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Man Attacks Neighbor With Chainsaw During Fight


Two neighbors got into a fight early Wednesday morning on Chicago's South Side, police said, and one man attacked the other with a chainsaw.

The attack happened just before 2 a.m. in the backyard of a home on the 1000 block of West 103rd Street in the Washington Heights neighborhood.

Police said Preston Smith and his neighbor were hanging out late into the night when they got into some sort of altercation. The neighbor pulled out a chainsaw and wound up slicing Smith's neck and hands, nearly slicing off some of the man's fingers.

Smith, 55, was rushed to Advocated Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn where he was listed Wednesday morning in stable condition. Police News Affairs said his fingers were still attached but dangling.

The neighbor wasn't in police custody by late morning, but officers said they know exactly who they are looking for.

Family and authorities said the two have been friends for a long time and the altercation was likely the result of a drunken fight.

Police called it an isolated incident between acquaintances and said the neighbor is not a danger to the community.

Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com

New School Opening in Waterbury


A new high school is opening in Waterbury.

Today, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held at Waterbury Career Academy High School.

The school has been in planning for almost a decade. It’s up to date with the latest technology and focuses on teaching science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM skills.

“So far, I’m very impressed,” said Travis Trotman, the father of a student who will attend the high school. “I graduated from a technical school myself, and I’m just looking around seeing the technology that’s in the school. I’m very excited for my daughter.”

Freshmen at the school will have the opportunity to explore careers by rotating through four different fields: computer systems, engineering technology, human services and health services.

They then will be able to choose the subject they’d like to study and focus on it for the next three years.

The first day of school for all Waterbury public students is Tuesday, August 27.

"Bored" Teen Kills Kittens, Posts Photos Online: Cops


An Indiana teen was charged with animal cruelty Tuesday after he admitted to killing kittens in an alley, then posting the photos to Facebook.

The Lake County Sheriff's Department said the 17-year-old confessed to investigators that he used a compound bow and arrows to “hunt” kittens living in the alley behind his home in East Chicago, Ind.

Police said the teen told them he shot the animals the week of Aug. 4 because he felt bored. Three kittens were killed, police said, one of them speared through the head.

Police said the teen then posted gruesome photos of himself with the dead kittens on Facebook.  Facebook eventually removed the photos, the Lake County Sheriff’s Department said, because of their objectionable nature.

The teen was charged with killing a domestic animal and torturing or mutilating a domestic animal.

Man's Last Wish Was to Make It Rain Money


Leonard Maull liked to hang out with friends at the Lewes Harbor Marina in Delaware. Now, a year after his death, he has many more friends and has become the talk of the town.

"He had some surprises up his sleeve," said Joe Morris, of Lewes, who knew Leonard and was at the marina when it started to rain money last Saturday.

$10,000, to be exact, was tossed from a helicopter as part of Maull's last wish he noted in his will before he died.

"It was kind of hovering over the parking lot, and my boss and I walked down the stairwell to see what was going on, and we see, like, stuff coming out of it," said Dana Smith, general manager at Irish Eyes.

Smith says at first she thought it was coupons falling from the sky.

"My boss said, 'Wouldn't that be crazy if it were money?' And one of the other managers took off," said Smith, who admits she kind of froze.

"I'm standing there, thinking it's coupons still, with my mouth wide open, like, 'This isn't happening,'" said Smith.

Morris says he was too busy working, but he describes watching people make a dash for cash.

"It was pretty wild," said Morris. "It scattered all across yard, into the marsh surrounding it, and some ended up in canal and across on the other side on the marsh next to the ball field."

A group of kids were definitely in the right place at the right time. They had just arrived back to the harbor from a pirate boat tour when they got their hands on some real-life "booty."

"From what I understand, there was a 5-year-old that got more than $500," said Smith. "They made out good."

The Irish Eyes manager, Kara Miele, who did take off running for cash, ended up collecting $170. Smith didn't collect anything, but maybe some regrets. "I have a lot of them," she said with a laugh.

As for the man at the center of it all, Leonard Maull, he was fairly well known around town. He owned Henlopen Bait & Tackle for 25 years before selling it in 2000. After that, he enjoyed hanging out at the marina with the local fishermen.

Maull was described as an opinionated man who always let people know where they stood with him. Now, after his death, it appears he was making his opinion known one more time, through this surprising gift.

"He had kind of a gruff exterior, so it's just not something you'd expect him to do, but I can see him doing this," said Morris.

Contact Lauren DiSanto at 610.668.5705, lauren.disanto@nbcuni.com

Photo Credit: Irish Eyes/ Facebook Page

Two Killed in Coventry Crash


Two people were killed in a one-car crash on Route 44 near North River Road in Coventry early this morning.

Police have identified the victims as Jessica Clark, 25, of Coventry, and Walter Parsell, 20, of Willington. 

The car, a 2000 Honda Civic, went off the road and hit a pole just after 1:30 a.m., officials said.

One person who was in the car died instantly.

An ambulance transported the second person to Hartford Hospital, where the victim was later pronounced dead, police said.

Investigators believe speed was a factor in the crash.

The road reopened around noon after being closed for more than 10 hours while accident reconstruction crews investigated the crash.

Chuck Conkling, who lives in the area, said this isn't the first high-speed crash along Route 44 and he wants something to be done to prevent yet another fatal crash from happening here.

He heard the squeal of tires early this morning, then the loud impact.

"I knew it was a bad accident from experience living here," he said.

Gold Roc Diner to Reopen Tonight


The Gold Roc Diner in West Hartford was closed and evacuated after a fire on the roof this morning, but it will reopen for dinner.

The fire at the diner, located at 61 Kane Street, was contained to the back side of the roof, Battalion Chief William Kall said this morning and there was no damage to the inside.

The cause is under investigation, but does not appear to be suspicious and no injuries are reported.

Inspectors were called it to evaluate the property before it reopens. It is expected to open around 6 p.m.


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Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Witness Calls for Help in Hasselhoff Sign Incident Released


There were several witnesses to the hit-and-run that injured a Cumberland Farms employee as he was trying to stop the theft of David Hasselhoff signs early Tuesday morning.

At 1:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning, police received 911 calls to respond to 819 River Road in Shelton. A 36-year-old employee had been struck by a black SUV and was having seizures, callers said.

One caller, who identified herself as the victim’s mother, frantically requested an ambulance to help her son, 36-year-old Jason Crowley (pictured right).

As more 911 calls came in, police informed witnesses that help was on the way and asked for more information, including a license plate number and for more details on what happened.

No one could provide a license plate number, but they did see what happened.

“Was the person standing in the road and he got hit?” the dispatcher asked one caller.

“Uh, no. He was trying to … the Trailblazer was trying to steal a sign. The employee went to go stop him and they hit him,” the caller told 911.

Police would learn that the people in the black SUV were trying to steal two David Hasselhoff signs, which have been a popular target for thieves since the “Baywatch” and “Knight Rider” actor started doing commercials for the convenience store chain last year.

By the end of the day on Wednesday, word would get to Hasselhoff through Twitter and he expressed shock over the incident.    


Police said on Wednesday morning that a 19-year-old came forward and admitted to being the driver. 

No arrests have been made, according to Shelton police, and detective continue to investigate.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Police Investigate Officers After Deadly Motorcycle Crash


Hamden police have launched an internal affairs investigation into the actions of officers after a fatal motorcycle crash in New Haven.

The internal probe comes after witnesses reported seeing a Hamden police car chase a motorcycle into New Haven early Saturday morning and then drive off after the operator crashed on Dixwell Avenue near Munson Street.

The motorcycle operator, Maurice Adams, 27, died hours later after being transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital.

"I think it's bad. The cop shouldn't have left him there like that," said Maverick Jacobs, who says he heard the crash and then saw a Hamden police car stop at the scene and drive off without getting out to help the victim.

"I seen the Hamden cop pull up on the side of the intersection right here. He looked and then he pulled off," said Jacobs. "Regardless of what that young man done, the cop shouldn't have did him like that. It was just wrong. He shouldn't have pulled off. It was just wrong."

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Hamden police chief Thomas Wydra said the pursuit was for motor vehicle violations and that an internal affairs investigation is underway.

"Critical components of the investigation will be the determination of whether or not the motorcycle was being actively pursued at the time of the accident, whether the pursuit was justified, as well as an examination of the overall actions and conduct of the police personnel throughout the entire incident," said Wydra.

State police are investigating the crash and the actions of Hamden police to determine if any criminal charges should be filed.

The victim's family has hired attorney Michael Stratton to pursue a civil lawsuit in the case.

"This goes well beyond police misconduct. I mean, this is absolute cowardice to leave the scene of a terrible accident," said Stratton.

He is now calling for the officers involved to be placed on leave.

"We have to make sure that the rest of the public is safe because we have some cowboy cops who apparently don't have any respect for human life," said Stratton.

Hamden police have not commented on whether the officer or officers who were seen driving off from the crash site remain on duty.

Police: Lt. Gov. Dewhurst Asked to Get Relative Out of Jail


Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst personally called police and asked to talk to the highest-ranking officer about getting a relative out of jail, Allen Police said.

He also asked for the cellphone numbers of a judge and the Collin County sheriff, which a sergeant declined to give him.

The relative, Ellen Bevers, an Allen elementary school teacher, was jailed on charges of shoplifting at a Kroger’s grocery store on Aug. 3, police said.

Police released an audio recording of the phone call late Wednesday after a request from NBC DFW under the Texas open records law.

"What I would like to do, if you would explain it to me, sergeant, what I need to do is to arrange for getting her out of jail this evening and you can proceed with whatever you think is proper," Dewhurst said on the call.

In the call, Dewhurst described Bevers as his sister-in-law but police said the woman was married to Dewhurst's nephew. In a short statement later Wednesday, Dewhurst referred to her as his niece.

Dewhurst had called the main Allen Police phone number and asked to call to the senior officer. He was connected to the on-duty sergeant, police said.

Dewhurst said he had known Bevers for 30 years and described her as "the sweetest woman in the world."

"Sergeant, you don't know me, but every year I'm the No.1 pick of all the law enforcement agencies in Texas," Dewhurst is heard saying in the recording. "I'm the No. 1 pick and I want you to do whatever is the proper thing."

Dewhurst defended Bevers' character and said the shoplifting charge was a mistake.

"This lady, I know in my heart, was not involved, in the intentional walking out and stealing $57," Dewhurst said.

Dewhurst spokesman Travis Considine released a short statement and said in a later email he would answer no questions about the issue.

"David acted as a concerned family member in an attempt to acquire information on how to post bail for his niece while reiterating multiple times in the full conversation that law enforcement follow their normal protocols and procedures," the statement said.

Dewhurst, a longtime Texas public official, is running for re-election but had no campaign events planned Wednesday.

A police spokesman said Dewhurst is not under investigation and added that the department often gets similar calls from concerned relatives after someone is arrested.

NBC 5 DFW's Randy McIlwain, Catherine Ross and Julie Fine contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Victim Fights Back, Stabs Her Attacker With His Weapon


A woman approached from behind by a knife-yielding attacker in Washington, D.C. was able to fight back, even stabbing the would-be robber with his own weapon.

The woman was walking in the 6200 block of Second Street NW Tuesday just after 3 p.m. near her place of work when she heard footsteps behind her, getting louder and faster.

“I turned around and…[it's] as if he was trying to grab me from a choke-hold position and he was brandishing a knife," the woman told News4 Washington's Pat Collins.

She said the man told her to give him her cell phone while holding a knife above his head. The woman reached for the knife, and both she and the suspect fell to the ground.

“He was on top of me, the knife just so happened to fall right next to me, right next to my right hand. So I grabbed it with my right hand and just went to work," the victim said.

She stabbed the suspect, a teenager, in the chest and in the leg, and he ran from the scene. He sought medical treatment at a fire station about a mile away, and was immediately arrested.

The woman said she recommends everyone be cognizant of their surroundings.

Hannah Anderson to NBC: "My Mom Raised Me to Be Strong"


Hannah Anderson, the teenager who was kidnapped this month and found in the Idaho wilderness after being held hostage, has spoken exclusively to NBC News about her ordeal.

The 16-year-old Lakeside, Calif., resident thanked people for paying attention to the Amber Alert and said she considers herself a survivor.

"In the beginning I was a victim, but now knowing everyone out there is helping me I consider myself a survivor instead," she told NBC News. "My mom raised me to be strong."

The full interview will air on the "Today" show on Thursday morning at 7 and 8 a.m.

Timeline: Searching for Hannah Anderson

Hannah's brother Ethan and her mother Christina were found dead on Aug. 4 at the burned property of kidnap and murder suspect James Lee DiMaggio, 40, in the community of Boulevard, near San Diego.

According to search warrants, investigators believe DiMaggio – a longtime friend of the Anderson family – “tortured and killed” Christina and Ethan on Aug. 4 before allegedly kidnapping Christina’s daughter Hannah.

DiMaggio then fled San Diego with Hannah, sparking an Amber Alert that spanned across six states.

The pair ended up in the rugged Idaho backcountry near Cascade and Morehead Lake, where they were spotted by a group of horseback riders on Aug. 7.

After seeing the Amber Alert, the riders reported the sighting to authorities, leading more than 200 federal, state and local law enforcement officials to the rural community in Idaho in search of Hannah and DiMaggio.

The pair was ultimately found by an FBI tactical team near Morehead Lake on Aug. 10.

Hannah was rescued safely by officials. DiMaggio was shot at least five times and killed at the scene.

Hannah has since reunited with her family and returned home to San Diego. Days after her rescue, the teen was fielding questions about her kidnapping on social media. Last week, she made her first public appearance since her rescue at the fundraiser in Lakeside.

The teenager’s family has asked for privacy as Hannah continues to recover. She has since appeared at multiple fundraising events and thanked people for their support.

Hannah's family sent a public statement about the NBC News interview, asking people to respect their privacy as they prepare for the funeral of Christina and Ethan.

Photo Credit: Today Show

Carjacked Vehicle Crashes in Hartford


A vehicle carjacked from the Elmwood Community Center in West Hartford this morning crashed in Hartford after a police chase this afternoon.

Police spotted the 2003 White Toyota at Park Street and Putnam Street in Hartford around 3:50 p.m. As officers approached the car, the driver tried to flee, hitting two police cruisers, according to authorities.

The car crashed into a fence at the corner of Broad Street and Lincoln Street a short distance away. A suspect  jumped out of the car and fled on foot, according to police.  There were three other adults and two children in the car when it crashed into the fence, police said.  All of those people are accounted for. 

Earlier in the day, the car's owner reported he had been carjacked in the parking lot of the Elmwood Community Center. Officers responded to that scene around 12:45 p.m. The victim told police a man demanded his car keys and then grabbed the keys from him. He was not seriously injured, but was taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Police are still looking for the driver.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

2 Campgrounds Closing Over EEE Concerns


The state is closing two campgrounds in Pachaug state Forest after human-biting mosquitoes trapped in the area tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

The mosquitoes were trapped in Voluntown on August 13, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The Mt. Misery campground and Horse Camp, which is also known as Frog Hollow Horse Camp, will be closed as a result.

"Eastern Equine Encephalitis is a rare but potentially deadly disease that must be taken seriously," said DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty. "Although we understand the inconvenience of having to cancel or change camping plans, the presence of EEE in human-biting mosquitoes so near to these campgrounds leaves us no choice but to close them in order to protect human health."

Bird-biting mosquitoes tested positive for EEE in the same area in July, but the fact that human-biting mosquitoes have been found carrying the virus led officials to make the decision to close the campgrounds.

"Closing these campgrounds for overnight camping at this time is prudent, and anyone spending time in this area during the day is strongly advised to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites," said Dr. Jewel Mullen, commissioner of the Department of Public Health.

Severe cases of EEE infection in humans include a swelling of the brain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden onset of headache
  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Vomiting
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Coma


Stolen Lorax Statue Found Hidden in Canyon


A famous Lorax statue stolen from the home of late author Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel last year was found buried in thick brush off a canyon in San Diego Wednesday, police confirmed.

The San Diego Police Department says the Lorax statue – a 300-pound, 2-foot-tall bronze statue stolen from Dr. Seuss’ La Jolla home in March 2012 – was recovered by detectives in a canyon in the 7500 block of Country Club Drive in La Jolla.

Detectives searched the canyon Wednesday morning after receiving a tip from a man in Montana claiming to know about the theft of the statue and where it was stashed.

According to police, the unidentified 22-year-old tipster came forward to authorities at the Bozeman Police Department in Montana last week, saying he had information about the crime committed in San Diego. His details then led police to find the Lorax statue, officials said.

The tipster’s name was not released. The investigation is ongoing and charges are pending.

At this point, police have not released details about how the statue was stolen or who stole it.

Police say the Lorax statue – valued at approximately $10,000 – has now been returned to its home at the Geisel estate.

The statue is one of only two in the world created by Dr. Seuss’ stepdaughter, Lark Dimond-Cates, and was priceless to the family.

Dimond-Cates sculpted the statue for her stepfather’s memorial. Dr. Seuss’ widow, Audrey Geisel, loved it so much so asked her daughter for a copy of the bronze artwork for their Mt. Soledad home.

Last March, Audrey Geisel called police when she discovered the statue was missing from her home.

Dimond-Cates spoke to NBC 7 San Diego at the time of the crime and said she was upset about the theft.

"It's crummy to sneak into a 90-year-old widow's home in the dead of night and steal her Lorax," Dimond-Cates told NBC 7 last March. "You can't be doing that."

"It gave her so much happiness to get up every morning and look out and see her little Lorax out there," Dimond-Cates said. "And she got up the other day and he wasn't there."

At the time of the theft, the Geisel estate was in the process of installing security cameras, so the act was not captured on tape.

The home’s manager, Carl Romero, told NBC 7 last March that thieves likely dragged the statue from the home, down a hill, over a fence and possibly into a car.

“The Lorax” was published as a book in 1971. The story follows a young boy through a pristine pollution-free world. The boy encounters the Lorax – a small creature who "speaks for trees" on the importance of preserving the ecosystem.

The book was made into a 2012 film "The Lorax" distributed by Universal Pictures.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego

Shark Bite Victim Dies


A 20-year-old woman who lost her arm in a shark attack in Hawaii before an Irvine, Calif. pastor rescued her has died, officials said Wednesday.

Jana Lutteropp, 20, of Germany, was swimming off of the coast of Maui last week when a shark attacked her and tore off her right arm. The shark was not found.

Rick Moore, a 57-year-old pastor and physical education teacher in Laguna Niguel, was vacationing at the beach at the time. He immediately put on his fins and swam out to rescue her and performed CPR until help arrived.

Moore described the gruesome scene -- the blood in the water and the young woman's grievous injury.

As he swam her to shore, she told him, "I'm dying. I'm going to die."

She initially appeared to be making progress, according to Maui Memorial Medical Center.

About a week before Lutteropp was attacked, a shark attacked Cerritos, Calif. resident Evonne Cashman.

Cashman survived, and she spoke to NBC4 on Wednesday.

"I feel very blessed that I was not injured worse than I was," Cashman said. "My prayers and heart go out to (Lutteropp's) family and friends. It’s scary, not knowing what could have happened, I don’t know why God is not done with me yet. I hope and pray for her family. It is a difficult thing."

More Southern California Stories:

Photo Credit: Diane Moore

San Diego Leaders Reach "Proposed Solution" on Filner


After three days of mediation, San Diego city leaders have reached some sort of “proposed solution” regarding efforts to oust embattled Mayor Bob Filner from office.

On Wednesday just before 7 p.m., San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith – accompanied by other leaders, including City Council President Todd Gloria and City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer – released a brief statement about mediation efforts in downtown San Diego.

“We have just completed three days of mediation. We have reached a proposed solution,” said Goldsmith. “It will be presented to the City Council at a closed session Council meeting on Friday at 1 p.m. at City Hall.”

Goldsmith said that immediately thereafter, at a closed session, they may have a report at a public Council meeting.


The City Attorney went on to say that the City Council has not yet heard the proposal, due to confidentiality requirements.

“This is the process we follow. Any rumors you hear about the proposal, you may deem to be untrue because the people standing here are the ones who know of it and we have all committed that we will maintain the confidentiality of the mediation,” added Goldsmith.

Goldsmith said there will be no mediation on Thursday. Leaders will not release any further details until Friday afternoon.

READ: Key Players in Mayor Bob Filner Scandal

City leaders had been holed up at the AT&T building in downtown San Diego since Monday for these mediation sessions.

NBC 7 San Diego learned earlier this week that Goldsmith and Filner, two men who have fought publicly in the past eight months, were seated on opposite ends of a long conference room table in Monday’s session.

Connecticut Group Headed to Washington


A week from Wednesday marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech.


Millions of people are expected to make their way to the National Mall next week to commemorate the milestone, and buses from Connecticut are loading up to hit the road.


“It’s an opportunity to be a part of history,” said Rev. Daryel McCrorey, Sr. from Hartford. He and his wife, Carrie, joined the vigil and rally today at Union Baptist Church in Hartford. The bus stopped there this morning to pick up more passengers.


 “The dream that Dr. King talked about has not been realized,” said Rev. Alvin Herring from PICO National Network. Rev. Herring says, though we have a black commander-in-chief, freedom has not yet rung for every American. “The blessings for one, although fortunate and wonderful and should be celebrated, often does not mean blessings for all.”


PICO is a faith-based community organization that fights violence, mass incarceration and chronic poverty. Last week alone there were four shootings in only 48 hours in Hartford, and the capital city remains one of the poorest in the nation – issues Dr. King fought to change.


“They gotta start being more examples for their younger men, because what’s happening is heads of households have dropped off and a lot of times these young men are only emulating the atmospheres that they come from,” said Rev. McCrorey.


Data from the Urban Institute shows that in 1950, only 17 percent of black children lived in fatherless homes. By 2010, that number more than doubled. Now 50 percent of black children have absent fathers. And almost half of all black children are born out of wedlock.


Rev. McCrorey’s wife, Carrie, says repairing families could help re-inspire Dr. King’s dream in all of us. “More people in the community coming together, fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, more families coming out to be as a unit.”


So while many people can quote lines from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” 50 years later these attendees are asking serious questions about whether we’ve failed to reach that dream.


Union Baptist Church (860-247-0648) still has some seats available on their bus leaving Friday evening. That bus will only be in Washington overnight. Other buses from PICO and the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence are also headed to the commemorative ceremonies.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

City of New Haven Cracking Down on Landlords


New Haven is cracking down on landlords who fail to register their multi-family homes with the city. A letter was recently sent out asking landlords to register their properties, but there are about 1,200 who didn't reply.

“In many cases, people don't read the letter all the way through.  They read the letter where it says this is for absentee, non-owner multi-family, so they stop reading there.  But it goes on to say, if you feel you're exempt from this, then you are required to do ABC, give us the proper documents to prove that you're exempt,” said Rafael Ramos, Deputy Director of Housing Code Enforcement.

Those owners who live in their buildings are exempt from getting the mandatory inspections.  However, they still have to register with the city.  Landlords who don't live in their buildings need to have it inspected.  Those who haven't done it will be called by a collection agency and fined $100.

“The fines are to encourage landlords to register their properties so we know where they are when we need them when there's an emergency, and second, it requires an inspection of the property for basic health and safety,” said Ramos.

Alderman Doug Hausladen represents Ward 7 and says these calls may be a wake-up call for those landlords.

“I think that's going to make people react and come to the table and negotiate,” said Hausladen.

He says with 70 percent of New Haven's housing market being rentals, the inspections and registrations are important.

“I think the hardest thing is actually communicating with our absentee landlords.  You can understand who owns the building, but knowing who is the property manager and how to get in contact is very difficult,” said Hausladen.



Rim Fire Threatens 2,500 Structures Near Yosemite


National Air Guardsmen took off from Moffett Airfield in Mountain View in the hopes of gaining control of several wildfires raging in the Yosemite area - spots that are popular with many Northern California residents trying to enjoy their last week or two of summer vacation.

UPDATE: Rim Fire Near Yosemite Jumps to 54,000 Acres

That crew from the 129th Air Rescue Wing joined other firefighters across the state to battle what's been dubbed the Rim Fire - a wildfire that broke out Saturday in the Stanislaus National Forest area just outside Yosemite. 

It exploded in size overnight. As of Wednesday, the fire was 5 percent contained and had spread to more than 16,000 acres or 25 square miles, which is basically the same size as the city of Gilroy.

An advisory evacuation order was posted for all of Pine Mountain Lake Wednesday afternoon.

Nearly 900 personnel were sent in to battle the blaze.

The destructive wildfire is threatening some 2,500 structures, which forced the shutdown of a highway into Yosemite National Park.

A four mile stretch of State Route 120 is closed  in both directions, blocking traffic in and out of Yosemite on its west side, though the park remains open.

Two homes and seven outbuildings have burned.

Wednesday afternoon update:

The north end of the fire has crossed the Clavey River and is burning in remote and steep terrain. The north end is not threatening any structures at this time. Due to inaccessible, steep terrain and active fire behavior a combination of direct and indirect attack will be used on this incident. The fire burned actively with a southward spread of the fire over Highway 120. Direct line suppression efforts are impeded by difficult access and steep inaccessible terrain. A combination of direct and indirect attack will be used on this incident. Active fire behavior today raises safety concerns for crews adjacent to the fire’s edge. Smoke exposure within the deep drainage of the Clavey River will be an issue for fire crews as well.

MORE: Firefighters Battle Blazes, Remain on High Alert Under Red Flag Warning

There are 10 major wildfires burning in California, and the Rim Fire is among the largest. A total of 22 firefighters from cities in Alameda County were also dispatched on Tuesday from Livermore to help out.

"The weather is not cooperating, and it's relatively unfriendly terrain," said Alameda County Fire Special Operations Chief Rob Schnepp. "This is growing in intensity."

Several camps were evacuated Tuesday as a safety precaution. Those include: San Jose Family Camp,  Berkeley Tuolomne Camp, San Francisco's Mather Camp, and Camp Tawonga. All are within five miles of the Rim Fire.

Camp Tawonga sent out emails and Facebook posts telling people there was no immediate risk to the camp property, where a large black oak tree fell in July and killed a counselor in a separate tragic accident this summer.

MORE: Training Grenade Sparks Brush Fire at Camp Parks in Dublin

And as of Wednesday, none of Camp Tawonga had been burned . Still, the camp directors canceled a family camp program this weekend for safety reasons.

Jessica Cannon of Oakland was set to go to Tawonga this weekend but now, because of the road closure, has made other plans: She and five other families are going camping somewhere else.

Also on Tuesday, about 160 acres burned at the Camp Parks Military Base near Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

Investigators are looking into what started the Rim Fire.

More Bay Area Stories:

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area

$3M Award in DEA Shooting Case


A federal judge Wednesday awarded $3 million to the parents of an 18-year-old man killed by a plainclothes agent in Studio City, but found that authorities were not negligent in the fatal shooting.

In 2010, Zac Champommier was sitting in a parked car waiting to meet a friend in a shopping center, his parents said, in Studio City, Calif., about 6 miles northwest of Hollywood.

The Granada Hills High School graduate mistook undercover, plainclothes Drug Enforcement Administration agents for gang members, drove in their direction and was fired upon, they said.

Champommier’s mother, Carol, said it was her duty as a parent to file a $10 million wrongful death suit.

"I had to do this. I had to do this for Zac," she said.

Because the fatal shot was fired by a federal agent, the case was decided by a judge in federal court.

"This was a bad shooting that was out of policy and never should have occurred," said Gay Dordick, Champommier’s attorney.

The judge ruled Wednesday that authorities had reason to believe they were in danger but should not have fired.

Carol Champommier -- who will receive $2 million; her husband will get $1 million -- said she’s happy with the judge’s decision, but it won’t replace the loss of her only son.

"The rest of my life without him is almost unbearable," she said. "I have to push it out of my mind and just continue breathing every single day."

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