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Volunteers greet military members returning home

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WZZM) -- A welcome home for veterans. Volunteers are welcoming home returning military members and thanking them for their service.

Operation Handshake started Wednesday morning. Volunteers include therapy dog teams and the Patriot Guard Riders.

"We know that not every member of our military can make it home during the holidays," said GFIA Executive Director Brian Ryks. "But for those returning to West Michigan we want to make it special and let them know we are thankful for their service."

"We appreciate the partnership with the Patriot Guard Riders of West Michigan, and their loyalty to serving our community through events like Operation Handshake."

The event is free and open to the public.

It goes until 7 p.m. Wednesday night at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

Ford airport adds 1,100 covered parking spaces

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Just in time for holiday travel, Gerald R. Ford International Airport opened its fourth level covered-parking deck to the public on Wednesday.

More than 1,100 additional parking spots were added just in time for the winter season. The project cost $17.3 million and took nearly seven months to complete.

Additionally, "Operation Handshake" welcomed returning military members and veterans back to West Michigan on Wednesday with volunteers from the Patriot Guard Riders.

Heightened security during busy holiday travel week

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is historically one of the busiest travels days of the year and with a new worldwide travel alert issued by the U.S. State Department earlier this week, passengers should expect longer lines and stricter security screening.

At the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, volunteers welcomed home West Michigan troops while airport personnel increased security. The Transportation Security Administration cannot reveal what additional security measures were taken, due to safety, but passengers should not be surprised if additional screening, random hand swabbing for explosive residue and K-9 teams are present.

Lawsuit filed over former Steelcase Pyramid

GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) -- An educational group is suing Steelcase over a failed plan to purchase the Pyramid building in Gaines Township. The Pyramid building was later bought by a developer with plans to house a data center for the Switch Company.

The Education Campus Investors, ECI, planned to buy the Pyramid from Steelcase and turn it into an educational facility focused on science and technology. According to a lawsuit filed in Kent County court on Wednesday, Nov. 18, the original purchase price was $7.5 million. But, after ECI found infrastructure problems with the Pyramid, the purchase price went down to $3 million.

The suit alleges Steelcase secretly negotiated to sell the property to Norman Properties, while it still had a purchase agreement with ECI.

Kentwood man's death determined 'suicide by cop'

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WZZM) -- The Kent County prosecutor released a statement Thursday saying the officer who shot and killed a man in last month was justified in his actions.

Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth said it appears Timothy Arnold, 47, intended to die by suicide by cop and Officer Jonathon Carter was within his rights when he shot and killed him.

On Oct. 21, officers responded to Sutton Club Apartments, located near the corner of 60th Street and Kalamazoo Avenue, to check up on Arnold, who was a resident. A family friend had contacted police to say he was suicidal.

No one answered when two officers from the Kentwood Police Department knocked on the door.

Arnold came out of his apartment shortly thereafter, confronted an officer and pointed a gun at him. Kentwood police say Monday that officer Jonathon Carter, a six-year veteran, shot Arnold, who died at the scene.

Art Van lights up Wonderland display

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WZZM) -- The holiday season is officially underway along 28th Street.

Art Van flipped the switch Thursday night on its Wonderland display, at its 28th St. store between East Paris and Patterson.

Fireworks went off as more than a million lights turned on, both in and outside the store.

The celebration also featured Santa's helpers, delicious desserts, and elaborate, life-size gingerbread houses. Media personalities, including WZZM 13 meteorologist Laura Hartman and photojournalist Delal Pektas, participated in a lip sync competition.

You can see the Wonderland display through December 31.


'Operation Warm' donates new coats to local kids

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WZZM) -- Kentwood firefighters are spreading the warmth with a coat drive for underprivileged children.

Firefighters provided brand-new winter coats to over 30 children in the Kentwood Public Schools on Wednesday.

It's all a part of Operation Warm, a national non-profit dedicated to warming the hearts, minds and bodies of children in need.

"With our poverty levels reaching 62%, our children and schools benefit from this program in more ways than one," said Kurt Nuffer, Local 3174. "By nature of our service to the community, we're able to see the harsh effects poverty has on these children first hand."

Operation Warm has manufactured 90,000 coats, all American-made. Since 1998, the program has reached more than 1.2 million children, nationwide.