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Category: San Bernardino

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Join the Los Angeles Times for a live video chat at 2:30 p.m. PST to discuss Sunday's rave story. Please tune in on our Spreecast channel if the above video is over capacity.

Citing coroners' records and law enforcement reports, The Times reported Sunday that at least 14 people who attended concerts produced by two Los Angeles rave promoters since 2006 have died from overdoses or in other drug-related incidents.

The story focused on Insomniac Inc., led by Pasquale Rotella, considered within the industry as the nation’s leading rave promoter, and Go Ventures Inc., headed by Reza Gerami. Both men once had their largest raves in Los Angeles, but in 2012, they were indicted on bribery and other charges in connection with bribing a manager at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and adjoining Sports Arena to keep a lid on concert costs, such as expenses for security.

TIMES INVESTIGATION: Read the full story

The report cited deep concerns about these events from law enforcement and health officials, who describe hospitals being overwhelmed by severely ill overdose victims on a scale not seen in any other type of concerts or sporting events. The events attract tens of thousands of attendees.  

Ecstasy can cause temperatures to spike in the body to as high as 108 degrees, and according to physicians, can cause organs to essentially melt and multi-organ system failure.

GRAPHIC: Read about the 14 dead

After the article ran, Rotella’s company defended the concerts and criticized the story. In a statement, Insomniac did not address the deaths specifically but said the story sought to "twist facts" and "turned everyone who enjoys electronic music events into villains."

"At Insomniac, we aim to create inspiring environments where you don't need drugs to have a wonderful, spiritual experience," the statement said. "Behind the scenes, we work long hours with the brightest security, health and safety experts in the business to create safe environments for you."


Profiles of the 14 who died

A fatal toll on concertgoers as raves boost cities’ income

Rave producer Insomniac defends concerts, criticizes Times

-- Times staff

After drug complaints, Insomniac moves rave out of San Bernardino

Fans listen to Nas at the Rock the Bells festival at the San Manuel Amphitheater on Aug. 20, 2011. Beyond Wonderland is being moved there from the National Orange Show Events Center. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

After complaints about drug use and noise, Insomniac Inc., a Los Angeles rave company, is moving its Beyond Wonderland rave out from its longtime home in San Bernardino, but some neighbors of the new venue were angry about the change.

La-me-rave-san-bernardino-gInsomniac decided to shift the March 16 rave from the National Orange Show Events Center near downtown San Bernardino to the San Bernardino County-owned San Manuel Amphitheater in Devore after tensions with Police Chief Robert Handy and residents. It stages at least two other raves a year at the events center.

Handy said the raves have been marred by increases in crime, along with drug and alcohol abuse among concert-goers. He said undercover officers who attend the raves are routinely offered drugs for sale.

TIMES INVESTIGATION: A fatal toll on concertgoers as raves boost cities' income

In September, an officer was injured while trying to arrest a suspected Ecstasy dealer at an Insomniac rave, the chief added. He also said Insomniac refused a police request to lower the music volume at an October rave after neighbors complained.

"That's where we reached the impasse," Handy said. "They said, 'We will do what we have to do to continue to make a profit,'" Handy said.

Insomniac spokeswoman Jennifer Forkish denied that the company is relocating Beyond Wonderland because of poor relations with the city. She said in an email response to questions that Handy's statements about the October concert were "categorically untrue."

GRAPHIC: Read about 14 ravegoers who died in drug-related circumstances

"We are left to believe that the police chief must have been misinformed," Forkish said. "His comments are his personal perspective based upon secondhand information [that] in no way reflects what occurs at our festivals."

The County Board of Supervisors voted 3 to 2 last week to allow raves at the amphitheater for the first time. County officials said the venue manager, Live Nation Entertainment Inc., the Beverly Hills-based concert and ticketing giant, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department would deploy extra security staff and sheriff's deputies to keep the concert safe and orderly.

Continue reading »

Rave producer Insomniac defends concerts, criticizes Times


A concert company featured in a Times report Sunday detailing the drug-related deaths of 14 people who attended raves denounced the story in an online statement and took to social media to urge fans to speak out.

The statement by L.A.-based Insomniac Inc., posted on the company's website and the Instagram account of company head Pasquale Rotella, did not address the deaths specifically but said the story sought to "twist facts" and "turned everyone who enjoys electronic music events into villains."

"At Insomniac, we aim to create inspiring environments where you don't need drugs to have a wonderful, spiritual experience," the statement said. "Behind the scenes, we work long hours with the brightest security, health and safety experts in the business to create safe environments for you."

TIMES INVESTIGATION: Read the full report

Citing coroners' findings and law enforcement records, The Times reported that most of the deaths resulted from overdoses of Ecstasy and similar designer drugs tightly connected with raves. The deaths occurred during or shortly after 64 concerts produced separately or together by Rotella and another L.A. impresario, Reza Gerami, since 2006.

Rotella and Gerami declined to be interviewed for the story.

In the statement, Insomniac said its staff searches rave attendees and takes other measures to keep drugs out of its concerts: "Even with all of our precautions, every single person who comes to our events is responsible for their choices." The statement also said "Ecstasy is a global problem."

GRAPHIC: Read more about the 14 deaths

Those sentiments were echoed in hundreds of comments, emails and social media postings.

In a tweet directed at The Times, @ethanbruns1 said, "because a person making a decision to ingest certain substances of their own accord is the organizers fault? #REALLY."

"Raves don't kill people, stupidity kills people," tweeted @TodayWasADay1.

A tweet from @edmmaniac said, "there's nothing positive in your articles."

But an email from a reader who identified herself as the mother of a drug addict said, "I would like to commend you for bringing this issue out in the open.... The death toll from these events is only the tip of the iceberg. We need to make the public aware of the nuisance these events bring."


Continue reading »

Raves: Records show deadly toll of drugs among concertgoers

At least 14 people who attended raves produced by two Los Angeles-based promoters since 2006 died from overdoses or in other drug-related incidents, a Times investigation has found. 

The deaths occurred during or shortly after concerts produced separately or jointly by Pasquale Rotella and Reza Gerami, according to an analysis of coroners' reports and law enforcement records from nine states.

Most of the deaths were linked to Ecstasy or similar designer drugs — hallucinogens tightly bound with raves, the analysis found.

TIMES INVESTIGATION: Read the full report

Despite warnings of drug risks from law enforcement and health officials, the raves staged by Rotella's firm, Insomniac Inc., and Gerami's Go Ventures Inc. have received the blessing of local governments hungry for the revenue they deliver.

"It pretty well fills all the local hotels," said Judge Dave Barkemeyer, who issued a permit for a Rotella rave in Milam County, Texas. "It brings in a fair amount of commerce."

But with the revenue has come the risk of fatal overdoses.

GRAPHIC: Read more about the 14 who died

Most of the dead were in their teens and early 20s, according to records. The youngest was 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez, who overdosed at Rotella's 2010 Electric Daisy Carnival at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Rotella and Gerami have been indicted on bribery and other charges in connection with their concerts at the Coliseum and adjoining Sports Arena. According to prosecutors, the pair made about $2 million in illicit payments to a Coliseum executive to keep a lid on the cost of their concerts. They have pleaded not guilty.

Continue reading »

Police search for suspects in shooting of Rialto basketball coach

Police are searching for the suspects who shot a Rialto basketball coach at a park in San Bernardino earlier this week.

Authorities say 47-year-old Eisenhower High School boys' Coach Steve Johnson was on his way to get gas on Monday when he stopped at Seccombe Lake to use a restroom.

In the parking lot he was approached by three males who demanded his wallet, a San Bernardino Police Department release said. At least one of the suspects fired a handgun at Johnson, striking him several times in the upper torso. The suspects then fled on foot, the statement said.

Johnson was able to drive himself to the police department and was then taken by ambulance to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

"We are shocked and saddened at this horrific news," Rialto Unified School District spokeswoman Syeda Jafri said in a statement. "The outpouring of love and support from not only the Rialto community but the Inland Empire for this championship coach has been tremendously overwhelming. Our hearts are with the Johnson family. He's a tremendous child advocate."

Johnson has been Eisenhower's coach since 1993, and he also serves as the school's athletic director. He was named coach of the year in 2009 by the Los Angeles Times.

One staff member told KTLA News that the mood at the school was "somber."

"He's a big part of our campus," the staff member said.

Anyone with information on this case should contact police at (909) 384-5742, or (909) 384-5656.


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Man allegedly tried to kidnap 2 girls as they walked to school

Alfonso Ariel Hernandez Jr A 33-year-old Yucaipa man was arrested for allegedly trying to kidnap two teenage girls as they walked to school, police said Tuesday afternoon.

In two separate incidents, Alfonso Ariel Hernandez Jr. is suspected of approaching the girls last week as they walked to Redlands East Valley High School, according to police. The incidents took place Thursday between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.

"In one incident, the suspect grabbed a 17-year-old girl and attempted to force her into his vehicle," the Redlands Police Department said in  a statement. The girl broke free and reported the incident to school officials, who alerted police. 

Hernandez was arrested Sunday while he was driving a red 1991 Geo Metro, which matched the description of the vehicle used by the suspect, according to police.

Police said there may be additional victims and asked anyone with information to call Det. Andy Capps at (909) 798-7642 or Det. Dan Whitten at (909) 790-3105.


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Photo: Alfonso Ariel Hernandez Jr. Credit: Redlands Police Department

Suspect in mobile home shooting is armed and dangerous, police say

UribeSan Bernardino police are searching for a 24-year-old man they believe forced his way into a mobile home and shot his ex-girlfriend and another person as they were sleeping.

Authorities said that at 11:03 p.m. Friday, Arthur Raymond Uribe, of San Bernardino, shot two people, including a woman with whom he had been in a longtime relationship, according to the San Bernardino Police Department.

Authorities would not say what prompted the shooting.

The victims were taken to an area hospital and are expected to survive.

Uribe is considered armed and dangerous, authorities say.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Det. Brian Lewis at (909) 384-5762 or Sgt. Gary Robertson at (909) 841-5361.


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Photo: Arthur Raymond Uribe. Credit: San Bernardino Police Department

Father and girlfriend arrested in death of girl, 4

A father and his girlfriend are in custody in the alleged killing of the man’s 4-year-old daughter in San Bernardino County.

Robert Greer, 21, and Bianca Stanch, 19, of Adelanto are being held without bail in connection with death of Samiah Downing, who was reported as possibly missing by a tipster whose identity is being withheld, said Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
After the tip, homicide investigators interviewed Greer and Stanch on Thursday morning at their home in the 11,900 block of Lee Avenue. From there, authorities proceeded to a  remote area about 25 miles south of Baker, Calif. “There they located a shallow grave containing Samiah’s body,” Bachman said.

Authorities are not yet releasing information on what they learned from the two suspects about the child’s disappearance. A cause of death has not yet been determined.

Both suspects were booked on suspicion of murder Thursday night. They are in custody at the  central detention center in San Bernardino.


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-- Howard Blume

'End of the world' party fight may have led to killing, police say

A fight at an “end of the world” house party in San Bernardino on Friday night may have led to the slaying of a man later in the evening, authorities said.

Felipe Jason Moreno, 20, of San Bernardino was shot dead and his 22-year-old cousin wounded after attending the party, according to the San Bernardino Police Department. The incident was reported shortly before midnight.

As many as 100 people were at the party when a fight broke out and a man was stabbed. He survived.

As police were in the area investigating the incident, they were called to a nearby home on 7th Street where the slaying occurred, authorities said.

The reason for the shooting appears to have stemmed from a fight that had occurred at the party, police said.

The suspect remains at large.


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Challenge to San Bernardino's bankruptcy to be argued in court

San Bernardino City Council votes to declare a "fiscal emergency" and seek bankruptcy protection during a July meeting. Source: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times.

San Bernardino officials will be in federal Bankruptcy Court on Friday morning to rebut efforts by CalPERS, the state retirement system, and other creditors to challenge the city’s filing for bankruptcy protection.

San Bernardino stopped making payments to CalPERS, the city’s largest creditor, after filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection Aug. 1, a move that city officials estimate will save more than $12 million.

CalPERs is asking U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Meredith A. Jury in Riverside to rule that the
financially troubled city is ineligible to file for protection and therefore must continue making payments on behalf of the city’s 1,100 retirees and current employees.

The San Bernardino Public Employees Assn. also is challenging the city’s bankruptcy filing, arguing that the city is attempting to circumvent a state law that requires cities to enter into mediation with creditors and labor unions before filing for bankruptcy. In July, the City Council declared a “fiscal emergency,” which city officials said triggered an exit clause in the law and exempts San Bernardino from that requirement.

Facing a $45.8-million budget shortfall, the City Council in November voted to slash more than $26 million in spending and freeze debt payments to keep the municipality afloat and continue to provide essential government services.

The austerity plan, a required step in the bankruptcy process, freezes vacancies in the Police Department even as the city deals with an increase in violent crime. The Fire Department's overtime budget was slashed by 35%.


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-- Phil Willon in Riverside

Photo: San Bernardino City Council votes to declare a "fiscal emergency" and seek bankruptcy protection during a July meeting. Source: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times.


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