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Downtown Hartford Shifts Traffic for Busway


Traffic patterns in downtown Hartford is permanently changing to accommodate the CTfastrak busway, which launches this weekend.

According to Hartford police, Union Place is being converted to a one-way street heading southbound, while High Street whill become a one-way northbound road between Church and Asylum streets.

The conversion began Tuesday and was set to end Wednesday.

It comes in advance of Saturday's CTfastrak launch.

Sunday CTtransit Service Begins in Bristol, New Britain & Waterbury


CTfastrak launches this weekend and with it comes Sunday CTtransit service in Bristol, New Britain and Waterbury.

The Sunday service begins this weekend and will run on all major holidays, including Easter, according to a statement from Gov. Dannel Malloy and Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker.

“We are working to transform our transportation infrastructure, and seven-day-a-week bus service for Bristol, New Britain and Waterbury – coupled with the new CTfastrak system – is a step in that direction,” Malloy said in a statement.

CTtransit service hours
in Hartford, New Britain, Bristol and Waterbury on Sundays and holidays will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Most, but not all routes operate on Sundays. Fore more information, call 860-525-9181 or visit www.cttransit.com.

All bus routes on CTfastrak will be free for the first nine days of service, from Saturday, March 28 through April 5. Regular fares will still be required on all CTtransit buses during this fare-free time on CTfastrak.

CTfastrak service begins on Saturday, with direct service on a bus-only route to and from Waterbury, Cheshire, Southington, Bristol, Plainville, New Britain, Newington, West Hartford, Hartford and Manchester.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Cyclists to Make 3rd Annual Sandy Hook Ride


A team of cyclists will set out on a 400-mile trip from Newtown to Washington, DC this weekend to honor the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and hold a rolling rally to curb gun violence.

The group, called Team 26, will leave on Saturday, reach Washington, DC on Tuesday, holding rallies along the way.

“We ride for all victims of gun violence,” Team 26 Leader Monte Frank said in a statement on the organization’s Web site. “Every year of this ride has attracted more and more supporters to our movement. So many are frustrated with the inability of Congress to act in the face of overwhelming support for common sense gun violence prevention measures. Our voices need to be heard and actions need to be taken. ”

This is the third annual Sandy Hook Ride.

Photo Credit: Office of U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty

Brothers Charged in Bethany Bank Robbery


Police have arrested the brothers accused of ripping off a bank in Bethany over the weekend.

Thomas Yorkshaitis Jr., 31, and Nicholas Yorkshaitis, 27, were arrested Wednesday in connection with Saturday's robbery of a Webster Bank branch near the state police barracks on Amity Road.

Police said the brothers were taken into custody on narcotics charges the day after the robbery. Officers from the Milford Police Department helped apprehend the elder Yorkshaitis at a local motel.

Thomas Yorkshaitis has been charged with second-degree robbery, third-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit second-degree robbery. He's being held on $200,000 bond ahead of his court appearance slated for Friday.

Nicholas Yorkshaitis was charged with conspiracy to commit second-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit third-degree larceny. He is also due in court Friday and is being held on $100,000 bond.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Masked Man Robs Middletown Bank


Police are searching for the masked man who robbed a bank in downtown Middletown on Thursday afternoon.

According to police, the suspect entered the Wells Fargo Bank at 111 Washington Street around 3:30 p.m. Thursday and demanded money.

Police said the man is in thin and in his 20s. He has brown hair and stands about 5 feet 9 inches tall.

The suspect was wearing a green mask, dark-colored jacket, blue jeans and black sneakers at the time of the robbery. Surveillance footage shows him wearing a maroon shirt under his coat, according to police.

Anyone with information is urged to call Middletown police at 860-638-4000.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Captive Owl Video Sparks Outrage


Florida Fish & Wildlife officers investigate a viral video showing man driving drunk with a federally protected Great Horned Owl in his car, then threatening to eat it. Brian Entin from NBC station WPTV reports.

18-Year-Old Arrested in Connection With Bomb Threat


Police have arrested an 18-year-old Stafford resident accused of making a bomb threat earlier this month.

Authorities have not released any information in connection with the case but said Julia L. Peirolo, 18, made some sort of bomb threat on March 11.

She was arrested Thursday and charged with breach of peace, first-degree threatening and second-degree reckless endangerment.

Peirolo was released after posting $5,000 bond and is due in court April 8.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com

Donations Needed for Dog’s Surgery


The animal control officer in Waterford and East Lyme is asking for help to pay for a dog’s much-needed surgery.

A dog with a large tumor on her face was found roaming and no one has come forward to claim her, so animal control is asking for help through social media to pay for her surgery.

Anyone who would like to make a donation should contact Goodfriends Veterinary Hospital directly at 339 Flanders Road, Suite 104 East Lyme or by calling 860-739-4637.

The dog has an appointment for surgery on March 30. So far, the hospital has received $500 in donations.

Any cash donations or checks made payable to the town of Waterford or animal control cannot be used for the surgery.

Check with the animal control Facebook page for information on when the dog is accepting visitors or will be available for adoption.

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New London Fire Was Arson: Police


The fire that destroyed a two-family home in New London early Thursday morning was intentionally set, according to officials, and a reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest in the case.

Firefighters responded to 17 West Coit St. in New London at 2:40 a.m. on Thursday to find the front of the house engulfed in flames. After investigating, authorities determined that this was a case of arson.

Eight people from two families, including two small children, were asleep in the house when someone set the fire, officials said. All the residents made it out safely before firefighters arrived. Several animals were also inside and are OK.

A $2,500 reward is being offered. Police have not identified any suspects, but said several residents saw a man who appeared intoxicated banging on the main entrance of the house.

Firefighters battled the blaze until around 3:30 a.m. and it was under control by 4 a.m.

State police and local authorities are investigating and the American Red Cross is helping the residents.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

76-Year-Old Woman Dies After Beating From Son: Cops


A 76-year-old Stamford woman has died three days after her son brutally beat her, causing her brain to swell and bleed, according to police.

Authorities said Maryanne Anderson died at Stamford Hospital after undergoing surgery to remove part of her skull and relieve pressure in her brain. She was listed in "grave condition" after the attack. Police said doctors induced a coma and placed Anderson on a ventilator.

The woman's son, Timothy Anderson, 42, is accused of assaulting her Monday at her home on Sleepy Hollow Lane. Police said Maryanne Anderson confronted her son about his medication, which he was neglecting to take, at which point Timothy Anderson grabbed his mother and punched her repeatedly in the face.

Maryanne Anderson called out to her older son, who intervened and dialed 911, according to police. The two brothers scuffled and Timothy Anderson fled the home. Police took him into custody on Haig Avenue.

Timothy Anderson was arrested and charged with first-degree assault of an elderly person, first-degree unlawful restraint, third-degree assault and disorderly conduct.

Police said an autopsy is scheduled for Friday. Stamford police detectives will work with the state's attorney's office to file upgraded charges against Timothy Anderson, who is being held on $500,000 bond and is due back in court April 21.

Photo Credit: Stamford Police Department

Shoreline Residents Underestimate Storm Threat: Study


Even after Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy battered the Connecticut coast, a recent survey of 1,100 residents living along the shoreline shows that many underestimate storm threats.

"When we asked people, what's the most likely cause of injury or death in a hurricane, most people thought it was blown or falling objects from high winds. Turns out, most hurricanes cause injury or death from storm surge," said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, which conducted the study.

During Irene and Sandy, many shoreline towns posted mandatory evacuation orders. The survey found only 21 percent of residents would leave their homes in a Category 2 hurricane, while 58 percent would leave if they were ordered to.

"Seventy percent of Connecticut residents don't even know that they live in an evacuation zone, as an example, which is kind of amazing, and likewise, three-quarters have never even seen an evacuation map, so they don't know how to get out if they need to," said Leiserowitz.

Some have said, however, they learned from the last two major storms and understand the importance of heeding the warnings.

"If they tell you to get out of here, you should get out of here," said Shelton resident Dave Youngquist.

New Haven Deputy Emergency Management Director Rick Fontana said the city issued mandatory evacuations during the two storms. Some people left and others stayed.

He said the evacuations were for the safety of the residents and first responders, who wouldn’t have been able to reach flooded areas during an emergency.

Police Investigate Threat at RHAM High School


Authorities are investigating after a threatening message was found scrawled in a bathroom stall at RHAM High School in Hebron, according to the school system.

School officials said in an email to parents Thursday afternoon that the note was non-specific and referred to Friday, March 27. Police will posted at both the middle and high schools throughout the day.

Supt. Robert Siminski said the principal and state police are investigating. Officials suspect a student made the threat but haven't identified the person responsible.

The message did not target any individual or group of people. Siminski said the school system is taking precautions to make sure all students are safe.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Call for Change After Medical Emergency on School Bus


Community members in New Haven are calling for change after an 8-year-old girl suffered a medical emergency on the school bus home and later died.

They're now looking to bus monitors to keep an eye on the students and make sure children stay safe on their way to and from school.

"I wouldn't expect a bus driver to be able to do anything but ensure the safety in driving," said Gwen Samuel, director of community action group Teach Our Children & Youth Unleashed. "But when you have this many children on the bus, and we're talking about kindergarten on up, there needs to be another adult, a monitor on the bus."

Megan Ifill, whose daughter takes a special-needs bus from New Haven to New Britain, is also pushing for more supervision. She said a fight broke out when the regular bus monitor was absent.

"If you're going to be riding 10 hours a week, how can you not even have a monitor?" she wondered. "I'm trusting... and we just had this sad situation with this 8-year-old."

It's left many people pushing for change and wondering what can be done.

"I think it's very unfortunate that it took this situation to bring the community together to change our school bus policies," said Isaiah Rutherford, of Teach Our Children/Youth Unleashed. "I don't think it should ever come this far."

Abbe Smith, spokesperson for the school district, said New Haven Public Schools currently employs 66 bus monitors at a cost of about $1 million and assigns them to buses with young and special-needs children.

"We have a total of 307 buses running multiple routes throughout the day. There would be significant additional cost to the district to place monitors on every bus for every route in the district," she said. "Historically, we have a strong safety record with our bus transportation program and it continues to be a main point of emphasis in our contract with First Student. Student safety and wellness is always our top priority."

Smith added that school officials send their thoughts and prayers to the family of 8-year-old Talea Turnage and are continuing to investigate the circumstances leading up to her death.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Deficit Looms as Top Officials Bicker Over Budget


At $190 million, the most recent deficit projection from the state Office of Fiscal Analysis puts the state on a crash course for a deficit mitigation plan.

But the governor's Office of Policy and Management doesn't agree with that figure. Just last week, the OPM estimated the state's budget shortfall to be $133 million.

Now Democratic Comptroller Kevin Lembo says the state has to get ready for a difficult time ahead.

"I think generally it is as bad as everyone is saying. It’s just a question of how bad is it really?" Lembo said Thursday.

Given the timing of the estimates and the high deficit projections, Lembo says the situation is getting serious. He will release his latest projection on April 1, and the projection from his office carries the most weight.

"The trigger is $175.9 million, so we are pretty close. It’s the comptroller’s number under current law that would trigger the 1 percent rule that would compel the governor to communicate with the legislature to put together a mitigation plan in this fiscal year," Lembo cautioned.

The discrepancies between OPM and OFA fueled bickering between the state's top Republican leaders and an official in Gov. Dannel Malloy's administration Thursday.

State Sen. Len Fasano, a Republican who represents North Haven, referred to the governor's handling of the budget as "childish" during a press conference.

State Rep. Themis Klarides, a Republican from Derby, added to the criticism.

"Listen, we hope every day that all of these numbers increase, of course we do. But hoping and dealing with reality are two different things," she said, of the governor's budget strategy.

The governor's budget chief, Benjamin Barnes, defended his office's estimates, saying that April tax receipts will provide a more accurate picture of the state's deficit.

Malloy's Chief of Staff Mark Ojakian didn't hold back criticizing Republicans with a scathing statement.

"The only thing that’s childish is the comedy show of the GOP," he wrote. "Apparently press releases are the only thing they’re able to put down on paper, so until they publicly release a real, detailed budget of their own, they can’t be taken seriously."

Major Property Tax Bill Faces Opposition


A proposal from the top member of the Connecticut Senate faces some renewed opposition just a day before it could be sent to the state's powerful Finance Committee.

State Sen. Martin Looney's Senate Bill 1 would create a statewide property tax that the state would collect on cars. It would also include other taxes managed by a Regional Council of Governments that would, in effect, act as a county tax collection system for multiple towns.

"This is the kind of thing Connecticut has been missing that's been holding our state back," said Looney, a Democrat from New Haven, during an interview Thursday.

Looney said the lack of a regional government has led to lawsuits between towns and cities that have curbed development.

"This is a progressive measure," Looney said.

Opponents to the idea have started to line up against both the car tax element and the regional council proposal.

"We got rid of them in 1960 for a reason," State Rep. Gail Lavielle, a Republican from Wilton, said of the counties. "I think it will take the local control away from them and how their property taxes are spent."

On the car tax issue, towns and cities depend on more than $700 million from the tax each year, according to the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, which represents more than 150 towns and cities in the state.

The mill rate in each town varies and that has led to wide ranges of car taxes in Connecticut.

"This is absolutely a fairness argument," Looney said of his proposal. "A car is a car is car. It has the same value no matter what part of the state it’s in. And yet we have to factor it differently."

The funds would be collected by the state – a new development – then sent back to towns and cities at the rates at which they collect property taxes currently.

Ron White handles policy and advocacy for CCM and says any change to the car tax, and even having the state collect it, could be very harmful to town budgets.

"The state is saying, 'Send revenue to the state and then we promise we’ll send it back to towns,' and there’s been a history of the state not really being able to fulfill that promise," White said. "You know, they take out a little bit at a time and before you know it they’re taking out quite a bit for administrative and other costs."

The bill is expected to be voted on tomorrow in the Planning Committee.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Tuition to Increase at State Colleges and Universities


Regents said Thursday's decision to increase tuition at the state’s colleges and universities by 4.8 percent wasn’t an easy one.

"That was the last resort for us. That was the last step we wanted to take," said Michael Kozlawski, spokesperson for the Board of Regents.

With an estimated $48.6 million budget gap, officials stressed the solution was a combination of cuts and increased tuition.

"The reason it was difficult primarily is because this administration, the BOR has a tremendous amount of empathy for students, wants to keep the burden on students as low as possible," Kozlawski said.

The plan includes over $27 million in cuts to make up 45 percent of the budget gap. The tuition hike makes up 44 percent. The remaining 11 percent will come from one-time funds originally allocated to pay for the board’s strategic plan.

Thursday’s action comes on top of a recent hiring freeze.

The increase means the average community college student in the state will pay $186 more, while university students will pay $321 more.

"We’re really not sure that our financial aid’s going to cover this additional increase,”"said Tommi DeMichael, a student at Asnuntuck Community College who attended the regents’ board meeting.

"It’s disappointing to me that the state of Connecticut is continuing to force students to pay more and private school looks more and more appealing," added Victor Neves, a Tunxis Community College student.

While students grapple with how to pay for college, the state’s schools have the difficult task of figuring out which programs to cut to meet the regents’ reductions.

"We can’t have programs be cut anymore. First and foremost, we need to care about our academics," said John Board, who attends Western Connecticut State University.

But regents say that without those cuts, the tuition hike would be even higher.

"It sort of gave us the ability or gave us the opportunity to do the best that we could in a very bad situation," said Kozlawski.

Still students say the hike puts the state farther from its goal of making higher education more accessible and affordable.

"I’m paying out of pocket, and if tuition goes up that means that I’m probably going to have to drop the classes that I’m in right now and I’m probably not going to be a full time student," said Capitol Community College student Jose Diaz.

Community Struggles With "Senseless Tragedy"


A community is mourning the death of a "gentle giant" who was killed working at a Bridgeport construction site and struggling to understand why a stranger would gun him down.

Jose Araujo, 30, was working with Burns Construction Company in the area of Chopsey Hill Road and Pond Street when Gregory Weathers, 33, shot him to death, according to police. Authorities said the men had never met.

According to police, Weathers asked the foreman for a job, then left he was directed to the company office. He returned minutes later with a gun and targeted Araujo for what police said was "no apparent reason."

"We lost a father, we lost a son, we lost a brother, we lost a great guy," said John Gomes, who described his late friend as "loved by everyone."

"He's always smiling, everywhere he goes, always smiling, laid back and willing to help others," Gomes recalled. "That was the thing about him: he was quiet in his own ways but he had a strong presence."

Gomes said Araujo, like himself, immigrated from Cape Verde in search of a better life and worked hard to provide for his family.

"Today is a sad, sad day for Bridgeport," he said.

Another friend, Nilton Dossanots, called Araujo a "great guy, hardworking guy, family guy, loving guy."

Even Police Chief Joseph Gaudett was at a loss for words. He shook his head at a news conference Thursday and said investigators are baffled by the "senseless tragedy" that took the life of an innocent man.

"What is the motive? Why would someone walk up to a laborer standing in the trench just doing his job, put five bullets in him and kill him?" Gaudett wondered.

The Cape Verde Association is accepting donations on behalf of Araujo's family. You can send a check to:

235 Linen Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06604

Military Members Fire Back Online at ISIS


Veterans and military members have fired back on social media following threats made by ISIS targeting specific armed forces members.

A group called the Islamic State Hacking Division issued a threat earlier this week online against 100 service members.

In the threat, the group asked that attacks be carried out against members of the military conducting airstrikes on ISIS.

Now, some service members are arming themselves with strong words.

A user posted on Twitter a picture of ISIS fighters with the caption: “We are going to kill you” beneath a photo of Marines with the quote, “Hurry we eat chow at 1630.”

Another online post with a photo of a heavily armed soldier read: “Friends help friends kill ISIS.”

A few local residents expressed similar sentiments on NBC 7’s Facebook page. Brandon Garcia wrote: “If they can get through my door I’m hungry for some hand-to-hand combat.”

Another Facebook user, Derek James, wrote: “Add me. I’ll give them my address! I wanna play!”

The response to the online threats from ISIS is not a surprise to Nathan Fletcher, a Marine veteran and Truman National Security Project board member.

“Americans don’t react well to being bullied and service members in particular,” he said.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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Drunk Driver Killed Father of 6: Police


Hartford police are searching for the man accused of running a red light while driving drunk, hitting a 38-year-old father of six in the city earlier this month.

Frank Morales, 38, of Hartford, was leaving Ernie's Market when an SUV struck and killed him on Albany Avenue the night of March 8.

Police said Luis Junior Acosta, 37, was driving that SUV. Acosta is known to have ties to Hartford, Stafford Springs, Danielson and Orlando, Florida.

Investigators said they talked to Acosta that night, but it was too soon to file charges.

"We did not have enough to make an arrest on site. As a result, we have now applied for an arrest warrant now that we have the evidence we need," said Hartford police spokesman Deputy Chief Brian Foley.

Acosta has missed recent, unrelated court dates, and now police worry he's on the run.

"We think he's still in the state, though there is a possibility he fled to Florida," Foley said. "We're putting his picture out there in hopes people in the public will see him and let us know where he is."

Acosta is wanted for first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle, operating under the influence, reckless driving and operating a motor vehicle without a license.

He has a neck tattoo “1306” on his neck and a bulls eye with dice on his right arm or wrist. Police said Acosta stands 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds.

Morales' family said they just want justice for the father who stopped to buy cigarettes and never came home.

Photo Credit: Hartford Police

Father Helped Officer Son Escape


The father of ex-LAPD officer Henry Solis was arrested Thursday for allegedly helping his son evade authorities when he was wanted for the murder of a California man.

Victor Solis, 53, allegedly told investigators that he drove his son to El Paso and dropped him off at a bus station the day after the murder, but no longer knows where his son is.

But surveillance images released Thursday by the FBI show Victor and Henry Solis crossing the border into Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico from El Paso, Texas on March 14, the day after the murder.

Victor Solis at some point returned to the U.S.

Henry Solis, 27, is accused of murder in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Salome Rodriguez Jr. in Pomona earlier this month after a fight. Solis allegedly chased Rodriguez after the altercation and shot him several times, killing him.

A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of Solis, a former Marine and rookie LAPD officer. Solis had been with the LAPD since June 2014 and was terminated from the department after the murder charges were filed.

He should be considered armed and dangerous and a suicide risk, according to the FBI.

The elder Solis was arrested in Lancaster and appeared in federal court Thursday afternoon, where he waived his right to proceedings in Los Angeles. He is being transferred to El Paso.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Federal Bureau of Investigations
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