Communities

LA MESA APPROVES CARES AID FOR RENTERS AND BUSINESSES, HELP FOR HOMELESS AND A REPORT ON CIVIL UNREST RESPONSE

By Briana Gomez

File photo:  Mike and Linda McWilliams have laid off two-thirds of the staff at their San Pasqual Winery tasting room in the La Mesa Village, according to testimony to the City Council on August 11.

August 20, 2020 (La Mesa) - The La Mesa City Council met on August 11 via teleconference,  on hour after a trying virtual town hall the previous Thursday where notification of  Police Chief Walt Vasquez’s resignation was announced publicly.  The Council approved CARES Act funding to help local renters and businesses. Other highlights included approval to hire a consultant to prepare a report on the May 30-31 protest and riot, as well as moving forward on action to help the homeless.


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LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS IN ALPINE WORKS TO SAVE ANIMALS AT SUSPENDED ZOO FEATURED ON TIGER KING TV SHOW

By Miriam Raftery

August 19, 2020 (Alpine) – Bobbi Brink, owner of the Lions, Tigers and Bears animal sanctuary in Alpine, has offered to aid in the rescue and relocation of all animals at G.W. Zoo. The U.S. Department of Agriuclture has suspended the exhibitor license for the facility also known as the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park featured on the Netflix docu-series “Tiger King.”

The owner, Jeff Lowe, “just announced that he has actually relinquished his license and will no longer be exhibiting animals,” Brink says. Lowe will be banned from exhibiting big cats, bears, primates or other USDA-regulated species at any other property as well as at G.W. Zoo.

The USDA suspended the license after inspectors in June found injured and sickly animals with dangerous and dismal living conditions including:


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FRIDAY NIGHT FISHING FUN RETURNS AT LAKE JENNINGS

East County News Service

August 19, 2020 (Lakeside) – Lake Jennings is now open every Friday night from 3 p.m. to midnight for “Friday night fishing.”  The lake was recently stocked with 3,000 pounds of catfish.


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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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SHOTS FIRED AT VEHICLE ON HIGHWAY 94 NEAR COLLEGE AVE.

By Miriam Raftery
 
August 19, 2020 (Lemon Grove) – Around 3:30 this morning, the driver of a Cadillac was shot by someone in a dark sedan that followed him for several miles, then pulled up next to the driver’s side, firing through the window. The incident occurred on State Route 94 east, just west of the College Avenue exit.

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SIX MEN DETAINED AFTER SHOOTOUT IN LA MESA; THREE “ARMED AND DANGEROUS” SUSPECTS IN DARK SUV REMAIN AT LARGE

By Miriam Raftery
 
August 19, 2020 (La Mesa) – La Mesa Police Department seeks witnesses to shootings at a strip mall last night in the 7400 block of El Cajon Blvd, La Mesa. Despite multiple shots fired at a business and vehicle, there are no known injuries.  

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LEMON GROVE TEEN, MISSING SINCE JULY 31, LAST SEEN GETTING INTO CAR WITH MAN

By Miriam Raftery

August 18, 2020 (Lemon Grove) – The Sheriff seeks public help to locate Alonna Wintland. The 15-year-old was last seen leaving her home in the 8000 block of Lemon Grove Way and getting into the car of an unknown man on July 31.

She has blonde/purple hair, blue eyes, stands 5 ft. 2 inches tall and weighs around 235 pounds. She was last seen wearing a white shirt, beige shorts and sandals.

She has a history of running away, but left without her cell phone or debit card.


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JACUMBA HIKERS GROUP BECOMES PART OF IMPERIAL VALLEY DESERT MUSEUM PROGRAMS

By Miriam Raftery

 
August 17, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – After multiple requests seeking new hiking leaders following the loss of several long-time leaders, the Jacumba Hikers group will now be administered by the Imperial Valley Desert Museum (IVDM).  The museum’s board voted on August 13 to accept the proposal.

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COOL ZONES OPEN ACROSS EAST COUNTY DUE TO HIGH HEAT

East County News Service

August 17, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Cool zones adapted to COVID-19 public health protections have been opened at eight county libraries across San Diego’s inland region during the current extreme heat conditions.  The locations are open from 12 noon to 5 p.m.Mondays through Friday (except the Borrego Springs location, which is also open weekends). 

Masks and social distancing are required by all visitors and staff.  Temperature checks are also required before entering a cool zone and time limits may be imposed due to limited capacity. No animals are permitted, except for service animals. Below is the full list of county cool zones:


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PANDEMIC ART PROJECT ADDS WHIMSICAL FLAIR TO LEMON GROVE RESTAURANT

By Miriam Raftery

August 16, 2020 (Lemon Grove) – “What have we been up to the last few months? Oh, just a pretty incredible art  project - adding a massive mural to the side of our building, as well as our very own art gallery inside,” Karina Kravalis, co-owner of Giardino Neighborhood Cucina posted on Facebook this week. “Gallery chalk art pieces include classics with a COVID twist to keep things as upbeat as possible.”


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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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ROLLING BLACKOUTS ACROSS COUNTY: BE PREPARED

 

East County News Service

August 14, 2020 (San Diego) -- The California Independent System Operator (ISO), which oversees the statewide electric grid, has directed SDG&E to initiate rotating, one-hour service interruptions (rotating outages) throughout its service territory in San Diego and southern Orange counties. The blackouts are underway and are currently affecting thousands of residences.  View a list of current outages and estimated restoration times at  https://www.sdge.com/residential/customer-service/outage-center/outage-map.

While the rotating outages will be widespread in the region, communities located in high fire threat districts, which experience public safety power shutoffs, will be exempt from the service interruptions, SDG&E announced today.



The local outages are the result of excessive heat driving up electricity use and putting strain on the grid. CASIO has declared a “Stage 3” power emergency because contingency reserves have fallen or are anticipated to fall below requirements and cannot be restored without service interruptions.


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MOST JULIAN BUSINESSES ARE OPEN FOR VISITORS, BUT JULIAN CARRIAGE COMPANY FALLS VICTIM TO PANDEMIC

 

Story and photos by Miriam Raftery

August 13, 2020 (Julian) – Tourists are returning to Julian, the historic gold-mining town nestled in the mountains of San Diego's East County.  According to Robin Boland at the Julian Chamber of Commerce, nearly all businesses that are allowed to be open under state and county health mandates are now open, including shops, outdoor and takeout restaurants, breweries and wineries serving food. Though a few have limited hours, Boland assures, “There is still plenty to do and plenty of places to eat.”

One long-time town fixture, however, has fallen victim to the pandemic. Julian Carriage Company posted on Facebook July 31, "I'm sorry to hhave to inform you that due to COVID-19 and other extenuating circumstances we are no longer in business. Brett and I will sure miss everyone that came to Julian and rode our carriage. Life has taken us on another journey now and we are no longer in Julian. We love all of you!!!!!!! Thank you for an amazing 7 years!!!!!!! I will never forget this chapter of our lives."


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LA MESA POLICE CHIEF VASQUEZ TALKS RETIREMENT AS TOWN HALL EYES MAY 30 RIOT

By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego News Association

Photo:  La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez speaks at June press conference. Photo by Chris Stone

August 13, 2020 (La Mesa) - Minutes after a virtual Town Hall began Thursday on La Mesa’s protest and riot events, Police Chief Walt Vasquez announced his retirement from the force after five years “as the city’s top cop.”


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FIRE BREAKS OUT IN ALPINE

By Rebeca Jefferis Williamson

 

August 13, 2020 (Alpine) A vegetation fire broke out late afternoon today near I-8 and Victoria Drive in Alpine according to Cal Fire.

Multiple spots along the freeway were impacted. The fire was labelled the  #VictoriaFire.

According to Cal Fire, with an update, the fire has been stopped. Crews are mopping up the fires as of 6:00 p.m.

Traffic in the area has been heavily impacted.


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REWARD OFFERED FOR INFO ON MURDER OF SECURITY GUARD JUNE 2 AT DISPENSARY IN SPRING VALLEY

East County News Service 

August 12, 2020 (Spring Valley) – A $3,000 reward is being offered by the family of Kenneth Love II for information that leads to the arrest of his killer. The family’s reward is in addition to a $1,000 reward offered by Crime Stoppers. 


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DEATH UNDER INVESTIGATION IN UNINCORPORATED LA MESA

East County News Service

August 12, 2020 (La Mesa) – In response to a call requesting a welfare check on a resident in the 4400 block of Carmen Drive in unincorporated La Mesa, Chula Vista Police officers found the body of a man shortly after 1 p.m. yesterday.  The Sheriff’s homicide unit is investigating.

The street was temporarily blocked off for an investigation overnight.

Lt. Thomas Seiver with the Sheriff’s homicide unit asks that anyone with information on this incident call (858) 285-6330/after hours at (858) 565-5200. You can also remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.


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BANK ROBBER FOILED IN LEMON GROVE: FBI SEEKS TIPS

East County News Service

August 11, 2020 (Lemon Grove) – Yesterday at 1:34 p.m., a woman presented a note demanding money to the teller at Wells Fargo Bank, 7080 Broadway in Lemon Grove. The teller did not comply, so the would-be robber left on foot without any cash, says FBI special agent Davene Butler.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seeks public help to identify the woman, who is described as black, thin, and approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall. She wore a dark hooded sweatshirt and dark  pants, white gloves, sunglasses, and a face mask.

The robber is described as a black female, thin build, standing approximately 5’8” wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and dark pants. The robber covered her face and head with the hooded sweatshirt, face mask, and sunglasses. In addition, the woman wore white gloves.


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GROSSMONT HEALTHCARE DISTRICT SUPPORTING ALS ASSOCIATION’S ALS FIESTA, A VIRTUAL FUNDRAISER, AUG. 12

East County News Service

August 10, 2020 (La Mesa) – The Grossmont Healthcare District (GHD) has been named a supporter of the ALS Association Greater San Diego Chapter’s 2020 ALS Fiesta, the chapter’s annual major fundraiser. This year’s ALS Fiesta, the fifth annual, will be held as a virtual online event from 7 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 12. Participation in this year’s ALS Fiesta is free and open to the public. Proceed will benefit the chapter’s services provided to local families living with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often called Lou Gehrig’s disease.


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LA MESA COUNCIL WEIGHS CARE ACT RELIEF FOR BUSINESSES AND RENTERS, PLUS POSSIBLE SALE OF PARKING LOT NEAR RESTAURANTS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Some businesses have been hard hit by both the pandemic shutdowns and business disruptions from looting, fires and vandalism

August 10, 2020 (La Mesa) -- On Tuesday, August 11, the La Mesa City Council will consider topics of major public interest at a 5 p.m. closed session followed by a 6 p.m. public meeting. 

At the closed session, for which the public can email comments by 4 p.m., includes potential sale of a public parking lot with meters behind the burned Randall Lamb building and behind many restaurants and businesses on La Mesa Blvd.  

Also on the closed session, council will hear details of housing planned for the former police station site being leased for development, including affordable housing units.  

At 6 p.m., Council will consider how to spend CARES Act relief funds due to the pandemic.  Staff has proposed renter relief as well as grants for small businesses and city costs. The Council majority previously voted against aid to businesses, so Councilman Kristine Alessio is urging the public to speak out if they want to see help provided for struggling small businesses in La Mesa, as other East County cities have already provided.

Below are details.


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VIRTUAL COUNTY BUDGET HEARINGS BEGIN MONDAY

The recommended budget plan is part of a two-year operational plan that will help determine how the County spends its resources.

Following Monday’s budget hearing, an evening hearing will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12. Budget deliberations and formal adoption of the first year of the budget plan are scheduled for 2 p.m. on Aug. 25.


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LMPD OFFICER IN TROLLEY STOP INCIDENT LEAVES FORCE: QUESTONS OF ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY REMAIN

By Miriam Raftery

Screenshot from video via Instagram: Officer Matt Dages and Amaurie Johnson in controversial stop

August 8, 2020 (La Mesa) – The La Mesa Police officer involved in the controversial stop of a  young Black man near the Grossmont trolley stop on May 28, is “not employed by the City of La Mesa in any capacity,” the city announced yesterday.

The terse statement provided no details on whether Officer Matt Dages resigned or was terminated, nor whether any wrongdoing was found in an investigation. He was placed on administrative leave pending an external investigation, the results of which have not been made public.

An assault charge against Amaurie Johnson, 23, was dropped after body camera footage failed to substantiate Officer  Dages' version of the incident.

The announcement of Dages' departure has drawn reactions ranging from relief to calls for greater accountability and transparency.


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FENTANYL DEALER SENTENCED TO 12 YEARS IN PRISON FOR DEATH OF RAMONA WOMAN

By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo: 2 milligrams of fentanyl, a lethal dose for most people (via the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency)
 
August 6, 2020 (Ramona) – Over 31,000 Americans died in 2018 of overdoses of synthetic opioids including fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin o morphine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports. The victims include a 33-year-old Ramona woman who died July 9, 2018 after buying illegal fentanyl from Michael Steen, 27. 
 
Yesterday in federal court, Judge Gonzalo Curiel sentenced Steen to 12 years in prison after he pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute over 500 grams of Fentanyl—including the deadly dose that killed the Ramona woman.
 

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ELDERLY PEDESTRIAN KILLED JAYWALKING IN EL CAJON

By Miriam Raftery

August 6, 2020 (El Cajon) – A man in his 80s was struck by a vehicle late last night at 11:36 p.m. while illegally crossing a roadway  in El Cajon, says Lt.  Jeremiah Larson.

The vehicle was traveling northbound on Jamacha approaching the intersection at East Main Street when it struck the victim, who sustained major injuries to his head and legs.

He was transported to Sharp Memorial Hospital for treatment where he later died from his injuries.

“It does not appear at this time drugs or alcohol were a factor in the collision, said Lt. Larson. No description of the vehicle was provided in the ECPD release.


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CITY OF SAN DIEGO ENACTS RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

East County News Service

 

August 4, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego’s City Council has enacted a new program with payments of up to $4,000 per qualifying household to help with past-due or upcoming rental payments.  If you need help, the COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program can assist low-income families in the City of San Diego who experience financial hardship due to COVID-19. 


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

COUNTY CHARGES RAMONA FITNESS CENTER OWNER FOR DEFYING PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS

By East County News Service

File photo of treadmills via Bing

August 3, 2020 (Ramona) – The owner of the Ramona Fitness Center could face up to 30 months in jail or a $5,000 fine for allegedly staying open in violating of state and county public health orders.

According to a criminal complaint filed Friday by the San Diego County District Attorney, Peter San Nicolas committed the violations on June 2, 4 and 5 as well as on July 15 and 17.  Each violation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail or a $1,000 fine.

All gyms were ordered closed in mid-March. In mid-June, they were briefly allowed to reopen, then shut down again in mid-July for indoor activities.


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Local news in the public interest is more important now than ever, during the COVID-19 crisis. Our reporters, as essential workers, are dedicated to keeping you informed, even though we’ve had to cancel fundraising events. Please give the gift of community journalism by donating at https://www.eastcountymedia.org/donate.

MAN ARRESTED FOR BATTERY OF PROTESTERS IN LA MESA; ECM PHOTOGRAPHER ALSO ATTACKED

View video of first attack on ECM photographer 

View video of second attack on ECM photographer

 

Help us identify the attackers. If you recognize either of these assailants, please contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org

 

Story and photos by Henri Migala

 

August 3, 2020 (La Mesa) -- La Mesa was once again the setting of a demonstration in support of racial justice and against police brutality on Saturday, August 1. Ironically, both protesters and counter-protesters aggressively sought to prevent media coverage by multiple outlets, raising the question of why many on both sides wanted to demonstrate their views without press coverage. 


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NEW DAWN UNDERGROUND: NEW NOVEL BY LOCAL AUTHOR AMANDA MATTI

By Miriam Raftery

 

August 2, 2020 (El Cajon) – El Cajon author Amanda Matti’s latest novel, New Dawn Underground, is now available on Amazon and Kindle at bit.ly/NewDawnUnderground.

 

“If you'd like a signed copy, you can order those from my website at AmandaMatti.com,”says Matti, the author of three books, all set in Iraq.

 

New Dawn Underground is a counter-terrorism thriller about Elora Monro, a female CIA analyst who poses as a Washington Post journalist to infiltrate a terrorist organization in Iraq. She seeks revenge after the death of her fiance, a Delta Force member killed in a failed militant raid.


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CRISIS HOUSE GETS EXTENSION FROM CITY ON RELOCATION AID

Relocating will likely force Crisis House to end walk-in day services for the homeless and rely more on outreach to homeless on the streets or in parks to direct them into housing programs

By Miriam Raftery

August 2, 2020 (El Cajon) – By a unanimous vote, El Cajon’s City Council on Tuesday approved giving Crisis House until December 31st to vacate its current location on city-owned property and still qualify for $700,000 under an early lease termination agreement.  Crisis House, which provides services to the homeless and to victims of domestic violence, has been leasing city property for $1 a year for the past 26 years.

In an earlier decision, the Council had given Crisis House only three months, until September 30th, to get out and receive the maximum $700,000 amount, though a diminishing amount of funds would have been offered to aid in relocation through when the lease ends next summer.  Under the new arrangement, Crisis House will no longer receive anything if it stays past Dec. 31.


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PHOTO OF THE WEEK: WATERMELON TIME

August 1, 2020 (Alpine) -- Alpine resident Richard Edwords sent in this adorable photo of young family members' reactions to a summertime watermelon treat.


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