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Several Animals Killed in Colchester Fire


Several animals died a fire at a Colchester home, while multiple animals survived.

Crews responded to the fire on 92 Hammond Circle and were able to rescue at least three cats and two dogs on Wednesday afternoon. 

Connecticut State Police said several animals were killed but the exact number was unclear. 

Police said the inside of the home appears to be a hoarding situation. 

Fire officials tell NBC Connecticut that there were no people found inside. 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates. 

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Close Friends, Cancer Survivors Gear up for Closer to Free Ride


More than 1,400 cyclists are signed up for this Saturday’s Closer to Free ride, which raises money for research and patient care at the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven.

Among the hundreds of volunteers and riders are cancer survivors like 23-year-old Julia Berv.

“When I received this [jersey] in the mail and saw ‘survivor,’ there was no feeling I could explain, it was just amazing. I am a survivor,” Berv said.

She had her final chemotherapy treatment at Smilow on Monday.

“I’ll have my scans in two or three weeks to be declared no evidence of disease and can move on with my life,” Berv said.

Throughout her nine-month battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a type of childhood bone cancer, Berv leaned on Katie Winkle, a close friend and classmate from Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden.

“Just her love and support,” Berv said, “and that feeling of never being alone, I think, because this can be a lonely experience when you’re first diagnosed.”

Not only is Winkle a registered nurse at Smilow, but she’s also a cancer survivor.

“The diagnosis just came as a complete shock to my whole community but I’m blessed to be in remission for nine years,” she said.

Winkle overcame an aggressive form of leukemia in middle school.

“One of my primary nurses is now Julia’s nurse, and she’s just been such a huge part of my recovery and I know she will be for Julia’s recovery as well,” Winkle said.

When Winkle rides in her first Closer to Free for Team Tommy Fund for Childhood Cancer, she will wear two wristbands.

One says “Joy for Julia.”

“She’s full of joy and life and energy and passion,” Winkle said of her friend.

The other reads "Courage for Chloe,” in honor of her baby cousin who is currently battling cancer.

“Chloe and Julia are fighting together and Chloe is going to be just fine. We just need to raise awareness and realize it could happen to anyone,” Winkle said.

Berv now plans to continue her education to become a physician assistant and she hopes to join Winkle on the Smilow hospital staff.

Both friends will be part of the Closer to Free opening ceremony on Saturday morning. The ride starts at 7 a.m. at the Yale Bowl.

NBC Connecticut is a proud sponsor of the event and we invite you to cheer on all the participants, including Heidi Voight, Bob Maxon and Jill Konopka. Kevin Nathan will also be there as an emcee.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Abundant Sunshine Through the Weekend


Temperatures will be well above average for the next few days.

Thursday will be warm, with partly cloudy skies and highs near 90 degrees.

Beautiful weather arrives Friday, when complete sunshine is expected. Temperatures will rise to 90 degrees, which is very warm for the time of year.

Saturday looks great for outdoor plans, and it will be cooler, with highs in the middle 80s. A storm is possible at night.

Come Sunday, a shower is possible with temperatures in the middle 80s.

Bicyclist Hit By Car in Vernon Is in Critical Condition


A bicyclist hit by a car in Vernon this morning is in critical condition.

Police said the crash happened on East Main Street, or Route 74, and Court Street. The area is closed and drivers can get around the closure by taking Saint Bernard's Terrace.

Medics brought the victim, who is in their mid-20s, to Hartford Hospital.

The driver is cooperating with police and no charges have been filed. 

The case remains under investigation. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Police Search for Burglars After Break-In at Vernon Apartments


Police are searching for the Skinner Road neighborhood of Vernon after two men committed a burglary at Sherwood Arms Apartments on Route 83.

A Vernon detective close to the scene responded and observed two men wearing gloves coming from the ground floor of the condo. One suspect was carrying a suitcase and the second one was carrying a screwdriver and was wearing something over his face, Vernon police said. 

The detective got into a chase with the two burglars but lost sight of them in the woods behind Walgreen's Pharmacy on Talcottville Road, according to police.

A search with K9 unit from Manchester was lanched but ended after covering a mile. Police believe the suspects got into an awaiting car and left the area. 

The two burglars are between 25 and 35 years old. One is wearing a gray T-shirt and jeans and the other is wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, according to police.

Anyone with information is asked to call Vernon Police Detectives at (860) 872-9126.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Garage Fire Spreads to House in Windsor


A fire that started in the garage of a home on Merriman Road in Windsor spread to the house, causing significant damage, and the homeowner said his 1978 Corvette and a truck were destroyed.

The homeowner, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, said he did not know his house was on fire until he heard someone screaming and banging on his door.

The fire destroyed the garage and spread through the breezeway into the house, causing significant damage.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Photo Credit: Steve Chaffee

Trump's Adviser Interrupted Intel Briefing: Sources


Donald Trump's advisers repeatedly interrupted intelligence officials providing a briefing to the Republican nominee on Aug. 17, until New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie intervened, sources told NBC News. 

The Aug. 17 briefing is attracting new attention after Trump said at NBC's Command-in-Chief Forum that he divined that intelligence officials were "not happy" with President Obama based on their "body language."

A U.S. official pointed out that intelligence officers don't give policy advice, so it would be inaccurate to say that Obama failed to follow the advice of the intelligence community. A second U.S. official said analysts are trained not to allow their body language to betray their thinking.

Four people with knowledge of the matter told NBC News that one of the advisers at the meeting, retired general Mike Flynn, repeatedly interrupted the briefing with pointed questions.

Two sources said Christie verbally restrained Flynn. Two other sources said Christie touched Flynn's arm in an effort get him to calm down. Requests for comment from Flynn and Christie were not immediately returned.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Trump Insists, Falsely, That He Opposed Iraq War


Donald Trump is insisting he opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, even though fact checkers have repeatedly said that claim is false.

"I opposed going in and I did oppose it. Despite the media saying, 'No, yes, no,' I opposed going in," Trump said Thursday before a speech on education while visiting a charter school in Ohio.

Speaking at Cleveland Arts and Social Sciences Academy, the Republican presidential nominee said that if he had been in Congress at the time, he would have voted against authorizing the military conflict.

His position on the war is coming under increasing scrutiny as he attacks Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for voting to authorize the war while she was in the Senate.

In 2002, Radio host Howard Stern asked Trump if he supported the looming invasion. Trump responded, "Yeah, I guess so."

He attempted to clarify his position on Iraq Thursday, saying the "Howard statement was long before and it was the first time anybody ever asked me about Iraq. I said, I don't know. I was very, very -- but, that was superseded because before the war, much closer to the war, I gave statements that we shouldn't go in."

During the "Commander-in-Chief Forum" hosted by NBC News Wednesday, Trump asserted he was "always against the war in Iraq" and cited comments he made in an Esquire magazine interview to bolster his discredited claim. The businessman again Thursday referenced the Aug. 2004 profile by Esquire, which was published more than a year after the invasion of Baghdad.

On Thursday, Esquire added an editor's note to the article, rebuffing Trumps claims.

"During the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed to have been against the Iraq War from the beginning, and he has cited this story as proof. The Iraq War began in March 2003, more than a year before this story ran, thus nullifying Trump's timeline," Esquire wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: AP

Airbnb Addresses Claims of Racism, Revamps Website


Before the end of the year, Airbnb plans to display user photos less prominently, promote instant bookings and introduce technological changes to address widespread reports of racial discrimination against nonwhite guests, according to a report released by the online vacation home rental marketplace Thursday.

The changes were announced following months of criticism sparked in part by the Twitter hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack, which featured accounts from African-American users who said they were discriminated against on the platform.

"Bias and discrimination have no place on Airbnb, and we have zero tolerance for them," Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky wrote in an email to users. "Unfortunately, we have been slow to address these problems, and for this I am sorry."

Starting Nov. 1, Airbnb users must agree to treat fellow members without bias regardless of race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age, Reuters reported.

Photo Credit: Airbnb

Hartford Superintendent Stepping Down for Job With U.S. Department of Defense Schools


The superintendent of Hartford public schools is stepping down to take a job with the United States Department of Defense Schools in Okinawa, Japan. 

Beth Schiavino-Narvaez released a statement to colleagues and families in the school system to say she will be the Chief of Instructional Leadership Development with the United States Department of Defense Schools, which is a newly-created position. 

She will be working with three districts in the Pacific, including Korea, Japan and Guam, and will be serving 23,000 students in 48 schools. 

“It is with mixed feelings that I share this news. I have loved serving as Hartford’s Superintendent and working with our wonderful students, families, educators, staff, partners and our Board. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my family,” she said in the letter. 

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin will be holding a news conference, but released a statement, saying he wishes Schiavino-Narvaez well. 

“Over the past two years, Superintendent Schiavino-Narvaez has dedicated herself to serving Hartford’s students and strengthening Hartford’s schools, and I wish her well in her new role," Bronin said. "The coming months and years present important opportunities and challenges for the Hartford school system, as new leaders will have the chance to fight for reforms in the wake of yesterday’s historic court decision, shape the next phase of the longstanding Sheff vs. O’Neil lawsuit, manage the Equity 2020 process and school consolidation, and increase our focus on quality neighborhood and community schools.

Schiavino-Narvaez started her career 22 years ago as a Fulbright Scholar teaching in South Korea and her husband and daughter are both Korean. 

“In weighing my decision, I recognized the unique opportunity this appointment provides both personally and culturally for my family,” she said.

Bronin said he is confident that the Board of Education will move quickly to name an interim superintendent and will work closely with the Board of Education during that process. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Man Gets 70 Years After Paralyzed Victim Blinked to ID Him


A man was sentenced to 70 years in prison Thursday after a paralyzed victim blinked to identify the man who shot him.

Jermaine Hailes was convicted in June of shooting Melvin Pate during a drug related-robbery in November 2010. The gunshot could have killed Pate immediately, but it left him quadriplegic instead. He died two years later.

During Hailes' trial, jurors watched videotaped testimony from Pate, who could not speak after he was shot. Paralyzed from the chest down, he blinked from his hospital bed at a photo of his shooter in a photo lineup, prosecutors said.

Once Pate was conscious, police wanted his help identifying who shot him. With a halo screwed into his skull to stabilize his spine, he could not speak, but he could blink.

"He was able to make an identification of Mr. Hales by blinking during a photo lineup that police showed him while he was in the hospital," said John Erzen, spokesman for the Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office.

"They told the victim to blink once hard if he recognized someone in the photos he was shown. So, it wasn't the involuntary blink that we all do. It was truly a closing of his eyes and opening them and you could see the tears coming from the side of his eyes as he identified the man who was his killer," said prosecutor Christine Murphy.

After Pate's death, several years of hearings and appeals followed about whether the video of his blinking would be admissible in court.

Ultimately, a judge ruled that Pate was competent when he identified the gunman, Erzen said.

It marked the first time in Maryland history that a homicide victim's identification of his or her attacker was admissible in court.

In addition, a man who said he planned the robbery with Hailes identified him in court as the shooter.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington

Man Charged in Norwich Armed Robbery


Norwich police have arrested a 41-year-old Connecticut man accused of robbing a gas station at gunpoint Monday.

Eric Begin. 41, of Norwich, has been charged in an armed robbery at the Shell Gas station at 170 Taftville Occum Road.

Police responded to the gas station around 9:49 p.m. when a panic alarm went off and the clerk reported being robbed at gunpoint.

No injuries were reported, but he made off with several hundred dollars in cash, police said.

Begin has been charged with first-degree robbery, carrying a dangerous weapon and sixth-degree larceny.

He was held on $100,000. 

Police said they expect to make more arrests.

Photo Credit: Norwich Police

New Haven Man Robbed 91-Year-Old in North Haven: Police


A New Haven man is accused of pushing down a 91-year-old man in North Haven and stealing his wallet. 

Police said they responded to Eaton Place Condominiums, at 216 Quinnipiac Ave., at 4:30 p.m. to investigate a street robbery. 

They learned that 21-year-old Jose Vazquez started talking to the elderly victim, pushed him down as the 91-year-old tried to walk away and took his wallet from his pants pocket, then ran away with it, police said. 

Police took him into custody soon after and charged him with the robbery and larceny. 

He was held on a $10,000 bond and arraigned in Meriden Superior Court.

Photo Credit: North Haven Police

Armed Thief Robs Couple at Newington Motel: Police


An armed suspect robbed a couple at a Newington motel on Thursday morning, police said. 

Police responded to the Siesta Motel on Berlin Turnpike around 3 a.m. for reports of an armed robbery. 

A man and woman were approached by the suspect when as they were going into their motel room, police said. 

The suspect tried to force the man into the room but the victim resisted. When the suspect exposed a handgun that was in his waistband, he demanded the male victim hand over his duffel bag, Newington Police said. 

After taking the bag, the suspect fled on foot. 

Police said the victim described the thief as being in his 20s, d6' to 6'2" tall with a slender build, medium-length braided hair, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants. 

Anyone with any information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact Officer W. Kornbrath at (860) 666-8445 or wkornbrath@newingtonct.gov, reference case # I20163313.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Vandal Changed Stop Signs to 'Stop Trump’ Signs


Suffield Police are looking for the person responsible for vandalizing two stop signs in town by spray painting “Trump” on stop signs so they read “Stop Trump.” 

Patrol officers noticed them on Monday and immediately notified the highway department, which sent crews to remove the paint off from signs on Tuesday. 

“We recognize that people have their opinions, but unfortunately they need to recognize that their opinion is affecting safety,” Suffield Deputy Police Chief Richard Brown said. 

Brown said vandalism on signs damages the reflective coating, which helps make the signs visible at night. 

Without that reflectiveness, drivers could have a hard time seeing the sign and quickly reacting. 

The signs damaged were at the corners of North Main Street and Mapleton Avenue as well as Sheldon Street and Taintor Street. Some black residue is still visible, but it is all crews could do to salvage the sign without paying the high price tag of replacing them.

State Police Responding to Medical Issue on Route 9


State police are responding to a medical issue on Route 9.

The incident happened on Route 9 going northbound near exits 20 and 21, police said.

No other details were immediately available. 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Shocking Video of SUV Crashing Into Gas Station


A Connecticut gas station's surveillance camera captured dramatic video of an SUV crashing into a convenience store, striking the clerk. 

The Clinton Police Department released the video Thursday, one week after the Sept. 1 crash at the Shell gas station on 196 East Main St. in Clinton 

“The vehicle, which was in the parking lot, made a sudden maneuver and we think the operator inadvertently pushed the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal,” Clinton police Sgt. Jeremiah Dunn said last week. 

The video shows a car in the gas station parking lot ram through the store's door, pushing the clerk through a counter and burying him in debris. The clerk appears to struggle to stand up.

Police said the clerk was conscious and alert when officers arrived. He was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital for treatment. 

The owners of the store identified him as an extended family member and said he was seriously injured, but expected to recover.

NBC Connecticut reached out to the store this morning, but there was no answer.

The driver, who was not injured, was cited for reckless driving.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Union Left Scratching Head Following Education Lawsuit Ruling


The 40,000 member Connecticut Education Association's leadership has far more questions than answers following a judge's ruling yesterday saying the way the state funds local education is inadequate.

The more than 200 page ruling sent shockwaves through the political arena because it gave the General Assembly 180 days to come up with a funding solution.

"It’s confusing at best and disappointing," said Mark Waxenberg, the executive director of the CEA.

Waxenberg fears for the possible repercussions of Judge Thomas Moukawsher's ruling that essentially threw out the window the way the state spends money on local districts of education. He said the ruling didn't provide any kind of specific guidance as to what the funding formula, known as ECS, should look like to make the funding system more fair and equitable.

"The point should be based on adequacy, not on a formula," Waxenberg said Thursday. "A formula drives money but we have to look at the adequacy necessary to drive resources in West Hartford and the resources necessary to educate that child in Hartford so he's really looking at the hole and not at the doughnut."

The most troubling example Waxenberg sees in who may be left out is children who require special education services which are distributed and in many cases paid for by local districts, and not the state.

"If you have an autistic child in Greenwich, that autistic child needs services as much as they need it in Bridgeport so the issue of equity and equality needs to be for both students, rather than pitting one town against one another," Waxenberg said. 

Governor Dan Malloy said Thursday that he sees the ruling as an opportunity to make sure schools systems that are most in need get the help they need.

“I think quite clearly the judge is saying, 'hey, Connecticut, get this right and get it right quickly,' and quite frankly, I think we should get it right quickly,” Malloy said.

Malloy also pointed out that more than half a billion dollars more is going to the state's poorest school districts since he took office.

Another point of criticism from Moukawsher was the state's teacher evalusation system and the ability to weed out bad teachers. He described the current system as "cotton candy in a rainstorm."

Sheila Katz, president of the CEA, said she was left with questions there, too, because of the lack of specifics. Katz said the group has worked for changes to teacher evaluation for two legislative sessions and will continue to do so.

"We want something that's meaningful and works for both teachers and students."

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

North Branford Residents Voice Concerns Over Proposed Propane Tank Facility


North Branford residents are again speaking out against a controversial proposal to build a propane tank facility in their town.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Enviornmental Protection hosted a public hearing Thursday evening on whether the proposal meets the state’s wetlands regulations.

Residents tell NBC Connecticut they are concerned about much more than just the possible effects on the environment.

Linda Arsenault has lived in her home tucked away in a wooded North Branford neighborhood for nearly thirty years.

"This is something that we know about so we’re hoping we can stall it or forgo it,"she said.

Arsenault is one of many residents who are against the JJ Sullivan Fuel Company’s proposal to build a 60-thousand gallon propane tank facility on Ciro Road.

"My initial reaction is health," Arsenault said of her primary concern.

But she also worries about rising insurance rates.

"We can’t afford to keep paying more and more money for things," she said.

Another concern for homeowners is the impact on their property’s value.

"If we try to sell our house in five years and someone says there’s a propane tank facility around the corner, a lot of people maybe a young couple with children won’t want to live here," Arsenault said.

NBC Connecticut tried speaking with someone from JJ Sullivan in Guilford, but were told to contact the Propane Gas Association of New England (PGANE).

"We have strong federal rules on how these sites are constructed and operated," PGANE President Joe Rose said. "These above ground storage tanks are equipped with redundant safety valves that greatly minimize the possibility of an accident."

Residents say they fear any possibility of an explosion.

"In the event of an accident, it would be catastrophic, no question," North Branford resident Chris Kranick said.

At the DEEP public hearing, Kranick said he plans to present flaws in the company’s application process.

"The timeline on the application at the local level has expired and the second is the application that started at the town is quite different than the application that ended up at the state," he said. "And those two applications need to be the same."

If Arsenault had the chance to speak with someone from JJ Sullivan, she said she’d ask this question.

"Politely, why aren’t you building the facility right next to your business on river street in Guilford?" she said.

North Branford’s town planner Carey Dueques said JJ Sullivan and the opposition to the proposal will present their cases to DEEP officials in Hartford on September 15.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

3 Cars Involved in Serious Accident in Middletown


Three cars were involved in a serious accident in Middletown on Thursday night.

Dispatch said they responded to the accident on Newfield Street and Fisher Road around 6:54 p.m. 

A Toyota Camery traveling north on Newfield Streett was stopped to make a left on Fisher Street when a Honda Pilot rear-ended the idle car. The Toyota spun out into the southbound lane of Newfield Street, where it was struck for a second time by a Volkswagen Passat, police said. 

The driver of the Toyota was prounounced dead at the scene, while the Honda and Volkswagen drivers were transported to the hospital for injuries. The passenger in the Volkswagen did not report any injuries. 

The extent of the injuries for survivors has not been released. Their identities are being withheld.

Newfield Street and Fisher Road remain closed as of Thursday night.

The investigation is still underway.  

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