<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - San Diego News]]> Copyright 2015 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 Sun, 24 May 2015 06:32:31 -0700 Sun, 24 May 2015 06:32:31 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Padres Nearly No-Hit By Dodgers]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 22:27:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*123/GettyImages-474571428.jpg

Before Saturday night's game against the Dodgers in L.A., Padres manager Bud Black tweaked his lineup again. He put Will Middlebrooks at shortstop and juggled the batting order, admitted the team needed to try and generate some offense.

This particular configuration needs to never, ever happen again.

Yangervis Solarte led off the game with a single, then Dodgers starter Mike Bolsinger retired 24 straight hitters in a 2-0 Dodgers win.

Solarte was erased when Cory Spangenberg hit in to a double play in that first inning. Bolsinger only needed 92 pitches and struck out eight in his 8.0 near-perfect innings. When Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen threw a perfect 9th he ensured the L.A. pitching staff faced the minimum: 27 batters for 27 outs.

I really never thought I'd see the day I longed for the 2014 Padres offense, but that might actually be happening right now.

Padres starter Ian Kennedy was the tough-luck loser. He threw 6.0 innings and allowed only two runs. One of them came courtesy of a solo home run by Joc Pederson on a pitch that was up around his eyes.

The Padres fall to 20-24. They're in trouble of getting swept in L.A. On Sunday James Shields takes the mound against Carlos Frias.

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<![CDATA[50-Year-Old Falls 60 Feet From Cliff in Ocean Beach]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 20:47:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Cliff-Danger-Sign-Sunset-Cl.jpg

A 50-year-old woman is suffering from serious injuries after she fell from a cliffs at Sunset Cliffs, officials said. 

The woman was rescued by a helicopter off the coast of Ocean Beach after the 60 foot fall, said Lee Swanson with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. 

She is suffering from serious injuries but is conscious and breathing, he said, and talking with the rescue team. 

Her injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. 



Photo Credit: NBC 7 News]]>
<![CDATA[Shark Spottings a Sign of Healthy Population: Expert]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 20:17:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/WEB_OC_SHARK_ADVISORY-_VALLES_1200x675_449720899909.jpg

Recent shark sighting off the Southern California coastline have some residents worried as kick off the summer beach season Memorial Day weekend. 

From Santa Barbara down to San Diego and through to Baja Mexico, more than a dozen great white sharks have been spotted, some even 50 feet from the shore in Huntington Beach.

Mike Price, the assistant curator of fishes at SeaWorld San Diego, said those sharks are not looking for people.

“Throughout the summer...you might have an opportunity to see a juvenile white shark...it's exactly where they're supposed to be, it's where they want to be, it's where all their food sources are,” Price said.

The sharks are chasing sting rays and small fish, Price said, and the ones closer to the coast tend to be younger.

“I would always recommend avoiding large sharks from a safety point of view...they're big...they're strong and even though they may not see you as a meal...if they feel threatened...they might defend themselves,” Price said.

The sharks spotted so far have been juvenile sharks about five to seven feet long, feeding on fish and stingrays, experts say.

Beachgoers expressed concern about the recent sightings.

“If there’s baby great white sharks…there’s mommy great white sharks somewhere closeby,” said Holly Holguin.

She said the thought of sharks spotted off the coast disturbed her.

“It’s a little disconcerting,” she said.

Beachgoer Heather Williams said the sightings make her want to stay away from the water. 

Though the recent uptick in shark sightings may be alarming to some, Price says there is one upside.

“Shark populations around the world are in trouble so this could be potentially a bright spot if we are in fact seeing more and more juvenile white sharks along the coast,” he said.

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<![CDATA[Ramona High Star Leads Nation In Scoring]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 19:19:26 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*130/Ash+run+3.jpg

When you think of lacrosse, no one can blame you if your mind automatically wanders to the East Coast. But if you’re looking for the nation’s leading scorer in girl’s high school lacrosse, look no further than the north county.

Ramona High School varsity lacrosse player Ashley Wright didn’t just lead the nation in scoring, she dominated the competition. The 18-year old senior wrapped up her lacrosse career with 127 goals in 23 games this season. But she’s isn’t a selfish player. Wright finished second in the county for assists with 31 as well.

Leading the Bulldogs to their first ever CIF Championship game appearance (they lost 8-7 in overtime to Pacific Ridge), Wright set herself apart on the field not just with her scoring prowess but leadership capabilities.

“She’s like a coach on the field. She’s really, really knowledgeable about the game and plays club lacrosse in the off-season. She’s very generous about sharing that skill and that knowledge with the other girl’s,” said Head Girl’s Lacrosse Coach Jim Bliss.

Bliss started the varsity CIF lacrosse team in 2009 and credited Wright with motivating her teammates saying, “She’s very demanding of her teammates and herself. Herself first, but she’s demanding of the team and the girls in a very leader like of a way where she wants them to do well.”

Added Assistant Varsity Lacrosse coach Alexandra Cavell, “When I see Ashley and the position that she played and the diversity of her positioning and how she can play both attack, obviously she’s dynamite as a goal scorer, but she’s actually just as dynamite on the defensive side.”

You would think Wright would be swamped with full-ride scholarships to play lacrosse for various schools across the country. But like many Division 1 women’s athletics, full-ride lacrosse scholarships are rare. While she did receive offers from schools around the country Wright wanted to stay close to home and be able to graduate from college financially stable. So Wright is heading to California State University San Marcos to study Kinesiology. But her lacrosse days may not be entirely over.

“I actually want to ref in it or become a coach. I feel like I would really have a good time and enjoy helping others. I help the JV team, I help the younger girls. I feel as though it’s just my second nature,” said Wright.

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<![CDATA[More Oil-Soaked Animals Arrive at SeaWorld]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 19:04:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SeaWorld+Sea+Lion+Second+Oil.jpg

A sea lion and elephant seal sickened in the oil spill near Santa Barbara are being rescued and cared for by SeaWorld San Diego.

The animals arrived Friday to be treated by veterinary staff and professionals at the Oiled Wildlife Care Center. The animal were hurt at the Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara, where a broken oil pipe spilled about 105,000 gallons of oil into the ocean.

The condition of the animals is guarded as the team continues to how the oil has affected their health.

Dr. Todd Schmitt, a senior veterinarian at SeaWorld, said the female sea lion had oil covering much of her body and 50 percent of her head.

“When the van arrived, you could actually smell the fumes,” Schmitt said. “She was fairly alert and responsive, but you could tell she had a long day.”

This is the second sea lion and first elephant seal sickened by oil that’s come to SeaWorld San Diego, Schmitt said. The first sea lion treated by SeaWorld died Saturday.

Earlier this week, a team from the Oiled Wildlife Care Network set up at SeaWorld San Diego and washed and treated oil-soaked birds.



Photo Credit: Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Oil-Soaked Sea Lion Treated in SD Dies]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 22:32:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sea+lion+oil+spill.jpg

A sea lion sickened in the oil spill near Santa Barbara that was being rescued and cared for by SeaWorld San Diego has died. 

The male sea lion was driven to SeaWorld Thursday night to be treated by veterinary staff. The animal was hurt at the Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara, where a broken oil pipe spilled about 105,000 gallons of oil into the ocean.

The sea lion arrived in critical condition, said Kat Marin with SeaWorld San Diego, and died in the early hours of Saturday morning. 

The Rescue Team hydrated the animal, took a blood sample and started to wash the oil off. A necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.

Dr. Todd Schmitt, a senior veterinarian at SeaWorld, said the male sea lion had oil covering much of her body and 50 percent of her head.

“When the van arrived, you could actually smell the fumes,” Schmitt said. “He was fairly alert and responsive, but you could tell he had a long day.”

Oil can be damaging to sea lions in that it's irritating to their skin, restricts their ability to thermal regulate and can be toxic if ingested, veterinarians said.

That sea lion was the first sea lion sickened by oil that’s come to SeaWorld San Diego. SeaWorld San Diego has since received additional animals sickened by the oil spill and will be caring for them. 

Earlier this week, a team from the Oiled Wildlife Care Network set up at SeaWorld San Diego and washed and treated oil-soaked birds.



Photo Credit: SeaWorld San Diego
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<![CDATA[Is a Chargers Move To Los Angeles Legal?]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 18:39:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/172*120/GettyImages-457517872.jpg

For quite some time now, the Chargers have been laying the ground work for a move to Los Angeles if the team and the San Diego government cannot come to an agreement on a new stadium in either Mission Valley or Downtown.

Carson is calling. Inglewood could be, too. But one major issue could prove to be an obstacle too large to overcome: Moving a football team from San Diego to L.A. might not be legal.

Chargers fans are dedicated to keeping their beloved team in America’s Finest City, even if it means they have to sue the NFL to do it, and they have found someone willing to help them if necessary.

“The Chargers and the NFL are basically saying give us what we want or we’re going to move the team,” says former City Attorney Mike Aguirre. “That really is a violation of the anti-trust laws.”

San Diegans who have followed the last decade and a half of stadium wrangling may have memories of Aguirre being a thorn in the Chargers’ side. He says he’s always been pro-Chargers, that he’s learned from those days and sees a constructive way of moving forward.

“It’s easy to come across as being anti-Chargers,” says Aguirre. “That’s where you have to be super, super cautious to say this is not anti-Chargers, this is pro-keeping the Chargers here in San Diego.”

The meat of the idea comes from a few different places. One is the Sherman Act. Another is the anti-trust lawsuit a group of NFL players brought against the NFL during the 2011 Lockout. Another is Boltman.

“What we would like to do here is get support and feedback from the fans that this is the best option if the Chargers turn their backs on us,” said Dan Jauregui, better known to many by his alter-ego Boltman. “The beauty of all this is it is not coming from the Mayor’s office or the city or CSAG. It’s coming from the Charger fans. No political issues from the city.”

In a written statement entitled, Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures, Jauregui outlines the idea of bringing a lawsuit against the NFL:

“We strongly feel that if the Chargers continue to threaten our city and hold fans hostage after a fair and reasonable finance plan has been submitted, we will have no choice but to prepare to make our case in court under the laws that prohibit unfair competition. I have also prepared a “demand” letter to the city of San Diego, requesting they file an injunction against the NFL to protect the rights of San Diego fans by asserting the city’s rights under anti-trust law. This demand letter has not yet been served to the city. We have arrived at this point very reluctantly, but we believe as Americans we have the duty to assert our rights under the laws that require our markets to be kept open and free. The NFL cannot be allowed to use unlawful monopoly power to deprive us of what the fans have worked and sacrificed to make possible: a very successfully NFL team.”

It is extremely difficult to win an anti-trust case in America. If any current business knows that, it’s the National Football League.

“What’s great about this issue is the NFL has already lost,” says Aguirre. “So if the city were the raise it as a serious issue and really get behind it the hope would be the NFL would see the city is serious and force everybody in to a position of, Let’s try to work this thing out.”

The case most germane to the idea came about in 2011. A group of NFL players led by Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and a few others filed a class action suit against the NFL and its 32 member teams on anti-trust grounds. Their complaint read, in part:

“The NFL Defendants comprise the only major professional football league in the United States. Together, they monopolize and/or restrain trade in, and/or have combined and conspired to monopolize and/or restrain trade in the United State market for the services of major league professional football players.”

That phrase, restrain trade in, is one of the keys here. Section 1 of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act says, in part:

“Every contract … or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal …”

That’s the verbiage that could cause serious problems for the Chargers and the NFL if an attempt is made to move the team to the Los Angeles market. The NFL lost its case in 2011 (a decision “overwhelmingly” upheld by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals) and would face a similar argument in San Diego.

According to Aguirre, restraining trade is legal if it’s done under reasonable circumstances such as a financial hardship.

“Normally what you would say is, look we can’t make money there. We can’t make a go of it. We’re not making as much as we need to keep the team going,” says Aguirre. “None of that argument can be made. (The Chargers are) making plenty of money. They’re making more money than they’ve ever made.”

According to numbers from the statistical website www.statista.com the Chargers have seen an increase in revenue every season for the last 15 years. In fact, the team’s revenues reportedly doubled from $131 million in 2001 to $262 million in 2013.

NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman has even said, “We have a healthy business. We are not losing money. We have never said that.” As a fun side note, Grubman’s Twitter handle is @EricNFLMoney.

Another reason for relocating the Chargers, says Aguirre, is the possibility of giving the San Diego market another NFL franchise.

“There’s no way for them to leave under the circumstances of the NFL saying we won’t give you another team. If the NFL were to say well we’ll give you another them, that’s a different story. They’re basically exploiting the fact that the NFL controls the number of teams. If you restrain trade it’s OK if it’s reasonable. If a monopoly restrains trade, then that’s a much more difficult case to make.”

Once again, Grubman’s response to whether or not San Diego would get an expansion team was less than favorable. He told the San Diego Union-Tribune it’s a “low probability.”

So if the groundwork for the lawsuit is there, another big question is money. Attorney fees are not cheap so who pays for it? Although it could be a taxpayer lawsuit, the taxpayers could avoid footing the bill.

“The taxpayers would not pay the legal fees unless the city council decided to invest in it and do it themselves,” says Aguirre. “Then it would be a combination of the city attorney and outside counsel. It could be structured in a lot of different ways.”

Taking this approach could get messy, and would likely be used only in a worst-case scenario to help level the playing field against the financial superiority in Los Angeles.

“It would not be requiring the city of San Diego to try to match the economic abilities of a much larger market like Los Angeles,” says Aguirre. “That’s the idea, to use all the arsenal if necessary.”

Aguirre would likely not be involved in the actual litigation. He suggests the same attorneys who helped the NFL players in 2011 take the lead on a lawsuit.

So what would be the underlying motivation of such a drastic course of action? To force the Chargers and local government to work together and truly pull out all the stops to make a stadium deal in San Diego.

“We are only trying,” says Jauregui, ”to help keep the Chargers in San Diego.”

Boltman is simply to make sure the Chargers don’t bolt, man.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rolling Stones Concert: Where to Park, How to Get There]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 17:17:04 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/edtAP716261387051.jpg

The Rolling Stones kick off their 15-city North American tour Sunday in San Diego’s Petco Park but before fans can get that rock ‘n’ roll “Satisfaction,” they’ll have to drum up a plan for parking and getting to the downtown venue.

The show is sold out and a huge crowd is expected so concert attendees are encouraged to arrive downtown early. Petco Park reps said surrounding parking lots will open at 1 p.m. and the gates to the ballpark will open at 6 p.m. The opening act, musician Gary Clark Jr., will go on at 8 p.m.

Parking at lots adjacent to the ballpark is limited and is expected to sell out. Guests can pre-purchase reserved parking permits to guarantee themselves a spot in these lots via this website.

Outside of parking lots adjacent to Petco Park, there will be more than 2,500 parking spaces available at the Convention Center and Hilton Bayfront garages on Harbor Drive. To access these lots, driver should use the Front Street exit from southbound Interstate 5 or the Cesar Chavez Parkway exit from northbound I-5.

Now, for those who’d rather not plan for parking, public transportation is an option.

San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) will run an added special event trolley service on Sunday just for the concert. Park and Ride locations with free parking are located along trolley lines, including 5,000 free parking spots at Qualcomm Stadium.

All three trolley lines will provide direct service to Petco Park: the Green Line serves the Gaslamp Quarter Trolley Station just two blocks from the ballpark while the Blue Line and Orange Line both serve the 12th & Imperial Transit Center just steps away from Petco Park.

All three trolley lines will run extra post-concert service, with final departures approximately 45 minutes after the concert ends. MTS is also offering mobile ticketing to customers on their smartphones in an effort to speed up ticket lines and the boarding process.

For additional information and the full schedule, visit the MTS website.

Finally, North County Transit District (NCTD) Coaster trains with service to downtown will depart Oceanside at 1:50 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. on Sunday. The Coaster will also offer a special return northbound train leaving from Santa Fe Depot 60 minutes after The Rolling Stones concert ends. For additional info, visit the NCTD website.

In terms of security at the ballpark, Petco Park reps said the new security screening process implemented this year will be in effect. This means all attendees must be screened via metal detectors prior to entry.
An alternate method of screening will be provided for guests with strollers, guests in wheelchairs, and those with medical devices that set off metal detectors.

Guests are encouraged to arrive early to minimize potential wait times.

That’s it, “Wild Horses.” Enjoy the show.
 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[How Far Must You Go to Prevent DUIs?]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 16:33:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/DUI+Checkpoint1.jpg

The dangers of drinking and driving carry extra weight heading into this busy Memorial Day weekend after several recent deadly DUI crashes in San Diego ended with tragic consequences.

In some of these situations - we've learned about the extra efforts people made to try and stop the drivers before they got behind the wheel. It begs the question: how far would you go to prevent someone from drinking and driving?

First and foremost - obviously the responsibility lies with the person drinking and potentially driving - but what obligation do others have to prevent it and can they be held legally responsible?

NBC 7 asked locals how far they might go to try to stop a drunk driver.

“[For] friends and family, I’d go as far as I could to try and get those keys. But an individual I don’t know, I can’t necessarily get physical with them but do everything I can to try and stop it,” said one San Diego resident.

“I would stop them. I would try to retrain them and then contact security,” said one local woman.

Earlier this month, 21-year-old U.S. Marine Jason Riley King drove the wrong way on State Route 163 in Mission Valley, plowing his truck into a Prius packed with five people. The impact killed two UC San Diego medical students in the Prius, Anne Li Baldock, 24, and Madison Elizabeth Cornwell, 23.

According to prosecutors, King was having drinks with friends at the Mission Valley Hotel on the night of the deadly crash. Several people – including friends and even a bar manager – tried to stop King from leaving the bar and driving drunk that night.

But, sadly, those efforts were not enough to stop the tragedy.

Steve Lykins, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), encourages people to call 911 if they suspect a stranger is about to drink and drive.

“Certainly, I think we all have social responsibility,” said Lykins. “Can we make somebody do it. No.”

But, for friends, Lykins said the plan starts before the night begins.

"If you wait until you're out there and have something to drink and then decide how you're going to get home, you're going to make a bad call many of the times,” he said.

Still, telling a friend what to do in a situation like this can prove challenging, so having a plan in place can help.

"[There have been] a couple instances where I've had to take the keys while they're intoxicated,” said one San Diego resident. “It’s been harder. They definitely put up a fight, so I just don't want to go there, so usually we talk about it at the beginning of the evening.”

Meanwhile, the deputy district attorney investigating the SR-163 crash involving King said the DA’s office has never encountered a case where someone other than the DUI suspect is held criminally responsible.

It is a California misdemeanor for bartenders to serve habitual drunks or to anyone "obviously intoxicated,” but when we asked for the most recent stats on overserving violations we found just 32 last year for the entire state of California.

“We’ve also got an issue for staffing for ABC and there’s only so many people who can get involved in the investigation of these cases,” Lykins said.
Lykins hopes these horrible crashes don't go unnoticed, but the problem remains.

Early Friday morning CHP officers arrested a woman suspected of driving under the influence who had crashed her car twice before they finally caught up with her, preventing more damage and possible heartache.

Certain cities in San Diego County have a Social Host Ordinance, but these cases mostly apply to parents being held responsible for parties and underage drinking in their home.
 

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<![CDATA[Sig Alert Issued for Northbound Interstate 5 Near India Street]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 16:29:21 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Policelightsgeneric.jpg

A Sig Alert has been issued for an off-ramp on Interstate 5 after a vehicle overturned.

Northbound I-5 at India Street will be closed until further notice as crews work.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto]]>
<![CDATA[PI Believes Missing Couple May Have Crashed]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 14:47:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/missing-couple-valley-view.jpg

The search for a California couple missing since a trip to a casino on Mother’s Day trudged on Saturday, with a private investigator pursuing a theory that the couple may have been in a car accident.

Fullerton, Calif., residents Cecil "Paul" Knutson, 79 and Dianna Bedwell, 67, were last seen leaving Valley View Casino in north San Diego on May 10 at around 2 p.m. in their white 2014 Hyundai Sonata.

They have not been heard from in nearly two weeks, despite several searches by family members and officials and an investigation by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Now, the couple’s family has hired Bill Garcia, a private investigator to work on the case.
Garcia said he believes the couple may have been involved in a car accident and their wreckage wound up in an area that’s difficult to see or access.

“I believe it’s likely a case that they may have gone off the road,” Garcia said.

On Saturday, Garcia and a local volunteer continued searching for the couple amid the rough terrain in the Valley Center area near State Route 76 leading to Valley View and Pala casinos.

Though the task has proven difficult, it’s one that Garcia is willing to undertake.

“There are things that the common person wouldn’t know to look for, that we do,” he explained. “At this time of the year the undergrowth has a lot of rebound so a vehicle could go right into a bush and you’ll never know it’s there.”

At this point, the search may seem futile to some, but Garcia believes it must continue.

“The bottom line is, these folks need to be found and brought home, and that’s what I’m trying to help the family do,” he said.

According to sheriff’s department investigators, the couple’s last cellphone signal was recorded 10 miles away from Valley View Casino near the Interstate 15 on-ramp and Deer Springs Road on the day they disappeared.

Images captured on a surveillance camera showed the couple leaving the casino just before 2 p.m. on May 10.

After their day trip to the casino the couple was supposed to travel to their son’s home in La Quinta to celebrate Mother’s Day.

When hours passed and they did not arrive, their son, Robert Acosta, called the authorities.
Knutson and Bedwell are both diabetic and dependent on insulin. Their vehicle has the California license plate 7EHE981.

Anyone with information on the couple’s whereabouts is urged to call the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department at (858) 565-5200.

Earlier this week, volunteers with Team Amber Rescue said their group had walked and driven various routes in search of the couple, scouring everywhere between Indio and Borrego to no avail.
The volunteers said they hoped to get wall-sized maps so they could begin targeting even more search areas.

Meanwhile, Jan Caldwell with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said the Search and Rescue (SAR) team from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department searched areas this week
where officials believe the missing couple could have crashed.

“Although it was a very thorough search, it yielded no results. We also spent time in San Diego County search - again, to no avail,” Caldwell told NBC 7. “It’s an odd [case] – no doubt.”



Photo Credit: ]]>
<![CDATA[Jack-Knifed Semi Blocks Traffic on SR-67 ]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 14:18:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/071312+detour+sign+generic.jpg

Officials issued a Sig Alert on State Route 67 between Scripps Poway Parkway and Poway Road Saturday after a jack-knifed semi-truck blocked several lanes along the freeway.

California Highway Patrol said the semi-truck began blocking northbound and southbound lanes on SR-67 at around 1:25 p.m. By 1:48 p.m., a Sig Alert was in effect in both directions as officials worked to clear the roadway.

CHP set up detours for drivers in the area.

Further details were not immediately released. Check back for updates on this developing story.
 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Car Slams into Light Pole, Knocks it Over]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 12:51:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sdpd-badge_1200x675_402098243860.jpg

Traffic in Pacific Beach is backed up after a driver hit a light pole, police said.

The incident happened around 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the 1600 block of Las Altos Road in Pacific Beach.

The driver suffered minor injuries.

A light pole was blocking the street as of 11:54 a.m. and an officer was on scene at 12:29 a.m., working to direct traffic.

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<![CDATA[ Camera Installed at Park Plagued by Razor Blades]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 14:17:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Bonita-Cove-0523.JPG

A new security camera and light has been installed at a popular San Diego park that has been targeted for nearly two years by someone purposely planting razor blades in the grass near play areas, police confirmed.

San Diego Police Department Lt. Scott Wahl said a camera was installed at Bonita Cove Park last month as a security measure.

He said the camera is easy to spot at the park and police are hoping this will deter the suspect or suspects responsible for intentionally planting razor blades there.

The razor blade problem at Bonita Cove Park has been happening since August 2013. Often times, the razor blades are left facing upward in areas where children and parents play.

In one case in April 2014, two boys were cut by razor blades while playing in the grass. When police combed the area, they discovered nearly 20 razor blades scattered about the park.

In January 2015, six razor blades were found in Bonita Cove Park. They appeared to be brand new and were found with the sharp sides facing upwards.

Following that incident, San Diego County Crime Stoppers and the Mission Beach Women's Club (MBWC) announced they were offering a combined $2,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

To date, no arrests have been made.

Police have said this case is difficult to investigate because the incidents are often spread out, with months between each.

Investigators are relying on the public to help keep tabs on this case. Anyone with information about the razor blade incidents at the park should call Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.



Photo Credit: Liberty Zabala
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<![CDATA[Padres Have No Room For Error]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 23:52:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/174*120/GettyImages-474442564.jpg

This has now taken on the look, feel and frustration of 2014. The Padres lost to the Dodgers 2-1 on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

Entering the game at the Padres and Dodgers had not scored a run in a combined 45 straight innings. You almost have to the trying to be that bad offensively, but these two clubs had pulled it off.

With Andrew Cashner and Zack Greinke on the mound, not much changed in game one of the 3-game weekend series. Cashner and Greinke both threw well enough to win but neither man did.

Cashner tossed 6.0 innings, allowing one unearned run and striking out three. Greinke threw 7.2 innings, giving up one run on a Will Venable single that scored Derek Norris. Both Cashner and Greinke took a no-decision.

With the game tied 1-1 and extra innings looming, Padres 8th inning specialist Joaquin Benoit gave up a long home run to Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson. L.A.'s only earned run of the night turned out to be the game-winner.

San Diego falls in to 4th place in the National League West. At 20-23 they're 6.0 games behind the first-place Dodgers.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Staffer Logged 2K Miles Driving Supervisor]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 10:17:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dave+roberts+2.JPG

Mileage reports from embattled San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts’ office show a staffer tasked with driving Roberts to events logged 2,096 miles on his personal vehicle between July 2014 and April 2015.

Policy Adviser Harold Meza asked for reimbursements for those miles, stating on the reports that the purpose of the trips was mostly to drive Roberts to various events.

Questions over Roberts’ transportation were raised when a former staffer alleged the supervisor is double-dipping into the county’s car funds, using a county-provided vehicle or those of his staffers’ while also accepting a $1,000 per month allowance for his personal car.

The supervisor’s staff also logged more than 15,000 miles on the county-owned vehicle assigned to Roberts’ office in 2014 and 2015, according to records released to NBC7 Investigates through the California Public Records Act.

County policy about the car allowance states: “Such allowance shall be in lieu of all transportation charges or use of County provided vehicle by such eligible employee for motor vehicle travel within San Diego County in the performance of official duties.”

Meza’s mileage reports show he routinely picked Roberts up at the supervisor’s home and drove him to various events such as Lion’s Club meetings, the National Federation of Filipino Association Gala, the American Lung Association Lung Force Walk Kick-off and the San Diego Latino Jewish Coalition Breakfast.

On Oct. 26, 2014, for example, Meza picked Roberts up from the San Diego Airport and transported him to the Marriott hotel on Rio Drive for the Gala of the San Diego Filipino American Humanitarian Foundation, the records state.

Meza then took Roberts from the gala to his home, detailing on the reports that the purpose of the trip was to “drop Dave off.”

On another occasion -- last November -- Meza logged leaving the Sheraton hotel in Carlsbad and driving to Roberts’ home. The stated taxpayer-funded purpose of that car trip was to “drop Dave off,” according to the report.

In her claim filed against the county, former scheduler Diane Porter said she didn’t think it was a proper use of taxpayer money.

“You’re paying him to drive, but you’re getting money for your car because you’re supposed to be using your car … that’s not right,” Porter said

Staffers also complained in the claims in interviews with NBC7 Investigates that Meza’s sole job duty was to drive Roberts around -- an accusation Roberts’ spokesman adamantly denies.

“He served as a policy advisor and a community representative,” spokesman Gary Gartner said at a news conference Thursday. “Some media outlets have unfairly categorized him as a driver and chauffer. A chauffer is somebody who takes you to an event, drops you off, and then waits for you and takes you to the next event. What the aides to the supervisor, including Harold and other aides have done is they take the supervisor to the event, they staff the supervisor. When people have constituent problems or complaints, or issues, they take notes on the back of the business card and then they follow up with that constituent or person. That’s part of the job.”

“In Harold’s case, because he speaks Spanish so eloquently, he served as a Spanish-language translator for media interviews as well as for constituents who spoke Spanish. It was also his responsibility to figure out a route to get the supervisor to meetings,” Gartner said.

On Nov. 10, Meza’s mileage reports state he picked Roberts up at his house and transported him to a destination identified as “work.” He billed 20 miles for that trip.

On a day in October, he made eight trips with Roberts, logging 106 miles.

A spokesman for the county said the agency reimburses mileage at the standard IRS rate, which would mean Meza applied for about $1,205 in reimbursements for those 2014 and 2015 trips.

Roberts’ spokesman Gartner said county officials forgot to give Roberts a form for him to sign that had all the information about the car allowance.

Gartner said Roberts was aware he was receiving the $1,000-a-month stipend on top of his $147,000 annual salary, “but he was not given the proper forms to sign that actually stated that.”

Gartner said it is not considered misuse of the car benefit.

“Supervisor Roberts also drove himself some of the time to meetings,” Gartner said. “He was not taken all of the time by people. I would say 10 to 15 percent of the time, if it was something close by to his home in Solana Beach, or Del Mar, and someone wasn’t available on his staff, he would take himself to those meetings.”

NBC7 surveyed the other four county supervisors who all said they also accept the car allowance. Supervisors Bill Horn, Ron Roberts, Greg Cox and Dianne Jacob said they rarely, if ever, go to events in any vehicle other than their own personal car.

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<![CDATA[Ex-Housing Manager Investigated at Taxpayer-Funded Facility: SDPD]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 13:19:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/hotel_sanford_1200x675_449730627896.jpg

The former manager of a taxpayer funded affordable housing complex in San Diego is the subject of an embezzlement investigation, according to the San Diego Police Department.

Royal Property Management (RPM) lost the property management contract at Hotel Sandford this month after the San Diego Housing Commission and SDPD were alerted to possible cases of embezzlement at the complex. RPM was awarded the property management contract last October by the San Diego Housing Commission.

The San Diego Housing Commission is in charge of overseeing the building’s operations on behalf of the City of San Diego, which owns the 130-room complex located downtown. In 2010 the city bought the former hotel and converted the building into housing units for seniors.

The Commission is governed by the San Diego Housing Authority, an administrative body that includes all nine San Diego City Council members.

The owners of RPM said they hired Michael Shew to run the day-to-day operations of the housing complex when they were awarded the property management contract. According to the owners, when they first took control of the housing complex, the converted hotel, built in 1914, was in poor condition after a fire on the building’s third floor last year brought not only fire but flooding damage to the building.

RPM’s owners said the company and Shew fixed all of this; they even added a computer center for seniors living at the complex. According to them, everything was going smoothly, until last month. That is when, they say, they were first alerted that rent checks, made payable to the Hotel Sandford, were not being cashed into the hotel’s accounts.

When RPM brought this to the attention of Shew, the owners said, he submitted his resignation the next day, citing personal health issues.

The owners said they then alerted the San Diego Housing Commission and handed over all of Hotel Sandford’s financial records to Commission members. RPM owners also said, after they learned of the problems with the rent checks, they filed a police report with the SDPD’s Economic Crimes Division.

SDPD Spokesman, Lt. Scott Wahl, confirmed to NBC 7 Investigates an investigation into Shew is ongoing but could not comment further because it is in the preliminary stages.

At this time, no charges have been filed against Michael Shew or RPM’s owners.

NBC 7 Investigates reached out to Shew via email. He responded Friday night, writing "This is certainly interesting news and the first I have heard of it. Clearly I will offer no comment at this time until speak with an attorney."

RPM owners told NBC 7 Investigates they hope the actions of one person will not impact the years of hard work they dedicated to Hotel Sandford’s residents and other San Diegans living at their facilities. RPM manages rental properties across the county from Escondido to downtown.

NBC 7 Investigates learned the San Diego Housing Commission began an internal audit of Hotel Sandford’s records in April.

RPM was removed from managing the Hotel Sandford in early May. Residents at the complex told NBC 7 Investigates they received a written notice in the mail on May 7. It said the San Diego Housing Commission would be taking over management duties until further notice.

Sanford’s residents say they’ve noticed the recent management change and rarely see Housing Commission management on site.

NBC 7 Investigates reached out to the San Diego Housing Commission regarding the recent change in management and the preliminary results of the internal audit performed last month.

In response to these questions, the Housing Commission’s Senior Vice President of Communications Maria Velasquez said in an email, “the Hotel Sandford is now under the management of the San Diego Housing Commission. At this time, we can only confirm that we are conducting an operational and fiscal audit of the project and its operation."

We reached out to all nine city council members about the Hotel Sandford audit and investigation.

In an email to NBC 7 Investigates, Councilmember Lorie Zapf said she was unaware of the pending investigation but is concerned with the allegations. Councilmember Marti Emerald said she plans on meeting with the Housing Commission and SDPD to get more details about the investigation. All other councilmembers who responded said they were unaware of the investigation and unable to comment on it at this time. Council President Sherri Lightner and Councilmember Myrtle Cole have yet to respond.

NBC 7 Investigates is working for you. If you have more information about this or other story tips, contact us: (619) 578-0393, NBC7Investigates@nbcuni.com. To receive the latest NBC 7 Investigates stories subscribe to our newsletter.

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<![CDATA[Are There Any Chargers Fans In Los Angeles?]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 21:40:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/166*120/Floyd+TD.jpg

A lot of people are asking if the Chargers will move to Los Angeles. Very few people are asking the more important question:

SHOULD the Chargers move to Los Angeles?

They would have to be competing with, in all likelihood, another NFL franchise there, and probably one with a history in the area.

Plus you have the Dodgers, Angels, Kings, Ducks, Clippers, Lakers, USC, UCLA, Galaxy, Hollywood, Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knott's Berry Farm ... the list goes on and on.

The question of whether or not the Chargers would be able to survive against all that is a valid one. At Monday's CSAG announcement of their stadium financing proposal, former Chargers center Nick Hardwick, who has become an outspoken supporter of keeping the Bolts in San Diego, summed up the fan base dilemma perfectly.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[More Parents Concerned About School After Abuse Claim]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 21:13:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Rory6p0522_1200x675_449711683873.jpg After NBC 7 reported a first grader was allegedly fondled in a Green Elementary School bathroom by other students, more parents are coming forward with concerns. NBC 7's Rory Devine reports. ]]> <![CDATA[City-County Stadium Team Plots Bargaining With Bolts]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 20:39:08 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CITY_STADIUM_PLAN_PKG-GENE_CUBBISON_1200x675_449640515862.jpg

NBC 7's Gene Cubbison has this analysis about the developments behind the Chargers stadium scramble.

The Chargers may hold heavy leverage in upcoming stadium talks with the city and county.

But smart card-playing by the public sector’s outside negotiators might serve to to boost the team’s antes and call its bluffs.

Mayor Faulconer’s nine-member Citizens Stadium Advisory Group set the bargaining table while enduring four months of carping from critics -- shelling out upwards of $40,000 from their own bank accounts for expenses, to spare the taxpayers.

"I mean, they were under the gun,” said San Diego Union-Tribune sports columnist Nick Canepa, “and they came through with something. Now is it perfect? No. Are the Chargers going to accept this plan? Not a chance -- I mean, not a chance!"

There's still no official response from "Chargers Park" to the city's proposal for a new stadium.

It's not even clear whether team president Dean Spanos himself has read the financing plan.

He's got high-priced talent to vet the numbers and recommend bargaining strategy.

But at City Hall, at County Center, and in other influential quarters around town, spines seem to be growing – and abject terror over the prospect of losing the Chargers diminishing.

There’s a strong feeling about the franchise needing to put up more money than it's offered in the past.

"We can't have a plan where the Chargers aren't putting in their fair share,” said CSAG spokesman Tony Manolatos. “So we put them down for $300 million. Twelve years ago, when they introduced a plan, they put themselves down for $200 million. Costs have gone up astronomically since then."

Will that – and having the team paying $10 million a year in rent over 30 years, after a decade of paying none at Qualcomm Stadium -- wind up being a deal killer?

“If they want to leave, why don't they just go?” Canepa asked, rhetorically, during a Friday recording session for Sunday edition of NBC 7’s “Politically Speaking” public affairs program. “I mean, why put everybody through all this?"

Especially the most fanatic Bolts backers in the team’s fickle, fair-weather fan base?

Non-sports types who see the Chargers leaving as good riddance?

And -- before billionaires reap public subsidies and bigger profits -- the 'middle ground' of San Diegans who like their NFL football, but also want solid infrastructure and adequate public services?

“In the end it's going to be a question, can you tell people that it's a modest investment that brings the community together to create cohesion?" National University economist Erik Bruvold predicted during the PolSpeak recording session.

Sportswriter/broadcaster Annie Heilbrunn offered this bold sizeup: "I know the financing is a big issue. I honestly think they can work through the financing. What they can't work through are these timelines."

Meaning, environmental reports on redeveloping the stadium site, re-zonings, land use "entitlements," whatever electioneering needs to be done.

And what about the Bolts' parallel stadium track in Carson, which informed NBC 7 sources are convinced is a serious player in the scheme of things -- not just bargaining leverage, and farther along in the league's mind that the Inglewood bid that's stampeded this whole crisis?

"We have to tough up,” San Diego CityBeat editor Ron Donoho said in an interview Friday. “If the Chargers have already decided that they're going to move, then there's really nothing we can do. But it we do tough up, that's the only way that this stadium plan will pass a public vote in San Diego.

To hammer home the point, Donoho added: "There's a lot of risk in going to L.A. And granted, there may be much more reward. But there's no reason the city of San Diego should not play hardball."

Negotiators are due at the bargaining table on June 1.

The half-hour discussion on "Politically Speaking" airs at 5 p.m. Sunday.

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<![CDATA[Plane Recovery Underway in SD Bay]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 21:44:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/navy+plane+into+bay+night.JPG Navy crews are using a crane to lift a military plane from the San Diego Bay after it slid off the runway on May 22, 2015. ]]> <![CDATA[Supervisor Roberts Hires Outside PR Firm With County Funds]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 10:18:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dave+roberts1.JPG

San Diego County residents are paying for an outside public relations consultant to write press releases, assist with communications and identify press opportunities for San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts' office, according to county documents obtained by NBC 7 Investigates.

Roberts also has a communications staffer on his county payroll and has recently hired a campaign-funded crisis communications expert.

Marketing and communications professional Lisa MacLarty has been working with Roberts' office since March, according to a contract obtained by NBC 7 Investigates through the state public records act.

MacLarty referred questions about the contract to Roberts’ office. A spokesperson for his office told NBC 7 Investigates they did not have a comment on the public relations contract.

MacLarty has a $6,000 contract for a three-month period with the supervisor. Invoices for the PR work were not immediately available.

Roberts has been under fire this month after accusations from former staffers were made public about alleged abuse of public funds and unfair treatment of employees.

In a claim filed against the county last week, former scheduler Diane Porter accuses Roberts of misusing public funds, carrying on an inappropriate relationship with 26-year-old staffer Harold Meza and retaliating against those who objected.

Through a spokesman and in written communication, Roberts has denied those allegations.

Roberts' spokesman Gary Gartner, a crisis communication expert, said Roberts’ former chief-of-staff Glynnis Vaughan authorized the PR contract with MacLarty.

Vaughan filed a claim Thursday against the county about the supervisor and the workplace environment in Roberts' office.

Vaughan’s attorney said the contract is between MacLarty and the county.

“MacLarty was hired through the county through a legitimate procurement process,” said attorney Lynne Lasry. “My client didn’t authorize the contract because she has no authority to authorize it. The County does that."

In Vaughan’s claim, she alleges the supervisor’s office attempted to pay for an additional consultant through nefarious means. Vaughan described how she uncovered a deal Roberts made with a n Arizona consulting which had provided services to his office for two years – a deal, she said, that was “never properly authorized by the County of San Diego.”

According to Vaughan's complaint, that Arizona-based consulting firm said it was owed $28,900 for its work.

NBC 7 Investigates surveyed the other four county supervisors to find out if any had outside PR consultants paid with taxpayer dollars.

Staff in Supervisors Dianne Jacob, Greg Cox and Ron Roberts’ offices all said there were no outside communications consultants working for their offices. Supervisor Bill Horn’s office did not answer.

MacLarty recently sent a news release about a speaking engagement at Mira Costa Community College in which Roberts was to talk about the role of a county supervisor. That event was scheduled for Friday but Roberts cancelled the event at the last minute.

Members of the public still showed up for the event. Some said they were disappointed because they wanted to tell him they still support him.

“I have known Supervisor Dave Roberts for more than 15 years,” District 3 resident Mary Jane Boyd said. “I know him to be a person of the highest integrity and I know absolutely that he has not done anything improper or unethical.”

NBC 7 Investigates is working for you. If you have more information about this or other story tips, contact us: (619) 578-0393, NBC7Investigates@nbcuni.com. To receive the latest NBC 7 Investigates stories subscribe to our newsletter.
 


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<![CDATA[Goodwill Boasts Rare Treasures]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 18:58:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Bob4p0522_1200x675_449622595728.jpg You might be surprised by how much high-end jewelry ends up at San Diego thrift stores. NBC 7’s Consumer Bob shares some surprising deals.]]> <![CDATA[Pilot Ejects When Plane Runs Into Bay]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 13:24:45 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP431552280467.jpg

A military plane has gone off the runway at Naval Air Station North Island into the San Diego Bay, officials confirmed Friday.

A Navy pilot, flying in a T-45C aircraft, overshot the runway while landing during a training exercise at 2 p.m. (5 p.m. ET) a Navy spokesman said.

The pilot was able to eject from the aircraft before it ran into the water. According to Harbor Police, a civilian boater pulled the crew member out of the water.

After being evaluated at UC San Diego Medical Center, the pilot was released and is in stable condition, Navy officials said. When a pilot ejects from a plane, Lt. Reagan Lauritzen told NBC 7 that he or she must have more thorough medical evaluations than a standard checkup.

According to Naval Air Forces, the pilot was training to undergo aircraft carrier landing qualifications before the crash.

The T-45C plane, assigned to Training Squadron 9 in Mississippi, is a two-seat jet used specifically for Navy training. The $17 million aircraft is made by Boeing and BAE Systems, according to a Naval technology website.

The incident happened off the Coronado base's runway 29, near downtown San Diego. For hours, the aircraft sat floating in shallow water against a sea wall.

By Friday evening, crews stationed a crane on the shore and hooked lines underneath the submerged aircraft. They were able to hoist it onto land as night started to fall.

While most of the plane appears intact, the canopy did fly off.

The crash grabbed witness Sean Brady's attention when he heard a large boom.

"So we came around the corner and looked outside and I saw a parachute landing in the water," he said.

His first thoughts went to the pilot. "It was good to see the parachute, and you're just hoping he's OK," said Brady.

The Naval Air Forces said a safety investigation has been launched to find out why the pilot went off the runway.

In 2004, the base experienced a similar crash when an F-18 pilot was unable to stop the jet and rolled it past the airfield, into the bay. According to the U-T San Diego, the pilot was pulled from the water unhurt.

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<![CDATA[Oil-Soaked Sea Lion Rescued by SeaWorld San Diego]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 14:08:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sea+lion+oil+spill.jpg

A sea lion sickened in the oil spill near Santa Barbara is being rescued and cared for by SeaWorld San Diego.

The sea lion was driven to SeaWorld Thursday night to be treated by veterinary staff. The animal was hurt at the Refugio State Beach near Santa Barbara, where a broken oil pipe spilled about 105,000 gallons of oil into the ocean.

Dr. Todd Schmitt, a senior veterinarian at SeaWorld, said the female sea lion had oil covering much of her body and 50 percent of her head.

“When the van arrived, you could actually smell the fumes,” Schmitt said. “She was fairly alert and responsive, but you could tell she had a long day.”

Schmitt said the sea lion’s prognosis is guarded, as staffers are still monitoring how the oil has affected the animal’s health.

Oil can be damaging to sea lions in that it's irritating to their skin, restricts their ability to thermal regulate and can be toxic if ingested, veterinarians said.

This is the first sea lion sickened by oil that’s come to SeaWorld San Diego, Schmitt said.

Earlier this week, a team from the Oiled Wildlife Care Network set up at SeaWorld San Diego and washed and treated oil-soaked birds.

The sea lion will undergo a similar treatment, which Schmitt describes as “wash, clean and stabilize.”



Photo Credit: SeaWorld San Diego
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<![CDATA[Man, 80, Killed in Mission Bay Crash]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 15:46:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/MB-Ax-0522-2.jpg

An 80-year-old man was killed Friday after he drove his car approximately 40 feet off the roadway into an embankment the Mission Bay area and plowed into several palm trees, officials confirmed.

The crash happened just before 12:30 p.m. in the 1200 block of SeaWorld Drive near Interstate 5. Police said the elderly man was driving his 1996 Jaguar eastbound when he came to a bend in the roadway, lost control and drove straight into westbound lanes. The driver's car then drove down an embankment and hit several palm trees.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene just before 1 p.m.

Aerial footage of the scene showed the car came to rest between several palm trees. At least two palm trees were knocked to the ground, landing near the vehicle.

The deadly accident is under investigation and officials did not release further details, including the victim's name. Alcohol was not a factor in the accident, officials said.

The shoulder at southbound I-5 was blocked off to traffic following the collision.



Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[McStay Killings Pretrial Delayed Until Next Month]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 12:27:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Charles-Merritt-0519-2.jpg

Once again the preliminary hearing for the man accused of killing a Fallbrook family of four was postponed Friday, set to pick up next month, if all goes according to plan.

Charles Merritt is accused of murdering his former business partner, Joseph McStay, along with Joseph’s wife, Summer McStay, and the couple’s two sons, 4-year-old Gianni McStay and 3-year-old Joseph Mateo McStay in February 2010.

Originally, Merritt had chosen to represent himself in the case. However, at his scheduled pretrial onTuesday, Merritt revealed he was considering hiring an attorney.

Due to his change of heart, Tuesday’s pretrial was delayed. On Wednesday, attorneys confirmed Merritt had hired a legal team to represent him from the Mettias Law firm.

On Friday, a judge ruled the preliminary would be postponed once more so the defense could have enough time to review the evidence. Also, the prosecution, Deputy District Attorney Sean Daugherty, was unable to present Friday because two investigators were absent from court.

Both sides requested a continuance and were granted it. A judge set a date of June 12 for Merritt’s readiness hearing and June 15 for the preliminary hearing.

At Merritt’s pretrial, prosecutors are expected to reveal never-before-seen evidence in the McStay family murder case that baffled officials for years, including expected testimony from detectives and other witnesses about the evidence against Merritt.

Until now, Merritt had chosen to act as his own attorney because he said he’s suffering from congestive heart failure and only has months to live. He claimed representing himself would allow him to move the case quickly to trial and prove his innocence.

Now, Merritt’s legal team – including attorney Jimmy Mettias – will need to study thousands of pages of evidence linked to the case.

In a press release issued Wednesday, Mettias stressed the importance of “moving this case along quickly,” despite these recent delays.

“It is clear Mr. Merritt desires this matter to move forward quickly and without any further delay. As such our team has committed to moving this case along quickly. Nevertheless, while moving the case along quickly is important it is even more important to ensure that all the alleged evidence and lack thereof is examined closely and analyzed carefully,” the release said.

“Even a cursory review of the various documents and discovery confirm our position and belief that Mr. Merritt is innocent,” he added.

The delays this week are not the first time legal proceedings in this case have been slowed.

In early April, Merritt’s pretrial hearing was also postponed because, at that time, he was still representing himself and a judge ruled he was not ready to act as his own attorney in the case that could result in the death penalty.

Merritt’s legal switcheroo is one of many twists and turns in the mysterious case of McStay family killings.

The Fallbrook family was reported missing on Feb. 4, 2010.
 

The case of their disappearance stumped the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department: a family of four vanished from their California home, leaving eggs to rot in the kitchen, their dogs without food and freshly-made popcorn on the counter.

In November 2013, the skeletal remains of the family were uncovered in shallow graves in a very remote desert location in Victorville, Calif.

One year later, in November 2014, Merritt was arrested in connection with the mysterious murders. In February 2015, Merritt complained to a judge that he wasn’t receiving the documents needed for him to act as his own defense. He asked for prosecution discovery documents and files on a computer that was seized by investigators, according to U-T San Diego reporter Teri Figueroa.

After Merritt’s preliminary trial occurs, a judge will decide if there’s enough evidence to send Merritt to trial.



Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Leave the Knives at Home: TSA]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 11:48:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/TSA-banned-IMG_3818.jpg

If you are one of the millions expected to travel this Memorial Day Weekend, the Transportation Security Administration wants you to leave knives and other banned items home.

Airlines expect 2.6 million air travelers over the holiday weekend, a 2.5 percent increase from 2014 according to AAA.

More than 60,000 passengers were expected Friday at San Diego’s Lindbergh Field.

In the last 24 hours, TSA officers at Lindbergh Field have confiscated knives, tools and even a credit card knife.

It’s just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the estimated 7,000 pounds of prohibited items collected at the airport’s security checkpoints each week, officials said Friday.

Passengers should review what is prohibited as a carryon item before they arrive to the airport, officials said.

There are even certain foods that need to be checked.

"If passengers just take the time to put it in their checked bag, it'll be fine and it will be there when they get there," said spokesperson Nico Melendez.

If you have a specific question, use the TSA's "Can I Bring?" section on their app.

Get more information through the TSA website.
 

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<![CDATA[1 Dead in Encinitas Gas Leak]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 20:06:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/man+dies+in+encinitas+gas+leak.JPG

One person died in a gas leak Friday morning at a home in Encinitas, officials confirmed.

Authorities were called to a house in the 200 block of Florita Street just after 11 a.m. to investigate the leak.

When crews arrived, officials smelled a strong odor of natural gas coming from the home and noticed a “very high level” of gas based on meter readings, Encinitas Battalion Chief John Blumeyer said.

When crews entered the home, they discovered one man dead inside.

As of 11:20 a.m., firefighters were working to secure the leak. San Diego Gas & Electric had also been called to the scene to shut off the gas source.

Blumeyer said most of the windows inside the home were shut. He could not say whether foul play was suspected. Sheriff’s deputies were called to take over the investigation.

NBC 7 spoke with one of the victim’s friends who said he was visiting from Huntington Beach. When he arrived at the home, he smelled gas and heard a hissing sound coming from the kitchen area.

The friend, who asked to remain anonymous, said he opened a window into the house and found the victim dead on the couch.

He said the victim worked as a tattoo artist, loved to surf and was a father to three young children. Those kids were not home at the time of the gas leak. The friend said the victim did not seem despondent or suicidal when he last spoke with him on Sunday.

Jon Dodd, another of the victim’s longtime friends, said the man was a wonderful person. He saw him just three days ago and said nothing suggested the victim was having any problems.

“I’ve known him since I was in the fifth grade. He’s been my friend this whole time. He’s the reason I live in Encinitas. We grew up in Long Beach together. He’s a good father, a good husband and he’s wonderful. Multi-million guys’ best friend. The guy is loved,” Dodd told NBC 7.

As of 2 p.m., officials remained on scene. San Diego County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Jan Caldwell said investigators did not yet know if this death was accidental. She said the San Diego County Medical Examiner would help make that determination at a later time.

Deputies were not conducting a criminal investigation, Caldwell said, but the investigation into the gas leak and death is ongoing.

The victim’s name was not immediately released.

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<![CDATA[New Rules: 2 Days to Water Lawns]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 10:29:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/AP223500730484.jpg

Several cities in San Diego County announced new restrictions on lawn watering Thursday in response to the statewide drought.

Residents in Oceanside, Del Mar and San Marcos are among those given two days to water lawns and other outdoor landscaping under new rules announced this week.

In San Diego County, districts must save between 12 percent and 36 percent starting on June 1 under restrictions issued by California to get the state’s overall conservation to 25 percent.

In Oceanside, single-family homes are now limited to watering landscape and lawns on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Apartments, condos, businesses and public agencies will water Mondays and Thursdays.

City officials are instructing residents to water before 10:00 a.m. and after 6:00 p.m. and for no longer than 10 minutes each assigned watering day.

The city must conserve an additional 20 percent from 2013 levels under the new mandatory water use restrictions put in effect by Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order.

Residents can request a free watersmart checkup through the county’s website

The Vallecitos Water District Board of Directors voted Wednesday to limit outdoor irrigation to 8 minutes, two days per week from June 1 through October 31.

The district has found more than 250 water wasters since its drought patrols began May 11. Nearly all were due to irrigation runoff. The district offers a free irrigation audit through its website.

Vallecitos serves approximately 97,000 people in a 45-square-mile area that includes San Marcos; the community of Lake San Marcos; portions of Carlsbad, Escondido and Vista.

In Del Mar, new drought restrictions will take effect June 1 limiting landscape irrigation to two days a week and banning outdoor watering for 48 hours after a measurable rainfall.

City officials say there will be a schedule of assigned water days released by the beginning of next month. Until then, customers are being asked to voluntarily begin watering lawns and other outdoor landscaping just two days per week.
 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[More Salmonella Cases Reported in San Diego]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 17:47:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/02_yellowfin_tuna_sushi.jpg

Two more cases of salmonella have been reported in San Diego County, increasing the total number to nine cases.

Seven San Diego residents and two visitors here have been diagnosed with Salmonella Paratyphi B after eating raw tuna commonly found in sushi.

The cluster of San Diego cases is part of a nationwide outbreak of salmonella poisoning sickening 53 people in nine states.

San Diego County health workers said Friday that most of the people who have become ill live or recently traveled to Southwestern states, like California.

Health officials have not pinpointed an exact cause of the outbreak, but say nearly all of the sick people ate sushi containing raw fish during the week before they fell ill.

Many of those people, San Diego health officials say, ate spicy tuna sushi.

"There is no one specific product that has yet to be identified, but that's the common thread," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County's public health officer.

People started getting sick on March 5 and more cases were reported into May nationwide. Patients range from a baby to 83 years old, officials said.

In San Diego, cases broke out in late March and early April, with one person having to be hospitalized, Wooten said.

Salmonella causes diarrhea, nausea, fever and abdominal cramping. The infection lasts about four to seven days and most people recover without treatment, health workers said.

Pregnant women, children and elderly people are encouraged to stay away from eating raw tuna to take extra precautions, Wooten said.

To prevent illness, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water prior to preparing or eating food and after using the bathroom. Salmonella can be killed by cooking foods to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Frank Ursitti, a sports fisherman with H&M Landing, said contamination likely happened while the fish was being processed.

"Before this tuna actually reaches the market or the end user, which could be a sushi bar, it's being handled by several different processors," he said. "The fish is actually being loined or quartered out from there."

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<![CDATA[County Water Authority Rate Hike Proposed]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 10:56:34 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SanVicenteDam1122013.jpg

The agency that supplies most of the water to San Diego County announced Thursday it plans to increase rates to its member districts.

The San Diego County Water Authority said Thursday it will propose a plan to increase 2016 rates by 6.6 percent or $72 per acre-foot more for untreated water and 5.4 percent or $74 per acre-foot more for treated water in calendar year 2016.

The decision is in response to cuts announced by the Metropolitan Water District, which sells imported water to agencies serving millions of Californians. The MWD announced earlier this year it will reduce regional deliveries by 15 percent effective July 1.

The board of directors must approve the plan on May 28 and a public hearing on the changes will be held June 25.

The SDCWA, a wholesale supplier of water to 24 local water agencies, gets the majority of its water from the MWD.

Officials said each member district will then decide how its own retail rates will reflect the increase when it charges customers.

An acre-foot is about 356,000 gallons or roughly the amount of water needed to serve two households for a year.



Photo Credit: NBCSanDiego]]>
<![CDATA[School District Offers Free Summer Meals for Kids]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 09:56:58 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/school_lunch_generic.jpg

A new program headed by the Escondido Union High School District (EUHSD) will help needy Escondido families feed their children once school gets out for the summer.

The EUHSD has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its healthy 2015 Summer Feeding School Program which will offer free meals to kids 18 and under over summer.

Free breakfast and lunch will be offered across multiple locations mostly Monday through Thursday. No application or pre-registration is necessary.

The locations running the free summer meal program include:

  • Escondido High School (1535 N. Broadway; June 15 through July 15; Breakfast: 7:15 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.; Lunch: 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.)
  • San Pasqual High School (3300 Bear Valley Parkway; June 15 through July 15; Breakfast: 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.; Lunch: 9:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)
  • Del Lago Academy (1740 Scenic Trail Way; June 8 through July 8; Breakfast: 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m.; Lunch: 10:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.
  • Orange Glen High School (2200 Glenridge Road; June 15 through July 15; Breakfast: 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.; Lunch: 10 a.m. to 12:05 p.m.
  • Valley High School (410 N. Hidden Trails Rd.; June 18 through July 15; Breakfast: 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.; Lunch: 9:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Iglesia Latina Emanuel (152 E 5th Ave.; July 27 through July 31; Breakfast: 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.; Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.)
  • Washington Park (501 Rose St.; June 15 through Aug. 7; Breakfast: 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.; Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
  • Westside Park (333 South Spruce St.; June 15 through Aug. 6; Lunch only: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
  • Grove Park (745 N. Ash St.; June 23 through Aug. 6 – Tues., Wed., Thurs. only; Lunch only: 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.)

All sites will be closed on July 3, ahead of the Fourth of July holiday, the district said. The meals served through the program must be eaten on site.
 

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<![CDATA[Canyon Fire Sparks Near Santee Walmart]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 11:08:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Santee-Fire-052215.jpg

A fire broke out in a canyon behind the parking lot of a Walmart in Santee Friday morning, officials confirmed.

The blaze began around 8:20 a.m. in a canyon and near a riverbed in the 100 block of Town Center Parkway. By 9 a.m. fire crews were asking for water drops to help contain the flames.

Officials said no homes or buildings in the area were threatened.

Firefighters were able to quickly get a handle on the fire. Firefighters borrowed a raft from Walmart so they could get to a hotspot in the riverbed. By 9:50 a.m., the blaze was almost fully knocked down.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. No one was injured.



Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[UCSD Rady School's New Workplace Compassion Class]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 09:11:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/UCSD-Rady-School-Google-Maps.jpg

The University of California San Diego said its management school will offer a “Mindful Executive” program, a nondegree course series to mentor business leaders on fostering workplace compassion, improving mental intelligence and dealing with difficult conversations.

A collaboration between the Rady School of Management’s Center for Executive Development and the UCSD Center for Mindfulness, the program is one of only a handful nationwide to focus on mindfulness practice, according to the school.

UCSD claims mindfulness training improves concentration, cuts down on stress and can make practitioners more efficient. The Mindful Executive program builds on research data showing the benefits of the practice, UCSD said.

“People who engage in mindfulness trainings have told us that they become more aware of their own stress level and as a result are better able manage it, they have less emotional reactivity and are more resilient in the face of challenges,” said Christy Cassisa, director of WorkLife Integration Programs at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness.

The course will teach executives to attain present-moment awareness and how to use that awareness in their workplace decision-making and communication. Courses include The Art & Science of Emotional Intelligence and Managing High Performance Teams. They cost between $350 and $695 each.
 



Photo Credit: Google Maps]]>
<![CDATA[Isla Vista Victim's Dad Fights for Gun Laws]]> Sat, 23 May 2015 06:57:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/216*120/VICTIM+FATHER.JPG

Since his son, Christopher, was killed during a shooting rampage in Isla Vista, California, a year ago Saturday, Richard Martinez has upended his life to advocate for gun control.

The former criminal defense lawyer who once gave little thought to the number of people shot in the United States now cares only about making sure others do not die as his 20-year-old son did.

"I feel a sense of urgency," he said this week. "I feel like the longer it takes us to get these things done, the more people are going to die for no good reason. It's that important. So for me, this is a matter of life and death."

Martinez is a senior outreach associate for Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group. He has traveled the country asking voters to back candidates in favor of what the group calls common-sense gun legislation. He worked to get gun control measures passed in California and Washington and to turn back other bills in Florida.

“The level of gun violence in this country is appalling,” he said. “We have lock-down drills now in elementary schools and we regard that as normal. When I was growing up in the '50s and '60s in this country, no little kid ever thought of being shot and killed in their elementary school."

Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara, was gunned down at a deli near the campus on May 23, 2014 when a troubled 22-year-old student of a local community college went on a shooting spree.

Elliot Rodger had three guns in his BMW, a Glock 34 and two SIG Saur P226s. Firing out the window, he killed three people and injured seven others. He injured another seven people by driving over them with the car. Just before the shooting rampage, he killed three others at his apartment, stabbing to death two roommates and a guest.

Rodger, whose father, Peter, was an assistant director of the “The Hunger Games,” had earlier been visited by deputies from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office because his mother was worried. But the deputies failed to search his room or find his guns and left convinced of a misunderstanding.

Martinez’s activism began immediately after the shootings, at a sheriff’s office news conference where he emotionally denounced “craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA.” At his son’s memorial he challenged the mourners to send postcards to their political representatives with what was becoming his mantra, “Not One More.”

Afterward, Everytown for Gun Safety approached him about delivering some of the 2.4 million postcards created in response and he did. He hand-delivered postcards to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a strong supporter of gun rights, and to U.S. Rep. Marco Rubio, who opposed some gun control measures as ineffective and infringing on the constitutional right to bear arms.

He's been working full-time for Everytown for Gun Safety ever since.

"Mr. Martinez said he never expected this could happen to his family -- but gun violence can, and does, happen in every town," said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which merged with Mayors Against Illegal Guns to create Everytown for Gun Safety last year.

The National Rifle Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Martinez, 62, grew up on a farm in an extended family that hunted, and he served in the U.S. Army as a military police office in Heidelberg in what was then West Germany. Before his son was killed, he said he paid no attention to debates over gun control — not when 20 children were massacred at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, nor when some of their parents pleaded unsuccessfully with the U.S. Congress to pass an expansion of background checks for firearms purchases.

“I blamed craven politicians,” he said. “The fact is I’m responsible too. I didn’t do anything.”

Everytown for Gun Safety has turned its attention to the states. In November, Washington voters approved universal background checks for gun buyers -- a law the NRA said would be ineffective. After the Isla Vista shootings, the California lawmakers approved allowing families to ask a judge to remove firearms temporarily from a relative who appears to pose a threat.

Martinez said he would never know whether the new legislation could have made a difference in his son's death.

"But it's a new tool that wasn't available to families or law enforcement before," he said. "And it's something that can save lives because we need to do a better job in this country about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people and that means felons, domestic abusers and people who are mentally unstable."

No laws will protect everyone all the time, but gun controls can make Americans safer, Martinez said, just as seat belts, air bags and other measures cut the number of deaths from automobile accidents. There is no single answer to gun violence, but many, and they will make a difference over time, he said.

On average 32,514 people die from gun violence in the United States each year, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

"Why is it we have to accept such a high level of gun violence?" Martinez asked. "It's not necessary. These things are preventable. There are solutions."

The NRA in the 1950s and 1960s was a far different organization than it is today -- civic minded and safety conscious, he said.

"Their attitude towards gun safety was far different in that time period than it is now," he said. "They need to get back to their traditional values."

His son, whom he described as funny, kind, generous and gentle, was competitive in academics and athletics and wanted to follow his parents into law. His mother, Caryn Michaels, is a deputy district attorney in San Luis Obispo.

"He just enjoyed life," Richard Martinez said. "He was just an absolutely terrific kid."

Martinez himself has not been back in the courtroom since his son died. What is important to him now is trying to save the lives of other young people.

"That's why I get up in the morning," he said. "Otherwise -- my son was the center of my life. He meant everything to me."


This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[2 Arrested in Man’s Park Beating Death]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 17:11:18 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Moustafa-Gordon.jpg

Two men were arrested and several others are wanted in connection with the beating death of a man at a park in Oceanside earlier this year, police confirmed.

The Oceanside Police Department said search warrants were served at different locations related to the February 2015 homicide at Buddy Todd Park. Several people are being questioned by police.

Ultimately, officers arrested and charged Oceanside resident David Ioane, 25, with conspiracy to commit murder. After Ioane's arrest, another suspect, 24-year-old Oceanside resident Chris Augafa, turned himself in to police.

On Feb. 16, Oceanside resident Moustafa Gordon, 24, was found beaten to death at Buddy Todd Park in the 2800 block of Mesa Drive. He was found at the northeastern edge of the park and had suffered deadly blunt force trauma to his face.

Oceanside Police Lt. Leonard Cosby said the victim’s lifeless body appeared to have been lying in the park for several hours. The victim was discovered by a resident walking his dog at the park that morning.

Lt. Cosby called the beating death “an attack of great severity” and said it is likely Gordon knew his assailant or assailants.

Now, investigators are searching for three others in connection with Gordon's death: Angelo Doeing, 31; Raider Seau, 33; and  William Epenesa, 45.

After Gordon died, NBC 7 spoke with the victim’s brother-in-law, Orbary Walker. He described Gordon as a veteran who worked as a mechanic in the military and a “really nice guy always helping people.”

NBC 7 reached out to Gordon's family Friday who said they had been briefed by police regarding the search warrants and persons of interest in the case. The family was still waiting for names to be released but believe those involved were some of Gordon's "so-called friends."

Gordon's mother, Rashidah Abdul-Khaliq, spoke with NBC 7 about her son -- the baby of the family, a proud Army veteran and talented mechanic.

“He had an irresistible smile and a kind spirit. He was just an all-around good guy,” Abdul-Khaliq said.

The mother said her family is seeking justice for Gordon. She said she can't understand what could've motivated someone to brutally beat her son to death.

“We all have faults. But there is nothing in this world that my son could’ve done that warranted the heinous crime that was done to him,” she said. “He was beaten so bad, it took the morticians five hours to reconstruct his face.”

"No one deserved what he got," she added.

Abdul-Khaliq said this is the second time she has had to bury one of her children. Her eldest son was killed in a car accident.

“Let’s make sure that there’s a conviction for those who did this,” said the mother. "

The investigation is ongoing.
 



Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story on our mobile site.]]>
<![CDATA[Car Into Tree Causes Outage for Fallbrook]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 08:40:36 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/CFnIhrBUIAAQg_U.jpg+large.jpg A driver crashed into a power pole in Fallbrook and walked away. Crews spent the morning working to fix the leaning power pole and restore power back to homes in the area. ]]> <![CDATA[Fire Damages Used Car Lot]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 08:42:21 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/IMG_3806.JPG

Flames ripped through a San Diego car lot, damaging an office building but sparing dozens of used cars parked nearby.

The fire was reported at 1:19 a.m. Friday inside the Pacific Honda used car sales office at 4720 Convoy Street.

When firefighters arrived, they could see flames and smoke shooting from the windows of the office building.

Just outside the building were dozens of used cars. Just one SUV caught fire, officials said.

Flames were knocked down in about 20 minutes.

Some of the roof caved in on the office. Computers and other office supplies were melted by the intense heat.

The building has been here for about 35 years.

Fire investigators say it was an accidental electrical fire.

No injuries were reported.
 



Photo Credit: Matt Rascon NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[State Faces New Water Cuts for Farmers]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 08:16:10 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/edt-474897415_10.jpg

Farmers along the river delta at the heart of California agriculture expected to get an answer Friday on their surprise offer to give up a quarter of their water this year in exchange for being spared deeper mandatory cutbacks as California responds to the worsening drought.

Regulators with the state Water Resources Control Board promised a decision on the proposal by a group of farmers along the delta of the Sacramento-San Joaquin rivers, a rare concession by holders of some of California's strongest water rights.

For the first time since a 1977 drought, California regulators are warning of coming curtailments for such senior water-rights holders whose claims date back a century or more.

Earlier in the current drought, the state mandated 25 percent conservation by cities and towns and curtailed water deliveries to many farmers and communities with less solid claims to water.

The most arid winter on record for the Sierra Nevada snowpack means there will be little runoff this summer to feed California's rivers, reservoirs and irrigation canals. As of Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor rated 94 percent of California in severe drought or worse.

About 350 farmers turned out Thursday at a farmers' grange near Stockton to talk over the delta farmers' bid to stave off deeper cuts.

"That doesn't necessarily mean they'll all participate'' in the proposed voluntary cutbacks, said Michael George, the state's water master for the delta. Based on the farmers' comments, George said, he believed many will.

If the deal offered by farmers goes forward, delta farmers would have until June 1 to lay out how they will use 25 percent less water during what typically is a rain-free four months until September.

The delta is the heart of the water system in California, with miles of rivers interlacing fecund farmland. Its water is critical to wildlife and farmers in the country's most productive agriculture state.

Agriculture experts, however, say they would expect only modest immediate effects on food prices from any reduction in water to the senior water-rights holders. Other regions will be able to make up the difference if California moves away from low-profit crops, economists say.

State officials initially said they would also announce the first cuts of the four-year drought to senior rights holders on Friday. Water regulators said Thursday, however, that the announcement involving farmers and others in the watershed of the San Joaquin River would be delayed until at least next week.

It is unclear whether the delta farmers' offer would go far enough to save drying, warming waterways statewide.

Farmers use 80 percent of all water taken from the land in California. Senior water-rights holders alone consume trillions of gallons of water a year. The state doesn't know exactly how much they use because of unreliable data collection.

The 1977 cutback order for senior rights holders applied only to dozens of people along a stretch of the Sacramento River.

Although thousands of junior water rights holders have had their water curtailed this year, Gov. Jerry Brown has come under criticism for sparing farmers with senior water rights from the mandatory cutbacks. Increasing amounts of the state's irrigation water goes to specialty crops such as almonds, whose growers are expanding production despite the drought.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rain Showers Greet the Weekend]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 07:54:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/rain-generic-san-diego-stor.jpg

Rain arrived in San Diego Friday morning as drivers reported precipitation ranging from scattered showers to strong bursts.

The National Weather Service was predicting rain showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm before 11 a.m. followed by scattered showers.

We can expect gradual clearing this evening.

As of 6 a.m., Valley Center had just under a half an inch of rain. Most fell between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m.

“While it’s mostly a morning event with the pockets of moderate rain, we could get a light shower even this evening,” said NBC 7’s meteorologist Jodi Kodesh.

A wind advisory was in effect for San Diego through Saturday with gusts up to 55 miles per hour possible.

Download the NBC 7 free mobile app for weather updates.



Photo Credit: Spencer Thornburg, NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Deputy U.S. Marshal Retires to Enjoy Treats and Naps ]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 08:10:49 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/deputy+ella+graduation+ceremony.jpg

Deputy U.S. Marshal Ella has conducted more than 2,800 federal building searches. She’s done more than 435 firearm/explosives search demonstrations and security briefings. She’s also provided security for our federal courthouse and the Patriots vs. Giants Super Bowl in Phoenix.

One of her biggest cases was the 2008 federal court bombing in downtown San Diego. Deputy Ella found pieces of the bomb that proved crucial to the follow up investigation.

“She searched and she alerted on piece after piece after piece of post blast of the bomb,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Joanne, who could not give her last name for security reasons.

In addition to protecting people and participating in classified missions, Deputy Ellla loves eating treats, chewing on plastic water bottles and chasing her tail.

Yep, Deputy Ella is no ordinary deputy. She is a black lab and an expert at finding hidden firearms and explosives.

“She has found dozen of illegal guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition,” said her handler. “Some of them have been buried in the ground. Some of them have been hidden in walls or ceilings.”

On Thursday, more than 120 gathered on the lawn behind San Diego County’s federal courthouse to celebrate Deputy Ella’s retirement after nine years of service. Some of the attendees were top U.S. Marshals Service officials. Others were court employees, and some were even judges. Chief Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz not only attended the event, he was the driving force behind the retirement party.

“Ella has kept us safe for nine years, and she deserves the recognition,” he said.

Although Deputy Ella will be retired, she’ll still be working in a way. She’ll be training her replacement and keeping folks in the federal courthouse company, in exchange for treats of course.



Photo Credit: Candice Nguyen]]>
<![CDATA[2nd Claim Has New Allegations Against Supervisor]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 14:15:43 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/glynnis+vaughan.jpg

A second unhappy, former county employee has filed a claim against San Diego County, alleging Supervisor Dave Roberts misappropriated county funds and county officials failed to protect her as a whistleblower.

Glynnis Vaughan, whose resignation led to a series of stories by NBC7 Investigates, said she is owed $475,000 for her treatment while working for Roberts. Her attorney Lynne Lasry filed the claim late Thursday evening.

THE ARIZONA CONSULTANT

Details in the claim reveal allegations that the supervisor’s office attempted to pay for a consultant through nefarious means. Vaughan described how she uncovered a deal Roberts made with an Arizona consulting which had provided services to his office for two years -- a deal, she said, that was “never properly authorized by the County of San Diego.”

According to Vaughan's complaint, the consulting firm said it was owed $28,900 for its work. At first, Roberts denied to Vaughan the deal existed, but she alleges she found notes and work product that contradicted what the supervisor had told her.

The project for which the firm was hired was “Advisory Board Development: Strategic Business Consulting,” and the consultant was to help create an “Advisory Board of Directors for the San Diego County Fire Authority,” among other services.

Vaughan’s claim contends the consultant was told by Roberts’ former Chief of Staff, John Weil, the county didn’t have the money to pay him. Instead, Roberts’ office suggested “that the consultant apply for a San Diego County grant” to pay off the bill, according to Vaughan. The consultant was told a staff member would help in drafting the request and would “ensure the grant application would be approved.”

In the claim, Vaughan alleges the consultant looked into the grant process and refused the offer because it would “require the consultant to misrepresent the nature of the arrangement.” Vaughan, the claim said, didn’t feel the county should compensate the consultant in the manner requested. Whether this bill was eventually paid is unknown, since Vaughan quit before the issue was resolved, according to the claim.

IMPROPERLY TRAINED STAFF

The claim also described Vaughan as a “seasoned professional” and an ideal candidate for the chief of staff position. When she took the job in December 2014, Vaughan said she soon discovered the staff was inexperienced, was not familiar with the rules “that govern public officials” and had not received ethics training. It appeared to Vaughan the staff did whatever Roberts’ told them to do in order to stay in his good graces.

As she took over, she realized the staff was already disturbed about the “nature and the relationship between Supervisor Dave Roberts and a young male staffer,” which included favoritism, gifts and “improper use of County resources and public funds,” the claim said.

Vaughan felt she had an ethical and legal duty to tell county counsel and county administrators what she was observing. In every instance, she said, officials told her she was doing the right thing, but her efforts to “curb the improper conduct of Supervisor Dave Roberts” were unsuccessful, according to the claim.

This is the second claim filed against the District 3 Supervisor in two weeks. In the first claim filed former scheduler Diane Porter accuses Roberts of misusing public funds, carrying on an inappropriate relationship with 26-year-old staffer Harold Meza and retaliating against those who objected.

At a Thursday news conference, Roberts’ spokesman Gary Gartner handed out documents that he said prove those allegations are untrue.

"Throughout his entire term, Dave Roberts has held himself to the highest ethical standards, and he has done nothing unethical improper or in appropriate," said Gartner.

NBC 7 Investigates reached out to the county and to Gartner about Vaughan's claim. County Spokesman Michael Workman said the county received the claim but does not have a comment at this time.

Gartner said, "We just received the claim from the County Counsel's office and haven't had time to review it."

ROBERTS' "BODY MAN"

The claim said Roberts had a young male staff member he described as his “Body man—worth his weight in gold.” In political jargon, the term refers to a personal assistant to a politician or political candidate. While it may not be unusual for the President of the United States, the claim said, it isn’t common practice for a county supervisor to have a body man.

While the claim never names the body man, other NBC 7 Investigates interviews and a news conference by Roberts’ spokesman indicate the person in question is staffer Harold Meza. He is the same person Vaughan alleges she had heard complaints about shortly after becoming chief of staff. In the claim, Vaughan said she warned the supervisor it was not appropriate for Meza to pick up and drop off his children, nor should chauffeuring the supervisor be his only job in the office.

Meza's salary was $47,008.00, so Vaughan said she expected more work out of the staffer. But, according to her claim, “substantive tasks assigned by Ms. Vaughan were generally not completed” by the employee.

The claim said Vaughan had told the staffer he could not share a hotel room with the supervisor when they traveled, but Roberts would “orchestrate the desired arrangement though another staffer” behind Vaughan’s back.

“Other staff members complained that they could not do their job and/or get access to the Supervisor because the young male staffer was ‘always there,’” she said in the claim.

On Thursday, Gartner read a statement written by Meza, in which he says he "never engaged in any inappropriate conduct, sexual or otherwise, with County Supervisor Dave Roberts."

QUESTIONABLE BEHAVIOR

In another allegation, Vaughan said Roberts practiced gender favoritism demonstrated in how he compensated men who held the same position that Vaughan did. She uses the salaries paid to the previous chief of staff and the new chief of staff – both of whom are men -- to show how there was a double standard when it came to her salary.

Through the California Public Records Act, NBC 7 Investigates learned the former Chief of Staff John Weil received a salary of $159,000. Mel Millstein, Roberts' current Chief of Staff, was earning a salary of $151,000 as of April 15, the same amount Vaughan was earning before she resigned, according to county records, though Vaughan said she had much more experience than Millstein.

The claim also is critical of how the county failed to protect her. Vaughan alleges she was a whistleblower, pointing out the problems in the office and the behaviors of the supervisor to county counsel and human resources. But the Board of Supervisors “had decided to wash their collective hands as it relates to Dave Roberts” and his conduct toward Vaughan, refusing to pay any settlements between Roberts and his former staffers.

Attached to Vaughan's claim are a series of exhibits. A number of them reference the first claim filed against the supervisor by former employee Diane Porter, who has been interviewed by NBC 7 Investigates. Other exhibits go into detail about some of the questionable behavior and activities alleged against the supervisor.

Vaughan described how baseball cards with the supervisor’s photo on the front were created. She was not in favor of Roberts’ insistence on creating baseball cards in his likeness, she said, but the supervisor was insistent, telling staff that politician Pete Wilson had successfully used baseball cards when he was an elected official.

Wilson is a political icon for many in San Diego. He served as governor of California from 1991 to 1999, and he held positions as a U.S. Senator, California State Assemblyman and San Diego mayor.

Vaughan went on to say that the staff racked up hours to “create, order and ultimately hide” the baseball cards. Vaughan also spent time with the county’s legal counsel trying to vet the cards until they were considered legal and not campaign materials. In the end, the cards were “watered down” so their use was authorized, the claim said.

However, according to both Vaughan and Porter's claims, when some of Roberts’ non-county advisers told him the cards looked too political and were “not a good use of County funds,” the supervisor told Porter to first hide the boxes in his county office and then to "make them disappear," both staffers said.

Roberts' spokesman Gartner disputed that allegation, saying that there was no inappropriate use of county money to make those cards and that Porter decided to take them home on her own.

Vaughan's claim also said Roberts was an enthusiastic supporter of the Lion’s Club, becoming a district governor and pressuring his staff to join the club at their own expense, except for one young staffer.

When staff members complained to Vaughan, she reminded the supervisor that the Lion’s Club was not a county activity, nor was joining a condition of employment. Still, he continued to pressure employees, undermining her authority with staff, according to the claim.

The complaint also details how Vaughan reportedly attempted to reign in the supervisor’s prolific fundraising for Teri, Inc. The organization is a nonprofit based in Oceanside that works with children and adults with special needs, according to its website.

Vaughan said county time was spent trying to avoid conflicts of interest involving the supervisor and the many committees and boards he was a member of. Vaughan’s contends her attempts were rejected by the supervisor.

As depicted in calendars accompanying Vaughan’s claim, Roberts’ time away from the county building was often spent with Meza. In her claim, Vaughan described how this became a series point of contention in the office.

Some examples include:

  • Oct. 21, 2014: "Harold to accompany Dave” to an event at the Bernardo Heights County Club
  • Oct 22, 23, 26, 27, 29, 30, and 31: "Harold to accompany Dave” during the day to various events

The calendars provided with the claim describe the scheduling of “Harold to accompany Dave” through March 14, 2015.

The complaint also includes a letter from Vaughan to Susan Brazeau, human resources director for the county of San Diego. In it, she resigns and says she “acted responsibly,” trying to do the best job she could under the circumstances.

It says “Supervisor Dave Roberts’ unprofessional conduct” was not something unknown to the county; some of the “questionable behavior was not new.” She added “similar behavior had already been the subject of concern” before she had been hired.


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<![CDATA[Cubs Shut Out Padres 3-0]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 21:32:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/474318660.jpg

Kyle Hendricks pitched a five-hitter for his first career complete game and shutout, and Kris Bryant hit a two-run home run as the Chicago Cubs beat the San Diego Padres 3-0 on Thursday night to take two of three games.

Hendricks (1-1) struck out seven with no walks. Only one Padres baserunner advanced to second base.

Hendricks came in with six no-decisions in seven starts, including one against San Diego at Wrigley Field on April 18.

Bryant homered to straightaway center field on the seventh pitch of the game by Odrisamer Despaigne (2-3). Dexter Fowler was aboard on a walk for Bryant's fifth homer.

Bryant made his big league debut on April 17 against the Padres at Wrigley Field. He starred at the University of San Diego before the Cubs took him with the second pick overall in the 2013 amateur draft.

Bryant won the Golden Spikes award in 2013, when his 31 homers were the most in a season since toned-down composite bats replaced aluminum bats in 2011.

Bryant's parents, Sue and Mike, made the trip from Las Vegas for all three games.

Addison Russell homered leading off the seventh off Dale Thayer, his third.

Despaigne allowed two runs and six hits in six innings, struck out four and walked two.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Padres: RHP Brandon Morrow threw a bullpen as he tries to work his way back from right shoulder inflammation that landed him on the disabled list.

UP NEXT

Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (4-2, 3.70) tries to improve to 5-0 in May when he faces the Arizona Diamondbacks in the opener of a three-game series starting Friday night in Phoenix. He has a 1.67 ERA this month. The Diamondbacks counter with Josh Collmenter (3-5, 5.36).

Padres: RHP Andrew Cashner (1-7, 3.24) gets the nod when the Padres open a three-game series at Dodger Stadium. He's taken the loss in each of his last five starts despite posting a 3.55 ERA in that stretch. The Dodgers answer with RHP Zack Greinke (5-1, 1.52).



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Power Outage Affects 2,700 in Scripps Ranch Area]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 22:48:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/generic+power+lines.jpg

More than 2,700 customers are without electricity Thursday night after an unexpected power outage.

The outage is affecting homes in Sorrento Valley, Mira Mesa, Scripps Ranch, MCAS Miramar, Lake Murray and Mission Gorge.

According to the SDG&E website, "a combination of factors has caused a problem in the electric system."

Power should be restored at about 11:30 p.m. By 10:30 p.m., nearly 300 homes were still without power.



Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[Virtual Technology Helps Wounded Warriors Heal]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 19:32:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Liberty5P0521_1200x675_449039427968.jpg Naval Health Research Center is using new interactive, virtual technology to help wounded warriors heal. NBC 7's Liberty Zabala shares how the technology works.]]> <![CDATA[Stadium Financing Plan May Fall Short With Chargers ]]> Fri, 22 May 2015 08:04:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/stadium-design-051815.jpg

NBC 7's Gene Cubbison offers this analysis of the latest developments behind the Chargers stadium scramble.

Stadium talks among the Chargers, city and county officials are due to kick off in ten days.

But early indications – according to informed NBC 7 sources close to the run-up to the negotiations – are that the financing plan put on the table earlier this week won't make the playoffs.

This has been the prediction of "conventional wisdom" for weeks, as well as that of unconventionally wise people.

The mayor's stadium advisors were given a hurry-up mission with almost impossibly long odds of selling sell voters on -- much less the Chargers and NFL.

But all is not lost. Yet.

Just don't be quick to believe in miracles.

"This may be dead on arrival; this just may be an exercise in futility,” said Tony Perry, longtime San Diego bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, whose sportswriters are on the cutting edge of nationwide media coverage of NFL stadium relocation developments.

“But it is an exercise that the mayor and others are destined to continue at,” Perry said in an interview Thursday. “Again, a lost cause perhaps. But no reason to throw the towel in. On the other hand, I don't see any good numbers, vibe out there. I just see it as very, very difficult. And that figure is a great big figure."

But let’s not get bogged down by that great big figure and all the dollar signs the stadium advisers attached to it -- even forgetting some -- only to miss the forest for the trees.

For all the rah-rah among the Chargers' fan base here and points north, there's a competing plan in Carson that skeptics may think is a bluff but 'smart money' says looks more like a 'Real McCoy,' so to speak.

"Economists have shown time and again there's not an economic generator to the city. There's no financial benefit to the city to having a stadium here,” said Liam Dillon, who’s extensively covered municipal finances and stadium relocation issues for The Voice of San Diego.

“Sure, there's a civic benefit, and intangible and civic pride of having a football team in your town,” Dillon acknowledges. “But there are lots of other things that this city needs … there's not an unlimited source of money for everything."

Probably the only thing for certain is that whatever 'smart money' knows right now, it could change just as quickly as Thursday’s mottled cloud patterns over Qualcomm Stadium.

Ultimately, the screenplay is being written at 345 Park Avenue in New York -- headquarters of the NFL -- and the league is not in business to make friends.

Just money -- wherever it has to be chased.

"Indeed the NFL is a cartel and in any negotiations, it is thoroughly one-sided,” Perry echoes. “They own the product, they own a very popular product. Football is a game, a wonderful game. The NFL is a business, and we're stuck between the two."

The stadium advisors went in knowing, and warning, that their plan would just be “starting point for discussions” -- not anywhere near a finishing point.

Assuming the Chargers stay at the table for any length of time, and they’ve been decidedly chilly toward local interests, talks could wander all over the map and digital calculators between here and LA.

In any case, there's a reassuring note: NBC 7 sources say the NFL's bluster about stadium relocation decisions by year's end really isn't carved in stone.

The league, they caution, won’t move in haste only to fail – and repent at leisure.

Stan Kroenke’s bold bid in Inglewood may have stampeded two other franchises and gas-lighted the Armani suits at 345 Park Avenue.

But it’s said Kroenke’s being fitted for heavy baggage that’ll tax him big-time, before a maverick move eventually might pay off downstream.

If and/or when he winds up in Inglewood, it’s expected that a locker room for a second team will stay open for quite a while -- to accommodate the Chargers, if need be – or to serve as continuing L.A. leverage for other franchise owners looking to boost their bottom lines.

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<![CDATA[Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Tuna Hits San Diego]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 19:11:06 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Gnocchi-and-Yellowfin-Tuna-.jpg

California health officials are investigating 31 cases of salmonella, including seven cases in San Diego County, linked to raw tuna commonly found in sushi.

The string of Salmonella Paratyphi B cases are among an outbreak of 53 cases in nine states, according to a news release from the California Department of Public Health.

Most the patients in the outbreak said they had eaten sushi containing raw tuna. Ten people have been hospitalized, though no deaths have been reported, health officials said.

People started getting sick on March 5, with the latest reported illness happening on May 13. Patients range from an infant to 83 years old, officials said.

The outbreak in California includes nine cases in Los Angeles County, six in Orange County, four in Riverside County, one in Santa Barbara County and four in Ventura County in addition to San Diego.

State health workers are investigating along with the FDA and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention to figure out the source of the outbreak.

Salmonella causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after becoming infected. The disease can cause death if not treated promptly, health workers said.

More information about salmonella can be found here.

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