<![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 Sun, 21 Dec 2014 01:27:45 -0800 Sun, 21 Dec 2014 01:27:45 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Dramatic Photos: 2 NYPD Officers Killed in Ambush]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 20:01:33 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP35231683965.jpg A gunman ambushed and fatally shot two NYPD officers in their squad car Saturday, an act that Police Commissioner Bill Bratton condemned as an "assassination."

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Teen Saves Sister From Kidnapping]]> Sun, 21 Dec 2014 00:39:57 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/210*120/siren3.jpg

A 13-year-old boy rescued his little sister from an attempted kidnapping in Lancaster, sheriff’s deputies said Saturday.

A man allegedly walked into the fenced yard of the family’s home in the 300 block of West Kildare Street just before noon and asked the 4-year-old girl for her name. He then reached down, grabbed her and tried to leave the yard.

But her older brother grabbed the man’s arm and called for help, asking for someone to call 911.

The little girl was not injured.

Neighbors flagged down a passing sheriff’s patrol car and were able to direct them to a man believed to be the one who tried to take the little girl.

The man had been seen pacing in front of the home where the little girl lives just prior to the attempted kidnapping, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The suspect has been detained until deputies complete an investigation. His identitiy has not been released.

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<![CDATA[8-Year-Old Thanks Firefighters]]> Sun, 21 Dec 2014 01:18:01 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hartford+firefighter+surprise.JPG

Firefighters pulled an 8-year-old girl from a burning building in Hartford last month, and today she got to thank them in person.

Shantell King was sleeping when flames ravaged her home on Hamilton Street in Hartford on Nov. 14. Her mom, Michelle Peterson, ran to wake her up, but both mother and daughter were knocked to the ground in their effort to escape. They were separated, and flames forced Peterson from the house without Shantell.

"I thought she was gone," Peterson recalled. "It was pretty much the worst day of my life."

One month after emergency responders stepped in and saved Shantell’s life, members of Hartford’s Engine 15 surprised Peterson and her daughter at the Hartford Hilton, where the family of two has been staying.

"This is something that we train for and prepare for our entire careers, and to be able to finally do something like that, especially around the holidays, it means a lot," said Lt. Russell Cook.

Peterson was reduced to tears when firefighters showed up with Christmas presents early Saturday afternoon, hugging the man credited with saving her daughter’s life. Shantell, in turn, gave them a handmade Christmas card as a token of gratitude.

"For the past couple of weeks, this has been the only thing we wanted to do, is meet the guy who saved my daughter, because without him we wouldn't be having Christmas right now," Peterson said.



Photo Credit: NBCConnecticut.com]]>
<![CDATA[5 Key Points From Obama's Year-End Presser]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:49:45 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP684603546762.jpg

President Obama said Sony Pictures Entertainment had made a mistake pulling the movie “The Interview," and defended normalizing relations with Cuba in his last press conference of the year before heading to Hawaii for vacation.

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” he said of the cyber attack during which embarrassing emails were made public.

Here are the main topics that he addressed during the exchange with the press, during which he only called on female reporters.

North Korea

On the day that the FBI identified North Korea as the source of the cyber-attacks on Sony, Obama refused to reveal what the U.S. response would be other than to say it would be proportional and in a place and time of U.S. choosing.

He said that although he sympathized with Sony, he wished its executives had talked to him before making the decision on “The Interview.”

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States,” he said.

If Sony could be intimidated over the release of a satirical movie, imagine what might happen if the issue were a documentary or a news report, he said. Even worse, imagine if producers and other start engaging in self-censorship, he said.

"That's not what America's about," he said.

Cuba

Obama said he shared worries that Cuba would fail to address human right or move toward democracy.

“This is still a regime that oppresses its people,” he said.

But he said he believed normalizing relations, announced this week by his administration, would give the United States more leverage over Cuba. Visiting Americans and better access to telecommunications and the Internet will chip away at what he called a hermetically sealed society and offer the best prospect for self determination, he said.

“Change is going to come to Cuba,” he said. “It has to.”

The country’s economy does not work and it can no longer rely on subsidies from allies such as Venezuela.

He recounted that in his conversation with Cuba President Raul Castro, after Obama had apologized for his 15-minute opening, Castro told him that he was a young man and still had time to break Fidel Castro’s record for speaking for seven hours straight.

State of Race Relations

Black Americans like the rest of Americans are better off than when he took office, Obama said, though the income and wealth gap between black and white America remained.

He said that educational changes his administration has initiated have meant higher high school graduation rates and record numbers of people attending college.

Race relations are now "colored" by police shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, and the perception that law enforcement was not fair, he said.

He said a task force he created would return with practical changes that could be implemented.

“People are basically good and have good intentions,” he said.

Systems and institutions don’t always work as well as they should and can be fixed, he said.

Dealing With Congress

Obama said he would continue to take unilateral actions on issues important to the American people if Congress failed to act.

Immigration was the classic example, he said. He acted only after the House failed to move on a comprehensive bill passed by the Senate.

If Republicans were angered by his executive actions, he said, “There is a very simple solution: Pass bills.”

He urged Republicans to work with him because both sides would have to compromise.

Obama again said that the Keystone XL pipeline would not have much effect on gas prices in the United States, but instead would benefit the Canadian oil industry. The pipeline would bring oil from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, where it would enter the world oil market.

He said he hoped to work with Republicans on fairness in the tax system, particularly involving corporations. Some are paying taxes at a rate of 35 percent, others of which are paying nothing.

Economy

Obama touted America's economic gains and said the country could enter the new year confident that the United States was making strides.

This year was the strongest for job growth since the 1990s; over a 57-month period, businesses had created nearly 11 million new jobs, he said. About 10 million Americans have gained health insurance in the past year. Deficits has been cut by about two-thirds since he took office.

"America's resurgence is real," he said.
 



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Mourning Across U.S. for Officers Killed in Brooklyn]]> Sun, 21 Dec 2014 01:27:23 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/460731242.jpg

Police departments and civic leaders across the United States mourned publicly on Saturday, condemning violence and calling for calm after two New York police officers were killed in cold blood.

"Two brave men won't be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification," President Barack Obama said Saturday night in a statment. "Tonight, I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal - prayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen."

Police departments around the country expressed solidarity with the NYPD, adorning their badges with black bands in honor of the slain officers.

In Philadelphia, where anti-police graffiti appeared this week, a police spokeswoman called the shootings a "horrible act of terror."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with New York Police Department and the families of these officers," the spokeswoman said.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter took to Twitter to condemn the shooting.

Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were sitting in a squad car in Brooklyn on Saturday afternoon when the shooter, identified as 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, approached the car and fatally shot both officers in the head. Brinsley then ran into a nearby subway station and killed himself.

"They were, quite simply, assassinated — targeted for their uniform," said New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. "Both officers paid the ultimate sacrifice today while protecting the communities they serve."

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the shootings a "particularly despicable act," and called on New Yorkers to pray for the families of Ramos and Liu.

But New York Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch was critical of the mayor's office. Lynch tied the shootings to violence against the NYPD during recent protests in the city and blamed the mayor directly for a perceived lack of support as the department has come under scrutiny.

"There's blood on many hands tonight," Lynch said, and "starts on the steps of City Hall in the office of the mayor."

Loretta E. Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, pledged that her office would assist with the investigation of the shooting.

"I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of this afternoon's brutal and senseless attack on two NYPD Officers, and I join Attorney General Holder in expressing my deepest condolences to the families of these fallen heroes," she said. "Today's assailant struck at the heart of our city — the dedicated officers who pledge their lives to safeguard us all."



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Top News Photos of the Week]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 19:09:25 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP617339531987.jpg View weekly updates on the very best photos in domestic and foreign news.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Man Killed in Crash with Ambulance]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 22:38:07 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/somers+ambulance+crash.jpg

A 60-year-old man has died after his car crashed head-on into an ambulance on Main Street/Route 190 in Somers on Saturday afternoon, according to state police.

Police said the car's driver, identified as Leonard W. King, of the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, was driving westbound on Main Street when he struck an ambulance traveling eastbound around 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

King was pronounced dead at the scene. State police initially said the victim was a resident of Enfield.

No one else was in the car with King, but four people riding in the ambulance – identified as Kara Williams, 19, of Somers; Katherine Morton, 20, of Somers; Joshua Marquardt, 22, of Somers, and driver Kate Schoenberger, 20, of Longmeadow, Massachusetts – were taken to Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford for medical evaluations, according to state police.

The ambulance was not responding to a medical call at the time of the crash.

Firefighters from the Hazardville section of Enfield were called in for mutual aid. Main Street was closed for several hours west of Route 83 in Somers, between Sokol Road and Maple Ridge Drive.

LifeStar was called to the scene and later canceled, according to the helicopter service.

Authorities are investigating. Anyone with information on the crash is urged to call Connecticut State Police Trooper Preuss at 860-896-3200.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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<![CDATA[Arrests in Attempted Murder of Teen]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 23:21:18 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/198*120/12-20-14_Palmdale-Teen-Shooting-Arrest.JPG

Two men have been arrested in connection with the attempted murder of a teenage girl in Palmdale, police said Saturday.

The girl was hospitalized in critical condition after being injured in a car-to-car shooting in the 37800 block of Melton Avenue around noon Friday, officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

Investigators believe Palmdale residents Jaime Espinoza, 20, and Fernando Albarran, 21, were involved in the shooting, which is believed to be gang related.

A third person was detained in connection with the shooting, but released pending further investigation, according to the Sheriff's Department.

Both men remain behind bars in lieu of $500,000.

Anyone with information is asked to call homicide investigators at 323-890-5500. Anonymous tips can be made by calling Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.

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<![CDATA[Red Light Cameras Increase Crashes]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 23:09:59 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/52663156.jpg

Chicago’s red light camera system makes some intersections more dangerous instead of making them safer, according to the results of a study commissioned by the Chicago Tribune.

In the only scientific study to date analyzing the nation’s largest network of 350 red light cameras, the Tribune found intersections with cameras snapping photos and ticketing drivers as they pass through red lights saw a 22 percent increase in rear-end crashes resulting in injuries.

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel has claimed the cameras are to thank for a 47 percent decrease in “T-Bone” right-angle crashes, the Tribune’s study showed a much different statistic of a mere 15 percent reduction.

The red light camera program has garnered the city nearly $600 million since 2003.

“You are generating revenue under the guise of fake safety,” said Mike Brockway, writer of the Chicago-driving-centric blog The Expired Meter.

Dominique Lord, an associate professor at Texas A&M University's Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, headed the Tribune's study.

"The biggest takeaway is that overall (the program) seems to have had little effect," Lord told the Tribune.

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<![CDATA[Chicago Mayor's Son Robbed]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 22:10:59 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/mayor%27s+son+robbed.jpg

Police are investigating the robbery of Mayor Rahm Emaneul's son, which occurred near the family's home in the Ravenswood neighborhood Friday night, according to a spokesperson for the mayor.

The incident happened in the 4200 block of North Hermitage at about 10:05 p.m. The mayor's son, 17-year-old Zach Emanuel, was walking in the block when he was approached by two unknown male offenders who grabbed him and went through his pockets. The offenders took his phone and then fled the scene, according to police news affairs.

Zach Emanuel sustained injuries that required medical treatment, according to Kelley Quinn, a spokesperson for the mayor.

The police cameras on the corner of the block were reportedly not working during the incident, according to a City of Chicago source.

Neighbors said they were surprised the incident occurred on their block because they say there is always security in front of the mayor's home and in the alley. Police sources are saying the security detail did not see the reported robbery.

Several police officers were seen on the mayor's front porch late Friday night and Saturday morning.

Area North detectives are investigating.

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<![CDATA[Officer Cleared of Killing Dog]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 18:32:26 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cleburne-cop-dog.jpg

A two-month long independent investigation found that a Cleburne Police officer was justified when he shot and killed a pit bull named Maximus earlier this year.

The incident sparked outrage after video from Officer Kevin Dupre’s body camera surfaced online showing him firing at the dog. Though the shooting occurred on August 10, it wasn’t until October that someone filed an open records request for the video and it was widely distributed.

After the video was released, Dupre was placed on paid administrative leave and leaders in Cleburne asked for an independent investigation into the matter. They hired Alan Patton, a retired police sergeant with no previous ties to Cleburne. On October 31, Cleburne Police turned over all reports, copies of video, and statements to him for review.

“We wanted to be extremely thorough to ensure the public had confidence in the results,” said Scott Cain, Mayor of the City of Cleburne.

Saturday, the city released Patton’s final report on the investigation, in which he states, “due to the actions of an aggressive animal, Officer Dupre reasonably believed he needed to use lethal, deadly force in defense of his own life.”

In his 28 page report, Patton details the encounter Dupre had with a group of dogs that were on the loose and explains how video evidence backs up claims that Maximus was showing signs of aggression. He consulted with experts from the Fort Worth Police Department and Los Angeles Police Department and reviewed articles written by animal behaviorists during his investigation.

“I know some people are not going to be satisfied with the investigation’s results,” said Cain. “We agreed to let the chips fall where they may and we gave up control of the investigation.  And the chips have now fallen.”

Maximus’ owners, Amanda Henderson and Quinton Tatum, said while they wish their dog was still alive, they accept the report’s findings.

“We lost a very precious fur baby of ours and all we wanted to know from the beginning is why,” said Henderson. “And they explained to us why and I respect that.”

The city also announced immediate changes to its canine encounter policies, which include new processes for reporting and investigating these kinds of incidents, as well as mandatory training for all police officers.

“For them to already be taking steps in the right direction to not let this happen again, it’s justice I believe,” said Tatum.

“I know a lot of people may not understand that,” said Henderson. “There are going to be people that are angry and that’s okay. But we also ask that no one does anything just because you’re angry. Please, let’s keep it at peace.”

During the height of the firestorm surrounding the case, Dupre received multiple death threats and the city’s website was hacked in possible retaliation. There were also several protests.

Dupre has now been fully reinstated to the Cleburne Police Department. 

Cain echoed Henderson’s and Tatum’s calls for peace.

“Let me make this extremely clear,” said Cain. “If you think you’re going to come into our community and threaten an officer who’s been exonerated or anyone else in our community, we will use the full extent of the law to prosecute you and we will not tolerate it. So we are going to make certain that he and his family are safe, just as we would any other person in our community.”

Cain said the city is also looking into increasing penalties for dog owners whose pets frequently get loose.



Photo Credit: Cleburne Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[4 Arrested in Mall Brawl]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 22:40:14 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/westfield+mall.jpg

Four people – three adults and one minor – are facing charges after police used pepper spray to break up a brawl at the Westfield Shopping Center in Meriden on Saturday.

According to Meriden police, two underage girls approached an officer working at the mall to help with holiday crowd control around 6:20 p.m. and told him they were afraid a mother and daughter were going to attack them.

While the officer was talking to them, the mother and daughter rushed over and started screaming and making a scene, police said. The officer held them back but the daughter was able to break away and began assaulting one of the other girls.

It spread from there, with more than half a dozen people joining in as a crowd of 100 shoppers gathered around the group. Police said the officer was alone and afraid for his own safety so he used his pepper spray to fend off the instigators.

The crowd then dispersed and other officers arrived to help. The fire department was also called in to help treat other people who were inadvertently sprayed, and brought in fans to disperse the fumes.

Police said no one was seriously hurt and "the disruption to holiday shoppers was minimal."

Three adults were arrested, along with the daughter who police say started the fight, but authorities have not released their names or any information on the charges they face.



Photo Credit: Flickr/Mike Mozart]]>
<![CDATA[Calif. Mayor's Autopsy Released]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 09:55:41 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/file-bell-gardens-mayor-daniel-crespo.jpg

The wife of then-Bell Gardens, California, Mayor Daniel Crespo fatally shot him three times in the chest while the two fought more than two months ago, according to the autopsy report released Friday.

Daniel Crespo, 45, was shot by his wife, Lyvette, Sept. 30 in their home, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Deputies said Crespo and his wife were arguing, and their 19-year-old son intervened, leading to a struggle between the mayor and his son that ended when Lyvette Crespo opened fire.

She admitted she shot her husband but that it was in self-defense during a fight in which he punched their 19-year-old son in the face, deputies said.

Lyvette Crespo was questioned by deputies, but released after claiming self-defense.

Her attorney, who declined to comment Friday, has contended that she was a longtime victim of domestic violence and shot Daniel Crespo in defense of herself and her son.

Daniel Crespo's daughter told investigators that he was verbally and physically abusive to her mother for over 20 years, according to the autopsy by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

The abuse had become more physical in the last two years.

Crespo and his wife were not sleeping in the same bedroom and he "was known to drag her by the hair to force her to do so," the autopsy report said.

The injuries were not enough to require medical attention and the incidents were not reported, the autopsy said.

He had threatened to kill her and the children if she tried to report the abuse, according to the daughter.

Crespo's mistress had been reportedly making annoying phone calls to the wife at home and her parents had been arguing over his infidelity.

The report also said that Crespo owned handguns and had kept them locked in the home until recent years, when he began leaving them unlocked, his daughter told detectives.

A 9 mm handgun and three expended cartridges were recovered at the shooting scene.

At a news conference, Crespo's brother, William, denied the abuse claim, calling the killing a murder. He has filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against Lyvette Crespo.

"I just want to curl up in a ball every morning," William Crespo said at a news conference Friday. "I just think I'm going to wake up and my brother is going to be here."

He said the autopsy report does not support the notion that Crespo's wife shot him in self-defense.

He also said he was disappointed that Lyvette Crespo has not been arrested or charged.

"It's sad," he said. "It's wrong because it is just showing that you know you can get away with murder. Killing your husband is wrong. There was a lot of other ways, she could have called 911."

William Crespo has said that Lyvette was trained with firearms.

His attorney, James Devitt, said he received a copy of the autopsy report about a week ago, and he claims it does not support Lyvette's claim of self-defense.

He said he is hopeful that District Attorney Jackie Lacey, whose office is reviewing the case, will charge Lyvette Crespo.

Lacey has "assigned a very tough prosecutor to this case and I have a feeling we're going to have an indictment or an arrest by Christmas, is my hope," Devitt said.

Asher Klein and City News Service contributed to this report.



Photo Credit: BellGardens.org]]>
<![CDATA[Run Raises Funds for Shane Search]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 08:25:12 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/237*120/Shane+Montgomery+Missing+College+Student.JPG

Dozens of runners participated in a 5K run in Philadelphia's Manayunk neighborhood Saturday morning to help return attention to Shane Montgomery, who went missing early Thanksgiving morning after a night out with friends.

The event kicked off at 9 a.m. outside the Goals Fit location at 4450 Main St. in Philly's Manayunk neighborhood.

Donations were accepted for the Help Find Shane Montgomery fund and participants were  encouraged to wear green in honor of the missing 21-year-old West Chester University student.

The Roxborough native was last seen leaving Kildare's Irish Pub --  only a short walk from the race start -- more than three weeks ago.

Each day without Shane has been wearing on his family, who are working to hire the Garden State Underwater Recovery Unit, a volunteer diving recovery team, to aid with the underwater search, said Kevin Verbrugghe, Shane's uncle.

"We’re not holding up well," Verbrugghe said.

Ongoing search efforts, including the use of sonar and underwriter cameras in a search of the Schuylkill River, have brought about few clues for Shane, who was last seen walking toward the Manayunk Canal.

"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," FBI Supervisory Special agent J.J. Klaver said Thursday.

Debris could have trapped the missing college student's body underwater, he explained.

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.

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



Photo Credit: Family Photo
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<![CDATA[Judge Dismisses Lawsuit by Family Rescued at Sea]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 11:59:10 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Kaufman-1161984-24715521-th.jpg

A San Diego judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by the family whose round-the-world sailing expedition ended with a military rescue in April when their 1-year-old became sick.

Eric and Charlotte Kaufman filed the lawsuit in July, blaming their broken Whenever Communications satellite phone for the loss of their boat, the Rebel Heart, after they were rescued hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast.

Their attorney Dan Gilleon said the suit claims if the Kaufmans had not lost service, they would have gotten medical advice over the phone instead of calling in the Coast Guard.

The judge ruled Wednesday that the Kaufman’s phone contract stated any lawsuits against the company must be filed in Florida, where Whenever Communications is centered. The case was then dismissed.

Gilleon says the family plans to refile in Florida court.

The phone company’s attorney Matthew Herron told NBC 7 this case should never should have come to San Diego in the first place and he is pleased the judge sided with him. He said Whenever Communications was in the process of switching SIM card providers, so another company was responsible for shutting off the Kaufman’s phone service.

Eric, Charlotte and their daughters, a 3-year-old and a 1-year old, were two weeks into their sailing adventure when the 36-foot boat lost its steering and communication abilities. At the same time, the youngest, Lyra, became seriously ill with diarrhea, a rash and vomiting.

Desperate for help, her parents messaged the Coast Guard, which launched a rescue effort with the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing. The Navy’s USS Vandegrift picked up the family after pararescuemen jumped from a helicopter into the ocean to board the Rebel Heart and stabilize Lyra.

The sailboat was sunk for safety reasons, rescuers said, and the Kaufmans were taken back to San Diego.

The ill-fated trip attracted national attention and widespread debate about the families taking young children on open ocean journeys.
 



Photo Credit: Courtesy The Rebel Heart]]>
<![CDATA[Dog Stolen, Dyed, and Recovered]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 10:23:33 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/193*120/12-20-2014-DyedDog1.JPG

An Inland Empire, Southern California, dog owner has been reunited with her stolen pooch — but the dog is now a completely different color.

Heather Lowery was overjoyed when she discovered her missing mutt had been identified via a microchip after being found wandering the streets by animal control workers.

However she had to do a double take when she went to the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus Thursday, because her once-blond pit bull puppy Cocoa had been dyed a distinct shade of coal by the thieves.

"She actually recognized me when I went in there to verify it was her," Lowery said. "She shakes her whole body as if she were Pluto basically, and she did it again today. She jumped right on (me) and took pictures with me."

The 8-month-old pit bull had disappeared from her yard in San Jacinto during Thanksgiving week, and Lowery was delighted to be finally reunited with her dog.

She had only adopted Cocoa in November, and she was identified because all adopted pets from county shelters are automatically microchipped.

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<![CDATA[Mountain Lion Spotted in Backyard]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 06:25:25 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/202*120/12-19-14-mountain+lion+sherry+kempster+newbury+park.JPG

A mountain lion creeping alongside a Southern California woman's backyard wall forced road closures as wildlife officials tried to capture it.

Sherry Kempster of Newbury Park in Ventura County was in her kitchen Friday morning when she heard crows cawing in the backyard, which usually means "a hawk or something" is in the area, she told NBC4.

Kempster looked out the window about 10:20 a.m. and saw the back leg and tail of a creature moving past the barbecue grill. She soon realized it was a mountain lion.

She captured a picturesque image of the lion as it walked along her backyard wall, a mountain view in the background.

Friday's sighting was the first time she and her husband have seen a mountain lion in the 17 years they lived in their home, she said.

After Kempster called 911, Ventura County sheriff's deputies and Fish and Game wardens started looking for the mountain lion. Officials found it in underneath a trailer in a mobile home park about 5 p.m.

Authorities blocked roads for nearly 90 minutes as they worked to contain the big cat.

Officials said the 14-month-old mountain lion, dubbed P-34, came from the Santa Monica Mountains. She was captured about 8:34 p.m. and released "at an undisclosed location," officials said.
 



Photo Credit: Sherry Kempster]]>
<![CDATA[Man Shot While Washing Dishes]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 08:37:57 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/juan+ortiz.jpg

More than a week after a 44-year-old man was shot in the chest while washing dishes inside his south suburban home, officials are still searching for shooter.

Juan Ortiz was shot during the evening hours in his home in the 1600 block of West Sunnyside Avenue in Chicago Heights on Dec. 11, according to Cook County Crime Stoppers.

Police said Ortiz's family, including his wife and four children, who are each under the age of 11, were in the home at the time of the shooting. Officers responding to a call of shots fired found Ortiz on his kitchen floor with a gunshot wound to the chest.

He was taken to Franciscan St. James Health in Chicago Heights, where he was pronounced dead. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed the death.

The Cook County Crime Stoppers said Ortiz was a “family man, not someone prone to violence.”

“Juan was looking forward to the upcoming Christmas Holiday; normally a time to enjoy family and presents. All of this is gone because someone had a gun and pulled the trigger,” George McDade, chairman for Cook County Crime Stoppers, said in a statement. “I am not sure if this was just an errant shot that struck Juan, or if it was someone’s sick minded way of having fun and seeing him through the kitchen window decided to shoot at him. Either way a family has lost a father and husband and community a leader.”

Chicago Heights Police Chief Charles Guiliani said the crime is "highly unusual" for the area and police have not yet found a motive or any suspects in the shooting.

Chicago Heights police, Ortiz’s family and friends and the Cook County Crime Stoppers are scheduled to gather Saturday on his block to distribute fliers asking for information on his death.

A $1,000 reward is offered for information leading to an arrest, according to authorities.

“The offender is at large and the community needs to step forward and help us identify the person responsible before they shoot again” McDade said.

Anyone with information can call an anonymous hotline at (800)-535-STOP (7867).
 



Photo Credit: Cook County Crime Stoppers]]>
<![CDATA[NYPD Probes Video Showing Cop Punch]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 20:10:12 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/nypd+badge+generic.jpg

The NYPD says it has suspended a police officer after a video was posted online that appeared to show him repeatedly punching a 16-year-old suspect as other officers tried to arrest the teen.

The video, posted on YouTube, shows several officers trying to cuff the 16-year-old suspect when a plainclothes officer in a camouflage jacket runs up and punches the suspect several times in the torso. The woman who posted the video said that that the teen was punched on Monday on the Lower East Side in Manhattan.

The video shows the teen pushed up against a car, surrounded by three officers. The plain clothes officer rushes into the frame and appears to quickly jab the teen in the three times.

As the boy is hit, a woman nearby can be heard yelling “Hey, hey hey! Stop it! Get off him!” Another witness then identifies herself as a lawyer and says “I can’t believe he just did that after everything that’s happened.”

Police said the teen and another suspect were being arrested after allegedly attacking a person with a cane. The charges the teen faces aren't clear.

The grand jury decision earlier this month to not indict a police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner has highlighted the tense relationship between police and minority communities in New York City, and tens of thousands of people have protested in recent weeks. 



Photo Credit: AP Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rollover Kills 3 Headed to Funeral]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 15:58:47 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/i-15+crash+1219+2.JPG

An SUV full of people on their way to a funeral rolled over on Interstate 15 in Bonsall, California, Friday, leaving three dead and another three, including a 2-year-old girl, hospitalized.

A 2001 Ford Expedition was headed south on I-15 when it flipped into the northbound lanes near Gopher Canyon Road, blocking the left lanes on both sides of the freeway and killing three people inside. CHP suspects tire tread is to blame.

Suitcases were seen strewn about among the debris. A survivor of the crash told CHP the group was traveling to Mexico to board a plane for a funeral.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner has identified the victims as a married couple, 25-year-old Jerson Ariel Duron Valeriano and 22-year-old Edith Duron of South El Monte, and 21-year-old Ivette Garcia of Los Angeles.

CHP said it does not appear either woman was wearing a seat belt. The 25-year-old man, who was driving, had his seat belt on but was also killed.

A 2-year-old girl restrained in a car seat survived without injuries, but was taken to Children's Hospital for "precautionary reasons." Two adults, the girl's uncle and 43-year-old grandmother, also survived and were transported to Palomar Hospital for non-life threatening injuries, according to CHP.

The child lost both parents in the crash.

Heading to her father's funeral, the grandmother saw her 22-year-old daughter die.

"I am a human being, and my heart goes out to that family, especially during the holiday season," said CHP Officer Jim Bettencourt. "That is tough."

Deputies happened to be driving behind the vehicle when they said the tread on the left rear tire appeared to separate, causing the driver to lose control. CHP said the tread on all four tires looked different.

Authorities will conduct a full mechanical inspection of the SUV, paying close attention to the tires.

Bettencourt said it's important to check the safety of your vehicle often, especially before a long trip.

"Number one: have a plan. Be prepared when you go out there," Bettencourt said. "Make sure that you take a look at your vehicle, you inspect it, you check your wipers, you check the tire pressure, you make sure your vehicle's in good working order before you travel on that long trip."

Editor's note: A previous version of this story said the ages of the deceased women were 11 and 12 years old. We regret the error.



Photo Credit: Artie Ojeda
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<![CDATA[Senator Plans "Interview" Screening]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:56:23 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/seth+rogen+mark+kirk.jpg

Sen. Mark Kirk said in a recent interview he hopes to have his first big re-election fundraiser at a screening of "The Interview," calling Sony Pictures' decision to cancel the film's Christmas Day premier "a terrible lesson to terrorists."

The Republican senator up for re-election in 2016 told WBEZ he was “pretty disappointed” with Sony’s decision to pull the film from theaters after threats from hackers.

“I would say that I’m going to be trying to hold the first big Kirk for Senate fundraiser at a screening of The Interview, so that everybody shows the North Koreans that you cannot edit what we want to see and do in the United States, under the First Amendment.”

He then tweeted, “With Sony’s surrender to North Korea, I plan to host a movie screening of @TheInterview.”

The FBI said Friday that North Korea was responsible for the hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment that exposed private employee information and corporate secrets, NBC News reported.

In the aftermath of the hacking, Sony pulled its planned Christmas Day release of "The Interview" when major movie theater chains dropped the film, citing security fears.

Kirk added in his interview Friday that he hopes the movie will be “a smash hit.”

“It was a terrible lesson to terrorists, to give them what they wanted — that we should, as Americans under the First Amendment, we should never have to ask North Korea for permission as to what movie we can — just think of a previous really good movie, that was 'Team America: World Police,' that was really funny about North Korea. And your birthright as an American citizen — you never have to ask the North Koreans for permission for what movie you can see. I hope that now all the media about this movie makes it a smash hit, and that we see many more movies like it, and teach the North Koreans a lesson about what Americans can and cannot do.”

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<![CDATA[Anti-Cop Graffiti Hits Philly]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 18:16:13 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Cop+Lives+Dont+Matter+Graffiti.jpg

In the wake of more protests against police nationwide as well as the shooting deaths of two NYPD officers, local police continue to search for the person or people responsible for anti-police graffiti spotted along a busy avenue in West Philadelphia.

Three messages were scribbled in spray paint on a fence, bar and abandoned church on Baltimore Avenue between 48th and 50th streets.

They read "PPD Killed Brandon Tate Brown," "F--- the Cops" and "Cop Lives Don't Matter."

Brandon Tate Brown is the man shot in the head and killed by a Philadelphia Police officer on Monday following an altercation during a traffic stop. The last message is a play on the chant "Black Lives Matter" that demonstrators have been using recently while protesting against police treatment of African-Americans.

The protests in Philadelphia and other cities around the nation began after grand juries declined to indict white officers in two high profile cases surrounding the deaths of unarmed black teen Michael Brown and the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

It's not clear when the structures were tagged.

"Back in the day you could really run to a cop and trust the cop, but now people are scared to go to cops," nearby resident Sharon Weaver said after seeing the message on the fence.

Kale Good, another resident, said he doesn't agree with defacing a person's property, but that he understands how a person might feel it's the only way to have their voice heard.

"I think what the person is trying to express is that they feel police in general are disregarding their lives or aren't valuing their lives, and so they probably feel an amount of frustration and this is how they expressed it," he said.

A painter was removing the "Cop Lives Don't Matter" message from the fence around noon Friday.

"It’s a shame that someone defaced someone else’s property. We’re going to handle it as a vandalism case, just like we would any other,” Philadelphia Police spokeswoman Tanya Little said.

Little said it is one person's point of view and that the department has and continues to have positive interactions with the community.

"Regardless what the message said, even if it said ‘I love the police,’ this was really a crime against someone else, the property owner," she said.

There were no leads or an estimate on the vandalism's cost, police said.

The city would handle removing the other messages, Mayor Michael Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald, said. He didn't immediately have further comment on the graffiti.

NBC10 also reached out to the police union, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, for reaction.

The physical anti-police commentary comes a day after city leaders condemned online commentary by a Philadelphia Fire Department paramedic.

The medic, who works in Southwest Philadelphia, posted a photo to his personal Instagram account of two black men pointing guns at the head of a white police officer. The accompanying message said: "Our real enemy ... Need 2 stop pointing guns at each other and at the ones that's legally killing us and innocents."

The post has since been deleted, an apology made and investigation launched.

On Saturday, a gunman shot and killed two NYPD officers sitting in their squad car in Brooklyn before running to a nearby subway station and turning the gun on himself, officials said. A Philadelphia Police Department spokesperson called the execution-style slayings a "horrible act of terror." 

"Intentionally murdering a police officer is not the way to solve anything," the spokesperson said in a statement to NBC10. "In fact it destroyed the lives of two families (those of these officers) that had absolutely nothing to do with the events taking place across this country. Our thoughts and prayers are with New York Police Department and the families of these officers. All of us in this country must really take a look at ourselves and our actions and get this right, because the loss of human lives surely isn't the answer."

A rally in support of the Philadelphia's men and women in blue was held on Friday night in the Mayfair section of the city.



Photo Credit: NBC10
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<![CDATA["I Can't Breathe" Trademarked?]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 17:20:21 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/460014244.jpg

A Waukegan woman has filed an application to trademark Eric Garner’s dying words, “I can’t breathe.”

Catherine Crump, 57, submitted her request to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Dec. 13 in hopes of registering the phrase for use on apparel such as “hoodies and t-shirts for men, women, boys, girls, and infants.”

In the application acquired by the Smoking Gun, Crump claims to have been using the term for merchandising since “at least” Aug. 18, one month after Garner’s fatal arrest.

The July video of a NYPD officer placing a chokehold on unarmed Garner for selling loose cigarettes went viral after the father of six was seen shoved to the ground pleading, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” in his final moments of life.

When a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who killed him protesters erupted nationwide using, “I can’t breathe,” as their battle cry against police brutality.

Crump told the Smoking Gun she has “nothing to do with the Garner family,” and did not speak with them regarding her intentions to trademark the term.

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<![CDATA[Obama Only Picks Female Reporters]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 16:46:59 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP536550772061.jpg

There was a lot said at President Barack Obama’s annual year-end press conference, but it was who he spoke to during the conference that had people talking.

The President took questions from reporters at the end of his speech, but he only called on female reporters, a move that set the Twittersphere ablaze.

Eight women posed questions during the conference, asking Obama about the Sony hacks, Cuba, race relations, the economy and more.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed after the event that the move was in fact intentional.

"The fact is, there are many women from a variety of news organizations who day-in and day-out do the hard work of covering the President of the United States. As the questioner list started to come together, we realized that we had a unique opportunity to highlight that fact at the President’s closely watched, end of the year news conference," Earnest said, according to Politico.

While seemingly subtle, the move didn’t go unnoticed by viewers.



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Bald Eagle Found Shot Dead in Ct.]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:35:02 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Great+Meadow+Road+in+Rocky+Hill+1200.jpg

A $5,000 reward is being offered to help find the person who shot a bald eagle, after the bird — a national symbol — was found dead along a road in Rocky Hill, Connecticut.

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection received a report of a dead eagle along Great Meadows Road in Rocky Hill at 10:13 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13 and began investigating.

At the time, it was believed that the bird was struck and killed by a car, but that was not the case.

State Environmental Conservation police turned the eagle over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which conducted a preliminary examination that indicated the eagle’s injuries were from a gunshot.

Bald and Golden Eagles are protected under federal law and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and State Environmental Conservation Police are jointly investigating. 

The Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust work with state and federal wildlife agencies to offer rewards of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspected poachers, according to DEEP.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call the Environmental Conservation Police’s Emergency Dispatch Center at 860-424-3333 or toll free at 1-800-842-4357 or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent at 860-871-8348.  

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<![CDATA[Son Who Killed Politician Gets Life]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:47:33 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/121914+jason+beckman.jpg

Jason Beckman was sentenced to life behind bars Friday for the 2009 shooting death of his father, South Miami Commissioner Jay Beckman.

Judge Rodney Smith said Beckman will serve a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison before he can ask for parole.

"This is who you are, you're very vengeful, your personality is a ticking time bomb," Smith told Beckman as he handed down the sentence.

Beckman, clad in orange prison clothing, expressed some remorse to Smith over the shooting.

"My father shouldn't be dead, I wish he was here and not because I'm here but because I loved him and I really feel like I could have improved my relationship with him just by doing a few things differently," Beckman said.

Sentencing in the case had been delayed several times in the past year. Beckman was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting in November 2013.

Beckman was originally charged with manslaughter with a firearm after he told police that he had just wanted to show the gun to his father, but he slipped and fell causing the gun to fire. The charges were upgraded to first-degree murder after friends and family came forward saying the then-17-year-old had talked of killing his father.

A search of the son's belongings showed the former South Miami High junior had compiled a hit list of enemies, with his dad's name on the top, authorities said. Defense attorneys had argued that Jason Beckman didn't shoot the gun intentionally.



Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[4th Victim Dies After DUI Crash]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 21:27:52 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/202*120/12-19-2014-gaza-redondo-beach-crash.jpg

A fourth victim, identified as a 6-year-old boy, has died after a DUI suspect struck a group of people in a crowded crosswalk as they left a children's Christmas show Wednesday night at a Southern California church.

Samuel Gaza was among a dozen people who were in a crosswalk outside St. James Catholic Church in Redondo Beach when they were struck by a driver who, according to witnesses, ran a red light and swerved around vehicles stopped at a red light. Gaza was hospitalized Thursday in critical condition and died late Thursday night, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner's office.

Gaza's mother, 36-year-old Martha Gaza, also was killed in the crash. Mary Wilson, 81, and Saeko Matsumura, 87, all from Torrance, also died Wednesday night.

Police confirmed at a Thursday morning news conference that prescription drug use by the driver is part of their investigation. Police also confirmed a witness account that the driver went around other vehicles stopped at about 8 p.m. at the intersection of Vincent Street and Pacific Coast Highway.

Two adults and a child were in stable condition Friday morning. Six other victims were treated for minor cuts and bruises before they were released from the hospital.

Witness accounts provided to police indicated the driver, headed northbound on Pacific Coast Highway, went around vehicles stopped at the intersection and entered the left turn lane. The driver then continued north on PCH, striking another vehicle and pedestrians, according to police.

Parishioners returned to the church Thursday morning and at noon for services to remember the victims. Michael Tovar, a St. James parishioner, said he will never recover from what he saw.

"I was standing by the front of his car and looked down, me and another gentleman, and there was the little boy underneath his left front tire," he said. "I thought it was a jacket his car was on. It was underneath the left front tire. I could not believe that."

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

She is scheduled to make her first court appearance Friday.

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.

Police are awaiting the results of toxicology tests.

St. James Catholic Church set up a donation account for victims' families. To donate, visit donations.la-archdiocese.org/sjvf/.



Photo Credit: Gaza Family]]>
<![CDATA[Outrage Over Paramedic's Photo]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 05:21:56 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/226*120/IG+Paramedic+Post.JPG

Mayor Michael Nutter and Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer condemned a Philadelphia Fire Department paramedic for a photograph shared on Instagram that depicted two black men pointing guns at a white police officer.

"I thought it was disgusting," said Sawyer, who added the image violates the fire department's social media policy. "We are a professional organization and I expect my members to act in a professional manner."

"In the strongest possible terms, I condemn the behavior of a paramedic ... who used social media to post a reprehensible message and image that targeted police officers particularly at a time of emotional volatility," Mayor Nutter said.

The message posted with the photo read: "Our real enemy ... Need 2 stop pointing guns at each other and at the ones that's legally killing us and innocents."

The next image posted to the same account said, "There are numerous crooked and corrupted cops (mostly white) & mostly they harass, beat or kill innocents (mostly blacks)."

The posts caused alarm among Philly firefighters, who do not want a fissure to form between themselves and police.

"In this difficult time, I want to assure the members of the Philadelphia Police Department that we are here to support and assist you whenever you may need," said Joe Schulle, president of Local 22, the firefighters and paramedics union. "[We] proudly stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers in blue. ... We are brothers and sisters in public safety."

Hours after the initial post caught the ire of Philly leaders, the paramedic, who is based out of Medic 23 in southwest Philly, shared an apology on social media.

"That post was out of anger of what is going on around the world (Mike Brown, Eric Garner & Etc.) &  past experiences that I've had with police," the post said. "My intention was not to slander or hurt anyone or my brothers in blue. Again I am sorry."

An investigation is underway, and Sawyer said the charged images are unlikely to damage the bond between the Philly's Fire Department and police force.

"We have a pretty strong relationship with the police department," he said. "So one member's mistake is not going to severe those ties."

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<![CDATA[Reward Offered After Dog Injured]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 12:27:17 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/214*120/dog+hook+121814.PNG

A dog is recovering after he was discovered with a horrific injury: a hiking carabiner hooked straight through his hind leg.

Ziggs, a one-year-old pitbull, was discovered roaming through Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood Wednesday afternoon, dragging a severed leash behind him. That leash was attached to the carabiner, which Dr. Al Meilan at South Federal Animal Hospital said was forcibly and intentionally inserted into the dog's leg.

"The carabiner is a dull thing, so in order to get it, they had to use a drill or something sharp to make the hole first, and then stick the carabiner through his leg," Meilan said.

Members of the Forgotten Dog Rescue believe the dog's owners used the carabiner to restrain the dog.

"Someone actually went out of their way to do this to this dog," said Amy Blitz with the rescue group. "It ranks on the mutilation type of torture."

Meilan said it appears the ring had been lodged in Ziggs' leg for several months, with evidence of similar injuries in the past.

Forgotten Dog Rescue said they are offering a cash reward for any information that leads to the arrest of Ziggs' owner. The rescuers said they won't stop until there is justice for the injured dog.

"The person that did this, it's probably somebody that if they could do this to an animal, they could do it to a person or a child," Blitz said.

The animal hospital expects Ziggs to make a full recovery within two to three weeks. He will be made available for adoption once he heals.

Alex Muñoz with Miami-Dade Animal Services said the department is actively investigating the crime.

“All pets are very important to us and have a right to be treated with kindness and respect. Acts such as this cannot be tolerated,” said Muñoz. “We urge anyone with information to come forward to assist us in identifying the responsible party.”

Anyone with information is urged to contact the Animal Services Department Investigations Unit at (305) 418-7184. You can also leave an anonymous tip with the Forgotten Dog Rescue via email at forgottendogrescue@yahoo.com.

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<![CDATA[Watch: Parking Lot Police Brawl]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 23:32:34 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/209*120/12-18-14-hawthorne+police+fight+video.JPG

A call to police about an aggressive panhandler at a Southern California fried chicken restaurant turned into a parking lot brawl that sent two officers to the hospital and one man to jail.

A bystander in a shopping center near Crenshaw Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue in Hawthorne on Monday reported a man asking people for money and threatening them if they refused.

When police showed up to the Louisiana Fried Chicken, the man was "defiant and uncooperative," Hawthorne police said Thursday.

The man then pushed an officer's hand away when two tried to detain him, and then punched the officer in the face, police said.

The officers used a Taser on the man, but his clothing was too thick for it to bring him to the ground, police said.

Video captured by a witness showed a shirtless man between two officers in a parking lot, the man and officers going back and forth throwing punches.

One officer can be seen kicking the man as the other cop grabs him.

Video showed the officers using a Taser on the now-shirtless man and punching him as he lay down on the ground.

The officers injured in the fight were treated at the hospital and released. The man identified as Thomas Christopher Brown, 29, is facing felony charges including resisting and assaulting a police officer.



Photo Credit: KNBC-TV]]>
<![CDATA[Arson Sparked Downtown LA Inferno]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 07:54:47 -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.

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