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Navy Sailor Accused of Abusing 2-Month-Old Son


A 24-year-old U.S. Navy sailor from Groton has been arrested, accused of abusing and gravely injuring his 2-month-old son.

Groton police said they received a report of possible child abuse on Tuesday and found the baby with life-threatening injuries. The child is being treated at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital.

The child's father, Jordan Rittenhouse, has been charged with first-degree assault and risk of injury to a minor.

Rittenhouse is a seaman in the U.S. Navy and is a student at the Naval Submarine School at Subase New London, according to Chris Zendan, a spokesperson for the sub base. 

He enrolled in the Navy in November 2013 and reported to the school in January, Zendan said. 

Rittenhouse is not suspended from his naval duties and remains a student at the school, according to Zendan.

Sources close to the investigation said the alleged assault happened at Rittenhouse's home on Deerwood Drive, part of a Navy housing complex in Groton.

Neighbors said the allegations are shocking, but some acknowledged there may have been red flags.

"It's very eerie knowing that this neighbor lives directly next door to us. It's very concerning as a parent," said Teddy McCarty, who has three children and whose husband is in the Navy.

McCarty said Rittenhouse once aggressively yelled at his daughter when he found her playing with the water house outside his house.

"We hope that the father gets the help he needs and we pray to God that the son is well and that he never has to experience this again," said electronic technician seaman Nick Callands.

Rittenhouse is being held at the Groton Town Police Department Headquarters on a $300,000 bond and is due in court Friday.

Photo Credit: Facebook

Man in Pulled LA From High Surf


A man vacationing from Chicago was in grave condition Thursday night after being pulled from high surf by friends at Venice Beach and resuscitated by lifeguards, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The 27-year-old was swimming in the water with his friends when he became separated from the group, LAFD Capt. Rex Vilaubi said.

The man's friends had not seen him for about 10 minutes and went to look for him. They found him face down in the water about 6 p.m., Vilaubi said.

Lifeguards gave him CPR, and fire officials arrived to help perform CPR and take him to the hospital. While en route, the man regained a pulse, Vilaubi said.

He was hospitalized in grave condition, officials said.

The incident comes during a week with Southern California's high surf described as "the most significantly southerly swell event" in 18 years.

A surfer died in Malibu on Tuesday, and dozens of rescued were performed across the region as waves from then-Hurricane Marie, now a tropical storm, pounded the coast.

Photo Credit: Mingo

Officers ID'd in Fatal Shooting of Mentally Ill Man in Los Angeles


The officers involved in the fatal shooting of a mentally ill man have been identified, Los Angeles police said Thursday.

The officers involved in the shooting of Ezell Ford in South LA on Aug. 11 were Officers Sharlton Wampler and Antonio Villegas, both assigned to the Newton Area Gang Enforcement Detail, police said in a statement.

The officers shot him after they said he ignored their instructions and went for one of their guns during a struggle.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, the president of the Los Angeles Urban Roundtable, said conflicting accounts of the shooting have emerged.

Witnesses said that Ford was not resisting, that he had mental challenges, and that police officers in the area aware of him and his condition, Hutchinson said. A family member has said that Ford had schizophrenia and other disorders.

Hutchinson called the release of the names a "first step in insuring an transparent and impartial investigation."

Hutchinson said he had made the call for officer identification in two meetings with Assistant LAPD Chief Earl Paysinger and other LAPD officials.
"The identification of the officers involved in the Ezell Ford slaying allows us to determine if the officers performance record and that includes discipline for any prior instances of or pattern of misconduct or involvement in other officer shootings," Hutchinson said in a statement, adding that Wampler was involved in a prior use of force civil lawsuit. "The report that one of the officers was the subject of a civil suit for force is of major significance. This could be major factor in the investigation to find whether excessive force was used in the Ford killing."

Wampler was named in a civil rights lawsuit filed three years ago that claimed he, along with other officers, entered a family's home without probable cause, the lawsuit stated.

The suit alleges that the officers subjected them to unlawful searches, intimidation and assault.

"The majority of the family, the adults in the family, were abused, like physically hit and beat," the family's lawyer, James Segall Guttierez, told NBC4. "One of the brothers was being, his head was being held underwater in a kiddie pool."

Wampler was commended years before the suit for his role in the arrest of a double-murder suspect, the Los Angeles Times reported.

When asked for comment, LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said the department is prohibited by law and policy from discussing personnel complaints.
A funeral for Ford is planned for Saturday. The incident came two days after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The Brown shooting touched off days of protests.

Robert Kovacik contributed to this report.

Man Threatened Girlfriend with Ax: Cops


West Haven police have arrested a 54-year-old man who is accused of chasing his girlfriend with an ax and threatening to kill her because he thought she stole money from him. 

Police responded to a home on Church Street just before 11:30 a.m. on Thursday after getting several calls about a man chasing a woman with an ax.

When police got to the house, Peter Phaneuf, 54, of Church Street in West Haven, was walking toward the door with an ax in his hand, police said.

Police disarmed Phaneuf and learned that he had been arguing with his girlfriend and another man over money, police said.  

All three people were intoxicated and the woman told police Phaneuf accused her of stealing money, swung the ax at her and threatened to kill her, police said.

The other man told police the same thing.

Phaneuf was arrested, charged with two counts of second-degree threatening, and one count each of first-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree breach of peach and interfering with an officer and resisting arrest.

He was held on $10,000 bond and is due in court today.

Photo Credit: West Haven Police

Police Seize Almost 140 Pounds of Marijuana


A Connecticut drug task force seized almost 140 pounds of marijuana when they made an arrest in Stafford on Thursday.

Members of the East Central Narcotics Taskforce were conducting surveillance on Thursday when they saw Stuart Klotzer, 54, of 42 Patten Road in Stafford, come out of a wooded area off of Niederwerfer Road and get into his car, police said.

The members of the taskforce followed him and reached out to the resident trooper for help to stop the car. 

When officers stopped the car, they found 8 pounds of marijuana in the car and detained Klotzer, police said.

That was just a small fraction of the marijuana police would find by the time the investigation was over.

Police said they learned that there were several marijuana plants growing in the wooded area Klotzer had been seen frequenting and seized another 69 and a half pounds of marijuana. 

The investigation also led police to Klotzer’s home, where police found yet another 60 pounds of marijuana, police said.

In all, police seized around 139 and a half pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated $348,750, marijuana packaging material, a 2000 Toyota Camry
and marijuana growing equipment, including a portable grow house, growing lights, fans, ventilators and more.

Klotzer was charged with possession of more than four ounces of marijuana, cultivation of marijuana, operating a drug factory and possession of marijuana with intent to sell.

Bond was set at $25,000.

Photo Credit: East Central Narcotics Taskforce

Death of Monroe Woman Deemed Suspicious


Police are investigating the suspicious death of a 41-year-old Monroe woman who was found bleeding and with a head injury in the middle of the road at a condo complex early Monday morning.

Police responded to Windgate Circle in the Hills of Monroe Condominium complex at 6:16 a.m. on Monday after receiving a 911 call about an unconscious woman lying in the roadway.

The woman has been identified as Jennifer Sredzinski, 41, a resident of the complex.

According to the First Selectman, Jennifer Sredzinski was the ex-wife of Town Council J.P. Sredzinski, who is also running for State Representative in the 112th District. NBC Connecticut called Sredzinski for comment, but no one answered.

Emergency medical care was administered at the scene and Jennifer Sredzinski was transported to Bridgeport Hospital to be treated.

She died from her injuries on Thursday.

Police said they are investigating this case as an untimely death under suspicious circumstances.

No information was available on what caused the head injury, a motive or who might be responsible.

The condominium complex includes around 25 two-story buildings, which each contain six apartment-style condo units.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com and Facebook Photo

Car Crashes Into Rocky Hill CVS


A car crashed into a CVS store in Rocky Hill on Friday morning.

The crash happened at 2427 Main Street, which is also the Silas Deane Highway,

No information was immediately available on the amount of damage or any injuries.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Pedestrian Hit and Injured in Norwalk


A pedestrian was struck in Norwalk on Thursday night and police are looking for the driver who fled.

Police said, via Twitter, that the person was hit on the Stroffolino Bridge and early indications were that the person’s injuries are serious.

The driver was in a small red car and fled from the scene, police said.

Photo Credit: Norwalk Police

Kids in Car as Parents Gambled: PD


Two young children were left in a car outside a South Florida casino while their parents gambled inside early Thursday, police say.

The children, ages four and one, were found in a car in the parking lot of the Hialeah Park Casino at 2200 E. 4th Ave., said Hialeah Police spokesman Carl Zogby.

The kids were spotted by casino employees in the unattended car just after midnight, Zogby said.

"The kids were subject to anything happening to them. They could've walked out of the car, or someone could've come in — who knows what could've happened," Zogby said.

He said the parents had been inside gambling, possibly for over an hour, while their children sat in the car, which had the engine running and the air conditioning on.

The parents, Tyrell Johnson and his girlfriend Josephine Laidler, were both charged with child neglect, Zogby said.

Footage showed the man and woman being detained by police at the scene and the two young children playing with officers.

Hialeah Police and the Department of Children and Families are investigating the incident.

The children were put into the custody of their grandparents by a family court judge Thursday afternoon. If the parents bond out of jail, they are not allowed to go near the kids.

The Hialeah casino also banned the couple for life.

Photo Credit: Miami-Dade Corrections

Man Who “Stuck Up” Drug Dealers Arrested on Gun Charges: Cops


A man who is accused of sticking up drug dealers in Hartford was arrested on weapons charges on Thursday night. 

Police responded to 179 Albany Avenue at 10:14 p.m. and found Michael Davis, 26, of Hartford, who ran and headed westbound on Albany Avenue, police said.

Davis, a convicted felon with prior firearms and narcotics convictions, was taken into custody and police said he had an illegal Boston Bulldog .32 caliber revolver in his pants pocket.

David was charged with interfering with police, possession of a pistol without a permit and criminal possession of a firearm.

Man Arrested After Yelling at Southwest Employees


A Florida man was arrested at Bradley Airport just before noon on Friday after he yelled at baggage agents, according to police.

Police said they responded to the airport at 11:58 a.m. because Gael Carter, 53, of Tampa, Florida, was yelling at Southwest Airlines baggage agents.

Troopers took Carter into custody.

He was placed under arrest and charged with second-degree intimidation based on bigotry/bias, according to a news release from police.

Bond was set at $5,000.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Police Investigate Shooting in Willimantic


Willimantic police are investigating after a man walked into a hospital emergency room to be treated for a gunshot wound early Friday morning.

Police said staff from the Windham Community Memorial Community emergency room called them at 2:40 a.m. after the man arrived.

The wound was not life-threatening, according to police, and they said it is not clear where the shooting happened.

The man walked into the ER around an hour and a half after a resident of Ivan Hill Street called police to report hearing gunshots.

Police investigated and found no victims, but did see five bullet holes in a home.

Anyone with information is asked to call Willimantic Police at 860-465-3135 and ask to speak with a detective.

Man Convicted of Sex Assault Captured After Eluding Authorities


A man found guilty of sexual assault is back in police custody months after he was scheduled to be sentenced.

Dardian Celaj, 37, was convicted of a first-degree sexual assault in Derby in 2012 Derby and managed to elude authorities even though he was wearing a GPS tracking device, according to the Hartford Courant.

U.S. Marshals took him into custody on Thursday at a friend's house in Naugatuck.

He was charged with first-degree failure to appear.

He was expected to appear in court on Friday. 

Photo Credit: NBCSanDiego

California Uproots Grassy Lawns


Daniel and Joanne Azarnoff had the quintessential, grassy green lawn outside their house in the San Francisco Bay area -- until this bone-dry summer.

With the help of the Solano County Water Agency, they ripped up turf and replaced it with a mix of slate, stones, redwood mulch and drought-resistant plants more suitable to Rio Vista's Mediterranean climate.

“We did it because California has a drought, and we thought it would be a good way to reduce the amount of water which we use,” Daniel Azarnoff said.

Their decision is one California officials wish more residents would make. Communities and water agencies across the state have been paying to encourage homeowners and businesses to replace grass with more appropriate and less thirsty plants. Now, with California in its third year of a severe drought, the so-called “cash for grass” programs are bursting in popularity, if still small in size.

In the city of Long Beach, about 1,500 homeowners have taken advantage of the 4-year-old program there, which pays $3.50 per square foot — but that is out of the owners of about 60,000 single-family homes.

“A lot of people love their lawn,” said Joyce Barkley, the city’s water conservation specialist. “It’s a challenge.”

Instead of grass, Barkley tries to interest residents in sages, blue fescue, lion’s tail, lilacs, lavenders, olive trees and other drought-tolerant plantings.

The hope is that other homeowners will imitate the gardens made up of plants that thrive in Long Beach's annual 12 inches of rainfall, rather than lawns that need seven times that amount, Barkley said.

Water-greedy irrigation

In many ways, Californians do well conserving water, with most of the state's water going toward irrigating crops, said Hadley Arnold, executive director of the Arid Lands Institute at Woodbury University in Burbank.

One exception? Lawn irrigation. In Los Angeles, 54 percent of residential water consumption is used outdoors, according to the 2010 Urban Water Management Plan from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. Add in commercial, industrial, governmental and multi-family consumption and that number is 39 percent.

“Where we’re still water-greedy is irrigation,” she said. “You can irrigate with recycled water.”

At least 26 water agencies across the states are offering rebates, according to the Association of California Water Agencies. There has been a surge of interest this summer, said Lisa Lien-Mager, the association’s director of communications.

The number of requests for turf removal the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has received since January are nearly double the total number of requests over the last five years, the district says.

In July, it got requests to remove 2.5 million square feet of turf — the equivalent of 1,665 typical front yards, and up from 99,000 square feet in January.

The rise in requests from businesses was even more significant: 4.7 million square feet, or the equivalent of 82 football fields, up from 22,000 square feet.

In May, the district, a cooperative of cites and water agencies serving nearly 19 million people, doubled its rebates from $1 to $2 per square foot for consumers and businesses.

Nurturing wildlife, conserving resources

Water restrictions put in place as a result of the drought have left lots of dead lawns and have prompted homeowners to think about what to do with a much more limited water supply, said Bart O’Brien, director of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Berkeley.

“Everyone has taken water supply pretty much for granted until this unprecedented, longer, drier drought than we’ve had in historic times,” he said.

Gardeners are taking new interest in native California plants, which not only use less water but also can help sustain insects, birds, lizards and other wildlife that have become endangered by the loss of natural areas.

"Through the act of thoughtful gardening, we can make a rather significant difference," said Carol Bornstein, the director of the Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

The Solano County Water Agency's program is four years old, but 65 percent of its 282 participants signed up in the last fiscal year, according to the agency. Since July, 56 projects have been completed. It pays $1 per square foot for up to 1,000 square feet for environmentally friendly landscaping.

"I think it's opening up a lot of people's eyes especially right now," said Lara Remitz, a landscape architecture student at the University of California, Davis, who has been working with the program. "It helps people understand that there is an issue with water."

But she has noticed that some homeowners still leave a patch of dirt that they plan to return to lawn if the drought eases.

"There's still a large resistance to the idea," she said.

In Rio Vista, the Azarnoffs are happy with their new landscaping. They had liked their lawn, but it was maintained by a sprinkler system, Daniel Azarnoff said. By switching to a drip system that targets only the plants, they are using much less water, he said.

“And it still looks very beautiful,” he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Connecticut

Photo Credit: AP

Pentagon Cuts 10 Ca. Police Depts.


The Napa County Sheriff's Office has been suspended from a federal military-surplus program after an M-16 military rifle was stolen out of an employee's vehicle in May, information released by the Pentagon reveals.

As a result, the agency can no longer obtain military gear from the Defense Department's 1033 Program. The department is one of two Bay Area law enforcement agencies that have been suspended from the program.

The Pentagon program distributes surplus military gear, including weapons and vehicles, to local law enforcement agencies around the nation. It's the same program responsible for outfitting the police in Ferguson, Missouri, with tactical gear such as armored trucks and assault rifles.

Napa County Undersheriff Jean Donaldson confirmed Friday that the agency was suspended on May 6 of this year. He told NBC Bay Area that the weapon was "stolen from a vehicle" but could not recall what specific model it was, saying only that it was a "military-grade" rifle.

According to The California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), the weapon in question was an M16A1, a 5.56mm assault rifle capable of semi-automatic and automatic fire. According to Department of Defense data obtained by the New York Times, Napa County law enforcement agencies received 10 5.56mm rifles in 2008.

Donaldson could not say how long the suspension will last but said the agency would have to undergo a federal inspection of its storage and safety procedures.

The Pentagon data also indicated that nine other California law enforcement agencies have been suspended, including the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department. CalOES told NBC Bay Area that each agency was suspended because it was "unable to account for some equipment acquired through the 1033 program."

According to CalOES, San Mateo County Sheriff's department could not account for two M16A1 rifles and was suspended on October 23, 2013. Calls to the Sheriff's office were not immediately returned.

All told, 148 local law enforcement agencies are currently suspended around the country as of August 25th, 2014 when the data was obtained. About 8,000 agencies participate in the program nationwide.

A "suspended" agency does not have to return previously obtained military equipment, but cannot obtain new gear until the Department of Defense considers the agency in "good standing" again. More egregious handling of military gear could result in a rare "termination," meaning the agency has to actually return the equipment. At this time, only seven agencies have been terminated.

Photo Credit: Frank Deandro / Flickr

Hidden Cash Craze Hits Hartford


Someone is giving away cash in Hartford this holiday weekend and all you have to do is follow the clues on Twitter to take part.

The mystery man goes by Dr. Cash on Twitter and gave out the first $50 just after 7 a.m. in Hartford. He is planning on giving $100 away around noon.

The hashtag Dr. Cash is using is #followforthedough

He had 122 followers on Friday morning and that number grew to more than 1,000 by 11:30 a.m.

This is a local version of the “hidden cash” Twitter craze that started in San Francisco.


Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Homeowner Interrupts Burglary At Wallingford House


A Wallingford homeowner caught a female intruder in the act of burglarizing her Harrison Road home on Friday morning and police have since arrested the woman and an accomplice who fled the scene in a car.

Jenny Morales, 43, and Daniel Aquino-Ramirez, 21, both from Bridgeport, are facing multiple burglary charges.

A Wallingford resident called 911 to report that she had "just interrupted a burglary at her home," police said in a news release. The homeowner caught a female burglar by surprise when she came home and fled into a waiting vehicle upon seeing the resident.

After Wallingford police shared a description of the getaway vehicle and the license plate number to area police departments and State Police, a North Haven police officer spotted a car matching the description on the southbound side of  Interstate 91. Police stopped the car in New Haven and took Morales and Aquino-Ramirez into custody. The homeowner positively identified both of them.

Police charged both Morales and Aquino-Ramirez with second-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit second-degree burglary, criminal attempt to commit sixth-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit sixth-degree larceny.

Police held Morales on a $200,000 bond and Aquino-Ramirez on a $100,000 bond. They are both scheduled to appear in Meriden Superior Court on Sept. 12.

Morales also was wanted on two separate outstanding arrest warrants, including violation of probation, third-degree burglary and first-degree failure to appear out of Norwalk and third-degree larceny and first-degree failure to appear out of Bridgeport, police said. She is scheduled to appear in court in Norwalk for those charges on Sept. 9.

Burglars Hid Under Bed, In Closet: Cops


Hamden police have arrested three teenagers connected to a home invasion that happened Wednesday afternoon, police said.

Lamont Keys, 19, Rashid Whitley, 19, and a 16-year-old, all New Haven residents, are facing multiple burglary and home invasion charges.

Police responded to a home on Dest Drive after a caller told police that three people broke into her house at about 2 p.m. and were still inside in a bedroom downstairs.

A first floor window was open when police arrived and officers saw "a figure" run down a hallway, police said. Police had to force entry to get inside and found two people hiding in the bedroom closet and another individual under the bed, according to police.

Police charged Keys, Whitley and the 16-year-old with first-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary, home invasion, conspiracy to commit home invasion and possession of burglary tools. Police did not release the 16-year-old's identity because of the person's age.

Keys and Whitley  were held in police custody on a $100,000 bond and are scheduled to appear in court in Meriden on Sept. 10. The 16-year-old is scheduled to appear in New Haven Juvenile Court on Sept. 10.

Police Search for 2 Bank Robbers: Cops


West Haven police are seeking two male robbers who stole from a Main Street bank Friday afternoon, police said.

The robbery took place at the Greater West Haven Federal Credit Union at 502 Main Street at about 3 p.m., according to police. One of the men was armed with a handgun, police said.

Police are looking for two male robbers who fled the scene and were last seen wearing black sweatshirts and jeans, police said.

Officers were still on scene just before 6 p.m. investigating.

More information will be provided when it becomes available.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

1 Giraffe Survives Twin Birth


Rare twin male giraffe calves were born at the San Francisco Zoo Tuesday morning, but only one survived, zoo officials said Friday.

The stronger calf weighed 100 pounds and is 5'6" tall and was "immediately healthy, alert and nursing," zoo spokesperson Abbie Tuller said. The second giraffe was described as "much smaller and weak at birth and was not able to nurse or function independently on his own," Tuller said.

Despite efforts by the zoo's medical staff, he passed away due to post-birth complications.

Twin reticulated giraffe births are an extremely rare occurrance -- the birth at San Francisco Zoo is only the tenth recorded live birth of both twins in zoos worldwide.

“This is a bitter-sweet announcement to make, but this very unique twin birth is something for all of the Bay Area to take pride in,” SF Zoo president Tanya Peterson said.

The surviving calf is yet to be named, Tuller said.

His mother is 11-year-old Bititi, who was born at the Oakland Zoo and went across the bay to call San Francisco Zoo her home in 2005. His father is 12-year-old Floyd, who was born in Albuquerque at the Rio Grande Zoo.

Bititi and her calf will be outdoors in the south corral of the Osher Family Giraffe Lodge on Friday. Keep checking the zoo's website, Facebook and Twitter for more information on the new calf.

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