El Cajon

WELCOME, EL CAJON RESIDENTS!

Our El Cajon Living section covers the city of El Cajon and unincorporated El Cajon areas including Fletcher Hlils and Rancho San Diego.

Click here for fascinating facts about El Cajon.  For community and city links, click here.


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FUTURE OF PARKWAY PLAZA MALL REENVISIONED

City awaits Council’s next motion

By Rachel Williams

July 14.2024 (El Cajon) -- With online sales taking a bite out of retail traffic, shopping malls across the U.S. are struggling and some have closed down. Seeking to avoid that scenario, the City of El Cajon commissioned a market analysis envisioning redevelopment options for Parkway Plaza,  East County’s largest regional shopping mall.

Council members unanimously favored a motion to move beyond proposed aspirational measures and begin the next step toward transforming Parkway Plaza into a mix of residential, retail, offices, entertainment and community space.

These “Eatertainment” facilities would combine compelling, traditional dining options and immersive sport-centered bars with unique, dynamic lifestyle retail shops, all oriented around a linear park.


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BABY HURT IN HORRIFIC EL CAJON CRASH NEEDS MORE HELP ON LONG ROAD TO RECOVERY

 

By Miriam Raftery

July 10, 2024 (San Diego) – Akeel Robinson will turn 2-years-old in August. He’s made remarkable progress since January, when a wrong-way driver plunged off a freeway overpass in El Cajon, sending a chunk of a concrete guardrail crashing into Akeel’s skull. But his family needs help to fund his extensive rehab therapies, particularly since his mother lost her job caring for elderly patients due to putting Akeel’s needs first for his near-daily therapy appointments, and the bills are piling up. 

“He’s going to need help forever,” Akeel’s grandmother, Jennifer Blocker, told ECM. She is asking for donations at a GoFundMe site, now that the projected costs for Akeel’s care have skyrocketed.  “When the accident happened, my daughter was in the process of moving.  She’s finally gotten into a place, but everything seems to keep snowballing.”  She hopes that the public, who gave generously right after the accident, will help her daughter and grandson assure that his therapy sessions can continue, and help them afford other critical needs.


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“VIOLENT” CARTEL ASSOCIATES GET SEVERE SENTENCES FOR KIDNAPPING WOMEN IN EL CAJON

East County News Service

July 10, 2024 (El Cajon)—Three defendants have received lengthy prison sentences for their roles in the kidnapping for ransom and assault of two El Cajon women on behalf of a Mexican drug cartel, district attorney Summer Stephan announced yesterday.

“Drug cartels are a serious and violent threat to our community and their criminal networks should not and will not be allowed to operate in our county,” DA Stephan said. “Let this case be an example of the type of justice that will be brought forth by our dedicated gang prosecutors who work with our law enforcement partners and who risk their lives to deliver justice on behalf of victims to protect the community.”

Defendants Victor Medrano, 44, and Eliceo Flores, 36 were sentenced to life in state prison without parole and defendant Emily Gonzalez, 33, was sentenced to 24 years, eight months in custody. A fourth indicted defendant, 32-year-old Julie Soto, is scheduled for trial in December.


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SENIOR FIRE SURVIVOR GETS NEW MOBILEHOME, BUT STILL NEEDS FURNISHINGS, AC, AND APPLIANCES

By Miriam Raftery

Photos: left: Melissa Taylor, in front of burned-out shell of her former mobilehome, right: new mobilehome

July 10, 2024 (El Cajon) – Last August, 65-year-old Melissa Taylor lost everything when a fire destroyed her mobile home in El Cajon, as ECM reported. Now, thanks to the generosity of donors who responded to her GoFundMe plea and a modest insurance settlement, she now has a new mobile home on the same site where she’s lived for 19 years. But she needs more help before she can move in.

“She has no air conditioning, or furnishings. She needs a washer and dryer," asl well as some other appliances to "make it livable,” says Kari Dodson, a long-time friend of Taylor’s. “She hasn’t been able to move in yet, so we are still keeping the donations link active.” You can donate here.

Kari Dodson, a friend of Taylor’s, told ECM our prior coverage helped bring in donations that enabled Taylor to replace her burned home,  “Thank you for your support and concern,” Dodson told ECM. “Your reporting does help the community immeasurably!”


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EL CAJON POLICE INVETIGATING SWASTIKAS, HATE SPEECH SPRAYED ON VEHICLES

East County News Service

July 2, 2024 (El Cajon) – El Cajon Police Department is investigating a troubling string of hate crime vandalism that occurred on June 27 between1:30 and 3 a.m. in the 1300 block of Greenfield Drive. Five parked vehicles were spray-painted with swastikas and hate speech, including gay and anti-Arab slurs, 10 News reports.

Lt. Will Guerin state in a press release, “Our primary focus is on identifying and arresting the individual(s) responsible for the damage.The motive is unclear, he says, adding that investigators have not yet determine whether the suspect(s) had any connection to the victims.

El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells told 10 News, “"This is not what you want to see in our community or in any community," Wells said. "And it's really not indicative of El Cajon."


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East County Dining Club at Tarbosh in El Cajon July 18: Benefits East County Magazine and our wildfire alerts

June 22, 2024 (El Cajon) -- East County Dining Club invites you to a Mideast Feast at Tarbosh restaurant (1142 East Main St., El Cajon) featuring Iraqi cuisine on Thursday, July 18 at 6:30 p.m. to benefit East County Magazine and East County Wildfire & Emergency Alerts. Savor a delicious buffet for just $22, support local journalism,and win prizes in our raffle.

RSVP to 619 698 7617 or editor@eastcountymagazine.org

Savor a delicious buffet dinner for just $22! (excludes tax and tip).

Includes kebobs, schwarma, falafel, mini pastry, koba, and salad, with chicken, beef and vegetarian options.

Win prizes! Raffle items include: Gift certificates to local restaurants and shops, massage/spa gift certificates, wine rack, wine lovers baskets, art, beach gear, jewelry, purses, coffee, gift baskets, books, Spookeasy event tickets/basket, and more!

Thanks to our sponsors:  Tarbosh Restaurant, Lemon Grove Bistro, Alvarado Institute of Skincare, Brody’s Burgers, Beach Hut Deli, Massage Envy, St. Madeline Sophie’s Gift Shop and Gallery, Surji Coffee, Maxwell’s House of Books, San Pasqual Winery, Jessyka Heredia, and more soon!


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SUPREME COURT RULING ALLOWS SWEEPS OF CAMPS, CRIMINALIZATION OF HOMELESSNESS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  Homeless encampment later swept in unincorporated area, via County of San Diego

June 29, 2024 (Washington D.C.) – The U.S. Supreme Court, by a 6-3 majority, has ruled that homeless people can be arrested for sleeping in a public place, regardless of whether or not shelter space is available. The decision also allows local governments to authorize ticketing, fines, and arrest of homeless people who violate anti-camping regulations,  even if they have no place safe to go.

Locally, the decision has sparked condemnation from advocates for homeless people, who argue that compassionate treatment and affordable housing are the solutions needed, but has also drawn praise from some city and county leaders aiming to clear homeless camps from parks, streets, sidewalks and other public places.


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JULY 4TH FIREWORKS AND FESTIVITIES IN EAST COUNTY

By Jonathan Goetz

June 17, 2024 (San Diego’s East County) – In celebration of Independence Day on July 4, there are many Fourth of July festivities in San Diego's East County to choose from including the Lake Murray Fireworks and Music Fest, El Cajon’s fireworks and family fun activities, a family picnic and fireworks in Ramona, Santee Salutes with carnival games, music and fireworks, parades in Julian, Deerhorn Valley and Crest, Poway’s old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration complete with vintage train rides and more.

Here's the lineup of fun-filled, family-friendly July 4th activities here in East County.


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EL CAJON HOSTS FOUR TOWN HALLS ON SALES TAX MEASURE

East County News Service

June 3, 2024 (El Cajon) -- The City of El Cajon’s special sales tax measure (Prop J) is set to expire, and voters may soon be asked whether to approve extending the half-cent sales tax in the future.  The city invites residents to four town halls (June 13,15,18 and 20) to learn about the services provided through the half-cent sales tax and what services may have to be cut if the funding source is not continued.

Each Town Hall will include an interactive budgeting activity that will provide vital feedback to City leaders.

Below are the town hall meetings scheduled:


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MEASLES EXPOSURE AT MEDICAL CLINIC IN EL CAJON AND AT RADY CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo via Shutterstock:  Measles vaccine

May 14,2024 (San Diego) -- County public health officials have confirmed the third case of measles in the region this year in a 13-month-old resident who recently traveled overseas. 

The unimmunized infant may have exposed others at the following times and locations: 

  • Children’s Primary Care Medical Group El Cajon located at 844 Jackman St., on May 12, from 9:10 a.m. to 12 p.m. 
  • Rady Children’s Emergency Department located at 3020 Children’s Way, 1st Floor in San Diego, on May 13, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. 

The County previously confirmed two other cases in the region this year. None of the three cases are linked, but all are associated with international travel. Before 2024, the last confirmed measles case in the County was in 2019. 

County epidemiologists are working with Children’s Primary Care Medical Group El Cajon and Rady Children’s Hospital to identify and follow up with patients and staff to determine if those possibly exposed at these locations have been vaccinated. They will also evaluate their potential for developing measles.


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CAUGHT ON CAMERA: EL CAJON POLICE DEPT. IS CATCHING THIEVES WITH HELP FROM SOCIAL MEDIA

Nearly all El Cajon crime cases posted on social media have been solved

East County News Service

Image: Free stock photo

May 6, 2024 (El Cajon) -- The El Cajon Police Department announces success of a new approach to capturing retail thieves. In March, ECPD announced implementation of an innovative crime-solving technique utilizing the power of social media.

This approach aims to swiftly identify suspects and solve cases with greater efficiency, making an immediate and tangible impact on the community and retail theft.

“We are harnessing the power of social media to disseminate information,” said Chief of Police Mike Moulton. “In a matter of minutes, we are able to provide images and descriptions of thieves. Our community has responded by assisting our efforts and giving information that leads to arrests.”


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A DREAM FULFILLED: CHALDEAN COMMUNITY COUNCIL OPENS INCUBATOR BUSINESS CENTER IN EL CAJON

County and City provide major support for landmark project

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: Supervisor Joel Anderson presents half million dollar check to kickstart the incubator business center, joined by El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells and Dr. Noori Barka, Chaldean Community Council.

May 1, 2024 (El Cajon) – Opening an incubator business center to help refugees and immigrants start new businesses has been a dream of Dr. Noori Barka for more than a decade.  On April 11, that dream came to fruition at a ceremony launching the Chaldean Community Council’s new incubator business center at 405 East Lexington Avenue in El Cajon. The center will provide help for low-income and underserved refugee communities.

Supervisor Joel Anderson called the occasion a “joyous day” as he presented a check for a half million dollars from the County to the Chaldean Community Council to kickstart the incubator business center. He also issued a proclamation declarring April 11 El Cajon Small Business Incubator Day. Funding was through the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the Small Business Stimulus Grant program, and the County’s Community Enhancement program.

 “For years, I’ve said we need an incubator to kick start businesses,” the Supervisor said. “In East County, we’ve got enterpreneurial spirit to be tapped,” he added, predicting that the enterprise will produce new entrepreneurs, “bringing wealth and opportunities to East County.”

He praised El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells after the city agreed to lease office space for the incubator business center for just a dollar a year, over the next five years.


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HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION IN DOWNTOWN EL CAJON

East County News Service

Photos by Robert Gehr

April 9,2024 (El Cajon) --El Cajon Police Department is investigation the death of a man who died following an assault early this morning. 

Officers responded to reports of an assault around 3 a.m.and provided medical aid to the victim, who died at the scene in the 100 block of Main Street between Orange Avenue and Magnolia. His injuries are consistent with blunt force trauma,a ccording to Lt. K.MacArthur with ECPD.

ECM photographer Robert Gehr reports streets are open to traffic while the investigation continues.


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CAJON ZONE AMUSEMENT CENTER TO REPLACE WALMART AT PARKWAY PLAZA

 

By Joy Player

April 1, 2024 (El Cajon)—Parkway Plaza shopping mall  today announced that the vacant former Walmart store will be converted to a massive indoor recreational center to be called “Cajon Zone.”

The facility, to be expanded vertically, will be a four-story haven for children and the young at heart. It will include an indoor water park complete with spiraling slides and inner tube floats, elevated skywalk and jogging track, fitness center, ice skating and NFL-sized hockey rink, rock-climbing walls, roller skating rink, roller derby track and more.

“El Cajon has many under-served communities that can benefit from this multi-sport facility,” said Max Bucks, CEO of Cajon Zone. “There’s something for everyone here.”


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FUNDRAISERS FOR FAMILY OF SLAIN DENTIST AND YOUNG MOM HURT IN DENTAL CLINIC SHOOTING

Dr. Harouni’s family also announces plans to start charity,  Hearts Over Hate

By Miriam Raftery

March 9, 2024 (El Cajon) – Yareli Carrillo, mother of a 9-month-old baby, was one of two people injured when a gunman opened fire on Feb. 29 at the Smile Plus Dentistry & Orthodontics clinic in El Cajon where she works as an administrative assistant.  The shooter, a former patient, also killed Dr. Benjamin Harouni.

The young mother was shot five times in the legs, and has been hospitalized in stable condition.  Yarelli Carillo’s family has started a fundraiser on GoFundMe.  Organizer Edgar Hernandez says. Your generous contributions will directly support Yareli as she rebuilds her life, covering medical expenses, ongoing treatment, and ensuring the well-being of her baby boy in a stable and nurturing environment. Together, we can make a difference and bring hope and healing to Yareli and her family.”

Jake Harouni has set up a separate fundraiser to assist the family of his brother, Dr.. Benjamin Harouni. “We're organizing a charity - Hearts Over Hate - to support families affected by violent crimes, offering them much-needed counseling and support, particularly for those who lack the resources to access these services,” Jake Harouni writes.

He adds, ”Our enduring vision is to foster peace by educating young people and nurturing environments of love and kindness. This proactive approach aims to prevent such tragedies from recurring.”


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MAYOR BILL WELLS TO SQUARE OFF AGAINST CONGRESSWOMAN SARA JACOBS IN 51ST DISTRICT

By Miriam Raftery

March 6, 2024 (San Diego’s East County) – Congresswoman Sara Jacobs, a Democrat, has finished first in the primary election in the 51st Congressional district, with 56.28% of the vote.  She will run-off against El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, a Republican, in the November general election. Wells captured 40.09% of the votes tallied thus far.

Wells has served as the city's mayor since 2013, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy left by resignation of Mayor Mark Lewis. He was later elected and twice won reelection. Should his Congressional bid be unsuccessful he would remain as mayor, since his term ends in 2024.*


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VICTIM KILLED BY SHOOTER AT EL CAJON DENTAL CLINIC WAS JEWISH; FBI JOINS INVESTIGATION

 

Update 7 p.m.: The Medical Examiner has confirmed the death of Benjamin Ariel Harouni, 28, of gunshot wounds.

By Miriam Raftery

March 1, 2024 (El Cajon) – Multiple Jewish media outlets report that the man killed at the Smile Plus Dentistry & Orthodonics clinic in  El Cajon late yesterday  was Dr. Benjamin Harouni, an Orthodox Jew at the clinic run by Harouni and his father. Authorities have not yet confirmed the victim’s identity, however the Jewish publication Yeshiva World News first published his name along with a photo confirming that Misakim members from  Los Angeles spent the scene at the scene watching over the body to assure that Jewish law was respected.  Jewish News Syndicate has also named Harouni as the fatality victim.

The shooting suspect, Mohammed Abdulkareem,29, was arrested after an intensive manhunt. He has been charged with murder and two counts of attempted murder, for two other workers who were injured.  El Cajon Police have indicated the suspect was a disgruntled former patient, but an investigation into his motives continues, with speculations raised online over whether these may have been anti-Semitic hate crimes.

Fabienne Perlov,  Regional Director of the The Anti-Defamation League in San Diego, has issued a statement indicating that its  Center on Extremism "has not identified any extremist or hate-related motivation behind the shootings at this point." 

The carnage might have been worse, if not for a swift response by El Cajon Police. After receiving reports of gunshots in the clinic at 4:14 p.m., officers arrived two minutes later and found the three gunshot victims, an ECPD press release indicates.  According to Yeshiva, Harouni “was found inside the office as the shooting was still ongoing and was taken outside by officers, where they attempted to perform lifesaving measures,” however he died at the scene.


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TEENS ARRESTED FOR ROBBERY OF GAMESTOP STORE IN EL CAJON, TWO MORE SUSPECTS SOUGHT

East County News Service

February 27, 2024 (El Cajon) – Two teenage boys were arrested following a robbery at the Game Stop Store, 318 Broadway in El Cajon yesterday. El Cajon Police are still seeking two additional suspects.


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SUSPECTED DUI DRIVER CRASHES INTO EL CAJON HOME, INJURES DRIVER AND PASSENGERS

By Miriam Raftery 

February 12, 2024 (El Cajon) – A driver and two passengers sustained major injuries when a 2011 Buick Enclave SUV crashed into a home at 9060 Winter Gardens Blvd. in El Cajon shortly after 3 a.m.


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LEMON GROVE MAN DEAD AFTER FREEWAY SHOOTING AND CRASH IN EL CAJON

East County News Service 

January 31, 2024 (El Cajon) – A 20-year-old Lemon Grove man was shot and killed last night around 8:35 p.m. after exiting his vehicle, which had crashed and gone down an embankment off I-8 in El Cajon.


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RED CROSS OPENS SHELTERS FROM STORM,SOME SCHOOLS CLOSE, COUNTY TO AID WITH DAMAGES, SUPERVISOR ANDERSON SAYS

East County News Service

January 23, 2024 (San Diego's East County)--If you or someone you know is experiencing unsafe living conditionsin EastCounty due to flooding, the Red Cross has opened a shelter.  The shelter is in the Bostonia Recreation Room,1049 Bostonia St.,El Cajon. Additional shelters have been opened at Lincoln High School and the Coronado Community Center.

"The County of San Diego Office of Emergency Services is actively monitoring the storm and its impacts," says Supervisor Joel Anderson, who notes that the winter storm ha affected many parts of the County, with multiple communities and highways experiencing flooding, "especially communities I represent in the unincorporated area of the County."

"The County of San Diego will be assisting with damages caused by the winter storm. More details on that will be shared in the coming days," Supervisor Anderson adds. "For now, if there's any way my office can be of assistance to you during this time, please do not hesitate to reach out to us using the contact form on my website."

The safety of students and school staff is of the upmost importance to San Diego County School Districts. The following schools have early dismissals or closures planned for this week. Please contact your school's administration for more details:


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SUSPECT ARRESTED FOR ARSON

Source: San Diego County Sheriff

January 18, 2024 (El Cajon) -- A woman is behind bars on suspicion of starting a fire on January 11 at an apartment complex on E. Bradley Ave. in unincorporated El Cajon. The fire engulfed 14 garages at the complex.


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BLOOD DRIVES IN EL CAJON AND SPRING VALLEY ON FEB. 1

East County News Service

January 18, 2024 (San Diego’s East County) – The San DIego Blood Bank will hold blood drives Feb. 1 in El Cajon and Srring Valley.  Below are details.

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WALMART TO CLOSE PARKWAY PLAZA STORE IN EL CAJON

By Miriam Raftery

January 10, 2024 (El Cajon) – Wal Mart has announced that it will not renew its lease for the Walmart store in the Parkway Plaza shopping mall in El Cajon. The company plans to close the store on February 9.


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PARENTS IDENITIFED IN APPARENT MURDER-SUICIDE

East County News Service

January 7, 2023 (El Cajon)—The parents of three children are dead of in an apparent murder-suicide at their home in the 1600 block of Hilton Head Court in unincorporated El Cajon. The deceased have been identified as Jose Benjamin Lopez Valle, 41, and his wife, Brenda Valle, 38.

Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call reporting an assault with a deadly weapon and gunshots. Inside the residence, they found the victims with a firearm nearby. Deputies and paramedics provided medical care but could not save the couple. 

“It appears that Jose’s injuries were self-inflicted,” says Lieutenant Joseph Jarjura with the Sheriff’s homicide unit.

They were parents to three children, ages 18, 16 and 11.


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EL CAJON SUES FUGITIVE FORMER COUNCILMAN KALASHO AND WIFE OVER ILLEGAL BED AND BREAKFAST

By Miriam Raftery

December 31, 2023 (El Cajon) – The City of El Cajon has filed a lawsuit against former Councilman Bessmon “Ben” Kalasho and his wife, Jessica Deddeh, for allegedly failing to address numerous code violations at an unauthorized bed and breakfast at the couple’s residence, NBC 7 reports.

According to the City’s complaint, the El Cajon residence has been listed on the Trivagosite as “The HIstorical Chamber House in East  San Diego with Optional Breakfast.” Code compliance officers found and photographed unpermitted construction of an outdoor stair, deck, and a second kitchen.

City code compliance investigators found violations on six visits from Sept.2019 to Jan.2022, the suite states. Multiple warning letters were sent and fines were levied, reaching $2,000 per day.  The total is now approximately $1.4 million.

The City is asking for injunctive relief including removing the unpermitted dwelling unit and movable properties within it sold under supervision of a court-appointed receiver. If rents and proceeds of selling the movable items do not cover the amount owed, the city asks the court to order that the home be sold.


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MOM THANKS COMMUNITY AND POLICE AFTER MISSING SON WITH AUTISM FOUND SAFE

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Skye Pinon, via ECM news partner 10 News

December 9, 2023 (La Mesa) – Skye Pinon says it was the “scariest moment of my entire life” when she realized that her 15-year-old son,  Max, who has autism, was missing.  Max went for a walk around 3 p.m. shortly before Thanksgiving wearing only a T-shirt and shorts, with no wallet or cell phone.

Skye Pinon and her husband spent an hour searching on their own, then called La Mesa Police, according to her post on a La Mesa community forum. Within minutes, officers took a report, had a helicopter in the air broadcasting Max’s description, called in a volunteer canine search and rescue team, and launched a social media post that was soon widely shared.  

“It only took minutes for the amazing people of this community to begin responding and I immediately began getting calls, texts, and social media messages from people asking how they could help,” Pinon says.


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A CAPPELLA GROUP BRINGS “SLEIGHIN’ IT TOUR” TO SYCUAN DEC. 28

East County News Service

December 4, 2023 (El Cajon) – The a cappella group Straight No Chaser, whose fall tour has become a holiday tradition for families around the country, will be performing Dec. 28 at  Sycuan Casino and Resort in El Cajon  The renown singers also just released  “Stocking Stuffer,” an EP with their newest holiday repertoire here, and will also be available for purchase at the concert. 


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A SAFE PLACE TO SLEEP

 

By Anita Lightfoot, County of San Diego Communications Office

Video by Suzanne Bartole

December 1, 2023 (San Diego) - It’s been a little over a year since the Safe Parking site opened below the State Route 67 overpass on North Magnolia Ave. in East County. The space had previously grown into a large encampment where drug use was common and trash spilled into the street.


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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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