Government

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sheriff Says Recent Guard Attack Part of Growing Trend

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 3:04 PM

A screenshot from the video of the assault. - HUMBOLDT COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
  • A screenshot from the video of the assault.
Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal held a press conference this morning to share details about a Wednesday evening assault on a correctional deputy at the county jail and to call for more state resources in response to a surge in similar attacks since the 2013 passage of Assembly Bill 109.

According to Honsal, the attack on deputy Dillon Huffman is the 22nd such attack on a correctional officer in 2017. Huffman was apparently lured into a maximum security cell during a routine cell check at around 7:20 p.m. on Aug. 9 after two inmates, Lorence Emmanuel Bailey and Jonah Dale Little, allegedly invited him to look at some artwork. The men had shed their uniform orange jumpsuits and were "prepared to fight," said Honsal. In a video released by the HCSO, Huffman can be seen entering the cell and then backing out again as the two men hit him with their fists.


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UPDATE: Attempted Murder Suspect Surrenders to Police

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 8:54 AM

Shawn Hof Jr.
  • Shawn Hof Jr.
UPDATE:
Shawn Hof Jr., the 25-year-old wanted since he allegedly shot at a state law enforcement officer last August, turned himself into police yesterday, a day after multiple agencies announced a renewed effort to bring him into custody, complete with a $20,000 reward.

See the full press release from the California Fish and Wildlife copied below our original post.

PREVIOUSLY:
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced this morning that it is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Shawn Eugene Hof Jr., a 25-year-old man accused of shooting at an officer last year.

Hof, who was the focus of a recent raid in Ferndale that came up empty, was allegedly involved in a high-speed pursuit on State Route 36 on Aug. 21, 2016 and is accused of opening fire on a pursuing Fish and Wildlife officer. There is a $500,000 warrant out for Hof’s arrest.

Hof is described as standing about 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing 150 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. Law enforcement asks that anyone with information about the case, and particularly Hof’s whereabouts, call a tip line set up at (888) 334-2258 or the Sheriff’s Office at 268-2539.

See the full press release copied below.


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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

DA Clears EPD in Hospital Death

Posted By on Tue, Aug 8, 2017 at 5:33 PM

FILE
  • FILE
The Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office has reviewed the circumstances surrounding the April 2, 2016 death of Jeremy Jenkins and found that EPD personnel did not contribute to the cause of his death.

Police were called to Spring Street at 1:25 p.m. that day to a report of a man “rolling around on the ground,” and arrived to find Jenkins on the sidewalk. When an officer contacted Jenkins, he reported told him he’d just smoked “$40 of meth,” according to a DA’s press release. Jenkins was then transported to St. Joseph Hospital, where he died.

A forensic pathologist determined Jenkins’ cause of death to be “excited delirium” due to “acute methapmetamine intoxication.” Jenkins was 33.

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Monday, August 7, 2017

DOJ Investigator Heading to Town in Public Administrator Probe

Posted By on Mon, Aug 7, 2017 at 3:31 PM

Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming. - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Submitted photo
  • Humboldt County District Attorney Maggie Fleming.
A representative from the California Department of Justice is expected to arrive in Eureka this week to take over an investigation into possible wrongdoing involving the management of estates overseen by the county’s Public Administrator’s Office.

District Attorney Maggie Fleming says she was notified by phone Aug. 3 of the state’s decision to run the probe, which is looking into whether current and former county employees violated the law by purchasing cars and other items from the estates.

“Other than answering any questions they may have, we will have no role in the investigation,” Fleming writes in an email to the Journal. “We will also have no involvement in charging decisions or any prosecution.”


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Thursday, August 3, 2017

TL;DR: How Andrew Mills Barely Escaped Humboldt

Posted By on Thu, Aug 3, 2017 at 10:31 AM

mills_cover.jpg

In case you missed it, Humboldt County bid former Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills adieu last week. We offered a handful of stories looking at his tenure in town and what’s next for EPD. We encourage you to take a few minutes to look at the coverage and weigh in. But there are also a few things we weren’t able to squeeze into last week’s edition, like the five times Humboldt County almost killed Andrew Mills. Here's the rundown:

When he got lost in community forest: “One of the things I’ve learned: Chiefs of police can get lost in the woods, too, and your little iPhone compass doesn’t work when you can’t get cell reception,” Mills told a Times-Standard reporter, less than a week into his new job in 2013, confessing that a job in Arcata’s Community Forest turned a bit tense before he found his way out.

When he got swept off the jetty: On Nov. 5, 2016, Mills decided to walk out onto the jetty to take pictures of large waves sweeping in. The National Weather Advisory had warned of 19- to 22-foot waves over the weekend and asked people to “stay safe … by staying farther back from the surf and off the rocks and jetties.” It’s a frequent warning on the North Coast, and one that Mills apparently missed. In the blink of an eye, a wave smashed him and left him holding onto the jetty rocks for dear life. Luckily, after being pummeled by a few waves, Mills was able to get back to his feet and back to his car, having lost only some skin off his knees, his cell phone and a bit of confidence. “The real thing is, compared to the power of nature, we are insignificant,” he told the Journal a few days later.

When he jumped into a sewage pit at the PalCo Marsh: While talking with some homeless men camping in the PalCo Marsh, Mills jumped off a concrete slab onto what he thought was solid ground only to find it was, in fact, a deep pit of stagnant water and human waste. The horrified men rushed to help the chief, who was “up to his armpits” in sewage, out of the pit. Mills described himself as mad but he somehow managed to avoid death by E Coli infection.

When he unwittingly waded into a Second Amendment gauntlet: Frustrated by the high rates at which firearms were being stolen in Eureka — and the higher rates at which his officers were finding them in the hands of felons and criminals — the police chief proposed a local gun control ordinance. Tepid by lefty standards, the ordinance would have only required gun owners to make sure their firearms were secured and locked up when left unattended in their homes or businesses. But within moments of its announcement, Mills was dogpiled by a virtual mountain of Second Amendment enthusiasts, like Robert Wenzel, who posted the following on the Journal’s website: “Maybe Mills should move to San Franfreakshow. This is just another waste of taxpayer dollars that accomplishes nothing except add further restrictions to personal liberty. Good to know that Mills is another Kalifornia libtard politician.” Frustrated and battered, Mills withdrew the proposal less than a week after its announcement, saying his department would focus instead on “education.”

When officers unloaded 43 shots downtown: We may be projecting a bit here, but we imagine Mills had a minor heart attack upon hearing that his officers had unloaded 43 bullets onto the streets of downtown Eureka shortly before 5 p.m. on a Tuesday. Again, possibly projecting, but we imagine that feeling only intensified when he learned that the suspect — Clayton Lee Lasinski — didn’t fire a shot at the officers and was only hit once in the barrage. At a press conference the day after the chaotic shooting, Mills said he understands “each officer is personally accountable for every round that they discharge and where that round ends up.”

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Monday, July 24, 2017

AG Revives Program to Seize Assets Without Charges or Convictions

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 3:27 PM

Marijuana and more than $11,000 in cash found during a traffic stop were seized for asset forfeiture proceedings. - PHOTO COURTESY OF EUREKA POLICE DEPARTMENT.
  • Photo courtesy of Eureka Police Department.
  • Marijuana and more than $11,000 in cash found during a traffic stop were seized for asset forfeiture proceedings.
Advocates of civil asset forfeiture reform had a few choice names for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions — among them “drug warrior” and “forfeiture fanatic” — when interviewed for a Journal story “The Trump Card” back in March.

There were also predictions that forfeitures would skyrocket under the influence of the former Alabama senator and one-time state attorney general who famously said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Just last week, Sessions made the move to breathe new life into the controversial legal tool that allows the federal government to permanently seize money, property and possessions suspected of being obtained through criminal activity, even without a corresponding criminal charge, let alone a conviction.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Eureka Appoints Watson Interim Police Chief

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 4:40 PM

Capt. Steve Watson - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Capt. Steve Watson
The city of Eureka announced this afternoon that police Capt. Steve Watson will take over as interim chief upon Andrew Mills' departure on Friday.

Watson, born and raised in Fortuna, returned to Humboldt County in 2005 after serving in the U.S. Army, working as an elementary school teacher and serving as a deputy in Santa Cruz County. After joining EPD, he helped oversee the creation of the department's Problem Oriented Policing division and was often in headlines as the department struggled to address entrenched homeless encampments within his jurisdiction as a captain, the area of Eureka north of Seventh Street.

Reached for comment on the appointment, Watson struck an upbeat and determined note. He said he will focus on moving forward with "what needs to be done, both inside and outside the department." Immediate goals include completing deescalation training for officers and improving retention of the current force, a majority of which is comprised of officers with less than five years in the department. Watson says he has seen a lot of "ups and downs" during his 12 year tenure with EPD, a time which included a string of officer-involved shootings, a departmental insurrection against a controversial former chief and prolonged budget woes.

"The last four years under Mills have been very rapid paced with a lot of changes," said Watson. "He has also been a steady hand as a leader. I am obviously very pleased with his leadership but it's time to keep moving the department forward."

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Friday, July 14, 2017

UPDATE: Fortuna City Manager Arrested for Second DUI

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 10:35 AM

Wheetley - CITY OF ARCATA
  • City of Arcata
  • Wheetley
Fortuna City Manager Mark Wheetley was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence yesterday evening, just about 18 months after a DUI arrest derailed his candidacy for a seat on the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Cy May said an officer pulled Wheetley over shortly after 7 p.m. yesterday after spotting him speeding on State Route 255 near Navy Base Road. In addition to allegedly doing about 70 miles an hour in a 55 zone, May said the registration tags on Wheetley’s 2013 Chrysler Town and Country minivan were expired.

“After we stopped him and contacted him, the officer observed Mr. Wheetley displaying signs and symptoms of intoxication,” May said, adding that the officer then gave Wheetley a field sobriety test, which he failed.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

UPDATE: Budget Committee Reverses Trump's Tsunami System Cuts

Posted By on Thu, Jul 13, 2017 at 8:39 AM

A graphic showing the buoy system that tracks tsunamis. - NOAA
  • NOAA
  • A graphic showing the buoy system that tracks tsunamis.
UPDATE:
The House Appropriations Committee has rejected a proposal by President Donald Trump to gut the nation’s tsunami warning system, a move one local official says could leave the West Coast vulnerable to destructives waves generated by quakes from thousands of miles away.

According to the committee’s report, the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriation’s Bill, passed on July 13, includes a recommended allotment of $973 million for National Weather Service and provisions to keep the nation’s two tsunami warning centers open.

The committee’s recommended funding level is $37 million more than the administration’s suggestion, with the committee citing the need to “maintain critical capabilities to provide weather forecasts and warnings.”

“The Committee does not adopt the proposed reduction of the Tsunami Warning Program,” the report states.

The committee also rebuffed the president’s call to eliminate $12 million in funding needed for a system of deep-sea buoys — completed just nine years ago — that transmit information on a tsunami’s trajectory to the warning centers.


PREVIOUSLY:
The tsunami warning system that has undoubtedly saved lives in coastal communities nestled along the Pacific — including our own — faces an uncertain future under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

Trump has proposed shuttering one of the nation’s two tsunami warning centers and eliminating nearly 40 percent of the staff that stand watch 24-hours a day, monitoring seismic activity across the globe for a tsunami threat.

If that were to happen, says Dorie Lanni, who oversees Humboldt County’s Office of Emergency Services, not only would alert capabilities be cut by more than half but there would be no backup warning system in place.


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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

UPDATED: Chief Mills' Last Day Set for July 21

Posted By on Tue, Jul 11, 2017 at 11:51 AM

Mills in cooler days. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Mills in cooler days.
UPDATE: The Eureka City Council is not currently slated to discuss the process for replacing police Chief Andrew Mills at the July 18 meeting, which comes just three days before his last day on the job.

City Clerk Pam Powell said more information on the process may be announced next week and the appointment of an interim chief is likely to come before the council at the beginning of August.

PREVIOUSLY: It’s now official: Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills’ last day with the city is set for July 21.

After nearly four years on the job, Mills is heading south to Santa Cruz, where he’ll take on the same position 10 days later in a city that's double Eureka’s size but faces many of the same issues, including a sizable homeless population.

Mills announced he accepted the position back in early June but the offer was contingent on his passing an extensive background check, which was recently completed.

“It’s bittersweet,” Mills says, adding praise for the men and women of his department. “We truly love the people of Humboldt and we’ve found many like-minded friends and people with similar interests, like grandchildren, and many salt-of-the-earth people who are just fantastic.”

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