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Cheshire Academy Cleared After Hazmat Threat


Cheshire Academy was on lockdown and a dorm on campus evacuated on Tuesday.

The school has since been cleared and students are back in the Von der Porten Hall dormitory.

Police were investigating a report of potentially hazardous materials on the grounds of Cheshire Academy. A student was reportedly being "suspicious" with potentially hazardous material, Cheshire police said.

Cheshire Police along with state police searched the grounds and seized a liquid believed to be gasoline in a wooded area off the main portion of the campus. 

According to the school's website, all students safely evacuated from Von der Porten Hall. Parents of day students were able to come pick up their children via the Route 10 entrance. 

There is no immediate threat staff or students, according to Cheshire police.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut
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Brothers Leading Ore. Occupation Arrested, 1 Dead: FBI


Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the brothers leading anti-government protesters occupying a federal wildlife reserve in Oregon, and six others were arrested Tuesday in a confrontation with authorities, the FBI said. One person was dead, NBC News reported.

Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, 54, was killed, his daughter, Challice Finicum Finch, confirmed to NBC News on Tuesday night.

FBI and Oregon State Police began an "enforcement action" with shots fired at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the FBI said, around 4:25 p.m. PT.

Protesters led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy have occupied the refuge since the beginning of the year. Members of the group had been scheduled to appear at 6 p.m. PT for a meeting Tuesday with authorities in the town of John Day in Grant County.

At least 50 miles of U.S. Highway 395 were closed about 5:30 p.m. between Burns and John Day for a "crash/hazard," according to the state Transportation Department.

Photo Credit: File -- AP

Hartford Teacher on Paid Leave After Cape Cod Arrest


A 23-year-old teacher in Hartford is on paid leave since September after facing charges out of state for being arrested in Cape Cod.

Travis Marks was arrested by the Barnstable, Massachusetts Police Department on Sept. 6, 2015. The Hartford Public School District placed him on paid administrative leave from his teach position at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School on Sept. 14, 2015.

According to a criminal complaint from Barnstable's District Court, obtained by the Troubleshooters, marks is now charged with assault and battery, strangulation or suffocation and indecent assault. 

"If you have those charges, you're an angry person and you shouldn't work with kids," Adrian Caban, a father of five in the district, said.

Another parent of the district, Tania Barton, also said: "You're joking? A teacher? Yeah, that's not good, not good at all. I hope he's not at work still, he was fired, right?"

Marks is still earning his $48,000 salary while his case goes through the court system. 

Over the phone, Marks told NBC Connecticut that he had no comment. A district spokesperson said they don't comment on personnel matters. 

"I think everyone should've been notified," Caban said. "Given a heads up."

The Troubleshooters reached out to Mark's attorney today but have not heard back.

Marks is slated for a pre-trial hearing in Barnstable district court for Feb. 1. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Flickr RF

Arrests in Tennessee May be Linked to Attempted Bank Heist


There's a new twist in a bizarre attempted bank robbery that ended with a fake bomb strapped to a man in New Britain. Two men behind bars in Tennessee are now being looked at as possible suspects.

Last February authorities say two men broke into a credit union manager's home in Bristol. The masked men strapped a fake explosive device to Matthew Yussman and tied his mom to a bed.

Bank manager Yussman, 46, has been under investigation since he was found strapped with what appeared to be an explosive device outside the Achieve Financial Credit Union in New Britain on Feb. 23.

Yussman's 70-year-old mother described finding her son face down in the garage at their Bristol home with his hands tied. She allegedly overheard two assailants saying they owed money and would kill Yussman and his mother if they didn't pay up.

Police say the suspects demanded Yussman drive them to Achieve Financial Credit Union in New Britain and empty the vault, but eventually the suspects fled with nothing.

Shortly after the incident, FBI started to investigate the case. 

Now a senior law enforcement official tells NBC Connecticut that investigators are looking into whether suspects arrested in Tennessee are linked to the incident in Connecticut.

Tennessee investigators say 45-year-old Brian Witham and 43-year-old Michael Benanti committed similar crimes in their state: multiple attempts to extort money from federal credit union employees by taking family members hostage.

On Tuesday, Witham appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to all 15 federal charges. Federal prosecutors there declined to comment on any Connecticut connection.

An alleged trail of crimes spanning across states may not be that far-fetched. Prosecutors in Tennessee have pointed out that when the men were captured in North Carolina, they had a list of names and addresses for bank officials from South Carolina.

Thieves Steal Toy Car From Toddler With Autism


Thieves in Katy, Texas, stole the toy car of a toddler with autism when he went inside with his mother and siblings, according to KPRC 2.

The Sunday theft was captured by a neighbor's security camera.

Claudia Ortega told the station she was outside playing with her three children before they all headed back into the house. While they were inside, the video shows, a car pulled up and a young woman jumped out. She grabbed the car and jumped in the vehicle, which raced away.

Ortega said she is hoping the thieves will return the vehicle, which belonged to her 3-year-old son, Santiago.

"He's little, he doesn't understand," said Ortega. "He's still looking for his car."

Photo Credit: KPRC 2

Lawmakers Consider Ban on Smoking While Driving With Kids


A legislative task force is discussing whether it should be illegal to smoke in vehicles while children are inside.

The task force has had several meetings to look at the issue from the medical perspective, along with the public health and police enforcement side.

They will be meeting at 3 p.m. today and are expected to make a decision today on whether to recommend it to the legislative body.

It is a controversial proposal.

“I have three kids, so I feel very strongly about their health and keeping them in a confined environment, like a car with a cigarette or any kind of smoking device, I think is really detrimental to their health,” Jeremy Costa, of New Britain, said.

“Second-hand smoke is bad for everybody. I believe that they should outlaw it and people shouldn’t smoke in cars with children or anybody else,” Dave Vohar, of West Haven, said.

Some lawmakers are concerned the policy could lead to police profiling or an invasion of privacy.

Matt Roller, of New Britain, said he agrees and thinks it’s up to the parents to make that decision.

“I wouldn’t smoke in the car if I had kids -- period, end of story. But, I don’t think the law should have any say,” he said.

Lawmakers are also discussing whether it would be too difficult to enforce the law.

“It can’t be any harder to enforce than catching people with their cell phones,” said Vohar.

The task force plans to recommend that more money be spent on smoking prevention programs and that funding would come from the Tobacco and Health Trust Fund.

Photo Credit: FILE/Getty Images

MTA Bans Hoverboards on Metro-North


Where you're going on Metro-North trains you don't need roads, but you also won't need hoverboards now that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has banned the newly popular devices that bear the same name as the hovering skateboards in the iconic "Back to the Future" trilogy. 

MTA announced Wednesday it is now prohibiting travelers on Metro-North Railroad, New York City Subway, New York City Buses, Long Island Rail Road, Staten Island Railway or Access-A-Ride from bringing hoverboards on trains or buses or to the stations.

The transportation authority is promoting the hoverboard ban in the "Hoverboards Not Allowed" advertising campaign featuring "bubble people."

“The safety of our customers and employees is always our top concern,” MTA Chief Safety Officer David Mayer said in a written statement. “For obvious reasons, it is not safe to use hoverboards, skateboards or other personal wheeled vehicles on station platforms. We’re equally concerned about the safety risk of bringing devices that pose fire hazards into the confined spaces inside trains and buses.”

The MTA's safety rules already prohibit using personal wheeled vehicles like skateboards, skates or scooters in train stations and bringing hazardous or flammable material into its public transportation network, according to a press release from the transit authority, which notes the lithium-ion batteries that power hoverboards "pose the risk of fire."

The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration regulates hoverboards and recently issued an alert that “under certain conditions, lithium batteries can pose a heat, fire, and explosion risk," according to the MTA. The authority discovered that 80 percent of hoverboards in a study didn't have "proper certification of battery testing."

MTA police will enforce the hoverboard ban on Metro-North, as well as the LIRR and Staten Island Railway. New York City police will also be enforcing the hoverboard prohibition on New York City's subways and buses. 

Amtrak, American regional railroads, including Chicago's Metra and Los Angeles' Metrolink and most airlines in the United States have also banned hoverboards, according to the MTA. 

Photo Credit: NBCWashington

Southington Developing Policy on Addressing Transgender Students


The Southington Public Schools are trying to develop a plan on working with and educating transgender students.

Supt. Timothy F. Connellan said developing such a plan has become a necessity in modern education and the goal is to ensure that all students are treated fairly and equally.

School leaders are considering guidelines the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education laid out about three years ago.

Among others, CABE’s guidelines include recommendations like:

  • Allowing students access to the locker rooms and bathrooms of the gender with which they identify
  • Referring to transgender students by their chosen names and the pronouns of their gender identity
  • Keeping private records and information relating to a transgender student’s birth gender

n a telephone interview, Connellan told NBC Connecticut the plan is not a response to a specific student issue, but rather the school district’s effort to keep policy in line with the time and inclusive of every type of student.

“What we’re trying to do as a public school district is be proactive and make sure that we do have policy on the books which guides our actions and allows us to make sure that we’re respecting the rights of all students,” Connellan said.

Many Southington residents said they don’t see any issue with plan.

“They spend majority of their time in school. They need to be comfortable wherever they are,” Jyesha Coleman, a Southington parent, said.

“If a student wants to be identified as what they feel they are, I think they should be because it helps them grow as a person,” Stephanie Verderame said.

There is no specific timeline for when a new plan could be adopted.
Connellan said recommendations could be presented to the Southington Board of Education in the spring.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Nearly 2 Dozen Headstones Vandalized at Hartford Cemetery


Hartford police are investigating vandalism of nearly two dozen headstones at Zion Hill Cemetery in the capital city.

Officers responded to the 135 Affleck Street cemetery's Dreyfus Lodge 123 section at 9:46 a.m. on Wednesday morning after a woman inspecting the cemetery noticed a gate that is normally locked was open and found about 22 headstones knocked over in the section in the middle of the cemetery, police said. 

When the area was last checked Jan. 18, no problems were observed. 

Major crimes and crime scene detectives were notified and police are now providing extra attention to the area. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

How the Feds Ambushed Oregon Occupation Leaders


Authorities seeking to end a nearly month-long protest at an Oregon wildlife refuge realized there was only one way to bring the drama to a close: Arrest the leadership.

The decision to carry out the arrests of Ammon and Ryan Bundy was set into motion when the defiant leaders left the refuge Tuesday to attend a community meeting in the town of John Day, a senior law enforcement official told NBC News Wednesday.

The FBI and state police staked out a spot along the route to stop the caravan. At first, both vehicles complied with an order to pull over, but then the lead vehicle took off, the law enforcement official said.

It didn't get very far, hitting a snow bank. Anti-government rancher LaVoy Finicum, the official said, jumped out of that vehicle "brandishing a firearm." He was shot and killed.

Photo Credit: MCSO/AFP Via Getty Images

Blaze Pizza Offering Free Pizza for Storrs Opening


A fast casual pizza restaurant franchise LeBron James is backing is opening a second Connecticut location in Storrs near UConn and will be offering free pizzas on Friday to its social media fans. 

Blaze Pizza is opening its doors in the walkable downtown of Storrs Center at 12 Royce Circle next to the UConn campus on Thursday, Jan. 28. 

From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, anyone following Blaze Pizza on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram will be able to get a free build-your-own artisan pizza. 

The pizza place can seat 55 in its 2,700-square-foot space. 

It's the second location in Connecticut, the other being the one in New Haven's Jordan's Furniture at 40 Sargent Drive, which opened in December. 

Photo Credit: Blaze Pizza

Woman Stole from Hamden Gym Customers: Police


Hamden police arrested a woman accused stealing credit cards from members of a Hamden gym.

Laquana McNatt, 29, of Hamden, is accused of opening an unlocked locker at Edge Fitness in Hamden, stealing car keys and using them to steal several dollars from the vehicle, according to police.

Police said they responded to the parking lot of the Hamden Mart around 1:30 p.m. and officers, as well as McNatt’s boyfriend chased after her.

Police arrested McNatt in a parking lot in the 2300 block of Dixwell Avenue and found her with money, as well as credit cards and checks from several other Edge Fitness members, police said.

McNatt was charged with third-degree burglary, sixth-degree larceny and seven counts of theft of a credit card.

McNatt was held on a $5,000.00 bond and is scheduled to appear in court in Meriden on February 9.

Police also arrested her on two warrants for violation of probation and failure to appear.

Photo Credit: Hamden Police

Woman Rescues Kitten Being Plowed Into Snowbank


The Meriden Humane Society is looking for the owner of a kitten rescued while being plowed into a snowbank near the city's courthouse during the snowstorm cleanup over the weekend. 

A woman saw a plow pushing the little feline, who the humane society is calling Adalena, into a snowbank and tried to bring it to the attention of a plow driver and police officer, but when she saw nothing was being done she ran to save the kitten from the oncoming plow, the Meriden Humane Society said on its Facebook page. 

"She was found this past weekend, while being plowed into a snowbank by our courthouse. Sadly it did not seem that anyone cared that she was there while her frail body was being pushed by a plow. Courageously a young woman saw what was happening, and tried all she could to stop the plow .. even brought it to the attention of an officer, who honestly and sadly just turned the other cheek and looked away. This young woman seeing that no one cared, raced into the oncoming plow and save this kitten from what most likely would have been the end of her life," the humane society posted on Facebook. 

Adalena is a young, spayed cat without microchip, but has a tatoo local clinics give feline's they've spayed, according to the Meriden Humane Society. 

The humane society is looking for her owner and asks the person(s) who owns Adalena to call the Meriden Humane Society at 1-203-238-3650. They are also asking people to share the post. 

"She is eating, has been seen by our vet, has a upper respirator infection from the cold she endured, but all in all she seems well. It will take her some time to get herself together, but is on the mend!" the Meriden Humane Society posted on on Facebook.

They also thanked the woman who rescued Adalena. 

"Michelle, Thank you ! For your kindness in stepping up when no others would ! For your passion for life!! Bacause Life Matters!!" the humane society posted on Facebook. "Remember guys... If you See Something!! Say Something!! and sometimes Yes, you must fight for it, save it , do whatever it takes.. Michelle we are Very Proud to call you this Felines Savior!! God Bless you! (sic)"

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

'Duct Tape Challenge' Leaves Teen Severely Injured


A dangerous new game becoming popular among teens sent a 14-year-old Washington resident to the hospital with 48 stitches, a shattered eye socket and a brain aneurysm.

Skylar Fish was severely injured playing the "Duct Tape Challenge," a trend circulating on social media in which the participant is taped up and is recorded on video trying to break free. Whoever removes the tape the fastest "wins" the challenge. 

Skylar took the challenge Jan. 16 with two of his friends. According to his mother, Sarah Fish, Skylar volunteered to be duct taped first, and was standing while taped up when he lost his balance. The fall caused Skylar to hit his head, and his friends immediately called 911. 

Skylar suffered extensive facial injuries. After a three-hour surgery, Skylar was left with metal plates and screws, and was on a temporary ventilator after the operation. His left eye socket shattered, and his facial injuries required 48 stitches and caused a substantial scar.

Doctors are still unsure if Skylar will be able to see out of his left eye, but Fish said her son's pupil reacted slightly to the light, a positive sign. Despite Skylar's improvements, Fish was deeply affected seeing her son in the hospital.

"That was the worst part for me — seeing my son helpless," Fish said.

Skylar, who was moved from Harborview Medical Center to a pediatric hospital on Monday, is set to be sent home Friday.

"Every time I look at him, I smile," Fish said. "Every time I talk about him being alive, I smile — I smile because my son's alive."

Fish, who hadn't heard of the "Duct Tape Challenge" prior to her son's injuries, wants to use Skylar's story as an opportunity to shed light on the dangers of these seemingly harmless viral games.

"(Skylar has) learned his lesson," she said. "Kids are just going to be kids, be we just want to bring awareness."

Photo Credit: Sarah Fish

Wrong-Way Driver Rammed Cruisers After 30-Mile Chase: Police


A 55-year-old Connecticut man was driving under the influence when he sped the wrong way on Route 8, leading troopers on a 30-mile chase that ended when he rammed two police cruisers, according to state police.

Thomas Plesz, of Fairfield, was charged with reckless driving, operating under the influence, driving the wrong way on a divided highway, assault on public safety, reckless endangerment, interfering with an officer and disobeying an officer’s signal.

Plesz's attorney said police measured his alcohol level and it was .04 two hours after the incident. The legal limit to drive in Connecticut is .08.

He was arrested early Wednesday morning after 911 callers reported a 2009 Nissan Frontier pickup truck traveling the wrong way on the southbound side of Route 8 near exits 11 and 12 in Shelton, according to police. A trooper, with emergency lights flashing, went after the truck.

Instead of stopping, Plesz sped off in the wrong direction, according to police. At that point, state police alerted authorities from local towns, asking them to stop other vehicles from getting on the southbound side of the highway.

At exit 21, Seymour police used stop sticks, which hit two of the tires on Plesz’s pickup. Police said Plesz kept driving, swerving around cruisers that tried to stop him and intentionally ramming one of them just before exit 38 in Thomaston.

Plesz then crashed into the back of another before stopping, according to state police.

Police said the two troopers who were struck were sore but not hospitalized. One of the vehicles sustained little damage and is still on the road. No information was available on damage to the other car.

Plesz appeared in court Wednesday to answer to the charges against him. He applied for a pre-trial program and the case has been sealed, so the warrant for his arrest was not available. 

His attorney also issued an objection to media coverage of the arraignment and said in a court filing "there is substantial reason to believe that such coverage will undermine the legal rights of Mr. Plesz."

He was originally held on a $25,000 surety bond, but bail was reduced Wednesday to $5,000.

Plesz is due back in court on April 6. 

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

New Britain Seeking Over $100K Payment From Yard Goats


New Britain is actively seeking payment for outstanding utility bills from the newly named minor league baseball team the Yard Goats, the mayor announced.

The $149,317 bill stems from a lease between the New Britain Stadium and the Yard Goats team, formerly known as the New Britain Rock Cats, Mayor Erin Stewart said.

"While the team and its owners have relocated from the city, they are not off the hook for these overdue bills," Stewart said. 

The mayor said the team was responsible for electric and utilities bills while leasing the New Britain Stadium. The lease agreement ended Dec. 31, 2015.

According to New Britain's park and recreations department, the team owes the following for Jan. 1 2015 to Dec. 31 2015:

  • $80,582.62 to Eversource
  • $47,907.37 to TransCanada
  • $8,635.85 to Connecticut Natural Gas
  • $12,245.37 for water and sewer

“I will not sit silent and have taxpayers foot the bill for these utilities,” Stewart said. “I continue to be troubled by the ownership’s continuing disrespect for the agreement they had with the city."

Yard Goats General Manager Tim Restall released a statement about the payment Wednesday afternoon.

"The Yard Goats received the invoice which was dated January 25, 2016- two days ago. Per our lease, the team has 120 days of receipt of said documentation to pay the bill. The Yard Goats have every intention of paying our bills as we always have," Restall said in the statement.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Raccoon Attacks 6-Year-Old


A 6-year-old New Jersey boy was attacked by a raccoon as he walked to school with his mother on Wednesday morning, authorities said.

The child and mother were trekking to 16th Avenue Elementary School in Elmwood Park at about 8:45 a.m. when the animal latched onto the child's back and began scratching and biting his face.

The boy's mother, Monali Gavali, described the horrifying enounter to NBC 4 New York outside Hackensack Medical Center, where her son was being treated Wednesday night.

"Within a second, he screamed, 'Mommy,' then I turn around and saw that he was on the ground -- something was there, something was on his back," she said. 

People living nearby heard the mother's screams and called 911. 

"There's a woman screaming 'please call 911,'" one caller said in an emergency dispatch tape recorded by Broadcastify. "I think her child is being attacked by something.

Danny Walls, meanwhile, saw the attack unfold. He told NBC 4 New York he was getting ready for work when he heard the mayhem. He grabbed a painter's pole and rushed to help. 

He tossed the animal to the ground and started beating it with the pole repeatedly until it died. 

"I guess I broke his rib because he yelled and I continued to hit him 'til he let go," Walls said.

Wall's wife, Diana, saw the mauling and described the boy's injuries. He had deep cuts on his face, with the worst injuries under his right eye.

"He had rips on his face," Diana Walls said. "Not just cuts, rips."

Gavali said she didn't have the words to thank Walls.

"He saved my boy today," she said, still wearing the blood-stained coat from when she hugged her son Aryan after the attack. "He came like an angel." 

Bergen County Animal Control took the raccoon's carcass for testing; results are expected by Friday.

Authorities said school officials in the town have been notified about the attack as many children walk to school.

According to the Humane Society, rabid animals can display a range of symptoms including foaming at the mouth, aggression and disoriented behavior. In raccoons, activity during the day can be an indicator of the deadly zoonotic virus as the species is typically nocturnal. 

Passenger in Willington Pond Crash Dies From Injuries


The passenger of the car that rolled over into a Willington pond last week has died from his injuries, police said.

Thomas Middleton, 52, of Hartford, was hospitalized after a driver, Joseph Young, lost control of his car and landed in a pond.

Young, 40 , of Wallingford, was driving northbound on Daleville Road in Willington when he lost control of his 2008 Audi, hit a wooden guardrail off the right side of the roadway and flipped over into an adjacent body of water, state police said. His car landed with its roof submerged underwater. 

Young got out of the car and found help, but his passenger was unresponsive and state police pulled the individual from the car after responding at about 7:45 p.m. to the area of 31 Daleville Road, about 25 minutes after the 911 call. 

Young, who was on the roadway when police arrived, suffered minor injuries and was taken to Rockville General Hospital. Middleton was transported to Hartford Hospital.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut
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Hacker Accused of Giving ISIS Data in U.S. Court


A hacker accused of stealing and giving information about American service members to ISIS faced terrorism charges on Wednesday, NBC News reported.

Ardit Ferizi, 20, appeared before a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia.

Prosecutors say Ferizi hacked into an American retailer's database last year, then sent the names and addresses of about 1,300 U.S. military and government personnel to ISIS, who urged followers to attack them.

Ferizi was arrested in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — where he was studying — last year at the request of the U.S., where he faces hacking and terrorism charges.  

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ruling to Euthanize 2 Dogs in Attack of Woman Upheld


A state officer upheld a ruling to euthanize two dogs accused of mauling a health worker while she was on duty, the court announced. 

“I find there is substantial evidence in the record that both dogs bit Ms. Denning and therefore.. affirm both the disposal orders on the dogs,” Bruce Sherman, director of regulations and inspection for the state Department of Agriculture said in his ruling.

“Substantial evidence in the record establishes that ... Ms. Denning suffered an unprovoked and vicious dog bite attack.”

Police said Lynne Denning, of Canterbury, was viciously attacked by two to four dogs at 379 Putnam Road, in the Wauregan Village, of Plainfield while she was caring for an elderly patient in December 2014.

Denning "suffered brutal injuries" to her face, chest, arms and legs and has undergo at least 13 surgeries in the months after the attack, according to police and family members.

Town officials confiscated five Rottweilers and a Labrador from the home. The dogs, which were all present at the time of the attack, were quarantined at the Plainfield Animal Shelter.

Days later, officials announced plans to euthanize the dogs but said in August 2015 they were unable to prove four of the dogs took part in the attack and opted to return them to their owners, Jenna Allen and Corey Beakey. 

Allen, 29, and Beakey, 29, both of Plainfield, turned themselves into police last September. 

Allen was charged with reckless endangerment in the second degree, two counts of possession of a nuisance dog and five counts of failure to comply with dog license requirements.

Beakey was charged with reckless endangerment in the second degree.

Photo Credit: Brittany Allen
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