<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - National & International News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/national-international http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:15:17 -0800 Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:15:17 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Boston Bombing Suspect in Court]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:08:39 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/Dzhokhar+Tsarnaev.jpg

The man in the orange jumpsuit who appeared in court Thursday is 21-year-old Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Seen on video for the first time since his April 2013 arrest, as he’s transported back to Fort Devens prison following his appearance in Federal Court Thursday.

Among those inside the courtroom for Tsarnaev’s last pretrial hearing were Watertown Police Chief Ed Deveaux, injured MBTA Officer Dic Donohue and bombing survivor Marc Fucarile.

"I'm grateful and happy that I’m able to be here, all my supporters have been amazing," said Fucarile.

Tsarnaev received vocal support in court from the mother-in-law of now deceased Waltham triple murder suspect Ibraghim Todashev.
She was escorted out as she was yelling to him in Russian.

"I said in court, 'Dzhokhar you have a lot of supporters, we pray for you, we here for you Dzhokhar, we know you’re innocent, be strong, son,'" said Elena Teyer, Todashev's mother-in-law. "That's what I said.”

Outside court, a small group held signs alleging the bombing was a government conspiracy.

"I've been to every hearing and there's been no evidence," said Karin Friedemann of Boston.

"I don't support terror or terrorism and never would, but I am here supporting his rights as an American citizen," added Valerie Vanetta, who traveled here from Philadelphia.

Fucarile actually walked up to one of the protestors and showed her his prosthetic leg in an effort to silence her.

"I just asked her if she wanted to maybe look at the evidence and then she could make a choice or decision how she felt," he said.

Jury selection begins January 5, 2015.

Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to all 30 federal charges against him.

He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Photo Credit: NECN
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<![CDATA[Rubio, GOPers Discuss Cuba]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:57:23 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/121814+lawmakers+cuba.jpg

Prominent South Florida Republicans held a news conference Thursday to discuss the new change in policy on U.S.-Cuba relations.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart all spoke at the news conference. They also discussed Wednesday's release of American Alan Gross from a Cuban prison.

Rubio, a Cuban-American, called the opening in diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba a misstep by President Obama.

"It colludes with America's enemies, near and far, to threaten us and everything we hold dear," he said. "But most importantly, the regime's brutal treatment of the Cuban people has continued unabated. Dissidents are harassed, imprisoned and even killed."

Ros-Lehtinen also denounced the policy change.

"The liberalization policies aimed at easing trade and remittances to Cuba is another propaganda coup for the Castro brothers, who will now fill their coffers with more money at the expense of the Cuban people," she said in a statement. "It is quite possible that this unilateral action by the President without Congressional consultation is in violation of the following U.S. laws: Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996, Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, and the Trading with the Enemy Act."

<![CDATA[Brooklyn Rapper Arrested in Sting]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:51:02 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/shmurda+walk+copy.jpg

The up-and-coming Brooklyn rapper who performs under the name Bobby Shmurda was part of a gang that allegedly sold drugs, dealt guns and committed violent crimes, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said in a news conference Thursday detailing the investigation that led to his arrest.

Ackquille Pollard, 20, was taken into custody with seven others shortly after he left a recording studio near Radio City Music Hall in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday. Police recovered crack cocaine and three guns from a stairwell inside Quad Studio, Bratton said.

The Brooklyn-born Pollard is best known for the hit song "Hot Boy." He also put out a music video that popularized a dance craze called the "Shmoney dance," and reportedly signed a lucrative record deal with Epic Records. 

Pollard was stopped in a vehicle with another defendant, Nicolas McCoy, soon after leaving the studio Wednesday, prosecutors said, and there were two guns and a small amount of crack cocaine inside the car. There were other passengers in the car who are not named in the indictment but face separate criminal charges. 

Five other defendants named in the indictment were arrested at the same time elsewhere in the city, and two others are in custody outside the state, authorities said.

Pollard was arraigned on conspiracy, reckless endangerment, and weapons and drug charges Thursday. Twelve other defendants are named in the 69-count indictment, including Chad Marshall, another aspiring hip-hop artist known as Rowdy Rebel. 

Pollard pleaded not guilty in court Thursday. His attorney, Howard Greenberg, failed to convince a judge that his client should be released without bail because he was framed and had no reason to run.

"He is a legitimate entertainer,'' Greenberg said. "He is rich. He is busy. He is always on tour.''

Greenberg claimed Epic had agreed to help Pollard make his $2 million bail. A spokesman for the label declined to comment.

Bratton said Pollard was tweeting about a secret concert days before his arrest.

"I don't think he was aware that location is going to be state Supreme Court," Bratton said. 

Pollard did not comment to reporters as he was led from a Manhattan police station in handcuffs Wednesday night. 

G Stone Crips, or GS9, the gang Pollard was allegedly part of, is tied to the murder of a 19-year-old rival gang member on Feb. 8, 2013, and to gunshots fired outside New York and Miami nightclubs in recent months, according to Bratton. The investigation began after 24 shootings were traced to the gang since 2013.

Most of violence stemmed from an ongoing dispute between GS9 and members of rival street gangs, including the gang known as Folk Nation and the gang known as Brooklyn's Most Wanted, or BMW, according to prosecutors. 

The deadly February 2013 shooting inside a Brooklyn bodega capped a series of violent confrontations between GS9 and BMW, according to prosecutors. Pollard was at the scene of the shooting, they said. 

Pollard is also accused of firing a gun towards a crowd of people outside a Clarkson Avenue barber shop on June 2, shattering a glass storefront. Prosecutors said a recorded phone conversation between other GS9 members revealed that Pollard had fired the gun during an argument with his brother Javese Pollard, also an alleged GS9 member. 

Prosecutors said in another July 2014 incident, just before he performed at Barclays Center, Marshall and another defendant allegedly fired shots at rival gang members while driving on a street in Boerum Hill.

According to prosecutors, a distinctive system of code words and phrases allowed GS9 members to communicate with one another while hiding the nature of their communication from others. Among the code words for firearms were “tone” and “socks." “Crills” referred to narcotics, and “suntan” or “scoom” referred to shootings.

The gang is mainly based at 95th Street and Clarkson Avenue in East Flatbush, Bratton said. The bust was made by the Brooklyn South Violence Reduction Task Force, which was formed this year. 

The case carries some "deeply disturbing themes: The gang members' enthrallment with guns, and a cavalier disregard for human life,'' Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan said at a news conference.

The hip-hop artist's songs and videos were "almost like a real-life document of what they were doing on the street,'' added James Essig, head of the NYPD task force that made the arrests.

Greenberg told reporters he believes Pollard and the other defendants were targeted because "the government hates rap and hates rappers and hates lyrics." 

Pollack's video for "Hot Boy" was posted on YouTube in August has been viewed tens of millions of times, and Pollard performed the song for a national television audience in October on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." 

"My music is straight facts," Pollard recently told New York Magazine. "There are a lot of gangsters in my 'hood.'"

Pollard's criminal history included two arrests for gun and drug possession, authorities said.

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<![CDATA[Plane Crashes Into Dallas Suburb]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:57:40 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/police-lights-night-shutterstock_54084688.jpg

Dallas sheriff's deputies are investigating a small plane crash in Seagoville that may have clipped a house on its way down.

The plane crashed in the Dallas suburb just after 6 p.m. Thursday in the 1600 block of Bent Tree Lane near Malloy Bridge Road, officials said.

The plane, a Beech Bonanza, was trying to land at Mesquite Metro Airport when air traffic control operators lost contact with its pilot, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said.

The pilot, who has not been identified, was killed. He was the only occupant aboard the aircraft.

There are no other known injuries.

The FAA confirms the plane departed from South Arkansas Regional Airport Wednesday at 3:35 p.m.

NBC 5 crews have just arrived at the scene. We'll update this story with more information as soon as it's available.  As this story is developing, elements may change.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Arson Sparked Downtown LA Inferno]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:07:41 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/downtown-la-structure-fire.jpg

Last week's massive downtown LA fire at an apartment complex that was under construction was an act of arson, authorities said Thursday.

Investigators said they recovered an accelerant, pointing to arson. The fire on Dec. 8 at 900 West Temple Street destroyed a seven-story complex under construction, damaged a nearby high-rise structures and the Harbor (110) Freeway.

Flames billowed into the air, making smoke visible for miles and radiating enough heat to shatter the windows of nearby office towers.

The blaze caused up to $30 million in damage to the DaVinci Apartments. Total damage estimates to nearby businesses and Caltrans property remain undetermined.

Local and federal Investigators sifted through 75,000 square feet of debris, took photographs, recovered potential evidence from the scene for analysis by the ATF's National Laboratory and conducted many interviews throughout the community.

The team finished combing through the debris on Wednesday, and will continue to follow up on the case to identify the culprit or culprits.

"The work at the crime scene is finished, however our investigation is not over," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Carlos A. Canino. "ATF will continue to work together with our state and local partners to investigate this crime and bring those responsible to justice."

Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Robert Nelson, who heads the agency's arson/counter-terrorism section, said the department will continue to work with the ATF, the LAPD and other law enforcement agencies to "vigorously pursue this investigation.

"Arson is a serious crime," he said in a news release. "We will use all of our available resources to arrest and prosecute any individuals involved in any arson fire in Los Angeles."

Investigators continue to seek information on two potential witnesses seen in video footage taken the morning of Dec. 8.

They are not considered suspects nor persons of interest. Investigators have identified them as being in the area of the fire, and want to interview them.

<![CDATA[Top News Photos of the Week]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:14:44 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP331065736973.jpg View weekly updates on the very best photos in domestic and foreign news.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Threatens Kids With Gun: Cops]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:49:34 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/barnegat+rifle+pointed.jpg

A 35-year-old woman has been accused of pointing a rifle at several children after getting into an argument with them outside of her New Jersey home Wednesday afternoon, police say.

The woman was charged with making terroristic threats, endangering the welfare of a child and several weapons crimes after police say she threatened the children with a Remington 597 rifle outside her home on Schooner Avenue in Barnegat.

"She was waving the rifle around. She was leveling the rifle at people," said Barnegat Police Lt. Keith Germain. 

Police say the woman went inside her home to grab the gun after getting in an argument with the children after a basketball game. 

Neighbor Beverly Meila said the woman had been driving her SUV down the street when she saw her son playing at a basketball hoop on the street. She yelled at him to get in the car, according to Meila.

"The kids were all screaming and yelling, and the kid got in the car and she tore off down the street," said Meila. 

Moments later, she came out of her house with the rifle, according to police. 

Several people called 911, and the woman was allegedly still in the street holding the gun when police arrived at the scene.

"They were able to talk to her, get her to place the rifle on the ground and take her into custody with no force," said Germain. 

She was arrested at the scene and was being held at the Ocean County Jail in lieu of $175,000 bail, police say. The woman did have a permit to own a rifle. 

"The children did abolsutely nothing wrong," Meila said. "They were just playing basketball like kids do. They're good kids." 

-- Brian Thompson contributed to this report. 

<![CDATA[Teen Mugged Do-Gooder, 99: PD]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:34:51 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Windsor+Senior+Center+1200.jpg

Police have arrested a 17-year-old boy accused of knocking a 99-year-old woman to the ground and stealing her purse while she was delivering homemade Christmas cookies to a senior center in Windsor, Connecticut.

The woman was bringing treats to the LP Wilson Community Center when authorities say the teen came up behind her, pushed her down, took her purse and ran off while she was still on the ground.

Windsor police took the teen into custody in Hartford at 10:30 a.m., about half an hour after obtaining the juvenile arrest warrant. 

The teen's name has not been released because of his age. He has been charged with third-degree robbery, sixth-degree larceny and assault of an elderly person and will appear in juvenile court.

"This guy took advantage and made her a victim," Capt. Kelvan Kearse, of the Windsor Police Department, said Wednesday.

The senior center where the woman was attacked, located at 599 Matianuck Avenue, includes a senior center, a youth service bureau, the recreation office and social service.  

Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com
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<![CDATA[Stuffed Santa Clawed by Black Bear]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:37:58 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/179*120/12-18-2014-SantaClawed.JPG

A California photographer captured an unusual animal attack in the Angeles National Forest: a black bear beating up Santa Claus.

Glendora native Robert Martinez has 10 cameras set up to watch wildlife, and put a Father Christmas doll in front of one of them in the hope of attracting the attention of a mountain lion.

And while one did stop to stare at the doll before padding away, it was a carnivore of a different kind that made his efforts worthwhile.

The black bear decided to have some fun with the Santa doll on Monday, knocking it over and smacking it around with it until he got bored.

Amazingly, Martinez said he had not seen a bear in the area for the past 2 months.

<![CDATA[Woman's Luggage Found 20 Years Later]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:43:51 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/NC_longlostluggage1218_700x394.jpg

Many travelers fear having their luggage lost at the airport. One Arizona woman had the fear become a reality, though her story has a happy ending — two decades later.

Maria Dellos, a Tuscon teacher, received a phone call from the Transportation Security Administration at Tucson International Airport on Tuesday informing her that luggage she lost 20 years ago had been found.

“I actually almost ignored the call because of telemarketing. All day long I get calls,” Dellos told NBC affiliate KVOA.

Dellos explained to the station that a note she had in the bag containing an old address allowed the TSA to locate her. It contained "very valuable" art supplies from a trade show in Las Vegas, she said.

"I was just absolutely blown away," Dellos said.

“We just did some shuffling of equipment at the airport, so it's quite possible that we came across something that somebody left unattended for a long period of time," TSA spokesperson Nico Melendez told KVOA.

<![CDATA[Meet Your 2015 Goals With These Top Time Use Tips]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:00:29 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP73201008.jpg

As we prepare to ring in a New Year, many are clinging to the idea of making life-changing resolutions for 2015. 

Having a good grasp on your time doesn't only help you fit in a new goal like exercising more or keeping a clean house once January arrives. It also improves your chances of making these new habits last all year long. See what experts have to say about managing your time and life to help you achieve your goals and then see how the time you spend on work, shopping, sleep and other activites compares to the national average using our "Time Use Calculator" interactive.

Log Your Time

Trying to declutter your mind and schedule starts with logging your time. People tend to be “ridiculously optimistic” about what they can do in a certain amount of time, according to Laura Vanderkam, author of “168 Hours: You have More Time Than You Think.” Vanderkam suggests taking a look at an average week and timing each task—you will see your patterns and easily be able to pinpoint what can and can’t be changed. You may find that seemingly small tasks like cleaning out inboxes or checking up on Facebook add up, sucking up time that could be spent with a new client, project or goal. See how your time log compares to the average American using the time use calculator interactive below. 

Write Things Down

“Your head is for having ideas, not for holding them,” says David Allen, author of time-management manual “Getting Things Done.”  Your mind should not be used to hold all your tasks because your brain can’t multitask, according to Allen. Allen advises clearing your mind by having calendars and to-do lists for both long- and short-term goals and breaking down those goals step by step. By writing things down you are creating an "external brain," clearing space for more creative ideas. Instead of worrying about what time to pick up the kids from school, for example, your mind can be free to think of innovative ways to spend quality time with them.

The Magic Word Is “No”

“’No’ is the most empowering word in time management,” Tim Harper, The City University of New York journalism professor and project management consultant, said. “’No, but’ is the next best thing you can say.” It’s natural to feel overwhelmed when friends, bosses, or family members want to pull you in all directions. While saying “no” can be difficult, offering a counter plan may help soften the blow. A friend may ask you to go to their child’s birthday party after you already committed to spending time with your spouse. Tell your friend you can’t make the birthday party but suggest bringing a gift over next week. Saying “no” to obligations that aren’t important or urgent also gives you room to say “yes” to the things you actually want to do.

Schedule Leisure, Too

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about time management is the idea that every minute has to be filled with something, experts say.Scheduling your leisure time makes it easier to move things around and planning your time enough in advance gives you room for “things to fall into your lap," Harper contends. Resist the temptation to fill extra time with chores, Vanderkam says. She urges people to make a long list of the things they want to spend more time on, rather than asking what they want to spend less time on, then pursue those interests without feeling guilty. While it's difficult to place your own interests as a high priority, she writes, knowing your self-interests are worthy is key to living a fulfilling life.

See How You Compare

Do you shop, sleep or exercise more than your peers? See how your time log stacks up against the average American like you with this interactive calculator crafted using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey. 

"Time Use Calculator" built by Kuang Keng Kuek Ser and Ellie Zhu.

Photo Credit: Vjom
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<![CDATA[Accused Scotty Killer Twiddles Thumbs in Court]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:32:35 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Gary+Fellnbaum+Amber+Fellenbaum+Jillian+Tait.jpg

EDITOR'S NOTE: The details of this case are graphic and may be upsetting for some readers.

A Chester County man accused of beating his girlfriend's son to death twiddled his thumbs as he appeared in court Thursday via video.

Gary Fellenbaum, the boy's mother Jillian Tait and Fellenbaum's estranged wife Amber Fellenbaum said little as each appeared separately in court on charges stemming from the beating death of a 3-year-old Scotty McMillan. Prosecutors called the abuse "an American horror."

The 23-year-old man accused of brutally abusing and killing his girlfriend’s son, twiddled his thumbs, looking down as he waived his right to a preliminary hearing in the death, according to witnesses in the courtroom.

Gary Fellenbaum and Tait face first-degree murder, child endangerment, assault and related charges stemming from the death of the 3-year-old West Caln, Pennsylvania boy last month. Amber Fellenbaum faces child endangerment charges.

Each suspect appeared via video uplink as they waived their rights to preliminary hearings. Fellenbaum wore blue prison pants while the women each wore a green jumpsuit. Tait and Gary Fellenbaum each thanked the judge at the end of their hearings while Amber Fellenbaum remained silent.

All three suspects remain in isolation in state jail, said prosecutors.

McMillan died from what investigators said was abuse at the hand of his mother and her boyfriend inside a West Caln Township trailer home that Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan called an “American horror.”

"(Scotty) was systematically tortured and beaten to death,” said Hogan when he annouced the arrests in early November. "He was punched in the face and in the stomach, he was scourged with a homemade whip, he was lashed with a metal rod, he was tied to a chair and beaten, he was tied upside down by his feet and beaten, his head was smashed through a wall and at the end of that he had bruises on top of bruises all over his body.”

The abuse occurred over a two-week period dating back to October in the Hope Lane home located about 35 miles west of Philadelphia, according to investigators.

Hogan said Scotty's mother sometimes watched the abuse and laughed.

Police said Gary Fellenbaum met Tait at a local Wal-Mart where they worked together. Tait and her two sons — Scotty and his 6-year-old brother — moved in with Fellenbaum in mid-October and the abuse began shortly thereafter, said investigators.

NBC10 is not naming this surviving boy since authorities said he is a victim of child abuse.

Fellenbaum expressed remorse that "his physical assaults caused another's death," according to a criminal complaint obtained by NBC10.

Amber Fellenbaum earlier told investigators she first became aware of the alleged abuse when she saw Fellenbaum spank Scotty after the boy didn’t respond to Fellenbaum. She also said she saw Fellenbaum and Tait beat Scotty with a green frying pan and saw Fellenbaum tape Scotty to a chair and severely pummel the boy’s face and stomach.

The county took the older brother and the Fellenbaums' 11-month-old daughter into protective custody.

Photo Credit: Chester County District Attorney's Office
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<![CDATA[Search for Missing Student Goes On]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:48:52 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/215*120/Shane+Montgomery+Police+Search+Manayunk+Canal.JPG

Three weeks after vanishing into the night, there’s no sign of college student Shane Montgomery. It’s a mystery chipping away at hope the 21-year-old’s family has been holding onto with each passing minute.

"I’m not going to lie anymore. It’s pretty bad with the holidays here," Kevin Verbrugghe, Montgomery’s uncle, told NBC10 Thursday morning.

"We’re not holding up well," he said.

Montgomery was last seen early Thanksgiving morning as he left Kildare’s Irish Pub along Main Street in the Philadelphia neighborhood of Manayunk. Pings from his cellphone put him within a mile of the bar within an hour of his disappearance and surveillance video shows the West Chester University student walking toward the Manayunk Canal and Schuylkill River. Despite many searches on land, in the water and from the air, there have been no strong leads as to where Montgomery went.

"It’s obviously horrible for the family because they have nothing," FBI Supervisory Special Agent J.J. Klaver said.

Wednesday, an FBI Evidence Response team based out of New York went back into the water with more sophisticated equipment, to look for Montgomery. They attempted to use sonar, but the river is too shallow for it work properly. Underwater cameras did work, but did not turn up anything promising, Klaver said.

"The prevailing theory is that he went into the river and where is he now? Tides change and there’s all kinds of debris under there," he said. If Shane’s body is in the river, he could be trapped under the debris, the agent added.

Philadelphia police also launched a helicopter for another air search Wednesday and the Pennsylvania State Police sent a cruiser to conduct another ground search in the area around the Green Lane bridge, Verbrugghe said. Neither were fruitful.

Klaver said while the FBI will continue to assist Philadelphia police on the case, without new leads, they will soon have to begin pulling back their efforts.

Montgomery’s family is not giving up.

They have reached out to the Garden State Underwater Recovery Unit, a volunteer diving recovery team based out of New Jersey, asking for their help in conducting another underwater search, according to Verbrugghe.

A reward for information that leads investigators and the family to Montgomery still stands at $65,000. Friends and family continue to support the search efforts on their own as well. A run to raise money for the effort will take place Saturday and on Sunday there will be a rosary prayer service at St. John the Baptist Church.

The support from the public and law enforcement is what keeps the family going, the uncle said.

"In this bad tragedy, the love and support that we’ve gotten is just incredible,” he said. “We appreciate how everything that they’ve done. All the prayers, all the thoughts, all the help and love.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Philadelphia police at 215.686.TIPS.

Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, vince.lattanzio@nbcuni.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

Photo Credit: NBC10.com
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<![CDATA[3 Killed After Driver Plows Crowd]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:42:32 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/12-18-2014-redondo-beach-dui-margo-bronstein.jpg

Three people were killed and several others critically injured Wednesday night when they were struck in a crowded intersection by a DUI suspect as they left a children's Christmas concert at a Southern California church.

Up to 12 people, including five children, were struck at about 8 p.m. at Vincent Street and Pacific Coast Highway outside of St. James Catholic Church in Redondo Beach. Children had just finished singing Christmas songs for their parents and other members of the church.

Mary Wilson, 81,  Saeko Matsumura, 87, and Martha Gaza, 36, all from Torrance, were identified as the deceased victims by the LA County Coroner. One of Gaza's three children, a 5-year-old boy, was hospitalized in critical condition.

One other adult also was in critical condition Thursday.

Police identified the suspect as 56-year-old Margo Bronstein (pictured, right), arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and suspected felony DUI. Bronstein was treated at a hospital for injuries before she was transported to the Redondo Beach Police Department jail, where she is being held on $300,000 bond.

Police confirmed at a Thursday morning news conference that prescription drug use by the driver is part of their investigation.

"At the very minimum, prescription medication is involved," said Redondo Beach Police Lt. Joe Hoffman.

Msgr. Michael Meyers was in the church after children had just finished their final song of the holiday concert.

"They were doing all their Christmas songs for their parents and everybody was just leaving the church, so it was a huge crosswalk full of people," Meyers said.

Minutes later, Meyers said he witnessed a "very difficult scene." The crash left victims' shoes scattered in the street. Injured victims were lined up, waiting of paramedics to arrive. Other victims were still in the street.

"Nobody was worrying about the driver at the time, we had so many people on the ground," Meyers said, adding that last rites were administered to some victims at the scene.

The white sedan that initially struck the pedestrians ended up crashing into a second vehicle. The car sustained heavy front-end damaged and both the windshield and rear window were shattered.

Police confirmed a witness account that the driver went around other vehicles stopped at the intersection.

"The crosswalk was full and the light was red. Someone ran a red light and... bodies started flying. It was pretty horrible," witness Marc Zonno said, "They flew at least two or three cars down the street, it was pretty bad. But I'm hoping everybody's going to be OK."

Witness Michael Tovar was stopped at the intersection when he saw the crash.

"I saw people flying in the air, and it just didn't compute," said Tovar.

Mark Milutin also was in one of the cars stopped at the light. Milutin told The Associated Press the woman who hit the pedestrians, "just looked completely out of it."

"It was just a reaction I wouldn't have ever thought someone would have after a situation like that," he said.

St. James Catholic Church remained open Wednesday night so people could say prayers for the wounded, and church leaders appealed to the whole community to pray for the dead and injured. Members of the church planned to gathered for services at 8 a.m. and noon.

Many of the hundreds of service attendees also were at the Wednesday night concert. 

"The community of St. James Catholic School and Parish in Redondo Beach, and the entire Archdiocese of Los Angeles, ask everyone to join them in prayer during this time of tragedy and grief," spokeswoman Monica Valencia said.

Bronstein, of Redondo Beach, is scheduled to appear Friday in court. DMV records indicated the Bronstein does not have prior criminal offenses. Her vehicle was equipped with modifications for drivers with disabilities, including an additional passenger-side mirror and hand controls, according to California Department of Motor Vehicle records.

"I know nothing about the woman in this situation," Msgr. Meyers said. "But we are called to forgiveness and to understand. We cannot live our life in anger and vindication."

A message seeking comment left at a phone number listed for Bronstein was not immediately returned Thursday to the AP.

On Sunday, another driver now charged with drunken driving injured more than a dozen people who were parked and looking at a holiday light display in Alhambra.

Michael Larkin and Beverly White also contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Redondo Beach PD
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<![CDATA[Storms Provide "Foothold for Drought Recovery" in California ]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 18:07:43 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/221*120/12-18-2014-drought-monitor-ca.jpg

A string of storms that marched across California this month provided enough rain to boost reservoir levels and slightly improve drought conditions after three consecutive dry years.

The state still likely needs several consecutive wet winters, but the latest U.S. Drought Monitor report offers reason for "cautious" optimism with several months left in California's wet season. This month's storms brought precipitation to most of California, pushing the Sacramento River to its highest level since Dec. 31, 2005.

Consecutive days of rain and snow led to a decrease in the percentage of the state under the Monitor's most severe drought category, called exceptional drought (D4). Last week, 55 percent of California was in the exceptional drought category. The latest report shows 32 percent of state in the D4 category.

Nearly 95 percent of the state remains under severe drought, according to the Monitor.

California's critically low water reservoirs remain well below historical average for mid-December, but Drought Monitor researchers noted "good capacity increases" of 6 to 10 percentage points in northern and central California's major reservoirs.

"It takes years to get into a drought of this severity, and it will likely take many more big storms, and years, to crawl out of it," said Jay Famiglietti, a researcher at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

A study of satellite data released by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory earlier this week found that at the peak of the drought earlier this year, water storage in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins was 11 trillion gallons below normal seasonal levels.

"With several more months still left in the wet season, it is possible that additional storms similar to the ones that just occurred will continue to chip away at the long-term hydrological drought, and the addition of lower temperatures would help build the snow pack," according to the report.

Rainfall has been trending above normal in many places so far during the 2014-2015 rain season that began July 1. As of Wednesday, downtown Los Angeles had collected 4.47 inches, more than 1.4 inches more than normal to date. A year earlier, it had collected just 0.86 inch to date. Downtown San Francisco had tallied 13.40 inches, or nearly 6.5 inches more than normal to date.

But drought improvement will depend largely on this season's precipitation in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. Springtime runoff from the melting Sierra Nevada mountain range snowpack supplies water for an estimated 25 million Californians. In November, the southern Sierra had received just 47 percent of its normal rain and snow so far, and the northern Sierra 79 percent.

The report noted that temperatures remained above normal, so more rain than snow was reported at higher elevations.

The tropical Pacfic Ocean phenomenon known as El Nino also could have a say in California's drought situation. The chance of El Nino weather conditions, which can potentially usher moisture into California, developing this winter for the Northern Hemisphere increased to 65 percent in December.

That figure represents an increase from last month's estimate of 58 percent.

Gov. Jerry Brown in January declared a drought emergency, and asked Californians to cut residential water use by 20 percent -- a mark that has not been met, according to recent estimates. Farmers in the Central Valley have fallowed fields and mandatory water restrictions are in effect as California faces a fourth-consecutive dry year.

Photo Credit: US Drought Monitor
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<![CDATA[Teen, Grandma Die Crossing Street ]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:41:59 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/205*120/12-18-2014-HemetFatal.JPG

A teenager recently reunited with the family she never knew she had was killed after being hit by a car in Southern California Tuesday.

Chloe Harris, 17, and her grandmother Kathy Whitehair both died after being struck near Hemet while crossing the road at 8th Street and Florida Avenue, which is also Highway 74 and has a 55 mph speed limit, in pitch blackness.

Harris had only recently moved to the area after reuniting with her father, and he is devastated by what happened. 

"I just recently found out about my daughter (and) she found out about me, and I just had her in my life for 3 months. I just wish it were longer," her father Chris Whitehair said.

According to a witness, Harris tried to push her grandmother out of the way of the oncoming vehicle. While Harris died at the scene, Whitehair died just hours later in hospital.

The driver stopped after hitting the two and was not arrested. Hemet police say they are investigating.

Harris’ family knows the victims were jaywalking by not using a crosswalk but believe the road is unlit and dangerous, especially as a bus stop and shop are at the location where the pair were struck.

"They seriously need to put a street light or a stop sign or a crosswalk or something," Harris' cousin Brittney Pulatie said.

A candlelight vigil for the victims is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

<![CDATA[Woman Gets Lost Luggage Back After 20 Years]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:28:31 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/NC_longlostluggage1218_700x394.jpg An Arizona woman was reunited with luggage lost 20 years ago. Rebecca Taylor reports for KVOA.]]> <![CDATA[$8,500 Charged to Stolen Cards in 8 Minutes]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 07:22:58 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/stolen+credit+cards+target+surveillance+image+121714.jpg

Two women purchased more than $8,500 worth of gift cards in eight minutes with stolen credit cards at a Target in Rockville, Maryland.

The victim only learned she’d lost the cards when she received text alerts about expensive purchases. The 39-year-old woman was at dinner with her husband when she received a text message about a big purchase. Seconds later, she got another alert.

The victim checked her purse and realized her wallet was gone. She went to her car and didn’t find it there, either. She figures someone took it somewhere between her home and the restaurant.

Two women caught on security camera charged $4,000 to a Visa card, $4,000 to an American Express card and $530.05 to a MasterCard.

<![CDATA[Judge Bows Out of Garner Hearing]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:24:17 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/eric+garner+death+inset+new.jpg

The state Supreme Court judge who was set to preside over a hearing Friday to decide whether the documents from the Eric Garner grand jury proceedings could be released to the public has recused himself from the case, NBC 4 New York has learned.

Judge Stephen Rooney removed himself from the case because his wife works at Richmond University Medical Center, the same hospital where the EMTs who responded to the Garner call worked, multiple officials familiar with the case proceedings said. 

As a result, Friday's hearing will be postponed until January, when a new judge is expected to be assigned. 

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James said Rooney's recusal raises more questions than answers and "further underscores the need to release the grand jury minutes related to the investigation of Eric Garner's death." 

"The only way to restore the public's faith in our justice system is to bring sunlight into the court system," she said in a statement, adding that she is directing her legal team to continue fighting in court for disclosure. 

NBC 4 New York first reported earlier this month that Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan did not ask grand jurors to consider a reckless endangerment charge in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

Donovan only asked grand jurors to consider manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the cop seen on widely-watched amateur video wrapping his arm around Garner's neck as the heavyset, asthmatic 43-year-old yelled, "I can't breathe!" nearly a dozen times during the July 17 confrontation, the source said.

It's not clear why Donovan left the lesser charge off the table, and he has said strict confidentiality laws surrounding grand jury proceedings prevent him from discussing the details of the case.

Donovan had submitted an application to the court seeking authorization to publicly release specific elements of the proceedings but the only information released when Rooney granted his request a day later involved the number of exhibits the jurors saw, how long they heard evidence and how many witnesses they heard it from. The application was sealed, so it's not clear if he had petitioned the judge to release information about the charges the jurors considered.

Last week, the New York Civil Liberties Union formally petitioned for the public release of the grand jury record, and the hearing on it was scheduled for this Friday. 

The grand jury in the Garner case delivered a vote on Dec. 3 of "no true bill," which determined there was not probable cause that Pantaleo committed any criminal offense the panel was tasked with considering. The decision set off protests in New York City and across the country.

The NYPD said its internal review of the case is ongoing, and the U.S. Department of Justice said it also is investigating.  

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Influential Republicans Slam Opening to Cuba]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:30:26 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/121714+marco+rubio+discusses+developments+in+cuba.jpg

Reaction to changes in U.S.-Cuba relations fell mostly along party lines on Wednesday, with prospective GOP presidential candidates Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio denouncing the decision by the Obama administration.

Bush, the former governor of Florida, called the move toward easing ties with Cuba President Obama's latest misstep.

Though he said he was delighted that American Alan Gross had been released from a Cuban prison, he charged that Obama had again overstepped his executive authority.

"Cuba is a dictatorship with a disastrous human rights record, and now President Obama has rewarded those dictators," he said. "We should instead be fostering efforts that will truly lead to the fair, legitimate democracy that will ultimately prevail in Cuba."

Rubio, a Cuban-American from Florida, called the opening the latest in a long line of failed attempts by Obama to appease rogue regimes.

The president’s decision to begin normalizing relations with Cuba is inexplicable, Rubio said, while Cuba, like Syria, Iran and Sudan, remains a sponsor of terrorism.

“It colludes with America's enemies, near and far, to threaten us and everything we hold dear,” he said. “But most importantly, the regime's brutal treatment of the Cuban people has continued unabated. Dissidents are harassed, imprisoned and even killed.”

The new course announced by the White House, which covers diplomatic relations, cultural exchanges, economic engagements, religious travel and other policies, does not affect the longtime economic embargo. Only Congress can change that.

And said Rubio: “This Congress is not going to lift the embargo.”

Unlike many other Democrats, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who is the second Cuban-American in the Senate, criticized the exchange of Gross for three Cubans in prison in the United States as a swap of an innocent American for three convicted spies.

"President Obama's actions have vindicated the brutal behavior of the Cuban government,” he said.

With the exchange, the president established a dangerous precedent that invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans as bargaining chips, he said.

"This asymmetrical trade will invite further belligerence toward Cuba's opposition movement and the hardening of the government's dictatorial hold on its people,” he said.

Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, said that as attitudes toward Cuba have changed among younger Cuban Americans, opposition to the regime there comes with risks for politicians. Obama carried Cuban Americans in Florida in 2012, he said.

“People under 45 have a very different view than people over 45,” he said. “So it’s clearly a generational difference.”

Opinions shaped in 1960s, during the Cuban missile crisis and the Bay of Pigs invasion, do not necessarily still hold.

“So being opposed to the regime in Cuba is no longer a free ride for politicians,” he said. “There’s risks and costs.”

A poll done by Florida International University has tracked opinions of the Cuban-American community in South Florida for two decades. This year, it found that a slight majority of CubanAmericans in Miami-Dade County opposed continuing the embargo — 52 percent overall and 62 percent among those 18 to 29 years old. Sixty-eight percent favored diplomatic relations with Cuba and 69 percent backed lifting restrictions impeding all Americans from traveling to Cuba.

But 63 percent said they believed Cuba should continue to be designated a “State Sponsor of Terrorism,” with Iran, Sudan and Syria.

Among registered voters, 53 percent said they would be very likely or somewhat likely to vote for a candidate who supported re-establishing diplomatic relations. Fifty-seven percent said they would be very or somewhat likely to vote for someone who backed replacing the embargo with a policy that increased support for independent business owners in Cuba.

Much other reaction from national politicians fell along party lines, though some politicians took neutral tones.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who is to become the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that he was pleased Gross was being reunited with his family after years of mistreatment by the Castro regime.

"The new U.S. policy announced by the administration is no doubt sweeping, and as of now there is no real understanding as to what changes the Cuban government is prepared to make,” he said. “We will be closely examining the implications of these major policy changes in the next Congress."

Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona released a joint statement on Obama's announcement.

"We agree with President Obama that he is writing new chapters in American foreign policy. Unfortunately, today's chapter, like the others before it, is one of America and the values it stands for in retreat and decline," the statement read. "It is about the appeasement of autocratic dictators, thugs, and adversaries, diminishing America's influence in the world. Is it any wonder that under President Obama's watch our enemies are emboldened and our friends demoralized?"

House Speaker John Boehner also denounced the president's policy change.

"Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom - and not one second sooner. There is no 'new course' here, only another in a long line of mindless concessions to a dictatorship that brutalizes its people and schemes with our enemies," Boehner said.

Florida Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that although he was happy for Gross and his family, the exchange made America less safe and emboldened the dictatorship in Cuba.

“This prisoner swap sends a signal to rogue regimes and actors that taking an American hostage can be leveraged into scoring policy concessions,” he said.

But two Republicans broke ranks, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

Flake, who traveled with Democrats Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland to Havana to pick up Gross, said the policies in place had done more to keep the Castro regimes in power.

Sanford said the existing travel policy was inconsistent with individual liberty and freedom of movement. The move toward establishing a U.S. embassy in Cuba was wise, he said.

Leahy, the chairman of the State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, congratulated Obama and Cuba President Raul Castro for making history.

“After 64 years of animosity rooted in the Cold War, they have finally put our two countries on a new path,” said Leahy, a Democrat who had visited Gross twice in prison in Cuba and who has led efforts for fundamental changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba.

U.S. policy has been frozen in time and had failed to achieved its goals, he said.

Michigan Democrat Sen. Carl Levin, who also met with Gross in prison, said that Gross’ release sends a message to Americans held around the world that the country will not forget them.

“A more regular relationship between the United States and Cuba has been overdue and is now possible,” he said. “U.S. policy up to now has not worked in U.S. interests, and it has not weakened the Cuban regime.”

Nevada Sen. Harry Reid said he supported Obama despite Cuba’s history, though he added: “I remain concerned about human rights and political freedom inside Cuba, but I support moving forward toward a new path with Cuba.”

<![CDATA[LA's Cubans at Odds in Policy Shift]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 19:52:37 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/141217-cubans-policy.jpg

Inside a small cafe in Hawthorne, aptly called "Cafe Cuba and Cakes," local Cuban immigrants gathered Wednesday to discuss what they saw as a surprise move from Washington: an announcement to restore diplomatic and economic ties with the island country.

"I feel sad, I feel betrayed," said Redondo Beach resident Oscar Pechardo.

The story of Pechardo's escape from Cuba reaches back 50 years. As a young boy, he was one of 14,000 Cuban refugee children smuggled off the island with help from the Catholic Church and the U.S. State Department. "Operation Pedro Pan" (Peter Pan) was a secret program that left many of those children orphans, an option their parents believed was much better than living under the rule of Fidel Castro.

Pechardo's family was later able to escape as well, and settled in Los Angeles.

"The one area that we looked to the United States was for leadership against oppression, and now it's not even there," Pechardo said.

Estela Bueno called the announcement a slap in the face for her parents, who left Cuba with nothing more than the clothes on their back.

"I was in shock," she said. "This is the saddest day of my life."

She says her parents gave up everything for one thing: freedom.

"It's an insult for the Cubans," said Arturo Bueno, Estela's husband.

All three of the group are "Pedro Pans," with views on President Barack Obama's change in policy they say even he doesn't understand.

Pechardo says while many argue that the U.S. can peacefully work with other communist countries like China and Vietnam, he says none have the unique ability to tout the same family of dictators like Cuba has for the last 55 years.

"Cuba is one big company, owned by the Castro Family," Pechardo said. "The Cuban people are still going to suffer under this dictatorship."

And yet there seems to be a generational gap in the views of what's happening in Cuba. Luke Salas of Malibu is part of the group "Roots of Hope" which has been working towards greater Internet accessibility in Cuba. He says the announcement from the White House is an important first step towards change on the island.

"The key is this is the direction that will hopefully create the possibility," he said, "and once you create possibility, then anything can be created."

Salas, the son of Cuban immigrants, is working independently on a documentary about baseball in Cuba. He says he looks forward to the open discussions of opportunity for entrepreneurship in Cuba, but adds that he does not forget the struggles his own family faced to escape Castro's Cuba.

"It's about understanding what's happened is the past and it plays a role but moving forward," Salas said, "this is about giving children in Cuba an opportunity to hopefully one day live their own dreams and pursue their own dreams, just as I have here in the United States."

For Pechardo, he says the younger generations don't understand the past enough to make decisions for the future.

"There's nothing wrong with what these people want," Pechardo said, "but they haven't lived it. They don't understand it. They don't understand that you cannot trust, whatever the Castro government tells you, you can't trust it."

It's the same message he sends to President Obama, adding, "They keep saying we're going to deal with the Cuban people - no you are not. You're going to deal with the Cuban government, which is the hierarchy that's in place now and has been for 50 years."

Estela Bueno agreed, saying, "the Castros know how to manipulate everybody and this is another example of how he manipulated Obama."

Pechardo goes a step further, saying, "Basically it's a dictatorship, cruel, repressive and now the American people are certifying this dictatorship."

<![CDATA[Cuts Didn't Kill Accused Pa. Killer]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 04:14:26 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/Stone+Body+Found+Pennsburg+Scene+Face.jpg

How exactly the former Marine suspected in this week's killing spree in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, died is unclear after an examination by the county's coroner.

Coroner Dr. Walter Hoffman tells NBC10's Deanna Durante there was no sign of trauma to Bradley Stone's center region, contradicting information released by prosecutors on Tuesday.

District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman had said at a briefing Tuesday that it appeared Stone took his own life and had "self-inflicted cutting wounds to the center of his body."  She did add, however, they were awaiting an official report by the coroner.

Hoffman initially said Stone suffered no trauma to his body, then clarified that although the 35-year-old did have a cut to his leg, the trauma was not something that caused his death. He did not say whether it were self-inflicted.

Sources said there were two medicine bottles found on Stone's body and that one contained a crushed-up powder substance. An energy drink container with powder on the rim was also recovered, sources said.

Hoffman said he is awaiting toxicology results to make a final determination on how Stone died. He has expedited the testing and expects an answer by next week.

An intense manhunt was launched Monday for Stone, after prosecutors say he shot or stabbed his ex-wife Nicole Hill Stone and six members of her family early Monday. Six of them died. Hill Stone's 17-year-old nephew Anthony Flick is the lone survivor. He suffered a gaping head wound and serious cuts to his arm.

Stone was found dead in the woods near his Pennsburg home Tuesday after two days of searching.

The coroner has also released autopsy information, along with the official causes of deaths, for Stone's victims.

Stone's ex-wife Nicole, 33, was shot multiple times, just feet away from the couple's two daughters, aged 8 and 5. Nicole's mother, Joanne Gilbert, was shot in the head and had cuts to her neck. Grandmother Patricia Hill, 75, was shot in the head.

Nicole's sister, Trisha Flick, 36, was shot in the head and also suffered gunshot wounds to her arm. Her husband A.J. Flick had "chopping" injuries to his hands and head. Tricia and A.J.'s 14-year-old daughter, Nina, also died from chopping wounds to her head.

A large handled machete and a double-bladed axe-type instrument were found near the Stone's body, according to sources. They both appear to be coated in blood.

The Department of Veteran Affairs says Stone had post-traumatic stress disorder but that he didn't have any suicidal or homicidal thoughts when he met with his psychiatrist on Dec. 8.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Obama on Race: I've Been Mistaken for a Valet]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 08:09:13 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP860452846126.jpg

As it turns out, even the Leader of the Free World isn’t immune to racial prejudice.

In a Dec. 10 interview with People magazine, President Barack Obama discussed being mistaken for a valet and a waiter before becoming President.

"There's no black male my age, who's a professional, who hasn't come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn't hand them their car keys," said the president, also confirming that he has dealt with the experience.

The first lady discussed another incident: "He was wearing a tuxedo at a black-tie dinner, and somebody asked him to get coffee."

"I think people forget that we've lived in the White House for six years," Michelle Obama said to the magazine. "Before that, Barack Obama was a black man that lived on the South Side of Chicago, who had his share of troubles catching cabs.”

The first lady also revealed her own experience with racial prejudice.

“I mean, even as the first lady – during that wonderfully publicized trip I took to Target, not highly disguised, the only person who came up to me in the store was a woman who asked me to help her take something off a shelf,” Michelle Obama said. “Because she didn't see me as the first lady, she saw me as someone who could help her. Those kinds of things happen in life. So it isn't anything new."

The president said the injustices he and his wife has faced still don't compare to those faced by previous generations, but there is still progress to be made.

"It's one thing for me to be mistaken for a waiter at a gala," the president said. "It's another thing for my son to be mistaken for a robber and to be handcuffed, or worse, if he happens to be walking down the street and is dressed the way teenagers dress."

The interview appears in the issue on newsstands Friday. 

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Woman Gunned Down Hours After Getting Protection Order Against Police Officer ]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 05:59:21 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/STEPHEN+ROZNIAKOWSKI.JPG

“If you find me dead, he did it.”

That’s what Valerie Morrow told NBC10 Investigative reporter Harry Hairston just hours before she died, allegedly at the hand of the Delaware County police officer she feared.

Stephen Rozniakowski, an officer with the Colwyn Borough Police Department, wore a bulletproof vest when he kicked down the door of Morrow’s home on Glenfield Avenue in Glenolden, Pennsylvania around 9 p.m. Monday and began firing, according to investigators. The shooting came just three hours after police served Rozniakowski with an court order to stay away from Morrow, and days before he was due in court in a separate stalking case.

“He went there to execute the entire family, in my opinion. I have no doubt about that,” said Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan.

He shot and killed Morrow then shot Morrow’s teenage daughter in the arm before Morrow's husband Thomas Morrow, an off-duty Morton officer, returned fire.

After the shooting, Rozniakowski called in the shooting on his police-issued radio.

“I am the actor,” the 32-year-old told dispatchers.

Earlier in the day, Morrow reached out to Hairston because he previously covered past stalking allegations against Rozniakowski.

Morrow told Hairston she dated Rozniakowski for months before ending the relationship in August to reunite with her husband. In the weeks and months that followed, she said Rozniakowski called and texted her repeatedly with threatening messages. She agreed to come in for a Tuesday interview. but it never happened after she was killed in her own home.

At the time of the shooting, Philly police were working on an arrest warrant for Rozniakowski after he allegedly keyed Morrow’s car while parked at a Center City garage.

Before the fatal shooting, Rozniakowski called the Colwyn Borough Police Department to announce his resignation, investigators said.

About three hours before the shooting, Norwood Police served the suspect with an emergency court order to stay away from Morrow. At the time they took away his service weapon and asked if he had any other weapons but Whelan said Rozniakowski told them he didn’t.

He used a private weapon in Monday’s attack, said police.

Rozniakowski was taken to Crozer-Chester Medical Center where he remained in critical but stable condition Tuesday night, according to officials.

Whelan said he will consider pushing for the death penalty when Rozniakowski is tried.

Hairston put a spotlight on Rozniakowski earlier this year when the officer was placed on "administrative leave" after his former fiancee filed a protection from abuse order against him.

Plymouth Township Police arrested Rozniakowski and charged him with 25 counts of stalking and 50 counts of harassment for allegedly contacting his former fiancee with repeated phone and text messages.

"As a police officer, he knows the bounds and what the boundaries are and what the laws are," said Marty Mullaney, an attorney for Rozniakowski, told NBC10 in April. "I think his emotions got the best of him."

At that time, Rozniakowski had his police-issued gun taken away, Hills said.

The suspect was scheduled to appear in court Thursday on those charges.

<![CDATA[Raw Video: Alan Gross Arrives on U.S. Soil]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 09:47:37 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/alan-gross-arrives-AP836775464835.jpg Alan Gross, released by the Cuban government after five years in prison, arrives at Joint Base Andrews around 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday, December 17, 2014.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Sen. Jeff Flake]]>
<![CDATA[From Cigars to Travel: Key Changes to U.S.-Cuba Relations]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 09:36:01 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/219*120/cuba+flag.jpg

In historic news on Wednesday, the United States and Cuba are to start talks on normalizing relations between the two countries. The congressional embargo remains in place,but President Obama in a noon addressed announced major changes in travel and business policies, saying that increased commerce was good for both Americans and Cubans.

“We should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help," he said.

What will it mean to ordinary Americans and companies wanting to do business in Cuba? Here are some key changes:

Diplomatic relations

Secretary of State John Kerry will begin discussions with Cuba on re-establishing diplomatic relations that broke off in January 1961. In the coming months, the United States will open an embassy in Havana and initiate high-level exchanges between the two governments.


Tourist travel to Cuba is still banned, but restrictions will be eased in 12 categories: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and some intergovernmental organizations; journalists; professional research and meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations and research and educational institutes; export or import of information; and export transactions that may be considered under existing regulations. Only Congress can lift the ban on tourist travel.


Americans will be able to send $2,000 a quarter to Cuba, up from $500. Donations to humanitarian projects, to support Cubans and for the development of private businesses will not longer require a specific license.


Travelers to Cuba will be able to bring back Cuban cigars for personal use. Overall, Americans will be allowed $400 worth of goods, $100 for tobacco and alcohol. They will be able to use U.S. credit and debit cards while traveling to Cuba.


To help build the private sector in Cuba, the sale of commercial goods and services will be eased to include agricultural equipment for small farmers, building materials for private residences, and goods for use by Cuban entrepreneurs. U.S. institutions will be able to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions

Internet Access

Telecommunications providers will be allowed to establish infrastructure in Cuba to provide commercial telecommunications and Internet services. Cuba has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates at 5 percent. Telecommunications services are limited and expensive.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Twitter Reaction to U.S., Cuba Normalized Relations]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:09:19 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/121714+cuban+flag+american+flag.jpg

Reaction on Twitter and Facebook to the developing news of a re-established diplomatic relationship between Cuba and the United States was swift and varied.

President Barack Obama outlined the new relationship Wednesday afternoon as Cuban President Raul Casto spoke concurrently via live television.

The newly formed relationship opens economic and travel ties between the U.S. and the communist nation. This historic shift in U.S. policy was encouraged by Pope Francis. 

The tensions between the two countries had existed since the Cold War.

American prisoner Alan Gross's release from a Cuban jail was the first step toward the new relationship. 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>