Someone Shot and Killed One of the Lost Coast Zebras

Andrew Goff / Monday, May 15 @ 4:15 p.m. / Crime

Outpost file photo

UPDATE, 5/16: Slain Zebra’s Caretaker Offering $5k Reward for Information Leading to Killer’s Arrest

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One of the three zebras known to frolic in a field adjacent the Mattole Road on the drive to Petrolia was shot and killed over the weekend.

There are few details to report at this time. The Humboldt County’s Sheriff’s Office tells us they received a call on Saturday afternoon reporting that one of the zebras had been shot by an unknown subject. A livestock officer responded to the scene on Sunday. (UPDATE: The zebra’s caretaker Josh Griego says a livestock officer has yet to come out. He was told they’d be in touch this week.) The case is under investigation. 

A person claiming knowledge of the zebras who contacted the Outpost over the weekend said the equid victim was named “Randy,” the father zebra.

The Outpost will update when we know more. 


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After Extensive Search, Family Friends Find Body of SoHum Pilot Who Crashed Into the Eel Nearly Two Weeks Ago

Hank Sims / Monday, May 15 @ 4:03 p.m. / Emergencies

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From the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

On May 4th at approximately 2pm a search and rescue effort was initiated in the McCann area east of Weott for the pilot of an ultra-light aircraft that had crashed into the main fork of the Eel River. Family members and friends of the Pilot, 61 year old Rex Whitlow, responded to the crash site moments after the crash occurred to find the air craft upside down in the river. The pilot could not be found.

Cal Fire, members of the Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue Team, and members of the Fruitland Ridge Volunteer Fire Department also responded to assist in the search. Members of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team later arrived and assisted in the search with their river rescue boat. A U.S. Coast Guard Helicopter also responded and assisted in the search for the missing pilot. The initial search lasted until dark and did not result in locating the pilot.

Search efforts resumed the next morning and continued throughout the day; however search teams were still unable to locate the missing pilot.
Search efforts resumed over the next several days for the pilot who was presumed to be underwater. At one point cadaver search dogs were utilized in the search. The dogs were of assistance however were still unable to determine the exact location of the pilot. Search efforts were hindered by swift and murky water, and by high winds.

On Sunday May 14th at approximately 2 p.m., family friends who were still searching the area finally located the body of Pilot Rex Whitlow in a shallow area of the river nearly three miles from the original crash scene.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office would like to give special thanks to the friends and family of Rex Whitlow who were extremely diligent and persistent in their search efforts. The community is deeply saddened by the loss of lifelong McCann resident Rex Whitlow.

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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DA Finds No Wrongdoing in Last Year’s Fatal Officer-Involved Shooting in McKinleyville

Ryan Burns / Monday, May 15 @ 3:14 p.m. / Crime

File photo of the standoff. | Andrew Goff.

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District Attorney Maggie Fleming has concluded her review of the fatal officer-involved shooting in McKinleyville on August 18, 2016.

On Wednesday, August 17, 2016, at about 9 a.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Communications Center received a 911 call from the area of 1770 Sutter Road, Redwood Creek Apartments, McKinleyville. The caller reported multiple gunshots within the apartment complex. Responding HCSO deputies learned that a disgruntled tenant, David Fulton, had fired a rifle across the interior parking lot at the manager’s office. Mr. Fulton was known to on-site management to have “long term mental health issues” and had telephoned numerous threats to them that morning. As HCSO deputies arrived, Mr. Fulton fired additional gunshots. One of the deputies returned fire. Mr. Fulton was not hit but retreated back inside his upstairs apartment. He remained there despite directions to exit the building from the law enforcement officers who surrounded the building. The officers learned Mr. Fulton’s female companion was also inside the apartment.

The HCSO set up a command post near the scene and secured a perimeter with the assistance of other agencies. HCSO Captain Thompson requested the assistance of the Humboldt County SWAT team. An additional SWAT team from Mendocino County was also summoned. SWAT team members began evacuating neighbors around 11 a.m. Crisis negotiators and Humboldt County mental health personnel were also on scene by 11 a.m. 

Mental health personnel assisted and advised the crisis negotiation team who used a public address system to make numerous attempts to coax Mr. Fulton into coming out of his apartment and surrendering. He could be heard shouting unintelligibly, but he refused to come out.

At about 1 a.m. – nearly 14 hours after law enforcement were called to the scene - Mr. Fulton fired additional shots. SWAT personnel used a light/sound distraction device to break out the front window. About 20 minutes later, Mr. Fulton’s female companion emerged from the apartment unharmed. Mr. Fulton fired more shots and the surrounding officers saw a fire growing inside the apartment. At about 2 a.m. Mr. Fulton emerged from the apartment as it became engulfed in flames, firing his rifle at the SWAT team members, striking their vehicle. They returned fire, killing him.

The Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) investigated the fatal shooting and the events leading up to it. The CIRT team is composed of law enforcement personnel from other county law enforcement agencies and investigators from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office.) In this case they were assisted by forensic scientists from the California Department of Justice and Humboldt County Fire/Arson Investigators. CIRT investigators conducted extensive recorded interviews of participants and observers of the incident and supervised the collection of physical evidence. Although the exact cause of the fire could not be determined the light/sound distraction device, electrical and natural gas appliances were all eliminated as causing the fire. The autopsy on Mr. Fulton revealed injuries from the fire and gunshot wounds consistent with the reports of the witnesses. Toxicological analyses showed he had taken two different prescription psychotropic drugs prior to the incident.

In the course of their duties, law enforcement officers may use deadly force in response to deadly force used or threatened against them. District Attorney Fleming’s review of the investigative reports on this case leads her to conclude the officers acted lawfully. Unfortunately, the peaceful end to the incident well-sought by law enforcement was prevented by Mr. Fulton’s violent actions. District Attorney Maggie Fleming contacted Mr. Fulton’s mother, expressed her deep regret for her loss and notified her of this decision. 



Bomb Squad Blows Up Suspicious Device Near Eureka Mall

Hank Sims / Monday, May 15 @ 3:06 p.m. / Emergencies

 Photos/video: Andrew Goff

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office’s bomb squad was called out to the corner of Albee and Creighton streets in Eureka today, after a woman in the neighborhood called in a suspicious device she found in her yard.

Streets were closed in the neighborhood this afternoon as the squad — known technically as the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team — suited up to render the device inert.

Sgt. Gary Whitmer of the Eureka Police Department, who spoke with the Outpost at the scene, said that his agency got a call about the device shortly before noon. Whitmer said he drove to the spot, found the suspicious device and snapped a photo of it, which he then sent to the EOD guys, who thought that it was something they should come check out.

The device, before the Sheriff’s Office Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team got to it. Photo: EPD.

Same device afterward. Photo: EPD.

“It’s always better to be safe than sorry,” Whitmer said.

The bomb squad arrived, secured the scene and rendered the device inert by shooting it with something.

Though a loud “boom” was heard as the bomb squad guys shot that something at the device, it’s not currently known whether or not it was actually explosive, or dangerous.

Click video to play. Problems on iPhone? Turn your phone sideways.



For the Third Time, a Judge Has Dismissed Murder Charges Against One Defendant in 2014 Murder of 14-Year-Old Boy; Leigl Could Still Face Life in Prison

Rhonda Parker / Monday, May 15 @ 10:59 a.m. / Courts

The murder charge against Eureka resident Nicholas Kaleoaalii Leigl has been dismissed once more, and he probably will not be charged again.

Leigl.

This morning Judge Marilyn Miles granted defense attorney Michael Acosta’s motion to dismiss the charge that Leigl murdered 14-year-old Jesus Romero Garcia in December 2014. But Miles held Leigl to answer on being an accessory after the fact to murder, and on the special allegation that the crime was gang-related. He could go to prison for life if convicted.

Three other men, all confirmed gang members, remain charged with killing Garcia and are scheduled for trial in July.

After the ruling this morning, Deputy District Attorney Luke Bernthal said his office will “probably not” charge Leigl with murder again.

Leigl’s father, Dan Leigl, said outside court that he is happy the murder charge was dropped, but now the district attorney is “grasping at straws” and his son will still have to stand trial.

“It’s taken a little load off my mind but not much,” he said.

Garcia was fatally stabbed while at Leigl’s girlfriend’s apartment on P Street. Leigl had come to visit, and almost immediately afterward three other men came in, knifed the boy and left. Leigl was in a back bedroom at the time. But did he know the other men were going to follow him in?

Bernthal says yes. But Judge Miles said that belief is based on suspicion, not evidence.

“… A reasonable inference can’t be based on suspicion,” she said. “It can’t be based on speculation. It can’t be based on conjecture.”

After the stabbing Leigl, at the insistence of others at the apartment, put Garcia in his car and left for the hospital. Instead the boy ended up on a lawn outside a house on 15th Street. He lay there all night in heavy rain and was nearly dead when found.

“He takes him half-way there, takes him down a dead-end street and leaves him to die,” Bernthal argued before Miles made her ruling. He said Garcia didn’t walk to that location but was dumped there.

But Acosta said there has been no testimony that Garcia was dumped. He said no one knows what happened after Leigl left for the hospital. But Acosta noted that according to previous testimony, Garcia once jumped out of a moving car when his mother was taking him somewhere he didn’t want to go.

Garcia’s heart and liver were punctured when he was stabbed three times. But he reportedly insisted his wounds weren’t deep and he didn’t want treatment. The boy was a runaway and on probation, and apparently feared being arrested.

Garcia was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 125 pounds, and reportedly looked to be about 12 years old.

This is the third time the District Attorney’s office has tried to get a murder charge to stick against Leigl, 34. He has been in jail for 14 months.

In October visiting Judge Marjorie Carter dismissed the charge, which was refiled. After a second preliminary hearing In January, visiting Judge Arnold Rosenfield said there was not enough evidence to hold Leigl to answer for murder. He suggested accessory after the fact might be appropriate. The prosecution again charged him with murder, and added the count of accessory after the fact.

Eureka police suspect Leigl is involved locally with the 18th Street gang, though his father says he hasn’t associated with gangs for years. The other three suspects are confirmed gang members Mario Nunez, 31, Joe Olivo Jr., 38, and his son Joe Olivo III, 19.

Based on testimony during Leigl’s preliminary hearing, the teen-age Olivo stabbed Garcia because he told people Olivo requested protective custody while in Juvenile Hall.

Leigl’s trial is scheduled for June 5. He remains in Humboldt County Correctional Facility.

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MORE RAIN COMING! It’s Gonna Be Wild and Wet Tonight and Tomorrow, After Which We May Start to See Something Like ‘Summer’ For a While

Hank Sims / Monday, May 15 @ 7:44 a.m. / How ‘Bout That Weather

Water vapor incoming.

Forecast Discussion from the National Weather Service’s Eureka Office, on Woodley Island:

SYNOPSIS: Dry conditions will persist across northwest California through this afternoon. Rain will then enter the region tonight, and last into Tuesday. Dry weather returns to the region Wednesday, and will be accompanied by mild temperatures during late week. 

DISCUSSION: Northwestern CA is positioned between two upper lows Monday morning, and this pattern is yielding dry weather for the time being. Rain is forecast to spread across the region tonight as an upper disturbance and associated surface front emanate from coastal BC. Rainfall totals near 1 inch still appear probable across interior portions of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. The upper low aiding in the MON night-TUE rain event is forecast to progress across the NRN Great Basin during Wednesday. Mid-level heights build in its wake over the West Coast, which will herald the onset of an extended period of dry and increasingly mild weather.



HARDIN: I Think I Know Why Some Parents Don’t Want to Vaccinate Their Kids

John Hardin / Monday, May 15 @ 7:12 a.m. / Op-Ed

I hear a lot of debate about vaccines these days, and I think it’s an interesting topic because of what it reveals about our current zeitgeist. I’ve hesitated to say anything about the subject, because the decision of whether or not to vaccinate children is generally made by parents, and it’s hard for me to think of anyone crazy enough to bring a child into this world as capable of making intelligent decisions. However, I can see why an intelligent parent, if in fact they exist, might reasonably choose not to have their child immunized as thoroughly as the State of California now demands for all public school students.

I understand the value of vaccines. My dad had polio. He had a withered left leg and walked with a severe limp from the time he was five years old. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Today they’ve nearly wiped polio out with the Salk and Sabin Vaccines, but still, cases do turn up, especially in densely populated areas with poor sanitation. Polio remains a threat, in part because many people who live in areas still affected by polio, resist immunization themselves, and refuse to immunize their children. I understand how wonderful it would be to live in a world where no one ever got polio again, but I also understand why even the people most affected by polio would vehemently resist taking the vaccine.

Polio is a terrible disease, but polio is not an evil disease. My dad got polio because he grew up in Philadelphia, trapped in a maze of concrete, teeming with malnourished, alcoholic humans, choked with soot, sewage and industrial waste. My dad got sick because of the wretched conditions he endured as a child. Instead of making life better for children, the Salk Vaccine made it possible for more children to endure and survive such horrid conditions. That’s what vaccines do. Vaccines allow people to survive in unhealthy conditions, and as conditions deteriorate we require more and more vaccines to endure them.

We use vaccines to override nature’s population control functions. Meanwhile, overpopulation remains the biggest threat to life on Earth and the leading cause of poverty and human suffering. While vaccines save lives, they don’t make life better, and they don’t lead to a brighter future. Also, the risk-benefit analysis of all vaccines is not the same. Your veterinarian will tell you that before your doctor will, but it’s true. I caught mumps, measles and chicken pox in public school, along with all of my classmates, and we all survived. Not every vaccine fights a disease as terrible as polio or smallpox, and not every vaccine is as effective as the Salk vaccine, but every vaccine has its own distinct list of side-effects and interactions.

I don’t want to debate the science of vaccines, because the people who believe in Science are eager to bludgeon people with it. In truth, I think the difference between the pro-vaccination and anti-vaccination camps has more to do with perspective and values than it does with facts and science. I think it’s an issue upon which reasonable people can disagree, and where we disagree says a lot about where we are, as a culture.

As science has ascended to the status of religion in our culture, it is not enough for science to describe our world to us. Science needs to inspire us with the promise of a brighter future, and save us from impending doom. Science needed a mythology, and vaccines have become a critical part of the mythology behind Science, the religion. Here’s how the story goes:

Through vaccines, Science has saved millions of lives. Smallpox, rabies, polio, tuberculosis — these diseases plagued mankind before the advent of Science, but once scientists developed vaccines for these diseases people stopped dying from them. Fewer people dying means more lives saved. The mathematical calculation of how many lives vaccines have saved is a critical component to the mythology of this new religion.

This calculation must be unassailable in its methodology, and honest about its margin of error, and it must show that vaccines have saved millions of lives, and the number of lives saved by vaccines must continue to rise. Science needs to save a lot of lives with vaccines, because from time to time, science kills and maims a lot of people. From thalidomide babies, surgical accidents and the known side-effects of prescribed medications, to DDT, Love Canal and Fukushima, science has killed and maimed a whole lot of people. For Science to serve as our religion, the number of lives destroyed by science must seem insignificant compared to the number of lives it has saved, and giving someone a vaccine is about the cheapest and easiest way to “save” someone that Science can get.

From another, equally scientific, perspective, one may ask: In a world where a hundred or more species of plant and animal go extinct every day, why should we care so much about saving human lives? Why should we support and participate in these efforts to override nature’s population control systems when it inevitably leads to a lower quality of life, and more environmental destruction? Maybe the better world you envision for your child is not one which hosts the largest possible human population. You may, quite reasonably, feel that what’s best for your child’s future is not what the Church of Science demands of you.

It’s not that people don’t believe the statistics, or understand the concept. I think they do understand. They understand that technological fixes like vaccines usually cover up and spawn bigger problems than they solve. People have seen enough to know that science doesn’t make life better. People have seen enough of science to recognize the pattern that starts with a great discovery, followed by promises of a brighter future, succeeded by “God help us. What have we done?” I think we have entered an age where people regret science.

The anti-vaccination movement tells me that death and disease no longer frighten us as much as the horrors unleashed by science, and that people no longer believe that Science will bring them a better tomorrow. People have learned to mistrust Science, not because of superstition, or lack of understanding, but because of experience. We’ve seen enough of Science to recognize it for what it is, and now that we understand science, we realize that we’d better trust nature.

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John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.