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Hartford Firefighter Badly Hurt in 2014 Blaze Returns to Work


A Hartford firefighter who was badly injured while battling a two-alarm blaze in 2014 that killed one of his colleagues and injured two others has returned to work.

Jason Martinez, of Manchester, returned to work on Tuesday.

“I would like to thank my Brother and Sister firefighters in the Hartford Fire Department and from departments across the country for the support they provided to me and my family during this difficult time. I feel 100% and am going back to the job I love doing.  I hope this experience will prevent other departments and firefighters from suffering a similar tragedy,” Martinez said in a statement.

He sustained burns over 10 percent of his body while fighting the fire at a two-family home on Blue Hills Avenue in Hartford on Oct. 7, 2014. Firefighter Kevin Bell was killed in the fire.

According to the Hartford Firefighters Association, flames forced Martinez to jump from a second-floor window while he searched the home.

Martinez, a member of Tactical Unit 1, Tour A who has served the Hartford Fire Department since 2007, was brought to the Connecticut Burn Center at Bridgeport Hospital and was recovering at home after being released from the burn center.

Martinez is training during the day and will be back in the fire house tonight, officials said. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com/Hartford Fire Department

Jerry Falwell Jr. Endorses Donald Trump


Liberty University President and the son of a famed Christian televangelist endorsed Donald Trump on Tuesday, NBC News reported. 

Jerry Falwell Jr. has spoken glowingly about Trump and his endorsement is not a surprise. But coming just days before the Iowa caucuses, the support may help boost Trump among the state's influential evangelical caucus goers.

Falwell called Trump "a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again."

The endorsement was first reported by the Washington Post and comes amid attacks from rival Ted Cruz highlighting Trump's past comments on issues like abortion. One add includes a 1999 interview where Trump says he's "pro-choice in every respect."

Photo Credit: AP

Italian Museum Covers Nude Statues During Iran President's Visit


Nude statues were hidden in Rome in an apparent attempt not to offend the visiting president of socially-conservative Iran.

President Hassan Rouhani was in Italy on Tuesday as part of a European tour aimed at drumming up investment in Iran following years of international sanctions.

He met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome's Capitoline Museums on Monday evening — where large white boxes covered up exhibits of nude statues from ancient Rome.

Italy's ANSA News Agency said the move to limit Rouhani's exposure was out of respect for Iranian culture.  

Photo Credit: AP

OSHA Proposes $70,000 Penalty for Lake Compounce


OSHA has cited Lake Compounce in Bristol for several violations after finding that the company exposed employees to several chemicals, including carcinogens, and the federal agency has proposed more than $70,000 in penalties.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Lake Compounce for 18 violations and said the company exposed employees spraying coatings on park equipment and working with caustic chemicals in the park’s paint room to chemical, burn and respirator hazards.

The company is accused of failing to monitor workers’ exposure to hexavalent chromium, a chemical the U.S. Department of Labor says is known to cause cancer, and the possible carcinogen methylene chloride

The company is also accused of failing to train employees about hazardous chemicals or provide required eye- and hand-washing facilities for employees working with chemicals, according to OSHA.

The company is also accused of failing to fit-test and determine employees’ ability to wear respirators and provide them with respirator training.

Other violations include failing to ground electrical equipment properly, failing to keep spark-producing tools out of a flammable spray booth, not disposing flammable waste properly.

The proposed penalties amount to $70,200.

“These conditions exposed Lake Compounce Family Theme Park employees to serious burn, fire, chemical burn, electric shock and eye, face and hand injuries. The employer must act promptly to effectively eliminate these hazards before they injure its employees,” Warren Simpson, OSHA’s area director in Hartford, said in a statement.

Lake Compounce released a statement saying the company is working with OSHA to address a "number of concerns raised by their recent visit to the park."

"(A)s such, we feel it would be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of the citation. At Lake Compounce, we care deeply for our employees, and safety is always our #1 concern for both our team members and our guests. As a large amusement park operation, we have an exceptional safety record.  We look forward to continuing the dialogue with OSHA and hope to reach an amicable resolution, with employee safety always being the first concern," the statement from Lake Compounce says.

Teen Hospitalized After Fight With Brother Over Juice: Police


Hamden police arrested a 20-year-old man who is accused of hurting his teenage sister during an argument over juice and sending her to the hospital.

Police said they responded to a home on Gorham Avenue on Jan. 5 to investigate an assault weeks earlier and the person who filed the complaint said her teenage daughter was seriously injured on Dec. 12.

The teen and her brother, 20-year-old De’Shawn Fuller, had gotten into a disagreement over juice and Fuller threw the teen against an entertainment center, according to police.

The teenage girl was hospitalized with serious injuries and police obtained a warrant for Fuller.

Police arrested him on Monday on several charges, including risk of injury to a minor, threatening, third-degree assault and disorderly conduct.

He was detained on a court-ordered $15,000 bond, is scheduled to appear in court in Meriden on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Hamden Police

Mom Arrested After Baby Found Dead


The mother and father of a 2-month-old New York City infant whose body was found in a shallow grave nearly 70 miles north of his home last month have pleaded not guilty to charges connected with his death, prosecutors say.

Danielle Whyte, a New York City teacher, and Jose Feliciano, both of the Bronx have been indicted on manslaughter and homicide charges, respectively, in the death of their son, according to the Bronx District Attorney's Office. 

Prosecutors say that Feliciano struck their son in the head with a fatal blow on Dec. 10, 2015, because he was jealous of the attention the boy got from his mother.

Authorities allege that neither Feliciano nor Whyte called 911 after the child was injured or when he died.

After the infant perished, authorities say the couple drove to Brewster, New York, and checked into a hotel before burying the child in the woods in the Dutchess County town of Dover.

Authorities discovered the child's body on Dec. 18 after a hospital staffer told police Whyte had talked about the death of her 2-month-old baby.

Investigators subsequently arrested Feliciano in connection with the killing. Whyte was arrested on Tuesday after she was discharged from a Westchester County hospital.

Whyte, 31, and Feliciano, 51, also pleaded not guilty to concealing a corpse. Attorney information for the pair was not immediately available.

If convicted of charged, Feliciano faces 25 years to life in prison, while Whyte faces up to 15 years.

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York

Suspect in Middletown Bank Robbery Cut His Own Neck: Police


The Middletown man who is accused of robbing the Liberty Bank, at Main and Court streets in Middletown, on Monday cut his own neck and has been released from the hospital, according to police. 

Police said Brian Gallagher, 45, of Middletown, approached a teller at the bank just before 11:30 a.m. on Monday, said it was a robbery and demanded 50- and 100-dollar bills, then ran with the money.

He did not get far before the dye pack exploded, so Gallagher threw the money into a snow pile, police said. 

Police identified him from the surveillance photo and a detective who recognized Gallagher from previous dealings called his cell phone. 

Gallagher answered and said he was going to the bridge, police said. 

When police found him at North Main Street and Hartford Avenue, he was holding a pocket knife to his throat, according to police.

The officer then told Gallagher to put the knife down, but Gallagher’s response was “shoot me,” police said. 

The officer used a stun gun, then arrested Gallagher, who was transported to Middlesex Hospital, then to Hartford Hospital to be treated for the knife wound, police said. 

According to police, he was injured while holding the knife to his own throat. 

After he was released from the hospital, police met with Gallagher and he gave a confession, the arraignment report says. 

In his apartment, police found the coat he was wearing during the robbery and a T-shirt smeared with red dye, police said. 

Gallagher was charged with second-degree robbery, second-degree threatening and sixth-degree larceny. 

He is being held on $100,000 and he is due in court on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Middletown Police

Warrant for Bristol Police Officer Accused of Making 'Workplace Threat' Sealed


The warrant for a Bristol police officer who is accused of making a threat in the workplace remains sealed and he is due back in court next month.

Adam Quinn, a Bristol police officer, was arrested by his own department around 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 16 and charged with second-degree breach of peace.

He appeared in court on Tuesday on a promise to appear and his case was transferred to New Britain. He is due back in court on Feb. 19.

The police department placed Quinn on paid administrative leave, his attorney said.

Police said no one was injured during the incident Quinn was charged in and there was no risk to the general public.

Daniel A. Esposito, an attorney representing Quinn, said that, to his knowledge, police did not speak to Quinn before pursuing the warrant.

"It’s a courtesy I think they would give to any citizen our there who’s been suspected of a crime and yet they don’t offer that opportunity to one of their own," Esposito said.

He previously said the arrest stems from a "workplace grudge" and not a "workplace threat."

On Tuesday, Esposito said they don't yet have the police report.

"I'd like an opportunity to evaluate the evidence before we take an official position,” Esposito said.

Esposito has called Quinn an "American hero" and said the arrest an "overreaction" and said "an aggressive defense will be presented."

Quinn had served as a Naval officer, a federal agent with the Department of Homeland Security, won awards during his time as a Bristol officer and was named Officer of the Month four times, Esposito said. 

No additional information was available on what Quinn is accused of. 

Get Your Full Refund: Free Tax Prep for Hartford Families


Free tax preparation will be available for hard-working individuals and families in Hartford, the YWCA announced.

Starting Jan. 30, YWCA will act as a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) location. 

IRS-certified volunteers will help individuals get help preparing and electronically filing federal and Connecticut state tax returns, the announcement said. Households with incomes up to $54,000 may be eligible.

Only four out of five workers receive whats called an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) due to the complexity of the forms. Last year, EITC credits averaged $1,799 per household last year at the same VITA location, the YWCA said.

EITC is only one example of the types of credits that go unclaimed every year. All individuals are encouraged to visit a VITA site to find out if they qualify for EITC, YWCA added.

You can schedule an appointment only at 135 Broad Street, Hartford, CT 06105 on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 5:00 – 8:00 PM and Saturdays 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM.

Please call United Way 2-1-1, a free, multilingual helpline open 24-hours a day, seven days a week, or YWCA at (860) 525-1163, ext. 129 to schedule an appointment or schedule online here

Individuals or families with a household income up to $62,000 may file their own taxes for free online here

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Contract Would Switch Some UConn Workers to 40-Hour Week


UConn's Board of Trustees is expected to approve a new contract that will move 1,900 unionized professional employees from a 35-hour work week to a 40-hour week.

In exchange, the workers will receive raises averaging just over 3 percent over the next five years.

The University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association is the largest bargaining unit at the school, representing professionals in non-teaching roles, including librarians and administrative staff. Membership approved the deal last week. The board will vote on the contract on Wednesday.

Kathleen Sanner, the union's president, said the state switched the workers to 35-hour week decades ago in a cost-saving move. The school asked the union to go back to 40 hours during bargaining, saying it would improve efficiency and eliminate the need for some hiring.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

12-Year-Old Accused of Threatening Message on Wall


A 12-year-old boy is being accused of writing a threatening message on a bathroom wall that caused Stafford Middle School to be evacuated last week.

In an interview conducted with the 12-year-old, who will not be named, with his parents, the boy admitted to police to writing the message on the wall of the bathroom, state police said. 

The specific content of the note on the bathroom wall is unknown. 

Students and staff evacuated by bus to Stafford Elementary School as a precaution, Supt. Patricia Collin said in a statement.

State police determined with the help of dogs trained to detect the presence of explosives that the middle school is safe and students were brought back to the middle school.

The charges against the boy include first degree threatening and breach of peace, police said. He has been issued to a juvenile summons for violations.

He will appear in Rockville Juvenile court on Feb. 9.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Blend Images RM

DOT Crews to Help Washington, DC and Maryland Dig Out After Snowstorm


Crews and equipment from the state Department of Transportation will be heading to Washington, DC and Maryland to assist with snow removal and clean-up from last weekend’s historic snowfalls.

Thirty workers will leave at midnight, with plans to be on the job on Wednesday morning.

“We know what it’s like to experience extraordinary weather events, and we know how important the help of neighbors can be during recovery. That’s why I am pleased that we are able to provide this support to our neighbors. It’s important that we all work together in times of need,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a statement. “Connecticut remains well-prepared to for future extreme weather events – far more prepared than we were several years ago.”

Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said crews who volunteered for this assignment will be working around the clock to get the job done.

“It is reassuring that we have this cooperative, reciprocal arrangement, similar to what we try to do with major power outages and even fires and other emergencies in the region. We are pleased that we can make these resources available in this time of need,” Redeker said.

Connecticut will be sending two seven-person crews each to Gaithersburg, Maryland and Washington, DC, along with four jumbo snowblowers, four plow trucks, repair gear and other equipment.

States are typically reimbursed for these costs through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so there is no cost to Connecticut taxpayers for these out-of-state operations.

Photo Credit: Gov. Dannel Malloy's Office

Wilbur Cross Southbound Left Lane Open on New Haven-Woodbridge Line


The southbound side of the Wilbur Cross was closed by exit 59 on the New Haven-Woodbridge line after a crash and one person was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital.

The left lane is currently open, state police said. 

State police said one vehicle on Monday was involved and the accident reconstruction team is responding.

Route 15 south at exit 59 has since opened one lane.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Despite Outcry, Flint Homes Still Have Lead Pipes


It's been three weeks since Michigan declared a state of emergency in Flint, but not a single water pipe that contains lead has been replaced, NBC News has learned.

The city's utilities manager and a union official confirmed that none of the costly plumbing work has been started — even though experts agree it's the permanent solution to the crisis, NBC News reported.

"We need to remove all the lead," said University of Michigan Professor Martin Kaufman, who is helping the city create a database of the 15,000 to 20,000 homes that have the dangerous pipes.

"It's got to be done now."

Yet, according to Harold Harrington, business manager of United Association Local 370, the plumbers union, none of his members have been dispatched for replacement jobs, which would cost thousands per home.

Photo Credit: File--AP

Colorado Man Accused of Sexually Assaulting Teen


New London police have arrested a 29-year-old Colorado man who they said traveled to Connecticut to meet a 13-year-old girl, had a sexual encounter with her and planned to bring her back to Colorado with him.

Nathaniel P. Smith, 29, of Aurora, Colorado, met the teen through the "kik" app, according to police.

Just before 11:30 p.m. on Monday, police learned that a teen, who was reported missing, had been found at the New London Holiday Inn and she was with Smith, police said.

Police are continuing to investigate and have charged Smith with second-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor.

Police ask anyone with information about the case to call the New London Police Department's Detective Division at 860-447-1481 or submit anonymous information through the New London Tips 411 system.

Photo Credit: New London Police

Fire Destroys House for Sale in Bethany


A Tuesday morning fire destroyed a vacant house in Bethany that was for sale.

A neighbor reported the blaze at 28 Northrop Road around 2:30 a.m. after seeing smoke and heavy fire and firefighters arrived to find the house engulfed and the roof that had already caved in. 

"I looked out my window and saw just like a giant torch with a house inside it," Tommy Goodwin, of Bethany, said. 

Crews brought water in with tanker trucks and got the fire under control in about 90 minutes, but the house, which is on the market, was destroyed and is a total loss, officials said.

All that remains now is the slab, a chimney and the "For Sale" sign out front.

Bethany Deputy Fire Chief Richard Cogill said there was no chance the house could have been saved because it had already burned so badly by the time firefighters arrived.

"Saw smoke and fire coming from this residence. On arrival the house was fully involved. Wasn't much we could do to save it. It's just sad someone lost a home," Cogill said. 

No one was in the home at the time of the fire as no one currently lives there. 

Prospect and Woodbridge firefighters responded to provide mutual aid to Bethany fire crews. Cold weather didn't affect how firefighters fought the blaze or how the fire started, officials said.

The cause of the fire is unknown and the state fire marshal is responding to investigate. 

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call authorities.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Gov't Urges Renewal of Passports Expiring This Year: Report


The State Department is urging individuals with passports expiring this year to renew it as soon as possible, according to a report. 

The recommendation comes after the implementation of the REAL ID Act, which requires individuals in certain states to carry a second form of ID when traveling domestically.

The REAL ID act is a post-9/11 security measure that imposes a minimum standard requirement of identification that allows people to enter federal buildings or board planes. People in the states that comply must either verify their current identification card or bring a secondary form of ID such as a passport. 

The New York Times reported that officials are expexting a "flood" of renewals for 10-year passports that are expiring this year. The department said they expect to issue 1.5 million more new passports than it did in 2015, the Times reports.

The Department of Homeland Security said the deadline to still travel with only a drivers license for states that have not complied is Jan. 22, 2018. 

According to the State Department's website, a new application will take approximately six weeks to process. The cost of an adult passport book-- new or renewed-- is $135, according to the website.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Malloy Won't Support Tax Hikes to Fill Latest Budget Hole


Gov. Dannel Malloy asserted Tuesday that he will not consider higher taxes in order to fill a projected $72 million shortfall this year.

Following an event in New Haven where he lauded the state’s efficiency measures to rein in some costs in state government, Malloy ruled out going to taxpayers again to fix the state’s fiscal woes.

"I have made it clear that I am not proposing the raising of any taxes and I oppose the raising of taxes across the board” he said.

The governor made a similar claim during his 2014 reelection bid but the General Assembly eventually proposed and approved with his signature corporate tax increases that drew harsh and swift criticism from the state’s business community.

The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis provided the $72 million figure, and there is a further projection of more than $500 million of red ink for the subsequent 2017 fiscal year.

Republicans anticipate there will be further tax hikes and that talk from the governor will eventually prove to be empty because of the state’s fiscal condition.

“We need to really start looking at long term solutions” said Rep. Vincent Candelora, a Republican from Guilford.

He placed the blame for new budget woes following a December Special Session that closed a then-$300 million shortfall on Democrats for not making difficult decisions.

“There has not been courage on the Democrat side of the aisle to make the tough decisions so it’s very frustrating sitting back and offering these solutions while they continue to make decisions that put our state in a bad position.”

Lawmakers return to Hartford for the 2016 Regular Session on February 3. 

Photo Credit: AP

Declining Enrollment Causes 2 Catholic Schools to Close


St. Gabriel School in Milford and St. Vincent de Paul School in East Haven said it will shut its doors in June due to declining enrollment and fiscal deficits, the Archidioscese of Hartford said. 

The parish-owned schools said that after meeting with stakeholders--which includes members from the parish school board and parents-- the local parishes made a decision to shut down after this school year. 

The two schools serve pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. 

The Archdiocese of Hartford said it has provided "significant" support for the schools in the last few years. St. Vincent de Paul School was given $400,000 for financial support since 2008 from the Archbishop's Annual Appeal and other donations but the cost was not enough to keep the school open, the Archdiocese said. 

For the calendar-year ending on December 31, 2015, Saint Gabriel School has a $111,709 operating deficit, despite a direct parish subsidy of $348,789, $60,000 from the CSSP and $15,000 from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, the Archdiocese said. 

Parents will be given a $500 per year tuition scholarship for two consecutive years for each transferring student. In addition, Saint Mary in Milford will provide another $500 per year tuition for students coming from Saint Gabriel for two years. 

Other Catholic schools located in south central Connecticut include Saint Mary School in Branford, Saint Rita School in Hamden, Saint Stephen School in Hamden, Our Lady of Mercy School in Madison, Saint Mary School in Milford, Saint Aedan-Saint Brendan in New Haven, Saint Bernadette School in New Haven, Saint Francis-Saint Rose of Lima School in New Haven, Saint Martin de Porres Academy in New Haven, Our lady of Victory School in West Haven, Saint Lawrence School in West Haven. 

Undefeated Wrestler Loses Match to Special Needs Student


Undefeated wrestler Deven Schuko invited a young wrestler with special needs to compete against him.

The young wrestler from Dighton Rehoboth's team wanted to wrestle Schuko. 

Schuko invited the young wrestler to compete against him where Schuko was defeated. 

Schuko recently won his 100th match and went 27-0 this year on the Norton High School Wrestling team in Norton, Mass.  

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