May 2020 Articles

EXCLUSIVE: ECM INTERVIEWS LA MESA MAYOR AND POLICE CHIEF ON PROTEST PREPARATIONS AND RIOT RESPONSES

 

By Miriam Raftery

Videography by Paul Kruze

June 10, 2020 (La Mesa) – Hours after the city of La Mesa released a timeline and incident narrative on the May 30-31 protest over police violence and the riot that ensued, ECM editor Miriam Raftery and contributing editor Paul Kruze conducted exclusive interviews with Mayor Mark Arapostathis and La Mesa Police Chief Walt Vasquez yesterday at the La Mesa community center, seeking answers to questions on protest preparations and riot responses.


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LA MESA ESTABLISHES TIP LINE FOR RIOT-RELATED CRIMES

By Miriam Raftery

Photos, left via Facebook:  Alleged looters at La Mesa Springs shopping center

June 6, 2020 (La Mesa) --  The La Mesa Police Department and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced today that they will aggressively pursue the arrest and prosecution of any individuals found to have committed crimes during the riot that occurred on the evening of May 30th, 2020, in La Mesa including arson, vandalism and looting.

“We are seeking the public’s help,” a release issued by the city today states. If anyone has any information, including videos or photos, that they think might lead to identification of any suspects, please forward them to any of the following:


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BRUSH FIRE IN SANTEE CLOSES HIGHWAY EXITS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Rebecca Jefferis-Williamson

June 3, 2020 (Santee) -- A brush fire is burning near State Routes 125, 52, and Mission Gorge Road.  A SIG Alert has been issued. The ramp from eastbound 52 to 125 is closed, Cal Trans and the CHP site report.  ECM reporter Rebecca Jefferis-Williamson reports that the Mission Gorge offramp from 125 is also blocked.  Avoid this area.

*** Update: all ramps have reopened.


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STORES CLOSE DOWN, BARRICADE DOORS & BOARD UP WINDOWS TO PREPARE FOR PROTESTERS

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

(Photos by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson)

(Photo at left - Walmart at Lemon Grove's College Grove Center)

May 31, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- The “We are open” and “reopened” signs announcing businesses were open after COVID-19 closures were nowhere in sight for some establishments across the East County late this afternoon. Stores closed early, in part due to curfews, or closed for the day in preparation for potential destructive actions by rioters and looters following protests of George Floyd’s death by police officers in Minneapolis.

Walmart Stores at College Grove Center, Santee, and at Parkway Plaza were closed late this afternoon. The College Grove Center location was in the process of boarding up and setting up barricades to lessen the chance of protesters breaking in. Sam's Club was closed for an unspecified time.

The Santee Walmart had red mulch bags stacked up in rows covering the main entry way. According to staff on site they will reopen at 8 a.m. on June 1.

Some La Mesa store fronts near the La Mesa Police Department, where protests turned violent, were boarded up.

Window fronts with glass were replaced with plywood and barricades of various materials in front of entries were common sights on May 31 around east county.

(Photo at right: Santee Walmart) 


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EAST COUNTY CITIES AND COUNTY ISSUE CURFEW ORDERS

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

May 31, 2020

In a bold move to avoid a repeat of the devastation and violence in connection with Saturday night’s riots which took place in East County San Diego, several cities and the county issue curfews for tonight. Below is the full schedule.

All law enforcement, fire, medical personnel, and members of the news media are exempt from the curfew. Individuals traveling directly to and from work, seeking emergency medical care, fleeing dangerous circumstances, or the homeless as exempted from the order.


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SAVING LA MESA: RESIDENTS RALLIED TO PROTECT AND RESTORE CITY

By Miriam Raftery and Kendra Sitton

A Rebuild La Mesa fund has been set up by Phil Ortiz and the East County Chamber of Commerce to  help businesses damaged or destroyed by the riots. You can donate here.

May 31, 2020 (La Mesa) -- With the acrid stench of burning rubble and tear gas still pungent in the air after a night of rioting, looting and destruction, a different kind of mob descended on La Mesa  today. Some 500 to 600 volunteers came armed with brooms, power tools and paint brushes to clean up debris and broken glass, paint over graffiti and board up storefront windows to help protect local businesses if looters return tonight.

Stories of heroism also emerged – business owners, neighbors and strangers who came during the night to drive out looters with baseball bats and makeshift clubs, douse spot fires with fire extinguishers, and help save La Mesa’s historic downtown village.


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NIGHT OF TERROR IN LA MESA

 

Protest dissolves into chaos as rioters burn down Chase and Union banks, loot retail stores and attack La Mesa Police headquarters

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor; Miriam Raftery and Rebecca Jefferis Williamson also contributed to this report

Photo, left: screenshot via ECM news partner NBC 7 shows Chase and Union Banks in flames at the heart of La Mesa's downtown village

May 31, 2020 (La Mesa) -- The cozy bedroom community of La Mesa, long likened to the fictious Mayberry RFD town of TV fame, lost its innocence on Saturday night when rioters  overran the city. Multiple arson fires and widespread looting swiftly overwhelmed local police and firefighters after protests over police violence earlier in the day. Mutual aid proved inadequate, leaving La Mesa without adequate resources to defend the city.


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SILENT PROTEST HELD AT EL CAJON HOME OF LMPD OFFICER IN CONTROVERSIAL STOP

Story and photos by Kendra Sitton

May 30, 2020 (El Cajon) -- Around 100 protesters silently walked through an El Cajon neighborhood where organizers said La Mesa Police Officer Matt Dages lives. The group conducted a “Power Walk” this evening to let the officer know he is not invisible, according to organizer Covu.

East County Magazine could not independently verify that Dages lives at the residence.


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PROTEST AGAINST POLICE VIOLENCE TURNS FIERY IN LA MESA

Update May 31, 2020: 1:15 a.m.  A curfew has been issued starting at 1:30 a.m. by the City Manager.  Shortly before midnight, Union Bank and Chase Bank in downtown La Mesa were burned. The Randall Lamb architectural firm is also on fire. More stores have been looted, including Walmart and Target at Grossmont Center and shops in the La Mesa Springs shopping center.

Emergency vehicles in flames; protesters tear gassed after armored vehicle hit with rocks and bottles

By Paul Kruze, Contributing Editor

Briana Gomez, Miriam Raftery and Rebecca Jefferis Williamson also contributed to this story

Photo, left by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson: Vehicle burning in La Mesa

Photo, right by Brianna Gomez:  Protestor outside La Mesa Police station

May 30, 2020 (La Mesa) -- Multiple vehicles at La Mesa's Civic Center are in flames tonight, with looting of businesses across the downtown area.The chaos comes after several thousand  mostly peaceful demonstrators converged outside the La Mesa Police Department headquarters this afternoon to protest the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis. The protesters also demonstrated over an incident earlier this week in La Mesa when a man was detained near the Grossmont Transit Center.

In that incident, suspect Amaurie Johnson was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer. Video on social media shows the Amaurie and the officer arguing when the officer pushes Johnson into a seated position. The officer has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. The city has also announced plans for an independent investigation. 

The protest  later resulted in confrontations that resulted in tear-gassing of some protesters and declaration of an unlawful assembly. 


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VACANT STRUCTURE BURNS IN RAMONA

By Miriam Raftery
 
May 30, 2020 (Ramona) – Investigators from the Sheriff’s department are working to determine the cause of a fire that destroyed a vacant structure today in Ramona.
 
Deputies from the Ramona substation responded to the fire at 1028 A Street at 4:29 p.m. this afternoon. When deputies and fire department personnel arrived, the structure was fully engulfed, also affecting power lines nearby.
 
Fire department personnel were able to extinguish the fire and contain it to the single structure, which was vacant. 

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PREDATOR POULSOM TO BE RELEASED JUNE 5 IN EAST COUNTY

East County News Service
 
May 30, 2020 (Jacumba Hot Springs) – Members of the Sheriff’s SAFE Task Force went door to door on Wednesday in Jacumba Hot Springs and Boulevard to inform the community that Michael Poulsom is slated to be released June 5 and move to 45612 Old Highway 80 in Jacumba Hot Springs. Poulsom is registered as a sexually violent predator after felony convictions for lews and lascivious acts against girls under age 14.
 
He served time in prison from 1985 to 1995 and was later sent to Coalinga State Hospital, which approved him for release over the objections of Supervisor Dianne Jacob and community members.

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PROTESTERS CALL ON MAYOR FAULCONER TO BAN CHOKEHOLDS BY POLICE

Story and photos by Briana Gomez

The Racial Justice Coalition, in collaboration with the #icantbreathecampaign led a peaceful motorcade protest with many other organizations including the Black Panthers to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s home Saturday morning. The caravan followed the police brutality incident in Minnesota caught on video, in which George Floyd, an African-American man, was killed by a white officer who applied a controversial chokehold for over eight minutes, despite Floyd pleading “I can’t breathe.” The officer has been charged with murder. Three other officers present have been fired,  but have thus far not been charged.  

“This event is in response to the event in Minneapolis with George Floyd, but not only that. We’ve been fighting the neck restraint in San Diego since 2017,” Yusef Miller, one of the event organizers and a community activist, told ECM.

There have been numerous incidents of police choking people in San Diego and Orange County.


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REV. SHANE HARRIS BRINGS SUPPORT TO FAMILY OF GEORGE FLOYD IN MINNEAPOLIS AND FIGHTS FOR REFORMS TO HALT POLICE KILLINGS

“The arrest of George Floyd should not have been a death sentence. What you saw when you looked at the video of the killing was a policeman who was the judge, the jury, and the executioner.” – Rev. Shane Harris, People’s Alliance for Justice, in an exclusive interview with ECM

By Miriam Raftery

Photo courtesy of Rev. Shane Harris, shown on Hennepin Bridge in Minneapolis

May 30, 2020 (San Diego) -- The brutal killing of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis has sparked protests and civil unrest nationwide. The Washington Post has compiled video from multiple sources, documenting that after a store clerk alleged Floyd used counterfeit payment at a store, Officer Derek Chauvin handcuffed Floyd and later knelt on his neck for over eight minutes, ignoring gasps of “I can’t breathe!” Three other officers failed to intervene.

Four nights of protests  in Minnesota ensued, including rioting and burning a police station.  Minnesota’s Governor has called in the National Guard, declaring that most protesters are outside agitators. Officer Chauvin has been charged with third degree murder and manslaughter; all four officers were fired. But many believe more must be done for justice to be served.

Reverend Shane Harris, a national civil rights leader and founder of the People’s Alliance for Justice (PAJ) based in San Diego, flew to Minneapolis on Friday and provided an exclusive phone interview to ECM on Friday night.


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LIONS CLUB AIDS COMMUNITY AMID PANDEMIC

By Miriam Raftery

May 30, 2020 (La Mesa) – Members of the La Mesa Lions Club  are continuing their good works serving the community amid the COVID-19 pandemic, helping healthcare workers, nonprofits, students and hungry families.


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AMBULANCE SERVICES SET TO IMPROVE IN PAUMA VALLEY

Source:  Cal Fire

May 29, 2020 (El Cajon) - CAL FIRE/San Diego County Fire Authority and Mercy Medical Transportation are excited to announce a new agreement which calls for an advanced life support (ALS) ambulance to be placed at Fire Station 70 in Pauma Valley. Beginning Friday, May 22, 2020, the new ambulance will be available to respond to emergencies from Palomar Mountain and the La Jolla Reservation to the Rincon Reservation and Pauma Valley along the Hwy 76 corridor in northern San Diego County. In addition to providing paramedic service in its primary response area, the medic ambulance will be available to assist surrounding communities such as Valley Center and Pala Reservation should their primary ambulances be out of their protection areas or in the event an emergency incident requires additional resources. 


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REGIONAL COLLABORATION ON WATER PURIFICATION PROJECT EXPANDS LOCAL, DROUGHT-PROOF SUPPLY OF DRINKING WATER

Source: Helix Water District

May 29, 2020 (La Mesa) -- Helix Water District’s Board of Directors authorized its General Manager to sign water purchase agreements for the East County Advanced Water Purification (ECAWP) project at a special meeting on May 27.

The project is a collaborative, regional effort that will diversify the district’s water portfolio, provide a drought-proof supply and further enhance reliability by purifying treated wastewater using the district’s Lake Jennings and other facilities.

The $681 million project, led by the ECAWP Joint Powers Authority, will recycle daily wastewater flows from Santee, El Cajon, Lakeside, Winter Gardens and Alpine. Treated water will undergo membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and advanced oxidation to produce water that is near-distilled in quality.


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SANTEE EXTENDS PANDEMIC RENT RELIEF TO JUNE, REVIEWS PLANS FOR COUNCIL CHAMBER RENOVATION

By Mike Allen

May 29, 2020 (Santee) -- Santee’s City Council voted unanimously May 27 to extend a moratorium on evictions of both residential and commercial tenants impacted by the coronavirus to the end of June.

The Council enacted an urgency ordinance installing a moratorium on evictions April 8 that was set to expire May 31. The city took the action despite the fact that the state of California already has executive orders in place barring evictions of tenants who can show they have been negatively impacted by the lockdown of all non-essential businesses starting March 19.

Councilwoman Laura Koval said given the fact that so many residents are unemployed, and have yet to receive their first check from the state, it’s necessary that the city provide them with some safety net.


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WHERE TO FIND COVID-19 TESTS: NEW RURAL SITES ANNOUNCED FOR JUNE 1-6

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Drive-up testing, courtesy of San Diego County News Service

May 29, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – COVID-19 tests are now widely available to everyone. There are several options for testing across our region.  

People who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact their health care provider and arrange for testing, or call 2-1-1 if you don’t have a doctor. 

For those without symptoms, call 2-1-1 for a referral to one of the many testing sites countywide, including drive-up test sites. All require an appointment through 2-1-1.  

Or you can get a free test by signing up on the state website (in East County, free state testing is available at Grossmont College).


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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.

PLASMA FROM RECOVERED COVID-19 PATIENTS NEEDED TO TREAT OTHERS LOCALLY

Source: By Miriam Raftery

Photo: CC by NA - SC

May 29, 2020 (San Diego) -- The San Diego Blood Bank is partnering with the County to encourage San Diegans who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma, the liquid part of blood which contains antibodies. This plasma could help treat people who are hospitalized or seriously ill from the novel coronavirus.

While currently there is no vaccine or proven treatment for COVID-19, “convalescent plasma may help patients fighting the virus because the plasma has antibodies against it,” the County’s top health official announced yesterday.

“This partnership helps us to achieve one of the indicators at the federal level for treatment of COVID-19,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “We’re very excited about this partnership.”


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BACK TO THE BEACH: COUNTY EASES RESTRICTIONS

By Miriam Raftery

May 29, 2020 (San Diego) –  Just in time for summertime weather, beach towels and chairs can be brought to local beaches for lounging on the sand starting Tuesday, June 2nd. But some restrictions remain under the new rules announced yesterday by the County’s Health and Human Services Agency.

Sitting or sunbathing together is only allowed with people in your own household. You must maintain six feet of social distancing from others, and wear a mask if you come within six feet of anyone such as when passing someone while walking or jogging.  Parking lots and piers are still closed, so plan on walking to reach those sandy shores. Group activities such as volleyball or football remain prohibited.

All beach communities have agreed to these eased restrictions, however cities have the power to determine how to enforce the guidelines and whether to reimpose limits if people don’t follow the rules.


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LOCAL RELIGIOUS GROUPS REACT TO NEWS THAT WORSHIP SERVICES CAN RESUME, WITH CHANGES

 

Update May 29, 2020: The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear an appeal of the Ninth Circuit appellate court's ruling against a Chula Vista church. By a 5-4 vote, the majority of justices found that California's llimits on attendance size at in-person woship services during a pandemic did not violate the First Amendment or discriminate against churches, noting that simlar or more severe restrictions apply to concerts, movie theaters and other venues with gatherings.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Miriam Raftery: Bishop Robert McElroy, during 2018 bicentennial celebration at the Santa Ysabel Mission, has called for Catholic masses to resume in June, but parishioners could opt to continue online services if they choose.

May 27, 2020 (San Diego) – San Diego County Health officials yesterday announced that houses of worship can resume services, with limited numbers of people and other changes. The action follows Governor Gavin Newsom rolling out new state guidelines allow in-person worship services and ceremonies, though officials are encouraging alternatives such as online worshipping or outdoor services to help protect parishioners and staff from COVID-19.

Under the county health rules, churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship must limit attendance to 25 percent of capacity or 100 people, whichever is smallest. Worshippers not in the same household must sit or stand six feet apart.


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WHY ARE LATINOS DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTED BY COVID-19 IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY?

By Briana Gomez

Photo, left: Briana Gomez and her daughter, Aya, with masks from Chicanista Boutique, a Chicana-owned San Diego business

May 28, 2020 (San Diego) -- COVID-19 has plagued millions globally, hitting San Diego at over 5,000 cases according to recent CDC data. The virus has disproportionately impacted San Diego County’s Latino population.

According to the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, 60 percent of COVID-19 positive tests in San Diego County are among Hispanic or Latinos. Equally troubling, CBS 8 reports that 41.1% of deaths locally are among Latinos.


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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.

CALLS FOR PEACE--BUT MOSTLY JUSTICE--AS MINNEAPOLIS ERUPTS IN ANGER OVER POLICE KILLING OF GEORGE FLOYD

"We share these painful emotions and demand justice, but we also urge everyone who wishes to raise their voice to engage in peaceful protests and observe social distancing," Floyd's family and attorney said in a statement.

Photo:  People look on as a construction site burns in a large fire near the Third Police Precinct on May 27, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams under a Creative Commons license

May 28, 2020 (Minneapolis) - Protests over the police killing of George Floyd erupted across Minneapolis Wednesday night as thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets and demanded that the officers responsible be arrested and charged with murder.


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SANTEE LOVES: RESIDENTS RALLY IN VEHICLES TO STAND AGAINST HATE

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

(Photos by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson)

May 27, 2020 (Santee) -- A Santee community group known as Santee Loves organized “Demonstrate Love,” a vehicle rally held today to counter the two racially charged incidents at a Santee Vons store on May 2 and at  Food 4 Less five days later. 

(Left: a participant standing next to his car.)

Those incidents, which went viral on social media and made international headlines, involved a man wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood and a couple, who live in unincorporated El Cajon, with Nazi swastikas on their COVID-19 face masks. 

The vehicle rally was designed to promote tolerance and inclusiveness. Though planned over the past two weeks, the event ironically occurred on the same night that national protests erupted over the brutal killing of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a Minneapolis police officer. 


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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.

ACTING FAST TO FLATTEN THE CURVE: RADY CHILDREN'S SUCCESS STORY

By Duane Cameron

May 27, 2020 (San Diego) - In mid-March as our country, and the world, was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear to Dr. Patrick A. Frias, President & CEO of Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, that they were facing an unprecedented challenge. Cases of COVID-19 were rising in San Diego County, requiring the hospital to enact strict distancing measures and virtual doctor visits to protect its immune-compromised young patients. Additionally, California’s shelter-in-place order requiring all non-essential workers to do their jobs from home threatened to overwhelm Rady Children’s online systems, which are crucial to all aspects of the hospital’s operations, from medical equipment to security.


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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.

BEHIND THE TROLL MASK: SANTEE'S SWASTIKA MAN AND HIS EXPERT TRANSLATOR

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

Photo:  A screen shot of “ubeartron” video of Dustin Hart at Santee Food 4 Less includes a BitChute ID of “1488,” references to Hitler or neo-Nazi views. He says he just Googled the Nazi flag and printed it out. His body camera “came from Amazon.”

May 27, 2020 (Santee) - Dustin Levi Hart says he and his wife wore small swastikas on their faces for almost an hour while shopping May 7 at Food 4 Less in Santee. It was a protest against state lockdown orders, he said.


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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.

EAST COUNTY ROUNDUP: LOCAL AND STATEWIDE NEWS

May 27, 2020 (San Diego) -- East County Roundup highlights top stories of interest to East County and San Diego's inland regions, published in other media.  This week's round-up stories include: 

LOCAL

STATE

For excerpts and links to full stories, click “read more” and scroll down.


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DON PARENT, LONGTIME SDG&E SPOKESMAN, DIES OF CANCER



 

East County News Service

Updated with funeral and memorial information added.

May 27, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – Donald “Don” Parent, long-time Public Affairs Manager for SDG&E and an active participant in many local business and community organizations, died May 25 after a three-year battle with prostate cancer.

“Everyone who knew Don loved him.  He was unfailingly kind, ever ready to help, and could always make you laugh,” his family posted on his Facebook page, voicing gratitude for many heartfelt messages received.  “They are testament to the man he was, and of how many people he touched.”


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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.

ECM WORLD WATCH: NATIONAL AND GLOBAL NEWS

May 25, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) - East County Magazine's World Watch helps you be an informed citizen on important issues globally and nationally. As part of our commitment to reflect all voices and views, we include links to a variety of news sources representing a broad spectrum of political, religious, and social views. Top world and U.S. headlines include:

U.S.

WORLD

For excerpts and links to full stories, click “read more” and scroll down.


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DOMESTIC ABUSE ADVOCATES SEE RISE IN FIRST-TIME VICTIMS

By Kendra Sitton

 

“The quarantine has created a lot of problems…A safety plan is no longer available [for some victims].” – Dilkhwaz Ahmed, License to Freedom

 

May 26, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) — After weeks of stay-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, two local organizations supporting victims of domestic abuse are seeing a sharp rise in people seeking services for the first time. 


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