Saturday, February 28, 2015

Wrongful Death Suit Filed Against Eureka; EPD Complaint Review Raises Questions

Posted By on Sat, Feb 28, 2015 at 3:42 PM

The mother of a 42-year-old man who died in the Humboldt County jail hours after being arrested by Eureka police officers last year has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit seeking unspecified damages.

Brought on behalf of Stephany Borges, Daren Borges’s mother, the suit filed Thursday alleges officers violated Borges’ rights when they forcefully arrested him at about 2 p.m. on June 13, 2014 on suspicion of misdemeanor public intoxication. Then, the claim alleges officers were negligent when they booked him into the Humboldt County jail instead of taking him to be examined at a local hospital, despite Borges’ “obviously experiencing a medical and psychiatric emergency.” At about 4 p.m., Borges was found unresponsive in a sobering cell at the jail and was pronounced dead about 20 minutes later at a local hospital. The Humboldt County jail says staff checked on Borges every 15 minutes after placing him in the cell, which is jail policy.

The lawsuit — which specifically names the city of Eureka, the county of Humboldt, Sheriff Mike Downey and arresting officers Michael Stelzig, Drake Goodale and Bryan Franco — asks that wrongful death and punitive damages be decided by a jury after trial. The case is being brought by Woodland Hills attorney Dale K. Galipo. If Galipo’s name doesn’t sound familiar, it should.

He’s the attorney who recently announced the filing of a claim — likely to be followed by a federal lawsuit in April — on behalf of the family of Thomas “Tommy” McClain, the 22-year-old shot dead in September by a Eureka police officer, who said he opened fire after McClain reached for a BB gun that the officer thought was real. The district attorney’s office declined to file charges against any of the officers involved in that shooting, and a shooting review board convened by EPD Chief Andy Mills found the officers followed departmental policy in the incident.

Galipo also represented the family of Martin Cotton III, who the Borges lawsuit states died in a jail sobering cell “under shockingly similar circumstances.” In Cotton’s case, Galipo negotiated a settlement with the county of Humboldt and saw a jury award Cotton’s family $4.6 million in damages from Eureka and its officers.

The Borges case comes on the heels of Mills announcing both that that he is looking to have a federal agency step in and review all of Eureka’s officer-involved fatalities stretching back 10 or 15 years and that he is revamping the department’s internal affairs investigations into civilian complaints against the department.

Mills said he has reached out to the director of community policing for the U.S. Department of Justice — and even met with him personally in Orlando — asking the department to fund a review of all EPD’s officer involved fatalities looking for trends, patterns and areas in which the department can improve, but has yet to hear back. If the DOJ is unwilling to take on such a review, Mills said he will look to raise money through the private sector to fund it. But a thorough review is expensive, running as much as $50,000, Mills said, so he will wait to see if DOJ will agree to step in before looking at alternatives.

The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, a nonprofit nonpartisan organization dedicated to reducing the national incarceration rate, recently conducted an analysis of all California killings that were classified as “deaths by legal intervention” — 810 in total — between 2000 and 2010. On a per-capita basis, the review found Eureka to be the state’s deadliest city for killings by law enforcement, with higher rates of officer-involved fatalities than San Bernardino, Compton and Inglewood. Eureka (population 21,000), its noted, had the same rate of officer-involved killings as Sacramento (population 472,000) for the study period.

It’s worth noting that Eureka’s numbers are elevated by the string of four officer-involved shooting deaths that occurred in less than one-year span between 2005 and 2006. Some have described the string as a statistical anomaly, while others pointed to it as evidence the department was out of control and poorly managed.

Mills — who took over as Eureka’s police chief a little more than a year ago — said an outside review of all EPD’s officer-involved deaths stretching back 10 or 15 years would send a strong message to the community. “I think would give a ton of confidence to the community that we are being as objective as possible,” he said.

At a recent city council meeting, Mills also announced that he’s conducted a review of all the department’s internal fairs investigations since 2008. The results raise some questions.

Mills said the department has seen an average of about 17 complaints a year filed against its officers. The investigations end with one of four designations: “exonerated,” which means the alleged incident was found to have taken place but the officer acted appropriately and appropriately; “sustained,” which means the complaint was accurate and an officer was found to have acted inappropriately; “unfounded,” which means the alleged misconduct did not occur; and “not sustained,” which means there was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation.

Nationwide, Mills said about 25 percent of civilian complaints against law enforcement are determined to be “unfounded,” with the alleged misconduct not having occurred. But, in Eureka’s cases stretching back to 2008, 73 percent were determined to be “unfounded.”

Mills said he’s not sure why Eureka’s outcomes varied so drastically from the national average, noting that he wasn’t here for most of those investigations. But, he said that it can sometimes be easy for cops to just take their peers at their word, rather than thoroughly investigating an incident.

“My response is that I want us to make sure that we are thoroughly and thoughtfully investigating every incident, that we’re not just taking the officer’s word over another person’s word,” he said. “If someone comes in and makes a complaint, we’re going to be as objective and thorough as possible.”

Last year, Mills said the department received 12 complaints, two of which were withdrawn. Of the other 10, four were sustained, 1 was not sustained, one was unfounded and three were exonerated.

Moving forward, Mills said he’s revamped EPD’s internal affairs investigation process to make sure complaints are investigated by the officer in the department with the best skillset to look into them, and enough distance from the subject of the complaint to be objective. Also, Mills is looking to put together a chief’s advisory panel, which would review internal affairs investigations to make sure they were fair and thorough. The panel — which would meet monthly and also review the department’s budget, policies and training — will be composed of seven people nominated by the council and the community and ultimately selected by Mills, Mayor Frank Jager and City manager Greg Sparks.

Mills said he’s hopeful to have the panel in place and meeting by June.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Coffee with the Captains

Posted By on Tue, Feb 24, 2015 at 3:28 PM

A crowd of about 30 citizens, public officials and police officers squeezed into Vellutini's Bakery in Henderson Center this morning for the Eureka Police Department's first "Coffee With the Captains" — an informal sit down with local law enforcement.

Suzie Owsley, with the city's Problem Oriented Policing team (POP), said that this gathering was one of many the EPD has planned in order to facilitate discussion between officers and community members. Future events may include block parties and gatherings at different locations throughout Eureka.

"It was nice of Vellutini's to offer up this space," she said, "Plus, it's Five-Cent Cookie Tuesday!"

As Owsley educated several concerned residents about recent phone scams, Capt. Steve Watson sat down with local business owners to answer their questions about property crimes, robberies and homelessness.

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UPDATE: Third Person Dies from Weekend Crashes

Posted By on Tue, Feb 24, 2015 at 2:59 PM

A second person died from injuries in Saturday's State Route 36 crash. in Saturday's State Route 36 crash. The coroner's office announced 21-year-old Savannah Kiana Kindred, of Capitola, died in the hospital on the morning of Feb. 23.


Two people were killed in separate crashes Friday and Saturday nights.

Just before 10 p.m. Friday, motorcyclist Jerry Dean Hathcock, 54, of Eureka, was killed when hit by an oncoming car on State Route 299 east of Lord Ellis Summit.

Andrew Joseph James Carrigan, 24, of San Francisco, crossed double yellow lines on a curve in an attempt to pass cars, when Hathcock came into view and was struck by Carrigan’s car, according to a CHP press release. Hathcock died at the scene. Carrigan was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. DUI was not a factor, according to the CHP.

On Saturday, an unidentified woman 19-year-old Kendra Paige Leialoha Lewis, of Blue Lake, was killed when Kade Chandler crashed his truck into a tree on State Route 36 east of Swimmer’s Delight.

According to a CHP press release, Chandler was under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and driving at an “unsafe speed” when he failed to negotiate a curve and hit a tree before rolling down an embankment. Lewis was not wearing a seatbelt, according to the CHP.

Chandler and another passenger, both ejected from the truck, were taken to hospitals with major injuries. A fourth passenger, who was wearing a seatbelt, suffered moderate injuries.

Chandler was arrested on suspicion of DUI and vehicular manslaughter before being released to Redwood Memorial Hospital.

From the CHP:


On February 20, 2015, at approximately 9:55 p.m., Andrew Joseph James Carrigan, age 24, of San Francisco was driving a 2011 Hyundai Sonata westbound on SR-299, east of Lord Ellis at a speed greater than fifty miles per hour. Jerry Dean Hathcock, age 54 of Eureka was riding his 2003 KTM motorcycle eastbound on SR-299, east of Lord Ellis at an unknown speed. Carrigan had been driving behind two vehicles when he turned his vehicle into the opposing lane, crossing over double yellow lines and in a corner to pass the vehicles that were traveling in close proximity of each other. Carrigan had passed the first vehicle and was overtaking the second vehicle when Hathcock rode his motorcycle eastbound around the curve and observed the Hyundai in his lane. Hathcock turned his motorcycle to the right to avoid a collision but he was unsuccessful and the front of the Hyundai collided into the motorcycle. Carrigan applied the brakes after the collision and brought his vehicle to a stop partially on the south shoulder and partially in the eastbound lane facing in an westerly direction. The impact of the collision, caused Hathcock to be ejected and Hathcock and the motorcycle came to rest on the south embankment. Hathcock succumbed to his injuries at the scene. Carrigan was transported by ambulance to Mad River Community Hospital for minor injuries. Officer Kibler, #20361, is investigating the collision, Acting Sergeant Michael Campbell, #16321, was the on-scene manager. DUI is not a factor and SR-299 was not closed.

The California Highway Patrol - Humboldt Area responded to the scene and is conducting the investigation. Personnel from the Blue Lake Volunteer Fire Department, Humboldt County Coroner, and Arcata Mad River Ambulance also responded to the scene.


On February 21, 2015, at approximately 10:45 p.m., Kade Chandler, was driving his 2005 Toyota Tundra eastbound on SR-36, east of Swimmers Delight. Due to Chandler's level of drug/alcohol impairment and traveling at an unsafe speed, Chandler failed to negotiate a curve in the roadway and allowed his vehicle to run off the north road edge and where it collided with a large redwood tree before overturning down an embankment.

As a result of the collision, Chandler and passenger Savannah Kindred were ejected from the vehicle and sustained major injuries. An additional unrestrained female passenger (name withheld pending notification) succumbed to her injuries at the scene. Passenger Bradly Thuemler, who was restrained at the time of the collision, suffered moderate injuries. Chandler and Kindred were transported to Redwood Memorial Hospital. Kindred was transferred via air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Thuemler was transported to St Joseph Hospital.

Chandler was subsequently arrested for felony DUI and vehicular manslaughter. He was released to Redwood Memorial Hospital for treatment of his injuries.

Emergency personnel from the Carlotta Volunteer Fire Department, Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Department, City Ambulance, Humboldt County Coroner's Office, and the California Highway Patrol responded to the scene.
This post was updated with the second crash victim's name.
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Sunday, February 22, 2015

HumBug: Mysteries of the Variegated Meadowhawk

Posted By on Sun, Feb 22, 2015 at 1:36 PM

Female variegated meadowhawk - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Female variegated meadowhawk

Science always starts with a question. A few winters ago, walking along my favorite stretch of the Van Duzen River on a sunny day, I was surprised to see a dragonfly. Dragonflies spend most of their lives in the water as predatory larvae looking nothing like the graceful fliers everyone knows. As adults they commonly live for a month or so, hunt, breed, lay eggs and die, only to repeat the cycle as they have for the last 300 million years. The adults are largely adapted to warm weather, so seeing one in the middle of winter I thought maybe it was a straggler who had “hatched” late, or gotten blown here by some vagrant wind. Over the next several weeks I saw it repeatedly and a few others as well. My photo archive shows they were all female.

Male variegated meadowhawk - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Male variegated meadowhawk
By the middle of March they were gone, a new crop showing up again in late August. Poring over my field guides, I managed to identify the species. They were 'variegated meadowhawks,' (Sympetrum corruptum). I like to call them the plaid dragonfly due to the distinctive pattern on the abdomens of the males. I saw them again the next winter and the one following. I took photos and reported my sightings online to Odonata Central. (Odonata means “toothed one,” which is the order containing both dragonflies and damselflies.) This one of the species being studied by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership, a collaborative effort to track five migratory species.

So here are some mysteries:
• Were they born here? The fact that some members of the species migrate does not mean they all do. If not, where do they come from? Do they lay eggs here or is this just a spot to overwinter before completing a journey elsewhere. I've noted some unique individuals over many days.
• Is this spot unique? There are hints this is not as uncommon as once thought. I have seen some a mile upstream. A week ago I thought I saw one flying across a neighbor's front yard. It was too far for a positive ID, but the size, and flight style were correct.
• All of the ones I've photographed between Nov. and March are females. Why is that?
• Insects use several different mechanisms for surviving freezing temperatures. Which ones do these animals use?

So, if you are out walking along one of our local rivers on a sunny day this winter and happen to see a small gray dragonfly perched on a rock or low stick it is very likely a female variegated meadowhawk. You might stop and ponder where she's been and where she may be going. Right now no one knows.
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Friday, February 20, 2015

$10 Million Claim in McClain Shooting

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 11:54 AM

  • Thomas McClain
The family of Thomas McClain, who was shot to death by a Eureka police officer last year, announced it will file a $10 million wrongful death claim against the city and officers involved.

Southern California attorney Dale K. Galipo, who successfully sued the city and police officers for more than $4 million on behalf of the family of Martin Cotton in 2007 and will be representing McClain's family, called the McClain shooting unjustified in a press release.

McClain, 22, was shot by EPD officer Stephen Linfoot after being held at gunpoint by another officer in front of his home on Allard Avenue early on the morning of Sept. 17, according to police. A multi-agency review called the shooting justified, as officers reported that McClain was reaching for a realistic-looking BB gun in his waistband when Linfoot opened fire. No criminal charges were filed against the officer.

Read Galipo’s press release:

Wrongful Death Claim Alleges City of Eureka Police Shooting Was Unjustified

On Monday, February 23, 2015, Jeanne Barragan and Lance McClain will be filing a claim for damages against the City of Eureka, City of Eureka Police Department Officers Stephen Linfoot and Brian Stephens, and other unnamed officers involved in the shooting of their son Thomas McClain. Approximately 45 days after filing the claim, a lawsuit will be filed in federal court alleging wrongful death and civil rights violations.

City of Eureka Police Department Officer Stephen Linfoot shot and killed 22-year-old Thomas McClain in his own front yard on September 17, 2014. Although witnesses claim that more than one officer may have fired during the incident, at this time this office can only confirm that Officer Linfoot discharged his weapon. At the time of the shooting,
Thomas McClain had his hands up and did not pose an immediate risk of death or serious bodily injury to any person. Jeanne Barragan and Lance McClain, Thomas’ parents, are filing a claim seeking monetary damages of ten million dollars. Under California law, a claim for damages must be filed before bringing a lawsuit against a municipality for violations of state tort law.

The law does not permit police officers to use deadly force unless a reasonable officer would believe the person posed an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury. In addition, if feasible, officers must give warnings before resorting to deadly force, and under a recent California Supreme Court decision, an officer’s unreasonable tactics leading up to a shooting are relevant to whether the shooting was lawful.

Jeanne Barragan and Lance McClain are represented in their civil rights lawsuit by The Law Offices of Dale K. Galipo. Some of Mr. Galipo’s recent civil rights verdicts include the following: a $4.6 million jury verdict in September 2011 for the family of Martin Cotton, who died in custody after being beaten by City of Eureka police officers; a $5.7 million jury verdict for Robert Contreras, who was left a near-quadriplegic after being shot by LAPD officers; a $6.5 million jury verdict in April 2013 for the family of Douglas Zerby, who was shot and killed by Long Beach police while holding a garden hose nozzle that police claimed to have mistaken for a gun; a $7.8 million verdict in June 2014 for William Howard, an unarmed man who suffered a severe brain injury and partial paralysis after being shot in the face by a County of Riverside sheriff’s deputy; and an $8.8 million jury verdict in May 2013 for the family of LeJoy Grissom, who was killed in a parking lot by a Culver City police officer wielding an MP5 submachine gun.

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Bigfoot Gets Real

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 7:50 AM

  • Photo courtesy Patrick Magee's 'Primal Rage" Kickstarter site
  • That foot looks familiar ...
First there’s just cheery bird-chirp amid the sunshine. Then deep breathing, and the video camera takes us into the dark forest. Heavy, deliberate footsteps, crunching sticks, more breathing, menacing music, towering redwood silhouettes that interrupt sprays of light, a few ferns glowing bright … and the beast, walking quickly, then loping, splashing through a creek, then breaking into an all-out sprint! Away from you? At you? Aghhhhhh!

So much for hunting for Bigfoot. Because, he seems to be hunting you. Or someone.

This is a scene from a trailer for a new, indie Bigfoot movie in the making, Primal Rage: The Legend of Oh-Mah. It’s “a love project” of director Patrick Magee, says Humboldt-Del Norte Film Commission’s Cassandra Hesseltine. Magee’s the genius behind the special effects in some major movies, including Spiderman, Jurassic Park III and Artificial Intelligence. The film crew’s been filming this week, and wraps up next week, on private land amid second-growth redwood forest near Crescent City (too many old-growth restrictions on state or national park land, says Hesseltine). Hesseltine recently saw some of the action, and says the main character of the film — Bigfoot — is an animatronic creation of Magee’s that is truly impressive.

“It breathes, and there are different things the face can do,” she says. “The special effects were just crazy. They looked real. I believed what I was watching.”

Magee spent six years creating the Bigfoot suit and co-writing the script with Jay Lee, who's also the cinematographer and editor. On the Stan Winston School of Character Arts webpage for Primal, Magee calls the project a life-long dream, a “character-based Bigfoot thriller, as Bigfoot has never been seen before. It's PREDATOR meets FIRST BLOOD meets PUMPKINHEAD, with this re-envisioning of the Bigfoot legends.”

It’s a serious Bigfoot movie, he writes, with none of those modern visual effects but rather “a man in a creature suit, gruesome kills, make-up driven characters, animatronics, self-mechanized masks, armor and more.” It involves “survival, action, horror, love and characters that the audience will truly care about.” Yeah, he implies, CGI can just step aside, because his film brings us back to the days of “GOOD, PRACTICAL, monster-movies. We want to bring the trend of REAL monsters, REAL effects and REAL characters back to an audience who is yearning [for] them.”

He’s most proud of the  “ultimate Bigfoot suit” (outta the way, cheeseball Bigfoot hoaxters with your modified gorilla suits and wooden feet): “Every little detail, from sculpted toe-prints to the nose hairs individually punched into the face were thought out and executed to perfection. With a team of mold-makers, casters, fabricators, hair punchers and mechanics at my side, I sculpted and painted every inch of the suit.”

As for the story: A wife picks up her husband when he gets out of prison, which is “deep in the forest” of Northern California, and they get attacked by a sadistic, warped Oh-Mah (“Bigfoot” in an unspecified Native American language). Fun, ahem, ensues. And terror.

Magee calls it a strong story with strong characters. “Bigfoot is a strong character,” he says in one of his videos promoting the film to potential Kickstarter donors. “This is an intelligent, stealthy, thinking being, and so it’s all character-driven. … The location is a character in itself.”

Yes, it is. With dark, spooky, lovely trees. And shadows. And bright splashes of light.

You can watch the trailer here and read a synopsis of the story on Magee's Kickstarter site. And, check out Magee's video about making the suit and plans to shoot on the North Coast below.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Trying Sanity: What Does Gary Lee Bullock's Insanity Plea Mean?

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 2:49 PM

Garry Lee Bullock
  • Garry Lee Bullock
The man accused of torturing and murdering St. Bernard’s Pastor Eric Freed on New Year's Day 2014 has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but statistics indicate that will likely have little impact on his ultimate fate.

With his trial slated to begin in March, Gary Lee Bullock stood in court on Feb. 10 and read a prepared statement, saying he believes he’s not guilty of Freed’s murder because he was “insane at the time,” according to a report in the Times-Standard.

Bullock’s change of plea triggers a number of procedural protections. He will likely be evaluated by a court appointed expert in the near future and, if the case proceeds to trial, there will be two phases. The first would be a typical trial, with a jury deciding whether he’s guilty of the offense. If the jury decides he is guilty, the case would proceed to a sanity phase, during which the jury would decide if he was legally insane at the time. If the jury decides he wasn’t, Bullock would serve a prison sentence the same as any other convict. But if the jury decides Bullock was legally insane, he would be committed indefinitely to a state mental institution.

Insanity pleas are incredibly rare, occurring in less than 1 percent of criminal cases, according to a report by CNN. Even in cases where a defendant does enter a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity plea, 70 percent withdraw the plea before trial after seeing the results of the court-ordered evaluation. Of insanity cases that do make it to a jury, only about 26 percent result in a finding that the defendant was legally insane at the time of the crime.

The legal definition of insanity differs from state to state. In four states — Montana, Utah, Kansas and Idaho — there’s no such thing as an insanity defense. Nevada tried to do away with its insanity defense in the 1980s but the state supreme court ultimately ruled that not having one was unconstitutional.

In California, to find a defendant not guilty by reason of insanity, a jury must decide the evidence shows the defendant both didn’t understand the “nature and quality of his act” and wasn’t able to distinguish between right and wrong. It’s worth noting, though, that while criminal trials carry the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt threshold, the sanity phase is decided based upon a preponderance of evidence, meaning that to find a defendant insane, a jury would just have to decide that more evidence in the case points to insanity than sanity.

California also amended its law in 1994 to specify that a defendant can’t be found insane based solely on the basis of a personality disorder, addiction or abuse of intoxicating substances.

Michael Perrotti is a psychiatrist based in Yorba Linda and has served as both a defense and prosecution expert witness on the subject of sanity. Judging whether someone was legally insane at some past moment in time is a difficult matter, Perrotti said.

To make such a determination, Perrotti said he tries to gather as much data as possible. First and foremost, there’s an “objective test” administered to the defendant, in which he or she is asked to answer a series of questions, some of which are designed to weed out folks faking an insane state. But, ultimately this test relies on self-reporting, Perrotti said, so it can’t be relied upon as the sole source of a diagnosis. So Perrotti also reviews evidence in the case, the defendant’s mental health, medical and neurological histories. Additionally, he said he likes to review the case file, paying special attention to whether the defendant did anything that displays a conscious awareness of guilt, things like destroying evidence or otherwise trying to cover up the crime. Any statements of witnesses and officers who interacted with or observed the defendant around the time of the alleged crime can also be very telling. And, when possible, Perrotti likes to talk to jail staff and others who have observed the defendant’s behavior over time in the aftermath of the alleged offense, especially in cases where the defendant was under the influence of a substance at the time of the crime.

And, ultimately, Perrotti said, there’s no gray area and he renders an opinion that someone was either legally sane or not. “The bottom line is you have to have multiple sources of data and then ask, ‘Does the data support their knowledge of right or wrong?’”

In the case of Bullock — who hours after his release from jail is alleged to have broken into Freed’s rectory, tortured and killed the priest before taking his car and returning to Southern Humboldt — it seems a psychiatrist would have a lot of “data” to work with to form an opinion. Bullock had a host of contacts with law enforcement and neighbors before his arrest on Dec. 31, 2013 on suspicion of public intoxication. Then, Bullock was evaluated at a local hospital before being booked into the jail due to erratic behavior. After his release in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2014, Bullock reportedly was contacted by a St. Bernard's security guard and a Eureka police officer before allegedly trying to break into the rectory. And, portions of the break in were reportedly captured on surveillance cameras.

Then, there’s documentation of Bullock’s behavior after allegedly murdering Freed. According to court documents, police believe he wrapped Freed’s body in blankets, doused it with liquor and tried to light it on fire. Then, according to the documents, Bullock placed a lit cigar on the stove and turned on all the burners, flooding the rectory with gas, before leaving in what police described as an “attempt to destroy the building by blast and fire.”

Bullock, 45, is due in court tomorrow for a trial confirmation hearing. His jury trial is currently slated to begin March 2.
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Drowning Victim Identified as 33-Year-Old Eurekan

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 11:52 AM

The Humboldt County Coroner’s Office has identified the man who drowned in Redwood Creek after a rafting accident Friday afternoon as 33-year-old Jonathan Walsh Mellon, of Eureka.

“We’re viewing this as an unfortunate accident,” said sheriff’s Sgt. Ernie Stewart, adding he doesn't anticipate any criminal investigation stemming from Mellon’s death.

According to the sheriff’s office, Mellon and two other men were on a three-day rafting trip when they reached Redwood Falls, about 12 miles upriver from Orick, at 4 p.m. Friday. There, Mellon and one of his companions got out of the boat. The plan was for them to set up safety lines to help the third rafter navigate the falls. The boat made it safely down the falls, but Mellon got snared in one of the lines and pulled into the water. Mellon’s companions found him 15 to 20 minutes later but he’d already drowned.

Mellon’s two companions loaded his body on the raft and transported it to Orick, where they called police shortly before 11 p.m.

Stewart said Mellon's companions were locals, and that it appears they did what they could to navigate the falls safely. "This is just a horrible accident," he said.

The full sheriff’s office press release is posted below:

On 02/13/15 at about 2252 hours, deputies were dispatched to the area of the Redwood Creek Bridge in Orick for a report of a possible drowning that occurred. Deputies arrived on scene at about 2330 hours, and located a white Ford truck with a boat and trailer on the river bar northwest of the Redwood Creek Bridge. Two subjects reported their friend had drowned and was currently in the boat on the trailer.

The victim and his two companions started their three day rafting trip at Stover Bridge on Redwood Creek and planned on rafting down the river over the next three days. At approximately 1600hrs., the group reached Redwood Falls, 12 miles from Orick. The victim and one companion exited the boat and proceeded down river, while the other companion negotiated the falls. The victim and his companion set up a series of safety ropes to assist in catching the boat if it didn’t make it through the falls safely. The boat made it safely through the falls, but the victim was caught in the safety rope and unable to free himself. Once the companions were able to reach the victims location in the water 15-20 minutes had gone by. When the companions reached the victim he was deceased.

Due to the remoteness of the area, the companions were unable to notify the authorities at the time. The two companions transported the victim, by boat, the remaining distance to Orick, where they contacted law enforcement.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Inked Hearts: A Photo Essay by Mark Larson

Posted By on Sun, Feb 15, 2015 at 2:22 PM

The equivalent of a photo album of multiple generations of family members could be found among the body art on this person (who chose not to share his full name). He was helping staff one of the many tattoo booths at the Inked Hearts Tattoo Expo in the Sapphire Palace at the Blue Lake Casino on Feb. 8. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • The equivalent of a photo album of multiple generations of family members could be found among the body art on this person (who chose not to share his full name). He was helping staff one of the many tattoo booths at the Inked Hearts Tattoo Expo in the Sapphire Palace at the Blue Lake Casino on Feb. 8.
As I entered the Inked Hearts Tattoo Expo, I was immediately struck by buzzing of tattoo guns and the unusual sight of many people lying passively on tables, receiving their latest ink.

I enjoyed my visit to the sixth annual tattoo expo held in the Blue Lake Casino’s Sapphire Palace on Feb. 8, partly because it makes me feel closer to our daughter Hillary, a tattoo artist living in Brooklyn. She’s the product of Arcata High School and an expensive art school education.

But mostly I enjoy the social scene at this event because I get a chance to talk to the tattoo artists — who come from all over the country to attend — as well as to meet those present who choose to get inked. The attendees are a visual overload of wide ranging body types, displaying a mix of standard “flash” to original tattoo designs located on a variety of body parts.

Continue reading »

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Plaza in Pink

Posted By on Sat, Feb 14, 2015 at 2:22 PM

Students and organizers invited spectators, mostly parents, to join them throughout their choreography. - MANUEL J. ORBEGOZO
  • Manuel J. Orbegozo
  • Students and organizers invited spectators, mostly parents, to join them throughout their choreography.
Scores of young folks descended on the Arcata plaza Friday to sing, dance and take a stand condemning violence against women. The annual event came as a part of V-Day Humboldt's education efforts and conjunction with One Billion Rising Revolution, a global event that bills itself as the "biggest mass action to end violence against women in human history." Friday's event in Arcata featured drumming, dancing, music and poetry. Local photographer Manuel J. Orbegozo was there, and shared these photos.

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