North Coast Journal bannerNEWSBRIEFS

September 16, 1999


Stray bullet hits man

Chain family files suit

Beaches reopen

State commission meets

Governor, tribes reach pact

The state of the state

Research yes, registry not yet

Y2K community meeting

No park hunting

Stray bullet hits man

Keith Mann, 20, of Eureka, feels lucky to be alive after getting shot on the job two weeks ago.

Mann was on a ladder cleaning the gutters of a house on the 2000 block of Harris Street Sept. 1 at 4:11 p.m. when a bullet pierced his shoulder. The shot, which narrowly missed his spinal column on exit, was fired by Scott Johnson, 25, of Eureka, a correctional officer for the Humboldt County jail.

Johnson was apparently cleaning his rifle in a neighboring residence and failed to completely unload the gun, said Eureka police Capt. Murl Harpham. The shot penetrated the wall of the building Johnson was in and then Mann's shoulder. Mann was treated at St. Joseph Hospital and released the next day.

Two medical units from Humboldt Fire District No. 1 responded to the call followed by Eureka police. Harpham said he could hear the gunshot from the police station.

When paramedics arrived, they had to revive Mann. He apparently lost consciousness and was lying on his back in the front yard, said Loren Head of Humboldt Fire.

"If he had moved one inch one way or another, it would have missed him altogether or it would have been fatal," Head said. Authorities said Mann didn't know he was shot until he saw the blood. If the bullet had penetrated a bone, the victim would have known immediately, Harpham added.

An EPD officer on the scene said Johnson was "devastated" by the incident. Harpham said this type of incident occurs more often than one would think.

"If you handle a gun long enough, you're going to have an accidental misfire," Harpham said. He said he knew a man who shot his finger off that way.

Still, Mann's mother, Lynn Niekrasz, is upset by the incident and has contacted an attorney because of the possibility of negligence. She told the Journal her son was going to have the wound examined by a neurologist.

The incident was unreported by other media because it was listed on the EPD log as a fire department response for "medical aid."

Chain family files suit

The family of David N. Chain, an anti-logging protester who died last year under a redwood tree felled by a Pacific Lumber worker, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court last week. Pacific Lumber again blamed the environmental group, Earth First, with Chain's death.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland claims the timber company was negligent at ensuring the safety of protesters on its property near Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park where Chain, 24, was killed a year ago, the Associated Press reported.

The incident was determined accidental by Humboldt County District Attorney Terry Farmer, and no criminal charges were filed against the company or the logger, A.E. Ammons, who has denied any wrongdoing or intent. Ammons was also named in the civil suit.

This latest court action caps more than a decade of battles between loggers and protesters related to the Headwaters Forest region, which the federal and state governments bought last March for $495 million from PL.

In an issued statement in response to the filing, the timber company sympathized with Chain's family, calling the activist's death a tragedy. Further, the company reminded the community that Chain and other protesters were trespassing and engaging in a dangerous game of "cat and mouse" where protesters attempt to get the attention of loggers, then run and hide in the woods.

"The party that bears the real responsibility for this tragic accident is Earth First, the self-proclaimed, radical environmental organization," the PL statement read. "Earth First wrote the manual which instructed Mr. Chain to create chaos in the forest."

"We do not encourage our activists to create chaos in the forest," said Josh Brown from the Earth First office. "Every time I think about what happened to David out there, it makes me so angry," he added.

Activists are coached to create dialogue with loggers, but the loggers often retaliate with threats of violence, Brown claimed. These threats are mentioned in the suit.

Pacific Lumber officials said it's unfortunate this lawsuit will jeopardize the return of "peace" to the community over the divisive issue. "What our community requires now is not more litigation, but a common ground understanding that the need to protect jobs and the environment can and must be balanced," the statement read.

Beaches reopen

North Humboldt County beaches were reopened this week after an oil spill from a ship dredging Humboldt Bay.

As of press time Tuesday, the incident had killed 300 dead birds and 500 more that were oiled and injured. Those numbers are expected to rise. Only a few of the dead or recovering birds at the Humboldt State University Marine Wildlife Care Center were the endangered marbled murrelets. The hardest hit were murres.

No marine mammals have been found dead or soiled. However, biologists say the authorities will never really know the extent of wildlife damage, said Dana Michaels, a spokeswoman for the unified command.

About 300 U.S., state and county officials were called in to help with containment and cleanup. The Pacific Responder skimming system and cleanup crews dotted isolated areas of 22 miles of shoreline between the South Jetty and Patrick's Point State Beach. Workers raked and picked up tar balls and patties that range in size from a penny to a pizza. Blobs are expected to continue to either wash ashore or sink, where they will eventually biodegrade, authorities believe.

Containment booms were placed at the mouths of the Mad and Little rivers to skim the oil sheen in case the tides brought it up river. Humboldt County Environmental Health closed some of the beaches in that stretch and put warning signs on others, when northwesterly winds brought the bay spill closer to shore. Clam, Moonstone and Luffenholtz beaches were reopened Monday.

Last week the M.V. Stuyvesant's fuel tank was punctured by its own dredging arm, leaking about 2,000 gallons of the crude oil, which is hard to corral and easy to spread.

One drop of this fuel, when spread over water, can cover the area of a two-car garage. One pint can cover one acre of water surface, said Michaels, who travels the state for the Oil Spill Prevention and Response Team in pursuit of these ecological challenges. OSPR is a division of the California Department of Fish and Game.

According to the National Research Council, an estimated 3.5 million tons of oil end up in U.S. waters each year. In 1998, there were more than 600 marine oil spills in the state.

This spill has turned out to be a costly one for the Bean Dredging Co. of Belle Chase, La., which has agreed to pick up the tab amounting to more than $1 million.

State commission meets

In the area for a week-long meeting at the Eureka Inn, the California Coastal Commission has a place to go for dinner tonight but no local office.

The commission, based in San Francisco, was set to open its Eureka office two weeks ago, a day before a fire consumed portions of the E Street building it was due to occupy. Total damage from the fire was estimated at $250,000, according to a report in the Times-Standard.

The structure was also home-base for an Internet company Razor Logic, Inc. and 10 other businesses, including state Sen. Wesley Chesbro's office.

Chesbro's workers are operating out of boxes and sharing space with Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin's crew on D Street for the time being.

Today at 9 a.m. the commission will take up a request by the California Department of Transportation for slope work on the northeast bank of the Mad River mouth south of Clam Beach.

That night, the panel goes off to an island Indian Island, that is to dine at the home of Eureka Mayor Nancy Flemming, a commissioner on the 12-member panel.

Flemming said her menu features a variety of local products including a crab mold appetizer, pork loin with fresh peach chutney, and a new potato and pea salad. She estimates there will be 40 or so in attendance.

"I don't know why I do this every year," she said, laughing. "I only have one bathroom."

Governor, tribes reach pact

Gov. Gray Davis has signed a landmark tribal gaming compact with the state's 60 Native American tribes, including the Agua Caliente Indians of Palm Springs.

The agreement will more than double the number of slot machines in the state and allow all tribes to run casinos. The gaming machines are a major source of revenue for the 41 tribes that operate casinos.

The California Supreme Court ruled Proposition 5 the Indian gaming initiative approved by 63 percent of the voters last fall unconstitutional just three weeks ago.

By signing the deal, the tribes averted a federal shutdown of gambling casinos until March when a constitutional amendment agreed to by the tribes, governor and the Legislature will appear on the ballot. The amendment will override the court's ruling.

"The voters and other tribes didn't get everything they wanted, but we (did)," said Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman Duane Sherman.

The tribe's Lucky Bear Casino and the Trinidad Rancheria's Cher-Ae Heights Bingo and Casino operate fewer than 200 machines each, the current limit.

California Indians and their opponents, primarily Nevada gaming interests, spent more than $92 million last year on Proposition 5, which was intended to clear up a legal cloud over the reservation casinos. That campaign set a national record for spending.

The state of the state

The Legislature closed the year last week passing an assortment of bills due to be signed or vetoed by Gov. Gray Davis by next month.

The Legislature passed a bill intended to ban harassment of gay students and teachers. The bill's openly gay author, Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, cited a study funded by the Centers for Disease Control of more than 8,000 high school students that found one in 13 students said they had experienced an attack or harassments because of their sexual orientation, Kuehl's aide, Jennifer Richard, said.

For those feeling harassment from supermarket chains, the Legislature passed the Supermarket Club Card Disclosure Act, written by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Daly City. The bill, which won Senate approval, would ban supermarkets from selling a cardholder's personal information received on club-card applications.

In letters to the editor of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, readers complained about telephone solicitors who said they obtained buying habit information and telephone numbers from Safeway.

Safeway Public Affairs Director Debra Lambert denied the allegation in a telephone call from the company's corporate office in Pleasanton.

Safeway Club Card applications read, "Safeway does not sell or lease personally identifying information (i.e. your name, address, telephone number and bank and credit card account numbers) to other companies."

However, in an Aug. 25 letter to the Press Democrat, Lambert admitted the company "collects data" on customers and when manufacturers "provide Safeway with special promotions," the company "then passes on these promotions to our customers without providing any personally identifying information to the manufacturer."

Lambert also said shoppers have the option of checking a box on the Club Card application that reads, "not to receive promotional material."


Research yes, registry not yet

A bill written by Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, that creates a medical marijuana research center at the University of California also passed the Legislature last week. However, a second bill that establishes a statewide registry to identify and legitimize medical marijuana use was held for next year's business.

The bill met an impasse over whether the registry would be mandatory or voluntary, and the amount of pot allowable by law, among other issues.

The model for the registry was developed by a task force appointed by state Attorney General Bill Lockyer. Hum-boldt County District Attorney Terry Farmer and Arcata police Chief Mel Brown served on the 20-member panel.

Arcata's registry, the cover story of the North Coast Journal's July 15 issue, was used as a model by Mendocino County District Attorney Norman Vroman for a similar program in that county.

Although he's personally and professionally motivated to establish the statewide registry for medical pot users, Lockyer questioned the amount of dosage allowable under Vroman's program up to 24 plants or two pounds. By comparison, Arcata's program allows for up to 10 plants or 8 ounces.

The two programs and the legislation were in response to the California voter-approved Proposition 215, called the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which legitimizes marijuana for medical use in California, despite its conflict with federal laws outlawing use of the substance.

Y2K community meeting

Humboldt County and the city of Eureka are set to have a meeting of the minds Sept. 20.

At 6:30 p.m. the two governments will host an open forum on Y2K preparedness based on President Clinton's Council on Year 2000. The free forum will be held at the Eureka City Hall Council Chambers on K Street.

No park hunting

With deer season opening this weekend, Redwood National and State Parks officials are reminding hunters that these natural preserves are off-limits for hunting and trapping wildlife.

"Surveys show people come here for the wildlife (viewing). It's important for us to maintain that," Chief Ranger Bob Martin said Tuesday.

Just last weekend, an elk was believed to be a casualty in a poaching case that occurred off Skunk Cabbage Road north of Orick and west of U.S. Highway 101. The case is under investigation, Martin indicated.

About a dozen poaching cases are reported every year, but this estimate only accounts for about 2 percent of the actual incidents, Martin said. Rangers must monitor activity over 110,000 acres in the park system and need the public's help.

"The more eyes and ears we have out there, the more we can keep the place in tact," Martin said. Those who witness poaching activity are asked to call 464-6101, ext. 5052.

As a reminder, hunters may transport legally taken game through the parks but may not lure wildlife off park land.

Comments? E-mail the Journal:

North Coast Journal banner