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Authorities make arrest in vehicle crimes

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 16, 2014 - 9:20pm

From staff reports

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office said deputies have arrested three men they believe were responsible for more than 100 vehicle thefts and burglaries or other crimes related to stolen vehicles.

Authorities said they believe many of the crimes were committed while the suspects were out on bail after previous arrests.

The agency said the arrests grew out of an investigation in August of several criminal groups suspected of committing thefts throughout the county. Authorities said they identified at least three members of those groups as Aaron Phillips, 23, of Camarillo; Jose Chavez, 34, of Camarillo; and Andrew Coombes, 25, of Oxnard.

The agency said Phillips was arrested after they conducted an Oct. 6 probation search on his wife. Authorities said they found him with altered keys commonly used to steal vehicles and arrested him on allegations including possession of burglary tools and being under the influence of narcotics. He posted $10,000 bail two days later and was released from county jail, authorities said.

Authorities said he was arrested again, as were Chavez and Coombes, on Oct. 24 in connection with auto theft and vehicle burglaries in Camarillo and the Santa Rosa Valley. Phillips was arrested on suspicion of burglary, Chavez on suspicion of auto theft and Coombes on suspicion of auto theft and burglary, authorities said. Coombes was arrested while already in custody, authorities said.

Chavez posted $40,000 bail Oct. 25 and was released, while Phillips posted $20,000 bail Nov. 2 and was released, authorities said.

Authorities said Phillips was arrested again after they began an investigation Dec. 9 into a vehicle stolen in Thousand Oaks and later found abandoned in Oxnard and containing property stolen in an Oxnard commercial burglary. They said they believed he was responsible and arrested him when they stopped a vehicle in which he was a passenger. Authorities said the driver was on probation and had two active warrants, and a search of the car revealed methamphetamine, stolen property and items used to commit identity theft. Phillips was arrested on suspicion of auto theft and remains in custody on $500,000 bail, authorities said. The driver was arrested on his outstanding warrants and suspicion of possession of methamphetamine, authorities said.

Gil Marks, Historian of Jewish Food and Culture, Dies at 62

NY Times Books - December 16, 2014 - 9:00pm
Mr. Marks wrote five books that chronicled kosher menus through the centuries and examined the role of food in the establishment and growth of cultural traditions.






United States to Bid for 2024 Games

New York Times - California News - December 16, 2014 - 9:00pm
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Washington are under consideration as sites for the 2024 Summer Games; the United States committee expects to decide in January.

Panel to Set Terms to End Abusive Reign at Los Angeles County Jail System

New York Times - California News - December 16, 2014 - 9:00pm
A federal panel will implement dozens of changes in Los Angeles County’s troubled jails in an agreement reached a year after guards were charged with beating prisoners.

More Police Officers to Get Body Cameras

New York Times - California News - December 16, 2014 - 9:00pm
Officials in two states announced plans Tuesday to equip law enforcement officers with body cameras after police shootings of unarmed men that have created tensions nationally.

Quandary for Sony in Terror Threats Over ‘The Interview’

New York Times - California News - December 16, 2014 - 9:00pm
As Sony came under pressure to cancel or postpone the release of the film, about the assassination of North Korea’s leader, the New York premiere was called off.

Wheelies: The Bandit Gone Edition

New York Times - California News - December 16, 2014 - 9:00pm
Burt Reynolds’s 1977 Pontiac Trans Am sells for $450,000; a report says Toyota officials called for a last-minute redesign of the new Prius.

Conserving Water

New York Times - California News - December 16, 2014 - 9:00pm
The director of Los Angeles Waterkeeper describes its campaign to encourage motorists not to wash their cars for 60 days.

Los Angeles Police to Wear Body Cameras

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 16, 2014 - 8:36pm
Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday the rollout of on-body cameras for the city’s entire police force, an endorsement of a tool that has gained attention since a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo., in the summer.

Senate Votes to Extend Temporary Tax Breaks to End of 2014

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 16, 2014 - 7:49pm
The Senate voted to extend a raft of temporary tax breaks through the rest of 2014, ending a protracted struggle that foreshadows even more difficult tax-code debates next year.

2 cited in undercover DUI court operation

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 16, 2014 - 7:46pm

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office conducted an undercover operation at the Ventura courthouse, targeting suspected DUI drivers whose licenses had been suspended or revoked, authorities said.

The operation took place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday at the Ventura County Hall of Justice, authorities said.

Officers followed offenders from the courtroom to the parking lot to make sure those who were told by a judge not to drive or whose driver’s license had been suspended or revoked did not get behind the wheel, authorities said.

A 22-year-old Camarillo man and a 39-year-old Oxnard man both had been in court on allegations of driving under the influence and were cited with attempting to drive away without a valid driver’s license, authorities said. Their cars were towed, authorities said.

This operation was funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, authorities said.

2 cited in undercover DUI court operation

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 16, 2014 - 7:46pm

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office conducted an undercover operation at the Ventura courthouse, targeting suspected DUI drivers whose licenses had been suspended or revoked, authorities said.

The operation took place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday at the Ventura County Hall of Justice, authorities said.

Officers followed offenders from the courtroom to the parking lot to make sure those who were told by a judge not to drive or whose driver’s license had been suspended or revoked did not get behind the wheel, authorities said.

A 22-year-old Camarillo man and a 39-year-old Oxnard man both had been in court on allegations of driving under the influence and were cited with attempting to drive away without a valid driver’s license, authorities said. Their cars were towed, authorities said.

This operation was funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, authorities said.

Police search for Ventura robbery suspect

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 16, 2014 - 7:35pm

From staff reports

Police were looking for a man in connection with a robbery Tuesday in Ventura, authorities said.

The crime was reported at 3 a.m. at an Arco gas station and AM/PM convenience store at 5669 Valentine Road.

The robber entered the store and took some items, but when he approached the register simulated a weapon in his waistband and demanded money, police said. The cashier gave him an undisclosed amount of cash before the robber fled south through the store’s parking lot, authorities said.

The robber was described as 18 to 25 years old and wearing a black beanie, black hooded sweatshirt, dark jeans and dark tennis shoes, authorities said.

No one was injured in the crime.

 

Police search for Ventura robbery suspect

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 16, 2014 - 7:35pm

From staff reports

Police were looking for a man in connection with a robbery Tuesday in Ventura, authorities said.

The crime was reported at 3 a.m. at an Arco gas station and AM/PM convenience store at 5669 Valentine Road.

The robber entered the store and took some items, but when he approached the register simulated a weapon in his waistband and demanded money, police said. The cashier gave him an undisclosed amount of cash before the robber fled south through the store's parking lot, authorities said.

The robber was described as 18 to 25 years old and wearing a black beanie, black hooded sweatshirt, dark jeans and dark tennis shoes, authorities said.

No one was injured in the crime.

Home Building Faltered in November, but Broader Trends Point Up

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 16, 2014 - 7:28pm
Housing starts fell 1.6% in November, the latest sign of an uneven housing recovery.

Crops cleared but farm losses total $1M in blast

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 16, 2014 - 7:24pm

Crops planted near the site of a chemical explosion outside Santa Paula have been found safe to sell, but preliminary figures show growers facing $1 million in losses, a county official said Tuesday.

“It is my professional opinion that the produce from the area is safe to harvest and consume,” Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales told the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.

Gonzales said no detectable levels of pesticides or metals were found in voluminous tests conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which examined samples of lemons, lettuce, celery and raspberries growing near the site of the explosion and chemical spill.

The exact chemical that exploded Nov. 18 in a truck, spilled and then spontaneously ignited as it dried has not been determined. County environmental officials doubt it ever will be because the substance would have been transformed into a different material when it burned. Tests of the byproducts have all come back negative for hazardous material, officials said.

The FDA has not ordered the destruction of any crops as a result of its investigation. Gonzales said he was also basing his opinion in favor of harvesting on the passage of time since the blast and the repeated rainfall.

But that doesn’t help raspberry producer Marz Farms. The company is facing $734,000 in losses, Chief Financial Officer David Martinez said.

The company sacrificed 30 acres of raspberries growing near the site of the explosion at Santa Clara Waste Water Co.

“We didn’t harvest anything,” he said.

Martinez said he was almost sure the tests would come back negative, but he didn’t want to take a chance that the fruit could be unsafe to sell.

“It’s not responsible to run the risk to public safety,” he said. “Even from a financial perspective, you don’t know if it’s going to be recalled.”

Martinez said he did not know how he would cover the losses.

It was a different call for the chief of the Limoneira Co., the county’s largest lemon producer.

President and CEO Harold Edwards said the crop tests have confirmed that the company’s lemons growing half a mile west of the plant are safe.

“We plan to harvest probably in February or March,” he said.

Edwards tied his confidence to a data-based system the company uses to monitor any problems. Lemons also have the additional protection of needing to be peeled to be eaten, he said.

Gonzales appeared at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting along with public safety, planning and environmental health officials who updated the board on costs and cleanup of the spill.

“We have made a great deal of progress,” said Chris Stephens, director of the Ventura County Resource Management Agency.

Stephens said the site has been neutralized and cleaned up with the exception of a pool of material in the center of the facility where the explosion occurred. That area is expected to be neutralized, solidified and removed in the next three weeks, he said.

The cost of the response to the incident is estimated at $1 million to date, but could grow to $2 million if two contaminated fire engines cannot be returned to duty, county officials said.

The Ventura County Planning Division has suspended the plant’s permit to operate until regulators deem the facility cleaned and safe. A third condition is that the city of Oxnard must again agree to accept waste from the plant. Santa Clara sent waste via a pipeline to Oxnard’s sewage plant, but Oxnard officials cut off access after seeing repeated unacceptable levels of radioactivity in the waste.

Stephens said tests of materials at the site did not show evidence of radioactive elements.

Hotels Sue L.A. Over Minimum-Wage Law

Wall Street Journal U.S. News - December 16, 2014 - 7:18pm
Two national hotel-industry groups are suing Los Angeles, arguing a recent minimum-wage increase unfairly targets the hospitality business and that certain provisions interfere with federal labor law.

'Clifford The Big Red Dog' creator dies

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 16, 2014 - 6:43pm

Norman Bridwell, who created the childhood staple "Clifford The Big Red Dog" has died at 86.

He died Dec. 12 in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, CNN reports.

Bridwell began his career as a freelance artist in 1962. The Clifford series sprung from a piece of art he drew for his daughter, Emily, who became a character in the books.

"Clifford The Big Red Dog" went on to sell 60 million copies over 40 titles, according to the Martha's Vineyard Times.

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk. Follow him on twitter at @GavinStern.

Return of OC basketball creates buzz

Ventura County Star Top Stories - December 16, 2014 - 6:27pm

First and foremost, the return of Oxnard College basketball has been met with excitement.

The Condor Center was packed for the first men’s and women’s home games in nearly three years last month and despite the team combining for a 1-13 record through the first five weeks of the season, the welcome back continues to surprise longtime coach Ron McClurkin.

“The gym was filled with people at 2 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon,” McClurkin said. “You’d think people would be out doing Christmas shopping. But they were there and they were loud, encouraging the girls to play hard.”

Which makes the Condors even more driven to give the community something about which to cheer.

“Kids were screaming for the girls to play hard,” McClurkin said. “Even being down 20 points, they never quit playing. It’s almost like the fans wouldn’t let them.

“I think that set the stage. That let the players know that they had good support that was going to be there all year long.”

McClurkin said that he hadn’t witnessed this type of excitement since his men’s team that reached the regional final in 2003 behind state co-Player of the Year Jeremiah Massey.

“I hadn’t seen that in a while,” said McClurkin, who coached the men’s team from 1993 to 2007 before being rehired to coach both teams earlier this year. “They’ve been waiting for us to do something on a consistent basis. That’s what we’ve been trying to do.”

It’s going to take time for both teams to work through issues related to being first-year programs. Oxnard cut both programs over budget issues.

The OC women (0-7) have been carried by the backcourt of shooting guard Juliette Marquez, who has averaged 17.7 points per game and point guard Tabitha Cunanan.

“She has a really quick shot,” assistant coach Christina Torres said about Marquez. “She’s like a pistol out there.”

The St. Bonaventure High product scored 30 points on 6-of-10 3-point shooting in the season opener against Los Angeles Trade-Tech and followed it up with 25 and 21 points, respectively, against Southwestern on Nov. 21 and L.A. Harbor on Dec. 3.

“She came out really strong and I think that gave her a lot of confidence,” Torres said. “With that she feels the pressure with all the teams that have already scouted her.”

The Condors have been working on spreading the ball around.

“We need to make some adjustments and get some other people going,” Torres said.

Without a player taller than 5-foot-10, the real issue may be inside, where the Condors have been outrebounded by 13.2 per game. Cassandra Luna, a 5-9 freshman from Pacifica High, leads the team with 5.7 rebounds per game.

“Size is a little bit of a problem,” McClurkin said. “Playing hard, that’s what’s kept us in ballgames.

The Condors shouldn’t be winless. But the all-freshman team has had trouble finishing off games.

“We lack experience playing at the college level,” McClurkin said. “But they love to play, love to compete and they want to play. We have to work with them as much we can. We’ve changed our lineup. We’ve played as many as 15 girls in a game. ... That’s kept us close.”

Collegiate experience has also been an issue with the Oxnard men (1-6), who only have a single sophomore, former Moorpark College forward Matt Ramon, on the roster.

“These guys have been playing PAL (Police Athletic League) and park and rec for the past couple years,” McClurkin said. “Whether you’ve win or lose, those games haven’t been too big of a deal for them. The college game is a lot different.”

But the Condors do have talent. Three different players — forwards Terrence Nunnery, Daniel Crocker and DeSean Scott — have already scored more than 20 points in a game and another, Ramon, put up 19.

“We’ve got seven, eight guys who can flat out play,” McClurkin said. “There’s about four who can give you 20 or better any given night.”

Ramon has given Oxnard stability inside. Giving away more than half-foot in height at times, the Oxnard High product pulled down 40 rebounds over two games last weekend at the L.A. Southwest tournament.

“That’s a lot of heart, a lot of toughness from the young man,” McClurkin said.

The Oxnard men have also had trouble finishing close games. Three of its six losses have come in overtime.

“The guys are very talented,” McClurkin said. “They just have to learn how to win, that’s what we’re there for coaching. ... We have to do a much better job defending.”

Despite the won-loss records, the Condors are back on the court competing, which is a (re)start.

“That’s all I’m asking for right now,” McClurkin said. “Just compete.”

 

OXNARD COLLEGE MEN
Nickname: Condors.
Coach: Ron McClurkin (1st year, 2nd tenure).
Assistant coaches: Major Whitlock, Mike Anderson, Dorian Guerrero.
2014-15 start: 1-6.
2013-14 record, division finish: Did not field a team.
2013-14 playoffs: Did not qualify.
STARTING LINEUP
Pos.    Name    Year    Ht.    High school
PG     Deondre Edwards     Fr.     5-6     Lancaster
SG     Terrance Nunnery     Fr.     6-3    Ventura
SF     DeShaun Nixon     Fr.     6-5     Hueneme
F     Matt Ramon     So.     6-3     Oxnard
PF     Daniel Crocker    Fr.     6-4     Oxnard
BENCH
Pos.    Name    Year    Ht.    High school
PG     Robert Martinez    Fr.     6-0    Santa Clara
PG     Joshua Munoz    Fr.    5-9    Hueneme
SG     Michael Brown    Fr.    6-0    Hueneme
SG     Erick Zambrano    Fr.    6-2    Rio Mesa
G     Isiah Morales     Fr.    6-2     Garfield
G     Carlos Gomez    Fr.    6-1    Norwalk (Conn.)
SF    DeSean Scott    Fr.    6-6    Arroyo Grande
C    Juan Valdez    Fr.    6-8    Hueneme
RECORD BOOK
2014    No team    2009     14-15
2013    No team    2008    17-14^
2012    10-16   2007    6-20      
2011    16-11   2006    5-20
2010    12-15   2005    8-15
^ School forfeited season
 
OXNARD COLLEGE WOMEN
Nickname: Condors.
Coach: Ron McClurkin (1st year).
Assistant coaches: Major Whitlock, Christina Torres, Dorian Guerrero.
2014-15 start: 0-7.
2013-14 record, division finish: Did not field a team.
2013-14 playoffs: Did not qualify.
STARTING LINEUP
Pos.    Name    Year    Ht.    High school
PG    Tabitha Cunanan     Fr.     5-6     Channel Islands
SG    Juliette Marquez     Fr.     5-5     St. Bonaventure
G     Cindy Galvan     Fr.     5-3     Camarillo
PF     Simone Tobin    Fr.    5-8    Ventura
C    Cassandra Luna     Fr.    5-9    Pacifica
BENCH
Pos.    Name    Year    Ht.    High school
PG     Juliana Estrada     Fr.    5-3     Oxnard
PG     Minniya Wilson    Fr.     5-4     Brandon Valley, S.D.
G     Tatyana Brown     Fr.     5-6     Centennial
G     Miranda Cevantes    Fr.    5-4     Pacifica
G     Kendall Gott     Fr.     5-6     Oxnard
F     Jailyn Lave     Fr.     5-9     Camarillo
F     Nicoellette Manangan     Fr.     5-8     Rio Mesa
F     Regine Powell     Fr.     5-7     Hueneme
PF     Jenny Lopez     Fr.     5-8     St. Bonaventure
PF     Kayla Stockton     Fr.     5-7     Santa Paula
C     Marlene Resendiz     Fr.     5-10     Oxnard
C     Catherine Singh     Fr.     5-9     St. Bonaventure
RECORD BOOK
2014    No team    2009    8-20
2013    No team    2008    11-14
2012    6-16     2007    11-14
2011    5-18     2006    0-25
2010    14-11   2005    4-21

Toy drive has special meaning for firefighter

Ventura County Star - Local News - December 16, 2014 - 5:37pm

Oxnard firefighter Bryan Andrews knows exactly the kind of difference an unexpected Christmas gift can make in the life of a child.

As program coordinator in Oxnard for this year’s annual Spark of Love toy drive, Andrews is spearheading the collection of Christmas gifts for the county’s neediest children. His zeal for the effort isn’t just one of goodwill. This drive is personal for Andrews because one of those needy children once was him.

Andrews grew up in Escondido in a family with five children. When he was 9, his father left, rendering the family destitute and distraught, he said. Still raw from the loss of his father, Andrews dreamed of getting a bike that Christmas, he said. But with his mother struggling to make ends meet, surviving on food stamps and other government aid, he thought getting his wish was out of the question.

That’s when two Marines with the Toys for Tots program showed up at his house with toys. Among them was a glistening new bike.

“I just remember looking at (the Marines) and thinking, ‘I can’t believe that they’re there.’ It just had a profound effect on me to think that people really cared,” Andrews said. “I started crying. I was super excited because that’s all I wanted, and I couldn’t believe it. It’s nearly 25 years ago, and it still has an effect on me.”

Andrews now is married with three children and financially secure. But he’s never forgotten what it was like to be an impoverished child buffeted by the forces of events beyond his control. He seeks ways to give back by contributing to Christmas toy drives such as Toys for Tots. When he heard there was a need for someone to coordinate the Spark of Love program in Oxnard, he jumped at the chance, he said.

Spark of Love is supported by the Oxnard, city of Ventura and Ventura County fire departments in conjunction with the Children’s Services Auxiliary of Ventura County. The auxiliary each year hosts a huge holiday store where parents, foster parents, legal guardians and children’s group homes can pick up free donated Christmas gifts for the children in their care. About 2,000 families will receive help this year, Andrews said.

Community members can drop off gift donations at any Oxnard, city of Ventura or Ventura County fire station before Dec. 24. Items can be toys, books or sporting equipment for children up to age 12, and should be unwrapped.

Andrews said the drive is still in need of donations, particularly bikes. He urged people to remember others who are less fortunate during the holidays.

“I want to hopefully inspire some people to reach out and give more. A lot of times, people in the holidays are caught up in ‘I’ve got to buy and get all this stuff,’ and they forget to give to others in need,” Andrews said. “I was given hope as a kid, and I want to give that back to other kids.”

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