Government

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Huffman Demands Accountability for Treatment of Pipeline Protesters

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 4:10 PM

Protesters are pepper sprayed while occupying the proposed route of the Dakota Access Pipeline. - ROB WILSON
  • Rob wilson
  • Protesters are pepper sprayed while occupying the proposed route of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman penned a letter to President Barack Obama today requesting an immediate meeting to “demand accountability for (the) alarming treatment of Water Protectors and peaceful demonstrators at the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.”

Huffman, who penned the letter with Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Arizona), also took the opportunity to denounce the Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to close the Oceti Sakowin camp. Both Huffman and Grijalva led 21 members of Congress earlier this month in urging Obama to deescalate tension in the Standing Rock protests. It seems those urgings went unheeded, as circumstances have deteriorated since then with daily reports of violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement.

From the congressmen: “[H]eadlines of mass injuries, frigid water being sprayed at demonstrators in sub-freezing temperatures, and of rubber bullets and similar anti-riot weapons being fired at peaceful, unarmed civilians, make it clear that this situation is only getting worse.”

See the full press release from Huffman’s office copied below, and their full letter can be seen by clicking here. And for more on the pipeline project and local efforts to combat it, see past Journal coverage here.

Reps. Huffman, Grijalva Demand Accountability for Brutal Law Enforcement Tactics at DAPL

Washington, D.C.- Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) today requested an immediate meeting with White House and Department of Justice officials to demand accountability for alarming treatment of Water Protectors and peaceful demonstrators at the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, and to denounce the closure of the Oceti Sakowin camp. The lawmakers, who jointly led 21 Members of Congress in urging President Obama to deescalate the tension at Standing Rock in a November 14 letter, noted today that circumstances since then have only deteriorated:

“[H]eadlines of mass injuries, frigid water being sprayed at demonstrators in sub-freezing temperatures, and of rubber bullets and similar anti-riot weapons being fired at peaceful, unarmed civilians, make it clear that this situation is only getting worse.  Additionally, the Army Corps of Engineers letter announcing the closure of the Oceti Sakowin camp to demonstrators represents a concerning and disappointing course of action by the federal government.

“We question the plan and reasoning given by the Army Corps of Engineers to close the Oceti Sakowin camp to the Water Protectors. The members of the Standing Rock Sioux and the hundreds of Americans who join them in opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline are constitutionally protected in their right to peaceably assemble.”

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Eureka City Council Receives Plaque, Rejects Cannabis Urgency Ordinance

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 8:51 AM

The city of Eureka received an exclusive award Tuesday night, accepting the official Stoplight Plaque from the Willits Mayor Bruce Burton.

Burton, who visited the city council meeting along with Willits City Manager Adrienne Moore, said the plaque had been in Willits' possession for more than 20 years. 
A 1971 map detailing some proposed reroutes of Highway 101. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • A 1971 map detailing some proposed reroutes of Highway 101.

"Since 1994 the city of Willits has been known as the first stoplight north of San Francisco," he said.
"Cloverdale held it for some 20 odd years, since 1962 when they bypassed Santa Rosa and Healdsburg.
In '94 Cloverdale brought this little plaque to us. Now it's time to pass it on to you."

Willits lost its distinction as the last stoplight on U.S. Highway 101 north of San Francisco on Nov. 4, when a new bypass opened, releasing a bottleneck in the major thoroughfare and, according to Burton, "giving us our town back."

Burton presented the plaque with its miniature stoplight to Mayor Frank Jager and suggested he use it to control public comment.

"I think you may end up holding it for longer than anyone else," he said.


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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Expert Opinions Collide in EPD Shooting Trial

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2016 at 10:17 PM

Thomas McClain - FROM THE 'JUSTICE FOR TOMMY MCCLAIN' FACEBOOK PAGE.
  • FROM THE 'JUSTICE FOR TOMMY MCCLAIN' FACEBOOK PAGE.
  • Thomas McClain
Attorneys rested their cases today in a federal wrongful death trial after presenting testimony from law enforcement experts who gave conflicting views on whether a Eureka police officer’s fatal shooting of Thomas “Tommy” McClain was justified.

A trio of police officers had McClain at gunpoint outside of his Allard Avenue home in the early morning hours of Sept. 17, 2014, when one of them — Officer Steven Linfoot — opened fire. McClain died later at the hospital.

Police say McClain was shot while defying a series of commands to keep his hands up by reaching for what looked to be a handgun tucked in his waistband but turned to be an unloaded BB gun. McClain’s family and one witness contend he had his arms raised and was trying to comply with conflicting commands when he was hit by three of Linfoot’s seven rounds.

Called to the stand by McClain’s parents’ attorney Dale Galipo was Roger Clark, a former lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department whose last assignment was overseeing a multi-agency surveillance unit that targeted the “worst of the worst” didn't fire a shot over a five-year span. He said Eureka officers made several tactical errors.

“None of the shots were justified, in my opinion,” Clark said.

Defense expert Don Cameron, who currently trains police officers in the Bay Area, disagreed. He testified that the officers had “no alternative” to shooting once McClain made a movement to his waistband.

“That would be a shoot situation,” Cameron said.


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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

McClain Witness: 'There Was No Reason to Shoot'

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 4:23 PM

Thomas McClain - FROM THE 'JUSTICE FOR TOMMY MCCLAIN' FACEBOOK PAGE.
  • FROM THE 'JUSTICE FOR TOMMY MCCLAIN' FACEBOOK PAGE.
  • Thomas McClain
Thomas “Tommy” McClain was walking toward Eureka police officers with his hands raised above waist level while navigating a barrage of conflicting commands when he was fatally shot, according to witness testimony today.

Nichole Mottern, the wife of McClain’s cousin, who was standing in front of the Allard Avenue home the three shared that night, said she watched the events transpire in disbelief.

“I was in shock. I was completely petrified. I thought they were going to kill me next,” Mottern said during her tearful testimony on the third day of a federal trial in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by McClain’s parents. “I didn’t know why this was happening.”

In all the confusion, Mottern said she wasn’t certain who the police were yelling at, but she was “100 percent” sure McClain had his hands up when he was shot.

The 22-year-old died a few hours after being hit by three of the seven bullets fired by officer Steven Linfoot in the early morning hours of Sept. 17, 2014. Police say McClain reached for what turned out to be an unload BB gun tucked in his waistband that realistically resembled a pistol.

The night had unfolded in ways no one involved could possibly have imagined.


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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

'It Needed to be Done,' EPD Officer Testifies in Wrongful Death Trial

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 9:15 PM

Thomas McClain - FROM THE 'JUSTICE FOR TOMMY MCCLAIN' FACEBOOK PAGE.
  • FROM THE 'JUSTICE FOR TOMMY MCCLAIN' FACEBOOK PAGE.
  • Thomas McClain
The Eureka police officer who fatally shot Thomas “Tommy” McClain testified Tuesday that he stood by his actions and believed he had no choice but to shoot when the 22-year-old reached for what he believed was a gun in his waistband.

“I was scared that the gun was going to come out and he was going to be able to shoot either myself or my partners,” Officer Steven Linfoot said after briefly struggling to regain his composure during a second day on the stand at federal trial in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by McClain’s parents.

Other options from a Taser — which he was not certified to use at the time — to a baton to pepper spray were not viable alternatives with a firearm at play and considering his distance from McClain, Linfoot said under questioning from attorney Nancy Delaney, who is representing the city.

Linfoot made similar statements while fielding questions about his actions from McClain’s parents’ attorney, Dale Galipo.

“What I feel, I feel bad for the family. That they have to endure this,” he testified. “This wasn’t anything I wanted to do, but it needed to be done under the circumstances.”


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Monday, November 14, 2016

EPD Wrongful Death Trial Begins

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 8:52 PM

Thomas McClain - FROM THE 'JUSTICE FOR TOMMY MCCLAIN' FACEBOOK PAGE.
  • FROM THE 'JUSTICE FOR TOMMY MCCLAIN' FACEBOOK PAGE.
  • Thomas McClain
Eureka Police Officer Stephen Linfoot testified today that he was one of three officers shouting commands with guns drawn in the seconds before he opened fire on Thomas McClain, continuing to shoot as the 22-year-old began falling over and after he hit the ground.

“He was reaching for the gun and that’s when I shot, but I can’t clearly say whether he got his hand on the gun,” Linfoot said under questioning from attorney Dale K. Galipo, who is representing McClain’s parents in their federal wrongful death lawsuit.

McClain died after being hit by three of the seven rounds that Linfoot fired during the late-night confrontation on Sept. 17, 2014, on the front lawn of the Allard Avenue townhouse where McClain lived with his cousin.

The weapon spotted by officers in McClain’s waistband turned out to be an unloaded BB gun that was a realistic replica of a handgun. Linfoot was the only officer to shoot.

Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos announced in November of 2014 that no criminal charges would be filed in the case after he reviewed a multi-agency Critical Incident Response Team investigation into the shooting.

Galipo asked Linfoot a battery of questions about his training and the use of deadly force before focusing on the commands that officers gave to McClain.

Linfoot testified the area was well lit and that McClain appeared to be compliant with the original instructions to put his hands up and walk down the slight grassy slope toward officers on the sidewalk in front of his Allard Avenue home.

McClain lowered his hands twice and each time he was told to put his arms back up in the air, which he did until the third time when both hands went toward his waistband, Linfoot said.

“I recall hearing a command of, ‘Get your hands up,’ and heard someone say something to the effect of, ‘He has a gun,’” the officer testified, noting the handle of the BB gun became exposed when McClain lifted his arms, drawing his shirt up from his waist.

A police photograph of the replica handgun reportedly found on McClain. - FILE
  • File
  • A police photograph of the replica handgun reportedly found on McClain.
Dressed in a charcoal gray suit with a blue dress shirt and tie, Linfoot testified he has heard the police dash cam audio recordings from just before the shooting in which someone appears to yell, “Get down,” immediately followed by gun fire.

“It sounds to me like an interrupted command,” the officer said. Linfoot also testified the voice “sounds like me.”

Linfoot took the stand following opening statements during which attorneys layed out differing versions of the tense moments before shots were fired that September night.

Both attorneys also walked jurors through the unrelated surveillance effort on a neighboring residence that initially caused officers to cross paths with McClain.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick III also briefly addressed jurors about the case, saying they would be deciding whether Linfoot used excessive, unreasonable force against McClain and whether he was negligent.

The city of Eureka, Orrick said, has also chosen to put on what’s known as an “affirmative defense,” and will attempt to show McClain’s own negligence contributed to his death and that Linfoot was acting in self-defense and in the defense of others.

In his opening statement, Galipo said the case comes down to two main issues: whether the use of deadly force was excessive and whether the way the police officers handled the situation was negligent.

Describing McClain as compassionate and the type of person who would go out of his way to help others, Galipo told jurors “the family, you will hear, has been devastated by the loss of a 22-year-old son.”

The city’s attorney, Nancy Delaney, told jurors that Linfoot fired in self-defense when it appeared his life and those of the other officers were in danger. His actions, she said, were appropriate.

“We’re not here, in any way, to belittle Mr. McClain or the relationship he had with his parents,” Delaney said.

Witness statements and the audio tape, Galipo said, will show McClain was trying  to comply with confusing and conflicting commands in the moments before he was shot. Galipo also told jurors that expert testimony will demonstrate that Linfoot “overreacted” when he fired seven times and other options were available.

McClain, who had a slight hearing impairment, had been out celebrating his cousin’s birthday, but there was no indication that officers noticed he had been drinking, Galipo said.

In contrast, Delaney said the evidence will show that McClain took a confrontational stance when he was first approached by an officer, sending up “a red flag” by telling then-Sgt. Brian Stephens that he didn’t have a right to search him.

“Mr. McClain never communicated in any way, ‘I’m hard of hearing.” ‘I’m not understanding you because I’m drunk.’ ‘I’m confused as to what you want me to do,” Delaney said in her opening statements.

The officers, who were in the area looking for a subject on Eureka’s Most Wanted list, had observed McClain confront another man on the street and then saw him “fiddling” with his waistband, putting police on warning that he could have a gun, Delaney said.

After the interaction, Delaney said, McClain appeared to be "puffing up as if preparing for a fight."

“The overwhelming evidence in this case will be this event occurred not because of any choice officer Linfoot had but because Mr. McClain appeared to reach for a semi-automatic pistol,” Delaney said.

Linfoot is scheduled to retake the stand Tuesday.

Editor's note: This story was updated from a previous version to correct an error concerning which Humboldt County District Attorney determined no criminal charges would be pursued against the involved officers. The Journal regrets the error.
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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Anger, Song and a Group Hug at Arcata's Anti-Trump Protest

Posted By on Sat, Nov 12, 2016 at 5:28 PM

Julie Shonkwiler, a Humboldt State University senior and psychology major, left, and Brianna Jensen, also a senior and psych major at HSU, held signs during an anti-Trump demonstration at the Arcata Plaza on Friday. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Julie Shonkwiler, a Humboldt State University senior and psychology major, left, and Brianna Jensen, also a senior and psych major at HSU, held signs during an anti-Trump demonstration at the Arcata Plaza on Friday.
More than 200 people gathered Friday afternoon to march from the Humboldt State University Campus down to the Arcata Plaza and back, decrying the election of Donald Trump as the nation's next president.

The protest remained peaceful throughout, as emotional participants chanted, yelled and sang. Once the march reached the Arcata Plaza, participants gathered around the McKinley statue as about a dozen speakers passed around a megaphone and took turns addressing the crowd, denouncing Trump and the American political system, and urging people to engage and make change.

Many of the participants were HSU and Arcata High School students, though a swath of the local non-student community also participated. As the crowd marched toward the Plaza, temporarily halting traffic on H Street, a Trump supporter found himself stranded in his pickup truck as the crowd passed. He applauded the protest and reminded participants that America is a democracy and that Trump will become president Jan. 20, no matter how many "Not My President" signs are waved. Some marchers jeered the man but the march passed without any real confrontation.

Once the protest returned to HSU, organizer Emily Lynn addressed the crowd, saying the protest took her from feeling helpless to empowered. "What I've learned today is that the people really are more powerful than our government," she said.

Local photographer Mark McKenna was on scene throughout the protest, which culminated in a group hug on the HSU campus, and shares the following slideshow. (Check out his photos from Thursday's protest in Eureka here.)

If you feel strongly one way or another about Trump's election, the Journal urges you to participate in our 45 for 45 dialogue, details of which can be found here.

Slideshow
Anti-Trump Protest in Arcata
New Slideshow New Slideshow New Slideshow New Slideshow New Slideshow New Slideshow New Slideshow New Slideshow

Anti-Trump Protest in Arcata


By Mark McKenna

Click to View 17 slides


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Friday, November 11, 2016

45 for 45: A Call for Letters

Posted By on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 3:21 PM

A pro-Trump counter protester at the Old Town gazebo on Thursday evening. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • A pro-Trump counter protester at the Old Town gazebo on Thursday evening.
Anger. Vindication. Fear. Hope. Despair. A flood of emotion has washed over the country in the wake of Donald J. Trump’s stunning Nov. 8 upset to become the president-elect following one of the most divisive presidential contests in generations. In the face of this historic event, and the turmoil that’s followed, we want to hear from you, Humboldt. Or, more accurately, we want the president-elect to hear from you. So we’re asking readers to send us letters of 45 words or less addressed to the incoming 45th president of the United States. Send submission to letters@northcoastjournal.com by 9 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 14.
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Eureka's Anti-Trump Protest 'Passionate but Peaceful'

Posted By on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 1:01 PM

Ernesto Najera holds a sign at Thursday night's protest.
  • Ernesto Najera holds a sign at Thursday night's protest.
A couple hundred people took to the streets of Eureka on Thursday night to decry the election of Donald J. Trump in a protest Police Capt. Steve Watson called "passionate but peaceful."

Protesters gathered at the Old Town Gazebo, marched up to the Humboldt County Courthouse and back over the course of a couple of hours. Watson said that at one point protesters flooded Fifth Street, and there were a couple of near misses with passing vehicles. A total of about seven officers were on hand to help control traffic and make sure things didn't get out of hand, Watson said, adding that there were ultimately no reports of vandalism or assaults. At one point, a few Trump supporters arrived in Old Town for a counter protest, Watson said, which escalated tensions briefly but ultimately led to dialogue between the two groups.

"This is democracy in action and we'll do everything we can — always — to protect people's constitutional rights to assemble and speak their piece," Watson said. "The one thing that we always ask is that they keep it peaceful. It's a passionate issue on both sides. The country is obviously divided and people feel deeply. But if we truly respect the democratic process, there has to be some attempt for unity."

Slideshow
Old Town Trump Protest
Old Town Trump Protest Old Town Trump Protest Old Town Trump Protest Old Town Trump Protest Old Town Trump Protest Old Town Trump Protest Old Town Trump Protest Old Town Trump Protest

Old Town Trump Protest


By Mark McKenna

Click to View 19 slides




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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

2nd UPDATE: Allison, Arcata Incumbents Secure Wins in Final Report

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2016 at 9:07 PM

Austin Allison. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Austin Allison.

3rd UPDATE:
The final election night reported has been posted with 100 percent of Humboldt County precincts reporting, and not much has changed with local contested city council races.

Austin Allison has bested John Fullerton in Eureka's 4th Ward, the Arcata incumbents have held their seats, incumbent Ferndale Mayor Don Hindley has won himself another term and Frank Wilson and Susan Strahan have secured victories in Rio Dell.

Check the full report here.

2nd UPDATE:
With the third report posted and 37.8 percent of Humboldt County precincts reporting, Austin Allison continues to widen his lead over John Fullerton in the race to become Eureka’s next 4th Ward council member. Allison has widened his lead to about 550 votes, and leads by more than 10 percentage points — 54 to 44.

Up in Arcata, meanwhile, the three incumbents — Susan Ornelas, Michael Winkler and Paul Pitino — continue to hold seemingly insurmountable leads over challengers Daniel Murphy and Valerie Rose-Campbell, with Ornelas leading the way with 28.52 percent of the vote.

Incumbent Don Hindley is dominating challenger Steve Nunes in the Ferndale mayoral race, taking 72.2 percent of the vote to Nunes’ 25.85 percent.

Farther south, an interesting race is taking shape in Rio Dell, where three candidates — Frank Wilson, Susan Strahan and Bryan K. Richter — are vying for two seats. Currently Strahan leads the pack with 37.65 percent of the vote, followed by Wilson with 32.01 percent and Richter with 29.1 percent.

1st UPDATE: Austin Allison expanded his lead in the 4th Ward race for a Eureka City Council seat with 53.94 percent of the vote to John Fullerton’s 45.68 percent in the second round of election results.

Allison said he had his “fingers crossed” and wanted to thank everyone involved in his campaign.

“I’m just so thankful for the community taking the time to vote for me and supporting my platform,” he said.

Fullerton said he was also waiting to see more numbers, including outstanding absentee ballots, and noted his 30-year commitment to serving the community will not change regardless of the results.

“I will continue to do that in the future,” he said.

Fullerton added that he believes Allison has “a lot to learn” about the city and its communities.

“I will be glad to get him up to speed if he wants my help,” Fullerton said.

Meanwhile, numbers for the remaining races stayed the same.

PREVIOUSLY:
Austin Allison took an early lead in the race to represent Eureka’s 4th ward with 50.94 percent of the vote over fellow contender John Fullerton’s 48.61 percent in the city’s only contested council race this election.

While the two candidates showed little in the way of major differences on the main issues facing the city at debates, the campaign took on a certain new guard versus old guard air when it came what they brought to the dais.

Fullerton — an accountant and 40-year resident of Eureka — touted his experience as a business owner with a track record of civic service, including his appointments to the Humboldt County Budget Oversight Committee and the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Eureka general plan. He also se
John Fullerton. - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • John Fullerton.
rved as an elected member of the Eureka City Schools board.

In contrast, Allison highlighted his young age — he’s 25 — and relatively newness to the city, having moved to Eureka in 2009, with the St. Joseph Hospital cardiac monitor technician and his supporters saying he would bring a fresh perspective, new energy and a positive outlook to the role.

The seat is currently held by Councilmember Melinda Ciarabellini, who decided not to run for reelection. Eureka Faith Center co-pastor Heidi Messner ran unopposed for the city’s 2nd Ward seat.

Over in Arcata, incumbents Michael Winkler, Susan Ornelas and Paul Pitino are looking likely to remain in their seats, garnering 28.48 percent, 27.88 percent, and 24.06 percent of the vote, respectively, to challengers Daniel Murphy, at 9.68 percent, and Valerie Rose-Campbell, at 9.33 percent.

Blue Lake incumbent Adelene Jones was ahead in the race for the three open council seats with 44.44 percent of the vote, with write-in candidates Barbara Ricca at 20 percent, Deborah Ann Jacobsen at 6.67 percent and Summer Daugherty at 20.56 percent.

The race for Ferndale’s mayor had incumbent Don Hindley at 72.20 percent, ahead of challenger Steve Nunes with 25.85 percent.

Rio Dell has three candidates going after two open council seats. Incumbent Frank Wilson was at 32.29 percent of the vote compared to challengers Bryan K. Richter, at 27.80 percent, and Susan Strahan at 39.01percent.



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