<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Top Stories]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com en-us Fri, 29 May 2015 02:25:11 -0400 Fri, 29 May 2015 02:25:11 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Reporter Mourned in Southeast D.C.]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 23:33:13 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20150528+Charnice+Milton.jpg

A 27-year-old reporter was gunned down in Skyland in Southeast D.C. last night -- and her parents were told their daughter was a bystander used as a human shield.

Charnice Milton was shot by a man on a dirt bike about 9:40 p.m. Wednesday on the 2700 block of Good Hope Road SE, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said. The gunman riding in a group of dirt bike riders was trying to shoot someone in another group of riders, police said. 

"At 9:28, she texted me and said, 'I'm on my way home,'" the victim's mother, Francine Milton, said. "So, I was waiting for her to text me back and let me know if she needed me to pick her up, if she needed us, where she was. And we never got that text last night."

Milton, who was a contributor for Capital Community News, was taking the bus home after covering a story on Capitol Hill at the time of the shooting, her parents told News4's Derrick Ward. She was rushed to a hospital, where she died.

"She was on her way home doing what she did every single day," Lanier said at a briefing this afternoon. 

Ward 8 resident advocate Nikki Peele said she admired Milton's devotion to covering D.C. neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.

"The story was being told by people who did not live here, and it took those citizen journalists like Charnice ... who gave the true story," Peele said. "She ate with us, she shopped with us, she worshipped with us."

Milton began working for CCN, which publishes East of the River News and Hill Rag, in August 2012, editor Andrew Lightman said. 

"We lost one of our own yesterday," he said. "Charnice really loved doing community stories. She loved talking to people." 

Milton attended Ball State University and earned a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University, her Linkedin page says.

Police described the suspect as a male in his late teens with long dreadlocks, last seen speeding away on a dirt bike or moped.

Lanier made an impassioned plea for witnesses to come forward with anonymous tips. 

"Help us get to the person who would be so reckless as to take this life in the manner it was taken," she said. "We need closure for this girl, for this community."

Anyone who has information regarding this case is asked to call police at 202-727-9099. Information can also be submitted to the Metropolitan Police Department's text tip line by text messaging 50411.

<![CDATA[Commuter Alert: Arlington Memorial Bridge Lanes Closing]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 17:49:04 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Arlington+Memorial+Bridge+shutterstock_90249301.jpg

Watch out, commuters who drive to and from Virginia: two lanes of heavily traveled Arlington Memorial Bridge will close to traffic before Friday's rush hour.

The closure affects two curbside lanes. Four feet of the adjoining sidewalk will close, too. 

Federal highway officials have found that the bridge's secondary load-bearing beams are corroding faster than expected -- and don't meet highway standards. The bridge's concrete deck is deteriorating, too.

Limiting traffic on the bridge will help extend the bridge's life while repairs are made -- but that will also make traffic in that area even more congested.

The National Park Service and Federal Highway Administration are now speeding up repairs to the bridge that had been scheduled for September.

Photo Credit: Orhan Cam, Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Iowa State University Tests Four Fitness Monitors]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 23:55:42 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/PhoneAppFitness.JPG

Do you track your calories and activity? A lot of people seem to be wearing those fitness trackers.

Have you ever wondered how accurate they really are? Iowa State University just released its latest testing results of four popular commercial fitness monitors: Fitbit Flex, Nike+Fuelband SE, Jawbone UP24 and Misfit Shine.



This poster conflicts with our own scientific studies of accuracy, so we contacted the authors to learn more about what they did. We found numerous methodological problems that we believe skewed the data. We feel that this poster, which presents data from a manuscript that has not yet been published, on a very limited sample of device (n=1), unrepresentative of our devices in general, and including concerning methodology, serves only to misrepresent our product and its performance. We have asked other independent researchers to test our devices and demonstrate its performance, and this data will be released after it has been thoroughly vetted including by acceptance to a peer-reviewed publication.

One of the most concerning things we learned is that all of their claims are based on just one Misfit Shine that from their description would lead us to believe was damaged. (A strength of our device is its long battery life – users can use a Misfit Shine for four to six months being highly active without needing to recharge it – but an author of this study revealed that they had to change the battery every week or two during the study. This is a sign that the one device they used through the entire study wasn’t operating normally.)

We learned that they used total daily calories reported by our device to infer the calories burned through activity but did not measure the calories for that activity directly using our device. Moreover, the conditions in this experiment were artificial; people were asked to do specific activities or break from activity for just short periods of time; they’re not reflective of the real world, long term conditions our device is designed to measure. Despite all of these problems, it’s worth noting that in the portion of their experiment that is most reflective of how we spend most of our day (activities of daily living and office work), Misfit actually performed among the best of the devices tested. It is possible that during the highest intensity aerobic activities, the one damaged device they used was most sensitive to motion artifacts and resulted in the skewed and unrepresentative data they are reporting.

If the authors had contacted us during their study, we could have instructed them on how to use the devices properly, how to install the battery, and provided a replacement device as needed. Regrettably, we’ve only had the opportunity to comment after the fact, but we’re glad to say that after hearing our concerns, the authors said they would modify the manuscript to provide some explanation of the nature and cause of the errors, before it gets published in final form.


Fitbit’s award-winning products track everyday health and fitness, empowering and inspiring people to lead healthier, more active lives. Understanding there is “no one size fits all” option in fitness, Fitbit has created a diverse product family of affordable trackers that are designed to track all-day trends of everyday activities like steps, distance, calories, stairs climbed, and active minutes. Fitbit’s motivational products and online tools provide users the information that matters most in order to achieve their health and fitness goals.

Fitbit is dedicated to developing easy-to-use, affordable, and the most consistently accurate activity trackers on the market. While there may be a small difference of a few calories or steps between tests, ultimately the success of our products comes from empowering users to accurately see their overall health and fitness trends over time.

For reference, here are articles from Fitbit on accuracy, as well as how Fitbit determines calorie burn:

Photo Credit: NBC10 Philadelphia]]>
<![CDATA[Gun Shop Opening in Arlington Has Neighbors Divided]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 22:22:41 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/NOVA+Firearms+Arlington+Location.jpg

A gun store is set to open in the Cherrydale neighborhood of Arlington – and some neighbors are up in arms over whether the business belongs.

NOVA Firearms, which has a location in McLean, has signed a five-year lease for a storefront at 2105 N. Pollard St., in a strip mall along Lee Highway. The business owned by U.S. Marine Corps veteran James Gates is slated to open this summer, but more than 2,200 people have signed an online petition asking the building's landlord to reconsider the deal.

Jane Winter, who works at the flower shop next door to the vacant storefront, said NOVA doesn't fit in to the strip mall that includes a restaurant, hair salon and nail salon.

"People come here for beauty, they come here for peace, they come here for a meal," she said. "If you want to open a gun shop, do it elsewhere."

The Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans are urging locals to support NOVA. "We can't remain silent while Arlington liberals push their radical anti-gun agenda," the group wrote in a note to supporters.

Arlington resident Earl Douglas said he would welcome NOVA to the neighborhood.

"A lot of times before you purchase something you like to check it out and touch it and feel it," he said." Guns are the same."

NOVA manager Rachel Dresser said the vacant space, which was previously home to a Curves fitness center, would be ideal for the gun shop.

"[It's] a nice amount of space, a perfect, wide-open showroom," she said.

The landlord didn't respond to an inquiry, but employees said he's looking for a way out of the deal.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington]]>
<![CDATA[Dog Walker Finds Body in Suitcase]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 23:56:37 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/Tinicum+Body+in+Suitcase.JPG

A dog walker made a grisly discovery in Delaware County Thursday afternoon.

The person was walking in the area of the old Westinghouse plant near 2nd Street in Tinicum, Pennsylvania -- not far from Philadelphia International Airport -- when he saw the suitcase, said the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.

The man called police who came out and unzipped the suitcase to discover the man’s body stuffed inside the large brown case. The man appeared to be in his 20s, said investigators.

Jim Martin -- who walks his dog in the area called "Back Road" that sits just below flights paths -- said that he saw the case in the weeds a few days back and he noticed something strange about it.

"I smelled a smell -- you mentally think something, then you're like pause, pause it's my imagination," said Martin.

It wasn't and it's possible the suitcase had been there for weeks. The investigation into the case continued late Thursday.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[16 Indicted in Maryland "Pill Mill" Ring Bust]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 20:02:53 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/481663349.jpg

Sixteen people have been charged with illegally using clinics in Maryland and D.C. to distribute prescription drugs for cash, according to prosecutors.

Three Maryland clinics were named in the indictment: PG Wellness Center in Oxon Hill, First Priority Health Care in Elkridge and MPC Wellness Center in Greenbelt. The indictment also named A Plus Pain Clinic in D.C.

The suspects face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Three of the suspects additionally face a maximum of ten years in prison for health care fraud. And all of the indictments seek the seizure of money and property from those charged.

How the Operation Worked

Owners of the pain management clinics operated them as “pill mills” and routinely prescribed and distributed oxycodone outside the safe practice of the clinics, said prosecutors. The owners then pocketed the cash from the drug sales, according to prosecutors.

Those indicted also recruited “runners” to visit their clinics, said law enforcement. These “runners” would visit the office, claim false medical needs, fill their prescriptions, and then give the distributors their pills to sell for cash, said law enforcement.

Owners of the “pill mill” even required “runners” to fill out the proper paperwork to support their false claims, the indictments claim. If the “runner” was not able to complete the paperwork, which included an MRI report and a prescription history, the owners then falsified their paperwork, said prosecutors.

Other conspirators also helped to circumnavigate Maryland's prescription drug monitoring programs by having the “runners” fill their prescriptions in Washington D.C., Delaware, and Virginia, said prosecutors. Conspirators also kept a list of which pharmacies had supplies and were willing to fill prescriptions for “runners,” said prosecutors.

“Abuse of oxycodone is one of our most significant drug enforcement challenges, and it is a direct cause of the epidemic of heroin overdose deaths,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

The Sixteen Individuals 

The following people were charged, the indictment alleges:

  • Donald Russell, 51, of Waldorf, Maryland
  • Bruce Kevin Lewis, 52, of Deale, Maryland
  • Danielle Silberstein, 31, of Waldorf, Maryland
  • Peter Snyder, 34, of Ocean City, Maryland
  • Robert Long, 34, of Mechanicsville, Maryland
  • Jamie Davis, 28, of LaPlata, Maryland
  • Ronald Tennyson, 32, of Mechanicsville, Virginia
  • Terrell Downing, 25, of New Carrollton, Maryland
  • John Fields, 62, of Temple Hills, Maryland
  • Ronald Rust, 44, of Alexandria, Virginia
  • Ronald Kans, 41, of LaPlata, Maryland
  • Walter Moffett, 51, of Chestertown, Maryland
  • Melissa Catlett, 38, of King George, Virginia
  • Alex Mori, 29, of Nanjemoy, Maryland
  • Thomas Dalton, 29, or Waldorf, Maryland
  • Joyce Vercauteren, 41, Clinton, Maryland

Inside the Charges

Thirteen suspects are charged with “conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone” in the first indictment, according to the U.S. Attorney for Maryland and agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, and state and local law enforcement in Maryland and Virginia.

Two suspects, Russell and Lewis, owned and operated PG Wellness Center in Oxon Hill and A Plus Pain Clinic in D.C. from February 2014 to May 2015, the indictment alleges. Seven other suspects acted as distributors; according to the indictment they are Silberstein, Snyder, Long, Downing, Rust, Kans, and Moffett.

Two other suspects, Davis and Tennyson, were alleged “runners,” the indictment alleges. Fields was a "runner" who dealt with Russell directly to obtain and distribute the oxycodone and Silberstein and Catlett regularly purchased pills in bulk from Russell, the indictment alleges. 

Three suspects, Russell, Fields, and Moffett, are also charged with health care fraud for submitting health insurance claims seeking reimbursement for non-medical prescriptions, the indictment alleges.

During one month, those two clinics would see 400 patients and distribute a total of 40,000 pills, the indictment alleges. That indictment seeks the suspects forfeit $1.2 million several vehicles and bank accounts. 

The two suspects charged in the second indictment, Mori and Dalton, owned and operated First Priority Health Care clinic in Elkridge from November 2013 to May 2015, the indictment alleges. During one month, the clinic would see at least 200 patients and distribute a total of 20,000 pills,an indictment alleges.

That indictment seeks the suspects forfeit $600,000 and some Maryland property. 

One suspect, Vercauteren, is charged in the third indictment. Vercauteren owned and operated a MPC Wellness Center clinic in Greenbelt, Maryland from May 2014 to May 2015, the indictment says. During one month, the clinic would see at least 400 patients and distribute a total of 40,000 pills, the indictment alleges.

That indictment seeks the suspect forfeits $1.2 million and a vehicle. 

Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Officials Knew About D.C. General Lead Levels]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 20:42:41 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/216*120/2015-05-19_1718.jpg

D.C. officials knew of dangerous lead levels at the city's largest homeless shelter and did nothing, according to an internal review.

Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered the review after two children living at the D.C. General facility tested positive for elevated lead levels.

Almost every room tested positive for lead, and while most of those levels were not dangerous, officials were aware of rooms with dangerous levels, the report says.

Testing completed in April 2014 found seven rooms with dangerous lead hazards, but families with children were allowed to live in those rooms.

After lead paint chips were found in a second-floor cafeteria and a common area shared by families, that area was sealed, and Bowser ordered a complete inspection of the building.

The Department of the Environment offered free lead testing to all residents of the shelter. No new cases of lead poisoning in children have been found.

Residents are being notified about the findings in the report. Many of the families that lived in rooms with dangerous lead levels have moved.

Bowser has ordered new protocols for lead testing and monitoring at all of the city's homeless shelters.

Lead poisoning typically originates with old chipping paint and can cause serious physical and mental problems. It has been linked to low IQs.

More than 200 families with more than 400 young children live in the shelter.

<![CDATA[Washington Monument Closed for Rest of the Day]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 16:05:11 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/national+mall+aerial+generic.jpg

An electrical issue has temporarily closed the Washington Monument.

The monument closed to visitors Thursday morning after the National Park Service reported an electrical issue associated with the elevator.

At about 4 p.m., the Park Service said the monument would remain closed the rest of the day. 

Stay with NBC Washington and News4 for more on this developing story.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[1 Dead, 1 Hurt in Bullet-Riddled SUV on I-295]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 23:44:32 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/216*120/suv+shot+out.jpg

One man is dead and another was injured in a shooting on I-295 northbound during the morning rush hour, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said Thursday. 

The black SUV was found near Exit 1 riddled with bullets. Police say both men were suffering from gunshot wounds; one of the men died at the scene. The shooting happened between 8:45 a.m. and 8:55 a.m. 

Lanier said the incident initially appeared to stem from an apparent case of road rage, but now investigators believe the SUV was followed into the District from Virginia. 

Police do not have a description of the suspect vehicle. Anyone who witnessed the shooting or may have seen the suspect vehicle is asked to call police at 202-727-9099.

"This is rush hour traffic. There were a lot of cars out here," Lanier said. "People had to see something."

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-House Speaker Hastert Indicted]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 01:36:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Dennis-Hastert1.jpg

Former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert made regular bank withdrawals below a limit that would require reporting and then lied to federal officials when asked about those withdrawals, according to a federal indictment handed down Thursday.

The Department of Justice and IRS allege Hastert, 73, withdrew $1.7 million from various banks between 2010 to 2014 and provided the funds to an unnamed person "to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct."

The indictment indicates the Illinois Republican promised "Individual A," a resident of Yorkville, Illinois, a total of $3.5 million for "prior misconduct" against that person. The indictment does not describe the misconduct Hastert was trying to conceal.

Hastert's withdrawals over the four years were in increments less than $10,000 each in an effort to evade the filing of "Currency Transaction Reports" required by banks and avoid detection by the IRS, an act known as "restructuring."

The withdrawals spurred the FBI and IRS to begin investigating whether Hastert was trying to avoid reporting requirements for bank transactions or if the former speaker was a victim of an extortion scheme, according to court documents.

When questioned by the FBI last December, Hastert said, "Yeah . . . I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing," when in fact he was handing the money over to someone else, the indictment alleged. 

If convicted, Hastert faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A spokesperson with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago told NBC Chicago that a judge has not yet been assigned to the case and that Hastert is not likely to appear in court until next week.

"I am speechless. He is my friend, has been my friend [and] will always be my friend," said Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross.

Hastert was a history teacher and coach in Yorkville when Cross was his high school student, and Hastert recruited Cross into the Republican Party and into politics. Hastert served as the Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007 before joining the Washington, D.C., lobbying and law firm of Dickstein Shaprio as a senior advisor.

A spokesman for Dickstein Shapiro says that the former House speaker has resigned, The Associated Press reported. 

The website for Dickstein Shapiro LLC had Hastert's biography as a "featured attorney" as late as Thursday afternoon, but Hastert's contact details appeared to have been removed from the website hours later.

Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cupertino Nixes Fireworks Show]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 16:51:45 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/cupertinohighjpg.jpg

The city of Cupertino won't be having a fireworks show on July 4 because of California's drought, and in an odd twist, the reason is because the Silicon Valley suburb was trying to be extra conscious of saving water.

“People are very disappointed,” said city spokesman Rick Kitson. “Who doesn’t love fireworks? But overall, I think they get it.”

And though no agency formally tracks fireworks cancellations related to drought, Cupertino – home to Apple Inc. headquarters – could be the first city in California to squash such a pyrotechnics display as the state enters its fourth year of drought.

Until this year, Cupertino was one of the rare spots in the Bay Area to still host city-funded firework shows while other cities, such as Livermore, Hercules, Oakland and San Leandro, cut such events during the recession. Kitson said the last time the city cancelled a show was about a decade ago, and that was for monetary reasons.

The reason the community show was nixed this year is because of water conservation efforts, not finances.

Cupertino High School switched to artificial turf a while back, in part, Kitson said, to save money on watering the lawns.

And it’s those synthetic fields, where thousands of people congregate, that need 100,000 gallons of water to douse both before and after the fireworks display, according to the Fremont Unified School District. District officials said they reluctantly are shutting the show down because of the extreme water usage.

The water is needed to prevent any fireworks fallout on synthetic grass that would yield a mass of burning plastic, Kitson pointed out, adding that a little bit of sparks and ash on real grass “isn’t that big of a deal.”

“Because we’ve done the right thing, the total use of water becomes more conspicuous,” Kitson said. “You’ve got to hose down the plastic before and a lot afterward.”

Cupertino is doing several things to counter the drought – not just saying no to fireworks. The city has turned off two fountains and is letting the grass turn brown on public land.

Lisa Lien-Mager, spokeswoman for the Association of California Water Agencies, said her agency is not tracking whether cities cancel fireworks shows because of the drought. But she did say that in past droughts, some communities have disbanded such events.

In 2012, three Chicago suburbs cancelled fireworks shows because of a persistent drought in the Midwest.

While the cherry bombs and Chinese crackers won’t be popping off to celebrate America’s birthday, Kitson said the city of about 60,000 is going to play up other July 4 extravaganzas so that Cupertino’s residents won’t be gypped.

The city, he said, will give extra care to the morning parade, the community swim and the pancake breakfast.

“We’re going to make those activities a lot bigger,” Kitson said. “There will still be a lot to do."

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Lead Poisoning Signs and Symptoms]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 17:42:17 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/216*120/DC-General.jpg

A new report has found more lead in paint in D.C. General, D.C.'s largest homeless shelter, days after two children living at the shelter tested positive for elevated lead levels.

Lead is toxic and can cause serious and permanent health problems, especially in young children.

Paint in houses and other buildings from before 1978 is likely to contain lead. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead-based paints were very common prior to being banned in 1978. If you have paint in your house from before 1978, the CDC says to assume it contains lead until it can be tested.

Lead paint is especially dangerous when it is chipping and peeling, or when it is being sanded, which puts lead dust in the air. The National Institutes of Health says children are at risk for swallowing the paint chips or dust.

Lead can also be found in some of the following places, according to NIH:

  • Painted toys and furniture from before 1976
  • Painted decorations made outside the U.S.
  • Lead bullets and curtain weights
  • Plumbing, pipes and faucets
  • Drinking water when lead solder was used to connect pipes
  • Soil contaminated from car exhaust or pieces of house paint
  • Art supplies
  • Storage batteries
  • Pewter pitchers and dinnerware

Lead exposure can be especially dangerous because symptoms may not be obvious or immediate. Small amounts of lead can build up over time before individuals show signs of lead poisoning.

According to NIH, symptoms of lead poisoning include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Anemia
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Low appetite and energy
  • Reduced sensations

Exposure to lead is especially hazardous for children under 6, whose brains and bodies are developing. The World Health Organization says a child absorbs four to five times as much lead as an adult from the same source. The younger the child, the more he or she is in danger. 

In children, the WHO and NIH caution that lead can cause:

  • Reduced IQ
  • Shortened attention span
  • Increased antisocial behavior
  • Reduced educational attainment
  • Slowed body growth
  • Hearing problems
  • Kidney damage
  • Behavior problems

Mental and other health problems from lead exposure are likely permanent, the WHO says.

There is no safe level of lead concentration in the blood, according to the CDC. Even lead at low levels can have negative effects.

Severe symptoms of lead exposure include vomiting and seizures. If you think you or somone you know has been exposed to lead, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

<![CDATA[Hostage Describes "Nice" Suspect]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 21:44:45 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/JagdishBhalla.jpg

Many would imagine that being taken as a hostage would be scary and nerve-wracking.

But Jagdish Bhalla, 75, who was one of two hostages held against his will inside an Arco gas station in Bay Area for hours on Wednesday, described the ordeal differently.

"I'm feeling great," the Antioch gas station owner said Thursday. "He was nice to me. He never misbehaved, did not use filthy language. He treated me very respectful."

In turn, Bhalla offered the 35-year-old suspect, Horacio Gutierrez  – who was arrested after surrendering peacefully to police Wednesday afternoon – Brisk tea so that he wouldn't "have a hard attitude toward me."

Both he and the other hostage, a gas station employee, were eventually allowed to leave the station in the 2600 block of Contra Loma Boulevard. They had been kept in a back room during the standoff. Bhalla said the Gutierrez, who authorities said lives in Newark, never pointed a gun at them, although he had one at his side.

He was never bound, and was allowed to make a phone call to his family. At one point, Gutierrez dozed off, Bhalla said, which is when he and the employee were thinking of making a run for it. But just then, the man woke up and forbid them to do so, Bhalla said.

Authorities said the suspect had been armed and carjacked several vehicles about 11 a.m. while driving through Antioch, Concord, Pittsburgh and back to Antioch. The California Highway Patrol lay down a strike strip, puncturing his car's tires, and the suspect eventually ran into the gas station, taking both the station's owner and the employee as hostages.

Police told the Contra Costa Times Gutierrez had an "extensive rap sheet" that included arrests for drug violations, burglary and vehicle thefts.

Asked if he wanted to say anything to the man who held him for four hours? Bhalla said it was the "best day of my life," because he survived the harrowing ordeal.

"I say, 'Thank you,'" Bhalla said. "And God bless him in his life."

NBC Bay Area's Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Jodi Hernandez
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[ Flight Attendant Who Took Photo in Plane's Engine Finds Support]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 16:20:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Screen+Shot+2015-05-28+at+2.24.44+PM.png

A labor union representing flight attendants is backing one of their own amid a controversy involving a photo of the airline employee posing inside a plane’s engine.

The Spirit Airlines flight attendant, who has been identified as Ericka Paige Diehl, took the photo shortly before the aircraft's take off at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, according to reports. A passenger contacted a local TV station with concerns.

The airline said in a statement after the photo was brought to their attention that the "activity portrayed absolutely goes against Spirit policy," adding that it, "will be investigating further and take appropriate action."

However, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said that many airline employees have taken similar photos since "the dawn of the jet age" and there was no security risk for travelers.

"Flight attendants and pilots have been photographed with the engine as a celebration of the might of aviation," AFA president Sara Nelson said in a statement. "These images are iconic and common. The photos have become a rite of passage for crews. The only security risk here is for the flight attendant herself, whose name, age, and city have been broadcast in the media across the country."

Other flight attendants across the U.S. also backed Diehl, posting photos on Twitter of themselves inside of plane engines (as seen below) under the hashtag ‪#FLYwithERIKA‬.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said in a statement that the practice is not prohibited under its regulations, though the agency “discourages individuals without proper training or supervision from climbing onto any part of an aircraft.”

“As part of normal maintenance and inspection procedures, certified mechanics sometimes climb into these engines, which are designed to be structurally robust,” Cory added. “The FAA has been in contact with the airline that employs the flight attendant. The airline inspected the aircraft in question and found no damage.”

Diehl couldn't be reached for comment.

Photo Credit: "TODAY"
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[1 At-Large After Pursuit, Police-Involved Shooting]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 12:23:40 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/police-lights-shutterstock_542372567.jpg

At least one person remains at large following a police pursuit and shooting in D.C. Thursday morning.

Police Chief Cathy Lanier says officers were investigating several street robberies in the 7th District when they encountered the suspects in a silver Dodge Charger. A pursuit ensued, and the Charger eventually crashed. 

Several suspects jumped out of the car and tried to run away. As police worked to apprehend the suspects, the driver of the car backed up and almost struck an officer. 

At this point, one of the officers discharged his or her weapon, but no one was injured. The car also did not strike anyone. 

The pursuit continued into Prince George's County, with officers from that jurisdiction joining the chase. 

The pursuit finally ended in Suitland.

Several people have been arrested, but Lanier says at least one person was able to get away.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Shooting Suspect Barricaded in Apt.]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 01:32:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/family+released+2.JPG

A fatal shooting in Chula Vista, south of downtown San Diego, led to a nearly 10-hour SWAT standoff at an apartment complex Thursday after the suspect barricaded himself inside a unit with his family while armed with a rifle.

The standoff ended when SWAT officers discovered the man had taken his own life.

The initial shooting happened around 7:40 a.m. (10:40 a.m. ET) at 160 E. Street near 2nd Avenue, near the Mission Gardens apartment complex. More than a dozen police officers plus SWAT teams were called to the scene. Three armored SWAT vehicles also surrounded the area.

Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) Capt. Lon Turner said police received multiple calls reporting gunfire in the area. A neighbor told NBC 7 she heard gunshots and looked out the window. She said she saw the suspect, whom she called Mike, with an "automatic weapon" walk a couple of steps and start firing, hitting another man who lived nearby. 

Mike and the man had problems, stemming from an incident about a year ago, the witness said. She told NBC 7 Mike was always angry and even threatened to shoot her adult son one day.

When police arrived, they found a critically wounded man down between cars near the apartment complex. The victim, a father of two children, later died.

Capt. Turner said the shooting suspect barricaded himself inside an apartment with his family — two children, both under 10 years old, and the suspect's wife, referred to as Laura by police. It is unknown if the children are the suspect's biological kids.

By 3:35 p.m. -- eight hours into the standoff — the woman and kids were released from the apartment unit, police said. The suspect did not exit with them. Capt. Turner said the woman and children were safe and were being evaluated by medics on scene.

The suspect remained holed up inside the apartment, and about an hour later, three shots rang out. Lt. Reber said the first came from a police test canon shot. The second was inside the apartment and did not come from officers. The third was a flash bang grenade that shattered a window so the SWAT team could send in two robots and check on the suspect.

One robot spotted a man down in an upstairs room, and a SWAT team soon followed to confirm. They found the suspect dead inside.

"Biggest thing that I'm happy about being able to report is that the wife and kids are out of there. Fortunately, they didn't lose their life in this incident. Clearly it's a tragedy when there's any loss of life," said Capt. Turner at a 5:30 p.m. briefing.

Capt. Turner said the scene will now switch from a tactical one to a crime scene investigation. Investigators have gotten reports from other family that there may be additional weapons inside the home, so officers obtained a search warrant to look for them.

The captain said Mike had been talking about surrendering but had backed out of doing so several times during the long standoff.

Throughout the day, the suspect had been speaking with crisis negotiators and, at one point, sounded suicidal, according to police. They asked him to surrender without hurting anyone or himself.

At a 1 p.m. news briefing, Capt. Turner said police had a very specific message for him.

“If he is watching on television right now: Michael, we need to talk to you. We are calling your cellphone. So, either you or Laura need to pick up the phone. We want this to happen peacefully,” said Turner, staring into news cameras.

“We understand that there are two sides to every story. Let’s not make any rash decisions as it stands right now. Just pick up the phone so that we can communicate with you,” he continued.

Capt. Turner said officials would continue to call the man's phone but if he doesn't answer, police may initiate other ways of contacting him. Again, the captain stressed the importance of bringing the standoff to a peaceful end.

At a 2 p.m. news briefing Capt. Turner confirmed that crisis negotiation teams were back in contact with the suspect and were able to speak with him on the phone.

“We’ve been talking with Mike,” said Capt. Turner. “We’ve asked him again to surrender peacefully. We’re concerned about the safety of him and his family.”

Police said the couple have been married for one year. The suspect was not making any sort of demands, officials said.

The standoff prompted officials to shut down traffic in parts of the surrounding downtown Chula Vista area and evacuate some residents from the apartment complex.

The CVPD confirmed the 200 block of E Street had been shut down due to the heavy police activity. At 10:30 a.m, police closed additional roadways due to the standoff including Third and First avenues, and F and D streets. Only residents were allowed in the area.

Hilltop Middle School is near the complex, but Capt. Turner said no lockdown had been ordered at the campus. He said parents should keep abreast on road closures as they file in to pick up their students later in the day.

Meanwhile, police urged residents to stay indoors and shelter-in-place, and all others to stay away from the area.

A police captain said members of the shooting victim’s family had been escorted out of the complex safely and were with police just before 11 a.m. At that point, police said they had not ordered residents of the complex to evacuate, but officers were prepared to lead evacuations if necessary.

Police said they would utilize city resources to evacuate residents to the nearby Norman Park Senior Center at 270 F St., where residents would be given food and shelter while the standoff played out. Police said one resident, a 93-year-old man, had been safely evacuated from the complex due to medical issues earlier in the day.

At 11:35 a.m., an MTS bus arrived at the complex. By 11:45 a.m., it was confirmed that residents were being evacuated. About 10 residents exited several buildings at the complex, walking toward the bus alongside officers.

Police said the apartment complex is made up of four different sectors and officials were evacuating the property in an orderly fashion, sector by sector.

By 2 p.m., Capt. Turner said their evacuation of all residents at the complex had been completed. In all, he said 56 residents had been evacuated safely from the complex, including approximately 15 children. He said no forced evacuations had been necessary, as residents cooperated with the evacuation plan.

Some evacuees went to the senior center while others were picked up by family members.

“We have made sure we know who has come in and who has come out of this location,” said Capt. Turner, adding that officials planned to work their way from the “inside out” during the evacuation process.

The captain said officials found two to three rounds fired from the suspect’s weapon at the scene that indicated the suspect was armed with a long rifle, posing a major threat to the complex, thus prompting the evacuation.

“Rifled ammunition has much more significant range than a handgun. It goes a lot further and it goes through a lot more things than a handgun,” said Capt. Turner. “[This] poses a greater threat to the public and our officers.”

Investigators said the shooting may have stemmed from a dispute that escalated between neighbors. The motive is under investigation.

Investigators are currently seeking a search warrant and researching the suspect’s background. Police said they will continue to hold news briefings throughout the day offering the latest updates on this case.

Officials said they hope to bring the standoff to a peaceful resolution without further injuries.

The shooting, standoff and very heavy law enforcement response came as a shock to residents at the apartment complex.

One resident who has lived there for 10 years told NBC 7 he heard a loud blast but thought it was related to nearby construction and didn’t think much of it.

He took one of his three children to school and when he returned, police cars had the street outside his home blocked off.

“I thought it was a gas explosion, seriously I didn’t think it was a gun,” the man said.

The resident told NBC 7 he didn’t hear screaming or fighting before the blast.

The resident said he's been talking his mother who is in the apartment with his other children. He said they are safe and staying inside.

Another resident told NBC 7 he heard at least six back-to-back gunshots erupt as he was leaving for work. Seconds later, he heard one final shot.

Another man said he was outside when shots rang out. He said he could almost feel the ricochet as the bullets erupted.

The American Red Cross is at the evacuation site providing residents and police officers with food and beverages amid the standoff. There were approximately 15 evacuees using the center as of 1:20 p.m.

One evacuee told NBC 7 something just “wasn’t right” with the suspect. She said he lives at the apartment complex.

Another evacuee — a little boy — told NBC 7 he was very scared when officers began escorting his family out of their home. He thanked officials for keeping him safe.

<![CDATA[2 Women Plead Guilty in Donovan Hotel Murder]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 10:36:52 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/victim-David-Messerschmit.jpg

Two women have pleaded guilty in connection with the death of a D.C. lawyer inside a upscale hotel.

Jamyra Gallmon and Dominique Johnson entered the plea in court Thursday morning.

Gallmon, of Southeast D.C., had been charged with first-degree felony murder while armed in the death of 30-year-old David Messerschmit, who was found stabbed to death at the Donovan Hotel in February. She pleaded guilty to second-degree felony murder while armed.

Johnson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery.

Messerschmit's widow was present in court Thursday. She broke into tears as descriptions of the wounds found on her husband's body were read aloud.

Gallmon and Johnson were arrested separately, weeks after the crime. Authorities said Gallmon was captured on hotel surveillance video released shortly after the stabbing, showing someone walking into the hotel around 7:40 p.m. that night. She pressed an elevator button, but then took the stairs, slowly covering up her face as time went on.

Authorities said they identified Gallmon through online and cellphone records.

Gallmon told authorities she went to the hotel intending to rob Messerschmit after he posted on Craigslist on Feb. 9, seeking responses from other men. Authorities say Gallmon responded to the ad using a man's name. A charging document said Messerschmitt gave his room number at the Donovan Hotel in Thomas Circle, asking to meet between 7 and 7:30 p.m. that evening.

Authorities say Gallmon, of Southeast D.C., admitted to stabbing Messerschmit during an altercation in his hotel room.

Gallmon allegedly told police that Messerschmitt grabbed her arm, causing her to have a "flashback" to a past assault, at which point she and the victim got into a physical altercation, and she stabbed him several times. 

Messerschmit's wife reported him missing in the early-morning hours of Feb. 10. Hours later, his body was found in the hotel room.

Detectives found an HP computer, condoms, lubricant and an enema in the room, among other items.

Sources told News4 that Johnson had prior knowledge about the robbery plot, was with Gallmon before and after the homicide, and benefited from the items stolen from Messerschmitt.

The women will be sentenced Aug. 14.

Gallmon faces 18 to 25 years in prison. Johnson is subject to five years and a substantial fine.

Stay with News4 and NBCWashington.com for the latest.

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[100 SAT Tests From Va. Missing]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 23:47:11 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Generic+Testing+Test+Scores+Answers.jpg

About 100 students in Loudoun County, Virginia, who took the SAT earlier this month are being asked to take it again, but not because of cheating. Their tests are missing.

Caroline Quinilty found out Wednesday.

“I think of all the time and effort I spent studying and preparing for this test and the fact that I wasn't notified by them,” she said. “I had to be notified by kids in the hallway discussing it.”

The College Board, the company that gives the SATs, says they haven't received the tests.

Quinilty studied more than 100 hours over two months at Loudoun Test Prep before taking the test with other students from various Loudoun County public schools at Broad Run High School May 2. Now, those students are being asked to take it again next month.

“It's been over a month since I've done all my studying,” Quinilty said. “It's going to affect my scores.”

Her mother, Katie Quinilty, spent more than $1,000 at Loudoun Test Prep.

“I'm very disappointed, because we don't have a choice,” she said. “If she wants to go to college, she has to take the SAT.”

"We share the frustration of affected students and their families,” read a statement from the College Board. “Every effort is being made to locate the shipment. In the meantime, we are working to provide options to accommodate these students, including a makeup test day or transfer to a future test."

The make-up exam is scheduled for June 20, about the same time students are taking final exams.

<![CDATA[1 Dead, 4 Injured After Violent Night in D.C.]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 07:44:51 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/215*120/2015-05-28_0528_001.png

A woman is dead and four other people are injured after a series of shootings in D.C.

The first shooting was reported about 8:45 p.m. near 15th and V streets SE. The victim was conscious and breathing.

Half an hour later a man was shot on Croffut Place near Minnesota Avenue.

At 9:45 p.m., a woman was shot near Alabama Avenue and Good Hope Road. The woman later died from her injuries.

A teenage boy was shot on Eaton Road near the Anacostia Metro station just after 10:30 p.m. He was conscious and breathing when he was transported to an area hospital. 

The fifth shooting victim was found in the 5300 block of Clay Terrace NE just after 4 a.m. Thursday. There's no word on his current condition.

The first four shootings all happened within a two hour span. 

There is no indication that any of the shootings are connected, and no one has been arrested.

<![CDATA[Inner Loop Reopens After Crash, Fuel Spill]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 07:05:25 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/2015-05-28_0602.png

The Inner Loop of the Belway is back open after an early morning accident left a box truck overturned and a tractor-trailer stretched across the roadway. 

Maryland State Police were called to the scene near Georgia Avenue just after 5 a.m. Thursday. The Inner Loop was closed for just under two hours, with cars inching by on the right shoulder.

Crews quickly removed the jackknifed tractor-trailer from the scene, but the box truck took a little longer to upright. HAZMAT crews were also called to the scene to clean up the fuel that leaked from the box truck's saddle tanks. 

There's no word on any injuries.

<![CDATA[Student Rescued by Cops Graduates]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 11:56:53 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/maya+leggat+graduation.jpg

A student who was pushed in front of a commuter train in New York was reunited with the officers who rescued her at her college graduation Wednesday.

Maya Leggat, 22, hugged the MTA police officers who saved her as she received special recognition during her graduation from Hunter College.

Leggat became emotional during the touching reunion, saying she never considered the possibility of not living to see her graduation day.

“I never thought that I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted to do, that there wasn’t a positive outcome at the end,” Leggat said.

Leggat was shoved from behind by a homeless man as a Metro-North train entered the White Plains station in September 2013.

The force of the train flung her under platform instead of crushing her, so officers Ted Uzzle and Victor Pastrana were able to pull her out and administer life-saving aid immediately, the New York Post reported. Leggat suffered a broken back, a severed finger, other broken bones and cuts.

The man who pushed her, Howard Mickens, was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He had previously pleaded guilty to attempted murder. 

<![CDATA[Ecstasy Used to Treat Patients]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 10:45:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/ecstasy+pills.jpg

The Federal Drug Administration is allowing a team of Bay Area psychotherapists to experiment with ecstasy to treat patients.

Dr. Phil Wolfson, who has offices in San Francisco and Marin County, is in charge of the 15-month experiment approved the FDA and Drug Enforcement Administration.

Wolfson said he knows firsthand that ecstasy, or MDMA, is effective in easing extreme anxiety because he used it to get through the worst time of his life when his son way dying from leukemia.

"It tends to bring on a mood change," Wolfson said. "It gives you a feeling of loving and caring. You're more accepting of your own failure and difficulties and being able to own them better."

Ecstasy, also known as Molly, is a drug commonly used at raves. The drug is currently considered by the federal government to have no therapeutic value.

Wolfson, however, received the government's blessing to conduct a clinical trial of 18 patients using the drug in conjunction with a number of intense therapeutic sessions.

"If a drug works for a disabling condition and can be labeled to be used in a safe way in that population, then we think we have an obligation to evaluate the data and do what the data support, such as allow a trial to proceed," an FDA spokeswoman said.

If the current trial goes as Wolfson believes it will, MDMA will then be used to treat large numbers of people over a two-year period.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lightning Strikes Maine Church ]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 17:22:12 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/239*120/635683953622825653-Capture.jpg

A storm in Grand Isle, Maine, on Wednesday night sent a powerful bolt of lightning through the St. Gerard-Mount Carmel Parish.

The incredible sight was caught on camera by 16-year-old Carl Bouley.

"The fact that I got it on camera makes everything a little more unrealistic in my eyes," said Bouley.

He posted the video on his Facebook page, and received more than 80,000 views in a matter of hours.

Bouley said he saw lightning strike the same church in 2007, so he was hoping to capture the moment on video this time around.

According to the Grand Isle fire chief, the same church was hit by lightning in 2007, WCSH reported. This time, some shingles were knocked off the church and there is some electrical damage to the wiring inside.

A couple of homes near the church also received some electrical damage.

More storms are expected in parts of New England on Thursday.

John Jensenius, a lightning expert with the National Weather Service, offers simple advice.

"When thunder roars, go indoors," he said.

Jensenius said a lightning bolt going through a cross may seem like a bad omen, but it actually happens relatively regularly. The NWS reports about 200 churches nationwide are struck by lightning each year.

The National Weather Service in Gray recorded nearly 2,000 lightning strikes in Maine Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Carl Bouley
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Tsarnaev Sentencing Set for June 24]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 10:27:26 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/TLMD-tsarnaev-maraton-boston-sketch-art-lien-23-3-.jpg

The official sentencing for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will be held on June 24. 

A jury last month sentenced the convicted Boston Marathon bomber to death for the 2013 terror attack.

The decision set the stage for what could be the nation's first execution of a terrorist in the post-9/11 era, though the case is likely to go through years of appeals. 

The 12-member jury had to be unanimous for Tsarnaev to get the death penalty. Otherwise, he would have automatically received a sentence of life in prison without parole. 

Some of Tsarnaev's victims will be able to address the court and Tsarnaev directly. 

Tsarnaev himself will also have the option of addressing the court and Judge George O'Toole. 

Meanwhile, prosecutors are seeking a seven-year jail term for one of the three friends of Tsarnaev. Dias Kadyrbayev is scheduled to be sentenced next week. He pleaded guilty to hiding evidence and impeding the bombing investigation. The family of slain MIT officer Sean Collier says Kadyrbayev might have prevented their son's death by helping authorities find Tsarnaev. 

Killed in the bombing were Lingzi Lu, a 23-year-old Boston University graduate student from China; Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager from Medford; and 8-year-old Martin Richard, who had gone to watch the marathon with his family. Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean Collier was shot to death in his cruiser days later. 

Tamerlan Tsarnaev died days after the bombing when he was shot by police and run over by Dzhokhar during a chaotic getaway attempt.

Photo Credit: Art Lien via NBC]]>
<![CDATA[WATCH: Wheelie-Popping Bikers, Some on ATVs, Take Over Boston Tunnel ]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 10:02:46 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/vlcsnap-2015-05-27-10h44m39s190.jpg

Dozens of bikers, some riding ATVs, virtually took over Boston's Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Jr. Tunnel tunnel over Memorial Day weekend, riding ahead of traffic, slowing cars down, and popping wheelies, traffic camera video shows.

The video, which was recorded on Sunday, shows some stood on their bikes with their front wheels off the road.

State Police said they were contacted that day about the situation, but according to their logs, none of the troopers made any contact with the bikers.

"We have no tolerance for it because it creates a very dangerous environment," Massachusetts State Police Major Terry Hanson said.

Hanson said it's also difficult to get these illegal street riders because of response time.

"It's not like you got a, where you have a oftentimes like an OUI or something like that that's banging into cars, where you get multiple calls to track it, but a single occasion where they're just moving straight through, it's a matter of getting there," he said.

Bikers left drivers with few options other than to slow down to avoid accidents. No violence was reported. 

It wasn't the first time bikers have taken to the tunnel en masse. Videos posted to YouTube show a similar "Boston Massacre" ride in 2012. 

A group of bikers took over the Henry Hudson Parkway in New York City in September of 2013.

<![CDATA[SoCal Beaches Closed After Oily Globs Wash Ashore]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 12:32:51 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/beach-closed-oil-petroleum-blobs.jpg

Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo beaches remained closed Thursday after tar-like globs ranging from the size of golf balls to footballs began washing ashore along a six-mile stretch of coastline.

At least 6.5 miles of Los Angeles County coastline from the El Segundo Jetty to Torrance Beach was shut, and crews worked into the night in an attempt to clean up the mess. The beaches will be closed until further notice, but several surfers could be seen at the beaches Thursday morning.

"We ask that the public not go into the water," said Chris Linkletter, of the Los Angeles County Lifeguard Division. "The source has been undetermined, they're still testing what's washed up."

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, pollution investigators are examining the substance found along the beach, but still do not know exactly where it came from. It's being described as oil or tar globs.

"We are continuing to analyze the beaches and trying to determine the source of the tar balls and tar patties," said Commander Charlene Downey, of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Downey was asked at a Thursday morning news conference whether the substance might be related to an oil spill last week off the coast of Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County. She said it's too early to tell whether there's a connection.

"It could be anything," said Downey. "It could be naturally occurring, we just can't tell right now what might be the source.

"I can't tell you right now what specifically that product is. Those analysis and tests take time."

They will be analyzing samples to see if they can pinpoint whether the globs been processed by a company or naturally occurred. The waste is also being collected so the cost of the clean up can be calculated, and if anyone is found responsible they will be billed.

Environmental group Heal the Bay has sent scientists to monitor the cleanup.

"It's very disturbing to see such a large swath of beach covered during the summer high beach going time for an oil incident," the organization's vice president Sarah Sikich said.

Locals did say small tar balls that occur naturally are seen in the area from time to time, though they are not usually so plentiful.

The substance was first reported in the 2200 block of The Strand just before 1 p.m., according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flew over the area, but did not find any substance or oil slick in the water.

The substance could be seen dotting the sand in aerial footage taken by NewsChopper 4.

The small balls of substance were described as oil patties or oil balls by Petty Officer Marshal Anderson of the Coast Guard. Anderson said investigators are taking samples of the petroleum-based substance to determine if it is a product or naturally occurring.

There has been no impact to area wildlife, said Sal Garcia, of the California Depart of Fish and Wildlife.

NBC4's Jonathan Lloyd and Toni Guinyard contributed to this report.

Photo Credit: Toni Guinyard]]>
<![CDATA[Police Investigate Shooting in NE D.C.]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 05:25:35 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/police-lights-shutterstock_542372566.jpg

A man was shot in northeast D.C. early Thursday morning.

Officers were called to the 5300 block of Clay Terrace NE just after 4 a.m. for a report of a shooting. When they arrived, they found a man suffering from a gunshot wound. 

The victim was conscious and breathing when he was transported to the hospital. There's no word on his current condition. 

No arrests have been made. 

The shooting follows an especially violent night in  D.C. Police were called to four shooting in less than two hours Wednesday evening.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Md. Police Chief Accused of Voiding Official’s Parking Ticket ]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 00:12:21 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Edmonston+Police+Chief+Stephen+Walker.jpg

A Prince George’s County, Maryland, police chief is facing criminal charges, accused of voiding a parking ticket issued to an elected official.

Edmonston Mayor Tracy Gant was issued a parking ticket when she was still a council woman, according to court documents. Soon after, in January 2014, Police Chief Stephen Walker sent an email to the department saying, "Do not tell violators that the ticket can be voided by the chief of police." But a month later, Walker voided Gant's ticket because she was an elected official, according to court documents.

Officers continued to notice Gant's car had expired tags, but the chief sent a memo out to the police department in August 2014 prohibiting police from enforcing parking regulations in the community where Gant lives, according to court documents.

Action wasn’t taken until February 2014, when a WTOP reported started asking questions about the unpaid ticket, investigators said. It was partially paid in cash.

Walker's attorney, Bob Bonsib, says his client is innocent and the charges are ridiculous.

In the next few weeks, the State's Attorney's Office will screen the charges to see if there's enough evidence to move forward.

<![CDATA[$10M Lawsuit After 9-Year-Old Girl Attacked on School Bus]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 23:45:10 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Prince+Georges+County+Bus+Fight+Video.jpg

A 9-year-old girl says she's afraid to go back to school or ride the bus after she was attacked by a classmate as their bus left Highland Park Elementary School in Landover, Maryland.

Saraia Collins hasn’t returned to school since the beating May.

“She is scared to go back to school, and I’m not sure how it is that they compensate her for that,” attorney Brian McDaniel said. “She’s scared to have interaction with other students. I’m not sure how they compensate her for that.”

Wednesday, her family filed a $10 million lawsuit against Prince George’s County, the school system, the administration of her school and the bus driver.

“The bus driver continued to drive,” McDaniel said. “He did not stop. He did not make sure that Saraia was OK. In essence, he just allowed the attack to take place.”

Tierra Holland, Saraia’s mother, said the bullying was an ongoing issue previously reported to school administrators.

“It’s not about the money for us,” Holland said. “We are not suing for money. We’re worried about Prince George’s County Public Schools acknowledging bullying going on in her school.”

School and county officials said they could not comment on the pending litigation but said the driver is on leave.