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Newtown 911 Tapes Released


One of the first calls to police from the scene of the 2012 schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn. came from a panicked woman inside.

"Sandy Hook School," she told the dispatcher in a shaky voice, according to tapes of the 911 calls released by authorities Wednesday. "I think there's somebody shooting in here."

"OK," the dispatcher replied calmly. "What makes you think that?"

"Because somebody's got a gun," the woman said. "I caught a glimpse of somebody running down the hallway."

And then: "They're still running. They're still shooting. Sandy Hook School, please."

For several more minutes, the woman and other callers flooded the lines of Newtown police and the State Police, pleading for help.

A custodian, Rick Thorne, told a dispatcher that gunshots were coming from the front of the building, down a corridor from where he stood. 

With Thorne still on the line, the dispatcher told a colleague: "Get the sergeant. Alright, get everyone you can going down there."

Thorne remained on the phone, providing updates as shots rang out.

"There's still shooting going on," he said, pops audible in the background. "Please."

The dispatchers assured the callers that help was on the way and urged them to take cover, and lock classroom doors. They repeatedly asked about the welfare of the students, not knowing the carnage unfolding.

A teacher hiding with her students in her classroom said she'd heard shots in the hallway.

"OK, lock the door, keep everybody calm, keep everybody down," the dispatcher told her. "Get everybody away from the windows, OK?"

A teacher said she'd been shot in the foot.

"Just keep pressure on it," the dispatcher told her. "We have people heading out there."

Within five minutes from the first call, police were at the school. But by then the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, had killed 20 children and six educators, and turned a gun on himself. Officers, concerned about the possibility of an additional shooter on school grounds, did not immediately enter the school, but it is not clear that the delay made any difference.

The chilling recordings were released Wednesday afternoon, ending a nearly year-long legal fight by the Associated Press, which sought to review them as a way to assess the response of emergency workers.

The tapes covered seven calls made from landlines within Sandy Hook Elementary School. Not included were calls made from cell phones, including those made from victims or witnesses inside the building. Those calls are subject to a separate, pending freedom of information request by the A.P.

Prosecutors opposed making the recordings public, as did many families of the victims, who said they would cause more grief and emotional trauma.

“We know that if graphic images and audio recordings of the events of December 14 are released to the public, they will be used to harass and further victimize the surviving children and teachers who witnessed their friends being killed, and the families of those who lost their lives,” Dean Pinto, whose 6-year-old son, Jack, was killed in the school, told the Task Force on Victim Privacy and the Public's Right to Know earlier this year.

Shari Burton, a teaching assistant who called 911 that day, told the task force that "there is nothing to be gained, no arrest to be made" through the tapes' release. She predicted "a lot more hurt and relived heartache."

But Cristina Hassinger, whose mother, Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung, was shot to death, spoke in support of the release. "The more information I have, the easier it is to wrap my brain around," she said.

Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra wrote on her blog a plea "for the media to treat us kindly…to recognize that there is great personal pain in this event and little public good to be garnered through the general release."

Among the last of the tapes is a recording of Thorne identifying himself as a custodian to officers who have just entered the school.

Finally, a man called to say his wife had just texted him that there was a shooting in the school.

"OK, we have officers on scene at this time," the dispatcher told him. "They're clearing the school."

With reporting by the Associated Press

Phone Scams Reported in Norwich and Waterford


Police are warning residents in the Norwich and Waterbury area of phone scams asking for immediate payment and credit card information.

One such scam comes in the form of a text message reading, “BANK ALERT: Your CARD is INACTIVE Please call 860-383-0727.” Both Waterford and Norwich police said these messages have been sent to residents of their towns.

According to the Waterford Patch, the number directs callers to a computerized recording claiming to be with the Eastern Savings Bank and asks for a 16-digit card number.

The actual Eastern Savings Bank, based in Maryland, has posted the following statement on its website:

Conn. State Police are also alerting residents of the scam.

Police say the bank scam isn't the only one circulating in Norwich – customers of Norwich Public Utilities have been receiving calls from someone claiming to be from a collection agency. The scammer says customers must make an immediate payment over the phone and threatens to suspend their accounts, according to police.

“Neither Norwich Public Utilities nor our collection agency will ever make personal calls of this nature,” the company wrote on its Facebook page. “Occasionally the collection agency may issue a recorded message as a payment reminder only.”

Anyone who has received a call or text message pertaining to either of these scams is urged to contact local police.

Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing From Conn. National Guard


A Waterbury resident and former member of the Connecticut Army National Guard pleaded guilty in federal court today of conspiring to embezzle funds from the National Guard during his service.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Derek Jackson, 36, was serving in the Conn. Army National Guard in 2004 when he began conspiring with his payroll supervisor to have extra money transferred into his bank account.

The transfers were made over a period of six years and ended in Jan. 2010 when the payroll supervisor died, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. Jackson sometimes shared that money with his supervisor and received a total of about $89,585 in unauthorized payments.

Jackson pleaded guilty today and could face up to five years in prison. He’s due to be sentenced on Feb. 26.

85-Year-Old Missing From Westport Has Dementia


Police are searching for an 85-year-old Westport man who went missing today and say he suffers from Alzheimer's and could be confused and disoriented.

A Silver Alert has been issued for Robert Brannigan, who was last seen in Westport earlier today. He has gray hair and brown eyes, stands 5'9" tall and weighs 140 pounds, police said. Brannigan was last seen wearing an off-white fisherman's sweater, a black vest and black sweatpants.

He is believed to be driving a gray 2006 Saab with the license Connecticut plate 485-UYZ.

Anyone with information on Brannigan's whereabouts is asked to contact Westport police at 203-341-6000.

Photo Credit: Westport Police Department

Cop Impersonator, Sex Assault Suspect Pleads Guilty of Fraud


The Berlin man accused of impersonating a police officer and sexually assaulting a female escort has been convicted of running an investment fraud scheme that cheated investors out of more than $1 million, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Frank Mete, 55, was arrested in early November following the reported sex assault and has been in police custody since. He pleaded guilty today to wire fraud and tax evasion charges stemming from a joint investigation by the FBI and IRS, according to the release.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said Mete posed as a broker dealing loans at interest rates of 15-to-18 percent between investors and fictitious borrowers. Mete allegedly drafted false promissory notes and other documents and records to convince investors that the deals were legitimate, then forged borrowers’ signatures and deposited the checks into bank accounts he had opened in the borrowers’ names.

Mete is accused of defrauding investors of $1,191,610.50 between 2009 and 2012. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Mete used that money for personal gain. He also neglected to file federal income tax returns over those four years, costing the government more than $357,000, the U.S. Attorney’s office wrote.

Mete has not been sentenced but could spend up to 25 years in jail on those charges alone.

He’s also charged with multiple counts of first-degree sexual assault, unlawful restraint, first-degree robbery, impersonating a police officer and sixth-degree larceny in connection with the November incident in Manchester.

Manchester police said they expect to file additional charges and that Mete could be implicated in other similar assaults.

Mete is due back in Manchester court on Dec. 13.

Photo Credit: Manchester Police Department

Coast Guard Nabs 5K Pounds of Pot


The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) thwarted a suspected smuggling attempt about 140 miles southwest of San Diego Monday, nabbing 5,000 pounds of marijuana from a panga boat.

According to USCG officials, a Sacramento-based Coast Guard patrol aircraft spotted the 30-foot boat around 3:40 p.m. A USCG interceptor boat was launched to investigate the suspicious vessel.

Officials say a brief chase ensued in the water, with the USCG boat crew using disabling gunfire on the panga boat’s engines. On board, officials discovered 201 bales of marijuana and two suspected smugglers.

The panga, suspects and marijuana were transferred to San Diego-based Coast Guard Cutter Sea Otter and taken to San Diego.

In addition to Coast Guard crews, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office of Air and Marine Multi-Role Enforcement Aircraft provided aerial support in the maritime bust.


Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Active

2-Inch Metal Nail Baked into Panera Bread Cookie: Cops


One Stamford mother had quite the surprise when her 7-year-old bit into a chocolate chip cookie from Panera Bread and felt something hard – that something turned out to be a nail that was baked into her daughter’s treat.

The woman bought the cookie for her children on Nov. 25 from a Panera Bread restaurant at 1063 Post Road in Darien, police said. She returned home and gave it to her daughter, only to discover a two-inch-long rusty looking nail inside.

Police said the nail had a dull tip and was the kind commonly used in the construction of wood pallets. The woman’s daughter was not hurt.

The Darien Health Department and State Department of Health were notified. Authorities are working to figure out where the nail came from how it ended up in the cookie.

The town health department conducted a preliminary inspection of the restaurant on Tuesday and will continue to investigate. Police said Panera and its distributor, SYGMA, have been cooperative.

Photo Credit: Darien Police Department

Chamberlain Highway in Berlin Closed


Part of Chamberlain Highway in Berlin is closed after a head-on collision and is expected to remain closed for several hours.

Three cars were involved in a crash just north of Butler Street and the three drivers were taken by ambulance to the hospital. One suffered serious injuries, according to police.

Police said it appears that one car sideswiped another, according to the preliminary investigation.

A dense fog advisory is in effect until noon today. but whether weather is a factor in this crash is not known.

Exactly how much of the road is closed is not clear, but the NBC Connecticut crew at the scene said one side is closed to Orchard Road, which is about a mile from the crash scene.

More photos of the crash are posted on the Berlin Citizen Web site.

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Photo Credit: Berlin Citizen

Face Transplant Patient Speaks Out


Dallas Wiens went from having no face after a horrible accident in 2008 to being the first man in the U.S. to get a full face transplant.

In Chicago Wednesday with his new bride, Jamie, for the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Wiens said, "my entire life is a miracle."

"Running my hands over my face, I have eyebrows, eyelashes," he said. "Stubble is coming out." 

When Wiens received his face transplant and was able to touch it for the first time, he said "this shouldn't be medically possible." Three months later his daughter came to visit him. "She kissed me and I could feel it," he said.

Wiens and his wife both survived horrific burns in separate accidents. Wiens' face was burned off when he hit a high-voltage wire at his church. Jamie Wiens suffered hers in a car accident during which she was trapped for 23 minutes in a burning vehicle.

They attended Wednesday's convention because of a technology they said changed Wiens' life.

"In the end for tissue to live, it has to have blood supply arrive at new tissues," Brigham and Women's Hospital radiologist Dr. Frank Rybicki said. "There has to be connections."

Rybicki said Wiens' transplant depended on sufficient blood supply to support a new face. So before making a cut, surgeons needed a map of what was behind the damage.

In the end it meant success for Wiens, and now he's not alone. Doctors say his transplant has provided incredible information for others. For example, blood vessels can reroute on their own to parts of a newly transplanted face, such as the tongue.

"New roads are being blazed simply by studying my case," Wiens said.

The Wiens share another mission: to tell people of the dangers of being distracted by a cell phone.

Wiens said he looked at his cell right before he hit his head on the power lines that changed his life. Jamie Wiens said she was texting right before her accident.

"No text is worth your life," Wiens said.

Photo Credit: AP

Water Main Break Affects Traffic in Downtown Hartford


Part of Main Street in busy downtown Hartford is closed this morning because of a water main break in the area of 755 Main Street.

The road is closed between Gold and Asylum streets and you cannot access Pearl or Asylum streets from Main Street.

Drivers should avoid the area and CT Transit will have to adjust its routes in this area.

To get around the area, use Prospect, Market, Trumbull or Jewell streets.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Whale Rescue Effort to Continue


Rescue workers will head back to Everglades National Park Thursday to try to save some of the dozens of pilot whales that have been stranded in shallow waters.

A total of 10 whales have died and another 41 were still stranded in the remote area of the park as of Wednesday evening.

Boats were packing up to head back out to the whales Thursday morning after leaving for the night. Everglades National Park spokeswoman Linda Friar said they're trying to save as many whales as they can.

"It's a wait and see right now," Friar said Thursday. "It could go any way, it depends on what the animals did overnight."

The whales were discovered Tuesday by fishing guides near Highland Beach, which is the western boundary of Everglades National Park in Monroe County.

Park rangers responded and found six whales dead, and another four had to be euthanized, officials said. Rangers worked with NOAA Fisheries, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Marine Mammal Conservancy and Marine Animal Rescue Society to try to herd the whales into deeper waters Wednesday.

But efforts to herd the close-knit animals out of the area, which is about an hour from the nearest boat ramp, have not been successful. One reason is the animals don't want to separate.

"Once their leader is gone, or they get beached, they don’t really know what to do so they’ll stay together," Friar said.

The stranding is not uncommon in Florida. In 2012, more than 20 pilot whales beached themselves in Fort Pierce, and just five were rescued.

More NBC6.com Stories:

Photo Credit: NBC6.com

Fast Food Workers Walk Off Jobs in Hartford, New Haven


If you normally stop at Dunkin Donuts, Subway or another fast food restaurant on your way to work, you might need to make other plans today.

Fast food workers in Hartford and New Haven are joining a 100-city strike today in a quest for $15 an hour wages and the right to form a union without retaliation.

The National Restaurant Association, an industry lobbying group, called the demonstrations a "campaign engineered by national labor groups," and said the vast majority of participants were union protesters rather than workers.

Workers said they're struggling to provide basic necessities for them and their children.

“These workers live in complete poverty. They work for the richest corporations in the country. This is a $200 billion industry," Kendall Fells an organizer with Fast Food Forward, said.

 In Hartford workers are striking outside a Dunkin Donuts and Subway restaurant.

Nationwide, workers went on strike from major national fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Torrington Man Accused of Child Porn Possession


A Torrington man accused of downloading child pornography is due in court today.

Police arrested Michael Sykes, 50, at his Prospect Street apartment just before 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday and said he had been watching child pornography at his home.

Sykes has been charged with importing child pornography, possession of child porn, promoting a minor in obscene performance and obscenity.

He is being held on $50,000 bond.

Photo Credit: Torrington Police

Long-Time WH Plumber Paralyzed


A man who worked more than 30 years as a White House plumber was left paralyzed and jobless after a car accident in Maryland.

"This isn't what you call the golden years," said James Plakas, whose career at the White House Plumbing Shop was cut short just a few months before the assistant foreman qualified for full retirement benefits.

A driver experiencing a medical emergency caused the 8-car pile-up on Rockville Pike, Montgomery County police said, leaving Plakas with severe injuries that left him a quadriplegic.

"I was making good money and I had a good crew," Plakas said. "I don't remember much [from the accident] until people showed me pictures."

The accident didn't wipe away Plakas' strong spirit. With a trembling voice, he told News4, "I hope some day I will [walk again], but it would have to be a miracle."

The state's attorney's office decided not to press charges against the driver responsible for the accident, so Plakas took matters into his own hands by hiring a lawyer and suing for damages.

"He was a quarter, three months short, of a requirement for him to receive social security benefits, full benefits," Plakas' lawyer Rene Sandler told News4.

Plakas, who began working at the White House when Jimmy Carter was president, said the most disappointing part of his story is not finishing serving under the nation's first African American president.

One Derailment Survivor's Story


One of the women who survived Sunday's deadly Metro-North derailment said she didn't think that one of the four passengers who died in the crash "felt any pain."

The passenger, who asked to be identified only as "Anna," told NBC 4 New York that she and other passengers tried to help Kisook Ahn, a nurse who was killed after the train went off the rails around a sharp curve in the Spuyten Duyvil section of the Bronx.

Anna said she and other passengers grabbed a stethoscope from Ahn's own work bag and tried unsuccessfully to find a heartbeat while the Queens woman was pinned inside the train car.

"I don't think she felt any pain," she said. "She was finishing dying while we were with her."

She added, "We were there for her. We tried to help her but we couldn't and I'm sorry I couldn't, but I did pray for her."

MORE: NYPD Probes Metro-North Crash With Feds: Kelly

Anna described a chaotic scene in the seconds leading up to Ahn's death. What started as a normal commute to work began routinely with a crossword, but she said she could feel the car start to tilt as the train attempted to round the sharp curve, which federal investigators later said was at a speed of 82 mph.

The next thing she knew, she was tumbling around in the car. She hit her head on the luggage rack, she said, and the train's metal siding peeled back like a tin can and debris flew into the car. She curled into a ball and thought of her family.

"I can't die here," she recalled thinking. "I'm not going to die here. This isn't happening."

When the train came to a stop, she and other passengers found Ahn and another woman both pinned. She said she gave the other injured woman her cell phone so she could call her family.

Eventually, the adrenaline rush of the crash was replaced by excruciating back pain, Anna said. Four days after the crash, she said she's still in an incredible amount of pain and has already filed preliminary paperwork for  a civil claim.

"My daughter, she wants me to hold her and hug her and play with her and I can't really move," she said.

Threating Message Found at Stratford Elementary School


There are extra police officers at Second Hill Lane School in Stratford this morning after someone spray painted threatening graffiti on an air conditioning unit on the school roof.

The message said “Death 2 Thee Kids” and police went to check it yesterday.

The spray paint was quickly removed.

Photo Credit: Submitted

Parents Ask Brookfield BOE Member to Resign


For the first time, Brookfield parents came face to face with the Board of Education member who made an "insensitive" Facebook comment about the upcoming Sandy Hook school shooting anniversary and demanded that he resign.

Gregory Beck, a newly appointed school board member and police dispatcher in Brookfield, attended his first Board of Education meeting at Brookfield High School on Wednesday night. There he was confronted by dozens of angry parents.  

“You did it on the 26th day… these people have to count to get to their one-year anniversary. Shame on you! Shame on you!” said parent Linda Frame.

Almost a month ago, he pledged to buy his friends ammunition during Newtown's 26 Days of Kindness, an effort taking place ahead of the Dec. 14 anniversary of the massacre.

“I shall buy my friends who are gun enthusiasts a box of ammunition on days 1-26,” the post on Beck’s Facebook page said. Beck has since then given a written apology and acknowledged that the post  was insensitive. He said he didn't mean to cause any harm.

But for many, it was too late.

"If you are dumb enough to be that stupid at least be smart enough to keep your mouth shut and not hit post," said Newtown parent Kate Mayer.

NBC Connecticut spoke with Gregory Beck at the meeting.

"They were very passionate, but unfortunately I'm going to maintain my position," Beck said. "I feel I'm the best candidate."

Brookfield parents were outraged with his response.

“How is my daughter supposed to learn about integrity from someone like this in charge of our Board of Ed,” said Frame.

Some members of the Board of Education said they were upset about the Facebook post, but added they could not force Beck to resign.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Fatal Crash Closes Route 69 in Woodbridge


One person was killed in a crash on Route 69 in Woodbridge early this morning and police said the road will be closed for several hours as they investigate.

The crash happened at 4:04 a.m. on the Litchfield Turnpike in the area of Bond Road.

Route 69 is closed between Clark Road and Bradley Road.

No additional information has been released. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Cops: Teens Let Friend Drive Drunk Before Fatal Crash


Five months after their friend was killed in a Glastonbury crash, police have arrested three 17-year-old boys who are accused of letting her drive drunk.

Police said the boys knew Jane Modlesky, 17, of Glastonbury, was “highly intoxicated” when she got behind the wheel of an SUV early on the morning of Sunday, July 14 and hit a tree on Woodhaven Road.

Modlesky, who would have been a senior at Glastonbury High School this year, was alone in the car when the crash happened and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

The SUV, a 2008 Honda Pilot, belonged to the parents of one of Modlesky’s friends, police said, and she had been in the car with four 16-year-old boys prior to the crash.

The teenage boy who was initially driving dropped a friend off at a Glastonbury home, police said, then drove to his own house and got out.

Another 16-year boy got behind the wheel and drove to his own house, where he and another teen got out of the car, police said.

Modlesky then got behind the wheel and was killed when she struck a tree half-a-mile away, police said.

Police determined that Modlesky’s blood alcohol content was .27, which was more than 13 times the legal limit of .02 for someone under the age of 21.

Police said the last two teens in the car with Modlesky were well aware that she was "highly intoxicated," but allowed her to drive anyway.

"They very well knew that she was intoxicated and should not have been driving," said Agent James Kennedy of the Glastonbury Police Department.

The first teen to drive the car was charged with violation of passenger restrictions and operating a motor vehicle between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. He is due in court on Dec. 20.

The boy he dropped off was not charged.

The second teen to drive was charged with reckless endangerment in the second degree, violation of passenger restrictions and operating a motor vehicle between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. He is due in court on Dec. 18.

The other teen was charged with reckless endangerment in the second degree.

Glastonbury High School students said the fatal crash has been devastating.

"It's just ruining us," said Jonathan Rico, a senior at the high school.

Another senior, Austin Mccallum, said many students are "rethinking teenagers being stupid – let's go out drinking and whatnot – they're really saying, you know, this coulud happen to anyone now."

In August, police charged the girl who they said threw a party hours before the crash and served alcohol to minors.

Route 15 Reopens After Crash


The southbound lanes of Route 15 have reopened in Hamden after a crash Thursday morning.

The southbound side of the Wilbur Cross Parkway was shut down near exit 61, according to state police.

There is no word on injuries, but police described the accident as minor.

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