<![CDATA[NBC 6 South Florida - Top Stories]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/top-stories http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC+6+LOGO+GOOGLE.png NBC 6 South Florida http://www.nbcmiami.com en-us Fri, 29 May 2015 02:21:15 -0400 Fri, 29 May 2015 02:21:15 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Miami Beach Rabbi Arrested, Accused of Molestation]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 23:38:29 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Steve+Karro.jpg

A substitute Rabbi at Shaare Ezra Sephardic Synagogue Congregation on Miami Beach was arrested Thursday morning on molestation charges.

Steve Karro, 55, who is also an artist, is charged with molestation of a child under the age of 12 and lewd and lascivious conduct on a child under 16.

According to the police report, Karro touched and grabbed the buttocks of an 11-year-old girl over her clothing, while she was visiting his art gallery at 738 41st Street.

The police report said Karro also kissed the girl along her neck after sitting her on her lap. The girl got visibly nervous and rushed out of the gallery.

Karro and the girl have known each other for five years and prior to the girl running away, he gave her a small bag of candy and told the girl to not tell her mother about what had happened, according to the police report.

Police said Karro denied some of the allegations and said the reason he touched the girl on her buttocks was for a "cleansing" because she was exhibiting negative energy.

Karro bonded out of jail Thursday night. No one at the Shaare Ezra Sephardic Synagogue Congregation had any comment.

The Miami Beach Police Department wants to identify any additional potential victims. Anyone who is aware of any suspicious contact between Karro and any other juveniles is encouraged to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS.

Photo Credit: Miami Beach Police Dept.]]>
<![CDATA[1 Child Killed, 3 Hurt in Deerfield Beach Crash]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 23:45:24 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/052815+deerfield+beach+crash.jpg

One child was killed and three others badly injured in a serious car crash in Deerfield Beach Thursday, authorities said.

The crash happened shortly before 4 p.m. in the area of W. Hillsboro Boulevard and Northwest 2nd Avenue and involved a car and a pickup truck, Broward Sheriff's Office officials said.

"I was in the body shop on the other side and I heard the impact like a loud crash," a witness said.

Rush hour stalled while investigators and traffic homicide detectives tried to figure out how a black Ford Ranger slammed into a white Nissan Maxima.

"I'm a mother of four myself. So just seeing the kids lying down there, I'm still shaken up as you can see just from seeing that," said witness, Phedra Wiggins.

The Nissan's passenger side was left crushed and a tire smashed. The children, an 11-year-old, two 6-year-olds and a 4-year-old were all rushed from the scene in critical condition.

One airlifted, all admitted at Broward Health Medical Center as trauma alerts. One of the 6-year-olds, a girl, later died from her injuries. It appears that at least some of the children were not properly restrained, officials said.

Their mother was injured on the scene as well, but was more concerned about the children than herself.

"Hysterical you know, they was trying to see if she was okay, but she was worried about her kids which I can understand," said Wiggins.

The driver of the Ford and his passenger stayed on the scene and were interviewed by police.

They were visibly shaken and did not want to talk about the violent accident but others who saw the aftermath found the whole scene disturbing.

"Kind of bad, I don't know what to say because I'm not sure, but just from looking at them laying on the ground... accidents happen that's the best I can say and we can just say a prayer for them, the mother and the kids," Wiggins said.

Investigators are still trying to determine who was at fault in the crash.

Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-House Speaker Hastert Indicted]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 01:36:05 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.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[Store Owner Tackles Thief Who Stuffed Assault Rifle Down Pants]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 23:39:43 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/Marlon+Alvarez+Mug.jpg

A store owner in Davie took matters into his own hands, tackling a would-be thief outside of his store, and this wasn't your everyday shoplifter.

The thief was trying to walk out of the Public Pawn and Gun at 6798 Stirling Road with an assault rifle stuffed down his pants.

"By the time he left I noticed a bulge in his pants, so I followed him out," said owner, Kevin Hughes. "I didn't want to have an altercation in the store... too many customers and employees here."

Surveillance video shows the 19-year-old suspect, Marlon Alvarez, inspecting the three-foot long firearm inside the store for quite some time, then stuffed it down his pants and under his sweatshirt.

Hughes said the suspect first tried to get away with another AK-47. He stuck it down his pants and then changed his mind. He put it back and tried to get away with the other assault rifle.

"When he stuck it down his pants, it was about here inside his pants, when he grabbed it he pulled it like this," Hughes explained.

Alvarez then spent a few more minutes in the store and employees said they thought he was acting funny.

"He really was more interested in being left alone, or looking for an opportunity to do what he was doing I guess," said employee, Alan Weiner.

When Alvarez did go out the door, Hughes went after him unsure if the firearm was loaded.

"Anybody can load it especially if he's putting it down his pants he could've put one in the chamber yes. That's why I got on top of him, you don't have time to react, it can be scary, you just react," he said.

Alvarez eventually gave up the gun. Hughes took him to the ground but Alvarez got away -- running through the parking lot shirtless.

Davie Police officers caught up with him a few blocks away. Hughes said he was happy to have the $900 rifle back, but not because of the money.

"If he took that gun and killed 20 kids tomorrow at a school, I'm responsible for that, so that's not happening on my watch," Hughes said.

A judge decided to not let Alvarez bond out of jail on Wednesday because of previous charges against him in New York. And now Davie Police are tacking on a new theft charge.

<![CDATA[Dog Walker Finds Body in Suitcase]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 23:56:37 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.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[Did Miami Beach Mayor Go Too Far on Double-Parked Trucks?]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 19:13:53 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/052815+miami+beach+mayor+philip+levine.jpg

Anyone who drives the narrow, crowded streets of South Beach knows well the problems created by double-parked vehicles, especially by bulky delivery trucks.

The city commission last July enacted an ordinance requiring delivery truck owners to buy permits before being allowed to use spaces set aside for them to load and unload.

Still, Mayor Philip Levine told NBC 6 Investigators, the problem persists.

“We’re seeing these 18-wheelers double parking on our main streets. They’re ignoring our ordinances and the quality life of the people living here has been dramatically affected by it,” Levine said.

Now, the mayor’s war on double-parking is pitting the city against drivers for one of its biggest corporate sponsors: Coca-Cola, which pays the city $4 million over 10 years to be the official soft drink of Miami Beach.

In March, police arrested one Coca-Cola delivery truck driver who refused to show his driver’s license after he was going to be ticketed for double parking, charging him with resisting an officer without violence.

Three weeks later, it was the mayor himself who helped police cite another Coca-Cola truck that was double parked.

Powerful as he is, the mayor cannot issue citations himself; police officers must see an infraction themselves before they can cite a truck.

So if the truck Levine spotted double parked around noon on March 24 in the 1500 block of Washington Avenue drove off before police arrived, police could not issue a citation.

Surveillance video and police radio and dispatch recordings reveal a private security guard who works for the mayor and commission called in the incident. Two police cars quickly responded with emergency lights flashing, while a police captain was clearly aware the mayor was on the scene, asking a subordinate at one point if the mayor had yet left.

What happened next is unclear because, since NBC 6 Investigators started asking questions, Coca-Cola shut down all communications on the incident -- declining to answer any questions about it -- and Miami Beach Police refused to comment or make available for interviews officers who witnessed the encounter.

But three Coke drivers told NBC 6 Investigators the driver who was allegedly confronted by Levine claims the mayor entered the truck’s cab and took the keys, disabling the truck until police could arrive and issue the $33 citation.

Local blogs, including Random Pixels and a bulletin board frequented by police officers, questioned whether those actions by the mayor, if true, may have crossed a legal line.

When we tried to ask the mayor himself about his actions, he did not deny taking the keys – he deflected.

“What I do all the time is…” Levine started, before being reminded by a reporter that the question was about what he did specifically on that day.

Levine then responded, “I don’t want to get into he said, she said.”

Reporter: “I’d like to know, you’re the mayor: What do you say?”

Mayor: "I’ll tell you what I do. I try to make sure that our police enforce and I want our residents to be taking pictures of these 18-wheelers.”

Reporter: “Should they be taking the keys out of the cab?”

Mayor: “I think what they should do is take pictures.”

After further back and forth, the reporter noted: “You’re not answering the questions.”

Mayor: “Come on, Tony. I don’t want to get into he said, she said.”

And again a bit later:

Mayor: “It is against the law for them to double park.”

Reporter: “Is it against the law to take keys?”

Mayor: “Tony, we can’t allow it.”

Reporter: “Please answer the question.”

Mayor: “Oh, come on. We don’t want to get into he said, she said.”

Levine would neither confirm nor deny the action.

Reporter: “If someone went into your car and took the keys, would you call the police?”

Mayor: “So, Tony, I think you absolutely must enforce the law.”

Reporter: “So, did you break the law?”

Mayor: “We can’t allow these trucks to double park.”

Reporter: “Did you break the law?”

Mayor: “So, Tony what I do is, we make the law here, get the residents involved, we want them to be active. But Tony we can’t allow the quality of life of our residents to constantly be infringed by this.”

Reporter: “And you can’t allow yourself to answer a question.”

Mayor: “Channel 6 didn’t double park I hope. Right?”

Reporter: “If I went into your car and took your keys, wouldn’t that be breaking the law?”

Mayor: “He said, she said, I’m not going to get into that.”

As for the concern about double-parked trucks, we did find one Coke truck parked illegally, blocking the only lane of traffic on a sometimes busy street. But there were no signs of a citation being issued, or of an angry mayor taking the keys.

That truck was making its delivery to Miami Beach City Hall.

In addition to the $4 million Coke pays the city, it’s required to supply the city with 450 cases of free Coke products every year.

Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[Wade Open to Idea of Leaving Heat: Report]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 18:08:08 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/469620570.jpg

The Miami Heat could have a dilemma on their hands as Dwyane Wade would consider leaving the team, according to a report by the Miami Herald.

Wade has a player option for the 2015-16 season which would pay him $16.1 million if he does not decide to opt out of his deal. It is widely expected that Wade will indeed opt out of the contract, but he could still work out a new deal with the Heat.

Wade has played his entire 12-year career with the Heat and has been a member of all three championship teams. When LeBron James bolted last off-season, Wade was vocal about his desire to be a "Heat Lifer". However, he would still appear to be paid handsomely for his services at the same time.

The report states that the Heat and Wade have big differences in opinion when it comes to his value over the next three seasons. While Wade would apparently like to be paid like a superstar, the team would prefer to get him at a bargain rate. The goal of that mindset for Miami would be flexibility to add more players around Wade.

When James and Chris Bosh joined Wade in 2010, the three men took less money in order to make a run at multiple titles. Wade once again gave Miami a discount last off-season while his counterpart Bosh signed a max deal.

If Wade opts out and ends up outside of Miami, Pat Riley and his staff will find themselves in a precarious position. Not only is Wade an important on-court presence, but it'd be a big loss off-the-court as well where Wade is a local hero.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Two Hialeah Police K-9s Found Dead at Davie Home]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 19:21:33 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/K-9+Death.jpg

Police responded to a scene in Davie where two Hialeah police K-9s were found deceased Wednesday.

The police dogs were with an off-duty Hialeah K-9 officer when they died at his Davie home.

Both the Hialeah and Davie Police Departments are investigating.

Investigators say Officer Nelson Enriquez left the work dogs in his marked police vehicle Wednesday morning and discovered the 7-year-old Bloodhound and 4-year-old Belgium Malinois dead in the evening.

The bloodhound, Jimmy, was donated to the police department seven years ago by the Jimmy Ryce Center. Hector was the name of the Belgium Malinois.

"I am deeply saddened to learn of the tragic death of two remarkable police dogs from the Hialeah Police Department, 'Jimmy' and 'Hector,' said Don Ryce, with the Jimmy Ryce Center. "Our mission is stronger than ever and with the public's help we hope to be able to raise funds to replace these dogs."

The officer's SUV was towed away by investigators.

Officer Enriquez, a 13-year veteran of the department who has been a K-9 handler for the past seven years, has been relieved of duty pending the outcome of the investigation.

"The Hialeah Police Department is extremely saddened by this unfortunate occurrence and every effort will be made to determine the cause of this terrible tragedy which claimed the lives of two very beloved members of our Hialeah Police family," the department said in a statement.

The K-9s will be taken to the University of Florida in Gainesville to undergo necropsies and will be escorted by members of the Hialeah Police Honor Guard and Motormen detail, officials said.

Photo Credit: NBCMIami.com]]>
<![CDATA[Video Shows DEA Agents Were Aggressors in Bar Fight: Attorney]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 19:19:53 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/052815+bokampers+fight+video.jpg

A group of DEA agents were attending a party inside Bokamper's Sports Bar and Grill in Fort Lauderdale in March, when they claim they were battered by two men outside.

The police report paints the men as the aggressors baiting the agents into a fight.

On Thursday, a defense attorney said newly released surveillance video paints an entirely different picture.

On March 5th, police arrested Gregory Bradley, 29, and Steven Jenrette, 22, for battering a man they later discovered was a DEA agent.

It all started when they went into Bokamper's to pick up some food. Jenrette claims the agent was drunk and called him the "N" word.

"The one guy, the one who was injured, he bumped into the bar and he knocked himself over so we laughed," Jenrette said during his police interrogation.

Surveillance video obtained by NBC 6 appears to show the group of off-duty agents walking out after them. And from another camera, you can see a federal agent walk up to Jenrette.

Once their chests touch, Jenrette is seen pushing the agent. Jenrette and Bradley are then seen walking across the parking lot away from the agents.

Later, from the camera at the front door, the DEA agents are seen following after them again. The altercation that took place next happened off camera.

The agent claims Bradley threw a rock at him, knocking him to the ground giving him a concussion. A worker gave a statement saying the rock was never thrown. And Jenrette claims Bradley held it up in self defense.

Jenrette's attorney believes the video contradicts what the agents claim happened in the police report.

"The video proves that's not the case, it appears that the DEA are the aggressors, that they're pursuing the two guys who ended up getting charged," said attorney Ed Hoeg.

The investigating officer wrote in the report that all of the witnesses were about 40 feet away, so they could not have seen precisely what happened.

The case is now headed to trial for a judge and jury to determine what happened.

<![CDATA[Man Charged in Fatal 2014 Crash in Hialeah]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 18:13:32 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/052815+duniel+garcia.jpg

A man is facing DUI and manslaughter charges in a fatal 2014 crash in Hialeah, authorities said.

Duniel Garcia, 38, is charged with DUI manslaughter and DUI causing serious bodily injury in the January 8, 2014 crash on Okeechobee Road.

Garcia was arrested Wednesday and was being held on $25,000 bond Thursday. He was appointed a public defender at a bond court hearing Thursday.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, two vehicles were involved in the 3:30 a.m. crash. One of the vehicles lost control, rolled over the median and struck the other car.

According to an arrest report, Garcia was behind the wheel of a 1998 BMW when he collided with a 1994 Toyota Corolla.

The passenger in the Corolla, 38-year-old Ernesto Montalvo Arias, was killed in the crash. The driver, 61-year-old Lorenzo Valle Moreno, suffered serious bodily injuries and was hospitalized.

Garcia was also hospitalized with serious injuries, the report said.

According to the report, an FHP trooper went into an ambulance to speak with Garcia after the crash and smelled a strong odor of alcohol coming from his breath.

Photo Credit: Miami-Dade Corrections]]>
<![CDATA[Hillary Clinton Attends South Florida Fundraisers]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 23:47:47 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/AP354487645528.jpg

Hillary Clinton waved at the cameras as she left her final stop of the day after an evening of fundraising in South Florida.

Nilda Milton, whose late husband Jose, was a real estate developer-- hosted the event at her Gables Estates home.

"The event was really great. She was very natural. You could tell how passionate she is and how much she cares about America," said supporter, Joanna Popper.

Democratic supporters greeted the presidential hopeful behind closed doors and welcomed this early stop in her campaign run.

"She really wants to go out there. She wants to pursue a strong policy against Iran, but at the same time she's not a Rand Paul for example," said supporter, Tania Cruz-Gimenez.

"It was great to see her in a small venue and get a chance to talk to her a little bit one on one," added Popper.

Earlier in the evening, Clinton also spent time at the Coconut Grove home of trial attorney Ira Leesfield, however, at that stop she was also met by protestors.

"I'm here as someone who used to support her, used to trust her, to say Hillary you've lied, you've cheated, you've taken the money," said protestor, Bob Kunst.

It's no surprise Florida plays an important role when it comes down to the presidential race. And some at the fundraiser believe Miami's own Marco Rubio and other republicans are no match for Clinton.

"It's questionable how strong Jeb's and Marco's support is here to be honest with you," Cruz-Gimenez said.

Clinton will spend the night in South Florida. She is scheduled to attend another fundraiser in Parkland on Friday.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Key West Installs 4 Rainbow Crosswalks for LGBT Support]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 23:42:55 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/186*120/KW+Crosswalks.JPG

Pedestrians, bicycles and cars are traversing a colorful new section of Key West's Duval Street following the installation of four permanent rainbow crosswalks.

Completed Thursday at the intersection of Duval and Petronia streets, the crosswalks feature all six colors of the rainbow flag, an internationally recognized gay and lesbian icon.

City workers laid pre-formed thermoplastic color blocks on the pavement, alternating with white stripes, and heat-treated them to permanently affix the colors.

The rainbow crosswalks exemplify the island city's longstanding support for diversity. The city commission adopted the motto "One Human Family" in 2000, proclaiming equality and acceptance for all. Key West is known as a LGBT vacation destination.

The crosswalks' official debut is planned for June 10 to kick off the annual Key West Pride celebration.

<![CDATA[So. Fla. Realtor Accused of Defrauding Siblings]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 20:24:45 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/realtor+charges.jpg

A South Florida woman is accused of altering her stepfather's will to steal money from her siblings.

Broward Sheriff's Office investigators say shortly after her stepfather died in 2013, Gursky falsified the value of his estate and forged her siblings signatures, to steal more than $100,000 in inheritance.

According to her LinkedIn account, Brigitte Lee Gursky works as a realtor.

Gursky is facing several charges, including grand theft and forgery.

Photo Credit: Broward Sheriff's Office]]>
<![CDATA[Cupertino Nixes Fireworks Show]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 16:51:45 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.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[President Obama Visiting Miami for Fundraisers, NHC Briefing]]> Wed, 27 May 2015 19:11:40 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/AP924608241433.jpg

President Barack Obama arrived in Miami Wednesday to visit the National Hurricane Center and attend two Democratic Party fundraisers.

Air Force One landed at Miami International Airport just before 4 p.m. and President Obama was greeted by Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

The two fundraisers are scheduled for Wednesday. About 90 supporters have paid about $33,400 to attend, according to the DNC.

On Thursday, President Obama will take part in the NHC's annual hurricane preparedness briefing. The 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1.

<![CDATA[Hostage Describes "Nice" Suspect]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 21:44:45 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.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.nbcmiami.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[Grass Fire in Southwest Miami-Dade]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 18:11:46 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/052815+miami-dade+grass+fire.jpg

Firefighters responded to a grass fire in southwest Miami-Dade Thursday, officials said.

The fire broke out in the area of Southwest 122nd Avenue and 228th Street, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials said.

The fire was contained and Florida Forest Service crews were putting out spot fires, officials said.

About five acres had been burned as well as some power lines, officials said. Southwest 122nd Avenue was closed between 222nd Street and 232nd Street.

No injuries were reported and no homes were evacuated or damaged.

Check back with NBC 6 for updates.

Photo Credit: NBC6.com]]>
<![CDATA[Shooting Suspect Barricaded in Apt.]]> Fri, 29 May 2015 01:32:03 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.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[Woman Beat Boy With Sack of Potatoes: Deputies]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 14:30:40 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/052815+rachel+salters.jpg

A central Florida woman is facing charges after authorities say she hit a 12-year-old boy repeatedly with a sack of potatoes.

Rachel Salters, 46, is charged with child abuse without great harm and destroying or tampering with physical evidence following her arrest Wednesday at an Orange City home, according to a Volusia County Sheriff's Office report.

Salters remained behind bars without bond Thursday, jail records showed. It was unknown if she has an attorney.

According to the report, the boy had asked Salters to make him dinner when they got into an argument. The argument led to her "picking up a full bag of potatoes and begin swinging it at him," the report said.

The child ran away and tried to hide in a bathroom, but Salters kicked the door until it broke open and then hit the boy in the head with the bag of potatoes, the report said.

When the bag broke open, Salters started throwing potatoes at the boy, according to the report. The child wasn't physically injured.

After a deputy responded, Salters moved a potato from the bathroom into the kitchen after the deputy told her not to touch anything, the report said.

"I didn't hit him with the potato, I only threw it at him!" Salters said, according to the report.

Photo Credit: Volusia County Sheriff's Office]]>
<![CDATA[Men Wanted for Smash and Grab Jewelry Thefts]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 18:12:49 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/052815+smash+and+grab+miami+dade.jpg

Police are looking for a group of men accused in a series of smash and grab jewelry thefts in Miami-Dade.

According to police, the group of men have targeted several flea markets throughout Miami-Dade since March.

In the robberies, a few of the men leap over the counters and smash the glass display cases removing jewelry, while the others stand by with the getaway car and high powered rifles.

Yakov Alisha relived the robbery of his jewelry shop in the 79th Street Flea Market in Miami, which was captured on surveillance video.

"A couple of guys jumped on me, put me down, tried to hurt me and they were taking the jewelry, opening the showcases and taking the jewelry," Alisha said.

The robbery happened on May 7th at 4:30 in the afternoon. Within seconds, the robbers made out with over $250,000 in gold.

Detectives say two other robberies happened at the Flea market and also nearby on the 7th and the 26th of March.

All five suspects were caught on surveillance video and now detectives are linking them to other crimes in Broward County.

They've been seen with two different cars, police say. One, a black Nissan Maxima, and the other a black Nissan SUV.

They're all described as black men in their early to mid 20's, all standing between 5'7" and 6'2".

All five men are described as having thin to muscular builds.

Police believe the men may also be connected to a similar robbery at a Lauderhill jewelry store.

The group of men were seen smashing display cases and taking thousands of dollars worth of gold chains. The shop owner and her female clerks fought back, but the men still managed to get away with more than $200,000 worth of pure gold chains.

"I want them to get caught so another jewelry shop doesn't get robbed like me again," said owner Sue Shimochi, who was seen in the surveillance video fighting off the robbers with a metal stick.

"I hope they're going to get caught because it keeps going on," added Alisha.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS.

Photo Credit: Miami-Dade Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[MADD Recognition Ceremony]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 13:31:18 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/WTVJ_000000018390671_1200x675_452950083531.jpg An annual recognition ceremony honoring Miami-Dade police officers, along with private citizens for their part in ending DUI crime was held Wednesday evening.]]> <![CDATA[Air Force Academy Grad is 1st from N. Miami-Dade in 14 Years]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 12:09:27 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.com/images/213*120/052815+US+air+force+grad+john+miller+wilard.jpg

A South Florida graduate of the prestigious United States Air Force Academy can be especially proud of his accomplishment.

The newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant John Miller, of North Miami Beach, is the first nominee from Florida's 24th Congressional District to graduate from the academy in more than a decade.

Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson sent a letter congratulating the now 2nd Lt. Miller of the United States Air Force, calling his accomplishment the "culmination of the hard work and perseverance that is required to graduate from such a prestigious academy."

Lt. Miller's family and close friends were on hand at the United States Air Force Academy, located just north of Colorado Springs. He was commissioned during the official graduation ceremony Thursday morning.

Lt. Miller is off next to training and will be assigned to work alongside the Army controlling air strikes.

The U.S. Air Force Academy is among the most selective colleges in the nation. In order to be considered, candidates must first secure a nomination, generally from one of their members of Congress. Aside from academic achievement and demonstrated leadership, potential students must also undergo rigorous fitness tests, a character assessment and a medical evaluation.

Cadets don't pay tuition, but commit to serve a number of years in the military upon graduation.

According to the Colorado Springs official website, recent incoming classes have consisted of about 1,400 cadets. Of that, just under 1,000 usually make it all the way to graduation.

Once completed, graduates of the program earn a Bachelor of Science degree and most are commissioned as second lieutenants.

<![CDATA[Student Rescued by Cops Graduates]]> Thu, 28 May 2015 11:56:53 -0400 http://media.nbcmiami.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.nbcmiami.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.nbcmiami.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.nbcmiami.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.nbcmiami.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.nbcmiami.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]]>