Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Former McKinleyville High School Wrestler Dies in Highway Accident

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 11:53 AM

Melecio - FACEBOOK
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A 20-year old former McKinleyville High School Panther has died from injuries sustained in a traffic accident east of Titlow Hill Road. Ramiro Melecio, who also studied at College of the Redwoods, was driving east on State Route 299 yesterday afternoon when he failed to negotiate a left-hand turn, left the roadway and collided with two trees. He was transported to St. Joseph Hospital with major injuries and passed away this morning.

According to the California Highway Patrol, Melecio's death is the 11th road death in 2016.























From the California Highway Patrol:


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Friday, November 18, 2016

UPDATED: Jury: Officer, McClain Both Negligent in Police Shooting

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2016 at 6:52 PM

Thomas McClain - FROM THE 'JUSTICE FOR TOMMY MCCLAIN' FACEBOOK PAGE.
  • FROM THE 'JUSTICE FOR TOMMY MCCLAIN' FACEBOOK PAGE.
  • Thomas McClain
The last night of Thomas “Tommy” McClain’s life began with a night out on the town to celebrate his cousin’s birthday. It ended with the 22-year-old lying mortally wounded in his front yard after being shot three times by a Eureka police officer.

While members of a federal civil jury found Officer Stephen Linfoot did not use excessive or unreasonable force, they also decided that he and McClain were equally negligent for the fatal encounter that occurred outside an Allard Avenue home in 2014.

The panel of five women and one man came to the unanimous verdict on Friday, hours after being handed the wrongful death suit brought by McClain’s parents, who originally sought $10 million from the city.

The jury awarded them $300,000 in damages, but because McClain was found 50 percent responsible, the amount was reduced by half, with each of his parents receiving $75,000.

Attorney Dale Galipo, who represented McClain’s parents, said they just wanted to see some finding of responsibility for their son’s death on the part of Linfoot and the police department.
“I think the family is pleased with the verdict,” Galipo said. “They view it as a victory.”

The family’s hope, he said, is “this won’t happen to someone else.”

Eureka police Chief Andrew Mills said he was thankful for the decision, but found no glory in the verdict, noting this was a tragic case that left a young man dead.

”It was avoidable,” Mills said. “(McClain) made some bad choices and ended up being in an officer-involved shooting. I feel for the parents. … I feel for the officers. This was the last thing they wanted to go through and endure. It’s just sad all the way around.”

Attorneys on both sides agreed on at least one thing as they gave their closing statements on Friday: None of this needed to happen. Where they diverged was who ultimately bore the responsibility for McClain’s death.

The city’s attorney Nancy Delaney told jurors that McClain made a series of alcohol-fueled choices that brought police to his doorstep, setting in motion the events that led to his fatal shooting.

She compared Linfoot to a driver who is unable to avoid hitting a child who suddenly darted into the street.

“Imagine the devastation you’d feel,” Delaney said. “It’s emotional. You have sympathy for the family. But it’s not fair to tell the driver it’s his fault. It’s not fair.”

Galipo, in turn, said that Linfoot overreacted in those chaotic final moments, firing not once, but seven times even as McClain fell over and after he hit the ground.

“We have to expect better of our police. … (McClain) didn’t deserve the death penalty,” Galipo said. “That’s what he got.”

McClain never presented a threat, the attorney said, but was simply trying to comply with a volley of commands when he was met with a last shout of “get down” from Linfoot, which caused him to start lowering his hands just before being shot.

“I would suggest that the command is the reason why we are here,” Galipo told jurors. “One has to wonder. … Tommy McClain knows he doesn’t have a real gun. Who is going to pull a replica gun on police when they don’t have a record and they’re all pointing their guns at you? It doesn’t make sense.”

While the toxicology report found McClain’s blood alcohol level was 0.13 at the time of his death, Galipo noted several witnesses - including officers - testified during the week-long trial that he didn’t appear intoxicated.

Coincidence played a major role in the events that unfolded in the early morning hours of Sept. 17, 2014, when an unrelated surveillance sting on a neighboring residence brought McClain into police sights.

Officers were looking for a man on the department’s Most Wanted list. Their attention turned to McClain after he confronted a man on the street soon after returning home from the birthday celebration and fiddled with what appeared to be a gun in his waistband.

Linfoot was sent to drive by in his patrol car under a plan to scare McClain back inside his house. After he passed, officers testified, they saw McClain pull the slide of what turned out to be a BB gun that realistically resembled a handgun before placing the weapon back in his waistband.

Displaying a fake weapon is illegal for a reason, Delaney told jurors, saying this case is just another catastrophic example of what can happen.

“It was Mr. McClain pulling out a replica handgun in violation of the law and racking the slide. Who does that in response to a police vehicle driving by?” she asked. “Who does that? Not someone with a mindset to cooperate with law enforcement.”

During the brief encounter, police say McClain was shot while reaching for the replica gun in his waistband after defying a series of commands to keep his hands up.

McClain’s family and one witness maintain his arms were raised and he was attempting to obey conflicting commands from three officers when he was hit by gunfire.

Galipo pointed to the testimony of Nichole Mottern, the wife of McClain’s cousin, who was outside during the shooting. She said she was “100 percent sure” McClain had his hands at chest level when Linfoot fired.

Delaney questioned Mottern’s credibility, saying much of her testimony was “physically impossible.”

Both sides presented testimony from law enforcement experts who gave conflicting views on a number of key factors in the case, including the officers’ actions that night and whether the shooting was justified.

Delaney pointed to a police tactics specialist who said the officers acted appropriately and a shooting scene analysist who testified that video showing Linfoot move backwards just before firing indicated he was responding to a perceived sudden and immediate threat.

“Officers were trying to conclude what should have been a very easy encounter,” Delaney told jurors. “Mr. McClain could have said to them, ‘It’s not real,’ kept his hands up and walked the sidewalk. They would determine what it was, everyone goes home and officer Linfoot doesn’t have to live with it.”

Galipo said expert testimony showed the officers made a number of tactical errors that night, from giving conflicting commands to failing to take cover to allow for more time to assess the situation.

“You really have to ask yourself,” Galipo said, “did they really need to kill him to take him into custody?”

The case, Galipo told jurors, was about more than what happened to McClain that night, saying “everyone has a right to be free from excessive force.”

“It’s sad to think that if Officer Linfoot had not fired we wouldn’t be here today,” Galipo told jurors, referencing testimony that the first four bullets he fired might have missed McClain. “If he had only fired one shot, we wouldn’t be here today.”

PREVIOUSLY:
Jurors reached a verdict today in a federal wrongful death suit, finding a Eureka police officer and the young man he shot were equally negligent for the fatal encounter that occurred outside an Allard Avenue home in 2014.

Hours after being handed the case brought by the parents of Thomas “Tommy” McClain, jurors found Officer Stephen Linfoot did not use excessive or unreasonable force.

However, they did find Linfoot and McClain were equally negligent in the fatal shooting, awarding $300,000 in damages to McClain's family. Because McClain was found 50 percent responsible, the amount is reduced by half, with each of his parents receiving $75,000.

Attorney Dale Galipo, who represented McClain’s parents, said they just wanted to see some finding of responsibility on the part of Linfoot and the department.

“I think the family is pleased with the verdict,” Galipo said. “They view it as a victory.”

Eureka police Chief Andrew Mills said he was thankful for the decision but found no glory in the verdict, noting this was a tragic case that left a young man dead.

”It was avoidable,” Mills said. “(McClain) made some bad choices and ended up being in an officer-involved shooting. I feel for the parents. … I feel for the officers. This was the last thing they wanted to go through and endure. It’s just sad all the way around.”

McClain, 22, died after being hit by three of the seven rounds that Linfoot fired during the late-night confrontation on Sept. 17, 2014.

Police say McClain was shot while reaching for what appeared to be a handgun tucked in his waistband but that turned out to be an unloaded BB gun after defying a series of commands to keep his hands up.
McClain’s family and one witness in the four-day trial maintain his hands were raised and he was attempting to comply with conflicting commands from three officers when he was hit by gunfire.
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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

DA: No Evidence Juveniles Had Means to Pull Off Bomb Plot

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 4:50 PM

da.png
The Humboldt County District Attorney’s office has decided not to pursue criminal charges against two 15-year-olds accused of plotting the bombing of a Fortuna High School assembly.

“To date, the investigation has yielded no evidence that either juvenile had the means to create an item that could be a hazard — one individual possessed approximately 2 grams ([less than] .1 ounces) of sulfur, a readily available legal product with a variety of uses,” a press release from the office states. “Further, there is insufficient evidence to indicate the two juveniles conspired to commit an attack.”

Both findings are in direct conflict with statements from Fortuna Police Chief Bill Dobberstein on Nov. 11, the day after police thwarted the alleged plot. The chief told the Journal and other media outlets that one of the juveniles was found to be in possession of “several components for making some kind of toxic chemical gas explosion devices” but were missing a “key ingredient” that police believed was stashed somewhere on campus. Dobberstein said it appeared the students were planning on making multiple explosive devices with a substance akin to homemade mustard gas, or sulfur mustard, to detonate them at an all-school assembly that day.

Further, Dobberstein said it appeared the students had been planning a “mass casualty event” for some time and targeting “when there was going to be a large gathering of students and teachers in one place.”

The Fortuna Police Department also issued a press release this afternoon, stating that it has been made aware of the DA’s Office’s decision and will continue to follow up on any new leads in the case.

See past Journal coverage of the incident here, and find the press releases from the DA’s Office and Fortuna PD copied below.

From Fortuna PD:
Fortuna High School Threats case update
The Fortuna Police Department has been made aware that the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office will not be bringing charges at this time against the two 15 year-old boys arrested on November 10, 2016 at Fortuna High School.
The Fortuna Police Department has worked tirelessly over the last 6 days investigating this case with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of investigation. We have followed every lead and conducted multiple searches in regards to this case. The safety of the students and citizens of Fortuna never wavered and was a paramount concern during this investigation.
Although no charges will be filed at this time, the Fortuna Police Department will continue to follow up on any new information related to this case.


From the DA's Office:
DA Perspective on Potential Threat to Public Safety at Fortuna High
Office of the District Attorney - Maggie Fleming, District Attorney
NEW RELEASE
November 16, 2016
This press release provides current information from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s perspective on the potential threat to public safety at Fortuna High School last Thursday.
Based on statements by students, Fortuna High School staff and the Fortuna Police Department responded immediately to a potential threat and took appropriate action. The ensuing investigation resulted in the FBI and Fortuna Police Department serving search warrants on the homes and computer devices of the two juveniles suspected of plotting an attack at an assembly. To date the investigation has yielded no evidence that either juvenile had the means to create an item that could be a health hazard – one individual possessed approximately 2 grams ([less than] 0.1 ounces) of sulfur, a readily available legal product with a variety of uses. Further, there is insufficient evidence to indicate the two juveniles conspired to commit an attack.
The FBI and Fortuna Police Department continue to investigate the case, but at this point the evidence does not support filing of state criminal charges against the two individuals involved.


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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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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Former Trinidad Resident Robert Durst Pleads Not Guilty to Murder

Posted By on Sun, Nov 13, 2016 at 8:22 AM

Durst, who spent several years of his life in Trinidad, recently pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in Los Angeles. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HBO
  • Photo Courtesy of HBO
  • Durst, who spent several years of his life in Trinidad, recently pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in Los Angeles.
Sometime in the mid-1990s, a quirky man with a mysterious past and proclivity for tall tales arrived in Trinidad, buying a home with sweeping ocean views in the small, secluded fishing village.

From this far-flung location — seemingly as removed as possible from his life as the scion of New York’s real estate elite — Robert Durst is suspected of setting off on a 660-mile road trip to kill his former friend and confidante at her Benedict Canyon bungalow in December of 2000.


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Saturday, November 12, 2016

UPDATED: Police Chief: Fortuna High School Narrowly Escaped 'Terrible Tragedy'

Posted By on Sat, Nov 12, 2016 at 7:23 PM

fortuna-police-department.jpg
UPDATE:
The Fortuna Police Department sent out a press release this evening stating that it has investigated additional reports of violent social media threats since Thursday and found them not to be credible.

Since officials thwarted two students’ alleged plans to set off numerous homemade chemical bombs during an all-school assembly Thursday, FPD has been working with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office on the case, according to a press release. Additionally, there will be a “strong law enforcement presence” at the school Monday as a precaution and to help “allay any fears that students, staff and parents may have following Thursday’s arrests.

See the full press release copied at the bottom of this post.

PREVIOUSLY:
According to Police Chief Bill Dobberstein, three short hours is all that stood between Fortuna High School and tragedy.

Fortuna police announced last night that they had arrested two male 15-year-old students at the school who had been planning a “mass casualty event” to take place during an all-school rally on campus yesterday afternoon.

“It could have been a terrible tragedy if that rally would have taken place,” Dobberstein told the Journal this morning. “The whole school was going to be there for this thing.”

The police chief said word of the plot — which the suspects had been planning for some time — came to school administrators’ attention around noon yesterday. Dobberstein said one of the suspects in the case had apparently texted a friend, telling him or her to “basically stay out of the gym during the rally.” The friend then told another student, who told another student, who told his or her mother, who called another mother who ultimately called the school and made them aware of the warning, according to Dobberstein.

Fortuna High School Principal Clinton Duey was then able to trace the origins of the warning back to one of the suspects, and brought him into his office. Duey was able to get the other suspect's name, Dobberstein said, and brought him into the office as well, holding both suspects there while he called police.

Dobberstein said his department was notified of the situation at about 1:15 p.m. and responded immediately to the school. “It was literally about an hour before the school was scheduled to go to the rally,” Dobberstein said.

The chief said officers searched the students and, in one of their backpacks, found “several components for making some kind of toxic chemical gas explosion devices.” The students were missing a “key ingredient,” Dobberstein said, but police believe they had the missing chemical stashed somewhere on campus, based on witness statements and messages found on the suspects’ phones, tablets or computers. It appears the suspects were planning on making multiple explosive devices with a substance akin to homemade mustard gas, or sulfur mustard, a chemical agent that causes severe burning of the skin, eyes and respiratory system.

“Absolutely more than one,” the chief said. “They had enough material to definitely make more than one.”

Dobberstein said investigators will be serving search warrants today, including one to gain access to “electronic messaging devices” used by the suspects. But the chief said that based on what police have accessed thus far, it appears the suspects may have been planning a mass casualty event for some time and targeting “when there was going to be a large gathering of students and teachers in one place.”

So far, police don’t have any reason to believe anyone else was involved in the plot, Dobberstein said, but can’t rule out the possibility. Both suspects were arrested yesterday and booked into juvenile hall.

As to a motive for the thwarted attack, Dobberstein said many have been “thrown around, but we couldn’t say with certainty what the motive was at all.” The chief said he doesn’t believe either of the suspects had a lot of prior police contact, but otherwise wouldn’t comment on the boys. He also said it doesn't appear either of the suspects had access to other weapons.

Fortuna High School administrators didn't immediately respond to messages this morning.

The case remains under investigation by the Fortuna Police and the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, and police ask anyone with information to contact the police department at 725-7550.

Dobberstein commended the response of students and parents who relayed information, and of administrators who quickly identified and detained the suspects.

See the full press release from FPD copied below:

Fortuna Police Investigate threat to Fortuna High School

On November 10, 2016 at about 1:15 PM the Fortuna Police Department responded to the Fortuna High School for a report of a threat to student safety.

Officers contacted two 15 year-old students that had been detained by high school staff. Officers learned the two juveniles were communicating with each other, planning a mass casualty event that was to take place at a rally at FUHS later in the afternoon. Officers located some components for making an explosive device, however incomplete, in the possession of one of the juveniles. Evidence and items located on the juveniles indicated the threat was very serious in nature.

The two juveniles were taken into police custody and later transported to Juvenile Hall. The Fortuna Police Department is working this investigation with investigators from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office. This is a very active investigation with multiple locations being searched.

The Fortuna Police Department asks the public for any information and assistance in this case. Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Fortuna Police Department at (707) 725-7550.

From FPD Saturday:

Fortuna High School threats case update

The Fortuna Police Department is continuing our investigation on the threats reported to us on Thursday afternoon, involving two students who reportedly had the intention to commit an act, or acts of mass violence at Fortuna High School’s Pep Rally, scheduled for that afternoon.

Both individuals were arrested, and found to have items in their possession which lent credibility to those threats.

We have also become aware of further allegations of planned violence on social media by other individuals. These allegations and reports are being taken very seriously and have been followed up by investigating officers. These allegations have been found to not be credible.

However, our department continues to work closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Attorney’s office on this investigation.

As an added precaution, there will be a strong law enforcement presence at the High School on Monday to help allay any fears that students, staff and parents may have following Thursday’s arrests.

As more information becomes available to us as result of this investigation, we will provide pertinent facts to help dispel any unfounded rumors being circulated on social media and by other means.

We ask that citizens call the department, at 725-7550, with any information that they may have regarding Thursday’s incident, or any rumors regarding any threats to students or other citizens.


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