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Shoplifter Scratched Security Staff in Face: Police


A shoplifter arrested in Hamden last night is accused of scratching a security officer who was trying to stop her from stealing hundreds of dollars worth of items from a local store.

At 4:30 p.m., a shoplifting with violence was reported at the BonTon, at 2300 Dixwell Avenue.

Police said store security staff had seen Crystal Austin, 43, of New Haven, leave the store with $408 in items she had not paid for, so a security officer approached her, police said.

Austin became combative and scratched the security officer in the face, police said, so officers arrested her and transported her to police headquarters, where she was charged with robbery in the third degree and larceny in the second degree.

Austin was detained on a $25,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court in Meriden on December 4.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Buffalo Bills Hitch Rides Aboard Snowmobiles


Up to seven feet of snow wasn't going to stop the Buffalo Bills from flying out to Detroit for Monday’s game against the Jets — even if some players needed a novel way to get to the Bills’ stadium and a bus to the airport.

“Just texted with a Bills player who was picked up on a snowmobile to head to his game,” tweeted Albert Breer, national reporter for the NFL Network. “So in 10 years of covering the NFL, that’s a first.”

The game was supposed to have been played in Buffalo on Sunday, but was moved to Detroit because of the deadly storm.

On The MMQB, Peter King describes the planning that went into the "snowmobile rescues."

"I have covered the NFL for 30 years, and I must say I have never heard an NFL executive say he hoped a snowmobile would come up big for his team in advance of a game with big playoff implications," he wrote.

Photo Credit: EMILY URBIK
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Window Washer Survives 11-Story Fall From SF Building


A window washer fell screaming about 11 stories from the top of the Sterling Bank and Trust building in San Francisco Friday, landing on a car in the middle of a busy street, police and witnesses said.

The man suffered critical injuries, but he was conscious, and the driver was not injured, police said.

San Francisco Police Lt. Ed Del Carlo said the worker was getting ready to work when he "fell off the apparatus" and landed on a car about 10 a.m. after falling from the building at 400 Montgomery Street, near the intersection with California Street. The roof of the car, a green Toyota Camry, was smashed in, and the rear windshield shattered.

"The driver didn't know what happened," Del Carlo said.

The window washer, who has not been identified by police, was taken to San Francisco General Hospital where he remained in critical condition late Friday afternoon. Cal/OSHA spokeswoman Julia Bernstein said the man suffered a broken arm and injuries to his side. He was with a partner, who was not hurt. Bernstein said a safety engineer was on scene, trying to determine what happened.

The intersection of Montgomery and California was closed to traffic for several hours as police investigated.

Sam Hartwell, who was on his way to a meeting, saw some of what happened: "I saw a blue streak out of the corner of my eye," and then that "streak" hit a car with a great "thud." Soon afterward, Hartwell realized that "streak" was a person.

Hartwelland about 20 other people ran to the man, who was on his back. The man was lucid, though he was bleeding.

"He understood we were with him,'' Hartwell said.

The bystanders, who included a nurse, put clothing on the man as they waited for the ambulance.

Hartwell said of his reaction, "It was utter, immediate shock. How do you react to something like that?''

The window washer worked for Century Window Cleaning. A man who answered the phone there on Friday had no comment, but the company's website states it carries a $5 million worker compensation insurance policy and a $5 million general liability insurance policy. Public records show, in 2008, the company was fined nearly $3,000 for a safety-related issue and advised to retrain its workers on the use of all safety equipment.

The fall comes about two weeks after two window washers were stranded on top of the World Trade Center in New York City. On Nov. 12, two workers were rescued in dramatic fashion after scaffolding collapsed.

Last month in Irvine, California, two window washers stuck for hours near the top of a 19-story high-rise were pulled to safety by members of a search-and-rescue team.

Window cleaning is one of the safer industries, according to Stefan Bright, the safety director for the International Window Cleaners Association based in Zanesville, Ohio.

Among the 15,000 to 20,000 professional cleaners working on high-rises each year, there are typically fewer than three fatalities a year, he said.

While figures for window washers specifically were not available, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that seven workers in the janitorial or cleaning professions died as a result of on-the-job injuries sustained while working with scaffolding from 2011 to 2013.

The Associated Press and NBC Universal's Noreen O'Donnell and Torey Van Oot contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area chopper
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Car Fire Causes Backup on Founders Bridge in Hartford


Traffic is jammed up on the westbound side of Route 2 from East Hartford into Hartford while emergency crews respond to a car fire on the Founders Bridge, according to state police.

Footage from the highway showed heavy delays late Friday afternoon. All westbound lanes were briefly currently closed while the car that caught fire was towed from the scene.

The highway has reopened to traffic, but expect residual delays.

It's not clear if anyone was hurt. Police have not released any additional information.

Avoid the area if possible. Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: Austin Atashian

Insurance Executive Found Dead on Simsbury Road


Police are investigating what they are calling the untimely death of a 54-year-old woman found on a Simsbury road on Thursday night.

Melissa Millan, 54, of Simsbury, was a senior vice president with MassMutual Insurance Company.

She was found lying on Iron Horse Boulevard, between Phelps Lane and Pent Road, around 8 p.m. on Thursday and an ambulance rushed her to St. Francis Hospital, where she died a short time later.

No one who was at Millan's home wanted to speak, but neighbors said Millan was the mother of a 12-year-old child.

“MassMutual is deeply saddened by the passing of our friend and colleague, Melissa Millan, Senior Vice President. Our thoughts and prayers are with Melissa’s family during this extremely difficult time," a statement from the company says. "Melissa’s tremendous leadership qualities, business acumen and deeply caring nature will be missed by those who had the opportunity to work with her.”

Millan might have been out walking or jogging, according to investigators. Police originally said they thought this was a hit-and-run case, but now they are investigating all possibilities and trying to determine where Millan had been and who she was with.

"We're currently trying to follow all of our leads and get as much information as we possibly can about how this happened," Capt Nick Boulter, of Simsbury police, said.

Anyone with information or who may have seen something near Iron Horse Boulevard Thursday night is asked to call Simsbury Police Detectives at 860-658-3145.

Photo Credit: MassMutual and NBCConnecticut.com

Casino Worker Took Up-Skirt Videos, Had Child Porn: Cops


A former Mohegan Sun employee is facing charges after downloading child pornography and recording videos up the skirts of women in the casino cafeteria, according to Connecticut state police.

Police said James Johnson, 62, of Groton, was hired at Mohegan Sun in April. While he worked there, Johnson attached a small camera to his shoe and stood behind female employees in the cafeteria and pointed the camera up their skirts, according to police.

Authorities said the women had no knowledge of the camera or the videos Johnson was taking.

After finding him with the camera, police applied for a warrant to search Johnson's home on Litton Avenue in Groton, where they discovered up-skirt videos and child pornography files on his electronic devices, according to state police.

Johnson turned himself in on Friday and was charged with four counts of voyeurism, four counts of disorderly conduct, third-degree possession of child pornography and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence.

He was released after posting $10,000 bond and is due in court Dec. 4.

Mohegan Sun declined to comment Friday, citing a policy that prevents officials from disclosing information about personnel matters.

The casino's public relations manager, Cathy Soper, said Mohegan Sun takes immediate action whenever there is wrongdoing on the part of an employee.

Information on an attorney for Johnson was not immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

86-Year-Old Man Killed in Wallingford Crash


An 86-year-old man died after his car collided with another vehicle Friday afternoon in Wallingford.

Police said Thomas L. Gambino, 86, of Wallingford, was driving his Chevrolet Impala on North Cherry Street near the intersection of Silk Street in Wallingford when he struck a parked Nissan Altima around 3 p.m.

Emergency responders rushed Gambino to MidState Medical Center in Meriden, but he was pronounced dead shortly after he arrived at the hospital, according to Wallingford police.

The Altima was vacant at the time of the crash and police said no one else was hurt.

Police said the road was closed for about two hours while authorities investigated the crash.

Anyone with information is urged to call Wallingford police Officer Christian Evans at 203-294-2819.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Masked Man Robs Haddam Bank at Gunpoint


Police are searching for the masked man who robbed a bank at gunpoint in the Higganum section of Haddam on Friday evening.

According to police, a man dressed in black from head to toe held up the Citizens Bank at 6 Killingworth Road around 5 p.m. Friday.

The robber handed over a white garbage bag and police said the bank teller filled it with cash and a dye pack.

No one was injured. Police said the man got away on foot. He was wearing a black mask, jacket, gloves and pants.

Anyone with information on the robbery is urged to call state police.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Firefighter Cut While Breaking Up Fight: Cops


A firefighter was slashed with a knife while trying to break up a fight over a cellphone on Fillmore Street in New Haven, according to police.

Police at the scene said a group of thieves may have been trying to steal a woman's phone when the firefighter intervened Friday evening.

The firefighter and victim were taken to the hospital, according to police. Authorities said both suffered minor knife wounds.

Authorities are investigating the incident.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Lost Kitten Wanders 2,300 Miles


How did a kitten travel all the way from New Mexico to Maine? It's a mystery to her owner and the shelter where she's been staying.

According to the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook, "Spice" was put inside a duffel bag and someone dropped her off at a thrift shop in Portland. A shopper found the bag and brought Spice home for a few days before bringing her to the shelter.

At the shelter, they scanned for a microchip and discovered not only did Spice have an owner, but her home was over 2,000 miles away in New Mexico!

According to Jeana Roth at the Animal Refuge League, "We were in disbelief when we called the microchip company and they told us. They were in disbelief too to see a cat from New Mexico came to Maine in just five days."

Spice apparently escaped from her house on Halloween when her owner was opening
the door to trick or treaters. How she managed to get from there to Maine, no one has any idea.

The kitten's owner doesn't have the money to pay for Spice to return to New Mexico, but another pet owner is stepping up to help.

Jon Ayers is the CEO of Idexx. The company makes pet testing kits and Ayers has several shelter cats at home. He has offered to pay to send Spice back home and as soon as she recovers from a small cold she will travel with a shelter employee back to New Mexico to be reunited with her owner.

Photo Credit: NECN

Stamford School Principals Granted Accelerated Rehabilitation


Two Stamford High School administrators accused of failing to report a sexual relationship between a teacher and student have been granted accelerated rehabilitation but will not return to work until the school system completes its own investigation, according to the superintendent.

Stamford High School principal Donna Valentine and assistant principal Roth Nordin are accused of violating a law that requires them to report any suspected relationship between a student and adult at the school.

Prosecutors say the administrators were aware of a relationship between an 18-year-old student and teacher Danielle Watkins, 32, who was charged with sexual assault in July.

Valentine and Nordin applied for special probation in October and were granted accelerated rehabilitation in court this week.

"The court decision on the Stamford High School Administrators was determined Wednesday, November 19th. My press release that afternoon stated that if accelerated rehabilitation were approved, I would determine what recommendations I would make to the Board of Education, both in possible discipline, or in making changes to district policies. As was stated, the two administrators will not return to Stamford High School until the assessment has been concluded,” Stamford superintendent Dr. Winifred Hamilton said in a statement Friday.

Hamilton said she met with the state’s attorney and senior assistant state’s attorney Friday alongside the Board of Education president and Stamford director of Public Safety, Health and Welfare.

She said city schools are working to implement additional employee training and review mandatory reporting protocol. Hamilton plans to meet with her assistant superintendents and officials from the Department of Children and Families prior to the holiday break.

“Additionally, I plan to work with DCF regularly to monitor our procedures and progress and to ensure that we are in complete compliance with all regulations and are safeguarding the children in our charge," Hamilton said in a statement Friday.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com/Stamford Public Schools

Car Hits House in West Haven


Authorities are investigating after a car crashed into a house at 434 Ocean Avenue in West Haven on Friday evening.

Emergency crews are at the scene near the intersection of Ocean Avenue and Scott Street. Police have not released any information on injuries.

Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Man, Teen Exchange Gunfire After Fight Over Girl: Cops


A teen and 22-year-old man exchanged gunfire in New Haven after fighting over a girl on social media, according to police.

Police said Dashaun Bowes-Ware, 22 traded jabs with a 17-year-old boy on the photo-sharing app Instagram. The two New Haven residents were arguing over a girl, and police said the teen threatened to shoot Bowes-Ware, who responded by getting a gun of his own.

The gun battle transpired around 3:45 p.m. Thursday in the area of 196 Dover Street in New Haven. Police said they found bullet casings and a Ruger .380 pistol at the scene that appears to belong to someone other than Bowes-Ware or the teen.

Bowes-Ware told police where his gun was hidden, and detectives searched the area to find a Sig Sauer P229 9mm handgun, according to police.

The teen told investigators he was armed only with a BB gun but police “don’t find his whole story credible,” according to New Haven police spokesman Officer David Hartman. Authorities could not track down the teen’s gun.

Both the teen and Bowes-Ware are charged with criminal attempt to commit first-degree assault, carrying a pistol without a permit, unlawful discharge of a firearm and first-degree reckless endangerment.

The teen was taken to the Juvenile Detention Center in Bridgeport and Bowes-Ware was brought to the Union Avenue Detention Center, according to police. Authorities are continuing to investigate and said they expect to make additional arrests.

Photo Credit: New Haven Police Department

Hartford Insurance Broker Accused of Defrauding the State


The president and CEO of the insurance group that began working as a broker for the city of Hartford in 2012 has been arrested on federal charges and pleaded not guilty to one count of wire fraud in court Friday.

Earl O’Garro, Jr., founder of Hybrid Insurance Group, which began working as an insurance broker for the city of Hartford in February 2012, was arraigned in federal court Friday afternoon on one count of wire fraud.

Prosecutors said in the indictment that O'Garro "devised and intended to devise and participated in a scheme and artifice to defraud the State of Connecticut, various clients and others, and to obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises." 

According to the indictment, O'Garro "provided false and misleading information" about the financial status of Hybrid Insurance when applying for state loans and grants totaling $126,320 in January 2012.

Prosecutors said O'Garro lied about the value of Hybrid Insurance Group's cash assets to increase the chances that the application would be approved – and it was. Hybrid Insurance received the money in March 2012.

According to the indictment, O'Garro posed as an insurance company officer and underwriter in July 2013 to steer hundreds of thousands of dollars in premium payments into his own bank account.

The alleged scheme prompted the city of Hartford to transfer $868,244 to Hybrid Insurance on July 18, 2013, the indictment says.

O'Garro, who is being represented by a public defender, pleaded not guilty in federal court Friday. He was released after posting $500,000 bond and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, according to the court.

It's not the first time O'Garro has run into legal trouble.

State police arrested him on Jan. 13 of this year and charged him with five counts of failure to pay wages. He turned himself in at the Troop H barracks in Hartford and was released after posting $1,500 bond.

The state Insurance Department has filed an 11-count complaint against O’Garro, who authorities say also defaulted on more than $350,000 in state loans. Hybrid Insurance Group was evicted from its Hartford office last November.

O’Garro told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters last year that he knows where the money is and will be able to show authorities if asked.

This summer, the city of Hartford was subpoenaed for all records pertaining to dealings with O’Garro and Hybrid Insurance.

O’Garro was also arrested last November on charges pertaining to alleged domestic disputes. He could not be reached for comment at the time of that arrest.

A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney's office said the federal investigation into O'Garro is ongoing.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Crash Clogs Up Traffic Near Westfarms Mall


A crash on New Britain Avenue is delaying traffic near Westfarms Mall on the Newington-West Hartford town line.

Police have not released any information on the crash but witnesses said it appears mutliple cars were involved.

Traffic on New Britian Avenue is released to one lane in each direction outside the Panera restaurant near the Newington line.

Firefighters and ambulances are at the scene.

There has been no word on injuries.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Police Seek Hamden Bank Robber


Police are looking for the man who robbed a First Niagara Bank in Hamden and threatened the teller with a gun Friday morning.

According to police, the suspect entered the bank at 1248 Dixwell Avenue around 11:30 a.m. Friday. He passed the teller a note demanding money and implying he had a gun.

The robber got away with an undisclosed amount of money and ran from the bank toward Circular Avenue, where he may have gotten into an older-model Jeep Cherokee, according to police.

Police said the suspect is a thin man between 20 and 30 years old who stands about 5 feet 8 inches tall. He was wearing a dark-colored North Face coat with a black hooded sweatshirt underneath and a light blue "Monarchs" baseball cap.

Anyone with information on the robbery is urged to call Hamden police Det. Donald Remillard at 203-230-4040.

Photo Credit: Hamden Police Department

Worries Persist Over Cuts to Social Services


With the announcement of more $50 million in state agency budget cuts, advocates for at-risk populations say some of the cuts to the social safety net are ambiguous.

“There’s not a lot of detail but there is a lot of money that would be in our bailiwick in terms of services" said Morna Murray, CEO of the Connecticut Community Providers Association.

Of the more than $54 million in cuts, roughly $11 million affects youth, mental health, and community services.

Murray also pointed out that the timing of the cuts coincided with a new report out that detailed the mental health and education background of Adam Lanza, the murderer in the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.

"We know how critical these services are," Murray said.

More than $9 million was cut from the Department of Children and Families alone, according to the list of rescissions released by the state Thursday.

Democrats and Republicans, who heard from the Office of Fiscal Analysis and the Office of Policy and Management on the state's budget woes, voiced concerns about cuts to programs that provide critical public programs.

“No cuts to human services are pleasant cuts, and I have been genuinely concerned about the mental health system for adolescents and about people with developmental disabilities, so we’re asking questions here and behind the scenes to make sure that we provide the care that people need,” said Democratic State Sen. Beth Bye, of West Hartford, who chairs the Appropriations Committee said.

“Our goal and our priority is to make sure core populations are taken care of with the things they need but at this point in time we just have to sit down and figure out where cuts can be made," said Republican State Rep. Themis Klarides, of Derby, who was recently elected by the GOP caucus as the Minority Leader-elect. "You know maybe those cuts could have been made somewhere else that didn’t affect certain populations.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Budget Analysts: Connecticut Faces Deficits in Billions


According to the non-partisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, the budget shortfall Connecticut faces in the short term of $100 million pales in comparison to what awaits the state over the next three fiscal years.

Alan Calandro, who manages the Office of Fiscal Analysis, told members of the Appropriations Committee of the General Assembly that the state faces a deficit of $1.3 billion  in 2016, $1.4 billion in 2017 and $1.7 billion in 2018.

Republicans accuse Democrats of trying to downplay the numbers during the heated 2014 campaign season.

“We’re no further along today than we were four years ago before the tax increase and that’s a problem," said Republican State Rep. Themis Klarides, the House minority leader-elect.

Republicans are now calling for a special session of the General Assembly to address future deficits, especially in light of the $54 million in cuts ordered by the Office of Policy and Management on Thursday.

Democrats insist the problem isn't as bad as Republicans make it out to be, going with the governor's line that the state has a spending issue with a small fraction of a $20 billion budget.

“It’s a deficit. It’s a small deficit," said Democratic State Sen. Beth Bye, of West Hartford, who chairs the Appropriations Committee. "We’d rather not have it but we’re going to mitigate it and end the year with a balanced budget.”

Both Bye and Klarides gave the governor credit for making difficult budget decisions but that's where many of the similarities end.

Bye said a special session is nothing more than rhetoric coming from the minority party.

“I mean if you look back two years or four years at this very same meeting, our situation was much worse, much worse," Bye said. "So I think that’s political."

The last time lawmakers met outside of the regular session to discuss budget issues was back in December 2012.

Salmonella Outbreak Affecting 10 States


Federal officials are warning residents of 10 states of a salmonella outbreak that appears to be related to bean sprouts produced in Brooklyn, New York.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 63 people in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont have been infected with salmonella as of Nov. 21.

The CDC said 78 percent of those people reported eating bean sprouts in the week leading up their diagnoses. Officials believe Brooklyn's Wonton Foods, Inc. has been producing the contaminated sprouts and said the company agreed to stop selling them Friday.

Twenty-six percent of the patients diagnosed with salmonella have been hospitalized, according to the CDC. No deaths have been reported.

Three of the 63 salmonella patients hail from Vermont, according to the Associated Press.

More information on the outbreak is available on the CDC website.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/3D4Medical.com RF

Connecticut DOT Crews Work Round the Clock in New York


Crews from the Connecticut Department of Transportation have been hard at work helping western New York dig out in the wake of a massive snowstorm that took the lives of 13 people and caused dozens of roofs to collapse.

A team of 22 state DOT workers headed to the greater Buffalo area early Thursday morning and brought jumbo snow throwers and plow trucks to help get the job done.

Crews spent all of Friday clearing off nine roads in Orchard Park, New York, and when dusk fell, they packed up and got going on the next job.

"We are heading to West Seneca to do another nine roads," explained Connecticut DOT worker Jamie Willis.

They made a quick stop to fill their tanks and then pressed on. Emergency responders in New York say they're welcoming the help with open arms.

"This is too much work for the local crews," said Orchard Park Fire Company Chief Chris Couell. "Without outside help, we couldn't handle it."

The Connecticut team hails from all across the state, including Waterbury, Union, Glastonbury, East Windsor and Windsor, according to one worker.

"We're going to run 24 hours until we go home," said Willis.

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