Wednesday, June 7, 2017

EPD Chief Mills Accepts Post in Santa Cruz

Posted By on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 7:57 PM

Andrew Mills - FILE
  • File
  • Andrew Mills
Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills has accepted a job offer from the city of Santa Cruz and, pending a background investigation, will be leaving after three and a half years on the job here.

Reached this evening, Mills said the change is bittersweet and comes for a mixture of personal and professional reasons. Personally, he said he’s welcomed three grandchildren to his family since taking over Eureka’s chief position for Murl Harpham in September of 2013 and the remoteness of Humboldt County has made it difficult to see them. Professionally, Mills said Santa Cruz’s police chief position offers new challenges that he feels are in his wheelhouse: The city has a sizeable homeless population, gang issues and the need to continue building a stronger relationship between the community and its police force.

“It seems like a good fit,” Mills said.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Up and Down Old Town with Officer Crnich

Posted By on Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 1:15 PM

Officer Cory Crnich - SAM ARMANINO
  • Sam Armanino
  • Officer Cory Crnich
Eureka Police officer Cory Crnich’s beat stretches from Eureka’s Fourth Street north to the bay, from East Commercial Street to the library. Being the Old Town officer is a specialty position, one Crnich applied and reapplied for. He took the job in May of 2016, one week after the PalCo Marsh eviction. There’s no pay bonus but there are, according to Crnich, “unique opportunities and difficulties” that make it different from a regular patrol position. Four days a week, beginning at 8 a.m., Crnich walks up and down his beat, checking in on the people  passed out in doorways, smoking at the Gazebo and making their way toward St. Vincent De Paul for food.

“It requires a little more patience than standard patrol work,” says Crnich. “There are two different extremes you’re working with, indigent folks and small business owners.”

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

TL;DR: Our Favorite Quotes From This Week's Cover Story

Posted By on Sun, Jun 4, 2017 at 12:47 PM

Hey readers, we know that reading 4,500 words can be a slog for some in the fast, digital world. Even if that 4,500 words is about something as fascinating as the city of Eureka's many, varied attempts to address the entrenched homeless camp in the PalCo Marsh and the accompanying emails we obtained from public records act request, it is a long article. (Give thanks to the editors, because it used to be much longer.) But take heart, because we get you. After taking a whole year to pore through those emails, and several weeks to write the two-part series distilling them into something that would fit into our pages, we're ready for a brain break too. So we compiled some of our favorite quotes from the article into this listicle, along with some GIFs we feel capture the spirit of the exchanges.

1. "Easy turbo ..." – Eureka Police Department Chief Andrew Mills, responding to a passive-aggressive comment from Parks and Recreation director Miles Slattery about SWAP funding and EPD responsibilities.


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Eureka Council Slated to Talk Wards, Budget, Recreational Pot

Posted By on Sun, Jun 4, 2017 at 8:29 AM

The current Eureka City Council. - COURTESY OF THE CITY OF EUREKA
  • Courtesy of the city of Eureka
  • The current Eureka City Council.
The Eureka City Council will take a first look at the 2017-2018 budget on Tuesday and examine possible customized approaches to the recent legalization of recreational marijuana rather than having the state’s default regulations apply inside city limits.

But before tacking those weighty items, the council will discuss ward redistricting during a 4:30 p.m. special meeting. Following the passage of Measure P in November, future councilmembers will be elected by the residents of individual wards rather than a citywide vote.

To make sure each of Eureka’s five wards has an even population, the city will now need to examine the boundaries — which were last redrawn some 40 years ago.

The Budget
A majority of the city’s $28.4 million general fund in the upcoming fiscal year — about half of the $57.7 million total operating budget — is proposed to go toward public safety, with the Eureka Police Department receiving $13.1 million and Humboldt Bay Fire $6.6 million.

According to City Manager Greg Sparks’ introduction to the 288-page document, the allocation “is consistent with the city council direction of keeping public safety as the number one budget priority.”

Parks and Recreation is slated to receive $3.9 million and Public Works is budgeted at $1.14 million.

Overall, the spending plan is a 2 percent increase over last year’s budget, which also saw a bit of a bump after several lean years that necessitated painful cuts to a number of departments. But the majority of that extra $1 million is slated to cover increases in “pension, health insurance and transit related costs,” Sparks wrote.

“While the recommended budget is balanced the city council and community must be mindful that there are a number of uncertainties still facing the community,” Sparks notes in his conclusion. “Costs continue to increase despite a ratcheting down of discretionary expenses and a leaner public work force. Nonetheless, we will continue to adhere to sound financial practices that will allow us in the long term to successfully meet the challenges of providing quality public services.”

Recreational Marijuana
According to a staff report by Community Development Director Rob Holmlund, the council has until January of 2018 to come up with customized regulations or the general state guidelines will go into effect in Eureka.

The report notes that setting up a city-specific ordinance will take some time, but states the item was delayed while staff waited for President Donald Trump to “clarify the national policy direction regarding state regulation medical cannabis and non-medical marijuana.”

Another factor, according to the staff report, was a lack of clarification from the governor or the state Legislature on how to remedy conflicts between medical and recreational pot regulations.

“Accordingly, staff needs direction from council this month in order to beat the timeline and have custom regulations in place by January of 2018,” Holmlund’s report states.

Staff recommendations for personal grow regulations on recreation marijuana generally coincide with existing ones for medical pot.

Proposed rules include a maximum of 50-square-feet of inside cultivation space per residence, a limit of six plants, a ban on outdoor grows and a requirement that no exterior evidence of a grow be visible from public areas.

On the commercial licensing side, staff is recommending that the council consider banning commercial cultivation and sales of non-medical adult use marijuana anywhere in the city.

Most other aspects of the commercial side, including manufacturing, testing transportation and distribution of recreational marijuana and related products would fall under the same regulations currently applied to its medical counterpart, including zoning restrictions.

Early Release of Council Agenda
Thanks to City Clerk Pam Powell’s efforts to make city business more transparent and accessible to the public, agendas and the accompanying background materials are now available for review days earlier, generally the Wednesday before regularly scheduled council meetings. Find the full agenda and access staff reports for Tuesday's meeting here.
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Friday, June 2, 2017

EPD Pitches Homeless Day Center

Posted By on Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 11:52 AM

J-son and Brittany sit across from St. Vincent de Paul's free dining facility in Eureka. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • J-son and Brittany sit across from St. Vincent de Paul's free dining facility in Eureka.
A recent entry by Eureka Police Department Chief Andrew Mills on the EPD blog addresses the issue of people loitering around the St. Vincent de Paul dining facilty at Third and Commercial streets. Local business owners have complained about an increase in vandalism, drug use and camping in the area. EPD data obtained by the Journal shows a sharp jump in calls to the eight-block area around SVDP immediately following the eviction of PalCo Marsh residents, although EPD officially says many of those formerly living in the marsh have been housed, and the people in the SVDP area are mostly new faces from out of town, drawn here by the promise of work in the marijuana industry. A group of business owners met with Mills and Councilmember Marian Brady to discuss their concerns on May 5.

"Business owners, manager[s], and residents have complained of the high level of disorder including drug use, discarded needles, fights, disorderly conduct, large amounts of litter, and bodily waste left in the alleys and surrounding properties," a memo from Mills reads. "People block sidewalks, graffiti buildings and harass pedestrians and motorists. Business has suffered from lost customers, vandalism, and theft. In addition, businesses are concerned for the safety of their employees."

To address this problem, EPD is recommending a multi-phase plan that will include meeting and communicating with the 30-40 people who tend to congregate in the area, then using diversion techniques to reduce complaints. That might include suspension of services from St. Vincent de Paul for some individuals for a temporary period of time. Police may also ask people to clean up an area or perform other tasks to get a voucher that they can exchange for "meal privileges." SVDP may also shut down the facility during a "crisis period."

"To restore services, the individual may be required to perform a community service: clean up trash, pull weeds, paint out graffiti, etc.," Mills states in the blog. "Once completed, they can get a voucher to re-establish services."

The city is also soliciting proposals for a new "day use" area, where people can stay during the day and store "limited amounts of private property." The six-month pilot project "must be easily accessible to the city by foot or bus, but does not have to be in the city." Proposals are due by July 1.
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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Key Players and Their Emails (A Companion to This Week's Cover Story)

Posted By on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 3:52 PM

This week's cover story, "Swept," takes a deep dive into the Eureka city government's collective thought process as it planned to clear the PalCo Marsh of homeless encampments over the course of more than a year, culminating in the May 2, 2016 sweep that resulted in the relocation of more than 100 homeless people.

To report the story, Journal staff writer Linda Stansberry pored through more than 11,000 pages of documents obtained from the city through a California Public Records Act. Below, you'll find a handful of bios aimed at giving you a better understanding of some of the key players involved in city's decision making process, as well as a a selection of the emails we received from each. In addition to providing a more detailed look at what city leaders were talking about in the months leading up to the sweep, the emails should give you a taste of what Stansberry experienced, right down to the city's silly redactions of public employees' work email addresses and phone numbers. (You'll even get to look at one email that's formatted to have a single letter on each line and stretches across more than a dozen pages.) But don't worry, we're sparing you all the non responsive and duplicate ones. (For more on those, read last week's editorial here.)

And, make sure to go back and read the cover story!

Greg Sparks
  • Greg Sparks
Greg Sparks
Hired March 6, 2014, Sparks arrived to take Eureka’s city manager position from West Des Moines, Iowa, where he held the same post. In Eureka, Sparks has had to confront a much different set of challenges than he faced in West Des Moines, a Des Moines suburb with a population of about 56,000.

Most notable are the economic differences: The median household income in West Des Moines is $54,000 compared to just $25,000 in Eureka. And with that income disparity comes a much larger homeless population in Eureka, which has one of the densest concentrations of chronically homeless people in the country. Looking back on the city’s handling of the homeless encampments in the PalCo Marsh, Sparks said he wouldn’t do anything differently, adding that homelessness has proven a huge challenge for cities throughout the state.

Read a selection of Sparks’ emails here.

Andrew Mills
  • Andrew Mills
Andrew Mills
Hired as the city’s new police chief Sept. 11, 2013, Mills came to Eureka from San Diego, where he’d worked as a cop for 30 years, with stints commanding both the city’s eastern and western districts. Originally from Michigan, Mills has strong background in problem-oriented and community policing, and became well known in San Diego for neighborhood walks with community partners.

Mills told the Journal he knew homelessness was going to be a large issue for his department when he took the job, but said he underestimated the depth of the problem and how much time his department would spend wrestling with it.

Email exchanges between Mills and other city leaders, as well as some members of the public, show that perhaps more than anyone in city hall, Mills was reticent to clear the encampments in the PalCo Marsh without having another designated space to send the people living there.

Read a selection of Mills’ emails here.

Miles Slattery
  • Miles Slattery
Miles Slattery
A 1994 graduate of Humboldt State University, Slattery returned to the North Coast in May of 2006 to work for the city of Eureka after a seven-year stint in San Diego, where he worked as a chemist. Slattery joined the city of Eureka as a project manager in March of 2006, became the city’s deputy public works director in November of 2011 and its parks and recreation director in 2013.

Somewhat of a firebrand, Slattery has been vocal in urging the city to invest more in its parks, believing active recreation and engagement by city residents would go along way to deterring “inappropriate uses” of public spaces and make the city safer.

With his department at the forefront of the city’s efforts to clean out the PalCo Marsh, Slattery’s frustrations boiled over at times, which is visible in the selection of emails you can find here.

Rob Holmlund
  • Rob Holmlund
Rob Holmlund
Hired as Eureka’s community development director in 2014, Holmlund is an East Coast native who came to HSU to get a master’s degree before getting a job with GHD Planning and Engineering.

Since joining the city, Holmlund has helped usher in a new medical cannabis ordinance, a pilot parklet project and a re-envisioning of the Eureka waterfront. As to the homeless issue, Homlund seems to have bought into the Housing First philosophy adopted by the city but has otherwise been fairly silent publicly.

Read a selection of his emails on the subject here.

Natalie Arroyo
  • Natalie Arroyo
Natalie Arroyo
Elected to the Eureka City Council in 2014, Arroyo came to Humboldt County from New Orleans, where she was living happily until Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

Arroyo currently works for the nonprofit Redwood Community Action Agency and is in the midst of an 8-year contract with the U.S. Coast Guard, where she works as a marine science technician. Taking her seat as a member of Eureka’s first all-female city council in 2015 — her first elected office — Arroyo was immediately faced with the issue of homelessness and, more specifically, what to do about the PalCo Marsh.

Read a selection of Arroyo’s emails here.

  • City of Eureka
  • Kim Bergel
Kim Bergel
Elected to the city council in 2014, Bergel is a Eureka native who worked in elementary education as a one-on-one aide.

Bergel’s big campaign issue was traffic safety, as she’d served on the city’s traffic safety commission for six years. But upon taking her seat on the council in 2015, Bergel threw herself into the homeless issue, and more specifically trying to help people living in the PalCo Marsh. She visited the marsh almost daily, developing relationships with almost all who lived there.

Read a selection of her emails here.

Melinda Ciarabellini
  • Melinda Ciarabellini
Melinda Ciarabellini
Appointed to the city council by Mayor Frank Jager in 2011, Ciarabellini served six years before deciding not to seek reelection last year.

A Humboldt State University graduate, Ciarabellini worked for the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office for 30 years before retiring as a correctional captain. She came to the council intent on bolstering the city’s public safety departments and focusing on economic development.

Ciarabellini became a prominent and forceful voice in the council’s passionate debates over what to do with the PalCo Marsh. Read a selection of her emails here.

Linda Atkins
  • Linda Atkins
Linda Atkins
First elected to the council in 2008 and termed out in 2016, Atkins served eight years on the council. A retired engineering associate, Atkins was seen as the sole “progressive” voice on the council for a couple of years until 2015, when she was joined by Arroyo and Bergel.

Atkins was the driving force behind the city’s shelter crisis declaration, which later proved integral in setting up the shipping container transitional housing village run by Betty Chinn and the rotating free sleeping areas set up in city parking lots. Both were important parts of the city’s defense of a lawsuit seeking to halt the May 2, 2016, eviction of the PalCo Marsh.

Read a selection of Atkins’ emails here.
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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Huffman Town Hall Coming to Garberville

Posted By on Sat, May 27, 2017 at 2:06 PM

Congressman Huffman at his town hall in Arcata. - BEAU SAUNDERS
  • Beau Saunders
  • Congressman Huffman at his town hall in Arcata.
Congressman Jared Huffman is taking the next segment of his town hall tour to Garberville on May 31 after drawing large crowds up and down California’s 2nd District in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election.

According to a release from his office, Huffman will “discuss how to make forward progress in today’s political climate” and “answer questions and share his plans and priorities for best representing California’s North Coast in Congress.”

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Arcata Moves Forward With Sanctuary City Status

Posted By on Sat, May 20, 2017 at 11:56 AM

The Arcata City Council took the first steps toward becoming a sanctuary city this week in a reversal of position from one month ago when a divided board stopped just short of the declaration.

After the 4-1 vote on May 16, Councilmember Michael Winkler stated he supported the body of the ordinance but cast his dissenting vote due to fears the specific wording of sanctuary city would “put a weapon in Trump’s hands.”

He emphasized that he was adamantly opposed to the “fascist (President Donald) Trump regime and all its immigration policies and many other policies.”

“I don’t want to give them the power to punish us and the people of Arcata,” Winkler said.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

$5M Awarded for Last Chance Grade Studies

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 4:03 PM

A tractor trailer passes one of the retaining walls on the grade. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • A tractor trailer passes one of the retaining walls on the grade.
The California Transportation Commission has allocated $5 million to fund the environmental and geotechnical studies needed to build an alternative route around Last Chance Grade, the long-failing portion of U.S. Highway 101 just south of Crescent City.

The offices of Congressman Jared Huffman and state Sen. Mike McGuire announced the development today, the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy planning and construction process that currently has an estimated completion date of 2039.

“I thank the California Transportation Commission for recognizing the importance of finding a long-term and durable solution for Last Chance Grade and for providing the much-needed support to move this process forward,” Huffman states in the release.

The 3-mile stretch of highway, which has shifted 50 feet since 1937, has been plagued by landslides since the first wagon road was cut there more than 120 years ago.

“Due in part to the support of the community, lawmakers, and stakeholder groups, Caltrans is now a step closer in the development of a long-term solution at Last Chance Grade,” Caltrans District 1 Director Matt Brady states in the announcement from Huffman’s office.

There are currently six proposed alternative routes for the vital link between Crescent City and points south, with price tags ranging from $300 million to $1 billion. Each one comes with its own set of major obstacles, including old growth redwoods, challenging terrain and sites of cultural significance to local tribes.

Read previous North Coast Journal coverage of the challenges facing the project here and here.

Read the full release from Congressman Jared Huffman's office below:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) today announced that the California Transportation Commission (CTC) has awarded $5 million in funding for Last Chance Grade, the slide-prone stretch of U.S. Highway 101 between Klamath and Crescent City.

“Resolving the issues at Last Chance Grade is vital both for my constituents’ safety and to keep California’s far North Coast connected to the greater region,” said Rep. Huffman. “I thank the California Transportation Commission for recognizing the importance of finding a long-term and durable solution for Last Chance Grade and for providing the much-needed support to move this process forward.”

“Due in part to the support of the community, lawmakers, and stakeholder groups, Caltrans is now a step closer in the development of a long-term solution at Last Chance Grade,” said Caltrans District 1 Director, Matt Brady. “While this amount is not enough to complete all of the studies required, it is positive movement towards developing a project that meets everyone’s needs.”

Earlier this month, Rep. Huffman was joined by Assemblyman Jim Wood and Senator Mike McGuire in sending a letter to the CTC supporting Caltrans’ request for funding.

This letter was accompanied by dozens of additional support letters from local governments, tribes, environmental groups, landowners, businesses and transportation interests who rely on the integrity of this stretch of the highway.

The funding will allow Caltrans to begin conducting the necessary environmental and geotechnical investigations of potential alignments of the highway around Last Chance Grade. This is a critical step to protecting the safety and economy of Del Norte County and the people and commerce that travel U.S. Highway 101.

Read the release from state Sen. Mike McGuire's office below:
Sacramento, CA – The California Transportation Commission voted today to approve $5 million for initial environmental work related to the permanent solution for Last Chance Grade. Senator McGuire, Assemblymember Wood and Congressman Huffman have been fighting for these funds for the past many months.

“Advancing a permanent solution – moving the Last Chance Grade off of the coast and constructing an inland route – is a top priority to all of us,” Senator McGuire said. “This has been a team effort with Congressman Huffman, Assemblymember Wood and Caltrans to advance these funds which will kick off the process to evaluate alternative proposed routes for Last Chance Grade and we are excited that after decades of work, we are finally taking steps to make a permanent fix.”

Assemblymember Wood, Senator McGuire and Congressman Huffman have been working closely with Del Norte County Supervisors, Crescent City leaders and state transportation officials, and earlier this year hosted on-site meetings at the Last Chance Grade after portions of the highway collapsed, closing and damaging the road.

“It’s unacceptable that it has taken decades to get Del Norte County residents a safe and reliable highway, and it’s our top priority to get this permanent solution moving,” Senator McGuire said.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

DA: Officers 'Acted Lawfully' in Fatal McKinleyville Standoff Shooting

Posted By on Mon, May 15, 2017 at 3:44 PM

Sheriff Mike Downey recounts the events of the standoff  at a press conference. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • Sheriff Mike Downey recounts the events of the standoff at a press conference.
District Attorney Maggie Fleming found officers “acted lawfully” when they fatally shot a McKinleyville man after a lengthy standoff at an apartment complex in August.

David Alan Fulton, 59, who had a history of mental health issues, was killed about 2 a.m. after emerging from his flame-engulfed apartment and firing rounds at SWAT team members, some 17 hours after law enforcement was first called to the scene.

The standoff saw the evacuation of surrounding neighborhoods and a backup SWAT team dispatched from Mendocino County. Crisis negotiators were unable to talk Fulton into surrendering. While the DA's release did not name the officers involved, the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office in August identified Humboldt County deputy James Mowrey as the officer who exchanged gunfire with Fulton shortly after 9 a.m. on Aug. 17.

The office identified those involved with the fatal encounter as Lt. Jason Caudillo, Sgt. Joseph Comer, deputy Ze Manuel Lima and deputy Corey Bender, all from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, and Ukiah police officer Jason Chapman.

“Unfortunately, the peaceful end to the incident well-sought by law enforcement was prevented by Mr.
Fulton’s violent actions,” the District Attorney’s Office press release states. “District Attorney Maggie
Fleming contacted Mr. Fulton’s mother, expressed her deep regret for her loss and notified her of this decision.”

Read the full release below:
District Attorney Maggie Fleming has concluded her review of the fatal officer-involved shooting in McKinleyville on August 18, 2016.
On Wednesday, August 17, 2016, at about 9 a.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Communications Center received a 911 call from the area of 1770 Sutter Road, Redwood Creek Apartments, McKinleyville. The caller reported multiple gunshots within the apartment complex. Responding HCSO deputies learned that a disgruntled tenant, David Fulton, had fired a rifle across the interior parking lot at the manager’s office. Mr. Fulton was known to on-site management to have “long term mental health issues” and had telephoned numerous threats to them that morning. As HCSO deputies arrived, Mr. Fulton fired additional gunshots. One of the deputies returned fire. Mr. Fulton was not hit but retreated back inside his upstairs apartment. He remained there despite directions to exit the building from the law enforcement officers who surrounded the building. The officers learned Mr. Fulton’s female companion was also inside the apartment.

The HCSO set up a command post near the scene and secured a perimeter with the assistance of other agencies. HCSO Captain Thompson requested the assistance of the Humboldt County SWAT team. An additional SWAT team from Mendocino County was also summoned. SWAT team members began evacuating neighbors around 11 a.m. Crisis negotiators and Humboldt County mental health personnel were also on scene by 11 a.m.
Mental health personnel assisted and advised the crisis negotiation team who used a public address system to make numerous attempts to coax Mr. Fulton into coming out of his apartment and surrendering. He could be heard shouting unintelligibly, but he refused to come out. At about 1 a.m. – nearly 14 hours after law enforcement were called to the scene - Mr. Fulton fired additional shots. SWAT personnel used a light/sound distraction device to break out the front window. About 20 minutes later, Mr. Fulton’s female companion emerged from the apartment unharmed. Mr. Fulton fired more shots and the surrounding officers saw a fire growing inside the apartment. At about 2 a.m. Mr. Fulton emerged from the apartment as it became engulfed in flames, firing his rifle at the SWAT team members, striking their vehicle. They returned fire, killing him.

The Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) investigated the fatal shooting and the events leading up to it. (The CIRT team is composed of law enforcement personnel from other county law enforcement agencies and investigators from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office.) In this case they were assisted by forensic scientists from the California Department of Justice and Humboldt County Fire/Arson Investigators. CIRT investigators conducted extensive recorded interviews of participants and observers of the incident and supervised the collection of physical evidence. Although the exact cause of the fire could not be determined the light/sound distraction device, electrical and natural gas appliances were all eliminated as causing the fire. The autopsy on Mr. Fulton revealed injuries from the fire and gunshot wounds consistent with the reports of the witnesses. Toxicological analyses showed he had taken two different prescription psychotropic drugs prior to the incident.

In the course of their duties, law enforcement officers may use deadly force in response to deadly force used or threatened against them. District Attorney Fleming’s review of the investigative reports on this case leads her to conclude the officers acted lawfully. Unfortunately, the peaceful end to the incident well-sought by law enforcement was prevented by Mr. Fulton’s violent actions. District Attorney Maggie Fleming contacted Mr. Fulton’s mother, expressed her deep regret for her loss and notified her of this decision.

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