<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Southern California News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Fri, 30 Jan 2015 12:13:14 -0800 Fri, 30 Jan 2015 12:13:14 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Preschool Measles Case Triggers Rapid Response]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 12:05:34 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/Simi+Measles.JPG

A child was diagnosed with measles in Southern California this week, sending their preschool scrambling to screen other students.

More than 40 students and staff members at Little Explorers Preschool Academy in Simi Valley may have been exposed to the highly infectious virus, which is spreading throughout California and beyond.

California health officials have reported more than 80 measles cases since December, when several people who visited Disney theme parks in Anaheim came down with measles. The Simi Valley case is related to Disneyland as well, according to school officials, but some infections in the recent outbreak were contracted elsewhere.

The infected student is doing well, the school said, and screenings were quickly coordinated. Parents at Little Explorers Preschool Academy said they weren't worried that the classmate of their children, described as a toddler, was diagnosed with the highly infectious disease.

"I'm highly impressed with the school and actions that they took and steps they took to make sure everybody was OK," said Terry Richardson, a school grandparent.

The Ventura County school notified parents as soon as they learned that the student, who has not been named, was potentially exposed to the measles on Wednesday, Jan. 28, the school said in a statement. They are working with county health officials, already checking each student for immunity and vaccinating those who needed it.

"Our number one priority is the health and well being of our students," the statement said. "At the present time the child in quarantine is doing well and none of our other students are demonstrating any signs of the measles virus."

Photo Credit: Rene Luna]]>
<![CDATA[Choking Game: "The Horror Just Stops You Cold"]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 10:46:29 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/01-30-2015-choking-game.JPG

The videos are disturbing. A young girl in pink pajamas leans on another, cutting off her air supply until the girl collapses.

Link: Erik's Cause

A young boy in a public gym quietly slumps down against a wall. A teenager, alone in her room, chokes herself until she begins to twitch and gasp.

All of these are recent examples of videos posted online of kids playing "the choking game." The game goes by many names, including, the fainting game, pass out challenge, space monkey, California choke and maybe most appropriately, suffocation roulette.

The game has been around for generations, but with the proliferation of online videos, safety advocates worry there is more temptation than ever. Judy Rogg, a social worker, told NBC4 these videos encourage kids to dare others to "go further" with little regard for the risk involved.

"Kids think it's fun," she said. "Kids don't realize that it's dangerous."

The game cuts the oxygen to the brain, in the hopes of getting light headed, or a feeling of euphoria. But the high comes with great risks including broken bones, seizures and even death.

There is a long list of things parents warn their children about, and Rogg said "the choking game" should be part of that conversation. It is a conversation Rogg wishes she had with her own son. Erik was just 12 years old, when found him unresponsive, alone in their home, with a rope around his neck.

"This is important, as important to talk about with your kids as drugs and alcohol and sex," said Rogg. "The horror just stops you cold.

"I truly believe he did not intend to end his life. He had plans that evening, he had plans the next day, and he wasn’t going anywhere."

Erik was rushed to the hospital. While there, Judy explains that detectives told her they believed her son died from "the choking game."

It was the first time she had ever heard of it. Several days later, a classmate of Erik's came forward and told her Erik had learned the game at school on a Monday.

He died one day later.

Judy struggles with the loss every day. Her apartment celebrates his memory -- in one corner rests his skateboard. A collection of baseball bats are on a shelf and baby booties are tucked in the pocket of a handmade quilt.

Rogg has now developed an awareness program called "Erik's Cause."

"This is about saving other kids, that's Erik’s legacy, and that's the legacy that I want for my son right now," Rogg said.

Rogg insists if Erik knew the dangers, he never would have played the game.

"I would love to see this program in every health curriculum across the country."

Right now, only one district has taken up her program. Jennifer Wood, Director of Secondary Education for the Iron County School District in Cedar City Utah, said the choking game is a real problem.

"We've had four children die of this," Wood said.

San Bernardino Child Welfare Coordinator Earl Smith said he believes there have been choking deaths in the San Bernardino area. He is one of the first school administrators to advocate for a program like "Erik's Cause."

"As a teacher I actually heard students talking about it all of the time," Smith said. "We have to get the education out, not only to kids, but to parents."

There's a long list of topics teenagers are already warned about, including drugs, alcohol and texting while driving. Still, 17-year-old Roman Valentine said schools need to include warnings against the fleeting high of the choking game because it can be more dangerous than drugs.

"Weed isn't really good, but I mean, when do you really see deaths about that?"

Rogg continues to travel the country, talking to health professionals and school districts, hoping more of them will adopt her program. She said Erik always wanted to be of service and she feels his presence as she now tries to help others.

"He was really smart, and as one of his best friends said, 'Even smart strong kids can make dumb choices, with deadly consequences.'"

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Missing Girl Could Be Traveling Across Country: LAPD]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 10:01:51 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/216*120/Lauren-Jackson-missing-Westchester-Georgia.jpg

A 14-year-old girl is missing from her South Los Angeles home and may be traveling across the country, police said.

Lauren Jackson's family reported her missing Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m., according to the Los Angeles Police Department. She may be traveling to Georgia or North Carolina, police said.

Jackson is 14 years old, 5-foot-10 and about 120 pounds, and lives in the 6700 block of 88th Street in Westchester, police said. She was last seen in a black shirt; floral pants; a puffy, pink jacket and red shoes.

Police ask anyone with information about Jackson's whereabouts to call 310-482-6445.

Photo Credit: Courtesy LAPD]]>
<![CDATA[Transgender Woman Dies After Home Surgery: PD]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 11:06:45 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/Kaiser+Permanente+silicone+transgender.JPG

A transgender woman who attended a body-modification party in Orange County died as a result of an off-the-books procedure she received there, investigators said.

Santa Ana police say the woman checked herself into an Irvine hospital on Jan. 1 because she was having trouble breathing. Three weeks later, the 40-year-old was dead, and authorities believe the cause of death was an embolism from a silicone injection.

She "had been to a silicone injection party somewhere in Santa Ana. She had injections in her buttocks for cosmetic reasons," said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, of the Santa Ana Police Department.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department identified the victim Friday as Katya De La Riva. It's unclear what type of injections she received or how many, and police are still trying to notify her family.

Tony Viramontes, who works with transgender men and women at the LGBT Center OC, said cosmetic surgery can help people feel comfortable in their bodies as part of the transition process. 

"They found happiness in seeing their body takes shape. They have hips and a full buttocks and they feel feminine," Viramontes said.

People in transition can sometimes go to great lengths to feel complete, Viramontes said. Parties like this one offer discounts and instant gratificiation.

"People are taking advantage of people looking to change their looks and it can lead to death," said Viramontes, who noted that there is a program to ensure medical procedures are done by licensed doctors.

The parties do come with a tremendous risk.

April Brown shared with NBC4 her story of getting butt injections three years ago, after she had her limbs amputated in emergency surgery to save her life.

The Los Angeles hair dresser suffered septic shock from industrial silicone injections, the kind sold in hardware stores.

Police are urging anyone who attended the December party with De La Riva received her injections to call them and explain what happened.

Photo Credit: Kevin Dahlgren]]>
<![CDATA[Hearing on San Bernardino's Warrants in McStay Case]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 11:23:38 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Mcstay-family-crop-2013.jpg

The man accused of murdering a Fallbrook family found buried in the desert requested to represent himself in court during an early hearing, claiming he only had six to eight months to live.

Charles Merritt, a former business partner of Joseph McStay, is accused of killing McStay along with Sunny McStay and the couple’s two boys in 2010.

Merritt said he wanted to represent himself for two reasons. He said he only has six to eight months to live due to congestive heart failure and could not afford his own attorney. The San Bernadino judge said Merritt could act as his own attorney.

He said he believes he can work around the clock to move the trail process along faster than his own attorney could. The judge offered a court-appointed attorney at no cost, but Merritt declined.

In a prior hearing, a San Bernadino judge denied a request to unseal search warrants in the case of a Fallbrook family found buried in the desert.

NBC 7 is one of 18 news organizations seeking release of search warrant documents related to the case against Merritt.

The judge would not unseal any portion of the search warrants the media requested, arguing that the release would impede on Merritt's right to a fair trial and would impede an ongoing investigation.

The judge said, however, that he was willing to revisit the case in the future. Some of those documents the media is requesting could be released after a preliminary hearing or sooner, the judge said, if the preliminary hearing is delayed.

The Fallbrook family was believed to have vanished. Family members and other volunteers searched for any sign of them, crime cable shows highlighted their story and an investigation was launched by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

It wasn’t until November 2013, that the family’s bodies were uncovered in Victorville.

The media argued in court that the public has a constitutional right to see search warrant documents and learn more about the investigation, now that Merritt has been arrested and formally charged with the crimes.

But prosecutors strongly disagreed in court. Deputy District Attorney Mark Vos argued the release of the documents could harm what that he characterizes as a continuing investigation and an “open murder case”, despite earlier statements by the San Bernardino Sheriff that Merritt is the only suspect in the case.

The judge set a status conference in two weeks for February 20. A pre preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 3 and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 7.

<![CDATA[Officers Search for Gunman in Koreatown]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 06:19:11 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/219*120/police_tape_crime_generic.jpg

Officers are searching a Koreatown neighborhood early Friday after a report of a shooting.

The search is near Third Street, west of Vermont Avenue. An LAPD tweet advised drivers to avoid the area due to the search.

The shooting victim, struck by a round in the leg, suffered minor injuries, according to police. One person is in custody in connection with the shooting, but officers are looking for a second individual.

A detailed description of the wanted subject was not available.

Refresh this page for updates.

<![CDATA[LASD: "Suge" Knight Booked for Murder]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 05:16:11 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/209*120/suge.PNG

Death Row Records found Marion "Suge" Knight was booked for murder, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department confirmed early Friday morning.

Knight was booked at the West Hollywood Station at 3 a.m. and was being held in lieu of $2 million bail. The rap mogul turned himself in Thursday to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office after his lawyer confirmed he was behind the wheel of a car that fatally struck a man in Compton.

Knight was booked on murder charges and bail was set at $2 million, Sargent Barry Hall and Sargent Richard Biddle told NBC4 Friday morning.

Knight’s lawyer James Blatt calls the hit and run a tragic accident.

Blatt said Knight accidentally ran over and killed a friend and injured another man as he fled attackers.

The victims, ages 51 and 55, argued with Knight earlier at a shoot for the new "Straight Outta Compton" movie, authorities said.

It appeared that the driver "drove backwards, struck victims, then went forward and struck them again as he left," Lt. John Corina of the LA County Sheriff's Homicide Bureau said in a previous report.

"He was in the process of being physically assaulted by two men and in an effort to escape he unfortunately hit two (other) individuals," Blatt told The Associated Press. "He was in his car trying to escape."

The victims' identities were not immediately released.

Toni Guinyard contributed to this report.

Refresh for updates.

<![CDATA[Beck Admits Mistakes in Mexican Mafia Hitman Escort]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 06:49:17 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/150128-lapd-mafia-hit-man-meeting.jpg

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck admitted Thursday that mistakes were made in allowing a convicted killer to be a keynote speaker.

With heavy security, the LAPD escorted a hitman for the Mexican Mafia into downtown LA to speak to law enforcement and wealthy business leaders.

Beck said in a news release Thursday that he has directed the department to "more thoroughly review future events before committing LAPD resources."

The news came a day after the president of the LA Police Commission called for an investigation into the use of LAPD resources to arrange for the meeting.

Rene Enriquez, a high ranking hitman in the Mexican Mafia serving two life sentences for murder, got an LAPD escort to and from a secured downtown LA location on Spring Street where he was to give a crowd of about 125 firsthand insight about the inner-workings of the criminal enterprise.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said he immediately reached out to Beck with a message.

"Any resources taken off the street and used in this way, in my opinion, it was wrong and shouldn't have happened," he said.

Before heading back to prison, Enriquez signed copies of his biography to those in attendance. Police are expected to hold a meeting to talk more about the case next Tuesday.

<![CDATA[Undocumented Immigrant Becomes Attorney]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 22:00:23 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/1-29-15-Pumar.JPG

Vanessa Pumar says she was a junior in college when she felt her calling come knocking.

"In my naive mind, I thought I'm gonna give my parents their Green Card," she says. "It can't be that difficult."

Pumar had come with her parents to the United States from Venezuela when she was 12 years old.

Years later as her family was navigating immigration courts, she says a weak attorney nearly sent them packing.

She took the LSAT and passed; she applied to Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles and was accepted; she graduated and took the California State Bar Exam and passed; and at 1 p.m. on Friday, she'll swear an oath to uphold the constitution as a licensed immigration attorney.

"Now is the time," Pumar says, a recipient of Deferred Action for Child Arrivals which allows her to work legally in the U.S., "I did what I could within the system Congress created."

But Pumar says she knows there are some who will say being in this country without the proper documentation is in and of itself a crime.

"Immigration laws are very punitive," she says. "So if there were immigration reform or if the laws were fair, I wouldn't be in this situation."

She's not the first undocumented immigrant to be given a license to practice law in California.

Sergio Garcia took an oath a year ago in Sacramento, but she is the first to do so as a DACA recipient and she says she will continue to fight for immigration reform.

"I don't think there is a greater act of civil disobedience than an undocumented lawyer representing another undocumented immigrant facing removal from the United States," Pumar says.

Pumar has agreed to work as a legal representative for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, saying she's proud to now serve the community she remains a part of.

And while things could always change if Congress attempts to curb President Obama's executive order, Pumar's state license wouldn't be affected.

"Congress just needs to understand that we're here to help and stop blaming us for everything that goes wrong in this country," she says.

<![CDATA[Richard Sherman's Dad Loves Life as LA Garbage Man]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 04:55:00 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/204*120/1-29-15-Richard+Sherman+Kevin+Sherman.JPG

He's had boots on the ground without fail for 20 straight years.

Day after day at the break of dawn, Kevin Sherman is on a mission to keep the streets of LA clean and provide for his family.

Growing up in Compton, the only goal for his children was education and to make sure they end up in a better position than he. And in 2010, his youngest son Richard graduated from Stanford, where he also played football.

You might know him: Richard Sherman, the dominant cornerback for Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks, one of the best known and most outspoken players in the NFL.

The NFL's biggest trash talker received his most important life lessons from a canny trash man.

"Don't change for anybody," Kevin Sherman said. "Be yourself. Right, wrong, indifferent, nobody can never say you're not yourself."

Despite losing an eye in a teenage go-karting accident, he taught his kids to never quit, which is why the father of the star athlete is still hard at work and two years shy of retiring and earning a pension.

"My son is an NFL player, but I don't want my son taking care of me the rest of my life," he said.

All the while, Kevin Sherman remains in the background collecting memories — Super Bowl rings.

Photo Credit: Neil Torres]]>
<![CDATA[Grandfather Says He's Trapped in Care Home]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:28:22 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/207*120/1-29-15-Nicolas+Mercado.JPG

A grandfather in a wheelchair says he's trapped in a care facility far from home because the state won't obey a court order to pay for home modifications.

San Bernardino resident Nicolas Mercado, a 54-year-old grandfather, was rendered a quadriplegic in 2011, when the big rig he was driving for work crashed. He's been living in a care facility in Garden Grove ever since, because his home lacks the modifications to fit his wheelchair.

His attorneys blame the California Insurance Guarantee Association, or CIGA, the state agency which took over the case after Mercado's insurance company went bankrupt. Even though Mercado has won several workers' compensation rulings to have his home modified, CIGA has appealed three times.

"The California Insurance Guarantee Association is on their third bite of the apple here to deny someone the ability to go home," Mercado's attorney Keith More said.

Mercado has now been fighting this battle for more than three years.

"I just want to be at home," he told NBC4, as his wife wiped his tears away. "I just hope nobody (goes) through what I'm going through."

The NBC4 I-Team spent a week calling CIGA, and asking about Mercado's case. Finally, after driving to the agency's Glendale headquarters, NBC4 got answers.

"We've looked into this and we think perhaps we could have taken a different path," admitted CIGA Executive Director Wayne Wilson, who personally reviewed Mercado's records at the NBC4 I-Team's request.

Wilson pointed out that CIGA is spending tens of thousands of dollars each month on Mercado's care, and has paid to add a ramp and widen some doorways. He went on to tell NBC4 it hasn't been enough.

"Mr. Mercado’s attorney and our Senior Executive here are going to meet early next week," Wilson continued. "He wants to have the support, love and affection of his family and wants to be with them and we’re going to see what we can do."

Mercado's wife Linda is hoping for the best, after years of painful partings at the end of every visit.

"I throw him a kiss, he throws me a kiss, and from there, you can imagine, sometimes, the way I leave," she said.

Both hope to soon be able to say goodnight, instead of goodbye.

If you are struggling with the state or a private company over a health insurance claim, you can contact the California Insurance Commissioner's consumer services toll-free hotline at 800-927-4357.

Photo Credit: James Wulff]]>
<![CDATA[Severed Gas Line Ignites in Pacific Palisades: LAFD]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 19:50:41 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/217*120/Pacific+Palisades+severed+gas+line.JPG

Flames erupting from a severed natural gas line threatened two homes in the Pacific Palisades, fire officials said.

No one was injured or evacuated, and no homes were damaged, a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman said.

The service gas line was severed and ignited by a third-party construction crew preparing to pour cement when they hit the line with a stake, said Denise King of The Gas Company.

Utility workers were called to the fire, in the 15300 block of Whitfield Avenue in Los Angeles. The fire was reported at about 4:20 p.m. and knocked down soon after, officials said.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Suspicious Device Prompts Ontario Airport Terminal Evacuation]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:31:49 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/221*120/ontario+plane+tarmac.jpg

A terminal at the Ontario International Airport was evacuated on Thursday after a report of a suspicious device in checked baggage, officials said.

There was no threat and the airport returned to normal operations late Thursday afternoon, said Nico Melendez, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration.

Several flights landed at the airport during the incident and the passengers had to remain aboard the planes as officials did not want people entering the evacuated terminal.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Patients Evacuated from Smoke-Filled Culver City Hospital]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:22:29 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/205*120/Culver+City+fire+evacuation.JPG

Hospital patients in Culver City were evacuated as smoke filled multiple floors at the facility Thursday afternoon, authorities said.

Firefighters were removing smoke from multiple floors of Southern California Hospital in Culver City after arriving shortly before 2 p.m. The Culver City and Los Angeles City fire departments were at the hospital, fire officials said.

Firefighters checked the area for hazardous conditions, a Culver City fire official said in a statement, while patients evacuated or sheltered in place.

Some 175 patients and 225 staff members evacuated to the parking lot, officials said.

Culver City Fire Capt. Rob Kohlhepp said the smoke was the result of a fire on the roof related to construction.

Patients, some on gurneys, packed the hospital's parking lot as seen in aerial footage by NewsChopper4. No one was hurt.

Hospitals conduct disaster drills with clear protocols, so staff should be better at evacuations than at other large buildings, according to NBC4's Dr. Bruce Hensel. But it can still take hours to completely evacuate, because many patients are hooked up to machines in the wall whose connections need to be switched to portable kits.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Counting LA's Homeless Vet Population]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 17:24:48 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/216*120/homeless+census+veterans+la.JPG

Every two years, thousands of volunteers fan out across Los Angeles to count the county's homeless population. This year they have an extra goal, and this one comes from Washington, D.C.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama said last year that they want to end veterans homelessness in the U.S. by the end of 2015, getting U.S. cities to sign off on t

Figures show housing is being found for 437 homeless veterans every month, but that will have to increase to meet the President's goal.

"Certainly one of the issues we have to face is making sure there is enough housing stock available," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald, in Los Angeles to take part in the homeless count.

Among the homeless in LA County, as many as 4,000 veterans will be counted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority -- a significant drop in four years from more than 7,000, but still a long ways from finding housing for all veterans by years end.

That will require a placement rate of more than 500 veterans each month, according to LA's public-private partnership for ending veteran homelessness. The group is relying on placing the homeless in subsidized apartments to meet the goal of ending veterans homelessness this year.

On Thursday morning, McDonald visited the Rosslyn, a once derelict but now newly refurbished hotel with 264 apartments now occupied by the formerly homeless, 119 of them veterans, including Marcus Hunter, a Navy Veteran now a year clean and sober for a year.

Hunter said he had been on the streets some two decades before he went to the VA.

"That very first day they found me housing, I was really surprised," he said.

Photo Credit: Mark James]]>
<![CDATA[Bill Would Boost CA Smoking Age From 18 to 21]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 19:12:00 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/generic-smoking-teen.jpg

A Southern California lawmaker wants to increase the legal smoking age in the state from 18 to 21 in an effort to make it harder for teens to get their hands on cigarettes.

Democratic State Sen. Ed Hernandez introduced Senate Bill 151 on Thursday, the Sacramento Bee reports.

“We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines while big tobacco markets to our kids and gets another generation of young people hooked on a product that will ultimately kill them,” Hernandez said in a statement.

The bill is likely to face opposition from tobacco companies, who have again become major players in Sacramento, the newspaper reports.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Latest CA Snowpack Survey "Dismally Meager"]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 06:14:25 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/202*120/01-29-2015-drought-snowpack.JPG

California appears to be facing a fourth consecutive dry year, with water reservoirs already at critically low levels, the results of the state's second snowpack survey suggest.

Snowpack levels in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where spring water runoff produces a vital source of water for more than 25 million Californians, are "dismally meager," according to the Department of Water Resources. The agency conducted its second manual snowpack survey of the season Thursday, confirming the below-normal levels reported by electronic sensors.

At Echo Summit, about 90 miles east of Sacramento, snowpack was at 12 percent of normal for this time of year. Statewide, levels are 25 percent of historical average, according to the water agency.

The numbers are even lower than the previous manual survey conducted in late December. January is typically one of California's wettest months of the year, but precipitation has been well below normal after a few storms brought rain and snow to the state in December.

"Unfortunately, today’s manual snow survey makes it likely that California’s drought will run through a fourth consecutive year," DWR officials said in a statement.

Heavy precipitation and cooler temperatures would be required over the next three months to provide any reason for optimism around California's water supply, according to the agency.

The snowpack measurement is an important factor in the drought forecast because spring runoff from the Sierras flows into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which then feeds California's major water reservoirs. Without adequate spring runoff, those reservoirs will remain at critically low levels into the dry, hot summer months.

For example, the State Water Project's principal reservoir, Lake Oroville in Butte County, contains just 41 percent of its capacity.

State climatologists estimate the state would need at least 150 percent of normal precipitation by the end of the water year, which is Sept. 30, if California has any chance of significant drought improvement.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency in January 2014 and asked Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent. State records show its a figure residents have had difficulty meeting.

Photo Credit: Getty]]>
<![CDATA[Murder Charge Filed in Gavin Smith Death]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 19:37:31 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/gavin1.jpg

A convicted drug dealer has been charged with murder in the death of Fox executive Gavin Smith, whose remains were found more than a year ago in the desert north of Los Angeles.

John Creech, a 42-year-old convicted drug dealer, has been charged in the case, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office confirmed Thursday. Arraignment is scheduled for Monday.

Investigators determined that Smith, 57, had "a relationship" with Creech's wife, who he met during drug rehab, but have not provided details. Creech had been identified as a "person of interest" in the case and has been in custody on a drug charge.

Smith was last seen leaving a friend's house May 1, 2012, in the Oak Park area in a black 2000 Mercedes-Benz. His family sensed something was wrong when he did not pick up his teenage son from school.

Authorities have said they believe Smith was killed on the night of his disappearance. His remains were found by hikers in October 2013 in a remote area of Palmdale near Acton.

The investigation led to a search of Creech's West Hills home in July 2013 and a major break in the case occurred in February 2014 when authorities discovered Smith's black Mercedes-Benz at a storage building in Simi Valley. Investigators said Creech was linked to the storage unit.

Creech is serving an eight-year jail sentence after pleading no contest to a count of sale or transportation for sale of a controlled substance in September 2012, according to the district attorney's office.

Smith played basketball at UCLA and was part of the 1975 Bruins' championship team. He became an actor and later a film executive at 20th Century Fox.

Refresh this page for updates.

<![CDATA[Teen Shooting Victim Was "Person Who Made Your Day"]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 21:34:25 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/01-29-2015-ontario-homicide-shooting-party.JPG

A 14-year-old shot and killed at party Wednesday night in Ontario was remembered by friends as a vibrant person who made others laugh.

Police arrested a 20-year-old man they believe to be behind the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Andrea Olague. The shooting occurred at a house in the 700 block of East I Street in Ontario at 7 p.m, according to the Ontario Police Department. This article incorrectly listed the address of the incident.

"She was the person that made your day," friend Yanez Sanchez said. "She made you laugh. She would just make your day 10 times better when you saw her."

Investigators carried out boxes and bags of evidence early Thursday, according to a report in the Daily Bulletin. A handgun that police said might have been used in the crime also was recovered at the home.

"The shot went off , we don't know exactly what they were doing before it went off but a gun was produced," Ontario Police Sgt. Jeff Higbee said. "Unfortunately the victim was shot. And then they left the area and we managed throughout the night and tracked them down."

Police are unsure whether the teenager who was killed lived in the home, but said that she and the suspect knew each other.

Investigators told NBC4 they are attempting to determine whether the weapon was intentionally discharged.

Photo Credit: OnSceneTV]]>
<![CDATA[Plane Makes "Roller Coaster" Emergency Landing]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 11:51:48 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/ontario+plane+emergency+landing1.jpg

A United plane that may have caught fire over California made a quick "roller coaster" descent into Ontario International Airport at about 9 a.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration and a passenger's account.

United flight 1181 turned back to Southern California from its original flight path to Washington Dulles International Airport from Los Angeles International Airport, according to the FAA.

"The flight landed safely after diverting to Ontario, California, due to reports of a burning smell," according to a statement released by United.

All 199 passengers and seven crew members who were on board the Boeing 757 are safe, the airline said. Maintenance crews are working to review the aircraft and "working as quickly as possible to get our customers to Washington, D.C."

A passenger tweeted from the airplane when it landed, describing light smoke in the cabin and a flurry of firefighter activity around the plane once it stopped on the Tarmac.

"25,000 feet to 0 in 5 minutes. A roller coaster!" said Mitchell Hashimoto, who tweets under the handle @mitchellh. The tweet has now been deleted.

The airplane caught fire mid-flight, saying the landing was "not comfortable," Hashimoto said in another since-deleted tweet.

Another person tweeted that they were being evacuated from the plane in Ontario after smoke was seen on the flight. "This is crazy," said William Mayer, who tweets at @cigarash.

The plane's flight path, posted on a flight-tracking website, shows it circled back to the LA area soon after taking off from LAX , making it no further than about Palm Springs.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV
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<![CDATA[CicLAvia Will Make Magic Shop Profits Vanish: Owner]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:07:51 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/1-29-2015-Magic.JPG

A magic shop owner has claimed a huge chunk of his profits will vanish due to a forthcoming car-free party event being held outside his store.

Magic Apple proprietor Brent Geris was feeling less than wand-erful when he discovered street closures due to CicLAvia will prevent customers parking outside his premises for a lecture he is hosting on March 22.

Scottish gambling expert Paul Wilson was supposed to be appearing at the store for a special $40-per-ticket event teaching people how to create "miracles" with cards, however this may no longer go ahead due to the closures, which affect Lankershim and Ventura Boulevards.

"We charge a door fee, and they get a deck of cards and it's a couple of hours of learning," Geris said.

However he said the prospect of walking a few blocks is enough to dissuade his customers from making the trip to the event.

"They're not going to do it, they're not going come to this event," Geris said.

He claims the first time he learned about the event was when someone came into his shop and handed him a promotional flyer.

Geris is not the only one who feels like sawing the event organizers in half however.

For Nick Tsaturyan of Reno's Pizzeria claims the event will cost him cash, as Sunday is his busiest day of the week for delivering orders.

CicLAvia officials sent NBC 4 a statement, citing studies that say businesses along its routes receive more than a 50 per cent sales increase on the day of the event.

<![CDATA[Men Accused of Using Uber for Ride to Drug Deal]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 15:24:50 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/01-29-2015-thousand-oaks-uber-drug-deal.jpg

Two men who requested a ride using Uber were arrested Wednesday after they were found in the back seat of the vehicle with hallucinogenic drugs they planned to sell, according to authorities.

A vehicle code violation led to the midday traffic stop involving an Uber driver in Thousand Oaks, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. Details regarding the violation were not immediately available, but deputies soon turned the focus of the stop to the vehicle's two back-seat passengers.

The men had a quarter-pound of "butane honey oil," a concentrated form of cannabis. Deputies determined that the passengers were on the way to sell the chemical, which can contain up to 80 percent of Delta 9 THC -- the active ingredient in marijuana.

The suspects were identified as Cody Jens, 24, of Agoura Hills, and Luke Karasiuk, 22, of Thousand Oaks. Jens' first court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 11, and Karasiuk is due in court Jan. 30, according to jail records.

It was not immediately clear whether the men obtained attorneys.

They had "well over a thousand dosage units" of the drug, also known as honey oil, wax and shatter, according to a statement from the sheriff's department. A typical dose of the hallucinogenic is about 1/10th of a gram.

Honey oil has been connected to several drug lab explosions in Southern California due to a chemical reaction during the production process that involves butane.

Both men were arrested on suspicion of possessing a controlled substance and booked into Ventura County Jail. The driver, who was not part of the narcotics offense, was not arrested.

Photo Credit: Thousand Oaks Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Shot Dead in Ontario Home]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 17:40:03 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/TLMD-yellow-tape-crime-scene-crimen-shutterstock-56280433.jpg

A woman was shot dead at a home in Ontario Wednesday night.

The incident happened at a house in the 700 block of East I Street in Ontario at 7 p.m., Ontario Police Department said. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect address for the incident's location.

Police are investigating. No suspects are in custody.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Earth Observatory Launch Postponed]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 05:20:15 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/205*120/01-29-2015-smap-launch-satellite.jpg

The launch of a satellite that will help scientists study the moisture in Earth's soil, which could help gudie decisions about water resources, weather forecasts and drought, was postponed until Saturday at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite launch was initially scheduled for a 6:20 a.m. PT Friday launch, but mission control scrubbed the launch due to upper level winds just minutes ahead of planned lift-off. The launch was re-scheduled for Friday morning, but delayed again due to minor repairs to the rocket.

The launch is scheduled for Saturday at 6:20 a.m.

The satellite is expected to provide the most useful soil moisture maps ever created, providing more accurate and timely information for weather forecasters, flood monitoring, climate change research and drought management, especially significant in California where a three-year dry spell has left the state's water reservoirs at critically low levels.

The satellite arrived at Vandenberg AFB, just northwest of Santa Barbara, from Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena in October.

"Water is vital for all life on Earth, and the water present in soil is a small but critically important part of Earth's water cycle," said Kent Kellogg, SMAP project manager at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "The delivery of NASA's SMAP spacecraft to Vandenberg Air Force Base marks a final step to bring these unique and valuable measurements to the global science community."

After rocketing into space, the satellite will fly at an altitude of 426 miles and provide a global map of soil moisture every two to three days for the next three years. The topsoil observations are more frequent and accurate than anything previously provided to researchers.

"This mission could not be more timely in my view," said Kellogg.

The mission required JPL to build the largest rotating antenna that could be stowed in the satellite’s 1-by-4-foot compartment — about the size of a kitchen trash can. The antenna dish and unfurls to a diameter of nearly 20 feet after spinning out of the compartment like a lasso on an extending support arm.

"We call it the spinning lasso," said Wendy Edelstein, the SMAP instrument manager. "The antenna caused us a lot of angst, no doubt about it.

"We test, and we test, and we test some more. We have a very stable and robust system now."

Once fully deployed, the satellite will orbit Earth every 98.5 minutes, allowing it to map the globe every two to three days.

The satellite's radar system transmits signal to Earth that penetrate its soil and bounce back. Any changes in the electrical properties of the signals indicate changes in soil moisture. It is one of "the most sophisticated signal-processing" systems every developed, according to NASA.

The deployment process has been pre-tested from start to finish 18 times, Kellogg said.

The satellite is capable of telling scientists a lot about the condition of Earth's soil, including its freeze-thaw state. Determining whether soil if frozen or thawed helps researchers better plan for natural hazards.

Soil moisture is already closely tracked in developed agricultural regions, but in vast areas remains unknown.

The launch marks a milestone for NASA’s Earth science missions, which essentially monitor the planet’s vital signs. The satellite is the last of five program mission launches during a 12-month period.

The NASA mission will cost $916 million, according to the space agency. The observatory was assembled at NASA's Southern California Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The next launch at Vandenberg AFB, a Jason 3 satellite aboard a Falcon 9 vehicle, is scheduled for March 31. A launch scheduled for April 13 will blast a classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office.

Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)]]>
<![CDATA[Watch Live: NBC4 News at 5 and 6 P.M.]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 18:30:50 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/chuck+and+colleen+two+shot.jpg

Android phone and tablet users can watch the livestream here.

We've launched our online livestreaming player so that you can follow along with our reporters and anchors during NBC4's on-air broadcasts.

The player above is a multiplatform tool. You can watch on your laptop at home, your computer at work and even your mobile phone.

Note: Live video will be available Monday through Friday during the 5 and 6 p.m. news.

Connect with NBC4 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+. We're also in the iTunes App Store and Google Play store for Android devices.

Our anchors and reporters can be found on social media here.

And as always, we want to hear from you. If you have a story idea or feedback, email us at tips@nbcla.com.

<![CDATA[Two Hospitalized After Car Flips During Pursuit]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 05:16:46 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/lapd+cruiser.jpg

Two men were hospitalized after a stolen car flipped during a police pursuit in Los Angeles early Thursday.

A high speed chase, which lasts just three minutes, was underway when the driver lost control and flipped over in the 3600 block of Griffin Avenue in Monticeito Heights at around midnight, Los Angeles Police Department said.

The driver was thrown from the vehicle during the crash, while the passenger fled the scene. He  was into custody within minutes. 

Both the driver and passenger were taken to local hospitals with minor injuries.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Arrests Made, Vehicles Impounded in Street Racing Bust]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 03:33:18 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/185*120/1-29-2015-StreetRacers.JPG

Multiple arrests were made and cars were impounded after police responded to calls about "many" street racers in North Hollywood late Wednesday.

Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Valley Traffic and  North Hollywood Divisions swarmed the Home Depot Parking lot on Sherman Way at around 11 p.m, officials confirmed

Cops cited a number of drivers, made numerous arrests and impounded several vehicles. Police were unable to confirm claims up to 200 vehicles were involved in the meeting.

Police said the  street racing problem in the San Fernando Valley has been growing increasingly dangerous recently, and was putting both law enforcement officers and the public at risk.

Photo Credit: OnScene.tv]]>
<![CDATA[Mother, 3-Year-Old Child Killed in Condo Fire]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:59:28 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/191*120/01-29-2015-angelina-angel-reed-inglewood-fire.jpg

Rudy Bowie was crushed when she heard the news that her daughter and toddler granddaughter perished in an early morning blaze at their Inglewood condo.

Massive flames lit up the early morning sky as the two-alarm fire broke out in the 630 block of West Queen Street around 2:30 a.m, firefighters said. Even though it could take weeks for the coroner's office to officially identify the charred remains, family and friends said they were Bowie's daughter, Angel Reed, and her daughter, Angelina.

"My granddaughter ... she was only 3 years old," Rudy Bowie said. "She didn't make it to see her 4th birthday."

The fire started in one unit on the first floor and spread to the second in the two-story building. It took 55 firefighters to douse the flames. One of them suffered minor injuries during the battle.

"It was like something out of a movie," said Nicole Brown, a witness. "I've never seen anything like it."

Lawrence Bowie, the victim's grandfather, was barely able to speak as he told reporters he first saw the fire on early morning TV news reports.

"I knew it was my daughter," Lawrence Bowie said. "Knew it was my daughter and grandchild."

Cheryl Kesse, who lived across the street, tried to help by bringing a water hose from her home. She said a man was in a state of shock as his wife and child were still in the building.

"He said his wife and his child were in there, and he just kept crying," Kessee said.

She also said he fell to the floor in grief when told the fire had turned fatal.

"Oh God, words can't describe (how sad the moment was). It just brought tears to my eyes," Kessee added.

Still looking stunned, Reed's mother said this is one of the worst days of her life. She said firefighters described a heartbreaking scene inside.

"She had her in her arms, protecting her daughter," said Rudy Bowie.

About 15 people were displaced due to the fire, and the Red Cross was on the scene to provide aid. They have been allowed to return to their homes.

A cause was not immediately determined.

NBC4's Michael Larkin, Melissa Etezadi and Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Family Photos]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Killed in Hit and Run in Orange County]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 03:02:58 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/210*120/siren3.jpg

A woman was killed in a hit and run in Orange County late Wednesday.

The incident occurred just east of Bristol Avenue in Santa Ana just before 11:00pm Wednesday night, Santa Ana Police Department said.

The pedestrian, who had been crossing outside of the crosswalk, was found dead on the scene. 

Officers found the driver nearby and he was arrested for hit and run.

<![CDATA[Owner Says Deputies Wouldn't Help Dog They Shot]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 00:54:39 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/file-lawndale-dog-shot-sheriff-knox.jpg

A Lawndale man is planning legal action after a Los Angeles County sheriff's detective shot and killed his family dog at his home.

The shooting took place at the 170th Street home about 9:30 p.m. Monday when detectives, who officials say were following up on a criminal case, were met by Ronald Padilla's Italian mastiff.

Sheriff's officials said one of the detectives opened fire on the snarling dog when it charged at him.

Padilla disputes that claim.

He said the detectives were searching for his brother in a front house to serve paperwork about a change of court date for a felony juvenile citation. When no one answered the door, the deputies went to the rear of the property where Padilla lives in a back house.

Padilla, a father of three, says he was getting ready to go to bed when he heard three rounds fired. At least one of the bullets struck his 1-year-old pup named Knox on her side.

"I went outside and I noticed my brother was already outside yelling at them, 'What did you guys do? Why did you shoot my dog? You guys had no business in my property,'" Padilla said.

Padilla says nothing was done to save the dog's life. Animal Control was called but the dog died before they got there - he took photos and video of the moments after the shooting.

"They were searching for bullet (casings) instead of helping my dog," Padilla said.

Padilla says he didn't hear his dog bark or growl before shots rang out. He says the detective apologized but had nothing else to say.

Padilla says the gunfire could have struck his children, ages 10, 7 and 5, who were at home.

"What am I supposed to tell my children now? A cop shot our dog in our own property?" Padilla said. "I took really good care of my dog. To me it was like family. My dog never bit anybody."

The case was under review by internal affairs, per department policy, said sheriff's Sgt. Nick Daniel.

Photo Credit: Ronald Padilla]]>
<![CDATA[Imprisoned Hit Man Gives Speech in Downtown LA]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 00:07:59 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/150128-lapd-mafia-hit-man-meeting.jpg

The president of the LA Police Commission called for an investigation into the use of LAPD resources to arrange a secretive meeting among an imprisoned ex-Mexican Mafia hit man, top law enforcement officials and wealthy business leaders, calling it "embarrassing."

Rene Enriquez, who is known as "Boxer," was given a police escort to a secured downtown LA location on Spring Street, where sources said he was to give a crowd of about 125 firsthand insight about the inner-workings of the criminal enterprise.

"A whole lot of city resources were wasted here when they shouldn't have been," Police Commission President Steve Soboroff said.

Enriquez's appearance required a "multi-hour SWAT and LAPD presence," Soboroff said.

The cost of the operation, which included crossing county lines, was not immediately known. It was unclear how many other agencies were involved in Enriquez's appearance.

Enriquez, who is the subject of the book "The Black Hand: The Bloody Rise and Redemption of 'Boxer' Enriquez, a Mexican Mob Killer," worked his way up from enforcer to shot caller for the organization known as La Eme before his arrest and conviction. He is serving two 20-to-life sentences for murder.

The meeting was meant to offer LA-area law enforcement chiefs a chance to learn how a "transnational criminal enterprise was built, branded and marketed," the LAPD said in a statement to NBC News that acknowledged an LAPD group met with a convicted criminial.

"This individual talked with the sophistication and knowledge of a corporate CEO," said LAPD deputy chief Michael Downing, who didn't confirm Enriquez was the speaker.

The cost of the event was relatively small, with about 23 officers guarding the perimeter, while police chiefs from cities like Long Beach and Fullerton attended the talk. The event was secure, Downing said.

"In retrospect, we probably could have picked a better location that didn't have such an impact on downtown Los Angeles," Downing said.

Downing added that the speaker was is a deceptive, manipulative individual "in jail for horrific crimes," and that "even though he's providing this information for us, (we) don't lose sight of who he is as an individual."


A source who attended the session said Enriquez had the air of a corporate leader, providing "a rare look into life of a criminal corporate executive." The source, who asked not to be named, said Enriquez discussed "gang franchising, marketing, sales, merchandising and branding."

“We live in a dangerous city,” said another man who attended the session.

A spokesman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which is responsible for Enriquez, had no immediate comment on the appearance, and was checking late Wednesday to see whether it had been approved.

"People make mistakes and it's our responsibility to find out exactly what happened," Soboroff said. "We need to find out how exactly much that cost and see how much money we can recover. "

NBC4's Toni Guinyard and Willian Avila contributed to this report.

<![CDATA[VA Finds New Partnership to Better Aid Homeless Vets]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 23:29:54 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/187*120/west+la+va.JPG

It was the week before Christmas when the phone rang "out of the blue," as high-powered lawyer Ron Olson begins the story of the breakthrough that led to a legal U-turn for the VA and a new partnership for helping homeless veterans.

On the phone was Robert McDonald, West Point Graduate, Army veteran, and recently retired CEO of the Proctor & Gamble company, who had answered President Obama's call to tackle the problems in the Department of Veterans Affairs as its new Secretary.

Among the big issues: the high rate of homelessness among veterans, nowhere more than in Los Angeles. President Obama wants it solved this year.

Olson and McDonald had never met face to face, but they had common friends. McDonald wanted to discuss the lawsuit in which a federal-district court judge had ruled against the VA's practice of leasing portions of its West LA Healthcare campus for purposes that had nothing to do with veterans' health.

The VA leases space for an athletic field to the private Brentwood school, for UCLA's Jackie Robinson baseball stadium, for laundry services for Marriott Hotels, among other uses Judge James Otero found inconsistent with the requirements for the 387 campus and for the VA.

Plaintiffs contended these uses took away from the services the VA owes veterans.

Rather than accepting the 2013 ruling, the VA, under then-Secretary Eric Shinseki, appealed, a process that dragged on. Mediation failed.

A name partner in the prominent downtown LA law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson, Ron Olson had volunteered his legal skills "pro bono" and served as one of the lead attorneys for the homeless veterans who constituted the plaintiffs.

On the phone, Secretary McDonald came straight to the point.

"'This is not a problem that should require lawsuits or litigation,'" Olson recalled McDonald telling him.

"'I agreed,'" Olson said he replied. "I'd been trying to get that point across for a while," he added with a slight chuckle.

For his part, McDonald learned that the original prime mover behind the lawsuit had been Bobby Shriver, the former Santa Monica city councilman who is also a Kennedy. Shriver had recruited the legal team to file the case.

"I've known Bobby for years," McDonald said. The Shriver family has been deeply involved with the Special Olympic — mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver co-founded it — and for three decades, Proctor & Gamble has partnered as a principal corporate sponsor.

Catalyzed by the interconnected relationships and trust. the result was a meeting of the minds. A series of discussions led to the drafting of a framework for not only a settlement of the lawsuit, but also a partnership to develop a "new master plan" for the West LA campus and improve "care and services for homeless veterans."

"We have moved from adversaries to partners in a month's time," Olson told those who assembled Wednesday inside a meeting room of the VA's West LA hospital where McDonald, flanked by Olson and Shriver, announced the agreement.

The document sets forth a series of tasks of deadlines, including writing a "veteran homelessness strategy and action plan for Greater LA no later than 2/13/05."

The new Master Plan, including provisions for building new veterans housing, is due by October 16.

But the first deadline calls for the parties to ask the District Court to vacate the lawsuit ruling — in effect, to make it as if the case now known as Valentini V. McDonald had never been filed.

Olson defended voluntarily surrendering this legal stick to hold over the VA, citing the benefit of the VA dropping its appeal, and calling this new partnership "a far superior way to go."

Skepticism remains among veterans.

"We've been hearing things for years," said Charles Williams, a disabled Army veteran who has become a familiar sight outside the VA campus on San Vicente Blvd.

"They need to get moving," said Norma Stone, a 79-year-old veteran of the US Air Force. Attending the news conference, she took the microphone for the final question from the audience, imploring the trio at the lectern to turn the plan into reality.

The unveiling of the plan comes during the annual "point in time" census to count homeless veterans. Estimates vary, but it's believed there are at least six thousand in Los Angeles County. Thursday night McDonald plans to join a team canvassing the streets in and around downtown LA's skid row.

McDonald said he will take the opportunity to learn from homeless veterans what solutions they would seek.

The West LA VA campus dates back to the 19th century, when the land was deeded to the federal government as an "Old Soldiers Home" for veterans of the Civil War.

In the 20th century its services expanded, but in the 1960s, its commitment to housing veterans was limited. Apart from those admitted to the hospital, the number of residents currently residing in facilities on the campus is fewer than one thousand, according to the VA Public Affairs office. One facility, opened in 2010 by CalVet, operate at only half its 396-bed capacity because its kitchen has yet to be built.

In recent years, Robert Rosebrock of the "Veterans Revolution" and other advocates have argued the VA could make an immediate impact by erecting tents and modular housing as temporary shelter in what is now open space on the campus. This would serve as temporary shelter until new permanent structures can be planned, approved, and built.

When the issue was raised at the news conference, some in the audience applauded.

McDonald said he did not yet know enough about LA's specific needs to determine whether it would be appropriate, but said he hoped to learn more speaking to homeless veterans Thursday night.

Shriver's role in the partnership will involve integrating the private and philanthropic sectors into expanding housing and services for homeless veterans.

Also to be dealt with are the leased uses targeted in the lawsuit. The agreement calls for developing an "exit strategy" for non-VA entities that won't fit within the new master plan.

"We applaud this outcome and understand the need to find lasting housing solutions for our local veterans," reads in part a written statement from UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. "We are eager to work with Secretary McDonald to strengthen the VA's relationship with UCLA, including Jackie Robinson Stadium," an apparent indication that, new agreement notwithstanding, UCLA hopes its baseball teams will be able to continue playing on the VA campus.

<![CDATA[Woman Found Stabbed to Death Near LAPD Station]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 07:29:50 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/1-28-15-lapd+pacoima+woman+stabbed.JPG

A woman was found stabbed to death in a Pacoima parking lot across the street from a Los Angeles Police Department station Wednesday night.

Officers arrived on the scene at 7:15 p.m. after witness discovered the body of the victim, who was in her 40s, between a 7-Eleven and a car wash just 50 yards from the LAPD's Foothill Division, officials said.

Investigators believe she was stabbed to death in the area, and then dumped in the parking lot. Details regarding the attacker's description were not immediately available, and detectives are examining surveillance footage for clues. They also said evidence from witnesses would be crucial to solving the case.

"It is unusual for someone to be so brazen and kill someone across from a police station... obviously  they had a goal in mind and they accomplished that goal, however they had to do it," LAPD detective Michael Berretta said.

Investigators have yet to rule out the murder being a gang-related incident.

Christina Cocca and Kate Larsen contributed to this article

Photo Credit: NewsChopper4]]>
<![CDATA[IE Attacker Strikes College, Likely Linked to Previous Attacks]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 22:26:24 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/210*120/1-28-15-victorville+victor+valley+college+attacker+sketch.JPG

Students at an Inland Empire college are on alert after a knife-wielding attacker who threatened a man is likely the same person who attacked two women last week, officials said.

The latest attack happened about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday outside a physical education building at Victor Valley College when a man carrying a knife threatened a student and demanded he hand over his cellphone, detectives said.

But the student didn't give in and instead hit the attacker, who ran away.

"He decided not to give up his property, a struggle ensued," San Bernardino Sheriff's Sgt. Ken Kutz said. "He was able to strike the suspect, and then the suspect fled at that time."

Students say Tuesday night's attack only heightens the fear they already have while walking on campus at night.

"Most of the time, the hallways ... It's empty around here, so when you hear about this kind of stuff, it makes you more alert," student Genesis Quinonez said.

Detectives believe the attacker is the same man responsible for two incidents last week. In the first, a man grabbed an 18-year-old woman at Victor Valley College, reached into her pants and ripped her underwear, officials said. The woman escaped.

Hours later, the same man may have also tried to kidnap a woman a few miles from campus. He grabbed the woman to the ground and dragged her by her feet, but she kicked herself loose and ran away, officials said.

All three victims helped create a computer composite sketch of the man. The sketch shows markings where beard stubble would be because the department's computer could not render something similar, deputies said.

"Because of the software, we can't get an exact match," Lutz said. "The subject has more of a heavy five o'clock beard, not an actual beard itself."

Campus police said they are available to escort students at night.

Investigators said the man likely lives in the area, and anyone with information should call the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department.

Photo Credit: San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department]]>
<![CDATA[Happy 30th: Charity Anthem "We Are the World" ]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:59:00 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*120/79532615_10.jpg

Wednesday marks the big 3-0 for a charity anthem that brought together dozens of the biggest names in music.

Forty-five artists joined in song to record "We Are the World" at A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood.

"For those who were not even alive when we actually did 'We Are the World,' this is a good thing for them to see, and to understand why it was done and the meaning of it,” singer/songwriter Smokey Robinson said.

The Grammy Museum in Hollywood held a 30th anniversary celebration highlighting the song and USA for Africa on Wednesday.

Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie wrote the all-star single to raise awareness of the widespread poverty in Africa. Since its 1985 release, it has sold more than 20 million copies, raised more than $66 million dollars and won three Grammy Awards.

Photo Credit: WireImage]]>
<![CDATA[PETA Building Dons Anti-SeaWorld Mural]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 19:19:39 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/1-28-15-SeaWorld-PETA-Mural1.jpg A Los Angeles-based graffiti artist has transformed the boarded-up windows at PETA's Bob Barker Building on Sunset Boulevard into an anti-SeaWorld mural.

Photo Credit: Neel Parekh]]>
<![CDATA[Anti-SeaWorld Mural Pops Up on Sunset Boulevard]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 19:37:03 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/206*120/1-28-15-PETA+anti+seaworld+mural.JPG

A Los Angeles-based graffiti artist has transformed the boarded-up windows at PETA's Bob Barker Building on Sunset Boulevard into an anti-SeaWorld mural.

An SUV slammed into the animal rights group’s office on Jan. 16 during a SeaWorld protest planning meeting. There were no injuries, but the crash left a gaping hole in the office’s wall.

The group "decided to make good use of the temporary wall" by enlisting local graffiti legend Cache, PETA said in a statement Wednesday.

His work of art protests SeaWorld’s alleged treatment of its orcas. The mural depicts orcas swimming in the ocean alongside the artist’s signature chickens holding signs that reads: "Hey, SeaWorld: Empty the Tanks!" and "Born to Be Wild." 

"PETA loves turning lemons into lemonade — and with Cache's help, we've turned this accident into an eye-catching reminder that orcas belong in the ocean and that for keeping orcas in tanks, SeaWorld is the biggest lemon of them all," PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a news release.

"As people's awareness of SeaWorld's cruelty to orcas rises, SeaWorld's ticket sales, stock, and sponsorship plummet."

PETA is against using animals for entertainment and "encourages caring people to visit only interactive parks that don't condemn animals to a lifetime of suffering," according to its website. 

The theme park has been under fire since the 2013 release of "Blackfish," a film that centers on the treatment of a captive orca named Tilikum.

SeaWorld could not be reached for comment.

Photo Credit: PETA ]]>
<![CDATA[CA Declares E-Cigarettes Public Health Threat]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:01:48 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/454246108.jpg

A new report from the California Department of Public Health is calling e-cigarettes a significant public health concern and encouraging all Californians to avoid using the devices.

E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that turn flavored liquid into vapor. They often contain nicotine.

While there popularity is soaring, public health officials worry about the long-term consequences.

The 21-page report focused on the impact of e-cigarettes on young people.

State officials say e-cigarette use has tripled among high school students and more teens are now using e-cigarettes as opposed to traditional tobacco products.

CDPH Director and State Health Officer Dr. Ron Chapman points to a 1,200 percent increase in the amount of money spent on e-cigarette advertising as one of the reasons.

"E-cigarettes contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals, and the nicotine in them is as addictive as the nicotine in cigarettes," Chapman wrote in an news release announcing the report. "I am advising Californians to avoid the use of e-cigarettes and keep them away from children of all ages."

But not everyone agrees with the state's assessment of e-cigarettes.

Jason Talley, manager of The Vapor Spot in Hollywood said e-cigarettes are not dangerous.

"E-cigarettes are helpful," he said. "E-cigarettes got me off cigarettes. They got many of my friends off cigarettes."

Talley said that he believes the devices are a healthier alternative to traditional cigarette smoking and that the industry is not targeting young people.

On the door of his store, a note indicates that only those over 18 are allowed inside.

He said he discourages young people from using the product.

The Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association, a trade organization for the vapor product industry, also disagrees with the CDPH report.

"We are extremely disappointed that the California Department of Health has taken this step with regards to its position on vapor products," said Phil Daman, president of the organization, in a statement to NBC4. "We remain concerned that the department confuses these technology products with tobacco, and in its advisory has ignored years of well established research that shows the safety of the products and the public health benefit they may offer the millions of Californians who use them as an alternative to tobacco."

Dr. Bruce Hensel said, "Many people report that the E-cigarettes helped them to stop smoking. As a stopgap device they may be helpful. But that doesn't mean that they are harmless and people have to weigh the risks against the benefits."

The report identified a variety of potential health risks from using the devices.

Chapman said nicotine is a highly addictive neurotoxin that can potentially harm brain development.

While many people think the aerosol that comes out of the e-cigarette is water vapor, the report found that it contained at least 10 chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm.

The report also found that the number of calls to poison control centers involving children drinking the e-cigarette fluid tripled in one year.

CDPH officials said that because most of the e-cigarette liquid is fruit or candy flavored, it may entice small children to accidentally ingest it.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Royal Rendezvous: Two Historic Ships Say Hello]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 18:05:01 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/royalrendezvousqmqe.jpg

Finding another realm as lively with lore as the ship world is almost an impossibility. The myriad rules of the ocean, and the hallowed myths, and how ships greet one another, and how the crew conducts itself, and the many (many many) legends surrounding the waters of the world can, and do, fill books.

This isn't the stuff of legend, either. Modern vessels perform age-old rites, as the public will see on Thursday, Feb. 5 when the Queen Mary's "niece" -- Cunard's Queen Elizabeth -- pops by Long Beach for a visit.

Well "pops by" in shiply terms isn't quite right; "glides in, in a stately manner" is more accurate. The event is being hailed as "The Royal Rendezvous" and it has only happened a few times before, including in 2013.

But this time has a twist, lovers of oceanic facts and fables: The Queen Elizabeth will "berth adjacent to the Queen Mary," a first in the company's history. What won't be a first, and is now tradition when a modern Cunard comes to call upon the Queen Mary, is the whistle salute between the ships and fireworks celebrating the duo's reunion.

This is the fourth time that the Queen Mary has "crossed paths" with a family ship since making a home in Long Beach in 1967. The first Queen Elizabeth "was the sister-ship to the Queen Mary." The pair "made over 2,000 trans-Atlantic voyages when in active service for Cunard."

While visitors won't be able to board the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mary will offer free admission starting at 10 a.m. (do note that parking is $15). Jazz, bagpipes, speeches, and the opening of the Ship Model Gallery are all part of the day's festive to-dos.

As for actually seeing the Queen Elizabeth arrive? Well, that'll be an early one, boat buffs: The vessel'll pull into Long Beach well ahead of the sun, at around 5 a.m., and the ship shall push off between 6 and 7 p.m. (just listen for the bagpipes, which will bid the Queen Elizabeth farewell).

Count the meeting between two floating cities, and the first-ever berthing of a visiting Cunard ship, as another page in the big book of Southern California ship-specific lore. 

Photo Credit: Queen Mary]]>
<![CDATA[Kobe Bryant Has Surgery, Season Over]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 17:14:20 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Kobe-Bryant-shoulder-injury.jpg

Kobe Bryant underwent successful surgery on a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, the Los Angeles Lakers announced on Wednesday, and the 19-year veteran expects to miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season.

Wednesday's news came with little shock, but it still carried with it great meaning. Bryant had now suffered season ending injuries in three successive seasons. At the end of the 2012-13 season, Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon. In the 2013-14 season, Bryant lasted only six games before suffering a fracture in his knee. For 2014-15, Bryant completed 35 games and waited until the halfway mark in the season before his shoulder gave out.

The expectation that Bryant would go under the knife and end his season leaked out of the Los Angeles Lakers' offices on Friday, Jan. 23. Later that day, the team sent a news release that confirmed Bryant's torn rotator cuff and specifically made mention of surgery as an option.

The news release also stated that Dr. Neal ElAttrache would examine Bryant on Monday. After Monday's meeting, Bryant decided that surgery would be required. ElAttrache previously performed Bryant's Achilles surgery and also operated on LA Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke's broken collarbone. The world famous surgeon performed both those operations within 24 hours of one another. No surprise, ElAttrache performed Bryant's latest shoulder operation, along with Dr. Steve Lombardo.

Over the weekend, Bryant released a dramatic video that all but confirmed his season had ended and surgery was on the horizon. In a video clip for an upcoming documentary film which placed cameras in the room, Bryant underwent his initial examination with Lombardo. In the clip, Lombardo clearly announced that Bryant's muscle had detached from the bone. Although not explicitly stating that the Lakers' superstar required surgery, the video appeared to show Bryant coming to terms with the severity of his injury.

To ease Bryant's mind on missing the remainder of the season, the Lakers lost their ninth game in a row to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. The defeat was the Lakers' 12th in the last 13 games, and LA's 34th defeat in 46 contests the season. Currently holding firm as the fourth worst team in the NBA, even a miracle would not save this team.

If the Lakers miraculously win every remaining game on their docket, they would finish with 48 wins. A season ago, the 2013-14 Dallas Mavericks finished with 49 wins and entered the playoffs with the eighth and final spot. Effectively, these Lakers have already been eliminated from the postseason.

For Bryant, the decision to get surgery should not have been difficult when considering the current standings and the nature of the injury. Ending the season rehabbing an injury should be an unwelcome familiar feeling, but Bryant's contract calls for only one more season. For Bryant's sake and for the sake of the fans, hopefully he can finish his Hall-of-Fame career on a healthy note.

At the moment, Bryant's involvement in training camp in Hawaii, which would be Bryant's last, remains unclear. According to the Lakers, Bryant will be out for approximately nine months and is expected to make a full recovery.

“I expect Kobe to make a full recovery and if all goes as expected, he should be ready for the start of the season,” ElAttrache said in the Lakers' official press release.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Driver Turns Self In After Teen Killed in Hit-and-Run]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:16:51 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/1-28-15-hyde-park-hit-and-run-reanna-goss-crop.jpg

A driver who allegedly struck a teenager as she walked across a Los Angeles street surrendered to police Wednesday, hours after the girl died in a hospital, officials said.

The crash happened Tuesday about 6:30 p.m. when 17-year-old ReAnna Goss, known by friends as Annie, was walking near 48th Street and Ninth Avenue in Hyde Park, Los Angeles police said.

A blue Toyota Camry struck the girl, and police found the car near the scene a few hours later. Goss died at the hospital Wednesday morning, police said.

Goss' mother, Desiree Gill, said her daughter would've turned 18 in May.

"I thought I would feel something (about the arrest), I thought that I would be like, 'Oh yay,' but I just wasn't. I wasn't," Gill said.

She talked to her daughter on the phone before the crash, and said the teen described a man calling out to her and following her in a car.

"The gentleman that just hit my daughter and just left her for dead ... I just want to know when are we as a community going to get tired of allowing them to get four to eight years for killing our loved ones, but if you use a gun, you get 20 to life," Gill said. "What's the difference in your choice of weapon? You're still killing someone for no reason."

Her family and friends started a fundraising page for her memorial at gofundme.com/weloveannie.

Jesus Palomares Jamie Jr., 30, turned himself in at the police station Wednesday, police said. He was booked on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and held in lieu of $50,000 bail.

Photo Credit: Goss Family]]>
<![CDATA[CSULB Confirms One Case of Measles]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 15:30:49 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/measles-vaccine-0123.jpg

A California State University, Long Beach student has been diagnosed with measles, the latest case in an outbreak that has affected dozens in the state, the university confirmed Wednesday.

A small group of students were exposed to the virus at an off-campus location during winter break, the week of January 12, a school news release stated.

The student lives in Orange County and attended an off-campus field trip with CSULB. Twenty students may have been exposed to the virus at that time, a doctor with the Long Beach Health Department said.

The student diagnosed with the measles does not live on campus and has since recovered. The university’s class schedule has not been affected, and health officials said they don't believe the student went to the campus after getting measles.

CSULB administrators and the Long Beach Department of Health said they are "working closely together."

More than 70 cases of measles have been reported in California in less than two months. At least 50 of the cases have been linked to a mid-December outbreak that began at the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, state health officials said.

It was not immediately clear whether the Long Beach student's case was linked to Disneyland.

Measles is an airborne disease spread through sneezing or coughing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[2nd Teen Arrested in Stabbing of Boy at Middle School]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:55:49 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/196*120/1-28-15-east+la+stabbing+victim+steven+cruz.JPG

Deputies arrested a second teenager in connection with the stabbing death of a 14-year-old boy outside an East LA middle school, officials said Wednesday.

The victim, identified by the coroner as Steven Cruz, 14, was attacked with a sharp object that authorities originally described as scissors Jan. 23 at David Wark Griffith Middle School, near the high school he attended, according to the LA County Sheriff's Department.

While the LAUSD first said Cruz was attacked with scissors, deputies later described the weapon as a knife.

Authorities arrested a 13-year-old boy one day later. Officials say that teen got the knife from a 14-year-old boy, who was arrested on Tuesday. Both have been booked on suspicion of murder.

The 14-year-old denied one count of murder as well as gang and weapon allegations in juvenile court Wednesday.

At a weekend vigil, mourners left roses above a picture of Cruz in a cap and gown. Cruz's family hasn't spoken with the media, but they did set up a fundraising page online to help pay for services.

"He was friendly and easygoing. He loved his friends and his family with all his heart," his family wrote on the page. It said he was "at the wrong place, at the wrong time" when he was attacked.

Photo Credit: Cruz Family]]>
<![CDATA[Magnitude-5.7 Quake Shakes Northern CA Coast]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:48:18 -0800 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/201*120/01-28-2015-earthquake-ferndale-2.JPG

A magnitude-5.7 earthquake was reported early Wednesday afternoon off the Northern California coast.

The quake was centered about 25 miles southwest of Ferndale in Humboldt County. No tsunami alerts are expected after the quake, which occurred at about 1:10 p.m., according to a statement from the National Tsunami Warning Center.

Light to moderate shaking was reported in and near coastal communities, including Eureka and Fortuna. Earthquakes of magnitudes 2.6 and 3.3 were reported in the same location within about 20 minutes of the initial shaking.

There were no immediate reports of damage.

The Northern California coast is one of the most tsunami-prone regions in the continental United States. More than 30 tsunamis -- a series of ocean waves caused by displacements in the sea floor -- have been reported on the North Coast, five of which were damaging, according to Humboldt State University.

Refresh this page for updates.

Photo Credit: USGS]]>