<![CDATA[NBC Southern California - Top Stories]]>Copyright 2018https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/NBC4_40x125.png NBC Southern California https://www.nbclosangeles.comen-usWed, 21 Feb 2018 07:26:12 -0800Wed, 21 Feb 2018 07:26:12 -0800NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Evangelist Billy Graham, 'America's Pastor,' Dies at 99]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 07:13:00 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/graham-in-home.jpg

Billy Graham, one of the nation’s most powerful preachers who helped usher evangelical Christianity into the American mainstream through televised sermons, best-selling books, political appearances and stadium revivals, died Wednesday at the age of 99.

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association confirmed his death to NBC News. Graham, who long suffered from cancer and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina.

In his final decade, Graham had suffered Parkinson’s disease and loss of hearing and vision, which forced him to substantially retreat from the public eye. He had been hospitalized several times since May 2011 with pneumonia and respiratory problems, most recently on November 20.

President Donald Trump honored Graham on Twitter Wednesday morning, writing, "The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man."

In his final years, even when his brown hair transformed to a shock of white and the finger swiping that punctuated his most passionate speeches faded to milder gestures, Graham continued his decades-long legacy of counseling American leaders and using his influence to gently nudge the course of national politics. During 2012 presidential race, Graham prayed with both President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as he had with a long string of other presidents and their rivals, but threw his support behind Romney, urging his followers to “vote for biblical values this Nov. 6 and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.” He also weighed in on the gay marriage debate, urging North Carolinians to vote for a state marriage amendment that would firmly ban same-sex unions—an amendment that passed by a comfortable margin but later made moot by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. As he always had, he faced criticism from both sides, some decrying his meddling in secular politics, and others arguing that he did not wield his influence more forcefully in one direction or the other.

It was the sort of criticism he had faced throughout his years as an ordained minister that saw the civil rights movement, which he supported, the sexual revolution of the 60s, which he opposed, wars and disease, economic prosperity and decline.

His influence, however, had always been more religious than political and was far less partisan than that of other evangelical leaders of his time. Throughout his career, he developed relationships—often close relationships—with Republican and Democratic presidents. He spent time in Kennebunkport, Maine, with President George H. W. Bush and his family, and was by the Clinton’s side during Bill's tumultuous second term. In an interview with Time magazine, Graham said he tried to emphasize to all the leaders he grew to know and love, the need for them “to have love for the people who were opposed to them.”

Bush remembered his "good friend" in a statement, writing, "Billy Graham was America's pastor. His faith in Christ and his totally honest evangelical spirit inspired people across the country and around the world. I think Billy touched the hearts of not only Christians, but people of all faiths, because he was such a good man. I was privileged to have him as a personal friend. He would come to Maine to visit with Barbara and me, and he was a great sport. He loved going really fast in my boat. I guess you could say we had that in common. Then we would come home and talk about life. He was a mentor to several of my children, including the former president of the United States."

"Rosalynn and I are deeply saddened to learn of the death of The Reverend Billy Graham," former president Jimmy Carter said in a statement. "Tirelessly spreading a message of fellowship and hope, he shaped the spiritual lives of tens of millions of people worldwide. Broad-minded, forgiving, and humble in his treatment of others, he exemplified the life of Jesus Christ by constantly reaching out for opportunities to serve. He had an enormous influence on my own spiritual life, and I was pleased to count Reverend Graham among my advisers and friends."

But those political ties proved problematic when his close friend Richard Nixon resigned in the Watergate scandal, leaving Graham devastated and baffled.

Graham preached to more than 215 million people and is credited with converting more than 2.5 million people to Christianity, according to the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, which he founded in 1950. He crisscrossed the globe, from the Congo to New York City, where he attracted more than 200,000 people in his final “crusade” in 2005. It was Graham who founded Christianity Today to help unify the country’s evangelical movement and made the “My Answer” column a regular feature in more than 200 newspapers. Fifty-six times, Graham earned a spot on Gallup’s list of the top 10 most admired men in the world, surpassing runner-up Ronald Reagan by a massive margin.

William Franklin Graham Jr. was born near Charlotte, N.C. on Nov. 7, 1918. At age 16 he met an evangelist who inspired him to become a preacher and soon enrolled in Bob Jones University, a religious college in Greenville, South Carolina. He continued his studies at Florida Bible Institute and later Wheaton College in Illinois where he met his future wife, Ruth McCue Bell, the daughter of missionaries. His rise to prominence is traced to the front-page coverage that the Hearst newspapers gave to his 1949 Los Angeles revival.

Graham preached about the sinfulness of man, the wrath of hell, but the promise of redemption from a forgiving and loving God. Though some of his views were divisive, his message was often one that encouraged unity and he was therefore often called upon in moments of national tragedy to offer comfort to the grieving. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he addressed the nation from the National Cathedral, proclaiming that “God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be.”

Graham celebrated his 95th birthday on November 7, 2013, surrounded by hundreds of well-wishers. In a video, that was recorded over the past year and played at the party, Graham delivered what is being characterized as his final sermon. He spoke of Jesus Christ's saving power and expressed concerns about America's future.

"Our country's in great need of a spiritual awakening," he said. "There have been times that I've wept as I've gone from city to city and I've seen how far people have wandered from God."

Graham lost his wife Ruth in 2007 and will be buried by her at the Bill Graham Museum and Library. and is survived by their five children—Virginia Leftwich, Anne Morrow, Ruth Bell, William Franklin and Nelson Edman—19 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren.

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[The Life and Times of Billy Graham]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 05:37:52 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/graham-in-color.jpg Christian Evangelist minister, Billy Graham, spread the word of God across America and the globe through his sermons and international crusades. Take a look back at his life in photos.

<![CDATA[3 Children Swipe Package Off Porch of Loma Linda Home]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 20:34:26 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Package_Thieves_022018.jpg

Porch package thieves have struck again, but this time cameras captured kids in the act at a Loma Linda home.

Little did they know, homeowner Jon Frederico had a video surveillance system called Ring installed on his doorbell.

"It's shocking. It's something you don't want to see, especially in your neighborhood," Frederico said.

At about 11:15 a.m. Monday, Frederico received a notification on his ring device confirming the delivery of his two packages containing electrical outlets for a home improvement project.

However, when he arrived home later that day, the packages were nowhere to be found.

Frederico then checked his home surveillance footage, shocked to find that the porch package thieves could be no more than 9 to 12 years old.

In the surveillance video, three kids can be seen walking towards Frederico’s home.

The two older children appear to coax the youngest boy to grab the package from the front porch while they keep an eye out on the front lawn.

The little boy can be seen scurrying towards the porch to quickly swipe the package, stumbling briefly on his run back to his older friends. The little boy then delivered the packages to the older boy in a dark hoodie and the three walk away. 

Frederico reported the theft to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department who have yet to identify the young porch thieves.

While he says he was angry that his packages were stolen, he was more upset by the fact that children were the culprits. He hopes someone will recognize the kids so that they can learn a lesson.

"So whatever parents are out there of these kids that they try to help their kids learn how to be productive members of society and that stealing is wrong and bad. Hopefully they can grow from this experience,” Frederico said.

If you have any information about the kids or the case, please contact the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Photo Credit: Jon Frederico]]>
<![CDATA[Twisted, Part III: The Testimony]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 09:09:21 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/199*120/Twisted+_+3.jpg

This is the third in a six-part series.

A marijuana dispensary owner and his roommate are abducted in the middle of the night at gunpoint from their Newport Beach home by three masked men.

Driven to the Mojave Desert while the man was tortured, the disturbing events of that night became known as one of Orange County's most horrific crimes.

Part I: The Kidnapping

Part II: The Investigation

The kidnapping investigation took detectives to a high school friend of Kyle Handley's, the first man arrested in connection with the brutal crime.

Hossein Nayeri's ex-wife, Cortney Shegerian, testified against him and said her former husband was also involved in the crime.

Nayeri denies the allegations against him and his trial is slated to begin next month.

At Handley's trial, Shegerian detailed what she said was an abusive relationship with Nayeri, the months he allegedly spent planning the crime, and his frantic efforts to flee to Iran before he could be arrested.

In 2012, Shergerian said, her ex-husband set aside marijuana dealing — a venture he did not deny during a jailhouse interview with NBC4 — and focused on a new venture: spying on a marijuana dispensary owner he believed to be very wealthy.

Come take a look, Nayeri told his wife one day while looking at a map on his laptop.

"'Why would someone be circling out in the desert?'" Shegerian said he asked her. "Would that be a great place to bury money?"

"Yeah. Sure. Probably," she said she responded.

Shegerian described for the jury odd behavior in the months before the victim was kidnapped and tortured.

Shegerian said Nayeri became obsessed with the surveillance. She said he asked her to search the Internet for the victim's name. She said she rode along with him to locations in Orange and Los Angeles counties where he set up and took down small cameras and affixed GPS devices on cars "to see where they were going."

She said she peeked over Nayeri's shoulder as he pulled up maps that corresponded to GPS tracker locations on his laptop just about every other day.

It was his "100 percent focus," she told the jury.

Shegerian testified as part of a deal with prosecutors that grants her immunity. A lawyer, Shegerian is also under investigation by the State Bar of California for her involvement in the crime.

Two weeks before the kidnapping, Shegerian said, Handley came to the apartment in Newport Beach she shared with Nayeri. She said Nayeri and Handley went into the garage where she heard them laughing while playing with a blowtorch.

She testified she also saw a hard hat that Nayeri had nicked by throwing it on the ground, rolling it around.

"Does that look like it's been worn?" she said he asked her.

Nayeri borrowed her pink stun gun, prosecutors said.

The Pursuit

On Sept. 26, 2012, just days before the kidnapping, Shegerian said she was home alone.

She got a knock at the door in the middle of the night. It was the police.

Her Chevy Tahoe had been in a high-speed pursuit. It was found parked on a tiny street on Balboa Island, nestled in the Newport Bay between the Balboa Peninsula and mainland Newport Beach.

The driver was nowhere to be found. The Tahoe was impounded by police.

She said she lied at the time about who had the SUV.

"I knew Hossein had the car," she said. "I don't think I told them that."

Hours later — at 4 or 5 in the morning — Shegerian got another knock at the door.

It was her husband. He was drenched. She later told investigators that he told her he had been in the pursuit, ditched the Tahoe, and managed to avoid being caught by police by hiding out in the chilly waters of the bay under an overpass.

She said he asked her to go to the police station and file a police report saying the SUV had been stolen, which she did.

If it came back that he was the driver involved in the chase, he would've gone to jail. At the time, he was on felony probation for a vehicular manslaughter conviction in Central California years earlier.

He then asked her to drive him to Handley's house so he could take a nap, Shegerian said.

Burner Phones

On Sept. 29, 2012, Nayeri asked her to buy four burner phones, Shegerian testified.

She said she was instructed to keep one and give the other three to her husband.

That night, before dinner, she said Nayeri was frustrated because Handley was having a problem.

"'Here, can you talk to Kyle?'" she said her husband said as handed one of the phones to her. "'He can’t set up the pay-as-you-go phone. Tell him how to do that.'"

She said she walked Handley through the set up, a short conversation, outlining the instructions laid out in the phone's activation packet.

She said she didn't know who was going to get the fourth phone.

Nayeri told her to make calls from his iPhone, she said.

Oct. 1, 2012

Shegerian said she remembered Oct. 1 well. It was her birthday.

Nayeri was not around, she said. She spent the day making calls and texting herself on his iPhone as he instructed, from their apartment.

He told her to make sure she used his cellphone in the vicinity of the house that night. "So I did," she said.

She said in court that the next time she talked to her husband was the next morning.

"He called me from his pay-as-you-go phone to my pay-as-you-go phone and said that I need to put money in the meter where Kyle's truck was parked," she testified.

She said Handley's Dodge was parked near a restaurant on the Balboa Peninsula, which was about a half-mile away from the location where the kidnapping occurred earlier that morning.

Shegerian found the truck and put money in the meter before she went to her law clerk job in Cerritos.

She talked to him later that day. This time, she said, Nayeri asked her to buy him four more burner phones.

"After I gave him the four new pay-as-you-go phones, he told me to destroy my previous one," she said.

When she got home, Nayeri wasn't there, but she noticed socks in the trash and the apartment was "somewhat disheveled." She said she thought her dog had gotten into it.

She bagged up the trash and disposed of it at a Target store in Costa Mesa, about an eight minute drive from her apartment.

Then she called Nayeri.

"What's going on with this trash? What's happening? These socks were in there," she said she asked him.

"'Oh, you know, those socks,'" she recounted him saying. "'It's good that you threw them away. Those socks are fine, but it's good that you threw them away.'"

After Handley's Arrest

After Handley was arrested, days later, Shegerian said Nayeri was frantic. They immediately saw a lawyer.

Nayeri began destroying documents, phones, a laptop, and "every single electronic in the house," Shegerian said.

"He went through and cleaned out our entire apartment over the course of like four or five days."

He didn't stop there, she said.

Nayeri went to his old pal Handley's house and removed several items, including a flat-screen TV right off the wall. He also took a Tiffany watch, Shegerian said.

Nayeri said he was going to Iran and told Shegerian to sell the items so he could have spending money while he was abroad.

"Anything that he could take with him, he took," she said.

When investigators learned the Tahoe was still in impound after the kidnapping, they got a search warrant and found mini cameras, GPS trackers and magnets that allow someone to affix the trackers onto metal like on a car. On the cameras, detectives discovered hundreds of hours of footage. In one video, police saw the victim walking from his shop to his truck, prosecutors said.

According to court documents, police found a cellphone containing emails with receipts for the equipment dating back to March 2012. The equipment had been shipped to Handley's Fountain Valley home, officials said.

Police ramped up their hunt for Nayeri.

Coming Thursday: Part IV, The Manhunt 

<![CDATA[The Origins of the Winter Olympics' Craziest Sports]]> Mon, 19 Feb 2018 12:54:33 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/skeleton-bigair-ski-jumping.jpg

The Winter Olympics are undeniably cool, but some of the sports can seem absolutely crazy, making you wonder whose bright idea it was to first hurtle down a nearly mile-long tube of ice (bobsled, skeleton, luge) or fling themselves off a hill (ski jumping, big air snowboarding).

While people have been playing with sleds and skis for centuries, each of these sports has a pretty well-documented history. In fact, there's even one brave person who's credited with making the first ski jump more than 200 years ago.

Check out the origins of the sports that can keep even the hardiest Olympics viewers up at night:

Sliding Sports
Sled races go back a long way – back to the Middle Ages, in fact. The first sled race that was documented took place in Norway back in 1480, the next in Germany in 1552, according to USA Luge.

But what we know as the Olympic sports of skeleton, luge and bobsled are an intercontinental invention.

Toboggans were inspired by Native American-Canadian transport sleds, which were already being used to shoot down straight tracks in the Great White North by 1882. That's when British soldiers in Switzerland added a twist, according to the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation. Actually a couple of twists: they built a curved track between the towns of Davos and Klosters to kick the competition up a notch.

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The next year saw the first luge race on a road between the same two towns, and it ended in a tie. An Australian student and a local mailman both covered the 4 kilometers in 9 minutes and 15 seconds, according to the International Luge Federation.

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Bobsled grew out of skeleton racing, when two skeleton sleds were attached and affixed with a steering mechanism, according to the Olympics' history of the sport. It had an official club in St. Moritz, Switzerland — the site of the second Winter Games — by 1897.

All three of the sports were developed by Swiss hotel owners as a pastime for their wealthy clients, according to the Olympics.

Athletes have sped up dramatically since the first Winter Olympics in 1924. Switzerland won the four-man bobsled with a time of 5:45:54; the top time dropped to 3:40:69 for Latvia at the 2014 Sochi Games. (The Russians had their gold medals rescinded for doping.)

Ski Jumping
It's rare to be able to pinpoint who started a sporting event, but a Norwegian-Danish military officer named Ole Rye is the man credited with making the first ski jump, according to the International Olympic Committee, which credits him with a nearly 10-meter jump, roughly 30 feet, in 1808.

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Rye rose to the rank of general in the Danish military and died in battle in the coastal town of Federicia near Copenhagen, according to a museum in the area.

Organized ski jumping competition had taken off by the 1860s, and the sport's history — and development into a truly death-defying activity — can be traced through the progression of ski jumping styles.

In 1924, the best jumpers sailed about 50 meters. Just 12 years later, after the spread of the Kongsberger technique taught athletes to bed at the hips and extend their arms over the skis, the first one reached 100 meters.

Since then, skiers have learned to put their arms backwards and shape their skis into a V, according to the Olympics. The gold medal-winning large hill jump in at the Pyeongchang Games was 136.6 meters.

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There's actually a version of ski jumping that goes even further than the Olympic competition: ski flying. It's held on even bigger hills than the Olympic standard, and at a competition last month, Poland's Kamil Stoch landed a 230-meter jump — that's 755 feet.

Big Air Snowboarding
Snowboarders have always lived out on the edge, but the big air competition brings that tendency to new heights.

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It made its Olympic debut at Pyeongchang Monday (Sunday in the U.S.), with the first gold medal to be awarded three days later. The athletes drop 125 feet, then launch themselves off a 10-foot jump to nail one massive trick.

The competition dates back to 1994 and an Austrian competition called "Air & Style" that featured just one big jump. It reached the International Ski Federation by 2001 and the world championships in 2003.

Pyeongchang has the tallest ramp in the world, at 49 meters (160 feet).

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It's not official, but Red Bull — the energy drink that's a big name in extreme sports sponsorship — lists the biggest snowboard jump ever landed as a 57-meter (187-foot) 360 pulled off in Norway in 2005.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Pyeongchang by the Numbers: Vonn Finishes Third]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 07:12:21 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/vonn_downshill.jpg

Lindsey Vonn races what's likely her last Olympic downhill, American cross-country skiers break a 42-year medal drought and Liechtenstein's sports royalty shines. Here are the Pyeongchang Games by the numbers: 

33 With a bronze finish in the women’s downhill, Lindsey Vonn became the oldest female medalist in Alpine skiing in the Winter Games at age 33. She takes the record from Austria’s Michaela Dorfmeister, who was just shy of her 33rd birthday when she won the downhill and the super-G at the 2006 Turin Olympics. At the Pyeongchang Games, Vonn's friend and rival Sofia Goggia of Italy finished the downhill in a time of 1 minute, 39:22 seconds, beating her by 0.47 seconds. It was Goggia’s first Olympic gold. And keeping Vonn out of second was a surprise performance from Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway, only 0.09 seconds behind Goggia. Vonn won a gold in the downhill and a bronze in the super-G at the 2010 Vancouver Games, but was forced to sit out Sochi four years later because of injuries. This will likely be Vonn’s last Olympics. "My body just can't, probably can't, take another four years,” she said after the downhill competition. Vonn has dedicated these Olympics to her grandfather, Don Kildow, who died in November. She has one more race, the Alpine combined on Thursday, but she is not a favorite for a medal.

1 Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall became the first American cross-country skiers to win a gold medal, coming in first in the women’s team sprint. Their victory comes 42 years after Bill Koch won a bronze in the 30 kilometer race at the 1976 Winter Games, the only other American cross-country skier to capture a medal. Diggins and Randall earned the first-place position after skiing the fastest overall time during the seminfinals.

7 Tina Weirather, the only woman representing the tiny country of Liechtenstein, added to her family’s legacy when she finished third in the super-G. Seven of Liechtenstein’s 10 Alpine skiing medals were won by her family. Her mother, Hanni Wenzel, is a four-time Olympic medalist, with a bronze in slalom in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1976 and gold in slalom and giant slalom and a silver in downhill in Lake Placid in 1980. Her uncle, Andreas Wenzel, has a silver in men’s giant slalom from Lake Placid, and a bronze, again in giant slalom, from Sarajevo in 1984.

3Three men from Team USA qualified for the big air final Wednesday — Kyle Mack, Chris Corning and Red Gerard — with the sport making its debut at these Olympics Games. With twelve men in the final, the United States has a solid shot at snagging a spot -- or more -- on the podium Saturday (Friday night in the U.S.). But one of the sport’s biggest names already has been eliminated. Norway’s Marcus Cleveland, 18 and thought to be one of the strongest contenders for gold, fell on his second run.


16 — Heather Bergsma and Brittany Bowe redeemed what had been a disappointing Olympics with a bronze medal in the women’s speed skating team pursuit. Also skating for the U.S. were Mia Manganello and, in the semifinals, Carlijn Schoutens. This is the United States’ first women’s speed skating Olympic medal since 2002, 16 years ago, when Jennifer Rodriguez won bronze in the 1500 meter. Japan broke the Olympic record to win gold in 2 minutes, 53.89 seconds, beating the record previously set by the Netherlands and the team from the Netherlands. The Japanese women have excelled at the Pyeongchang Games, winning five medals.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Fla. Political Aide Fired For Parkland 'Crisis Actor' Claim]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 21:53:08 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/022018+Hogg+Gonzalez.png

An aide to a Republican Florida politician was fired after suggesting two Parkland school shooting survivors who are the subject of conspiracy theories are "crisis actors."

In an email, Benjamin A. Kelly, district secretary for Florida State Rep. Shawn Harrison who represents Hillsborough County, said that two students – David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez "are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis when they happen."

Hogg and Gonzalez have been vocal on social media and on television about their efforts to prevent further mass shootings.

However, the grief they face is being corrupted online as the false conspiracy theories spread.

Hogg is targeted in the theories. He is a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who works at the school's TV station.

Following the shooting in which 17 people, mostly his peers, died, he has been outspoken about enacting gun reform to prevent similar tragedies as part of the #NeverAgain movement.

Specifically, Hogg has directed his outrage at the NRA and politicians who have received donations from the gun-rights group.

In the unfounded conspiracy theories, individuals and online groups have used images of Hogg to portray him as a "crisis actor" – definition of which being an actor that travels from crisis to crisis to propagate a specific ideology usually for a political goal.

One post uses as its evidence an interview Hogg conducted with CBS Los Angeles related to a story about a confrontation between a lifeguard and a body surfer – an altercation Hogg caught on camera.

The conspiracy theory further gained traction among fringe parts of the internet after it was mixed with fact: Hogg's father is a retired FBI agent.

The theory seemingly spread to upper levels in state legislature.

Following Kelly's email, Harrison said his aide was "terminated from his position."

"I am appalled at and strongly denounce his comments about the Parkland students. I am again sorry for any pain this has caused the grieving families of this tragedy," Harrison wrote on Twitter.

Harrison said that he does "not share [Kelly's] opinion and he did so without my knowledge."

Kelly on Twitter said he "made a mistake."

"I meant no disrespect to the students or parents of Parkland," he wrote on Twitter before deleting his account.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio did not mince words in his condemnation of the conspiracy theories.

"Claiming some of the students on tv after #Parkland are actors is the work of a disgusting group of idiots with no sense of decency," Rubio wrote on Twitter.

<![CDATA[4 to Watch: Arcadia's Mirai Nagasu Falls Short]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 07:19:19 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/mirai-nagasu-usatsi_10604928-1024.jpg

One of the premiere events of the Winter Olympics got underway when Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen, two skaters with Southern California ties, hit the ice for the first night of the women's figure skating individual competition.

In alpine skiing, Lindsey Vonn got another try at her first Olympic medal since 2010, when she became the face of Team USA at the Vancouver Olympics.

1. Vonn Gets Bronze

Lindsey Vonn won the bronze medal in the Pyeongchang Games in the Alpine downhill race.

Vonn became a household name when she won gold in the downhill in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. But she missed the 2014 Olympics due to injury, and she opened the Pyeongchang games with a a disappointing run in the women's super-G, when she skied wide on a late turn and tied for sixth place. Ester Ledecka, of the Czech Republic, shocked everyone, including herself, by taking the gold.

American Mikaela Shiffrin pulled out of the downhill to prepare for Thursday's Alpine combined. That's where Vonn and Shiffrin, who already won gold in the giant slalom, could compete head-to-head.

2. Americans Fall Short in Women's Short Program

All three Americans to skate in the short program planned to open their routine with triple jumps, and all three stumbled. Bradie Tennell and Mirai Nagasu each fell all the way to the ice — Tennell on a triple lutz to triple toeloop combination, and Nagasu on a her trademark triple axel — while teammate Karen Chen placed a hand on the ice to brace herself coming out of a triple lutz.

Tennell was the first of the 30 skaters to perform and fell to the ice on her opening element, receiving a score of 64.01. The 2018 U.S. national champion finished her routine cleanly and held onto first place through the first 18 competitors, but finished the short program in 11th.

Nagasu, who became the first American to land a triple axel in Olympic competition when she executed it in the team event, stumbled on her trademark jump in the individual competition. An Olympian in 2010, Nagasu received 66.93 points — good for ninth place.

Chen, the final American to skate, was in 10th place with 65.90 points. 

3. U.S. Wins Silver in Bobsled

Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs of the U.S. finished second in women's bobsled in Pyeongchang. Their time of 3:22.52 was just 0.07 seconds back from the gold-medal German sled — the closest margin between first and second in any Olympic bobsled race.

Germany's Mariama Jamanka — a winner of exactly zero major international races in her life until now — drove to gold in the event, adding to her country's dominant showing at the sliding track in these Olympics.

Canada's Kaillie Humphries teamed with Phylicia George to get third in 3:22.89.

It was the third consecutive medal for both Meyers Taylor and Humphries. Meyers Taylor won bronze as a push athlete in 2010 and silver as a driver in 2014; Humphries won gold in each of those Olympic races.

The American sled piloted by Jamie Greubel Poser with brakeman Aja Evans finished fifth, 0.13 seconds off the podium. Greubel Poser won bronze in Sochi.

Outside the medal race, teams from Jamaica and Nigeria made history in Pyeongchang. The Jamaican sled became the first women’s sled from the country to compete in the games, while the Nigerian women became the first African nation to participate in women’s bobsled. Jamaica finished the competition in 19th. Nigeria finished 20th.

4. US Men's Hockey Loses to Czech Republic

Team USA and the Czech Republic were tied 2-2 through overtime and the match was decided in a shootout. Petr Koukal scored the game-winning goal and the Czech Republic will move onto the semifinal match Feb. 22

Team USA put up a dominating performance against Slovakia, winning 5-1, Tuesday. The young group looked strong all around: Ryan Donato scored twice, Troy Terry picked up three assists and Ryan Zapolski made 22 saves.

With National Hockey League players absent in the Olympics, Team USA is comprised of mostly college kids who failed to make it into the professional league. They look to win the United States' first gold medal since the "Miracle on Ice" against the Soviet Union in 1980.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports
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<![CDATA[Woman Convicted of Practicing Dentistry Out of Living Room]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 18:01:06 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/clara+medina.jpg The woman did not have a license to practice dentistry and left at least one victim hospitalized.

Photo Credit: Los Angles City Attorney's Office]]>
<![CDATA[‘I Was Almost a School Shooter’: Man Calls for Gun Reform]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 17:04:30 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/highschoolGettyImages-919901294.jpg

Following the massacre of 17 students and teachers at a Florida high school last week, a Colorado father of four wrote an open letter Tuesday claiming that the only thing that stopped him from carrying out his own bloodbath 30 years ago was his inability to get a gun.

“I was almost a school shooter,” Aaron Stark wrote in a letter shared with NBC affiliate KUSA. “I am not a school shooter because I didn't have access to guns. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. But people with guns kill lots of people.”

Stark wrote that he felt like an outcast in 1996, when he attended Denver's North High School, where he was allegedly bullied and had a very chaotic childhood. “I was going to try and kill a lot of people and then kill myself,” he said during an emotional interview. “It was not directed at the people, it was directed at myself.”

Stark said later on MSNBC Tuesday afternoon that “we need to have a hard look at the effect that guns have” and said in the aftermath of the shooting people needed to be looking at both mental health and gun reform. He also called for people to show more compassion to others.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[LAPD Mulls Over New Body Cam Video Release Policy]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 17:07:52 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/lagenerics-lapd-body-cam.jpg

The Los Angeles Police Commission on Tuesday discussed a proposal for releasing video from officer body cameras and other sources recorded during shootings and major incidents, but no vote on the issue was taken.

Board Vice President Matt Johnson, who helped craft the potential policy, said the board would likely vote on the proposal during its March 13 meeting after gathering public comments and feedback for several weeks.

The proposal in front of the civilian panel which oversees the Los Angeles Police Department would reverse the LAPD's current policy of not releasing any videos expect when under a court order.

"It is our hope and expectation that by increasing transparency, we are strengthening the bonds of trust between the LAPD and the community we serve,'' Johnson said at the meeting while introducing the proposal.

The City Council enacted a $59 million plan in June 2016 to equip more than 7,000 patrol officers with body cameras, sparking a debate on when video shot during critical incidents should be publicly released.

Under the proposal drafted by Richard Tefank, executive director of the Police Commission, video shot during critical incidents -- which includes shootings, in-custody deaths and other major events -- would be released within 45 days. The new policy would apply to body cameras, in-car video, police facility surveillance video, drones and video, in the department's possession, that was captured by third parties.

"This policy is intended to balance two important interests: the public's interest in transparency and police accountability, and the privacy of interests of the individuals depicted in such videos,'' Tefank wrote in the proposal, under which video could be withheld from public release under certain circumstances, including to protect confidential sources or the integrity of an investigation.

Decisions on delaying the release of video would be made by the police chief and two selected commissioners. If the three-person panel votes unanimously, the video would be delayed from public release for 14 days, and the decision would be revisited every 14 days after and also be presented to the Police Commission, which could overrule the subcommittee's decision.

"These reasons must not be general and must have a factual basis and be specific to the individual case. For example, investigators have identified but not been able to interview a key witness,'' Johnson said.

The use of body cameras has become a prominent issue as the focus on police shootings has grown nationally, and the LAPD has said it hopes the cameras will help build more public trust in the department.

While it is seeking to build trust, the department has been criticized by some for not releasing the videos.

The commission last year retained the Policing Project at New York University School of Law to gather public input into a new policy regarding the release of body-worn camera video. According to a report it released last September, a majority of members of the general public who responded to a Policing Project survey said video shot during critical incidents should be mad publicly within a short period of time.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Suicide Rates Spike in Puerto Rico, Five Months After Maria]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 16:57:33 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/AP_173578185676611.jpg

Exactly five months after Hurricane Maria, new figures show suicide rates in Puerto Rico reached a new high after years of steady drops.

At least 103 people have died by suicide in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which ravaged Puerto Rico on Sept. 20. That’s 14 more people than in the same period the year before. Last year ended with a 29 percent increase in suicide cases reported to Puerto Rico’s Department of Health compared to the previous year.

Although the island’s Department of Health has not done a comprehensive study to correlate the spike in suicide rates with Hurricane Maria, experts say that natural disasters have an impact on people’s mental health. A spike in suicidal ideation, which includes thoughts of suicide, shows a marked increase.

"Previous literature shows, and this is in any part of the world, that during the first six months after a hurricane there’s an increase in mental health symptoms," said Glorisa Canino, director of the Behavioral Sciences Research Institute at the University of Puerto Rico.

SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Carlos Giusti]]>
<![CDATA[Let's Talk Poppies, Flower People of SoCal]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 17:31:46 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/poppyGettyImages-72482390.jpg

The last third of February has a way of inspiring a pondering person to ponder a host of topics that are highly specific to life in Southern California.

If you're a cinephile? You're likely anticipating the Academy Awards, which are ramping up, in earnest, as March approaches. The street closures in Hollywood, coming soon, also tell us this is so.

If you like ranunculus blooms, you're gazing in the direction of The Flower Fields, in Carlsbad, which historically reopen on March 1 each year.

You say you adore lambs and goats? You're probably jazzed about the seasonal debut of the Farm Center at Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark, also on March 1.

But if it is all poppy, poppy, poppy in your poppy-obsessed heart come the later part of winter, then you surely know that the Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretative Center at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve observes a traditional opening date in early March.

The center opened on March 1 in 2017, and that's when it will throw wide the doors in 2018.

How, though, is the poppy-blooming situation in the area, following what has been a few drier months, with the bulk of the 2017-2018 winter falling on the warmer side of the scale, generally?

Social media posts from the reserve in recent weeks have been, if not exactly optimistic, then direct in a way all flower fans can realistically understand.

"Currently only a few plants are sprouting, and with no major rainstorms in the forecast it still looks like we won't have much of a bloom this year," reads a Facebook message posted on Tuesday, Feb. 20.

A Feb. 6 post said more rain was needed to get those poppies popping.

Will other blossoms make a showing in the area? What will March and April, typically a prime window for spectacular poppy spreads, bring? Fiddlenecks have been spied, and filaree, too. 

There's hope for generous flower sightings in other areas of the Golden State; daffodils around Gold Country seem to be making an early showing, here and there. And the deserts, too, are seeing some sprouty buds, though not like last year, when an impressive amount of rain dropped ahead of the 2017 wildflower season. 

Still, stay tuned on the poppies and other floral matters. Nature has a way of surprising us, quite often.

For more current observations and updates from the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, keep an eye on the destination's Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Feb. 21 Olympics Photos: US Teams Win Medals, Break Records]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 05:23:54 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/gettyimages-921941232_1024.jpg February 21 competition highlights from the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Photo Credit: Nils Petter Nilsson/Getty]]>
<![CDATA[After Millions in Payouts, LA Pushes Plan to Fix Bike Paths]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 15:53:43 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Bike-Lane-Generic-2015.jpg

The Los Angeles City Council, mindful of millions of dollars in recent lawsuit payouts stemming from bicycle accidents, voted Tuesday to create a plan to inspect all bike paths and lanes and devise ways to pay for any needed repairs.

The city in 2017 paid out more than $19 million in lawsuits to settle cases involving cyclists injured or killed on city streets -- four times higher than any other year over the last decade, according to the Los Angeles Times, which also reported that 19 percent of the city's bike lanes and routes are on streets graded by the city to be a D or F.

Former Bureau of Street Services employees testified during depositions that the city abandoned the practice of regularly inspecting all of its streets roughly five years ago, although the BSS did say it began inspecting all the city's major streets four times a year as of October 2016.

Large payouts in 2017 included $7.5 million for bicyclist William Yao, who was left a quadriplegic following a crash blamed on a substandard street. Yao's attorney said he obtained copies of reports that showed the city had received complaints about the condition of the bike lane where the accident occurred, and that an inspector had been sent out to the site, but nothing was done.

The City Council, on an 11-0 vote, directed the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, in coordination with the bureaus of Street Services and Engineering, to inspect the present condition of every lane mile of Class I and Class II bike paths and lanes within the city and produce a timeline and cost estimate for bringing any deficient pavement up to appropriate safety standards. The chief legislative analyst and city administrative officer will be tasked with reviewing the report and preparing budgetary instructions necessary to effect repairs on any deficient infrastructure.

The vote also instructs LADOT, before new on-street bicycle infrastructure is installed, to obtain a certification from the Bureau of Street Services that the pavement is in a state of good repair, and that both departments report back with a comprehensive plan to ensure that the pavement on the bicycle network is maintained at that standard.

<![CDATA[Are Your Valuables Safe in the Hospital?]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 23:05:15 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/02-20-18-Hospital.JPG

A hospital might be the last place you'd expect to get ripped off, but that's exactly what happened to Lindsay McGrail two months ago, when visiting her 14-year-old granddaughter Kilana at world-renowned Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

"These thieves are just taking advantage of people when they're at their lowest," said McGrail, who realized someone has rifled through her purse, which she left it for just a few minutes in her granddaughter's hospital room.

"I got an alert that my American Express card had been charged 2600 dollars. And when I looked in my wallet, my American Express card was gone," McGrail said.

The NBC4 I-Team has discovered that Children's Hospital LA has far more reported thefts than other nearby hospitals of comparable size: Kaiser Hollywood and Hollywood Presbyterian. And we discovered that thefts at hospitals are up nationwide, according to an analysis of crime reports by the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety.

And security experts say the statistics don't even tell the whole story. "Most hospital thefts are not reported," says Jon Westall, chairman of the board for the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety, who has been in charge of security at two major southern California medical centers.

Westall says patients and visitors mistakenly believe everyone at a hospital is trusting and caring. "Even if you're just going to the restroom for a minute, or going to get a soda down the hall, keep your purse or your wallet on you," Westall told the I-Team.

In hindsight, Lindsay McGrail wishes she had done that. Minutes after her credit cards were stolen from a hospital room, someone tried charging items at The Apple Store, then at Orchard Hardware, then at Best Buy. And she discovered something else missing from her purse. "I had 160 dollars in there, and it was gone," she said.

McGrail filed a police report with the LAPD, and says a detective told her theft is a "huge problem" at Children's Hospital LA (CHLA).

The hospital declined the I-Team's request for an interview, to explain why it has more reported thefts. In an email to NBC4, Children's says "each patient [is] accompanied by entire families — as compared with adult facilities referenced which are primarily adult inpatient facilities. And CHLA said it maintains a security patrol system 24/7.

In a letter to Lindsay McGrail, Children's said, "We regret that we fell below your expectations of care and service." The hospital reimbursed McGrail the 160 dollars taken from her purse.

But she thinks the hospital could do more to prevent future thefts, such as installing safes in every room, and posting signs that warn patients and their families that thefts do occur.

"I want to see this end here and I don't want this to happen to anybody else," said McGrail.

<![CDATA[Trump Proposes ‘Bump Stock’ Ban]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 14:18:41 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/DIT+NAT+TRUMP+BUMP+STOCK+BAN+THUMB.jpg

During the Public Safety Medal of Valor award ceremony, President Trump said that he has been in discussions with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on a proposal to ban “bump stocks,” devices that increase the firing rate of semi-automatic guns to match the firing rate of machine guns.

<![CDATA[White House Admits Russia Meddled in Election, Maintains There Wasn’t Collusion]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 14:02:25 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/DIT_NAT_WH_BRIEFING_022018-151916323350500002.jpg

Following a series of tweets President Trump sent over the weekend in response to the Parkland, Florida, shooting and the indictment of 13 Russian nationals who tried to sow discord in the 2016 U.S. election, the White House agreed that Russia tried to meddle with the 2016 election but maintained that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

<![CDATA[No, LA Restaurant Doesn't Have Permission to Serve Dog Meat]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 17:32:16 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/Dog-GettyImages-100394559.jpg

A Los Angeles restaurant doesn't have permission to kill as many as three dogs a day and serve the meat to customers, despite claims in a widely shared false story this week. Health officials say the restaurant doesn't exist.

A post that has appeared online in various forms since at least 2014 surfaced again recently on the site quotes-news. The Los Angeles County Health Department said it has no record of any restaurant named Puchow de Manila Eatery and Fine Dining. Even if there were such a place, the department said the sale of dog meat for human consumption is illegal in California.

The false story quotes World Animal Protection as being "shocked" about the restaurant but a spokeswoman for that group said it was never asked to comment. A photo linked to the story is from a 2014 New York Times story about a dog meat festival in China.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/File]]>
<![CDATA[Warner Bros. SoCal Deal Is Ready for Its Close-up]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 12:15:30 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/214*120/20180122_WBSTH_Masthead.jpg

Whether you exclaim "that's so LA!" or "that's so SoCal!" or "that's so here!," you're likely coming across events, offers, and happenings that seem incredibly local by nature.

And two of those oh-so-local, only-in-LA things shine as brightly as a searchlight around the end of February.

One? It's Oscar time, as a quick roll down Hollywood Boulevard will currently tell you. Yep, the thoroughfare is still open to cars, but the equipment for the March 4, 2018 ceremony is arriving, and the street shutters for a week-plus beginning on the night of Feb. 25.

Two? Warner Bros. Studio Tour is bringing back its SoCal Resident Ticket for a limited time, which means you can get a ticket to the behind-the-scenes lot look-around for $49.99, saving a few bucks, if you order online.

That price is good through March 4, which happens to be the day of the Academy Awards. Easy to remember, no mnemonic devices required.

What will you see when you board the famous Studio Tour tram?

You'll visit places like French Street, where "Casablanca" was filmed (in part). The coffeehouse from "La La Land" is nearby, too. And you'll get a peek at some nifty film cars — "Batman" vehicles are in the spotlight — as well as several costumes from the "Harry Potter" films.

And at Stage 48: Script to Screen?

There are several you-try-it experiences, like posing in a forced perspective photograph, a la "Lord of the Rings," or flying on a broomstick, like a certain celebrated wizard. How scripts become movies, the Central Perk set from "Friends," and other spend-awhile sights and to-dos fill out the end-of-the-tour stop.

While Southern California doesn't possess a total lock on the movie business, this is the home of the Oscars. And while we don't have a lock on attraction tickets that are specially priced for locals, we do kind of rule in the whole famous and historic studio lot realm.

Meaning we're truly in a "that's so LA!" moment, this time of year, for Southern Californians to score SoCal-themed deals at one of the best-known film-creating wonderlands around.

Check now to see if your zip code applies, and the other must-knows for this movie-lovin' local deal.

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.]]>
<![CDATA[West Point Posthumously Admits Fla. Shooting Victim]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 14:37:11 -0800 https://media.nbclosangeles.com/images/213*120/022018+peter+wang.jpg

The United States Military Academy Preparatory School accepted a Junior ROTC cadet who died valiantly in the Parkland school massacre Tuesday, on the same day his funeral was being held.

As loved ones awaited word on whether a petition for him to receive a military burial would garner enough signatures, West Point posthumously offered 15-year-old Peter Wang admission to the academy. Loved ones say Wang died a hero in his ROTC uniform, and his dream was to attend West Point and serve in the military.

Family and friends of Wang gathered at Kraeer Funeral Home in Coral Springs to say their final goodbyes to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student.

"For as long as we remember him, he is a hero," fellow student Jared Burns said.

Friends say Wang was holding a door open so other students could escape, sacrificing himself and getting shot repeatedly as he put others before himself.

"He was like a brother to me and possibly one of the kindest people I ever met," friend Xi Chen said.

The USMA said in a statement that admitting Wang into the school was an appropriate way to "honor this brave young man."

"West Point has given posthumous offers of admissions in very rare instances for those candidates or potential candidate's whose actions exemplified the tenets of Duty, Honor and Country," the statement said.

A White House petition is calling on Congress to give Wang a proper, full honors military burial. The petition had received more than 56,000 signatures by Tuesday but still needs more than 40,000 signatures before it would get a response from the White House.

"His selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens in the area. Wang died a hero, and deserves to be treated as such, and deserves a full honors military burial," the petition reads.

In a military funeral, tradition calls for the playing of "Taps" and the folding of the American flag.

"He died in uniform and he saved people's lives. He deserves to have a full military burial," friend and fellow JROTC member Victoria Downing said. "I want him to be remembered as a hero because that’s exactly who he was."

Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott has ordered the Florida National Guard to honor Wang and the other two JROTC members killed in the shooting at their funerals this week.

It was also announced Tuesday that the three JROTC members would be given the Army Medal of Heroism, which will be presented to their families.

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