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Fire department raffles AR-15 rifle, draws criticism

A California fire department is facing criticism after offering an AR-15 rifle as a raffle prize at a fundraiser just days after police said a 19-year-old used the same weapon to gun down 17 people at a high school in Florida.

>> Read more trending news

Allison Merrill told the Sacramento Bee that she was so offended by the gun, which was raffled Saturday during the Cameron Park Fire Department’s crab feed, that she and her friends walked out of the event.

“When we walked out, the flag was at half-mast in front of the community center, and it was just so striking, how tone-deaf the whole event was,” she told the Bee. “We walk out and there’s the flag at half-mast for all those kids.”

Police believe the shooter in last week’s deadly attack in Parkland, Florida, used an AR-15 when he killed 14 students and three teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“To have our first responders be the ones kind of offering a military-style assault rifle as a prize – putting that out into our community, especially right now – it was appalling,” Merrill told KOVR.

>> Related: Florida school shooting: Probe focuses on gunman's motives, victims' lives

Merrill told the news station that she spoke with the fire chief, who apologized and acknowledged that the gun raffle could be seen as insensitive. She told the Bee that event organizers refunded her and each of her three friends the $40 fee for the event, although she added to KCRA that “the money wasn’t really an issue.”

“I was deeply disturbed by it,” Nancy Lugo, who attended the event with Merrill, told the Bee. “Not only the timing of the recent shootings but also the fact that it’s that easy to get an AR-15.”

>> Related: Third-graders in Missouri selling raffle tickets for AR-15 weapon

Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean told KCRA that the Cameron Park Fire Department has held similar fundraisers since 2002. The fire department is under contract with Cal Fire, according to KCRA.

“These weapons are not any different than anything you could go into the gun store and buy,” McLean told the Bee, adding that the fundraiser was planned before last week’s deadly shooting.

The gun was taken to a gun store after the raffle, McLean said, where it will stay for a 10-day waiting period required by law as officials run background checks to ensure the winner of the raffle can legally own the firearm.

"I understand the concerns, by all means," McLean told KCRA. "No harm was intended."

’Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ celebrates 50th anniversary

It’s been “a beautiful day in this neighborhood” for 50 years.

Feb. 19, 1968, was the day that PBS aired the first episode of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and the lessons that Fred Rogers taught still resonate today. A re-imagined tales of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” several televised tributes and even a feature-length movie remind us of the legacy of Mr. Rogers. 

According to his official biography from the foundation that carries on his mission of education, Rogers was born in 1928 in the small town of Latrobe, Penn., east of Pittsburgh. After getting a degree in music composition, he was hired by NBC in New York as an assistant producer and eventually a floor director for some of the network’s programming in the ’50s.

History was made in 1953 when WQED in Pittsburgh asked Rogers to come up with their first schedule. He produced a show called “The Children’s Corner,” where he  introduced characters such as Daniel Striped Tiger, X the Owl and Henrietta Pussycat.

Those characters have found new life on “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” where children now learn those positive messages not in puppet form, but from cartoons. 

Fred Rogers’ belief in kindness led him to seminary, where he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Instead of moving toward a traditional religious calling, his charge was “to continue his work with children and families through the mass media.”

In 1963, he was offered the opportunity to start a show in Canada called “Misterogers.” Three years later, he went back to Pittsburgh and created a new show called “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which went national 50 years ago, on what would become PBS.

Fred Rogers died on Feb. 27, 2003, in Pittsburgh and was survived by his wife, Joanne, and their two sons and three grandsons.

>> Read more trending news 

Rogers’ message of love and kindness still resonates today. When there is a national tragedy, memes or video clips of Fred Rogers telling children and adults alike to “look for the helpers” gives those who need it a moment of reassurance that everything will be OK.

“Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” also helped launch the careers of some current stars. 

Actress Ming-Na Wen, known for her role as Agent Melinda May on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and as the voice of Disney’s Mulan, appeared on the show.

Bill Nye the Science Guy appeared on an episode in 1997 to help everyone’s neighbor perform an experiment, Entertainment Weekly reported.

Rogers also introduced kids to various genres of music, thanks to guest stars who dropped by, including Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma and Tony Bennett, Entertainment Weekly reported.

Michael Keaton, who went by his original name at the time, Michael Douglas, had one of his first jobs working as a stagehand on the show. He helped operate the iconic trolley, CBS News reported. He was also one of the “Flying Zookeeni Brothers,” Parade reported.

Keaton will host a one-night-only PBS special that pays tribute to Rogers on March 6. “Mister Rogers, It’s You I Like” will feature Keaton and cast regulars, including Joe Negri, who portrayed Handyman Negri, and David Newell, who portrayed Mr. McFeely.

Rogers will also be remembered by guests Judd Apatow, Whoopi Goldberg and Sarah Silverman, according to PBS.

But that’s not the only remembrance planned for Mr. Rogers. Starting on Feb. 26, PBS Kids will run a weeklong tribute to Rogers, PBS announced

A forever stamp will also honor Rogers this year and is scheduled to be released on March 23, WPXI reportedAnd a biopic has been announced in which Tom Hanks has been slated to star as Rogers.

Petition seeks military burial for Parkland JROTC cadet who died saving fellow students

Peter Wang died proudly wearing his gray JROTC uniform, holding open doors so several of his classmates could escape the gunfire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week. 

Though those classmates made it, Peter did not. And now, a White House petition has been established seeking full military honors at the burial of the 15-year-old freshman who was among 17 people killed in the Valentine’s Day school shooting.

As of Monday morning, the petition had reached just over 23,000 signatures. A petition must reach 100,000 signatures to get a response from the White House. 

The petition states that Peter was last seen, in uniform, holding doors open so that other students, teachers and staff members could escape.

“His selfless and heroic actions have led to the survival of dozens in the area,” the petition states. “Wang died a hero, and deserves to be treated as such, and deserves a full honors military burial.”

Friends of the teen said they want people to know how selfless he was, according to WPLG News 10 in Pembroke Park

“I want people to know that he died a hero; that he died saving many people,” friend and classmate Aiden Ortiz told the news station

His selflessness extended into his everyday actions, classmate Rachel Kuperman said. She recalled the last time she saw Peter, the day before he was slain. 

“I forgot my lunch that day, and he went to the vending machine with me and he bought me Sprite and candy and snacks,” Rachel said. “He put others before himself.”

Fox News reported that it would take government intervention for Peter to receive a military funeral, since JROTC does not provide basic training and thus does not count as military service. JROTC, or the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, is a federal program for middle and high school students that focuses on citizenship, service to the community and country and personal achievement.  

Peter was not the only JROTC cadet credited with springing into action that day. Colton Haab, a junior at Stoneman Douglas, heard gunshots and ushered several dozen people into the JROTC room.

>> Read more trending news

There, he and other cadets grabbed Kevlar sheets used for marksmanship practice and held them up in front of the students huddled together.

“We took those sheets and we put them in front of everybody so they weren’t seen, because they were behind a solid object and the Kevlar would slow the bullet down,” Colton told CNN the day after the shooting. “I didn’t think it was going to stop it, but it would definitely slow it down to make it from a catastrophic to a lifesaving thing.”

Peter’s cousin, Aaron Chen, described him to the Miami Herald as brave, while Peter’s best friend, Gabriel Ammirata, said he was “funny, nice and a great friend.”

“He’s been my best friend since third grade,” Gabriel told the Herald

Gabriel planned to celebrate Chinese New Year with Peter the day after the shooting at the Chinese restaurant Peter’s family owns, the Herald reported. Instead, he and members of Peter’s family started the new day frantically searching for information on Peter’s whereabouts. 

The teen’s parents speak Mandarin and very little English. 

Jesse Pan, a neighbor of Peter’s, has been sharing information about him and his funeral arrangements on social media. Peter’s family has a funeral planned for Tuesday at Kraeer Funeral Home, in Coral Springs.

An obituary on the funeral home’s website reiterates Peter’s ultimate sacrifice in the face of danger.

“He loved being in the JROTC and planned on attending (the) United States Military Academy at West Point,” the obituary read

Peter loved the Houston Rockets, hip-hop music, playing basketball and spending time with friends. He also aspired to become a world-renowned chef. 

He is survived by his parents and two younger brothers.

GoFundMe page created to help his family with expenses exceeded its $15,000 goal in just three days. 

Originally, proceeds (were) going to the help with misc. expenses, but the family has decided that they want to donate the money to Stoneman Douglas for their ROTC program,” the page creator, Chino Leong, wrote. “They want to ensure that future generations of kids are taught the same values that the program has instilled in Peter.”

Retired Florida deputy fatally shot son-in-law, investigators say

A retired Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed his son-in-law — the father of his two young grandsons — Sunday night in The Acreage, according to authorities.

>> Read more trending news

Carlton Nebergall Jr., 61, was arrested early Monday on a first-degree murder charge in the death of Jacob Lodge, 36, who was in divorce proceedings with Nebergall’s daughter, court records show. Nebergall appeared Monday morning with his attorney, Michael Salnick, in front of Judge Ted Booras. Booras recused himself from the case, though, saying, “I’ve known the defendant for too many years.”

Nebergall will remain in the Palm Beach County Jail until at least Wednesday, when another judge can rule on his bond requirements.

Nebergall was taken into custody late Sunday after deputies responded to a home on the far east end of Mellow Court, near the Pond Cypress Natural Area, following a shooting. Authorities found Lodge fatally shot at about 8:30 that night. He was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Sheriff’s authorities have not commented on what may have motivated the retired deputy to shoot Lodge. Court records indicate Nebergall’s daughter filed for a divorce from Lodge last month.

Lodge’s younger brother, Clint, said Monday that Nebergall’s daughter and Lodge had an “off-and-on, love-hate relationship” for about a decade. They had two boys, ages 9 and 5, according to Clint Lodge. They had been living separately prior to Lodge’s death, his brother said.

He said Lodge and Nebergall had argued before over Nebergall’s daughter. He wasn’t sure what led up to his brother’s killing.

“He was far from perfect, but he didn’t deserve that,” Clint Lodge said about his brother, calling him “one of the best, just somebody you could really look up to.” Records indicate Jacob Lodge was scheduled to be on probation until May 2019 in a theft-related case. He had another open theft case in which he was accused of stealing from his former employer, an air-conditioning company. He pleaded not guilty to those charges.

His in-laws’ law enforcement backgrounds led to conflict about being on “the right side of the law,” Clint Lodge said.

Nebergall worked at the Lantana Police Department from 1981 to 1985, when he joined the sheriff’s office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement records state. He worked at the sheriff’s office until his retirement in 2012.

His son, Jason Nebergall, joined him at the sheriff’s office in 2007, state records show. However, during his nine years on the job, the younger Nebergall was accused of being overly aggressive, pulling a gun on a fellow deputy and engaging in sexual misconduct at a West Palm Beach-area nightclub while on duty and in full uniform.

In December 2016, Jason Nebergall, a U.S. Air Force member, was arrested after a then-26-year-old woman accused him of sexually battering her months earlier. He had responded to the woman’s home earlier on the night of the alleged incident for a disturbance call and returned to “check in” on her, he said. He denied inappropriately touching her, though his DNA was found on her breasts.

He had been placed on paid administrative in July 2016, after the sheriff’s office was alerted to the allegations. It was not immediately known whether he is still on the sheriff’s office’s payroll.

Salnick is representing the younger Nebergall through the legal proceedings of that case, which remains open while Nebergall is out of jail on a $100,000 surety bond. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to be torn down

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School won’t return to the building where Nikolas Cruz is accused of shooting into classrooms, killing 17 people on Valentine’s Day, according to a reporter for CBS4 News in Miami. 

>> Read more trending news

The building, which is one of several on the campus, will be torn down and replaced with a memorial, assuming the school district receives funding from state lawmakers, reporter Jim DeFede said in a series of tweets Friday afternoon. 

Roughly 900 students attended class in the building, and the school is already at capacity, according to the report.

Magically delicious: Unicorns added to Lucky Charms lineup

Unicorns are now magically delicious as Lucky Charms has introduced the first permanent change to its product in 10 years.

>> Read more trending news

General Mills, the parent company for the cereal, announced in a news release that magical unicorn marshmallows will be a permanent part of the breakfast food. It replaces the hourglass marshmallow that was retired earlier this month.

General Mills went on social media and asked consumers to choose the newest design. After tapping “into the imagination and creativity of young minds,” the decision to choose the unicorn form was “unanimous.”

“Our goal is to not only create a cereal that families and cereal fans will love and enjoy, but to inspire magical possibilities and help spark imagination and fun no matter what the age,” Josh DeWitt, marketing manager of Lucky Charms, said in the release. “That's why, after 10 years, we decided to introduce a new charm with the help of the keepers of magic themselves – kids. They spoke, and after hearing their love for the magical unicorn, we listened.”

The Magical Unicorn product will join the original and chocolate brands of Lucky Charms on shelves and will be available in three different sizes, the company said: 11.5 ounces ($3.99), 16 ounces ($4.49) and 20.5 ounces ($4.99). It will be available more widely at major grocery retailers and big box stores in March, according to the news release.

The new unicorn charms already have been appearing in the original and chocolate brands of the cereal. They will join hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers, blue moons, rainbows and red balloons.

Here is a Lucky Charms commercial from the 1960s:

And here is one from 2017:

Family who took in Nikolas Cruz: 'We just didn't know'

The family that took in suspected school shooter Nikolas Cruz after his adoptive mother died suddenly last year said that, although the 19-year-old was troubled, it was unaware of any red flags to hint beforehand that he planned to carry out last week’s deadly attack.

>> Read more trending news

Cruz opened fire Wednesday on students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in what police believe was a preplanned attack, authorities said last week. The shooting left 14 students and three teachers dead. More than a dozen other people were injured.

“We knew he had troubles and a couple of issues, but I’ve raised three boys, and I thought we could help,” James Snead told The New York Times on Sunday. “It’s a very selfish thing he did -- aside from the families he hurt, he hurt the family that tried to help him and give him a chance.”

>> Related: Florida school shooting: What we know about the victims

James Snead and his wife, Kimberly Snead, told the Times that they took in Cruz after their son, who knew Cruz from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, asked if he could move in with them. Cruz had been staying with a friend of his mother’s after she died Nov. 1 of pneumonia, according to the Times.

“We didn’t know he had such an evil past,” James Snead told the Times. “We just didn’t know.”

>> Related: FBI didn't investigate tip about Nikolas Cruz before deadly school shooting

School records obtained by WPLG showed Cruz had a lengthy disciplinary record beginning in 2012, when he was in middle school. He faced disciplinary action five times while attending Marjory Stoneman Douglas High from January 2016 to February 2017, WPLG reported.

School administrators in January 2017 recommended a threat assessment be done for Cruz after an alleged assault, according to WPLG. Details on that incident were not immediately available, although James Snead told the Times that Cruz had to leave school because of fighting.

>> Related: Classmate of Nikolas Cruz says ‘No one has ever been a friend to him’

The Sneads said Cruz was struggling with depression stemming from his mother’s death but that he appeared to be doing better, according to the Times. The couple had planned to have him see a counselor this week.

They said in an appearance on “Good Morning America” that they saw Cruz at the police station Wednesday when he was brought in after his arrest.

“I went after him,” Kimberly Snead said. “I wanted to strangle him more than anything.”

She said she yelled, “Really, Nik? Really?” Cruz mumbled something in response.

“He said he was sorry,” Kimberly Snead told “Good Morning America.” “I was furious. Heartbroken. Devastated. I still can’t process it, what he’s done. This wasn’t the person we knew. Not at all.”

>> Related: Florida school shooting: Teacher of the year's emotional Facebook post goes viral

James Snead said the family has gone through “a roller coaster of emotions” since learning of Cruz’s alleged role in Wednesday’s massacre.

"It's still tough. We're still hurting. We're still grieving," he said on “Good Morning America.” "Everything everybody seems to know, we didn't know.”

FBI officials said they investigated a comment made last year on YouTube by a user who was going by the name “Nikolas Cruz.”

“The comment simply said, ‘I’m going to be a professional school shooter,’” Rob Lasky, the FBI special agent in charge of the agency’s Miami division, said Thursday. Authorities were unable to verify the identity of the poster.

FBI officials also admitted last week that the agency failed to properly forward a tip about Cruz wanting to kill people to agents in Miami, prompting Gov. Rick Scott to call for the resignation of FBI Director Christopher Wray. The FBI is investigating the incident.

Homeless woman alerts police to missing teen

A homeless woman alerted police about a missing teen as he was boarding a bus to leave town, according to reports. 

>> Read more trending news

Caroline Davis saw the 15-year-old boy Feb. 15, but did not recognize him as the missing teen until she saw him again Saturday as he was boarding a Silverline bus, according to WXMI

"I’m out here sleeping, homeless, and I know how dangerous it is and if I’m scared. I know good and well he was scared," Davis told WXMI. “Just stay home and stay safe, because these streets are no joke.”

The boy had been reported missing Feb. 13, according to police. He was being held by police on a juvenile-related charge, according to WXMI.

Disney’s ‘Elsa’ helps to make birthday magical when girls’ guests are no-shows

Leyana had planned her birthday to a T. She even picked the right outfit. Then, the waiting began. Despite handing out invitations to everyone in Leyana’s class, no one showed up for the first-grader’s party, except for the actress who was hired to portray Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen.”

>> Read more trending news 

Now, Lindsay Robert, who has been dressing up as Elsa and appearing at birthday parties, has reached out on Facebook to tell Leyana’s story.

"It was soul crushing. When I open the door, I’m used to all the kids running up to me. But she was just all by herself. Just looking down. Just so sad and she just launched herself into my arms,” Robert told KDVR.

During the time  she was scheduled to arrive, there was supposed to be a house-full of kids. But it was only Leyana so she and Robert danced, sang and formed a friendship, KDVR reported.

“I wasn’t kidding when I told you that every princess is smart and brave and kind, and you are all those things,” Robert told Leyana while KDVR videotaped the pair’s reunion.

Robert took to Facebook to tell Leyana’s heartbreaking story. Not only is she sending a fairy garden to the little girl, “Because Elsa will never let you down,” she also visited Leyana with her “sister,” an actress playing Anna, and is planning another surprise for the 7-year-old.

Olympic curling star's husband handles stress by double-fisting beers at 9 a.m.

One doesn’t normally associate pressure with curling -- oh sure, placement, guarding and furious sweeping are crucial to a team’s success -- but the husband of Canadian women’s team skip Rachel Homan was experiencing plenty of anguish during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Gangneung, South Korea. 

>> Read more trending news

What better way to calm your nerves than to have a beer or two? Or, three or four?

Even if it’s 9 a.m.

As Homan tried to lift Canada back into medal contention against Japan -- the women’s team is in sixth place after Monday’s competition -- Shawn Germain was seen hoisting beers and heading back to the concession stand for refills, SB Nation reported.

“You can judge all you want,” Germain tweeted. “The stress level is high, I’m not a drunk, I’m just Canadian.”

Germain knows about athletic competition, having competed as a hockey player in the ECHL. He missed the end of Canada’s match against Japan because he was fetching more beers, SB Nation reported. 

Canada’s 8-3 victory against second-place Japan was a big win and kept the team’s medal hopes alive. 

If the Canadians reach the medal round, the stakes will be higher and nerves will be taut.

One can only wonder how Germain will react.  It could be a stressful day for people from the Great White North, but they remain supportive.

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