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Waterbury Looks to Prevent Fire in Abandoned Buildings


The city of Waterbury is trying to prevent a potential fire from spreading in an abandoned building.

The city is spending at least $60,000 to block about 60 windows of the former watch factory on Cherry Street.

The abandoned, vacant building takes up a whole city block. Contractors were seen placing cement blocks along windows to prevent a fire from spreading.

Fire Chief David Martin said unlike wood that flames would burn through, the concrete should prevent fire from spreading to any nearby buildings on the property, which are not abandoned.

“This building, in particular, is unique and different from the others because it has three occupied structures physically connected to it,” said Martin.

Chief Martin said the abandoned building is connected to a business, a non-profit office and an apartment building, the Enterprise Apartments, which has about 130 units.

The fire chief says the city is trying to prevent a similar incident to what happened on New Year's Eve 2016 -- when flame embers carried by the wind spread quickly through an old factory building on South Main Street. 

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Instructor, Student Fought Before East Hartford Plane Crash


A plane crash in East Hartford was the result of a flight student refusing to give up controls to his instructor, while apparently doing everything "backwards", a police report revealed.

East Hartford police Lt. Josh Litwin said in October that investigators had concluded the crash was "an intentional act," but noted that they hadn't been able to determine a motive.

New documents from witness accounts reveal that Arian Prevella, a flight instructor and the owner of American Flight Academy in Hartford, struggled with flying student, Feras Freitekh.

On Oct. 11, 2016, an investigation was launched after the twin-engine Piper PA 34 crashed with the two men aboard during a training flight around 3:30 p.m. near the Connecticut headquarters of military jet-engine maker Pratt & Whitney.

The plane was on its final approach to Brainard Airport when it crashed on Main Street and burst into flames, according to the FAA.

Prevalla escaped from the burning plane and was in fair condition at Yale-New Haven Bridgeport Hospital's burn, a hospital spokesman said.

When Prevalla was interviewed by police, police said he become "emotionally upset", according to the report.

Prevalla told police that Freitekh made a comment about how he didn't want to fly anymore and the instructor responded "then let's go back" to the airport. Freitekh, according to Prevalla, kept saying things that didn't make sense, like he didn't want to be a pilot anymore and that his mom wanted him to fly, the report stated.

Freitekh had been a student for a "few years" at the academy and considered a good student, Prevalla told police. On the day of the accident, Prevella said Freitekh was doing "everything wrong" and said his maneuvers were "backwards".

The documents state that Freitekh was laughing and joking, making Prevella uncomfortable, the instructor told police.

When Prevella demanded the controls, Freitekh said multiple times that he "got it". It is customary for a student to take their hands off controls when an instructor tells them too, however, Freitekh refused which provoked Prevella to start screaming for the student to pull the flaps up, the police documents explained.

Prevalla said the plane did not have enough altitude to recover so the plane turned and flipped before crashing.

The instructor said he did try to pull Freitekh out of the plane but he wasn't moving. He then kicked the window to get out and the flames were preventing him from getting back in, according to the report.

Prevalla suffered first- and second-degree burns on his arms and legs. Freitekh did not survive the crash.

Photo Credit: Kenatha Abernaty/NBC Connecticut
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Tuition Increases Recommended for 17 CT Colleges


The Board of Regents is scheduled to meet Wednesday to discussed proposed tuition hikes at state colleges and universities across Connecticut. 

The president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, which includes 17 state colleges and universities other than UConn, said in a statement to students and families that he is recommending a tuition increase at all schools in the system. 

“We are working hard every day to put our students first. That is why, like last year, I want you to hear this news directly from me. I am recommending a tuition increase at all of our schools. It is a smaller increase than the previous two years, and for the first time I am suggesting a two-year time frame so that students and families can plan better for their educational costs,” Mark Ojakian said in a statement.

Following is what he is recommending for all students at the four state universities, 12 community colleges and Charter Oak State College: 


  • Tuition and fees: $10,079
  • Increase: 4 percent or $403 to $10,482 for fiscal year 2018 and $10,901 for fiscal year 2019 

Community Colleges:


  • Tuition and fees: $4,168
  • Increase: 2.5 percent or $104 to $4,276 for fiscal year 2018 and $4,384 for fiscal year 2019


Charter Oak State College


  • Tuition and fees: $7,611
  • Increase: 4 percent or $304 to $7,915 for fiscal year 2018 and $8,234 for fiscal year 2019


Ojakian said the increase will be the exactly the same next year. For community colleges, this represents an increase of approximately $50 per semester and $200 per semester for the universities and $150 at Charter Oak for the next two years.

He added that this does not close the deficit.

“We would never look to tuition to do so,” he said.

The Board of Regents Finance Committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss this recommendation and the full Board is scheduled to vote on April 6.

“I am fully aware that an increase is still an increase and this will impact you and your families. As a public higher education system, we will work hard to provide you with the affordable high quality education you deserve and expect,” Ojakian said in the letter.

The 17 Connecticut State Colleges and Universities in the system include:


  • Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield
  • Capital Community College in Hartford
  • Central Connecticut State University in New Britain
  • Charter Oak State College
  • Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic
  • Gateway Community College in New Haven
  • Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport
  • Manchester Community College in Manchester
  • Middlesex Community College in Middletown
  • Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury
  • Northwestern CT Community College in Winsted
  • Norwalk Community College in Norwalk
  • Quinebaug Valley Community College in Danielson
  • Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven
  • Three Rivers Community College in Norwich
  • Tunxis Community College in Farmington
  • Western Connecticut State University in Danbury

Muslim Family Finds Virginia Home Vandalized, Quran Torn Up


A family returned home from a weekend away and found their apartment ransacked, their Quran torn to pieces and the words "F--- Muslims" scrawled on a wall, they told police. 

The residents of an apartment in the Huntington section of Fairfax County, Virginia, told News4 their home was burglarized and vandalized over the weekend. The apartment still was in shambles Tuesday afternoon. 

Their ornate Quran was torn up, and artwork with religious calligraphy was bent and thrown to the ground.

"I was crying. It was bad. It was bad," one of the victims, Mahrukh, said. She and her husband, Shoaib, asked that News4 use only their first names, for their safety.

The family members' green cards were taken, along with more than $25,000 worth of gold they received as wedding gifts, as is common among many Muslim families.

Police are investigating the crime as a burglary and a bias incident.

Photos show the hateful graffiti and torn-up Quran pages alongside children's toys. 

The parents, who were born in Pakistan, got a call about 9:30 a.m. Monday from the apartment complex's management. A worker who entered the apartment to do maintenance discovered the damage.

Police believe the burglar or burglars entered through a patio door. The door lock was broken inside the frame. 

Mahrukh said her first thought when she saw the damage was of their two young children.

"We did not want our kids to find out or look at this mess," she said. 

"We were in complete shock. It's a dream. We're just going to open our eyes and it's all going to go away," Mahrukh continued. "Especially when we saw that written on the wall and the Quran torn to pieces on the floor, and my painting just torn apart and on the floor, that was just shocking." 

The drawers and cupboards had been emptied, the beds were stripped, and the mattresses were overturned. But the discovery of the torn-up Quran was the most painful discovery, the family said. 

Shoaib said the crime stunned him. He had felt safe in the neighborhood, where his family moved just last month from Dubai. 

"Never in a million years would I imagine something like this would happen in the area. It's such a safe place and everyone we've ever met has been so nice," he said. "Apparently, bad people, they can be found anywhere." 

Mahrukh and Shoaib said they believe who ever damaged their home meant to burglarize it and then vandalized it once they realized they were in a Muslim home. 

Shoaib addressed why he chose to speak publicly about the crime. 

"We wanted to get the word out there that this cannot be normalized. This cannot become a normal thing," he said.

Fairfax County police are investigating. No information on a suspect was released. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights organization, is calling for a hate crime investigation.

"What may have begun as a break-in clearly ended as a possible hate crime," CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement. "The message of hate left at the scene and the damage done to religious texts indicate the need to investigate a bias-motive for this crime."

The number of bias incidents reported in Fairfax County increased from 60 in 2015 to 83 in 2016, Patch reported.

A Jewish day school in Fairfax was evacuated last month due to a bomb threat. A mosque in Falls Church received an envelope that said "Kill all Muslims" earlier this month. And officials from across the D.C. region say they are addressing a spike in hate crimes.

Friends of Mahrukh and Shoaib's family started a GoFundMe page to help them rebuild.

"You matter to this community and to this country," one donor wrote.

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How Likely Is Congress to Create a Russia Commission?


Some members of Congress are convinced it's time for a full-scale, independent inquiry into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 election like the investigations into the Sept. 11 attacks and the 2008 financial downturn, NBC News reports.

Congress and the FBI are investigating whether President Donald Trump's campaign had any illegal contact with the Russians last year, but Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee are calling for an independent review.

Its chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., admitted to meeting with a secret source at the White House to look at intelligence reports without notifying fellow committee members.

Getting an independent investigation off the ground won't be easy, particularly in such a partisan political climate, observers say. It needs funding, bipartisan buy-in and more.

Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Children Witness Shooting Death of Man in Hartford


Children witnessed a homicide in Hartford on Tuesday night when a 29-year-old man was shot in the head in front of a doughnut shop, according to police.

Police said they responded to the shooting in front the Dunkin' Donuts on Washington Street, across the street from Connecticut Children's Medical Center, around 7:20 p.m. and 29-year-old Oscar Salgado of Hartford with a gunshot wound to his head. 

Salgado was pronounced dead at Hartford Hospital.

The investigation is underway and officers are looking through surveillance footage, but authorities said there is good reason to believe the shooting was somehow drug related. 

Young children witnessed the shooting, according to police. No information is available on the relationship between the victim and the children, who are now with their mother now, police said. 

This was the ninth homicide of the year in Hartford this year.

"It's not going to be solved overnight. The violence we see is deeply rooted," Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said. "It's rooted in poverty, in a lack of hope and opportunity for so many people."

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Woman Accused of Leaving 2 Young Children Alone in Car


Milford police have arrested a woman accused of leaving two young children alone in the car.

Regina Siegel, 33, faces charges of risk of injury and unsupervised child. Milford police allege that she left an 8-month-old and a 5-year-old alone in the car while she went shopping. Police said the incident happened around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday at 1365 Boston Post Road.

Siegel was released on a promise to appear and is scheduled to appear in court on April 25.

Route 10 in Granby Closed For Another 'Super Load' Transport


Route 10 in Granby will be closed Wednesday night into early Thursday morning while crews install a bridge shoring for another “super load” move.

The road will be closed in the area of Canton Road from 8 p.m. Wednesday until 2 a.m. Thursday and a detour will be posted at Route 189 (Hartford Avenue) to Floydville Road.

Drivers should avoid the area if possible and expect delays. Drivers looking to get to Bradley International Airport can take Interstate 91 instead of Route 10.

The super load involves moving heavy turbines and generators to the Oxford power plant. The project began in February and some loads have already moved through the area. The Connecticut Department of Transportation planned out the route and each load will have a Connecticut State Police escort.

For more information visit the Granby town website. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Black Women Stand Up on Twitter Following Maxine Waters Dig


Bill O'Reilly's joke about a congresswoman's wig and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's dressing down of a reporter have spurred black women to take to social media in protest. 

Activist Brittany Packnett encouraged people to tweet under #BlackWomenAtWork Tuesday. It's a response to O'Reilly's comment Tuesday that Democratic U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters' hair was a "James Brown wig.'' He later apologized.

Also Tuesday, Spicer told American Urban Radio Networks reporter April Ryan to stop shaking her head during a testy exchange at a White House press briefing. 

Former DNC chair Donna Brazile tweeted, "#BlackWomenAtWork face the double bind of gender and race.'' 

Waters used the hashtag herself on Tuesday night, tweeting, "I am a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I'm not going anywhere.''

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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Woman Nearly Strikes Officers Near US Capitol; Shots Fired


U.S. Capitol Police fired shots at a woman driver during a confrontation near the Capitol Building Wednesday morning. Officials say that just before the clash, the woman fled from a traffic stop and nearly hit officers.

The woman, who has not been identified, was driving erratically just south of the U.S. Capitol about 9:20 a.m., police said. Officers tried to pull her over. 

But the driver made a U-turn and nearly hit officers, U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Maleki said in a mid-morning update.

Police say the incident appears to be criminal in nature and not related to terrorism. The Capitol Building was not closed during the incident. 

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"While attempting to stop the vehicle on Independence Avenue, the driver negotiated a U-turn and fled the scene, nearly striking officers and struck at least one other vehicle," Maleki said at a news conference. "A brief pursuit followed, until the vehicle was stopped at Washington and Independence Avenues Southwest. During the attempt to arrest the individual, shots were fired."

Additional information on what prompted officers to fire was not released immediately. The investigation is ongoing. 

The driver appeared in be in her early 20s and had a D.C. identification card, a law enforcement official told NBC News.

Video from the scene showed officers putting a young woman in a green sweatshirt a police van. The windows of the woman's dark-colored Chevrolet sedan, which has Maryland tags, had been shot out. There were two bullet holes through the windshield. 

The suspect was arrested and taken to Capitol Police headquarters for processing. 

A woman who was headed to the Capitol to visit her congressman found herself near the mayhem. 

"We saw somebody running and we heard three shots fired," she told NBC News. "We did not know what was going on or who was shooting."

Independence Avenue is closed between Washington Avenue and 1st Street SW. The public is asked to avoid the area.

In October 2013, 34-year-old Miriam Carey was shot and killed by law enforcement after she hit a security barrier and a Secret Service officer outside the White House, leading police on a chase that ended near the Capitol. The dental hygienist who drove to D.C. from Connecticut had her 1-year-old daughter in the car. The child was not hurt.

Her family later said she had been suffering from postpartum depression and psychosis. Police in Stamford, Connecticut, said Carey had reported that she believed former President Barack Obama had her under surveillance.

One year ago, a Capitol Police officer shot and injured a man who brought a weapon into the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Larry R. Dawson, 66, was known to law enforcement and frequented the Capitol grounds.

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Pomfret Woman Killed in Crash on Route 44 in Ashford


A 24-year-old Pomfret woman was killed in a crash on Route 44 in Ashford on Wednesday morning.

Police said Ashley Ryba went off Ashford Center Road around 9:30 a.m. near Route 89, hit a guardrail, then hit a truck head-on.

Ryba was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a news release from state police.

Police are investigating and ask anyone with information to call 860-893-3200 or email justin.loftis@ct.gov

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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19-Year-Old Arrested in 'Ambush-Style' Attack of 2 Miami Officers


A 19-year-old man was arrested early Wednesday after police say he opened fire in an "ambush-style attack" on two undercover Miami-Dade detectives who were investigating gang activity, police said.

Damian Antwan Thompson is charged with two counts of attempted murder in the Monday night shooting, Miami-Dade police officials said Wednesday.

Detective Terence White, 47, and Detective Charles Woods, 37, were in an unmarked police vehicle on the city's north side investigating gang activity when, according to officials, at least four men "ambushed" the car just before 10 p.m. Monday and opened fire.

Police say Thompson fired multiple shots as he walked about the car, "aiming to kill" the detectives, according to an arrest report. At least one officer returned fire, Miami-Dade Police Maj. Hector Llevat said.

"They were ambushed in their vehicle, unprovoked," Llevat said.

White was shot in the foot and was being treated at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Woods was treated for a gunshot wound in the arm at the same Miami hospital and released. The officers' unmarked car was riddled with dozens of bullet holes.

Several people were detained Tuesday in connection to the shooting near Northwest 62nd Street and 20th Avenue. Police say several Crime Stoppers tips led police to Thompson. The wounded officers also positively identified Thompson as the suspect, according to the report.

Thompson was arrested and booked into jail where he was being held without bond Wednesday morning. Attorney information wasn't immediately available.

An arrest report said Thompson was taken into custody in a room at the Hyatt Place Hotel on Northwest 42nd Avenue, along with three other people.

The other three people who were at the hotel — 25-year-old Jamal Daniels, 22-year-old Jessica Pierre and 22-year-old Mikequesha Simmons — are facing charges unrelated to the shooting.

During questioning, Thompson said he knew one of the officers and an investigation revealed White had previously arrested the alleged shooter earlier this year, according to the arrest warrant.

Woods is an 11-year veteran of the department and White has been on the force for 26 years. The detectives were assigned to the Homicide Street Violence Task Force as part of a multiagency gang enforcement sweep in northwest Miami-Dade County.

Photo Credit: Miami-Dade Corrections, Miami-Dade Police
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Retired East Hartford Police Dog Dies


A retired East Hartford police dog died on Sunday, two years after retiring from the department.

“K-9 Officer Axel (ret.) … was a dedicated, courageous, and decorated officer, and during his eight years of service made many friends in the EHPD and around the community,” a statement from East Hartford Police says.

Axel retired in March 2015 after serving alongside Officer John Zavalick and lived the rest of his days with the Zavalick family.

“(Axel) will be dearly missed by all of us and by his handler, Officer John Zavalick, with whom he lived after his retirement in 2015,” the statement from East Hartford Police says.

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Think You Know Where Trafficking Victims Work? Think Again


Human trafficking hides in the shadows, and it can be difficult for bystanders to identify victims. But now Polaris, an organization that fights against trafficking in the United States, has created a guide to help.

With “The Typology of Modern Slavery,” Polaris is providing officials and activists with relevant information so they don't waste resources on misguided initiatives and instead focus on the kinds of trafficking most prevalent in their communities.

The new tool classifies human trafficking into 25 categories, based on data collected by Polaris between December 2007 and December 2016. A team of experts parsed 32,000 trafficking cases in search of trends so they could report on vulnerable populations and profile potential traffickers.

The study says that while many victims are sexually abused, on the global level labor trafficking seems more common than sexual exploitation. From agriculture to drug running to manufacturing, both legitimate and illicit industries take advantage of victims.

Some of the complicit industries may come as a surprise. Polaris has noted 108 trafficking cases in arts and entertainment, the majority of which involved U.S. and foreign models. There were also athletes and performers who were exploited by recruiters, executives and coaches.

The staff at carnivals can be trafficked, as can those who provide health-care assistance at nursing homes or through in-house services.

Polaris believes labor trafficking is more widespread than the numbers suggest. Victims of labor trafficking constitute only 16 percent of those included in the report, which is based on information collected by Polaris through phone calls, emails and other means of contact. The authors say this relatively small ratio is because labor victims don’t always know about the resources at their disposal, or if they qualify for help.

“Polaris strongly believes that labor trafficking cases in the U.S. are chronically underreported due to a lack of awareness about the issue and a lack of recognition of the significant vulnerability of workers in many U.S. labor sectors,” they write.

With 4,651 cases, victims who were forced to provide escort services comprise the largest group in Polaris’ typology. The study says that “the vast majority of the survivors of ‘escort services’ are U.S. citizen women and girls,” though “LGBTQ youth are also vulnerable.”

Escort services are distinct from outdoor solicitation, where victims are forced to sell themselves on street corners. Outdoor solicitation victims face more physical violence than others who experience sexual exploitation. According to Polaris, 50 percent of those forced into outdoor solicitation are minors. Again, members of the LGBTQ community are especially susceptible.

“Traffickers often exploit an LGBTQ person’s housing insecurity and need for family, threaten to ‘out’ them to loved ones, manipulate their self-worth, cause distrust of others, and withhold hormone therapy or other gender-expression necessities in order to control them,” the study finds.

Other forms of sexual exploitation include residential brothels where romantic partners or family members force a victim into having sex; cantinas, bars and strip clubs that require attractive employees to gratify customers who spend a lot on alcoholic drinks; families who sell young girls into sexual servitude to pay off a debt; and pornographic distribution without the consent of those filmed. Between 2007-2016, 61 percent of reported pornography victims were minors.

Traffickers also coerce victims into "remote interactive sexual acts" using webcams, texting and phones. 

While the majority of sex trafficking victims are women, industries that require hard labor target male populations. In agriculture and animal husbandry, 86 percent of reported victims were men, many of whom worked in tobacco fields that required extensive physical effort. Likewise, the vast majority of those trafficked in construction were male and came from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala.

Labor trafficking victims tend to be enticed by unfulfilled promises of education opportunities and benefits, according to the report. They are often offered temporary work visas without portability so that their financial futures and legal status are inextricably tied to their abusive jobs.

Others are undocumented and fear retribution if they seek out authorities.

It can be nearly impossible for victims to identify their traffickers, as the chain of command is too intricate and complicated within trafficking networks. 

At hotels, Jamaican, Filipino, and Indian victims clean guest rooms. At nail and hair salons, Vietnamese, Chinese, and South Koreans are surrounded by customers who could help them, but their traffickers have ensured they can’t speak English well enough to ask for an intervention. Men and women from around the world who are misled into disingenuous contracts and promised legal documentation fill jobs as lifeguards, food vendors, or camp counselors at recreation centers.

Of Polaris' trafficking cases, 575 were members of traveling sales crews.

“Unlike other types of labor trafficking, the victims in this category are overwhelmingly U.S. citizens,” according to the report.

Traffickers target vulnerable teenagers and young adults and pay victims $5 to $20 stipends a day. When someone threatens to leave the crew, they abandon him or her with nothing in an isolated location to dissuade others from following suit. 

“Although most crews claim to hire those who are at least 18, minors as young as 15 can be involved,” the study says.

The authors of the report say they hope it will advise officials on how to combat trafficking through education campaigns and collaboration.

“It allows stakeholders to begin to look more precisely at each category in order to take steps to prevent and eliminate distinct forms of exploitation,” they write.

Photo Credit: Denver Post via Getty Images

Card Skimmers Found in Willimantic


Willimantic police are warning of card skimmers after the department received several reports of the devices from local businesses.

Skimmers are devices placed on top of card readers that can steal credit and debit card information and are not always detectable to the average person.

Police said they’ve had reports from various ATMs, gas stations and other businesses in the area. They did not provide specific locations.

Authorities say that if you find a skimming device, you should not touch it and contact Willimantic Police Detective Dean at 860-465-3135 x324, or at edean@willimanticpolice.org.

If you believe that your information was stolen by a card skimmer, contact police right away.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

'Stunning' Drug Lab Scandal Could Overturn 23K Convictions


About 23,000 people are expected to have low-level drug convictions wiped away next month, the culmination of an epic drug-lab scandal in Massachusetts, NBC News reported.

It comes five years after a rogue chemist admitted to tampering with evidence, forging test results and lying about it, resulting in 24,000 people with questionable convictions. Prosecutors fought to preserve the convictions, but a court ordered them to decide who they can realistically try to re-prosecute.

They are still working through the list, but their answer is expected to be "in the hundreds," a spokeswoman for one district attorney said this week.

"It's absolutely stunning. I have never seen anything like it," said Suzanne Bell, a professor at West Virginia University who serves on the National Commission of Forensic Science. "It's unbelievable to me that it could have even happened. And then when you look at the scope of the number of cases that may be dismissed or vacated, there are no words for it."

Photo Credit: AP, File

Truck Carrying Bananas Flips on I-84 in Waterbury


A tractor-trailer carrying around 44,000 pounds of bananas flipped on Interstate 84 East in Waterbury Wednesday morning.

The truck flipped onto its side near exit 18 around 2:15 a.m. and the driver sustained minor injuries and was taken to the hospital, according to police.

The exit 18 on ramp was closed for several hours.

The Department of Consumer Protection was called to the scene because the truck is carrying produce.

Photo Credit: Connecticut State Police

Lieutenant Paul Vance Discusses Retirement Plans

WATCH LIVE: Testimony Continues in Hernandez Trial


Testimony is continuing Wednesday in the double-murder trial of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez.

Hernandez's fiancee Shayanna Jenkins was originally expected to take the stand on Wednesday, but it now appears likely that her testimony will be pushed back until Thursday.

Instead, the first witness on Wednesday was Michael Haag, a forensic consultant who specializes in shooting incident reconstruction. He was called by prosecutors to review evidence from the crime scene.

Hernandez is on trial for killing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado after one of them accidentally spilled his drink at a Boston nightclub in July 2012.

Earlier this week, friends and a former teammate of Hernandez testified, along with Tyrone Crawford, who was allegedly with Hernandez in Florida when Hernandez shot former friend turned star witness Alexander Bradley in the face, severely injuring him.

Crawford was back on the stand on Tuesday. He described drinking, partying and doing drugs with Hernandez, but said he did not see any shooting.

Prosecutors tried to show that Crawford was harassed into not remembering the night in question. But the defense argued that Crawford felt pressured by police when asked about what he remembered.

Also testifying Tuesday was Je'rrelle Pierre, who was said to have been driving the vehicle when Hernandez allegedly shot Bradley. But he said he did not recall even being in the vehicle.

Hernandez's brother, Jonathan "DJ" Hernandez, was originally expected to testify Tuesday. The state announced that it will not call him to the stand.

Hernandez is already serving a life sentence in the 2013 fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancée.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo of IHOP Server's Act of Kindness Goes Viral


A waiter at an IHOP in Springfield, Illinois, is earning praise from thousands of strangers after a photo of him serving up an act of kindness earned national attention.

Keisha Dotson, 26, was eating at the restaurant on Saturday when she spotted her server sitting with a woman in a wheelchair, helping her eat.

“The lady was a couple of seats away from us. I’m not sure what her disability was, but she was coughing really loud,” Dotson told NBC News, adding, “The entire restaurant was dead quiet. The waiter cracked a joke about it, and it made her smile.”

“My mom noticed it. We watched. As he was feeding, I decided to snap the picture,” Dotson said. She posted the photo on IHOP’s Facebook page, where it was shared more than 4,000 times by Tuesday night. [[417378353, C]]

“My faith in humanity has been restored a little today,” she wrote in the post about what she called “a very touching moment.”

Dotson, an adult programs coordinator at a library in nearby Rochester, said she is a regular customer at the Springfield IHOP but this was the first time she had encountered the server, whose name is Joe Thomas.

Thomas told NBC affiliate WAND that he was raised to practice compassion, and was simply doing what he could for a regular customer.

“My mother and father always told me to treat everybody as equals, no matter what race, creed, color, whatever,” Thomas said. “Treat everybody equal.”

"I just love helping people," he added. "Every Saturday they'll come in and they don't even need menus or anything. I know exactly what they want." [[415397193, C]]

His co-workers praised his work ethic, with one saying “Joe has been doing it for a long time with these customers, and they are really great.”

“Ever since I started working here every weekend that couple comes in and he feeds her every single weekend,” said another.

Dotson, along with hundreds of people commenting on her photo, was in awe of the gesture.

“I’m completely blown away. I shared it because I worked in retail and in the service industry, no one takes the time to give positive feedback,” she explained.

“I wanted the company to know they have an amazing employee that is doing service to their patrons,” Dotson added.

Photo Credit: Keshia Dotson
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