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Funeral Set for Tolland Worker Killed Patching Potholes


The Tolland public works department is mourning the loss of one of its own.

David Lee Ridzon, 50, of Willington, died Thursday after he was struck by a public works truck while patching potholes on Anderson Road.

According to his obituary, Ridzon is a Tolland native and graduate of Rockville High School. He began working for the Tolland Highway Department after 15 years at Rex Lumber Co., based in South Windsor.

Ridzon leaves behind his wife of 23 years and two daughters ages 19 and 21.

"He was full of laughter, kindness, honesty and just pure love," his obituary says.

Visiting hours are set for Monday, March 25 from 5-8 p.m. at the Potter Funeral Home on Jackson Street in Willimantic.

A funeral service will be held Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the First Congregational Church on Virginia Lane in Tolland.

Photo Credit: @TollandAlert/Facebook

State Police Names New Public Information Officer


As longtime state police spokesman Lt. J Paul Vance begins a new chapter heading up the department's traffic division, veteran state police Sgt. Shane Hassett will take over as public information offcer.

Connecticut State Police announced Hassett's assignment Friday, the day after Vance's transfer.

Hassett joined the department in 1990 and has been a sergeant for 14 years. Prior to joining the public information office, Hassett worked out of Troop C in Tolland, according to his bio posted on the state police website.

He was previously stationed in Troop E in Montville and Troop K in Colchester and has served as a special liaison to the Department of Developmental Services, the website says.

Hassett earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Connecticut in 2005.

Trooper Kelly Grant will also maintain her five-year post as the department's second public information officer.

Vance was reassigned to the traffic division, effective Friday, after 16 years as the face of the department and 41 years with the state police.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com/Connecticut State Police

Man Arrested in Cromwell Linked to Hartford Homicide Suspect


The investigation into Hartford's fifth homicide of the year led police to a hotel in Cromwell, where they arrested a man on unrelated charges and seized two cars.

Hartford police said homicide detectives probing last night's murder on Blue Hills Avenue obtained leads that brought them to the Quality Inn on Berlin Road in Cromwell.

"Our detectives overnight collected information that led us to that hotel," explained Hartford police spokesman Deputy Chief Brian Foley. "While we were there, we obtained a search warrant for one of the hotel rooms. He was in that hotel room."

According to court records, police arrested 38-year-old James Canidate on assault charges stemming from a separate incident involving the homicide victim, 31-year-old Teniel Mack.

Canidate is accused of stabbing Mack and was also charged with violation of probation.

Police are not calling Canidate a murder suspect and said they continue to investigate the homicide.

"Our detectives are going to continue to investigate the homicide," Foley said. "I would call the investigation active; I'd call it open... We are moving in a positive direction for such a terrible event."

Authorities photographed and towed two vehicles from the hotel: a black Ford and a green Honda Accord.

Hotel staff said police have not provided them with details of the investigation.

"As for safety of our staff and our guests we take great security measurements. We take Ids [sic], we lock all doors and only allow registered guest in at night, and also monitor all areas," Al Patlikh, general manager of Quality Inn, said in a statement Friday.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Pit Bull Attacks Puppy, Turns on Owners in Hamden


A Hamden couple was taken to the hospital Friday afternoon after their pit bull started attacking a puppy, then turned on the owners when they tried to separate the dogs.

Police said the family pit bull began biting a puppy at a home on Ford Street shortly before noon Friday. The pit bull then attacked a female resident who tried to pull the dogs apart, prompting the woman's husband to intervene.

The husband managed to coax the dog into a back room, at which point the dog went after him too, according to police. The pit bull broke through a security gate and continued attacking the man, who grabbed a knife and stabbed the dog to try to get him to stop.

Animal control officers arrived at the scene and captured the pit bull. Hamden firefighters treated the homeowners before emergency crews took them to Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Both people suffered non-life threatening injuries, according to police.

Proposal Would Widen Scope of DNA Sampling


Four people have been exonerated by DNA evidence in Connecticut since the technology became reliable for investigations.

One of those people is James Tillman who was wrongly accused, charged and convicted of a rape and kidnapping in 1988.

“It came back that I wasn’t the person. Without that, I wouldn’t be here talking to you guys right now", Tillman said during a press conference pushing legislation that would expand when DNA could be collected during criminal investigations.

Current law allows the DNA to be taken following some violent crimes like rapes and homicides as long as the person has been convicted of a prior crime but State Rep. Ernest Hewett wants to expand that to include burglary and aggravated assault.

“This one is just first arrests for violent crimes not just any arrest" said Hewett, a Democrat representing New London.

Civil rights groups are wary of any expansion of when investigators could take DNA from suspects. Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union say the current law provides enough leeway for law enforcement.

David McGuire with the ACLU says taking anything more than a fingerprint is far too intrusive for someone with a clean criminal record even in cases of violent crime.

"A fingerprint is two dimensional. It’s not a medical procedure, whereas DNA is the very fabric of who someone is. It’s very sensitive information. It’s medical history. It goes well beyond a fingerprint and you should be found guilty before that’s taken," McGuire said.

He added that it's common sense for the law to provide restraint when taking DNA samples.

"We’re all about vindicating and making the criminal justice system work but reality is, the cornerstone of our justice system is innocent until proven guilty," McGuire said.

Hewett, who was released from a state prison in 2006, says he wouldn't have the common comforts of life without DNA testing.

"I mean without that I wouldn’t have my wife. I wouldn’t have my grandkids. I think, through DNA, it really saved my life," he said.

Car Hits Ambulance on Bridgeport-Stratford Line


Three people were taken to the hospital after a car rear-ended an ambulance on the Bridgeport-Stratford line during snowy conditions Friday night, according to Bridgeport police.

Police said an ambulance owned by Nelson Ambulance was driving on Stratford Avenue when a car struck it from behind just before 8 p.m. Friday.

Two medical professionals in the ambulance did not appear to be hurt. Bridgeport police spokesman Bill Kaempffer said he doesn't believe the ambulance was transporting a patient.

Three people in the car were treated at the scene, then taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries, according to police.

The investigation is in the early stages but snow is falling in the area, and police said they're looking into weather conditions as a possible factor.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Griswold Middle School Student Dies Unexpectedly


The Griswold community is mourning the death sudden of a middle school student.

According to the town superintendent, seventh grader Nathan Williams died unexpectedly at his home Thursday morning.

"Our heartfelt feelings go out to this student and family members," Supt. Paul Smith said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

School officials brought in grief counselors Friday to help students cope with the loss.

"At the school, we have implemented a plan for responding to this tragic event focused on helping our students get back to everyday activities as soon as possible," Smith wrote to parents and community members.

Smith said that counselors and other support staff will be available into next week if necessary.

"The students and staff will react in different ways to the deat of a member of our school community," Smith wrote. "We should all respect and try to understand that there will be a variety of emotions and responses to what has occurred. The most important thing we can do is be supportive and encourage an open expression of feelings."

School officials have not released any information surrounding the circumstances of Nathan's death.

Hartford Mayor Stumbles as New Candidate Enters Race


As a new challenger enters the race for Hartford mayor, incumbent Pedro Segarra has fired his second campaign manager in just over a week.

The Hartford mayor sacked J.R. Romano last week after mistakes stemming from incorrect fundraising emails about his opponent, Luke Bronin.

The latest manager saw his exit after tweets from six years ago surfaced, where Michael Beckendorf allegedly posted about getting drunk and using mushrooms and Oxycotin.

"We are putting together a campaign team that can adequately convey the accomplishments we've made since I've been mayor," Segarra said in a statement.

The latest issue for Segarra comes as a new adversary announces his candidacy. Attorney John Gale grew up in the North End of Hartford and described the time under Segarra as being one "marred by mismanagement."

Gale joins Democrat Luke Bronin and unaffiliated Joel Cruz in their bids for mayor. Bronin is the former legal adviser to Gov. Dannel Malloy, and Cruz is a current member of the Hartford City Council.

Gale says one of his top priorities is to "bring back the city's neighborhoods" by working to identify and improve or raze some buildings.

“We started a couple of years ago with an anti-blight program that came out with great fanfare. This is necessary," said Gale. "Our neighborhoods need this attention, and yet that program has kind of fizzled and died. I believe when I last heard they started with four or five employees focused on it. They’re down to one.”

Gale added that schools will need more attention over the next several years.

The Democrat says the time has come for fresh leadership and that he can bring it, as Segarra shows vulnerabilities in the early stages of the campaign.

“Hartford needs somebody to lead, to inspire and to innovate" Galse said.

Box Truck Wedged Under Railroad Bridge in Stratford


The driver of a box truck apparently misjudged the height of his vehicle before driving underneath a railroad bridge in Stratford, where the too-tall truck became wedged Friday night.

A spokesperson for Metro-North said the truck got stuck around 9 p.m. Although it doesn't appear that the bridge sustained major damage, inspectors are heading to the scene to check it over. In the meantime, trains are barred from traveling over the bridge.

A tow truck at the scene will pull out the box truck when inspectors give the go-ahead, according to Metro-North officials.

Railroad officials said the driver of the truck will likely receive a summons for failing to follow signs indicating height limitations.

Metro-North traffic will be delayed slightly as a result of the incident, but a spokesperson for the railroad said the impact will be minimal.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Mass. Shooting Suspect Kills Self in NH Standoff


The suspect in a police-involved shooting Friday morning in Cambridge, Massachusetts, sparked a SWAT situation at a New Hampshire hotel before killing himself Friday night, police confirmed.

Cambridge Police told Police in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, around 3 p.m. that 30-year-old Nicholas Cammarata of Saugus, Massachusetts, might be there. Portsmouth Police responded to America's Best Inn on Woodbury Avenue. They were able to speak with the suspect on the phone, but he quickly hung up.

"We located that subject, and we tried to apprehend him, but it looks like he chose to end his own life," said Portsmouth Police Chief Stephen Dubois.

Initially, responders did not know whether a gunshot they heard was self-inflicted or meant for them. During the standoff, authorities threw a flash-bang grenade into the room to distract Cammarata. When they got inside, they realized he had killed himself.

Guests and employees of the hotel were evacuated during the standoff, and everyone within sight of the building was asked to retreat.

Cammarata was wanted for charges including assault to murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Photo Credit: Robert Michaelson
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Police Work to Curb Crime Near Buckland Hills Mall


Manchester police say they will soon deploy a new tactic to improve the safety at one of the state’s biggest shopping areas.

They plan to expand their community policing program to the Buckland retail area.

Current officers will be assigned to the Buckland area during peak times, and will further ramp up their presence if the department starts seeing increased crime.

Police say nearly half the larcenies in the town take place in the Buckland area.

The assigned officers will be more proactive than reactive. Instead of going from call to call, the officers will monitor activity in the shopping area and work on building relationships.

It's an effort to cut down on shoplifting and thefts from cars.

“I think more police presence is always better especially in larger geographical areas where there are cities and lots of people and lots of cars and I’m totally in support of it,” said Hebron resident Holly Brothers.

Police say they can cut down crime in the area by just moving around current officers within the department.

Cops Fired Over Racist Texts, Video


Four Fort Lauderdale, Florida, police officers are off the force after exchanging racist text messages between themselves and creating a video with racial bias, officials said Friday.

Three of the officers, Jason Holding, James Wells and Christopher Sousa, were fired following an extensive internal affairs investigation that began in October 2014, Chief Frank Adderley said at a news conference.

A fourth officer, Alex Alvarez, resigned during the course of the investigation and would have been fired, Adderley said.

The inappropriate material included images of President Barack Obama and fellow Fort Lauderdale Police officers, Adderley said. The video was made by Alvarez using iMovie, Adderley said.

According to a police report on the firings, the officers criticized co-workers' appearance and work ethic, and they "exchanged text messages that included derogatory comments towards Hispanics and homosexuals."

According to Adderley, the officers said they were just joking around.

"Based on the investigation, they felt, in their words, that it was a joke," Adderley said.

Adderley said the officers were terminated due to department misconduct, including conduct unbecoming of a police officer and engaging in conduct prejudicial to the good of the order of the police department.

"The four officers' conduct was inexcusable and there is zero tolerance for this type of behavior within the Fort Lauderdale Police Department," Adderley said.

The conduct wasn't against the law, Adderley said.

"I'm very disappointed, disgusted and shocked by this incident," Mayor Jack Seiler said. "The inappropriate racist behavior exhibited by those involved is unacceptable and reprehensible. It violates the trust we place in our law enforcement officers; it damages the bond we have established with our community; and it undermines the standards to which each and every City employee is held accountable."

The investigation began after the former fiancee of Alvarez saw the text messages and came forward after she felt they were inappropriate, Adderley said. Adderley said the officers were removed from contact with the public during the investigation.

"The Fraternal Order of Police is a multicultural organization which does not tolerate racism. Our officers take great pride in our commitment to diversity," Fort Lauderdale FOP president Sgt. Jack Lokeinsky said in a statement. "Our dedicated officers have positive relationships with residents in every community we serve."

In response to the incident, the department has created a human diversity class that every officer will attend on a yearly basis, and they will be evaluating their screening process for newly hired employees.

"We will do everything we can to educate our officers of the consequences they face if they do not adhere to the zero tolerance to racism within our agency," Adderley said.

Photo Credit: NBC6.com

I-395 North Reopens in Thompson


Interstate 395 northbound has reopened in Thompson after a series of minor crashes prompted police to shut down the highway so Department of Transportation trucks could treat the roads.

The highway was closed near exit 99 between 5:30 p.m. and about 8 p.m. State police said snow and ice caused several crashes near the Massachusetts border.

Snow is expected to continue through the evening, and officials are urging drivers to be careful.

Most of the state will see 2 to 4 inches of accumulation.

Photo Credit: NBC10

7 Children Killed in Brooklyn House Fire


Seven siblings were killed and their mother and teenage sister were critically injured when flames ripped through their large brick home in Brooklyn early Saturday in what officials are calling the city's worst fire tragedy in years.

Three girls and four boys, ranging in age from 5 to 16, died after a hot plate warming food for the Jewish Sabbath malfunctioned and sparked a fire at the home on Bedford Avenue and Avenue M in Midwood at 12:23 a.m., according to FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

There were no smoke detectors in the home, he said, and their mother and 14-year-old sister were only able to escape by jumping out of the second-story windows. The other children were all found in their bedrooms. One died at the scene, while the the others were pronounced dead at area hospitals.

"This is the largest tragedy by fire the city has had in 7 years," said Nigro, who was visibly shaken up at a Saturday morning news briefing.

The children were identified as 16-year-old Elaine Sassoon, her 12-year-old brother David, 11-year-old Rivkah, 10-year-old Yeshua, 8-year-old Moshe, 6-year-old Sara and 5-year-old Yaakob.

"It's a tragedy for this family, it's a tragedy for this community, it's a tragedy for the city," Nigro said.

Mayor de Blasio visited the home Saturday afternoon to survey the damage. He walked through both floors of the charred remnants of the house and characterized the blaze as an "unbelievable tragedy."

"It is unimaginable what you see in there," he said. "You can literally see what was a home for a large strong family and now it is wiped out."

Nigro said the hot plate was left on apparently to warm food for the Sabbath. The family, like many others in the Midwood neighborhood, practiced Orthodox Judaism, which calls for no electricity to be used during the day. But appliances such as hot plates that are left on may be used without breaking religious customs.

Firefighters were able to respond to the scene in about 3 minutes, Nigro said. The blaze went to two alarms, and more than 100 firefighters worked for hours to douse the flames and recover the bodies of the children.

One firefighter was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The mother and teen girl were both taken to the hospital where they remain in critical condition.

Area resident Nate Weber told the New York Post that he saw children being wheeled away on stretchers. "I turned away. I didn't even want to look," he said.

Weber said he heard the children's mother yelling for help. "I heard a woman yelling: 'My kids are in there. Get them out. Get them out,'" he told the Post.

The children's father was attending a religious conference in Manhattan at the time. Nigro said fire officials had trouble getting in touch with him.

The last residential blaze with a similar death toll was in 2007, when eight children and an adult were killed in a fire in a 100-year-old building in the Bronx where several African immigrant families lived. Fire officials said an overheated space heater cord sparked that blaze.

Photo Credit: Rich York

Sea Lion Pup Climbs on Surfboard


Dan Murphy was surfing Cardiff By-the-Sea when a wiggly little creature jumped on his board and crawled up his back.

At first, the Cardiff resident thought he was being attacked. But as he turned around, he saw a sea lion pup hugging him, as if the animal were scared.

Murphy, a longtime surfer, was amazed. On that Sunday morning off the shore of San Elijo Campground, a friendship was formed, he said.

“You see a lot of wildlife. You see those pups around this time of year,” he said. “I’ve never seen them interact with people like that.”

Murphy said the pup did not appear malnourished and suspects he was one of the sea lions rehabilitated by SeaWorld trainers and then returned to the wild, as the little guy appeared so comfortable around humans.

The pup held on to Murphy for about 20 minutes before crawling into his lap “like a puppy,” he said.

“He spent well over an hour on my board,” Murphy said.

Murphy spent the next hour floating on his surf board with the sea lion pup, as his friend, Eileen Quintela, grabbed her camera from the shore and began snapping pictures.

When their human-sea lion bonding experience was over, Murphy said he had to nudge the pup off his board and say goodbye.

“I was literally in tears,” he said. “I waved to him.”

Children Stabbed in Florida Home


One child was killed and two others hospitalized after a stabbing at a Florida home Friday, police said.

The stabbing happened in Palm Bay, about 75 miles southeast of Orlando.

Palm Bay Police said officers responded to a 911 call that multiple children had been injured or killed in the home. When the officers arrived they found a woman outside armed with a knife.

Inside the home were three unresponsive children. One of the children, a 6-year-old girl, later died at a nearby hospital, police said.

Two boys were hospitalized in critical condition, police said. The woman with the knife was also injured and was being treated at the hospital.

The incident remains under investigation.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Snow Doesn't Dampen Irish Spirit for Hartford's St. Patrick's Day Parade


The tailgating tradition continued before Hartford’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade Saturday morning. The city decided not to let Mother Nature rain on their parade, when they canceled a week ago. However, little did they know, this week they’d step off in snow.

“We canceled it to get this. I think we should try again. Maybe tomorrow,” said Chris Connolly, of New Britain.

The snow fell steadily, delaying the celebration for some.

“We’re here before the sun comes up, but this year the weather put a little delay in it, but we’re getting it going now with the grill,” said Justin Quinn, of East Hartford.

The winter weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the hardiest parade-goers on the first full day of spring.

“No, not at all. It’s just snow,” Michael Breaux, of South Windsor.

“It weeds out the true believers vs the nice day people,” added Chris Wilke, of Windsor.

After shoveling out a spot in a parking lot along the parade route, they found ways to keep warm.

“With warm food and beverages,” said Connolly.

”Eating. Eating, hanging out, having fun,” added Breaux.

With all the eating and drinking,  the Special Olympics of Connecticut was ready for when nature called.

“People pay to use the restrooms and 100 percent of the money goes to Special Olympics, because there’s no port-o-lets around here. This is done by the Hartford PD and the Law Enforcement Torch Run,” explained Joseph Carlone, of Special Olympics of Connecticut.

The donation to use the restrooms one time was small, but for $20, people could skip the line all together, all day long.

While some stayed bundled in layers and layers of green, others chose fashion over function.

“You have to, you have to show it,” said Breaux, who donned a green kilt in the below freezing temperatures as he tailgated.

He wasn’t the only one showing off more than his Irish heritage. Steve Simonelli, of Cornwall, wore shorts.

“I wear shorts all the time, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

Justin Quinn refused to wear a coat over his head to two ensemble inspired by shamrocks and all things green.

“Absolutely not. 100%. Every year we go I have a different outfit, a different suit made,” he explained.

Irish luck may not have been on their side, but it seems some traditions live on rain, shine, or snow.

Meriden also had its St. Patrick's Day Parade on Saturday.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

1 Arrested, Shooter at Large in Double Shooting: Cops


Waterbury police arrested a 17-year-old boy Friday in a double shooting investigation and are looking for another teenage boy suspected in the incident and possibly another drug-related shooting last week, police said.

Two Waterbury men were wounded with gunshots during a dispute at the intersection of Grandview and Bunker Hill avenues between people who knew each other, according to police. One of the men, a 21-year-old, was shot in the buttocks, and the other, 26, was shot in the elbow on March 14, police said. 

Both men were injured, but are expected to survive, police said.

A silver Acura, later identified as a stolen vehicle, and black Mazda were seen in the area at the time of the shooting, police said.

Police aren't releasing the identity of the 17-year-old suspect because he's under 18, according to police. During a search of the home where police apprehended the teenage boy, officers found heroin and some evidence connected to the shooting, police confirmed.

Investigators believe another teenager, also 17, fired the shots that hit the two men and that the individual is tied to a separate shooting involving a bullet hitting a car on Colonial Avenue the next day, according to police. The victim told police someone shot at him in his car during a road rage incident, but police discovered that the shooting that transpired stemmed from a drug-related disagreement.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Post Road East Reopens After Westport Sewer Main Collapse


Post Road East in Westport has reopened after a sewer main collapse on Thursday.

The collapse happened near 468 Post Road East.

Crews repaired the broken pipe and the road was closed to one lane in both directions, causing delays.

The repairs have been completed and the road has reopened.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Brooklyn Community Mourns After Fire Kills 7 Kids


A Brooklyn neighborhood is mourning after a blaze sparked by a hot plate killed 7 children and critically injured their mother and teenage sister.

A vigil outside the home is planned for 7 p.m. Sunday.

The blaze early on Saturday at a home at Bedford Avenue and Avenue M in Midwood claimed the lives of four boys and three girls between the ages of 5 and 15, according to fire officials. The tragedy, which is the deadliest fire in the city in 7 years, has members of the community mourning on what is a day of rest and religious observance in the community, which has a sizable population of Orthodox Jews.

Fire officials say that the blaze was likely sparked by a hot plate, which had been left on overnight to heat food for the Sabbath and malfunctioned around midnight.

The flames spread through the home quickly, and without any smoke detectors to alert the family of the flames, all the children became trapped. Their mother and one teenage girl, 14, were able to escape by jumping out of the windows. The other 7 children were all found in bedrooms and were either pronounced dead at the scene or shortly thereafter at area hospitals.

Saturday, as many headed out to clear snow or walk to temple, members of the Midwood community had stunned faces as they went by the gutted remains of the house. One woman, Becky, said she knew the family personally.

“Her kids were very active and they used to wash cars before Passover,” she said. “She was very involved in the community. It’s a terrible loss.”

Another neighbor said he would see the children playing often, and that the entire community is grieving from the loss.

“To the neighborhood, it’s devastating,” he said.

The children’s grandparents, in Deal, New Jersey, were notified of the fatal fire early Saturday. Police tell NBC 4 New York their grandmother fainted upon hearing the news. Their grandfather declined comment.

The father of the children was in Manhattan for a religious conference at the time of the blaze.

A funeral is planned for Sunday afternoon.

Photo Credit: AP
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