Criminal charges still possible in Florida shopping center explosion

PLANTATION, Fla. — Investigators have not ruled out criminal charges in an explosion at a Plantation shopping center Saturday that obliterated one building, damaged others and left 23 hurt, authorities said Monday.

“The scene is considered a criminal investigation until determined otherwise,” Fire Department spokesman Joel Gordon said Monday morning. “We are not focusing on any single cause at this time.”

Fire officials have said a gas leak appears to be to blame, but they have not settled on the cause. The investigation could take weeks, they said.

Representatives from the Florida fire marshal’s office are at the scene and conducting “a thorough investigation,” the city’s police department said Monday.

The powerful blast leveled a defunct pizza shop, Pizzafire.

Among the injured was a child who had been at the nearby LA Fitness, Gordon said. Patrons said many children played in the child care room while their parents exercised.

As of Sunday, all had been released from the hospital but two. Gordon said their status was not immediately available Monday.

— Sun Sentinel

Police: Man used ‘Jaws of Life’ to pry open ATMs and steal up to $300,000

HARTFORD, Conn. — Southington police said they have arrested a man who used a “Jaws of Life” hydraulic tool to break into ATMs across the state, stealing up to $300,000 in cash.

Joshua Moore of Shelton was arrested Friday at Superior Court in Bristol and charged with third-degree burglary, third-degree larceny and first-degree criminal mischief, they said. He was in custody on $25,000 bail, with a total bond — including charges from other departments — of more than $500,000.

He targeted towns as far north as Canton, as far west as Greenwich and as far east as Stonington, police said.

According to police, Southington detectives suspect Moore broke into the ATM machine in the Dunkin’ on West Street. Their investigation revealed that the thief focused primarily on the machine, and that he used a battery-powered hydraulic spreader similar to what firefighters use when extricating motorists from crushed vehicles.

Multiple towns had similar thefts, and their police departments worked together to come up with a suspect. Searches confirmed that Moore bought a Holmatro BCT 4120 self-contained rescue tool from eBay before the commercial ATM burglaries, police said.

Greenwich police were the first to suspect Moore, Southington police said. They took him into custody in January.

In all, police estimate that Moore stole between $200,000 and $300,000 in cash from the ATM burglaries. In addition to Southington, Canton and Greenwich, he faces charges from Stratford, Shelton, Stamford, Monroe, Clinton and Stonington.

— The Hartford Courant

Dallas police issue warrant for Autism Treatment Center employee accused of kicking patient’s teeth out

DALLAS — An employee at the Autism Treatment Center in Dallas faces a charge of injury to a disabled person after a fellow employee said he kicked a patient in the mouth, knocking out several of his teeth.

Dallas police issued a warrant Monday for Troy Odell Freeman, the 49-year-old employee accused in the June 14 incident.

Freeman was suspended until investigators finish the case, executive director Anna Hundley said in a written statement, and other staff members have been instructed to cooperate with the police investigation.

Police said the center’s director, Carolyn Garver, told them the patient had facial injuries and was missing several teeth, according to the affidavit.

Garver told police that Freeman said the patient had run into a door. Investigators said they did not find blood on the doorframe and couldn’t find the victim’s teeth.

The victim has autism and is non-verbal and therefore could not be interviewed, according to the affidavit.

Another employee, however, said she’d heard Freeman say, “Don’t you ever,” and turned around and saw him kick the victim in the face, according to the affidavit.

When investigators interviewed Freeman on June 26, he insisted the victim had run into a doorframe, according to the affidavit.

Freeman and the victim had previously been “involved in an incident in October 2018 which caused an injury to … (Freeman’s) hand,” the affidavit said.

The facility hasn’t received complaints in the last three years, according to state records available online.

— Dallas Morning News

Facebook wasn’t invited to Trump’s White House social media summit

WASHINGTON — Facebook Inc. says it hasn’t been invited to President Donald Trump’s tech summit at the White House slated for Thursday, while conservative tech critics and groups have already confirmed their attendance.

The White House announced the “social media summit” June 26, saying it would “bring together digital leaders for a robust conversation on the opportunities and challenges of today’s online environment.”

Trump has accused large technology platforms such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook and Twitter Inc. of anti-conservative bias and last month said the U.S. government should sue Facebook and Google for unspecified wrongdoing.

Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, a Trump ally, plans to attend, according to a person familiar with his plans. Conservative groups including The Heritage Foundation and Turning Point USA are also planning to go.

“We’re not sure what to expect,” said Heritage Foundation spokesman Rob Bluey. “I think it’s valuable to get people to get together in the same room and have these conversations.”

— Bloomberg News

Venezuelan leaders announce talks in Barbados to overcome crisis

BOGOTA, Colombia — Venezuelan leaders will have a meeting in Barbados this week in hopes of finding a solution to the political crisis that has gripped the country for more than five months.

In a statement issued late Sunday, Juan Guaido, the head of congress and the man that Washington and 50 other nations recognize as the country’s sole president, said the meeting, promoted by the government of Norway, was necessary to avoid more bloodshed.

“We don’t have unlimited time. Each day that passes, the situation gets worse,” Guaido said in a statement. “We need a solution now.”

The Nicolas Maduro administration also confirmed that the parties would be meeting sometime this week to find a “constitutional” solution to the crisis.

Talks were expected to begin last week, but Guaido called them off after it came to light that a Venezuelan Navy official was tortured to death while in state custody.

Guaido, 35, rose to prominence in January when he said it was his constitutional duty, as the head of congress, to assume the presidency because Maduro had clung to power through fraudulent elections in 2018. Despite having broad international backing and popular support, Guaido has very little real power in the country.

Maduro, 57, claims last year’s vote gives him the right to rule through 2025 and accuses Guaido of trying to illegally seize power with Washington’s help.

— Miami Herald