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Cupertino Nixes Fireworks Show


The city of Cupertino won't be having a fireworks show on July 4 because of California's drought, and in an odd twist, the reason is because the Silicon Valley suburb was trying to be extra conscious of saving water.

“People are very disappointed,” said city spokesman Rick Kitson. “Who doesn’t love fireworks? But overall, I think they get it.”

And though no agency formally tracks fireworks cancellations related to drought, Cupertino – home to Apple Inc. headquarters – could be the first city in California to squash such a pyrotechnics display as the state enters its fourth year of drought.

Until this year, Cupertino was one of the rare spots in the Bay Area to still host city-funded firework shows while other cities, such as Livermore, Hercules, Oakland and San Leandro, cut such events during the recession. Kitson said the last time the city cancelled a show was about a decade ago, and that was for monetary reasons.

The reason the community show was nixed this year is because of water conservation efforts, not finances.

Cupertino High School switched to artificial turf a while back, in part, Kitson said, to save money on watering the lawns.

And it’s those synthetic fields, where thousands of people congregate, that need 100,000 gallons of water to douse both before and after the fireworks display, according to the Fremont Unified School District. District officials said they reluctantly are shutting the show down because of the extreme water usage.

The water is needed to prevent any fireworks fallout on synthetic grass that would yield a mass of burning plastic, Kitson pointed out, adding that a little bit of sparks and ash on real grass “isn’t that big of a deal.”

“Because we’ve done the right thing, the total use of water becomes more conspicuous,” Kitson said. “You’ve got to hose down the plastic before and a lot afterward.”

Cupertino is doing several things to counter the drought – not just saying no to fireworks. The city has turned off two fountains and is letting the grass turn brown on public land.

Lisa Lien-Mager, spokeswoman for the Association of California Water Agencies, said her agency is not tracking whether cities cancel fireworks shows because of the drought. But she did say that in past droughts, some communities have disbanded such events.

In 2012, three Chicago suburbs cancelled fireworks shows because of a persistent drought in the Midwest.

While the cherry bombs and Chinese crackers won’t be popping off to celebrate America’s birthday, Kitson said the city of about 60,000 is going to play up other July 4 extravaganzas so that Cupertino’s residents won’t be gypped.

The city, he said, will give extra care to the morning parade, the community swim and the pancake breakfast.

“We’re going to make those activities a lot bigger,” Kitson said. “There will still be a lot to do."

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area

Silver Alert Canceled for Elderly Plainville Man


Police canceled a Silver Alert for a missing 82-year-old Plainville man.

George Cote went missing on Thursday, according to police.

He returned home safely around 6 p.m. on Thursday, police said.

Photo Credit: State Police

Ex-House Speaker Hastert Indicted


Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert made regular bank withdrawals below a limit that would require reporting and then lied to federal officials when asked about those withdrawals, according to a federal indictment handed down Thursday.

The Department of Justice and IRS allege Hastert, 73, withdrew $1.7 million from various banks between 2010 to 2014 and provided the funds to an unnamed person "to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct."

The indictment indicates the Illinois Republican promised "Individual A," a resident of Yorkville, Illinois, a total of $3.5 million for "prior misconduct" against that person. The indictment does not describe the misconduct Hastert was trying to conceal.

Hastert's withdrawals over the four years were in increments less than $10,000 each in an effort to evade the filing of "Currency Transaction Reports" required by banks and avoid detection by the IRS, an act known as "restructuring."

The withdrawals spurred the FBI and IRS to begin investigating whether Hastert was trying to avoid reporting requirements for bank transactions or if the former speaker was a victim of an extortion scheme, according to court documents.

When questioned by the FBI last December, Hastert said, "Yeah . . . I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing," when in fact he was handing the money over to someone else, the indictment alleged. 

If convicted, Hastert faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A spokesperson with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago told NBC Chicago that a judge has not yet been assigned to the case and that Hastert is not likely to appear in court until next week.

"I am speechless. He is my friend, has been my friend [and] will always be my friend," said Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross.

Hastert was a history teacher and coach in Yorkville when Cross was his high school student, and Hastert recruited Cross into the Republican Party and into politics. Hastert served as the Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007 before joining the Washington, D.C., lobbying and law firm of Dickstein Shaprio as a senior advisor.

A spokesman for Dickstein Shapiro says that the former House speaker has resigned, The Associated Press reported. 

The website for Dickstein Shapiro LLC had Hastert's biography as a "featured attorney" as late as Thursday afternoon, but Hastert's contact details appeared to have been removed from the website hours later.

Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

Strong Storms Move Through State


Severe thunderstorm warnings and watches expired in Connecticut Thursday evening.

A few strong storm cells moved through Fairfield and New Haven counties producing high winds, frequent lightning and even some hail.

Clouds hung tough through the morning hours in southern areas and the Connecticut River Valley and this might help to tame the thunderstorm cells in these areas. Any rain is much-needed, and some areas could certainly see a quick dose of rain this afternoon. The activity should wind down by 8 p.m.

A cold front will push through the state this evening, and usher in much drier air. Temperatures will fall into the 50s as high pressure builds down from Canada. A great night to sleep with the windows open!

Friday looks splendid, with mostly sunny skies! Not only will there be a break from the threat of showers and thunderstorms, but the humidity will also be gone for the day. Temperatures will be in the low 80s inland, upper 70s at the water.

At this point, the weekend looks split. A strong cold front will come through on Sunday. That means increasing clouds, breezy and warm conditions on Saturday with temperatures in the middle-80s. A pop-up shower can’t be ruled out, but the vast majority of the rain and possibly thunder will occur on Sunday.

Early indications for the start of next week show high pressure building down from Canada, meaning much cooler conditions.

Temperatures will be stuck in the 60s and there is the chance for showers on both Monday and Tuesday, especially in southern areas, as a frontal boundary will be stalled to the south.

Stay with the NBC Connecticut First Alert weather team for the very latest forecast on-air, online and on the app.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.

"Idol" Winner Fradiani Performs at Spotlight Theatres in Hartford


Guilford native Nick Fradiani gave his second Connecticut performance Thursday since his crowning moment on "American Idol," playing with his band, Beach Avenue at Spotlight Theatres in Hartford, which hosted many watch parties for fans to see him compete on the show.

The event at the movie theater was hosted by iHeart Radio and fans had to win tickets on KISS 95.7, Country 92.5, The River 105.9 or KC 101.3  to attend the private concert. It was the second concert in two days, performing with Beach Avenue at a private Acoustic Cafe show at The Russian Lady on Ann Uccello Street in Hartford the night before. That concert was hosted by 96.5 TIC and sponsored by Miller Lite for fans who won tickets.

"These are the ones I won't forget.This is what I was doing before I came out here. Playing at a bar back in Connecticut," he said, adding that he used to play every other Friday night at City Steam in Hartford.

And he won't forget, as Beach Avenue drummer Ryan Zipp took a lot of photos and videos at both events to continue documenting the journey of Fradiani and the band, which also includes Nick Abraham, who plays both guitar and mandolin.

They played a few songs for the crowd at Spotlight, including his single, "Beautiful Life," "Coming Your Way," the original song they played on "America's Got Talent" last year and "Bright Lights" by Matchbox 20. For the Acoustic Cafe, his first acoustic show in Connecticut since winning "American Idol," Fradiani and his band played acoustic versions of his single and their original, as well as "Feel the Beat" and "I'll Be."

Fradiani's father, Nick Fradiani Sr., who is also a band member even though he didn't perform with them on "America's Got Talent," got up on stage to harmonize with his son in their original song, "Songman."

Fradiani pointed out a line in the song to the crowd about a singer performing on an empty stage, but feeling at home. He quipped about it seeming that being from Connecticut is not part of the criteria to be an "American Idol," but that wasn't the case this season.

It's always a "powerful moment" for the father and son to sing together because music is a big part of their family, according to his dad. Fradiani Sr. said that he and his family will miss Nick when he's traveling to tour and record, as they are all very close, but that he thinks his son has what it takes to be a star. They've even filled his empty chair at the dinner table with a stick attached to a picture of him so he can still be a part of their meals.

Nick took to singing at age 3 when he performed "Pink Cadillac" by Bruce Springsteen with his dad on a cruise ship and had an early knack for picking up on melodies and singing them, according to his father.

Fradiani said that returning to Connecticut to perform has been very special and that it's nice to be back in his home state.

So how does it feel to be the new American Idol?

"It's funny because I always get asked that and I'm kind of like, I don't know. I don't think it's really set in yet," Fradiani said. "It's only been a few weeks, but it's a hard thing to kind of put into words. It's just been so amazing. Sometime a couple months down the road I think I'm going to be able to sit down and take it all in, but it's been amazing. It's kind of like living your dream."

It's been a good year for Fradiani and his band, which had been together for a few years before they ever went on TV for a talent competition. Before "Idol," Fradiani and his Beach Avenue buddies competed on NBC's "America's Got Talent." 

While Abraham said that it was hard for the band for a little while with Fradiani away, but they threw their full support behind him when he first talked about auditioning for "American Idol" the last year he could before the age cut-off of 28. After "Idol," they weren't sure when they'd be able to work with him again and they are happy it's been so soon as they travel a lot with him for radio spots.

"It was amazing seeing him progress through 'Idol' and to see his success," said Abraham, who also served as Fradiani's music mentor to help prep him for the final stages of the competition.

He said that Fradiani has been loyal to the band and is a good friend and a natural talent. The band members, who live with Fradiani in West Haven, were featured on "Idol" when he returned home to visit his hometown of Guilford, where about 10,000 people attended a parade in his honor. Ford also sponsored a trip for Abraham and Zipp to fly to California to see Fradiani in the final round live.

"It was kind of an amazing experience being there live," Abraham said. "We got all choked up seeing him win, so it was incredible."

Fradiani Sr. said he was at all but two of his son's performances.

"American Idol" has built upon the band's success after "America's Got Talent" and given them more national exposure and concert opportunities, growing their national fan base on top of their home-state support.

While the Hollywood experienced and being on TV was different for them, when they got on stage and played, nothing changed and they felt like they were at home, Abraham said. "Idol" really helped Fradiani become more comfortable being in front of cameras, Zipp said. The musical ride has been "wild," he said.

As Fradiani works on promoting his single, they'll perform with him at radio spots and some concerts. Fradiani Sr. said he hopes to fly out to the recording studio while his son is working on his album and said they are in constantly talking over the phone about music. He helped his son pick some of the songs he sang on "Idol," like "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry.

On Memorial Day, Fradiani sang the national anthem at the National Memorial Day services in Washington D.C. and his father said that was something really special to see.

After his appearances on two TV shows, Fradiani said he's looking forward to devoting his time to making music in the real world and focusing on his upcoming album and working with some "great co-writers."

"That's what I was born to do," he said. "That's what I love to do."

How has winning "American Idol" changed his life? Well, Fradiani said Wednesday was the first day in awhile he has gotten to relax and sleep in with his busy schedule. He is doing a lot of interviews and has some performances lined up.

"I almost cried when I found out I could sleep. I was so pumped," he quipped. "It's just been a lot of craziness. It'll be a lot of going city to city and I'm ready for it. I've been waiting to do this. I'm ready to go."

While he is the man with the talent, he said his Connecticut fans and his "insane hometown support" gave him the advantage and edge he needed to win the title of American Idol.

"Just thank you. Without all my Connecticut fans, I wouldn't have won," he said. "It feels great to be home."

He and Beach Avenue had a concert at Marisa's Ristorante in Trumbull later on Thursday afternoon.

Fradiani will spend all summer on his "American Idol" tour from July 7 to Aug. 28. Then he plans on doing his own tour and hopefully some performances in Connecticut open to everyone.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Convicted Killer Sentenced in 1987 Murder


A case that’s been ongoing for 28 years is now closed -- Pedro Miranda has been sentenced to life in prison for the 1987 murder of a 13-year-old Hartford girl, Mayra Cruz.

Miranda, who is now 57-years-old, was already serving a life sentence for the murder of 17-year-old Carmen Lopez in 1988.

Rosa Valentin’s 1986 murder case was nollied because there was not enough evidence to prove him guilty.

All three families were represented in court on Thursday, but only the Cruz and Valentin families gave victim impact statements. They said they’ve been waiting for this day nearly 30 years.

Cruz’s mother, Norma Cruz, read her victim statement aloud in Spanish. A translator said:

“In reality, we will not have a final closing but we will be able to live with more inter-piece and we will focus on a more peaceful today,” Said Norma Cruz.

Cruz’s body was found in East Windsor back in 2008, but Valentin’s was never found. That is why the state said they do not have enough evidence to convict Miranda of her murder. While her case was nollied, family members begged to release where her remains were found.

“We wish one day you have the courage to tell us where you disposed of her body,” Said Goudellia Valentin, Valentin’s sister.

Another man, Miguel Roman, spent 20 years in prison for the murder of Lopez until investigators arrested Miranda in December 2008.

“You no longer control us, we are free of you,” Said Matthew Oaks during his victim statement. He is a childhood friend of Cruz.

Family and friends of the victims say the pain will never go away, but knowing Miranda will forever be in prison gives them peace of mind.

Photo Credit: CT Department of Correction

Lawmakers Hope to Scrap SBAC Test


Senate Democrats and Republicans announced a plan Thursday to do away with the controversial SBAC test for Connecticut High School Juniors. Instead, the State Department of Education will be tasked with replacing it with either the SAT or the ACT, one of the two major college readiness exams.

“I would call this a breakthrough moment. In fact it is the biggest moment in educational testing since the days of the Connecticut Mastery" said Sen. Toni Boucher, (R - Wilton), who serves as the Ranking Member on the Education Committee in the General Assembly.

Top Democrats Sen. Martin Looney and Sen. Bob Duff were on hand for the announcement that is slated to take effect for Spring 2016, the time students would normally take the SBAC.

"We're stressing our kids out" said Sen. Duff, (D - Norwalk).

Many parents already pay for their child to take either the ACT or the SAT. Under the proposal in the Connecticut Senate, the state would cover the entire cost of the exam, saving parents what they would have spent on the tests.

Supporters say it will open opportunities for students who may not have taken any college entrance exam otherwise.

“We’re opening the door for college to student who would not have otherwise access or the ability to take a college readiness exam" said Sen. Gayle Slossberg, (D - Milford). "We are relieving the stress of over testing on our eleventh graders.”

Gov. Dannel Malloy assembled a group of educators and others with a stake in standardized to come up with recommendations on how to move forward. Earlier this week, that group recommended scrapping the SBAC for High School Juniors.

A spokesman for the governor applauded the progress announced Thursday by the state Senate saying, "The Governor has been working for almost a year to be smart about testing -- from appointing a committee to study 11th grade over-testing to providing school districts grants to help them reduce the local test burden on students. It's always positive when we can be more efficient on exams, particularly with 11th grade students."

The Connecticut Education Association released a statement in support of the move as well, stating "We are pleased that this bill eliminates SBAC in high school—an initiative that indicates that the voice of CEA and others on the State Department of Education High School Assessment Working Group was respected."

Dog Walker Finds Body in Suitcase


A dog walker made a grisly discovery in Delaware County Thursday afternoon.

The person was walking in the area of the old Westinghouse plant near 2nd Street in Tinicum, Pennsylvania -- not far from Philadelphia International Airport -- when he saw the suitcase, said the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.

The man called police who came out and unzipped the suitcase to discover the man’s body stuffed inside the large brown case. The man appeared to be in his 20s, said investigators.

Jim Martin -- who walks his dog in the area called "Back Road" that sits just below flights paths -- said that he saw the case in the weeds a few days back and he noticed something strange about it.

"I smelled a smell -- you mentally think something, then you're like pause, pause it's my imagination," said Martin.

It wasn't and it's possible the suitcase had been there for weeks. The investigation into the case continued late Thursday.

Photo Credit: NBC10

Ansonia Residents Frustrated by Graffiti at Nolan Field


Some residents in Ansonia feel that they will have to pay for someone else's poor decision - again. This, after a public sports park was targeted by vandals this week. Police said whomever used spray paint to deface the property at Nolan Park made an expensive mess and then fled the scene.

Investigators say sometime between sunset on Wednesday and sunrise on Thursday someone spray painted many of the doors, windows and walls of a recently renovated fieldhouse on Wakelee Avenue.

“People lack a moral compass if they do anything like this," said Melissa Haas, an Ansonia resident who was walking the track around the field on Thursday evening. “It’s very difficult to come up with the funds to keep this nice and I know the town tries and they’re working on it and something like this sets us back," said Haas.

In 2013, voters approved $110,000 worth of improvements for the fieldhouse. Some work was even being done on the structure this week.

“They keep it beautiful and it’s terrible and I hope they find whoever did it," said Carolyn Gardner of Ansonia. She said her family uses the park often.

In August of 2012, police said someone driving some kind of a vehicle ripped up $15,000 worth of the football field adjacent to the fieldhouse.

At that time, then-fifth grader Noah Wagnblas, who used to play on that football field, wanted to help.

“I think I had to do something about it like raise money," said Wagnblas, who is now in 7th grade at Ansonia Middle School. Wagnblas said he donated a couple of hundred dollars he made by selling lemonade to help pay for repairs back then. He said he was upset about the new damage to this same facility.

“I don’t think they should do it again," he said.

Police said that they are looking for suspects and that they are also looking at the specific spray painted markings. Similar markings have appeared in other parts of the town as well, according to police.

“Now the town has to put money into this where the town should be putting money into our schools," said Haas. "It’s that kind of thing that really frustrates me as a resident.”

In order to clean up the graffiti, the brick areas will have to be sand blasted and all the doors and windows will have to be repainted. An estimate for how much that may cost is not yet available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Willington Residents Protest Proposed Shooting Range


Thursday night more than 100 people packed the Willington Public Library for a meeting to discuss potentially moving the Simsbury state police gun range to their neighborhood.

Problems with the current gun range location have forced state police to search for a new place for the last several years.

"The range in Simsbury isn't fitting the bill. We've had a lot of historical water problems there, and the state has decided it's time to move," said State Police Sgt. Shane Hassett.

The state's narrowed in on three sites, two in Willington and one in East Windsor, but the vast majority of Willington residents say they want nothing to do with it, citing noise and environmental pollution.

It'll take our quiet town and turn it into a combat zone," said Willington resident Donald Parizek.

"It is so frightening and so jarring and so disturbing, and that is what's going to come to this community," said Willington resident Phyllis Banton.

"We are the ones that charge towards the gunfire, and we all deserve the best training facility to provide that training possible," said Lt. Marc Patruzzi with Connecticut State Police.

While everyone agreed about the importance of having a gun range, there were few willing to have it close to their homes.

State police say that this is all still very early in the process. They still need to do an environmental impact study
and plan to have a follow up meeting in the fall.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Suspect in Hartford Liquor Store Murder in Custody


A 36-year-old man charged with the murder of a 23-year-old man in a Hartford liquor store on Wednesday night is being held on $2 million bond and claimed self defense.

Police said the suspect, Paul Hunter, 36, of the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, and Alford Grayson, 23, of Hartford had gotten into a fight over a female in Blue's Package Store, at 139 Barbour Street, around 7 p.m.

Grayson was stabbed in the chest with a knife outside the store and transported to the emergency room at Saint Francis Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10 p.m.

When officers chased Hunter down as he ran from the scene and took him into custody, he was still holding the knife, police said.

During an interview with police, Hunter said he was talking to a girl two weeks ago on Judson Street and Grayson wanted to fight him after that, according to police documents. 

On Wednesday night, the two men were in the liquor store and Grayson started "trash talking," Hunter told police. Then they two men got into a fight, with Grayson throwing a punch and Hunter blocking it, Hunter told police. 

He admitted to choking and punching Grayson until someone else got into the middle of the fight, according to police. 

Then he said he "must have" pulled out a knife and "guess(es) he stabbed Alford Grayson," according to police. 

Hunter has been charged with murder and Grayson's death is the city's 12th homicide of the year.

Hunter was arrested on Wednesday night and charged with murder, interfering with police, carrying a dangerous weapon and assault on police. His bond was set at $1.5 million.

This was the second Hartford homicide of the day and the third act of violence in 24 hours.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Doctor Faces Judge on Sex Assault Charges


An urgent care doctor in Norwich was arraigned Thursday on charges he sexually assaulted an 18-year-old patient.

Saxena was arrested earlier this month after a female patient accused him of assaulting her during an office visit.

The victim saw Saxena at Concentra Urgent Care in Norwich on March 30 after suffering a bite wound on her arm from a student she was working with, according to a police application for an arrest warrant.

The 18-year-old woman told police she was given a tetanus shot and a nurse took her vitals, but then she was left in the exam room alone with Dr. Saxena. At that point, the doctor asked her if she ever had a breast exam done or pap smear done on her, to which she replied "no," according to the warrant application.

The woman told police Saxena told her he could perform those exams, and told her to pull up her shirt and bra and proceeded to give her a breast exam, according to the warrant application. He then told her to remove her pants and underwear and gave the teen an internal pelvic exam using his fingers, the woman told police.

The nurse was not present during either exam, according to the arrest warrant application.

After Saxena finished the exams, the woman said he hugged her and kissed her on the forehead.

Saxena told her to make a follow-up appointment, but the woman told police she left without making any new appointments.

The woman told her mother and a dance teacher about the breast and pelvic exams and then contacted police the next day.

Saxena's case was transferred to New London Superior court, where his attorney said he plans to plead not guilty on June 16.

Photo Credit: Norwich Police

Police Arrest Suspected Cell Phone Thief


Bristol police have arrested a man accused of stealing a cell phone from a woman on Thursday night.

The victim, a 45-year-old woman, reported the robbery on West Street just after 11:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Police said a man grabbed the woman’s phone and pushed her to the ground when she tried to get it back.

The woman, who was not injured, described the robber and police found a man matching that description on North Main Street around 2 a.m. on Friday.

Sandeep Singh, 24, of Bristol, had the stolen cellphone and was arrested, police said.

He was charged with robbery in the third degree and larceny in the sixth degree and was held in lieu of a $35,000 bond.

Singh will be arraigned in Bristol Superior Court on Friday.

Pilots Report Laser, Drone Scares


A passenger jet heading to LaGuardia Airport had a close call with a drone near Prospect Park in Brooklyn Friday morning, just hours after five pilots reported someone had pointed green lasers at their planes near New York-area airports, officials say.

Shuttle America flight 2708 was heading toward LaGuardia from Washington, D.C., when it encountered the unmanned aircraft in its flight path, officials say. The plane's pilot had to pull up about 200 feet to avoid the drone, authorities said. The plane later landed safely.

It wasn't clear how many people were on board. The Federal Aviation Administration said it is investigating.

The close call comes after the FAA said pilots flying passenger jets reported being targeted by a green laser while flying Thursday night.

Four of the planes were flying at an altitude of 8,000 feet about 4 miles northwest of Farmingdale on Long Island between 9:30  p.m. and 10 p.m. when the lasers were pointed at them, the FAA said.

The affected flights included one from American Airlines, one from Shuttle America, and two from Delta airlines. At least three of the flights had taken off from John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Later, around 11:30 p.m., a Sun Country Airlines flight pilot reported a green laser pointing at the aircraft when it was about 14 miles southwest of JFK, the FAA said. 

No injuries were reported.

Photo Credit: AP
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Family Told Reporter Killed in DC Was Used as Human Shield


A 27-year-old reporter was gunned down in Skyland in Southeast D.C. Wednesday night — and her parents were told their daughter was a bystander used as a human shield.

Charnice Milton was shot by a man on a dirt bike about 9:40 p.m. Wednesday on the 2700 block of Good Hope Road SE, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said. The gunman, riding in a group of dirt bike riders, was trying to shoot someone in another group of riders, police said. 

"At 9:28, she texted me and said, 'I'm on my way home,'" the victim's mother, Francine Milton, said. "So, I was waiting for her to text me back and let me know if she needed me to pick her up, if she needed us, where she was. And we never got that text last night."

Milton, who was a contributor for Capital Community News (CCN), was taking the bus home after covering a story on Capitol Hill at the time of the shooting, her parents told News4's Derrick Ward. She was rushed to a hospital, where she died.

"She was on her way home doing what she did every single day," Lanier said at a briefing Thursday afternoon. 

Ward 8 resident advocate Nikki Peele said she admired Milton's devotion to covering D.C. neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.

"The story was being told by people who did not live here, and it took those citizen journalists like Charnice ... who gave the true story," Peele said. "She ate with us, she shopped with us, she worshipped with us."

Milton began working for CCN, which publishes East of the River News and Hill Rag, in August 2012, editor Andrew Lightman said. 

"We lost one of our own yesterday," he said. "Charnice really loved doing community stories. She loved talking to people." 

Milton attended Ball State University and earned a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University, her Linkedin page says.

Police described the suspect as a male in his late teens with long dreadlocks, last seen speeding away on a dirt bike or moped.

Lanier made an impassioned plea for witnesses to come forward with anonymous tips. 

"Help us get to the person who would be so reckless as to take this life in the manner it was taken," she said. "We need closure for this girl, for this community."

Anyone who has information regarding this case is asked to call police at 202-727-9099. Information can also be submitted to the Metropolitan Police Department's text tip line by text messaging 50411.

Man Charged in Glastonbury Burglaries


A man who had already been charged in a spree of commercial burglaries is suspected of committing two more in Glastonbury.

Jamie Guitard, 36, of Middletown, has been charged with burglaries at Cofeill’s Sport and Power Equipment on Dec. 19 and Harry’s Pizza on Dec. 30.

He had already been suspected of burglaries as Salon Dellera, Ming Bao and the Second Chance Shop, all in Glastonbury, according to police. Police in Wethersfield have also arrested him.

Police said they saw a lock had been removed from a door when they responded to Cofeill’s Sport and Power Equipment and someone had tried to break in.

When they responded to Harry’s Pizza, they found the lock had been removed from the door and a television had been taken.

Guitard has been charged with third-degree burglary, fifth-degree larceny, two counts of criminal mischief, third-degree criminal attempt to commit burglary and sixth-degree criminal attempt to commit larceny.

Bond was set at $50,000 and Guitard is due in court on Manchester on Friday.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Sketching History: Courtroom Artist on Infamous Charles Manson Portrait


Just before Charles Manson was set to go on trial for multiple murders in 1970, a young up-and-coming artist was looking for a job.

"As a kid I always had an interest in news," said Bill Robles, a nationally-known courtroom sketch artist based in Los Angeles. "It all started about 45 years ago with the Charles Manson Trial."

Robles studied at the Art Center College of Design and has taught at LA Trade Technical College teaching illustration and drawing.

In 1969, Robles convinced bosses at CBS News to give him a shot — for nine months he sat in on the trial, following every minute and capturing some of the most infamous moments. Robles drew his way into a business that barely existed until he put pencil to paper.

“The Manson trial had celebrity, murder, family, followers. It was fascinating," he said.

When Manson shaved his head and his followers followed suit, Robles got that image too. The job is time consuming with time constraints, he says, and while his focus is the main person involved, he says often “the cast of characters come as time permits.”

One image Robles created during the Manson Trial still stands as iconic as the trial itself — the moment Manson attempted to attack the judge, leaping from his chair behind the defendant's desk.

"Pencil in his hand that he dropped," Robles said, "he was wearing flip-flops and he was tackled in midair by the bailiff. That image led with Walter Cronkite on the news that night, so that was kind of cool."

Back then there were seven courtroom sketch artists — today, Robles is one of only a few in Los Angeles. NBC4 enlists Robles as well as local sketch artist Mona Edwards when TV cameras are not permitted to cover important court cases.

Robles knows the skill is a gift. He is the visual for court cases where cameras aren't allowed and he has to work on tight deadlines.

"You have to freeze the moments," he said. "You have to capture that image.”

Through his eyes, the public is present.

"TV needs an image," he said. "And that’s where we come in.”

Robles was there when Rodney King explained his injuries at the hands of LAPD officers. He sketched the Menendez brothers as they cried through the jury's murder conviction. When Michael Jackson went on trial for child sex abuse, it was Robles who captured what cameras could not.

“Media from around the world would like up to shoot the artwork,” he said.

Robles said Jackson's facial features were unique to draw.

He said he likes to draw on the unique looks, particularly women, "because you really can create something a little more unique," pointing to his depictions of Lindsay Lohan, Christina DeLorean and Cameron Diaz.

Men with facial hair come easy, too.

"Great big beard, or a big mustache or huge hair," he said, pointing again to Manson and the accused shooter in the Aurora theater massacre in Colorado, James Holmes.

Robles' gift got him into a little trouble during the OJ Simpson murder trial when Judge Lance Ito subpoenaed him to court because he thought the sketches of the jury — faceless because it was against the court rules to show the jury — were still too accurate.

"Judge Ito saw it on television and he was astonished by the accuracy. So I was subpoenaed,” he said. "He had me put glasses on people, tone down hairdos.”

It lead to an official "Ito-Approved" stamp sketch artists had to have cleared before submitting sketches to the media.

His art has painted the picture of history. His image of Manson leaping at Judge Older in 1970 is the cover of a book released last year called "The Illustrated Courtroom: 50 Years of Court Art" -- 45 of those years by Robles' own hands.

"When the cameras aren't allowed, we're king," he said, as he adds color to what's supposed to be a black-and-white system.

New Yorkers Ready for Manhattanhenge


Manhattanhenge, the moment when the setting sun aligns precisely with the street grid in Manhattan, can be seen this weekend. 

Half the sun aligned with the grid on Friday at 8:12 p.m; the full-sun Manhattanhenge will happen the same time on Saturday, according to the Hayden Planetarium.

The best view can be seen as far east in Manhattan as you can go without losing view of New Jersey. Good spots are cross streets like 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th streets.

Long Island City in Queens should also get a spectacular view -- so much so that the nonprofit Hunters Point Parks Conservancy hosted "LICHenge" Thursday night at LIC Landing in the park.

According to the group, there's a day-and-a-half window around the Manhattanhenge dates where viewing will still be optimal, DNAInfo reports.  

Manhattanhenge happens twice a year; in addition to the May dates, it will happen again July 12 and 13. 

On a clear day, the typical resulting effect of Manhattanhenge is a "radiant glow of light" across the skyscrapers and buildings, "simultaneously illuminating both the north and south sides of every cross street of the borough's grid," according to Hayden Planetarium. 

Show us your Manhattanhenge photos by uploading them here or uploading them on Instagram or Twitter with hashtag #NBC4NY!

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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Family's Claim Against City, Cop


The family of a man shot to death by a San Diego Police officer who did not record the incident on his body camera has filed a $20 million claim against the city and the officer, claiming he used excessive and unreasonable deadly force.

The claim centers on the death of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad, 42, outside a Midway District adult bookstore early in the morning on April 30. 

Nehad, a native of Afghanistan, struggled with PTSD and mental illness after he was drafted into the Afghan army as a teenager to fight the Mujahedeen forces during the country’s civil war, his parents said in the claim, which also detailed how he spent two months in captivity.

The SDPD said officers were called to the Highlight Bookstore on Hancock Street for a report of a man threatening people with a knife. Officer Neal Browder, a 27-year veteran of the SDPD, encountered Nehad in an alley beside the store. The claim alleges Browder did not activate his siren, turn on his police lights or use his megaphone when he confronted Nehad, who is also known as Rawshannehad or Rawshan.

Police say the officer gave Nehad verbal commands, but when he didn’t follow them and kept coming toward Browder, he was shot. However, the claim says Nehad was still 20 feet away and did nothing wrong.

“A police officer can use deadly force only if he is confronted with deadly force or if somebody’s life is in danger,” the document reads. “Nobody’s life was in danger here. Fridoon did not challenge Browder with deadly force. Fridoon did not challenge Browder at all.”

Browder is accused of purposefully not turning on his body camera, and Nehad’s family believes the SDPD tried to help him hide what really happened. Though multiple security cameras recorded the fatal encounter, the agency has not released the video to the public.

"They are covering up what happened, circling the wagons, or so it would appear, and refusing to be up front, refusing to turn the lights on, refusing to disclose it," said the family's attorney Skip Martin.

After the fatal shooting, investigators told media they did not find any knife on Nehad’s body, though they did find a “shiny object” on him. Nehad’s parents said that statement falsely suggested he had a knife and threatened the officer.

After the incident, the SDPD changed its policy on body cameras, requiring officers to turn them on when they are called to a crime in progress, not just when they interact with a suspect. The claim says the agency has a “practice of officer misconduct and deceit, and this case is part and parcel of it.”

The shooting ended Nehad’s long struggle with PTSD and mental illness, his parents said in the claim. While in the Afghan army, Nehad was captured by a Mujahedeen group and spent nearly two months in captivity, being tortured, according to the claim. He was released when his mother met face-to-face with his captors.

To prevent further injury to their son, his parents said they sent him to Germany for the next 14 years, where he lived away from his family. After the parents fled Afghanistan in favor of the U.S., Nehad joined them there in 2003.

Here in the U.S., he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disease. “Fridoon battled against his illnesses for years. He was intelligent, learning new languages (German and French) and taking classes on computer programming, linguistics and literature,” the claim reads.

But Nehad suffered manic episodes, becoming aggressive and getting him in trouble with the law. He pleaded guilty to battery in 2005, was sentenced for burglary in 2008 and was charged with petty theft in 2014.

“Fridoon was loved. His family spent years and countless hours helping him cope with his PTSD and mental illness,” the claim said.

However, during one episode, he threatened his mother and sister and said he would light the house on fire so they could all burn. Investigating police recommended the family get a restraining order to help get Nehad into a shelter in Oceanside, according to the document. His mother filed for the restraining order two days before his death.

NBC 7 has reached out to the SDPD officials for their response to this claim, but they have not yet responded. While addressing fallout from the shooting, SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman said the homicide unit is conducting a thorough investigation, which will be sent to the San Diego County District Attorney's office for review. On Friday, the DA's office said they have not yet received the SDPD's findings.

Contractor Stabs Coworker Over Loud Music: Police


One contractor who was working at an Old Saybrook home was arrested after he stabbed a coworker over loud music early Friday morning, according to police.

The contractors had been staying at 29 Beach Road West so they could get an early start on renovations when the argument began, according to police.

One of the workers called police at 1:49 a.m. to report he’d been stabbed.

He told police his coworker, Francisco (Frank) Sanabria, 54, of New Britain, was playing loud music, stabbed him in the abdomen, chest and hand during an argument about it, and fled.

The victim was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he was being treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

Officers found Sanabria a short distance away and arrested him.

Sanabria was charged with second-degree assault and disorderly conduct.

He is being held on $50,000 bond and will appear in Middletown Superior Court today.
It’s not clear if he has an attorney.

Photo Credit: Old Saybrook Police
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