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A routine traffic stop in New York has led to drug charges for two Connecticut residents.  State police stopped a car on I-84 in Southeast early Saturday morning. 

 

The driver, 35-year old Noval Baez of Danbury, smelled of alcohol.  His passenger, 49-year old Scott Craigue of Brookfield, had what appeared to be cocaine residue on his nose, lap, and vehicle seat. 

 

  

(Baez, Craigue)

 

9.3 grams of cocaine was found during a search of the car.  Baez and Craigue were each charged with felony Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance. 

 

Baez also got a DWI.  Craigue was charged with Obstruction of Governmental Administration after refusing to get out of the police cruiser and threatening to kick Troopers in the head.  Both were arraigned and ordered held at Putnam County Jail on bond.  They are each due in court on January 9th.

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A Putnam County man has been arrested on hate crime charges.  New York State Police arrested 29-year old Jeevan Abraham of Southeast last Wednesday for Aggravated Harassment as a Hate Crime.  Troopers conducted an investigation which found Abraham threatened a victim due to sexual orientation.  He was ordered to appear at Southeast Court at a later date.  An order of protection was issued from the court requested on behalf of the victim.

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Danbury's Emergency Homeless Shelter is underfunded for the current fiscal year, according to the City's Health and Human Services Department Director.  Lisa Michelle Morrissey says that's because state funding to support shelter operations did not come through. 

 

The shelter's funding will run out at the end of the month. 

 

During the winter, up to 40 adults seek shelter from the cold each day and every night of the year all 20 beds are full.  In order to continue to serve the city's most vulnerable community, the City Council approved $75,000 for operations expenses. 

 

The Department has applied for grant funding to make updates to the City's Emergency Shelter.  Danbury is applying for $5,000 from the Home Depot Foundation's Community Impact Grant, so in order to meet award guidelines, work will be completed by community volunteers through the United Way.  

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Sandy Hook Promise has launched a 90-second PSA showing some warning signs and signals that someone might hurt themselves or someone else.  The goal is to stop tomorrow's shooting by recognizing the signs today.  Sandy Hook Promise has trained 2-and-a-half million students and adults in a no-cost "Know the Signs" programs, which the organization says has been credited with helping to avert a couple of school shootings. 

 

 

Sandy Hook Promise released a PSA last year, which has been viewed more than 150-million times.

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ATLANTA (AP) -- It can sometimes seem as though mass shootings are occurring more frequently. Researchers who have been studying such crimes for decades say they aren't, but they have been getting deadlier.

In the five years since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school, the nation has seen a number of massacres topping the death toll from Newtown and previous mass shootings, many of them involving rifles similar to the one used in Sandy Hook.

But Americans wanting to know why deadlier mass shootings are happening will get few answers. Is it is the wide availability of firearms? Is it the much-maligned "assault weapon" with its military style? Is it a failing mental health system?

"We're kind of grabbing at straws at this point in terms of trying to understand why the severity of these incidents has increased," said Grant Duwe, a criminologist who has been studying mass killings since the 1990s.

The federal government does little research on the matter, because a measure dating to the 1990s had the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention retreat from firearms research. Instead, a handful of academics, like Duwe, have toiled sometimes for decades with limited funding trying to better understand why these shootings happen and how to prevent them.

While mass shootings happen with regularity, they still remain so rare that there isn't enough information to draw conclusions with any certainty.

The profile of mass shooters - loners, depressed individuals, people who rarely smile or those who take to the internet to rant about a perceived insult or gripe - is so broad and common that it's impossible to pinpoint who might turn that anger into violence.

"There are lots of people who are isolated, don't have lots of friends, who don't smile and write ugly things on the internet and blame others for their misfortunes and don't want to live anymore and talk about mass killers and maybe even admire them," said Northeastern University professor James Alan Fox, who began studying mass shootings in the 1980s and has written six books on the topic.

Five years ago this week, Adam Lanza, a troubled young man in Newtown, Connecticut, shot and killed his mother in their home and then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School with an AR-style long gun and a handgun. He fatally shot 20 children and six educators, then himself.

In the years since, the nation has witnessed even deadlier attacks: the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016 in which a gunman killed 49 people and this year's shooting in Las Vegas, where a man in a casino hotel fired on concertgoers on the ground below, killing more than 55. This year's shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, by an Air Force veteran who shot up a church sanctuary, killing more than two dozen, also is now among the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history.

Mass shootings are widely defined as one in which four or more people are killed in a public place, excluding both domestic violence and gang-related violence. The rate has remained steady at about 20 per year for the past three decades, Fox said. Still, five of the 10 deadliest have occurred since Sandy Hook, he said.

"Some years are worse than others, and bad years tend to be followed by not-so-bad years," Fox said. While two of the deadliest took place this year, "you can't take the actions of one or two people and call it a new phenomenon. That's abberational. You can't make any pattern or trend based on that."

It's also unclear whether the higher death tolls are the result of more firearms being available or firearms being more effective. Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, used bump stocks to allow a number of his guns to mimic fully automatic weapons, but his perch high above the outdoor concert also made the shooting more effective and deadly. That's the tactic the gunman in the 1966 University of Texas at Austin shooting used when he took to a tower overlooking the campus, shooting down for more than 90 minutes.

In half of the deadliest mass shootings, the perpetrator used at least one AR-style firearm. In one, the massacre at a McDonald's in San Ysidro, California, in 1984, the shooter used an Uzi submachine gun. The others were carried out with handguns, the weapon used in the majority of mass shootings.

"Contrary to what some folks may think, the incidence of mass public shootings has not increased since Sandy Hook or even the five years before that," Duwe said. "What has changed - and this is certainly true around the time of Sandy Hook and even since then - the severity of mass public shootings has certainly increased. That is one genuine change we've seen."

Jillian Peterson, an assistant professor at Hamline University and a forensic psychologist who previously worked in New York crafting psychological profiles of convicted murderers facing the death penalty, recently helped launch a project designed to catalog and analyze mass shootings dating back to the 1960s. The project is being done jointly with James Densley, an associate professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University.

They have no financing and are relying on about a dozen students to gather research based on public documents and media reports.

The reason why someone carries out a mass shooting has been elusive, and it's a question she hopes the research will help answer. Are mass shooters of today and future bent on outdoing previous slayings by inflicting higher death tolls? That, too, is unclear. She cautions that such questions and answers continually evolve.

"This is ever-changing," Peterson said. "Just because we understand it today, we might not understand it tomorrow. That part gets hard. This is changing as society changes."

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - A Florida college professor fired after publicly saying the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut was a hoax has lost a lawsuit claiming he was wrongfully terminated.

Local news outlets report that a federal jury on Monday sided with Florida Atlantic University. The school contended communications professor James Tracy was fired last year not because of his blog posts about the Sandy Hook school shooting but because he violated rules regarding reporting of outside work.

Tracy claimed his firing violated his free speech rights. He wrote on his blog that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax by the government to impose tougher gun control. Tracy sought reinstatement to his position, back pay and damages.

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The state Department of Transportation Highway Design Unit will be holding a public informational meeting tonight about safety and operational improvements on Route 7 at Grumman Hill Rd. in Wilton.  A design presentation will start at 7 pm and will be followed by a question and answer period.  Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2020. The estimated construction cost for the state designed project is $2.6 million, with 80-percent funded by the federal government and 20-percent from the state.  The meeting is being held at Trackside Teen Center of Wilton.

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Now that the state budget has been adopted, area legislators are holding constituent meetings to go over some of the changes included in the plan that might affect residents.  There's a budget forum in Redding tonight being held by Representatives Adam Dunsby and Will Duff along with Senator Toni Boucher.  The forum is at Redding Town Hall from 7:30pm to 9pm.  The projected $207.8 million deficit is more than 1 percent of net appropriations in the main spending account, the threshold requiring the governor to issue a mid-year deficit-cutting plan to the General Assembly.

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Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to an illegal burn on Friday.  Construction debris was being burned on Old Middle Road.  Firefighters were on scene for about 10 minutes.  The company is now reminding residents that it's illegal to burn without a permit, and construction debris are never to be burned. Failure to get a permit could result in a ticket from the Fire Marshal's Office.

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The New Fairfield School District has closed out its superintendent search survey for the community.  About 400 responses have been recorded.  A consulting firm has been hired to help the district find a replacement for Superintendent Alicia Roy, whose contract expires in June.

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Danbury is looking for state and federal funds to study traffic conditions from Downs Street onto Route 37 all the way to the intersection with Pembroke Road and Brush Hill Road in New Fairfield.  The goal is to figure out how to alleviate traffic congestion and improve public safety along the unimproved section of the corridors. 

 

Some examples where improvements could be made are at the intersections with Main Street, Balmforth Avenue, Golden Hill Road and Jeanette Street.  The study would also evaluate the possibility of adding pedestrian and bike areas along the corridor.  Danbury and New Fairfield officials are looking into a walking trail along Margerie Lake Reservoir. 

 

The study is estimated to cost $150,000.  80-percent would be funded by the Federal Highway Administration, 10-percent by the state Department of Transportation and the rest from the City of Danbury.  

 

Danbury beat out Brookfield and New Milford on the 11-mile corridor study.  Only Danbury and Stamford were selected by the state to move forward.

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Two men have been arrested in connection to an attempted home invasion in Danbury last month.  Danbury Police charged 27-year old Kervin Jean-Baptiste of Norwalk and 28-year old Jonathan Olger of Danbury on Friday. 

 

Jean-Baptiste was shot in the leg during the November 2nd incident on Foster Street. 

 

Residents told police that two men were yelling and banging on the apartment door with a baseball bat.  The pair then fled the scene, to the hospital. 

 

Olger reportedly told police his friend was shot and asked for a ride to the hospital.  He was charged with threatening.  Jean-Baptiste was charged with attempting a home invasion, criminal mischief and breach of peace.

 

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A woman charged for child abandonment has rejected a plea deal.  The Newstimes reports that 22-year old Anny Castillo was in court on Friday, but it wasn't disclosed how much prison time she could have faced as part of the plea deal. 

 

The case was transferred to the court’s supervisory pre-trial docket.  A mental health evaluation has been requested by her attorney. 

 

Castillo is accused of abandoning the newborn behind a Main Street grocery store in May, after giving birth alone in her bedroom.  She told police she wasn't aware of the state's Safe Haven law allowing for babies under 30 days to be left at a hospital with no questions asked.  

 

The child is in custody of the state Department of Children and Families.

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NEW CANAAN, Conn. (AP) -- The setting could not be more different, but David Wannagot says he applies some of the same skills from his 30-year police career to his new role as a school sentry.

As he greeted children getting off the bus at West Elementary School one recent morning, he scanned their faces, ready to guide any who seem upset directly to the vice principal. And from his station at the entrance he sizes up all visitors asking to enter the building.

"We would do anything we can to protect a child or a teacher," said Wannagot, a former detective in Norwalk. "We're not armed, but we do have experience dealing with violent people in the past, reading people's mannerisms, that kind of thing."

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting five years ago, districts have moved to bolster security, especially at elementary schools, which traditionally have not had police assigned to them like many high schools and middle schools. Many have hired retired officers, firefighters and other responsible adults - an approach that's less expensive and potentially less intrusive than assigning sworn police, but one that also has raised questions about the consistency of training and standards.

Nationally, there is a patchwork of state laws addressing requirements for school safety officers, and many leave it entirely up to local school boards. Some states, including Connecticut, have weighed legislation to impose standards for non-police security inside schools.

In Danbury, Connecticut, which began posting security guards inside elementary schools after the Sandy Hook shooting, Mayor Mark Boughton pushed for state legislation that would have established standards and training for non-police security personnel. The bill ultimately did not pass. In the event of a crisis involving a response by multiple agencies, he said, it would be helpful to have common agreement on the role of private guards.

"I still think it's a good idea," Boughton said.

Even before the shooting, security officers who were once almost exclusively at high schools before becoming common at middle schools also had been turning up increasingly at elementary schools, according to Ronald Stephens, director of the National School Safety Center.

The "responsible adult" model has been in use for years, he said, but anecdotal evidence suggests it has been growing in popularity. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of primary U.S. public schools with one or more security staffer present at least once a week rose slightly from 26.2 percent in the 2005-2006 school year to 28.6 percent in 2013-2014.

In New Canaan, the school district contracted with a private company to set up the campus monitors soon after the Newtown school shooting on Dec. 14, 2012.

"Our lenses changed a bit on that day," Superintendent Bryan Luizzi said.

The plan for the monitors initially ran into skepticism from some, including Steve Karl, a town councilor who questioned the cost and the intrusiveness, but he has come around to support the program. The monitors now report to the Board of Education, which also provides training. The monitors earn an average salary of $30,700, compared with $90,472 for police assigned as school resource officers.

"The first choice would be to have a U.S. Marine at the door. 'This is the guy you're going to have to check through to get access to our kids.' But it's just not realistic,'" Karl said. "Where do you go from there? You want somebody who has a very keen sense of knowing when something doesn't quite feel right."

The rise in the number of districts turning to private security has led to calls elsewhere to impose standards for school guards, particularly in cases where school boards allow for them to be armed.

In New Jersey, a law passed last year establishes a special class of law enforcement officers providing school security. The measure was sought by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police to encourage minimum training standards, according to the association's president, North Plainfield Police Chief William Parenti. Chiefs, he said, noticed fewer police officers were being assigned to schools because of budget cuts and districts were replacing them with private security, including armed guards.

"You could get a school superintendent's brother who didn't have a job and give them a permit to carry," he said.

In Arkansas, a law passed in 2015 sets minimum training requirements on topics including active-shooter training and limitations on the authority of school security officers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Michele Gay, whose own daughter was killed at Sandy Hook and who now works with school districts as a security advocate, said the ideal scenario would be to have an officer in every school, playing an all-purpose role similar to a school nurse. Where that's not possible, she said the guards should at least be former police.

"We want everybody to be on the same page and have the same level of experience," she said.

At New Canaan's West Elementary, the guard greets students at the bus before making rounds to make sure doors and windows are locked. He monitors video feeds to watch people approaching the school and checks visitors' identification. On occasion, the principal asks him to keep an eye out for parents who may be upset about something. A New Canaan police officer also comes by the school periodically and talks with student as part of a new program to build relationships with school staff.

"We try to be as friendly as possible for the kids to be comfortable around us," said Hector Garcia, a monitor assigned to West Elementary. The former prison guard, known as "Mr. Hector" to students, keeps a collection of matchbox cars at this station to help put children at ease.

Annie Drapkin, a West Elementary parent, said the guards helped to put everyone at ease after the Newtown shooting and, over time, they have become part of the school community.

"They're lovely people, and underneath it, they are strong," she said.

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Connecticut State Police say troopers responded to about 345 motor vehicle accidents as snow fell on the region this weekend.  The National Weather Service reported that some parts of Connecticut were hit with at least six inches of snow, including Danbury.  Police said Sunday the crashes occurred between 8 am Saturday and 6:30am Sunday. 31 of the crashes resulted in minor injuries. Troopers responded to about 228 motorist assists, including spinouts and disabled vehicles.  

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SOUTHBURY, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut State Police say a tractor-trailer carrying more than 5,000 live chickens and ducks overturned on Interstate 84.

Crews were at the scene Saturday morning removing chickens, crates and fuel from the highway in Southbury. Animal control, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and other agencies were on hand to assist with the cleanup and inspect the load of animals.

The Hartford Courant reports that some ducks and chickens were killed. It wasn't immediately known how many.

Police say the vehicle had hit a cement barrier, causing it to rollover onto its passenger side. No injuries were reported.

The vehicle was damaged and towed from the scene.

Police say the driver was found at fault and issued an infraction for failing to maintain lane.

 

(Photo: Sandy Hook Fire)

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WATERTOWN, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut police department says an officer has resigned after he was charged with stealing jewelry from a police-sponsored charity golf tournament.

Watertown Chief John Gavallas says 26-year-old Christopher Masayda resigned in lieu of termination. The Republican-American reports that Masayda appeared in court on Thursday and applied for accelerated rehabilitation.

Accelerated rehabilitation is a pretrial diversion program and could lead to the dismissal of charges if a defendant completes the program. A ruling is expected Jan. 11.

State police arrested Masayda on Nov. 6 after he was seen allegedly stealing $600 worth of jewelry that had been donated as raffle prizes for a golf tournament raising money for a cancer treatment center.

Masayda's lawyer says his client is a perfect candidate for accelerated rehabilitation and was "a fine officer."

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Danbury State Representative Michael Ferguson recently visited with Westside Middle School Academy students to hear about their National History Day project.  This year’s theme is ‘Conflict and Compromise.’ The projects will be presented in February.   National History Day began in 1974 and schools all over the country participate.  The History Day project has been a focus at Westside Middle School Academy as it combines research, reading, writing, and technology skills with historical inquiry.

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State Senator Tony Hwang moderated an event yesterday at the Newtown Senior Center to update area residents on the impact of recently passed legislation on taxes, Medicare health insurance, aging, and home care.  Panelists from the Western Connecticut Agency on Aging and the Connecticut Department of Social Services helped answer residents’ questions.  Hwang is Vice-Chair of the state legislature’s Aging Committee.

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The Brookfield Historical Society is hosting its 7th annual traditional Christmas Open House Weekend Saturday and Sunday at the Brookfield Museum.  Classic dolls, toys and other items including operating Model trains in a winter display and antique music boxes will be on display from Noon to 4pm.  A holiday scavenger hunt for the children is among the planned activities. The open house is free and there will be homemade cookies and hot chocolate and cider for attendees.  Hand crafted items will be on sale from the gift shop.

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