I Justifiably ‘Shot’ a ‘Man’ During My Force Option Simulator Training at CR (VIDEO)

Andrew Goff / Yesterday @ 2:39 p.m. / Crime

Above: One of these guns is real, one is the most high-tech laser tag gun you’ve ever held.

For my first assignment as an officer with LoCOPD, I was sent to a nondescript suburban house on a report of domestic violence. Upon hearing screaming inside, I entered the home through the already open front door. Once inside I was confronted by a loud, violent and somewhat-physical dispute taking place between an erratic woman in tears and a combative man cradling an infant under one arm.

Timidly and awkwardly I attempted to defuse the situation. I told the man to put down the baby and informed the woman that her actions really weren’t helping. This was my first crack at such an assignment. Maybe I should’ve spoken more authoritatively.

For whatever reason, my presence further agitated the man, who eventually picked up a rolling pin from the counter and charged at me swinging. I pulled my gun and shot him in the upper torso, missing the child. He dropped to the floor and the baby landed softly on his now motionless chest. The wailing mother picked the baby up. Then the screen went black.

Thus ended my first tour of duty on College of the Redwoods’ state-of-the-art Force Option Simulator (FOS), a realistic, high-def video scenario generator featuring live actors, laser-emitting firearms and a whole lotta drama.

“You did pretty well,” EPD officer Drake Goodale told me — he’s one of the instructors trained to operate the system. I was told that, all things considered, I’d acted appropriately in executing lethal force on the baby-carrying father.

“That’s what we call a crap sandwich,” Goodale said of the grim scenario I’d participated in.

The Eureka Police Department’s public information team had graciously extended an invitation to local media for an opportunity to experience one of the more high-tech tools being used to train officers for dangerous, real-world situations. This latest system, acquired only in the last few months and housed at the College of the Redwoods Administration of Justice Program/Law Enforcement Training Center, was gifted to the school by the State of California. It’s worth about $150,000. 

While LoCO most certainly was impressed and tickled by the smoothness of the program — it was fun, OK? — our instructors stressed how seriously they take the trainings. Our presentation began with a Powerpoint list of officers recently killed by gunfire in the line of duty. The list was set to a bagpipe-led version of “Amazing Grace.” Local law enforcement takes this stuff seriously. 

“At the end of the day, having to use deadly force is the least desired outcome,” said another of our instructors, EPD Sergeant Steve Watson. “Everyone would like to be in a situation where it deescalates.”

And the potential for deescalation exists within the simulations. Each scenario has within it multiple potential branches which are controlled by a nearby instructor plopped at a computer monitor. Based on an officer’s verbal commands and actions, the instructor may remotely control the onscreen actor’s decision to submit to authority, as the elderly drunk man peeing behind a dumpster did in one of our trainings. (He just wanted to go home.) 

Above: News Channel 3 reporter Lashay Wesley receives some brief weapons training from EPD officer Drake Goodale.

Our instructors claimed that, when force is used by officers, those actions are proved to be reasonable and justified 99.58 percent of the time. (Of course, those decisions are sometimes challenged successfully in civil cases.) In an attempt to make sure officers stay properly trained — and also to satisfy requirements set by the California Commission on Police Officer Standards and Training (POST), EPD and various other local law enforcement agencies participated in mass FOS trainings.

“You have the stress of all your peers watching you and judging what you’re doing,” Watson said of the trainings. “Everyone wants to do well.”

Above: Officer Goodale presents some of the laser-fied training weapons, including TASERs and pepper spray. Below: Goodale reacts to a scenario wherein he is asked to take on the role of an off-duty officer confronted by a would-be carjacker.


Today: 11 felonies, 9 misdemeanors, 0 infractions


Humboldt County Superior Court Calendar: Today


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[UPDATED] Breaking News: Reports of a Suicidal Subject Jumping off 101 Bridge South of Benbow

Kym Kemp / Yesterday @ 2:38 p.m. / News

Emergency vehicles arrive at the scene just south of Benbow. [Photo provided by Shanda Centeno]

According to scanner traffic, a male subject jumped off a Hwy 101 bridge near Benbow into the Eel River by Fish Creek Canyon Road. Emergency services have arrived to assist.   

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: According to Lt. Steve Knight of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s office, the subject was taken to a hospital.

From past experience, because of privacy concerns on these types of situations, there will be minimal information released.

Virginia Bass Ad Pays Homage to Obama

Ryan Burns / Yesterday @ 12:07 p.m. / Politics

The above ad was just dropped by the “Virginia Bass for Supervisor 2014” campaign. It features a young woman staring into the camera and speaking coquettishly about her “first time.”

“Can I let you in on a little secret?” she asks. “I’ve never done this before, and I’m a little nervous.”

Yowza, you guys. Is this, like, a virgin about to embark on her first sexual experience?

“Your first time,” she continues. “You want it to be with somebody special, not some slacker.”

Fair enough.

“Someone who will listen to local businesses and neighbors when issues arise.”

Wait. Whaaaaat?

Turns out (SPOILER ALERT!!!) she’s talking about her first time voting! Does that make challenger Chris Kerrigan the unidentified “slacker”?

At any rate, this clever metaphorical bait-and-switch might sound familiar if you’re a web-savvy fan of “Girls” or our Commander in Chief:

Accident Near Redcrest Last Night/Passenger Airlifted Out of the Area

Kym Kemp / Yesterday @ 10:14 a.m. / News

Garberville CHP Press Release:

On April 21, 2014, at approximately 2311 hours, a 2008 GMC Yukon driven by 26 year old Courtney Patterson, of Rio Dell, CA, was traveling northbound on US-101, north of Redcrest.  28 year old Rad Kellar, of Rio Dell, CA, was the right rear passenger and 23 year old Megan Massimo, of Prescott, AZ, was the right front passenger.  For reasons still under investigation, the GMC ran off the east roadway edge of US-101 where it collided with a tree. 

The driver and right rear passenger sustained minor injuries and were not transported.  The right front passenger sustained major injuries and was transported to Redwood Memorial Hospital in Fortuna, where she was to be airlifted to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.  The driver and both passengers were determined to have been wearing their seatbelts at the time of the collision and the airbags of the GMC did deploy. 

This collision remains under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.  Alcohol does not appear to be a factor in the cause of this collision.

Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the accident as having occurred on the Avenue.

One On One With Allan Dollison

Cliff Berkowitz / Yesterday @ 7:57 a.m. / Politics

This morning I spoke one on one with DA candidate Allan Dollison for about 15 minutes. We discussed his qualifications and priorities. I also gave him a chance to explain his 16 counts of misconduct and falsifying court documents. 

(AUDIO) Allan Dollison on KHUM


Fund Started for Crash Victim’s Young Family

Kym Kemp / Yesterday @ 7:05 a.m. / Community

Tommy Ruiz, the victim in this weekend’s fatal crash on Broadway, left behind a wife and two children. His employer, Mickey’s Quality Cars, has started a fundraising account to help the young family.

The goal is to gather $5000 to ease the burden on Ruiz’s young widow and two small sons. Just a little donation from many of our readers could go a long way to assist the family. 

We’ve seen some amazing community efforts here on the LoCO. People have pulled together and started cleanups of littered areas, found stolen items as well as helped victims of various personal disasters. 

The money raised for the young family so far is $1675. In the name of the two boys who will grow up without a father, could we double that today, LoCO? 

If you’d like to help, it doesn’t take much—just a couple of minutes to fill out the form and whatever small gift  you feel comfortable making. If everyone who read this just donated a dollar, we’d reach our goal in under an hour. 

Click this link to begin helping the two young boys and their mother.

DA Candidates Trade Jabs at Latest Debate

Ryan Burns / Monday, April 21 @ 5:48 p.m. / Politics

In a rapid-fire debate this afternoon, Humboldt County’s four district attorney candidates took turns addressing complex issues in one-minute sound bites, and they found time to take a few swipes at each other. 

The 45-minute debate, which was hosted by Eureka Rotary Club and moderated by the League of Women Voters, touched on some of the usual hot-button topics, including marijuana legalization, homelessness, public safety realignment and campaign donations. And while the differences between candidates were often more about style than substance, there was a distinct feistiness in the air, with candidates looking to poke at each other’s perceived weak spots.

For example, Deputy District Attorney Élan Firpo and former Deputy DA/current County Counsel attorney Maggie Fleming traded a few rhetorical elbows over their respective résumés. During her opening statement, Firpo touted “20 years of experience relevant to being the district attorney” and specifically mentioned her prior career as an executive in the high-tech industry, where she said she engineered products and managed employees all over the world. That type of experience, Firpo said, “is not a thing you learn in law school, and it’s certainly not a thing you pick up in the courtroom.”

Fleming shot back during her own opening remarks by outlining her courtroom experience, which she said involved trying “every imaginable case” and holding various leadership positions at the Contra Costa and Humboldt County DA’s offices. “So my experience of over 25 years and over 120 jury trials is both relevant and pertinent to what we need moving forward in this county,” Fleming said.

The debate questions were generated by audience members, and an early one seemed specifically crafted to benefit Firpo. It asked each candidate to name the largest number of employees he or she had complete authority over. Arnie Klein, Alan Dollison and Fleming (all former deputy DAs) referred to various oversight positions they’ve held, and Dollison mentioned his experience as an Army officer. Firpo again mentioned her high-tech job, saying she was responsible for hiring and managing as many as 50 employees while ramping up production in a Malaysian factory.

This sub-debate about experience culminated during closing remarks as Fleming again challenged Firpo, albeit indirectly. How, Fleming asked, is “being the manager for an overseas company that produces an item” relevant to “working in a small county where you have to have a collaborative team of prosecutors that handle crime?” And she challenged Firpo to name the companies she worked for, the dates of employment, her job duties and titles and her reasons for leaving.

Firpo took the microphone next and gave a few answers to what she called Fleming’s “attack” on her. She designed magnetic recording heads for computer hard drives, “which are practically like cassette tapes at this point,” she said. Firpo asserted that the experience was relevant because it showed she can manage a large group of employees.

(One quick note: For more on all candidates’ backgrounds, check their answers to reader questions in LoCO Elections.)

Klein, for his part, seems to have an arsenal of folksy aphorisms at his disposal, and he deployed a few this afternoon. “If wishes were horses, beggars would be riders,” he said by way of explaining the limited resources for the DA’s office. Regarding his ambitions for the office he quipped, “I’m not going there to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.” And regarding the viability of the four candidates he said, “At this table there are no dead fish.”

Klein also aimed a few barbs at his fellow candidates. After several mentioned serving as assistant district attorney, Klein chimed in, “I also was the ADA of Humboldt County. They pass that out like they would candy.”

And he wrapped up his closing remarks with another curious metaphor: “Just because you have managed a soccer team doesn’t make you a head coach in the NFL.”

Dollison also went after Fleming by pointing out a few areas of disagreement. Namely, he has called for boosting the number of deputy district attorneys to more than 20, saying he’ll go after grants to fund their salaries. And he categorically opposes the county’s current late-night jail release policies, while Fleming has said there are legal barriers to holding every offender overnight.

All candidates agreed that marijuana legalization is just a matter of time and that law enforcement should focus on large-scale grow operations, violent criminal activity and related environmental crimes. Dollison took the hardest line against marijuana, referencing a recent study linking pot use with brain changes and saying weed “introduces youths to drug culture.” Firpo called for “vertical prosecution,” that is, assigning a dedicated prosecutor to see through all stages of marijuana prosecutions. And Fleming said she’d prefer statewide legalization to a county-by-county legal patchwork, as with Prop. 215.

Asked what is the biggest problem in Humboldt County within the DA’s purview, Dollison said it’s the “explosion of crime in Eureka.” Fleming cited drug addiction and its connection to crime. Klein said it’s public safety, and he espoused a desire to “take back our community.” And Firpo said mental health problems — and self-medicating through drugs — are at the root of many local problems.

Asked what they’d change in the DA’s office, the candidates each offered ideas for improvement. Dollison suggested that the office has been mismanaged financially and promised to seek grant opportunities and prepare budgets for the Board of Supervisors (something he said hasn’t been done the last two years). Fleming said that the office needs more oversight because young, relatively inexperienced prosecutors are being given “carte blanche” to make plea bargains. Firpo said she’d institute vertical prosecution in a variety of areas, including marijuana cases, environmental cases and domestic abuse cases. And Klein suggested deputizing office employees as civil servants so they could resolve disputes in far-flung communities, outside of the formal courtroom setting.

Want to follow up with the candidates themselves? Ask them a question (or see if they’ve already answered it) over at LoCO Elections.