El Cajon

SCALZITTI FACES CHALLENGER WITH A “RESERVOIR” OF EXPERTISE IN HELIX WATER BOARD DISTRICT 5 RACE

By Miriam Raftery

October 12, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Helix Water District Director Joel Scalzitti faces three challengers—including Vickie Butcher, who brings a “reservoir” of knowledge on water issues as well as decades of experience in water policy and infrastructure to the race. The other two challengers have no ballot statements and an online search found no campaign webpage or Facebook site.

District 5 covers the eastern portion of the Helix district including portions of El Cajon, Granite Hills, Bostonia and Lakeside. View map.


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MISSING DESCANSO MAN, 81, AT RISK: LAST SEEN IN GOLD TOYOTA TRUCK

Update October 13, 2020: This missing person has been found safely in Yuma.

By Miriam Raftery

October 11, 2020 (Descanso) – The Sheriff asks for public help to find Kenneth Zimmerman, 81, who suffers from Alzheimer’s and did not take his blood pressure medicine before leaving home in Descanso to get a newspaper earlier today. He was last seen at 12:30 p.m. driving toward Highway 79 from Viejas Blvd in Descanso in a gold Toyota Tundra(license CA 8E41946) with a black toolbox in the bed.  He frequents businesses in Alpine as well as the El Cajon Home Depot.

He does not have a cell phone with him, according to a bulletin issued by the Pine Valley Sheriff’s station.Zimmerman was last seen wearing a white cowboy hat, dark blue short-sleeve shirt and blue jeans.  He has blue eyes and white hair. He is white, 81, 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighs around 190 pounds.


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DECEPTIVE MAILERS TARGET VOTERS IN GROSSMONT-UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT

 

By Miriam Raftery

October 11, 2020 (La Mesa – El Cajon) – Republican Jim Stieringer, who is running for the Grossmont Union High School District’s Area 2 seat, has sent a deceptive mailer to some voters in La Mesa, El Cajon, Mt. Helix and Casa de Oro.  It reads, “East County Voters – Let’s support our progressive team!”  The flyer includes photos of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, as well as Democratic Congressional candidates Ammar Campa-Najjar and Sara Jacobs, Democratic Assemblymember Shirley Weber, and Stieringer.

There are three candidates in the race. Although this is officially a nonpartisan race and party affiliations do not appear on the ballot, both major parties have made endorsements. Elva Salinas, the incumbent and a community college professor, is the only candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party as well as the teacher’s union. The other two candidates, Stieringer and Justin Slagle, have both been long-serving Republicans but only Slagle is endorsed by the GOP.

Stieringer also refers to himself as the “high school district’s newest member” on the flip side of the mailer. He fails to mention that he lost reelection as a GUHSD trustee to Salinas in 2016 when the district shifted from at-large elections to trustee districts.


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IN LIVELY FORUM, FIVE CANDIDATES SHARED DIVERSE VIEWS IN EL CAJON CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 2 RACE

 

Scroll down for highlights of our candidates forum, or click here to view video of the full forum.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left to right: Humbert Cabrera, Stephanie Harper, Juan Carlos "Charlie" Mercado, Michelle Metschel, and Martin Van Dinteren.

October 10, 2020 (El Cajon) – Housing and homelessness, racial relations, public safety, attracting businesses, the future of Parkway Plaza and the performing arts center were among the hot topics discussed at a virtual forum hosted by East County Magazine for five of the six candidates running for the El Cajon City Council District 2 seat, to represent the north central portion of the city.

Candidates also addressed controversies in the race, including a fake website set up to mislead voters about one candidate and serious residency questions raised regarding another.

The five candidates who participated are Humbert Cabrera, a planning commissioner and business owner, Stephanie Harper, a residential relief worker, Juan Carlos “Charlie” Mercado, an Iraq war veteran and veterans’ advocate, Michelle Metschel, a defense industry administrator, and Martin Van Dinteren, a general contractor and former city building inspector. (Update: View ECM's Zoom interview with Letitia Dickerson, the sixth candidate, who missed the forum due to an incorrect e-mail address provided by the city.)


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AHEAD OF HURRICANE DELTA, DOGS EVACUATED TO GILLESPIE FIELD IN EL CAJON

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

(Photos by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson)

Oct. 10, 2020 (El Cajon-Gillespie Field) Over one hundred dogs were flown from Louisiana to Gillespie Field in El Cajon by an emergency animal rescue organization, Wings of Rescue, on October 10  in anticipation of Hurricane Delta’s hit on the Gulf Coast state.  The San Diego Humane Society will provide medical care until the rescued dogs are ready for adoption locally.

This is the second time in less than a month that local animal welfare organizations have offered help to evacuate animals from Louisiana. The transport aimed to create space in shelters there for pets anticipated to be displaced from the hurricane. Wings of Rescue is a 501(c)(3) charity, founded in 2012, that flies endangered pets from where they are, to other shelters/homes. Circle Air Group, LLC’s plane, at Gillespie Field, used their equipment, an Embraer EMB-120, to fly the dogs in.

Hurricane Delta fluctuated from a category 2 to 3 and the outer rings hit southeast Louisiana and southeast Missouri on Friday and into the weekend as well.  Visit: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ for current information. Here is a summary of the situation as of October 10:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/10/10/hurricane-delta-update-damage-weakens-tropical-storm-power-outages/5952093002/

How did the dogs do on take-off?


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SYCUAN CASINO IS SUPPORTING WALK TO DEFEAT ALS, A VIRTUAL FUNDRAISER, SUNDAY, OCT. 18

East County News Service

October 9, 2020 (El Cajon) - Sycuan Casino in El Cajon is among the local partners supporting the ALS Association Greater San Diego Chapter’s 2020 Walk to Defeat ALS, the nonprofit’s 20th annual fundraising walk, to be held on Sunday, Oct. 18 as a virtual fundraiser due to Covid-19 restrictions. The fundraiser is free and open to the public. Information is available at www.alsasd.org.


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HIGHLIGHTS FROM EL CAJON DISTRICT 4 CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES FORUM

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Oct. 9, 2020 (El Cajon) El Cajon’s City Council District 4 candidates participated in a forum sponsored by East County Magazine, moderated by ECM editor, Miriam Raftery, via Zoom.  John Sepulvado was the cohost and timekeeper.

Scroll down to read highlights and excerpts of the forum, which covered a wide range of issues with questions from the public as well as the moderator.  Topics covered included racial justice and policing, homeless, housing and renters’ issues, the future of Parkway Plaza and the Magnolia performing arts center, COVID-19,  budget priorities, hate crimes, pedestrian safety/street racing, and more.

You can watch the full forum, recorded on Zoom, at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Z213Qn_Cyo&feature=youtu.be

The three candidates vying for the seat are (alphabetically) Estela de los Rios (D), Phil Ortiz (R), and Dunia Shaba (R). A fourth candidate, Billy Thigpen, did not participate. He has suspended his campaign and encouraged voters in the Nov. 3rd election to support Estela de los Rios.


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GROSSMONT UNION HIGH SCHOOL TRUSTEE ELECTION: AREA 2

By Robin N. Kendall
 
Photo: GUHSD Area 2 candidates Elva Salinas, Jim Stieringer, and Justin Slagle
 
October 8, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Voters in East County’s Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) Area No. 2 will need to study the candidates carefully to choose their next trustee. Three candidates with divergent views will help chart the course for the area’s teens and next generation of workers and college students. 

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SUPPLEMENTAL BALLOTS TO GO TO EAST COUNTY VOTERS IN DEHESA, HARBISON CANYON AND GRANITE HILLS

Source:  County of San Diego

October 3, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Voters in Dehesa, Harbison Canyon and Granite Hills will soon see a supplemental set of election materials in addition to their regular mail ballot from the Registrar of Voters office. The Registrar was misinformed about which voters are eligible to vote on the Crest/Dehesa/Harbison Canyon/Granite Hills Community Planning Area Crest member, planning group contest. As a result, the local contest was not included in the sample ballot and voter information pamphlets or the vote-by-mail ballots set to start arriving in mailboxes Monday.  


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ECM TO HOST EL CAJON CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE FORUMS

 

Video of district 2 forum is now posted.  Click here to view video. 

Video of the district 4 forum is now posted. Click here to view video.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, top row:  District 2 candidates Humbert Cabrera, Stephanie Harper, Juan Carlos "Charlie" Mercado, Michelle Metschel and Martin Van Dinteren

Second row: District 4 candidates Estela de los Rios, Phil Ortiz, and Dunia Shaba

 

September 19, 2020 (El Cajon) - East County Magazine will host two forums for El Cajon City Council candidates:

District Four:  Monday Sept. 28 at 7 p.m.

District Two: Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m.

The forums will be on Zoom and livestreamed on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine.  Video will also be posted later on our website for those unable to watch live.  

 

The public can send questions to editor@eastcountymagazine.org up until noon the day of the forum.

 

Ten candidates are on the ballot in the highly competitive District 2 and 4 races.  (In District 3, Councilman Steve Goble is running unopposed.)

All candidates in District 2 and 4 have been invited. Eight have agreed to participate. In District Two, participants will include Humbert Cabrera, Stephanie Harper, Juan Carlos Mercado, Michelle Metschel and Martin Van Dinteren.  In District Four, participants confirmed are Estela De Los Rios, Councilman Phil Ortiz, and Dania Shaba. The fouth candidate, Billy Thigpen, advised ECM that he is suspending his candicacy and endorsing De Los Rios.

Below is information on all candidates running in Districts 2 and 4. Click each name to view the statement of qualifications submitted to the city of El Cajon.


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EL CAJON’S CLIFF ALBERT SHARING BROADCASTING WRITING TIPS AT SAN DIEGO PRESS CLUB WEBINAR

East County News Service

September 28, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon resident Cliff Albert, news director at KOGO-AM Newsradio 600 and one of San Diego’s leading radio news personalities for the past 35 years, will share his favorite broadcast writing tips at the San Diego Press Club’s next “Write Better Right Now,” a one-hour webinar from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 30. 


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CREST ELEMENTARY SCHOOL’S NEW OUTDOOR EDUCATION PROGRAM SHINES IN THE ERA OF COVID

By Kendra Sitton

September 27, 2020 (Crest) -- Crest Elementary School has been shrinking for years, with less and less students enrolled every single year since 2003. Today, however, they have a list of over 90 families wishing to enroll in the school, some from outside the Cajon Valley Union School District. The difference between 2020 and the last 17 years is one program that makes outdoor learning a key part of education at the school.

The school in a rural area east of El Cajon held its first Crest Outdoor Immersion program over 10 days this summer. School officials plan to bring the program into a year-round setting in a two-year pilot program where students spend three days in the classroom each week and two days exploring the outdoors. The classrooms will have multiple grades in them.

At the first in-person Cajon Valley Union School District meeting since the pandemic began, the support for the program from students, parents, teachers and members of the board was evident as supporters wearing blue shirts filled the board room with chairs spaced apart.


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RACIST HATE GRAFFITI DEFACES CHALDEAN AND SYRIAC CATHOLIC CHURCHES IN EL CAJON

A Catholic church nearby was also targeted with graffiti early Saturday

By Miriam Raftery

September 27, 2020 (El Cajon) – Yesterday, St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Diocese in El Cajon posted this message, along with disturbing video:  “This morning our beloved Cathedral was defaced with pentagrams, upside down crosses, white power, swastikas, BLM, etc. It reminds us to pray for my brethren in Iraq that are facing persecution. Pray for the criminals who did this.”

The odd combination of hate symbols fueled speculation over who was responsible.  Some community members theorized that a group might have sought to discredit another group, since it seemed unlikely that a support of Black Lives Matter or Joe Biden would spray paint racist symbols such as swastikas and the words “white power,” nor would a neo-Nazi or white supremacist want to promote BLM or Biden.  The pentagram, a symbol associated with satanic cults, is not affiliated with either either the far right nor leftist groups named.


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SUSPECTS ARRESTED FOR SERIES OF ARMED ROBBERIES IN EL CAJON ARE TIED TO OTHER CRIMES

By Miriam  Raftery
 
September 25, 2020 (El Cajon) – Three suspects are in custody for allegedly robbing people at gunpoint at bank ATMs and at a self-serve car wash in El Cajon. They are suspected of other robberies across the San Diego region.
 
All three crimes occurred on September 18 between 2 and 2:30 a.m. and were reported by the victims, who called 911.
 
El Cajon Police robbery detectives investigated, working with detectives from the San Diego Sheriff’s Office, San Diego Police Department, National City Police Department, and The Chula Vista Police Department.  
 
Detectives identified the suspect and learned he had not acted alone. Two additional suspects were identified.  Detectives also discovered the suspects had committed at least eight robberies in San Diego County in the last week, says Lt. K MacArthur with El Cajon Police.

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EL CAJON HOSTS COMMUNITY MEETING TO PLAN FOR HOUSING, ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE AND SAFETY IN GENERAL PLAN AMENDMENT

By Miriam Raftery

September 25, 2020 (El Cajon) – The city of El Cajon is embarking on updates to the Housing and Safety Elements of the General Plan and developing a new Environmental Justice Element. Residents are invited to join in a virtual community meeting on September 29 at 7:00 p.m. to discuss housing needs and the future of housing and community issues.


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READER’S EDITORIAL: MUCH NEEDED PEDESTRIAN CROSSWALK FOR KID’S SAFETY CREATED AT JOHNSON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN EL CAJON

By Robert Gehr

September 22, 2020 (El Cajon) -- Finally, a new crosswalk has been added to Madison Ave. at the west entrance to Johnson Elementary School (Cajon Valley School district), thus creating a safer environment for children and adults to cross a very busy street. In this writer’s opinion, it’s long overdue.


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CRISIS HOUSE URGENTLY FUNDRAISING TO PURCHASE NEW BUILDING; COPLEY FOUNDATION WILL MATCH DONATIONS

By Kendra Sitton

 

September 19, 2020 (El Cajon) - The Crisis House is urgently fundraising in its biggest campaign ever so that it can purchase a new building before the City of El Cajon ends Crisis House’s lease and forces it to move out by December 31, 2020. 


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TWO INJURED IN FLETCHER HILLS HOUSE FIRE

By Miriam Raftery
 
September 19, 2020 (El Cajon) – An elderly man found with mild injuries in the backyard of a burning early this morning has been transported to a hospital, as well as a second person who suffered smoke inhalation. 

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MEDICAL EXAMINER RELEASES NAMES OF EAST COUNTY CRASH VICTIMS AND BODY FOUND ON HIKING TRAIL

East County News Service
 
Photo: Kiana Taylor's Facebook, SDSU Class of 2020, tossing her graduation hat in May 2020
 
September 17, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The County Medical Examiner has released the identities of victims who lost their lives in several East County accidents over the past two weeks including two lives lost in a fiery multi-vehicle crash near La Mesa, a pedestrian killed in El Cajon, a missing Lake Morena camper found dead in Hauser Valley, a Borrego pickup truck driver killed in a rollover crash, and a motorcyclist who died at the scene of a crash in rural Alpine.
 
Kiana Taylor, 22, of Poway died September 11, 2020 after a vehicle fire resulting from a collision on Sept. 9 that occurred at the intersection of 70th Street and El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego, on the border of La Mesa.  A vehicle entered the intersection and struck her vehicle, causing it to collide with other vehicles and catch fire. She was transported to UCSD Medical Center, where she died two days later of burns and abdominal blunt force injuries. 
 
Casey Diane Hargis, 22, of San Diego was a passenger in the same vehicle in the accident above when it was struck, pushed into other vehicles and burst into flames. After 911 was called, she was transported by paramedics to UCSD Medical Center and died the next day of vascular injuries from pelvic fractures.

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PARKWAY PLAZA SELLS AFTER OWNER DEFAULTS ON BONDS: FUTURE OF REGIONAL SHOPPING MALL IS IN LIMBO

By Miriam Raftery

September 15, 2020 (El Cajon) – Starwood Capital Group has lost ownership of Parkway Plaza Regional Shopping Mall in El Cajon and six other U.S. malls, after defaulting on Israeli-held bonds.  A ratings downgrade on the debt earlier this year triggered a clause allowing bondholders to take control of the properties. 

Six parties bid on the portfolio back in May, including Starwood.  The winning bidder, a partnership between Pacific Retail Capital Partners and Golden East Investors, have indicated they “plan to replace department store tenants or repurpose the malls into apartments or offices,” the Wall Street Journal reports, according to The Real Deal.

But El Cajon Councilman Gary Kendrick says getting rid of East County’s largest and only indoor regional shopping mall “would be unacceptable.”  He anticipates the mall’s new owners will face opposition to any such proposal from the City Council.


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SHOW TIME! EAST COUNTY MOVIE THEATERS REOPEN

 

By Miriam Raftery

September 3, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The  magic of movies on the big screen returns after months of shutdowns due to COVID-19. 

Two major theater chains, Reading Cinemas International (NASDAQ: RDI) and Regal, announced reopenings this week of cinemas including several locations in East County (La Mesa, El Cajon and Rancho San Diego) featuring long-awaited new-release films.

Both chains have also rolled out new procedures to protect guests  in compliance with CDC health guidelines and state safety regulations.


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THIEVES STEAL OUTDOOR DINING SETUPS AT HACIENDA RESTAURANT

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

(Photo by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson)

Sept.2, 2020 (El Cajon) These were the worst of times and the worst of times, to repurpose author Charles Dicken’s classic phrase. After first suffering closure due to COVID-19,  Hacienda Casa Blanca Restaurant & Cantina in El Cajon moved outdoors into a parking lot as well as on the patio. But soon, they faced yet another setback—theft of their outdoor tents, tables and chairs.

Cindy Gomez and her husband, Tony, run the business. Cindy Gomez says the thefts occurred on two separate occasions, the first around three weeks ago, and the second about a week later.

In the first theft, security cameras revealed “two men, who appeared to be homeless men, removing the tents, one umbrella that was left outside by mistake, and a chair,” Gomez told ECM in an e-mailed response to questions.


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CONSTRUCTION TO START SOON ON NEW RESIDENTIAL AND RETAIL IN DOWNTOWN EL CAJON

By Miriam Raftery
 
August 31, 2020 (El Cajon) – Construction is set to begin in September on a new housing and retail building at 101 Main Street on the corner of Main and Magnolia in downtown El Cajon.  

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EL CAJON COUNCIL BACKS OFF MAYOR’S PROPOSAL TO BAN POLICE FROM ENFORCING COVID-19 RULES

By Miriam Raftery

August 29, 2020 (El Cajon) – At a special meeting yesterday, El Cajon’s City Council heard a barrage of public comments, nearly all opposed to Mayor Bill Well’s proposal to direct police to stop enforcing state and county COVID-19 laws and regulations including business closures, mask wearing and social distancing 

The Mayor indicated that on his Facebook page, however, he heard from many more people, most in favor if his plan.

 In the end, the Mayor proposed a watered down motion that leaves enforcement up to the police chief and ciy manager, with some council guidance.


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EL CAJON AWARDS NEARLY $2.5 MILLION TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSSES IMPACTED BY PANDEMIC

East County News Service
 
Photo: Hacienda Casa Blana restaurant is among the grant recipients. The restaurant moved outdoors after several weeks of closure, then had canopies stolen. 
 
August 27, 2020 (El Cajon) -- The City of El Cajon announced Tuesday that it has awarded nearly $2.5 million in grants to 134 small businesses in the city. The Business Grant Program—which was made possible through Federal CARES funds released by the County and State—was open to both non-essential and essential businesses (as defined by the State of California), as well as restaurants. 
 
Small business owners were eligible for various award amounts with maximums ranging from $10,000 for restaurants, $15,000 for essential businesses, and up to $30,000 for non-essential businesses, which were forced to fully close when the stay-at-home orders took effect in March. 
 
“The impact of this grant will provide an economic stimulus to support local small businesses which have suffered the greatest due to the pandemic,” said City Manager Graham Mitchell. 
 
A business grant committee made up of business and community leaders in the City assisted in selecting the recipients, which were all required to meet minimum qualifications set forth by the City Council. 

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MAYOR WELLS URGES CITY TO DEFY STATE AND COUNTY COVID-19 LAWS AND REGULATIONS

 

By Miriam Raftery

Updated with comments from Gloria Chadwick and Randy Lenac, members of the Grossmont Healthcare District board

August 27, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells today announced on Facebook that he is convening a special meeting of the city council tomorrow at 3 p.m. to “discuss instructing our police to not enforce Covid-19 laws and or regulations… The state of California and the County of San Diego, of course, may continue to levy fines and criminal charges for violations, but I am proposing that the El Cajon police department not waste their valuable time enforcing mask, non-essential business and social distancing laws.”


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VICTIM IDENTIFIED, SUSPECT CAPTURED IN MAIN STREET KILLING

By Miriam Raftery

Photo,left by Della Elliott:  A shrine to commemorate 21-year-old shooting victim Fabian Cerda has been created by community members at the site where he was fatally shot. 

May 24, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Police today announced the arrest of George Louis Garcia, 42, following a tense standoff in La Mesa with police from multiple law enforcement agencies. Garcia is charged in the shooting death of Fabian Esteban Cerda, 21, on August 18 in El Cajon.

According to Lt. K. MacArthur with El Cajon Police, Cerda became involved in an argument with Garcia, the former boyfriend of Cerda’s mother around 1:30 a.m. on August 18 in front of 1548 East Main Street in El Cajon. “He was shot several times and later died as a result of the shooting,” Lt. MacArthur says. The victim succumbed to his injuries in an ambulance en route to a hospital.  


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EL CAJON POLICE DEPT. SEEKS RECRUITS

By Miriam Raftery

August 26, 2020 (El Cajon) – The El Cajon Police Department is looking to hire police officers and recruits.  Applications are being accepted through this Friday, August 28.


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MAN SHOT, KILLED IN EL CAJON

East County News Service
 
Photo by Della Elliott:Community members have set up a memorial tribute to the victim, whose identity has not yet been released
 
August 19, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Police officers dispatched after a 911 caller reported gunshots near 1549 East Main Street found a man suffering from several gunshot wounds around 1:30 a.m yesterday. The victim was transported by ambulance to a hospital, but died before arrival, says Lt. K. MacArthur.
 
The identity of the victim, who is from San Diego, will be released by the County Medical Examiner after family is notified. 

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PROSECUTION SOUGHT AGAINST DRIVER WHO INJURED MOTORCYCLIST IN EL CAJON

By Miriam Raftery

August 16, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Police have recommended that the District Attorney prosecute the driver of a Camry that struck and seriously injured a motorcyclist on Jamacha Blvd. May 13tth around 10:13 a.m.

The motorcyclist was traveling south on Jamacha approaching Washington when a silver Toyota Camry turned left in front of the motorcyclist, violating his right of way and causing a collision, says Lt. Will Guerin with the El Cajon Police Dept. 

The motorcyclist, 65, was treated on scene by Heartland Fire Dept. paramedics and transported to a hospital, where he remains hospitalized with major injuries.


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Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.

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