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Middletown Residents and Businesses Clean Up After Storms


Residents and business owners in Middletown are cleaning up after a thunderstorm brought heavy rain, thunder and lightning on Thursday night. 

Lightning struck the Canoe Club restaurant on the Connecticut River, crumbing part of the chimney as a party went on inside. 

“There was a little bit of rumbling. People assumed it was a bolt of lightning, most weren't aware that it actually hit,” Daniel Cronin, owner of the Canoe Club, said. 

The lightning did not cause a fire and the building is expected to be OK. 

Lightning might have also hit the city's emergency dispatch center.

Around a months worth of rain fell in Middletown in a couple hours and flooded the HVAC system at Wilson Middle School, as well as streets, houses and some businesses. 

ayor Daniel Drew/Middletown)
15.21 there are stranded cars there was a driver sitting on top of her car as i was driving in . ….. .27i actually stopped her and helped her get off the hood, the car was stuck past the wheel wells .33

"There are stranded cars. There was a driver sitting on top of her car as I was driving in," Middletown Mayor Daniel Drew said. "I actually stopped her and helped her get off the hood. The car was stuck past the wheelwells "


Because of the storm, the mayor opened the city’s emergency operations center. 

Middletown residents heard thunder and lightning every few seconds last night as the powerful storm rolled through and lightning appears to have hit several buildings and knocked out power to thousands. 

Several trees were also brought down, but Middletown Police said they have all been cleared away. 

The Canoe Club is expected to reopen today. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

GOP Donors Place Their Bets on Down-Ballot Races


As Donald Trump's presidential campaign continues to struggle, many top Republican donors are putting their resources into Senate and House races in the hopes of keeping control of Congress amid an increasingly difficult political environment for the party.

Andrew Weinstein, a former director of communications for Bob Dole and press aide to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, began circulating this week a draft letter signed by at least 70 Republicans urging RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to cut its losses and redirect resources to saving Republican majorities.

American Crossroads, a conservative super PAC that spent more than $130 million in the 2012 election, has not committed to spending money to help Trump get elected because donors aren't willing to get involved in that effort, a Republican with knowledge of the group's strategy told NBC News.

"We're focused on the Senate for now," Ian Prior, the spokesperson for Crossroads and two super PACs focused on House and Senate races, said.

Photo Credit: AP

Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Litchfield


Severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for Litchfield County.

Earlier today, warnings were issued for Tolland and Windham counties as storms roll in.

The primary threats are heavy rain and lightning. There's a low, but not zero, risk for damaging winds or a tornado.

Dew points are well into the 70s, and that means the air is soupy.

Scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected through Sunday.

High temperatures will be in the middle 90s Friday, then in the lower 90s this weekend.

A stubborn front likely slips south by early next week, but it will still be in the area.

So while it won't be as hot or humid, an isolated storm is still in the forecast on Tuesday.

Temperatures will rise into the middle and upper 80s early next week.

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13 States to Ask Judge to Halt Obama's Transgender Policy


Texas and 12 other states will ask a federal judge Friday to halt an Obama administration directive on bathroom rights for transgender students in U.S. public schools, NBC News reported.

The administration told U.S. public schools in May that transgender students must be allowed to use bathrooms consistent with their chosen gender identity or risk losing federal funding.

Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin immediately filed a joint lawsuit to push back against the requirement.

That announcement came days after the Justice Department sued North Carolina over a state law that requires people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement that there is "no room in our schools" for discrimination.

Photo Credit: Brian Scott, NBC 5

West Hartford Resident Brought to Hospital After Fire


A West Hartford resident was taken to the hospital to be treated for possible smoke inhalation after a fire early Friday morning. 

Officials said a woman drove to CVS around 3 a.m. to report her house on Elmhurst Circle was on fire. 

Firefighters encountered smoke and knocked the fire down quickly, but there is heavy smoke damage and the house will be uninhabitable for the time being. 

A dog that was inside the house was removed and is OK. 

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Cops Remove Muslim Student's Hijab


A Muslim student has filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department, claiming she was accosted by officers who tore her hijab from her face and head.

Itemid Al-Matar was on her way home to celebrate the end of Ramadan but was taken to the ground by police while trying to board a Chicago Transit Authority train in an incident that was caught on camera. The student believes police officers thought she was a terrorist.

“Her hijab was torn from her face and head, exposing her face to the public contrary to her religious beliefs,” according to a release from her attorney Gregory Kulis.

Kulis said Al-Matar was charged with several counts of disorderly conduct but was later found not guilty during a court trial. 

Al-Matar also alleged that while in custody at the police station she was forced to remove her clothing and strip down to her undergarments as photos were taken of her. 

Chicago police declined to comment, saying it “cannot comment on pending lawsuits.”

Photo Credit: Chicago Transit Authority

Serious Crash Closes Bridgeport Avenue in Shelton


Bridgeport Avenue in Shelton is closed after a serious crash.

Shelton police said officers, firefighters and EMS responded to a two-car crash in the area of 465 Bridgeport Ave. at noon.

The road is closed between Crown Point Plaza and Long Hill Cross Road and the Shelton Police Traffic Division Reconstruction Team is at the scene to investigate.

Police ask witnesses or people with additional information to call Shelton Police at (203) 924-1544.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Clinton Surging Ahead of Trump in Battleground States: Poll


Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump in some of the most diverse battleground states, according to four brand-new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist polls.

The Democratic nominee leads Trump by double digits in Virginia, 46 percent to 33 percent, and in Colorado, 46 percent to 32 percent.

In the key battleground of Florida, which President Obama won in 2008 and 2012, Clinton is ahead of Trump by five points among registered voters. In North Carolina, which Obama won in 2008 but lost in 2012, the former secretary of state has a nine-point advantage over Trump.

"These are supposed to be battleground states, but right now, they don't look that way," says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Federal Grant to Add 17 Firefighters in Bridgeport


The city of Bridgeport has received a $2.7 million dollar federal grant to hire 17 new firefighters. 

“The federal grant is tremendously helpful for our city and our Fire Department,” Mayor Joe Ganim said in a statement. “The Bridgeport Fire Department has been dangerously understaffed for years and this grant will allow us to bring in a new class of badly needed recruits.” 

He said the addition of more firefighters will make the city safer and also reduce spending on overtime. 

“This grant will allow us to open the door to our new recruits and return our staffing level once again to full strength at 282 firefighters,” Bridgeport Fire Chief Richard Thode said in a statement. “These brave men and women put their lives on the line every day – at a moment’s notice – to protect a city of over 147,000 residents. With the addition of our new recruit class, our department will be better equipped to meet the needs of our community.” 

Bridgeport’s class of 24 new fire recruits are scheduled to begin a week-long orientation at the Bridgeport Fire Headquarters on Aug. 22 and a 14-week training camp at the Connecticut State Fire Training Academy in Windsor Locks on Aug. 29.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Georgia Man Charged With Sex Assault of Teen in Glastonbury


Glastonbury police have arrested a 54-year-old Georgia man who is accused of sexually assaulting a girl two years ago.

The sexual assault happened on July 23, 2014, when the girl was 13, and it was reported on Sept. 14, 2015, according to police.

Police investigated and have charged Steven Boecker, 54, of Newnan, Georgia with fourth-degree sexual assault, impairing the morals of minors and risk of injury to a minor. He lived in Connecticut at the time of the alleged assault, according to police.

Boecker turned himself into police on Friday.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

'Do Something Fun': 8-Year Old Pens Letter to Obama


President Barack Obama found an unlikely pen pal in eight-year old Lily, who said she is the president's biggest fan.

Lily, whose father is in the Air Force, wrote to the president to let him know that the "country needs more spunk," suggesting he "do something fun" like wearing "a tie-dye shirt and shorts to something important."

"With all the attacks, the Zika virus, and the wars, this country is a very sad place," she wrote. "…Go on a water skiing trip in the Caribbean. Take your family to Disney World. Do something fun and outgoing. Also, please say something that will make everyone calm. You do know know how many politics worries I have (sic)."

Though her dream job is to be a cardiovascular surgeon, Lily said her father's military service has inspired her backup job to be president.

Obama responded to her letter, thanking her for the advice and writing, "I can tell you’ve got plenty of spunk to help keep our nation strong!"

"While I don’t know how the First Lady or my daughters would feel about me wearing a tie-dye shirt in public, I do know that one of my greatest responsibilities as President is ensuring your generation can thrive  —  and that includes making sure you can live in safety and reach for boundless opportunity," Obama wrote. "I know things happening around the world can sometimes be worrisome, but we can make real and lasting progress if young people like you focus on growing and learning and keep speaking out about important challenges our nation faces. As long as I serve in this office and beyond, I’ll continue fighting to ensure kids all across our country are limited by nothing but the scope of their imaginations and the size of their dreams."

Obama thanked Lily for the advice and told her to bear in mind the role she has in shaping the world. "I expect great things from you!" 

He also asked her to rely a message to her father: "Please tell your dad how grateful I am for his service."

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Cleaning Lady Stole More Than $35,000 in Glastonbury: Police


A cleaning lady is accused of stealing more than $35,000 worth of items from homes she cleaned in Glastonbury and she and her fiancé are accused of pawning the stolen items.

Police said they received reports from several Glastonbury residents in June that jewelry, cash and other valuables were stolen from their homes. All suspected their cleaning ladies in the thefts as said they were the only people with access to the areas the stolen items had been kept in. 

As police investigated, they learned all the victims used the same cleaning service and identified a Bolton couple -- Ashley Levitt, 30, and her 30-year-old fiancé, Robert Berube Jr. – as suspects.

Police said Levitt cleaned the houses and is accused of selling most of it at pawn shops.

Police said Berube obtained some of the items and sold them at pawn shops as well.

Levitt was charged with first-degree larceny, third-degree larceny, first-degree conspiracy to commit larceny and third-degree conspiracy to commit larceny.

Berube was charged with first-degree conspiracy to commit larceny and third-degree conspiracy to commit larceny.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

US Women's Gymnastics Team Immortalized on Cereal Box


The U.S. women’s gymnastics team won gold in Rio, and now they’re going to be immortalized on the side of a cereal box.

However, the cereal won’t be Wheaties, and you won’t be able to buy the box in stores — at least not yet.

All-around gold medalist Simone Biles unveiled the commemorative Special K Red Berries box Friday on TODAY.

Biles is featured by herself on one side of the box, while the Final Five is all smiles on the other side.

Kellogg’s, which is an Olympic sponsor, announced that it will be giving away the “gold medal edition” boxes for free on their KelloggsFamilyRewards.com website to anyone who joins the site, while supplies last. There is a limit of one box per member.

There was no immediate word on if or when the boxes would be for sale in stores across the country.

Photo Credit: Kellogg's
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Police Investigate Armed Robbery at Bridgeport Krauszer’s


Bridgeport Police looking for three people who robbed Krauszer’s Food Store just after midnight on Monday.

Police said the armed robbery happened at 2579 Fairfield Ave. and they have released surveillance footage that shows one man hop over the counter and another walk behind the counter. Then both are scene rummaging around while the other stayed on the opposite side of the counter.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective M. Fiumidinisi at (203) 581-5246 with any information.

Photo Credit: Bridgeport Police
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Mass.Man Arrested for Fatal Motorcycle-Car Crash in Thompson


A Massachusetts man was arrested for a fatal motorcycle and car crash in Thompson that happened almost a year ago, police said

Omar Velez, 21, was arrested for the death of a motorcyclist, plus additional marijuana and traffic charges. 

State police received calls of a motor vehicle crash crash at the intersection of Dresser Hill Road and Route 197, officials said. 

Motorcyclist Penny Ann Woodbury of Woodstock died as a result of the crash. 

After learning of a warrant out for his arrest, Velez surrendered himself to Connecticut State Police, troopers said. 

Velez was charged with negligent homicide with a motor vehicle, possession of marijuana and failure to obey a stop sign.

His bond was set at $75,000

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

Hope Solo Calls Team Sweden 'Cowards' After Loss


This has not been an Olympics to remember for U.S. women’s soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo — one that culminated Friday with a stunning shootout loss to Team Sweden that eliminated Team USA from medal contention.

After the game, Hope Solo had less-than-sportsmanlike words for the Swedish squad that just knocked off the favored U.S. team. She called them “cowards."

Here’s the full quote, with context:

She mentioned coward twice in a matter of moments, leaving a "sour grapes" taste in the mouths of many who heard or read it.

As for Team Sweden, it doesn't seem like Solo's comments phased them.

Sweden coach Pia Sundhage, who coached Team USA for five years that spanned two Olympic golds, said: "It's OK to be a coward if you win."

Solo later tweeted out the above quote from Grant Wahl, saying "Losing sucks. I'm really bad at it." She also provided an additional quote to Wahl as a means of clarifying what she meant.

For her part, Solo was taunted with “Zika” chants throughout the Games after she posted on social media about avoiding the virus in Brazil.

She then allowed a soft goal between her legs against Colombia in a 2-2 tie.

And then she stopped just one of five shots in the penalty shootout against Sweden, even after delaying play for a few moments before allowing the winning goal to change her gloves.

Photo Credit: Greg Bartram/USA Today Sports
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Convicted Road Rage Killer Gunned Down in Florida Traffic Dispute


A convicted road rage murderer was killed Wednesday after getting into an altercation with a driver in a separate traffic incident, Florida officials said.

Gary Lynn Durham, 40, who served 11 years behind bars for killing a man in a 2001 road rage dispute, got into the confrontation with motorist Robert Padgett, 42, at about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday in Plant City, Florida, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. Padgett was not arrested and no charges have been filed while authorities investigate the incident.

According to police records, Durham was arrested and charged with manslaughter in November 2001 after following a driver who he exchanged words with while behind the wheel. Durham approached Timothy Gibbs, 48, in a parking lot and punched him so hard it left him brain dead. Gibbs later died in a hospital.

Gibbs' widow Nancy told NBC affiliate WFLA after hearing of Durham's death, ""I know it's not the Christian thing to say, but this is poetic justice."

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Judge Overturns Dassey Conviction


A federal judge in Milwaukee has overturned the conviction of Brendan Dassey, the young man whose case was one of two documented in the Netflix series “Making a Murderer."

Judge William E. Duffin found that investigators repeatedly made false promises to Dassey, who was 16 years old and a slow learner, in extracting a confession, which Dassey's legal team had maintained was coerced. The judge found that confession was involuntary in a 91-page decision handed down Friday.

Dassey’s case was one of two followed in the popular “Making a Murderer” series, which depicts the story of Dassey’s uncle, Steven Avery. Dassey and Avery were sentenced to life for the 2005 murder of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach.

Dassey's attorney, Steve Drizin with Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, confirmed the news Friday. 

"I am just beyond excited," Drizin said. "I had to pick myself up off the floor."

Duffin ordered Dassey be set free unless the state initiates a retrial proceeding in 90 days. 

That, or an appeal of the decision, would put Dassey's release on hold, Drizin said. He and the legal team would then seek to have him released on bond. 

"A lot's going to depend on what the state does here," he said. 

The Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth legal team, based in Chicago, first took Dassey’s case to federal court in Wisconsin in 2014 in hopes that he would be granted a writ of Habeas corpus, which would have forced the government to examine his case and rule whether he has been imprisoned illegally. 

Dassey was arrested at the age of 16 in connection with case, but his attorneys maintained his confession was coerced.

Avery, a Wisconsin man who was imprisoned for 18 years for sexual assault before DNA evidence exonerated him in 2003, was accused of Halbach's murder as he was suing Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, the former district attorney and the county sheriff for wrongful imprisonment, seeking $36 million in damages.

Most recently, the show's filmmakers said a juror from Avery's murder trial claims he was not proven guilty, but the juror had voted to convict him out of fear for his/her personal safety. The two filmmakers have not yet contacted other jurors to independently verify the claim, they said. NBC News has not independently verified the allegation with any jurors.

Steven Drizin, a clinical professor at Northwestern University School of Law who is among the attorneys representing Dassey, said his team of lawyers from the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern, and Wisconsin attorney Robert Dvorak, have spent years on the case.

Drizin said the team investigated Dassey’s case for two years before filing an appeal in 2010. The appeal was ultimately denied by a state appellate court and the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

The habeas petition was filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 2014.

“We’re hopeful is what I would say,” Drizin said at the time. “The deeper you go into this system, whether it’s in the state court system or the federal court system, the harder it is to win. We’ve won cases in federal court before and we’re hoping that this is another one that we’ll win.”

Drizin said the petition focused largely on Dassey’s original public defender, Len Kachinsky, who was ultimately removed from the case.

“A lot of our appeal has to do with the actions that Brendan’s original attorney Len Kachinsky took, which demonstrated his disloyalty to Brendan and his willingness to work with the prosecution to try to get Brendan to plead guilty and testify against Steven Avery,” Drizin said.

He also maintains that Dassey’s confession was coerced “by [investigators] feeding him facts.”

“To me, this case is a classic example of how not to interrogate juvenile suspects and the tactics that were used during Brendan’s interrogation are a recipe for false confessions,” he said.

In a brief filed last year, the state argued Dassey failed to show that the appeals court’s decision was unreasonable.

“[Investigators] merely stated, in calm tones, that they ‘already knew’ what happened and allowed Dassey to confess that he had raped Halbach, and was involved in her murder,” the brief reads. “Dassey’s confession was not coerced, and the state court’s decision on Dassey’s voluntariness claim did not involve an unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law.”

Former Calamut County District Attorney Ken Kratz, who prosecuted Dassey and Avery, recently told People magazine that he has "a great bit of sympathy" for Dassey, who he said "never would have been involved in this except for his uncle."

Dassey would have been out sooner if he had taken a plea bargain, Kratz said.

Drizin said while “Making a Murderer” has put Dassey’s case in the national spotlight, he didn't believe it would have an impact on the judge’s decision.

“I don’t think that the Netflix movie is going to influence a federal judge, but at the same time, judges are human beings and the Netflix film has created a context for Brendan’s case that didn’t exist at the time of his trial or his appeals,” he said. 

Photo Credit: AP, File

Flash Flooding Threatens Rain-Soaked Louisiana


The National Guard was dispatched Friday to rescue dozens of Louisiana residents from flooded homes after the state was soaked overnight by up to eight inches of rain.

The National Weather Service declared a flash flooding emergency in north central Louisiana and in parts of neighboring Mississippi as well, and NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins warned the situation is likely to "get worse."

"On radar, this storm looks like the equivalent of a tropical depression or tropical storm and is sitting right over Louisiana, and will threaten the state with heavy rain right into Saturday," Karens said.

Hardest hit was St. Helena Parish, where the tiny town of Greensburg was completely surrounded by water. Officials were nervously watching the water rise in the Tickfaw River, which has already reached a record flood stage of 13.33 feet at Liverpool, the Weather Channel reported.

Photo Credit: Patty Valdes

Derby Man Connected to Multiple Heroin Overdoses Sentenced


A Derby man has been sentenced in prison for his connection to multiple heroin overdoses.

Bradley Commerford, 20, of Derby, was accused of allegedly selling and delivering heroin to at least one of the fatal overdoses in Derby and two non-fatal overdoses in Shelton.  

"While this defendant has faced difficulties and struggled with addiction himself, his reckless behavior cannot be excused," said U.S. Attorney Daly. "He regularly distributed heroin to teenagers and sold heroin after being convicted in state court of several serious felony offenses."

The overdoses resulted in the death of a 23-year-old man and the non-fatal overdose victims were 18 and 22 years old, prosecutors said. 

A task force made up of the U.S. Attorney's Office, DEA New Haven Tactical Diversion Squad, detectives from Derby, Shelton, Ansonia and Monroe Police Departments came together to find the source of the heroin connected to the overdoses. 

Commerford was sentenced to 71 months in federal prison. 

Photo Credit: Derby Police
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