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Family Fights for Release of Man Held in Chinese Prison


Illinois Rep. La Shawn Ford joined in a protest Friday with family members of a Chicago man they say is being unfairly held in a Chinese prison.

"The United States should step in and do everything that we can to have justice for this family," he told NBC Chicago during the demonstration outside the Consulate General of The People's Republic of China.

Ajamu Johnson grew up on Chicago's West Side and was in China teaching English to students. While there, he got into a fight with an acquaintance, American Andrez Ratajczak. Ratajczak was deported while Johnson was sentenced to one year in prison. He's been incarcerated in the Qing Pu Prison in Shanghai since December.

Family members on Friday delivered petitions with 30,000 signatures to the Consulate-General calling for the Morehouse College graduate's release.

"He's not a threat. He's not a problem. He shouldn't be incarcerated," said Johnson's mother, Dalila Johnson.

Officials at the Chinese Consulate said they couldn't talk about the specifics of the case but a spokesman released a statement:

"Ajamu caused physical injury... China is a country under rule of law, and everyone is equal before the law. The lawful rights and interests of aliens on Chinese territory are protected."

Johnson's father and aunt have both passed away while he's been locked up in China. His family said he keeps busy by teaching English to inmates.

They also said Ratajczak has written them a letter apologizing for the fight. 

13-Year-Old Steals Car With Baby Inside: Police


A baby was briefly abducted by a car thief in Miami Friday, who wasn't even old enough to drive, police said.

The 6-month-old baby was inside a Jeep SUV when it was stolen from 8450 Northeast Miami Court just before 5 p.m.

The baby's mother was dropping off her two older children to their grandmother when the suspect got in and drove off.

"I stepped out my car for a minute. I was standing just a couple feet away and I see the car backing out and I ran after it... trying to explain to the person that my baby's in the car. My heart just sunk from there," said the mother, who did not want to be identified.

Within minutes, officers stopped the vehicle at 229 Northeast 78th Street, recovered the baby and took the 13-year-old male driver into custody.

"I thank them, I give them all my blessings, like I thank God for them because if it wasn't for them I don't know what could've happened to my baby," the mother said.

The baby, who slept through the whole ordeal, woke up in the arms of the sergeant who rescued him.

The young car thief was charged with one count of grand theft auto and transported to the Juvenile Assessment Center.

When asked about the young criminal who took her son and her SUV, the mother said, "I just want that kid to get his life together. I'm angry at him, I'm really pissed off because of his age, that's not what he should be thinking about in his life ... he should be worried about school."

But more than anything she said she's glad she's got her boy back in her arms.

"I was just so happy. He had tears on his face but he was just so happy to see me and he lunged at me... jumped into my arms."


Photo Credit: Miami Police

Person Killed in Shelton Crash


A person died in an early-morning crash on Route 8 in Shelton Saturday.

A driver struck a tree in the car accident near exit 17 on the southbound side of the highway.

The crash remains under investigation.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Texas Mom Left 2-Year-Old in Hot Car While Shopping for Father's Day Gift: Police


A North Texas woman was arrested Thursday and charged with child endangerment after police say she left her 2-year-old daughter inside a hot car while she went shopping.

"She left the child in the car in order to go inside and shop for a Father's Day gift," said Lt. Colin Chenault, with the Cedar Hill Police Department.

Police took Chelsea Polk, 25, into custody. Police said she left her daughter alone with the windows barely cracked in the scorching heat.

"The officers were able to determine she was inside for longer than 20 to 25 minutes, some estimates as high as 30 minutes," said Chenault.

Good Samaritans noticed the girl in the car and called police. Officers had to break the window to reach inside the car, all while the girl's mom was shopping at a Dick's Sporting Goods store in Cedar Hill.

"They had to startle the child several times for several seconds in order to wake the child up," said Chenault.

The girl was hot and sweaty after officers removed her from the sweltering car, as temperatures outside the car reached well above the 90 degrees.

"While that may be comfortable to us outside in open air, inside a car, that temperature raises significantly and it becomes very hot very quickly," said Chenault.

The girl was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons, but police say she will be OK.

Attempts to reach Polk’s family for comment were not successful.

Photo Credit: Cedar Hill Police/NBC 5 News
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Father Arrested, Boy Home Safe After Amber Alert


An Amber Alert has been cancelled and a father arrested after a 3-year-old boy was returned home safely Saturday morning.

Willimantic and State police issued the alert for Tony Juarez at 4:07 a.m. Saturday morning after his father, Fermin Juarez, 36, took the toddler from the home he shared with the boy's mother, his girlfriend.

According to police, Fermin Juarez and the boy's mother began arguing around 10:30 p.m. Friday night.  Fermin Juarez took the boy after the argument and the mother called 911 after they did not return hours later.

Police said they scoured Willimantic, searching unsuccessfully for Juarez’s green hatchback. So, state police issued an Amber Alert. Authorities were not only worried about the boy’s safety but also his health because he suffers from acute epilepsy and has seizures.

“We were very concerned about that. The child was supposed to be given his medicine before bedtime and obviously he hadn’t gone to bed,” said CPL Stan Parizo, the public information officer for the Willimantic Police Department.

At 4:20 a.m. Saturday, Tony’s mother called 911 again, saying her son had been returned safely. Police arrested Juarez inside this home, without incident.

“We are pleased with the outcome of this entire investigation. The child who has an illness is returned back to the safety and care of his mother,” said Parizo.

While police said the boy appeared to be uninjured, DCF was called. Juarez is behind bars on $20,000 bond, charged with risk of injury to a minor and disorderly conduct.

“You can’t abscond with the child when he has a medical condition. We’re not charging him with kidnapping because he is the biological father of the child,” Parizo explained.

Juarez will face a judge in Danielson Superior Court on Monday.

 "The Willimantic Police Department is extremely pleased with the outcome of this very serious incident," Parizo said.

Putnam Bridge Closed on Southbound Side in Wethersfield


The Putnam Bridge is closed in the southbound direction between Glastonbury and Wethersfield through Monday morning, Wethersfield police said.

The bridge will be closed on that side through 5 a.m. Monday.

Northbound traffic is not affected.

Activists Burn Confederate Flags Near Liberty Bell


A group of activists set fire to two Confederate flags in Philadelphia, only steps from the Liberty Bell.

The activists gathered at Independence Mall Friday afternoon to voice their opposition to the flag.

The activists placed two Confederate flags inside a metal tub, doused them with lighter fluid and set them on fire.

The burning of the flags was in response to the shooting of nine church-goers during Bible study at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, Wednesday night.

“That flag, to us, says terrorism. It’s a slap in the face to those folks that were murdered,” activist Mannwell Glenn told NBC10 outside Independence Mall.

The suspect in the mass shooting is Dylann Roof. The incident is being investigated a hate crime. Investigators say Roof was a devout white supremacist who wanted to start a race war. Roof had a Confederate flag on his front license plate of his car.

“In America, it’s the Confederacy and the Confederate flag. We have a problem with that, as much as maybe a Jewish person would have a problem with a Nazi flag,” Glenn said.

Roof is being held on $1 million bail.

At South Carolina’s state capitol, the United States flag and state flag were lowered in honor of the church shooting victims.

The Confederate flag, which flew atop the statehouse from 1962 until it was moed to a separate pole on the grounds at a Confederate war memorial in 2000, remained untouched.

State law requires lawmakers to approve changes to how the flag is flown and the General Assembly is out of session until January, NBC News reported.

Still, leaders are working to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol permanently.

“That symbol has to come down. That symbol must be removed from our state Capitol,” said Cornell Brooks, of the NAACP.

Opinions on the Confederate flag are divided among those who see it as a symbol of Southern pride or racism.

President Barack Obama weighed in on the controversy saying the flag belongs in a museum, not on top of a government building.

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney weighed in on the debate Saturday on Twitter

"Take down the #ConfederateFlag at the SC Capitol. To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred. Remove it now to honor #Charleston victims," he said.

Photo Credit: Randy Gyllenhaal

$50,000 Reward Offered in Norwalk Murder Investigation


A $50,000 reward is being offered in a Norwalk murder investigation.

Norwalk police said the reward is for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person or people in the fatal shooting of Amos Brown Jr.

Police are working to identify the person(s) who shot and killed Brown Jr. on Aug. 13, 2010 on Lexington Avenue in Norwalk.

Police ask anyone with information to call the Norwalk police Investigative Services Bureau at 203-854-3111 or the Connecticut Cold Case Hotline at 866-623-8058.

Photo Credit: Norwalk Police Department

Waterford Police Officer Saves Fallen Baby Bird


A Waterford police officer rescued a small baby bird that fell from its nest Friday night.

An officer just starting the evening shift saw the little bird on the ground "squeaking."  The bird fell from a nest above the patrol parking lot door.

After contacting Waterford's Animal Control officer for advice and looking up information online, she picked the bird up so animals wouldn't eat it.

The baby bird was still squeaking when the officer's shift was over, so, with the help of another officer holding a ladder steady, she climbed to put the bird back in the nest, returning the bird to what seemed to be its mother.

Photo Credit: Waterford Police Department

Three Arrested on Prostitution Charges in Norwalk Spa


Norwalk police arrested three prostitutes Friday in an undercover sting operation at a spa in the city.

Police investigating complaints about prostitution at Nirvana Spa at 181 Main Street executed a search and seizure warrant at the business on Friday after an undercover officer was offered "a sexual act for money."

Norwalk police charged Joo Yoon Kyung, 56, of Flushing, New York, with third-degree promoting prostitution, Hye Kyong Newman, 60, of Commerce, Colorado, with second-degree promoting prostitution and permitting prostitution and Soon Shin Chong, 66, of Flushing, New York, with practicing massage therapy without a license, prostitution and promoting third-degree prostitution.

Police seized $10,635 at the spa and a 2010 Subaru Outback station wagon.

Police held the three women in custody on $2,500 bonds. Norwalk police said that Kyung has previous arrests on record for offenses related to prostitution in New York State. Newman also was arrested multiple times on prostitution charges in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Georgia and New York.

Photo Credit: Norwalk Police Department

Romney Condemns Confederate Flag, Bush Tweets


After nine parishioners were gunned down during Bible study at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, many have demanded a Confederate flag—a symbol of racial segregation—be taken down from the South Carolina State House, where it flew at full mast after the killings. 

The flag has been at the center of controversy before, but opponents have gained an unexpected and prominent ally in a former Republican presidential candidate.

Mitt Romney, who ran for president in 2008 and 2012, called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House in memoriam for the nine victims via Twitter.

This is not the first time the former governor of Massachusetts has publicly demand the flag come down. In 2007, during a debate, Romney weighed in on the flag when he said, "That's not a flag I recognize." 

"That flag, frankly, is divisive, and it shouldn't be shown," he said. 

Republican candidate and former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, also waded into the conversation on Twitter Saturday afternoon, releasing a statement about the removal of the flag, stating that he believes South Carolina is enduring a "sensitive" time right now but is "confident" the state will do the right thing.

Bush had the Confederate flag removed from the Florida state Capitol building in 2001, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Both Bush and Romney's comments challenge other current GOP presidential candidates—aside from Bush, none have publicly supported to take down the Confederate flag or comment its racist implications in South Carolina. 

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican presidential candidate, said the problem is with the accused gunman, Dylann Roof, not the flag.

Supporters of the flag, like Lee Wilson, vice president of the Confederate Heritage Trust in South Carolina, argue that the flag is a part of the South's heritage and is an important part of Civil War history. But South Carolina State. Rep. Christopher Hart told NBC News he disagrees with this argument:

"I'm a product of the South. Whose heritage is it? It's not my heritage. It's not Southern to me," Hart said. "There were hundreds of black soldiers in the Civil War, but you don't see black people walking around with Confederate flags now." 

In the wake of the attack that targeted the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, President Obama pointedly stated that the Confederate flag belongs in a museum. The president began his speech at the U.S. Conference of Mayors commenting on the church attack by saying, "Racism remains a blight that we must combat together.

For now, the Confederate flag at the statehouse is still flying full-staff because the General Assembly is out of session. State law requires any changes on how the flag is flown to be approved by lawmakers but the General Assembly must wait until January to take up the issue. 

“That flag, to us, says terrorism. It’s a slap in the face to those folks that were murdered,” activist Mannwell Glenn told NBC Philadelphia. Glenn, along with other activists, set fire two Confederate flags steps away from the Liberty Bell in Old City, Philadelphia. 

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Driver Dies in Route 8 Crash in Derby


A 33-year-old Stratford man died after crashing into a tree in the woods along Route 8 south in Derby early Saturday morning.

State police were checking on a report of a tree in the travel lane on the state highway near exit 17 when they discovered a 2013 Chevy Silverado pickup truck off the right side of the road against a large tree. The crash happened at about 2:31 a.m.

Driver Anthony Delbene, 33, of Stratford, was traveling in the southbound direction in the right lane when he veered off the highway, struck a metal guard rail and continued about 200 feet into the woods until his car came to rest against a large tree.

Delbene was found unresponsive in the car and pronounced dead at the scene. Crews had to extricate him from the vehicle.

His pickup truck was heavily damaged on the front end, inside and on the undercarriage. Tracey's Towing removed the car from the scene.

The Department of Transportation responded to help with traffic control and an accident reconstruction team investigated.

The right lane of Route 8 south was closed for several hours. The truck was towed from the scene.

The crash remains under investigation.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Crash Pushes Car Down Embankment


Two cars crashed on Interstate 384 west, pushing one of them down an embankment Saturday afternoon.

The collision happened near exit 4.

State police said the crash looked more serious initially, but that injuries were non-life-threatening.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News

Possible Heavy Rain, Thunder for Father's Day Morning


There's a flash flood watch for southern Connecticut until 5 a.m.  Sunday, but there is hope for sun for your afternoon plans on Father's Day.

There is a possibility of heavy rain and thunderstorms on Sunday morning that will bring about 1 to 2 inches of precipitation.

But the sun may peek through come afternoon.

Moisture from what was Tropical Storm Bill could make for a wet Sunday.

Parts of Texas and Oklahoma are estimated to have received six to 10 inches of rain in just the last week.

While strong winds are not expected in Connecticut, several inches of rain are possible in parts of the northeast. The exact location of the heaviest rain will be fine tuned over the next day or two, but more than 1 inch is possible in Connecticut during the day on Sunday.

Though poorly timed, the rain is needed.

An updated drought monitor released on Thursday morning still places the state in abnormally dry to even moderate drought conditions.

Bradley International Airport currently has more than a 2-inch year-to-date rainfall deficit.

Bridgeport, on the other hand, has more than a 3-and-a-half inch rainfall deficit so far this year.

Stay with the First Alert weather team for updates on the Father's Day forecast on-air, on the app and online.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Surfboard Breaks World Record


Surf City USA laid claim to another bit of surfing legend Saturday as a group of surfers banded together to break a world record.

With hundreds looking on, 66 surfers, including surf champions, celebrities and local heroes, rode a custom 42-foot-long surfboard off the shore in Huntington Beach Saturday, breaking the Guinness World Record for "Most People Riding a Surfboard at Once."

The record hadn't been broken in over a decade, since 47 people clambered onto a board on March 5, 2005, according to the city of Huntington Beach. To break the record, the surfers had to successfully surf unassisted for 10 seconds.

The surfers in Huntington Beach were also hoping to claim the title of riding the "World's Largest Surfboard," but that record attempt remained unconfirmed Saturday morning.

The official record-holding surfboard is 39-feet and 4-inches, Huntington Beach said.

The record-breaking event was part of Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, Newport Beach and Long Beach's celebration of International Surfing Day festivities.

Photo Credit: Larry Tenney (Instagram: @ltenney1)

Crews Search for People in House Fire


LifeStar airlifted one person to the hospital after a fire broke out at a home on Spencer Court in Clinton.

Firefighters spent Saturday morning searching for people on the second floor of a single family, second-story home at 4 Spencer Court, according to fire officials. They responded to the structure fire at 9:30 a.m.

Someone called 911 from inside the home, but Clinton Fire Department officials said they lost contact with an elderly caller.

Crews got access to the home and put out the fire.

One person was transported via LifeStar to the hospital for treatment.

Old Saybrook, Westbrook, Essex, Killingworth, Guilford and Madison fire departments and ambulance associations responded.

Guilford's rapid intervention team, a search and rescue team, is also at the scene.

The Clinton fire marshal's office is investigating the cause of the fire.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Rt. 85 Reopens After Fatal Crash


Route 85 is closed in Hebron due to a fatal motorcycle crash.

The state road is closed between Route 207 and an area just south of that intersection.

More information will be provided as it becomes available.

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com

Skydiver Instructor Killed in Jump


An expert skydive instructor with a passion for adventure and a love of life was killed after a hard landing at the Skydive San Diego facility in Jamul, California, Friday when his parachute failed.

The experienced parachutist - identified by the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office as Andrei Penz, 30 – jumped at 1:30 p.m. at the facility on 13531 Otay Lakes Road, according to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

A witness watching from below told officials that as the man got closer to the ground, they could see him moving the parachute's toggles. However, it did not slow him down, and he hit the ground hard.

The witness said the parachute appeared to be partially collapsed upon the skydiver's approach to the ground.

Paramedics and a medical chopper were called in, and despite CPR efforts, they were not able to revive the victim.

Penz was working as a contracted skydive instructor at Skydive San Diego.

Buzz Fink, owner of Skydive San Diego, told NBC 7 the charismatic Penz was a master of his craft and was loved by many.

“Andrei was a great guy. He loved skydiving. He loved his fellow skydivers. He loved the sport; he loved adventure. He loved life,” said Fink.

Fink said Penz was a senior parachute rigger with the Federal Aviation Administration and was able to work on his own parachutes. He had been working on his equipment before the accident and Fink said there was an issue with how the parachute’s line length was “trimmed,” which impacted how it flew.

When Penz came in for turns, the parachute wasn’t working as smoothly as it should have been, Fink said.

“When he came in yesterday to land, for some reason, as he turned, the entire parachute turned underneath itself and collapsed, so he ended up falling over 100 feet,” Fink explained.

Fink said Penz had logged more than 1,500 jumps a year for the past several years and was an “extremely experienced, expert skydiver and instructor.”

Unfortunately, Fink said, more experience often means more accidents in the world of skydiving.

“In the sport of skydiving, generally the injuries and accidents are with the more highly-experienced skydivers because the more experience you get, the smaller canopy you get, and the faster you go,” he explained.

However, with more experience, comes more expertise when it comes to handling parachutes, Fink added.

He said this accident had nothing to do with Penz’s skills, rather an equipment malfunction that ended in tragedy.

“Andrei was an expert canopy pilot. He did not do anything wrong: he did not set up his approach wrong, he did not turn wrong. It happened to be something with the equipment he had on at the time that happened to fail on him. That’s what caused it. It was not his skills. He was an expert parachutist,” Fink said.

Fink said most of Penz’s family lives in Brazil, but he does leave behind a girlfriend and sister in San Diego.

Besides skydiving, Penz loved to surf, hike and travel.

“He would do a little bit of everything. He just lived life to the fullest,” Fink said. “I think [skydiving] made him feel alive, jumping out of an airplane at 120 mph, feeling the rush of the air in your face.”

Fink said fellow jumpers and his company will work together with the victim’s family to plan a memorial service down the line.

He assured skydiving is a safe sport – more so, in his opinion, than driving a car.

“I feel safer doing a tandem skydive than I would driving on the road. I do think the most dangerous part is actually driving to and from the skydiving center. When done right, [skydiving] is very safe,” he said.

Skydive San Diego does approximately 16,000 tandem jumps a year in San Diego.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego/Facebook

Cops Shoot Man Holding Towel


Police shot a man after he pointed what they believed was a gun wrapped in a towel at them in Los Feliz Friday.

But the man was unarmed; no gun was recovered at the scene of the shooting, Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Rosario Herrera said Saturday.

The incident happened after the person allegedly waved a patrol car down in a parkway near Lowry Road and Los Feliz Boulevard at 6:35 p.m, Los Angeles Police Department Lt. John Jenal said.

"The officers stopped to investigate and see what was needed," Lt Jenal said. "This person then extended their arm, which was wrapped in a towel."

The shooting occurred after the lawmen demanded he drop his weapon, with locals saying they heard four gunshots. No officers were shot during the confrontation.

Graphic cellphone video taken by a passerby shows officers handcuffing the wounded man on the ground.

The suspect was in critical condition Friday night. Herrera had no update on the man's condition Saturday.

An official probe into the shooting is ongoing. Severe congestion was caused after Los Feliz Boulevard was closed in the vicinity of Lowry Road due to the investigation. It finally reopened at 1:50 a.m. Saturday.

Jason Kandel and Asher Klein contributed to this report

Photo Credit: KNBC

Fight for Art Taken by Nazis


A Jewish family in east San Diego has appealed a federal judge’s ruling allowing a museum to keep a painting taken from their ancestors as a result of Nazi persecution.

The California judge’s ruling declared a museum in Spain is the rightful owner of the Pissarro masterpiece even though the owner was forced to sell it to Nazis in 1939.

That owner was Lilly Cassirer, the great grandmother of David Cassirer. David spoke exclusively with NBC 7 about the court’s decision from the family’s La Mesa home.

“I think Ronald Lauder in New York put it best when he said these paintings, wherever they are, are the last prisoners of war of World War II,” he said.

David’s great-grandmother, Lilly, was forced to sell the painting for a few hundred dollars to Nazis. Today, the masterpiece is worth tens of millions of dollars. David said his great-grandmother had no choice but to give up the art piece.

“My father assures me she would've gone to one of the worst concentration camps,” David explained.

An attorney for the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Spain has said the institution acquired the painting in good faith and has had it on public display for more than 20 years.

U.S. District Judge John Walters ruled earlier this month that the museum owns the masterpiece under Spanish law, however he urged the institution to think about what would be fair to victims of Nazi persecution like the Cassirer family.

The Jewish Federation of San Diego County has agreed to be a co-plaintiff on the appeals case with the Cassirer family.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego
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