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Levinson Family Meets with FBI Head


The family of missing CIA contractor Robert Levinson said they have met with the FBI in their continued effort to press the U.S. government to find him.

Levinson disappeared in Iran in 2007 during a secret intelligence mission which an Associated Press investigation made public last week. The report revealed Levinson was investigating the Iranian government during the trip instead of being on private business, as the government had said he was.

The statement from the Levinson family, which was sent to NBC News, said they met with FBI Director James Comey Friday in Washington, D.C. to continue urging the government to "fulfill its moral obligation to Rovert Levinson."

"We thank Director Comey for his personal commitment to do everything in his power to bring Bob home," the statement read. "We also have requested new meetings with Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama. We are waiting to hear from them."

The government has not received "proof of life" in years, and the last time his family received photos or video of him was in late 2010 and early 2011. It is unknown who is holding him.

Photo Credit: Bob Levinson Family

Holy Land Cross Raised in Waterbury


A Waterbury landmark is once again standing tall Friday afternoon a new cross was raised on the top of the Holy Land Park for thousands to see across the Naugatuck Valley.

The cross weighs 22 tons and is equipped with 5000 LED lights. It's a much-needed replacement that many have wanted for years.

“They'll have their cross back on the mountain and it will be lit,” said Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary.

The cross at I-84 and Route 8 has been a landmark since the 1950’s. Time took a toll on the original, and the last one that was put up in 2008 did not light up.

“We want people to come to Waterbury to see the cross like they used to,” O’Leary explained.

The new cross aimed to change that. It is the biggest and brightest yet, and  O’Leary said the improvement here was critical.

“It’s our identifier you go all over the country and people ask where you’re from… You say, 'I'm from Waterbury'… 'Oh, that's the place with the cross on the mountain,'” he said.

O’Leary worked with Waterbury native Fritz Blasius to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for the cross and the Holy Land property. Their goal was to clean up this area and restore the shrines.

“We've taken hard knocks in the past hopefully this is the beginning of some good things,” Blasius said.

This giant new addition is just the beginning. If it brings more people to the city, it could give Waterbury an economic boost for years to come.

“It will be here for a long, long time," O'Leary said. "It’s built to last forever.”

There will be an official lighting ceremony on Sunday night in Waterbury on South Elm Street at 6 p.m.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

LA Toy Giveaway Has 30K Extra Gifts


An annual Skid Row toy giveaway event is facing a severe shortage this year: not enough children are showing up to claim them.

The Fred Jordan Missions says it gave away about 10,000 toys at their Dec. 8 event, and it was left with about 30,000 new toys to give.

Last year, the mission faced the opposite problem: too many kids showed up and left empty-handed.

The mission is inviting children and their families to show up to a second event at 10 a.m. Saturday, where organizers say each youngster will receive a bag containing more than three toys.

"We just want to make sure these toys get to needy children," said mission spokeswoman Suzanna Tashiro Choi.

Tashiro Choi says they'll be giving away skateboards, scooters, basketballs, dolls, stuffed animals, video games and more.

The event, which has been held for 70 years, will be held at 445 Towne Avenue in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles. Another event will be held on Christmas Eve.

Thousands of people are expected. Tashiro Choi recommends arriving early.

More Southern California Stories:

Photo Credit: Suzanna Tashiro Choi

Man Shot to Death in 22nd Hartford Homicide


Police are investigating after a man was shot to death in a parking lot outside 109 Adelaide Street in Hartford's 22nd homicide of the year.

The victim has been identified by his family as Angel Vasquez, 23. He died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

The Major Crimes Division is investigating. Police said they have not identified any suspects and are asking anyone with information to call police at 860-527-6300.


2 Northern Calif. Mall Shootings


Police late Friday are investigating a pair of mall shootings in two northern California cities.

In San Leandro, officers responded to the Bayfair Mall on 15555 E. 14th St. just before 4:30 p.m. after receiving several calls from witnesses reporting a shooting.

When police arrived, they found a 24-year-old man in the parking lot suffering from a gunshot wound. The man was transported to a hospital and his wound did not appear to be life threatening, police said.

Detectives continue to investigate the shooting, which they said was sparked by an argument between the shooter and the victim.

There were no evacuations or shelters-in-place ordered during the police response and investigation.

Police describe the shooter as an African American man, who fled the scene in a white, compact vehicle.

While officers were investigating the Bayfair Mall shooting, police in Tracy -- about 40 miles east of San Leandro -- also responded to a separate mall shooting.

A SWAT team and police swarmed the West Valley Mall on Naglee Road after a call came in reporting a shooting at 4:42 p.m., according to NBC affiliate KCRA.

When police arrived, officers discovered the eastern mall entrance had been struck with an unknown number of small caliber rounds.

Police said the face of the building, its glass facade and one glass entrance door were struck, with the door shattering.

The shooter was last seen by witnesses leaving the eastern parking lot of the mall, possibly on foot.

West Valley Mall was never closed or evacuated during the investigation, police said.

No injuries were reported in the shooting.


Civil Rights Complaint Against Former Police Officer Dismissed


A civil rights complaint filed against former Hartford police detective Robert Lawlor, who shot and killed a teenager and wounded a 21-year-old while on duty in 2005, has been dismissed, according to a letter he received from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Lawlor, a retired 18-year veteran of the police department, shot and killed 18-year-old Jashon Bryant in the North End of Hartford when an undercover sting operation went awry in May of 2005.

He was found not guilty of manslaughter in a 2009 court decision, but a federal investigation was launched to look into Lawlor’s conduct and determine whether he was justified in pulling the trigger. The case was thrown out Friday.

According to the letter from U.S. Department of Justice Section Chief Robert J. Moossy, Jr., investigators found that “the evidence does not establish a prosecutable violation of the federal criminal rights statutes” and the justice department is closing the investigation.

Hartford police spokesman Lt. Brian Foley said the HPD Firearms Review Board continues to investigate through the Firearms Review Board process.

“The incident is a sad and tragic circumstance,” Foley said. “The department hopes that all those involved, as well as the community, can continue in the healing process.”

Lawlor’s attorney, Michael Georgetti, expressed gratitude and relief at the decision.

"Both Bob Lawlor and I are very pleased that the justice department has finally completed their investigation,” said Lawlor’s attorney, Michael Georgetti. “It's hard to imagine that it took this long but I think that closure of this matter once and for all will be very good for Bob Lawlor, and also for the family of the young man that was killed some eight years ago. And I hope all of them everybody in this matter can put this all behind them and move on."

Lawlor said in court in 2009 that the incident unfolded after Bryant got into a car holding a gun and the driver sped off toward an FBI agent. Lawlor fired and Bryant was killed. No gun was found.

The NAACP sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting a federal investigation after Lawlor was acquitted by an all-white jury.

Bryant’s family said they’re still devastated and haven’t been able to find peace.

LA Motorcycle Theft Ring Busted


Authorities busted a theft ring involving nine men accused of stealing dozens of motorcycles for resale, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said.

Read: 1 Dead, 2 Wounded in Reseda Shooting

Three men were charged with one count each of unlawful vehicle identification activity, chop shop operation and receiving stolen property.

Read: Widow's "Closure" Comes 6 Decades After Korean War Veteran's Death

Six others face 31 counts of receiving stolen property.

The complaint includes an allegation that the crimes involve the taking of more than $150,000.

The group would scout locations to steal motorcycles and then allegedly change the vehicle identification numbers of the stolen motorcycles for resale.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

4 Arrested in Mall Carjacking


Authorities say four people are in custody in connection with the deadly carjacking at an upscale mall in northern New Jersey where a 30-year-old man was shot and killed in front of his wife.

A spokeswoman for the Essex County prosecutor's office says the suspects have been arrested in connection with the death of Dustin Friedland outside The Mall at Short Hills last weekend. Officials identified the suspects as Hanif Thompson, Karif Ford, Basim Henry and Kevin Roberts.

Friedland was shot in the head Sunday night in front of his wife inside the mall's parking garage. Authorities say two carjackers then fled in his Range Rover.

Bail for each of the suspects is set at $2 million, and all four are charged with murder, felony murder, carjacking, conspiracy, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose.

The defendants range in age from 29 to 33 and all are from New Jersey.

The vehicle was found the next day in Newark, about 10 miles away.


Photo Credit: NBC 4 New York

High School Students Attack Man, Break His Nose: Cops


An off-duty officer tackled one of the attackers and police are trying to identify others.

Stamford police are trying to identify several Stamford Academy students who they said were involved in a “heinous daytime attack” yesterday. 

A 16-year-old student is accused of punching a man in the face, breaking his nose.  Several other students then tried to steal the victim’s cell phone, according to police. 

The attack happened in the area of 60 Atlantic St. around 3:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The victim said he was walking when between six and eight teenage boys wearing khaki pants and green sweatshirts with “Stamford Academy” embroidery started throwing snowballs at him and he asked them to stop.

Instead of stopping, the group started to attack him, police said.

An off-duty officer who was stopped at a stoplight saw the attack and yelled for the boys to stop, police said.

Then the officer saw a teen, later identified as a 16-year-old Bridgeport boy, punch the victim in his face and several members from the group attempt to steal the victim’s cell phone, police said.

The officer tackled and detained the Bridgeport teen and the others ran off, police said.

More officers quickly arrived to assist the off-duty officer and took the juvenile to the Stamford Police Juvenile division.

He has since been was charged with second-degree assault, criminal attempt at robbery in the second degree, interfering with police and breach of peace and taken to the Bridgeport Detention Center.

Police have not released his name, but said he is a Stamford Academy student.

The victim was taken to Stamford Hospital to be treated for a broken nose and several lacerations on his face and arm.

The Stamford Police are investigating and said they will try to identify all Stamford Academy students involved in the attack.

Stamford Academy is a school for students in grades nine through 12 who struggled in traditional school environments or had dropped out. The school is focused on providing a supportive educational environment where they can focus on their studies and believe in themselves.

Domus, a Stamford-based organization, oversees the school.

"We have been made aware of Thursday’s incident; if our students were in fact involved, we are very disappointed because it is in direct conflict with the principles we teach and model," Mike Duggan, executive director of Domus,said in a statement.

"We will continue to work with our students to equip them with the skills to make better decisions and will continue to push for improvements in the mental health care system to help those who struggle with this issue. We ask that any Stamford Academy youth involved in this incident or with knowledge of this incident either turn themselves in to the police and take responsibility for their actions or contact Stamford Academy school leadership to help the police solve this case. We apologize and are very sorry this happened," said a Stamford organization that helps high-need, vulnerable youth," the statement said.


Photo Credit: NBC Philadelphia

Soldier Gives Sons Christmas Wish


Middle school student Dominic Rivera didn't want anything for Christmas this year other than to spend some time with his father, who has been serving in Afghanistan for the last seven months.

The sixth grader's holiday wish came true Friday during an afternoon rally at Central Middle School in Tinley Park. Students had been gathered in the gymnasium for what they thought was the school's annual winter games rally.

There was singing. There were gifts from Santa. And then there was dad.

"It's a little shocking," the boy, at a loss for words and holding back tears, said after the reunion in front of his classmates. His younger brother and mom were there too.

Sgt. John Rivera just returned to the United States on Monday and has spent the last few days in Arizona.

"I just couldn't wait to come see these two. It's been seven months," he said. "It's great. That's what the holidays are all about -- spending time with loved ones. So being home in time for that is special."

The idea for the reunion came from Rivera's wife, but it took off once she shared it with Central Middle School's principal.

"My brother is deployed overseas, so when we talked we were both exchanging tears over our phone call to do this to make it special for them," said Randy Fortin.

The happy reunion will be short-lived. Sgt. Rivera will be redeployed in the new year to Arizona.

For now, the family plans to make the best of the holiday time they have together. Rivera missed last Christmas because he was serving in Korea.

"I'm happy he's home and safe," said Janet Rivera. "It's been very, very hard. Anybody ... that knows me knows that can't keep a secret for anything. ... It was hard to keep it off of any social media and it's hard to keep it away from the babies."

Crowd Mobs Toy Giveaway


A crowd grew unruly at a western Pennsylvania toy distribution event, and the Salvation Army shut the program down for a day.

Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Diane Richard says in a statement that police were called to the North Ave. toy giveaway at about noon Friday. Authorities reported that there was a long waiting line, and when some people cut in front the crowd became unruly.

People surged into the facility when the doors opened and the Salvation Army did not have enough staff to control the situation, so the distribution was shut down for a day.

There were no arrests or injuries, and police cleared the scene just after 1 p.m.

Also on NBC10.com:

Soldiers Return Home Today from Kuwait


About 70 soldiers from the Connecticut National Guard returned home today from Kuwait.

Maj. Gen. Thaddeus Martin, adjutant general and Commander of the Connecticut National Guard, says the soldiers from the 143rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion of Waterbury arrived Saturday after a nine month deployment to Kuwait.

The unit returned to the Army Aviation Support Facility in Windsor Locks.

While in Kuwait, the unit provided personnel, operational and logistical support services to combat-ready forces.

The 143rd unit mobilized and deployed in 2006 to Iraq and to Bosnia in 2001.

For the first time since March 2003, the Connecticut National Guard does not have any units forward deployed.

Photo Credit: Ryan Cusson

Bridgeport Man Arrested for Shooting Store Clerk


Bridgeport police have arrested a man they believe is responsible for shooting a store owner earlier this week.

Davon Eldemire, 20, was arrested late Friday night for the December 17 shooting of a store clerk at the S&K Grocery., 856 Fairfield Ave.

The owner of the store was shot in the leg after struggling with a masked man during an attempted robbery.

Eldemire was arrested at his home by members of the Emergency Services Unit, Detective Division, Gang Task Force and Patrol.

He was last arrested for a shooting that occurred during the Puerto Rican Day parade on July 14. He was out on bond and wearing a GPS monitor.

Eldemire is charged with Criminal Attempt at first degree robbery, first degree assault and carrying a pistol without a permit.

Water Main Break Repaired in Plymouth


South Main Street and Agney Avenue in Plymouth were shut down for hours Saturday afternoon while crews worked to repair a water main break.

The intersection was scheduled to reopen around 7 p.m.

Water service was restored around 2:30 p.m. and crews are working to patch up the road, police said.

A water company spokesman said 10 customers were affected by the break, many of which were commercial buildings, according to a water company spokesman.

Police said they believe no residents were without water, just experiencing low water pressure.

Bridgport Homicide Suspect Arrested


A 22-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the shooting death of DeWayne Gardner in Bridgeport last week.

Dominick Gonzalez, of Park Avenue in Bridgeport, was arrested and charged with felony murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery. He's accused of killing 21-year-old Gardner during the early morning hours of Dec. 16.

Police responded to a car crash at Poplar Street and Maplewood Avenue around 2 a.m. and found a silver Nissan Pathfinder on Poplar, just south of Maplewood that had crossed the center line of the street and hit a parked truck head-on, police said.

Gardner was in the car. He had been shot in the torso, police said.

He was transported from the scene to Saint Vincent’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police believe that Gardner was shot in the area of 176-178 Poplar and drove a short distance before hitting the parked truck.

The investigation is ongoing and police expect to make additional arrests.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Detective Division, Lt. Christopher Lamaine at 203-576-7901 or Detective Paul Ortiz at 203-581-5290.

This was the 13th homicide in Bridgeport this year.

Photo Credit: Bridgeport Police Department

Police Rescue Residents From Burning Home in Bridgeport


Nine people are without a home but are safe after police helped rescue residents from a burning house on in Bridgeport late Friday night.

Police officers were in the area when they noticed smoke and fire coming from the building at 801 and 803 Noble Avenue in Bridgeport. People trapped inside were calling for help, and the officers went in to rescue a man and two children. Additional officers arrived to help the rescue effort and look for more people, police said.

The resident who was rescued told police he first noticed the fire when a cat ran from a spare room and was followed by a trail of smoke. He kicked a wall that was bubbling and flames poured out, according to police.

One officer suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to Saint Vincent’s Hospital for an evaluation. No residents were hurt. Animal Control was called out to help a kitten injured in the fire.

Nine people were displaced, six of whom lived on the first floor and three of whom lived on the second. The Red Cross arrived on scene to help.

The home is a loss. Additionally, the house next door received smoke damage to gutters and siding.

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Photo Credit: News12

Pedestrian Struck by Car in Berlin


Emergency officials are responding to the Chamberlain Highway in Berlin after a pedestrian was struck by a car Saturday evening, according to police.

It happened outside Bella's Pizza in the area of 41 Chamberlain Highway.

The pedestrian's condition is unknown. It's not clear whether the driver stayed on scene.

Police and fire personnel are on scene.

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

15-Year-Old Charged with Murder


A 15-year-old suburban Chicago boy is accused of fatally stabbing his 25-year-old brother during a domestic dispute, police said.

Flossmoor police officers were called to the 2800 block of Chayes Park Drive just before 1 a.m. Friday for a call of a domestic disturbance, according to a release from police.

Responding officers found a 25-year-old victim suffering from an apparent knife wound inside the residence, the release said. The victim was transported to South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest where he was pronounced dead, officials said.

Michail Tigue, 15, was charged as an adult with first-degree murder in connection to the stabbing death of his brother Steven Tigue, according to Chief Michael Pulic.

Police say the murder is the town’s first homicide in more than 30 years.

Two Charged in New London Stabbing


Two people are facing charges after a 59-year-old man was stabbed in the face and hand and bitten by a dog at a New London apartment Friday night.

The victim told police he was drinking in an acquaintance’s apartment at 29 Golden Street when he was assaulted by two other guests and their dog. It happened around 10 p.m. Dec. 20.

Those people were identified as William "Willie" Thomas, 59, and Sandra Dopp, 51, both of New London. Thomas is accused of stabbing the victim, who was taken to Lawrence and Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Thompson is charged with second-degree assault and carrying a dangerous weapon. He’s being held on a $75,000 bond.

Dopp is charged with carrying a dangerous weapon and was released on a $2,500 non-surety bond.

Photo Credit: New London Police Department

Suspect Charged in Shooting, Armed Robbery Attempt


Bridgeport police have arrested the person accused of shooting a grocery store owner and attempting to rob the place Dec. 17.

Davon Eldemire, 20,  of Laurel Avenue in Bridgeport, was arrested Friday night and charged with criminal atetmpt at first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and carrying a pistol without a permit.

Police said Eldemire allegedly tried to rob S&K Grocery at 856 Fairfield Avenue at gunpoint and shot the store owner once in the leg.

A woman was also involved in the robbery, and police belive she tried to lure the clerk from behind the counter. She has not been identified or apprehended.

No money was taken.

Eldemire was held on a $1.5 million bond.

Anyone with information about these people should call Detective Michael Fiumidinisi, of the robbery squad, at 203-581-5246.

Photo Credit: Bridgeport Police Department
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