Crime

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

McKinleyville Man Suspected of Triple Homicide in Nevada Arrested

Posted By on Wed, Oct 11, 2017 at 12:56 PM

Scott Baskette - HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
  • Scott Baskette
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a McKinleyville native who is wanted in Nevada for allegedly killing a woman and her parents at two different locations over the weekend.

According to news reports out of Silver Springs, the suspect, Scott Alan Baskette, 48, had been in a long-term relationship with homicide victim Rebecca Driver, 46. When authorities went to notify her parents, Frank and Coral Evans, they were also found dead in their home.

KOLO TV in Nevada reports that Baskette and Driver, a mother of four ages 14 to 25, had ended their 12 year relationship just a few weeks before the homicides. She was found unconscious by her children, but died before officials arrived. Her death was deemed suspicious. The Evans died of gunshot wounds, the station reports.

Nevada authorities contacted the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office to report he might be in the area and a deputy spotted the vehicle Baskette was believed to be driving in the Willow Creek area yesterday just before 5:30 p.m.

After a brief chase down a dirt road, Baskette hit a locked gate and was taken into custody without incident.

The release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:


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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Humboldt County Man Commits Suicide in Federal Prison

Posted By on Sun, Oct 8, 2017 at 3:59 PM

Mikal Xylon WIlde
  • Mikal Xylon WIlde
Mikal Xylon Wilde, the Humboldt County man serving a life sentence for murdering a migrant worker at his Kneeland marijuana farm, committed suicide in federal prison on Sept. 22, according to the Associated Press. He was 35.

Wilde was convicted on a total of six charges in 2015, including murder in the commission of a narcotics offense and conspiracy for the 2010 murder of Mario Roberto Juarez-Madrid, and later sentenced to serve life in prison plus 35 years. He appealed the convictions but the Ninth Circuit United States Court of Appeals upheld them earlier this year.

According to the Associated Press article, Wilde was found unresponsive in his cell in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Sept. 22 and rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead four days later. The story quotes Vigo County Coroner Susan Amos as saying Wilde apparently hanged himself.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Eureka Names Watson Police Chief

Posted By on Mon, Sep 25, 2017 at 5:31 PM

Pending City Council approval, former Capt. Steve Watson has been named the city's next police chief. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Pending City Council approval, former Capt. Steve Watson has been named the city's next police chief.

The city of Eureka announced this afternoon that it’s looking to drop the "interim" from interim Police Chief Steve Watson’s title.

In a press release, the city announced that City Manager Greg Sparks has offered Watson the position and the former captain has accepted. The hire will now go before the Eureka City Council on Oct. 17 for its approval.


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Sunday, September 24, 2017

TL;DR: Five Reasons NOT to Try This at Home

Posted By on Sun, Sep 24, 2017 at 10:52 AM

ncj-cover-092117.jpg
Busy week? We’ll help you catch up on the basics of this week's cover story, "Rio Dell's Hash Lab Murder Case," which takes a deep dive into hash lab explosion that rocked Rio Dell in November and spawned murder charges against all involved. You should really read the whole story here, but this will give you a quick primer on why butane hash oil extraction is inherently dangerous and how California's felony murder rule fits the alleged facts of this case.

1) It’s really dangerous: Butane hash oil extraction is an inherently volatile process. Used to make an ever expanding array of popular products — like oil, shatter, wax and honeycomb — the process uses butane gas to concentrate marijuana’s psychoactive properties to increase potency. It works like this: You take a long tube (usually plastic, metal or glass) filled with marijuana and push butane through it. The butane strips the THC from the plant matter, leaving behind a golden liquid. That liquid still contains butane, however, which must be evaporated off, usually in a two-step process involving hot water and a heating pad. But butane, once purged from its container, becomes a fugitive gas that’s heavier than air. In poorly ventilated spaces, the combustible gas will pool at the floor and build up until it escapes or hits an ignition source — anything from a pilot light to a spark of static electricity.

2) These labs don’t just burn, they explode: When the pooled gas hits the ignition source, there’s usually enough of it that an explosion results. In one such fire outside of Eureka last year, the blast was so strong that it lifted the roof off the walls and moved the structure off its foundation. In the case of the Rio Dell fire at the heart of this story, the blast was so strong it shook neighbors’ homes, rattling windows. And, if that weren’t bad enough, there’s also usually the hazard of stored butane in the lab, which, still in containers,  explodes when burned in the ensuing fire, causing subsequent blasts. This risk of subsequent blasts is so great that Humboldt Bay Fire has changed policy to prevent its firefighters from entering a burning lab unless they know someone is trapped inside.

3) You could be seriously hurt: This can’t be underscored enough. When these things blow up, they do damage and that includes to people. Initial reports from the scene in Rio Dell were that the three young men in the lab at the time of the explosion had burns covering 60 to 90 percent of their bodies. Neighbor Cindy Dobereiner said her husband and daughter ran over to help, finding one man whose “hair was burnt down into his head, his beard melted to his face.” They brought pitchers of water and a hose, and Dobereiner said her daughter tried douse one of the men to stop the burning. “She said, ‘Mom, I thought he had gloves on because when I poured water on him, the gloves just fell right off. But they weren’t gloves.’” In the Rio Dell case, Xavier Renner, a 21-year-old from San Diego, died due to secondary infections from the burns five weeks later in a U.C. Davis Medical Center burn unit.

4) You could destroy a neighborhood: Neighbors of the Rio Dell explosion say it turned the city into a war zone. A U.S. Army veteran who lives about a block away said the concussion from the initial blast was so strong it felt and sounded like someone had taken a battering ram to his door. Then, hundreds of subsequent pops and booms as butane cans blew in the fire sounded like gunfire. As they exploded, cans whizzed through the neighborhood or shot into the air, falling smoldering into neighbors’ yards and onto their roofs. Flames from the detached garage reached high into the air and neighbors say it was only a strong response from the Rio Dell Volunteer Fire Department that kept the fire from spreading to engulf neighboring structures and, possibly, the entire block. (Check out the video below.)


5) If someone dies, you can be charged with murder: Even after the explosion, the fire and the news weeks later that Renner had died, no one in Rio Dell seemed to expect the police to come knocking with murder warrants. But they did. All four people associated with the Rio Dell lab — Renner’s friends, Arron Mohr and Aaron Schisler, and the couple who rented them the garage, David and Tamara Paul — have been charged with Renner’s murder. While that may seem extreme to some, California law fits with the alleged facts under what’s called the felony murder rule. A legal doctrine, the felony murder rule holds that if Person A is knowingly committing a dangerous felony and Person B dies during the crime, Person A can be charged with Person B’s murder. In this case, prosecutors allege that Mohr and Schisler were engaged in manufacturing concentrated cannabis using a volatile solvent, a dangerous felony that caused Renner’s death. The Pauls, prosecutors allege, knew of the butane hash operation and thus were illegally allowing a place for the manufacturing of a controlled substance, causing Renner’s death. Some hope the prosecutions — which may be the first of their kind in California, as the Journal was unable to find any other reports of murder prosecutions stemming from hash lab explosions — will have a chilling effect in the industry, underscoring the high stakes of an inherently dangerous activity.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

County Warns Employees Personal Info May Have Been Compromised

Posted By on Mon, Sep 18, 2017 at 5:39 PM

Humboldt County Courthouse - FILE
  • file
  • Humboldt County Courthouse
The county of Humboldt just sent a letter to all of its more than 2,000 employees, warning that their personal information — including driver's license numbers, social security numbers and bank routing information — may have been compromised.

According to the letter, it’s unclear how many county employees this affects.

In the letter, which is signed by Sheriff William Honsal and County Administrative Officer Amy Nilsen, the county states that the sheriff’s office received an anonymous tip that led to its serving a search warrant in Trinity County, where it recovered “several file boxes” of county documents, including payroll records.

Honsal told the Journal that the tip came via a Trinity County sheriff's deputy who had been approached by a resident there who said he'd recovered what appeared to be Humboldt County payroll records from a residence. The Trinity County Sheriff's Office then alerted Humboldt County on Sept. 7, and Honsal put an investigative team on it that readied a search warrant for the residence in question.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

TL;DR Drunk in Public

Posted By on Sun, Sep 17, 2017 at 10:02 AM

PHOTO BY ERIC MUELLER
  • Photo by Eric Mueller
Didn’t have time to read this week’s cover story? We get it. Summer just disappeared in a blink and now it's time to get ready for one of those famous rainy Humboldt winters. If you'd rather spend the weekend winterizing the house than catching up on current events, we put together a quiz from week's cover story, "Drunk in Public," with charts!

TRUE OR FALSE? It's illegal to be drunk in public.


FALSE. California's public intoxication law — Penal Code Section 647f — says that to meet the legal threshold, a person must be so intoxicated that he or she presents a danger to his or her own safety or the safety or others, or be obstructing the use of a street, sidewalk or other public way.

TRUE OR FALSE? We have a lot of people being arrested for being drunk in public.

TRUE. Of all arrests made by all local law enforcement agencies in 2017, 21 percent were of people for being drunk in public. Almost one-quarter of all arrests in 2016 — 24.1 percent — were 647fs. And in 2015 — the last year for which statistics are available through the California Attorney General's Office — we arrested people for public intoxication at a rate of more than three times the state average. In fact, in 2015, Humboldt County accounted for 3 percent of the state's public intoxication arrests despite having just 0.4 percent of its population.
In 2015, 7 percent of California's adult arrests were for public intoxication, compared to 23 percent of Humboldt County's. That year, Humboldt County accounted for 3 percent of the state's public intoxication arrests though it is home to just 0.4 percent of the state's population.   - SOURCE: THE HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF'S  OFFICE, THE CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE AND THE U.S. CENSUS.
  • Source: The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, the California Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Census.
  • In 2015, 7 percent of California's adult arrests were for public intoxication, compared to 23 percent of Humboldt County's. That year, Humboldt County accounted for 3 percent of the state's public intoxication arrests though it is home to just 0.4 percent of the state's population.

TRUE OR FALSE? We have a high rate of drunk in public arrests because we have a college nearby.


FALSE. Our analysis of the data reveals that most of these arrests are people who are what some call "chronic inebriates" — people arrested over and over again for alcohol or drug related offenses. Of the 182 August arrests the Journal analyzed, almost exactly one-third — 56 — were of repeat offenders, a handful of people arrested twice or more in the same month for public intoxication.

"The majority of those we're talking about aren't somebody that got too drunk on their 21st birthday, that's more the exception than the rule," says Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman. "The normal is the chronic inebriate, cycling through over and over and over again."

Repeat offenders: 56 of the 182 drunk in public arrests are the same 22 people (one third of the arrests). - SOURCE: THE HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE'S BOOKING RECORDS.
  • Source: The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office's booking records.
  • Repeat offenders: 56 of the 182 drunk in public arrests are the same 22 people (one third of the arrests).

TRUE OR FALSE? Jail is the best place to sober up.

FALSE. While law enforcement officers are often the only point of contact for chronic inebriates, they and others agree that correctional facilities aren't the best treatment option for this public health problem. Each arrest also takes an officer off the street for at least an hour, and up to four or six hours if the person needs to be seen at the hospital. Eureka City Councilmember Kim Bergel and others are currently looking at establishing a sobering center in Eureka, where people who just needed to sleep it off could be dropped off by officers without legal ramifications. There, they would be monitored by trained staff and offered access to services. Support for a sobering center seems to be universal among those affected by this issue.
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Monday, September 11, 2017

Police Chief on Shooting: Suspect Was Wanted, Officer Lucky to be Alive

Posted By on Mon, Sep 11, 2017 at 5:29 PM

Ervin Sweat Jr.
  • Ervin Sweat Jr.
Twenty-six-year-old Ervin Eugene Sweat Jr. was wanted on a pair of warrants and facing imminent arrest when he stepped out of a Ford truck and opened fire on police officers, initiating the gunfire exchange that killed him, Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman said at a press conference this afternoon.

According to Chapman, Sweat fired at least two shots at the officers from a semi-automatic .40 caliber Smith and Wesson pistol, one of which struck Humboldt State University Police Officer Louis Altic in the upper thigh. Altic and Arcata Police Officer Matthew O’Donovan returned fire, with all nine of their shots hitting Sweat, who was later pronounced dead at Mad River Community Hospital.

Chapman and UPD Chief Donn Peterson both said Altic is lucky to be alive, noting that the bullet narrowly missed the femoral artery in his right leg, with Peterson saying a surgeon described it as a “miracle.”

“We all feel very, very fortunate to have him with us still,” Peterson said of Altic, who has served as an officer for more than a decade, having moved to UPD from the Eureka Police Department a couple years ago.

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

TL;DR: What You Need to Know About the $2.5 Million Verdict Against the County

Posted By on Sun, Sep 10, 2017 at 11:44 AM

This week's cover is a drawing by Daren Borges. The headline, 'The Hollow Men,' is a title of a work by his favorite poet, T.S. Elliot.
  • This week's cover is a drawing by Daren Borges. The headline, 'The Hollow Men,' is a title of a work by his favorite poet, T.S. Elliot.
Busy week? We’ll help you catch up on the basics of this week's cover story, which touches on Humboldt County's jail, homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness. Read the full story here before you dive into a Facebook comments debate.

This week the Journal took a deep dive into the recent $2.5 federal court verdict against the county of Humboldt and the life and death of Daren Borges that preceded it. Here are five things you need to know.

Daren Borges (right) with his mother, Stephany Borges. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Daren Borges (right) with his mother, Stephany Borges.
1. Daren Borges was a real human being with people who cared about him. Born with a hearing impairment that slowed his development of speech, Borges grew to love language. He was a poet and committed many of his favorite works by T.S. Elliot to memory. He was an artist who drew on anything he could find — envelopes, scraps of paper, even paperwork from the Humboldt County jail, where he  stayed frequently. Borges also had schizophrenia, which developed in his late teens and seems to have controlled his life in many ways until his death at 42. He also appears to have had a methamphetamine addiction, which ultimately led to his death, when he took a potentially lethal dose just days after being released from the jail. But through it all, his family loved him. Days before his death, Borges wrote his mom a letter telling her he loved her and expressing his excitement at talking to her soon. When his phone was found after he died, it had just one number programmed into it, listed under the name “mom.” His sister Sofia told the Journal about her brother: “I don’t know if I’ll ever feel love that unconditional (again).”

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Arcata Police, Witnesses Describe How a Fight Erupted into Gunfire

Posted By on Sat, Sep 9, 2017 at 8:30 PM

The taped-off crime scene at bar row on the Arcata Plaza. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • The taped-off crime scene at bar row on the Arcata Plaza.
Officers were approaching a parked car that they believed contained a man suspected of brandishing a firearm early this morning, when a 26-year-old man exited the vehicle and allegedly fired at least two shots at them, hitting a Humboldt State University officer in the leg and prompting the officers to return fire, fatally wounding the suspect.

According to an updated press release, at least 11 shots were fired in the exchange, which occurred on Arcata’s bustling bar row at about 1:40 a.m. According to witness accounts, the street was packed with people.

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Officer Wounded, Suspect Killed in Arcata Plaza Shooting

Posted By on Sat, Sep 9, 2017 at 8:41 AM

The taped-off crime scene at bar row on the Arcata Plaza. - THADEUS GREENSON
  • Thadeus Greenson
  • The taped-off crime scene at bar row on the Arcata Plaza.

A shootout in front of bar row on the Arcata Plaza around 2 a.m. left a Humboldt State University police officer wounded and a suspect dead.

The officer’s injuries are considered serious but not life threatening.

According to an Arcata Police Department press release, an APD officer was with the UPD officer investigating a report of a man waving a handgun on the plaza at about 1:40 a.m. When the officers approached a parked vehicle, a 26-year-old reportedly got out and opened fire, wounding the UPD officer. Both officers returned fire, fatally wounding the man, who was later pronounced dead at Mad River Community Hospital.

The suspect, whose identity is currently being withheld, reportedly has prior felony convictions. APD plans to provide an update at 6 p.m. today with further information.

Find the full APD press release copied below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
POLICE OFFICER SHOT BY ARMED CONVICTED FELON
On September 9, 2017 at about 1:40am, an Arcata Police Officer and a Humboldt State University Police Officer were investigating a report of a man seen waiving a handgun on the Plaza. Reportedly the man was involved in an altercation when he displayed the gun.
Preliminary reports indicate that as the police officers approached a parked vehicle, the suspect, a twenty-six year-old male, with past felony convictions, got out of the vehicle and fired a handgun at the officers. The Humboldt State University Police Officer was wounded by the gun fire. Both officers returned fire, hitting the man. The man was not an HSU student. He was pronounced dead at the Mad River Community Hospital. His identity is being withheld pending notification of family. The police officer who was shot was transported to a local Hospital where he has been admitted. His injuries are not life-threatening. A handgun was recovered at the crime scene.
The Humboldt County Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) which includes investigators from the Eureka Police Department, Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, Humboldt County District Attorney's Office, Fortuna Police Department, California Highway Patrol and the Department of Justice Crime Laboratory are investigating this shooting.
Witnesses are asked to call the Arcata Police Department, (707) 822-2426.
No further information will be released at this time. The Arcata Police Department will issue an update this evening at 6pm.
Below is a statement from Humboldt State University:
September 9, 2017

The following statements relate to the shooting that occurred early this morning near the Arcata Plaza. Details on the incident are available from the Arcata Police Department.

HSU President Lisa Rossbacher: “Our officer was shot this morning while serving and protecting our community. He was treated, and I’m relieved to hear that he is in stable condition. I want him, and his family, to know that we appreciate his service and that they are in our thoughts.”

HSU Police Chief Donn Peterson: “This situation began with the University Police Department assisting Arcata Police as they responded to an incident near the Plaza. A University Police officer was shot and wounded during an encounter with an armed subject. His injuries are serious, but do not appear to be life threatening. The role of the University Police Department now will be to support the investigation into this incident.”

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