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Crash Closes Route 72 in Bristol


Route 72 is closed between East Street and Memorial Boulevard in Bristol after a car struck a pole Tuesday night, according to emergency dispatchers.

Dispatch said the road has been closed since the crash was reported around 8:45 p.m. It's not clear when it's expected to reopen. Crews are at the scene working to repair the damaged utility pole.

Police said no one was hurt in the crash.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Turbulence Hurts 5 on Plane


Five people were injured Tuesday morning when an American Airlines flight en route from Seoul, South Korea, to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport encountered severe turbulence while cruising at altitude.

Flight 280 to DFW was diverted to Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan, Tuesday morning after encountering the turbulence.

Dallas attorney Marc Stanley was onboard the flight and captured pictures and video on his cell phone.

He says he says the turbulence came with no warning and lasted, on and off, for nearly an hour.

"Without warning whatsoever, the plane just dropped and people started, you know, people were screaming," said Stanley.

His video and pictures show a passenger with an ice pack to her head and a woman in a neck brace. He says they were warned not to step the ground without shoes because of broken glass.

Andrea Huguely with American said everyone on board Flight 280 was evaluated by medical personnel and that four passengers and one member of the crew were hospitalized for further treatment. 

Huguely also said none of the injuries are were life-threatening.

"American Airlines Flight 280 will not continue on to DFW today. Passengers have been transported to hotels and will continue their travel to DFW tomorrow. Our team in Tokyo will continue to provide all necessary support to take care of our passengers and crew," said Huguely.

The Boeing 777-200 was due to arrive at DFW Airport just after 3 p.m. on Tuesday. American Airlines said the plane had 240 passengers on board and 15 crew members.

Many passengers are expected to arrive at DFW on a new flight Wednesday morning.

NBC 5's Bianca Castro contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Marc Stanley

Mass Dog Graves at Rescue: Cops


The owner of a dog rescue in northwest Indiana has been accused of animal neglect after police found a mass dog grave and several dogs in "deplorable conditions" at the rescue.

Police began investigating Paws Here Foundation, Inc., in the 22900 block of Harrison Street in Lowell, Indiana, in October after volunteers told police that dogs were being neglected, police said in a statement.

A detective spoke with the rescue's owner, Kenneth D. Wilson, about the allegations and Wilson said he would address the concerns, according to authorities.

After "a reasonable amount of time," the detective said she saw no improvements and obtained a search warrant, the statement said.

Officers executed the search warrant Tuesday at the rescue and found 10 dogs in "deplorable conditions," two dead dogs and a mass grave with "numerous canine remains," the statement said.

The dogs were housed in outside dirt runs and inside a barn and a garage in kennels.

Detective Michelle Dvorsak told the Northwest Indiana Times the facility is the "worst rescue operation I've seen."

Police said the 10 live dogs were "victims of advanced neglect" and are in need of medical and foster care.

The foundation posted on its Facebook page in September that it would close its doors to the public "due to some inhouse issues with a volunteer stealing a lot of our records."

The rescue could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and a phone number listed on its Facebook page was disconnected.

Animal neglect charges were pending against Wilson Tuesday.

Anyone interested in assisting with medical care, donations for supplies or foster care can call Detective Michelle Dvorsak at (219) 755-3346.

Photo Credit: Bill Dolan/NWI Times

Pot-Smoking Santa Riles Neighbors


A Southern California medical marijuana dispensary has agreed to remove its holiday decorations after it found itself at the center of a town controversy.

The Harbor House of Dank in San Pedro hired an artist last week to paint Christmas decorations, including a pot-smoking Santa, on its store front.

The paintings also depict a snowman holding a prescription pill bottle.

Hundreds of people expressed their anger about the décor on the "Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Watch" page, a closed Facebook group which had 2,784 members as of Tuesday afternoon.

On Facebook, one man posted "have some damn sense, kids walk by that place all the time." A woman posted "just couldn't understand why?"

"What do you tell your kids about that?" asked Tony Apodaca, who posted the picture of the store front on Monday. By Tuesday afternoon, his post had more than 190 comments.

"I was shocked when I drove by in the morning knowing there's a junior high school a block away," said Apodaca.

The store manager told NBC4 he was not aware that so many people were angry about the paintings. Within a few hours of learning the news, he called the artist who painted the images to have him scrape off the paintings.

By 4 p.m. Tuesday, the paintings had been removed.

But the controversy may have opened up a whole new set of legal issues for the store, which  Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino's office says is illegal because it does not fall under the guidelines of Proposition D.

Los Angeles voters passed the proposition in May, which allows for only 135 dispensaries that registered before a 2007 moratorium took hold, to stay in business.

The Harbor House of Dank opened a few weeks ago, according to the store manager.

The City Attorney's Office is working with LAPD to investigate the legality of hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries within the city of LA, including this one.

As for the paintings, after hearing that the store manager had agreed to remove them, Apodaca commended the store and his fellow members of the Coastal San Pedro Facebook page.

"It's the right  thing to do for the owner to take it down," he said.

Former Employee Accused of Dental Office Embezzlement


Columbia Dental is warning other businesses about the dangers of falling victim to fraud at the hands of a trusted employee.

The company says it lost more than $60,000 when a former employee, Leslie Brown, deposited about 42 of its insurance payment checks into her own account.

Brown was arrested in November on a felony larceny charge, according to police.

Court documents show Brown used the ATM at the Citizens Bank on Broad Street in Manchester to deposit those checks into two personal accounts.

"She was extremely smart in terms of how she did it. It certainly fooled us. It certainly seemed to have fooled the bank as they accepted the money and allowed her to use the money," said Jeffery Smith, general manager of Columbia Dental.

The fraud occurred over a five-month period starting late last year, according to the documents.

"We don't have a motive as far as why she needed that money but obviously it's a substantial amount of money," said Manchester police Capt. Chris Davis.

Brown was able to cash the checks by stamping "Columbia Dental" on the backs and writing "Pay to the order of Leslie Brown" underneath the stamp, according to court documents.

The bank cleared the the checks even though they were actually written to "Columbia Oral Maxillofacial Imaging," court documents say.

Smith said Brown credited all patient accounts so the company never caught on.

While Citizens Bank eventually detected the fraud, Smith says it has not refunded any money. Columbia Dental is now suing the bank in an effort to recover the cash.

"We wrote the bank, we wrote the board of directors trying to get some resolution and we heard nothing back," said Smith.

Court records show Brown has prior identity theft and larceny convictions. Columbia Dental said it was in the dark about her background when hiring her.

Brown has since been fired.

"The bottom line is that be careful where your checks are going and keep a good accounting of them," said Smith.

Citizens Bank released a statement addressing the incident.

"When we detect instances of potential fraud, we work closely with the affected party and with law enforcement to investigate and address the issue. We also encourage account holders to regularly monitor their accounts for signs of suspicious activity,” the statement says.

Columbia Dental said it has made a number of changes to its policies to keep something like this from happening again.

Leslie Brown is due back in court next month.

Smoke Detector Batteries Died Before Enfield Fatal Fire


They're a small device that delivers an ear-piercing screech and has helped save countless lives.

Following the horrific South River Street fire in Enfield last week, the Thompsonville Fire Department says neighbors are rushing to have smoke detectors installed.

"Absolutely got to have one on every floor. Every floor, every bedroom. Can't stress that enough," said Thompsonville Fire Chief Frank Alaimo.

Because of a federal grant program that's been in effect for a few years, by calling the fire department a firefighter will bring and install the devices for Enfield residents free of charge.

Since the deadly fire officials say dozens have been installed.

"I wouldn't even go a day without having batteries in your smoke detector. It's so lifesaving," said Mary Lapane.

Lapane was inside the two-apartment home when flames broke out Wednesday morning. She says the batteries for her smoke detector died weeks prior to the fire and if she hadn't been awake she and her sons probably wouldn't be here today.

"I happened to smell the fire and at that moment we knew we had to get out. We just yelled to get out," said Lapane.

The devastating fire has left behind a shell of a building. Candles stand with the names of the victims: 36-year-old Cathy Armes, 59-year-old Orise Handfield, 20-year-old Joshua Johnson, and 19-year-old David Cygan. Police formally identified Johnson and Cygan on Tuesday.

Those who survived the tragedy say they're grateful to be alive and it's something they'll never be able to forget.
"It's horrible. It feels like it was just yesterday. The thought just doesn't go away," said Lapane.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

As far as maintaining your smoke detector, authorities say change the batteries when you change your clocks.

Almost Home: 12,000-Mile Trek Brings Yale Grad to the Backstretch


Greg Hindy’s yearlong vow of silence and cross-country trek came to a close in July, when he reached Los Angeles. But that was just the beginning for this 23-year-old Yale graduate.

Although he’s now talking and taking advantage of technology, Hindy has kept his beard long and his shoes laced up for the return trip to his hometown of Nashua, New Hampshire.

He’s almost there.

Hindy hit New Haven on Tuesday, striding down Route 34 from Derby. He wore a backpack and pushed a bag full of camera gear, the same one he towed when he started the trip in 2013. He’s since walked more than 12,000 miles and hopes to be home for the holidays.

“I think I was surprised at the simplicity of it,” Hindy said. “It’s really a matter of walking each day. Every day that I’m walking, I’m walking through someone else’s every day place.”

Hindy, who graduated from Yale in 2013 with a degree in photography, said it’s all part of a performance art project.

“I felt like I wanted to somehow combine photography with some sort of performance art,” he explained. “I was drawn to the idea of making photographs in a way in which the process is really integral to the whole thing.”

Hindy took a vow of silence on July 9, 2013 – his birthday – and stuck with it as he journeyed across the country on the first leg of his trip.

"It was mostly about making a point, the point being that I'm dedicated to what I'm doing, and it affects me throughout the day," Hindy said of his decision to stay silent. "It was also an experiment. What would it be like to walk in silence for that long, and how would it affect my photography? How would it affect my thinking in general?”

He took photographs as he went, capturing images of the people and places he encountered and sending the footage back to his father.

Now Hindy is in the final leg of his journey. He plans to stay in New Haven through Thursday morning to catch up with some old friends – and catch his breath. A pulled muscle has put a limp in his step, and he’s hoping a short break will give him the extra energy to finish strong.

You can track Hindy's progress online here.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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Cheshire Dad Kills His Son, Then Himself: Sources


The town of Cheshire is reeling after a local dad shot and killed his son before taking his own life in their home on Cornwall Avenue, according to a source close to the investigation.

The bodies were found inside a home on the 700 block of Cornwall Avenue around 4 p.m. Tuesday, police said. The victims have not been identified by name and police are calling the deaths untimely.

"We're being cautious now about what we're releasing," explained Cheshire police Chief Neil Dryfe, who added that a 911 call was placed from inside the home.

Police said they believe the incident was contained to the house.

"Since I live around the corner, you just never know," said 19-year-old Cheshire resident Daniel Byrd. "And especially in this town, if you don't know the family, you know someone that knows the family."

Dryfe said the victims' immediate family members are at the scene and have been notified. The State Police Major Crimes Division is investigating, and the medical examiner's office has been called out to help.

"There's no continuing danger to the public. We believe we have everyone accounted for. The family members have been accounted for and notified of the incident," said Dryfe.

The road has been closed near the Doolittle Elementary School at 735 Cornwall Avenue while authorities work to piece together what happened.

"It's a horrible tragedy anytime you have an untimely death, particularly this close to the holidays," Dryfe said.

He expects the area to remain closed to traffic until after midnight.

It's the community's second major loss in a week. Nineteen-year-old Isabella Gozzo died in a crash on Route 9 in Berlin when her boyfriend lost control of the car on Saturday.

"A couple of really big things have happened in the past few years to this community," said Kim Liso-Perez, alluding to the Cheshire home invasion that resulted in the murders of a local mom and two daughters. "It's a small community and everybody is pretty close knit, and there's a lot of close family ties. Everybody knows everybody; it's one of those things."

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Arrests Made in Deadly Meningitis Outbreak


In the biggest criminal case ever brought in the U.S. over contaminated medicine, 14 former owners or employees of New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, were charged Wednesday in connection with a 2012 meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people.

US attorney Carmen Ortiz in Boston obtained a grand jury indictment alleging that under the laws of 7 states, 25 of those deaths amount to second-degree murder because pharmacy owner Barry Cadden and supervising pharmacist Glenn Adam Chin acted in "extreme indifference to human life" in allowing the contaminated steroid pain medicine to be shipped out. Beyond the 64 who died beginning in the late summer of 2012, another 687 were sickened.

"That indictment charges 14 individuals with offenses ranging from RICO murder to conspiracy to defraud the government to other charges as well," Ortiz said. "Production and profits were prioritized over safety."

Attorneys for Cadden, of Wrentham, Massachusetts, and Chin, of Canton, Massachusetts, said they were stunned by the second-degree murder racketeering charges and stressed the men have fully cooperated with the probe.

Cadden's attorney Stephen Weymouth said, "I certainly didn't expect racketeering in connection with second degree murder and mail fraud. My client's charged with, I couldn't even count that high, 77 counts or something like that? Yes, I was totally shocked by this indictment."

"He's pleading not guilty. He will be proven not guilty of that and the other charges," Chin's attorney, Bruce Singal, added.

Additionally, 12 other people from the pharmacy are facing multiple other charges, including pharmacy co-owners Doug and Carla Conigliaro of Dedham, Massachusetts, being indicted on charges of "structuring" or in effect seeking to hide $33 million in assets from the bankruptcy court now overseeing the liquidation of NECC.

Earlier this month lawyers announced a $135 million fund from NECC assets to pay victims and their families in the case.

Attorney Kim Dougherty of Janet, Jenner & Suggs, who represents 100 victims of the pharmacy's contaminated steroids, said, "The charges are serious because what's happened to them is very serious. The suffering is very serious."

Dougherty said she hopes the new indictments may yield additional relief money beyond the $135 million. "What we're also hoping through the criminal trial is that the government will also set up a victim compensation fund so that they will further receive compensation for their suffering," Dougherty said.

Ortiz was asked why it had taken more than two years after the first fungal meningitis outbreaks tied to the contaminated back pain steroid medications for comprehensive indictments to be brought.

"In many ways, I've been frustrated by how long it's taken, because we've been anxious to get to this point, but we wanted to be sure we got it right," Ortiz said. "We wanted to be thorough. We wanted to be careful. We did not want to rush to judgement. There have been tens of thousands of documents that our team has been reviewing. There have been hundreds and hundreds of potential victims. ... It's not the kind of investigation where you just snap your fingers and it's done."

In all, the tainted medication was shipped to and used on patients in 20 states. According to Centers for Disease Control data released by Ortiz's office, Michigan had the most people affected with 264, followed by 153 in Tennessee, 93 in Indiana, 54 in Virginia and 51 in New Jersey. The only New England states reporting cases of fungal meningitis caused by the NECC medication were New Hampshire (14) and Rhode Island (3).

The 14 individuals charged in the indictment are Barry J. Cadden, 48, of Wrentham, Massachusetts; Glenn A. Chin, 46, of Canton, Massachusetts; Gene Svirskiy, 33, of Ashland, Massachusetts; Christopher M. Leary, 30, of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts; Joseph M. Evanosky, 42, of Westford, Massachusetts; Scott M. Connolly, 42, of East Greenwich, Rhode Island; Sharon P. Carter, 50, of Hopkinton, Massachusetts; Alla V. Stepanets, 34, of Framingham, Massachusetts; Gregory A. Conigliaro, 49 of Southborough, Massachusetts; Robert A. Ronzio, 40, of North Providence, Rhode Island; Kathy Chin, 42, of Canton, Massachusetts; Michelle Thomas, 31 of Cumberland, Rhode Island; Carla Conigliaro, 51, of Dedham, Massachusetts and Douglas A. Conigliaro, 53, of Dedham, Massachusetts.

Photo Credit: Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call via Getty

Meriden Home Catches Fire Twice in Two Days


The fire marshal is being called to investigate after fires broke out two days in a row at a Meriden home.

The single-family house at 116 Capitol Avenue has been boarded up and vacant since a fire on Tuesday morning, but firefighters saw smoke coming from the house when they arrived this morning.

After getting through the boards put up yesterday, they extinguished the fire quickly and discovered that this fire started in different place than it did yesterday, so they believe it could be suspicious, officials said.

Three family members and two dogs were able to get out of the home without sustaining injuries after the first fire broke out yesterday and firefighters remained at the scene until noon.

Officials will likely be there longer today.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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Regulators Approve Hike, But Not as Much as CL&P Wanted


In the weeks following one rate increase for Connecticut Light & Power customers, state regulators approved another hike the utility company has proposed, but not as much as CL&P was looking for.

On Wednesday, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority voted to allows CL&P to increase flat fees on the homeowner’s average monthly bill from $16 to $19.25.

Overall, the increase is expected to add $7.12 per month to a CL&P customer's bill. The utility company pushed to raise the rate to $25.50, which would have represented a $12.48 increase.

CL&P said the increase was necessary to improve the system, including poles and the wires that bring power to homes and businesses, so they can be more prepared to respond to outages and storms.

"Today's ruling... authorizes a $257 million capital spending budget, finding that this level of spending is necessary for safety, reliability and maintenance of the franchise," PURA said in a statement. "The ruling includes past system resiliency spending in rates, which is expected to reduce the severity and frequency of outages to customers in future weather-related events. It also approves inflation of new resiliency programs, subject to PURA review of spending levels in a future proceeding."

A spokesperson for PURA previously said the decision would also help recover some previously approved cost increases associated with major storms in 2011 and 2012, including Hurricane Irene and the snowstorm of October 2011.

Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz released a statement Wednesday afternoon condemning the rate hike.

"I do not believe that CL&P proved that they needed such a large increase in rates, and I am troubled that they have been allowed to increase their monthly customer service charge by over $3 each month," Katz said.

"While we are still reviewing the final decision on our rate filing, it's important to note there are significant expenses associated with running a large and complex electric system and it is crucial that rates recover these costs so that we can continue making targeted investments in Connecticut's electric infrastructure," CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross said in a statement Wednesday.

"We are committed to making our system more reliable and efficient for our customers, as demonstrated by the fact that 2013 was our best reliability year in over a decade, with fewer and shorter power interruptions. We are also proud of the savings our merger provided and will continue to manage costs to benefit our customers," Gross added.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Woman Gunned Down Hours After Getting Protection Order Against Police Officer


“If you find me dead, he did it.”

That’s what Valerie Morrow told NBC10 Investigative reporter Harry Hairston just hours before she died, allegedly at the hand of the Delaware County police officer she feared.

Stephen Rozniakowski, an officer with the Colwyn Borough Police Department, wore a bulletproof vest when he kicked down the door of Morrow’s home on Glenfield Avenue in Glenolden, Pennsylvania around 9 p.m. Monday and began firing, according to investigators. The shooting came just three hours after police served Rozniakowski with an court order to stay away from Morrow, and days before he was due in court in a separate stalking case.

“He went there to execute the entire family, in my opinion. I have no doubt about that,” said Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan.

He shot and killed Morrow then shot Morrow’s teenage daughter in the arm before Morrow's husband Thomas Morrow, an off-duty Morton officer, returned fire.

After the shooting, Rozniakowski called in the shooting on his police-issued radio.

“I am the actor,” the 32-year-old told dispatchers.

Earlier in the day, Morrow reached out to Hairston because he previously covered past stalking allegations against Rozniakowski.

Morrow told Hairston she dated Rozniakowski for months before ending the relationship in August to reunite with her husband. In the weeks and months that followed, she said Rozniakowski called and texted her repeatedly with threatening messages. She agreed to come in for a Tuesday interview. but it never happened after she was killed in her own home.

At the time of the shooting, Philly police were working on an arrest warrant for Rozniakowski after he allegedly keyed Morrow’s car while parked at a Center City garage.

Before the fatal shooting, Rozniakowski called the Colwyn Borough Police Department to announce his resignation, investigators said.

About three hours before the shooting, Norwood Police served the suspect with an emergency court order to stay away from Morrow. At the time they took away his service weapon and asked if he had any other weapons but Whelan said Rozniakowski told them he didn’t.

He used a private weapon in Monday’s attack, said police.

Rozniakowski was taken to Crozer-Chester Medical Center where he remained in critical but stable condition Tuesday night, according to officials.

Whelan said he will consider pushing for the death penalty when Rozniakowski is tried.

Hairston put a spotlight on Rozniakowski earlier this year when the officer was placed on "administrative leave" after his former fiancee filed a protection from abuse order against him.

Plymouth Township Police arrested Rozniakowski and charged him with 25 counts of stalking and 50 counts of harassment for allegedly contacting his former fiancee with repeated phone and text messages.

"As a police officer, he knows the bounds and what the boundaries are and what the laws are," said Marty Mullaney, an attorney for Rozniakowski, told NBC10 in April. "I think his emotions got the best of him."

At that time, Rozniakowski had his police-issued gun taken away, Hills said.

The suspect was scheduled to appear in court Thursday on those charges.

1 Dead, 2 Injured in Crash on I-91 South in Enfield


One person is dead and two others were injured when a car hit a guardrail on Interstate 91 South in Enfield on Sunday night and flipped over, ejecting all three people from the vehicle.

State police said Vitally Fodor, 34, of Westfield, Massachusetts, was driving a 2002 Honda Accord in the area of exit 49 just after 7:30 p.m. when he hit the guardrail.

Fodor suffered massive trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to state police.

The two passengers, Alexandr Banari, 26, of Bloomfield, New Jersey, and Yurly Sivolobov, 26, of New Britain, were transported to area hospitals to be treated for serious injuries.

Police ask anyone with information about the crash to call Connecticut State Police at 860-534-1000.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Police at South Main and Mill Streets in New Britain


Police responded to South Main and Mill streets in New Britain to investigate a domestic incident in a home.

The high school was placed on lockdown, but that is no longer in place, police said.

Police said there was a report of a firearm, but no gun was found and there is no standoff.

From Cigars to Travel: Key Changes to U.S.-Cuba Relations


In historic news on Wednesday, the United States and Cuba are to start talks on normalizing relations between the two countries. The congressional embargo remains in place,but President Obama in a noon addressed announced major changes in travel and business policies, saying that increased commerce was good for both Americans and Cubans.

“We should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help," he said.

What will it mean to ordinary Americans and companies wanting to do business in Cuba? Here are some key changes:

Diplomatic relations

Secretary of State John Kerry will begin discussions with Cuba on re-establishing diplomatic relations that broke off in January 1961. In the coming months, the United States will open an embassy in Havana and initiate high-level exchanges between the two governments.


Tourist travel to Cuba is still banned, but restrictions will be eased in 12 categories: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and some intergovernmental organizations; journalists; professional research and meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations and research and educational institutes; export or import of information; and export transactions that may be considered under existing regulations. Only Congress can lift the ban on tourist travel.


Americans will be able to send $2,000 a quarter to Cuba, up from $500. Donations to humanitarian projects, to support Cubans and for the development of private businesses will not longer require a specific license.


Travelers to Cuba will be able to bring back Cuban cigars for personal use. Overall, Americans will be allowed $400 worth of goods, $100 for tobacco and alcohol. They will be able to use U.S. credit and debit cards while traveling to Cuba.


To help build the private sector in Cuba, the sale of commercial goods and services will be eased to include agricultural equipment for small farmers, building materials for private residences, and goods for use by Cuban entrepreneurs. U.S. institutions will be able to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions

Internet Access

Telecommunications providers will be allowed to establish infrastructure in Cuba to provide commercial telecommunications and Internet services. Cuba has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates at 5 percent. Telecommunications services are limited and expensive.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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Power Restored in North Branford


Power was out for around 1,100 homes and businesses in the southern part of North Branford on Wednesday, but the power has been restored.

The power was out from 12:41 p.m., but was restored as of 3 p.m.

It’s not clear what caused the problem.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

2 Charged in East Hartford Bank Robbery


Authorities have arrested two suspected bank robbers after chasing them through East Hartford on Wednesday, according to police.

Police said the men are accused of robbing a Wells Fargo bank at 18 Main Street in East Hartford around noon Wednesday. Both were armed with guns and led police on a foot chase prior to their arrests.

Officers spotted the suspects, who have since been identified as Hartford residents Anthony Shipman and Jason Vaughn, near the American Eagle Credit Union at 317 Main Street and ran after them, according to police.

The suspects split up and Vaughn tried to steal a car from a woman with two children on Ensign Street, police said. Officers caught them and took them into custody.

Police confiscated a .32-caliber revolver and .22-caliber handgun used in the robbery, along with a stolen Nissan Maxima. Authorities said earlier in the day that they saw a possible suspect getting into a Nissan.

Shipman and Vaughn, both 30 years old, have each been charged with robbery, larceny, threatening, weapons violations and interfering with police. Shipman was also charged with driving with a suspended license.

Vaughn was additionally charged with attempted carjacking, two counts of risk of injury to a minor and criminal trover.

Photo Credit: East Hartford Police Department

Influential Republicans Slam Opening to Cuba


Reaction to changes in U.S.-Cuba relations fell mostly along party lines on Wednesday, with prospective GOP presidential candidates Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio denouncing the decision by the Obama administration.

Bush, the former governor of Florida, called the move toward easing ties with Cuba President Obama's latest misstep.

Though he said he was delighted that American Alan Gross had been released from a Cuban prison, he charged that Obama had again overstepped his executive authority.

"Cuba is a dictatorship with a disastrous human rights record, and now President Obama has rewarded those dictators," he said. "We should instead be fostering efforts that will truly lead to the fair, legitimate democracy that will ultimately prevail in Cuba."

Rubio, a Cuban-American from Florida, called the opening the latest in a long line of failed attempts by Obama to appease rogue regimes.

The president’s decision to begin normalizing relations with Cuba is inexplicable, Rubio said, while Cuba, like Syria, Iran and Sudan, remains a sponsor of terrorism.

“It colludes with America's enemies, near and far, to threaten us and everything we hold dear,” he said. “But most importantly, the regime's brutal treatment of the Cuban people has continued unabated. Dissidents are harassed, imprisoned and even killed.”

The new course announced by the White House, which covers diplomatic relations, cultural exchanges, economic engagements, religious travel and other policies, does not affect the longtime economic embargo. Only Congress can change that.

And said Rubio: “This Congress is not going to lift the embargo.”

Unlike many other Democrats, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who is the second Cuban-American in the Senate, criticized the exchange of Gross for three Cubans in prison in the United States as a swap of an innocent American for three convicted spies.

"President Obama's actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government,” he said.

With the exchange, the president established a dangerous precedent that invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans as bargaining chips, he said.

"This asymmetrical trade will invite further belligerence toward Cuba's opposition movement and the hardening of the government's dictatorial hold on its people,” he said.

Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, said that as attitudes toward Cuba have changed among younger Cuban Americans, opposition to the regime there comes with risks for politicians. Obama carried Cuban Americans in Florida in 2012, he said.

“People under 45 have a very different view than people over 45,” he said. “So it’s clearly a generational difference.”

Opinions shaped in 1960s, during the Cuban missile crisis and the Bay of Pigs invasion, do not necessarily still hold.

“So being opposed to the regime in Cuba is no longer a free ride for politicians,” he said. “There’s risks and costs.”

A poll done by Florida International University has tracked opinions of the Cuban-American community in South Florida for two decades. This year, it found that a slight majority of CubanAmericans in Miami-Dade County opposed continuing the embargo — 52 percent overall and 62 percent among those 18 to 29 years old. Sixty-eight percent favored diplomatic relations with Cuba and 69 percent backed lifting restrictions impeding all Americans from traveling to Cuba.

But 63 percent said they believed Cuba should continue to be designated a “State Sponsor of Terrorism,” with Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Among registered voters, 53 percent said they would be very likely or somewhat likely to vote for a candidate who supported re-establishing diplomatic relations. Fifty-seven percent said they would be very or somewhat likely to vote for someone who backed replacing the embargo with a policy that increased support for independent business owners in Cuba.

Much other reaction from national politicians fell along party lines, though some politicians took neutral tones.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who is to become the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that he was pleased Gross was being reunited with his family after years of mistreatment by the Castro regime.

"The new U.S. policy announced by the administration is no doubt sweeping, and as of now there is no real understanding as to what changes the Cuban government is prepared to make,” he said. “We will be closely examining the implications of these major policy changes in the next Congress."

Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona released a joint statement on Obama's announcement.

"We agree with President Obama that he is writing new chapters in American foreign policy. Unfortunately, today's chapter, like the others before it, is one of America and the values it stands for in retreat and decline," the statement read. "It is about the appeasement of autocratic dictators, thugs, and adversaries, diminishing America's influence in the world. Is it any wonder that under President Obama's watch our enemies are emboldened and our friends demoralized?"

House Speaker John Boehner also denounced the president's policy change.

"Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom - and not one second sooner. There is no 'new course' here, only another in a long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship that brutalizes its people and schemes with our enemies," Boehner said.

Florida Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that although he was happy for Gross and his family, the exchange made America less safe and emboldened the dictatorship in Cuba.

“This prisoner swap sends a signal to rogue regimes and actors that taking an American hostage can be leveraged into scoring policy concessions,” he said.

But two Republicans broke ranks, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

Flake, who traveled with Democrats Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland to Havana to pick up Gross, said the policies in place had done more to keep the Castro regimes in power.

Sanford said the existing travel policy was inconsistent with individual liberty and freedom of movement. The move toward establishing a U.S. embassy in Cuba was wise, he said.

Leahy, the chairman of the State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, congratulated Obama and Cuba President Raul Castro for making history.

“After 64 years of animosity rooted in the Cold War, they have finally put our two countries on a new path,” said Leahy, a Democrat who had visited Gross twice in prison in Cuba and who has led efforts for fundamental changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba.

U.S. policy has been frozen in time and had failed to achieved its goals, he said.

Michigan Democrat Sen. Carl Levin, who also met with Gross in prison, said that Gross’ release sends a message to Americans held around the world that the country will not forget them.

“A more regular relationship between the United States and Cuba has been overdue and is now possible,” he said. “U.S. policy up to now has not worked in U.S. interests, and it has not weakened the Cuban regime.”

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid said he supported Obama despite Cuba’s history, though he added: “I remain concerned about human rights and political freedom inside Cuba, but I support moving forward toward a new path with Cuba.”

Hartford Deputy Fire Chief on Administrative Leave


Hartford Deputy Fire Chief James McLaughlin has been placed on paid administrative leave, according to sources within the city.

The city has declined to comment on the reasoning behind McLaughlin's suspension, which sources say took effect Dec. 10.

Last week, Mayor Pedro Segarra announced the creation of a task force to develop a new code of conduct, review resources and protocol and handle the investigation into the line-of-duty death of Firefighter Kevin Bell.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Thompsonville Fire Chief Suspended


The fire chief in the Thomsponville section of Enfield is facing a four-week suspension, according to the chairwoman of the fire commission.

Commission chairwoman Colleen Reidy said Fire Chief Frank Alaimo failed to fulfill commission requests that required him to document the number of hours he worked each day and log his daily duties.

Alaimo was also asked to clock the mileage on district trucks he drove and submit an official request for any time off he planned to take.

According to Reidy, the chief was also late responding to a fatal fire on South River Street last week even though the commission requested his prompt arrival at all fires and emergencies within the Thompsonville part of town.

Alaimo's suspension takes effect Thursday. He can return to his job after four weeks, Reidy said.

Alaimo said in an email to NBC Connecticut on Wednesday that he couldn't comment on the situtation.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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