<![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 Fri, 29 May 2015 11:29:28 -0700 Fri, 29 May 2015 11:29:28 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Record-Breaking Rain Floods North Texas, Prompts Rescues]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 11:28:42 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Cars+Stuck+052915.jpg

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Flood waters submerged Texas highways and threatened more homes Friday when a squall line stalled over Dallas overnight Thursday, dropping record-setting rainfall and triggering a Flash Flood Emergency in North Texas.

The most recent rain added to the damage inflicted by thunderstorms that have killed at least 20 people statewide, including one overnight in suburban Dallas, and left 13 missing.

The rain seeped into homes and stranded hundreds of drivers across the Metroplex, many of whom lingered along Dallas' Loop 12 for six hours Friday morning after being gridlocked by high water and abandoned vehicles.

Overnight, Dallas Fire-Rescue crews responded to more than 270 calls that included trapped vehicles and crashes, authorities said.

Man's Body Recovered in Mesquite After Vehicles Swept Off Roadway

Mesquite Fire Department Capt. Kelly Turner said a man's body was found early Friday morning after his truck had been swept into a culvert and submerged.

Turner said people stranded on two cars that were also swept off the road told responders about the truck. He said the truck had been underwater for some time before they found it, and that authorities believe the man, whose name has not been released, was alone in the vehicle.

Recent storms are being blamed for killing seven people in Oklahoma and at least 20 in Texas, where 13 remain missing or unaccounted for.

Rainfall Sets New Record

Thursday's storm, which dropped nearly five inches of rain overnight at Dallas Love Field and more than two inches elsewhere around the Metroplex, helped set a record for the wettest May in Dallas-Fort Worth history.

The previous record for May rainfall was set in 1982 at 13.66 inches and was eclipsed at midnight when 13.87 inches had been recorded for the month. By 8 a.m., the total rose to 16.07 inches; 8.62 inches received in the last week alone.

According to The National Weather Service in Fort Worth, those 16 inches of rainfall amount to more than 35 trillion gallons of rain. 

The wettest month ever recorded in North Texas goes all the way back to April 1922 where 17.64 inches were recorded.  With more rain expected Friday night and into Saturday, shattering that record remains a possibility.

Dallas County

Flooding has blocked a busy highway west of Downtown Dallas, causing major traffic delays in both directions.

Overnight rain caused water to pool on Loop 12, under the Interstate 30 overpass Friday morning, trapping commuters for several hours.  Some of the drivers said they have been there since 5 or 6 a.m.

Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Tony Hartzel said a crane was brought in after 11 a.m. to remove a section of median so that motorists trapped in the southbound lanes could get off the roadway. The northbound lane had already been cleared.

He said the southbound lanes were more challenging because streets where people could have exited were flooded as well. He said they think that the area where the road usually drains to flooded as well, so there was nowhere for the water to go.

At 10:20 a.m., Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said they had received more than 270 calls for help, most of which were for cars stranded in high water.  Evans added there were about 70 crashes reported.

"Obviously 'turn around don’t drown' is the phrase of the day," Evans said in a news release. "In addition to turning around, we would encourage drivers to map out at least two alternate routes to where they’re going, that way they don’t feel pressured to put themselves at risk. Better to be late to something than to put yourself in a situation where you just don’t get there at all."

Evans also reminded drivers that if they see an emergency vehicle blocking a roadway, it's there for a reason and to not drive around it.

"While not seeing a warning sign, for high water, can be understood; what’s inexcusable is drivers who drive around emergency and service vehicles to drive into the same high waters from which we are rescuing people," Evans said.

Tarik Hawkins told NBC News he was became stranded while trying to drive to work. He said it took him two hours to drive about a mile and described the situation on the road as "very chaotic."

"Right off I-35, there has to be 50 or 60 cars stranded," he said.

Israel Ramos, a 32-year-old tower inspector, said there was three inches of water inside his home and the street outside resembled "a river." He told NBC News that his neighbor called police when he saw an SUV floating down the street with a person inside.

The American Red Cross opened a shelter at the Tony Shotwell Life Center in Grand Prairie, according to spokeswoman Anita Foster. Supplies should arrive at the center at about 8 a.m.

Tarrant County

Arlington police said they blocked East Abram Street near Texas 360 because of major flooding over the roadway.

Authorities also received high-water calls on Interstate 30 near Oakland Boulevard and University Drive, 7200 Wichita Street and Trinity Boulevard near Precinct Line Road.

An NBC 5 viewer reported that Walnut Creek in Mansfield is swollen and pushing toward residential areas. Nearby Oliver Nature Park is also reportedly under water and closed.

Johnson County

Officials have evacuated or rescued about 19 people, according to Johnson County Emergency Management Coordinator Jamie Moore, but many more could be trapped in their homes.

"This is our fourth major flooding since April 26," he said. "We're doing rescues and having homes that are inundated with water."

About 45 roads are closed in the county due to flooding.

Parker County

Authorities said the Brazos River in Parker County is rising again due to new rain and the opening of two flood gates upstream at Possum Kingdom Lake.

County emergency management spokesman Joel Kertok said Friday that the river had risen above flood stage again after dropping below it Thursday night.

On Thursday, water was lapping at the foundations of 11 homes as the river crested at 23.58 feet before dropping to about 20 feet. The flood stage is at 21 feet. The level rose Friday to 21.4 feet and was expected to rise to nearly 27 feet Saturday.

Residents of about 250 homes near the river, most in the Horseshoe Bend community, were asked to voluntarily evacuate.

"The river is already above flood stage and will continue to rise through today and tomorrow," county emergency management coordinator George Teague said. "This situation will get worse before it gets better."

Flights Impacted

As of 10 a.m., officials reported that 44 flights into Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport had been canceled; 56 arrivals were delayed. Thirteen flights departing from the airport were canceled and 52 more delayed.

One of D/FW Airport's runways closed temporarily after a storm drain crews were repairing to address a nearby sinkhole collapsed. Officials said they expect the closure to have minimal impact on flights.

Nineteen flights departing from Dallas Love Field were delayed and 19 more canceled. Eighteen flights into the airport were delayed and 18 more canceled.

Dallas Love Field also experienced a power outage caused by a surge overnight, according to airport official Jose Torres. Power has since been restored.

Photo Credit: Chopper 5
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<![CDATA[Pilots Report Laser, Drone Scares]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 10:36:22 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/prospect+park+bk.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No injuries were reported.

Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Hundreds Expected at Phoenix "Draw Muhammad" Contest]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 08:34:49 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2015-05-29+at+11.28.49+AM.png

Hundreds of people are expected to attend a rally at a Phoenix mosque Friday that includes a “Draw Muhammad" cartoon contest, an event similar to the one attacked by two would-be terrorists in a Dallas suburb earlier this month.

The FBI and local police have been informed of the event that will take place at a mosque that received a threatening letter this past weekend, according to NBC affiliate KPNX. The mosque was also once a place of worship for suspects in the Garland, Texas, cartoon contest.

Event organizer Jon Ritzheimer, who has held two protests in the city since the Texas shooting, told the station that the event is supposed to be peaceful.

“I don't condone any threats being made to the mosque,” Ritzheimer said.

But when the station asked him about the potentially hateful message of the protests, citing anti-Islamic shirts people have worn to past protests, he said: "I'm a Marine, and I'm far from politically correct. I’m outspoken, and I've just had it."

A Facebook page for the event says it's "in response to the recent attack in Texas where 2 armed terrorist (sic), with ties to ISIS, attempted Jihad."

Usama Shami, president of the community center, told KPNX that he respects people’s right to protest.

"Everybody has the right to be a bigot," he told the station. "Everybody has the right to be racist."

Phoenix Police Sgt. Trent Crump said in a statement that the department “has a great deal of experience in dealing with and managing protest and demonstrations.”

“Dealing with groups of protesters and opposing views is not the difficult part," Crump added. "Our goal and the real challenge are trying to anticipate unlawful activities that might occur in conjunction with these events.” 

Counter-protests are also set to take place as the rally occurs, according to the station.

The suspects in the Texas attack, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, opened fire on an unarmed security officer stationed outside the contest on May 3 in the Dallas suburb, according to The Associated Press. The security guard was wounded in the leg before the gunmen were killed at the scene.

Photo Credit: KPNX]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-House Speaker Hastert Indicted]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 04:16:57 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dennis-Hastert1.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Driver Ignores Stopped School Bus]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 11:02:41 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/driver+school+bus.jpg

A New Jersey driver was captured on dashcam video swerving around a stopped school bus while children were boarding, authorities say. 

A motorist on County Line Road in Lakewood captured the driver in a green Ford F-150 pickup truck cutting out from the line of vehicles that had stopped for the school bus, which had its flashing lights on, crossing the double yellow line and speeding past the bus. 

It happened at around 7:30 a.m., as children were boarding the bus, authorities said. 

Investigators at the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office said they were "amazed at the driver's blatant disregard for the safety of others and the New Jersey motor vehicle statutes." 

Prosecutors worked with Lakewood police to investigate, and quickly identified and located the 36-year-old driver, a Lakewood resident. 

The driver was issued summonses for reckless driving, improper passing, passing a stopped school bus and driving with a suspended license. He's next expected in court on June 11. 

The video was first published by the Lakewood Scoop. 

<![CDATA[Family's Claim Against City, Cop]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 09:01:15 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/midway+district+shooting.png

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It knew the shooting had been captured on a nearby surveillance video,” the claim states. “Nonetheless, the SDPD tried to ‘spin’ the story against Fridoon.” After the fatal shooting, investigators told media they did not find any knife on Nehad’s body, though they did find a “shiny object” on him. Nehad’s parents said that statement falsely suggested he had a knife and threatened the officer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NBC 7 has reached out to the SDPD officials for their response to this claim, but they have not yet responded.

<![CDATA[Bill Robles: Painting Pictures of a Murder Case]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 16:51:37 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/169*120/5-28-15-Bill-Robles-manson9.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Through his eyes, the public is present.

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

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

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

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

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

Men with facial hair come easy, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

<![CDATA[Man Drives Off 2nd Floor of Garage]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 09:22:53 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/leesburgparkingcrash.jpg

An 85-year-old man drove a pickup truck off the second level deck of a Leesburg, Virginia, parking garage Thursday, landing on two empty picnic benches, according to Leesburg police.

The man had minor injuries; no one else was injured in the crash, Leesburg police said.

Police charged the driver, Rattan J. Bhatia, of Hillsboro, Virginia, with reckless driving. They said the 1994 Ford Ranger was being driven at a "high rate of speed" in the parking garage. 

The crash occurred around 1 p.m. at the Town of Leesburg's Parking Garage at 25 West Market Street. Leesburg police said the pickup truck drove over a curb before launching through a "metal barricade and brick facade."

Police are asking anyone who witnessed the crash to call 703-771-4500.

Photo Credit: Leesburg Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[Beaches Not "Clean Enough Yet" to Reopen]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 11:18:46 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/196*120/05-29-2015-beach-oil-tar-blob.JPG

A stretch of Southern California coastline remained closed Friday morning due to mysterious globs of a tar-like substance, enough to fill a large dump truck, that washed ashore earlier this week.

Beach cleanup is expected to continue into next week as authorities attempt to identify the tar patties -- ranging from the size of golf balls to football -- and determine their source. Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo beaches remained closed Friday, two days after the blobs floated onto a six-mile stretch of coastline.

Authorities initially said Thursday that beaches might reopen by 6 a.m. Friday, but said more cleanup is required.

"The beaches just aren't quite clean enough yet to remain open the the public," said Commander Charlene Downey, of the U.S. Coast Guard. "We recovered about 90 percent of tar balls that washed up on the beach. There is more work to do in areas we're concerned about."

The remaining tar balls are small and difficult to recover, Downey said. No new tar balls washed ashore Thursday, officials said. About 40 cubic yards, enough to fill three dump trucks, had been collected by Friday.

There was no estimate regarding when the beaches would reopen, Downey said.

Hazardous material teams collected samples, but authorities said that the source and nature of the substance has not been determined.

"We are continuing to analyze the beaches and trying to determine the source of the tar balls and tar patties," said Downey.

Downey was asked at a Thursday news conference whether the substance might be related to an oil spill last week off the coast of Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County. She said it's too early to tell whether there's a connection.

"We may not know for a few days, and we may never know," Downey said. "I can't tell you right now what specifically that product is. Those analysis and tests take time.

"Anything is possible."

Results might take days or weeks, she added.

They will be analyzing samples to see if they can pinpoint whether the globs been processed by a company or naturally occurred. The waste is also being collected so the cost of the clean up can be calculated, and if anyone is found responsible they will be billed.

The cleanup is expected to continue for five to seven days, according to the Mahattan Beach Police Department. The length of the beach closures will be determined by tests for bacterial contamination in the water, according to the department.

The environmental group Heal the Bay warned that the beaches should not be reopened "until all the oil is cleaned up."

"Heal the Bay has concerns about opening the beaches and even allowing people on the sand between the lifeguard towers and the water," said Sarah Sikich, one of two scientists the group deployed to the scene. "It's nearly impossible to walk along the beach in that area without encountering a small oil glob, and from a human health perspective, exposure through skin contact is a concern."

There has been no impact to area wildlife, said Sal Garcia, of the California Depart of Fish and Wildlife. People who find distressed animals should leave the animal alone and call 877-823-6926.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[New Yorkers Ready for Manhattanhenge]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 08:01:17 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/manhattanhenge+sky.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Family Told Reporter Killed in DC Was Used as Human Shield]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 05:36:17 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/20150528+Charnice+Milton.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<![CDATA[Thief Shoves Rifle Down Pants]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 20:39:43 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Marlon+Alvarez+Mug.jpg

A Florida store owner took matters into his own hands, tackling a would-be thief outside of the Davie shop, and this wasn't your everyday shoplifter.

The thief was trying to walk out of the Public Pawn and Gun at 6798 Stirling Road with an assault rifle stuffed down his pants.

"By the time he left I noticed a bulge in his pants, so I followed him out," said owner, Kevin Hughes. "I didn't want to have an altercation in the store... too many customers and employees here."

Surveillance video shows the 19-year-old suspect, Marlon Alvarez, inspecting the three-foot long firearm inside the store for quite some time before stuffing it down his pants and under his sweatshirt.

Hughes said the suspect first tried to get away with another AK-47. He placed the firearm down his pants, but then changed his mind, putting it back on the display rack and attempted to get away with the other assault rifle.

Alvarez then spent a few more minutes in the store and employees said they thought he was acting suspicious.

"He really was more interested in being left alone, or looking for an opportunity to do what he was doing I guess," said Alan Weiner, an employee at the store.

When Alvarez walked out the door Hughes followed him, unsure if the firearm was loaded.

"Anybody can load it especially if he's putting it down his pants he could've put one in the chamber yes," Hughes said. "That's why I got on top of him, you don't have time to react, it can be scary, you just react."

Alvarez eventually gave up the gun. Hughes took him to the ground but Alvarez got away — running through the parking lot shirtless.

Davie Police officers caught up with him a few blocks away. Hughes said he was happy to have the $900 rifle back, but not because of the money.

"If he took that gun and killed 20 kids tomorrow at a school, I'm responsible for that, so that's not happening on my watch," Hughes said.

Alveraz was charged with grand theft and held on $25,000 bond. The judge later revoked bond for a May 15 arrest on theft and drug possession charges in Pembroke Pines, Florida Department of Law Enforcement records showed.

<![CDATA[Beach Tar Ball Cleanup to Continue Into Weekend]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 07:16:36 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/210*120/05-28-2015-beach-oil-tar-cleanup-2.JPG

Cleanup along a stretch of Southern California coastline is expected to take at least five days after a mysterious tar-like goo forced the closure of several South Bay beaches.

Updated Article: Beaches Remain Closed

Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo beaches remained closed Thursday after the patties of petroleum -- ranging from the size of golf balls to football -- began washing ashore Wednesday along a six-mile stretch of coastline. Hazardous material teams collected samples overnight, but authorities said at a Thursday news conference that the source and nature of the substance has not been determined.

"We are continuing to analyze the beaches and trying to determine the source of the tar balls and tar patties," said Commander Charlene Downey, of the U.S. Coast Guard. "We've made significant progress on the shoreline, and that's where the bulk of the tar balls have been found."

No new tar balls washed ashore Thursday, officials said.

Downey was asked at a Thursday morning news conference whether the substance might be related to an oil spill last week off the coast of Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County. She said it's too early to tell whether there's a connection.

"It could be anything," said Downey. "It could be naturally occurring, we just can't tell right now what might be the source.

"I can't tell you right now what specifically that product is. Those analysis and tests take time."

Results might take days or weeks, she added.

They will be analyzing samples to see if they can pinpoint whether the globs been processed by a company or naturally occurred. The waste is also being collected so the cost of the clean up can be calculated, and if anyone is found responsible they will be billed.

At least 6.5 miles of Los Angeles County coastline from the El Segundo Jetty to Redondo Beach was closed for the round-the-clock cleanup. Despite warnings and posted signs, some surfers entered the water Thursday morning.

"We ask that the public not go into the water," said Chris Linkletter, of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Division. "The source has been undetermined, they're still testing what's washed up."

The beaches are expected to reopen Friday morning.

The cleanup is expected to continue for five to seven days, according to the Mahattan Beach Police Department. The length of the beach closures will be determined by tests for bacterial contamination in the water, according to the department.

Environmental group Heal the Bay has sent scientists to monitor the cleanup.

"It's very disturbing to see such a large swath of beach covered during the summer high beach going time for an oil incident," the organization's vice president Sarah Sikich said.

Locals said small tar balls that occur naturally are seen in the area from time to time, though they are not usually so plentiful.

There has been no impact to area wildlife, said Sal Garcia, of the California Depart of Fish and Wildlife. People who find distressed animals should leave the animal alone and call 877-823-6926.

Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Shooting Suspect Barricaded in Apt.]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 09:57:11 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/family+released+2.JPG

A fatal shooting in Chula Vista, south of downtown San Diego, led to a nearly 10-hour SWAT standoff at an apartment complex Thursday after the shooting suspect barricaded himself inside a unit with his family while armed with a rifle.

The standoff ended when SWAT officers discovered the man had taken his own life.

The initial shooting happened around 7:40 a.m. (10:40 a.m. ET) at 160 E. Street near 2nd Avenue, near the Mission Gardens apartment complex. More than a dozen police officers plus SWAT teams were called to the scene. At least three armored SWAT vehicles also surrounded the area.

Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) Capt. Lon Turner said police received multiple calls reporting gunfire in the area. A neighbor told NBC 7 she heard gunshots and looked out the window. She said she saw the suspect, whom she called Mike, with an "automatic weapon" walk a couple of steps and start firing, hitting another man who lived nearby. 

Mike and the man had problems, stemming from an incident about a year ago, the witness said. She told NBC 7 Mike was always angry and even threatened to shoot her adult son one day.

When police arrived, they found the critically wounded victim gunned down between cars near the apartment complex. The victim, a father of two children, later died.

Capt. Turner said the shooting suspect then barricaded himself inside an apartment with his family — two children, both under 10 years old, and his wife, referred to as Laura by police. It is unknown if the children are the suspect's biological kids.

By 3:35 p.m. -- eight hours into the standoff — the woman and kids were released from the apartment unit, police said. The suspect did not exit with them. Capt. Turner said the woman and children were safe and were being evaluated by medics.

The suspect remained holed up inside the apartment, and about an hour later, three shots rang out. CVPD Lt. Fritz Reber said the first came from a police test canon shot. The second was inside the apartment and did not come from officers. The third was a flash bang grenade that shattered a window so the SWAT team could send in two robots and check on the suspect.

One robot spotted a man down in an upstairs room, and a SWAT team soon followed to confirm. They found the suspect dead inside.

"Biggest thing that I'm happy about being able to report is that the wife and kids are out of there. Fortunately, they didn't lose their life in this incident. Clearly it's a tragedy when there's any loss of life," said Capt. Turner at a 5:30 p.m. news briefing.

Capt. Turner said the scene would now switch from a tactical one to a crime scene investigation. Investigators had gotten reports from other family that there may have been additional weapons inside the home, so officers obtained a search warrant to look for them.

The captain said Mike had been talking with officials about surrendering but had backed out of doing so several times during the long standoff.

Throughout the day, the suspect had been speaking with crisis negotiators and, at one point, sounded suicidal, according to police. They asked him to surrender without hurting anyone or himself.

At a 1 p.m. news briefing, after more than an hour without being able to make phone contact with the suspect, Capt. Turner said police had a very specific message for the man.

“If he is watching on television right now: Michael, we need to talk to you. We are calling your cellphone. So, either you or Laura need to pick up the phone. We want this to happen peacefully,” said Turner, staring into news cameras.

“We understand that there are two sides to every story. Let’s not make any rash decisions as it stands right now. Just pick up the phone so that we can communicate with you,” he continued.

Capt. Turner said officials would continue to call the man's phone. Again, the captain stressed the importance of bringing the standoff to a peaceful end.

At a 2 p.m. news briefing Capt. Turner confirmed that crisis negotiation teams were back in contact with the suspect and were able to speak with him on the phone.

“We’ve been talking with Mike,” said Capt. Turner. “We’ve asked him again to surrender peacefully. We’re concerned about the safety of him and his family.”

Police said the couple have been married for one year. The suspect was not making any sort of demands, officials said.

The standoff prompted officials to shut down traffic in parts of the surrounding downtown Chula Vista area for the majority of the day and evacuate some residents from the apartment complex.

The CVPD confirmed the 200 block of E Street had been shut down due to the heavy police activity. Police closed additional roadways due to the standoff including Third and First avenues, and F and D streets. Only residents were allowed in the area.

Hilltop Middle School is near the complex, but Capt. Turner said no lockdown had been ordered at the campus. He advised parents to keep road closures in mind as they picked up their students from school in the afternoon..

Meanwhile, police urged residents to stay indoors and shelter-in-place, and all others to stay away from the area.

A police captain said members of the shooting victim’s family had been escorted out of the complex safely and were with police just before 11 a.m. At that point, police said they had not ordered residents of the complex to evacuate, but officers were prepared to lead evacuations if necessary.

Police said they would utilize city resources to evacuate residents to the nearby Norman Park Senior Center at 270 F St., where residents would be given food and shelter while the standoff played out. Police said one resident, a 93-year-old man, had been safely evacuated from the complex due to medical issues earlier in the day.

At 11:35 a.m., an MTS bus arrived at the complex. By 11:45 a.m., it was confirmed that residents were being evacuated. About 10 residents exited several buildings at the complex, walking toward the bus alongside officers.

Police said the apartment complex is made up of four different sectors and officials were evacuating the property in an orderly fashion, sector by sector.

By 2 p.m., Capt. Turner said their evacuation of all residents at the complex had been completed. In all, he said 56 residents had been evacuated safely from the complex, including approximately 15 children. He said no forced evacuations had been necessary, as residents cooperated with the evacuation plan.

Some evacuees went to the senior center while others were picked up by family members.

“We have made sure we know who has come in and who has come out of this location,” said Capt. Turner, adding that officials planned to work their way from the “inside out” during the evacuation process.

The captain said officials found two to three rounds fired from the suspect’s weapon at the scene that indicated the suspect was armed with a long rifle, posing a major threat to the complex, thus prompting the evacuation.

“Rifled ammunition has much more significant range than a handgun. It goes a lot further and it goes through a lot more things than a handgun,” said Capt. Turner. “[This] poses a greater threat to the public and our officers.”

Investigators said the shooting may have stemmed from a dispute that escalated between neighbors. The motive is under investigation. Investigators were seeking a search warrant and researching the suspect’s background.

Officials said they hoped to bring the standoff to a peaceful resolution without further injuries.

The shooting, standoff and very heavy law enforcement response came as a shock to residents at the apartment complex.

One resident who has lived there for 10 years told NBC 7 he heard a loud blast but thought it was related to nearby construction and didn’t think much of it.

He took one of his three children to school and when he returned, police cars had the street outside his home blocked off.

“I thought it was a gas explosion, seriously I didn’t think it was a gun,” the man said.

The resident told NBC 7 he didn’t hear screaming or fighting before the blast.

The resident said he's been talking his mother who is in the apartment with his other children. He said they are safe and staying inside.

Another resident told NBC 7 he heard at least six back-to-back gunshots erupt as he was leaving for work. Seconds later, he heard one final shot.

Another man said he was outside when shots rang out. He said he could almost feel the ricochet as the bullets erupted.

The American Red Cross is at the evacuation site providing residents and police officers with food and beverages amid the standoff. There were approximately 15 evacuees using the center as of 1:20 p.m.

One evacuee told NBC 7 something just “wasn’t right” with the suspect. She said he lives at the apartment complex.

Another evacuee — a little boy — told NBC 7 he was very scared when officers began escorting his family out of their home. He thanked officials for keeping him safe.

The name of the victim shot and killed by the suspect before the standoff has not yet been released.

<![CDATA[Dog Walker Finds Body in Suitcase]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 20:56:37 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/Tinicum+Body+in+Suitcase.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Cupertino Nixes Fireworks Show]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 13:51:00 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/cupertinohighjpg.jpg

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

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

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

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

The reason the community show was shuttered this year is because of water conservation efforts.

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

And it’s those synthetic fields, where thousands of people congregate, that need 100,000 gallons of water to douse both before and after the fireworks display, according to the Fremont Unified School District.

The water is needed to prevent any fireworks fallout on synthetic grass that would yield a mass of burning plastic, Kitson pointed out. He added that if the fields were still full of real grass, the fireworks show could probably still have been held. A little bit of sparks and ash falling on real grass, he said, “isn’t that big of a deal,” and wouldn't require the same amount of water preparation that fake grass does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Hostage Describes "Nice" Suspect]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 18:44:45 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/JagdishBhalla.jpg

Many would imagine that being taken as a hostage would be scary and nerve-wracking.

But Jagdish Bhalla, 75, who was one of two hostages held against his will inside an Arco gas station in Bay Area for hours on Wednesday, described the ordeal differently.

"I'm feeling great," the Antioch gas station owner said Thursday. "He was nice to me. He never misbehaved, did not use filthy language. He treated me very respectful."

In turn, Bhalla offered the 35-year-old suspect, Horacio Gutierrez  – who was arrested after surrendering peacefully to police Wednesday afternoon – Brisk tea so that he wouldn't "have a hard attitude toward me."

Both he and the other hostage, a gas station employee, were eventually allowed to leave the station in the 2600 block of Contra Loma Boulevard. They had been kept in a back room during the standoff. Bhalla said the Gutierrez, who authorities said lives in Newark, never pointed a gun at them, although he had one at his side.

He was never bound, and was allowed to make a phone call to his family. At one point, Gutierrez dozed off, Bhalla said, which is when he and the employee were thinking of making a run for it. But just then, the man woke up and forbid them to do so, Bhalla said.

Authorities said the suspect had been armed and carjacked several vehicles about 11 a.m. while driving through Antioch, Concord, Pittsburgh and back to Antioch. The California Highway Patrol lay down a strike strip, puncturing his car's tires, and the suspect eventually ran into the gas station, taking both the station's owner and the employee as hostages.

Police told the Contra Costa Times Gutierrez had an "extensive rap sheet" that included arrests for drug violations, burglary and vehicle thefts.

Asked if he wanted to say anything to the man who held him for four hours? Bhalla said it was the "best day of my life," because he survived the harrowing ordeal.

"I say, 'Thank you,'" Bhalla said. "And God bless him in his life."

NBC Bay Area's Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Jodi Hernandez
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<![CDATA[ Flight Attendant Who Took Photo in Plane's Engine Finds Support]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 03:58:04 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2015-05-28+at+2.24.44+PM.png

A labor union representing flight attendants is backing one of their own amid a controversy involving a photo of the airline employee posing inside a plane’s engine.

The Spirit Airlines flight attendant, who has been identified as Ericka Paige Diehl, took the photo shortly before the aircraft's take off at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, according to reports. A passenger contacted a local TV station with concerns.

The airline said in a statement after the photo was brought to their attention that the "activity portrayed absolutely goes against Spirit policy," adding that it, "will be investigating further and take appropriate action."

However, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said that many airline employees have taken similar photos since "the dawn of the jet age" and there was no security risk for travelers.

"Flight attendants and pilots have been photographed with the engine as a celebration of the might of aviation," AFA president Sara Nelson said in a statement. "These images are iconic and common. The photos have become a rite of passage for crews. The only security risk here is for the flight attendant herself, whose name, age, and city have been broadcast in the media across the country."

Other flight attendants across the U.S. also backed Diehl, posting photos on Twitter of themselves inside of plane engines (as seen below) under the hashtag ‪#FLYwithERIKA‬.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said in a statement that the practice is not prohibited under its regulations, though the agency “discourages individuals without proper training or supervision from climbing onto any part of an aircraft.”

“As part of normal maintenance and inspection procedures, certified mechanics sometimes climb into these engines, which are designed to be structurally robust,” Cory added. “The FAA has been in contact with the airline that employs the flight attendant. The airline inspected the aircraft in question and found no damage.”

Diehl couldn't be reached for comment.

Photo Credit: "TODAY"
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<![CDATA[Leonardo DiCatrio Reunited With Owner, Thanks to Pet FBI]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 02:21:05 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/pet-GettyImages-174322322.jpg

A cat by the name of Leonardo DiCatrio has been reunited with his owner, after an intrepid crew known as the Pet FBI helped track him down on social media.

The wayward feline went missing in Naples, Florida, leaving his distraught owner, Nancy Travis, asking for help finding him.

"Someone said to contact Pet FBI," she told NBC affiliate KFDX. “So I got on Facebook and did. They responded right away and gave us tips how to find him."

Within just two days days, Leo the intrepid wanderer was back at home, thanks to the work of Maresa Fanelli, who founded the volunteer service organization in 1998.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Tsarnaev Sentencing Set for June 24]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 07:27:26 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/TLMD-tsarnaev-maraton-boston-sketch-art-lien-23-3-.jpg

The official sentencing for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be held on June 24. 

A jury last month sentenced the convicted Boston Marathon bomber to death for the 2013 terror attack.

The decision set the stage for what could be the nation's first execution of a terrorist in the post-9/11 era, though the case is likely to go through years of appeals. 

The 12-member jury had to be unanimous for Tsarnaev to get the death penalty. Otherwise, he would have automatically received a sentence of life in prison without parole. 

Some of Tsarnaev's victims will be able to address the court and Tsarnaev directly. 

Tsarnaev himself will also have the option of addressing the court and Judge George O'Toole. 

Meanwhile, prosecutors are seeking a seven-year jail term for one of the three friends of Tsarnaev. Dias Kadyrbayev is scheduled to be sentenced next week. He pleaded guilty to hiding evidence and impeding the bombing investigation. The family of slain MIT officer Sean Collier says Kadyrbayev might have prevented their son's death by helping authorities find Tsarnaev. 

Killed in the bombing were Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China; Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager from Medford; and 8-year-old Martin Richard, who had gone to watch the marathon with his family. Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean Collier was shot to death in his cruiser days later. 

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died days after the bombing when he was shot by police and run over by Dzhokhar during a chaotic getaway attempt.

Photo Credit: Art Lien via NBC]]>