Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Close Call Leaves Mills with Lessons Learned

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 12:04 PM

Mills in cooler days. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Mills in cooler days.
Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills has a PSA for would-be wave-watchers: "When they say don't go out on the jetty, don't go out on the jetty."

Mills was driving along the north jetty with his wife last Saturday when he decided to walk out on the jetty and take pictures of the large waves sweeping in due to an upper-level storm system. The National Weather Advisory had warned of 19 to 22 foot waves over the weekend, and advised people to "stay safe ... by staying farther back from the surf and off of rocks and jetties." It's a frequent warning on the North Coast, and one that sometimes goes unheeded to deadly consequence.

On Facebook, Mills quipped about his foolhardiness, "Big waves 22'+ they say. Stay off the jetty they say. I am smarter, faster and stronger than them, I say. My cellphone now sits at the bottom of the ocean along with the skin from my arms and knees. If you are trying to call or text me...sorry. Call tomorrow. For now the laughing squid who has my phone may answer."

In a phone interview today, Mills said that as an experienced surfer, he thought, like many, that he could judge the speed and trajectory of the waves and stay out of their reach, but in just a short time, "the waves got gigantic."

In seconds one crashed down on top of him, throwing him onto the cement.

"It treated me like a little tiny rag doll," he told the Journal, comparing the impact of being pushed against the rocks to a cheesegrater. "It's cement, wood, cement wood, like a cheesegrater. So, I thought, I’m going to get on top of the wall. That was a mistake. It pushed me off into the rocks. I held on my with my upper body and the next one came in and took me out."

Mills said a smaller person would definitely have been swept out to sea and killed. He managed to make it safely back onto the beach and to the car where his wife was waiting, although his phone was lost and a favorite shirt bloodied. He called the experience "humbling" and urges others to learn from his experience.

"The real thing is, compared to the power of nature, we are insignificant," he said. "Lots of lessons to be learned for Chief Mills."

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Jim Howard Has Died

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2016 at 11:12 AM

The plaque honoring Jim Howard at Third and E streets. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • The plaque honoring Jim Howard at Third and E streets.
James "Jim" Howard passed away on Nov. 2 at the age of 100.

"Jim was a quiet leader of this community, leading by example and few words," Eureka Mayor Frank Jager said in a press release. "When Jim spoke, others listened”.

Howard, who operated a shoeshine stand in Eureka's Old Town for 36 years, was an active member of many local organizations and served as a city council member for four-and-a-half terms. Among his many other contributions, Howard was instrumental in having Old Town declared a National Historic District in 1973, revitalizing the area to make it a center for tourism and commerce.

On June 22, the Eureka Rotary Club honored Howard with a plaque at the site of his former stand. The city of Eureka will fly its flags at half-mast in honor of his passing. A memorial service has tentatively been scheduled for Dec. 5 at the Eureka Elk's Lodge.

From the City of Eureka:

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Monday, October 31, 2016

Sheriff's Office Investigating Death Near Homeless Camp

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 4:08 PM

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has launched a death investigation after finding a body down a cliff from a homeless camp near Garberville.

Deputies were called to the scene shortly after 7 a.m. on Sunday, and found the body across from the entrance to Camp Raven Cliff between Redwood Drive and the Eel River. According to a press release, the body looked as though it had been there for “several years.”

The case is being investigated by the Humboldt County Coroner’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office. Officials ask that anyone with information about the case call 445-7251 or the Crime Tip Line at 268-2539.

See the full press release from the Sheriff’s Office copied below:

On Sunday, October 30, 2016 at about 7:14 a.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received a report of human remains found across from the entrance to Camp Raven Cliff between Redwood Drive and the Eel River. It was reported the human remains were found below a large cliff with a homeless camp above it.
Deputies arrived on scene. The remains looked as though they had been in that area for several years. Deputies located a wallet that was near the remains. Investigators and Coroners arrived on scene to assist. The Coroner and Investigators collected the remains and are investigating this case.
Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Board Votes to Dissolve Humboldt Pride

Posted By and on Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 5:16 PM

Parade marchers prepare to roll out from C Street. - JENNIFER FUMIKO-CAHILL
  • Jennifer Fumiko-Cahill
  • Parade marchers prepare to roll out from C Street.

After months of innernal turmoil, Humboldt Pride’s board of directors has voted to dissolve the organization, putting the future of Humboldt County’s Pride Week in question.

The move was announced earlier this week on the organization’s Facebook page in a short note to the community, which included thanks to donors and volunteers and concluded optimistically, “We cannot wait to see where this new chapter leads.” The post made no mention of the internal conflict and rancor that has been at a steady boil since August.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

UPDATE: Fitness Center Fire Investigated as Arson

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 12:45 PM

The burnt-out remains. - ARCATA FIRE
  • Arcata Fire
  • The burnt-out remains.
UPDATE: An arson investigation is underway after investigators determined the fire that destroyed a McKinleyville fitness center being built by the Big Lagoon Rancheria was human caused, resulting in $3.3 million in damage.

The building under construction on Betty Court was burned to the ground in the early morning blaze on Oct. 23. Surrounding structures were also damaged. Tribal Chair Vigil Moorehead vowed that the Rancheria would rebuild the center in a statement sent out earlier this week.

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Selena Zorrilla-Mendoza said deputies were called to the scene on Tuesday at the request of the Arcata Fire District once investigators established the fire was a possible act of arson.

Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office:
On Tuesday, October 25, 2016, Humboldt County Deputies were dispatched to the 1500 block of Betty Ct, where the Big Lagoon Rancheria’s Gym had once stood. Deputies met with Arcata Fire District Investigators determined the cause of the fire to be “human involved.”

The Sheriff’s Office is requesting assistance from the public in identifying the person(s) responsible for the fire.

The estimated damage to the gym and surrounding buildings is over $3,300,000.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.
The Big Lagoon Rancheria is intent on seeing its $5.9 million fitness center — which is being built on Betty Court in McKinleyville and was leveled by a pre-dawn fire yesterday — rise "back from the ashes," Tribal Chair Virgil Moorehead said in a statement this morning.

"We've been planning this facility to serve the greater McKinleyville community for almost 13 years," Moorehead said. "We have had a vision for this project for a long time, and while we are saddened by the setback of this fire, we absolutely intend to rebuild. We thank all of the people and organizations who have sent us their support over the course of the past day. WE feel grateful to be part of this community and we look forward to bringing our state of the art health club and fitness center back from the ashes."

Arcata Fire was called to the scene at about 5:45 a.m. Sunday, and arrived to see the large fitness complex fully engulfed in flames. The department believes the fire was active for a while before firefighters were summoned to the scene and said what caused the building, which was still under construction, to catch fire remains under investigation.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Eureka Costume Drive Aims to Help Local Kids

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 10:14 AM

The costume closet at the Adorni Center in Eureka. The city of Eureka is collecting new or lightly used Halloween costumes for children whose families might not otherwise be able to afford them. - KIMBERLY WEAR
  • Kimberly Wear
  • The costume closet at the Adorni Center in Eureka. The city of Eureka is collecting new or lightly used Halloween costumes for children whose families might not otherwise be able to afford them.
The city of Eureka is collecting costumes and accessories ranging from kooky to spooky to help ensure local children have a happy Halloween.

The drive was started last year for children living at the Serenity Inn but when other parents who heard about the giveaway showed up, Parks and Recreation staff saw the larger community need and expand the effort.

Recreation Activities Coordinator Brian Millett said the city sent out costume vouchers for distribution to a number of agencies and organizations that work with foster children and families in need, including homeless liaisons in schools and social services caseworkers.

So far, nearly 200 children have received costumes that their families might not otherwise have been able to afford, he said.

“Anything helps. These are families that are very appreciative,” Millett said, adding that it's "heartwarming" to watch the excited children pick out their Halloween attire.

The drive is collecting new or lightly used costumes for children and teenagers, with a special need for outfits to fit boys and girls between 8 and 12 years old. Millett said hats, crowns, gloves or other accessories are also welcome.

The city asks that nothing sexual or violent in nature be included in drop offs.

Costumes can be brought to the Adorni Community and Recreation Center at 1011 Waterfront Drive through the first week in November.

“What we're trying to do is get ahead of it for next year,” Millett said, adding there was a high need this year. “We’ll still be collecting costumes up to Nov. 7."

For questions or more information on how to donate, contact Ashley Taylor at 441-4374.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

'Not the Norm': HSU Students, Faculty Speak out on Racism

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 10:54 AM

Diego Morales speaks out at the university senate meeting discussing marginalization at Eureka High School. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • Diego Morales speaks out at the university senate meeting discussing marginalization at Eureka High School.

The words that ignited anger and displeasure among students and staff at Humboldt State University came from their president. “Racism is not the norm on our campus,” Lisa Rossbacher wrote in an email two weeks ago concerning race issues on campus. But according to students, HSU is anything but the norm.

The University Senate held its bi-weekly meeting Tuesday and saw the usually sparse crowd replaced with an energetic group of students and staff ready to get their two cents in with Rossbacher.

The Goodwin Forum didn’t have an empty seat and floor space was filled with student backpacks as a tense audience crowded the room to capacity before the meeting could start. But from the moment it was announced Rossbacher wouldn’t be in attendance, it drew displeasure from the crowd.

Students and staff filled the Goodwin Forum for the Humboldt State University Senate on Thursday. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • Students and staff filled the Goodwin Forum for the Humboldt State University Senate on Thursday.

A student Facebook group #POCNormHSU, which has drawn more than 500 likes since it opened last week, organized the large turnout and has been a platform for students of color to share stories of racism they have faced attending HSU and living in Humboldt County.

The senate allowed an open space for students and staff to talk and each were given three minutes to say whatever they pleased. Ethnic studies professor Maria Corral-Ribordy read a letter directed to the President that discussed issues she has noticed as an instructor working in the Critical Race and Gender Studies (CRGS) Department.

“I want to acknowledge, Why is the university not doing more for students of color?” Corral-Ribordy said. “The president knows how students feel about the email and I want to see some changes made.”

Corral-Ribordy’s letter set the tone for the meeting as students followed by sharing their own experiences of racism on campus and in the community. With stories of prejudiced teachers and racist encounters in the university library, students let the majority white senate know what they perceive to be the norm on campus.

“I’m happy to say I’m leaving [Humboldt County] soon,” Graciela Chipres, a former student senate representative, said. “I have many stories of personal struggle mainly to do with the environment here.”

Chipres held back tears as she spoke about her encounters with racism at HSU. She stated that over the five years she has lived here she has encountered many forms of racism, even run-ins with neo-Nazis.

Yet according to Diego Morales, HSU isn’t the only place in Humboldt County where students don’t feel they belong. Morales is a tutor at Eureka High School and said some Latino students there feel marginalized compared to others.

“At times, I feel like I’m their only resource and ask myself if this can really be,” Morales said.

CRGS professor Ramona Bell talked about the disconnect between faculty and students of color.

“Where can students go for help, honestly?” Bell asked the senate. “It shouldn’t be this hard to find some resources on campus, but it's the sad truth.”

As the senate meeting dwindled down to its last speaker, attention turned to senate member Erik Eschker, who students claimed rolled his eyes and didn’t acknowledge the severity of the discussion at hand. The economics professor was derided as he tried to respond, saying something about having some personal problems he was dealing with. Students pointed out that such instances are why progress is hard at HSU when the problem can’t even be acknowledged.

Various senate members agreed with some of the audience’s opinions, including the need to address some changes within the university and support students of color.

Senate chair Julie Alderson said the meeting’s huge response will prompt another forum concerning racial dialogue on campus in the near future. Alderson added that the next meeting will hopefully have Rossbacher in attendance.
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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Arcata Neighborhood Concerns Focus of Meeting

Posted By on Sun, Oct 16, 2016 at 10:00 AM

The switchback path to Arcata Elementary where a girl was attacked in September. - KIMBERLY WEAR
  • Kimberly Wear
  • The switchback path to Arcata Elementary where a girl was attacked in September.
Arcata residents expressed frustration at the changing character of their neighborhoods and what they perceive as an increased boldness in the crimes being committed on local streets during a Thursday night meeting with city officials that was spurred by a brazen attack last month on a young girl walking to school.

While the focus was on the Westwood neighborhood where the 12-year-old student was using a path from Cahill Park to Arcata Elementary School, the crowd of nearly 100 came from throughout the city.

“I’m really thankful,” Councilmember Mark Wheetley said during beginning remarks at the D Street Community Center meeting. “If we didn’t have this room packed, I’d be worried. I have a 12-year-old daughter also, so it really hit me hard.”

The suspect in the attack, Dylan Jackson Wilson, faces charges of assault on a child with the intent to commit a felony and committing a forcible lewd act on a child. A court hearing is scheduled Monday for the receipt of a medical report on his mental competency.

Attendees at Thursday's meeting were divided into three groups that focused on neighborhood watch, general policing and infrastructure needs, including clearing pathways that have become overgrown or known loitering areas.

Mayor Paul Pitino, councilmembers Susan Ornelas and Michael Winkler, City Manager Karen Diemer, Environmental Services Director Mark Andre, City Engineer Doby Class and Julie Neander, deputy director of the recreation division, also headed or sat in on discussions.

Many navigated to the law enforcement sessions — led by Police Chief Tom Chapman, Lt. Bart Silvers and Neighborhood Watch coordinator Ginger Campbell — to share their stories, ask for advice and look for solutions.

Residents spoke about problem houses with drug activity, car break-ins day and night, and a general decline in their feeling of safety, including one woman who said someone opened a gate in the middle of the day and stole her running shoes right off the porch.

Suggestions included forming parent patrols, joining or starting a neighborhood watch and using apps like SeeClickFix to share real-time information on problem hot spots by taking photographs.

“I’m not going to not go down that path on principle,” said Thia Bachemin, the mother of a fifth grader at Arcata Elementary, noting the community needs to come together to be an “agent of change.” “What’s going to happen is the problems are just going to move to a new place.”

The main message from law enforcement and other city officials was for residents to get to know their neighbors, keep a watch out for suspicious activity and to call the city — and to keep calling — as problems arise.

“The strength that we have is the neighbors being our eyes and ears,” Silvers said.

Class agreed, saying the same applied to abatement issues at properties.

Chapman told residents his department was aware of many of the city’s problem homes and that reporting incidents helps police create a record that can be used to build a case.

Parent Kate Hutchings, a member of Arcata Elementary’s parent teacher organization who suggested using the SeeClickFix app to spread the word about concerns and issue areas, said the city has done quite a bit of work cleaning up the path where the attack took place.

“I hope that momentum stays,” she said.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Aid Worker Kidnapped in Niger Reportedly from McKinleyville

Posted By on Sat, Oct 15, 2016 at 12:30 PM

  • Redwood Coast School of Missions
  • Jeff Woodke.
In a statement sent to the Journal, North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman indicated he’s working with the State Department to facilitate kidnaped missionary Jeff Woodke’s safe return home.

“My thoughts are with Jeff Woodke and his loved ones during this extremely trying time,” Huffman said of the 55-year-old McKinlyville man who was abducted in West Africa on Friday night. “It is devastating to see my constituent who has spent his life dedicated to humanitarian service be victimized in this way. I am working with State Department officials and will do everything in my power to ensure Jeff’s swift and safe return home.”

Reuters is reporting that Niger Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum has confirmed the identity of the American kidnapped last night as 55-year-old Jeffery Woodke of McKinleyville.

Additionally, Bazoum issued a statement offering some additional detail about the attack, including that an armed man on a motorcycle arrived at Woodke's home in Abalak and opened fire on an armed guard before a Toyota truck returned to abduct Woodke.

"These criminals are now heading towards Mali. Our forces are on their trial," Bazoum says in the statement, according to Reuters.

Read the full report here.

The New York Times also now has a report up, which can be found here.

Multiple news reports are identifying the Christian American aid worker kidnapped by armed gunmen in Niger yesterday as a 55-year-old Mckinleyville man.

Britain’s Daily Mail and CBN News, a Christian online reporting outlet, have both identified the man as Jeff Woodke, a Humboldt State University alum who works for the Redwood Coast School of Missions run through Arcata First Baptist Church. According to the Redwood Coast School of Missions website, Woodke has “committed the past 25 years of his life to a ministry he founded in Niger amongst a number of unreached people groups.”

According to multiple accounts, gunmen stormed the home of a longtime American aid worker in the the West African city of Abalak, killed a bodyguard and a local police officer in a shootout and then fled with a kidnapped American toward Mali. CNN reported that witnesses say the worker was forced to strip down to his underwear before being put into a 4x4 vehicle, noting that “such measures are often taken by kidnappers to avoid hostages being tracked.”

CNN further reported that "authorities are taking all necessary measures to locate the American and his abductors, including imposing a heavy military presence between Abalak and the border with Mali, said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly."

Radio France Internationale reported the victim had worked in the area since the 1990s with Youth with a Mission, which bills itself as a “global movement of Christians … dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world.” The group reports that it works in more than 1,100 locations spread across 180 countries — including Abalak, Niger — with a staff of more than 18,000.

It’s unclear who is responsible for the kidnapping and the U.S. State Department has so far said publicly only that it is aware of reports of a kidnapping of a U.S. citizen in Niger. Attempts to reach North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman and Arcata First Baptist Church were not immediately successful this morning.

A short bio on Redwood Coast School of Missions indicates missionary work in Niger has been a huge part of his life’s work.

“Jeff’s passion in providing humanitarian aid to those who are amongst the poorest in the world, coupled with his desire to see God’s kingdom advanced in a largely Muslim world has played a large part in the life and ministry of (Arcata First Baptist Church),” the site says.

On her Facebook page, Christian author Cheryl Ford indicated she was a 15-year member of the same Humboldt County church as Woodke and that her family went to Niger under his leadership a couple of times.

“One had to marvel at the man,” she wrote. “My world kind of stopped yesterday over this news.”

Ford also quoted Tracy Rickstrew, who worked at Arcata First Baptist Church and whom Ford identifies as a “former Niger team missionary,” as follows: “Our friend and director when we worked in Niger, Africa was kidnapped yesterday. Please pray for him and his family. I know his heart would not be for his own life, but for God’s glory in all of this. He is tough and his faith is resolute and we know that there is nowhere on earth that he can go where the Spirit of God is not already with him.”

Back in June of 2014, Woodke was a guest speaker at the Arcata First Baptist Church. Watch the video below:

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

McKinleyville Man Killed in Morning Crash

Posted By on Sat, Oct 8, 2016 at 8:20 PM

The California Highway Patrol is investigating a single car crash that left a pedestrian dead in McKinleyville before dawn today.

According to the CHP, Kevin Leigh Patton, 48, of McKinleyville, was travelling about 30 miles per hour westbound on Airport Road at about 5:10 a.m. in his 2005 Chevrolet Silverado. For unknown reasons, a pedestrian, 61-year-old Rocklin Luke Gulley, also of McKinleyville, walking eastbound on the on the north shoulder of the road stepped into the westbound lane of traffic, right in front of the Silverado. Gulley was struck and killed.

Neither alcohol nor drugs is suspected to have been a factor in the collision, which remains under investigation.

See the full press release from the CHP copied below:

On October 8, 2016, at approximately 0510 hours, CHP Officers responded to a traffic collision on Airport Road west of Central Avenue in Mckinleyville.  A 2005 Chevrolet Silverado, driven by Kevin Leigh Patton, age 48, of Mckinleyville, was traveling westbound on Airport Road at approximately 30 mph.  Rocklin Luke Gulley, age 61, of Mckinleyville, was walking eastbound near the north shoulder of Airport Road.  For reasons still under investigation, Gulley walked into the westbound lane of traffic and collided with the Chevrolet.  As a result of this collision, Gulley sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene by medical personnel.  Patton did not sustain any injuries as a result of the collision.  Alcohol and/or drugs are not suspected to have been a factor in this collision. 
The California Highway Patrol Humboldt Area is investigating this traffic collision. 

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