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8 Campgrounds to Close Early Amid Budget Cuts


In an effort to help reduce spending, eight state park campgrounds will close one month early.

That leaves campers like Wolcott’s Tracy Comeau wondering how it affects fall reservations. She booked her campsite at American Legion State Park last November, only to realize in June the site she paid for is no longer valid.

"When you do something year in and year out, you really look forward to that," said Comeu. "And to know it wasn’t happening we had to make other decisions."

Comeau wanted to transfer to another park, but representatives from the popular reservation website, Reserve America, told her that wasn’t an option. A Reserve America agent said she could only cancel her site, paying an 18 dollar forfeiture fee. She would then have to separately reserve a site at her new desired campground with a nine dollar processing fee.

"I did not feel that that was fair," said Comeau. "I was on the phone (for) an hour—half of an hour with the representative, then another half hour with the supervisor."

The supervisor told her they needed permission from the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in order to waive the fees.

Comeau then reached out to NBC Connecticut Responds, who contacted DEEP. Tom Tyler, Director of State Parks, said the decision to close certain campsites came early, causing a glitch in the Reserve America system.

"That was a miscommunication on our part," said Tyler. "Information got out and people began making their calls to Reserve America before all those changes got embedded into Reserve America’s system. And we do apologize for that—that inconvenience to her."

Tyler said the system should now work properly, and anyone who booked a site months in advance, including Comeau, will receive a full refund.

Campgrounds closing early:

• Black Rock State Park – Thomaston – Closing after Labor Day weekend instead of the end of Sept.

• Hopeville Pond State Park – Jewett City - Closing after Labor Day weekend instead of the end of Sept.

• Kettletown State Park – Southbury - Closing after Labor Day weekend instead of the end of Sept.

• Mashamoquet Brook State Park – Pomfret - Closing after Labor Day weekend instead of the end of Sept.

• Macedonia Brook State Park – Kent - Closing after Labor Day weekend instead of the end of Sept.

• Lake Waramaug State Park – New Preston - Closing after Labor Day weekend instead of the end of Sept.

• Housatonic Meadows State Park – Sharon - Closing after Labor Day weekend instead of Columbus Day

• American Legion State Forest – Barkhamsted - Closing after Labor Day weekend instead of Columbus Day

Suit in 'Star Trek' Actor's Death


The parents of "Star Trek" actor Anton Yelchin, who died when he was pinned by a rollaway Jeep Grand Cherokee in the driveway of his Studio City home, plan to file a lawsuit Tuesday against the automaker, alleging defects in the vehicle led to his death.

Yelchin, 27, was best known for his role as Chekov in the recent series of "Star Trek" films. He died June 19 at his home in the 3800 block of Berry Drive, with investigators saying his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backward down his steep driveway, crushing him against a brick mailbox pillar and a security fence.

Police said Yelchin had gotten out of the car when it rolled away. That model vehicle was under recall over concerns about gear shifters confusing some drivers, causing vehicles to roll away unexpectedly.

Fiat Chrysler, which owns Jeep, issued a statement last month saying the company was investigating the actor's death, and it expressed sympathy for Yelchin's family. There was no immediate comment from the company on the planned lawsuit, which will be announced by Yelchin's parents and their attorney, Gary Dordick, at an 11 a.m. Tuesday news conference.

According to Dordick's office, the lawsuit will be filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, but no details will be released until the news conference. Days after Yelchin's death, a group of Jeep Grand Cherokee owners filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler in federal court in Riverside, alleging the automaker concealed and failed to fix a shifter design defect linked to driverless rollaway accidents, such as the one that killed the actor.

That lawsuit alleges the design flaw affects 811,000 vehicles, including 2014-2015 model year Jeep Grand Cherokees, 2012-2014 Chrysler 300s and 2012- 2014 Dodge Chargers. It contends that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV concealed both its shifter design defect and hundreds of related accidents that caused property damage and injuries.

The plaintiffs also allege that the "raft of negative publicity" surrounding the recent disclosure of the problem has greatly diminished the resale value of their vehicles. According to the complaint, the defect has been responsible for at least 41 injuries, and possibly caused the death of Yelchin. Fiat Chrysler initiated a recall of 1.1 million cars worldwide equipped with the defectively designed shifter but has yet to provide any fix, the lawsuit states.

Yelchin, who was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, also appeared in such films as "Alpha Dog," "Terminator Salvation" and "Charlie Bartlett."

He was supposed to meet up with friends for rehearsal the day of his death, police said. When he did not show up, his friends went to his home and found him dead by his vehicle. An only child, Yelchin was 6 months old when he moved with his family to the United States in September 1989. His mother worked as a figure skating choreographer and his father as a figure skating coach.

Photo Credit: AP

State Receiving $500,000 to Address Zika Virus


The state is receiving more than half a million dollars to address the Zika virus. 

Gov. Dannel Malloy said the state Department of Public Health will receive a $579,055 grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and it will be used to support and enhance the state’s efforts to protect residents from Zika virus and monitor serious birth defects, like microcephaly, and other adverse health outcomes that the virus can cause. 

Malloy said Connecticut officials have been actively taking steps to prepare for Zika, including a coordinated, cross-functional response across agencies. 

“Preparation is critical, and this federal grant will be a big step forward in helping us reach our goals,” Malloy said in a statement. 

He also called on Congress to approve a federal Zika aid package as quickly as possible. 

Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino, of the state Department of Public Health, said the federal funding will “greatly enhance” the Zika testing program at the State Laboratory and mosquito surveillance being conducted by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. 

He said it will also allow for a monitoring program through the Birth Registry to track infants born with Zika-related birth defects. 

The Department of Public Health and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station will use some of the funds to continue implementing laboratory testing and enhanced mosquito surveillance portions. 

In addition, funding will be used to build on the state’s existing Birth Defects Registry System to monitor for cases of microcephaly and other central nervous system defects that could be caused by Zika virus. 

Funding will also be used to coordinate with the birth to 3 program and provide families with information on resources if they have child born with Zika-related birth defects, to disseminate prevention messages and materials to both providers and expecting parents and to monitor health and developmental outcomes of children born to women with positive or inconclusive Zika virus test results. 

As of July 27, the state laboratory had tested 491 Connecticut patients for Zika virus, including 379 pregnant women. To date, 45 patients, including three pregnant women, have tested positive for Zika virus and all the patients contracted the virus while travelling to Zika affected areas in the Caribbean and Central and South America. 

Connecticut has not seen any local transmission of the disease.

Capt. Khan Grave Attracts Visitors


As the parents of fallen Army Capt. Humayun Khan continue to voice their concerns about Donald Trump's candidacy for president — and Trump defends his remarks about them — visitors to Arlington National Cemetery are paying their respects where Khan was laid to rest.

Several people visited Khan's grave on Monday, leaving flowers at his headstone while Khan's service to the country is at the heart of a national debate.

Jake Dowell, of Chicago, went to the cemetery with his family to visit his grandfather's grave. When they learned about Khan, they wanted to honor him too, Dowell said.

"He was willing to step up and save the lives of men who were different skin color, who were different religions. Because they were American, he was willing to sacrifice his life for them," Dowell said. "He just acted upon his patriotism."

"He's an American hero. He served this country, died for this country," Dowell's father, Anthony Dowell, said. 

D.C. resident Sally Schwartz visited Khan's grave on Monday with her mother.

"To go and see this captain that had sacrificed so much, it was really moving," she said.

Khan, a Muslim from Bristow, Virginia, was on tour in Iraq when he was killed by a suicide bomber on June 8, 2004. He was 27. Khan posthumously received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

He rose to national attention again last week, when his parents, Khizr and Ghazala Khan, appeared at the Democratic National Convention. In an emotional speech that received rapturous applause, Pakistan-born Khizr Khan asked if Trump had read the Constitution, and said if it were up to Trump, his son never would have been American or served in the military.

"Have you ever been to Arlington cemetery?" he asked. "Go look at the graves of brave Americans who died defending United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities.

"You have sacrificed nothing and no one," Khizr Khan said to Trump.

Trump disputed that. He said Saturday on ABC's "This Week" that he had given up a lot for his businesses.

"I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures," he said, while also suggesting Ghazala Khan might not have been allowed to speak while she was on stage at the DNC. 

Trump's campaign later issued a statement calling Capt. Khan a hero but said Khizr Khan had no right to intimate Trump hasn't read the Constitution. That prompted further rebuke from the Khans and many more, including other military families and President Obama.

On the "Today" show, Khizr Khan said he was grateful for all the support his family is receiving.

"The good thing out of all this has come that there has been so much love, so much courtesy, so much support. I am just amazed," he said. "My belief in the goodness of America is reaffirmed."

Photo Credit: NBC Washington

Top Connecticut Republican Condemns Donald Trump


One of the top elected Republicans in Connecticut politics attempted to distance himself and party nominees running for office from the recent comments made by the presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Senator Len Fasano said Monday: "Trump is an outlier. He’s doing his own thing. Everyone knows he’s doing his own thing. Everybody knows whatever he says, that comes out of his lips, is not a reflection on this state or the Republicans on this state."

Trump has been sparring in the press with Khizr and Ghazala Khan since they appeared at the Democratic National Committee in Philadelphia last week. Their son, Humayun, was killed in an explosion in Iraq where he was serving with the US Army in 2004.

Khan held up a copy of the U.S. Constitution and challenged whether Trump has read it or whether he's made similar sacrifice.

Trump responded by questioning whether Ghazala Khan was even allowed to speak at the DNC at all.

Fasano has never endorsed Trump for president. The closest he came to such a move was back on April 27, the day after Trump won the Connecticut Republican primary in a runaway.

Fasano, who endorsed Ohio Govenor John Kasich and was a part of his Connecticut Leadership Team, described Trump as a, "cathartic voice," for many voters who feel left behind.

Monday, Fasano denounced Trump and said, “If you are going to go after a Gold Star mom, someone who lost their son, someone who gave their life to our country, that is just off limits. You don’t do that. I don’t care what party that’s from, I don’t care what the issue is, you just don’t do that so I find his comments to be way out of line.”

What Would It Take for the GOP to Rebuke Trump?


What would it take for Republican leaders to fully repudiate Donald Trump?

Khizr Khan, the father of fallen Army Capt. Humayun Khan, has called repeatedly for Republican leaders to condemn their nominee's repeated attacks on his family and Muslim faith. Khan's tearful pleas have been met instead with carefully worded statements that have largely fallen short, NBC News reports.

"There had been some statements coming from the Republican leadership. But there is amazing silence. Silence of rebuke, silence of asking no more," Khizr Khan said Monday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." The party's nominee has repeatedly attacked Khizr Khan and his wife, Ghazala Khan, since they appeared the Democratic National Convention to condemn the candidate's proposed temporary ban on allowing Muslims to come to the U.S.

Trump's repeated controversies, potentially unconstitutional proposals and outbursts are forcing his party to confront a painful dilemma: Can they preserve their careers and principles standing by their nominee, or do they stay out of the election or even support Hillary Clinton?

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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Car Thieves Get Access With Key Fobs: Police


Police in several communities are issuing a warning to car owners after thieves  stole hundreds of cars in the greater Hartford area using key fobs left in or near the vehicles. 

In the first seven months of this year alone, Hartford police have recovered 235 stolen motor vehicles that were stolen from other towns, including a Hartford police officer’s personal car that was stolen in South Windsor last week. 

Police said, should the pace continue, they will recover more than 425 stolen motor vehicles from out of town this year.

Glastonbury police have charged six juveniles from Hartford in car thefts and break-ins in their town in two separate incidents last year. 

“We know that these individual suspects, these juvenile suspects we have arrested, have also been arrested, some of them, a dozen times by other towns for the same thing over the last year. The problem is they're just not being held,” Sgt Corey Davis, of Glastonbury Police, said. 

One commonality investigators have found in the thefts of and from vehicles is that the stolen vehicles are newer model cars in which key fobs were left in the vehicle. 

Hartford police said car thieves are targeting suburban towns within the region and pulling on car door handles. 

If the fob is left in the vehicle, or feet away from it, thieves only have to press the ignition button to start it up and drive away. 

Wethersfield police said the number of thefts from cars in town has risen this year. Since June, more than 12 cars have been stolen and several other thefts from cars have been reported. In these cases, the cars have been left unlocked and the keys are inside or nearby. 

Wethersfield police said large groups of teenagers have been going out very late at night to low-traffic, suburban neighborhoods and stealing wallets, laptops, phones, GPS units or any other small items of value from any car that is unlocked. 

When the keys are inside the car, they will steal it, as well.

In West Hartford, there were 40 car break-ins last month and a dozen were stolen. 

“If they find a car with keys in it they will take the car. Since January 1, we've had 11 stolen cars in Glastonbury in that fashion that have been linked to these unlocked car burglaries,” Davis said. 

Hartford police are asking drivers to leave your key fobs in your pocket or pocketbook rather than in your car. If you notice somebody walking the streets or driveways checking door handles on cars, call local police.

Car Thefts:


  •  2014: 226 thefts of cars from out of town recovered in Hartford
  • 2015: 313 thefts of cars from out of town recovered in Hartford
  • 2016: 235 thefts of cars from out of town recovered in Hartford from January through July

5 Dead in Calif. Tour Bus Crash


At least five people died early Tuesday morning after a tour bus crashed into a sign on the highway in central California on its way up from Mexico, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Fifteen people suffered serious to critical injuries, some of whom were trapped in the bus for hours, and a dozen had less serious injuries, according to CHP spokesman Stephen Weeke, who said only four people were not hurt.

Fifteen people suffered serious to critical injuries, some of whom were trapped in the bus for hours, and a dozen had less serious injuries, according to CHP spokesman Stephen Weeke, who said only four on the bus were not hurt.

The Van Hool bus slammed into the highway "Hammatt Avenue" sign on Highway 99 in Atwater, Merced County, at 3:25 a.m. with 30 people on board, according to CHP Officer Moises Onsurez. Atwater is a city of 28,000 people, about 65 miles northwest of Fresno.

Onsurez said the pole sheared through the center of the white bus, with a California license plate, at an unknown speed. The bus originated in Mexico, Onsurez said, and was headed to Washington state with stops in Los Angeles, Livingston in Merced County and Sacramento along the way.

There were no brake marks at the scene, meaning the bus hit the pole at full-speed, Weeke said.

Onsurez identified the driver as Mario David Vasquez, 57, Los Angeles, who suffered "major injuries." Six passengers were also airlifted to various hospitals, he said.

Sgt. Luis Lara later said that about 10 "walking wounded" passengers were outside the bus when officers arrived.

"It was a mess," Lara said. Some passengers were trapped inside, and firefighters cut them out. "We have every type of injury in that bus."

Onsurez also said that the charter bus had no name on its side and he didn't immediately know who was operating the vehicle. "With this sort of tragedy there is a lot of triage involved," he said.

Jennifer Rivera, 12, told NBC's sister station Telemundo that she was asleep when the bus crashed. She was thrown under the seats and was unable to see anything because her vision was blocked, she said.

Waking to people crying, Jennifer saw a hole had opened up in the bus. The young girl recalled being stuck and suffering scrapes when a man pulled her out to safety.

Jennifer, who was traveling with two uncles, had been living in Nayarit and was returning to the United States to study.

Meanwhile, Xiomara Huezo, the driver’s daughter in law, became emotional while Telemundo that the family had barely any information about Vasquez's condition. Initially, they thought Vasquez was dead and then were informed that he was, in fact, hospitalized with grave injuries.

Vasquez is a good driver and a good man, who is grieving the loss of his wife, who recently died of cancer, Huezo said. He doesn’t drink or smoke, she stressed, and has never had problems or been involved in accidents.

DMV records indicate the 1998 bus is registered to Auto Buses Coordinados USA. No one answered the phone at the Los Angeles office Tuesday morning.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the bus company, which also lists locations in Oceanside and Fresno, has a "satisfactory" service record. But, the FMCSA does show that 30 percent of its bus inspections prompted the government to pull its vehicles out of service over the last two years — above the national average of 20 percent.

Federal records showed the company had more than 23 vehicle maintenance violations since 2014. At least eight of those were severe enough to force inspectors to pull the company's buses off the road, records show.

Of those eight, three were for brake issues, federal records show. The latest inspection for the bus that was involved in Tuesday's crash occurred on April 28, when the federal safety agency found the VanHool had "no or defective brake warning device."

Also, on Feb. 5, 2015, a driver in a vehicle with the same license plate was pulled out of service in Oregon for driving a commercial vehicle with a suspended license.

California Secretary of State business records show that Marisela Castaneda is the "agent of service" for the company. A man who answered the phone number provided to federal inspectors associated with the company said Castaneda was not available to speak, but would pass the message along.

While the cause of the crash is inder investigation, the deadly scene quickly turned into a political talking point for the driver's union, the Amalgamated Transit Union AFL-CIO.

Larry Hanley, president of the ATU in Washington, D.C., had no direct knowledge of Tuesday's accident. But he said driver fatigue is the No. 1 cause of motor coach bus accidents and is an issue that is "plaguing our nation's bus companies."

According to a report called "Sudden Death Overtime," the National Transportation Safety Board estimated that 36 percent of motor coach crash fatalities over the past decade have been due to driver fatigue, compared to road conditions (two percent) or inattention (six percent). There was no fog blanketing the highway at that time in the morning, weather radar shows.

The union has been calling on Congress to pass the Driver Fatigue Prevention Act, introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, which would extend the overtime protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act to these bus drivers, who often work second jobs during their "rest periods." Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California, introduced the same thing in the House last month.

Under the legislation, drivers would be paid time and a half for the work they put in above 40 hours a week, making them less inclined to work other jobs and push "their bodies to the limit," Hanley said in a statement.

Since 1990, the ATU has documented 250 tour bus crashes in the United States.

NBC affiliate KSEE in Merced contributed to this report.

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Soldiers Question Army's Handling of Dallas Attack Gunman


Two Army soldiers who served with Micah Xavier Johnson, the gunman who attacked police officers in downtown Dallas, believe the Army should investigate the handling of a bizarre incident that resulted in Johnson's removal from Afghanistan in 2014.

The Army has said it is reviewing Johnson's records but has stopped short of saying it is investigating how the incident itself was handled.

In an exclusive interview with NBC 5 Investigates, Sgt. Mark Wallace, an Army reservist who was in Afghanistan with Johnson, described how Johnson was caught stealing underwear from a female soldier in his close-knit Army platoon.

The female soldier had reported underwear disappearing from her laundry, prompting unit leaders to conduct a barracks search.

"We discovered that there was a stash of women's underwear in his room. And as we discovered it he, of course, jumped into the room, swooped them up and put them in his hoodie in his front pouch, which added to the bulk that was already there," Wallace said.

Wallace said Johnson took off running after he was confronted – prompting a search for him in the darkness on the remote Army base known as FOB Shank.

Commanders ultimately caught up with Johnson and recovered more evidence.

"We start looking in the dumpsters, we start looking in all the latrines and the showers, and we found one pair – one or two pairs – that he had attempted to kind of flush down the toilet," Wallace said.

On Friday the Army released an investigator's report that confirms Wallace's account of the incident.

It says an Army investigation determined Johnson "took underwear" from a laundry bag belonging to a female soldier who was a friend of his and tried to "dispose of the evidence" after unit leaders found some of the underwear in Johnson's room.

The report says that Johnson also sent messages to the same female soldier that "constitute sexual harassment." The woman had been a friend of Johnson's but both he and the woman told investigators their friendship had splintered before the incident.

During the search, the report says investigators also found Johnson was "storing an explosive article" in the barracks where he lived – and did not have any reason to possess that explosive device.

Concerned about Johnson's behavior, commanders put him under watch after the underwear incident, posting an officer outside his room at all times and taking away his weapons.

"At least one NCO (non-commissioned officer) was either right outside of his room or had visual on him at all times until he left the location that we were at," Wallace told NBC 5 Investigates.

Two days later the Army sent Johnson away to Bagram Airfield and eventually back home.

But Johnson showed no remorse before leaving, Wallace says.

"He blatantly, like even the next day, was like, 'No, they're lying. They're lying about all of it. They're making all of it up.' And it's like, 'Dude, like we caught you doing this. We caught you red-handed doing this,'" Wallace said.

Despite the investigator's finding that Johnson sexually harassed the female soldier and concealed a grenade, Army records suggest Johnson received an honorable discharge from his active-duty assignment in Afghanistan.

Wallace, and another former member of the unit, retired Sgt. Gil Fischbach, want to know how that could happen.

"I want them to thoroughly investigate. I want them to figure out and I would like to see someone held accountable," Fischbach said.

The Army has not responded to questions from NBC 5 Investigates about the handling of the incident. In a statement last week an Army spokeswoman noted that a review of Johnson's records, "has not identified any documented acts of violence."

The recommendations of the Army investigator who initially looked into the 2014 incident have been redacted from the copy of the report released to the media Friday.

Fischbach said there is no question the incident clearly damaged Johnson's friendships with others in the unit.

"Now, that trust has been fractured – and not just a small hairline crack, but a severe fracture," Fischbach said.

But the two soldiers still think it's a stretch to think that what happened in Afghanistan ultimately led Johnson to attack police officers in Dallas.

"You take that to, 'I want to kill white police officers.' How do you tie those things together? It's inconceivable," Wallace said.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News

Police Trying to ID Man Suspected of Thefts from Stratford Town Hall


Stratford police are trying to identify a man suspected of stealing a wallet from an employee town hall and money from the snack bar in the employee lounge. 

A woman who works in the Chief Administrative Office at town hall reported her wallet stolen on Tuesday, July 26 and police said the man in the photos spent around 20 minutes in town hall, walking around the building, and cased several offices. 

The same man is also suspected of stealing money from the snack bar in the employee lounge on Friday. 

Police are not sure if he was on foot or in a vehicle.

Photo Credit: Stratford Police

Stay Off My Lawn! Property Owner Files 'Pokemon Go' Class Action Suit


A New Jersey man has filed what may be the first class-action lawsuit over "Pokemon Go," claiming the companies behind the Pikachu fervor created a public nuisance and caused people to trespass on private property. 

Jeffrey Marder, of West Orange, says in the complaint filed Friday in California that Pokemon Go players have been hanging out near his property since the virtual phenomenon launched last month. At least five knocked on his door to ask if they could catch a Pokemon that was in his backyard, the suit says. 

Users playing Pokemon Go roam the physical world searching for virtual Pokemon creatures. The game also allows players to attract other users to physical locations using so-called "lures." 

In the lawsuit, Marder argues the companies behind the game — developer Niantic Inc. and Nintendo, which gave input — established Pokestops on or near private property without any approval from the property owners. The complaint references Pokestops positioned in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and in cemeteries. In New Jersey, one woman recently got stuck in a tree when she was looking to capture a creature. 

The suit looks to certify a class of all real estate owners in the United States whose property is near or on Pokestops and to compel the companies that created the game to change it, according to Law.com. It points out that Pokemon Go has been downloaded more than 30 million times as of July 23, generating $35 million in revenue for Niantic Inc., Nintendo Co. Ltd and The Pokemon Co. 

Niantic did not respond to requests for comment from Law.com or Bloomberg. A Nintendo spokeswoman declined comment.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File

Would-Be Trump Assassin's Mom: 'He's Mentally Ill'


The mother of a British man accused of trying to assassinate Donald Trump at a Las Vegas casino said her son had "a lifetime of mental health problems" and was on suicide watch in a Nevada jail, NBC News reported.

Lynne Sandford said her son, 20-year-old Michael Sandford, has autism and Asperger's syndrome and watches children's cartoons. She said her son would not have understood the consequences of his actions.

Michael Sanford is accused of attempting to grab a police officer's gun after asking for the Republican candidate's autograph on June 18. He faces charges of disrupting government business and being an illegal alien in possession of a gun. His U.K. lawyer argues he is unfit to enter a plea.

Lynne Sandford said she feared her son would die inside a U.S. prison.

"He is extremely vulnerable and would not survive," she said. "We want to try to bring him home from the U.S. to a secure place that will help him."

Photo Credit: AP

2 Dogs Drive Car Into West Va. Wal-Mart


Two small dogs left alone in a running car knocked the vehicle into gear, causing it to crash into a West Virginia Wal-Mart.

Man Drives Into Sinkhole After Storm


A North Carolina man is recovering after mistakenly driving into a massive sinkhole Sunday night. The sinkhole formed after a heavy storm broke a pipe, and when Robert Belcher saw water on the road, he assumed it was just a puddle.
"It was no puddle, but I didn't know that until I was in it. My truck had already went down and started flipping," Belcher said. Unable to open his car door, Belcher worked to break out the front windshield, punching it until it finally broke. He was able to escape, holding onto a tree limb until EMS crews pulled him to safety.

Swimming Areas Closed at 3 State Parks


The swimming areas at Silver Sands State Park in Milford, Day Pond State Park in Colchester and Wharton Brook State Park in Wallingford are closed today because of water quality. 

The three parks are open, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, but the swimming areas are closed.

One state park is closed. 

Indian Well State Park in Shelton is also closed because of a power outage.  

Dry with Abundant Sunshine Starting Wednesday

2 Couples Arrested as Police Investigate Gang Activity in Middletown


Middletown police arrested two couples while investigating gang activity and said they found drugs, weapons and an illegal tattoo parlor. 

The investigating suspected Bloods street gang activity raided 159 Liberty St. and 188 Pearl St. on Monday. 

Ryan Parks, 30, and his 36-year-old wife, Tammy, live in the Liberty Street home with their three children, according to police, and police officers and SWAT raided the home. 

Police said Ryan Parks has a criminal history in New York for robbery, bail jumping and additional charges, and has been recruiting Middletown residents and indoctrinating them into the Mills set of the Bloods gang. 

Inside the house, police found guns; information on the Bloods street gang, including on the Mills; ammunition; a letter from a person in prison on a New Britain murder charge; and marijuana residue. 

Police said the Parks’ 8- 10- and 15-year-old children could access the gun, so the Department of Children and Families was notified and a relative took custody of the children. 

Ryan Parks told police that he bought the revolver from a stranger and his wife didn’t know it was there, according to police. 

He was charged with criminal possession of a pistol or revolver and three counts of risk of injury to a child and held on $300,000 bond. 

Tammy Parks didn’t make a statement and was charged with three counts of risk of injury to a minor, according to police. Bond was set at $50,000. 

Police arrested 46-year-old Ricardo Nieves and his 48-year-old wife, Suzette, when they raided the Pearl Street residence and said they found an illegal tattoo parlor. 

When police searched the home, they found a digital scale, a red bandana police said signified affiliation with the Bloods gang, a sheet of paper with the Bloods history on it, counterfeit cash, two guns and more. 

Ricardo Nieves admitted to giving tattoos and charging customers for money, according to the arraignment report, and police said tattoo parlors are not allowed in Middletown. 

Police also found 11 people in the three-bedroom apartment and the couple admitted to charging people to stay in their apartment, according to police. 

Ricardo Nieves was charged with marijuana and drug possession and possession with intent to sell. 

Suzette Nieves was charged with delivery of drug paraphernalia, possession with intent to sell. 

Bond was set at $100,000 for both.

Ledyard Considers Spraying for Gypsy Moths


The town of Ledyard is debating the creepy, crawly issue of what to do about its gypsy moths. 

After spending the last two years fighting what some describe as an outbreak of the bugs that devour tree leaves and lay eggs that transform into sticky caterpillars, residents said they’re tired of the nuisance. 

“We’ve never seen anything as bad as this. The trees, many leaves were just taken down,” Kathy Capon, of Ledyard, said. “The moths were on the ground. They were on the house, on the gutters -- climbing everywhere. It was terrible,” she said. 

Naomi Rodriguez, president of a local homeowners association, will be going before the town’s land use and planning committee to make the case that an aerial spraying company be brought in to spray the moth eggs that are in the trees to prevent a new round of moths next spring. 

Rodriguez said the moths also cause health and safety issues. They can make trees unsteady through their defoliation, which she said could put the entire community in danger. 

“If you have a dead or weakened tree and you get a strong wind, or blizzard or snowstorm, that tree is going to fall,” she said. “Our worry is that it is going to fall on one of our children.” 

The town sprayed for a similar infestation in the 1980s. 

Chuck Rupee was president of the HOA then and said the spraying was a huge success, which is why he supports doing it again now that the moths are back. 

“The spraying that we did totally interrupted that cycle. We had almost 20 years without gypsy moths,” he said. 

The land use committee will make a recommendation to the town council about whether to spray and the town council while decided whether to move forward or open the question up for public debate.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Bill Bratton Resigning as NYPD Commissioner


NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton is stepping down as the city's top cop and will be replaced by Chief of Department  James O'Neill in September, Mayor de Blasio announced Tuesday. 

De Blasio lauded the commissioner's contributions to New York City since taking over the job in January 2014 and praised the man who will replace him, a veteran cop with more than 30 years on the force who grew up in the city and whose experience he said will advance the work of neighborhood policing. 

Under Bratton, the city already has made plans to shift toward that strategy, one predicated on building trust and working relationships between police and communities. O'Neill has been heavily involved in those efforts, and de Blasio said neighborhood policing would be in place in 51 precincts as of this fall. 

"I don't think anyone could've imagined a more productive 31 months. We will never forget or fail to honor the achievements of Bill Bratton," de Blasio said. 

Of O'Neill, he added, "Jimmy is the real thing in every way."

Bratton will stay on with the department until mid-September to ease the transition, officials said. According to a news release from global consulting firm Teneo, Bratton will join the company as the senior managing director and executive chairman of a newly formed risk management division.

Sources close to the commissioner told NBC 4 New York that the job was a "perfect fit" for financial and lifestyle reasons, and that Teneo wanted him sooner than he had planned to be available.

De Blasio joked that Bratton would be able to "afford" to take him out to eat in the new job. 

Bratton did not address the new position at the resignation announcement Tuesday, but instead reflected on his long-standing relationship with New York City and the people and politicians within it. The Massachusetts native called himself a "proud adopted son" of New York City and touted O'Neill's prowess, saying he would help make a seamless transition that, in this age of terror and sometimes volatile race relations, is more important than ever. 

The resignation comes days after Bratton told The New York Times in a widely cited interview that he wouldn't serve as the city's top cop after 2017. Law enforcement sources say he has been talking to de Blasio for at least a month about the possibility that he may vacate his office earlier. 

Bratton has served as the city's commissioner under de Blasio since January 2014 and was also the commissioner during the Giuliani administration. He is credited as one of the early proponents of the CompStat crime-tracking methodology and the "broken windows" policing philosophy, which prioritizes enforcement of minor offenses to prevent major violent crimes. He also served as the top cop in Los Angeles and Boston.

De Blasio tapped Bratton for the job after campaigning on a promise to change police tactics and the department's relationship with New Yorkers. In announcing his resignation Tuesday, de Blasio vowed to continue that charge, and said O'Neill would be an extraordinary leader of the department. 

O'Neill said rather than look at the promotion as the culmination of the career "of an old transit cop like me," he said he sees it as an opportunity and invitation to advance all of the work Bratton has done in the last 31 months. 

"I love being a cop. I love this uniform. I love what it stands for," O'Neill said. "We are here for you, the people of this city." 

O'Neill spoke of his optimism for the future -- a hopefulness imparted to him by his mother. 

"Because of her I learned we can change the world into what we want it to be and that life is about much much more than just oneself, it's about all of us," O'Neill said, choking back tears. 

He also emphasized the importance of bridging the divide between communities and police, and reiterated that the department knows most of the crimes in the city are perpetrated by a few criminals. O'Neill said he would focus on zeroing in on those perpetrators as Bratton has done while working to protect the city from broader scale threats like terrorism. 

Despite some of the lowest crime rates the city has seen in history, Bratton's latest tenure as the head of the NYPD has been marred by tumultuous relations with the public and a tense standoff between the department's rank-and-file union and de Blasio following the killings of two officers in late 2014. 

But sources close to the commissioner say he feels comfortable leaving the post with the crime rates as low as they are and in the capable hands of O'Neill. 

"I'm leaving because it's the right time," Bratton said Tuesday. 

The sources also said he wants to take more time for his three grandchildren, and that he wanted to leave before the next mayoral campaign. 

Ben Tucker, first deputy NYPD commissioner, will stay on, and Carlos Gomez, the NYPD's chief of patrol, who has been with the force since 1984, will take over as chief of department. Calling Gomez a great friend, O'Neill said he "has the will to make the change, the vision to make the change." 

The fate of others, including Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence & Counter-terrorism John Miller and spokesman Stephen Davis are unclear. 

Bratton's resume is unmatched in local law enforcement. He first held the top NYPD post in 1994 and is credited with leading the development of CompStat, a crime-mapping database begun in New York City that has been copied by police in other cities. Crime dropped significantly during his tenure, but civilian complaints about police misconduct and brutality went up. 

Somewhat coincidentally, protesters had staged a demonstration outside City Hall Monday night and Tuesday to call for Bratton's resignation. One protester said that he was "very happy" to see Bratton step down and that he "will take anyone over Bratton, even a corpse."

The head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the NYPD's largest union, said that he "wishes him well in his new endeavors."

"We hope that Chief O'Neill will make supporting and protecting police officers on the street his first priority when he assumes his new role," said PBA President Patrick Lynch. "We look forward to working with him to make sure that New York City police officers are fully supported, with the fair compensation, staffing, equipment and training that we need to protect all New Yorkers.”

Under Giuliani, Bratton was also remembered for his theatrics, including proposing a police parade on his birthday. He left the job for the private sector in 1996, creating his own law enforcement consulting business. 

Bratton, a Vietnam veteran who began his career as a Boston police officer, served as chief of the LAPD from 2002 to 2009, where he dramatically expanded the use of stop and frisk. On his watch as NYPD commissioner, the department drastically scaled back that strategy, but stepped up enforcement against of so-called "quality of life" offenses. Critics said that approach still unfairly targeted people of color. 

Bratton was also hired by Oakland, California, in 2013 to serve as a consultant to the city’s troubled police department.

Photo Credit: AP
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Route 5 in East Windsor Closed for Hours After Crash


Route 5 in East Windsor remains closed hours after a crash that sent two people to the hospital on Tuesday morning.

A tractor-trailer hit a utility pole and broke that pole, bringing power lines down and on top of the rig. The driver in the truck was injured and was taken to the hospital.

The driver of a pickup was also injured and was brought to the hospital. The extent of their injuries has not been reported. 

Route 5 is closed at Abbe Road and a traffic detour is Scantic Road to Abbe Road.

Utility crews are still at the scene and hope all is clear by 5 p.m.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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