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Category: San Bernardino

School knew Cal State San Bernardino student was bipolar, family says

The family of a Cal State San Bernardino graduate student who was fatally shot by campus police Saturday released a statement late Tuesday confirming that the man was bipolar and enrolled as a disabled student when he was killed.

The statement, written by the older sister of 38-year-old Bartholomew Williams, also said the dead man received his mental health counseling and medications through the university’s student health services.

The sister, 43-year-old Portia Mount, said her family was disturbed by the mischaracterization of her brother as a “monster” by the university and police.

“We want to make sure that all of the facts are made very clear to the public,” Mount told The Times. “We really want to ensure that police are properly trained in dealing with people with mental disabilities and that they are properly trained to use non-lethal force to subdue an individual.

“I don’t believe the police acted in a way designed to preserve my brother’s life,” she said.

Three Cal State San Bernardino police officers struggled with Williams for about seven minutes Saturday evening at an off-campus housing complex before growing fearful for their own safety and shooting him, authorities said.

Williams was unarmed, but allegedly demonstrated "super-human-type strength" during the struggle. He used the officers' own pepper spray against them and grabbed one of their batons, according to Lt. Paul Williams, a spokesman for the San Bernardino Police Department, which is investigating the shooting.

The police spokesman said there was no additional information in the case Tuesday. But he added that the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act might prohibit the release of a student’s medical records to law enforcement.

University spokesman Sid Robinson said he was also unclear on whether a student's private medical files could be released to police but said investigators were examining the case "top to bottom."

"There is nobody on our police force that wanted to see the results that came," Robinson said. "We are sensitive to this issue. This was just unfortunate for everybody involved. Our hearts go out to the Williams family."

But Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, released a statement Tuesday that called the family’s new information “troubling.”

The details about Williams’ condition, “and the university and police’s knowledge of his condition … seriously call into question the circumstances of the confrontation and killing,” Hutchinson said in his statement. “The family’s call for an independent probe to find out the truth about the killing is now more compelling than ever.”

School officials said that Williams was pursuing a master's degree in educational instructional technology and that he had first enrolled in summer 2011. Mount said her brother also held a master’s degree in library science, adding that he was a “terrific writer” and enjoyed sports.  

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Slain Cal State San Bernardino student had earlier encounters with cops

A Cal State San Bernardino student killed in a struggle with campus police had been involved in encounters with authorities earlier in the day, officials said.

San Bernardino police Lt. Paul Williams said that based on "information from the family," it is believed the graduate student had chronic mental problems "and was probably off his medications," according to the San Bernardino Sun.

Before the fatal incident Saturday, the student, Bartholomew Williams, had two encounters with campus police earlier in the day, exhibiting erratic behavior both times, San Bernardino Police Chief Robert Handy said.

Officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave as per the policy of the campus police department, he said.
The shooting occurred when three Cal State San Bernardino police officers struggled with the unarmed student for about seven minutes at an off-campus housing complex before growing fearful for their own safety and fatally shooting him, authorities said.

The 38-year-old graduate student exhibited "superhuman-type strength" during the tussle, using the officers' pepper spray against them and grabbing one of their batons, said a spokesman for the San Bernardino Police Department, which is investigating the shooting.

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San Bernardino official amends his 'lock doors, load guns' remark

PenmanPicture2_1San Bernardino’s city attorney Monday hedged -- a wee bit -- his comment last week that residents should “lock their doors and load their guns” because of rising crime and cuts to the police force triggered by the city’s bankruptcy.

James Penman, known as one of the city’s more outspoken elected officials, first bristled at the suggestion that he was a fear-monger.

"As good a job as our police officers do, as well trained as they are, as effective as they are, there are just not enough of them," Penman said at a City Council meeting. "And there are too many criminals in our town."

Penman said he still believes his comment to a neighborhood group last week was sound advice but wanted to "correct some misinformation."

“When I tell people to go home and lock your doors and load your guns, I’m talking to people who own guns. Because, obviously, if you don’t have a gun in your house, you’re not going to load it," Penman said. "I do not advocate that people who do not have guns, or who do not know how to use guns, should pick up a firearm that’s been in the cabinet for years and load it. Or go out and buy one. That would be irresponsible."

Penman said there was a report of a recent home invasion robbery in San Bernardino in which the residents called police and were told that an officer was not available to respond for three hours. If residents find themselves in a similar situation, Penman said, it’s “absolutely a personal decision” about how they should defend themselves.

It wasn't Penman's first ear-popping remark. In July, after the City Council voted to file for federal bankruptcy protection, Penman alleged that city financial reports had been falsified for years, masking the city's deficit spending. Days later he amended his statement, saying he was unsure if there had been intentional wrongdoing.

Last week the City Council, facing a $45.8-million budget shortfall, voted to slash more than $26 million in spending and freeze debt payments as the municipality struggles to stay afloat as it winds through the federal bankruptcy process.

The austerity plan freezes vacancies in the Police Department even as the city deals with an increase in violent crime. The city had already stopped making payments to CalPERS, the state's public employee pension fund, after filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection Aug. 1.

-- Phil Willon in Riverside

Photo: San Bernardino City Atty. James Penman. Source: City of San Bernardino

 

Grand jury indicts Inland Empire terrorism suspects

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A federal grand jury indicted three Inland Empire men who were arrested  last week  on charges of plotting to join Al Qaeda and attack American troops overseas.

The indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Riverside on Wednesday, accused the men of trying to kill federal employees and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction outside of the United States.

Ralph Deleon, 24, of Ontario; Miguel Santana, 21, of Upland; and Arifeen Gojali, 21, of Riverside were taken into custody by federal agents during a vehicle stop in Chino on Nov. 16, a day after they booked airline tickets from Mexico to Afghanistan.  All three are being held without bail and face up to 15 years in federal prison if convicted.

According to a federal affidavit, the ringleader of the group was Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, who had lived in Pomona and served a year in the U.S. Air Force. The native Afghan is naturalized U.S. citizen who converted Deleon and Santana to Islam in 2010, then left for Afghanistan, intent on joining the Taliban or Al Qaeda and paving the way for Santana and Deleon to join him.  Deleon and Santana later recruited Gojali.

Kabir was taken into custody in Afghanistan on Nov. 17.

Deleon’s attorney, Randolph K. Driggs, last week criticized the federal government for basing its case on evidence gathered by a paid confidential informant who had been convicted on drug-related charges. The informant received $250,000 from the FBI and "immigration benefits" for his work over four years. He infiltrated the group in March and wore recording devices that provided crucial evidence in the case.

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Photo: FBI investigators outside the home of Upland resident Miguel Santana on Nov. 16  in a photo taken by an area resident. Source: Los Angeles Times.

Bankrupt San Bernardino cuts $26 million, tries to stay afloat

PHOTOS: California cities in bankruptcy

Saying it had little choice, the San Bernardino City Council voted to cut $26 million in spending in an effort to keep the bankrupt city from dissolving and being governed by the county.

The city is already in bankruptcy proceedings and facing a $45.8-million budget shortfall. The $26 million in cuts will help the troubled city stay afloat.

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

PHOTOS: California cities in bankruptcy

The city already had stopped making payments to CalPERS, the state's public employee pension fund, since filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection Aug. 1, a move city officials estimate will save San Bernardino more than $12 million.

“This is a document that I’m holding my nose and voting yes on,’’ said Councilwoman Wendy McCammack.

The council voted 5-2 in favor of the plan, which both Mayor Patrick Morris and City Atty. James Penman said was a mandatory step in the city’s effort to restructure its debts and repair its finances under federal bankruptcy protection.

“We have a mountain to climb here,’’ Morris said during Monday’s meeting at City Hall.

At Monday’s hearing, Councilman Chas Kelley blasted the budget-cutting plan for being shortsighted and not addressing San Bernardino’s long-term financial health, which he said depends on attracting business and expanding the middle class.

"This budget is a financial equivalent of using leeches to bleed a sick patient," Kelley said.  "There is no vision in this budget for our city’s economic renewal."

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Photo: A view of West 3rd Street from San Bernardino City Hall. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

San Bernardino slashes budget, including police and fire

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The City Council of San Bernardino, which is in bankruptcy and facing a $45.8-million budget shortfall, on Monday voted to slash more than $26 million in spending and freeze debt payments as the financially troubled city struggles to stay afloat.

The austerity plan, a required step in the federal 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 also was slashed by 35%.

The city already had  stopped making payments to CalPERS, the state's public employee pension fund, since filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection Aug. 1, a move city officials estimate will save San Bernardino more than $12 million.

“This is a document that I’m holding my nose and voting yes on,’’ said Councilwoman Wendy McCammack.

The council voted 5-2 in favor of the plan, which both Mayor Patrick Morris and City Atty. James Penman said was a mandatory step in the city’s effort to restructure its debts and repair its finances under federal bankruptcy protection.

At a recent hearing, federal Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Jury told San Bernardino officials that she expected the budget-cutting plan to be filed soon. Some of the city’s creditors have argued that San Bernardino does not qualify to file for municipal bankruptcy protection.

“We have a mountain to climb here,’’ Morris said during Monday’s meeting at City Hall.

At Monday’s hearing, Councilman Chas Kelley blasted the budget-cutting plan for being shortsighted and not addressing San Bernardino’s long-term financial health, which he said depends on attracting business and expanding the middle class.

“This budget is a financial equivalent of using leaches to bleed a sick patient,’’ Kelley said.  “There is no vision in this budget for our city’s economic renewal.’’

Joining Kelley in voting against the plan was Councilman John Valdivia, who objected to freezing the police force at 260 positions “in a city with all-time high crime rate levels.’’ The city currently has 299 sworn officers in the current budget, although 18 positions have been vacant.

McCammack acknowledged that many of the cuts were objectionable, but said that the council had little choice but to make the tough decisions demanded by the bankruptcy process. Failing to do so, she said, would leave to the city dissolving and being governed by the county.

--Phil Willon

Photo:  A welcome sign on 6th Street greets visitors in San Bernardino. Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times.

San Bernardino family counselor charged with pimping girl, 15

A San Bernardino family counselor responsible for providing services to children and families also coerced a 15-year-old girl into prostitution and sold sexual services on the Internet, the San Bernardino County district attorney's office said Thursday.

Daron Lamar Whitworth, 42, worked for EMQ FamiliesFirst, a nonprofit that provides social services, mental-health and foster care for young children and families in San Bernardino County, authorities said. He was arrested without incident Thursday and booked into Central Detention Center in San Bernardino. 

Police have issued arrest warrants for two alleged accomplices: Whitworth's uncle Jacory C. Williams, 30, and Charmaine Williams, 24, both of San Bernardino. Charmaine Williams is in Los Angeles County Jail for unrelated reasons. 

Whitworth faces 44 charges, including felony counts of human trafficking, pimping and pandering a minor under 16, and unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, according to court records. 

Investigators from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department began to gather evidence in August after the arrest of a juvenile for street prostitution in Hemet. The investigation gradually revealed that most of the unlawful activity had taken place in San Bernardino County, according to the release. 

Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Sgt. John Sawyer with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department at (951) 544-7000.

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San Bernardino police seek clues in slaying of 76-year-old woman

San Bernardino police are searching for evidence at a home where a 76-year-old woman was found slain.

The body of Mary Elizabeth Blaskey was found by her son shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday when he arrived at her home near the Arrowhead Country Club to take her to a doctor’s appointment, investigators said. 

Police spokesman Lt. Paul Williams said Thursday there are no suspects in the slaying.

Officers found trauma to Blaskey’s body, but a cause of death is pending a medical examination, Williams said.

The victim's 2001 Lexus was missing; it's gray-green with the California license plate number 4ULT539.

Williams asked anyone who sees the car to call local law enforcement.

“We believe whoever did this is obviously very dangerous and there could be evidence inside the car,” he said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the department’s anonymous tip line at (909) 384-5656.

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Woman, 76, found slain in San Bernardino home

San Bernardino police are investigating the slaying of a 76-year-old woman in her home Wednesday.

The body of Mary Elizabeth Blaskey was found by her son when he arrived at her home in the 3000 block of Fremontia Drive, near the Arrowhead Country Club, shortly before 2 p.m. to take her to a doctor’s appointment, said San Bernardino police spokesman Lt. Paul Williams.

Officers found trauma to Blaskey’s body, but a cause of death is pending a medical examination, Williams said.

The victim's 2001 Lexus was missing from the home. It is gray-green and has California license plate number 4ULT539.

Williams asked anyone who sees the car to call local law enforcement.

“We believe whoever did this is obviously very dangerous and there could be evidence inside the car,” he said.

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the department’s anonymous tip line: (909) 384-5656.

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San Bernardino County has first West Nile virus death of year

Health officials say they have confirmed the year's first human death from the West Nile Virus in San Bernardino County.

Officials did not release any details on who the person was or when he or she died.

"We are greatly saddened by this death that has occurred in San Bernardino County.... We continue to see an increase of WNV activity throughout the County and therefore, we strongly encourage that the public takes appropriate precautionary measures to protect themselves against mosquito bites," San Bernardino County Health Officer Maxwell Ohikhuare said in a news release.

"People over 50 years old should be especially cautious, as they are more likely to develop serious illness if they contract the virus," Ohikhuare said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30,000 people in the U.S. have reported being sick with West Nile Virus since 1999. So far in 2012, 4,531 cases have been reported, according to the agency's website.

The virus generally spreads from the bite of an infected mosquito that has feasted on an infected bird.

"Most people with the virus have no symptoms; however, some people may develop severe symptoms which can lead to brain inflammation or paralysis," according to the news release, which says that "signs and symptoms of WNV may include fever, body aches, rash, nausea, vomiting and headache."

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About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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