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Police Union: Desk Duty is Slap in the Face


There have been protests and lots of criticism in New Haven over a video showing a New Haven police officer taking 15-year-old Teandrea Cornelius to the ground during an arrest. Mayor Toni Harp has now called for Officer Joshua Smereczynsky to be placed on desk duty pending an Internal Affairs investigation.

"It’s a slap in the face to the rank and file of this department. It sends a clear message that this Mayor has no support, nor this administration, for the police officers of this department," said Louis Cavaliere, president of Elm City Local, which is the police union.

Police union President Louis Cavaliere says Officer Smereczynsky feels hurt and disrespected by the decision and that no one is supporting him.

"The officer’s been on the road for over a week now, and all of a sudden an angry mob demands to this Mayor that she put him on desk duty, and she immediately bows down to the them, and allows them to dictate how to run this police department," said Cavaliere.

Mayor Harp says Cavaliere is wrong and that she asked for desk duty to protect the officer.

"Once Internal Affairs has gone through this investigation, and we really understand what happened based on police protocol, I think that’s something that protects him, as well as makes the community feel that we take their concerns from a layman’s point of view, very seriously," said Mayor Harp.

Mayor Harp also says that she’s reserving judgment until all the facts are gathered.

"The video only shows certain frames, so it really doesn’t say one, what are the procedures and protocols, and what else was going on outside of that frame," said Mayor Harp.

Cavalier says the investigation could take anywhere from a week to a month.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Connecticut Speaker Pushes for School Funding Change


House Speaker Brendan Sharkey wants to see more discretion in spending by local school boards.

Current state law doesn't allow local boards of education to cut more than .5% of their budget unless they get special permission from the State Department of Education. Rep. Sharkey says that doesn't make any sense.

“You know we’ve done the charts and run the numbers and just about every school system in the state has lost population over the last five years. In some cases in significant numbers, and yet their budgets have increased significantly in that same period of time" Sharkey said during an interview Wednesday.

His proposal wouldn't do away with what are known as MBR's, Minimum Budget Requirements, but it would instead allow school systems to have more discretion with their budgets overall. With dwindling enrollment figures, Sharkey says it make zero economic sense to keep spending more money because a law says you have to.

“This ensures quality education around the state and no one is state we should get rid of the MBR but given the fact that we’ve had decreased enrollments over the past five years with projections for it to go higher and beyond, why not match the budget to meet enrollment?”

According to data provided by the Office of Legislative Research and the Department of Education, enrollment and population have decreased in the vast majority of state school districts over the past five years. During that same period of time, spending has gone up in most of those districts as well. While the funding sources range from local property taxes and state revenues to federal grant funds, spending increased by more than 30% in some districts.

While school enrollments decreased in places like Wallingford, Berlin, and Southington, they each increased spending by 16%, 40%, and 20% respectively.
Rob Rader with the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education said of Sharkey's proposal,

“We’re not against that if the board of education is in favor in their community but we’re always concerned about across the board decisions.”

Sharkey says he's optimistic his measure will pick up support as the session continues.

“All we’re saying is in these tough budget times we should be looking to lower property taxes wherever possible and just spending money on education when it’s not justified by enrollment numbers, just doesn’t make any sense.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

I-84 Widening Set to Begin


Interstate 84 between Waterbury and Cheshire is set to get a major facelift. Connecticut Department of Transportation crews will begin work very soon on adding lanes to the congestion-plagued highway known for bottlenecks.

Waterbury Mayor Neil O'Leary says the construction is going to mean headaches but there's no denying it has to be done.

“It’s a very bad thing in the sense that it’s going to cause further congestion during certain hours of the day on certain days of the week. It’s a good thing because it’s been a long time coming.”

One business along I-84 is wary of the construction.

Ernie Fanton is the General Manager of the staple grinder maker Nardelli's along I-84. “Yeah it’s great that we’ll have more people coming through but how can we let them park?"

Nardelli's has a small parking lot and many customers park along Plank Rd in both directions adjacent to the westbound lanes of I-84. While Plank Rd would become two lanes in both directions and extend farther, Fanton worries that customers could have decreased access to the store.

"With parking on both sides of the road, then that could restrict our parking" Fanton said.

Mayor O'Leary says there's no doubt the construction is going to be an inconvenience. He counters that by saying improving traffic patterns through Waterbury and the nearby towns will do wonders for economic development.

“I think the majority of Waterburians recognize the importance of this project for the future of the city recognizing that economic development is our number one driver.”

The project will cost $300 million and utilize both state and federal funds. It will take five years to complete the widening from Waterbury to Cheshire.

The second major phase of improving I-84 is replacing the Mix Master which is where I-84 and Route 8 merge. That would begin once the widening is complete and take five years to complete on its own.

O'Leary said, “The Mix Master is 50 years old and it needs to be replaced. There’s no emergency. There’s no urgency, but the new mix master will add capacity and that means more traffic, more opportunity for people to come into Waterbury. More economic development, more tax revenue.”

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Car Crashes Into Hartford Building


A car crashed into a building on Franklin Avenue in Hartford late Wednesday night.

No further information was immediately available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Four Arrested in Hartford Drug Bust


Police arrested four people on narcotics charges after finding cocaine, marijuana, MDMA (Molly), a gun and other items in a Hartford home.

Osvaldo Ruiz-Andreau, 47, Raymond Bonds, 23, and David Cintron, 21, all of 820 Wethersfield Avenue, unit B1, Hartford, and Reginald Lewis Jr., 20, of 116 Bond Street, Hartford, were arrested on narcotics charges.

Police seized a Smith and Wesson .38 special revolver with five live ammunition rounds, 9.3 grams of powder cocaine, 6.1 grams of crack cocaine, 3.88 ounces of marijuana, 53.1 grams of Molly and "drug processing agent/equipment," police said.

All four were charged with possession of narcotics. Ruiz-Andreau, Bonds and Cintron were also charged with possession with intent to sell narcotics, possession with intent to sell a controlled substance, possession of a hallucinogen and operating a drug factory. Lewis Jr. was also charged with possession of a sawed-off shotgun.

Photo Credit: Hartford Police Department

Possible Shooter Dead After Disturbance, Fire: Cops


Police found a person dead in the wreckage of a Torrington house fire who they believe is the suspect who fired a gun inside the home during a domestic disturbance that ended with a woman being shot several times and the house going up in flames.

Torrington police said they believe the suspect who fired the weapon in the home has been located and is deceased. They did not say whether it was a man or a woman. The fire at the home appears to be connected to the domestic disturbance, police said, and it is unclear who set it.

A woman called 911 Wednesday morning to say she'd been shot. Police responded to 497 Highland Avenue at 7:11 a.m. to investigate a domestic disturbance and found the female victim on the porch.

She was suffering from several gunshot wounds, according to police. Responding officers heard about two to four gunshot inside the house when they got there. No weapon has been found at this time.

Police have not released the woman's name, but said she is in stable condition.

In addition to finding a victim, police said shots were also fired inside the house and there was a small fire, which grew and ultimately destroyed the home.

Police used a state police helicopter to search for anyone who might have been involved in the incident, but also said anyone who was still in the home, including the possible shooter, has likely died.

A neighbor who witnessed the incident and provided his account to police said he was watching the news around 7 a.m. when he heard gunshots, followed by a woman's blood-curtailing scream.

”I heard fire cracker gunshot, and it became apparent that it was a gunshot, because I heard a loud female scream, ‘Oh my God,’” neighbor Aaron Spring said.

He looked out his bedroom window and saw the woman who has lived across the street for the past 10 years laying in the snow next to her front steps, so he ran outside to find her crying and losing a lot of blood.

”She was in a lot of pain. She was laying in the snow doubled over," Spring said.

Spring went to check on her and she was bleeding badly. The woman was on the phone with police and authorities asked her to tell the neighbor to leave the property, so he did, he said.

Soon after he left the property, he heard police sirens coming down the street. Once police arrived and were tending to the woman, Spring heard more gunshots fired from inside the home.

Stationed outside the house, police used a public address system to attempt to contact anyone inside, but there was no response.

Minutes later, smoke poured out of the home as it quickly went up in flames. Police said they told firefighters to wait more before trying to get the fire under control and the home eventually collapsed.

”Because we had a weapon involved, and there were shots fired, and we did have a victim with gunshot wounds we needed to make sure that was taken care of before the fire department could go in that building, and at that time, it was not safe for anyone to go in that building," Torrington Police Det. Kevin Tieman said.

Now authorities are waiting on a warrant so they can enter the residence and conduct a search. In the meantime a helicopter circled the area in case the person who fired the gunshots got out, taking aerial photographs and combing wooded sections of the neighborhood to ensure there were no other issues, according to Tieman. 

Because of the incident, students, faculty and staff of Torrington High School were ordered to shelter in place until the order was lifted as of 10:10 a.m., according to school officials. Spring said classes in the district were otherwise delayed by two hours due to the incident, but that students were already at the high school, prompting the shelter in place order.

Neighbors were initially evacuated or told to go into "shelter in place" and the street was blocked off during part of the day, but they have since been let back into their homes.

"Every one of those houses has school-aged kids, so no good,' said Spring, who has children in elementary and middle school.

Another neighbor, Ben Roston said he was shocked to hear the news when his 12-year-old son, Alec texted him to say there was a shooting and that someone was hurt. Alec was at a friend's house getting ready to walk to the bus when his friend's dad told them to go in the basement where they'd be safe. Ben Roston stayed in his home, keeping in communication with his son to know he was safe. Meanwhile Alec Roston said he was scared and feared for his life as police arrived in the neighborhood and he saw his other neighbor's house burn.

A small area around the home where the fire and shooting happened has been cordoned off, as the threat to the public has diminished.

The SWAT team also responded and was seen using fire department ladders and pointing guns at the house.

State police have been asked to help with the investigation.

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Police Investigate Untimely Death


State police are investigating an untimely death in Colchester.

State police responded at 5:05 p.m. to the report of one dead on Cato Corner Road. The Eastern District Major Crimes was called there and the road was closed at the intersection with Pine Road and Pinebrook Road Wednesday evening during the investigation.

Investigators seemed to focus on a bridge located on the road.

No other victims were found.

Drivers could get by on Pine or Pine Brook Road instead.

The medical examiner's office responded and will examine the body to determine the cause of death.

No further information was immediately available.

Boston Marathon Trial: Chemical, Bomb Experts Set to Testify


It was an emotional day in court, as jurors viewed the autopsy photos of Boston Marathon bombing victim Krystle Campbell.

One juror grabbed a tissue as she wiped away tears, while another juror overcome with emotion put his head in his hands.

Medical examiner Dr. Jennifer Hammers testified that Campbell died from blast injuries to her torso and legs, saying that she lost so much blood that she likely survived less than a minute before succumbing to her injuries on Boylston Street.

The autopsy photos were only shown to the jury, witness and attorneys on either side, but defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev turned around in his chair and glanced quickly at the display screen before being told to turn back around.

Earlier in the day, jurors heard testimony from FBI agent Edward Knapp, who pieced the thousands of bomb components found on Boylston Street and in Watertown back together and created mock ups of the devices.

He let the jurors handle and examine each replica bomb and explained to them how the components were modified - from remote controlled car transmitters, receivers and batteries to send energy to a modified Christmas tree light, and how fireworks powder was placed into pressure cookers and pipe bombs, fashioned with hobby fuse as a back up detonator.

Agent Knapp then showed the jury how the electrical components worked, by arming the inert replica devices and pressing the trigger on the transmitter which lit the Christmas tree light that glowed brightly green.

He explained in the actual device the filament on that light would have set off the bomb.

Photo Credit: Art Lien via NBC
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Foggy Morning, Rain Later

Route 10 in Farmington Reopens After Fire


Route 10 in Farmington was closed from Cooke Street to the Plainville line as firefighters responded to a fire at a business complex, but the road has reopened.

The fire was at 504 Main Street in Farmington, a relatively new business, according to fire officials, and employees were evacuated. 

Fire was contained to the second floor and is now out.

No additional information was immediately available.


Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Blighted Naugatuck Building Coming Down


A blighted building in Naugatuck will be demolished on Friday.

The building on South Main Street has long been an eyesore in the area. The cost of the demolition exceeds $42,000.

Earlier this year, Citizen’s News reported that the http://www.mycitizensnews.com/news/2015/02/demolition-to-wait/ borough would pay the construction company to demolish the property and then obtain part of the property for work on the Whittemore Bridge.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Blame Neighbors for Drought: Poll


The majority of Californians say their neighbors are failing to do enough to respond to the state's severe drought, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute.

Two-thirds of residents surveyed, 66 percent, said people in their part of the state are not doing their share when it comes to water conservation and drought-relief measures. About 24 percent said their neighbors are doing just enough and 6 percent said they were doing too much, according to the poll.

"The ongoing drought is raising concerns about the long-term water supply," said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. "Most Californians think their neighbors could be doing more to save water today."

The poll, released Wednesday, showed that 66 percent of those surveyed believe their regional water supply is a "big problem," near a record high of 68 percent in October. The problem seemed most urgent in the Central Valley, the heart of California's agricultural operations, where 76 percent said the water supply is a major problem.

When asked about the most important issue facing California, poll participants were just about as likely to indicate water and the drought as they were jobs and the economy. Those issues were much higher priorities than education and immigration, according to the poll.

More than 93 percent of the state is under severe drought, according to this week's U.S. Drought Monitor report, which categorizes drought into five levels of severity -- abnormally dry, moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional. Nearly 42 percent of California is under exceptional drought, an increase of nearly 2 percentage points over last week.

One year ago, 24 percent of the state was under exceptional drought.

The state's critically low reservoirs received little relief this winter as California nears the end of its wet season. In the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where springtime water runoff benefits an estimated 25 million Californians, precipitation since October is 10 inches below normal.

The poll comes a week after the governor, who declared a drought emergency in January 2014 and called on residents to reduce water use by 20 percent, announced a plan to accelerate funding for water projects. That $1 billion proposal to speed up spending and offer about $75 million in immediate aid to residents and wildlife was sent to the governor's desk Thursday.

The legislation accelerates water infrastructure spending, some of which can boost local water supplies in future years. It includes $267 million to give out grants for water-recycling projects and expand drinking water in small and poor cities.

Earlier this month, the State Water Resources Control Board extended and expanded restrictions on water use, admitting that its actions so far have been focused on the easier ways to immediately cut down urban water use. Members voted to extend statewide outdoor water limits imposed in July, barring washing down driveways, decorative fountains without recirculating pumps and sprinklers that spray pavement.

New rules will require local water departments to restrict the number of days residents can water their lawns. If they don't, residents must follow a state rule limiting their sprinkling to twice a week. Homeowners are also barred from using sprinklers on days when it rains and for the next two days.

Editor's Note: The Public Policy Institute of California poll results are based on a telephone survey of 1,706 California adult residents conducted March 8 to 17.

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Stratford Man Arrested on Child Porn Charge


Stratford police have arrested a local man on child pornography possession charges.

Investigators from the Stratford Police Youth Bureau arrested John Naughright, 36, of Stratford on March 21 after searching his home, police said.

Naughright was taken into custody at his workplace of employment in New Haven and is scheduled to appear in Bridgeport Court on April 2.

Police said the search warrant and arrest came amid information gained while working with investigators in Sacramento, California and the FBI Human Trafficking Task force.

Photo Credit: Stratford Police

Man Found Dead on Beach in Milford


The death of a man found on Laurel Beach in Milford at 7:40 a.m. on Thursday does not appear to be suspicious, according to Milford Police.

The man’s name has not been released. An autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of his death.

Photo Credit: NBC Connecticut

Suicide by Plane? Past Intentional Crashes


The co-pilot of the Germanwings jet that crashed in the French Alps this week apparently brought down the plane deliberately, killing all 150 people aboard, officials said Thursday, as Tuesday's tragedy took a horrifying turn.

Andreas Lubitz, 27, appears to have intentionally flown the plane into the side of a mountain while he was alone at the controls, while the plane's pilot pounded on the locked cockpit door, officials said flight recordings showed.

Deliberate crashes of commercial passenger jets, while rare, are believed to have occurred before. Here are some of the most well-known of them. 

2013 — Mozambique Airlines Flight TM470
Bound for Angola from Mozambique, this flight went down in heavy rain in Namibia on Nov. 29, 2013. Mozambique aviation experts said they believed the crash, which killed all 33 people on board, was intentional. The pilot, Hermino dos Santos Fernandes, locked himself in the cockpit and refused to let the co-pilot back in until just before the plane hit the ground, the BBC reported.

1999 — EgyptAir Flight 990
This plane crashed into the ocean en route from New York City to Cairo on Oct. 31, 1999, killing all 203 passengers, four crew members and 10 flight attendants. A National Transportation Safety Board report released two years later blamed co-pilot Gamil al-Batouti’s "manipulation of the airplane controls"; U.S. investigators said he cut power to the engines, turned the plane down and repeated the phrase, "I rely on God." He had been demoted hours before the trip over accusations of sexual misconduct, The New York Times reported. Egypt's aviation authority charged, however, that American investigators had failed to consider evidence supporting the possibility that multiple failures in the airplane’s elevator control system may have caused the crash.

1997 — SilkAir Flight 185
A SilkAir airplane crashed into a river shortly after leaving the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, on Dec. 19, 1997, killing all 104 people on board. American investigators believe that the pilot acted deliberately, the BBC reported. The investigators said the pilot, Tsu Way Ming, did not try to stop the plane’s nosedive. In addition, the cockpit voice box recorder appeared to have been disconnected. An Indonesian investigation was not conclusive.

1994 — Royal Air Maroc Flight 630
All 44 people aboard a turboprop were killed when a captain deliberately flew the plane into a North African mountainside on Aug. 21, 1994, the Los Angeles Times reported. The co-pilot could be heard screaming, "Mayday, mayday, the pilot is..." The captain had disconnected the autopilot, according to Moroccan officials, and newspaper reports suggested he was upset over a love affair. The flight union disputes those findings.

1982 — Japan Air Lines Flight 350
A Japan Air Lines captain crashed his plane into the ocean on its approach to Tokyo on Feb. 9, 1982. His fellow crew members struggled with him in the cockpit, The New York Times reported, but 24 of the 174 people on board died. Days afterward, the airline's president said the pilot had had a "psychosomatic illness" in 1980 but had later been found fit to return to duty.

Photo Credit: AP

WATCH: Gruesome Anti-Smoking Ad


The Centers for Disease Control hopes latest round of graphic ads will help prevent smoking.

Police Seek to ID Colchester Homicide Victim


State police say the woman found dead in Colchester on Wednesday night was the victim of a homicide.

Troopers were called to the intersection of Cato Corner Road and Pine Street around 5 p.m. on Wednesday after the discovery of a woman's body. They secured the area and searched for other potential victims, but none were found.

State police are trying to identify the victim. They describe her as a white female between the ages of 25-35 years old with dark hair that has been dyed red. The woman had multiple facial piercings, a tattoo on her left bicep that read "Jayden" and a tattoo on her right bicep that read "Nicole," according to state police.

Anyone with information to help police identify her or that will help police determine the circumstances of her death are asked to call State Police Eastern District Major Crimes at 860-896-3230 or the Connecticut State Police Message Center at 860-685-8190.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Americans Plotted to Help ISIS: DOJ


A U.S. Army National Guard soldier and his cousin have been charged with conspiring to support ISIS, federal prosecutors say.

Army National Guard Specialist Hasan Edmonds, 22, and Jonas Edmonds, 29, both from the suburban Chicago community of Aurora, are accused of plotting to provide material support and resources to the terror organization, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon announced Thursday.

They also allegedly planned to use Army uniforms and military knowledge to attack a U.S. military facility in northern Illinois.

According to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday, the pair allegedly devised a plan in late 2014 for Hasan Edmonds to travel overseas and use his military training to fight on behalf of ISIS. As part of the plan, Hasan Edmonds booked a flight scheduled to leave Wednesday from Chicago and arrive in Cairo Thursday.

Both men also met with an FBI undercover employee to present a plot to carry out an armed attack against the military facility where Hasan Edmonds had been training, according to the complaint. As part of the plan, Jonas Edmonds and the undercover officer would use Hasan Edmonds’ uniforms and his knowledge of the facility to access the grounds and target officers for the attack.

“Disturbingly, one of the defendants currently wears the same uniform of those they allegedly planned to attack,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin said in a statement.

Hasan Edmonds was arrested at Midway Airport during an attempt to fly to Egypt, and Jonas Edmonds was arrested at his home in Aurora, prosecutors say. Both were charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization.

"We will pursue and prosecute with vigor those who support ISIL and its agenda of ruthless violence," said U.S. Attorney Fardon. "Anyone who threatens to harm our citizens and allies, whether abroad or here at home, will face the full force of justice."

Conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"Upon learning of the investigation, our effortsand priorities focused on ensuring the safety of our Soldiers, Airmen, and their Families," said Brad Leighton, public affairs director for the Illinois National Guard. "We have remained in communication with federal authorities throughout the process, which culminated in the arrest by federal officers of Hasan Rasheed Edmonds last night."

Man Kills Construction Worker After Asking for Job: Cops


A man shot and killed a construction worker in Bridgeport moments after showing up at a job site to ask for work Thursday morning in what police are calling a "senseless tragedy."

Police said Gregory Weathers, 33, of Bridgeport, arrived at the construction site on Chopsey Hill Road and Pond Street just before 9 a.m. Thursday.

Witnesses told officers Weathers asked the company foreman about a potential job, and the foreman referred him to the company office to fill out an application.

According to police, Weathers walked away, but returned a short time later and "for no apparent reason," fired several shots at the construction crew, hitting and killing a 30-year-old employee who was working in a trench.

Police said the shooter did not know the victim, who has been identified as Milford resident and Burns Construction Company employee Jose Araujo.

He died at St. Vincent's Medical Center.

Two officers who were directing traffic at the construction site chased Weathers and called for backup. They found him hiding behind a house on Saunders Avenue, across the street from where he lives, police said.

Investigators recovered a handgun and said Weathers admitted to the shooting. He was taken into custody and charged with murder and weapons violations.

Burns Construction said in a statement Thursday afternoon that Araujo "was a truly valued employee for many years."

"He will be greatly missed by all of us here at Burns Construction Company," company officials stated. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Araujo family during this difficult time."

Bridgeport Police Chief Joseph Gaudett said investigators can't begin to understand why Weathers pulled the trigger.

"How do you make sense of something that doesn't make sense?" Gaudett said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. "The reason, we still just don't know."

Gaudett, who seemed shaken, offered his condolences to the Araujo family.

"This is a real tragedy, a real honest-to-goodness tragedy," he said.

Investigators are looking into Weathers' history and will search his home for clues.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com/Bridgeport Police Department

Burglar, 72, Found on Pharmacy Roof: Cops


A 72-year-old burglar is behind bars after officers interrupted a break-in at a New Haven pharmacy and found him lying on the roof, according to police.

Police said a burglar alarm called them to Visell's Pharmacy at 714 Dixwell Avenue just before 2 a.m. Wednesday.

When they arrived to hear footsteps overhead, officers surrounded the building and climbed an exterior staircase to check the area. There they found James Harding, 72, lying down next to a second-story window he had pried open. Police said Harding had also removed the security bars.

The pharmacy owner arrived and told police nothing seemed to be missing but that it was clear someone had rifled through his office.

Harding was arrested and charged with third-degree burglary and third-degree criminal mischief.

Photo Credit: New Haven Police Department
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