<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - San Diego News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:43:40 -0800 Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:43:40 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[$331 Million Worth of Cocaine Seized by Navy, Coast Guard]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:42:57 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Navy+cocaine+seizure.jpg

About $331 million worth of cocaine was seized by the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy during patrols from September to this month.

Of that, more than 8.5 tons of cocaine were offloaded Friday from the San Diego-based Navy ship the USS Vandergrift. The drugs were then turned over to federal officials as evidence for the prosecution in the case.

The contraband was intercepted by U.S. Coast Guard teams and U.S. Navy ships patrolling in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Central and South America, according to the Coast Guard.

The Vandergrift and its Coast Guard law enforcement counterpart intercepted six loads from suspicious vessels or loads drifting at sea, officials said.

The busts were part of an ongoing effort, called Operation Martillo, involving international law enforcement and U.S. military that targets illicit drug trafficking in the waters off Central America.

Of the Vandergrift’s involvement in the bust, Cmdr. Kevin Ralston said: “USS Vandergrift’s superior performance and exceptional operational success during this seven-month deployment were nothing short of outstanding."

Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard District 11 PAD]]>
<![CDATA[What If Rivers Can't Play?]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:33:16 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/chargers+pats+snf+5.jpg

When Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers missed practice this week, it sent a ripple of panic through the Bolts’ fan base.

What if he can’t play in Saturday night’s critical game against the San Francisco 49ers? Can you remember the last time he wasn’t out there? Do we even have a backup?

Before we get any further, let’s get one thing out of the way: It looks like quarterback Rivers is going to suit up on Saturday night. Just like he has all season, every season since 2006.

That’s 142 straight starts, tied for the second-longest current streak in the NFL.

This is as good a time as any to take a minute to contemplate what that means. In a league where it’s hard for anyone to get through a season without some sort of injury banging them up for at least a few weeks, Rivers has been a rock.

Ever since taking over the starting job from Drew Brees, he has been there. Say what you will about Rivers’ play on the field, but you can’t question his toughness or drive.

“I hate not practicing,” Rivers said.  “But I think at some point you’ve got to do what’s best for me and the team.”

About that missed practice, it’s his first since 2007. Do you know how many players miss practice each day? At this point in the season, a lot of guys don’t even bother with more than a brief walk-through, saving their strength for Sundays.

There have been rumblings for much of the second half of the season that Rivers is not close to fully healthy. Tight end Antonio Gates even let a little too much slip after a win over the Oakland Raiders last month.

"For those who don't know, he's been dealing with a rib injury," Gates said after the Nov. 16 game. "A very severe rib injury, so he's been toughing it out these last three, four weeks."

Rivers won’t divulge how much he’s been hurting, only saying that everyone is banged up this time of year. And the coaches seem to have his back.

"Sometimes you have to use discretion and get a little rest,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Just give yourself the best chance to be the strongest you can be for when it really matters most.”

Both Rivers and McCoy said he would be "ready to roll" on Saturday, so Bolts fans don't need to prepare for the worst just yet.

In case you didn't know, the backup is Kellen Clemens, a career backup who has completed one pass this season. He did win four games filling in for an injured Sam Bradford in St. Louis last year. Here’s hoping he won’t be called upon to do that again this season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rollover Leaves 3 Dead, 3 Injured]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:29:11 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ROLLOVER_121914_1239_1_1200x675_375195715768.jpg

An SUV full of people on their way to a funeral Friday rolled over on Interstate 15, leaving three dead and another three injured.

A 2001 Ford Expedition was headed south on I-15 when it flipped into the northbound lanes near Old Hwy 395, causing traffic to be blocked in the left lanes of both sides of the freeway and killing three people inside.

Two of the deceased were girls: a 12-year-old from Azusa, Calif. and an 11-year-old from Los Angeles. CHP said it does not appear either were wearing seat belts.

The female driver was wearing a seat belt, but was also killed.

A 2-year-old restrained in a car seat survived, as well as two adults that sustained non life-threatening injuries.

A survivor of the crash told CHP the group was traveling to Mexico to board a plane for a funeral.

Deputies happened to be driving behind the vehicle when they said the tread on the left rear tire appeared to separate, causing the driver to lose control. Reports also said the tread on all four tires looks different.

CHP, fire rescue and the Medical Examiner were on the scene.

 This is a developing story. Check back here for updates.

<![CDATA[City Heights Smoke Shop Robber Wanted]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:58:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/crimestoppers+robbery+1219.jpg

Local authorities are searching for a suspect caught on surveillance camera robbing a City Heights smoke shop.

The man is seen walking into the Euclid Smoke Shop on the 4200 block of Euclid Avenue on Nov. 12 around 8:30 p.m.

He asked the store clerk for a pack of cigarettes, but when the clerk turned away to retrieve them, the suspect pulled out a handgun from his waistband. He then pointed the gun at the clerk and demanded money, according to San Diego County Crime Stoppers.

He was able to take off with cash as he headed south towards an alley on Euclid Avenue.

The suspect is described as 6-feet tall, approximately 250 pounds. He wore a red baseball hat, red shoes and blue jeans at the time of the crime. He had on a large shiny belt buckle and a black long-sleeved shirt. Officials say he had with him a dark-colored semi automatic handgun.

A reward of up to $1,000 is being offered to anyone with information that leads to an arrest in the case.

Anyone with information is asked to call San Diego Police Department's Robbery Unit at (619) 531-2299 or the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at (888) 580-8477.

Photo Credit: Crime Stoppers]]>
<![CDATA[SD Man Gets Life in Prison For Fire That Killed 2]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 11:57:42 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/thongsavahn+pic+1219-PIC_0.jpg

A San Diego man found guilty of lighting a house fire that killed his mother and sister was sentenced Friday to three life terms.

Thongsavath Sphabmixay, 46, faces life in prison without parole.

The jury convicted Thongsavath Sphabmixay, 46, of murder, attempted murder and arson, including special circumstance additions of multiple murders and murder by arson.

On April 4, 2013, firefighters discovered Bouakham Sphabmixay, 69, and Pamela Sphabmixay, 48, unconscious in two upstairs rooms after a fire broke out at their Mira Mesa house.

The women were taken to the UCSD burn center, where they died the following day from smoke inhalation.

None of Sphabmixay’s family members showed up for Friday’s sentencing hearing.

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said “they’ve essentially lost their whole family,” noting the deceased mother and sister and life imprisonment of Sphabmixay.

Rooney said investigators were never able to determine a motive for the crime.

Fire officials said the fire appeared suspicious from the start, for they found gas containers, lighter fluid and lighters inside the home. Rooney said Sphabmixay’s DNA was found on one of the containers.

<![CDATA[3 Dead in I-15 Rollover]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 15:37:46 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/i-15+crash+1219+2.JPG Three people have died and three others injured when an SUV rolled over on I-15 on Dec. 19, 2014.

Photo Credit: Artie Ojeda]]>
<![CDATA[Sexually Violent Predator Will Move Into Jacumba Home]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:52:27 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/4PW_VO_SVP_SNAVELY_KNSD545K_1200x675_349625411549.jpg

A judge has given the green light on the proposed placement of a sexually violent predator into a Jacumba home.

No community members showed up to give their opinion at Friday morning's hearing at the Downtown San Diego courthouse where Judge Louis Hanoian said he didn't find any legal barrier against the placement of 49-year-old Gary Snavely.

The diagnosed pedophile will now move into 45612 Old Highway 80 under a conditional release by Feb. 20.

The home is about a mile away from Jacumba Elementary School. There are about 600 people living in the area, according to the 2010 census.

In total, ten letters opposing the placement were submitted, including one from San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

Judge Louis Hanoian said the decision was not made lightly. He said Snavely will be closely monitored and will get treatment. He doesn't believe Snavely is not a danger to society anymore.

The diagnosed pedophile was originally supposed to be placed in Borrego Springs by the Department of State Hospitals, but the landlord took back his offer to rent the property after finding out he would be renting to a sexually violent predator. The man currently renting was shocked to find about the proposed placement.

In 1987, Snavely was convicted of molesting two young girls in Orange County. The molestations included fondling and oral copulation. He served three years in prison. He was later arrested for a patrol violation.

After his release, he was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender in San Diego in 1996, for which he served 16 months.

Two years later, the District Attorney's Office won a petition to civilly commit Snavely to the state hospital as a sexually violent predator.

A judge granted Snavely’s petition for conditional release back in August.

<![CDATA[SD-Based Bumble Bee Agrees to $1.51 Billion Sale]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 10:28:50 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP584562209482.jpg

San Diego-based Bumble Bee Seafoods LLC, one of the world’s largest seafood purveyors, said it agreed to be acquired by Thai Union Frozen Products Public Company Ltd. for $1.51 billion.

The deal will allow Thai Union, which owns Chicken of the Sea and the world’s largest processor of tuna, to improve its operating efficiencies in sourcing and production, as well as new product development, the company said.

“This deal is the largest acquisition in the history of our company and one of the most exciting external growth propositions,” said Thiraphong Chansiri, president and CEO of Thai Union.

Bumble Bee is privately owned by the Pan-Atlantic private equity firm, Lion Capital.

The parties said while a definitive closing date cannot be determined, they expect the transaction to close in the second half of 2015.

The transaction is subject to clearance by U.S. antitrust authorities and other closing conditions in the sale agreement.

Bumble Bee, which was founded in 1899, generated annual sales of about $1 billion and an estimated earnings before income taxes and depreciation and amortization of $145 million this year, the companies said.

Post synergies, the transaction is valued at 8.6 times Bumble Bee’s EBIDA for this year, the companies said.

Bumble Bee moved its administrative headquarters and its 140 local employees this year to the Showley Bros. Candy Factory building in the East Village.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[24 Arrested in MTS Trolley Sweep]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:46:04 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/trolleygeneric_trolley_generic.jpg

A multi-agency enforcement and probation compliance sweep led to 24 arrests Thursday at trolley stops in La Mesa, El Cajon and Santee.

Deputies and officers checked on 620 people and searched about 57 of them for possible probation violations between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Three people were arrested for felonies and 21 for misdemeanors.

Many of the arrestees were realigned offenders. In 2011, A federal court ordered the State of California to reduce its overcrowded prisons. Non-violent criminals became the responsibility of local law enforcement rather than state agencies, so some offenders are now sent to county jails instead of prisons.

Following tips, deputies and investigators checked to see if the arrestees were linked to various crime cases.

The goal of the sweep was to track known offenders and their associates. Deputies can then trace that information to actual crimes and address safety issues in local neighborhoods.

In addition, 19 people were cited for trolley violations as a result of the sweep.

The operation was conducted by Rancho San Diego and Santee Sheriff's Stations, along with the help of deputies from the San Diego County Sheriff's Analysis Driven Law Enforcement Team, La Mesa and El Cajon police departments and MTS.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Couple Inhales Lethal Level of Carbon Monoxide]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 08:49:45 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/wall+heater.JPG

A Chula Vista couple was hospitalized Thursday after breathing in a lethal level of carbon monoxide.

The woman called 911, saying her husband was unconscious in the 400 block of Del Mar Court. While on the phone, the woman became disoriented. Chula Vista firefighters say they were saved just in time.

The couple had turned on their wall-mounted here for the first time this season, costing them a terrible price.

Robin Price watched as her next door neighbors were rushed to the hospital at about 9:30 a.m. Thursday, suffering carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Kinda freaked me out actually,” Price said. “We have one of those wall heaters as well. I don't use it, but you never know. They could just -- like a leak could come through and you never know,” Price said.

Firefighters say that’s exactly what happened. Carbon monoxide at 15 parts per million is enough to set off a home detector. The Chula Vista home had 50 times that level.

The CVFD responds to between 20 and 30 such calls each year, but this was their first, said Deputy Chief Justin Gipson.

“If you are starting to get a dull headache , if you are nauseated if you start to vomit , if you feel overall weak throughout your body if you lose consciousness -- those are classic examples of getting carbon monoxide poisoning,” Gipson said.

If you experience any of those symptoms, he recommends you get outside and call for help.

The best prevention is to install a carbon monoxide detector and have your gas appliances and fire place inspected. SDG&E will do it for free.

<![CDATA[Sen. Ben Hueso to Serve 3 Years' Probation]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 21:16:28 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ben+hueso.JPG

California State Sen. Ben Hueso will serve three years of probation and undergo a six-week alcohol program after he was arrested in August and charged with DUI.

Hueso, a Democrat from San Diego, pleaded no contest Thursday to a lesser “wet reckless” charge, which means he will not face any jail time. Instead, his plea deal requires the probation, alcohol program and a $240 fine.

On Aug. 22, the 44-year-old state senator was reportedly caught driving the wrong way on a one-way street in Sacramento, according to KCRA.

A California Highway Patrol officer pulled Hueso over at a gas station, where surveillance video showed him doing sobriety tests. He was arrested shortly after, and CHP says he had a blood alcohol content of 0.08.

Hueso was offered the wet reckless charge because prosecutors have a difficult time proving DUI when defendants only register a 0.08. There is the possibility of a “scientific error factor” in the tests used to prove people are legally drunk, prosecutors say.

The day after he was released on bond, Hueso released a statement which read, in part, “I am truly and profoundly sorry for the unacceptably poor personal judgment which I demonstrated last night.”

Hueso's 40th District covers southern San Diego County, parts of Riverside County and Imperial County.

<![CDATA[Kemp Is Officially Coming To San Diego]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 21:16:06 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/177*120/456663944.jpg

Let me be the first to congratulate Padres General Manager A.J. Preller on winning the 2015 MLB Executive of the Year Award.

Preller was officially hired on August 8th. On December 18th, he endeared himself to Padres fans in a way no front office member has since Kevin Towers put together a World Series club in 1998 (we’ll leave it there and not mention the fallout).

Let’s take a quick look back at the week that was for Preller:

Thursday, 12/11/14: On the final day of the MLB Winter Meetings the Padres and Dodgers agreed to a trade that will bring All-Star outfielder Matt Kemp, catcher Tim Federowicz and $32 million to the Padres in exchange for catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Wieland and minor league pitcher Zach Eflin. The deal will immediately upgrade the Padres’ near-historically bad offense and inject enthusiasm in to a fan base desperate for star power. Eventually.

Tuesday, 12/16/14: During Kemp’s physical, San Diego doctors discover Kemp has arthritis in both hips. Preller uses this information to bring the Dodgers back to the negotiating table, presumably to re-work the details of the transaction or ask Los Angeles to insure Kemp’s contract. The information being made public upsets the L.A. front office (bonus points for Preller!).

Wednesday, 12/17/14: The Padres, Rays and Nationals work a 3-team, 11-player trade. San Diego receives outfielder Wil Myers (2013 AL Rookie of the Year), catcher Ryan Hanigan (statistically the best defensive catcher in baseball not named Yadier Molina), and minor league pitchers Gerardo Reyes and Jose Castillo. The Padres give up catcher Rene Rivera (2014’s breakout star), along with first baseman Jake Bauers, pitchers Burch Smith and Joe Ross, and shortstop Trea Turner (all currently in the minor leagues).  Myers is getting over an elbow injury that limited his production in 2014, but at the age of 24 is still expected to be an impact player. The deal is expected to be finalized on Friday, 12/19/14.

Thursday, 12/18/14: After wrangling for a few days, the Kemp trade finally becomes official. Preller also signs starting pitcher Josh Johnson to a one-year contract worth less than $2 million Performance incentives can push the contract to nearly $8 million, the amount Johnson got for 2014 despite having Tommy John surgery and never appearing in a game for the Padres. Johnson has resumed throwing activities. Even if he comes back as a relief pitcher, a guy with his pedigree at that price is a smart, low-risk, high-reward move. The Padres also finalize a trade with the Oakland A’s to bring All-Star catcher Derek Norris and minor-league pitcher Seth Streich to Petco Park in exchange for pitchers Jesse Hahn and R.J. Alvarez. Norris is an elite offensive catcher (10 HR, 55 RBI, .270 average in his first full season as a starter), but with Hanigan in the mix it’s possible he will move to first base for the Padres.

So, let’s recap. In an eight day span A.J. Preller oversaw the movement of 21 players, three All-Stars (all coming to San Diego), and an influx of $32 million. Oh, and there are more moves to come.

San Diego now has six outfielders and three catchers under contract for 2015. Assuming they go with manager Bud Black’s preferred strategy of carrying 12 pitchers that only leaves four roster spots. Since most MLB teams prefer to play with that many infielders, plus have at least one in reserve, we have not seen the end of Preller’s wheeling and dealing ways.

Oh, by the way, this is interesting. Thursday marked the 133rd day of Preller’s tenure as Padres G.M. That’s exactly 19 weeks.

How fitting is it for THAT to be the number that excites Padres fans again?

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[ Woman Arrested on Burglary Charges for 2nd Time in Month]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:47:25 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/package-theft-suspect.jpg

A Southern California woman was arrested for a burglary committed just two days after she was released from jail for the same offense.

Detectives from the San Diego Regional Fugitive Task Force arrested Martha Lampley of Spring Valley on multiple felony warrants Thursday in connection with the theft of packages and at least one other burglary.

Lampley was arrested on Nov. 29 for a parole violation, burglary and possession of a controlled substance. According to the sheriff's department, she stole deliveries right off people's porches in the Lemon Grove, Spring Valley and El Cajon areas.

Home surveillance video shows her driving a Uhaul truck to one house, going to the front and taking a package away, deputies say.

She posted bail on Dec. 4, and just two days later was at it again, sheriff's officials say. A victim whose iPad Air was stolen while she was at home identified Lampley as the suspect. She was also identified by other victims through a series of photos.

The investigation is ongoing, but if Lampley is convicted of her current charges, she faces 44 years in prison.

Photo Credit: San Diego Sheriff's Department]]>
<![CDATA[Grand Jury Applications Lagging in San Diego County]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:20:13 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/civil+grand+jury+san+diego.JPG

San Diego County's civil grand jurors work in secret, investigating complaints and issues involving local government.

But they're now bringing one secret to light: a major problem recruiting new members – for the first time that court officials can recall.

By this time of year, the grand jury usually has more than 100 applicants for the 19 seats on the panel to be sworn in next July 1st.

Right now, with a Jan. 19th deadline looming, that number is down to three dozen.

It's a four-to-five-days a week job -- anything but a money-maker, and not especially glamorous.

For nearly six months now, the current civil grand jurors have been "on the case" of local public agencies -- watchdogging and barking at boondoggles and inefficiencies.

Grand jurors are screened by past grand jurors and judges and appointed by lot, according to a balance of county supervisorial districts.

They’re paid a stipend of $25 a day for six, four-hour days a week, not including Friday tours, plus 56 cents a mile and free courthouse parking.

"We're looking for diversity on both ethnic and thought process-wise -- as for what their experience has been,” said J. Robert O’Connor, a retired civil law attorney who serves as the grand jury’s current foreman.

"Most of our group are retired because they're in a position, financially, to deal with it that way,” O’Connor said in an interview Thursday. “You'd like younger people. But most of them are busy, and don't have the time to do it, and that's understandable."

Civil grand jurors don't issue criminal indictments. Panels convened by prosecutors and judges do that after being chosen from trial jury pools.

That confuses people being recruited for the civil panel.

"They ask the question, 'Well, is the DA controlling what you do?'” O’Connor told NBC 7. “The answer is, the DA is not involved in what we do."

O’Connor said most public agencies criticized in grand jury reports shape up.

Some don't agree to follow the recommendations, or do so only grudgingly after a long passage of time.

Case in point? Criticisms by the 1998-99 and 2007-08 grand juries regarding free seats reserved for the mayor and city council members in the city's skyboxes at Qualcomm Stadium and Petco Park. 

This year, Mayor Kevin Faulconer has proposed leasing the suites to the teams instead.

And, noted O’Connor, there's this result: "Even a grand jury doing an investigation without ever writing a report does a lot of good in that organization. And changes are made behind closed doors, perhaps, but they're made. And the public never learns about it."

To find out how to apply to be a part of the grand jury, click here.

<![CDATA[Base Housing Open to Military Retirees]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:24:44 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/camp+pendleton+housing.JPG

For the first time ever, retired military personnel will have a chance to rent homes on base at Camp Pendleton, thanks to a partnership approved by Congress 15 years ago.

One of the most secure neighborhoods in San Diego County, Camp Pendleton offers modern homes with ocean views in Southern California. The housing development has 7,500 homes, and now some 500 are available for a select few to rent.

The public/private partnership that makes the rental opportunities possible was established to help fund the demand for new homes on military bases. The military agreed that, if needed, a select few would be allowed to move on base.

Andy Killion, Director of Military Affairs for the Brown Region, which includes Camp Pendleton, said now that military services are shrinking in size, the opportunity to open homes to retirees becomes possible.

Aside from retirees, select categories of personnel from the Department of Defense are eligible as well, such as international students and officers, Coast Guard, active-duty military bachelors, DoD civil service and other civil service workers such as the FBI.

Killion, also a retired Marine, said former service members are a good fit as base neighbors because they're comfortable with base housing regulations.

"In the Marine Corps we have a saying, 'Once a Marine, always a Marine,'" Killion said.

Lincoln Military Housing - the organization that runs the base housing - also runs an extensive background check and criminal background investigation before approving potential renters, creating an even safer collection of neighbors.

The cost of rent, which ranges from $1,400 to $2,400, covers utilities, club house and pool use. The rental rates are comparable to active duty, but never lower.

Since the partnership began more than a decade ago, many new homes have been built and others renovated, most with energy efficient upgrades.

For more information on the veteran and retiree rental program, contact Lincoln Military Housing by clicking here or calling (760) 994-4100.

<![CDATA[Carjacking Suspect Stabbed as He Steals Jeep]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:40:31 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/carjacking+stabbing+1217.JPG

A man sitting in his Jeep pulled a knife on the suspect who punched him and stole his SUV in Grant Hill, according to San Diego police.

Thursday evening, the victim was in his Jeep Cherokee in the 2500 block of L Street when a man walked up to him and started hitting him in the face, police say.

As the victim was hit over and over, he reached for a pocket knife and stabbed the suspect at least once.

The punches stopped, but the suspect was able to pull the victim out of his vehicle and escape in it.

Using lojack tracking technology, the SDPD tracked the suspect to Spring Valley, pulled him over and arrested him.

Both men are being taken to the hospital for their injuries.

The incident is under investigation.

<![CDATA[Uber to Conduct Safety Review After Rape Allegations]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:20:53 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/uber-safety.jpg

A safety review is in the works for Uber following allegations of rape and assault on a passenger by a driver.

The company has already announced changes for 2015, including tweaks to its highly criticized procedure for conducting background checks. What the changes will exactly be is still in question, but fingerprinting could be one new measure. For now, however, Uber is only providing a "road map for change" on its website.

One local Uber user, Lisa McKnight, said she's more aware of the risks involved in the convenience of an Uber car, when before she was just excited to use the new service.

But after the rape allegations in Boston, she says she'd rather take a cab.

Another Uber driver also recently faced vehicular manslaughter charges after hitting a 6-year-old girl while allegedly talking on a cell phone.

"I haven't had a bad experience with Uber," McKnight said. "But I would prefer a taxi just for that reason alone."

The company is apparently reevaluating things too.

In a blog titled "Our Commitment to Safety," Uber says they're looking into ways to build new programs and enhance others - biometrics and voice verification, for example.

While voice verification might create a peace of mind, it still doesn't verify the identity of the driver or the passenger, Deputy Director of Digital Forensics Incorporated James Kitt said.

"With a background investigation, I can provide all the documents to tell you I'm somebody else," Kitt said. "With fingerprints, I can't do that, and it's going through an agency that can verify that."

McKnight said drivers should absolutely be fingerprinted because it's easy to bypass a lot of screenings without the certainty of prints.

While Uber's blog said it will work on building safety response teams, partner with experts and act on recommendations from drivers, it doesn't give any examples of actual actions being taken, Kitt points out.

"They're not really telling us what they are looking to do," he said. The company's willingness to invest research, time and money into addressing the concerns is not just a good thing, but a move necessary to stay in business, Kitt added.

<![CDATA[San Ysidro Superintendent Sentencing Delayed]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 06:44:47 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/manuel+paul+1218.JPG

A federal court judge approved a request to continue the Thursday sentencing of former San Ysidro Superintendent Manuel Paul to January 13.

Paul pleaded guilty in August to a misdemeanor charge of "deprivation of benefits for political contributions," meaning withholding work or another type of benefit unless a political contribution is made.

Federal court Judge William Gallo cited the necessity to give Paul due process, even though he indicated he was not pleased with the defense attorney waiting for the day of the sentencing to argue facts in a pre-sentencing report.

The defense attorney said he was unable to file a response to that document, which is used by the judge in handing down a sentence, because issues in the report would then become available to the public.

Paul declined to comment coming into federal court Thursday.

NBC7 Investigates first reported how, in 2010, Paul accepted $2,500 in parking-lot cash from a contractor seeking work with the district.

After our reporting, Paul agreed to resign from the board with a $200,000 severance package. He promised at the time that if he was ever convicted of any of the accusations, he would return the funds.

The San Ysidro School District is now suing Paul to seek return of those funds.

NBC7 Investigates also reported how Paul continued to run the district by email after leaving his post, about a suspicious burning of public documents at the district headquarters, and about his extensive home renovations.

On Thursday, defense attorney Dan Rodriguez said all those issues were outside the facts of this case.

"I think the right thing happened in court," said Rodriguez. "The court decided that they were going to consider some of the information that's been provided by the media to the probation department. We had hoped that the court would make the decision based on the facts of the case and not on media reports."

Other items he said were not relevant are the financial state of the district and civil lawsuits Paul may be involved in, but community activists say it is Paul's fault the district is now insolvent.

"The children didn't even have paper in their classrooms last year," said Mary Ann Saponara, who worked for the San Ysidro School District for about 40 years.

In letters to the court, some of those activists said it was the misuse of construction funds and over-priced construction projects, awarded in a culture of exchanging contracts for expensive gifts and favors, that caused the district's financial woes. Thursday, six community members submitted letters in support of Paul, but those documents are not yet available on the electronic court records website.

Carol Wallace, the president of the San Ysidro teacher's union, said the judge should not accept the plea deal.

"What it does, if they let him off, is it tells kids that 'I can cheat,' and 'I can extort,' and 'I can just be given a slap on the wrist,'" Wallace said.

<![CDATA[Man Found Badly Beaten in Gaslamp Dies]]> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 08:55:38 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/gaslamp+beating+121414.jpg

The man found badly beaten in the Gaslamp District early Sunday morning has died.

San Diego resident Eric Galen Hatcher, 29, was discovered lying on the road at G Street and Fourth Avenue with serious head trauma.

San Diego police say he had been involved in a fight that broke up as officers approached.

Hatcher was taken to the hospital but has since died.

Now, investigators are searching for a person of interest in this case, described as a white man between 25 and 30 years old, standing about 5-foot-9 and weighing 165 pounds. He was wearing a grey suit jacket and grey dress pants at the time.

The SDPD is expected to release video of the incident at a later time.

If you know anything about the fight, call the homicide unit at 619-531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[160-Pound Newborn Rhino Receiving Special Care]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:22:42 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/baby-goh-rhino.jpg

San Diego Zoo Safari Park caretakers are hand-raising a baby rhino after he wasn't gaining enough weight.

The 3-week-old greater one-horned rhino calf weighed 160 pounds at birth. Every mother's dream, right? But for this big boy, that is actually the lower end of the 160-176 pound norm for these tough-skinned newborns. His first-time mother Kaya gave birth to the still-unnamed calf on Nov. 27, according to the San Diego Zoo.

Kaya nursed the calf herself for two weeks, but the zoo said when her baby failed to get adequate nutrition, he was taken to the Safari Park's animal care center for hand feedings every other hour and round-the-clock observation. (What a tough job those zoo keepers have: Who wants to watch an adorable baby rhino tromp around all day?)

Because the rhino calf is being raised in a nursery now, exercise is an important part of building up his strength and health. After hanging with his new pals for a week, the baby boy is gaining nearly four pounds per day, weighing in at 190 pounds now.

Yes, you read that right: a 190 pound 3-week-old.

A fully grown greater one-horned rhino clocks in at a whopping 4,000 to 5,000 pounds. Could you imagine how much he'll eat!

Baby No Name's relatives used to be widespread in Southeast Asia, but are only found in India and Nepal now. The International Union for Conservation of Nature calls the species endangered due to the threat of poaching and illegal use of their horns.

It's estimated that baby rhino only has 3,250 relatives left in the world and one dies of poaching every eight hours. This little guy, though, is the 68th greater one-horned rhino to be born at the Safari Park since 1975. For that reason, they're the "foremost breeding facility in the world for this species," the zoo said.

Baby rhino can have visitors at the animal care center nursery corral during his daily exercise time, between 12:15 and 12:45 p.m., as long as the weather permits. And seriously, who can resist? Everyone loves a new baby.

Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo Safari Park
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<![CDATA[Craziest Border Busts of 2014]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:10:43 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/3-6-14-Border+Patrol+Agents+Uncover+Drug-Laced+Candy+Meth+and+Coke+at+I-5+Checkpoint_photo+2.jpg Border Patrol had a busy year, busting would-be smugglers who filled tuna cans, children's cups, mufflers and much, much more with drugs.

Photo Credit: U.S. Border Patrol]]>
<![CDATA[FBI in San Diego Aiding Sony Hack Investigation]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:42:58 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP899632906985.jpg

As federal officials dig into who is responsible for a hack on Sony Pictures, the FBI in San Diego is aiding the investigation, officials confirmed.

NBC News confirmed Wednesday a federal investigation found North Korea was responsible for the cyber attack. This news comes as the studio decided to pull the Christmas Day release of the film, "The Interview."

San Diego County-based computer security specialist Dan Tentler, who according to USA Today downloaded some of the stolen Sony files, tweeted last week the FBI visited his home.

NBC 7 spoke to Tentler Wednesday night. He wouldn’t discuss the FBI involvement but did say this hack exposes, once again, Sony’s lack of cyber security. Tentler said the security world is looking at how to keep it from happening to them.

"The security community is interested in making sure that if mistakes were made that were easy to spot, that other people don't make the same mistakes,” said Tentler who is the co-founder of Carbon Dynamics.

An FBI spokesperson says agents in San Diego are supporting this investigation and are working collaboratively with its partners to investigate.

“This is an interesting hack because it’s not being carried out for financial gain," explained ESET Senior Security Researcher Stephen Cobb. "It’s very different from the Target breach, where credit card numbers were stolen. This is a group that has an agenda and apparently it is a political agenda."

Sony announced it would drop the Christmas Day release of “The Interview” after some of the country’s largest theater chains said they would not be showing the movie. The same group who claimed to hack Sony, Guardians of Peace, threatened violence, indicating that the world would be full of fear as on 9/11.

The White House said Thursday it considers the hacking a "serious national security matter" and will plan a "proportional response" when investigators are sure who is responsible. The Obama administration has not confirmed publicly that North Korea was involved.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Padilla Ends Chula Vista City Council Race Recount]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:21:03 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Padilla-McCann-Chula-Vista-.jpg

After weeks of counting ballots, the Chula Vista City Council race is hours away from officially being decided.

Democrat Steve Padilla suspended a recount request Thursday after opponent John McCann won the District 1 seat by two points last month.

In a statement Padilla said it's clear that "many valid ballots are not being counted and this recount is unlikely to change the result."

""In the most common case, registered Chula Vista voters cast ballots on Election Day, but in listing a mailing address on their voting materials, had their votes thrown out. The Registrar’s decision to throw out these valid votes and silence these voters’ voices is wrong," said Padilla.

Now that the recount has been suspended, members of the public have 24 hours to request an additional recount. If no one requests a recount, the results will be official Friday morning.

The race went to a recount earlier this month after a recount was requested by Humberto Peraza Jr., who is lobbyist and a Southwestern Community College board trustee.

San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said Dec. 2 certified results from the election showed McCann won with 18,448 votes to Padilla's 18,446.

McCann said in the future, he and his staff will look into alternative options to help Chula Vista residents ensure their voice is heard, saying he remains “more committed than ever to counting every vote.”

The last time Chula Vista saw a close race like this was in June 2010, when U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) went up against then-Assemblywoman Mary Salas for the 40th state Senate District. The race did end in a recount, but Salas halted it on the third day, allowing Vargas to win by 22 votes.

<![CDATA[Dispensary Landlord Ordered to Pay $250k in Fines]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:41:22 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/06-11-2014-medical-marijuana-generic.jpg

The San Diego City Attorney's Office has been awarded a $250,000 judgement against a landlord that allowed marijuana dispensaries to operate out of his buildings, despite the city's orders not to.

John I. Nobel was ordered to pay the fines - the largest penalty the city attorney's office has ever obtained - to cover $80,000 of a previous judgement, investigative costs reaching $8,000 and the new judgement for not complying with the first decision, the city attorney's office said.

"In cases where dispensaries operate outside of the law, we will continue to hold the operators and property owners accountable for the illegal activities," City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said. "...And we will seek the highest penalties the courts will allow."

Nobel's initial assessment reached a total of $550,000, but $300,000 was suspended, so long as he complies with the requirements this time.

Nobel is required to close any remaining dispensaries operating out of his properties unlawfully and remove their fixtures and signage. Failure to do so could also get Nobel a contempt of court charge.

"This case underscores that landlords will be held accountable for renting to illegal marijuana dispensaries," Goldsmith said.

The city attorney's office has spent the past four years exposing and shutting down illegally operated marijuana dispensaries. During that time, Nobel had dispensaries running unlawfully out of his properties in North Park, Pacific Beach and Point Loma, they said.

Four dispensaries on Rosecrans Street were operating 600 feet from a school, which is an immediate violation of the zoning laws for marijuana cooperatives.

"There is a process in place for legally zoned dispensaries and that process should be followed," Goldsmith said.

Five more defendants were included in the 12 cases. While Nobel was named in every case, the complaints also named Mahin Nobel. Some said Parviz Hakakha, Judith Hakakha, David Abeles and Melody Abeles were all co-owners, according to the report from the city attorney's office.

The cases resolved in the $250,000 settlement are listed here with principal defendents in parentheses:

  • San Diego Organic Wellness, 1150 Garnet Avenue (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel)
  • Golden West Collective, 2603 University Avenue (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel)
  • Fresh Alternative Consulting, Inc., 3045 Rosecrans #208 (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel, Parviz Hakakha, Judith Hakakha)
  • Green Wellness Association, Inc., 3045 Rosecrans #207 (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel, Parviz Hakakha, Judith Hakakha)
  • SB Health, Inc., 3045 Rosecrans #310 (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel, Parviz Hakakha, Judith Hakakha)
  • S.C.C.G., Inc., 3045 Rosecrans #214 (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel, Parviz Hakakha, Judith Hakakha)
  • PB 45 CAP, Inc., 4688 Cass Street (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel)
  • Organic Roots Delivery, Inc., 2603 University Avenue (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel)
  • Lemoin Corp, 936 Garnet Street (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel, David Abeles, Melody Abeles)
  • Patient Med Aid, 2015 Garnet Avenue (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel)
  • Dank on Turquoise, Inc., 841 Turquoise Street, (John Nobel, Mahin Nobel)

Complaints regarding marijuana dispensaries can be referred to the Code Enforcement Division of the city by calling (619) 236-5500.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[North County Transit Bans Alcohol Aboard Trains]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:09:11 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Coaster-Train-5.jpg

The North County Transit District voted unanimously Thursday to ban alcohol consumption aboard their trains.

"It's banned, period," said Board Chair Bill Horn.

Residents gave testimony for and against the ban, discussing alcohol-fueled disturbances that have plagued passengers aboard the Coaster trains following Padres games, the Del Mar races and other major events.

Until this decision, open alcohol containers were allowed on the Coaster between 5:15 a.m. and 9 p.m. The ban will go into effect February 1, 2015.

A majority of those who spoke at the NCTD hearing supported the ban.

One supporter, a San Diego resident named Ronda, said she was on the train this summer when it got delayed for an hour and a half. Officials told her it was because of an alcohol-related incident that let to a fight on the train.

"The same thing happened ironically at the end of the weekend on Sunday coming back from Santa Barbara so I think it would be a good idea," said Ronda.'

But others who spoke in opposition to the ban say riding the Coaster is a social time where they can relax on their ride home and have a glass of wine or beer.

"There's a number of people that like to share a cocktail," said Solana Beach resident Robert Motschall, "and the problem that you're trying to get rid of is the rowdy drunks coming from baseball games or the track, and you're not going to solve that problem with that ban."

The Coaster previously had issues with alcohol consumption on the train. In June 2009, complaints about rowdy behavior and occasional drunken brawls prompted North County Transit District staff to reconsider an alcohol ban on Coaster trains.

Transit board members rejected the blanket ban in May after a majority was hesitant to punish riders who imbibe responsibly but they are now considering a new proposal of solutions.

A month later, the Coaster passed a nighttime ban on alcoholic drinks after 9 p.m.

"To be honest with you, I've addressed this issue about five times in 20 years," said NTCD Chair Horn. "I just decided, for me personally, OK, that's enough. If you can't behave, you can't follow the rules, we're just going to end it period."

During Thursday's meeting, the board also banned  e-cigarettes aboard the train and on district property.

The Coaster was the only local commuter train that allows drinking onboard.

Photo Credit: NBC San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Point Loma Fisherman Honored for Rescue]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:55:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/PL+Fisherman.jpg

A Point Loma fisherman that rescued 11 people -- though two ultimately died on the way to shore -- in Hawaii this past May was hailed a hero and honored by the U.S. Coast Guard Wednesday.

On May 2, fishing boat captain Gregory Virissimo and his crew found the fishing boat Fu Yuan Yu 065 burning 1,500 feet off the coast of Hawai’i with 11 survivors floating in a life raft a few feet from the vessel.

Though he was presented a public service award and called a hero by many, Virissimo said after receiving the award that he did not think he was a hero.

"I just think that life is precious and that if you can rescue somebody, that’s your job," Virissimo said.

Virissimo and his crew rescued the 11 survivors – four of them severely burned and in critical condition – and brought them aboard their own 300 foot ship. They spent the night on board the ship tending to the wounded as they waited for parashooters to come in with supplies, he said.

"I knew that two were going to die," Varissimo told NBC 7 after the award ceremony as he recounted the experience. "I knew that two were going to pass away, and quickly, and I informed them of that and. . .it was a sick feeling."

On the way to the shore, two of the survivors died. The crew transferred seven survivors and the two deceased to a sister ship before continuing on to shore with two critically injured survivors.

Once on land, the Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu worked with U.S. Air Force 563d Rescue Group and Arizona Air National Guard to stabilize and transport the two survivors in critical condition. They were taken to the UC San Diego Medical Center where they were treated and released.

The boat rescued Chinese nationals, Virissimo said. Though they could not communicate the crew, they did know one phrase in English.

"What they did know in English was thank you," Virissimo said. "They kept saying, 'thank you, thank you.'"

Captain Jonathan Spaner, commander of the Coast Guard San Diego, Maj. Scott Swigert, the aircraft commander of one of the HC-130Js on the mission, and Lt. Col. Matthew McGuire, the flight lead on the HH-60G formation, attended the Thursday morning ceremony.

For Varissimo, receiving the award felt "really good."

"It just makes me feel that what I did was the right thing, that my crew, what they did was the right thing," Virissimo said.

<![CDATA[Apartment Property in Lincoln Park Sold for $2.74M]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 10:28:19 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/apartment-complex-generic-c.jpg

A 24-unit apartment property in San Diego’s Lincoln Park subdivision has been sold for approximately $2.74 million, according to brokerage company Marcus & Millichap Inc., which represented the buyer and seller.

The property at 299 Willie James Jones Ave. was purchased by Sanjay Singhal of San Diego. The seller was Bob Mayberry Family Limited Partnership.

The buyer was represented by Marcus & Millichap’s Tom McCartin and Aaron Bove, with the company’s Chad O’Connor providing financing services. McCartin represented the seller.

The property consists of 12 duplexes on a 1.65-acre lot.

Photo Credit: Friedman Realty Group Inc.]]>
<![CDATA[4-Car Crash Injures 2, Snarls Commute]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:11:16 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Nimitz+BLVd+crash+1218.JPG

A four-vehicle crash in Point Loma Heights snarled the morning commute for several hours on Thursday.

The crash happened at Atascardero Drive and Nimitz Boulevard at 5:45 a.m. San Diego police said a Chevrolet shuttle van was driving on Nimitz and made a left turn when it hit an oncoming Ford 500, which caused the Ford’s back end to swing and hit a Toyota Tacoma.

A Ford F150 also rear-ended the Toyota in the chain-reaction crash.

San Diego police said two people received injuries that didn’t appear to be life threatening. The driver of the Ford 500 suffered an open fracture to her right ankle and possibly a broken left ankle, police said. The driver of the shuttle van sustained a fractured arm.

The driver of the Toyota and the driver of the Ford F150 both had some pain but were not taken to the hospital.

Alcohol was not believed to be involved in the crash. The police department’s traffic division is investigating.

As of 11 a.m., the intersection had been reopened.

<![CDATA[Man Shot Five Times in Escondido]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 08:26:31 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/187062332.jpg

A man in Escondido was shot multiple times Wednesday night, police said.

Shortly before nine p.m., Escondido Police said a man was shot once in the neck and four times in the leg. The incident happened at a mobile home park at the 500 block of West 15th Ave.

The 31-year-old victim is in the hospital and his condition is unknown.

It is unclear what led to the shooting. There is no word as to whether the incident was gang-related.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[76 E Open After Overturned Big Rig Blocked Traffic]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:52:54 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/219*120/big+rig+oceanside.jpg

State Route 76 East has been cleared and all lanes are open after a UPS big rig crash and rolled onto its side early Thursday in Oceanside.

Both eastbound lanes were closed as officials worked more than 7 hours this morning to clear the road and pull the overturned truck back upright.

The crash happened around 3:30 a.m. when the driver of the truck said he was exiting Interstate 5 and onto the 76 East to refuel. He started to slide, he said, before he lost control and the truck flipped onto its side.

There were no injuries and two California Highway Patrol officers pulled the driver out of the truck after the crash.

The truck was carrying UPS freight and packages. Davis Trucking Company took the packages out of the truck and put them into another truck to send off for shipping.

<![CDATA[Man Dead After SWAT Standoff in Serra Mesa: Police]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 08:42:32 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Serra+Mesa+SWAT+standoff.jpg

A man barricaded inside a Serra Mesa apartment kept SWAT officers at bay for hours early Thursday morning before killing himself, police said.

The standoff started at about 1:30 a.m. at an apartment complex in the 2600 block of Mission Village Drive. San Diego police said the man’s two roommates alerted them that the man – despondent over having a terminal illness -- was threatening to take his own life.

The man had weapons inside the apartment, police said.

Responding officers heard gunshots inside the apartment. However, they saw movement inside, so they waited outside for hours until entering the apartment.

Meanwhile, the man’s two roommates were able to exit safely. Police evacuated eight nearby apartments and two homes during the standoff.

Just before 6 a.m., police told NBC 7 that the man was found dead inside the apartment.

<![CDATA[3 Armed Men Rob Pacific Beach Taco Shop]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 22:16:33 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/taco+shop+robbery+1217.JPG

Police are searching for three men who robbed a Pacific Beach taco shop at gunpoint Wednesday night.

The three suspects, armed with handguns, held up Los 2 Pedro's Taco Shop at 700 Turquoise Street just before 9:30 p.m., according to San Diego police.

All were able to escape with an undisclosed amount of money.

Check back here for more on this developing story.

Photo Credit: Candice Nguyen]]>
<![CDATA[4 Arrested in Bloody Trolley Stabbing]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:57:50 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/trolley+stabbing.jpg

Four suspects have been charged in a bloody stabbing caught on camera that sent a San Diego trolley into chaos last month.

Alex Cuin, 21; Arther Granillo, 18; Armando Reyes, 18; and Christopher Garcia, 19, have all face assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm, stemming from a knife fight on Nov. 9.

San Diego police say an argument sparked between the four men as they rode the trolley near the 47th Street station. As the fight escalated, one suspect pulled out a knife and stabbed two of those involved, though investigators did not say which man held the weapon and which were injured.

A video posted to YouTube — later disabled by the user — showed passengers screaming and scrambling away from the fight that left a "bloody mess," police say.

The suspect with the knife ran off from the 47th Street station when the trolley stopped. One of the injured men had three stab wounds on his torso and wrist. The other was stabbed once in the chest.

Over the past few weeks, investigators gathered evidence, identified their suspects and began their arrests.

Granillo was the first to go into police custody on Nov. 26, followed by Cuin the next day. Garcia was arrested on Dec. 1, and Reyes was booked into jail on Dec. 9.

The SDPD says it will not release any more information at this time.

<![CDATA[San Diego Sees Slight Uptick in Hate Crimes: FBI]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 20:53:11 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Pipe-Bomb-Federal-Building.jpg

San Diego County has seeing a slight rise in hate crimes over the past two years, according to a new FBI report.

In an exclusive interview with NBC 7, FBI Special Agent Darrell Foxworth said hate crimes have risen by 26 percent since 2012.

“That may sound like a lot, but when you’re dealing with smaller numbers, percentages can be misleading,” Foxworth explained.

In 2012, San Diego had 34 hate crimes, and that number rose to 43 the next year. Nationally, the FBI counted 5,928 in 2013, a drop from the year before. The FBI gathers those statistics from reporting law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

A hate crime differs from a typical assault because the offender is motivated to commit a crime based on someone’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender.

"I think sometimes people think other crimes may get more publicity, but when you actually sit down and look at the numbers, nationally that's not the case," said Foxworth.

In the U.S., race was the largest motivator for hate crimes at 48.5 percent, and more than two-thirds of racial hate crime was against black people, 21.2 percent was against white people and 4.6 percent against Asian people.

Religion also played a factor, accounting for 17.4 percent of hate crimes. About 60 percent of those victims were Jewish and 13.7 percent were Muslim.

Sexual orientation accounted for 20.8 percent of all hate crimes in 2013, the majority against gay men.

“I think it’s important to know the information, digest it and be aware of it,” Foxworth told NBC 7.

Photo Credit: Jeff Herrera]]>
<![CDATA[SD Cuban-Americans Divided on New US-Cuba Relations]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:32:55 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/combo-cuba-cambio.png The Obama administration's announcement that it will restore diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba have local Cuban-Americans at odds over the issue. NBC 7's Liberty Zabala has both sides. ]]> <![CDATA["Every Breath Hurt": Neighbor Saves 4 From Fire]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:25:20 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Jonathan+Alvarez.JPG In an exclusive interview with NBC 7's Bridget Naso, an Oceanside man described how he came to the rescue of four neighbors, including a baby, trapped by fire in their second-story apartment. ]]> <![CDATA[San Ysidro Border Upgrades Drops Wait Times]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 22:19:48 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Border-Traffic-San-Ysidro.jpg

Motorists at the nation's busiest border crossing were accustomed to waiting hours while vendors paraded between lanes with everything from sliced papaya and hot oatmeal to sombreros and ceramic mugs. Now, thanks to a $741 million construction project, they may not have enough time to lower their windows and order a cappuccino.

Waits to enter San Diego from Tijuana, Mexico, during the morning rush have dropped to less than 45 minutes from two hours since vehicle lanes were added in September. It can be less than 10 minutes during lulls, compared to a few months ago when waits topped four hours on busy weekends.

"I lost so much time that it made me cry," said Tijuana resident Alexandra Acua, driving a friend to the San Diego airport during a recent Monday morning rush. She had stopped crossing years ago because the jams were too stressful. "Now, I'm happy."

Reviews of the upgraded crossing are overwhelmingly positive. Delays have dropped between 50 percent and 75 percent, depending on the day and hour, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Shorter lines have fueled a 20 percent increase in passengers, luring more Americans to Mexico for family visits or getaway weekends and alleviating a nightmarish commute for many who live in Mexico and work, shop and go to school in the U.S.

One of every 13 people who come to the U.S. goes through San Ysidro. It's nearly twice as active as the busiest crossing on the Canadian border, in Buffalo, New York. The crossing handles about 50,000 motorists and 25,000 pedestrians daily, more people than the top two U.S. airports for international arrivals combined -- New York's John F. Kennedy and Miami.

About 1 of every 3 who cross at San Ysidro is a U.S. citizen, one is a U.S. legal resident, and the remainder come from other countries, mostly Mexico, said Pete Flores, Customs and Border Protection's San Diego field office director. A 2012 survey by research firm Crossborder Group Inc. found about seven of 10 of those who cross at San Ysidro live in Tijuana.

Among the regular commuters benefiting from the decrease wait times is Rene Peralta, who lives in Mexico to be near family and save money. "I earn in dollars, but I live in pesos," he said. The dual U.S.-Mexican citizen, who pays $600 a month for a three-bedroom house, has crossed regularly since grade school in San Diego and now teaches architecture at Woodbury University in San Diego. He has saved several hours in traffic each week since the upgrades.

Replacing the 1970s facility had been a priority for regional leaders since at least 2001, when heightened concern about terrorism led to the unbearable lines. A 2006 study by the San Diego Association of Governments estimated that border congestion cost the region $6 billion a year, mostly from lost productivity and forgone trips.

The renovations have replaced administrative offices, expanded vehicle inspection areas and erected two inspection booths in most of the 25 lanes under a new sunlit canopy.

The San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce says sales grew about 20 percent in the San Diego community during the first month, and a Crossborder Group survey of 344 motorists from Nov. 28 to Dec. 10 found 95 percent who crossed in the previous month said wait times were better or much better.

"It's had a great impact," Tijuana Mayor Jorge Astiazaran said. "Traffic is flowing again."

Inspectors remain on guard for those who disguise liquid methamphetamine in soda bottles and pack heroin tar in engine compartments. They're also keeping watch for people trying to enter the U.S. illegally and have found people hiding in gas tanks, under floorboards -- and even sewn into a seat.

"Any day anything can happen here," Flores said.

More improvements are planned. Construction should begin soon on a new pedestrian crossing to ease wait times that regularly stretch to three hours for people on foot. Additional vehicle lanes also are planned.

The last phase of the San Ysidro expansion will get $216 million in funding from the $1.1 trillion spending bill signed by President Barack Obama.

“The San Ysidro Port of Entry is a key driver for our local economy. The full funding of the expansion project allows the City of San Diego and our partners throughout the region to focus on making our border more efficient and effective,” Faulconer said in a statement.

Still, not everyone is pleased. Street vendors say their sales have fallen dramatically and will drop more when the expansion is completed.

"When they opened the lanes, it hurt us tremendously," Guadalupe Zamora said on a slow morning as she surveyed the crowd. Zamora had wheeled a cart with cellphone accessories almost daily for five years at the crossing. She now goes mainly on weekends. "For the general public," she added, however, "it's a good thing."

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[MTS Gives Bikes to Barrio Logan First Graders]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 20:05:25 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/mts_bike_surprise_pic_1200x675_374341187566.jpg

Christmas came early for some first graders in Barrio Logan Wednesday morning.

Fifty-two students from Perkins Elementary School received new bikes and helmets courtesy of Metropolitan Transit System employees.

The students attended an assembly to learn about safety tips when walking and riding bikes near public transport such as a bus or trolley.

After the safety presentation, Santa Claus came in and surprised students with the gifts. For some, it was the first bike they had ever owned.

MTS employee Brian Riley told NBC 7 it's important to put others first, especially during the holidays.

"If there's anything you could actually give, like the employees at the Metropolitan Transit System, you should be willing to do that just to give some joy to some folks out there that may not have the things that you may have," said Riley.

The 10th annual MTS Employee Holiday Bike Drive has gifted more than 500 new bikes and helmets to first graders across the county during the holiday season, a press release said.

Workers hold fundraising events throughout the year to help pay for the new bikes, which are given to a different school each year.

Bus and trolley operators were joined by the San Diego Police Department, MTS K-9 officers, teachers and parents.

<![CDATA[Cold Case Suspect’s Wife Files Claim Against SDPD]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 17:01:03 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/rebecca-brown-1023.jpg

The wife of a former San Diego Police Department criminalist accused in a 1984 cold case has filed a wrongful death claim against the city of San Diego, accusing the SDPD of a "misleading” and “defamatory” investigation that led her husband to commit suicide.

Rebecca Brown filed the claim Wednesday in hopes of clearing the name of her spouse, Kevin Charles Brown, 62.

SDPD investigators say their colleague Brown worked with another suspect, Ronald Tatro, to strangle, beat and kill 14-year-old Claire Hough in 1984. Her body was found on the Torrey Pines State Beach with her throat cut and left breast taken off.

"I just want to let you know that my husband didn't do these things," said Rebecca at a press conference Thursday. "I believe it so strongly I am sitting here between these two wonderful attorneys because people have to know that if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone and we have to make sure this."

According to a December 2013 search warrant, Brown’s DNA matched sperm found on vaginal swabs collected during Hough’s autopsy, tying him to the crime.

However, Rebecca’s claim says “the medical examiner’s microscopic examination of a fluid sample from the victim’s vaginal vault was negative for the presence of sperm.”

The court document says it was common for criminalists to use their own blood and sperm samples to test their forensic techniques. Brown’s table was close to the criminalist in charge of examining evidence from Hough’s case, Rebecca's attorney Gene Iredale said. 

"The fact is that it is highly likely that the result on the single swab of a tiny amount of Kevin Brown's DNA was not the result of it having been deposited in the body of Claire Hough at the time of her death, but as a result of cross-contamination," said Iredale. 

The SDPD has said cross-contamination would not be possible in this case because Brown did not handle evidence for it. He instead worked on firearms and narcotics crimes.

But potential cross-contamination would present the SDPD with an institutional dilemma, according to the claim.

“If Mr. Brown’s DNA were present as a result of the contamination, it would call into question the procedures employed by the crime lab in the years before the DNA analysis became prevalent, as well as the reliability of the S.D.P.D. DNA analysis of ‘cold cases,’” the document states.

When investigators served the 2013 search warrant, they seized items beyond the scope of the “overbroad” warrant, Rebecca says in the claim, including her lesson plans, teaching materials and childhood memorabilia. The officers also took privileged documents belonging to Brown’s brother-in-law, an attorney.

Because she says the items were not related to the investigation, Rebecca’s attorneys believe it was an illegal seizure.

The claim states even after the evidence review was finished in March 2014, the SDPD did not return the items until November, the month after Brown hanged himself.

“Inferentially, at least one of the purposes for illegally refusing to return the illegally seized items was to convey the impression to Mr. Brown that he would shortly be arrested, thereby causing pain, stress, and frustration to Mr. Brown and his family,” the claim says.

The attorneys also allege investigators told witnesses false information, knowing that it would get back to Brown.

The effect of the “investigative misconduct” caused Brown, who suffered from mental health issues, so much stress that he became obsessed with the fear that he would be accused in the case and arrested, his wife says. As a result, he ultimately committed suicide on Oct. 21, the claim states.

The SDPD announced two days later that they had identified Brown and Tatro as suspects in the case and were preparing to arrest Brown when he was found dead.

The announcement included “misleading and defamatory information” aimed at “using Mr. Brown as a scapegoat to avoid scrutiny of police misconduct,” cross-contamination issues and the cold case analysis’ reliability, according to the claim.

Finally, the document says investigators questioned Brown’s Catholic priest and confessor about what he had shared — a violation of the “privilege of clergy.”

"He was not a rapist and a killer," said Rebecca on Thursday. "He was a quiet, good man who devoted his life to helping people, in helping he thought by putting away bad guys doing his job."

Rebecca is seeking unspecified damages more than $10,000 for pain, suffering and what she says was Brown’s wrongful death. The city has 60 days to review the claim, and if the city council rejects it, Brown’s widow can file a lawsuit.

NBC 7 reached out to the SDPD for a response. The spokesman referred us the City Attorney’s office, which has declined to comment.

Photo Credit: NBC 7
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<![CDATA[Water Main Break Shuts Down Harbor Drive]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 20:55:25 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Harbor+water+main+break+pic-PIC_0.jpg

A water main break has shut down a portion of Harbor Drive in Barrio Logan Wednesday evening.

San Diego water officials said a 10-inch concrete water main broke in the area of Cesar Chavez Boulevard just after 5:30 p.m. and one business and a trolley station are without water service.

Officials estimate repairs will be done by 3 a.m. Thursday.

San Diego police Harbor Drive in the area was closed in both directions until just after 8 p.m. The water has been shut off while workers fix the problem.

<![CDATA[Has the December Rain Impacted Our Lakes?]]> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:38:47 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Lake+Morena+1217.JPG

Some parts of San Diego County have seen four times as much rain than normal for this month.

Has it made any impact on the county’s drought stricken lakes?

The deluge of rain is helpful for San Diego, but not enough, according to Jason Foster of the County Water Authority. At Lake Morena, the water lines on the rocks show it’s still too shallow.

Rain makes up very little of the water in local lakes and reservoirs, Foster said.

“We use only about 6 percent of our local demands from local surface water that’s captured here,” he said.

The find the more critical water supply is north of San Diego, in the Northern Sierra Region, which has seen 142 percent of its normal rain amount so far this season.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The snowfall there has been less than half of what’s normal.

“Some of the early storms that came through were really warm weather storms,” Foster said. “So we didn’t get a lot of snowpack out of it. And the snowpack really is this reservoir for California that melts off in a nice, regular pace that helps us get through the hot summer months.”

While every storm counts, it’s still an uphill climb out of the state’s drought.

“A couple of wet weeks isn’t going to do it,” Foster said. “We need a full wet winter to full break us out of this cycle.”

<![CDATA[ER Visits, Flu Cases on Rise in San Diego County]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:12:18 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/159308670-1200.jpg

Emergency Department visits are on the rise this week, as our cases of influenza in San Diego County, health officials said Wednesday.

The percentage of hospital emergency room visits for influenza-like illnesses was 4 percent, compared to 3 percent the previous week, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

Similarly, the number of influenza cases this week was 79, up from 45 the previous week.

Influenza this winter is spreading and sickening San Diegans at a faster rate than last year’s flu season: there have been 263 confirmed cases to date, more than double last year’s number.

Local health officials say it’s not too late to get vaccinated, as the flu season usually stretches into March or April.

Health officials also have these recommendations for avoiding sickness:

  • Wash your hands often and well
  • Use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid sick people
  • Clean commonly touched surfaces
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home if you are sick to prevent the spread

For a list of places to get a flu shot, visit the San Diego Immunization Program’s website.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego Set to Break Tourism Record]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:24:57 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/San-Diego-Skyline-Feb-2014.jpg

America’s Finest City is set to have its biggest year in tourism yet.

By the end of 2014, the city will have brought in more than 33 million visitors that will have spent more than $9 billion combined in the city, according to a report released by the San Diego Tourism Authority.

“This was a blockbuster of a year for tourism,” Rod LaBranche, board chairman of the San Diego Tourism Authority, responsible for marketing San Diego as a travel destination, said in a press release. “This demonstrates that a sustained marketing effort is enormously effective in attracting visitors to our region, which is essential for San Diego’s economy.”

The year will be the city’s best on record, with more than 16.2 million hotel room nights sold and $244 million accrued from a hotel transient occupancy tax revenue. Visitors will have spent $9.2 million while in the city.

The surge was in large part spurred by a $13 million multi-platform marketing campaign and several promotional initiatives aimed at bringing new visitors into the region.

The campaign worked to draw in new tourists from China and Mexico and marketing the city as a visitor destination in addition to their work with other overseas marketing efforts. The SDTA also produced a series of videos from neighborhoods within the county and a new digital campaign.

In 2015, the SDTA plans to launch a brand-new marketing campaign that will debut in February and a documentary produced by National Geographic highlighting San Diego as one of their “World’s Smartest Cities,” as well as other new initiatives.

<![CDATA[Storm Brings Season's First Snow to Mt. Laguna]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:00:52 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/snow+on+roof+mt+laguna.jpg

A storm system moved through San Diego County Wednesday, causing headaches on the morning commute and bringing the first snow of the season to the mountains.

Rain-related crashes caused delays on freeways across the county. There were 105 accidents between midnight and 8 a.m., according to the California Highway Patrol. CHP says there are 50 to 75 during that time period on a typical day.

The mood was lighter on Mount Laguna, which received its first significant snowfall this winter. Just under an inch of snow fell, but it was enough to attract visitors.

“We heard that it snowed in Mt. Laguna, so we wanted to come up and hit each other with snowballs,” said El Cajon resident Matthew Hanington.

“Just being able to come out and experience the snow for Christmas, a white Christmas, it’s very fascinating,” Hanington added.

NBC 7’s Whitney Southwick says Mount Laguna could get another inch of snow in the next 24 hours, but it won’t last for Christmas because a warmup is on the way.

A Winter Weather Advisory is effect for Cuyamaca, Mount Laguna and Ranchita through 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Laguna Mountain Sports owner Dave Super hopes Wednesday’s snowfall is the first of many. His business depends on seasonal customers.

“Hopefully we’re going to get a real winter this year,” Super said.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Snow Dusts San Diego Mountains]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:15:54 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/julian+snow+1217+%281%29.jpg Just under an inch of snow fell on San Diego County mountains as a winter storm moved in the week before Christmas.

Photo Credit: Laguna Mountain Lodge]]>
<![CDATA[Site Acquired for New Imperial Beach Hotel]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 13:10:08 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Sunbathing-beach-generic-14.jpg

Imperial Beach Resort LLC has purchased an Imperial Beach parcel for $5.5 million, with plans to develop a 79-room boutique hotel, according to brokerage company Lee & Associates, which handled the transaction.

The seller of the 37,800-square-foot site, at 1046 Seacoast Drive, was William R. Mundt Trust, and the deal was brokered by Lee & Associates’ Richard Murdock.

The city of Imperial Beach has approved plans for a 79-room hotel at the site, with 115 underground parking spaces and 10,000 square feet of meeting and restaurant space. An apartment complex currently occupies the property and will be replaced by the hotel.


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<![CDATA[New Restaurants Open at Lindbergh Field]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:06:42 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Lindbergh-Field-2014.jpg

Travelers flying home over the holidays will be able to enjoy two new restaurants opening up in San Diego International Airport.

Terminal 1 will see a new Jack in the Box and Pacifica Breeze Café join 13 existing restaurants at the gateway as a part of San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s comprehensive Concessions Development Program.

Both dining options will open at pre-security locations, joining several other restaurants available for travelers with a case of the munchies.

A celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony were held Wednesday with airport staff, officials and media.

The airport has been undergoing a series of upgrades to their facilities in recent years, which has included adding its first-ever meditation room post-security in Terminal 2.

Many of the expansions in the past several years have been part of The Green Build, a $1 billion project set to expand Terminal 2 with 10 new gates, a duel-level roadway and additional parking and security lanes. The improvements include more concession stands and dining options.

The airport was also the first to become the first airport in the nation to have a formal sustainability policy where tons of food is recycled each month, including a quarter of coffee grounds.

Lindbergh Field was recently ranked one of the least-frustrating airports in the nation.

<![CDATA[Wheelchair Store Robbed at Gunpoint]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:49:15 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SDPDPic0709_1200x675_300606531741.jpg

A man robbed a wheelchair store in Miramar at gunpoint late Tuesday night, police said.

Shortly after 8:30 p.m., a man came into Living Spinal at the 7300 block of Trade Street armed with a handgun and made an unknown demand, police said.

Police said the suspect was described as a 25-year-old man approximately 160 pounds and 6-feet tall wearing a dark baseball cap, dark blue long-sleeved shirt and blue jeans.

He was last seen leaving Living Spinal with an undetermined loss.

The Miramar-area business that sells wheelchairs, wheelchair accessories and medical equipment for wheelchairs and those confined to wheelchairs.

Approximately an hour later, a separate armed robbery occurred when two adult men robbed the La Jolla Village Lodge at gunpoint. They entered, made a demand to the clerk and were seen leaving with an undisclosed loss, possibly in a light colored vehicle.

San Diego Police Robbery Detectives are investigating both incidents.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[High-Speed Chase Ends in Crash]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 18:41:16 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Pursuit1+copy.jpg

A man and a woman were taken into custody after leading officers on a chase through San Diego that reached speeds of 100 mph.

The pursuit started around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Midway District, according to San Diego Police. Aerial pictures showed the white sedan racing across eastbound Interstate 8 and southbound Interstate 805 with officers trailing close behind.

The car exited the freeway at National Avenue in Southcrest, running stop sign after stop sign in a residential neighborhood.

The pursuit ended around 9:45 a.m. when the suspects' sedan crashed into a parked car at National Avenue and 40th Street. The man and the woman were taken into custody without incident, though the crash did spark a car fire. 

The man was wanted on a felony warrant, according to police. Police say another suspect got out of the car when the chase first started in Midway and is still on the loose.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

<![CDATA[6 People Injured in Oceanside Fire]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 21:26:43 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Oceanside+Fire.jpg

Half a dozen people, including a police officer and a child, were injured late Tuesday night after a fire at an Oceanside apartment building, police said.

The fire at Briarcrest Apartments happened shortly before 10:30 p.m. at the 3900 block of Waring Road.

Before officers got to the fire, a mother safely dropped her three-year-old son from a second floor balcony to a Good Samaritan below, Oceanside Police said. That Good Samaritan, a neighbor, helped the mother out of the apartment after catching her son.

Officers arrived to find heavy smoke billowing from inside the apartment, where officers were told that people were still inside. Once the officer entered the apartment, he dragged an unconscious person lying on the floor out of the building.

Once he was out, the officer was nearly overcome by smoke inhalation. He handed his flashlight to Jonathon Alvarez, a neighbor. Alvarez looked inside to find another unconscious person still inside. Alvarez helped the officer pull out another unconscious victim from the apartment.

The two elderly people trapped inside the apartment were both unconscious and in critical condition. They were airlifted to the UC San Diego Medical Center Burn Center. The mother and her son were treated for smoke inhalation at the Tri-City Medical Center.

The officer was treated for smoke inhalation at a hospital and was under observation until Wednesday morning. Another person, a Good Samaritan assisting the officer, was also injured and treated.

The Oceanside Police Department has said they will honor the seven-year police veteran and the Good Samaritan that helped save the lives of residents.

All of this may have started because of a cigarette, police said.

The fire progression was stopped once firefighters worked on scene and the fire did not spread to other apartments or to the attic of the building.