<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - National & International News]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/national-international http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:21:07 -0700 Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:21:07 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Cop's Degrading Tirade Against Uber Driver Probed]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:49:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/uber+rant.jpg

The NYPD says the Civilian Complaint Review Board has taken over the investigation into a video that appears to show a police officer verbally abusing an Uber driver in an at-times xenophobic roadside tirade in the West Village Monday.

Police confirmed late Tuesday afternoon that the plain-clothed man seen screaming in the now viral video is a member of the NYPD, but they did not identify him. A spokesman said the department is "aware of the incident and video and it is under review."

The NYPD later said that the CCRB, an independent city agency with subpoena power, has taken over the investigation. 

The video was posted to YouTube by Sanjay Seth, one of the passengers in the Uber car. According to Seth's YouTube post, his Uber driver honked his car horn at the officer later seen screaming in the video because the officer was trying to park on a Sixth Precinct street in the middle of the afternoon without using any blinkers or hazard lights, and the Uber driver's path to a green light was blocked.

The officer, seen wearing a green tie and blue shirt at points in the passenger video, got out of his unmarked car, which had flashing blue and red lights on the dashboard, and flagged down the Uber driver.

The three-minute video begins as the officer approaches the Uber driver's window and starts yelling at the driver, raising his voice over the Uber driver's muted apologies and efforts to interject.

"Stop it with your mouth, stop it with your, 'For what, sir,'" the officer is heard saying in the video as he curses. "Stop it with that ... and realize the three vehicle and traffic law violations you committed."

"You understand me? I don't know what [epithet] planet you think you're on right now," the officer yells, making fun of the Uber driver's accent.

The officer then slams the hood of the Uber car and walks away; the Uber driver tries to apologize to his passengers, who tell him it was not his fault and inform him a video of the exchange was recorded. One of the passengers said it appeared the officer was on a "power trip;" the other called the man's behavior "really inappropriate."

The officer returns to the Uber car about 90 seconds after slamming the hood and storming off, the video shows, and continues to curse at and belittle the driver. The driver keeps trying to dissolve the situation with respectful apologies. Then the officer goes off on him. 

"I don't know where you're coming from or where you think you're appropriate in doing that," the man yells, apparently in reference to the car honk from earlier. "That's not the way it works. How long have you been in this country?"

"Almost how long? Two years?" the officer yells after the driver whispers a response. "I got news for you and use this lesson: Don't ever do that again. The only reason you're not in handcuffs going to jail and getting summonses in the precinct is because I have things to do."

"That's the only reason that's not happening, because this isn't important enough to me, you're not important enough," he says.

The officer turns toward the passengers in the back seat, asks if they are fares and says something about the Uber driver wasting their days, too. The officer hands the driver some kind of piece of paper that looks like a ticket and leaves as the passenger cellphone video pans to the flashing lights on the dashboard of his vehicle, parked behind the Uber car. 

Seth posted video of the exchange on multiple social media accounts. On his Facebook page, he wrote, "Our Uber driver, Humayun, was abused by a police officer today in New York. The rage, door slamming, throwing items into the car, threatening arrest without cause was bad enough -- but the officer's remarks at the end really took it to another level."

Seth wrote on Facebook that he reported the exchange to the Civilian Complaint Review Board. According to his profile, Seth works at a nonprofit in the city and used to work for the parks department.

Asked about the exchange by NBC 4 New York, Seth wrote, "This very unfortunate incident is between the driver, Uber, the officer, and the relevant authorities."

Uber called the behavior in the video "wrong" and "unacceptable," and said it appreciated the NYPD investigating.

"We are in touch with our driver-partner who was subjected to this terrible experience and will continue to provide any support he needs," Matthew Wing, a spokesman for the ride share company, said. 

The CCRB handles complaints about four kinds of alleged police misconduct: force, abuse of authority, discourtesy and offensive language. 

Photo Credit: Sanjay Seth]]>
<![CDATA[Andrew Getty Found Dead at Hollywood Hills Home: Source]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:18:15 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/3-31-15-Getty-Investigation1.JPG

Los Angeles police are investigating the death of Andrew Getty, the grandson of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, at his Hollywood Hills home, a source told NBC4.

Los Angeles police were dispatched to his home after 2 p.m. in the 2900 block of Montcalm Avenue in the Hollywood Hills after a call came in from an unidentified woman who reported someone dead in the bathroom.

LAPD spokesman Andrew Smith said the cause of death was "undetermined" and the case will be investigated by the LAPD’s Robbery Homicide Division, which handles high profile and complicated investigations. Smith would not say whether the body was that of Andrew Getty.

Sources said it was not immediately clear if they were dealing with a homicide or a death by other means. The sources confirmed there was trauma to the body but details about the cause of death were not immediately available.

The Los Angeles County Coroner typically takes the lead in a death investigation. But if there is a crime, the LAPD will take the lead for the duration of the investigation.

NBCNews' Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Robert Kovacik]]>
<![CDATA[Man Accused of Carving Name on Woman's Chest]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 14:07:07 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/3-31-2015-Mendoza.jpg

A California man accused of using a razor blade to carve his name onto his girlfriend's chest was arraigned Monday on kidnapping and domestic battery charges, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Sergio Joaquin Mendoza, 25, was arrested after allegedly abusing the woman on numerous occasions between March 17 and 20, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

The DA's office had first reported Mendoza was 39 years old but corrected his age to 25.

The Santa Ana man was charged with a felony count of kidnapping, a felony count of criminal threats, two felony counts of domestic battery with corporal injury, and a sentencing enhancement for personal use of a deadly weapon, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.

Mendoza allegedly got into multiple verbal fights with the victim and punched her on several occasions, prosecutors said. He is also accused of making her sit in his car while he was at work under the threat of violence.

On March 22, he allegedly tried to stop her from leaving a relative's house where he was staying, only allowing it on the condition she let him carve his name on her body, the DA's office said. Mendoza then used a razor blade to cut his first name on onto her chest, according to prosecutors. 

That evening he allegedly forced her into his vehicle, then drove around Santa Ana while threatening to hurt her if she tried to leave, according to the district attorney's office. The next day, he allegedly punched her on the head, attempted to strangle her and head-butted her in the face, prosecutors claim.

Eventually, she managed to escape, with an employee calling police after she ran into a local business. Mendoza was arrested March 26, prosecutors said.

Mendoza is being held on $100,000 bail and is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on April 8. He faces a maximum sentence of 11 years and eight months in state prison if convicted.

It was not immediately clear whether he obtained an attorney.

<![CDATA[Fans Remember Selena]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:16:31 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/selena033115.jpg

It has been 20 years since the music world lost Tejano superstar Selena, but devotion to the singer runs deep in Texas, especially on the anniversary of her death.

At KNON 89.3-FM in Dallas, the requests for Selena come in daily.

“If we don’t play it for a whole show, folks will call up and ask us to play some Selena,” said radio disc jockey Jesse Gonzales.

Gonzales was 13 years old when the “Queen of Tejano” was murdered inside a Corpus Christi hotel on March 31, 1995. He had just seen her perform in Oak Cliff months before.

“She always put on a show,” said Gonzales. “She never just sang to you. She made sure you were part of what she was doing.”

Selena's death at the hands of her fan club president, Yolanda Saldivar, sent shock waves through the Latino community. Cars with ribbons and messages of mourning could be seen driving across North Texas following her death in 1995.

Twenty years later, the sorrow has turned to celebration. Parties in Oak Cliff over the weekend honored her life, and the movie version of her life story played at the Texas Theatre. The celebrations were attended by fans of all ages – including many young people who were not alive at the time of Selena’s death.

Gonzales said that’s because her soulful sound remains relevant.

“She spoke to us, our culture, who we are,” said Gonzales. “Everything that is going on in her music back then is still going on in our communities today. Our people are still going through the same things that they’ve been going through for the last 20 years.”

Saldivar is serving a life sentence in the singer's death.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Top News Photos of the Week]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 12:43:09 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP151984867465_Nigeria.jpg View weekly updates on the very best photos in domestic and foreign news.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Driver Crashes Into Store; 1 Dead]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 17:16:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/TRUCK-SYLVIA.jpg

One person was killed and seven others were injured Tuesday after a driver crashed a truck into a store in Fort Worth while fleeing the scene of a hit-and-run crash, police say.

Officials investigating the crash said the male driver of the truck was first involved in a minor crash at Riverside Drive and U.S. Highway 287. After the crash the driver raced away on Riverside Drive at speeds of up to 100 mph, officials said.

The driver, whose identity has not yet been revealed, then lost control of his truck and crashed into the Star Food Mart near the intersection of Riverside Drive and East Lancaster Avenue, trapping several people.

Fort Worth firefighters arrived and began working to free the trapped victims while also stabilizing the building. At one point, firefighters used a fire truck to pull the pickup from the building, freeing a woman who was trapped.

Employees at neighboring businesses rushed to the scene to help the victims and worked to remove some of the debris. Nearby construction workers were able to quickly shut off the electricity to the building since electrical wires were exposed.

One of the eight injured was a woman trapped by the truck who had to be extricated by firefighters. She has been identified as 24-year-old Sylvia Zazueta. She was transported to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth in critical condition, but did not survive her injuries, according to MedStar EMS. Zazueta was married with three children.

Seven other patients were transported to area hospitals with minor injuries; three were transported to Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth and four to JPS. One of the injured was a passenger in the truck, the other was the driver who was transported to JPS for treatment.

Fort Worth police confirmed to NBC 5 they believe the driver of the truck was under the influence of a narcotic. He was arrested for intoxication manslaughter.

NBC 5's Holley Ford, Chris Van Horne and Jocelyn Lockwood contributed to this report. We will update this story with more information as soon as it's available. As this story is developing, elements may change.

Photo Credit: Fort Worth Fire Dept. and Facebook
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<![CDATA[Pat Haden Refuses to Head to Indy]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 16:28:43 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/134210519.jpg

USC athletic director Pat Haden says he won’t be heading to Indianapolis this week for the College Football Playoff selection committee meeting in response to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to sign the widely-protested “Religious Freedom” bill.

“I am the proud father of a gay son,” Haden wrote to his 17,000 followers on Twitter Tuesday. “In his honor, I will not be attending the CFP committee meeting in Indy this week. #EmbraceDiversity”

The law sparked outrage from many in Indiana's business community and others with ties -- established and planned -- to the Hoosier state.

The public-employee union known as AFSCME announced Monday it was canceling a planned women's conference in Indianapolis this year because of the law. The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an open letter to Indiana corporations saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does "not discriminate against our friends and neighbors," while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent letters to more than a dozen Indiana businesses, urging them to relocate to a "welcoming place to people of all races, faiths and countries of origin."

Pence, on the other hand, says the bill he signed into law week has been "grossly mischaracterized" and subjected to "shoddy reporting," but on Tuesday announced that he and legislators have been working around the clock to draft new legislation to clarify its intent.

"We've got a perception problem here ... and we intend to correct that," Pence told reporters.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Indiana Gov: We Intend to Fix "Perception" Problem of Law]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:55:30 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/pence-presser-468206814.jpg

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Tuesday said a bill he signed into law week has been "grossly mischaracterized" and subjected to "shoddy reporting," but said he and legislators have been working around the clock to draft new legislation to clarify its intent.

"We've got a perception problem here ... and we intend to correct that," Pence told reporters during a morning press conference from Indianapolis.

The Republican reiterated earlier comments that the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was not to discriminate but to protect religious freedom. The measure prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Gays and lesbians are not a protected class under Indiana’s civil rights laws, and critics of the law alleged it could provide some businesses the opportunity to refuse providing services or selling goods to some people based on religious grounds.

Pence said he found that claim "offensive," and called upon the state's General Assembly to address the issue.

"This law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone," he said. "The intent of the law was to give the courts in our state the highest level of scrutiny in cases where people feel that their religious liberty is being infringed upon by government action."

His comments Tuesday were a follow-up to an op-ed piece he penned for the Wall Street Journal that the law was not a "license to discriminate."

"I abhor discrimination," he wrote. "I believe in the Golden Rule that you should ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

The law sparked outrage from many in Indiana's business community and others with ties -- established and planned -- to the Hoosier state. The public-employee union known as AFSCME announced Monday it was canceling a planned women's conference in Indianapolis this year because of the law. The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an open letter to Indiana corporations saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does "not discriminate against our friends and neighbors," while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent letters to more than a dozen Indiana businesses, urging them to relocate to a "welcoming place to people of all races, faiths and countries of origin."

In a separate editorial with a clear message, Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, stressed urgency: "Fix this now."

Photo Credit: Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Stop Pooping" Along Trail]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 17:05:27 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ss3-31-15-1.jpg

To whoever has been pooping on the public bike path in Hampton, Illinois – please stop, officials have asked.

“Stop pooping on bike path,” read two new signs along the trail. And no, it’s not a message directed towards pets.

Apparently joggers who poop along the path have been an increasing problem for Hampton over the past two years, the city’s Public Works supervisor Scott McKay told NBC station KWQC.

"When the individual does it, it does it right in the lane. It’s not on the center line. It’s not off on the grass," he said. 

McKay said there's certainty the act is done by a human and not an animal because the culprit adorns it with toilet paper and leaves the same footprints.

So now he's taken matters into his own hands. In case the runners were under the guise that it was okay to use Mother Nature’s open roadways as their personal toilet, they now have a friendly reminder educating them otherwise.

McKay said he hopes the signs solve the problem.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Liou/KWQC]]>
<![CDATA[Motorist Drives Off From Tow Truck]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:50:28 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/223*120/Tow+Truck.jpg

Chicago resident Tony Marengo says he is used to seeing vehicles get towed out of the Walgreen’s parking lot across from his River North apartment at Clark and Ontario – but never with a driver still behind the wheel of the car.

Marengo said he was at home around 8:30 p.m. Sunday when he heard loud yelling from outside. When he went to the window, he saw a tow truck traveling with a white jeep on the back.

Seems normal, but soon he noticed the yelling was coming from inside of the car being towed – the driver was still inside.

“We could hear the guy in the driver’s seat of the car yelling out of the window,” Marengo said.

“He was like, ‘Hey! Hey! Hey, buddy!’” he said of the frantic driver trying to get the tow truck operator’s attention.

Marengo says it was then that the tow truck finally pulled over to the side of the road. And once he did, he was the one in for the surprise – as the man behind the Jeep put his car in drive and sped off.

“It was crazy,” said Marengo, who is CEO and President of Chicago-based Company The MacTutor, Inc. “Then he was just sitting there, I imagine calling a supervisor or something.”

Marengo captured the whole ordeal on his phone and uploaded the video to his YouTube account. It has garnered nearly 10,000 views in less than 24 hours.

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<![CDATA["She's Not a Murderer": Daughters Defend Mom in NY Train Crash]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 09:13:40 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/metronorth+crash+kids.jpg

The daughters of the New York woman who died when her SUV got trapped in a railroad crossing and was hit by an oncoming Metro-North train, sparking an explosion that also killed five train passengers, spoke publicly Tuesday for the first time since last month's accident, remembering -- and defending -- their mother, who has been criticized for not moving out of the train's path.

On the night of Feb. 3, Danielle, Julia and Alexa Brody heard that a woman had stopped on the tracks in Valhalla after a train crossing came down on the back of her car. The three didn't know that the woman in the news was their mother, Ellen Brody.

"I thought that maybe she committed suicide," Julia Brody said. "So I was like, 'Why? Why? Why would this woman do that?' When we were watching that, though, when he described the woman, I was like, 'That could've been Mommy.' And my sisters were just like, 'Julia, no.'''

Julia Brody says she called her mother and became increasingly worried when she couldn't reach her. She contacted her father, who was also concerned. He said he'd drive around to look for her mother; later, he arrived home with two police cars.

"When he came in, he's like, 'She's gone,'" Alexa Brody said.

The three sisters slept together that night.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. Although the exact cause of the collision has not been determined, Ellen Brody's SUV was stuck inside the railroad crossing gates moments before the train hit. Instead of backing up, she drove forward onto the tracks.

The sisters say they're trying to remember the way their mother lived, but the unanswered questions -continue to haunt them, as do critical comments online.

"I went on Google, and I searched my mom's name and I was just reading the comments,'' Julia Brody said. "And just the fact that people are like, 'You know, I don't even feel bad for her. How could she possibly do that?'"

The sisters say their mom was a caring person who enriched the lives of those around her.

"I know who my mom was," Alexa Brody said. "I know that she would never, never intentionally hurt people."

Danielle Brody says it's hard in such a tragic situation for people to put themselves in the victim's shoes.

"A lot of times people just want to find a reason," she said. "It's just not true. It was an accident."

"She's not a murderer," added Julia Brody.

Alexa Brody memorialized her mother at a funeral last month, saying she would think of her every time she smiled.

"I needed to let people know how much I loved her," Alexa said. "She was my best friend."

The Westchester County crossing has no barrier between the street and the tracks, and such crossings present safety issues, officials have said. The chairman of the MTA, which runs Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road, has said the agency is considering all possible safety enhancements that would prevent such deadly accidents in the future. It is also partnering with a nonprofit that educates the public about the dangers at rail crossings. 

Photo Credit: AP/NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Escaped Prisoner Captured After 9-Hour Manhunt: Source ]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 18:17:16 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/217*120/2015-03-31_1209.jpg

A prisoner who escaped from a Northern Virginia hospital -- and who evaded capture for most of Tuesday morning -- hid in the trunk of a car before surprising the commuter on the way to work, kicking his way out through the backseat.

Wossen Assaye was found near Minnesota Avenue SE in Washington, D.C., following a massive manhunt that lasted nearly nine hours. A citizen in D.C. recognized Assaye from media reports and called police. He was taken into custody without incident at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Assaye appeared in federal court Tuesday afternoon and was ordered held without bond. He is charged with one count of escaping from federal custody and with one count of bank robbery.

Assaye was wearing a white plastic protective suit, which was open to his navel. He was not wearing socks or shoes, and he was surrounded by law enforcement in the courtroom.

"I'm thanking each and every community member in this region for apprehending a violent felon,'' Fairfax County Police Chief Col. Edwin C. Roessler Jr. said at a news conference.

Assaye, 42, was arrested by federal authorities last week for a series of bank robberies in Northern Virginia. Assaye allegedly committed the robberies while on a bike.

While being held at the Alexandria City Jail, Assaye attempted to hang himself with a bedsheet and was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital for medical treatment on Friday. Deputies with the Alexandria Sheriff's Office guarded Assaye for the first 24 hours of his hospital stay before he was turned over to two Allied Protective Service guards, who were contracted by the U.S. Marshals Service.

At about 3 a.m. Tuesday, Assaye overpowered one of the guards, taking the security officer's weapon. Assaye used the female contract guard as a shield as he fled down the hall and then released her and fled down a stairwell, U.S. Marshal Bobby Matheson said.

Police say one shot was fired, but no one was injured. It's not clear who fired the shot.

Assaye fled with the weapon into a nearby neighborhood, where he broke into the truck of a resident's 2002 Toyota Camry. The driver got into the car to go to work, and during the commute, police say Assaye began to kick out the backseat from inside the truck. The driver crashed the car, and Assaye carjacked the vehicle. Police say they later found the Camry near Monterey Drive in Annandale.

At one point in the chase, Assaye drove into the garage of a home on Oak Court in Annandale owned by Lorraine Giovinazzo. Then he entered the almost-empty house, apparently by jimmying the handles on a set of glass doors.

Assaye left behind the hospital gown he had been wearing and took some of Giovinazzo's old clothes, Giovinazzo said.

"I'm just so grateful that we had just moved, because otherwise my mother would have been in there by herself, and that would have been terrifying," Giovinazzo said.

Assaye was on foot for a short time before stealing a 2008 gray Hyundai Elantra in the same area.

Police say they've also located the Hyundai Elantra.

Police searched neighborhoods in Annandale with helicopter and heavily armed officers for a portion of Tuesday morning. In one neighborhood, Spence Limbocker said he heard a helicopter, went outside and saw a massive police presence.

"They told me to get back in the house and lock all my doors... It was a little scary,'' Limbocker said.

Assaye was arrested March 20 and charged with a robbery at Apple Federal Credit Union in Alexandria. In a court document, an FBI agent suggests that Assaye, of Arlington, is responsible for a string of 12 bank robberies in northern Virginia over the last year and a half.

In court documents about the robberies, the FBI agent said the robber seen in surveillance photographs and video recordings is "physically similar'' in the dozen robberies that end with the robbery of the Apple Federal Credit Union.

In all, the banks were robbed of about $32,000. In most cases, the agent said the robber entered the bank with a cellphone to his ear, demanded money and fled with cash on a bicycle.

According to a 2012 Virginia Parole Board document, Assaye has an "extensive criminal record" and "history of violence," indicating a "serious risk to the community," NBC News reports.

He has been charged with a variety of felonies — including breaking and entering in 1998 — with at least one conviction, for purse snatching in 1994, for which he was given a recommended maximum 12-month jail sentence.

The lockdown at the hospital, located in suburb just outside of Washington, D.C., lasted from 3:30 a.m. to 7:50 a.m., hospital officials confirmed.

During that time, no one could enter or leave the hospital. Emergencies were diverted to other emergency rooms. Patient care continued, though some elective surgeries had to be delayed.

Staff members inside the hospital told News4's David Culver that during the lockdown, some employees hid in back rooms and hallways for safety. 

Stay with News4 on-air and online for more on this developing story. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[Indiana's Religious Freedom Law: Who Opposes, Favors]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:45:36 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/mike-pence-protests-split.jpg

Indiana’s new religious freedom law provoked fierce reaction from both sides — critics who believe it provides a poorly disguised excuse to discriminate against gays and lesbians and supporters who say it protects religious beliefs.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the law last week and but the backlash was so widespread that on Tuesday he called for additional legislation this week to clarify that the law was not a license to discriminate.  He continued to insist that the bill had been mischaracterized and did not permit the denial of services to anyone, including gays and lesbians.

"Heavens no," he said, when he asked whether he expected the reaction.

The federal government and 20 other states have similar religious protection laws but some legal experts say the Indiana law broadened who could claim a religious burden and under what circumstances. Gays and lesbians are not a protected class under Indiana’s civil rights laws.

Here’s a look at who has been speaking out about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Those Speaking Out Against the Law

The head of the NCAA told NBC News on Monday that he was "deeply concerned" about the Indiana law. Indianapolis hosts the Final Four in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's men's basketball tournament on Saturday.

The chief executives of nine major Indiana-based companies wrote to Pence on Monday saying they were worried about their own employees and the reputation of Indiana. Among the companies: Angie’s List, Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Eli Lilly and Co. and Roche Diagnostics.

Salesforce, the cloud computing company, said it was canceling all company travel to Indiana and in a Washington Post op-ed, Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is gay, called the new wave of legislation dangerous.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce called the law unnecessary.

AFSCME, the country’s largest public-employee union, said it would move a planned women's conference out of Indianapolis this year because of the law.

Among politicians, Hillary Clinton, widely expected to run for the Democratic 2016 presidential nomination, tweeted: "Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today."

Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut signed an executive order banning state-backed travel to Indiana, and called the law “disturbing, disgraceful, and outright discriminatory.” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the mayors of San Francisco and Seattle also restricted government-sponsored travel to the state.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, told Fusion that Pence was on the wrong side of history.

Entertainers also took stands against the law.

The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance.

"Parks and Recreation" star Nick Offerman canceled a comedy show in Indianapolis in May, citing the new law. But he said he would go forward with a show Wednesday at Indiana University and donate the proceeds to the Human Rights Campaign.

Supporting Indiana's Law

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, said Pence was protecting religious liberty. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is weighing a run for the Republican nomination for the presidency, said on Fox News that he thought people should be allowed to live out their religious faith.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, another likely Republican candidate, said the law would allow people of faith to express their beliefs. Speaking on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, he said that once the facts were established, he thought people would see that the law was not discriminatory.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Coyote on Bar Rooftop in NYC]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 12:10:17 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lic+bar+coyotoe+2IMG_1484.jpg

A wild animal resembling a coyote wandered onto the roof of a bar in Queens where it appeared to be stranded for several hours Monday, witnesses reported. 

It was spotted by tenants living above LIC Bar on Vernon Boulevard and 46th Avenue in Long Island City, according to LIC Post.

They think the coyote managed to get on the roof from a broken window of an adjacent empty warehouse building, LIC Bar owner Brian Porter told the website. 

"It looked well-fed, it wasn't a scrawny thing," he said. 

LIC Post reported a veterinarian from Citi Vet clinic a few blocks away went up on the roof to see whether it was a dog or a coyote, took a look, then quickly descended, as captured in a photo by witness Paula Kirby.

Matt Quigley of Plaxall Properties, whose office has a direct view of the bar rooftop, told NBC 4 New York in an email the coyote eventually got back into the abandoned Paragon Paints building through an open window.

Video taken by another neighbor shows the animal darting away from NYPD emergency services unit officers on the rooftop, and dashing back into the old factory building through an open window. 

The NYPD confirmed officers responded to a call for a wild animal on a rooftop there, but couldn't say whether it was a coyote. 

Quigley said police officers staked out the area for a few more hours, then left.

The ACC said it was sending officers out to the area to investigate. 

In January, two coyotes were captured by NYPD officers separately on the Upper West Side and in the Stuyvesant Town complex. Each was released in wilderness areas in the Bronx. 

Photo Credit: Paula Kirby
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<![CDATA["I'm Not Running": Warren Shuts Down 2016 Buzz Again]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 06:36:50 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP868875334282.jpg

Sorry, "Elizabeth Warren for President" holdouts.

The U.S. senator from Massachusetts on Tuesday dealt another blow to supporters — and rivals on the right — hoping she'll enter the 2016 race, repeating her intention to stay on the sidelines. 

"No, I am not running and I’m not going to run," she told NBC's Savannah Guthrie in an interview.

"I'm not running. I'm not running," she repeated when asked again whether there was any room to hedge.

Warren, who has gained a national profile as a vocal critic of Wall Street, has insisted for months that she does not plan to run against likely candidate and frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary. On Tuesday, as she appeared on the "Today" show to promote her new memoir, she said serving in the U.S. Senate is the best platform for fighting for changes on financial regulation, student loans and more.

“I’m in Washington and I’ve got this really great job and a chance to try to make a difference on things that really matter," she said.

The senator's own words haven't stopped supporters on the left from continuing a draft-Warren effort to lay groundwork and generate support for a run. Republicans have also used the buzz surrounding a possible Warren bid to rally their base — citing the progressive Democrat in fundraising emails and other appeals for support.

Even as she rejected the speculation surrounding her own plans, Warren sidestepped a question about whether Clinton is the best messenger on issues embraced by the party's liberal wing.

“I think we need to give her a chance to decide if she’s going to run and declare and to lay out what she wants to run on," she said. "I think that's her opportunity to do that.”

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[AP Exam Participation on the Rise for U.S. Public School Students: Report ]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 13:38:05 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/pencil-569703561.jpg

Already sharpening No. 2 pencils and flipping through those flashcards in anticipation of Advanced Placement exam season? You're not alone.

More than 1.4 million public school students took AP exams last year, a 3.8 percent increase from the previous year, according to figured released by the College Board. While the figures for public school population for 11th and 12th graders was not readily available, the College Board reports that roughly 3 million students graduated in 2013.

With the increase in participation came an uptick in students passing the exams, which cover subjects like physics, foreign languages and U.S. history. The success of the nation’s 11th and 12th grade public school students has doubled in the past decade, from 7.6 percent in 2004 to 13.2 percent in 2014, according to the College Board.

About 400,000 minority students took the exams last year, a 7 percent increase for a group that was historically underrepresented in the demographic breakdown of text-takers. Hispanic students are now participating in the AP program at almost the same rate as the nation overall — 19.1 percent of Hispanic students took an AP Exam in 2014, compared to a nationwide figure of 21.9 percent. 

Despite those gains, gaps are still evident for other minority groups. Only 12.9 percent of African American and 12 percent of Native American 11th and 12th grade public high school students took an AP test in May 2014, according to the College Board.

College Board also reported a rise in participation among low-income students. About 350,000 low-income students took an AP exam last year, a 7.3 percent rise. The number of students that use fee reductions in order to take AP exams has climbed as well, doubling from 2004 from 11.8 to 24 percent.

For 2014, Washington D.C. topped the charts for participation with 38.6 percent of students who took the AP exam. North Dakota came in last with only 8.1 percent. However, when it came to actually passing the exam, Maryland was the winner with 22 percent of their students gaining the college credit, while Mississippi was at the bottom of the list with only 3.2 percent of students passing. Overall, 15 states exceeded the national average of 13.2 percent.

A lot rides on a passing grade on an AP exam. A student who receives a passing grade may not have to take the same class in college, which can save money as college tuitions continue to rise.

On average, a student who passes two AP exams saves $1,779 at a public college and more than $6,000 at a private school, according to the 2013 College Board report “Trends in College pricing.” In order to pass an AP exam, a student has to score at least a 3 out of 5.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Dramatic Police Chase]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 17:13:08 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/215*120/2015-03-31_0817.png

Three Fairfax County police officers were injured during a dramatic police chase that added to the chaos Tuesday morning in the suburb just outside of Washington, D.C .

Police say the chase began as a traffic stop near Route 50 and Fairview Park. The female driver, identified by police as 36-year-old Lakisha Tracy, refused to stop her silver pickup truck, leading police onto the Beltway and then Interstate 95.

At one point, a police cruiser clipped Tracy's truck, causing her to lose control. The truck spun out, allowing police to box her in and take her into custody.

The chase, which ended just before 8 a.m., is not related to the search for a prisoner who escaped custody at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Tracy was wanted in Arlington County for credit card theft, forgery and other driving related offenses, a source told News4's David Culver.

All three officers were taken to an area hospital for injuries that are not life-threatening.

Watch the chase above. 

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<![CDATA[High School Students Arrested for Filming, Tweeting Sex Tape: Cops ]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 16:37:28 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/tlmd_twitter_generic.jpg

Four southwest suburban Chicago high school students have been arrested on child pornography charges after filming themselves in a sex tape and posting it online, police said.

The teenagers, all students at Joliet Central High School, were taken into custody Friday from the school after a parent tipped off the police about the video, The Times Weekly reported.

The students, three males and one female, ranged from the ages of 14 to 16 years old, officials say.

Joliet Deputy Chief Al Roechner told the publication the sex was consensual but the teens crossed a “serious line” when they posted it to a Twitter account. Doing so is creating and distributing child pornography, which is a Class X felony.

The video has since been removed.

As of Monday evening, all four students remained in custody at the River Valley Juvenile Detention center, according to The Times Weekly.

<![CDATA[WATCH: Indiana Gov. Addresses Law Controversy]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 07:56:48 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Mike-Pence-Indiana-Gov.jpg

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said in a Tuesday op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that a controversial bill he signed into law last week is not a "license to discriminate."

"I abhor discrimination," he wrote. "I believe in the Golden Rule that you should ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore."

"As governor of Indiana, if I were presented a bill that legalized discrimination against any person or group, I would veto it," he continued.

His published remarks are an attempt to quell the firestorm that's brewed since he affixed his signature to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last Thursday. The measure prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Gays and lesbians are not a protected class under Indiana’s civil rights laws, and critics of the law maintain it could allow some businesses to refuse providing service or selling goods to some people based on religious grounds.

That's sparked outrage from many in Indiana's business community and others with ties -- established and planned -- to the Hoosier state. The public-employee union known as AFSCME announced Monday it was canceling a planned women's conference in Indianapolis this year because of the law. The band Wilco said it was canceling a May performance. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an open letter to Indiana corporations saying Virginia is a business-friendly state that does "not discriminate against our friends and neighbors," while Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent letters to more than a dozen Indiana businesses, urging them to relocate to a "welcoming place to people of all races, faiths and countries of origin."

Republican legislative leaders said they are working on adding language to the law to make it clear it does not allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.

In a separate editorial with a clear message, Indiana's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, stressed urgency: "Fix this now."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Woman, 70, Killed at Front Door]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 17:17:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/elderly+woman+shot+in+head.jpg

A 70-year-old woman was fatally shot in the head after answering her front door in Queens early Monday, according to police.

Police say someone either knocked on Leta Webb's door or rang the doorbell at her home on 119th Avenue in South Jamaica around 1:30 a.m.

When she opened the door, Webb was shot once in the head and once in the left arm, police say.

A relative said he heard a loud knocking and was on his way downstairs when he heard the gunshots.

"Me and her son come downstairs and she's laying in a pool of blood, a gunshot to the head and one to her hand," said son-in-law Kevin McDowell.

Webb was taken to Jamaica Hospital in serious condition; she later died there.

Leta Webb was "loving, she cared," her son Benny Webb told NBC 4 New York. "You would have wished she was your mother." 

There was no information on the suspect. 

<![CDATA[Professor Says He Warned Metro of Dangerous Crossing]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 05:19:00 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/252*120/03-28-15+Train+Crash+LA+Times+Photo+%281%29.JPG

A University of Southern California professor who has studied Los Angeles' Metro system for the last 25 years says he warned the agency of dangers at a crossing where a student was critically injured in a car crash with a train over the weekend.

"This was not the first one and unfortunately will not be the last one," said USC researcher and engineering professor Dr. Najmedin Meshkati.

On Saturday, investigators say 31-year-old USC film student Jacob Fadley illegally made a left-hand turn, when the train slammed into his car and derailed.

"Our report was almost like 400 pages long - nobody listened," Meshkati said. "I think it's a function of lack of leadership and good oversight."

Meshkati wrote a paper about the safety of the then proposed Expo Line in 2007, and worked for free as a consultant for community groups that wanted more safety measures in place.

Back in 2012 he said Rodeo Road and Exposition Boulevard was particularly problematic, and that it was in his opinion  one of the most confusing and dangerous intersections in L.A. County. He said it had to be be redesigned and simplified for safety reasons.

Meshkati points to design flaws in every rail line of the city.

"The light train right of way was there, they put a track over there, they put some arms and gates and said OK, you guys work with it. This is not a good way," Meshkati said.

For Metro's part, it leans on the California Public Utilities Commission for compliance and tout a strong safety record that continues to make improvements. But they admit much of that rides on the public doing its part to stay safe.

"Those train cars weigh a 100,000 pounds apiece," said Metro's Marc Littman. "Even going at slow speeds they can't stop on a dime."

Littman said Metro train crashes are rare.

"We average on the light rail system about one motor vehicle accident for every 200,000 miles we travel," he said.

Metro said it is looking through onboard surveillance video in its investigation into the circumstances surrounding Saturday's crash.

Photo Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times]]>
<![CDATA[Plane Crash in French Alps: By the Numbers]]> Sun, 29 Mar 2015 04:38:00 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/germanwings-crash-467413136.jpg

A Germanwings co-pilot is believed to have deliberately crashed his plane into a mountain in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing 150 people, including a woman and her mother from northern Virginia and an American man reportedly living in Barcelona.

Germanwings flight 4U 9525 was less than an hour into its route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, alone in the cockpit, locked the pilot out of the cockpit and crashed it, officials said Thursday. He apparently wanted to “destroy the plane,” a prosecutor said.

Yvonne Selke, a government contractor, and her daughter Emily, a recent Drexel University graduate, were both killed, their family said. So was Robert Oliver Calvo, a 37-year-old American man reportedly living in Barcelona, his father said.

The captain of the plane was Patrick Sonderheimer, sources confirmed to NBC News on Saturday.

Here is a brief look at the crash by the numbers.

27: The age of Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot authorities say intentionally crashed the Germanwings plane after locking the pilot out of the cockpit.

630: Number of flight hours co-pilot Lubitz had logged with Germanwings before the crash.

1: Number of crew members in the cockpit when the Germanwings jet crashed.

2: Number of crew members required in the cockpit at all times on United States airlines' flights. When one pilot uses the restroom, a flight attendant takes the pilot's place in the cockpit temporarily. Many international carriers, Lufthansa's Germanwings among them, have no such protocol.

1: Number of black boxes so far recovered. Investigators have retrieved cockpit voice recordings from it that led them to believe the co-pilot had deliberately crashed the plane.

150: Number of people aboard the jet — 144 passengers and six crew members, including Lubitz. All are dead.

3: Number of Americans on board — Yvonne and Emily Selke, and Robert Oliver Calvo.

2: Number of babies included in the passenger count.

16: Number of 10th-graders from a German high school who were on the plane, along with their two teachers.

38,000: The altitude at which the plane was cruising just before it began its descent and crashed.

8: The number of minutes the plane descended steadily before crashing.

6,550: The approximate altitude of the Alpine site where the plane crashed, near the town of Digne in the French Alps.

More than 6,000: The number of hours the plane's captain had logged on the plane.

24: The age of the plane in years.

46,700: The number of flights the plane had made before its crash.

About 58,300: The number of flight hours the aircraft accumulated since it was delivered to Lufthansa in 1991.

1953: The year an Air France plane crashed near the site of the Germanwings crash, near the town of Barcelonette, killing 49 people.

50,000: The number of euros Lufthansa will pay, as a preliminary payment, to the relatives of each deceased passenger to help cover immediate costs, a company spokesperson told NBC News. The money will not have to be paid back, Lufthansa said.

400: Number of French officers mobilized for the plane crash, according to the French National Gendarmerie.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Retired NYPD Detective Dies Saving Boy From Drowning: Report]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 04:31:54 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ocean_waves_generic_wavesgeneric.jpg

A retired NYPD officer reportedly died over the weekend as he saved a young boy from drowning during a family trip in Puerto Rico.

The body of Jose Rosario, 47, washed ashore Monday after he was swept away by choppy waters two days earlier when he jumped into the water at Playa de Jobos to rescue a 12-year-old boy who was struggling to stay afloat, according to the New York Post.

Rosario was able to get the boy to safety onto a rock, but the former Manhattan detective of more than 20 years was pulled away by a wave as his wife and children watched, according to the Post. 

<![CDATA[Missing Berkeley Student Fatally Struck by Car]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 23:50:39 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/knbc-eloi-vasquez.jpg

Friends and teammates were grieving Monday after learning that a beloved UC Berkeley student athlete who went missing in Los Angeles over the weekend was fatally struck by a car as he ran across freeway lanes.

Eloi Vasquez, 19, was hit on the eastbound 10 Freeway east of Vermont Avenue (map) about an hour after friends said they last saw him leaving a party near the USC campus, officials with the Los Angeles Police Department said.

It was unclear why Vasquez was on the freeway. The 45-year-old driver of the Chevrolet Impala stopped and told California Highway Patrol officers the man was running across lanes and she could not avoid him. The car was going about 60 mph, the CHP said.

Vasquez was declared dead at the scene. The driver was not arrested.

"We're heartbroken, we're devastated," said Wesley Mallette, a Cal associate athletics director.

Vasquez's family did not immediately comment on his death. Police said the family was "very distraught" and asked for privacy.

Vasquez didn't have ID or money on him when he left the fraternity house party in the 600 block of West 28th Street about 1:30 a.m. Saturday.

However, he did have a cellphone and had told friends over the phone that he was "going to the beach."

He was also on the phone with a friend in Northern California about 2:18 a.m. He told her he was "screwed," scared and lost.

CHP officials said Vasquez was struck by the car about 2:25 a.m. The coroner's office confirmed that the victim was Vasquez.

Vasquez was a freshman midfielder on the UC Berkeley soccer team. Friends said they made the trip to Los Angeles for spring break.

"Eloi was a wonderful teammate, he was very close to all of his players and our guys are grieving pretty hard" said Cal soccer coach Kevin Grimes. "I really loved Eloi and I know our teammates did, too."

The news of his death came as family members announced a $100,000 reward for his safe return and also said they hired a private investigator to help locate the teen from Novato.

The Cal Athletics website described Vasquez as "a wonderful young man who has excelled both academically and athletically here at Cal."

"Eloi always had a way of making you laugh and he brought energy to the room," said Vasquez's teammate, Alex Mangels, as he fought back tears.

A toxicology report was expected to be complete in a few weeks.



NBC4's Irene Moore contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Nanny Accused of Burning Child]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:32:21 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Lidia+Quilligana+1200.jpg

Bond for a nanny accused of deliberately burning a 3-year-old girl she was supposed to be caring for has been set at $1 million.

When the mother returned to her Danbury, Connecticut, home after work on Friday, the nanny explained the second-degree burns on the little girl’s hands and leg by saying she was tending to the other children when the little girl accidentally touched the hot stove, police said.

After taking her daughter to the doctor, the mother watched footage from the hidden nanny camera she had recently installed and saw that the nanny intentionally inflicted the child’s injuries, police said.

Police responded to the home around 9:30 p.m. on Friday after the mother called police, then went to the Danbury home of the nanny, Lidia Quilligana, 31, and arrested her.

Quilligana was charged with first-degree assault, risk of injury to a minor and third-degree criminal mischief and held on a $100,000 bond. 

When she appeared in court on Monday, Quilligana's attorney said her client is a mother of two with no criminal record and there had been no prior complaints in the year she has watched the child.

She then asked that bond remain at $10,000, but the prosecution argued that the child's mother was suspicious enough at some point to install a hidden camera and the judge increased bond to $1 million

It was continued on Monday and Quilligana is due back in court on April 22.

If Quilligana is able to post bond, she will have to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and surrender her passport.

The case has been referred to the special victims unit to follow up.

Photo Credit: Danbury Police]]>
<![CDATA[Drunken Mom Abandons Child: Police]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 21:05:06 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/alicia-carroll.jpg

A mother has been charged with endangering her 7-year-old daughter after getting drunk and leaving her "hiding" in a trash bin overnight in a "high crime" area, Dallas police say.

Dallas police said 28-year-old Alicia Carroll called them Sunday morning alleging the person she left her daughter with Saturday night refused to return her.

Carroll told police she left the King Spa and Sauna on Royal Lane to clear her head at about 10 p.m., leaving her child inside with an acquaintance. A spa employee told NBC 5 that Carroll was drunk when she, along with her daughter, left a party at the spa Saturday night.

After the call Sunday morning, Dallas police began searching for Carroll's daughter by air and ground. The young girl wasn't found until about 11:15 a.m. when two passers-by flagged down an officer and asked if they were looking for a small black girl in a yellow shirt and shorts.

With the tip, officers quickly found the missing girl, describing her condition as hungry and thirsty, filthy, wearing no shoes and suffering from several cuts and scrapes to her arms and legs.

The girl told police she and her mother left the spa and were walking down the street when her mother started running. The girl said her mother told her they were being followed by the police and that they would have to hide.

Police said Carroll helped her child into the trash bin and then left her there alone in a "high crime area ... by a creek and wooded area." The child eventually fell asleep in the trash bin and woke up about 10 hours later. After exiting the bin, she began walking down Royal Lane toward the spa.

Carroll later admitted to police that she became intoxicated after having two vodka drinks in the parking lot and didn't remember much after that until the next morning when she couldn't locate her daughter. Police said Carroll also eventually remembered leaving the spa with her child and that they had been talking about the day, but then couldn't remember anything else.

The child was taken to a nearby hospital for an evaluation and then released to a family member, according to police. Child Protective Services was notified.

Police said they arrested Carroll Sunday afternoon and charged her with endangering a child. She is being held on $25,000 bond.

Carroll works as a daycare teacher, according to Dallas police.

Carroll's sister and neighbor both tell NBC 5 she is a good mother who loves her daughter very much. The family had no explanation for what occurred Saturday night. They would also not go on camera.

As of Monday evening, there was no attorney information listed for Carroll.

NBC 5's Todd L. Davis and Ray Villeda contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News
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<![CDATA[School Assistant Feared Demons: DA]]> Mon, 30 Mar 2015 19:30:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/linda+lira+arraignment+court.jpg

A school employee who barricaded children in a San Diego-area classroom last week thought there were demons outside and wanted to protect the children, Deputy District Attorney Jessica Paugh said Monday.

Linda Lira, 31, of San Diego, is in custody facing three felony charges of false imprisonment of a minor and one misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest after what her attorney characterized as a breakdown at the Lemon Grove Academy where she works as an after-care assistant.

“Miss Lira suffers from emotional issues,” Defense attorney Corey Wlodarczyk said after his client's arraignment Monday.

Lira was taken to the hospital Wednesday evening after some strange behavior at the school.

Paugh said Lira was working as an after-care assistant when she started acting strangely at around 4 p.m.

Paugh said at the time, Lira said there were demons outside and that she wanted to protect the children ranging in age from nine to 11 years old. She locked herself in the room with the children and then moved to barricade the door. 

As children tried to leave the room, they were injured according to the prosecutor.

Two minors suffered minor injuries, she said, when one child was slapped on the hand and two were pushed to the ground.

When staff intervened, Lira fought them, undressed and dressed again, upended desks and threw things around the room, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSO).

Lira was arrested and accused of 28 counts of felony child endangerment and false imprisonment initially. She was held at Las Colinas Women’s Detention Facility, where bail was set at $2.1 million.

However, at her arraignment Monday, prosecutors filed just four charges against her saying any other allegations were still under investigation.

There were no charges filed regarding child endangerment, which lead the judge to order a reduction in bail.

Lira was now being held on $500,000 bail as requested by the prosecution.

Defense attorneys said they are still trying to piece together what happened that day in the classroom.

Wlodarczyk called the incident "uncharacteristic" for her and said he believed she had a breakdown triggered by something in her past.

According to some accounts, they said, Lira took off only her shoes in front of the children and later removed other pieces of clothing once she was with law enforcement. The SDSO told NBC 7 Lira undressed when staff intervened. 

When asked how his client was handling the incident, Wlodarcyzk said, “She’s scared. She’s never been in the criminal justice system before.”

“She wants to take it one day at a time,” he said.

Attorneys from both sides said Lira did not have drugs in her system at the time of the incident.

Her maximum exposure if convicted would be more than four years. 

Twenty-five family members attended the arraignment but did not want to address the media. 

The suspect’s sister, Cathy Lira, previously told NBC 7 that she had never seen that kind of behavior from Lira before, though she had been making some strange comments recently about Lucifer and warriors protecting her.

Lira has declined an interview request from NBC 7.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 Staff]]>
<![CDATA[Carter on Enlistment Standards]]> Tue, 31 Mar 2015 04:06:33 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP493464879669.jpg

Saying the military needs to do more to compete with corporate America for quality recruits, Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened the door Monday to relaxing some enlistment standards — particularly for high-tech or cybersecurity jobs.

Speaking to students at his former suburban Philadelphia high school, Carter said the military could ease age requirements and bring in older people who are mid-career, or provide student loan repayments to attract students who have finished college.

There are few details so far, but Carter said the military needs to be more flexible in order to recruit and retain quality people.

The idea, largely in line with the civilian approach to recruitment, upends the military's more rigid mindset, which puts a high value on certain standards. It reignites a persistent debate about how the services approve waivers for recruits who have committed lesser crimes, behaved badly, are older than current regulations allow or have other physical issues that prevent them from joining the military.

Carter sees recruitment and retention as major challenges to a military coming out of two wars and facing turmoil around the world.

At Fort Drum, New York, Carter told 10th Mountain Division soldiers that he knows they have many choices as they consider future jobs.

"Are we able to compete, are we able to keep up?" he asked the division soldiers, some of whom are preparing to deploy to southern Afghanistan. He also announced for the first time that some of division soldiers will deploy to Iraq later this summer. About 1,250 will go.

Carter added that the Defense Department needs to be innovative and "to think outside the five-sided box" of the Pentagon.

Specifically, he pointed to cyber jobs as an area where standards could be relaxed. Military leaders have long complained that it is difficult to attract and keep cyber professionals in the services because they can make far more money in private industry.

This is not the first time, however, that the services have looked to reduced restrictions as a way to entice more recruits.

During 2006-07, the military steadily increased the number of bad behavior waivers as the services — particularly the Army and Marine Corps — struggled to meet deployment demands in Iraq and Afghanistan. The services let in more recruits with criminal records, including some with felony convictions, in order to meet recruiting quotas.

And in some cases, the services relaxed age restrictions, allowing older people to enlist or rejoin the military.

But as the wars dragged on and suicides, sexual assaults and other bad behavior by service members spiked, military leaders began to question whether there was a link to the relaxed enlistment standards.

Carter also is considering other changes to help ensure the military attracts the best and brightest, including programs to pay off student debt, improvements to the retirement, promotion and evaluation systems and doing more to allow sabbaticals for service members.

There has been much discussion lately about allowing service members to participate in 401(k)-type programs, because as much as 80 percent of the people who enlist don't stay in service long enough to earn retirement benefits. Carter told the Fort Drum soldiers he is "looking very hard" at that type of program for those who leave before they hit the 20-year retirement mark.

In his speech to more than 1,000 students at Abington Senior High outside Philadelphia, Carter said the military has to work harder to compete with corporate America for highly skilled graduates.

"Because we too often talk about sacrifice alone, which is no small thing, we probably don't spend enough time highlighting the opportunities that exist and the fulfillment one has from achieving excellence and doing it in service to your country," said Carter, a member of Abington's class of 1972. "No one should gloss over the hardships or the dangers of military life, but I do want you to understand how fulfilling and rewarding military life can be also."

Carter also alluded to his lack of military service, telling students, "You don't have to join the military service to serve your country, I didn't."

But he said "the military, and public service as a whole is worthy of your respect, worthy of your support and worth of your consideration."

After visiting his former high school, Carter flew to Fort Drum.

Brigades from the 10th Mountain Division served as anchor units in eastern Afghanistan for much of the war, particularly during the early years when the U.S. had only a smaller force there. For many years they rotated with brigades from the 82nd Airborne Division.

On Tuesday, he will visit Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

The Defense Department has launched a partnership with the institute and the Schultz Family Foundation for a program called Onward to Opportunity, which will provide industry-specific training and job placement assistance for service members and spouses as the troops leave the military.

Photo Credit: AP]]>