshire to consider parole for the former school media coordinator.

Joyce Maynard, whose book was later turned into a movie starring Nicole Kidman, sent a letter to Gov. Maggie Hassan saying that she did not intend her work of fiction to shape the public perception of Smart.

Smart, portrayed during her trial as a 22-year-old femme fatale, was convicted in 1991 of conspiring in her husband’s killing and sentenced to life in prison without a chance of parole.


If the film adaption of the book contributed to a public perception of Smart as a ruthlessly ambitious killer, that was not her intent, Maynard wrote.

“To whatever extent the existence of that film affected attitudes towards Pamela Smart over the years, I can only reiterate: Nicole Kidman did not play Pamela Smart in ‘To Die For,’” Maynard wrote. “That character was a creation of my imagination.”

Smart admitted to having an affair to then-15-year-old Billy Flynn when she was director of media services at Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, New Hampshire. But she continues to deny that she lured him into a plot to kill her husband.

She is imprisoned at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York.

A recent HBO documentary, "Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart," raised doubts about whether her trial, the first to be televised from start to finish, was fair.

Hassan's spokesman, William Hinkle, said in a statement that there was no outstanding petition for a pardon or commutation of sentence for Pamela Smart.

“Governor Hassan does not believe jury verdicts should be overturned without clear evidence of a miscarriage of justice, and at this time, the governor has not been presented any new information that would warrant consideration of a pardon even if such a petition existed,” he said.

Four men admitted to participating in the plot to kill Gregg Smart.

Flynn pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and testified that he shot Smart after Pamela Smart threatened to break up with him if he did not.

Flynn and Patrick Randall, who held a knife to Gregg Smart’s throat, were paroled this year. Two other men were released after serving sentences.

Maynard, whose March letter to Hassan was just released to the media, noted that Smart had earned two advanced degrees while in prison and had helped other inmates. She appealed to Hassan to be compassionate.

“And to whatever extent Pamela Smart’s chances for a fair parole hearing may have been affected by my novel, I trust you will do what you can to rectify that situation by giving her the same second chance granted the others involved in that case,” she wrote.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Person Shot in Torso on Asylum Avenue in Hartford]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 08:54:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Asylum+Avenue+Shooting+1200.jpg

A person was shot in the torso late Tuesday night on Asylum Avenue in Hartford, police said.

Police said the 10:30 p.m. shooting incident was domestic in nature.

No arrests have been made. The identity of the victim hasn't been released.

The shooting remains under investigation.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[Rick Santorum Announces 2nd White House Run]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 18:40:54 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/Rick-Santorum-27-May-2015.jpg

Conservative culture warrior Rick Santorum launched a 2016 White House bid on Wednesday, vowing to fight for working-class Americans in a new election season that will test his influence — and focus on social issues — in a changing Republican Party.

The former Pennsylvania senator may have exceeded his own expectations by scoring a second-place finish in the race for the Republican presidential nomination four years ago. Yet as he enters a more powerful and diverse 2016 field, he may struggle even to qualify for the debate stage in his second run.

"I am proud to stand here, among you and for you, the American workers who have sacrificed so much, to announce that I am running for president of the United States," the 57-year-old senator said, flanked by factory workers and six of his seven children in a cinderblock warehouse near his western Pennsylvania hometown.

"The last race, we changed the debate. This race, with your help and God's grace, we can change this nation."

Santorum opens this political season as a heavy underdog in a race expected to feature more than a dozen high-profile Republicans — most of them newcomers to presidential politics. He is among the nation's most prominent social conservatives, having dedicated much of his political career to opposing same-sex marriage and abortion rights, while advocating for conservative Christian family values.

He mentioned cultural issues only briefly on Wednesday, however, in remarks designed to broaden his appeal to working-class Americans. "As president, I will stand for the principle that every life matters — the poor, the disabled and the unborn," said Santorum, a Catholic.

He ultimately won 11 states in the GOP's 2012 primary election after an unexpected and narrow victory in the opening contest in Iowa, where he emerged as a conservative favorite after touring the state's 99 counties in a pickup truck.

His road to relevancy this time won't be easy.

"It's going to be much more competitive," said Foster Friess, a prominent donor who was standing near the podium during Wednesday's announcement.

Santorum has acknowledged his challenges in 2016, but says his experience could pay dividends the second time around. Most of the GOP's recent presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and President Ronald Reagan among them, needed more than one campaign to win the nomination.

He faces considerable competition for his party's social conservatives in particular. The list of Republicans already courting religious voters includes former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist pastor who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. And like Santorum, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is a Catholic.

Polling suggests a shift in voter attitudes about the importance of social issues, particularly gay marriage, which has long been a defining issue for Santorum. Like others in his party, he has appealed to religious voters recently by criticizing what he calls President Barack Obama's "war on religious freedom," which includes the broader debate over whether private businesses can deny services to same-sex couples.

Santorum's longshot status may keep him out of presidential debates altogether.

Only those who place in the top 10 of national polls will be allowed to participate in the first Republican presidential debate in August, according to guidelines released by network host Fox News. Santorum is on the bubble.

While advisers suggest he will benefit from a donor network that has grown in recent years, questions remain about Santorum's ability to raise money as well.

Friess, who previously gave more than $2 million to a pro-Santorum super PAC in 2012, said he would continue to support Santorum's White House ambitions, although he plans to avoid donating large amounts directly to the campaign or a supportive super PAC, both of which would disclose their donors.

"Any giving I'm doing is going to be lower-profile and less noticed," Friess told The Associated Press.

Santorum immediately launches a rollout tour that begins in Iowa on Thursday and Friday and moves to South Carolina on Saturday and Sunday. He is not scheduled to appear in New Hampshire, where voters typically don't favor candidates who focus on social issues.

A crowd of hundreds watched Santorum's announcement at Penn United Technologies, an employee-owned manufacturing company based in the western Pennsylvania county where Santorum grew up.

Wallace Cypher, 54, who lives a half mile away, said he's backing Santorum because he wants a true conservative to win the GOP presidential nomination.

"I think he'd be a whole lot better than what we've got in there right now," Cypher said.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Kitten Escapes Hawk Attack]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 16:12:37 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/5-26-15-Kitten+Hawk+Rescue.jpg

A little white kitten narrowly missed having to dig into her nine lives on Tuesday after escaping the mouth of a hawk in a Southern California neighborhood.

The kitten's ordeal was already underway in Jurupa Valley when Lindsey Gage saw a large hawk perched on top of a neighbor's basketball hoop on Mountain Shadow Drive, Riverside County Animal Services spokesman John Welsh said.

Gage was in her car with her 6-year-old daughter about to leave for the grocery store when she noticed something inside the hawk's mouth: a white kitten.

"I couldn't believe what I was seeing," Gage said. "At first I thought it was a rare occurrence just to see a hawk that close, let alone a baby kitten in its mouth."

The hawk took off and flew down the street, but it lost its grasp on the 5-week-old female kitten and dropped the feline from the sky, Welsh said.

A man watching nearby saw where the kitten landed and pointed Gage in its direction, where she scooped up the baby animal and took her to the Western Riverside County/City Animal Shelter in Jurupa Valley.

The kitten has a wound on its chest, but it doesn't appear to be life-threatening, Welsh said.

Shelter officials said there is no timetable on when the kitten could be put up for adoption, because she is very young and possibly must be bottle-fed. The kitten will likely go through rehabilitation before the shelter makes any final decisions, officials said.

Photo Credit: Riverside County Animal Services]]>
<![CDATA[Missing Girl Safe, Uncle Killed ]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 11:37:19 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/caitlyn-uncle.jpg

A missing 9-year-old Benbrook, Texas, girl abducted by her uncle is safe in Bossier City, Louisiana, Benbrook police say, after her uncle was killed in a struggle with an FBI Task Force officer Tuesday afternoon.

An Amber Alert for Caitlyn Elizabeth Williams was issued early Tuesday morning after officials said she was believed to have been taken by her uncle, 24-year-old Jessie Nicholas Williams, of Arlington, last Friday. Family members reached out to the man but said he had been unresponsive, which they said was unusual.

Benbrook Police Officer Sandy Eubanks said a tip led law enforcement to a motel room where the girl's uncle was killed during a struggle with law enforcement.

"The Amber Alert that was issued resulted in numerous tips that led officers to a motel room in Bossier City, Louisiana," Eubanks said. "Just a little bit earlier, the FBI attempted to take the suspect into custody. An FBI Task Force officer was shot and wounded and the suspect was killed. The child was safely recovered."

The wounded officer, whose name has not been released, was shot in the leg and is expected to recover. Police were not able to comment on the condition of the girl, but they said she is expected to be reunited with her parents in North Texas soon.

"Since they said she's safely recovered, I presume she's uninjured," Eubanks said.

Police have not released any motive or further details about the girl's abduction.

Caitlyn Reported Missing; Uncle Believed to be Involved

Police told NBC 5 they believe Jessie took Caitlyn Friday. She was believed to be headed to a friend's house for the weekend, but, police said she never showed up.

Caitlyn and Jessie were spotted twice over the weekend, once at a hotel on Alta Mesa Boulevard at Interstate 35W and later at a hair salon on Bryant Irvin Road. After being spotted at the hair salon, police said Caitlyn's appearance could have been altered.

"She was described as having long wavy brown hair, we have reason to believe that her hair may have been cut short to alter her appearance," said Benbrook Police Officer Sandy Eubanks.

Police began looking into the girl's disappearance after her parents called and reported her missing Monday. According to police, the girl's parents expected her to return home from her friend's house on Sunday. When she hadn't returned Monday, they called police.

"She was supposed to return Sunday, and when she didn't, they decided to wait, because the weather was bad," said Eubanks.

Investigators learned Caitlyn never arrived at the friend's home and that she had been spotted with her uncle at two locations. Attempts by family members to reach Jessie Williams have been unsuccessful.

"Because the other family members can't contact him, obviously that elevates the level of concern we have for the child," said Eubanks.

Police originally said an Amber Alert had not been issued because there was not a specific suspect or vehicle that could be described, but armed with new information Tuesday morning the Amber Alert was issued for Caitlyn and her uncle.

A rental car believed to have been used by the uncle was recovered, police said.

Family Urges Uncle to Return With Missing Girl

Caitlyn's great grandmother, Linda Bullard, spoke to NBC 5's Jeff Smith and made a plea for Caitlyn's safe return.

"Jessie, please, you know Caitlyn needs to be at home, she needs to be in school, she needs to be with her friends and her mom and her dad and me. Please bring her home," Bullard said.

Police said they spoke to Caitlyn's parents, her neighbors, friends and relatives in an effort to find her. Neighbors told NBC 5's Jeff Smith that FBI agents canvassed the neighborhood along Wade Hampton Street Monday night. They said the two agents knocked on doors and asked to come inside and look around.

Neighbors said the agents asked a lot of questions about Caitlyn, her great grandmother and how often she rode her bike alone in the neighborhood. They also asked if neighbors recognized her uncle.

"The family has only been in this area for a short period of time. And we haven't had any prior calls; there's no call history with regard to the address that they live. So the information’s very limited," said Eubanks.

NBC 5's Ray Villeda, Ellen Bryan, Amanda Guerra, Jeff Smith and Frank Heinz contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[East Haven Zoning Official Arrested on Federal Charges]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 16:44:36 -0400 http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/images/213*120/tlmd_court_gavel_generic_law.jpg

An East Haven zoning official accused of taking illegal payments in exchange for zoning decisions was arrested Wednesday morning on a federal criminal complaint, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Frank Biancur Jr., the planning and zoning administrator and zoning enforcement officer for the town of East Haven, has been charged with mail fraud and theft of honest services/

He's accused of soliciting illegal personal payments starting in October 2012 in exchange for his promise to smooth over any issues within the zoning office.

"I am saddened by the charges that were unsealed today regarding East Haven's Zoning Enforcement Officer Frank Biancur," East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "I want to assure residents that while this is certainly discouraging, we will take all appropriate steps to ensure that this development will in no way disrupt the Zoning Department or that department's daily business."

Maturo declined to comment on Biancur's employment status but said "insofar as this involves Town business it is a personnel matter and will be addressed accordingly."

The mayor said a town employee called him at home last week to disclose the allegations against Biancur. Maturo alerted the town police chief and federal authorities, who began investigating.

"Since that time, we have cooperated and continue to cooperate in the government's investigation," Maturo said.

When NBC Connecticut asked Biancur for a response about the charges, he said "no comment." His attorney, Vincent Amendola, said Biancur was released on his own recognizance.

Another person was arrested in connection with the case, but it is not clear who else was arrested or why.

Biancur is due back in court on June 17.