Saturday, December 31, 2016

Update: All Hands at Last Night's Waterfront Fire

Posted By on Sat, Dec 31, 2016 at 10:54 AM

An overhead view of the remains of the commercial building. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • An overhead view of the remains of the commercial building.

UPDATE WITH PHOTOS: Humboldt Bay Fire is still investigating the cause of last night's Eureka waterfront fire. This afternoon, firefighters were still on site dealing with the aftermath. Photographer Mark McKenna shot the scene from the ground and above. Scroll down for the slideshow at the bottom following the official press release.

Humboldt Bay Fire called in help from Arcata, Samoa-Peninsula, Blue Lake, Fortuna, Loleta and Cal Fire, including off-duty firefighters, to battle a blaze just before midnight last night on the Eureka Waterfront. The fire, at 12 W. Waterfront Drive, the location of an ice and cold storage facility, took three hours to get under control and left one firefighter with minor injuries. Humboldt Bay Fire is investigating the cause of the fire.

Read the full press release below.

On 12/30/16 at approximately 2345hrs, Humboldt Bay Fire responded with 3 engines, 1 ladder truck, 1 Squad and 2 Chief Officers to a reported Commercial Structure Fire @ 12 W. Waterfront Dr. First arriving units reported smoke was visible from the building and access was made through locked gates onto the property and fire was visible to the rear of the building. Defensive operations were initiated utilizing elevated master streams and large diameter hose lines. A 2nd and 3rd alarm was requested and the Humboldt Bay Harbor District fire boat was also requested to the scene. Off duty Humboldt Bay Fire personnel responded in addition to units from Arcata, Samoa-Peninsula, Blue Lake, Fortuna, Loleta and Cal Fire. The fire was controlled in approximately 3 hours and one firefighter sustained a minor injury and was treated on scene. Humboldt Bay Fire will remain on scene throughout the day extinguishing hot spots and a damage estimate is unknown at this time. The cause of the fire is under investigation and Humboldt Bay Fire will release further information when it becomes available.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Crab Fishermen in West Coast Ports Pull Pots in Solidarity with Humboldt

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 3:29 PM

Felixnando Martinez, left, and Arturo Bertran band Dungeness crab at Wild Planet Foods’ processing shed near the new Fisherman’s Terminal. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • photo by Heidi Walters
  • Felixnando Martinez, left, and Arturo Bertran band Dungeness crab at Wild Planet Foods’ processing shed near the new Fisherman’s Terminal.
A week's worth of negotiations have failed to break the stalemate between Humboldt Dungeness crab fishermen and the Pacific Group, which locally owns Pacific Choice Seafood. Last week, Pacific Group announced it was lowering its buying price for crab from $3 per pound to $2.75.

Fishermen in District 7 — which stretches south from Humboldt Bay’s North Jetty to Point Arena in Mendocino —refused to accept the price and went on strike, delaying the start of the season. According to Ken Bates, vice president of the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association, fishermen in other ports from Westport, Washington, to Bodega Bay, California, have also tied up their vessels in solidarity. Boats in San Francisco and Half Moon Bay, which are currently receiving the full price of $3 a pound, will also tie up at midnight tonight.

"Pacific Group took advantage of a situation," said Bates in a phone interview this afternoon. "Traditionally the prices don’t go down as the season progresses."

Bates added that last year's chaotic season, which was delayed due to a domoic acid scare, further complicates the picture.

In a press release, Bates said no movement was expected until after the New Year's holiday. A call to the Pacific Group's media contact was not returned.

Roger Rowland, a local crab fisherman, said the delay has been especially hard on smaller local vessels that don't fish out of other ports.

"Everybody who has not gone fishing deserves the same price," Rowland said. "It's not bad with us; the other guys who have not got to fish are struggling. Some guys don't get unemployment. It's not easy on the families, not easy to wait."

Rowland, whose vessel left to fish in ports that opened earlier this year, said they plan to stay tied up over the holiday. He added that while many of the crabs they have caught this year are large, the numbers have dropped dramatically since they first dropped their pots in November, from 3,000-4,000 pounds a load to 2,000.

Diminished hauls and a continued strike may mean another difficult year for commercial fishermen who were hoping to rebound after last year's poor season.

"Probably a lot of really tight Christmases," said Rowland. "A rough holiday this year."

From the Humboldt Fishermen's Marketing Association’s Board of Directors:

Dungeness crab fishermen continue to tie up in support of the $3.00/per pound price for Dungeness crabs in California, Oregon and Washington State. The $3.00 price had been being paid for all crab deliveries in California and Southern Oregon since November 15, 2016. On or about December 22, 2016, Pacific Group announced their intention to reduce the ex-vessel for crabs by .25 cents to $2.75 effective Monday December 26, 2016. District 7 fishermen refused the lower price drop and tied up their boats.

As of today, fishermen from Westport, WA to Bodega Bay, CA are on strike. In the ports of San Francisco and Half Moon Bay, those boats will tie up at mid-night tonight. They are presently fishing for $3.00/pound or more for their crabs.

No action or progress is expected over the New Year’s holiday. Small and medium sized fish companies are anxious to resume buying crabs at $3.00, but are unwilling to risk buying crabs if Pacific Group is successful in lowering the price.

For additional information, please see press release dated December 26, 2016. 

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McClain Family Settles Wrongful Death Suit

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 11:21 AM

  • Thomas McClain
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The family of a man shot dead by a Northern California police officer settled a wrongful death suit Thursday after a jury found the officer and victim equally negligent in the fatal shooting last month.

Eureka police officer Stephen Linfoot shot and killed Thomas “Tommy” McClain, 22, during a late-night confrontation in the young man’s front yard on Sept. 17, 2014.

Following a week-long trial in McKinleyville last month, jurors found Linfoot not guilty of excessive or unreasonable force but did find him and the city at fault for negligence.

Dale Galipo, the civil rights attorney representing McClain’s parents, said both sides decided to settle the case after the jury verdict to “get this behind them” and avoid post-trial motions and appeals.

“After the verdict was reached, the city agreed to pay the amount of the verdict plus our costs,” Galipo said. “The family wanted some closure so we decided based on the jury award plus costs, the case should be dismissed.”

The city’s insurance company paid McClain’s parents $157,000 to settle the case, according to a joint stipulation for dismissal filed on Thursday.

The jury had awarded McClain’s parents $300,000 in damages, but reduced the award by half after finding McClain 50 percent responsible for the fatal encounter.

U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick III, who presided over the trial last month, signed an order dismissing the case with prejudice on Thursday.

Galipo said even though his clients feel the award should have been higher and that Linfoot should have been found guilty of violating McClain’s constitutional rights, they still consider the outcome a victory.

“We still feel it’s a victory,” Galipo said. “We just wish we could have had a bigger victory.”

Galipo described the jury as “somewhat conservative” and said he felt the verdict was ultimately a compromise between some jurors who sided with police and others who felt McClain’s family deserved more money for their son’s untimely death.

McClain’s parents, Lance McClain and Jeanne Barragan, filed the federal wrongful death suit in May 2015. The parents claimed their son had his hands in the air and was complying with orders when Linfoot fired seven bullets, three of which struck and killed their son as he stood in his front yard.

The city claimed McClain was reaching for what turned out to be a BB gun in his waistband and that Linfoot acted appropriately to neutralize a potentially deadly threat.

At a time when police shootings have sparked a national conversation about the use of deadly force, Galipo said civil litigation serves an important role in holding officers accountable and helping to bring about change in law enforcement policies.

“Most of these families feel like I feel – that if what we’re doing can potentially save people’s lives down the line, then it’s worth it, because most families do not want to see this happen to someone else’s family,” Galipo said. “That’s one of the main reasons they bring these cases. They don’t want to have to see someone else bury their son or daughter.”

Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Thursday, but he told the North Coast Journal last month that McClain made “some bad choices” that led to the fatal encounter, and that he felt for the parents and officers who had to endure a difficult trial over the tragic case.

The Eureka City Attorney’s Office did not immediately return a phone call request for comment Thursday afternoon.

This story was reprinted with with the permission of Courthouse News Service.

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County Public Works Hoping for a Hail Mary with Gas Tax, Emergency Funding

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 10:47 AM

A slip on Wilder Ridge, where the road has been reduced to one lane. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • A slip on Wilder Ridge, where the road has been reduced to one lane.

Still around $200 million in the hole for deferred maintenance on county roads and other infrastructure projects, the Humboldt County Department of Public Works is looking for alternate measures to fund road repair in 2017. Those measures include emergency funding from the state and the possible passage of a state transportation bill that could raise prices at the pump anywhere from 17 cents per gallon for gasoline and 30 cents per gallon for diesel.

"It's hard to convince people to pay any more for anything," acknowledged Tom Mattson, director of public works. "But that same bill will give Humboldt an additional $10 million. That would more than double my gas tax money."

The transportation reform and funding proposal, which was introduced by Sen. Jim Beall and Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) in August, is slated for discussion in Sacramento for early 2017. Along with the hefty hike in gas tax, consumers could see a $38 per year increase to their vehicle registration fees, according to information on the League of Cities' website.

In April, the California Board of Equalization voted to lower the state’s excise tax on gas purchases, which cut deep into the state's transportation fund and set back planned repairs. In November, Humboldt County taxpayers voted down local Measure U, a proposed 20-year, half-cent special sales tax that would have brought in an estimated $10 million per year to repair roads. Without that money, Mattson says a reform of the current gas tax is one of the only tools in the county's financial toolbox to fix those potholes and slip-outs. But consumers and local businesses are already dreading the potential pinch.

"It's going to be tough," says Ed Lewis of Lewis Logging, who said he dreaded trying to bid for jobs to local sawmills with the additional transportation costs. "The timber industry has been in a terrible way since '08; this is just another nail in our coffin. We have very few sawmills to sell our wood to. I’m in a bad spot."

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors proclaimed a state of emergency in a special meeting on Dec. 21 after storms caused an estimated $2.89 million in damage to local roads. The proclamation might mean some additional funding from the state. Mattson said state representatives were in the field on Wednesday, examining a slip-out close to Honeydew and Shelter Cove.

The section of Wilder Ridge that might be fixed thanks to disaster funding has been sliding out for several years.

The next step, says Mattson, is to "meet and argue about what the proper repairs are going to be, then take it to the governor."

Public Works will also reapply for Measure Z funding. The department received $1.66 million from the special sales tax for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, an amount that is fully 16.6 percent of total deferred maintenance the county accrues each year, and a tiny portion of the total deferred maintenance on county roads. The county currently does have several bridge projects fully funded, including one in Honeydew and another near Holmes.

The same section of road a year prior, before it slid out. - PHOTO BY KATE TROWER
  • Photo by Kate Trower
  • The same section of road a year prior, before it slid out.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Man Found in Manila Dunes Confirmed Drowning Death

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 4:16 PM

The Humboldt County Sheriff's office has confirmed that the young man found dead on the wave slope near the Ma-le’l Dunes in Manila on Dec. 26 is a drowning victim, believed to be the sixth such death in 2016.

The coroner's office, which conducted an autopsy today, is asking for the public's help in making a positive identification of the body, which is described as being in poor condition due to the water. It describes the man as being "a Caucasian male in his early 20’s, with red/brown hair, about 5’7” tall, weighing 120-130 lbs, and wearing navy sneakers with socks. He also had two tattoos, one on each arm near the shoulder. Both tattoos are only partially visible due to the poor condition of the body. The tattoo on the right arm appears to be either an outline of a woman’s face and breast or possibly a dog. The tattoo on the left arm is colored red and blue, and looks like a face of a woman with flowing hair."

From the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office:

An autopsy was conducted on Thursday, December 29, 2016 for the decedent found on the Ma-le’l Dunes in Manila on the 26th. The cause of death was determined to be drowning.
Coroners have been unable to make positive identification of the decedent due to the condition of the body. The decedent is described as a Caucasian male in his early 20’s, with red/brown hair, about 5’7” tall, weighing 120-130 lbs, and wearing navy sneakers with socks. He also had two tattoos, one on each arm near the shoulder. Both tattoos are only partially visible due to the poor condition of the body. The tattoo on the right arm appears to be either an outline of a woman’s face and breast or possibly a dog. The tattoo on the left arm is colored red and blue, and looks like a face of a woman with flowing hair.
The Coroner’s Office is requesting the public’s assistance in making positive identification of the decedent. If anyone has information in regards to this investigation, please contact the Coroner’s Office at 707-445-7242.

On Monday, December 26, 2016 at around 9:35 a.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Communications Center received a phone call from a hiker who stated she had located a deceased person on the wave slope about a 30 minute walk north of Ma-le’l Dunes in Manila. Deputies arrived on scene and determined that due to the decedent’s location, special equipment would be needed. The H.C.S.O. Beach Deputy was called to respond with the needed equipment.

Upon arrival at the location, deputies located a deceased male on the wave slope. The decedent is a male who appeared to be possibly 25-30 years of age, 120-140 pounds, with red or brown hair, and a tattoo on his right arm. Deputies investigated the decedent and the area around, and did not locate anything that indicated foul play. The Coroner was called and took possession of the decedent. The case is currently under investigation by the Coroner’s Office.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at (707) 445-7251, or the Crime Tip Line at (707) 268-2539. 

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Sunday, December 25, 2016

HumBug: Don't Lick the Newts

Posted By on Sun, Dec 25, 2016 at 3:30 PM

Our poisonous friend under water; you can see the roughness of the skin on its back. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Our poisonous friend under water; you can see the roughness of the skin on its back.
Sometimes when I'm out looking for insects to photograph, I see other things. Imagine a creature sporting a neurotoxin hundreds of times more deadly than cyanide in sufficient quantities to kill a full grown man. And it's common in our area.

The Rough Skinned Newt (Taricha granulosa) sports the same toxin that makes the pufferfish and harlequin poison-dart frogs so deadly, tetrodotoxin. I wasn't at all familiar with this species until I had the pleasure of seeing several in a slackwater portion of the Van Duzen River periodically surface, breathe and almost disappear among the dead leaves lining the riverbed.
Newt surfacing to breathe. (There are two in this photo: one in the lower right just hangin' out on the bottom.) - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Newt surfacing to breathe. (There are two in this photo: one in the lower right just hangin' out on the bottom.)
According to the Seattle Times, a 29-year-old man in Oregon swallowed one on a dare and died within hours. The toxin interferes with the transmission of nerve impulses, causing progressive numbness, paralysis and eventually cardio pulmonary failure. There is no known antidote. Fortunately, the toxin does not transmit through skin, which is why children have played with them with no ill effect. It is totally a defensive weapon.
The newts have two known natural enemies: the common garter snake and other larger rough skinned newts, both of which have a limited tolerance for the poison.
Just swimming along, all deadly and stuff. - ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Anthony Westkamper
  • Just swimming along, all deadly and stuff.
So, if you're out and about and see a dark-backed, orange-bellied salamander, keep your pets and kids away from it — all in all it's probably best for everyone to just let it go its own way.

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Little Free Libraries: Giving the Gift of Giving Year Round

Posted By on Sun, Dec 25, 2016 at 2:18 PM

The Little Free Library in Old Town Coffee and Chocolates, started by Journal contributors Barry Evans and Louisa Rogers. From left to right: Rebecca Kalal, Barry Evans, Gail Mentink and Gil Yule. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • The Little Free Library in Old Town Coffee and Chocolates, started by Journal contributors Barry Evans and Louisa Rogers. From left to right: Rebecca Kalal, Barry Evans, Gail Mentink and Gil Yule.

If you’re fond of walking down random byways, chances are you’ve stopped to take a second look at one of these charming little boxes, which look a bit like glass-fronted bird houses, perched above fences and bearing plaques with their official charter numbers. Little Free Libraries, a nonprofit organization that started in Wisconsin, sells these tiny little houses for neighborhood book exchanges pre-built on their website. Crafty folks can also build their own. The book exchanges offer neighbors the opportunity to take and leave books. Unsurprisingly, Humboldt County has taken to the idea in a big way. For this season of giving, we interviewed some of the folks who started their own Little Free Libraries about why they decided to set up these kiosks, and what the experience has been like.

Kate Carignan
Library location: 2940 Fortune Street, McKinleyville.

“My little free library is right in the front yard next to the sidewalk. I heard about them online and told my three children that’s what I wanted for Christmas two years ago. My son put it up; it has been very popular. I’m surprised there aren’t more around.”

According to, Carignon’s library is one of two in McKinleyville. It’s right next to the Hammond Trail, and Carignon says it’s very popular with local children and hikers. “People who are on their bicycles sometimes turn around," she says. Although the library is just in front of her house, nobody has ever bothered her at home. People do, however, often stop her in the grocery store and thank her, she says.

“I always need more children’s books,” she says. "I try to go out three times a week. People give me books to put in and I go to library book sales. It’s just fun to see what people like. Hikers mostly like science fiction, I noticed.”

If you are looking for a late Christmas or Hanukkah gift, take note. Carignon says the Little Free Library, which came pre-assembled, was one of her “all-time best gifts” from her children.

Ken Suiker
Library location: 1988 Huckleberry Court, Eureka

“I get this magazine called The Family Handyman, and on the cover they had plans for a little free library. They had instructions on how to build it. That was basically it.”

Suiker, who built his library out of plywood and pine with a roof of corrugated tin, says he has had several conversations with library patrons since he put it up several months ago.

“I’ve talked to people who said they go from little free library to little free library. Sometimes I put little puzzles and games in there.”

Elan Firpo
Library location: 1926 Williams St., Eureka

“My daughter found some of them around town and she really liked them,” says the local lawyer and former candidate for District Attorney. “She wanted to drive around and drop off books, then decided to start our own.”

Firpo’s father built the house partially out of salvaged redwood, with a roofline to match that of their house.
“We get a lot of traffic,” says Firpo. “We have a notebook where people leave us notes. People say thank you, write requests. We keep dog biscuits because a lot of people walk by with their dogs. The biggest demands are children’s books, and the hardest books to keep in it are children’s books.”

Firpo’s daughter, who is 17, also labels the books so they look like library books, and checks it daily.

Library Location: Ferndale Fairgrounds

“We have 67 campsites on the fairgrounds,” says Lisa Hindley, office manager for the Ferndale Fairgrounds. “We get a lot of people in here, a lot of the RVers and campers like to read. It’s actually been pretty successful."

Barry Evans, Louisa Rogers and Gil Yule
Library Location: Old Town Coffee and Chocolates, Old Town, Eureka

Little Free Library #15424 was previously located in the entrance alcove of the Redwood Curtain Theatre on Snug Alley. After a long run with books coming and going regularly, the entire stock began to disappear during the wee hours of the night, hence the relocation to a safer home.

Barry Evans, who is currently in warmer climes along with his wife and co-contributor Louisa Rogers, might want you to check out his 2009 article about the science of the Christmas story as well as checking out some free books.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Is This Criminal Assault?

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 4:40 PM

It’s been almost four years since the Eureka Police Department and the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office held a rare joint press conference on April 17, 2013 to announce they’d arrest an EPD sergeant on suspicion of assaulting a 14-year-old during an arrest.

Four months earlier, shortly before midnight on Dec. 6, 2012, EPD received a report of a gang fight near Twenty-Thirty Park on Summer Street. The first officer on scene reported no fight but saw a male and a female walking, and noted the male — later identified as a 5-foot-6-inch, 130-pound 14-year-old — was carrying a golf club.

The boy — who later told police he had been drunk at the time, having drank two Four Lokos (a caffeinated malt liquor beverage) — fled when he saw the officer and a foot pursuit ensued. At some point, former EPD Sgt. Adam Laird joined the fray as backup as the kid fled through a backyard and ultimately wound up on California Street. There, the juvenile abruptly stopped running — later telling investigators he didn’t want police to shoot him — and gave up. He was then pushed to the ground by officers.

Continue reading »

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Mills: Suspect Pointed Gun at Officer Before Being Shot

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 2:55 PM

The bullet-riddled Mazda 3 Clayton Lasinski allegedly stole from Sole Savers. - EPD
  • EPD
  • The bullet-riddled Mazda 3 Clayton Lasinski allegedly stole from Sole Savers.

The 26-year-old Garberville man wounded in a Dec. 6 officer-involved shooting pointed his handgun at an officer before police opened fire, Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills said at a press conference today.

Mills spent about 35 minutes walking media through the traffic stop, foot pursuit and ensuing shooting that transpired over 12 tense minutes shortly before 5 p.m. on Dec. 6 and ended when the wounded suspect, Clayton Lee Lasinski, collapsed to the ground on Fifth Street.

During the pursuit, Mills said officers fired a total of 42 rounds — not 44 as sources previously told the Journal — one of which struck Lasinski in the chest and 25 of which struck the Mazda 3 he was allegedly attempting to flee the scene in. Mills said investigators have determined that 14 bullets hit other objects — walls, vehicles and a fence — and that three remain unaccounted for.

Mills said three of the officers involved — officers Steven Linfoot and Dustin Nantz, and senior detective Ron Harpham — have been psychologically evaluated and cleared to return to duty, with Harpham already back in the field and the other two returning to active duty tomorrow. The fourth officer who fired his weapon during the incident — Abraham Jansen — is away on a previously scheduled vacation and has yet to undergo the psych evaluation, Mills said, offering no timetable for the officer’s return to the field.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Betty Chinn Nominated for Californian of the Year By New York Times

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 10:40 AM

Betty Chinn - FILE
  • File
  • Betty Chinn

Fans of Eureka's tireless advocate for the homeless, Betty Chinn, will have their opportunity to cast their vote on her behalf today. Chinn, who has dedicated the past two decades to feeding and helping the homeless in Eureka, is one of the New York Times' 10 nominees for the Californian of the Year.

The nomination came after the Times' California bureau asked readers to send in suggestions for people in our state who "made an impact in [their] community or on a larger stage ... who defined 2016." They chose candidates who had received multiple nominations.

Californians have the opportunity to vote for a winner today, with Chinn in the company of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and business magnate Elon Musk.

"That's crazy," said Chinn, laughing, when we reached her by phone this morning. "I had no idea."

Chinn said being among the nominees was an "honor" but added, "I never read newspapers."

Vote for Chinn or other nominees using the link found here and read more about Chinn's work here.

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