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Silver Alert Issued for Missing Elderly Hartford Man


Hartford Police have issued a Silver Alert for a missing 85-year-old man.

Mateo Collazo was last seen at 403 Capitol Avenue around 7:30 a.m. on Friday. Collazo was wearing a blue jacket, black or tan pants, a brown hat and he was carrying a white shopping bag, according to police.

Collazo suffers from mild dementia, police said. He frequents the Park Street area of Hartford and may also attempt to get to the Ellis Manor at 210 George Street where his deceased wife used to live, police said.

Anyone who sees Collazo is asked to call Hartford Police Detective Arroyo at 860-757-4232 or Sergeant Liappes at 860-757-4482.

Photo Credit: Hartford Police

WATCH: Golfer Flees Hornet Attack on Course


A Spanish golfer jumped into a nearby lake to escape a swarm of hornets then continued on despite his stinging injuries.

Pablo Larrazabal was in the fifth hole's fairway during the Maybank Malaysian Open when he swatted away a stray hornet, which then prompted a swarm to attack him. The golfer attempted to fight them off, but had to run to the lake to escape the angry wasps.

“They were huge and like 30 or 40 of them started to attack me big time,” Larrazabal said in a statement to ESPN. “I didn’t know what to do. My caddie told me to run, so I start running like a crazy guy, but the hornets were still there, so the other players told me to jump in the lake.”

The scene could have been reminiscent of Chris Farley's character fleeing a bee attack in the 1995 film "Tommy Boy."

Larrazabal suffered more than 20 stings and had to receive medical attention. He described the encounter as the “scariest moment" of his career.

However, he returned to play his last five holes in a borrowed shirt, reversing his luck by finishing the 14th hole – the same one where he was attacked – with a birdie putt and finishing overall with two under.

He later tweeted out thanks to supporters and joked that golf is a dangerous sport.

Photo Credit: Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Man Who Drowned in Lake Wepawaug Walked Away from Crash: Cops


Police have released the name of a man who drowned in Lake Wepawaug in Orange on Saturday afternoon.

The body of Vaughn Porteous, 27, of Hamden, was spotted about 15 feet from shore in off Grassy Hill Road, an area where people frequently fish.

Authorities believe Porteous had walked away from a car crash on Route 15 North in Bethany on March 19, but when officers got to the scene of that accident, no one was in the vehicle.

Police do not suspect foul play.


Large Fire Damages Tobacco Barn, 5 Houses


The East Windsor Fire Department and firefighters from several nearby communities spent hours battling a large fire that has damaged a tobacco shed and nearby mobile homes, displacing five families.

Just after 1 a.m., the fire department responded to the intersection of Elm Street and Grove Drive for a fire.

The blaze has damaged a large tobacco barn that sits directly behind the Red Hill Park Community.and five nearby mobile homes.

According to the East Windsor Fire Chief, propane tanks at the mobile homes caught fire and two of them are still under a controlled burn.

"The whole trailer park was affected for a little while due to the power issue," Warehouse Point Fire Chief James Barton said, "But we were able to isolate it and get power back to the remaining trailers."

Tammy Schmidt and her daughter Caitlin escaped from their burning home and ran to knock on neighbors’ doors to wake them up.

"And everybody kept saying, 'Oh it’s only going to go two houses, and then it went three. And then, 'Oh it’s not going to go there.' And then next thing you know, it went four. Next thing you know, five houses," she said.

Laurie Goodhue, a resident, said a neighbor woke her up by pounding on the door because he thought the propane tanks were going to blow up.

"So he's like 'Get out of the house!' Then I just looked across the street and the barn was just engulfed," Goodhue said.

Main Street was closed for several hours as crews responded and mutual aid was called in from several fire departments, including Warehouse Point, Broad Brook, Enfield, Windsor Locks and South Windsor. Firefighters left the scene a little after 7 a.m.

East Windsor Ambulance and officials form the Windsor Locks Police Department also responded.

Fortunately, no one was hurt and the American Red Cross is helping four families find shelter.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.


Good Friday Walk Helps Fight Poverty and Homelessness


More than 100 people spent their Good Friday morning walking in an effort to fight poverty and homelessness.

The 20-mile Rockville United Methodist Church's annual walk is a physical and emotional journey to provide for people who are less fortunate.

“Well, the Lord walked for us and we can walk for him,” said Jack Wilkie, of Rockville, who joined fellow church members on the walk.

Wilkie said it makes him feel good that he did something for somebody else on Good Friday.

“I can take that two minutes, or seven hours, or whatever time it takes to walk with my friends and be with the Lord on Good Friday,” he said.

The walk raises nearly $15,000 each year.

Judy Culy, the co-chairperson  of the walk said the event sends money to Sharing Inc. which helps daycare centers and farm co-ops in Mississippi and Alabama.

"To understand how valuable this money, how valuable the support is, and some of it money goes to the town shelters, which is also a good part of it, so it’s been a lot of fun," Dave Howe, of Vernon, said.

The money raised will also go to the Tri-Town Homeless Shelter in Rockville and other nonprofit organizations to help the homeless and those living in poverty.

“Because that's the way it should be on a religious day like this, and leading up to Easter it’s, just part of what we do for the last 30-35 years,” Wilkie said.

Route 2A Closed at Route 12 in Preston


Route 2A is closed at Route 12 in Preston due to emergency pole replacement after an earlier crash.

Police did not have any information on when the road is expected to reopen.

Part of Route 1 in Darien Closed


Route 1 in Darien is closed at exit 11 of Interstate 95 South because of a three-car crash.

Police said there is one possible injury.

A photo from police shows a car up an embankment and at least one ambulance at the scene.

No additional information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: Darien Police

Crash Closes Part of Route 83 in Ellington


At least one person was injured in a crash on Route 83 in Ellington and part of the road is closed.

Police said one patient has been transported after a two-car crash that happened just before 2 p.m. in the area of 100 West Road.

A second person might have to be transported as well.

Lifestar was called but could not fly.

Route 83 is closed from Autumn Chase to Lower Butcher Road.

"Thrones" Post Taken as Threat


A New Jersey college professor was placed on unpaid leave after posting online a photo of his 6-year-old daughter wearing a shirt with a quote from "Game of Thrones" that administrators took as a threat.

The shirt says "I will take what is mine with fire & blood," and the photo was posted on Google+ by the Bergen Community College professor, Francis Schmidt, in January, around the time HBO released a trailer for the new season of the show.

After a college dean saw the post, and perceived it as a "threatening email," Schmidt was ordered to meet with administrators and was then placed on unpaid leave. The dispute in January came to light this week after Inside Higher Ed referred to it in an online post.

Schmidt on Friday shared an email with NBC 4 New York that he said was from a human resources employee at the college at the time of the dispute.

"You are not to be on campus for any reason," the email says. "The safety of all of the members of the community is taken very seriously."

Schmidt was allowed to return to teaching later that month after he was cleared by a psychiatrist. He says he missed crucial time with students he was advising.

He says he can't imagine why anyone would think he's capable of violence.

"They claimed to have never heard of 'Game of Thrones,' and so I tried to explain it to them," he said Friday.

College spokesman Larry Hlavenka Jr. said in a statement that the matter was a private personnel issue, but added that the college takes seriously any perceived threats of violence.

"Since Jan. 1, 2014, 34 incidents of school shootings have occurred in the United States," Hlavenka said. "In following its safety and security procedures, the college investigates all situations where a member of its community – students, faculty, staff or local residents – expresses a safety or security concern."

Schmidt believes he was targeted because he filed a grievance against the school when he was not granted a sabbatical.

The faculty union has also been embroiled in contract negotiations with the college; last week the union cast a no-confidence vote in the school's president. 

--Jen Maxfield contributed to this story

Photo Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Fire Guts Jersey Shore Homes


A fast-moving 7-alarm fire, fanned by strong ocean winds, burned million dollar homes to the ground and damaged nearly a dozen others in Sea Isle City, N.J. on Good Friday.

As the rubble smoldered Saturday morning, crews returned to the 7800 block of Pleasure Avenue at the beach to put out some hot spots.

Flames began to flicker around 4 p.m. Friday and quickly spread to a total of three structures sharing the same lot, city officials said. In total five homes were consumed.

"It was just amazing how fast the first house went up in flames," said witness Daniel O'Connell, who is staying on the island with his family for the Easter holiday. "I followed the smell [of smoke] and speeding police cars to the house where there was just a small amount of smoke coming out of the basement of one of the houses."

Within minutes, however, O'Connell said the fire simply erupted.

"The police were attempting to put out the fire with fire extinguishers, but at that time it was too late," the 15-year-old Jenkintown, Pa.-native told NBC10.com. "The house started pouring black smoke out of the basement, so I rode around the block [on my bike] to get up wind of the fire and out of the smoke. From here, I could see the flames erupting and traveling up the house."

The structures were side-by-side townhouses, each about 2,000 square feet, according to Sea Isle City Mayor Leonard Desiderio. According to data on the real estate website Zillow.com, the beachfront homes were listed for more than $2 million.

"The wind was blowing hard from the beach, going towards the bay," said Loretta Giello, who has a summer home on 85th Street. "And I kept hearing sirens and sirens, and I saw so much black smoke that I started to run down there to see what was happening."

NBC10 First Alert Weather Meteorologist Sheena Parveen said onshore winds were gusting near 15 to 20 mph at the time of the fire, which is pretty typical.

Giello said multiple fire engines have responded from different shore towns but that Sea Isle City is not as easy to access because the bridge coming in from Avalon is closed.

"So the fire trucks had to go all the way down Route 9, or the Parkway, until they get into Sea Isle and that's another 15 or 20 minutes," Giello said. Mayor Desiderio said however, he did not think the bridge being out affected response time.

Cape May County fire dispatch radio, posted to YouTube, shows the first call went out at 4:27 p.m. and that the Sea Isle Fire Department requested mutual aid from nearby fire departments about five minutes into the response, before Sea Isle crews were on scene.

A total of 14 fire companies from up and down the Jersey Shore responded to the blaze, fire officials said.

Mayor Desiderio said there were no injuries, but that 11 nearby homes were also damaged due to the intense heat from the fire. He said the homes that burned are vacation homes, not year-round homes.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Sea Isle City is a small Cape May County city of around 2,000 year-round residents that swells in the summers when vacationers flock to its beaches. But like much of the Jersey Shore, it was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

That storm damage cost the city an amusement park just this year, when the owner of Gillian's Funland said the severely damaged park would have to close.

Photo Credit: Brian Kelly

Baby-Snatching Suspect in Custody


Police say the woman suspected of trying to abduct a baby in a stroller as the child's nanny was pushing it down a Chelsea street Thursday afternoon is in custody. 

The NYPD said Friday they were looking for a woman named Tara Ann McDonald, who sources said has seven previous arrests for attempted kidnapping.

McDonald was picked up in midtown Friday afternoon and was in police custody. She was undergoing psychiatric evaluation at Bellevue Hospital Saturday, police said.

Police say the nanny was pushing the 8-month-old in a stroller near 17th Street and Eighth Avenue Thursday afternoon when a woman in her 50s approached the nanny and began talking to her. 

The woman, who may be homeless, then began pushing the carriage away, police said.

William Marte, a UPS driver who was eating his lunch while on break in his truck, told NBC 4 New York on Friday that he saw the woman grab the stroller by the handle.

"The other lady was saying 'oh please, help me, help me," Marte recalled. "That's when I decide to come out and tell the lady, 'Please, let her go, leave her alone.'"

Marte said the suspect cursed and fled.

He says the baby slept through the whole ordeal. The father of two says he's not a hero, and did what anyone would do.

"I consider myself like just another New Yorker, and I did what I'm supposed to do," he said. "I did the right thing in the right moment."

Marte said the nanny thanked him over and over. 

--Marc Santia contributed to this story 



Stunt Pilot Bails by Parachute Just Before Fiery Crash


An aerobatic stunt pilot narrowly escaped by parachute Friday when his single-passenger plane crashed in a fireball onto a northern Vermont interstate, charring the ground beneath it.

Dan Marcotte, an experienced aerobatic stunt performer, bailed from the plane in the nick of time, before it crashed into a lane of Interstate 89 North in Highgate, Vt., near the Canadian border and the Franklin County State Airport, NECN's Jack Thurston reported.

Firefighters found him dangling in his parachute from a tree and cut him down. He was not seriously injured, police said.

"Something happened to the plane; he knew something was wrong," Lt. Garry Scott of the Vt. State Police told NECN. "These high speeds; we're pretty lucky no one else was injured."

The section of I-89 was shut down twice during this emergency: once during the initial frenzy, once as the wreckage was cleared away. At times during the removal of the wreckage, one lane of slow travel was allowed. No drivers were hit when the plane hurtled to the ground.

Marcotte is a well-known pilot who performs tricks at events like the Independence Day celebrations on the Burlington waterfront. His Facebook page identified him as the plane's pilot.

He was practicing when he had to jump from his plane, and he is now doing okay, a loved one explained on Facebook. "Thank God for our STRONG parachute!" the page administrator wrote.

"He was very upset, emotionally upset," Lt. Scott said of Marcotte. "But no real significant injuries. He was able to walk. He came back to the scene and talked to investigators."

Scott said the Federal Aviation Administration, out of Maine, will look into what went wrong.

Police and a towing service gathered as much of the wreckage as they could find.

Mike Cota of Cota's Towing said this wasn't the first response of its kind for him, though. "We have about one a year or so; somebody goes down up here," he said.

The Facebook page of Dan Marcotte AirShows was lighting up with well-wishes Friday afternoon, with folks very glad their friend lived through this, likely still with more thrill-seeking left in him.

Photo Credit: Jack Thurston, NECN

What to Know About the Pot Industry


April 20, once a counterculture holiday when potheads would gather to celebrate and smoke pot, is turning into a blockbuster event that could potentially bring in millions in tax and tourism dollars for states where it's newly legal.

Denver is playing host to its fifth annual Cannabis Cup this weekend, and this year's event is expected to be city's the largest yet in the wake of legalization.

An estimated 30,000 visitors were expected at the two-day event, according to The New York Times. At the start of the month, event organizers had already sold about 10,000 more tickets than they had last year, when pot wasn't yet legal in the state except for medical use.

Searches for hotel rooms in Denver on Hotels.com for the 4/20 weekend were up 73 percent over last year, too, according to The Cannabist -- a spike the company attributed in part to the state's legal recreational pot sales.

Scroll down to read some facts and figures about marijuana legalization and usage in the U.S.

4/20's hazy history

While there are no shortages of theories about how the “high" holiday came to be, several published reports give the credit for 4/20's creation to a group of Northern California high school students. The friends say they started using the term as code for pot-smoking in 1971, after planning to meet at 4:20 p.m. one day to smoke and search out a rumored pot crop.

The term spread, eventually reaching, through mutual acquaintances, members of the Greatful Dead rock band, the friends claim. The lingo was picked up by High Times magazine in 1990, according to BBC News, after an editor saw the term on a Grateful Dead concert flyer.

While others have also come forward to claim they are parents of the pot phrase, the friends, who call themselves the Waldos, say they have letters and other documents to back their story.

America's favorite illicit drug

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the country, a 2012 government survey found. An estimated 18.9 million Americans aged 12 and older -- or 7.3 percent of them -- said they had used marijuana in the past month.

And the numbers of Americans who say they have tried pot are far higher. A Pew Research survey taken in February found that nearly half of Americans polled, or 47 percent of them, admitted to having used marijuana at some point in their lives.

Medical research ramps up

The casual use such numbers suggest was the target of a study, published this week, that analyzed the effects of recreational pot-smoking on two neural regions that regulate emotions and motivation.

That study, a collaboration between researchers from Harvard's and Northwestern's medical schools, found the size, shape and density of both the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens significantly altered, even in people smoking as little as once a week. Those who smoked pot more regularly had abnormally large nucleus accumbens.

"When we saw that there was a consistent abnormality and that it was directly related to the amount of cannabis one took in, it gave us some significant pause," the study's co-author said. "Seeing these differences raises a cautionary flag that we need to do more research."

Seeing green

That need for more medical research hasn't stanched the interest in pot's profit potential.

Pot is already doing a brisk business in Colorado alone, and the taxes could provide a windfall for the state. A Moody's report predicted that the state will add an estimated $98 million to its tax coffers this year from taxes on recreational pot use on Jan. 1.

One group of industry investors seeking to capitalize on legal pot estimated in a recent report that the current market value is about $1.53 billion, a figure that includes all states that have active sales to those who are allowed to possess marijuana under state law.

That group, ArcView Market Research, also projected that Washington and Colorado would add $253 million and $455 million respectively their markets in 2014.

As for other states? The national pot market has a potential to swell to $10.2 billion in five years, according to the report. (To provide some perspective, the world's best-selling drug Lipitor at one point peaked at $13 billion in annual profit.)

Sweeping changes 

Americans' attitudes toward marijuana are evolving, too, with a recent Pew study finding that a majority of Americans — 54 percent — now think pot should be legal.

Voters in both Colorado and Washington signed off in 2012 on steps to legalize marijuana for personal recreational use, while other states rethink their own laws on a smaller scale.

Forty states have eased their drug laws since 2009, a recent Pew Research Center analysis found. In addition to Colorado and Washington, another 15 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized certain amounts of possession, while even more have legalized it for medicinal use.

The Justice Department appears to be giving such efforts the green light. Attorney General Eric Holder has given Washington and Colorado the go-ahead for their state legalization initiatives, as well as called for major changes to federal drug sentencing guidelines.

Those signals from the feds, coupled with polls suggesting more Americans support legal pot, may mean more states could be poised to head in a similar direction.


Photo Credit: Getty Images

Woman Died of OD at Coachella: ME


A 24-year-old woman hospitalized after attending the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival last weekend died of an apparent overdose of illicit drugs and alcohol, according to the Riverside County Coroner's Office.

The office's report, released Friday, indicates the Oakland woman died Thursday -- five days after attending the Southern California music festival. Kimchi Truong died at Desert Regional Medical Center, according to the coroner's report.

Truong went to a medical tent at the outdoor music and arts festival early Sunday morning, authorities told KMIR News. Details regarding what treatment she received were not immediately available.

She became unresponsive after going to a taxi pickup area, the station reported.

Festival promoter Goldenvoice issued a statement:

"Last weekend, a festival attendee suffered an apparent drug overdose. The individual was seen by on-site medical staff and later transferred to JFK Memorial Hospital and later to Desert Regional Medical Center. We are saddened to learn the individual has died. We believe this to be an unfortunate but isolated incident.

Our thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends."

Toxicology test results could take up to six weeks.

The two-weekend event in the Riverside County community of Indio continues Friday, Saturday and Sunday.


Police Address Dangerous Swatting Trend


Authorities have grown increasingly concerned over false emergency calls or reports made by unknown assailants. It's called "Swatting" and police in Connecticut say it's becoming all too common.

In the last month swatting hoaxes have been reported in at least five different communities. In all these instances police can't figure out a motive.

It's happening across the state and on Thursday night it put one Greenwich neighborhood on edge.

Greenwich police said they received a call just before 8 p.m. from someone who called 911, claiming to be armed and holding people hostage at a home on Round Hill Road.

"She couldn't approach from either direction," Larry Posner of Greenwich said. His wife ran into a heavy police presence that night.

"She spent a couple of hours sitting in a diner in Greenwich while this unfolded and in the end we learned it was purely a hoax the house was empty and the police left," Posner said.

Officers went to the private home and said no one was inside. Police said  they are trying to find the person behind the call.

"Swatting is using some sort of computerized technology to make it look as if a 911 call or any other emergency call is coming from here when in fact it's coming from somewhere else," said Officer Joseph Race of the Madison Police Department.

Police in Madison have dealt with three such incidents in town. All of them came over a two week span in January.

"One call was for a suspicious vehicle the other ones were threats of violence or an act of violence occurring which prompted a tremendous response," Race said.

Police swarmed the area around Horsepond Road for both incidents, but it turned a teenager from Long Island had made the fake call.

Investigators in Watertown, Willimantic and Old Saybrook have also dealt with these cases of swatting.

"It puts not only responding officers in danger, the motoring public in danger because now it's other cars that have to get out of the way for our emergency lights but also the homeowner," said Race.

Residents are hopeful police will find the prankster who put their Greenwich neighborhood into lockdown.

"It's still a little uncomfortable that someone would make a call like this," said Jason Kaltz who also lives on Round Hill Road in Greenwich. "It's just very quiet this is the first we've had any experience like this."

Armed Robbers Shoot at Cops in NJ


The owners of a scrap metal yard in New Jersey were tied up, beaten and threatened with guns when a group of armed robbers stormed the business looking for cash and valuable platinum, then fled while shooting at police officers, authorities say.

The five robbers went into the Bayway Scrap Metals on Amboy Avenue in Elizabeth Friday afternoon and tied up several employees, including owner Carol Navarro and her husband. They were threatened and held at gunpoint for 90 minutes. 

"One of them asked how long we were married," said Navarro. "I told him 45 years, and he said, 'Well, you're going to die together.'"

"I could hear him keep telling my husband, 'Shut up or I'm going to shoot you, I'm going to kill you,'" she said. 

The men were after $20,000 in cash and a pile of catalytic converters worth an estimated $250,000 because of the platinum inside. When they got what they wanted, Navarro said they told her, "Today is your lucky day."

Police spotted the robbers two miles away with a U-Haul truck full of stolen catalytic converters. They allegedly fired at officers as they tried to get away, two of them in a stolen vehicle, but four of them were eventually caught. No officers were injured.

Michael Howard, 22, and Rafael Clemons, 27, Sharod Saunders, 30, and Steven Chambers, 47, have all been charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree carjacking, aggravated assault and multiple weapons offenses, officials said Saturday.

Bail for each defendant was set at $1 million.

Information on attorneys for Howard, Clemons, Saunders and Chambers was not immediately available.

One suspect remains at large and is believed to be heavily armed and dangerous. Police are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the suspect's capture and conviction. 

Police recovered an AK rifle and three handguns from the arrested suspects. 

Navarro helped identify the suspects in a lineup. Her husband needed stitches but he and the other hostages are going to be OK, she said. 

Navarro said she immediately called her son Jamie Navarro after the robbery. He believes his family's scrap metal business was targeted. 

"They absolutely, 150 percent, they planned this," he said. "This was planned, premeditated." 

"I think they're a bunch of scumbags, and I hope they rot in hell," he said. "I hope they get a long time in prison because that's what they deserve." 

-- Brian Thompson contributed to this report. 

Boy Electrocuted in Pool Remembered


A 7-year-old boy who died while swimming in a North Miami pool was laid to rest Friday.

Police said the boy may have been electrocuted by a light that sent charges through the water.

Calder Sloan died Sunday after he was shocked as he swam through the pool, police said. An officer attempted CPR before fire rescue transported the boy to Jackson Memorial Hospital where he later died.

Friends and family gathered at a public memorial in Miami Beach to honor the life of Calder Sloan.

"He was a superhero. As he grew up, he amazed us with his atheltic ability," Chris Sloan, the boy's father said at the memorial service.

The boy was swimming with his brothers, ages 5 and 22, under the watch of his nanny when the older brother first felt a shock and urged the others to get out of the pool, The Miami Herald reported. Calder apparently did not hear and was jolted out of the water.

A neighbor who performed CPR on the child, Fabian Pesantes, told NBC 6 he was also shocked by the water.

"The minute I saw him, I just started doing what I know how to do and I started performing CPR on him," Pesantes said.  "I cleared the vomit and water out of his mouth and when I was cleaning my mouth I stuck my hand in the pool. When I stuck my hand in the pool, I got shocked."

While police are still investigating the cause of the electrocution, the family suspects a malfunctioning pool light may have been to blame. A contractor was hired to fix the light after it stopped turning on about nine months ago, according to the boy's father, and electricians told the boy's uncle that a problem with the light switch suggested the power was going directly to the pool instead of being diverted from it, The Herald reported. The steel surrounding the light is now rusted and burned, according to the paper.

A fund has been set up at Sloan's school to establish a foundation in his honor. Click here to donate.

LA E-Cig Ban Takes Effect


E-cigarette smokers took their final legal puffs as the ordinance that bans the device from bars, nightclubs, restaurants and other public places took effect at midnight Saturday.

One club made an event out of the ban and threw a vapor smoke-filled party while it was still allowed -- but the night wasn't all smiles.

"It is frustrating only because customers aren't going to be happy," said Richard Park, owner of the Cindy Club on Beverly Boulevard. "They're going to have to be vaping outside, which I think is really ridiculous, because they're considering it the same as cigarettes right now."

The club's event for the final legal puff came after months of debate into the controversial use of the vapor devices.

Tensions heated up earlier this year when Angelenos butted heads over what to do with the growing mainstream tobacco alternative.

LA Councilmen Mitch O'Farrell and Paul Koretz motioned for Los Angeles’ chief legislative analyst to review a policy proposal related to the general use and classification of e-cigarettes on Jan. 14.

"We need to do all we can with what we know now to protect the public health," O'Farrell said. "It became a real issue in public schools. Youth were sneaking e-cigarettes and vaping under their desks. We don't want to expose a whole new generation to normalizing e-cigarette use."

The ensuing report from CLA Gerry F. Miller recommended actions that would essentially treat e-cigarettes as traditional tobacco products.

Based on Miller’s recommendation, a strict proposal was put before the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee and passed unanimously during a LA City Council meeting on Feb. 24.

Read: Teacher in Fight With Student Reinstated

“For anyone to say that e-cigarettes are not harmful, I think they are taking us down the same path that the tobacco industry said in 1954 that cigarettes were not harmful,” Councilman Bernard Parks said during that meeting.

Proponent Mark Burton, who spoke during the council meeting, cited a Drexel University study.

The research “found that contaminate levels of the vapor, if you will, were far below what would be considered harmful,” he said.

On March 4, the ban was approved unanimously by the LA City Council, and endorsed by the LA mayor’s office the following day.

The use of e-cigarettes has been widely controversial as well as popular across the country with similar contentions in New York City.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently regulates cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco. Only e-cigarettes marketed for therapeutic purposes are regulated by the agency.

"I'm struggling with this because I want to make sure we are solving a problem based on actual facts and justification," said Councilmember Paul Krekorian during the March 4 meeting . "There are a variety of different views on the impact of what that second-hand vapor may be.”

"There's a well-developed body of evidence on smoking. But, from everything I've heard, I don't think a case has been made that adult exposure should be something that this council acts on absent regulation by one of these agencies... equipped to make those difficult assessments."

The new law does not affect vaping lounges or stores, which as of late have been raking in big business. E-cigarettes would also still be allowed for "theatrical purposes.”

Heroin Dealer Gets 30 Years


A D.C. man who distributed heroin that resulted in the deaths of at least three people in Fairfax County, Va., was sentenced Friday to 30 years in prison.

Eugene Asomani “Shine” Williams pleaded guilty in January. He admitted distributing heroin in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. between 2004 and September 2013.

Williams, 35, also admitted Joshua Pearson, 33; Kara Schachinger, 22; and Timothy Huffman, a 23-year-old solider at Fort Belvoir, each died from using heroin he distributed.

Ann Schachinger's daughter Kara drowned in her bathtub in early 2012 after taking heroin she got from Williams, her dealer.

"I can't put all the blame on him, but he certainly does bear a responsibility," Schachinger said.

“Williams peddled a dangerous drug and inflicted untold damage to the victims, their families, and our communities,” U.S. Attorney Dana Boente said. “This case exemplifies the cooperative efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement to combat this pernicious crime.”

Williams' defense attorney, Todd Baldwin, is planning to appeal the judge's decision.

"To sentence someone based on the unforeseeable, unintended outcome, more than what normal drug dealing gets a sentence for, I think is just unfortunate," he said.

Woman Awakens to Prowler


An Oceanside, Calif., woman said she had a rude awakening Friday morning when she found a man standing over her bed.

Anna Thompson told NBC 7 the situation is one she's only seen in movies but never imagined would happen to her.

She woke up just after 6 a.m. Friday to a man covering her mouth in her home on Vine Street. She immediately started fighting the man off.

"I fought back as much as I could until I got to a point where my dog woke up, and he was laying right next to me, and he started going after the intruder and chased him out of my house," said Thompson.

Thompson received a scratch to her chest and an injured lip.

She believes the suspect came through the side gate to her home, took off his shoes and went inside. He left those shoes behind when he fled.

In the scuffle, she knocked his hat off. Oceanside Police later took the hat as evidence to get DNA from it, Thompson said.

Investigators said there was no forced entry into the house. They believe the suspect is in his 30s, but they have not released any other information.

She said the incident has prompted her to put an alarm system in her home as soon as possible.


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