LAS VEGAS -- When people ask Carlos Lucero what he does for a living, his answer often stops them in their tracks.
“I throw people off the Stratosphere," he says jokingly.
Lucero is the man who stands between a person taking the 855-foot plunge to the second level of the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino, or turning away from the controlled fall and taking the Walk of Shame back to the gift shop.
Lucero is the Sky Master, the man who checks the harnesses and straps before thrill-seeking tourists endure the Sky Jump, a ride that opened here in April 2010 and, Lucero says, holds the Guinness World Record for highest commercial decelerator descent.
Think of him as part sky-dive instructor, counselor, bartender and priest.
Many jumpers are panic-stricken. Lucero says soothing things.
Jump masters can't physically touch any customers to help them jump off; people have to do that on their own power. Instead, he talks to them, making them feel comfortable enough to do something they might...
NEW YORK -- Five people were hospitalized in critical condition Friday and dozens more were treated for less serious injuries after a commuter train headed from New York City to suburban Connecticut derailed and hit a train headed in the opposite direction, officials said.
Gov. Dannel Malloy updated the casualty figures late Friday after he arrived at the scene near the Fairfield, Conn., station about 50 miles north of New York City. Of the five people most seriously injured, Malloy said, one was in "very critical" condition.
Malloy said he had no reason to believe that the crash, which occurred shortly after 6 p.m., was "anything other than an accident," and he noted that other trains had passed the same area without incident earlier in the evening.
"These trains at that hour are in fairly constant use, so just before these trains came into contact with one another, other trains had been through the same spot," Malloy said.
Passengers described bumps followed by a sudden stop, then...
Illinois has come within a signature of becoming the 19th state to allow marijuana use for medical purposes.
On Friday, the state Senate voted 35-21 to approve a medical marijuana measure, which now will head for Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk. The governor has not said whether he will sign it.
Democratic Sen. Bill Haine, one of the bill’s sponsors, told the Los Angeles Times that House Bill 1 has a very narrow scope and was crafted with law enforcement officials at the table to avoid the mistakes and pitfalls of medical marijuana programs in other states.
Eighteen states and Washington, D.C., have decriminalized marijuana use for medicinal purposes. California did so in 1996, when the state’s voters approved Proposition 215.
If it becomes law, the Illinois bill will prohibit patients from growing their own pot; instead, plants will be raised at “grow centers” overseen by authorities and the state Department of Agriculture.
Only doctors that have established...
NEW YORK -- A train derailment and collision during evening rush hour injured 20 to 25 people, but none of the injuries are life-threatening, police in Fairfield, Conn., said Friday as emergency workers began scouring the mangled wreckage blocking the tracks north of New York City.
Matt Panilaitis, a Fairfield Police Department spokesman, told the Los Angeles Times that one train sideswiped the other after derailing, causing some cars of the second train to also go off the tracks outside the Fairfield station.
The incident occurred shortly after 6 p.m. and involved a train coming from Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal, about 50 miles away, and a second train heading into New York City.
Photographs taken by passengers in the affected trains and posted on Twitter showed broken windows and twisted metal inside the train cars, splintered tracks, and the front left corner of one of the trains smashed in. Amtrak halted service between New York and Boston indefinitely.
A rider on one of the...
NEW YORK -- Two commuter trains collided in Connecticut during rush hour Friday after a Manhattan-bound train derailed and hit the second train, officials said.
Some cars of the second train also derailed in the incident near Fairfield, about 50 miles north of New York City.
Both trains were from the Metro-North Railroad, which did not give any information about casualties. The incident occurred shortly after 6 p.m.
The Associated Press, quoting Fairfield police, reported that 20 to 25 people were injured. No fatalities were reported.
The New Haven Register quoted Rob Oliver of New Haven, Conn., as saying that his train car filled with smoke just after the collision.
Emergency doors opened and people began leaving the train, said Oliver, who was heading home from his job in Manhattan.
“It was just a crazy scene,” he told the newspaper. “It was definitely a crash. People were thrown. The crew did a good job getting people toward the exits.”
NEW YORK -- The hatchet-wielding hitchhiker known to his legions of Internet fans as Kai craved freedom, but he also craved coffee.
That helped police catch the one-time Internet sensation, Caleb "Kai" McGillvary, 24, who is suspected of murdering a New Jersey lawyer, officials said Friday as they gave more details about the case.
McGillvary, who gained fame last February after using a hatchet to stop what he said was an attempted murder in Fresno, was being held on $3-million bail after being arrested Thursday evening in Philadelphia.
The prosecutor in Union County, N.J., Theodore J. Romankow, said McGillvary would be brought to New Jersey to face charges he murdered 73-year-old Joseph Galfy Jr. on Sunday night. Romankow said the move could be delayed if McGillvary fought extradition.
It took just a few hours for law enforcement to track McGillvary down after they publicly declared him a suspect in Galfy's murder.
"I would imagine that all the appearances on YouTube didn't help him,"...
An Arkansas law that bans most abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy was temporarily blocked by a federal judge on Friday.
In a ruling from the bench, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Webber Wright in Little Rock granted a preliminary injunction preventing the Arkansas law from going into effect as scheduled, a member of the court staff said by telephone. It was scheduled to start Aug. 16.
Wright held that allowing the law to go into effect would cause “irreparable harm” to the doctors who sought the injunction and their patients. The decision means the law will be delayed until the constitutionality of the law is decided.
No date for arguments on the case has been set, according to the court staff.
The Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act is among the recent efforts by states to limit the circumstances and time during which a woman can legally have an abortion as the U.S. Supreme Court held in the 1973 landmark case Roe vs. Wade. The Supreme Court ruled that a woman...
It all came down to a mother's instincts.
An Albuquerque woman on Wednesday hopped into her car and for seven miles chased the man suspected of kidnapping her daughter.
The pursuit by Melissa Torrez ended only after her car collided with the suspect's. The man, later identified as David Jesus Hernandez, escaped on foot, leading to a manhunt and eventually his arrest, authorities said.Hernandez, 31, had turned himself in to police in the suburb in Rio Rancho on Thursday after seeing his picture on television, Albuquerque Police Officer Tasia Martinez told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.
“He claimed innocence to media cameras, but refused to speak in [an] interview” with authorities, Martinez said.
The chase began about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at an apartment complex northwest of downtown Albuquerque.
The 4-year-old girl was playing in her yard when a man in a silver Buick allegedly pulled up and snatched her, Martinez said. Other children who were nearby alerted the girl&...
NEW YORK -- A Hofstra University student being held hostage during a home invasion was shot dead and her captor was also killed as police arrived at the scene of the break-in early Friday, just two days before commencement ceremonies at the college on Long Island.
Police in Nassau County were investigating who fired the shots that killed the 21-year-old captive, who was a junior at the university, and her captor.
The horror began unfolding at about 2:20 a.m., according to Inspector Kenneth Lack of the Nassau County Police Department. Lack told reporters a gunman wearing a black ski mask and carrying a handgun forced his way into the house, where four Hofstra students lived.
"During the course of the robbery, the suspect let one of the female victims go from the house," said Lack. She immediately called 911, and police responded. "Upon arrival, there was a shooting that took place in which the suspect was killed and one female victim was killed," Lack said.
The house where the killings...
A U.S. sailor was killed and seven people were injured in a training exercise for SEAL forces in Fort Knox, Ky., officials said Friday.
The accident took place Wednesday night during a training exercise that involved a Humvee vehicle that overturned, officials from Naval Special Warfare Group 2 said in a statement emailed to reporters.
Seven other service members were injured. They sustained minor injuries, were treated and released, officials said.
The dead sailor was identified as Special Warfare Operator Third Class Jonathan H. Kaloust, assigned to an East Coast-based Navy SEAL team out of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek – Fort Story, Va., officials said.
“The Naval Special Warfare community is deeply saddened by this tragic accident,” said Capt. Robert Smith, commander, Naval Special Warfare Group 2. “Our thoughts and our prayers go out to the family and friends of our fallen teammate and those injured in the accident.
“A thorough investigation...
LAS VEGAS — The lawyer who unsuccessfully defended O.J. Simpson against armed robbery charges testified Friday his client knew two companions had guns in a 2007 confrontation with memorabilia dealers.
Miami attorney Yale Galanter contradicted much of Simpson's earlier testimony while under questioning at a hearing in which his former client is seeking a new trial on grounds of ineffective legal representation.
Galanter testified that the former football hero confided to him that he had indeed asked two men to bring guns to the hotel room confrontation and “he knew he screwed up.”
Galanter hesitated and spoke only after he paused, breathed deeply and was reminded that Simpson had waived attorney-client privilege.
“I'm very uncomfortable doing this,” Galanter said.
He said that based on conversations with Simpson, his then-client had asked the two others to bring guns.
"He said, 'The other guys had guns and I didn't,' " Galanter said.
On the basis of that,...
As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal
Matt Pearce, a University of Missouri graduate, has previously written for the Kansas City Star, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The New Inquiry and The Pitch. @mattdpearce