<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Local News]]>Copyright 2018https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington https://www.nbcwashington.comen-usWed, 21 Feb 2018 18:18:40 -0500Wed, 21 Feb 2018 18:18:40 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Fallen Prince George's Co. Officer Honored With Procession]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 17:22:28 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/PG+Officer+Procession+8.jpg As the body of Cpl. Mujahid Ramzziddin was transported to the state medical examiner's office in Baltimore Wednesday afternoon, first-responders lined a Maryland highway to pay their respects.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Raw Video: Police Chief Speaks on Killing of Officer]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 14:24:45 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/zz+WRC-194_ASI_HR_1316371267886800001.jpg

Prince George's County Police Chief speaks furiously and with great sadness about the man who shot off-duty police officer Mujahid Ramzziddin on Wednesday. 


<![CDATA['Gutless Coward' Killed Off-Duty MD Officer Who Helped Woman]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 17:45:09 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/officer-mujahid-ramzziddin-profile.jpg

An off-duty Prince George's County police officer was shot and killed Wednesday morning after he tried to protect a woman who was threatened in a domestic dispute in Brandywine, Maryland, police say.

The suspect, 37-year-old Glenn Tyndell, also was killed. 

Cpl. Mujahid Ramzziddin lost his life helping a woman as he was off duty in his own neighborhood, Chief Hank Stawinski said at a news conference. 

"He saved her life by giving his own," Stawinski said. 

"A gutless coward took the life of a very important member of our community," Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said. 

"Officer Ramzziddin gave his life trying to save the life of another," she continued. 

Ramzziddin was a Marine Corps veteran, a father of four and his mother's only son, officials said. He had been with the Prince George's County Police Department for 14 years. 

A neighbor went to Ramzziddin for help with a domestic dispute near Chadds Ford Drive and Chadsey Lane about 10:20 a.m., the police chief said. Ramzziddin immediately responded to the woman's plea for help. 

"Shortly thereafter, he found himself in a confrontation with a man armed with a shotgun," Stawinski said. 

The man shot and killed Ramzziddin, Stawinski said. Police later identified that man as Tyndell.

A witness driving past said he heard more than 10 shots. 

"It was a scary, scary situation," he said. 

Tyndell left the scene in a vehicle, with police close behind. 

As other officers pursued him, Tyndell shot at them from his vehicle. They were able to stop him along Indian Head Highway at Old Fort Road in Fort Washington, about 10 miles from where Ramzziddin was shot. 

Police shot and killed Tyndell as he tried to run into a wooded area, sources told News4. 

Tyndell has a history of domestic violence, Stawinski said. He had three open warrants for assault, police said. Court records show he was arrested for violating a protective order in March 2013 and arrested for assault in September 2010. 

"There does appear to be a history of domestic incidents, and they span multiple jurisdictions," Stawinski said. 

Tyndell had children of his own, his father, James Tyndell told News4. They are 11, 8 and 6, their grandfather said.

Police officials said they were heartbroken by Ramzziddin's death.

"With broken hearts, we are announcing that one of our officers was shot and killed today. The brave officer was shot while stepping in to protect a woman threatened in a domestic situation. Please keep his family and our department in your prayers," the department said on Twitter earlier Wednesday. 

Neighbors said they were shaken by the crime. 

“I’m a retired officer myself who has also been in the line of fire," one woman said, near tears. "This hits pretty hard for me to know that one of my fellow brothers have been killed." 

Many officers on foot, in squad cars and on motorcycles responded to the shooting scene, Chopper4 footage showed. Several roads in the area were shut down. 

Less than two years have passed since a Prince George's County police officer was killed.

Officer Jacai Colson was fatally shot outside the District III police station in Palmer Park on March 13, 2016. A fellow officer accidentally shot him during a chaotic shootout.

Michael Ford opened fire on officers as his brothers used their cellphones to record video of the gunfight. Ford told his brothers to send video of the attack on the police station to the entertainment website WorldStarHipHop.com, prosecutors said. Ford's brothers pleaded guilty for their roles in the shooting. His trial is pending. 

More officers were shot and killed in 2017 after they responded to domestic disturbances than were shot in the line of duty in any other circumstance, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Seven of the 128 officers who died on the job last year were shot as they responded to domestic disturbance reports.

"As most law enforcement officers have been informed during their training or know intuitively from working the streets ... domestic dispute calls or intra-family offenses were the most dangerous type of call for the responding officers," a report from the organization says.

In the D.C. area, Prince William County Officer Ashley Guindon was shot and killed on Feb. 17, 2016, her first day on the job, as she responded to a domestic violence call. Two other officers were hurt. 

"Any officer realizes your next call could be your last," Guindon's uncle Mark Guindon previously told News4.

Stay with News4 for more details on this developing story. 

Photo Credit: Prince George's County Police Department
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<![CDATA[Family of Man Killed in Police Shooting Reaches Settlement]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 18:00:13 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/terrence+sterling.jpg

The family of an unarmed black motorcyclist who was shot and killed by a Washington, D.C., police officer in 2016 reached a $3.5 million settlement with D.C. government, the mayor's office announced Wednesday.

The family of Terrence Sterling filed a $50 million lawsuit against the District and the Metropolitan Police Department in Superior Court in December 2016, alleging Officer Brian Trainer shot Sterling, 31, in the back Sept. 11, 2016, even though he didn't pose a threat to the officer or anyone else.

"We can never say or do anything to bring Terrence back. But we can, and do, resolve to illuminate what went wrong and, with great determination, do what we can to ensure no family faces this pain," Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement.

The attorney for Sterling's family did not return repeated requests for comment.

Police said Sterling, of Fort Washington, Maryland, intentionally rammed the passenger-side door of a police car while trying to flee a traffic stop.

Witnesses disputed the police department's account of the incident and said the crash was unavoidable. The family's complaint argued police violated general orders by getting in the path of a vehicle, increasing the chance of deadly force, and also claimed Trainer used excessive force.

Trainer, a four-year veteran of the department, was wearing a body camera, but he did not turn it on until after the shooting, police said. 

A Metropolitan Police Department internal review board later found Trainer violated department policy when he shot Sterling and called for him to be fired. Last year, Chief Peter Newsham told News4 Trainer should resign.

"What I hope the public takes from it is that we’ve done exactly what we’ve said we’d do in this investigation," Bowser said Wednesday. "We’ve been transparent, we’ve worked with federal prosecutors, we worked very openly with our own investigation. We have some preliminary ideas of what happened and think a settlement is appropriate."

According to a review of the incident by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the MPD, Trainer and his partner, the driver, were stopped at a red light on U Street at 15th Street in northwest D.C. about 4:20 a.m. on Sept. 11. Sterling pulled in front of their cruiser and briefly stopped before speeding off through the red light. The officers turned on their emergency lights and siren and pursued Sterling. 

The officers lost sight of Sterling at times, but other officers and civilians saw him riding at speeds estimated at 100 mph, running red lights and nearly hitting another police cruiser, according to the U.S. attorney. 

The pursuit continued for several minutes and covered about 25 blocks, until Sterling stopped at Third and M streets NW and the officers pulled into the intersection to partially block Sterling's path, according to the U.S. attorney.

Trainer drew his weapon and opened his door. Evidence shows Sterling accelerated toward the passenger side, hitting the door as the officer was getting out, the U.S. attorney said. 

Trainer reacted by firing two rounds through the front window, according to the U.S. attorney.

Sterling died of wounds to the neck and back, according to the city's chief medical examiner. Toxicology results found Sterling’s blood alcohol content was 0.16 -- twice the legal limit.

Trainer did not face criminal charges in the case. He remains on administrative leave pending the outcome of the disciplinary review board's decision.

"He has, according to our system, a lot of different levels of appeal and he's exercising those," Bowser said.

A public hearing is scheduled for April 11 at 9 a.m.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Family]]>
<![CDATA[ Md. Students March to Capitol, Call for Gun Control]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 11:06:14 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/student+walk+out.jpg

Hundreds of students from several Montgomery County, Maryland, high schools walked out of class and marched toward the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to demand stronger gun control laws in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Florida. 

Chopper4 flew over the scene as hundreds of students from Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring walked out of the school and onto the road.

The students took the Metro to Union Station, where they marched to Capitol Hill to demand stronger gun control laws. 

The students chanted and carried signs that said, "Hey Hey NRA, How Many Kids Have You Killed Today?" and "Protect Kids, Not Guns."

The march comes in the wake of last week's deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

Students who survived the school tragedy are holding a march of their own in Florida.

About 100 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School started marching just before 8:30 a.m. from the campus of Florida State University, where they spent the night inside the school's basketball arena, to the Capitol building less than half a mile away.

Once there, students will meet with politicians – including Governor Rick Scott – in their push for gun law reform following the deadly scene last week.

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<![CDATA[Students Call for Gun Control, Plan Walk-Out]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 09:40:04 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/216*120/2018-02-21_0939.png

Hundreds of students from several Montgomery County schools are planning to march to the U.S. Capitol Wednesday to call for gun control in the wake of last week's deadly shooting in Florida. News4's Justin Finch reports. 

<![CDATA[US Park Police Officer Injured in Shooting in NW DC]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 10:19:06 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/park+police+shooting.jpg

A U.S. Park Police officer executing a search warrant at a home in Northwest Washington was injured when a gun accidentally discharged. 

Officers were searching a home in the area of 5th Street and Kansas Avenue at 7 a.m. Wednesday. During a second search, an officer's firearm was unintentionally discharged, U.S. Park Police say. 

It's not clear whether the officer who was injured was shot by his own gun or someone else's.

The victim was shot in the lower body and taken to the hospital in stable condition.

No additional information was released. 

Stay with News4 on-air and online for more on this developing story. 

<![CDATA[Metrobus Riders Getting Far Fewer Credits for Delays]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 07:26:46 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/metrobus+bus+stop.jpg

Metro is handing out tens of thousands of rush hour "credits" to Metrorail customers who are delayed, but far fewer credits are going to bus riders. 

News4 has learned that while over 26,000 credits have been given to rail riders since the Rush Hour Promise program started at the end of January, only 50 credits have been given to bus riders. 

That means rail riders have received tens of thousands of dollars back for their delayed trips, while bus riders have received less than $150. 

The main issue has to do with the system of credits for bus riders. Those riders have to take an extra step and fill out a form if they believe their rush hour trip was delayed by more than 15 minutes.

Rail riders get an automatic credit put on their SmarTrip account, because Metro's internal system can see when riders "tapped in" and "tapped out" of stations. 

"The fact that rail is automated makes a big difference," says Metro Chief Spokesman Dan Stessel. "Unfortunately, (there’s) no way to automate the process for bus because riders do not "tap out" at end of trip." 

Twenty-five requests for refunds for bus riders have been denied. Metro says that’s because in many cases the reason for the delay was beyond Metro's control. 

"We are unable to issue credits for traffic or weather-related delays, which are the leading causes of bus delays," Stessel said. 

Photo Credit: NBC4 Washington]]>
<![CDATA[DC Woman Transforms Love of Ice Cream Into Company]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 07:42:37 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Victoria+Lai.jpg

Ice cream is more than a delicious treat to Victoria Lai. For her, it’s a business and a way to help others make memories.

Lai is the owner of Ice Cream Jubilee, an ice cream company with two D.C. locations and a third planned for Arlington, Virginia. Her creations can also be found in grocery stores across the Washington, D.C. area.

She didn’t originally plan to have such an ice cold career. Until a few years ago, she was a practicing attorney who simply made – and ate – ice cream as a hobby.

"My story in Washington, D.C. is similar to a lot of people’s," said Lai. "I came to Washington to work for the government. My passion was in public service, and I also loved food."

Lai began mixing up treats in her kitchen a few years ago. She attended Penn State University’s ice cream seminar in 2013, then she hit the ground running.

"I kept trying and trying, making new flavors, sharing it with other people," said Lai. "The easy thing is there are always people interested in trying out new flavors."

Creating unique flavors is something Lai prides herself on. While the menu is constantly changing, some favorites include: banana bourbon caramel, non-dairy espresso colada, gin and tonic sorbet and Thai iced tea.

Lai began selling her ice cream in grocery stores and restaurants before opening her first Ice Cream Jubilee location two years ago. Along the way, she learned quickly that running a business is much more than having a great product.

"You can have the best ice cream, you can love making ice cream, but to know that you want to make the leap to start a business really requires you to take a look into yourself and think, 'Do I like accounting?' 'Do I like people management?'" said Lai. "It was a gradual process that made me realize that I have something that people really love, and I love making ice cream that people love.”

Lai said her love of ice cream began at an early age. Seeing families enjoying her creations reminds her of sharing ice cream with her own family.

"It’s so memorable to me to know that we could have that family moment together over something we all enjoyed," said Lai. "I think about that all the time when I see families come in: knowing this is not just a snack for them, this is a memory they’re going to create."

Lai is now a parent herself. She says she constantly finds parallels between being an entrepreneur and being a parent.

"There is no way you’ll ever know all the answers. You’ll always stumble on things. The journey is in the discovery of how you can create a life with more positives than negatives," she said. 

To find out more about Ice Cream Jubilee and where to find Lai's delicious ice cream, click here

<![CDATA[Grocery Retailer Albertsons to Buy Drugstore Chain Rite Aid]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 04:44:31 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-609770752.jpg

The privately held owner of Safeway, Vons, Acme and other grocery brands is plunging deeper into the pharmacy business with a deal to buy Rite Aid, the nation's third-largest drugstore chain.

Albertsons Companies is offering either a share of its stock and $1.83 in cash or slightly more than a share for every 10 shares of Rite Aid. A deal value was not disclosed in a statement released Tuesday by the companies.

Shares of Rite Aid, which have shed more than half their value over the past year, surged 26 cents, or 12.2 percent, in premarket trading after the deal was announced.

Shareholders of Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons will own more than 70 percent of the combined company, which is expected to trade on the New York Stock Exchange. The companies say the deal should close in the second half of this year, but regulators and Rite Aid shareholders still have to approve it.

Rite Aid Chairman and CEO John Standley will lead the combined company as CEO, while Albertsons leader Bob Miller will serve as chairman. The companies say they will keep headquarters in both Boise and Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, which is where Rite Aid is based.

Albertsons said it will continue to run Rite Aid stand-alone stores, and most of the grocery operator's pharmacies will be rebranded as Rite Aid. Albertsons also runs Jewel-Osco, Shaw's and Acme stores.

Rite Aid Corp. said earlier this year that it runs around 4,400 stores. Larger rival Walgreens had tried unsuccessfully to buy the chain, but the company scuttled that push last year after encountering regulatory resistance. Last September, Walgreens agreed to buy nearly 2,000 Rite Aid locations and some distribution centers for about $4.38 billion. Rite Aid said late last month that it had transferred about 625 stores to Walgreens.

Photo Credit: Getty Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[DC Has the Best Shot at Amazon HQ2, Study Says]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 02:30:59 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/HQ2_SitesAnnouncement-7_02+Capitol+Hill+East+web+thumb.jpg

Washington, D.C., scored the highest out of the 19 U.S. locations under consideration for online retailer Amazon's second headquarters, or HQ2, in an independent analysis from Hamilton Place Strategies.

The public affairs consulting firm evaluated the cities based on four categories that Amazon deemed vital for their business: transportation; education; connectivity and business; lifestyle and culture.

The analysis broke down those four categories into 11 more specific subcategories.

D.C. was scored above average in most of the subcategories. The city was only below average in one subcategory — business and career rankings.

D.C. boasts multiple international airports and easy access to international destinations, alongside high livability, diversity and connectivity scores, the report says. The District falls behind New York and Chicago in mass transit and has fewer top 50 universities than Philadelphia, Boston and Los Angeles.

The District also has the highest-educated population, tying with nearby Montgomery County and Northern Virginia.

The study was released as an Arlington news website, ARL Now, noticed a huge spike in visits to their website that appeared to be from Amazon employees.

The study ranked Boston and Northern Virginia as the second and third place cities respectively with a note that Boston’s access to more top universities may ultimately give it an edge over D.C.

Montgomery County scored half a point lower than Northern Virginia.

Photo Credit: District of Columbia Government]]>
<![CDATA[Male Victim of Fatal Shooting Was Jailed in 2008 Murder Case]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 01:40:31 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Victim_of_Deadly_Shooting_Was_Jailed_in_2008_Murder_Case.jpg

Two people were found dead inside an SUV in Maryland: a woman who worked at an investment firm downtown and a man who served time in jail in connection with a murder case. News4's Pat Collins reports.

<![CDATA[11 Speed Cameras Vandalized in Northwest DC]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 02:03:40 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/022018+broken+speed+cameras.jpg

Pieces of broken plastic, an empty square box and a light flash were isolated on a Northwest D.C. street Tuesday, the remnants of one of 11 speed cameras that an unidentified suspect vandalized, police said.

Initially, police said that three cameras had been affected but by Tuesday afternoon, announced the eight other damaged cameras.

Two of the vandalized cameras were found on Interstate 295, two on Kenilworth Avenue and two on Eastern Avenue. All damaged cameras were in Northeast and Southeast.

Police released a full list of damaged cameras:

  • DC 295 Northeast .1 Mile South of Eastern Avenue – South Bound
  • 800 block of Ridge Road, Southeast – Northwest Bound
  • DC 295 Northeast .1 Mile South of Eastern Avenue – North Bound
  • 3900 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, Southeast – Northwest Bound
  • 3200 block of Fort Lincoln Drive, Northeast – Southbound
  • 600 block of Kenilworth Avenue, Northeast – South Bound
  • 2200 block of South Dakota Avenue, Northeast – Southeast Bound
  • 1400 block of Kenilworth Avenue, Northeast – South Bound
  • 800 block Eastern Avenue, Northeast – East Bound
  • 1200 block Eastern Avenue, Northeast – Southeast Bound
  • Fort Lincoln Drive – North Bound at 31st Street, Northeast
Police ask anyone who may have relevant information to contact them as the search for a suspect continues.

“Not a lot of people have a lot of affinity for speed cameras, so it’s probably a pretty obvious target for vandalism,” driver Rob Stout said.

Tuesday wasn’t the first time speed cameras were targeted in the D.C. area.

In 2013, lenses of Montgomery County speed cameras were sprayed over with paint, News4 reported.

“That’s never a good thing,” driver Jo Oliver said. “Because if they’re doing that it means they’re probably doing other bad things in the area.”

There are about 300 locations with speed cameras across the District, according to the D.C. Department of Transportation.

“I don’t like them,” driver Reggie Russ said. “I know the city makes money off of them."

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[‘The Stars Aligned:’ Veteran Thankful for DUI Arrest]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 23:41:32 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/veteran_DUI.jpg

United States Marine Corps veteran Chris Rios says he was in a very dark place in December of 2014, as he left a bar after drinking.

“I remember being at a bar. Having one too many drinks. And making the worst decision of my life,” he said.

He got into a car, and was pulled over by officer Sameer Kahn.

“He appeared to be impaired by alcohol,” Kahn, who had also been deployed with the Marines, said.

The arrest could have resulted in a $250 fine or time in jail under Virginia law. But thanks to a special Fairfax County court focused on addressing mental health and substance abuse issues among veterans, the arrest led to Rios finding treatment.

“That night, as awkward as it might sound, the stars aligned. This was meant to happen.”

Rios had served two deployments with the Marines to the front lines of the Afghanistan War. Between 10 and 20 percent of veterans from that conflict suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Rio is one of the veterans diagnosed with PTSD, he said.

“We leave the war, but sometimes the war doesn’t leave us,” he told News4.

It’s also common for people diagnosed with PTSD to develop a drinking problem, research from the National Center for PTSD suggests.

For Rios, those weren’t just statistics, but chronic struggles that could be addressed by the court program.

Rios entered a two-year treatment program after his arrest and graduated in January. He says the program was supportive.

“They have a heart,” he said. “They do care about you.”

At the graduation ceremony, he was surprised to see officer Kahn in the room.

“I never thought that I’d see him again in my life,” Rios said.

Despite the arrest, there were no hard feelings between the two veterans.

“You’re not happy when you get arrested, but I know that it wasn’t his fault. It’s his job,” Rios said.

“I think Mr. Rios’ success story… .it may really resonate with our generation of veterans,” Kahn said.

The special court, known in Fairfax County as the Veterans Treatment Docket, was launched in February of 2015. More than 230 courts across the U.S. have developed similar programs since 2008, according to a Fairfax County press release.

<![CDATA[Lawyer: Former Md. Delegate Unethical, Not Guilty of Bribes]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 22:54:52 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Former_Md._Delegate_Not_Guilty_of_Bribery.jpg

Former Maryland Delegate Michael Vaughn was charged with bribery, but his lawyer argued Tuesday just because he accepted cash doesn't mean Vaughn accepted bribes. News4's Tracee Wilkins reports.

<![CDATA[Police: Drug Dealer Delivered Heroin to Va. Hospital]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 20:29:49 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/022018+Dana+Gotliffe+and+Michael+Filipowicz.jpg

When a 24-year-old man overdosed on heroin in Alexandria, Virginia, last summer, first responders saved his life with the drug Narcan. 

But less than a day later, the man overdosed again -- from inside a hospital room in the city. 

"Within 24 hours, we received another call, where the person had overdosed again, within the hospital," Alexandria Deputy Police Chief David Huchler said. 

A drug dealer and his partner worked together to sell the drug to an overdose victim, Alexandria police said. 

Michael "Flip" Filipowicz, 25, is accused of signing in as a guest at the hospital and giving the patient the drug. Police are still searching for him. He is expected to face a charge of conspiracy to distribute heroin. 

Filipowicz was assisted by Dana Gotliffe, 20, who was arrested and faces the same charge. 

Alexandria police are determined to cut the supply of heroin and other opioids using an approach they first introduced more than a year ago. The opioid epidemic became so severe that detectives now respond to every overdose.

“Our first step isn’t to charge the person that has overdosed,” Huchler said. “We’re looking to get to the suppliers and the dealers so that we can have an impact on the flow of drugs within the city.”

The city, meanwhile, wants to guide victims toward treatment. Officials have prioritized providing assistance to those who overdose, establishing an interagency opioid working group to monitor such cases. The group uses a map to analyze trends in overdoses or deaths that might suggest a prevalent and dangerous batch of heroin.

“The folks who are addicted and really at risk of dying, they need to get into the treatment system, and police have been huge allies in that approach, which is very progressive and different," said Liz Wixson, a spokeswoman in the Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services,

The city will host information sessions with the hope that overdose victims and their relatives will seek help. A “Community Conversation on Heroin and Opioids” is set to be held Feb. 28 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Minnie Howard Campus of T.C. Williams High School.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Clue Emerges That Amazon is Scoping Out Arlington]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 01:42:43 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Clue_Emerges_That_Amazon_is_Scoping_Out_Arlington.jpg

Why were thousands of people suddenly reading an Arlington Now news story that is weeks old? Seemingly, because Amazon employees are very interested. News4's Jackie Bensen reports.

<![CDATA[Teen Killed in Guardrail Crash Memorialized in New Film]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 19:38:59 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Hannah+Eimers.jpg

A teenager killed when she crashed into a controversial guardrail is being remembered in a new film starring Burt Reynolds, Ariel Winter and Chevy Chase.

Hannah Eimers, 17, died in November 2016 when her car ran off the road in McMinn County, Tennesse.

A Lindsay X-LITE guardrail speared her vehicle, killing her instantly.

At least six other people have died in similar crashes with the X-LITE.

Eimers’ father, Steve, has been leading the effort to have the guardrail removed nationwide.

Hannah graduated high school when she was just 15. She had a passion for creating costumes and worked as an art department intern on a movie set during the summer of 2016.

“The Last Movie Star,” written and directed by Adam Rifkin was shot in Tennessee.

Steve Eimers said Hannah befriended Rifkin and would bring him fresh fruit and vegetables from the family’s farm.

The film is set for release in March. A24 Films confirmed to News4 the very last text in the credits will read: “In Loving Memory of HANNAH EIMERS.”

Eimers’ name will also appear in the credits to recognize her work as an intern.

A total of 22 states have removed the X-LITE from their “qualified products lists” since 2016. Nine of those are removing X-LITEs currently installed. Still, hundreds remain on our nation’s roads.

Lindsay Transportation Solutions sent the following statement to News4:

“Lindsay Transportation Solutions’ top priority is to provide solutions that reduce the number and severity of injuries sustained in automobile accidents.

“X-LITE has successfully passed crash and safety tests in accordance with Federal standards and criteria, and remains eligible for Federal transportation funding. There is no road safety equipment that can prevent injury every time a driver fails to stay on the road, but X-Lite has reduced the number and severity of injuries sustained in automobile accidents. A variety of factors contribute to the potential for injury when a driver fails to stay on the road, including speed, the angle at which a vehicle makes impact, and whether road safety equipment is installed and maintained properly.”

Photo Credit: Eimers Family
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<![CDATA[DCPS Chancellor Resigns After Bypassing Lottery System]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 00:00:09 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DCPS+Chancellor+Antwan+Wilson.jpg

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson has resigned after he bypassed the highly competitive public school lottery system to get his daughter a coveted seat at a top high school. 

Seven D.C. council members called for Wilson's resignation, but he initially refused.

"My family was in a crisis," Wilson told News4 Monday evening. "I was struggling."

He said Monday that he would not step down. 

"I don't want a pass," he said. "What I want to do is lead the system."

But parents' and lawmakers' calls for Wilson's resignation grew too strong, Mayor Muriel Bowser said. 

"It became very clear to me over the last several days that Chancellor Wilson would be unable to successfully lead the schools, having not been able to regain the community's trust," she said at a news conference Tuesday evening. 

"There are too many tough decisions in the coming months to have any distractions, and we want to make very clear to parents and students that we are going to support them in any way possible," the mayor continued. 

Wilson is on administrative leave pending the completion of the terms of his exit. He did not immediately respond to inquiries. 

Dr. Amanda Alexander, head of the DCPS Office of Elementary Schools, was named interim chancellor. Alexander has degrees from Howard University and American University, started her teaching career in D.C. kindergarten classrooms and has served as principal of two D.C. schools, Bunker Hill Elementary School and Ross Elementary School.

"I plan to connect with members of the community, our stakeholders, to rebuild that trust," she said.

Wilson declined to comment on his resignation when News4's Shomari Stone knocked on his door Tuesday evening.

Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles resigned Friday after she allowed Wilson to bypass the lottery, in direct violation of a mayoral order issued last year, as News4 was first to report.

In a statement issued earlier Tuesday, D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie said Wilson violated a policy in his contract that kept current and former public officials from seeking discretionary transfers. 

"He breached the public trust and must resign," McDuffie said. 

Six other D.C. Council members also said Wilson should be ousted: Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, Vincent Gray, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau and Robert White. 

At-large Council member White was the first to ask Wilson to step down, on Saturday. White wrote on Twitter that he had “lost confidence in our DC Public Schools leadership" and he has witnessed "no accountability within DCPS central office."

Niles' and Wilson's departures comes amid a time of crisis for DCPS. The FBI, U.S. Department of Education and the D.C. Office of the Inspector General are investigating the school system following revelations of inflated graduation rates.

Wilson received a base salary of $280,000, plus a $14,000 signing bonus and $25,000 in moving expenses, public records show.

Whether Wilson's departure is officially considered to be "for cause" will determine whether or not he receives three months' severance pay, which is $70,000. His contract says, "A termination would be 'for cause' if an employee is indicted for or convicted of any criminal offense, commits on duty conduct that he reasonably knows is a violation of law or regulation; [or] uses public office for private gain," among other offenses.

If Wilson were found to have been fired without cause, he would receive $140,000.

Bowser said on Friday that she stood by the decision to ask Niles, not Wilson, to resign.

"I recognize that the chancellor had what he thought was an untenable family situation, and he was trying to resolve it and trying to resolve it by asking his supervisor what to do," she said.

Niles and Wilson have both been referred to the D.C. Office of the Inspector General and ethics board for separate investigations.

Former schools chancellor Kaya Henderson was also found to have violated the school lottery system.

The Office of the Inspector General found seven instances in which Henderson "improperly used her discretion" to transfer students outside of school district boundaries, the News4 I-Team reported.

Wilson became chancellor a little more than a year ago, on Feb. 1, 2017. He was selected, in part, for his success in raising achievement scores as superintendent of Oakland Unified School District in Oakland, California.

"As superintendent [in Oakland], he has focused on managing and improving a complex organization, championing important messages to improve teaching and learning, increasing high school graduation rates and improving social and emotional learning in special education processes," Bowser said as she introduced him.

Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Prosecutors: Md. Student Had Weapons Cache, Grievances List]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 00:05:17 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Alwin+Chen.jpg

The 18-year-old accused of taking a loaded gun to his high school in Montgomery County, Maryland, had a cache of weapons at home, including an AR-15-style rifle, and a list of grievances, prosecutors say.

Alwin Chen appeared in court Tuesday after Montgomery County police say he took a handgun to Clarksburg High School on Thursday, the day after the Florida high school shooting that left 17 people dead.

A judge ordered Chen, of Germantown, held without bond, and ordered he undergo a mental health evaluation.

Prosecutors say the following items were found in Chen's home: an AR-15-style rifle, a Glock pistol, a revolver, a detonator, a replica of an inert hand grenade and a tactical vest.

It's unclear who owns the guns, but police say there was no indication the guns belong to anyone who lives outside Chen's home.

Also, a list of grievances was found in the home, prosecutors say.

"He had written down a list of grievances and reasons he brought the gun to school with him," Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said. 

Police reviewed Chen's journal and said there were no explicit threats or expression of a desire to harm anyone at the school.

County police are still working to determine Chen's motive for allegedly taking the gun to school. They said that while they did seize Chen's journal, it did not contain any specific threat. 

"There is no wording regarding any threat nor any expression of wanting to cause harm to anyone at the school in his journal," police said in a statement. 

One of Chen's lawyers, David Felsen, said Chen did not have access to weapons in his home, and that he did not pose a threat. 

"We presented documents that Mr. Chen is a scholarship-worthy student, that even his principal said he does not present a danger," Felsen said. 

He was arrested after a school resource officer received information about 2 p.m. Thursday that he might have a weapon, police said. 

The officer pulled Chen out of class and asked him if he had a weapon. Chen then said he had a handgun in his book bag and knife in his front shirt pocket, police said. 

The officer took the knife and loaded 9mm handgun and arrested Chen. He was charged with possession of a handgun, possession of a firearm by a person under 21 years old and possession of a firearm on school property.

Prosecutors say Chen initially said he took the gun to school for target practice after school, but that he then changed his story. 

Police say Chen said he felt anxious about social interactions with his classmates. 

Prosecutors say Chen had previously taken a gun to school. A Montgomery County Public Schools representative said school officials were unaware of any report that Chen had taken a gun onto school property. 

Anyone with information for police is asked to call 240-773-6400. 

Photo Credit: Montgomery County Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[11 Speed Cameras Vandalized in DC, Police Say]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 10:44:42 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Speed_Cameras_Vandalized.jpg

Police said three speed cameras were vandalized in D.C. Tuesday morning but issued an update reporting 11 had been damaged. The cameras were located in Northeast and Northwest D.C. News4's Adam Tuss reports.

<![CDATA[17-Year-Old Boy Found Dead in Centreville Was Shot]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 14:09:33 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/021618gofundmeupdate.jpg

A 17-year-old boy who was found dead on a neighborhood street in Centreville, Virginia, last week died of a gunshot wound to the head, a medical examiner said Tuesday.

A newspaper delivery man discovered Matthew Ortega about 5 a.m. Wednesday on Jeb Stuart Square.

Ortega was an 11th grade student at Centreville High School. The school made crisis team members available to work with students individually and in groups, according to a message Principal Dave Jagels sent to students and parents.

"He was a bright and engaging student who will be greatly missed by our school community," Jagels wrote. 

Neighbors say the house near where Ortega's body was found had been vacant for some time.

Police said that Ortega suffered trauma to the upper body. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

His death is being investigated as a homicide, police say.

No arrests have been made.

A GoFundMe page was created to help the teenager's family with funeral expenses. As of Tuesday afternoon, donations had exceeded $15,000 toward the $13,000 goal.

The page also says that Ortega's father recently died.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of family]]>
<![CDATA[Some Md. Residents Without Heat, Hot Water Going on 5 Days]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 14:02:17 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GasBreak.jpg

As a number of Laurel, Maryland, residents continue to go without heat or hot water service for going on five days, the city says the problem should be resolved soon. 

Almost 300 Laurel residents have had their gas restored after a Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) outage left 400 people without hot water and heat starting last Thursday. 

The gas company hopes to fully restore service by Tuesday evening, Laurel spokeswoman Audrey Barnes said in an email. Some isolated cases could take a few more days to fix. 

The outage began Thursday night when a water main broke and flooded a network of gas pipes that serve several blocks.

The city opened a community center for two hours Sunday so residents could warm up and take hot showers. The center remains open to residents. 

"It is a little bit rough, but we've been managing," one resident told News4. "We've been having to go out and buy heaters. Electric heaters."

Space heaters have been cleared off the shelves in nearby stores, residents told News4. 

About 22 customers near 8th Street and Gorman Avenue had their service restored quickly, Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said in a statement. But 401 others had to wait days.

BGE said they restored gas for 44 customers Sunday night, and on Monday it made repairs to more than half of the damaged gas mains, which serve about half of the customers who were affected. As of Tuesday morning, 289 people had their gas service restored.

Crews were forced to find the water main break, stop the flow of water and visit each customer to turn off their gas meters, BGE said. Gas lines packed with mud and debris needed to be cleaned or replaced entirely.

Some customers may be forced to replace their own pipes and appliances if they got waterlogged, BGE said. Residents would have to pay for their own plumbers. 

"Not too happy about that," one resident told News4. "My neighbor said something about that could be a class action suit." 

If you are in the area and smell gas, move to a safe location and call your utility company, BGE said.

<![CDATA['I Was Struggling:' DCPS Chancellor Refuses Calls to Resign]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 12:18:04 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DCPS+Chancellor+Antwan+Wilson.jpg

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson refused seven city council members' calls that he resign after the mayor's office revealed he bypassed the highly competitive public school lottery system to get his daughter a coveted seat at a top high school.

"My family was in a crisis," Wilson told News4 Monday evening. "I was struggling."

Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer Niles resigned Friday after allowing Wilson to bypass the lottery, in direct violation of a mayoral order issued last year, as News4 was first to report.

But Wilson told News4 he will not step down.

"I don't want a pass," he said. "What I want to do is lead the system."

Seven of the 13 D.C. Council members say Wilson should be ousted: Charles Allen, Mary Cheh, Vincent Gray, Kenyan McDuffie, Brianne Nadeau, Elissa Silverman and Robert White. 

Ward 8 Council member Trayon White said in an Instagram post Tuesday morning that he "will not be able to stand by the chancellor." However, he said he does not plan to call for the chancellor's resignation. 

Allen, the Council member for Ward 6, said on Twitter on Monday that Wilson had “lost -- and will be unable to regain -- the trust of so many parents that is vital to the success of DC Public Schools." 

At-large Council member Robert White was the first to ask Wilson to step down, on Saturday. White wrote on Twitter that he had “lost confidence in our DC Public Schools leadership" and he has witnessed "no accountability within DCPS central office."

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Friday that she stood by the decision to ask Niles, not Wilson, to resign.

"I recognize that the chancellor had what he thought was an untenable family situation, and he was trying to resolve it and trying to resolve it by asking his supervisor what to do," she said.

Niles and Wilson have both been referred to the D.C. Office of the Inspector General and ethics board for separate investigations.

Niles' departure comes amid a time of crisis for DCPS. The FBI, U.S. Department of Education and the D.C. Office of the Inspector General are investigating the school system following revelations of inflated graduation rates.

Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Md. Student Who Brought Gun to School to Appear in Court]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 07:11:19 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Md._Student_Who_Brought_Gun_to_School_to_Appear_in_Court.jpg

A Clarksburg High School  student who brought a gun to school will appear in court Tuesday. News4's Justin Finch reports. .

<![CDATA[3 Metro Lines Delayed After Report of Smoke in Tunnel]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 06:27:33 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20151008+Metro+Generic1.jpg

Riders on three Metro lines were delayed for a short time Tuesday morning after smoke was seen in a tunnel. 

The smoke was reported in a tunnel between the Benning Road and Stadium-Armory stations, the D.C. fire department said on Twitter. 

Train service on the Blue Line was suspended for about 20 minutes between Stadium-Armory and Addison Road. Silver Line trains were also limited to the Wiehle-Reston East and Stadium-Armory stations.

Orange Line were also warned of delays because of congestion. 

Service has since been restored, but trains on the Blue and Silver lines are sharing a track between Stadium-Armory and Addison Road. 

Stay with News4's on-air and online for more on this developing story. 

<![CDATA[Dreams Into Dollars: Woman Turns Jewelry Hobby Into Business]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 07:40:27 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Latasha+Green+photo.jpg

Jewelry has always been a passion for LaTasha Green, but now the Fort Washington, Maryland, woman can also call it her career.

Green is the founder of Divine Trinity Trinkets (DTT by L. Green), a handmade jewelry business that is booming right out of her home. Green didn't originally set out on a crafty path. She's an engineer by day. 

It was on a shopping trip about four years ago that Green says she was struck by inspiration. Moments after buying jewelry for herself, she realized she could make and sell her own. 

"I looked at it like, wow, I paid that amount of money for this jewelry," said Green. "I think I might be able to do this a little differently." 

Green taught herself how to make necklaces, bracelets, earrings and more by watching YouTube videos. The internet also helped her get the business off the ground. 

"I always tell people about 30 percent of my clients are right here in the D.C. area," said Green. "The rest of my clients are all over the world." 

Green is now several years into her business, and she says the most important part of expanding a dream into a business is knowing when to ask for help. 

"Get someone who can guide you, tell you the do's and don'ts, what to do with your money."

You can visit DTT By L. Green here

<![CDATA[Rushern Baker Picks Running Mate for Governor's Race]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 10:21:13 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/elizabeth+embry.jpg

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker has picked Elizabeth Embry to be his running mate in Maryland's Democratic primary race for governor. 

Baker will make the announcement Tuesday morning in Baltimore.

Embry ran for mayor of Baltimore in 2016 and is currently the chief of the criminal division of the Maryland Attorney General's Office.

Baker has served as county executive since 2010 and has a political career that spans 25 years.  He announced his plans to run for governor last June. 

There are a number of candidates vying for the Democratic ticket. 

The primary field includes state Sen. Richard Madaleno, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, former NAACP president Ben Jealous, entrepreneur Alec Ross, former aide to Michelle Obama Krish Vignarajah , Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and lawyer Jim Shea.

Most of the Democrats running in the crowded Maryland primary for governor have announced their running mates, and four out of five of them so far are women. 

On Monday, Sen. Richard Madaleno named Luwanda Jenkins, of Baltimore, as his running mate. Ross chose Julie Verratti, a Montgomery County craft brewery owner. 

Jealous has chosen Susan Turnbull. Shea announced Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott as his running mate last week. 

Kamenetz and Vignarajah have not yet named their running mates. 

The candidate filing deadline is a week away. 

The primary is June 26.

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<![CDATA[Days After Snow, Temps Climb Into 70s]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 18:47:08 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/021918+weather.jpg

The average temperature for this time of year in D.C. is about 48 degrees. 

But days after D.C. saw snow, it's set to be in the 70s this week, breaking records, Storm Team4 says. 

Record high temperatures were recorded at all three of the area's airports Tuesday afternoon. The high temperature at Washington Dulles International Airport at noon was 71 degrees, topping the previous record of 70 degrees in 1971. 

The high temperatures at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Airport reached 76 degrees. 

Keep in mind when you're walking out the door Wednesday that you won't need to wear a jacket. On Thursday, be prepared to bring a rain jacket.

By Thursday afternoon, Storm Team4 predicts temperatures will drop to about 50 degrees, with a 70 percent chance of rain.

It will also be rainy on Friday and possibly throughout the weekend, yet mild temperatures will stick around this weekend, with temps in the mid 60s.

No cold air is in sight in the next 10 days.

Photo Credit: NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Maryland Leaders Describe Sexual Harassment, Abuse at State House]]> Mon, 19 Feb 2018 20:18:32 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Maryland_Lawmakers_Push_Back_Against_Annapolis_Sexism.jpg

Maryland's state capitol building has been a place of harassment and sexual abuse of women for decades, women lawmakers and staffers say in a new report. "It feels like a fraternity house," one current staffer said. "I froze as he put his hands all the way up my skirt," another current staffer said. News4's Darcy Spencer reports. Go here to see the full report of the Maryland General Assembly Women's Caucus.

<![CDATA[News4 I-Team Finds Online Industry Designed to Deceive You]]> Wed, 21 Feb 2018 12:49:22 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/iteam+review+4+bright.JPG

For most people, it's now habit to check out what other customers are saying before making a purchase, but the News4 I-Team found a whole industry of fake online reviews designed to deceive. They can be not only misleading, but damaging.

Industry estimates show 80 percent of customers read reviews posted on Yelp, Google or Amazon.

But how do you know that glowing five-star favorite is from someone who really used the product? Or that the woeful one-star review isn't from a conniving competitor?

"I usually read them. I'm terrible about doing them," Erik Thomas told the I-Team.

But you wouldn't know that based on several reviews we found online, including an insurance company in Colorado, a towing company in Georgia, a locksmith in Washington, D.C. — all of them featured Thomas' picture with the reviewer's name listed as Albert Morrison.

"I don't even know what they do," said Thomas of the variety of companies reviewed.

One of the five-star reviews featuring Thomas' photo recommended the Law Office of Robert Anderson in Leesburg, touting the attorney's skills in a DWI case. Thomas has never even been to Leesburg; he's a former actor living in Los Angeles.

"It really bothers me. It does feel like a violation of my character," Thomas said.

Robert Anderson is a former chief prosecutor for Loudoun County and told the I-Team his law office does not monitor its online Google reviews. He said he had no idea where that post came from and that he's never had a client named Albert Morrison.

Anderson's law firm has two additional five-star Google reviews with photos included. The I-Team was able to locate one of those pictures on a website for free stock photos, and the other is a fashion model. Anderson confirmed the names associated with those posts were never clients.

Jason Brown has outed thousands of businesses with suspicious reviews on his website, www.reviewfraud.org, including hundreds in the Washington, D.C., area.

"I'd say billions of people are being tricked by these reviews," said Brown, who's made it his mission to warn customers.

"I laugh at the absurdity of some reviews I find," said Brown.

Like the five-star reviews he spotted for Virginia Beach Movers and Movers Norfolk posted by Larry Korey. The picture the reviewer used is Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan!

Hogan's office assured the I-Team "the governor is not writing vendor reviews on the internet in his spare time."

But the I-Team found out who did.

A Review-Writing Racket

Both moving companies are managed by the same guy, who said it was a Ukranian advertising agency they hired a few months ago that actually posted the fake reviews — without the company's knowledge.

After News4 asked about them, those reviews were deleted.

Brown said that's not unusual. There's a thriving online market selling positive reviews here in the U.S. and overseas.

The I-Team easily found Craigslist ads around the country from individuals offering to write and post fake reviews for a price.

One fake reviewer wrote, "Just send me a link to your business or the name and location, and a brief description of what you want me to say. After review is posted, just send 20 dollars."

Another wrote, "For paid 5-star reviews, I don't have to visit the business... I 'check in' via the app and post a positive review."

The I-Team even found a company based in Asia with an online YouTube video advertising its business of "a network of accounts in all major cities that can help boost your ratings by posting positive reviews." It offers package deals ranging from $50 to $120.

The Federal Trade Commission knows it's a big problem and brings action against companies to make them stop.

"Fake reviews are illegal. So, to buy or to sell a review that's fake is illegal," said Mary Engle, associate director of the FTC's Division of Advertising Practices.

Engle admits that policing companies operating overseas is a challenge.

"We always think of ourselves as traffic cops who are trying to keep the worst violators off the roads, knowing that we're never going to prevent all speeding," said Engle.

The FTC said another problem is reviewers who don't disclose that they get the product for free or are paid to review it.

Google and Yelp told the I-Team they're trying to do their part, using automated systems to detect fraud.

Yelp admits about 20 percent of reviews submitted are questionable and allows users to flag them.

Brown has some advice for savvy shoppers.

"Check different platforms," he said. "See what they say on Google. See what they say on the Better Business Bureau too. See what they say on Facebook and on Yelp."

The FTC says you should be wary when lots of similar reviews are posted at once, when a reviewer has posted touting companies in multiple states, and it never hurts to run a Google-Image search for that profile pic if you doubt a review is real.

"It does kind of concern me a little bit that somebody is out there saying I got a DWI," said Erik Thomas, who had never seen the law office review until the I-Team showed it to him. "It just reinforces the notion that you can't really trust anything online sometimes."

It's (Not) Written in the Stars

A Maryland company called Furniture Assembly Experts has plenty of five-star reviews posted online, touting an "excellent job," a customer that was "very pleased," and describing the service as "professional and efficient."

But Diane DeBernardo said that wasn't the experience she had with the company.

"I just don't think this company is good enough to get a five-star review from anybody," said DeBernardo.

She posted a scathing one-star review after she says the company kept her waiting for weeks to finish assembling the shed in her backyard.

"And they never came," said DeBernardo. "They were so terrible ... and then I had trouble getting my money back."

Colin Dorrity also posted a one-star review after hiring the same company to construct his patio set.

"My entire afternoon Friday was wasted and a good chunk of my day Saturday was wasted," Dorrity told the I-Team.

He said he had to call the company at least 10 times.

"At one point when I had the woman on the phone she said the technician is pulling into your driveway right now. What's interesting is, I don't have a driveway," recounted Dorrity.

He calls it some of the worst customer service he's ever experienced, and being an avid reader of reviews, he decided to post his experience on Amazon, Yelp and Google to warn other potential customers.

But when he looked at the other glowing reviews that were already posted, he became suspicious.

"There'd be a one-star review and then a pattern of several five-star reviews," said Dorrity.

The Federal Trade Commission says that's a red flag for fake reviews, which are illegal.

"If you see a lot of reviews posted for a product at the same time, it's highly unlikely that that occurred naturally," said the FTC's Engle. "Another possibility might be if someone's reviewing a local establishment and their address is far from there."

It is illegal to post reviews that are misleading, fake or don't disclose a relationship between the customer and the business.

The Pic Is Worth a Thousand Words

The FTC says the reviewer's profile picture can be another tip-off.

One of Furniture Assembly Experts' five-star reviewers, Michael Snow, raved about the company writing, "I greatly appreciate the excellent work." The photo attached to the review is actually filmmaker Morgan Spurlock.

Another five-star reviewer, Seema Patel, posted "money well spent." The woman pictured in that review is actually from South Asia, and has a different name.

Then there's Arjun Patel, a five-star reviewer who was very happy with how his bunk beds turned out.

But the picture he used is of first son Barron Trump.

The I-Team asked the White House about the review but got no comment on whether there are new beds at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Furniture Assembly Experts is one of the companies Jason Brown has listed on his website, which tracks companies from around the country with fake reviews.

"When people are falsifying these reviews, they're taking advantage of people," said Brown.

He said some businesses pay for positive reviews, mainly from companies overseas.

"I think predominately they're being generated in India," said Brown.

So, the I-Team reached out to the man in charge of Furniture Assembly Experts to see what he knew about his company's online reviews.

A Song and a Dance

Dave Song initially told us by phone he doesn't look at them, doesn't think they're accurate and had no idea why someone would post a fake review raving about his company.

But after agreeing to do an interview, Song stopped returning our calls, so the I-Team paid him a visit and found him hard at work outside his office in Lanham.

When the I-Team approached offering the man a chance to explain the suspicious reviews promoting his business, he replied, "Have a good day. I don't know who you're looking for."

He denied even being Dave Song, but after peeling away in his Mercedes, an employee inside confirmed to an I-Team producer he was the right guy.

But the I-Team found, there is one type of review Dave Song cares about.

"Someone from the company called me back in the evening and said, 'We will refund all of your money if you take the Amazon review down," said Dorrity.

On Amazon Services, only verified customers can write reviews, so they're harder to influence.

Dorrity says once a worker finally showed up, two days late, he did a good job assembling the patio furniture.

"And there was an apology as well, which I appreciated," added Dorrity.

On the phone, Song told the I-Team he does sometimes offer refunds to customers who remove bad Amazon reviews — a sign of just how important they are for companies and customers.

The FTC recommends that consumers who rely on reviews should look for specific details about the user experience or quality of a product when weighing consideration of a review.

"I consider myself a healthy skeptic," said Dorrity. "But I do still put stock in reviews."

Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Steve Jones and Jeff Piper.

Photo Credit: Jodie Fleischer/NBCWashington
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<![CDATA[Father, Friend Speak About 2 Found Killed in Burtonsville]]> Mon, 19 Feb 2018 18:50:57 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Father_Friend_Speak_About_Couple_Found_Killed_in_Burtonsvil.jpg

Who killed Ashley Dickinson and Joshua Frazier in Burtonsville, Maryland? And why? News4's Pat Collins spoke with Dickinson's father and a friend of the two victims. "She was a caring and loving person," Dickinson's devastated father said.

<![CDATA[Hundreds of Laurel Residents Have No Heat, Hot Water]]> Mon, 19 Feb 2018 18:47:33 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Laurel+gas+main+break+web+thumb.jpg

Nearly 400 people in Laurel, Maryland, have gone four days without hot water and heat after a gas main was flooded with water and debris.

Gas company BGE said they made good progress Sunday night, restoring gas for 44 cutomers.

The gas company hopes to fully restore service by late Tuesday. 

The city opened a community center for two hours Sunday so residents could warm up and take hot showers. The center remains open to residents. 

"It is a little bit rough, but we've been managing," one resident told News4. "We've been having to go out and buy heaters. Electric heaters."

Space heaters have been cleared off the shelves in nearby stores, residents told News4. 

The outage began Thursday night when a water main broke and flooded a network of gas pipes that served several blocks. About 22 customers near 8th Street and Gorman Avenue had their service restored, Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said in a statement. But 401 others had to wait.

The company expects to restore service to more homes on Sunday, but also said in a statement that customers should expect "a continued multi-day interruption."

Crews were forced to find the water main break, stop the flow of water and visit each customer to turn off their gas meters, BGE said. Gas lines packed with mud and debris must be cleaned or replaced entirely.

Some customers may be forced to replace their own pipes and appliances if they got waterlogged, BGE said. Residents would have to pay for their own plumbers. 

"Not too happy about that," another resident told News4. "My neighbor said something about that could be a class action suit." 

Both apartments and single-family homes in an area between 8th Street, Montrose Avenue, Montgomery Street and Sandy Spring Road were affected.

If you are in the area and smell gas, move to a safe location and call your utility company, BGE said.

<![CDATA[News4 Catches Up With Maame Biney and Her Father After Loss]]> Mon, 19 Feb 2018 08:40:04 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/199*120/2018-02-19_0834.png New4's, Eun Yang, caught up with Virginia speed skater Maame Biney and her father.
View Full Story]]>
<![CDATA[NBC4 Celebrates Black History Month]]> Mon, 19 Feb 2018 07:12:20 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/618ns0242855jp1.jpg ]]> <![CDATA[Black Travel Guide Was Powerful Tool for Women Entrepreneurs]]> Mon, 19 Feb 2018 19:55:00 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/motorist+green+book+albertas+sister+12.jpg

Alberta Ellis ran a hotel in the 1950s that served African Americans who had nowhere else to go. 

She knew what it was like to be turned away because of the color of your skin. It happened to her own family as they drove more than 1,400 miles from Missouri to California.

"They would usually say there was no vacancy, even though their sign would be in neon lights saying vacancy," Ellis' granddaughter, Elizabeth Calvin, remembered. 

Ellis reported the hotels' actions but that did little to change anything, her granddaughter said. 

Determined to provide a safe space for African-American travelers, Ellis put together $10,000 in cash and bought an old hospital in Springfield, Missouri, at a city auction. She opened a small business she called Alberta's Hotel.

Calvin believes her grandmother purchased the hotel around 1954. That year, one of the first ads for the business appeared in "The Negro Motorist Green Book." 

The book, created in 1936 by Victor H. Green, helped black travelers across the country avoid "difficulties and embarrassment" while on the road. From 1936 until 1967, the "Green Book" listed hotels, restaurants and other establishments across the country that welcomed black customers.

The "Green Book" was more than a revolutionary way for African Americans to travel in this country; it was an economic engine for burgeoning entrepreneurs, particularly black women. 

In Washington, D.C., black women were also running successful businesses, and many of them were advertised in the "Green Book." 

"This is a time when there's very little ways for a black woman to move forward economically and professionally outside of domestic work," said Jennifer Reut, an architectural and landscape historian who runs a blog that maps "Green Book" sites.

'You Couldn’t Go to a Regular Hotel'

Ellis was already the owner of one successful business when she opened "Alberta's Hotel." 

But she was inspired to open the hotel because African Americans driving along Route 66 didn't have many options if they stopped in her city. 

"She built an empire, really, a tiny empire from this extremely skilled ability to look at the whole market and see what the need was," Reut said. 

"You couldn’t go to a regular hotel, so she probably saw it as a good business opportunity, as well as hospitality," Calvin added. 

The hotel was located along the business route for Route 66, an easy stop for travelers who were headed west. To get the word out, Ellis placed an ad in the "Green Book." 

Calvin said her grandmother was an avid traveler and likely knew about the "Green Book" before she advertised in it.

Soon, Alberta's Hotel was popular with travelers who passed through Springfield, including singer Nat King Cole and Harlem Globetrotter Reece "Goose" Tatum. 

Running a successful black-owned business in the 1950s didn't come without complications. Sometimes police officers brought prostitutes to the hotel to try and give it a bad name, Calvin said. 

"My brother remembers when white men would come to the hotel late at night with women, and my grandfather and grandmother would send them away," Calvin said. 

"This is not that kind of establishment. Don’t come in here looking for that," Calvin said her grandparents told them.

A land dispute also kept Ellis in court for much of the time she owned the hotel. 

"There was a wealthy man in town who was slated to get that hospital. But when she showed up to the auction with cash, they had to sell it to her," Calvin said. 

After about 10 years, Ellis lost the hotel to eminent domain. 

She didn't live much longer after losing the hotel. 

"Once that case was settled, she got sick," Calvin said. "She passed in 1966. She was only 56 years old."

'That Was Like the Black Downtown'

In Annapolis, Maryland, Florence Carr Sparrow and her sister, Elizabeth Carr Smith, ran two successful beach resorts. For nearly 50 years, Carr's Beach and Sparrow's Beach were safe havens for African-American families looking for a summer escape. 

Though they were already popular on their own, both beaches were listed in the "Green Book." 

In Washington, D.C., African-American travelers flocked to the Northwest quadrant for food, fun and somewhere to stay. 

"That was the main black area that had the most amenities. Theatres, clubs, florists. That was like the black downtown," said author and historian Patsy Fletcher. 

In the 1930s, Jean Clore opened the Old Rose Social Club on the corner of 7th and T streets NW. A few blocks away, she opened Hotel Clore.

Clore was young, attractive and had a knack for business, a 1938 article published in The Baltimore Afro-American said. 

"Ordinarily it takes the average club operator several years to build up such a business ... but Miss Clore has made her local reputation only since 1936," the article said.  

The hotel became a home for both travelers and celebrities performing at the nearby Howard Theatre. 

Clore was active in the National Council of Negro Women and other organizations. 

"She deserves recognition ... She was quite impressive," Fletcher said. 

Near Logan Circle, Myrtle Williams ran the Cadillac Hotel. The hotel on the 1500 block of Vermont Avenue NW opened in 1941.

But like Alberta's in Missouri, a cloud hung over the Cadillac Hotel and other black-owned businesses in D.C. 

Williams ran the Cadillac Hotel as a decent, respectable business, Fletcher said, but she was repeatedly accused of supporting prostitution. Like Ellis in Missouri, Williams discovered that undercover police officers brought prostitutes into her business and then arrested her guests if they solicited one of the women.

In 1977, Williams and a group of African-American residents in D.C.'s Logan Circle neighborhood organized to fight attempts to push them out of the area. 

People who wanted to buy the Cadillac Hotel's building repeatedly challenged the business' operating license so they could force the hotel out and later sell the building to middle-class whites, Fletcher, the historian, said. 

"Many urban renewal projects in the '60s targeted black neighborhoods," Reut, the architectural historian, said. "Lots and lots of 'Green Book' sites ended up disappearing because of this."

The passage of the Civil Rights Act also hurt some black-owned businesses.

As African Americans began going to places where they had been previously denied, some businesses were not able to bring in the revenue they needed.

The owners of many black-owned businesses were prepared, Reut said. 

"Everyone understood that when segregation was happening, these instruments were needed. But that when the time came -- and they were always pushing for this -- they won't need these things anymore. People understood that this was going to be the end of their business," Reut said.

Today, many businesses that were listed in the "Green Book" are gone and replaced with parking lots and shopping centers.

In D.C., some of the buildings that housed these businesses still stand. 

"The ones that tend to still be around are the ones that are in thriving business districts like Washington and the U Street Corridor," Reut said. "They haven't knocked these down yet."

The former home of Hotel Clore, located at 614 S Street NW, is now a multi-denominational church. The former home of the Cadillac Hotel, in Logan Circle, is now a luxury condominium complex. 

While many of these businesses no longer exist, the entrepreneurial spirit of these women lives on. Decades after Ellis' hotel shut down, her granddaughter moved back to Missouri and is following in her footsteps. 

"I bought an old horse stable and turned it into five units, and we rent out some of them as a B&B," Calvin said. "I learned from my grandmother."

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Calvin/NBC
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<![CDATA[A Look Back at DC's 'Black Broadway']]> Mon, 19 Feb 2018 11:51:24 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/cab+calloway+crop.jpg

Photo Credit: Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution]]>
<![CDATA[Deputy Injured During Barricade Situation; Man in Custody]]> Tue, 20 Feb 2018 10:46:04 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/2018-02-19_0606.png

A Prince George's County sheriff's deputy was stabbed Monday during a barricade situation in College Park, Maryland. 

The man's mother called police to the home on the 6900 block of Carleton Terrace about 3 a.m. to request a psychiatric order for her son. When a deputy arrived at the home, he was stabbed by the suspect. 

The deputy was taken to the hospital with a broken jaw and a couple of fractures, Prince George's County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sharon Taylor told The Washington Post. He is recovering well, she added.

At one point, the man climbed onto the roof of his home and leaned against its chimney. The man was eventually led off the roof and taken into custody just before 7 a.m. 

Renee Domogauer, who lives next door, said she was going to call police before they arrived, but that call had already come from the man's family. 

"Last thing I heard was the guy cursing loudly at about midnight," Domogauer said. "The guy does seem to have some history of emotional issues from what I can observe."

A large section of Route 1 was closed down because of the barricade, surprising some commuters. 

"A lot of police officers, a lot of action. I had to get one of them to let me in," said neighbor Aaron Lair.

No further information has been released. 

<![CDATA[DC-Area Teens to Hold 'Lie-in' for Florida Shooting Victims]]> Mon, 19 Feb 2018 00:32:55 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/gun+protest.jpg

Seventeen teenagers from the D.C. area will lay down on the ground outside of the White House on President's Day to represent the victims of the deadly shooting at a Florida high school and demand changes to gun laws.

The group, Teens for Gun Reform, is holding the "lie-in" for three minutes beginning at 12:15 p.m. Monday.

“We have organized this protest in solidarity with all of those who were affected by the horrific school shooting in Florida last Wednesday. We call on President Trump and leaders from both parties to finally act in the interest of America’s youth and end these tragic mass shootings! It is imperative that American children are safe in their classrooms, churches, malls, movie theaters and streets!” the teenage organizers said in a news release.

Democratic Congressman Don Beyer (Va.) is also planning to take part in the protest. Beyer is an advocate of gun control legislation.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Survivors of Florida Shooting Announce March on Washington]]> Sun, 18 Feb 2018 18:14:25 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Emma+Gonzalez+Florida+School+Shooting.jpg

Teen survivors of the deadly high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, plan to bring their call for stricter gun laws to Washington, D.C.

Five students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, including Emma Gonzalez, Cameron Kasky, David Hogg, Alex Wind and Jaclyn Corin announced their plans Sunday to mobilize in a nationwide march, including a demonstration in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, March 24.

"We're marching because it's not just schools. It's movie theaters, it's concerts, it's nightclubs," student Alex Wind told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday. "This kind of stuff can't just happen. You know, we are marching for our lives. We're marching for the 17 lives we lost and we're marching for our children's lives and our children's children and their children."

Dubbed the "March for Our Lives," organizers say "school safety is not a political issue," according to the march's site.

"There cannot be two sides to doing everything in our power to ensure the lives and futures of children who are at risk of dying when they should be learning, playing, and growing," reads the site.

Students are also planning a nationwide school walk-out on April 20, which marks the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.

“I will not feel safe going back to school, myself, until reasonable mental health care legislation and gun control legislation is passed because at this point, it’s unacceptable,” David Hogg said.

Hogg also addressed President Donald Trump directly in a passionate response to a recent tweet questioning Democrats' lack of gun control legislation.

“You're the President. You're supposed to bring this nation together, not divide us,” Hogg said.

President Trump will hold a listening session with students and teachers of the Florida high school on Wednesday. The White House did not immediately answer questions about which students would be attending the session.

Following the aftermath of the shooting, Parkland students hope events at the state and national level will call attention to their cause.

“We’re the only ones that can speak up,” Jaclyn Corin said. “We have to be the adults in this situation because clearly people have failed us in the government.”

Corin will drive nearly across the state of Florida in the next few days to join hundreds of students' as they voice pleas for stricter gun laws, in front of Florida's legislators in Tallahassee. 

The accused shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, had been expelled from the high school for disciplinary reasons. Students and neighbors said Cruz threatened and harassed people, posed with guns in disturbing photos on social media and bragged about target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Threat Made to 2 Virginia Middle Schools on Social Media]]> Mon, 19 Feb 2018 08:44:57 -0500 https://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/school-generic-cc.jpg

Northern Virginia authorities are investigating a social media post threatening two middle schools.

The Stafford County Sheriff's Office said on Twitter Sunday that the post threatened T. Benton Gayle Middle School in Stafford County and Thornburg Middle School in Spotsylvania County.

A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office said the post included a picture of a handgun and a threat to shoot up or cause harm at the schools, WTOP reports.

Detectives are working with Spotsylvania County authorities to get to the bottom of the threat, the spokeswoman told WTOP.

Stafford County Public Schools said it was aware of the threat made to Gayle Middle School and the sheriff's office would provide extra security to the school.

Students and teachers at Stafford County Public Schools do not have school on Monday for the President's Day holiday.

Students will attend classes at Spotsylvania County Public Schools on Monday and the school system said in a statement that there would be more deputies at Thornburg Middle School. 

"Spotsylvania County Public Schools takes these situations very seriously. School administration immediately contacted the Sheriff’s Office and an investigation was launched to determine the individual responsible and nature of this post," read part of the statement.

No further information was immediately available.

Stay with News4 and NBCWashington.com for updates.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Hero Images]]>