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New Haven Woman Survives Hurricane Irma on St. Maarten


There was joy and jubilation around 8:45 Sunday night at Newark International Airport after a New Haven mother’s prayers were answered.

“I’m rejoiceful, I’m thankful, I’m happy,” Sandra Pittman said, “I’m just thanking God that he brought her as you see, no scratches, no bruises, still beautiful.”

To celebrate her 33rd birthday, Sandra’s daughter Shandrea Pittman and a group of friends traveled to the idyllic island of St. Maarten. Shortly after their arrival on Sept. 1, they learned Hurricane Irma was expected to make a direct hit.

"We started searching other options in terms of other airlines and nothing was available," Shandrea told NBC Connecticut in her first interview since returning home.

Last Wednesday morning, Pittman and her five friends took shelter in their hotel suite’s bathroom.

"Thank God we did," she said. "Because probably about 30 minutes later that’s when the first of the big windows in our villa caved in."

Together, they rode out the storm there for almost 19 hours.

"The only four walls that stood standings was the four walls that we were in in the bathroom," Pittman said. "We knew that it was nothing but God that stood those walls up for us to protect us."

From the ruins of that room, the found refuge in the lobby of a hotel that Irma didn’t destroy.

"If it wasn’t for Simpson Bay Hotel," Pittman said. "I’d probably still be in St. Maarten."

On Friday, the group got word of a possible U.S. military flight off the island.

"It didn’t matter if you were American, if you were Canadian, if you were British," Pittman said. "They were just flying everyone to Puerto Rico."

The next morning a U.S. plane airlifted the six friends to Puerto Rico. From San Juan, they took a commercial flight to Newark on Sunday.

"It was the last six seats, it was a blessing, the last six seats on an American Airlines flight and we were able to get home," Pittman said.

Back home in New Haven, Pittman said she is still processing what she’s endured the past week.

"We didn’t give up at all and we knew that our family and friends were fighting for us," she said. "We knew we had faith and we just basically had the trust in god that we would make it home."

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Keeping a Close Eye on Hurricane Jose


We're paying close attention to Hurricane Jose which is currently to the northeast of the Turks and Caicos Islands. 

Jose is currently a Category 2 Hurricane with sustained winds of 100 mph. 

The latest track from the National Hurricane Center has Jose circling in a complete 360 and eventually tracking toward the Bahamas and East Coast.

Meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan says anytime you have a hurricane tracking to the northeast of the Bahamas it's important to keep an eye on.

With that being said there is still a lot of spread between our computer models on where Jose will be located by the end of this coming weekend.

A few of our computer models have it making landfall in New Jersey, others have it scraping the New England coast, and many models take the storm completely out to sea.

It's something we're going to pay extra attention to throughout the week. Make sure to check back for updates on Hurricane Jose throughout the week.

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Hope Hicks to Keep White House Communications Director Job


Hope Hicks, a longtime aide to President Donald Trump who was serving as interim White House communications director, will keep the position on a permanent basis, according to press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Hicks took over the role in August, over two weeks after Anthony Scaramucci was fired from the post after 11 days.

The Greenwich, Connecticut, native is Trump's third communications director, following Scaramucci and Mike Dubke, who announced his resignation in May.

Hicks has been with Trump since the day the former real estate mogul launched his campaign for president in June 2015. She is considered loyal to the president, one of the qualities that matters most to him.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File

K-9 Officer Injured in Chase in Plymouth


A Plymouth Police K-9 officer was injured during a chase in Plymouth on Sunday night.

Plymouth police said they tried to stop a Ford Taurus on South Main Street at 8:41 p.m. because the license plate was expired and belonged on a different car, but the driver refused to stop.

A Plymouth K-9 officer joined in the pursuit and the officer was injured and the police vehicle was damaged when it was forced into a guardrail, according to police.

The officer was treated at the hospital and released. The police dog was not injured.

Police said the chase continued into Southington, where officers blocked the vehicle and took 54-year-old Edward Hightower, of Waterbury, into custody.

He has been charged with interfering with an investigation, engaging in a pursuit, failure to obey a stop sign, operating an unregistered vehicle, misuse of plates, criminal mischief, assault on a police officer, reckless endangerment, breach of peace, reckless driving, disobeying a signal by a police officer, failure to stop on right and operating without a license.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Memorial Service Today for Sailor Killed in Warship Crash


A memorial service will be held this morning for U.S. Navy Electronics Technician 2nd Class Dustin Louis Doyon, a 26-year-old Suffield native who died in August while serving aboard the USS John S. McCain after the destroyer collided with an oil tanker off the coast of Singapore.

A memorial service and Catholic mass will be held at Sacred Heart Church at 446 Mountain Road at 10 a.m.

After the mass, a private military burial will be held at the West Suffield Cemetery. The burial is for family and friends only.

Police said they expect significant traffic delays on Mountain Road, or Route 168, in the area of Remington Road to North Grand Street, or Route 187.

Suffield police encourage drivers to avoid the area and plan on using alternate routes during Tuesday morning.

For members of the public who plan on attending the public memorial service and mass, parking will be at Sacred Heart Church. The Town of Suffield has coordinated overflow parking areas should the church lot fill to capacity.

Doyon graduated from Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts in 2009. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Feb 6, 2015.

Gov. Dan Malloy issued a directive to lower United States and state flags to half-staff in honor of Doyon following his death.

Photo Credit: Submitted

Watch NBC's Kerry Sanders Help Rescue a Baby Dolphin


NBC reporter Kerry Sanders helped rescue two dolphins Monday after the animals were stranded along Florida Gulf Coast beaches during Hurricane Irma.

Sanders said a good Samaritan had brought a baby dolphin to a beach in hard-hit Marco Island after finding it a half mile away. Sanders and another man held the dolphin for about 15 minutes until it gained enough strength to swim away.

Less than an hour later, Sanders helped others carry an adult dolphin back into the ocean.

"I could feel it with my hand — the heart was just racing in that big one," Sanders said.

NOAA encourages people who find beached animals to report sightings to trained rescuers. Sanders said he had been in touch with a local dolphin-stranding network for advice and has participated in other dolphin rescue missions while covering past hurricanes.

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Crane Collapses During Irma Spur Calls for New Regulations


After three construction cranes collapsed in South Florida during Hurricane Irma, officials are again calling for tighter regulation of the equipment, setting up a potential fight with an industry that has fought stricter controls.

Miami City Commissioner Ken Russell tweeted from one of the two accidents on high-rises in downtown Miami that the crane had dropped a counterweight that penetrated the asphalt when it failed.

“Regulations MUST change,” Russell wrote on Monday. “Very lucky no casualty.”

Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado also said the city should consider stricter codes.

“It's development in the future versus tropical storms or hurricanes,” Regalado told The Miami Herald. “We just cannot gamble on the wind.”

Twenty to 25 cranes are in use at construction sites in Miami as it undergoes a building boom, and on Sunday, as Irma roared through the city, cranes fell on Biscayne Boulevard and on NE 30th Terrace. The third crane collapsed onto itself in Fort Lauderdale at the Auberge Beach Residences and Spa, an oceanfront condo complex also under construction.

The construction industry has opposed tougher laws, suing nearly 10 years ago over Miami-Dade County’s attempt to require cranes be able to withstand 140 mph winds.

The county had argued that its standards were aimed at protecting the safety of the public during hurricanes, not workers’ safety as governed by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Falling cranes kill workers and non-workers alike, it said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit sided with the builders and crane operators who sued — the Associated Builders and Contractors, Florida East Coast Chapter; the South Florida Associated General Contractors of America; the Florida Crane Owners Council and the Construction Association of South Florida.

The court ruled that the county’s arguments were not persuasive. Construction job sites are closed to the public, the judges wrote. The wind standards in the county’s law were occupational safety or health regulations, covered by federal rules.

“Furthermore, the county failed to identify a single incident in which a crane accident injured a member of the general public during a hurricane,” they wrote.

Eddie Gonzalez, an assistant county attorney who helped on the case, told The Miami Herald the legislation was intended as a safety measure during storms.

“It was to secure the cranes,” he said. “We fought it in court. Unfortunately, we didn't win.”

Neither Regalado nor Gonzalez could be reached for comment on Monday.

Russell tweeted that he climbed 50 floors to assess the cause of the crane failure with officials from the crane distributor, the construction company and the city of Miami building department.

“The tie backs functioned. tower was in place. Something happened up at the swivel plate causing counterweights to drop,” he wrote.

Asked if the industry would be more amenable to new regulations given the three crane collapses, the chairman of the Florida Crane Owners Council, Jim Bryson, said it would depend on what was proposed.

“If you mandate too much, we won’t even be able to build the buildings,” Bryson of Bryson Crane Rental Service said. “There might be some happy medium. I don’t know how that would work.”

The cranes could have been subjected to such strong gusts of winds that it would be prohibitive to design to protect against them, he said. But regulations in the crane industry do change as OSHA pinpoints problems and manufacturers make improvements, he said.

“It’s safer than it ever has been with the OSHA regulations,” he said.

No one was injured Sunday when the three cranes collapsed but the city Miami warned of the great danger they posed.

“AVOID THE AREA,” the city tweeted after one crane collapsed on top of a high rise under construction on Biscayne Boulevard. Nearby residents should shelter on the sides of their building facing away from the crane or in a stairwell, it wrote.

Five days earlier, the deputy director of the Building Department, Maurice Pons advised against staying in a building next to a crane during the hurricane. The cranes are designed to withstand winds of up to 145 miles an hour, not a Category 5 hurricane, which Irma was at the time, the city wrote. The crane’s arm is not tied down but must remain loose and the arm’s counterbalance is very heavy and a potential danger.

Asked why the cranes were not being removed, the city responded that there was not enough time. It can take two weeks to dismantle them, it wrote.

But Thomas Barth, the owner of Barth Crane Inspections in South Carolina who investigates accidents, said that the a crane's arms and counterbalances could have been removed in only two days. If needed, crews could have been brought in from other states to handle all of the construction sites, he said.

“Let me tell why they’re up,” he said. “Money, money, money. It’s as simple as that.”

The cranes are under enormous stress as they spin, or weathervane, in gusts of wind, he said. The towers alone are stronger and can remain standing.

Bryson agreed that removing the arms, or jibs, and the counterbalances would be a possibility.

Officials Plaza Construction Corp., the general contractor for the condo under construction at NE 30th Terrace in Miami, called Hurricane Irma an unprecedented and historic catastrophic storm.

“And every measure was taken to safeguard human life including mandatory evacuation,” it said in its statement. “The crane engineers and crane supplier took measures to secure the crane which had its boom damaged due to high winds. It would have taken several days to dismantle the crane and time was not afforded. Plaza is cooperating with all governing agencies, crane engineers and supplier to investigate and establish repair requirements to put the crane back in a state of good repair. Crews are presently working at the building to access the damage and establish the repair schedule. The area around the building has been sealed off to ensure public safety.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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Worker Falls Through Roof of Staples Warehouse


A worker fell through the roof of the Staples warehouse in Plainfield Monday afternoon and fell around 22 feet, according to police.

Quinebaug Valley Communication received a 911 call around 4:30 p.m. about an industrial accident at the Staples Warehouse at 85 Moosup Pond Road in the Moosup section of Plainfield and members of the Atwood Hose Fire Department responded.

Police said a 36-year-old New Jersey man who had been working on the roof apparently fell through it and landed around 22 feet below. Plainfield police were later notified and dispatched to the scene.

An ambulance transported the worker to William Backus Hospital.

Police are investigating the incident.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Meriden Group Stranded in Irma-Ravaged Turks and Caicos Heads Home


There is relief for a group of six people from Meriden who have been stranded in storm-ravaged Turks and Caicos. 

The friends had been struggling without power or water since Hurricane Irma hit there early Friday. On Monday, they received the news that they were finally headed home. 

“It’s been an absolutely huge emotional roller coaster,” said Kaylee Doll, of North Haven, who has been concerned about her parents who are stuck in Turks and Caicos. 

Her father, Phil Massicotte of Meriden, rode out Irma with his wife and four friends from Meriden. 

“This hurricane that came through here was the most frightening thing anyone has ever been through,” Massicotte said during a phone call. 

Last week, the then-Category 5 hurricane ravaged the islands, knocking out power and water at the group’s resort. For days, the Meriden friends have been scrambling for food and supplies. 

While they are overwhelmed by the spirit of the people there, they felt let down by the U.S. government. 

“I thought the U.S. Consulate was there to help people abroad and they have done nothing, nothing for us,” Massicotte said. 

The Massicottes also reached out to the state’s congressional delegation hoping that could move things along. Then, there was a change of fortune after four days of misery. 

On Monday, the airport there reopened and the vacationers hunted around and secured seats on a flight out Tuesday.

They said they are sad to have witnessed the destruction to a favorite island destination.

“There is severe damage. We’ve been here seven times. It’s never going to be the same, not for a lot of years,” Massicotte said.

The U.S. State Department offers advice to U.S. citizens stranded in Turks and Caicos and on other islands through its website and on social media.

In some cases, cruise ships or the military is evacuating people.

Photo Credit: Phil Massicotte

See How Hurricane Irma Dumped Rain as It Passed Over US


The map below shows hourly rainfall in the Southeastern United States as the powerful storm Irma pounded the region early Sunday morning through Monday afternoon.

The National Weather Service releases hourly data on rainfall across the U.S., as measured in inches. The circles on the map are proportional to the amount of rainfall at a given point in the grid in a particular hour.

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Cello Teacher Mystifies Juno the Beluga


Juno, a beluga whale at Mystic Aquarium, became famous in Connecticut and beyond years ago when an adorable YouTube video surfaced of a Hartford-based mariachi band serenading him. Now, a Connecticut musician has captivated Juno again. 

Carly Champion Fleming, a cello instructor at Calvary Music School in Stonington, played cello for Juno Sunday and posted it on her Facebook page. 

In it, Juno appears to be transfixed by the music and stare at Champion Fleming during her entire solo. 

You might recall the video posted on YouTube in July 2011 of the Los Trovadores de America, a Hartford-based mariachi band, playing for the whale during a wedding. To date, that video has been viewed more than 4 million times. 

While Juno loves music, he also loved the visual fine arts.

In August 2012, Juno came into fame again when video was posted of the beluga appearing to stare through the glass of his tank and focus on artist Scott Fischer’s sketch pad

In September 2015, Juno again appeared to steal the show again by photobombing Gov. Dannel Malloy held during a news conference at the aquarium.

Photo Credit: Carly Champion Fleming
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Alexion Pharmaceuticals to Move From New Haven to Boston


Alexion Pharmaceuticals is moving its corporate headquarters from New Haven to Boston by mid-2018 and the state is asking for the company to pay back a $20 million loan and a $6 million grant, plus interest and penalties.

Former CEO Leonard Bell founded Alexion in New Haven’s Science Park in 1992, but the company later moved to Cheshire, where it was based for 16 years.

In 2012, the company decided to begin building a new facility in New Haven and move its global headquarters from Cheshire back to New Haven. At that time, Alexion became a recipient of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s “First Five” initiative plan for companies to bring 200 jobs or more to the state. 

Through the First Five program, the state pledged to provide up to $51 million in assistance, a 10-year loan of $20 million at a rate of 1 percent with principal and interest deferred for five years, loan forgiveness of $16 to $20 million based on the creation of 200-300 full-time jobs, a $6 million grant for laboratory construction and equipment and urban and industrial sites reinvestment tax credits of up to $25 million.

Alexion made the move from Cheshire to 100 College St. in New Haven in March 2016. 

“Alexion’s decision to move its headquarters out of the state is very disappointing, especially in light of how supportive the state has been to the company over the years as it has grown into what it is today. While Alexion will maintain a significant number of employees in state, we are requiring that all of the $20 million loan and $6 million grant be repaid—with interest and penalties—to the department in accordance to the terms of our agreement. Setbacks like this, though unfortunate, do not deter the department from pursuing smart policies and ventures with growing companies in our state,” Catherine Smith, the commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said in a statement.

This move comes after Alexion laid off 210 employees company-wide in March 2017. The company would not specify at the time how many jobs would be cut from Connecticut.

Alexion said New Haven will now be the company’s Center of Excellence for its complement research and process development teams. Approximately 450 positions will be based in New Haven, including employees working in the research and process development laboratories, the clinical supply and quality teams, nurse case management and a number of important enterprise business services. Read the full statement.

The company has been going through some internal turmoil with the layoffs and even deeper corporate restructuring. The news released issued Tuesday morning says the company will reduce its global workforce by 20 percent.

“By streamlining our operations we will create a leaner organization with greater financial flexibility that is highly focused on delivering for patients, growing our rare disease business, and both leveraging our leadership in complement and pursuing disciplined business development to expand the pipeline,” Ludwig Hantson, Chief Executive Officer of Alexion, said in a statement. "These types of changes are difficult and we recognize that they have a personal impact on people who have been dedicated to the mission of Alexion. We thank our employees for their contributions to the achievements of Alexion. While difficult, these changes were necessary to enable the Company to deliver sustainable long-term performance to support our ability to continue to develop and deliver life-changing therapies for patients.”

The company plans to have around 400 positions in Boston.

“Alexion’s 25 year history began in New Haven, and Connecticut remains a critical part of our future. We value our relationship with the state of Connecticut, and our New Haven-based research team is critical to growing and strengthening Alexion’s leadership in complement, which will allow us to fulfill our mission of serving patients and families with rare and ultra-rare diseases,” Hantson said in a statement.

Even though Alexion hired more than 800 people in the state when it moved here, the move to Boston comes as a psychological blow to Connecticut, since Boston is the new home of General Electric.

Sales Tax Hike Eliminated as GOP Frozen in Budget Talks


Budget negotiations between Governor Dan Malloy and legislative Democrats reached a critical point over the weekend and into Monday.

The House and the governor might be close to a budget compromise, but that would have to come without any help from Republicans.

"It is very clear they have no interest in changing the way the State of Connecticut works," said Rep. Themis Klarides, the top Republican in the Connecticut House of Representatives. Klarides said her and Senate Republican leader Len Fasano were not invited to budget talks held with the governor over the weekend.

She said such a move is proof that Democrats aren’t interested in a bipartisan solution to a budget.

"They want to fix it for next week, for next month, for next year. They do not want to fix this problem that has been a spiraling problem," Klarides said.

Democrats in the Senate said no such arrangement took place, where there was a concerted effort to block the GOP from budget talks. Republicans haven’t voted for a budget in more than a decade, and Democrats said they are now taking an opportunity to walk away from what have been bipartisan negotiations going back months.

Sen. Martin Looney and Sen. Bob Duff, the top two Democratic members of the Senate said in a joint statement, "Unfortunately, today, our Republican colleagues chose the easy path of political posturing over the more difficult path of making painful but necessary public policy changes."

October first has been viewed as a de facto budget deadline because on that day budget cuts go into effect authorized by Malloy that total hundreds of millions of dollars for local education.

As for budget progress, the largest sticking point to many taxpayers, a possible increase in the sales tax has been eliminated. House Democrats had pushed for an increase to 6.99 percent from 6.35 percent, but that plan has been shelved for good, so it appears.

Instead, Democrats are looking to allow cities and towns to apply the state sales tax to restaurants, and add up to .65 percent that could be for local use.

Advocates of the move say it’s a tax increase that most diners would never notice.

Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, the Speaker of the House asked, "The average meal of $10 if you’re going out as a single person, what is that really on the bill?"

He said it could act as an offset for reductions previously planned for cities and towns.

"I just can’t see how it affects a spending habit of somebody that’s going out to eat and it allows the municipalities to have a revenue source to offset some of their difficulties they have right now," Aresimowics said. 

Lawmakers are scheduled to meet Thursday for a vote on a state budget, however, multiple sources in the General Assembly tell NBC Connecticut that House Democrats are still short of the 76 needed to send a spending plan to the Senate. Without all 76 Democrats on board, and a pledge of no GOP support for any plan, that could make passing a budget more difficult.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Driver Hits Two Crossing Guards in Bridgeport: Officials


Two crossing guards were struck in Bridgeport Tuesday morning and one of them has two broken legs, according to city officials.

A mother who had just dropped her daughter off at school apparently blacked out at the wheel, struck a male crossing guard and a female crossing guard at Park and North avenues and dragged them for at least 25 feet, officials said.

The driver remained at the scene.

The male crossing guard had two broken legs and is in stable condition at St. Vincent's Hospital, according to officials.

No additional information was immediately released on the condition of the female crossing guard.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Police Bust Party, Charge CCSU Football Players


At least four members of the Central Connecticut State University football team were arrested over the weekend after police busted a college party and found alcohol and smelled marijuana, according to the police report.

Police said they responded to a home on Roxbury Road in New Britain around 11 p.m. Saturday after receiving anonymous 911 calls reporting a loud college party.

When officers got to the home, which is near CCSU, they saw several people and some were yelling, “chug, chug, chug,” according to the police report.

Kenneth Keen, 21, Randall Laguerre, 21, Chika Chukwu, 20, of Glastonbury, 22-year-old Luke Ocasio, of Wethersfield, and 21-year-old Jose Garcia, of New London, were charged with second-degree breach of peace, and permitting a minor to possess alcohol, according to police.

Police said all five students attend CCSU and are on the football team, but CCSU officials said only Chukwu, Garcia, Keen and Laguerre are on the football team and the school is pursuing the matter vigorously.

The roster for the CCSU Blue Devils football team lists Laguerre and Keen as linebackers and Garcia and Chukwu as wide receivers.

The police report says police also responded to the house on Saturday, Sept. 2, after receiving a complaint about a large party and said they issued citations.

When police went into the house to investigate that complaint, officers found a beer pong table and several empty beer cans.

Man Impaled on Grill Rotisserie After Falling From Roof in Danbury


A 30-year-old man was impaled on a grill rotisserie stand when he fell from a roof in Danbury Tuesday morning and he has been rushed to the hospital to undergo surgery. 

Firefighters and medics were called to the Casa Do Benfica Soccer and Social Club at 28 Federal Road at 9:30 a.m. Tuesdays after a man fell from the roof and landed eight to 10 feet below on a barbecue grill rotisserie stand, according to the Danbury Fire Department. 

Firefighters and paramedics used a saw to cut the metal object from the stand and secured it to the patient, who was transported to the emergency room at Danbury Hospital Center. 

Fire officials said the patient is in serious condition and was being moved into surgery to remove the object. 

The Danbury Fire Department is at the scene and they are waiting on OSHA. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images

George W. Bush and His Art Instructors on His Passion for Painting


After leaving office, President George W. Bush moved back to Dallas and taken up golf and mountain biking, but still the former president wanted something more. He found that by picking up a paintbrush.

"I'm a good example of pushing boundaries and seeking new avenues for learning and I never thought I'd be an artist," Bush said. 

It was an essay, Winston Churchill's "Painting as a Pastime," that sparked his newfound interest in art.

"The president was one of the greatest learning experiences of all time -- the presidency -- I learned a lot and after the presidency I thought, 'What am I going to do?" Bush said. "The painting came along and it's opened up whole new vistas for me -- a whole new way of thinking, a whole new study pattern."

Teaching him the new study pattern were three North Texas art instructors. He started as a beginner under the direction of Gail Norfleet, a fine artist who shared a mutual friend with the former president.

"She said, 'Well this student wants private lessons.' And I said, 'Well who is it?' and she said, 'Um, George Bush.' And I said, 'Well, I'm speechless,'" Norfleet recalled.

She said the two did not see eye-to-eye on political issues, but that did not matter in art.

"I even wondered what my friends might say -- I was working with George Bush," Norfleet said. "As we got to be friends and as he was so accepting of my ideas, I became more comfortable and I found him to be a very reasonable person."

The president said Norfleet did a noble thing as an instructor by knowing when to let go and transition him to another instructor. She sent him along to Jim Woodson, an artist who painted one of the works that hangs in the Bush home. Woodson found his student to be determined.

"All I had to do was make a suggestion and he would try it -- of all the students I taught in my life, he was probably the most open to trying things in any of them," Woodson said.

Each instructor met with the forty-third president at his home in Dallas, in what the instructors all called the "man cave."

The president is quick to correct that name, which has changed. It is now an art studio. There, the president painted just about anything around him.

"I've painted the cats. I've painted the trees. I paint just about anything that comes to my mind, and I cannot tell you what a liberating experience it's been," Bush said.

Sedrick Huckaby, Bush's third instructor, said there was a moment that took the president's art to the next level.

"I told him, one day at the table, and said, 'You know? You painted the world leaders and that was an interesting group. But what about the people who have been of service to you?" Huckaby said. "I didn't know what I meant by that -- he could have painted the people around the house, but the moment I said it, he said, 'The vets! The vets!' and he picked up the phone right there and started calling people."

What followed was Bush's mission to honor those who served him as the nation's commander in chief.

"I put a lot of emotion into it," Bush said. "As I was painting them I was thinking not only about my relationship with them, either on the golf course or mountain bikes, but I was thinking about their stories of recovery.

"These are people that don't want to be called heroes," Bush said. "They just want [others] to say thank you for doing a good job and I don't want people to feel sorry for them."

The result of the president's quest to paint, and paint what was close to him, was profound, according to his instructors.

"It was very comforting for him to do that," Huckaby said. "So now he was dealing with a subject that was so close to things that he dealt with -- that was a comfort."

He would paint for hours and hours a day. In all, 66 portraits of men and women who served after September 11, under then-Commander in Chief George W. Bush.

"It really was quite amazing and I thought, 'How is he living with this?' All of these people and all of these guys with a story, good and bad," Norfleet said. "When I saw the exhibit at the Bush Center and I walked around it, really -- tears kind of came to my eyes. I found it to be a wonderful accomplishment."

The former president's passion for painting turned into a way to honor those who served him.

"Think about it. They got a Ph.D. in life and they've learned leadership skills that are going to help us in the long run," he said. "I hope people come away thinking, 'Wow, this guy cares about them.'"

The "Portraits of Courage" display has been extended at the Bush Presidential Center in Dallas and will now run through mid-October.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News

Darien Man Accused of Selling Drugs and Alcohol to Children


A Darien man who was arrested on similar charges twice before is accused of selling drugs, alcohol and tobacco to children as young as 12 years old. He was previously accused of giving cocaine to children as young as 14 and doing drugs with them at his home.

Police said they took 51-year-old Mark Yarish into custody on Friday at Mohegan Sun Casino.

According to police, Yarish sold marijuana, alcohol and tobacco products to children as young as 12 on a daily basis from December 2016 until he was arrested on Sept. 5.

Police started investigating Darien in July and said he was accused of introducing juveniles to narcotics. Detectives were able to determine that Yarish provided and used cocaine with juveniles, as young as 14, while in his home, according to police.

In July, police said they had received information that a local man was providing illicit substances to minors in and around Darien and they had evidence that Yarish was taking orders for alcohol by text, buying it at local establishments, delivering it to teens and selling it at “a substantial markup over cost.”

The warrant Yarish was arrested on Sept. 1 resulted from the investigation into Yarish following the arrest in July, police said.

As the investigation continued, police said detectives found more evidence and determined Yarish was conducting these transactions on an almost daily basis since December 2016. These transactions were conducted via text messages and phone calls followed by Yarish delivering the products to the juveniles at a substantial markup over cost.

Yarish has been charged with six counts of risk of injury to a minor and one count of second-degree reckless endangerment.

The Department of Children and Families has been working with police.

Photo Credit: Darien Police

Police: Gunman Shot and Killed Mother in Hospital ICU


A man is in custody after allegedly shooting and killing his mother at New Hampshire's largest hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

According to New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, 49-year-old Travis Frink of Warwick, Rhode Island, shot and killed his 70-year-old mother, Pamela Ferriere, while she was in the intensive care unit.

"Facts gathered to this point reveal that the purpose of Mr. Frink's visit to the hospital today was to kill his mother," MacDonald said Tuesday night.

MacDonald said Frink signed in at the visitors desk at 1:15 p.m., and within nine minutes, police had received a 911 call that shots had been fired at the hospital.

Frink was caught by Lebanon and Canaan police as he tried to leave hospital property, MacDonald says.

Federal, state and local law enforcement officials all responded to the shooting around 2 p.m. Tuesday. Lebanon police, special agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Boston office and representatives of the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office, including state police, are expected to remain at the scene until at least 10 p.m.

Calling the incident "tragic," Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Chief Legal Officer John Kacavas said the hospital's medical teams are trying to make sure there is "as little interruption to patient care as possible."

A silver SUV at the entrance of the hospital's campus was surrounded by police after the hospital was locked down following the reports of an active shooter. Although law enforcement officials have not confirmed whether the car was connected to the incident, Rhode Island State Police confirmed to WJAR that the SUV belongs to the suspect after authorities contacted them regarding the vehicle's Rhode Island license plates.

Police had been looking for a man described as 6'1" tall, with salt and pepper blonde hair, wearing a red camouflage shirt and possibly carrying a camouflage backpack in connection to the incident, according to Dartmouth College in neighboring Hanover.

Dartmouth College said its Hanover campus was not on lockdown and classes were going on as scheduled.

Lora Charbonneau said she and her husband, who is a police officer, were on their way to Dartmouth-Hitchcock to see his mother when they got a call about an active shooter and lockdown at the hospital.

"We got here as quick as we could and obviously we couldn't go any further," she said. "My husband being the wonderful officer he is, obviously, jumped right out and volunteered to do whatever he could, so he's out there directing traffic."

Frink is due to be arraigned Wednesday at Grafton County Superior Court on a first-degree murder charge. Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call state police 603-223-8568.

Photo Credit: NBC Boston

Reports of Gunshots Outside West Hartford Apartment Complex


Police are investigating reports of gunshots in an apartment complex on Kane Street in West Hartford.

West Hartford police were called to the parking lot on Kane Street around 2 p.m on Tuesday. 

Witnesses said the shooter fired at least one gunshot at people inside a black sedan that was parked in the lot, according to West Hartford police. 

The shooter and intended victims both fled the area in cars, both described as black sedans, police said. 

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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