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Riverfest July 18


The Hartford Riverfest fireworks have been rescheduled to July 18 at 9:30 p.m. after high water levels forced the event to be postponed.

The signature event in the capital city has been postponed because of a new report from The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Weather Service on flooding.

The rescheduled event will be fireworks only.

"With such short notice and due to conflicting commitments, it is just not realistic to reassemble a new program for an event the size of Riverfest," said Charlie Myers, Director of Programs and Events for Riverfront Recapture, in a press release.

Myers said the new date still needs to be approved by a number of permitting agencies, but that the organization has "received tremendous support" and they don't anticipate any problems.

"We appreciate everyone's patience as we have worked to come up with a new date for the fireworks," Riverfront Recapture President and CEO Joe Marfuggi said in the release. "With so much going on this time of the year, it was a challenge coordinating available dates with all ofthe organizations and service providers that are involved."

The Northeast River Forecast center projections for water levels indicate that areas of the Riverfront Parks would be underwater, including the boat ramps needed for launching the fireworks barges.

The strong river current and heavy floating debris in the river made it impossible to safely launch and secure the three barges from which the fireworks would have been shot last week, said Myers. 

Check the Web site Riverfront.org for updates.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Medical Marijuana Company Eyes West Haven


A Fairfield company has filed an application to open a medical marijuana production facility in West Haven and will appear before the planning and zoning commission today, the New Haven Register reports.

The proposed facility would open at 400 Frontage Road, the Register reports, and Advanced Grow Labs is the second medicinal marijuana company to approach the community. 

If West Haven officials approve the Advanced Grow Labs LLC’s application, the company would then have to apply with the state.        

Last year, Gov. Dannel Malloy signed the law to allow licensed physicians to prescribe medicinal marijuana for adults suffering from certain debilitating diseases or medical condition.  http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Governor-Signs-Medical-Marijuana-Bill-156349245.html

Malloy’s office said Connecticut, in 1981, was one of the first states in the nation to pass a law approving medical marijuana, which allowed a doctor to prescribe the substance to relieve nausea associated with chemotherapy and the treatment of glaucoma.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Tropical Storm Chantal Passing South of Puerto Rico


The center of Tropical Storm Chantal was passing south of Puerto Rico late Tuesday night and had increased its speed to 28 mph, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

As of 11 p.m., Chantal had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph – down from 65 mph several hours before – as it moved west-northwest at 28 mph. It was about 215 miles south-southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico and about 330 miles southeast of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

After passing south of Puerto Rico overnight, the storm was expected to be near or over Hispaniola by Wednesday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center said.

The National Hurricane Center had said earlier that Chantal would be near hurricane strength before it reached Hispaniola, but in its latest advisory it said that little change in strength was now expected before the storm reached the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Weakening was forecast for after that.

Hurricane Season: Special Coverage

Currently, the official forecast never calls for Chantal to reach hurricane strength. But a hurricane watch was in effect for Barahona to Samana in the Dominican Republic.

The storm was expected to be near eastern Cuba early Thursday and over the southeastern or central Bahamas later on Thursday.

The forecast cone shifted slightly to the east early Tuesday, removing most of South Florida from Chantal’s path.

By Thursday Chantal could potentially bring tropical storm conditions to the southeastern Bahamas, parts of the central Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos, the National Hurricane Center said.

There are still many variables that would ultimately dictate the location and intensity of Chantal three to five days from now and South Florida residents should continue to monitor the storm.

Chantal is expected to continue moving to the west-northwest over the next day or so, with a gradual decrease in speed. A turn toward the northwest was expected by Thursday.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for the entire coasts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, as well as Puerto Rico, the Turks and Caicos and the southeastern Bahamas.

A tropical storm watch was in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vieques and Culebra and the central Bahamas.

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Tropical storm conditions were expected across portions of Puerto Rico overnight and early Wednesday, and in the Dominican Republic Wednesday morning. Tropical storm conditions are expected in Haiti by late Wednesday.

Chantal is expected to produce between 3-6 inches of rain over Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the southeastern Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Maximum amounts of 10 inches are possible over Hispaniola.

More Weather Content:

Photo Credit: National Hurricane Center

Scooter Stolen, Shots Fired in Hamden


Hamden police are searching for the men who stole a scooter from an Atlas Street residence and fired shots at the homeowner and neighbor who confronted them.

Police responded to an Atlas Street home around 10 p.m. on July 8 after receiving a report that a group of people had entered the home and stolen a scooter.

According to police, the suspects stole the scooter and were walking down Welton Street when two of the homeowner's friends approached them and took back the scooter. A scuffle broke out and one of the homeowner's friends was punched in the face, police said.

Police said the homeowner chased the suspects down State Street, at which point one of the suspects fired several shots at both the homeowner and a neighbor.

The suspect who fired the shots is described as being a young black man 16 to 18 years old wearing a black shirt and black shorts.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Hamden police at 203-230-4040.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego

I-95 Ramp Reopens After West Haven Fire


Exit 43 on Interstate 95 northbound in West Haven has reopened after a nearby residential fire led officials to shut down the ramp, according to the state Dept. of Transportation.

According to police, a fire broke out at the home at 817 Campbell Avenue in West Haven, near the bottom of the exit 43 off-ramp.

Both the ramp and part of Campbell Avenue were closed Tuesday afternoon while officials battled the blaze.

The is no information on the extent of the fire or if any injuries have been reported.

Photo Credit: CT DOT Traffic Cam

Woman Steals Groceries, Punches Employee: Cops


A Southbury woman is accused of stealing groceries from a Big Y in Naugatuck and punching a grocery store employee in the face.

According to police, Nicole Hulett, 22, of 235 East Flat Hill Road in Southbury, attempted to steal groceries by hiding them in her purse on Monday.

When Hulett was confronted by a store Loss Prevention Representative, she allegedly punched the employee in the face, cutting his lip, police said.

During the investigation, police discovered that Hulett was also in possession of syringes, two spoons and several baggies of what appeared to be drugs.

Hulett was arrested and charged with third-degree robbery, third-degree assault, breach of peace, sixth-degree larceny and possession and use of drug paraphernalia.

She was held on a $2,500 bond and was due in Waterbury Superior Court.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Emergency Call for Blood Donors


The American Red Cross is desperately in need of donations.

The non-profit organization issued an emergency call for blood and platelet donations on Tuesday in response to a 10 percent decline in June.

Last month, the Red Cross fell short of its expected donation goal by about 50,000 donors, according to organization officials.

Five locations in Connecticut are collecting donations today. Donors need a driver’s license, blood donor’s card or two other forms of identification. Donors must be at least 17 years old and 110 pounds. All blood types are in demand.

Local blood drives are taking place at the following locations:

  • Hartford Square North, CP Management on 10 Columbus Blvd. in Hartford, 9:00 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.
  • Bolton High School on 72 Brandy St. in Bolton, 1:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.
  • Bridgeport Hospital on 267 Grant Street in Bridgeport, 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
  • Canton Community Center on 40 Dyer Ave. in Canton, 1:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.
  • Kent Town Hall on 41 Kent Green Blvd. in Kent, 1:00 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

A similar shortage occurred last summer, according to the Red Cross.

High school and college blood drives amount to approximately 20 percent of Red Cross donations during the school year. Donations from this demographic drop by about 80 percent each summer once vacation begins.

The American Red Cross also attributes the shortage to Independence Day, as many businesses have been unable to host drives due to extended vacations.

The Red Cross is calling for approximately 600 donors each day to make up for the loss.

"Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood," said Donna M. Morrissey, Director of Communications for the Red Cross Northeast Blood Services Division. "Each day donations come up short, less blood is available for these patients in need."

Those interested in donating also can call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or visit redcrossblood.org to make an appointment.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News

Crash Survivors Reunited With Families


Some of the youngest survivors of the Asiana Airlines crash were reunited with their parents Tuesday morning. Family members arrived overnight and were shuttled to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Burlingame where the students are staying.

Some family members took a connecting flight from Los Angeles to SFO overnight and then boarded a shuttle bus where they were escorted to the hotel.

A passenger who was on the flight described how the situation was handled. “Rather than let everyone off the plane as they would normally do, they said they were letting off a few different people earlier so everyone stayed on the plane for a few extra minutes and few people got off some stairway or ladder,” passenger Matt Greenwood said. “I didn’t really know what was going on at the time.”

The parents of the two teen girls who were killed in the crash are expected to meet the coroner today in San Mateo County. The coroner said he probably will not release autopsy results for at least two to three weeks. He also stated he wants to wait until an investigation is complete.

The results of the autopsy could shed light on whether one of the girls died as a result of being hit by a fire rig on scene.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area

Fire in Meriden Might Be Due to Lightning Strike


Police and fire officials in South Meriden are trying to vent the upper section of a factory building after a fire broke out due to a possible lightning strike, authorities said.

The building adjoins an antiques shop at 763 Hanover Road in Meriden.

Firefighters faced a tough battle, pulling apart the roof to vent the fire in the rafters.

"The sprinkler system was operating, but the fire was above the sprinkler system so they had to go in there and manually fight the fire," said Meriden Fire Chief James Trainor.

According to Trainor, 911 callers "reported that there was smoke coming from the vent and that the building had also been struck by lightning."

Employees at Preisner Pewter LLC., located at 735 Hanover Road next door to the fire, said the flames appeared to be contained to the inside of the building.

Trainor said the building's fire sprinklers did go off, but that the fire was 

No injuries were reported, but one person was taken to the hospital after suffering an anxiety attack, Trainor said.

Hanover Road was closed between Piedmont Street and Prospect Avenue in South Meriden but has since reopened.

An NBC Connecticut crew is at the scene.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

DOJ: Miami PD Showed Pattern of Excessive Force in Shootings


The U.S. Department of Justice has found the City of Miami Police Department has engaged in a pattern of excessive force in police-involved shootings.

In a report released Tuesday, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division found that several police department practices, including "deficient tactics, improper actions by specialized units, as well as egregious delays and substantive deficiencies in deadly force investigations, contributed to the pattern or practice of excessive force."

The investigation began in November 2011 following the deaths of seven black men in officer-involved shootings. According to the Justice Department, between 2008 and 2011, officers shot at individuals on 33 separate occasions, three of which were found unjustified by Miami Police.

Mayor Wants Feds to Investigate Miami Police Department

"At the time of the investigation in November, there were particular shootings in a very short time span that led individuals in the community concerned and that is what sparked the investigation," Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

About two years ago, Sheila McNeil's son Travis, who was unarmed, was shot and killed by a Miami Police officer. She said of Tuesday's report, "I was overjoyed. It was kind of a mixed emotion."

Though the findings came as little surprise to McNeil, they don't do much to lessen her pain.

“My child should not have died that night on a simple traffic stop. It was very much mishandled,” she said.

Manuel Orosa, the Miami Police chief, issued an email statement about the report.

"We are thankful to the D.O.J. for their acknowledgment, in writing, of a significant decrease in police-involved shootings in 2012. Success in this area comes as a result of reforms established under my direction," the statement said."The D.O.J.’s findings have reached us one year after the Miami Police Department’s efforts to address all concerns regarding the shootings via a comprehensive report to D.O.J. highlighting numerous corrective actions taken by Chief Manuel Orosa and his administration."

The Justice Department findings found that a small number of officers were involved in a disproportionate number of shootings, while the investigations into the shootings were "egregiously delayed."

The Miami Police Department didn't provide close supervision or hold officers accountable for their actions by failing to complete thorough, objective and timely investigations into the shootings.

Emotional Meeting Over Miami Police Shootings

It was the second such investigation into the department in recent years, following a 2002 probe that found similar deficiencies, the Justice Department noted.

The shootings that were looked at under the most recent probe happened under the leadership of former Chief Miguel Exposito, who was fired in September 2011 for insubordination. Exposito had said the shootings were justified, though some of the victims were found to be unarmed.

For a significant number of the shootings, including one that happened in 2008, the Miami Police Department hasn't reached a conclusion internally as to whether the shooting was lawful and within policy, the Justice Department said.

Marchers Protest Miami Police Shootings

Roy Austin, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, commended the progress made by the department under Chief Manuel Orosa, who replaced Exposito in 2011.

"The Justice Department provided feedback to the Miami Police Department during the investigation and commends Chief Orosa for taking steps to address some of the deficiencies identified since the investigation began," Austin said during the conference call.

Austin said Orosa has made significant changes, including how specialized units within the department operate. He added that proper training needs to take place before the next shooting.

Sharpton Wants Feds to Investigate Miami Police Shootings

"Like all officers, Miami Police Department officers have difficult jobs. There are times when deadly force will have to be used but we have to make sure that officers know when to use it and how to use it properly," Austin said.

Austin said the probe was a civil pattern or practice investigation, which is different from a criminal investigation. Whether an individual officer violated the law is a separate determination that would be made by a separate unit of the Justice Department along with the U.S. Attorney's Office and local prosecutors.

The goal of the investigation will be to come to a court-enforceable agreement with the city and police department that will lay out changes in policies, procedures and training, Austin said.

"For a police department to be effective, its officers must have the trust of those whom they serve," Ferrer said. "It's my hope that the findings of this investigation, together with the city's and Chief Orosa's commitment, will help strengthen and invigorate the public's confidence in our police department."

"There is clearly a disconnect between the USDOJ and the reality of what our Miami Police Officers confront on a daily basis," Javier Ortiz, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, said in an email statement. "While there are many portions that we disagree with, the most troubling area of this report was the summary dealing with some shootings that the Miami Police Department found unjustified."

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Route 85 Closed Near Colchester-Salem Line


Route 85 is closed near the Salem-Colchester town line due to downed power lines and debris in the roadway, police said.

Traffic is being routed around the area of Marvin Road while cleanup takes place.

State police expect the road to reopen in 2 to 3 hours.

Police said the debris in the roadway is a random occurrence and is apparently not weather related.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Ill. Legalizes Concealed Carry with Veto Override


The Illinois House and Senate both voted Tuesday to override Gov. Pat Quinn's revised gun bill, making Illinois the final state to allow firearms to be carried in public.

The Senate voted 41-17 after the House's 77-31 vote to override Quinn's amendatory veto that wanted to keep guns out of places that serve alcohol and impose a one-gun limit.

The votes came just before a midnight federal appeals court's deadline to allowed Illinois residents to carry concealed guns.

The Illinois State Police must be ready to accept applications in six months. Officials expect 300,000 to apply in the first year.

Quinn used his amendatory veto last week to make changes to the compromise concealed carry bill already passed by the legislature.

"Do not genuflect before the National Rifle Association," Quinn said Monday in a message to lawmakers. "They do not understand public safety in the land of Lincoln, and we're going to fight hard for public safety."

Quinn said at the time he thinks the people of Illinois will stand with him and support his version of the concealed carry bill becoming law. At least one lawmaker, though, said there are enough votes to override the governor's veto because not passing a concealed carry bill would be dire.

"For the life of me I can't believe that the governor would want to put Illinois into public safety risk to go over the cliff," Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) said.

It's not the only special session that's been called to talk about guns. Mayor Rahm Emanuel called a special session of the Chicago City Council next week. Emanuel wants to strengthen the city's assault weapons ban and impose harsher punishments for gun crimes committed near schools.

That vote will take place next Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: AP

Man Robs East Hartford ATM


East Hartford police are searching for the suspect in a knife-point ATM robbery that occurred July 4 on Silver Lane.

According to police, the suspect pulled up to the Webster Bank drive-thru ATM at 1491 Silver Lane around 8 p.m. July 4.

The suspect got out and approached the passenger side of the car in line ahead of him. He showed the victim a large knife and demanded cash, police said.

The suspect was driving a white contractor-style van that looked like a Ford Econoline. He is described as being a light-skinned man, possibly Hispanic, in his 30s and was last seen wearing a blue-and-white football-style jersey decorated with the number 21, according to police.

Police said the suspect was also wearing a black-and-red motorcycle helmet to hide his face.

Anyone with information is asked to call the East Hartford Police Department at 860-528-4401.

Photo Credit: East Hartford Police Department

Wife Pays Man to Kill Hubby, Says It's Easier Than Divorce


A woman from New Jersey who was captured on video paying a hit man to kill her husband said she wanted him dead "because it's easier than divorcing him."

Julie Merfeld, 21, pleaded guilty to solicitation to murder in Michigan last month, and this week, prosecutors released video of her meetings with an undercover police officer she thought was a killer for hire.

The couple is from Keyport, N.J.

"I just want to make it as non-suspicious as possible," Merfeld tells the undercover officer during one meeting where she consulted her phone to try and plan the date of the hit.

In another meeting, she says, "as terrible as it sounds, it's easier than divorcing him, you know, I didn't have to worry about the judgment of my family, I didn't have to worry about breaking his heart."

She then tells the officer to make it "painless."

"I don't want him to suffer," she adds.

He says he plans to shoot her husband in the face. She nods.

According to MLive.com, Merfeld planned to pay for the killing in installments from her husband's $400,000 life insurance policy.

Merfeld's brother in Keyport, while admitting he wasn't close to his sister, told NBC 4 New York their mother was distraught. 

"It's a little depressing, hearing her talk like that. She took it so lightly," said Nicholas Antosaccio. 

Antosaccio said he was not aware of any tension between Merfeld and her husband. 

"She was it was all right. She said it was good," he said. "She wasn't unhappy, didn't seem it." 

Her husband asked the judge not to give her jail time. She is set to be sentenced July 30.

-- Brian Thompson contributed to this report. 

Swin Cash Bares All for ESPN Magazine


Chicago Sky forward and former UConn basketball player Swin Cash is following in the footsteps of fellow Husky Diana Taurasi and baring all for ESPN The Magazine's 2013 Body Issue, to hit shelves Friday.

“I have played for gold medals, I have played for championships, and nothing compares to the nervousness that I feel right now,” Cash said during an ESPN interview before her photo shoot.

The 33-year-old WNBA forward left her jersey on the court to pose for the Body Issue's latest edition.


Cash said she was nervous but excited to step out and redefine herself.

“As women, why should we have limitations? Why should I just be limited to only being an athlete?” Cash told ESPN. “I’m breaking out of all those boxes that people tend to put athletes in.”

An All-American NCAA athlete, Cash played for UConn from 1998 to 2002, when she was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

During her time at UConn, Cash led the lady Huskies to national titles in 2000 and 2002.

As the number-two WNBA draft pick, she went on to play for the Detroit Shock, taking home the 2003 WNBA Championship. That year, Cash also played in the WNBA All-Star game.

She brought home Olympic gold medals in 2004 and 2012.

Cash was traded to the Seattle Storm in 2008 and went on to help secure the 2010 WNBA championship.

She went to the Chicago Sky in January 2012.

A native of McKeesport, Pa., Cash returned to her roots to found “Cash for Kids,” a charitable organization operating in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Chicago and China. The organization is designed to “motivate, educate and elevate” kids in need, according to the Cash for Kids website.

Cash is one of several athletes to be featured in the 2013 Body Issue. See ESPN's gallery here.

Photo Credit: Carlos Serrao for ESPN The Magazine

Mystic Locals Frustrated by Malfunctioning Bridge


When boats need to pass through, the Mystic Drawbridge goes up. But on Sunday, the problem was that it wouldn't go down – it stayed stuck for three hours.

“The whole store was packed, and as soon as that happened, people just cleared out of the store. They were worried about how to get home, how to catch the ferry. It was sort of a mass exodus,” said Cheryl Robdau, owner of Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream.

It’s not the first time the bridge has malfunctioned.

Employees of neighboring stores, such as the ice cream shop and The Blue Horse Children's Shop, say there have been many problems since the bridge was renovated, and it's affecting business.

“A lot of people get disgusted and won't come. Disgruntled with the situation and just won't bother coming to Mystic,” said Marge Macris, owner of The Blue Horse Children’s Shop.

The State Depart of Transportation apologizes to any business that may have been affected by the bridge malfunctioning and says it's working to permanently fix the bridge.

“This is our busy time of year, so hopefully it will be remedied soon,” said Macris.

The state DOT says it's in the final stages of a huge mechanical overhaul. It's fine tuning and adjusting switches on the bridge that act as sensors, telling the operator when the bridge is locked down and safe.

Once those are adjusted, there should be no more problems, according to the DOT.

“We don't want that to be something that people remember as a big hassle. We want people to come down and love the bridge and... have a positive experience with the bridge,” said Robdau.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Hartford Man Charged With Murder


Hartford police have arrested a suspect in connection with the city's 7th homicide of year.

Omar Flinch, 19, of Hartford, was arrested July 9 and charged with murder, carrying a pistol without a permit, unlawful discharge of a firearm and crinimal use of a firearm, police said.

Flinch was accused of shooting and killing Javar Preston, who was walking near the intersection of Blue Hills Avenue and West Euclid Street around 7:37 p.m. May 13 when he was shot multiple times in the head and torso, police said.

Preston died of his injuries. This was the fourth Hartford shooting in three days, officials said.

Finch is being held on $1 million bond.


New Haven Open Travels to Newtown


The New Haven Open at Yale will travel to Newtown tomorrow to bring tennis to the Newtown Parks and Rec Day Camp.

The event will focus on the importance of fitness, having fun and showing support from one community to another, according to a release from the New Haven Open.

Tennis professional Melanie Oudin, along with USTA New England teaching professionals, will lead the campers in an introductory tennis lesson. 

ESPN anchor Prim Siripipat will also attend.

The event will take place July 10 from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Dickinson Park, 50 Elm Drive. Parking is available at the nearby Liberty Field.

Over 150 Newtown campers are expected to partiicpate.

Surviving Ariz. Firefighter: "I Miss My Brothers"


Firefighters honored 19 colleagues at a memorial service Tuesday that included a standing ovation — both inside and outside the building — for the lone surviving member of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots crew, 19 members of which were killed in a desperate fire fight on a central Arizona mountain.

Read: Worst Firefighter Tragedies | How to Help: Donate to Firefighters' Families

Thousands of mourners attended the memorial service for the firefighters who died June 30 when they were over-run by a wind-whipped wildfire northwest of Phoenix. The service included a prayer read by the lone surviving member of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots.

"I miss my brothers," said 21-year-old firefighter Brendan McDonough, who received a standing ovation from those inside the building and in an outdoor overflow seating area. "Thank you for supporting me."

Organizers set up a large monitor outside Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott to accommodate the overflow crowd. About 30,000 people had been expected to attend the service.

"I saw joy in the hearts of each one of them when they were doing their jobs," said Prescott Division Fire Chief Darrell Willis. "I take comfort in the fact I would have followed them blindfolded. They brought everything to the table"

Willis and other members of the firefighting community spoke in front of a large U.S. flag. Poster-sized images of the 19 firefighters were lined in front of the speaker's podium.

In front of the pictures, the crew members' uniforms, boots, hand tools and helmets were placed in a row.

"What happened on Yarnell Hill is still raw," said Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo. "Even so, I can assure you our people will keep their heads up high. If I could fulfill my fondest wish, it would be that my tears wash away the pain that we all feel.

"I was proud to be their chief."

An honor guard pesented the victims' families with U.S. and Arizona flags. The families also were presented with bronze firefighting hand tools, a nod to the Pulaski tool commonly used by wildland fire crews to construct firebreaks.

The firefighters, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew, were killed June 30 as they fought a 13-square mile wildfire near the community of Yarnell, Ariz. The wind-whipped fire marked the deadliest wildland fire since 25 firefighters were killed as they fought the 1933 Griffith Park fire.

Dan Bates, vice president of the local firefighters association, said the men were protecting a community they loved. The men not only fought fires, but cleared defensible space to protect homes, developed community disaster plans and trained other firefighters.

"Protect us they did, not just June 30, but for many years and in many ways," Bates said. "Anything Prescott need, anything Arizona needed, these Hot Shots stepped up."

Bates and members of the Prescott Fire Department were joined by several Southern California firefighters at the memorial. Members of the Los Angeles county and city fire departments boarded buses early Tuesday to join colleagues from throughout the United States and Canada at the service. During a bagpipe and drums procession Monday at the town center, some firefighters wore shirts with the victims' names listed on the back and the words, "We will never forget."

"More than half of our guys from LA City are former hotshots, wildland firefighters -- so it hit close to home for all of us," said Greg Holly, of the Los Angles Fire Department. "The other guys that don't come from a wildland background still feel that bond."

Vice President Joe Biden and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer spoke at the service.

"To the Yarnell 19, we will never forget your sacrifice and that of your families," said Brewer, who thanked President Barack Obama for his "kind words" and assistance.

Residents of Prescott Valley and other visitors have left flowers, notes and other items along a fence near the Prescott Fire Department since the deadly June 30 fire fight. Firefighters brought shirts from fire departments represented at the memorial to add to the memorial. 

Nineteen hearses, each accompanied by an honor guard, transported the firefighters' bodies Sunday from the medical examiner's office in Phoenix to Prescott as people -- many from the community the firefighters died trying to protect -- lined streets and waved American flags.

The victims were identified as Anthony Rose, 23; Eric Marsh, 43; Robert Caldwell, 23; Clayton Whitted , 28; Scott Norris, 28; Dustin Deford, 24; Sean Misner, 26; Garret Zuppiger, 27; Travis Carter, 31; Grant McKee, 21; Travis Turbyfill, 27; Jesse Steed, 36; Wade Parker, 22; Joe Thurston, 32; William Warneke, 25; and John Percin, 24; Kevin Woyjeck, 21; Chris MacKenzie, 30; and Andrew Ashcraft, 29.

"Firefighting was not what they did, it was who they were," Biden said. "There's a long history of ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things."

Most of the victims were in their 20s.

"Aside from 9/11 this is the largest firefighter tragedy in the history of the fire service," said Capt. Tom Richards, of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. "To honor these firefighters is something the guys and ladies needed to do."

The service closed with the reading of the victims' names, each followed by the ringing of a bell. McDonough then read the Hot Shots -- the name comes from Granite Mountain, located in central Arizona's Yavapai County -- prayer, which ends with the words, "For if this day on the line, I should answer death's call, Lord, bless my hot shot Crew. My family, one and all."

McDonough was serving as a lookout when the lightning-sparked fire overtook his colleagues, several with Southern California connections.

Woyjeck is the son of Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Joe Woyjeck. He started out as a  Fire Explorer, a training mentorship program, and worked as an emergency medical technician. He called his father before heading out with his crewmembers to battle the Yarnell Hills fire.

On Monday, Joe Woyjeck and his wife embraced fellow firefighters, including members of the Prescott Fire Department. The firefighters wore purple ribbons in memory of the Woyjecks' son and his 18 colleagues.

"This is going to be a brutal day, but it's something that's necessary," said Woyjeck, wearing his son's Angels baseball hat, before the service.

MacKenzie graduated Hemet High School in 2001 and joined the U.S. Forest Service.

Warneke, also a Hemet High School grad, is survived by his wife, his high school sweetheart who is expecting their first child in December, his grandparents said.

McKee grew up in Costa Mesa. Misner, from Santa Barbara County, also is survived by his wife, who is pregnant.

More Southern California Stories:


3 Charged in Prank Kidnapping


Police have charged three people accused of committing a prank kidnapping on Tuesday morning in the hopes that witnesses would report it to police.

Plainfield officers were clearing the scene of a standoff on Cornell Road this morning when they received two separate reports that a woman had been bound in electrical tape and placed in the trunk of a dark Nissan with North Carolina plates.

Witnesses called police around 7 a.m. and said the kidnapping happened on South Main Street, in the Moosup Village section of Plainfield, near Cumberland Farms, and the car sped off with a female bound in the trunk. 

Within minutes, police swarmed the Moosup area and found the car at 46 Aldrich Avenue.

They also determined that the kidnapping was not actually what it appeared to be. It was a prank.

Investigators said Danny Vinal, 21, of Mortimer Road in Moosup, Mark Reasoner, 22, of North Sterling Road in Moosup, and Harley-Jane Davidson, 19, of Middle Street in Danielson, came up with the idea to bind Davidson in electrical tape, put her in the trunk of a car in front of several witnesses and speed off, all in the hopes that witnesses would call police and report a kidnapping, police said.

Vinal, Reasoner and Davidson have been charged with breach of peace in the second degree. 

They were released on $500 bonds and are scheduled to appear at the Danielson Superior Court on July 22.


Photo Credit: Plainfield Police
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