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New Deputy Chief of Staff Steps Down After Convictions Found


The new deputy chief of staff for Hartford mayor has abruptly withdrawn his nomination one day after it was announced.

Yesterday, Hartford Mayor Segarra announced that Kennard Ray was to begin work as deputy chief of staff on December 2.

Today, the Hartford Courant reports, Ray withdrew his name after questions were raised about him being convicted for felonies.

“Sadly, we must accept Mr. Kennard Ray's withdrawal for the position of Deputy Chief of Staff after learning information that was not initially disclosed,” a statement from the mayor’s office says. “Mr. Ray is a qualified individual with solid references from former supervisors and community leaders.  However public servants, especially those in leadership positions, must be held to a higher standard.”

Ray’s withdrawal letter says he is doing so “with heavy heart.”

“Extenuating circumstances have made the acceptance of this position unrealistic. My sincerest apologies are extended to you, Mayor Segarra, the office of the Mayor and the entire city of Hartford for any confusion, consternation or dismay that my sudden withdrawal may cause,” Ray wrote. “It is only with the best intentions and concern for my city, my Mayor and his administration that I have chosen not to serve.”

He closed the letter with “Post Nubila Phoebus,” which translates to “after the clouds -- the sun,” and is on the official seal of Hartford.

Ray served as the political and legislative director for the Connecticut Working Families Party.

Teen Accused of “Knockout Game” Attack at Hamden High School


Hamden police have arrested a 15-year-old boy accused of an attack at Hamden High School that appears to mimic the violent so-called “knockout game.”

On Nov. 22, a teacher frantically approached Officer Scott Jason, the school resource officer, to report an assault, involving two students.

Police said a 15-year-old student ran toward a senior who was walking in the hallway and punched him under the eye.

"There were absolutely no issues between them," said school superintendent Fran Rabinowitz. "It wasn't like somebody provoked somebody else. It was just a punch from this student to the other student."

The victim didn’t know the boy who assaulted him and said they he had never spoken.

When police spoke with the suspect, a sophomore, he told officers “it’s a game he and his friends play,” police said. 

Police in nearby New Haven have been investigating at least six “knockout game”-style attacks.

"I would certainly consider whether or not it could be related to the knockout, and that's why I would take this incredibly seriously," Rabinowitz said.

In each case, the attacker chooses a victims at random, charge the person and delivers a punch to the head in an attempt to knock the victim unconscious.

The victim in the Hamden High School attack suffered an eye injury, police said.

The 15-year-old was charged with assault in the third degree and is scheduled to appear in juvenile court in New Haven on Dec. 9.

Local parents said they were alarmed and disturbed by the attacks.

"You want safety for all the children and you don't want them to pick up something they see o the street and bring it into the school because it can become a bigger issue," said Rolanda Booker, the mother of two teens and a teacher at the Wexler-Grant School in New Haven. "Kids have enough stress on them already so they don't need any more."

Photo Credit: NBC Philadelphia

91-Year-Old Man Threatened With Stun Gun During Home Invasion


New London police are searching for the people responsible for the home invasion during which a 91-year-old man was threatened with a stun gun.

Police said the 91-year-old victim called authorities around 11:20 a.m. Nov. 27 to report that he was robbed at his home on Pacific Street.

The victim told police he opened the front door after hearing a knock. Initially, he didn’t see anyone there, but was soon confronted by two masked men demanding money and valuables. The men entered his home and held a stun gun to the victim’s neck, police said.

The suspects spent several minutes in the victim’s home, then fled. It’s not clear what was stolen during the encounter. They’re described as Hispanic or black men, both tall and slim, wearing dark clothing and ski masks. Police said the suspects are about 20 years old.

Anyone with information is asked to contact New London police at 860-447-5262.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Man Arrested in Connection With 3 Hartford Robberies


Hartford police have a arrested a 42-year-old man in connection with multiple robberies, one of which resulted in a 75-year-old man being tied and bound.

According to police, Ryan Bailey, of Hartford, is accused of robbing the Sovereign/Santander Bank in at 115 Asylum Avenue in downtown Hartford and attempting to rob the Dunkin Donuts at 485 Main Street in Hartford, both of which occurred Oct. 25.

Police said the bank robbery happened around 2 p.m. and that Bailey reportedly threatened the teller with a gun. He walked away with $5,200 and fled on Asylum Street, according to police.

Bailey is also charged in the Nov. 5 robbery of the Maple Laundromat & Dry Cleaners at 901 Maple Avenue, during which the 75-year-old owner was tied up in the bathroom, threatened at knife-point and robbed. Police said a customer freed the owner after hearing his cries for help.

The cash register had been opened and money was missing, police said. The victim was rattled but uninjured.

Bailey is being held at the Hartford Correctional Center for a sex offender registry violation, police said.

Photo Credit: Hartford Police Department

Bridgeport Man Accused of "Sexting" Teen


A Bridgeport man is facing charges after reportedly sending sexually explicit text messages to a 16-year-old girl.

According to police, 30-year-old Jermaine Laidlaw exchanged 322 texts with the underage girl, many of which were sexually explicit. Police said the teen’s mother approached authorities after discovering the messages on her daughter’s phone.

Police said Laidlaw worked at the Orcutt Boys & Girls club, an athletic organization for school-age kids in Bridgeport. It’s not clear how Laidlaw and the victim knew each other and whether Laidlaw’s job contributed to the incident.

He was arrested Tuesday and is charged with risk of injury to a minor and using a computer to entice a minor into sexual activity.

Laidlaw is being held on a $25,000 bond.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

National Menorah Lighting


We've heard a whole lot this year about "Thanksgivukkah" -- the concurrence of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, happening in 2013 for the last time in about 79,000 years.

But Hanukkah was the sole star at the National Menorah Lighting late Wednesday afternoon on the National Ellipse, adjacent to the South Lawn of the White House

The world's largest menorah was illuminated during a ceremony featuring musical performances by the U.S. Air Force Band, the Three Cantors and Grammy Award-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari.

Tickets were available for free to those who requested them online, and attendees also got to snack on latkes and donuts.

One additional candle on the menorah will be lit each night through the end of Hanukkah, Thursday, Dec. 5 (albeit without the ceremony and concert).

Newtown High Could Play in Football Championship Dec. 14


The undefeated Newtown High School football team is poised to take the lead in the Class LL tournament, which starts next week, and if they make it to the championship, they could be playing on the one-year anniversary of the shootings that shocked their town.

The team shut out Monroe 42-7 in its final game of the season Tuesday night. Newtown is top-ranked going into the tournament, with a perfect record of 11-0, or 12-0 including the South-West Conference title game against Brookfield, the Newtown Bee reports.

In keeping with tradition, last night’s game was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving eve, but severe weather moving across the state led to a last-minute change of date. The teams faced off in Monroe, where the 26-yard lines were marked with a green number 26 in honor of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, according to the Bee.

Elementary school students were transferred to the Chalk Hill school in Monroe following the shootings. The Newtown Bee reports that “there’s been an off-the-field bond between the neighboring towns since that time.”

Next week, Newtown will play its first tournament game and will be eyeing the Class LL championship, which will take place Dec. 13 or 14 at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, the Bee reports. This means Newtown could be playing on the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

Car Collides With Fence After Hit-and-Run Crash


A two-car collision at the intersection of Hillside Avenue and Hamilton Court in Hartford sent one of the vehicles into a fence and retaining wall outside a nearby home, according to fire officials at the scene.

It happened Wendesday evening around 4 p.m. Firefighters said one car struck a minivan, pushing the van into a fence. A Hartford fire captain said initially that the van struck the foundation of a nearby home, but firefighters at the scene said the home was not impacted in any way.

The home was not damaged. It's not clear if anyone was injured.

Authorities said the occupants of the offending car got out and fled the scene on foot. Fire offiicals don't know how many people were inside the car and are searching for them.

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Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Captives Released in LA Standoff


A mother and her teenage daughter held against their wills after a gun battle injured two police officers were released Wednesday night and their captor was taken into custody to end an hours-long SWAT standoff in a Southern California neighborhood.

The tense situation began the afternoon before Thanksgiving when officers responded to a report of a 14-year-old female being dragged by a male. Inglewood police described the attack as a case of domestic violence.

Those responding officers exchanged gunfire with the man, who holed himself up in a home in the 10700 block of Fifth Avenue.

SWAT teams in armored vehicles and other law enforcement agencies descended on the neighborhood, described by residents as a "quiet" and "nice" place to live.

Details about how the unidentified captor -- who police said has a criminal record -- was taken into custody and the hostages rescued were not immediately available.

The standoff ended about 9:30 p.m., some nine hours after it began.

Earlier in the day, the shooter vowed not to be taken alive, a witness told NBC4.

"They were shooting back, but he was really shooting at them," Kimberly Edwards said. "He screamed out the window, 'I'll die for this. I'll die for this."

Law enforcement officials told NBC that one Inglewood officer wearing a protective vest was struck in the chest by the gunfire. Details regarding his injuries were not immediately available, but the officer was alert and conscious, officials said.

A second officer also was hurt, but it appears that she was not shot, officials said.

Both officers were initially taken to Centinela Hospital Medical Center. The officer shot in the chest was later transported to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, and the other officer was released.

The family of the officer shot in the chest said their loved one may be out of the hospital in time to celebrate Thanksgiving at home.

"We're just glad the best was there," the officer's brother said, calling his sibling's colleagues a "band of brothers."

Inglewood police Lt. Oscar Mejia said two females were being held hostage inside the home. It is believed the mother is the captor's ex-girlfriend.

Residents described a quick police response after hearing a barrage of gunfire.

"I heard what I thought were fireworks," resident Janice Wilson said. "Then I realized those weren't fireworks.

"I stepped out on my porch, and I could see the officers coming."

Aerial video showed at least 15 patrol vehicles in the area, and several officers and deputies were outside the house. The Los Angeles County Fire Department dispatched three ambulances and other personnel.

Video from the scene showed an officer carrying a child and escorting others away from the neighborhood, which was locked down during the standoff. Several homes were evacuated.

Refresh this page for updates.

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Illinois' First Gay Marriage


The first same-sex couple to legally get married in Illinois tied the knot on Wednesday.

Vernita Gray and Pat Ewert were married in a private ceremony attended by close friends and family, according to a news release from Lambda Legal and the ACLU of Illinois.

The ceremony was officiated by Illinois Judge Patricia Logue.
Couple Reacts Judge's Order Permitting Expedited Marriage
Illinois same-sex couples will be allowed to legally get married on June 1, but a federal court granted Gray and Ewert an emergency marriage license Monday because Gray is terminally ill.

Gray has been fighting cancer since 1996. The couple has been in a relationship for five years.

"It's a great day for Vernita and Pat, and an historic day for Illinois, for a deserving and loving couple to have the chance to be married on an expedited basis," said John Knight of the ACLU.

One week ago, Gov. Pat Quinn signed SB10 into law, making Illinois the 16th state in the nation to allow for same-sex marriages. The District of Columbia also permits gay marriage.

Photo Credit: AP

Mohegan Sun to Build Casino at Suffolk Downs


Just weeks voters struck down a proposed casino in Palmer, Mass., Connecticut-based Mohegan Sun has announced a deal with Suffolk Downs for a $1 billion venture in the Boston suburb of Revere.

“Despite the challenging times, what has emerged from it is a tremendous partnership,” said tribal chairman Kevin Brown.

Under the new deal, the racetrack at Suffolk Downs will remain, and a new casino and hotel will be built around it. It’s a stunning turn of events, just weeks after a tough defeat in Palmer by less than 100 votes.

“We were in it to win it in Palmer, up to and through the referendum,” explained Brown.

The tribal chairman said the Revere deal came together in the last 72 hours.

“There are folks who have literally gone without sleep to pull off the merger and get the signatures,” Brown said.

The Boston Globe reports Suffolk Downs had to find a partner before the end of the year that could submit a bid suitable to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

Initially, that partner was Caesar's Entertainment, but the agreement fell apart during the background check process. The track dropped Caesars in October over concerns that the Las Vegas gambling giant would fail the background check, the Globe reports..

The commission deemed Mohegan Sun a suitable bidder, following a lengthy background check into the tribe for the Palmer deal.

“As Caesar's fell out of Suffolk, it created the conditions for this merger,” said Brown.

And while the award date for a gaming license isn’t until April, the tribe says work will get underway quickly to get the project up and running as soon as possible.

“If you look at the legendary gaming experience that Mohegan Sun brings to the customers of New England, the patrons in Boston will see that exact same experience,” said Brown.

Photo Credit: Lorianne DiSabato/Flickr

Driver Motions to 3 Boys in West Hartford


West Hartford police are investigating what they’re calling an “unusual incident” after three juveniles were approached by a strange 60-year-old man in a gray Honda CRV on Wednesday.

The Patch reports that the victims were underage boys, the first of whom is 12 years old.

Police said the first boy was walking on Walkeley Road when the Honda drove up to him and the driver gestured from inside the car, motioning to the boy to “come here.” The boy ran inside Jimmie’s Pizza at 765 Farmington Avenue and was picked up by a friend’s mother.

Police said two of the boy’s friends were later approached by the same driver on Dorset Road and ran to a friend’s house to get away. The incident was reported several hours after it occurred, said West Hartford Police Lt. Steve Estes.

The driver is described as a clean-shaven white man in his 60s with dark gray hair. Police said he was wearing a dark crewneck sweatshirt. It’s not clear why he approached the victims.

According to the Patch, no law was broken, but police want to question the driver to find out if he has an arrest record or had any malicious intent.

Anyone with information is asked to contact West Hartford police at 860-523-5203.

Photo Credit: Hector Alejandro/Flickr

Police Work to Identify Pedestrian Killed on I-95 South


Police are asking for help in identifying the pedestrian struck and killed on Interstate 95 southbound in Stamford on Saturday.

According to police, the pedestrian was hit while walking on the shoulder near exit 7. It happened Nov. 23 around 3 a.m.

Police have not been able to identify the victim. He’s described as a Hispanic male in his 30s with dark brown hair and was wearing MR & Company jeans, a black Timberland belt with a silver buckle, a blue-and-white striped J.Crew button-down shirt and a gray or blue zip-up Victoria brand sweatshirt.

Anyone with information is asked to contact State Police Troop G at 203-696-2599.

15,000 to Run in Annual Manchester Road Race


The Brass Key on Main Street in Manchester is quiet Wednesday, but come Thursday morning, it should be packed!

"It's a good day for business" said Emily Roether, a manager at the Brass Key. "We sell a lot of breakfast sandwiches, hot coffees, hot teas, especially with this weather. We’ll do a full breakfast menu. It gets packed up."

The same is true for the nearby Landmark Cafe – runners and spectators looking to warm up and refuel head to local restaurants after the annual Manchester Road Race on Thanksgiving day.

This year, the race sold out with 15,000 registered runners, according to the race website.

"I've enjoyed every year, and I think it tells everyone what Manchester is about," said Rudy Kissmann, a member of the Manchester Board of Directors who has been attending the race for as long as he can remember.

He said security will be ramped up this year as a precaution following the Boston Marathon bombings.

"There’s cameras on Main Street and throughout the race, and there’s a lot of other unseen things, if you will," said Kissmann.

Runners also won’t be able to leave unattended bags in the area. Police suggest they leave bags at home, with a friend or in a designated drop-off area.

"There’s a place where they’re throwing them all into a pile across at Saint James," said Kissmann, of the church on Main Street.

Seasoned race veterans offer advice to those heading to Manchester on Thursday.

"Get here early, find a good place to park because parking is limited. Get something warm to warm up your bones," said Roether.

Then pick your favorite spot to settle down, because at 5 a.m. Main Street will be closed from Center Street to Charter Oak. At 8:45 a.m. the Exit 3 ramp for I-384 will be closed. Many roads will remain closed until the race finishes.

Manchester Student Arrested Following Cyber-Bullying Incident


A Manchester High School student has been arrested in connection with a cyber-bullying incident that targeted female students earlier this month, police said.

The 15-year-old student, who has not been identified, is charged with breach of peace and obscenity.

School superintendent Richard Kisiel said the student charged was the mastermind of vulgar posts on Facebook and Twitter about dozens of female classmates. According to Kisiel, three of the student's friends contributed to the cyber-bullying.

All four students have been suspended. Three are being moved to a different school in the district and the fourth could be expelled, according to representatives of the school district. It's not clear if that student was the teen arrested.

"It's just revolting and unacceptable," Kiesiel said. "It affects the climate of a building. That's something the students didn't think about and they didn't think about the feelings of the young women that were impacted."

School board chairman Chris Pattacini said that although the incident happened off campus, the list circulated around the school for weeks, so the district called police.

"Any form of bullying is completely unacceptable," Pattacini said, "and so we need to make sure they understand that."

High school principal Matt Geary addressed the incident in a letter posted to the school's website on Wednesday, Nov. 13. Geary said the students responsible would be held to the same standards as those implicated in any on-campus bullying situation.

In the letter, Geary said school officials learned that a group of students had posed lists on social media containing “names of and derogatory information about some female students who attend the high school.”

One of the victims, 17-year-old Sabrina Jennings, said she feels humiliated and wants the students behind the bullying to be punished for their actions.

Jennings said four teenage boys posted a vulgar list on Facebook and Twitter including the names of dozens of girls from the high school, making graphic claims about their sexual activity. Jennings' name is on that list.

"I was pretty infuriated when I saw my name on the list," Jennings said, adding that the claims are false and hurtful. "I had a lot of rumors come up about me after this real quick."

Jennings said she reported the list to Geary and her school guidance councilor.

Administrators are taking the incident very seriously.

“There will be stiff consequences, up to recommended expulsion, for those students who initiated and distributed these lists,” Geary said in the letter. "Please note that if the actions taken by a person create a hostile environment at school for another person, that action can be considered bullying, regardless of where it occurs or was initiated."

Geary's letter cited the school bullying policy, which reads, in part:

“In accordance with state law and the Manchester Board of Education’s Safe School Climate Plan, the Board expressly prohibits any form of bullying behavior on school grounds; at a school-sponsored or school-related activity, function or program, whether on or off school grounds; at a school bus stop; on a school bus or other vehicle owned, leased or used by a local or regional board of education; or through the use of an electronic device or an electronic mobile device owned, leased or used by Board of Education. The Board also prohibits any form of bullying behavior outside of the school setting if such bullying (i) creates a hostile environment at school for the student against whom such bullying was directed, (ii) infringes on the rights of the student against whom such bullying was directed at school, or (iii) substantially disrupts the education process or the orderly operation of a school.”

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Man Accused of Killing Meriden Store Owner Pleads Guilty


The man accused of robbing, shooting and killing a Meriden convenience store owner pleaded guilty of murder and robbery in court today.

Frankie Resto, a convicted robber who was out on early release at the time of the incident, is accused of killing Ibrahim Ghazal during the armed robbery of Ghazal’s convenience store, EZ Mart, located at 271 East Main Street in Meriden.

Police said it happened the morning of June 27, 2012 while Ghazal, a father of six, was working at the store.

According to police, Resto entered the store and demanded money. Ghazal handed over the cash and was then shot in the chest.

Resto was arrested and charged with murder and first-degree robbery.

In October, Resto rejected a plea deal that would require him to serve 40 years in prison.

He's due back in court Feb. 7 at 10 a.m.

An alleged accomplice, 30-year-old Willie Breyette of New Britain, was charged with aiding and abetting first-degree robbery and hindering prosecution.

Firefighters Sent to Wrong Address


Litchfield County Dispatch is investigating after firefighters were went to a wrong address in Torrington on Tuesday.

Firefighters rushed to an address on Highland Avenue on Tuesday afternoon when they should have been heading to a home on the Harwinton side of the city, where the call for help had been placed.

No one was hurt in the incident and there were no serious issues stemming from the dispatch mix-up, but workers on duty Wednesday afternoon at Litchfield County Dispatch confirmed that an investigation is underway.

Litchfield County Dispatch is based in the same building as the Torrington Fire Department.

Torrington residents said Wednesday the mistaken dispatch left them anxious and upset.

"Especially if somebody's hurt, it's ridiculous," said Gina McGonigal of Torrington. "They should be more on top of their game, you know? Especially sending them to the wrong address. You can't do that. "

Workers on duty at Litchfield County Dispatch said they aren't authorized to discuss the investigation, but they said the situation is being taken seriously.

Zoo Miami Elephant Dies


A sick Zoo Miami elephant has died, the zoo announced Wednesday.

Maude, a 41-year-old Asian elephant, was receiving treatment for digestive impaction Wednesday morning when she died. The illness prevented bowel movements and caused an almost total loss of appetite for the elephant, zoo officials said.

The elephant was given wheat bran and treated with IV fluids and several medications. It was during one of those treatments that she died. A thorough necropsy will be performed to determine an exact cause of death, the zoo said.

Maude came to Miami on Feb. 22, 2011 from the Central Florida Zoo. She was part of a Species Survival Plan recommendation and spent her time with two other elephants -- 50-year-old Dalip and 45-year-old Nellie.

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Photo Credit: Zoo Miami

Tips to Save Money as Black Friday Gets Early Start


It’s the same scene year after year: people standing in line for hours, braving the cold, hoping to score big discounts on Black Friday.

“We usually get up at like 3:30 in the morning," said Black Friday shopper Alisia Burch. "We go out there about 4, stand in line.”

But this year, shoppers like Burch may have to wake up even earlier, because Black Friday sales are getting a head start.

Toys “R” Us is opening at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and Best Buy and Walmart are opening an hour later. Target, Macy’s, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney will begin offering their Black Friday sales at 8 p.m.

With so many retailers adjusting their hours, how can customers be sure they’re coming out ahead? Jim Wilcox of Consumer Reports says every shopper should have a plan.

“Prepare a list and just stick to it," Wilcox said. "It’s really easy to just get caught up in the excitement of being in a store with a lot of people and the frenzy of shopping, but you don’t want to wind up with your third toaster oven or your fourth toaster."

Wilcox also said shoppers should research products online before they spend.

Sites like www.blackfriday.com and www.bfads.net reveal retailers' discounts.

Here’s another tool for shoppers: show-rooming. That’s when you visit a store to check out a product and buy it online. Amazon Price Check, Flow, Google Shopper and Red Laser are just a few of the free apps that allow customers to compare prices. Scan a product’s bar code with your smartphone and you've got instant access to a range of competitors' prices.

Wilcox said those interested in electronics might be better off waiting until the dust settles.

“We did a survey a couple of years ago and about 40 percent of the TVs that we tracked were actually cheaper after Black Friday,” said Wilcox.

And if you’d rather stay inside on Friday, you can always shop from the comfort of your home on Cyber Monday.

Photo Credit: Richard W. Rodriguez/ AP Images for Target

3 People to Hospital Following Hamden Crash


Three people are injured following a two-car crash in the area of Treadwell Street and Dixwell Avenue in Hamden, according to police.

The northbound lane of Dixwell Avenue is closed in the area. Traffic is being diverted down Oregon Avenue, then to Bagley Avenue and Treadwell Street, police said.

Three victims were taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital for treatment. The extent of their injuries is unknown.

The victims have not been identified.

Check back for updates.

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