California man sentenced to prison for starting wildfire that forced over 7,000 to evacuate

Brandon McGlover, 33, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after he admitted to starting a wildfire in Southern California that forced 7,000 residents to evacuate.
(CAL Fire)

A man was sentenced to 12 years in prison after he admitted to sparking a wildfire in Southern California that forced over 7,000 residents to evacuate last summer.

Brandon McGlover, 33, pleaded guilty to two counts of arson to a structure or forest land on Thursday in connection to the Cranston Fire, which unfolded last July in Riverside County. McGlover admitted to setting several structures on fire that day, though he gave no motive. He originally had faced more charges but they were cut during a preliminary hearing, the Press-Enterprise reported.

By the time the Cranston fire was contained, it had burned over 13,000 acres, destroying at least five homes in its path. McGlover, from Temecula, was ordered to pay restitution to his victims, which could amount to millions of dollars.

The Cranston fire took place during a devastating summer for California, which saw at least six other major fires ravage the state. A few months after the Cranston fire, the Woolsey fire destroyed the homes of a number of Hollywood's biggest names, including Miley Cyrus, Gerard Butler and Robin Thicke.

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By the time the Cranston fire was contained, it had burned across more than 13,000 acres, destroying at least five homes in its path.
(Gina Ferazzi/Los AngelesTimes via Getty Images, File)

McGlover's attorney, Joseph Camarata, spoke on his behalf during the sentencing and relayed a message of sorrow and regret from his client.

“He would like to offer his deepest sympathies to everyone who has been affected by these fires,” Camarata said.

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His victims, however, remained unconvinced. Residents whose lives were forever changed by the Cranston fire said that they suffered from depression, anxiety and shock. One woman, Janine Munson, said her husband died after he suffered a heart attack as they were trying to escape the flames.

The environmental impact of the fire has been substantial; the surrounding area now carries a risk of mudslides.

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McGlover's attorney made one final request at the sentencing hearing: that his client could be allowed to hug his parents, who also lived in the area.

The judge did not allow the embrace, citing security concerns.

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Shocking moment man attacks family in fit of road rage

Frightening new video captures the moment a crazed man climbed atop a California family’s car and tried to punch out the windshield during an apparent fit of road rage.

Veneranda Alvarez had just picked up her two daughters, ages 12 and 13, from school around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday and drove with them to meet her friend Chris at an Anaheim Jack in the Box, KTLA reported.

The suspect, who was in a white Jeep Grand Cherokee, appeared to first follow Chris across the parking lot as he walked to the fast food joint from a Walgreens in the same shopping complex.

As Chris approached Alvarez’s car, he confronted the man.

“He had told the guy, ‘Stop harassing me, stop following us,’” Alvarez told the station.

Once Chris got in her car, Alvarez said she was too afraid to wait at the drive-thru and drove away.

But that didn’t stop the Jeep driver, who stayed on their tail, Alvarez said.

“This car kept on following us, this guy,” she told the outlet. “It’s scary, and he was tailgating me.”

Alvarez tried to make a U-turn to get away — but instead of giving up, the driver came up behind her and cut her off, she recalled.

“That’s when he got out the car and he jumped on my hood of my car, then he started banging on it twice,” Alvarez told the station. “Then he shattered my windshield.”

Meanwhile, one of Alvarez’s daughters captured cellphone video of the ordeal.

The hood of the family’s Nissan Cube was dented after the attacker climbed on top, and the left side of the windshield was shattered, making it impossible for Alvarez to drive.

Miraculously, no one inside the car was injured — but Alvarez’s daughters missed school the next day because they were so shaken from the incident.

“I believe that God was with me,” Alvarez told the outlet. “I don’t know what to think. It’s crazy.”

Now she only hopes that cops can track down the man, who got away.

“I want him to get caught and be responsible for his actions,” she told the station.

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Communities in California, Louisiana bid final farewells to slain police officers

Killed in separate shootings this month were Officer Chatéri Payne, left, of Shreveport, La., and Officer Natalie Corona, of Davis, Calif. (Facebook/Davis Police Department)

The two rookie police officers, both 22 years old, worked in separate cities, nearly 2,000 miles apart. But their shocking deaths by gunfire this month brought their stories together before the entire nation.

On Friday, hundreds of police officers and other mourners paid tribute to Officer Natalie Corona, who was fatally shot Jan. 10 in Davis, Calif. On Saturday, following three memorial services Friday, a funeral will be held for Officer Chateri Payne, a young mother who was killed Jan. 9 in Shreveport, La.

In a packed pavilion on the campus of the University of California at Davis, police officers from around the country stood in salute to honor Corona.

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She was slain as she responded to a three-car crash. Her killer, identified as Kevin Douglas Limbaugh, 48, killed himself hours later during a standoff with police. A note found by investigators at his home suggested he had a grudge against the Davis Police Department.

Officers at the funeral service wore black bands over their badges, with Corona’s badge number – 224 – emblazoned in white.

Country singer Billy Ray Cyrus performed at the service, singing "Some Gave All," about a Vietnam veteran, but dedicating the song to a young police officer that he called “a light in this world that won’t be forgotten.”

Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel said he saw a bright future for the ambitious Corona.

“I had already placed a bet that one day she would be the police chief,” he said. “I knew what it takes and she had it.”

The service included a video of Corona speaking last year, when she graduated from the Sacramento police academy, the Sacramento Bee reported.

“I’m ready to hit the streets. It’s very exciting. I’m chasing a career. I’m taking after my father,” she said in the video, referring to her father Merced, who also served in law enforcement.

OFFICERS KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY IN 2018

‘That positive influence’

In November, Officer Payne wrote about her goals in an online post when she embarked on her career.

"My personal mission," she wrote, "is to become that positive influence. To Protect those who can't protect themselves & to at least try to push someone to being a better version of themselves!"

On Saturday, police in Shreveport, La., will lead a funeral procession for Payne, who was fatally shot outside her home. Her funeral will be held at a church followed by the procession and a public viewing of her body, the Shreveport Times reported.

Payne was in uniform, prepared to work that night's overnight shift, when she was shot four times. Three men – including one who was described as her boyfriend and the father of their child – were arrested.

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The boyfriend, Treveon Anderson, and the two other suspects – Lawrence Pierre, 21 and Glenn Frierson, 38 – are charged with second-degree murder.

Payne graduated from the police academy in November and was a mother of four.

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Reporter Meaghan Mackey attacked during live broadcast

A California journalist reporting at the scene of a mass overdose was attacked during a live broadcast, footage shows.

KRCR reporter Meaghan Mackey was live-streaming a report on fentanyl overdoses in Chico that left at least one dead and 12 hospitalized on Saturday when bystanders interrupted her.

“This is disrespectful, do you understand that,” someone can be heard saying before another woman starts screaming, “Get the f–k out of here.”

At one point, Mackey’s camera ends up on the ground and she can be heard screaming before the video cuts out.

Mackey posted a series of tweets on Sunday after the altercation.

“As many of you know, I was attacked and assaulted at the scene of a mass overdose in Chico, California last night. I was doing my job, reporting the facts on a major incident during a Facebook live for my news station,” she tweeted.

“I am thankful for the quick response from law enforcement. I am also very appreciative of all the support I’ve received from colleagues, viewers, friends and family. I am still shaken up, but am doing okay. I stand with all journalists working in defense of the truth,” she wrote.

“Thank you to anyone who has reached out or expressed their concerns. I appreciate your kind words of support. I will not live in fear of doing my job. I value the freedom of the press & will continue to report on the truth and inform the public, even during times of tragedy,” she continued.

The station released a statement on Twitter following the incident: “As many of you know, our reporter Meaghan Mackey was attacked while at the scene of a mass overdose in Chico tonight. Meaghan is very shaken up but is okay. We are thankful law enforcement was right there and handled the situation quickly. We appreciate all your kind words.”

On Monday, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office identified the man who died in the overdose as 34-year-old Aris Turner, according to KRCR.

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California church draws backlash for sign: ‘Bruce Jenner is still a man’

FILE: Caitlyn Jenner attending the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.
(Getty Images)

A Northern California church sparked outrage over a sign that read: “Bruce Jenner is still a man. Homosexuality is still sin. The culture may change. The Bible does not."

Caitlyn Jenner is formerly known as Bruce and revealed in 2015 that she is transgender and has become a woman.

The church, Trinity Bible Presbyterian Church, is located in Lake Shastina, Calif., which is about an hours’ drive from the Oregon border.

Protesters gathered in front of the church on Sunday to denounce what they called “hate and slander” and to “show our love and support for the LGBT community,” according to a Facebook page that organized the event.

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Justin Hoke, the church’s pastor, wrote on Facebook Wednesday that the sign’s Plexiglass had been destroyed and the letters had been stolen.

The protesters denied having destroyed the sign, The Sacramento Bee reported. Hoke posted a picture on his Facebook Thursday of the sign back up with plaster covering the letters, writing: “It’s not pretty, but it’s back up.”

Hoke later wrote on Facebook: “If a conservative mountain farming community is no longer a safe place to call sin, sin, then is anywhere in this country still safe for real Christians?” according to The Siskiyou Daily News.

Another protest against the church’s sign is planned for this Sunday, according to the organizer’s Facebook page.

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On ‘Murder Mountain,’ people go off grid and sometimes never return

Nestled among thick redwood trees nearly 300 miles north of San Francisco is one of the most prolific cannabis-producing regions in the United States: Humboldt County. Long known for its cultivation of the plant, Humboldt is one-third of the famed “Emerald Triangle” of Northern California (Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties), which together comprise the largest cannabis-producing region in the United States. For decades, the thick cover of trees and seemingly endless rural terrain has made Humboldt an ideal place to covertly grow marijuana. The same conditions make the county an ideal place to disappear. But only Alderpoint, a sleepy area in southern Humboldt, has been given the nickname “Murder Mountain.”

The sinister moniker originated with a serial-killer couple who inhabited the area in the early 1980s, James and Suzan Carson, who were later charged with the murders of three individuals. The couple fled to Alderpoint after their first murder in San Francisco, and later claimed to be “warriors” in a “holy war against witches.” Even after their 1983 capture, the name stuck — perhaps because so many people continue to go missing in Alderpoint and the surrounding Humboldt County. In February 2018, North Coast Journal reported that 717 people per 100,000 go missing in Humboldt County every year. This striking number — the highest in the state — is what initially prompted documentary filmmaker Josh Zeman (“The Killing Season“, “Cropsey”) to assemble a team for a nine-month exploration of the tension between the burgeoning white- and historically black-market cannabis industry in the county. The result is a six-part series, “Murder Mountain,” now on Netflix.

The show begins with an investigation into the 2013 disappearance of 29-year-old Garret Rodriguez, who went missing in Humboldt within a year of arriving to join the highly profitable black-market marijuana trade. While Rodriguez’s body was found and his death deemed a homicide, Zeman says the high number of missing persons that initially caught his attention aren’t always the result of something nefarious. In a phone interview with Rolling Stone, Zeman explains that the lush, rural county naturally attracts people who want to lie low and keep to themselves. “A lot of people go missing [in Humboldt], but a lot of people are also found,” he says. The county is and always has been, Zeman says, “a place where people love to go off the grid.”

What Zeman discovered over the course of the nine months that his team was in Humboldt was a much more compelling story, of which missing persons were just one part.

In the early 1970s, veterans returning from Vietnam sought refuge in the wooded hills of Humboldt, where they could lie low and treat their PTSD with cannabis. Humboldt’s prolific cannabis production has resulted in several decades of fierce tension between law enforcement and cannabis growers. In the 1980s, federal and state law enforcement joined forces to implement the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, or “CAMP,” effectively turning parts of Northern California into a war zone. Black helicopters full of armed National Guard troops and drug cops descended on Humboldt with orders to destroy any cannabis crops they could find. They hauled entire families out of their homes at gunpoint, ransacked homes without warrants, and disrupted what had largely been a peaceful community.

Zeman dedicates nearly all of “Murder Mountain’s” second episode to Humboldt’s history of cannabis cultivation and the community’s clashes with law enforcement. This history helps to explain how the disappearance and murder of someone like 29-year-old Garret Rodriguez could go unsolved, or how this part of Humboldt has, as Zeman says, been “tragically turned into a war zone by the federal government’s inability to legalize weed.”

Ironically, it was the passage of California’s Prop 64 in 2016 (legalization of adult use of recreational marijuana) that has thrust Humboldt into renewed turmoil. County and state taxes, state permit applications and consultants can total hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, forcing mom-and-pop growers to either close their businesses or remain in the black market.

Much of that black-market grow happens on “the Mountain,” where the illegal trade isn’t limited to cannabis but is increasingly seeing the sale of other drugs like meth and heroin.

“We know marijuana isn’t a gateway drug,” Zeman says, “but the illegal production and sale of marijuana can beget the illegal production and sale of other things. If, for example, a drug trafficking organization decides it’s going to set up an illegal grow in Humboldt, they can then use those same drug trafficking pathways for other illegal things, be it other drugs or sex trafficking.”

The remoteness of Murder Mountain — in addition to its fraught history with law enforcement and this influx of black-market activity — is what makes it so challenging to get to the bottom of something like Garret Rodriguez’s murder. According to Zeman, if you ask the residents of Alderpoint, they’ll tell you that the police had plenty of information to make an arrest of the alleged killer but didn’t care because Rodriguez was involved in illegal activities. If you ask law enforcement, they’ll say they’re under-resourced for the large area they have to cover and need more than hearsay to make an arrest. The truth — as it seems to so often be on Murder Mountain — most likely exists somewhere between the two.

“Humboldt law enforcement has taken a lot of heat [in the wake of the show] and I think that’s unfortunate,” Zeman says. “I think they were really brave in trying to expose the underbelly of Humboldt, not in a fascist way but because they really care about it.” Zeman believes that both local law enforcement and the “outlaws” feel like “cannon fodder in a larger political war.” Until either legalization or decriminalization happens at the federal level, it’s hard to see that changing. If there’s any hope of the two sides working together, Zeman says it’s that they “both really love Humboldt County.”

In the meantime, legal growers have banded together to create the True Humboldt Brand, a collective of over 200 small farmers hoping to hold their own against larger corporate interests. It’s the positive developments like these that Zeman wishes he’d had more time to focus on in the series.

“The goal of the series is to show the harm done by cannabis prohibition and, unfortunately, the way to get people to notice is to focus on the negative aspects,” he says. “But once we shine the light and can disinfect the more negative parts, Humboldt County really will be an incredible tourist destination. It will be the Napa County of cannabis. Legal farmers are the ones who are making that happen. It takes incredible bravery to move into the white market after decades of being silent and in the shadows. But that’s what they’re doing.”

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Mudslides and power outages hit California as winter storms slam region

LOS ANGELES — Tens of thousands of people lost power Sunday after a powerful winter storm swept through Northern California, while another storm system in the southern part of the state unleashed mudslides in wildfire burn areas and trapped motorists on a major highway.

The deluge loosened hillsides where a major blaze burned last year in and around Malibu, clogging the Pacific Coast Highway with mud and debris.

A stretch of the scenic route northwest of Los Angeles was expected to remain closed in both directions until Monday while crews tow away stuck vehicles and clear lanes. No injuries were reported.

The rapper Soulja Boy was among those whose cars were mired in the muck that was up to 4 feet deep in some areas.

The 28-year-old retweeted a photo of the mudslide and posted: “My car got stuck too almost went into the ocean,” along with a prayer emoji.

An automated rain gauge in the western Santa Monica Mountains showed nearly three-quarters of an inch of rainfall in one hour, said the National Weather Service.

“These are heavy rates,” the weather service tweeted.

Up to 1 ½ inches of rain fell in coastal and valley areas, while mountain communities got heavy snow.

Flash-flood watches and warnings were eventually lifted for areas burned by the fires that scorched more than 155 square miles of brush and timber acres in November, destroyed about 1,600 structures and claimed three lives.

The sun emerged in Los Angeles on Sunday and the red carpet for the evenings Golden Globe awards were expected to remain dry. Scattered showers were possible later in the night.

Los Angeles rise above clouds and mist after an overnight storm that brought rain and mountain snow to Southern CaliforniaAP

To the north, wind and rain forced delays or cancelations of flights out of San Francisco International Airport for a second day. A wind advisory was in place until 10 p.m. Sunday.

The San Francisco Bay Area could get up to 1 ½ inches of rain, with the heaviest downpours coming after sunset.

Strong winds and downed trees knocked out electricity for at least 80,000 customers across the Sacramento region Sunday night. The National Weather Service said Sunday that winds gusted up to 49 mph.

Saturday’s storm brought about a foot of snow to the Sierra Nevada and twice that amount was expected Sunday. A winter storm warning was in effect until 4 a.m. Monday.

Avalanche warnings were posted in parts of California, Nevada and Utah. The Sierra Avalanche Center issued a backcountry avalanche warning for the Lake Tahoe area stretching south into the Sierra along the California-Nevada line from noon Sunday until 7 a.m. Monday.

The National Weather Service says blizzard conditions with gale-force winds could trigger widespread avalanche activity.

A skiier enjoys conditions in Alpine Meadows, CaliforniaAP

Two feet of snow was reported at Mammoth Mountain 150 miles south of Tahoe. More than a foot fell in the upper elevations around Tahoe, including 19 inches at Squaw Valley.

Windstorms that pummeled parts of Washington state and Oregon over the weekend left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity.

A strong system brought winds that registered gusts of about 60 mph at Sea-Tac Airport in Washington, the National Weather Service in Seattle said. Dozens of flights in the region were canceled or delayed.

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Habitat For Humanity Can’t Build Homes In The Bay Area Cheaply Enough For Lower-Income Buyers

The current housing situation in the Bay Area, California, is proving to be a task that even the group Habitat for Humanity says it is failing to mend, reports the Mercury News.

Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) is an international, non-governmental and nonprofit organization that was founded and has been in operation since 1976. The organization is devoted to building “simple, decent, and affordable” housing, and is a self described “Christian housing ministry.” The organization has addressed issues of poverty housing all over the word. And even this organization says that they “can’t raise money fast enough to cover the gap between what very low income residents can pay and the actual cost of providing homes” in the Bay Area, California. Even though the work is done with a slew of volunteers, the organization is still coming up short, and this is due to the housing crisis in the area.

According to Janice Jenson, the president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity East Bay and Silicon Valley, everything from the raw materials needed, such as wood and drywall, to real estate have soared over the past half decade. They are seeing the fastest rate in nearly six years as this material costs continue to climb, fighting against the organization’s efforts to help low income families.

“If you look broadly at affordable housing, it’s never been more expensive than it is right now to build.”

Currently, in Fremont Habitat for Humanity is seeing a bad situation play out, as they are selling 19 of 30 planned condos to families whose income is 40 to 115 percent higher than that of the buyers originally targeted. What is this happening? Thanks to the rising construction costs and a big drop in public funding, the organization is having to sell their “inexpensive” homes that were meant for low income buys for way higher prices that most, if not all, of those low income families cannot actually afford.

Currently Habitat for Humanity is focusing on the Central Commons project, in which in the condos were supposed to be sold to very low income families and half to low income families. However, thanks to the difficult influx that the organization is fighting against, these condos have now been increased in price twice just to cover the additional $3.54 million USD that the project was costing. This scenario has effectively excluded very low income families from a shot at purchasing the homes. Those very low income families earn up to half of the median income for the area, which is about $58,100 for a family of four.

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Proposed California Text Tax Infuriates Cell Phone Users

Most carriers already tax for a variety of cell services.

OMG! Cell phone users in California are in disbelief that state regulators want to tax their text messages.

A new surcharge proposed by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) wouldn’t be a per-text tax, but rather a flat monthly fee based on a cellular bill that already includes fees for text message services.

Many carriers already offer a flat fee option for texting, and charge a similar fee for other services that are incorporated into the bill, such as simple phone calls. The exact amount of the tax would vary from carrier to carrier, too.

The goal of this tax proposal is to generate more funds for programs that provide telecommunications services to under-served residents of the state, such as subsidized cell phones to low-income families. California’s Public Purpose Program budget has continued to increase — while incoming fees to fill it have been decreasing. The current surcharge rate is less than seven percent, reports CNN.

The California commission will vote on the measure on January 10, 2019. Not only are cell phone users angry, the proposal will face strong opposition from industry trade groups — like the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), which represents major carriers AT&T, Mobility, Sprint, and T-Mobile. The CTIA has already submitted a legal filing arguing against the proposal, noted the Orange County Register.

“We hope that the CPUC recognizes that taxing text messages is bad for consumers,” said Jamie Hastings, senior vice president of external and state affairs for CTIA. “Consumers exchanged 1.77 trillion messages in 2017, making text messages one of the most common and effective means of communication for Americans. Taxing this service would burden those who rely on and use this service each and every day.”

According to USA Today, mobile phone users’ phone call activity has decreased significantly, meaning voice call revenue for state programs has declined by one-third, too — from $16.5 billion in 2011 to $11.3 billion in 2017. But the budget for subsidizing poorer users has risen by almost half, from $670 million in 2011 to $998 million in 2017.

Another hurdle the proposal faces is a new ruling handed down by the Federation Communication Commission. That rule classifies text messages as an “information service,” much like an email. The CTIA has indicated that the proposal also is an unfair practice among major carriers, and those cell phone providers who do not charge for texts.

“Subjecting wireless carriers’ text messaging traffic to surcharges that cannot be applied to the lion’s share of messaging traffic and messaging providers is illogical, anti-competitive, and harmful to consumers,” the CTIA said in its filing.

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