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Mexico Wants Probe of Texas Slaying


The Mexican government on Wednesday demanded an investigation into the shooting death of an unarmed undocumented immigrant last week by a Grapevine, Texas, police officer, calling the killing a "disproportionate use of lethal force."

Rubén García Villalpando, a native of Mexico’s Durango state, died early Saturday after Officer Robert Clark shot him twice in the chest.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs deeply condemns the death of 31-year-old Mexican national Rubén García Villalpando," the Mexican government stated in an official letter to the police departments of Grapevine, Euless and the Tarrant County District Attorney's office.

The statement called the shooting a "disproportionate use of lethal force that results in the unnecessary loss of life and erodes the trust that should exist between the authorities and the communities in which they operate."

The shooting happened at about 7 p.m. on Friday night, Feb. 20, immediately following a high-speed chase on Texas State Highway 121 that began in Grapevine, but ended in Euless.

Police said Clark, a member of the Grapevine Police Department since May 2014, responded to an alarm at a building in the 3500 block of William D. Tate Avenue.

After investigating the alarm, and communicating over the police radio that he believed it to be a false alarm, Clark drove through the parking lot and noticed García Villalpando's car stopped in the entrance on the lot's west side, police said.

Clark activated his red and blue emergency lights, according to Grapevine police, but García Villalpando drove out of the parking lot and entered the southbound service road of Highway 121.

Clark then activated his siren and communicated by radio he was in pursuit, police said, as García Villalpando's car entered Highway 121 at a high rate of speed.

Dash camera video shows García Villalpando "weaving through and around the heavy traffic and driving on the shoulder of the highway attempting to evade Officer Clark," according to the official timeline of events released by the Grapevine Police Department.

Once García Villalpando eventually stopped on the shoulder of the Cheek Sparger Road exit, Clark "gives verbal commands to Mr. Villalpando to keep his hands out of his car," police noted.

García Villalpando approached Clark and ignored repeated instructions to stop, according to police. The dash-cam video shows Villalpando raise his hands and put them on his head, while continuing to walk towards the officer, police said. 

Villalpando was shot twice and was flown to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, where he later died.

Clark has been placed on routine administrative leave. Police are investigating the shooting.

Police has shown the dash camera video to several members of García Villalpando's family and their attorneys.

"Much, much worse than Ferguson," said Attorney Domingo Garcia, referring to the officer-involved shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri last summer. "This is an absolute cold-blooded murder by a man wearing a badge and a uniform."

Both Attorney Garcia, who has viewed the video, along with activist Carlos Quintanilla acknowledged that Garcia Villalpando was wrong to run from the officer, and to approach the officer despite his commands to stop.

"But at the same time, you do not shoot an unarmed man with his hands on his head," Garcia told NBCDFW.

"He didn't lunge at the officer. He wasn't aggressive at the officer, he had no arms toward the officer, he had no weapons and yet the officer shot him twice," Quintanilla said.

Family members have stated they want to know why Clark did not approach Garcia Villalpando and cuff him if he was a suspect in a crime, or why the officer did not use a TASER instead of a pistol.

In a statement to NBC DFW, a Grapevine police spokesperson said that their officers are not issued TASERs.

Garcia Villalpando leaves behind a wife, Martha, and four young children.

"As his wife, I'm suffering," Martha Garcia said, in Spanish, outside of her husband's funeral Wednesday. "But my kids aren't going to have their father. I want justice for my children," Garcia said, wiping away tears.

Wednesday night, Euless police - the department handling the investigation of the shooting - acknowledged receipt of the letter from the Mexican consulate.

"We have received a letter from the consulate. We have a meeting scheduled with them in the morning," Lt. Eric Starnes said. "As for the video, we are still taking statements from witnesses and have more scheduled through this weekend. Release of the video has a strong potential to affect witness testimony and for that reason I do not have an answer as to when it will be released."

The fatal police shooting comes 10 days after police in Pasco, Washington, fatally shot another Mexican immigrant, Antonio Zambrano Montes, sparking street protests.

The following is taken directly from the Grapevine police timeline of the shooting: 

Mr. Villalpando gets out of the car with his hands up and stands outside his car, while Officer Clark commands him to stop. Officer Clark gives him further commands to not move.

Mr. Villalpando, contrary to clear instructions, walks toward Officer Clark while Clark is repeatedly telling him to stop. The video shows Mr. Villalpando raising his hands and/or placing them on his head, while continuing to walk towards Officer Clark. This continues as Mr. Villalpando walks to the front bumper of Officer Clark's patrol vehicle, off camera view.

Officer Clark continues to tell Mr. Villalpando to get to the back of the car. Two shots are then heard. Officer Clark notifies dispatch that "shots were fired" and he requests paramedics.

Garcia Villalpando was flown to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, where he later died.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Flickr RF

Dead Dogs Facebook Photo Probed


A North Texas volunteer firefighter is under criminal investigation after authorities say he posted a picture of two dead dogs on Facebook along with a message to his neighbors that he had warned them to keep the animals away from his house.

The photo on Hunt County volunteer firefighter Tim Conatser's Facebook account showed the two dogs, apparently shot to death, along with the warning: "Somebody didn't put any truth my warning. Keep your damn dogs on your property."

Conatser could not be reached for comment.

The Union Valley Volunteer Fire Department's chief Edward Ragsdale said he suspended Conatser after he learned of the Facebook post.

"This is an individual that's a volunteer with our department,” Ragsdale said. "We can't be responsible for his actions when he's off duty."

Still, the chief said, the tiny department was getting bombarded on social media with angry messages -- even death threats -- from around the world.

"We've had I don't know how many hits," he said. "We've had (them) from as far away as England, Portugal, Canada, every state in the union."

Hunt County Constable Terry Jones said his office has launched a criminal investigation based on the Facebook post.

He said he did not know who owned the dogs and added that nobody had filed a complaint.

News of the Facebook post spread quickly in Hunt County, where many people were critical.

"I don't think you should have put that on social media, and the way he made it sound is horrible," said Brittany Clark, who works at a Royse City insurance office.

Photo Credit: Facebook

Family Displaced by Fire in Wallingford


A family has been displaced by a fire in Wallingford.

The fire was reported at the home on Deer Run Road around 9 a.m. on Thursday.

It appears the fire started in the basement near the furnace, according to the fire chief.

No one was injured.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Officer Credited With Saving Woman From Being Hit by Train


A Norwalk police officer’s quick actions prevented a possible tragedy on Thursday afternoon.

Officer Neil Robertson had just finished investigating a crash on Route 1 just before 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday and traffic was bumper to bumper when the train gates lowered and Robertson saw an SUV stopped within the area of the closing gates, police said.

With a train approaching, Robertson raced to the SUV, saw the lights of the train approaching and quickly directed the vehicles ahead of the SUV to move forward, allowing the woman driving to pull forward seconds before the train came through, police said.

A witness reported the good deed to Chief Thomas Kulhawik in the following e-mail:

“One of your officers deserves praise as he saved a lady from being hit by a train. The woman in a blue SUV stopped on top of the tracks in front of the Cablevision building due to heavy traffic ahead. Very shortly after her halt on the tracks, the lights and bells starting going off and the gate comes down for the approaching train. Lucky for her, one of your officers saw this unfolding and quickly jumped out of his car and ran to the cars in front of the woman to have them move up. He managed to save the day with about 2 seconds to spare.”

Kulhawik is praising Robertson for his actions.

“Had Officer Robertson not been there and taken swift action, the incident would have likely ended tragically,” Kulhawik said in a statement. 

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Dog Chewed Off Paw to Free Self: DA


A flea-ridden, year-old dog was allegedly so neglected in an Orange County backyard that he had to chew off part of one leg to free himself from being entangled, said prosecutors who are accusing the dog's owner of animal abuse.

Samer Samir Ibrahim, 23, was scheduled to appear in court Thursday, accused of ignoring his dog, Rocky, in his Westminster backyard for six days in November, while Rocky's back right foot became entangled, prosecutors said Wednesday.

With blood flow cut off to the dog's leg, the 11-month-old German Shepherd chewed off about five inches of the entangled leg to free himself, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.

Animal shelter staff reported Ibrahim to police when he brought the dog in for treatment — Ibrahim allegedly first tried to clean Rocky's leg with antiseptic wipes and covered the wound with a sock, prosecutors said.

"We removed the bandage and it was definitely a hard thing to see — he had essentially just chewed off most of his foot," said Dr. Maria Bromme, of Alicia Pet Care Center in Mission Viejo, where Rocky eventually underwent surgery.

The leg wound isn't the only complaint prosecutors had over how Ibrahim cared for Rocky. They allege that Rocky was kept in the backyard, where he caught fleas and weighed significantly less than other German shepherds.

Ibrahim faces a maximum charge of one year in jail if he's convicted of the misdemeanor counts he's facing of animal abuse and keeping an animal without proper care, according to the DA's office. He is in court Thursday to enter his plea in the case.

Rocky had the rest of his right leg amputated and has been adopted by a new family.

Photo Credit: Sean Browning

Woman Arrested in Hate Crime Misidentified as Suspect, Charges Dropped: NYPD


A New York City Department of Social Services worker who had been charged with assault as a hate crime after law enforcement sources said she allegedly grabbed a woman by the hair at a Manhattan subway station, threw her into a pole and made racial remarks has been cleared of wrongdoing, and police say her arrest stemmed from a witness misidentifying her at the scene. 

The arrest of the 43-year-old woman in connection with the attack inside the 145th Street A-C-B-D station around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday has been voided, the NYPD said Thursday afternoon.

The reversal came about 12 hours after the NYPD announced her arrest on hate crime charges. 

It's not clear how police realized her arrest was based on misinformation, nor is it known if they have another suspect in the case. 

Photo Credit: AP

Spanish Company Buying US Utility Serving Northeast For $3B


Spain's leading electricity and natural gas utility, Iberdrola, said it will buy the northeastern U.S. utility company UIL Holdings Corp. in a deal valued at about $3 billion.

Iberdrola SA and UIL said in a statement that the deal values UIL shares at $52.75, including $10.50 to be paid in cash for each share.

Shares of Iberdrola USA will be listed in the United States and UIL shareholders will receive a share for each UIL share they own.

The company will serve 3.1 million electric and natural gas customers in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and New York.

The statement released on Thursday said Iberdrola USA's utilities will be Berkshire Gas, Central Maine Power, Connecticut Natural Gas, New York State Electric & Gas, Rochester Gas & Electric, Southern Connecticut Gas and United Illuminating.

UIL’s current President and Chief Executive Officer, James Torgerson, will become the company’s CEO and he will select and lead a U.S.-based leadership team from among the UIL and Iberdrola USA business leadership.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Support Staff Overhear a Lot: Study


In the office, knowledge is power.

A new survey suggests that many company employees' jobs could be on the line, all because members of the support staff have overheard some incriminating conversations.

The Chicago-based career services site CareerBuilder conducted a national online survey through Harris Poll and asked 500 support staff employees about the conversations they have overheard. Those in the survey identified themselves as custodians, janitors, mailroom attendants, security guards, receptionists, facilities maintenance workers, housekeepers, administrative assistants and maintenance workers.

The results showed a staggering 11 percent of support staff workers have stumbled upon information that could cause someone to be fired, and 53 percent have overheard confidential conversations at work. The information leakage also comes from pieces of evidence left out in the open or in the trash can.

The people included in the survey also offered anecdotes about the things they have found or overheard. More than half of them -- 62 percent -- have heard other employees complaining about the boss or their co-workers. Others have picked up on conversations with more personal themes, like romantic relationships between co-workers (20 percent) or setting up another co-worker for failure (11 percent).

Among the snippets of personal information and incriminating evidence found in the trash -- or even in full view on a desk -- were a list of employee salaries, a photo of a partially dressed co-worker, an old love letter from one co-worker to another, a predetermination request for a breast augmentation procedure, a pregnancy test, a letter from the boss's mistress and a full set of keys for the entire facility.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Toll Brothers Ends Cedar Mountain Development Plan: Officials


Toll Brothers has dropped its plans to build dozens of homes on a 73-acre site on Cedar Mountain in Newington, according to town officials. Now, the town is looking to acquire that land and preserve it as open space.

In the years since Toll Brothers asked the town public and zoning commission to rezone the land from commercial to residential so they could build luxury condos, several groups have fought the proposal.

In 2011, hundreds of Newington residents attended a public hearing about the proposal and the town inland wetlands commission voted 4 to 1 to deny the company’s proposal.

On Thursday, Mayor Steve Woods issued a news release, saying Toll Brothers has terminated its agreement with Tilcon to buy the property on the Cedar Mountain and is withdrawing its court appeal.

The next step is for economic development director Andy Brecher to begin discussions with Tilcon for the town to acquire the 73-acre property Toll Brothers was planning to build on, plus an additional 12.5-acre parcel next to the property, according to the news release.

“It is my intent that Newington will own those 85 acres and preserve them as open space for the benefit of Newington’s citizens now – and for perpetuity,” Woods said in a statement.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

1 Student Remains Hospitalized After Wesleyan Molly ODs


Of several Wesleyan University students who were hospitalized after overdosing on MDMA, or "Molly," over the weekend in Middletown, one remains at Hartford Hospital, according to Middletown Police. 

Officials started receiving calls for medical help from the Butterfield and Foss Hill dorms, as well as 200 High Street at 7:30 a.m., 8:21 a.m., 12:26 p.m., 1:21 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, according to Middletown Fire Battalion Chief David Anderson said.

Several students were transported to Middlesex Hospital, then LifeStar transported two students to Hartford Hospital and an ambulance transported two more, according to police. Two of the four students were listed in critical condition and two were listed in serious condition.

As of Thursday afternoon, one student remains at Hartford Hospital. The student's name has not been released and no information has been released on the student's status. Police said they believe that the student who were taken to Middlesex Hospital were released on Monday.

Wesleyan students Eric Lonergan, 21; Andrew Olson, 20; Zachary Kramer, 21; and Rama Agha Al Nakib, 20, were arrested on drug charges Tuesday and immediately suspended from the school pending a formal hearing. Police said none of the students arrested was among those hospitalized. At least three of whom were studying neuroscience.  

Lonergan, Kramer and Nakib appeared in court Wednesday. Olson, founder and co-president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy at Wesleyan, posted bond following his arrest and is due in court next week.

All three students were known to deal drugs among their peers, according to the warrants.

Investigators are also working to identify chemicals included in the MDMA that sickened students on Sunday.

Police have been working to find out how the drug got to campus and believe they've identified the source of the "Molly," which they said is information that could help the ill students recover.  

A spokesperson for the university said Wesleyan is taking steps to keep students both informed and safe.

"The drug ‘Molly’ is widespread and becoming increasingly more prevalent on college campuses nationwide. Following the student hospitalizations in September, Wesleyan's Health Services Department emailed information to all students warning about the dangers of the drug," Lauren Rubenstein, Associate Manager of Public Relations at Wesleyan, said in a statement Tuesday.

Doctors call MDMA a designer amphetamine that users take to feel euphoric.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Hamden Man Robbed at Gunpoint While Shoveling Snow: Cops


Police have arrested an 18-year-old linked to the armed robbery of a Hamden resident who was shoveling the stairs to his home.

According to police, a gunman approached a 53-year-old resident of Fairfiew Avenue while the man was shoveling snow on his front steps on Feb. 17.

The suspect pointed a gun at the  man and demanded his belongings. He took the victim's wallet, credit cards and cash before running off, according to police.

Investigators arrested Malik Hanna, 18, on Feb. 25. He was charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit second-degree larceny.

Police have not elaborated on his role in the case.

Hanna is being held on $250,000 bond.

Photo Credit: Hamden Police Department

Wethersfield DMV to Reopen Friday


The Wethersfield Department of Motor Vehicles will reopen on for business as usual on Friday after a water line break flooded part of the building earlier this week, according to DMV spokesman Bill Seymour.

While the branch will be open, delays are expected after being shut down for three days, and the DMV is recommending residents go to offices in Enfield or New Britain or use a AAA office if possible.

Administrative offices in the DMV were evacuated around on 2:45 p.m. Monday after extreme cold caused a break in the water line, sending water into the DMV office at 60 State Street.

Employees were sent home and utility workers cut the power to the facility. The DMV was closed Tuesday and Wednesday while crews continue repairing electrical problems and other issues stemming from the break.

"We are attempting to make sure that the building is both safe and ready to serve customers without any further unexpected shut downs,” DMV Commissioner Andres Ayala Jr. said in a statement on Wednesday. “We also understand that having the office closed has caused inconveniences for many of our customers and we are working as quickly as possible to make repairs.”

Customers are encouraged to check for updates on the DMV website and call 860-26305700 or 800-842-8222 to reschedule road tests.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Icy Gas Meter Prompts House Fire in Westport


An ice-covered gas meter prompted the boiler to catch fire at a home on Lees Lane in Westport on Thursday morning, according to the fire department.

Firefighters said the homeowner used a fire extinguisher to put out flames on the outside of his boiler around 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

He told the fire department the boiler hadn't been working properly and the burner on his gas stove wasn't igniting fully.

Firefighters turned off the gas meter and noticed the pressure regulator was covered in ice that had formed due to a dripping gutter overhead, according to the fire department.

They ventilated the home to remove any gas or smoke that had escaped into the air and called a fire inspector and gas company worker to the property.

The fire department is reminding homeowners to service their heating equipment every year and call professionals if they suspect a problem with any of their equipment.

Keep gas regulators and outside equipment free of snow and ice, and make sure all carbon monoxide detectors are working properly.

Photo Credit: Monica Garske

LA Train Crash Trucker Not Charged


The driver whose truck was struck by a commuter train after he left it at a Southern California rail crossing, resulting in a crash that left nearly 30 people injured and four in critical condition, will not face charges at this time, according to the Ventura County District Attorney's office.

The announcement came Thursday when Jose Alejandro Sanchez Ramirez, 54, of Yuma, Arizona, was scheduled to be arraigned in the case. He was taken into custody after the crash that happened before 6 a.m. Tuesday on the Ventura County Line tracks between Camarillo and Oxnard, about 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Prosecutors released a statement indicating that they are waiting for results of the crash investigation before making a decision.

"The ongoing investigation of this matter is complex and involves numerous local and federal agencies including the District Attorney’s Office, Oxnard Police Department, and the National Traffic Safety Board," the DA's office said in a statement. "The District Attorney must await the completion of this investigation before making a formal filing decision.  While charges will not be filed at this time, the arrest of Jose Alejandro Sanchez-Ramirez by the Oxnard Police Department was clearly appropriate and lawful."

Sanchez Ramirez was arrested about 45 minutes after the crash on suspicion of hit-and-run after he was found about a mile away from the derailment that left his burned truck mangled and three train cars on their sides.

His attorney said Wednesday that Sanchez Ramirez accidentally drove onto the tracks and made the situation worse by continuing forward in an attempt to gathered enough momentum to get the wide pickup over the rails. He also used his high-beam headlights in an effort to warn the oncoming Metrolink commuter train, which was bound for Los Angeles.

The heavy duty Ford F-450 truck, towing a trailer, straddled the tracks and Sanchez Ramirez could not back up because he was towing a trailer, attorney Ron Bamieh said. When his efforts to move the truck failed, he ran for help, Bamieh said.

But federal investigators who arrived in Oxnard Wednesday said the truck was not stuck on the tracks in the sense that it had bottomed out at the crossing. Investigators have not ruled out that the truck was somehow stranded and will attempt to determine why it traveled 80 feet down the tracks and remained there with its parking brake engaged.

"I don't think anybody would put a car or truck on... railroad tracks and not try to get it off if there's an approaching train," Sumwalt said.

Police claim Sanchez Ramirez did not call 911 and made no immediate effort to call for assistance. Authorities would not discuss drug and alcohol test results, but Bamieh said he was told there was no sign Ramirez was impaired.

"When someone goes through a huge trauma like that and not only thinking they almost died, but they think other people are dead and you don't know what to do and you're confused... what is a normal reaction to such an event?" Bamieh said.

Ramirez had a drunken driving conviction in Arizona in 1998 and a pair of traffic citations. Bamieh said the citations were minor and the DUI was too old to be relevant to the current circumstances.

A commuter train's on-board camera captured the fiery crash and might help investigators with effort to piece together the events that led to the derailment. The video, taken from the outward-facing camera on the front car of the Metrolink train, was sent back to the Washington home of the National Transportation Safety Board for analysis, board member Robert Sumwalt said.

Photo Credit: Oxnard Police Department

Hartford Firefighter Bell's Death Ruled Accidental


The medical examiner has determined that the death of a Hartford firefighter killed while battling a massive blaze in the city's North End in October was accidental.

Kevin Bell, a 48-year-old husband, father and cousin of retired Fire Chief Charles Teale, died of asphyxia due to lack of breathing gas, according to the office of the chief state medical examiner. Cardiac hypertrophy is also listed as a contributing condition.

"We are grateful to the OCME for their diligence and pleased that the Bell family is beginning to get answers they deserve," Hartford Fire Chief Carlos Huertas said in a statement Thursday. "This is still an open and active investigation and there are still more questions that need to be answered."

Bell, a Hartford native and six-year-veteran of the department, responded to the two-alarm fire at 598 Blue Hills Avenue around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014 and died at Saint Francis Hospital after being pulled from the fire in cardiac arrest.

Bell, a member of Engine 16, was the first Hartford firefighter killed in the line of duty in 40 years.

In October, the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters learned that investigators were taking a close look at a “mayday” call that went unanswered during the fire and the fact that Bell was low on air before he went down.

In December, sources told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters that investigators determined Bell was low on air before collapsing on the night of that fire.

Following Bell's death and the unrelated arrests of several Hartford firefighters, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra launched a task force to make recommendations for the department.

The task force, which includes an advisory group comprised of former fire chiefs, is reviewing the department command structure, examining department resources and equipment and leading the investigation into Bell's death.

A memorial fund has been set up in Bell's honor. To donate, visit the Hartford Firefighters Credit Union at 776 Maple Avenue in Hartford, or send donations to:

Kevin L. Bell Memorial Family Fund
C/O Hartford Firefighters Survivors' Fund
Farmington Bank
669 Hebron Avenue
Glastonbury, CT 06033

Lebanon Home Collapses as Fire Rages


A house engulfed in flames on Williams Crossing Road in Lebanon collapsed on Thursday morning.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries while battling the house fire and is expected to be OK.

No additional information was immediately available.

Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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Road Rage Karma? Video Convicts Man


A San Diego man was convicted Wednesday of a violent road rage attack in part because of video he recorded on his own cell phone.

Jurors convicted Thomas Sikes, 56, of assault causing great bodily injury and elder abuse for an April 30 fight in an El Cajon parking lot.

Prosecutors characterized Sikes as a “violent bully who can’t control his anger” and presented the recording Sikes took of his confrontation with 76-year-old Ron Tornocello in a CVS Pharmacy parking lot.

“This is the a—hole that is driving here, came in here and ran through this parking lot,” Sikes says on the video as he's sitting behind the wheel of his own car in the parking lot.

Sikes continues recording as he walks up to Tornocello's car and asks him, "Do you have anything to say about your driving habit?”

A short surveillance clip released by officials shows Sikes walking across the parking lot, approaching the victim’s parked car and opening the driver's side door.

Tornocello was sitting behind the wheel of his car just outside the pharmacy's doors. He can be heard explaining to Sikes how his wife was being moved from a rehab center.

“You're going to be in a rehabilitation center in a minute,” Sikes warned.

That's when things got heated.

On the video shown to jurors in Sikes' trial Wednesday, Tornocello flipped off Sikes.

Then, as a CVS employee providing play-by-play to a 911 dispatcher described, Sikes threw a punch.

Tornocello, an Army veteran, was hospitalized for several days and required two facial reconstructive surgeries including one to repair his left eye.

A defense attorney argued his client had acted in self-defense and that it was Tornocello who first kicked Sikes in the groin.

Jurors rejected that argument and convicted Sikes on all counts. He'll face nine years in prison when he's sentenced. 

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New Haven a Key Part of Transportation Overhaul


One of the cornerstones of Gov. Dannel Malloy's transportation proposal is improving infrastructure along the Interstate 95 corridor.

Widening I-95 in both directions from New Haven could transform how people view the city and compare it to others in the region, according to New Haven economic development officials.

“The extra lane going all the way from New Haven to Greenwich to the New York border will change people’s perception of being 70 miles from New York City," said Matt Nemerson, who handles economic development for the city.

Increasing travel speeds and adding a lane could make New Haven closer to suburbs just by improving access.

Nemerson said just getting people through Greenwich and Bridgeport faster would make travel much easier and better for recruiting employers.

"If we can get it down to 45 minutes, it means that the high quality of life and the low cost of real estate means that we can compete with White Plains, with Stamford, and all of those places and all of the businesses that need to be back and forth to Westchester and the downtown New York area," said Nemerson.

Malloy said he wants to replace the electrical system along the Metro-North New Haven Line, adding that the ramp-up of his $100 billion transportation proposal includes a commitment to rail because plans have already been complete.

“We'll continue as fast as we can, the modernization of the Metro-North line. The Walk Bridge (in Norwalk) is paid for," Malloy said.

Dogs Poisoned by Purina: Lawsuit


It started with a phone call from his wife: We’re out of dog food.

So Frank Lucido of Discovery Bay went to the store and bought a bag of Purina’s Beneful kibble style dog foods around Christmas. His dogs loved it.

But three weeks after eating it, his eight-year-old English bulldog Dozer is dead. And his 11-year-old Labrador named Remo and 4-year-old German Shepherd named Nella are still recovering from kidney failure, lethargy and diarrhea.

“I feel very strongly there’s a definite situation with this dog food,” Lucido said Thursday in an interview. “The doctor said the dog had been poisoned. The dogs are part of the family. It’s been real rough.”

Lucido sued Nestle Purina PetCare Company Feb. 5 in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California alleging the dog food contains propylene glycol, which it says is an animal toxin used in automobile antifreeze, and mycotoxins, a group of toxins produced by fungus that occurs in grains. The suit asks for unspecified damages and to make sure Purina's products are "safe for dogs."

Lucido alleges that in the past four years there have been more than 3,000 complaints online about dogs becoming ill or dying after eating Beneful, having shown “consistent symptoms,” including stomach and related internal bleeding, liver malfunction or failure, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, seizures and kidney failure. The complaints about Beneful report symptoms that are consistent with mycotoxin poisoning, according to the suit.

Since he filed the suit, which has gotten national media coverage, one of Lucido’s attorneys, Michael Ram of San Francisco, said at least 1,000 have come forward complaining about similar situations. The suit is seeking class-action status.

"I have never had a flood of calls and emails who said, 'The same thing happened to me.' The phone is literally ringing off the hook," Ram said.

Purina said in a statement regarding Lucido’s suit that “there are no quality issues with Beneful,” and said dog owners could continue feeding it to their dogs without any concern.

“Like other pet foods, Beneful is occasionally the subject of social media-driven misinformation,” the company said in its statement. “On-line postings often contain false, unsupported and misleading allegations that cause undue concern and confusion for our Beneful customers.”

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of propylene glycol as an additive in human food and animal feed, and Purina screens its grain to prevent mycotoxins from getting into its products, spokesman Keith Schopp said.

The FDA has not issued any warnings about Beneful kibble-style dog food. In a statement, the FDA said it does not comment on pending litigation.

Jennifer Dooren, a spokeswoman, declined to comment to the Associated Press on whether the FDA were investigating the food.

The results of toxicology testing on Lucido’s English Bulldog, Dozer, who died, are pending, according to the lawsuit.

The suit asks the court to expand the case to include other dog owners whose dogs were sickened or died. It asks for unspecified damages and restitution, although it says the claims exceed $5 million.

In recent years, Beneful has faced two lawsuits that were dismissed by the courts, according to Purina’s statement.

However, in a lawsuit settled in May, Purina and Waggin’ Train LLC agreed to create a $6.5 million fund to compensate pet owners who claimed their pets were sickened after eating China-made jerky treats.

At the time, FDA officials said the pet treats were linked to more than 1,000 deaths in dogs and more than 4,800 complaints of animal illness. Three humans were sickened after eating the treats.

For now, Lucido just wants to stop this from happening to anyone else.

“I’ve been trusting Purina for a long time,” he said. “ Purina Puppy Chow is what you fed your dog. But this is a situation people should not have to go through.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Frank Lucido
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Fisherman Rescued After Falling Overboard


Freezing cold water in New London harbor just about did in a fisherman who fell in Wednesday evening, but he caught the attention of a man on a boat nearby.

The man was clinging to the piling on the southeast corner of City Pier, said Pat Kennedy, whose brother John coaxed the man off the piling with a "life sling" over to the ladder up to the pier.

"He was in shock so he couldn't get up the ladder," Kennedy said, from the bow of the boat he then brought over, the John F. Kennedy.

"And I grabbed his belt, and my son Paddy too – we lifted him up and put him on the transom," Kennedy said. "We had blankets here and a sleeping bag. We covered him and raced right over to Station New London."

There, the Coast Guard helped get the man to the dock and a waiting ambulance. At the hospital, the man told authorities he had been fishing alone and fell in.

"If you're going to be near the water, operate with someone so you're not alone in case an accident does happen," said Lt. Dan Tavernier, the station commander. "In this case, the victim was fishing off the pier, fell in the water, and nobody even knew he was there."

"That poor guy. I felt so bad because he was moaning," Kennedy recalled. "He was suffering. He could hardly even talk."

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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