<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - National & International News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/national-international http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California http://www.nbclosangeles.com en-us Mon, 01 Sep 2014 04:21:21 -0700 Mon, 01 Sep 2014 04:21:21 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[2 Dead, 30 Wounded in Chicago]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 20:16:49 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Violence+8-31+edit.png

At least two people have been killed and 30 others wounded in Chicago amid a long Labor Day weekend.

The weekend's first homicide took place late Friday night in the city's Back of the Yards neighborhood.

A 36-year-old man was found on the sidewalk around 10:45 p.m. in the 5400 block of South Damen Avenue with gunshot wounds to the head and thigh. He was transported to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County where he was pronounced dead, according to authorities.

A 34-year-old man died less than five hours after he was shot on the city's South Side Saturday morning.

The man was shot in the abdomen in the 10900 block of South Racine Avenue and was transported to Stroger Hospital in critical condition.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's office confirmed the man, identified as Darius Sept, was later pronounced dead at 5:41 a.m. at Advocate Christ Medical Center.

Several shootings occurred during barbecues and block parties throughout the city Saturday and Sunday as 21 people were wounded.

  • Around 3:15 p.m. Saturday, a 31-year-old man was shot in the 10000 block of South Perry Avenue. The man was sitting in a vehicle parked on the street when a man walked up and opened fire. The victim was shot in the head and taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in stable condition.
  • Around 11:10 p.m., a 29-year-old man was shot at a block party in the 3600 block of West 56th Place in the West Elsdon neighborhood, police said. The man told police he was outside at the party when he "heard shots and felt pain." The man was transported to Advocate Christ Medical Center in good condition with a gunshot wound to the leg.
  • About 30 minutes earlier, a 20-year-old man was shot during a physical altercation in the 5900 block of South Mozart Street in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood. The man was fighting with another man when he was shot in the leg, police said. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in good condition. 
  • Just before 1 a.m. Sunday, police said a 34-year-old man was shot in the arm at outside of a house party in the 6800 block of South Loomis Boulevard. The man was approached by an armed offender who then opened fire, striking him in the arm, police said. The victim was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in stable condition.
  • Around 1:40 a.m., a 20-year-old man was shot in the chest during a robbery at a party in the 1000 block of North Monitor Avenue. Police said the man told officers he was at a party when someone walked up with a handgun and announced a robbery. When the victim fought the offender he was shot in the chest. The victim was taken to West Suburban Medical Center in serious condition.
  • Just before 2 a.m., two people were shot in the 6700 block of South Ada Street. A 20-year-old woman was shot in the foot and taken to Holy Cross Hospital in stable condition. A 21-year-old woman was shot in both legs and taken to Mercy Hospital where she was also listed in stable condition. Police said the victims were outside at a block party with a group of people when someone fired into the group.
  • A 26-year-old man was shot around 2:30 a.m. in the 100 block of North Wood Street in the West Town neighborhood, police said. The man was shot in the leg while exiting his vehicle and was taken to Stroger Hospital in stable condition, according to authorities.
  • A few minutes after 3 a.m., a 20-year-old man was shot in the 8800 block of South Burley Avenue. Police said the man was shot in the right arm and taken to Trinity Hospital in good condition, but details surrounding the shooting weren't immediately available.
  • Just after 4 a.m., police said two women were shot leaving a party with a group of people in the 11700 block of South La Salle Street in the West Pullman neighborhood. A 56-year-old woman and a 52-year-old woman were both shot in their legs and were taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in stable condition. The pair told police they were standing outside a residence on the block after leaving a party with a group of people when someone walked up and opened fire.
  • Around 5:25 a.m., a 20-year-old man was shot when a man walked up to him and opened fire in the 7800 block of South Constance Avenue. The victim was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in stable condition with a gunshot wound to the upper back.
  • Just after 6 a.m., a 43-year-old man was shot in the arm, leg and lower back in the 8000 block of South Merrill Avenue and taken in serious condition to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Details surrounding the shooting were not immediately available.
  • Around 4:20 p.m., a 20-year-old woman was shot in the hand in the 800 block of West 95th Street while riding in a vehicle. Someone walked up and fired shots in the vehicle she was a passenger in, police said. The driver of the vehicle left the scene and the woman tried to to drive away but struck a CTA bus. The bus driver was taken with minor injuries to an unknown hospital. The 20-year-old was taken to Little Company of Mary Hospital in stable condition, police said.
  • Just after 5 p.m. Sunday, two people were shot in the city's Rogers Park neighborhood. A 28-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman were shot in the 1300 block of West Morse Avenue. The pair were walking on the block when they said they heard shots and felt pain. The man was suffered a graze wound to the head and was in stable condition at St. Francis Hospital. The woman was shot in the chest and listed in critical condition also at St. Francis Hospital. It was not clear if they were the intended victims.
  • At about 8:20 p.m. a 54-year-old man was shot in the 5700 block of South Keeler. He was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in good condition. Details surrounding the shooting were not immediately available.
  • Just before 9 p.m., two men were shot in the Rogers Park neighborhood, marking the second shooting in the neighborhood Sunday evening. The men, whose ages were not immediately known, were shot in the 7400 block of North Ridge Avenue. One man was shot in the leg and was taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center in serious condition. The other was shot in the abdomen, shoulder and leg and was taken to Saint Francis Hospital where his condition had been stabilized.
  • Around 9:15 p.m., two people were shot near 95th Street and Oglesby Avenue. Police could not immediately confirm details surrounding the shooting.

At least 9 others were wounded in shootings since Friday evening.

<![CDATA[6 Dead in Dallas Car Crash]]> Mon, 01 Sep 2014 03:27:31 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/083114+Bonnie+View+Road+Oak+Cliff+Wreck.jpg

Dallas police are trying to figure out what caused an one-car crash that killed six people in Southeast Oak Cliff late Sunday night.

The accident happened around 9:10 p.m. Sunday. 

Police spokesperson Monica Cordova said the vehicle involved in the crash was traveling southbound on Bonnie View Road when it crossed over Persimmon Road.

Shortly after, the driver side rear tire of the vehicle hit the center median, police said. The driver lost control and the vehicle hit a tree in the median.

Police confirm four people died at the scene. Paramedics transported two others to the hospital, where they both died. There were no other passengers.

The names of the victims have not been released.

Police are also not saying a possible cause of the crash.

Check back and refresh this page for the latest updates.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: CJ Johnson, NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA["AK-47 Bandit" Suspected in Nebraska Bank Robbery]]> Mon, 01 Sep 2014 04:02:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/217*120/ak47bandit.jpg

Authorities say a man who used an assault rifle to rob a bank in Nebraska earlier this month matches the description of a prolific bank robber responsible for a slew of heists across the western U.S.

The FBI says the Aug. 22 robbery of the First National Bank branch in southeast Nebraska may be the work of the so-called "AK-47 Bandit," who is suspected of shooting a Chino police officer during a heist in February 2012.

The bandit went on to hit up banks in Northern California, Idaho and Washington. He was dubbed the "AK-47 Bandit" because of his penchant for carrying the assault rifle into his targeted banks.

The FBI has offered a $100,000 reward for tips leading to his arrest.

Investigators said he has told victims that he used to be an officer, and surveillance video shows him usually wearing tactical gear, a full-face ski mask and blue ballistic vest or green mesh vest marked "Sheriff."

The aggressive robber has been known to point the rifle at crying children.

Police came close to catching him in Chino, but he got away after shooting the officer, who was seriously hurt.

Chino police detectives have flown out to Nebraska to help in the investigation.

"We want to make everyone aware of how violent this man is," said Chino Police Det. Carlos Dominguez. "He is not afraid to pull the trigger, he has already shot a police officer. So anyone that gives him any resistance, he's not afraid to act."

After robbing the California Bank & Trust in Chino in 2012, the man is believed to have robbed a Vacaville Bank of the West on March 12, 2012. He may have also tried to rob a bank in Sacramento a few days earlier.

The “AK-47 Bandit” is described as a white male, 25 to 40 years old, about 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing between 180 and 200 pounds.

<![CDATA[49ers' Ray McDonald Arrested]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 19:44:49 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/221*120/MCDONALD_leaves_jail.jpg

The San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald was arrested for domestic violence overnight, San Jose police confirmed.

San Jose police Sgt. Heather Randol said the 29-year-old was taken into custody early Sunday after officers responded to a domestic violence incident at a home in an upscale neighborhood at the 2500 block of Bentley Ridge Drive, SJPD said in a release.

McDonald was taken into custody without incident and booked into Santa Clara County Jail on felony domestic violence charges, according to the release. He has posted $25,000 bail and has been released from jail, police said.

So far, McDonald is not saying much about the incident.

"It's a crazy situation," said McDonald, as he walked out of the jail less than 10 hours after his arrest.

McDonald's alleged victim may have been pregnant, sources told NBC Bay Area's Damian Trujillo.

He was apparently involved in an altercation with his fiancee, who had bruises on her arms and neck, according to the Sacramento Bee. 49ers teammates Vernon Davis and Demarcus Dobbs were also reportedly present, the Bee reported.

But McDonald maintained his innocence.

"The truth will come out," he said. "Everybody knows what kind of person I am."

The 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said in a statement Sunday that the organization is "aware of the recent reports regarding Ray McDonald and we take such matters seriously. As we continue to gather the facts, we will reserve further comment.”

McDonald, who has been playing for the 49ers since 2007, was arrested on the same street where 49ers' outside linebacker Aldon Smith was busted for a DUI last September, sources told NBC Bay Area.

The NFL has suspended Smith on Friday for the first nine games of the 2014 season for violating the league's policies on substance abuse and personal conduct.

McDonald's arrest comes after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced a tougher domestic abuse policy on Thursday. NFL players will be subject to a six-week game suspension for a first domestic violence offense and banishment from the league for a second, according to the new rules.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[3 Hurt by Lightning at NYC Beach]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 20:22:51 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lightning+strike+orchard+beach+clothing+shredded.jpg

Three people are hospitalized in New York City with injuries from a lightning strike as heavy thunderstorms swept the tri-state, authorities say. 

The men were hurt at Orchard Beach on Pelham Bay in the Bronx at about 5 p.m., and were being treated at Jacobi Medical Center, according to the FDNY. They did not appear to be seriously injured or physically burned. 

Telemundo identifies two of the victims as a father and son, 49 and 19 years old, who sought shelter under a tree during the storm. A friend of the family told the news station that the lightning hit the tree, then sent the men flying at least 10 feet. 

The friend showed the station photos of the victims' clothing that appeared to be shredded in parts from the lightning strike.

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Visitors at Orchard Beach said they weren't seriously concerned about the rain until they heard the thunder. 

"That crack of thunder and lightning came, and that's when everybody started to run away," said Cheryl Greenidge. 

Edgar Ayalla said he saw lightning hit either the beach or the water "like an explosion," and that debris was sent flying from that lightning strike. 

Elsewhere in the city, torrential rain, thunder and lightning interrupted Labor Day weekend celebrations, halted play at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Queens and forced the early end to the Electric Zoo musical festival on Randall's Island. 

Traffic crawled on the Garden State Parkway in East Orange, where roads were flooded and emergency responders had to attend to a stranded driver, a traffic camera showed. 

Flooding on the Cross Bronx Expressway also caused long delays onto the George Washington Bridge. 

Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports all reported long delays as a result of the storm.

Another round of thunderstorms is expected in the area by Monday. Labor Day will be otherwise hot and humid. 

The last area thunderstorm broke records on Long Island, where the town of Islip saw more than 13 inches of rain fall in a matter of hours on Aug. 14. 

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Telemundo/NBC 4 New York]]>
<![CDATA[Driver Shoots Pedestrian in SF]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 22:54:47 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/pedestrian_shot_golden_gate_Sf.jpg

A man is in critical condition Sunday night after a shooting in San Francisco involving a pedestrian getting into an argument with a driver, police said.

The shooting happened just after 2 p.m. near the intersection of Golden Gate Avenue and Broderick. Police said a near-miss between the pedestrian and motorist sparked an argument that resulted in the motorist shooting the pedestrian.

The two involved parties did not know each other, police said.

The victim was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with critical injuries.

The suspect drove away from the scene.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[SoCal High School Retires Controversial Arab Mascot]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 23:52:54 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/arab-mascot-update.jpg

A Southern California high school has retired a controversial Arab mascot that prompted objections from an anti-discrimination group last year.

Coachella Valley High School's mascot, which appears as a sneering man with a scraggly beard, hooked nose and a headscarf, has been retired, the Desert Sun reported. School officials said the old mascot will be replaced by a stoic, neatly groomed man

A belly-dancing genie that often appears with the mascot during football games was also retired, according to the report.

The controversy began last November when a community member of Coachella Valley High School in Coachella, Calif., located just east of Palm Springs, brought the mascot to the attention of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

After gathering opinions from the Arab-American community, many felt the mascot was demeaning and the group decided to act, said Abed A. Ayoub, the group's director of legal and policy affairs.

Ayoub wrote a letter to the district on Nov. 1 saying that cartoons, mugs and T-shirts of the mascot around the campus were examples of stereotyping, and should not be tolerated.

The committee said it approves of the new design, the Desert Sun reported.

A final resolution is expected to be announced publicly in the near future.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

<![CDATA[5-Year-Old Girl Murdered]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 21:31:23 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/sontera-apts-scene-083114.jpg

Dallas police are investigating the murder of a 5-year-old girl whose body was found in a vacant apartment Sunday afternoon at the Sontera Palms Apartments at 9505 Royal Lane in northeast Dallas. 

Dallas police say Kathrine Alejandra Gonzalez turned 5 on August 24.  

Police discovered her body inside an empty, ground-floor apartment at 2:30 p.m. Sunday – several hours after the girl was reported missing. 

Many neighbors say they worked to help find the little girl even before police were called around 11:30 a.m.  

When police arrived, maintenance workers informed them there were a large number of vacant apartments at Sontera Palms.  After obtaining a key, officers began what they described as a systematic search of all vacant units – eventually discovering the girl’s body inside a unit at the back of the complex.

Witnesses say the girl’s relatives were visibly distraught after learning of the girl’s death.

Police say they took numerous people to Dallas Police Headquarters for questioning, but as of late Sunday night police have not reported any arrests in the case. 

The Dallas Police Department is asking the public for anyone with information on this offense to contact Detectives at 214-275-1300. 

Photo Credit: Jocelyn Lockwood, NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[Fatal Crash Shuts Down Lanes of 5 Freeway in Castaic]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 20:47:42 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/160*128/LAgenerics+CHP+California+Highway+Patrol.jpg

A woman was killed and nine other people were injured a crash involving an overturned truck on the 5 Freeway in Castaic on Sunday.

The crash on the northbound 5 Freeway near Lake Hughes Road was reported around 2 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.

All northbound lanes were reopened after the crash shut down two lanes for hours.

Details of the crash were not being released.

The woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

An overturned truck blocked lanes after the collision involving three other vehicles.

A SigAlert was issued and the two right lanes of the freeway were expected to be closed for at least three hours for the crash investigation.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

<![CDATA[Florida Man Stabs Roommate 25 Times]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 23:42:19 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/samuel+dulavoix.jpg

A Pompano Beach man has been charged with second-degree murder after stabbing his roommate to death Saturday night, police said.

Broward Sheriff's Office deputies responded to a disturbance call at 3208 Marine Drive just after 9 p.m. Deputies said 22-year-old Samuel Dulavoix was covered in blood when he answered the door. Officers spotted a pile of bloody blankets on top of a body.

BSO has identified the victim as 39-year-old Rahmil Alexander. Dulavoix told homicide investigators that he and Alexander had been living together for about a year. He said they argued over money when Dulavoix stabbed the victim more than 25 times, police said. He later attempted to clean up the scene and conceal the body.

The Broward County Medical Examiner ruled the case a homicide at the scene and said Alexander died of multiple stab wounds.

Dulavoix was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment to superficial cuts on his hands before being released to authorities. He is being held without bond and faces a charge of second-degree murder. It is unknown if Dulavoix has an attorney.

Photo Credit: Broward Sheriff's Office]]>
<![CDATA[Aftershocks Strike Near Napa 1 Week After 6.0 Quake]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 11:47:43 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/richter1.jpg

A week after California's Napa Valley was struck by a magnitude-6.0 earthquake, the area was rattled by two aftershocks early on Sunday.

A magnitude-3.2 tremor struck four miles from Napa at 1:56 a.m. at a depth of 6.2 miles. It was followed by a 2.5 earthquake a few hours later, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

"There are reports that the quake was felt but not of any damage," USGS's Geophysicist Jessica Turner told NBC News. "We'll probably not see any damage with this small a magnitude."

The 3.2 quake was initially listed as a 3.4 magnitude.

Napa's Sheriff's Office dispatch said there were no reports of damage or injuries from the temblor.

The USGS reported a second minor earthquake later in the morning near Napa. The magnitude-2.5 earthquake was recorded in Green Valley, about seven miles east southeast of Napa at 6:37 a.m.

The magnitude-6.0 earthquake was the largest quake to shake the Bay Area since the magnitude-6.9 Loma Prieta quake in 1989. It caused $362 million in damage, The Associated Press reported. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[4 Family Members Found Dead]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 19:44:53 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/216*120/elmhurst+2.jpg

Several family members were found dead in a home in west suburban Elmhurst Saturday, police said.

Few details were released surrounding the deaths, but police at a news conference Saturday said officers were conducting a well-being check at a home in the 600 block of Chatam just before 7 p.m. when they discovered "several family members" dead inside the home. 

Police said two men and two women were found with visible gunshot wounds.

Joan Stack and Francis Stack, both 82, Francis Stack, Jr., 48, and Mary Stack, 57 were killed, officials said.

The DuPage County Coroner's office, citing preliminary information Sunday, said all victims were shot in the head. Fancis Stack's shooting was suicide and the three other victims were murdered, officials said.

Police said a weapon was recovered from the scene.

According to authorities, a death investigation is ongoing.

Longtime neighbor Pete Sterchele said the victims were an elderly couple and their two disabled children.

"[Frank] was in a very difficult situation," said Sterchele. "Two severely handicapped children, his wife with cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. She was bed-ridden, the children had to be looked over 24 hours a day and Frank was losing mobility."

Police do not believe there is any immediate threat to the community, according to Elmhurst Police Chief Michael Ruth.

Neighbors told NBC Chicago they saw armed police officers approaching the home Saturday evening.

Many in the community were shocked by the incident.

"They were great people," said neighbor Al Watson. "I mean if you had a problem you come over talk to [Frank] he could help you with about anything."

The Detective Section of the Elmhurst Police Department is investigating the incident, police said.

<![CDATA[Homeless Man Beaten to Death]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 19:09:14 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/tlmd_police_tape_lights_generic_thumbnail.jpg

A homeless man in Chicago was beaten to death on the city’s Northwest Side Saturday night, police said.

The man was in an alley in the 1900 block of North Ridgeway Avenue in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood when two men exited a vehicle and began beating him, police said.

The men beat the victim’s head and body with their hands and feet, according to Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Jose Estrada.

The man was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's office identified the man as 57-year-old Ernesto Garcia.

Police said the man appeared to be homeless.

"Regardless of whether he was homeless or not he's still human," said community activist Andrew Holmes. "A lot of these assaults that been taking place beating the homeless go unreported and the reason they go unreported is because they figure nobody cares, but we care, I care and we're just trying to find the individuals that beat this guy to death."

Holmes was patrolling the area Sunday afternoon hoping to find witnesses or see if surveillance cameras may have captured footage of the suspects.

"Each and every day someone is always picking on the homeless," Holmes said. "If they try to defend themselves they get jumped on, they get beat, they get assaulted... it shouldn't have gone this far."

Area residents say the attack was surprising for the community.

"It was so close to home," said Enrique Ruiz. "I thought nothing like this would happen around here."

Many in the area said Garcia frequently slept in the alley and was friendly those who lived nearby.

"People around here liked him," said resident George Bermudez. "He was really nice. I was shocked. I just said hi to him in the a.m., I didn't know someone I knew was going to die."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

<![CDATA[California Uproots Grassy Lawns]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 14:55:45 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP36505113488.jpg

Daniel and Joanne Azarnoff had the quintessential, grassy green lawn outside their house in the San Francisco Bay area -- until this bone-dry summer.

With the help of the Solano County Water Agency, they ripped up turf and replaced it with a mix of slate, stones, redwood mulch and drought-resistant plants more suitable to Rio Vista's Mediterranean climate.

“We did it because California has a drought, and we thought it would be a good way to reduce the amount of water which we use,” Daniel Azarnoff said.

Their decision is one California officials wish more residents would make. Communities and water agencies across the state have been paying to encourage homeowners and businesses to replace grass with more appropriate and less thirsty plants. Now, with California in its third year of a severe drought, the so-called “cash for grass” programs are bursting in popularity, if still small in size.

In the city of Long Beach, about 1,500 homeowners have taken advantage of the 4-year-old program there, which pays $3.50 per square foot — but that is out of the owners of about 60,000 single-family homes.

“A lot of people love their lawn,” said Joyce Barkley, the city’s water conservation specialist. “It’s a challenge.”

Instead of grass, Barkley tries to interest residents in sages, blue fescue, lion’s tail, lilacs, lavenders, olive trees and other drought-tolerant plantings.

The hope is that other homeowners will imitate the gardens made up of plants that thrive in Long Beach's annual 12 inches of rainfall, rather than lawns that need seven times that amount, Barkley said.

Water-greedy irrigation

In many ways, Californians do well conserving water, with most of the state's water going toward irrigating crops, said Hadley Arnold, executive director of the Arid Lands Institute at Woodbury University in Burbank.

One exception? Lawn irrigation. In Los Angeles, 54 percent of residential water consumption is used outdoors, according to the 2010 Urban Water Management Plan from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. Add in commercial, industrial, governmental and multi-family consumption and that number is 39 percent.

“Where we’re still water-greedy is irrigation,” she said. “You can irrigate with recycled water.”

At least 26 water agencies across the states are offering rebates, according to the Association of California Water Agencies. There has been a surge of interest this summer, said Lisa Lien-Mager, the association’s director of communications.

The number of requests for turf removal the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has received since January are nearly double the total number of requests over the last five years, the district says.

In July, it got requests to remove 2.5 million square feet of turf — the equivalent of 1,665 typical front yards, and up from 99,000 square feet in January.

The rise in requests from businesses was even more significant: 4.7 million square feet, or the equivalent of 82 football fields, up from 22,000 square feet.

In May, the district, a cooperative of cites and water agencies serving nearly 19 million people, doubled its rebates from $1 to $2 per square foot for consumers and businesses.

Nurturing wildlife, conserving resources

Water restrictions put in place as a result of the drought have left lots of dead lawns and have prompted homeowners to think about what to do with a much more limited water supply, said Bart O’Brien, director of the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Berkeley.

“Everyone has taken water supply pretty much for granted until this unprecedented, longer, drier drought than we’ve had in historic times,” he said.

Gardeners are taking new interest in native California plants, which not only use less water but also can help sustain insects, birds, lizards and other wildlife that have become endangered by the loss of natural areas.

"Through the act of thoughtful gardening, we can make a rather significant difference," said Carol Bornstein, the director of the Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

The Solano County Water Agency's program is four years old, but 65 percent of its 282 participants signed up in the last fiscal year, according to the agency. Since July, 56 projects have been completed. It pays $1 per square foot for up to 1,000 square feet for environmentally friendly landscaping.

"I think it's opening up a lot of people's eyes especially right now," said Lara Remitz, a landscape architecture student at the University of California, Davis, who has been working with the program. "It helps people understand that there is an issue with water."

But she has noticed that some homeowners still leave a patch of dirt that they plan to return to lawn if the drought eases.

"There's still a large resistance to the idea," she said.

In Rio Vista, the Azarnoffs are happy with their new landscaping. They had liked their lawn, but it was maintained by a sprinkler system, Daniel Azarnoff said. By switching to a drip system that targets only the plants, they are using much less water, he said.

“And it still looks very beautiful,” he said.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Hate Crime Arrest in Central Park]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 05:25:41 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/generic+central+park+vg.jpg

Police say a man was arrested and charged for his involvement in a Central Park assault that is being investigated as a hate crime.

The man, 20-year-old Edward Fall, allegedly shot a jogger with a pellet gun on Monday and was part of a group of people who the jogger said made anti-white statements against her.

Fall has been charged with hate crime assault, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a weapon. He faces the same charges for allegedly shooting another jogger in the same manner last Sunday.

Police say four other people were with Fall when he shot the jogger on Monday, and that they also made anti-white statements, but authorities have not announced any other arrests.

Information on a lawyer for Fall was not immediately available.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: Valeria Gonzalez]]>
<![CDATA[Falling Tree Kills Man, Injures 3]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 09:37:14 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Generic-Ambulance-Cropped.jpg

A Howard County, Maryland, man was killed Saturday when a tree fell on him while he was grilling.

Emergency crews arrived at the 2800 block of Daisy Road in Woodbine after getting a call about a man trapped under a tree. The responders found the man who had fatal injuries. Three children were also injured from the falling tree.

Investigators said it appears the tree was rotten and gave way.

Two of the injured children were transported to Howard County General Hospital where they were treated and released.

The tree also caused extensive damage to four vehicles and the house. The home is uninhabitable due to a large hole in the roof.

The Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services chaplain and the American Red Cross are helping the family.

Photo Credit: Getty Images ]]>
<![CDATA[Police Investigating Baby's Death ]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 05:15:14 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/14+month+old+dead+with+inset.jpg

Police are investigating the death of a 14-month-old child in Queens, authorities said Saturday.

Police and EMS were called to the home of the baby on 228th Street on Friday evening. They found the child, Daniella Okoye, unconscious. She was taken to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival, police said.

According to police, Daniella's father told authorities his daughter was already strapped into her car seat when he picked her and another child up from daycare. He told police he thought the girl was asleep, and it was only once he got home that he realized something was wrong and dialed 911, police said.

Phone messages left at the day care center, House of Tiny Tots in Jamaica, weren't immediately returned. 

The death comes just over a week after a Bronx day care worker was arrested on manslaughter charges in the beating death of a 20-month-old boy.

The medical examiner's office will ultimately determine Daniella's cause of death. The city's Children's Services agency says it is investigating the death.

--Michael George contributed reporting

<![CDATA[Girl on Life Support After Crash]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 11:08:35 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/200*120/aisling+cooke+route+40+crash.JPG

A 14-year-old girl is on life support and four other teenager girls are recovering after a pickup truck crossed a median and set off a chain-reaction wreck along a South Jersey roadway.

A 2008 Chevrolet Silverado driven by Nicholas Gareffi, 39, of Vineland, crossed the center line of Route 40 (Harding Highway) near Pittsburgh Avenue in Hamilton Township around 8:45 a.m. Saturday, according to police.

His truck then headed into oncoming traffic traveling westbound -- slamming into a box truck, which collided with a 2011 Volkswagon Jetta with five teenage girls inside, according to investigators.

The Chevy ran off the roadway, struck several trees and caught fire, police said. Meanwhile the force of the wreck pushed the Jetta onto a nearby lawn.

All five of the Jetta's passengers-- athletes for Mainland Regional High School -- were heading to a charity soccer game when the crash occurred, according to school officials.

"They were on a mission," said Robert Previti, interim superintendent of Mainland Regional High School District. "A soccer tournament to go help someone else."

The Jetta’s driver Madelyn Williscroft, 18, of Linwood, suffered moderate to severe injuries. One of her passengers, 14-year-old Aisling Cooke, sustained serious injuries and was medivaced to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center - City Division. Three other students in the car were also hurt.

Cooke remains hospitalized on life support Saturday.

Williscroft and  the three other students were evaluated at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center and released to their parents, according to Previti.

"One remains in critical condtion," Previti said. "Please keep the entire Mainland Community in your thoughts and prayers."

The box truck’s driver Darrel Jacobs, 48, of Vineland, was taken to the hospital for observation. Gareffi wasn’t hurt, according to police.

Police closed Route 40 for about two hours Saturday as they investigated.

No summonses were immediately issued and the investigation is ongoing, officers said.

Nearly 200 people -- both students and parents -- showed up at Mainland Regional High School Saturday afternoon for a prayer service after learning about the crash.

The wreck comes two years after a fatal car wreck took the lives of four Mainland football players.

In Aug. 2011, 17-year-old Casey Brenner lost control while driving an SUV and crashed into a roadway median, police said. The accident killed Brenner, 16-year-old Edgar Bozzi, 15-year-old Dean Khourty and 16-year-old Nicholas Conner.

"That scar tissue is very deep," Previti said. "It never heals, it never loses consciousness. Now we have another we're going to deal with."

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

<![CDATA[Made in America Concertgoers Arrested]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 01:12:34 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/140830-made-in-america-concert-downtown-los-angeles.jpg

More than two dozen arrests were made on the first night of the two-day Made in America music festival attended by 34,000 at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles, police said.

At least 29 people landed in handcuffs Saturday - including a private security guard for the alleged battery of a concertgoer - the Los Angeles Police Department said. Officials said most arrests were drug and alcohol related.

The LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department each had several hundred officers and deputies assigned to the festival and there were hundreds of private security personnel on hand as well, said LAPD Lt. Andrew Neiman said.

No major incidents were reported, although six people were taken to the hospital for heat-related ailments, authorities said.

The event was mostly peaceful.

"Here we're all united as one," said one concertgoer. "Music brings us together. We're here to have a good time, nothing else matters."

The concert features three stages and a lineup that includes Kanye West, Afrojack, Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar, John Mayer and Iggy Azaela.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Kate Larsen (@KateNBCLA via Twitter)]]>
<![CDATA[CT Officer Dragged By Vehicle]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 04:56:57 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Bristol_Mwanilelo1.jpg

Bristol police have arrested a man for dragging an officer with his vehicle.

Police say the situation started when officers arrived at the Hunting Woods Apartment Complex on Blakeslee Street for a report of a violation of a protective order. The suspect, Mussa Mwanilelo of Springfield, Massachusetts, was in his vehicle when police arrived.

Mwanilelo attempted to flee in his car, according to police. When an officer attempted to stop the vehicle, Mwanilelo grabbed the officer’s arm. The officer was dragged a short distance as Mwanilelo drove off, but eventually got free and suffered minor injuries.

Bristol police say Mwanilelo was later located with help from Farmington police and Connecticut state police on I-84 in Hartford. He was arrested and returned to Bristol.

He is charged with assault on an officer, interfering with an officer, first-degree reckless endangerment, criminal violation of a restraining order, first-degree criminal trespass, possessing weapons in a motor vehicle, and second-degree breach of peace. He was held on $250,000 bond.

Photo Credit: Bristol Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[San Joaquin Valley Hit Hard by Drought]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 19:41:38 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/180*120/467472193.jpg

In the rich farmland of the San Joaquin Valley it's summertime -- peak growing season for many crops. But every sunbaked, scorching day brings another test of water reserves in a region running on empty.

The dearth of irrigation water from rivers or reservoirs has forced growers in the valley 80 miles north of Los Angeles to rely almost entirely on water pumped from wells.
"I'm worried from a couple of standpoints," said grower Stuart Woolf, as he stood in a field of tomatoes at harvest time.  "One, I'm worried that we just flat run out of groundwater."
Some growers have already taken draconian steps to deal with the reality that they don't have enough water for all their crops. Near Fresno, Shawn Stevenson bulldozed a third of his orange grove.
"When these trees are gone they're not going to use any more water so I can put that water on another crop," Stevenson said.
In this third year of record drought, other growers have idled acreage for annual row crops.
"If this was a regular year, this would have been re-planted either to corn or to sorghum," said Tipton farmer Tom Barcellos,  as he showed a reporter a field he's fallowed  "either one of them would have been about 10 feet tall right at this point so we'd been walking here and you'd never see us."
Not far away, Vince and Pam Sola watched their almonds being harvested next door to a field they've left unplanted.  Permanent tree crops are different.  If you can't water them, you not only lose that year's income; you lose your investment.
"It's sad to see this land just lay there vacant," said Pam Sola, shrugging her shoulders as her husband finished her thought.
"Without surface water, we decided we had  to leave some land idle and divert the water to less acres," said Vince Sola.
It is a summer of crisis for the Solas, Barcellos, and Woolf, but the crisis is hardly unique to them, with the drought stressing agriculture in virtually the entire San Joaquin Valley.  
Its farming region stretches from the Tehachapi Mountains to Stockton, bounded by the Coast Range to the west and the Sierra Nevada to the east. Blessed with rich soil, an abundance of sun, but minimal rainfall even apart from drought years, the valley has relied for half a century on water imported from Northern California to become the nation's most productive growing region, known for its citrus and grapes. and increasingly for specialty tree crops such as almonds and pistachios, walnuts and cherries.
"This is an impact across the country," warned Barcellos.  "You look at the number of nuts and grapes -- everything that's on somebody's table sometime of the day comes from this valley."
Barcellos is primarily a dairyman in a corner of Tulare County that produces 12 percent of the nation's milk.  He worries about cows that need water every three hours, and rely on misters to avoid overheating in triple-digit temperatures.
"There is no surface water to buy here for this district," Barcellos laments, as he shows a reporter a bone-dry and dusty irrigation ditch that had been serving his farm for decades.  He wistfully recalls playing in the ditch water as a teenager, even water skiing as a buddy pulled him along with a tractor.  No more.
Since shortly after World War II, and with rare exceptions, the region farmed by Barcellos and the Solas has been able to rely on irrigation water from the federal Central Valley Project. The Bureau of Reclamation dammed the San Joaquin River, and diverted almost its entire flow into two irrigation canals for the eastside growers. A third canal, from the San Francisco Bay Delta to Mendota, was built for growers with rights to the San Joaquin River to replace the water no longer flowing downstream. Surplus water from the Delta Mendota Canal became available for growers including the Woolf Farm on the west side of the valley, and the region flourished, despite nagging concerns that in dry years, relying on junior rights, it would be the first to be cut off.
Statewide, agriculture takes an estimated three-quarters of the water California consumes. Farming is by far the state's largest single water user, dwarfing the amount city-dwellers use to boil their potatoes, brush their teeth, wash their clothes and water their yards.
Over the decades, periodic droughts have reduced or even interrupted deliveries, but nothing like this past year of drought, when only the holders of original, so-called "riparian" rights to the San Joaquin River received surface water; for other growers, the federal allocation was reduced to zero, leaving them almost entirely dependent on groundwater.
Not every farm has sufficient well capacity to serve all of its needs.  In some cases, wells have gone dry as the water table is drawn down. Even farms with adequate well water see profits decimated by the cost of purchasing the electrical power needed to pump deep-lying groundwater hundreds of feet to the surface.
This past week, the California state legislature took initial steps toward tracking and eventually regulating groundwater withdrawals, a level of regulation to which some farmers are resistant, but others are resigned.
"We have to be saved from ourselves," said Vince Sola.  "Otherwise we're just going to pump, pump, pump, and it will be all gone."
Using satellite technology, a new study by UC San Diego found 63 trillion gallons have been lost from the groundwater reserves of the western U.S. That's enough to cover all the land west of the Rockies in four inches of water, the authors noted.  As reserves drop, wells go dry, and drillers cannot keep up with the demand for drilling deeper.
"We're 12-13 months behind," said Steve Arthur of Arthur & Orum Well Drilling, as he watched his crew go down 600 feet for a new well to supply an almond grove outside Caruthers.  In another area to the north of Fresno, another grower had Arthur dig down 2,000 feet.  The water table is not yet that low, Arthur explained, but the grower wants reserve room as the groundwater is drawn down further.
Wells that deep cost as much as $750,000, Arthur said, not including the pump and other expenses before the well becomes operational.
It's deja vu.
Before the Central Valley Project and California's State Water Project, San Joaquin Valley growers relied almost exclusively on groundwater.  So much was pumped out, that the floor of the valley began dropping, or "subsiding," as  the weight of the ground above crushed the waterless Earth below.  By 1977, the ground near Mendota had subsided some 30 feet, according to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey.  
That subsidence has again reared its head is not disputed by growers.
"In some regions you can actually see the ground around the well site -- it looks like the well is growing -- it's coming out of the ground," said Woolf, explaining that in reality, the ground is dropping around the wellhead, exposing more of it.
To stetch their water, growers have been switching to more efficient irrigation techniques, including expensive drip systems.

It has also lead to unintended consequences.  Drip means that the mineral contaminants in groundwater are concentrated at the seed row.  Avoiding overwater also limits the water that in the past would have percolated through the soil to replenish the underground water table.

Where the drought is reducing crop yields may lead to higher prices -- but not necessarily for crops in competition with other regions, and the California drought impact at the grocery checkout stand so far has been minimal.
"If all you know is you go to the store and the food is there and it doesn't cost any more, then you don't seen the impact," Pam Sola said.
Growers hope it does not get to that point before they get assistance.  They are calling for the government water projects to build additional storage, so that more of the snowmelt and river runoff during wet years can be saved for drought years.
Some $2.7 billion would be dedicated to new storage if California voters approve the water bond that the legislature has placed on the November ballot.  Many growers think it should be more.
In addition, growers bristle at environmental conservation rulings and decisions that have placed limits on the amount of river water that can be withdrawn and delivered by the water projects for irrigation.
Some characterize the dispute as Farmer vs. Fish.
Of particular concern are the salmon that swim through the vast Delta where the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers reach the San Francisco Bay.  Salmon still spawn upstream in the Sacramento Rivers.  Federal rulings have effectively placed limits on water releases from upstream dams in order to insure that river temperatures remain cool enough for salmon to spawn.
Under a separate agreement to restore the salmon runs in the San Joaquin River, 17 percent of the average flow long diverted to irrigation canals will be again sent downstream for the fish.
The agreement does recognize the impact of periodic droughts.  This year, no water is being released into the San Joaquin River for restoration, according to  Monty Schmitt of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
That is not the only impact of the drought on environmental restoration.  It has also limited the amount of water for the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in an area that once was periodically flooded by the San Joaquin River and was a natural wetland.  That ended when 19th century ranchers established grazing fields  and built levees to protect them.  
The value of maintaining wetlands and native grasslands became a goal of the US Dept. of the Interior after it became apparent that one of the worst natural disasters of the 20th century, the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, was enabled by the removal of native grasslands for farm crops  that could not be sustained during a drought.
Since the 1960's, some of the water delivered by the Delta Mendota Canal has gone to flooding
the Refuge every September.  This drought year,  the allocation has been reduced to 65 percent of normal, according to Karl Stromayer, Refuge Asst. Manager, and that will affect the habitat in this portion of what is known as the Pacific Flyway.
"When migratory birds get here, we have less food for them," Stromayer said.  
Ironically, during this drought summer there is now more water in the San Joaquin than there has been for decades, because it is being released to satisfy the riparian rights of downstream properties that for decades until this year had been served by the Delta Mendota Canal.
That water is being released from Friant Dam, rather than being diverted into the Friant-Kern canal, is the reason Barcellos and his fellow Tulare County growers are not receving any Central Valley project water this year.
Growers acknowledge the need to protect habitat, but challenged the benefits of how it has played out.  A longtime sore point for growers is a ruling that effectively limits how much freshwater can be
withdrawn from the Delta in order to protect a finger-size fish known as the Delta Smelt, an endangered, and therefore protected, species. 
Woolf observed the hand-wringing in Los Angeles in July when a water main failure sent 20 million gallons of water through the UCLA campus en route to storm sewers.
"Here this season over one 60 day period we sent 260 million gallons under the Golden Gate Bridge for a benefit nobody knows what it was," complained Woolf.
Environmental activists contend there are tangible benefits.
"It's very shortsighted to wipe out fisheries to get a little water now that does not benefit us in the longrun," said Kate Poole, senior attorney with the NRDC.
Regardless, the battle will continue to be fought in court.
The environmental issues have had less impact on farming regions in the Delta, and to the north in the Sacramento Valley, where growers rely on water districts with riparian rights to the Sacramento River, which delivers are more than the San Joaquin.  Growers in California's next largest agricultural region, the Imperial Valley near the Mexican border, import their water from the Colorado River, which has been less affected by the California drought. 
All with stakes in California's water supply worry about the effect of climate change adding to unpredictability.  But as it is, California's surface water resource has been frustratingly unpredictable since epic flooding overwhelmed the San Joaquin Valley's first generation of farmers back in the 19th Century after the Gold Rush.
It's been four decades since a drought as severe as the current one, but since 1977, not a decade has passed without a drought, and the one just 5 years ago triggered conservation responses still in place in many areas, including Los Angeles.
By the same token, every 4 years on average there is a rainy season wet enough to produce flooding.  The last one occurred in the winter of 2011, when reservoirs ran out of capacity and instead of banking water for summer during winter and spring, had to release it. 
"We never get an average amount of water," Schmitt said. "It's always too much or too little.  The key is:  how do we manage it so we will have vibrant agriculture industry, while also having a healthy river and community resource."

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[1 Man Robs 2 Banks Back-to-Back]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 18:27:21 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dual-Bank-Robbery.jpg

A lone suspect may have been responsible for two back-to-back robberies at two different banks in the same Mira Mesa shopping center Saturday, officials said.

According to San Diego police, the robberies happened within minutes of each other, just before 12:30 p.m. One was at a North Island Credit Union at 9420 Mira Mesa Blvd., while the other was at a U.S. Bank at 9400 Mira Mesa Blvd. The banks are in the same shopping center, separated only by a small parking lot.

Police said an unknown man entered the North Island Credit Union first, approached a teller and verbally demanded cash. After receiving some money, he left the bank and popped into the U.S. Bank across the way, using the same strategy.

The man then fled the area on foot and was last seen heading westbound on Mira Mesa Blvd., police said.

No demand note or weapon was used in the robberies. Officer did not immediately locate the suspect. For now, the man is only described as 5-foot-6 with a heavy build. He wore a light grey hoodie, black hat and white gloves.

Though the robberies are under investigation, police are fairly certain the same suspect is responsible for both.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Federal Agent Accused of Kidnapping, Brandishing Gun]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 18:15:52 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/tlmd_police_generic_police_tape_police_lights_fishtown_722x406_2202385257.jpg

A drunken federal agent was arrested in Burbank after allegedly pulling out a handgun and telling someone to follow him early Wednesday.

Officers responded to a report of a person brandishing a gun around 12:30 a.m. in the 300 block of East Santa Anita Avenue, according to a news release from the Burbank Police Department.

The victim told police that they were ordered by a “very” intoxicated man armed with a gun to follow him. After following the man for a short period, the victim ran away and was able to escape, officials said.

Police searched the area and found Andrew Leconte around 1 a.m. near San Fernando Boulevard and Angeleno Avenue, less than one mile away.

Investigators later learned that Leconte is an agent with the United States Marshals Service.

Leconte was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and brandishing a firearm, police said. Burbank police were investigating the incident.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: NBC Chicago]]>
<![CDATA[Threat to Obama: Person in Custody]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 08:45:52 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP995664873180.jpg

Hamden, Connecticut, police say that a vehicle believed to be driven by a suspicious person who may have threatened President Barack Obama has been located and a person involved was taken into custody late Friday night.

According to Hamden Police, a Volkswagen Jetta was located on Mix Avenue in Hamden, where the person's address was listed, late Friday.

Hamden Police say that, along with Connecticut State Police and the Secret Service, they converged on the car outside an ice rink.

The Secret Service took a person into custody for questioning after tracking the individual's cell phone.

"We have taken all appropriate investigative steps in this matter, based on the information we received yesterday about a suspicious vehicle and person, " said Nicole Mainor, Public Affairs Staff Assistant for Secret Service. "There have been no arrests or charges brought in this case at this point."

Former FBI Special Agent Michael Clark said the Secret Service must work through threats to the president every day. Clark is a senior lecturer for the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice & Forensic Sciences at University of New Haven and is a former Republican congressional candidate for Connecticut's 5th District.

Though the nature of the threat has not been released, Clark said it's telling that the agency reached out to local law enforcement to track down the suspect.

The Secret Service said earlier on Friday  that a person believed to be involved in a possible threat against President Obama may have been driving a car with Connecticut plates. The vehicle was described as a 2014 blue Volkswagen Jetta.

It is unclear whether the person is still in custody.

Neither police nor Secret Service officials released information on the nature of the reported threat or said why the individual they were looking for was deemed suspicious.

President Obama landed in Air Force One at Westchester County Airport just before 2 p.m. on Friday before heading to fundraising events in Sound Shore and Purchase, NBC New York reported. He then landed at Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island on Friday evening.

On Friday, police in New York's Westchester County received reports that someone possibly trying to harm the president was headed in that direction. 

A number of police bulletins went out in New York and Connecticut searching for the car the person was driving and the Secret Service also asked Connecticut State Police to keep an eye out for the vehicle.

The president returned to the White House Friday evening.

No more information was immediately available. Check back for updates.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[1-Day Sentence for Deadly Crash]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 11:09:32 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Wood-Steffey-0829.jpg

A woman who pleaded guilty to causing a head-on crash that killed an off-duty firefighter in Campo last year will only spend one day in jail, a San Diego judge ruled Friday.

Several months ago, Natasia Wood, 22, pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter in the death of U.S. Forest Service firefighter Darin Steffey, 37.

On Friday, Wood was ultimately ordered to spend one day at Las Colinas Detention Facility for the deadly crash and was given three years of probation and community service in what a judge called a "very terrible, tragic, one-time mistake."

Steffey's mother, Jill Reid, was overcome with emotion at Wood's sentencing. She spoke in court about everything Steffey's family will have to miss now that he's gone.

"It means no wedding celebration, no grandchildren to love, no family gatherings that we would be a cherished part of," said Reid.

The mother said she recently spent her son's birthday not celebrating with him, but rather visiting his gravesite at Miramar National Cemetery in "the most painful way imaginable."

Steffey's sister, Heather Steffey, also addressed the court, speaking about how her only sibling's death has forever changed her life.

“There is nothing in life that will ever be worse than losing my brother. He was my built-in best friend, family and support. [His death] has crippled my existence, left me almost hysterical and unable to deal with the things that I used to be able to deal with," she said. "It has broken my life.”

“I valued no person more on this Earth. That’s what you took from me," Heather added, holding back tears. "I wear my brother around my neck in an urn every day and sometimes hear his sweet voice joking around as we used to.”

Steffey's girlfriend, Jessica Raddatz, also spoke at the sentencing. She said she and Steffey had planned to get married and some day start a family. Since losing Steffey to the deadly crash, Raddatz said she's suffered from depression and PTSD, and still can't believe he's gone.

“My world no longer shines. There are days when I just lay on the couch. I may not have been on the back of that motorcycle but I may as well have been killed because [Wood] has killed me too,” Raddatz said, sobbing.

“The defendant killed a man. And it was so preventable,” a prosecutor told the court, speaking about the dangers of speeding.

According to police, Wood was driving at more than 70 mph – about 15 miles over the posted speed limit – when she lost control and veered into northbound traffic lanes on Buckman Springs Road on Oct. 3, 2013.

Wood’s vehicle collided head-on with Steffey, who was riding his motorcycle. He was killed in the accident.

Steffey, also a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and former hotshot firefighter, was on his way home from work at the time of the deadly crash.

The collision happened just a mile away from Steffey’s fire station. His colleagues were the first responders on scene.

Wood's father, Carlos Wood, also spoke at Friday's sentencing. He said his daughter had been unexpectedly called into work on the day of the accident, which may have played a role in how rushed she felt as she drove.

“I don’t justify speeding in any way, shape or form, but I believe this was an accident,” said Carlos.

The defendant's father said his daughter feels extreme guilt for causing the crash and "wakes up in the middle of the night screaming because of what she did."

Wood's attorney also told the court her client "regrets every day what she did, driving on that road too fast," and is truly sorry for taking Steffey from his family.

Since the accident, Steffey’s family, girlfriend and friends have been working to get justice for their loved one.

In January, Steffey’s mother spoke one-on-one with NBC 7 about her beloved son and urged others not to speed while driving.

Steffey's loved ones maintain a Facebook group that follows their fight for justice in this case.

Raddatz has also created a "Darin Steffey Roadside Memorial Fund," which collects donations to erect a permanent roadside memorial sign in Steffey's honor that will "remind others of the tragic consequences of reckless driving." To donate, click here.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Southern California

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[NYC Death Ruled Homicide by Police]]> Sun, 31 Aug 2014 11:28:07 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/ambulance-shutterstock_12161325.jpg

A man who went into cardiac arrest after being placed in a body wrap by police outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral in midtown died of homicide caused by physical restraint, the medical examiner has found.

Ronald Singleton, 45, died of homicide caused by "physical restraint by police" last month while he was apparently high on PCP, or angel dust, the medical examiner says.

High blood pressure, heart disease and obesity were also contributing conditions, the medical examiner said. 

Police say a taxi cab driver flagged an officer on foot patrol near St. Patrick's Cathedral at East 51st Street and Fifth Avenue just after midnight on Saturday, July 13 and said his passenger was acting "overly irate and irrational" as he cursed and screamed. 

When the passenger got out of the taxi, he tried fighting with the officer, who in turn called for backup, police said.

A lieutenant and other officers from Midtown North responded, along with emergency services officers, who put Singleton in a protective body wrap, police said. 

EMS started to transport Singleton to Bellevue Hospital when he went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance, police said. The ambulance rerouted to the closer Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. 

Singleton was never under arrest, police said, and was only considered an emotionally disturbed person when he was being transported to the hospital. 

The NYPD says it's cooperating with the district attorney's office, which is leading the investigation into the case. 

Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said in a statement Saturday that Singleton risked his life when he used PCP, and ultimately was responsible for his own death.

"Our members follow department protocols designed to best insure the safety of the drug abuser and of the police officers who are attempting to get the individual the necessary medical aid," he said. "The responsibility for the outcome lies entirely with the drug abuser."

The NYPD has been scrutinized more closely for its arrest tactics since the death of Staten Island man Eric Garner, who also died of a homicide after being placed in a chokehold by an officer.

In that case, the medical examiner said compression of the neck and chest, along with Garner's positioning on the ground while being restrained by police during the July 17 stop on Staten Island, caused his death. Asthma, obesity and heart disease were also contributing factors. 

The death sparked national outrage for what civilians considered excessive and brutal tactics in approaching and restraining Garner, and the Staten Island district attorney has said the case will go to a grand jury. 

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[11 Shot Overnight in Chicago]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 08:09:00 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/SHOOTINGS+LABOR+DAY+1.jpg

At least one person was killed and 10 others wounded in overnight shootings in Chicago as a long holiday weekend began.

Police said a man was killed late Friday night in the city's Back of the Yards neighborhood.

A 36-year-old man was found on the sidewalk around 10:45 p.m. in the 5400 block of South Damen Avenue with gunshot wounds to the head and thigh. He was transported to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County where he was pronounced dead, according to authorities.

At least 10 others were wounded in shootings Friday night and into Saturday morning.

Just after 5 a.m. Saturday, a 28-year-old man was shot in the back in the 2600 block of West 65th Street. The man told police he was sitting outside when someone exited a vehicle and fired a gun in his direction.

The victim fled the scene and collapsed in the 6500 block of South Washtenaw Avenue, according to Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Amina Greer.

He was transported to Advocate Christ Medical Center in stable condition.

Around 2:45 a.m., a 47-year-old was shot while sitting in her car in the 8100 block of South Muskegon Avenue. The woman told police she "heard shots and felt pain" when she realized she had been shot in the side.

She was listed in critical condition at Stroger Hospital.

An hour earlier, a 32-year-old man was shot in the arm in the 4400 block of South Archer Avenue. The man was a passenger in a vehicle when he said he "heard shots and felt pain."

He was taken in stable condition to Holy Cross Hospital.

Around 12:30 a.m., a 34-year-old man was shot in the abdomen in the 10900 block of South Racine Avenue. The man was transported to Stroger Hospital in critical condition but was not cooperating with police, Greer said.

On Friday, a 26-year-old man was shot just after 9 p.m. in the 10000 block of South Avenue M. The man took himself to Trinity Hospital with a gunshot wound to the back and his condition was stabilized, officials said. The man was walking on the block when a red SUV pulled alongside him and occupants in the vehicle displayed gang slogans, police said. A man then exited the vehicle and opened fire at the victim.

Ten minutes earlier, a 32-year-old man was shot in the finger in the 4600 block of West Van Buren Street. The man transported himself to Loretto Hospital where he was expected to be treated and released.

Two men were shot around 8:15 p.m. in the 1800 block of South Throop Street. The men were on a sidewalk when they told police a black SUV drove by and someone inside fired shots at them. A 22-year-old man was shot in the leg and was listed in stable condition at Stroger Hospital and a 19-year-old man was shot in the leg and listed in stable condition at Mount  Sinai.

Two men were shot at 7:05 p.m. Friday in two separate shootings.

A 23-year-old man was shot in the foot in the 9100 block of South Yates Boulevard. The man said he was sitting on a porch when someone fired at him from a black SUV. The man was listed in stable condition at Trinity Hospital.

At the same time, a 28-year-old man was shot while sitting on a porch in the 0-100 block of East 101st Street. The man told police he "heard shots and felt pain" and realized he was shot in the buttocks. The man was taken in stable condition to Advocate Christ Medical Center.

<![CDATA[Kraft Recalls Some American Singles Cheese]]> Sat, 30 Aug 2014 08:57:36 -0700 http://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP091109173400.jpg

Kraft is voluntarily recalling 7,691 cases of four varieties of its regular American Singles cheese product.

The recalled products have a "Best if Used By" date of Feb. 20, 2015, and Feb. 21, 2015.

Kraft traced the recall back to one of the company's suppliers. Kraft Foods Group Inc., which is based in Northfield, Illinois, said the supplier did not store an ingredient used in the cheese product at the company's standards.

Kraft said it's unlikely but the product could spoil prematurely, and it could lead to food-borne illness. However, Kraft said no one has reported getting sick.

Kraft spokesman Russ Dyer said the company issued a nationwide recall, but he can't specifically cite a city or state that received the potentially problematic cheese.

"We can tell you that very little product was shipped, so there is a limited amount of product, if any, on shelf," Dyer said.

Kraft said you can return the cheese to the store you purchased it at for a refund. Customers can also call Kraft at 800-396-5512.

Below is a list of package codes associated with the recall.

  • 0 21000 60464 7
  • 0 21000 61526 1
  • 0 21000 61526 1
  • 0 21000 63360 9

Photo Credit: AP]]>