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Wildfire Evacuations Lifted as Firefighters Make Progress


Some residents forced from their homes during a wildfire that surged to about 50 square miles in northern Los Angeles County were permitted to return to their properties Monday afternoon as firefighters continued to battle the Powerhouse fire.

The fire has burned five to six homes and damaged 15 structures, fire officials said Monday.

Firefighters appeared to have made major progress Monday night - the 32,000-acre blaze was 60 percent contained. However, the fire still threatened 275 structures and continued to burn into the night, with full containment not expected until next week.

Firefighters said cool overnight conditions on Sunday helped them gain ground as the Powerhouse fire moved into a flat area with less brush, but winds occasionally picked up Monday as crews protect homes near the high-desert city of Lancaster. A higher level of humidity was helping, fire officials said.

The cost of firefighting efforts was estimated at about $8 million as of Monday night.

The vast majority of the 2,500 residents who were under evacuation orders were allowed to return home. Some, however, were not and remained at an evacuation center overnight.

"You start getting a little tired and weary not being in your own home," said Lake Hughes resident Diane Reeves.

"So far, things look much better than they did yesterday," said U.S. Forest Service Cmdr. Norm Walker said at a 4 p.m. news conference.

He expressed "guarded optimism." Full containment was not expected until June 10.

The fire -- which produced smoke that can be seen as far away as Las Vegas, according to the National Weather Service -- grew in rugged terrain that hasn't burned for more than 80 years near Santa Clarita and spread into the Antelope Valley during the weekend.

Lake Hughes resident Dennis Immel, wearing fire gear he bought as a precaution a few years ago, fought off the fire with two hoses.

"My lungs were on fire," Immel said. "There were those ten minutes there where I really got nervous."

Greg Johnson, his neighbor across the street, wasn't as lucky.

"You see something that was once was beautiful, more or less kind of returned back to the elements," Johnson said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Lt. Dave Coleman said evacuation orders had been lifted for the communities of Lake Hughes at Lake Elizabeth, where about 1,500 people were affected in total.

The community of about 500 people in Antelope Acres, west of the poppy preserve, remained under a mandatory evacuation order.

Evacuation orders could be reinstituted if winds and fire conditions shift, officials cautioned.

A county public health official recommended those who own private wells in affected areas boil their water or drink bottled water as a precautionary measure. The fire could have damaged well or storage tanks, or a power outage could have allowed lines to be de-pressurized and thus decontaminated.

Viewer Images: Powerhouse Fire

Wind speeds are expected to gust Monday at 20 to 25 mph -- not as powerful as during the weekend, but enough to warrant a wind advisory for the area north of Santa Clarita.

"Things are looking better," said Matt Corelli, of the U.S. Forest Service. "Last night was our best opportunity to make some headway on the fire. A cool mass of air came in, that gave us an upper-hand. The fuel the fire is burning into now is a lot less dense than it was up on the hill."

Temperatures in the high 80s are expected Monday.

The fire broke out Thursday near a hydroelectric plant known as Powerhouse No. 1 in San Francisquito Canyon, north of Santa Clarita in the Angeles National Forest. Flames exploded over the weekend amid 90-degree temperatures and shifting wind gusts, pushing the fire northeast.

"The wind is dropping, and it allows us to get in and do some damage and go direct on the fire," said Sean Collins, of the Kern County Fire Department.

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries while fighting the blaze. One was injured by a falling rock, another suffered from heat stress and a third was injured by contact with poisonous oak.

A Red Cross evacuation center is located at Marie Kerr Park, 39700 30th St. W. Palmdale, 93551. About 140 people were at the site, Coleman said on Monday afternoon.

The Antelope Valley Fairgrounds are serving as a shelter for large animals.

View PowerHouse Fire in a larger map

Knicks Guard Jason Kidd Retires After 19 Years


Knicks guard Jason Kidd is retiring from professional basketball after 19 years.

“My time in professional basketball has been an incredible journey, but one that must come to an end after 19 years,” Kidd, 40, said in a statement. “As I reflect on my time with the four teams I represented in the NBA, I look back fondly at every season and thank each every one of my teammates and coaches that joined me on the court.” 

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Kidd is a 10-time NBA all-star and played for the Knicks, the Nets, the Suns and the Mavericks.

He played in 158 postseason games, averaging 12.9 points, 7.8 assists, 6.7 rebounds and 1.91 steals, and led the Mavericks to the 2011 NBA Championship.

He is also a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

Photo Credit: AP

Prop 8 Decision in Hands of Supreme Court


A long-awaited ruling on the legality of California's Prop 8 might be handed down this month in what would be the U.S. Supreme Court's first decision on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Full Coverage: California's Prop 8 | How the Supreme Court Might Rule | Timeline of Key Events

The Justices considered arguments from attorneys representing Prop 8 supporters and opponents in March. The hearing came after the Supreme Court granted in December the review of Prop 8 — approved by California voters in November 2008 — and the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, also argued before the court in March.

The Court has several options regarding Prop 8, including a decision to issue no ruling at all. Decisions on Prop 8 and DOMA are expected later this month after the Court did not issue a ruling during its Monday session.

The ban could be upheld or struck down in a ruling that applies to California or a broader decision that applies to all states. The court also could determine that state ballot sponsors had no legal right or standing to defend Prop 8 in federal court.

How that decision would impact the status of same-sex marriages in California is unclear. After the hearings in March, several Justrices expressed doubt that the case should be before the court and suggested the case could be dismissed with no ruling, according to the Associated Press.

Nine states — Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont and Washington — and Washington D.C. allow same-sex marriages.

Minnesota, Rhode Island and Delaware have approved same-sex marriage legislation, but laws in those states have yet to go into effect. 

The Justices considered arguments regarding a ruling by a San Francisco-based appeals court that struck down the voter-approved ban. The court ruled the state could not take away the same-sex marriage right granted by the state Supreme Court before the 2008 election.

But the debate stretches back years through court cases and elections, including the March 2000 approval of Prop 22, which defined marriage in California as between a man and a woman. That law was ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in May 2008, and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples were married during a brief window before Prop 8's approval in the November election that year.

California's same-sex marriage ban was left in effect during the lengthy appeals process that followed. The legal battle included a landmark 2010 same-sex marriage trial in which Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled the ban unconstitutional. Walker said the law "both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation."

After appeals by Prop 8 supporters who said voters should not be invalidated "based on just one judge's opinion," a San Francisco court ruled in a 2-1 decision in November 2012 that the Walker's ruling properly interpreted the U.S. Constitution. The court ruled that the ban's "only effect was to take away that important and legally significant designation."

As attorneys argued over the issue in court, public attitudes toward same-sex marriage shifted. In 2001, 57 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. In a poll conducted in March 2013, 49 percent of Americans said they support same-sex marriage.

A second case before the high court challenges the Defense of Marriage Act — also known as DOMA. The act blocks federal recognition of same-sex couples in states where they are allowed to marry.

President Barack Obama called the law enacted in 1996 unconstitutional. Arguments in the DOMA case are scheduled for Wednesday.


Photo Credit: Getty Images

New Haven Man Arrested 92 Times


A 46-year-old New Haven man was arrested last week, accused of drunken cursing at Stop & Shop. It was the 92nd time he has been arrested in the city, according to New Haven police.

At 10:10 a.m. last Thursday, police responded to Stop & Shop at 150 Whalley Avenue because the store manager was reporting a drunken man cursing at his patrons and employees, police said.

Responding officers found Gary Highsmith swearing at an employee who refused to cash a check, police said.

The manager told police that Highsmith had confronted anyone he could. When Highsmith was asked to leave the store, he spit in the manager’s direction, missing the manager, but hitting a young man walking past, police said.

The shopper had to be restrained himself because he tried going after Highsmith, according to police.

Highsmith's 91 prior arrests include some infractions and summonses, but he was taken into custody for most of them, according to police.

According to court records, Highsmith was also convicted of breach of peace in West Haven in 2007.

Photo Credit: New Haven Police

Park District Signs Remind Parents "It's Just a Game"


A suburban Chicago park district is asking parents to keep themselves in check during their children’s sporting events.

The Buffalo Grove Park District installed a half-dozen metal “adult behavior” signs offering perspective for parents getting a little too into the event.

The signs, posted at Emmerich Park, read:

“Of the hundreds of thousands of children who have ever played youth sports in Buffalo Grove, very few have gone on to play professionally. It is highly unlikely that any college recruiters or professional scouts are watching these games; so, let’s keep it all about having fun and being pressure-free.”

The signs were posted as a "self-check" for overbearing or hot-headed parents and are intended to curb inappropriate behavior, the park district said.

“We thought that if we put it in a way that people could relate to, as well as infuse a little humor, that the message would resonate and people might be more likely to comply," said Mike Terson, park district public relations and marketing manager, "and hopefully for some, change how they look at youth sports altogether."

Terson said the issue came to his attention while he was attending his son's soccer games and became more prevalent when he began coaching.

The signs also ask that parents respect the game’s officials.

“Referees umpires and officials are human and make mistakes, just like players, coaches and you. No one shouts at you in front of other people when you make a mistake, so please don’t yell at them. We do not have video replay; so, we will go with their calls,” the sign reads.

But the main goal of the signs is to allow children to enjoy their sport and have fun.

"Sometimes, we, the adults, need to be reminded as to what truly is important, and that it is just a game," Ryan Rinsinger, director of recreation and facilities, said in a statement.  

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Photo Credit: Buffalo Grove Park District

Flooding in Fairfield, Bridgeport


Flood advisories were in effect for Fairfield, Middlesex and New Haven this morning, and there is flooding in Fairfield and Bridgeport.

In Bridgeport, State Street is being closed at Iranistan Avenue because of flooding.

Round Hill Road, Chamber and center streets in Fairfield are affected.

The storms are moving to the east and will be winding down this afternoon.

If you take weather photos, send them to photos@nbcconnecticut.com.


Photo Credit: Submitted by Jeanne Lang

Windsor Teen Killed in Hartford Motorcycle Crash


A 19-year-old Windsor man was killed in a motorcycle crash in Hartford on Monday afternoon, according to Hartford police.

The collision involved a motorcycle and cab at the corner of Main and Naugatuck streets.

The taxi cab driver was taken to the hospital. 

The road was closed as police investigated.

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Intruder Got Into Bed With Victim: Cops


New Milford police are searching for the man who was reported to have entered a condominium complex around 11 p.m. on Sunday and gotten into the victim's bed.

A man entered a unit at Willow Springs through a back sliding glass door and lay down in bed with the resident, according to police.

After a brief struggle, the man left through the same door, according to police.

The intruder is described as 5-feet-5 to 5-feet-6. He was wearing dark-colored basketball shorts and covered his face with a white T-shirt.

Anyone with information is asked to call New Milford police at 860-355-3133.  

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

"Wow": Paralyzed Teen Walks at Graduation


After he was paralyzed from the chest down in a bicycle accident, Manny Rios did something no one thought he’d ever do — he walked during his graduation ceremony at a Southern California high school.

In his blue cap and gown, he stepped out of his wheelchair on May 29 with some help from a walker and his therapist and took slow steps up a ramp to applause, chants of “Manny! Manny!” and “You can do it!”

“He always said he was going to walk across the stage to get his diploma,” said his sister, Mirna Hennicke, 35. “I’ve seen him take steps, but I did not think he was actually going to make it all the way across the stage.

"I cheered him on. I was like, ‘Wow, he did it!’”

For the family, Rios' graduation from Sultana High School in Hesperia was a huge day commemorated in a YouTube video for all to see.

Family members never thought Rios would walk, talk or even eat again after he suffered from an injury while riding a bike four years ago that put him in a coma.

Despite the setback, Rios never wavered, telling his family: "I will walk across the stage to get my diploma."

“He really is my superhero,” Hennicke said. “... No words to describe what I felt, actually seeing him accomplish what he said he was going to do.”

The family is raising the $12,500 needed to get Rios a service dog to assist him in his daily routines. You can donate here. As of Monday, the family has raised $140.

Former Cop Accused of Exposing Self to High Schooler: Cops


Norwich police have arrested a former police officer accused of exposing himself to a high school student twice since Friday.

On Monday, police received a report of a man exposing himself to a high school student as she walked to her bus stop on Prospect Street.

When police responded, the teen said he was the same man who exposed himself to her on Friday, May 31 as she walked to her bus stop and gave them a description of the man and his vehicle, police said.

Police said they found the suspect, Alfred Lamarche, 58, of Norwich, at his house and arrested him.

Lamarche served on the Ledyard police force for 18 years and retired in 2008, according to police.

He was charged with two counts of public indecency and two counts of breach of peace. He was arraigned at Norwich Superior Court.

Police said Lamarche was driving a blue 2003 Subaru Forrester at the time of the alleged incidents and police ask anyone with information about these incidents or similar previous ones to call (860) 886-5561.

Photo Credit: Norwich Police

Couseling Offered After RHAM Student's Death


RHAM High School made counselors available to classmates of 15-year-old Amanda Monington, who died in an accident at a state park.

Monington fell 15 to 20 feet from a waterfall in Enders State Forest in Granby on Saturday.

"It's kind of hard to think about someone around your age dying like that," said Chris Losty, a senior about to graduate. "Everybody's out here to have a good time and hanging out.  Something like that's kind of tragic."

Department of Energy and Environmental protection EnCon police are investigating, said DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain.

"And certainly if there's anything more we can reasonably do to promote safety at that location, we will take a look at it,." Schain said.

The waterfalls in Enders State Forest in Granby are a popular place to cool off on hot days.

RHAM counselors were available as needed for students, said Robert Siminski, the superintendent of schools.

"Some of the Guidance folks went into her regularly scheduled first period class and had some conversations witih students then, making sure counseling was available to everybody," Siminiski said.


Father Sought for Leaving Son in Wrecked Car: CHP


Investigators have identified the father of a child left trapped inside his car seat after a highway accident.

California Highway Patrol officers identified 40-year-old Fabiani Arroyo as a person of interest in Sunday night's crash on southbound Interstate 5 near San Diego.

Officers say Arroyo's black Nissan Titan veered off the highway near Rosecrans Street and landed on its side on an embankment.

Arroyo's 4-year-old son was spotted by witnesses as partially ejected from the vehicle. The boy was  hanging out of a window but still buckled in his car seat.

According to CHP officials, the driver took off running immediately following the crash, but then returned to the scene to unbuckle the child from the vehicle.

CHP Officer Juan Escobar said the child fell on his back and hit the concrete curb. Officials said the child fell approximately 10 feet.

The driver then got scared and took off running, according to CHP.

The boy was taken to Rady Children's Hospital with injuries from the collision and the fall, officials said Monday.

His mother has requested the hospital not release updates on her son's medical condition.

CHP officers are now looking for Arroyo as a person of interest in the investigation not only because he is believed to have been the driver who fled the scene but also because he may have caused his son additional injuries if he was the man who unbuckled the child after the crash.

Anyone with information regarding Arroyo or the crash can contact the California Highway Patrol at (619) 220-5492.


Meriden Police Officer Found Guilty


The jury has reached a verdict in the trial of a Meriden police officer accused of police brutality.

Meriden Police Officer Evan Cossette was found guilty on two counts.

He was found guilty of using unreasonable force against Pedro Temich and obstruction of justice by lying in his police report about it.

"Our system of justice cannot tolerate abuses by police officers, and today's verdict helps preserve the integrity of a profession that is entrusted with protecting our liberties as well as our safety," said Deirdre Daly, Acting U.S. Attorney in Connecticut.

Cossette, 26 took the stand in his own defense on Friday and said he did not mean to injure Temich when placing him in a holding cell on May 1, 2010.

Cossette testified that he felt threatened by Temich.

"He tightened up his body; he dropped his head, and I thought he was coming at me," Cossette said during his testimony on Friday.

Cossette is scheduled to sentenced on August 28 and faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.

"As law enforcement officers, we are measured by a higher standard because we are both sworn and privileged to uphold the United States Constitution," said FBI Special Agent in Charge, Kimberly Mertz.  We must meet that standard with unfailing integrity and honor.  Those who cannot meet that essential standard should not be wearing a badge."

Boy, 9, Fights Armed Home Invaders, Grabs Gun: Cops


A 9-year-old boy fought back against two robbers who broke into his family's home in Brooklyn Monday, slamming a bedroom door against one suspect's arm so hard that the loaded gun he was holding fell to the floor, police said.

The boy then picked up the weapon and fired shots, scaring off the would-be robbers.

The robbers entered the house on 80th Street in Canarsie at about 6 p.m. and ordered two teenagers inside to get on the floor, according to police.

The only other person in the house was the boy, who was upstairs.

When one of the suspects ran upstairs and tried to get into a second-floor bedroom, the 9-year-old boy slammed the door on the suspect's arm, causing him to drop the gun.

The boy picked up the gun and fired it at the suspect, according to police. No one was hit, but the home invaders quickly ran out of the house.

Police are searching for the suspects. The boy and the teenagers are said to be OK. 

More Local Stories:

Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York

Target Employee Stole $4,000 in iPads: Police


A sales associate from a Target store in South Windsor has been arrested, accused of stealing almost $4,000 worth of iPads.

In April, staff at the Target store on Buckland Hills Drive in South Windsor contacted police after security staff learned that Nelson Diaz, 25, of West Hartford, had stolen several Apple iPads worth $3,700, according to South Windsor police.

Diaz, who worked as a sales associate at the Target store, later admitted to the thefts, police said.

Police obtained an arrest warrant charging Diaz with larceny in the third degree and served it on Monday.

Diaz was released on a $2,500 non-surety bond and is scheduled to appear at Manchester Superior Court on June 20.

Photo Credit: South Windsor

Taco Bell Investigates Shell-Licking Photo


An employee licking a gargantuan stack of taco shells: It’s not exactly the image that Taco Bell wants to portray of behind-the-counter hygiene.

But it was a photo of exactly that that prompted an online uproar Monday and a response from the fast food chain after it was posted to Taco Bell’s Facebook page.

The photo was posted by an account registered to “Jj O'Brien Nolan.” The post said the picture was taken in Ridgecrest, Calif., a city of about 27,000 in Kern County, about 150 miles north of Los Angeles.

On Monday, a manager of the Ridgecrest Taco Bell told CNBC that “we’re currently dealing with it.”

The Taco Bell in Ridgecrest is across the street from China Lake Naval Weapons Center and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.

On Facebook, the company had responded to the photo by saying it was “conducting an investigation and will be taking swift action against those involved.”

“We believe this is a prank and the food was not served to customers,” Taco Bell’s Facebook response said.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and team members, and we have strict food handling procedures and zero tolerance for any violations,” a company spokesman said in a statement emailed to CNBC. “When we learned of the situation we immediately contacted this restaurant's leadership and although we believe it is a prank and the food was not served to customers, we are conducting a full scale investigation and will be taking swift action against those involved.”

The photo, posted Sunday, gained attention Monday after the Consumerist, a blog affiliated with Consumer Reports, wrote about it.

There were hundreds of comments on the Taco Bell Facebook page.

"First of all, he's wearing a taco bell uniform," one comment read. "He is in taco bell, and he is licking bulk taco shells.. What are we supposed to think?"

Crash Causes 5-Mile Backup on I-84 West


Traffic is backed up for nearly five miles because of a multivehicle crash on Interstate 84 West in East Hartford. 

The two center lanes are closed and the highway is congested between exits 60 and 58 because of a crash between exits 59 and 58, according to the state Department of Transportation.

A viewer reported that it took about 35 minutes to get from exit 59 to 58, but the traffic cleared after that.

Photo Credit: Connecticut DOT Traffic cameras

Innocent Parties Hurt in Nearly 1 of 10 Police Pursuits


Nearly a third of Los Angeles police pursuits end in traffic collisions, and two-thirds of those crashes result in injuries -- to suspects, officers, and to innocent bystanders, according to statistics compiled by the department.

College student Julio Reyes, 23, became the latest innocent victim of an allegedly reckless driver who refused to pull over for police Saturday in El Sereno.

Reyes was killed in a four-car collision that police said was triggered when Jose Arellano, 20, lost control of his vehicle while being pursued.

Initial reports were that Arellano had been seen driving recklessly before officers attempted to pull him over. On Monday, police declined to confirm that until the investigation is complete.

Reyes loved photography and was studying technique at East LA College. One of his photos, an evocative study of an outdoor mural, is on display in a hallway of the technology building on campus.

On Monday, his heartbroken parents showed a visitor a photograph of their son, but said they were still too grief-stricken to speak of their loss.

His death was the second time in a week that an innocent bystander was fatally struck by a driver being pursued by law enforcement.

On Thursday, a man crossing a street in Orange County died after he was struck by a car carrying suspected gang members trying to escape Santa Ana police. He was later identified as Andrew Scott Reisse, 33.

Throughout California last year, 45 people were killed during police pursuits, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Twenty-seven of them were in a fleeing vehicle, 18 were not.

As the state's largest city, Los Angeles had the most pursuits, though the number has dropped nearly in half since a decade ago, when the department revised its pursuit policy to limit when pursuits should be initiated or continued.

The 609 pursuits in 2003 had decreased to 346 in 2011, according to LAPD Lt. Neiman, a former commander of the Pursuit Review Unit. By department policy, every pursuit must be documented in a report by a patrol supervisors, and the Review Unit goes over every report.

Nearly a third of the 2011 pursuits had traffic collisions--116--and those resulted in injuries to 50 suspects, eight officers, and 31 uninvolved third-parties, Neiman said.

"People get hurt. Officers get hurt. We look at all to try to mitigate injuries," said Neiman.

In most cases, refusing to pull over for a traffic violation is not enough to warrant a pursuit, unless the violation is reckless driving that creates an ongoing threat to public safety, Neiman explained.

In dangerous pursuits, LAPD has a protocol for calling in air support to track the vehicle from the air, allowing patrol cars to back off. But not every pursuit lasts that long.

According to one account, the El Sereno pursuit was as short as a minute.

"It's up to the officers involved to constantly re-evaluate the scenario," said Neiman, and that may warrant backing off, even if air support is not available.

But if an imminent threat to the public is seen, officers will not yield.

"Our job is to protect public safety," Neiman said. "If there's a pursuit, you can be sure there's a good reason."

Law enforcement agencies in Illinois and some other states tend to have more restrictive pursuit polices than California, said Geoffrey P. Alpert, professor of Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina, and an authority on pursuits.

Alpert served as an adviser to then-Chief William Bratton when the LAPD revised its pursuit guidelines. Alpert called the 2003 revision a good first step, but believes LAPD needs to go further, as some other agencies have, and adopt a policy limiting pursuits only to felonies.

"We're not at that stage," Neiman said.

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Bear Stuck in Tree in Danbury


A bear was stuck in a tree behind the Bishop Curtis Homes, a retirement community on Main Street in Danbury on Tuesday morning, according to Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton.

The Danbury Fire Department and the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection responded, set up a net for the bear to fall into and shot it with tranquilizer, according to Tweets from the mayor.

According to the state DEEP's reports of black bear sightings,  there have been 2,860 sightings in the state between June 5, 2012 and May 29, 2013. Two of them have been in Danbury.

 Send your wildlife photos to photos@nbcconnecticut.com.

Photo Credit: Mayor Mark Boughton Twitter

Spelling Bee Champ Tries Knaidel


Avind Mahankali, the 13-year-old boy from Queens, New York who won the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee by correctly spelling "knaidel," got a taste of the food for the first time at New York City's famed Carnegie Deli.
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