<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - San Diego News]]> Copyright 2016 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 Sat, 06 Feb 2016 05:41:50 -0800 Sat, 06 Feb 2016 05:41:50 -0800 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Padres New Closer Leaves Game With Injury]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 22:43:33 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/192*120/Fernando+Rodney+With+Seattle.jpg

The last few years have not been kind to the Padres when it comes to injuries. So, of course, two weeks before Spring Training even starts it looks like they're dealing with an injury.

Relief pitcher Fernando Rodney, the man they just signed to a one-year contract in hopes he can compete for the closer job, is playing in the Caribbean Series for the Dominican Republic. He entered a game against Cuba in the 11th inning and took off on a wild adventure.

Rodney fielded a comebacker, then threw it away for a 2-base error then walked a batter and was visited by the team trainer. He stayed in only to have the bases get loaded when a sacrifice bunt was not played properly.

Rodney struck out the next two hitters but was then pulled from the game after another visit from the trainer. Rodney took the loss when Raphael Soriano gave up a 2-run single but more important is his health. The Dominican team says Rodney was removed as a "precautionary measure" because he'd been experiencing leg tightness during the week.

Representatives from the Padres were reportedly at the game watching Rodney but the team has not yet commented on just what Rodney's ailment is.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Two Pit Bulls Shot in San Diego]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 23:16:16 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/pit_bulls_shot_home_1200x675_617458755995.jpg

Two pit bulls were shot by an unknown suspect in San Diego's Shelltown neighborhood Friday night, according to San Diego police. 

The owner reported two shots at 8:15 p.m. in the 3900 block of Marine View Avenue, which is just north of National City and east of Interstate 5.

Walking into the front yard, the owner found the two dogs suffering from gunshot wounds.

The person called police, and a dispatcher told the owner to take the pit bulls to a veterinarian.

The animals were still alive as of 9:45 p.m., police say.

No further information was immediately available.

Refresh this page for updates on this breaking news story.

<![CDATA[Reported Kidnapping Was Misunderstanding: Police]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 23:21:25 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/oceanside-police-0901.jpg

A man told Oceanside police Friday night that his girlfriend was kidnapped at gunpoint, but now police say that report was either a misunderstanding or the result of a quarrel between the man and woman.

At 9:30 p.m., an Oceanside police dispatcher received a kidnapping report from the motel at 901 N. Coast Highway. 

The boyfriend told officials that the suspects drove up to the couple in a Chevrolet Spark and made his girlfriend get into the car. He reported another person inside was armed with a handgun, police said.

However, undercover police tracked the woman down to another Motel 6 near Pointsettia and Avenida Encinitas in Carlsbad. She was unharmed and apparently not kidnapped.

Police are still trying to sort out the dramatic details, but they believe the woman and her boyfriend may have broken up earlier that day.

The woman may have left with an ex-boyfriend, police told NBC 7.

All parties have been accounted for, and no gun was ever found.

It's unclear if any charges will be filed at this point.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[At-Risk Woman Missing From Valley Center]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 21:36:47 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Mary+ann+Bonifacio+Lucas.jpg

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department is searching for a woman who suffers from medical conditions that place her at risk, her family says.

Mary Ann Bonifacio Lucas was last seen by her father and sister inside the Pala Casino in Valley Center at about 11 a.m. Thursday, investigators say.

Her mother reported her missing 24 hours later.

Lucas is a 51-year-old Asian woman, standing 4-feet-11-inches and weighing about 95 pounds. She has shoulder length, straight brown hair and brown eyes.

When her family last saw her, she was wearing a black jacket, gray shirt and black jeans.

If you know where Lucas may be, call the sheriff's department at 858-565-5200.

Photo Credit: San Diego County Sheriff's Department]]>
<![CDATA[Docs Explain How 3 Suspects Stole CHP Cruisers]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 20:31:54 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/crashed+chp+cruiser+0310.JPG

When three California Highway Patrol (CHP) cruisers were stolen in separate incidents by suspects in handcuffs, one question arose: What happened?

All three vehicles were taken within a five-month period — two of them within three days of each other. Fourteen months after the first theft, the CHP revealed new answers Friday as to how the thefts happened through a California Public Records Act request from NBC 7.

In the first case, Casaundra Lane was arrested on suspicion of stealing a car near Mission Bay Park at Interstate 5 on Nov. 7, 2014. The officer handcuffed her and placed her in his patrol cruiser’s back seat. While the officer, who happened to be off-duty at the time, was filling out his paperwork outside of the vehicle, Lane climbed into the front seat and drove away.

The theft happened because, according to the CHP, the cruiser didn’t have a protective screen between the passenger section and the driver’s area.

According to CHP Officer Ricardo Rodriquez, the officer didn’t follow policy when driving a cruiser with no protective screen.

The arrest reports reveal no details about what happened to their stolen vehicle during the resulting chase, but Lane was ultimately taken into custody with the help of San Diego Police officers.

Additional documents include extraordinary details about the other two cases. Both involved men who had allegedly been drinking, smelling of alcohol with red, watery eyes. Both men were handcuffed, seated in the front seat of the cruiser and escaped the same way.

The second case happened on March 10, 2015, in Rainbow off Interstate 15. After colliding with a truck and trailer, Aaron Teruya stopped on the freeway shoulder and was arrested on suspicion of DUI. The CHP officer put the handcuffed suspect in the passenger seat of his SUV.

As the CHP report stated, Teruya “slid both hands underneath his legs” to bring his hands in front of him, jumped in the driver’s seat and sped away. The officer quickly climbed into a tow truck and took off after his car.

Though the cruiser had GPS that officials could track, the chase went on for an hour and 50 minutes. It ended 10 miles from where it began when Teruya veered onto a dirt road east of Gird Road and crashed into a rock. No one was hurt, but the cruiser had moderate damage.

In describing the third theft on March 13, 2015, the CHP report reads like a page from a “Fast and Furious” movie script. Witnesses along the route said they saw the CHP vehicle going 91 miles an hour and driving the wrong way on a one-way street.

It began when John Perryman III allegedly tried to run from the scene of a crash in Westminter in the Los Angeles area. CHP officers caught him, put him in handcuffs and sat him in the passenger seat of their patrol vehicle.

Like Teruya, Perryman maneuvered his hands to the front of his body and took off in the CHP car, the arrest report states. 

An intense, high-speed pursuit ensued for 18 minutes. Once again the GPS system located the car, but by the time the CHP got it back, its windshield was cracked, the light bar destroyed and the side mirror was torn off.

No one was hurt in that case either, and no recent cases of stolen CHP cruisers have been reported.

After each of the incidents, the officers involved were “provided additional training and mandatory policy review to prevent future occurrences such as this,” according to Rodriquez.

<![CDATA[$531K in Cocaine Stashed in Truck's Exhaust System]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 17:52:58 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/2-5-16-Border+Patrol+Uncovers+More+Than+500K+of+Cocaine+in+Truck_photo+1.JPG Images of smuggling attempts at their finest.

Photo Credit: U.S. Border Patrol]]>
<![CDATA[Councilman: City Should Spend $500K on Review Board]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 17:44:44 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/OCCUPY+LADIES+AT+COMMITTEE+HEARING.jpg

San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria is recommending that the city of San Diego spend half a million dollars to help revamp the citizens board tasked with reviewing police behavior.

In the memo to the city’s budget analyst Andrea Tevlin, Gloria said, “Public trust between law enforcement and members of the community is critical to allow our officers to keep San Diego safe.”

The 3rd District councilman added, “funding reforms for the Citizens' Review Board on Police Practices are investments in oversight and accountability to foster that trust."

In December, an NBC 7 Investigates story revealed how two former Citizens Review Board (CRB) members, Lucy Pearson and Benetta Buell-Wilson, said they think the board has a “fixed” and ineffective review process. According to the women, the process subverts the board's intent, something that’s detrimental not just for citizens but for San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officers as well.

Click here to see the complete investigation.

Women Occupy San Diego submitted a ballot proposal last month calling for changes to the review board. The women are advocating for the proposal to be included on the November ballot.

City Councilwoman Marti Emerald told NBC 7 Investigates she asked the budget analyst to provide a cost estimate to set up a board like the city’s ethics commission. It has independent staff investigators and an independent legal counsel.

Currently, the CRB receives its legal advice from the San Diego City Attorney’s Office and only reviews reports submitted to them by the SDPD’s Internal Affairs Division.

Ethics Commission members are appointed by the mayor, but unlike the review board, the list for appointees are chosen through candidates picked by the city attorney and city council.

Emerald said the city council’s Public Safety Committee will be discussing the possible options and ideas for changing or replacing the current model at their next meeting March 2.

Gloria said he wants the review board reforms implemented by fiscal year 2017.

<![CDATA[Crews Save Victim Trapped in Trench]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 22:15:31 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/trench7.JPG

San Diego Fire-Rescue crews saved a person trapped up to his waist in dirt in a trench in Grantville, according to officials.

The hazard was created by an unstable dig by Ozzy's Plumbing Service in the 4800 block of Elsa Street. Since last Saturday, employees began digging to repair the sewer line between a house and the street.

Dr. Laurel Herbst, a neighbor, said the work continued, even without trench supports.

"They said they were trying to get the shoring plates to put in, but they haven't been delivered," said Herbst. "They kept calling the city for help, but they're busy." 

The situation became dangerous around 3:47 p.m. Friday, when the sides of the 15-foot trench partially collapsed around a plumbing contractor.

The falling dirt surrounded him to his waist, trapping him.

"Probably saved his life; if anymore dirt fell on that guy, he'd quit breathing," said Glen Holder, a SDFD Battalion Chief.

Rescuers worked quickly, placing ladders across the hole and reaching down to get the man out before he was buried fully in dirt.

The job is now on hold, pending an investigation by CAL/OSHA. An investigator on site said the dirt from the hole is piled too close. Holder told NBC 7 the trench is not properly supported and a large back hoe is also too close to the edge.

"You're risking an employee's life, and for firefighters, this is the most dangerous rescue there is," said Holder. "I would argue that a trench rescue is more dangerous then going into a structure fire."

The victim was rescued by 4:15 p.m. and was evaluated for injuries. The man told NBC 7 said he is OK, but his coworkers did not want to talk about the incident.

Firefighters are evaluating the dig to see what kind of citations to issue.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Goodell Talks San Diego Chargers, Las Vegas Raiders?]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 16:07:54 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/Roger+Goodell+2016+Super+Bowl.jpg

The Chargers have an option to go to Los Angeles if things don’t work out in their San Diego stadium search. If you’re to believe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, he hopes the Bolts never leave America’s Finest City.

“It is very much a priority for us. We want to work to try to keep our teams where they are,” said Goodell during his annual Super Bowl news conference.  “My issue is, and my pledge to (Chargers Chairman and co-owner) Dean Spanos, to the mayor of San Diego is to do everything possible we can to support them, to try to get the right kind of facilities long-term.”

Goodell shared that in his conversations with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer the local political powers agree that San Diego’s professional football facility is not up to the level the NFL wants in today’s day and age and praised both Faulconer and Spanos for coming (back) together to try and work something out.

“Our pledge is to try to help them get that done,” said Goodell. “I think it’s great that Dean Spanos and his family said we want to make this work in San Diego.  They have an incredibly attractive option in Los Angeles, but they decided we’re going to go and try to make this work in San Diego.  We will do everything we can to support them.”

Goodell also included Oakland and Raiders owner Mark Davis in his address, saying Davis is fighting a similar battle in the East Bay Area but without similar progress.

“The league supports both these teams, but we’re working very hard with not only the teams but the communities to find a solution that works for everybody.  This has to work for the community and it has to work for the teams long term.”

Perhaps not coincidentally the NFL announced on Friday that the Raiders will give up a home game to play the Houston Texans in Mexico City, Mexico on November 21, 2016. Davis also made waves when he addressed a recent trip to Las Vegas to speak to casino owners about the possibility of building the Raiders a new stadium in the Nevada desert.

“It’s an international city,” Davis said. “It’s a global city. Again, the Raiders are a global brand, so it’s got potential. It’s absolutely an NFL city.”

The sentiment makes sense in one regard. The Raider Nation is, indeed, global. But the NFL is quick to talk about protecting the integrity of “The Shield” and long stayed away from adding Vegas to the list of potential landing spots for one of its 32 franchises. You’d have to figure a team in a city where gambling is as big as it is in Las Vegas, in a stadium that would likely be built at least partially with private funds from casino owners, would be a non-starter for the league.

But, if we’ve learned anything about the NFL it is this: the 32 owners REALLY like money. If Las Vegas comes in with a way to improve the bottom line they just might take a serious look at it.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Olympic Medalist Lochte Training in Chula Vista for Rio]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 18:15:00 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Ryan+Lochte+0205.JPG

As the six-month countdown to the start of the Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro hit calendars across the world, one of Team USA’s biggest stars quietly wrapped up a training session in San Diego.

Swimmer Ryan Lochte spent the past three weeks living at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center while training at several high school pools across the county with his teammates on Swim Mac Elite based out of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Lochte, who turns 32 in August, aims to represent the U.S. in his fourth Olympics.

“I remember when it was my 1st Olympics and I was one of the youngest guys on our USA team, and now I’m the oldest guy on the USA team, so it’s weird” said Lochte.

An 11-time Olympic Medalist, Lochte finds himself working harder than ever to compete against the next generation of swimmers emerging around him.

“I can’t be going out all the time partying, getting four hours of sleep and then going to practice and being fine,” said Lochte. Since the 2012 Olympics in London, he has embraced a regimented training schedule built on good sleep and a good diet.

“I hate greens. I’ve never been the one to really eat them and now for the past year -- year and a half -- I have a cook back home who is making greens and I’m starting to love eating salads,” said Lochte.

Team USA’s Olympic Swimming Trials, set for late June in Omaha, Nebraska, will determine who makes the 2016 Olympic Team.

Lochte is as close a lock to making the team as anyone in a Speedo, but still hasn’t decided whether to compete in the 400 individual medley, which earned him gold in London.

“I think it increases the chance of the U.S. to get a medal in that event, so we’re hoping that is something he and I can end up coming to as far as what he should do there at the meet,” said David Marsh, Swim Mac Elite Head Coach.

Lochte could opt to skip the 400 individual medley to conserve energy for later races since it is the meet’s first event.

He is the first to admit he can’t go “all out” like he used to, but proved at last year’s World Championships that he still has the physical tools to win Gold.

He also knows he has something the younger swimmers don’t have.

“It doesn’t get any easier, but you know, one thing we do have on them is confidence and experience”.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[SoCal Teacher Accused of Sex Acts With Teen]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:49:07 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Lucas-Drake-Mugshot-1.jpg

An English teacher at a Southern California high school was arrested Thursday for allegedly engaging in sex acts with a 15-year-old boy from San Diego whom he met online.

Lucas Michael Drake, 36, was taken into custody by police detectives in Yucaipa, California, on child molestation charges, including contacting a juvenile for sex.

Since Jan. 20, the Yucaipa Police Department and Chula Vista Police Department had been working together to investigate Drake – a teacher at Yucaipa’s Colton High School, a campus of about 3,300 students located six miles away from San Bernardino.

During the investigation, the Yucaipa Police Department says detectives discovered Drake had been communicating with a teenager online.

He later met that teen in San Diego County and took the teen to his home in Yucaipa, where he allegedly engaged in sex acts with the minor.

On Thursday, detectives executed a search warrant at Drake’s home. There, authorities found more evidence of molestation.

Drake was booked into the West Valley Detention Center on $100,000 bail. He is set to be arraigned on Monday in San Bernardino Superior Court.

There may be more victims in this case. Detectives are asking anyone with information involving similar incidents to call the Yucaipa Police Department Detective Bureau at (909) 918-2325 or the anonymous tip line 1-800-78-CRIME.

Photo Credit: Mugshot Courtesy of Yucaipa Police Department]]>
<![CDATA[US, Japanese Soldiers Train Together at Camp Pendleton ]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:20:40 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/military5.JPG

Japanese soldiers and US Marines have been training together for the last two weeks at Camp Pendleton to refine individual and small unit skills.

The Japanese soldiers, from the Western Army Infantry Regiment and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, worked with Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit for the second phase of training focusing on sniper tactics, beach raids, amphibious assault, and platoon-sized attacks.

The second phase culminated in military planners from each country working together to formulate an amphibious assault operation for the final phase of training.

“Even with a language barrier, warriors will find common ground and communicate to accomplish the mission,” said Col. Clay C. Tipton, 11th MEU commanding officer.

Approximately 200 Japanese soldiers and 400 U.S. Marines will transition Twentynine Palms north of Palm Springs, for phase the third phase of training. The training exercise will happen on February 12.

“It is inspiring to watch the interaction of the Japanese soldiers and U.S. Marines as they conduct this individual/small unit training in preparation for larger, more complex training, which is the company-sized bilateral attack at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in 29 Palms, Calif,” said Tipton.

Photo Credit: U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Garrett White]]>
<![CDATA[Zika-Cautious Blood Bank: Wait to Donate]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:58:41 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/zika-virus-color1.jpg

In response to the fast-spreading Zika virus now declared a global emergency, the San Diego Blood Bank (SDBB) announced Friday that those who have recently traveled to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central or South America should not donate blood – at least for a while.

The SDBB – the primary supplier of blood to the majority of hospitals in San Diego County – is encouraging blood donors who have traveled to the aforementioned countries to wait 28 days after returning to the United States to donate blood.

Zika, a mosquito-borne virus, usually causes mild illness but is now suspected in an unusual birth defect, and possibly other health issues. The disease has been predominantly linked to Latin American countries and the Caribbean. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Zika an international emergency as the disease spreads.

Robert Baracz, vice president of marketing for the SDBB, said the blood bank is curbing donations from travelers “simply as a safety precaution,” even though, as always, the organization needs blood.

Zika virus can be present in the blood of an infected person who has no symptoms of illness, the blood bank says.

At this point, there have been no Zika cases reported in San Diego County.

Last week, officials with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) said the insect tied to the virus – the Aedes aegypti mosquito – has been detected in San Diego, in small numbers, over the past 18 months. The mosquito, which experts believe transfers the Zika virus, has also been detected in Los Angeles County.

Health officials said the Department of Environmental Health is tracking the mosquito locally. So far, health officials have not found any of the mosquitos detected in San Diego County to be carrying the Zika virus. Health officials said Aedes aegypti mosquitos are not native to California and do not travel far.

For more information on Zika, click here. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has information on the virus here.

Photo Credit: NBC News]]>
<![CDATA[Sheriff Launches Body Cam Trial]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:11:03 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/202*120/New+Castle+Police+Body+Cam+Generic+Body+Camera.JPG

Deputies with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department began testing the use of body cameras Friday, with six stations participating in the 90-day trial.

The cameras will be tested at six stations including Rancho San Diego Station, Lakeside Substation, Vista Station, North Coastal Station, Rural Command, and in the Hall of Justice.

Personal body cams created by WatchGuard Video, TASER International, and Vievu will each be tested in 30-day long periods, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

At the end of the entire trial, deputies’ product feedback will help influence the brand or type of device the department selects, explained the Sheriff’s office.

The process of incorporating body cameras into the Sheriff's Department began in August 2014 when the department created a body cam committee. The committee researched companies, equipment, video storage options, and camera protocols and policies. Other agencies such as San Diego, Escondido, Chula Vista and Carlsbad Police Departments were also consulted about their experiences with personal recording devices. Representatives from the Data Service Division, Training Unit, Contracts Division, and Patrol and Detentions unit were included in the committee, said the Sheriff’s Department.

San Diego’s use of police body cameras started in 2012 when Coronado added several devices to their police force. The San Diego Police Department followed in April 2014 with a 10-camera trial. Other departments, such as Del Mar and Chula Vista incorporated cameras by late 2014 and early 2015.

For the current San Diego County Sheriff’s Department body camera trial policy and protocol, click here.

Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Reporter, Photographer Recovering After Tree Fell on Them]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:17:14 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/10+News+news+crew.jpg

A reporter lay injured beneath a canopy of branches. In a 911 call, you can overhear her cries for help, as her news photographer is on the phone with a dispatcher.

“I’m scared, Mike. My back hurts. Mike, I’m scared,” you can hear her saying in the emergency call released by 10 News.

Marie Coronel, the reporter for 10 News, and photographer Mike Gold were soon rescued by emergency responders after suffering grave injuries on Monday morning while covering the storm in Mira Mesa. They were both crushed by a falling tree as they prepared to go on live TV.

This week, 10 News has reported the two are expected to make a full recovery.

In a newly released 911 call and in an interview with the San Diego Union Tribune, the tense and uncertain moments are apparent.

“At that moment she was in shock and terrified she was going to die,” Gold told the U-T in a recent interview.

In the 911 call, Gold tells the dispatcher simply: "We got hit by a tree.”

“One of them fell down on us,” he says. “I’m talking to you with a busted leg. My reporter is on the ground and she’s scared.”

As the dispatcher tells Gold that both of them should stay still, Coronel repeats that she’s scared and Gold is then heard comforting her.

“Hold me,” Coronel is heard saying.

“I’m right with you, Marie,” Gold says.

Gold had to direct emergency responders to the two’s whereabouts as it was pitch dark and the two were covered by branches, he told the U-T.

He suffered a compound leg fracture. Coronel was recovering in the intensive care unit at Scripps Memorial Hospital.

She had this message Thursday morning before her spinal surgery:

After she underwent surgery, 10 News tweeted:

This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Apartment Fire Determined to be Arson: SDFD]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 18:49:10 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/fire188.JPG

A fire that broke out at a two-story apartment building Friday turned out to be arson San Diego Fire-Rescue confirmed.

Fire crews and San Diego police responded just before 1 p.m. in the 5300 block of Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. They found heavy smoke showing from an upstairs unit.

The fire was confined to a sofa in the apartment. They found light smoke damage to two neighboring apartments. No residents were displaced.

The resident was seen running from the scene and has been taken into custody.

Damage is estimated at $5000 for the apartment and $2000 for the contents.

Photo Credit: SDFD]]>
<![CDATA[6 Hometown Buffets Abruptly Close in San Diego ]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:55:09 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/HomeTown-Buffet-Google-Maps.jpg

Six Hometown Buffets in San Diego closed abruptly Thursday after “ongoing assessments of individual restaurants,” according to a statement by the company.

Across the country 74 Old Country Buffet, Hometown Buffet, Ryan’s, Fire Mountain and Country Buffet restaurants closed permanently Thursday.

“While we cannot predict future market conditions, the plan is to continue operating the remaining Ovation Brands’ restaurants as they are financially viable,” Peter Donbavand, Vice President of Business Development said in the statement.

The statement also said employees of closed restaurants would be able to apply for positions at operating stores.

Many upset employees and customers complained on Hometown Buffet’s Facebook page saying the company had not sufficiently warned employees of the closures. They were referred by the company to their contact page.

The Santee, El Cajon, San Marcos, Oceanside and two San Diego locations were among the restaurants closed. The Chula Vista, National City and south San Diego restaurants are still open.

Photo Credit: Google Maps]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-Marine Gets 97 Years for Sex Crimes on Women]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 17:50:41 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/129310646.jpg

A former U.S. Marine staff sergeant convicted of sex crimes against six young women in San Diego – including one attack while he was dressed in military fatigues – will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Former Camp Pendleton-based Marine Staff Sgt. Ted Amparan, 41, was convicted in May 2015 on multiple charges, including forcible rape, kidnapping and rape by foreign object.

On Friday, he was sentenced to 97 years to life behind bars.

Amparan's defense attorney argued for a more lenient sentence, given Amparan's military service. The judge said that she recognized Amparan's service, but said that when someone uses that as an excuse to deceive and hurt others, it loses weight.

According to investigators, Amparan attacked raped and sexually assaulted six women along San Diego’s El Cajon Boulevard over a five-year period – between 2007 and 2012 – when he was an active duty Marine.

Prosecutors said Amparan targeted prostitutes, taking them to secluded areas of Camino Del Rio South to sexually assault them.

"He picked the most vulnerable of our population in that they were sex workers on El Cajon Boulevard, almost all of them, and that's how he can get them in the car, and once they're in the car, they're at his mercy," said prosecutor Mary Ellen Barrett.

The women were between 16 and 23 years old and, though petite, fought back against him, prosecutors said.

One of the victims wasn’t a prostitute, but became lost while trying to find a friend on El Cajon Boulevard. Dressed in his military fatigues, Amparan stopped his car and offered her a ride.

When she realized that she was about to be raped, she fought back, Barrett explained.

"And it hurt her, and all she was asking for was please don't hurt me," said Barrett. "And he gained control of her with the use of the knife and he went on and hurt her, disregarding whatever she had said because she just wanted to survive."

In some cases, to get away from Amparan, his victims went as far as to scale a six-foot fence and cross two lanes of Interstate 8.

Some of the women testified at trial that Amparan told them nobody would believe their stories, and their cases would not be investigated.

"They are all amazingly strong women, I can say that," said Barrett, "and they are going on with their lives, which is incredible given what happened and the response and how long it took."

Amparan was booked into the South Bay Detention Facility in Chula Vista on May 24, 2012, where he has been in custody every since.


Photo Credit: Getty Images/Tetra images RF]]>
<![CDATA[Eater SD: New Steakhouse, Super Bowl Viewing Spots]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 12:16:04 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Eater-SD-Born-Raised-Credit_Basile+Studio.jpg

San Diego’s dining scene scored big this week with lots of fresh, tasty happenings. Eater San Diego shares the top food and drink stories of the week, including the announcement of a new steakhouse coming to Little Italy, one chef’s new gig and, of course, local spots to catch Super Bowl 50.

Two-Story Steakhouse & Rooftop Garden Slated for Little Italy
CH Projects, which runs Little Italy's Ironside Fish & Oyster, has announced that it intends to build a mid-century modern steakhouse with a rooftop terrace and urban garden on India Street in the space that was formerly Nelson Photo. Called Born & Raised, it will feature an in-house dry-aging meat program and will be designed by BASILE Studio (KINDRED, Polite Provisions)

Where to Watch Super Bowl 50 in San Diego
Super Bowl mania is here and many area restaurants and bars will be hosting game day viewing parties on Sunday, Feb. 7. Eater's map includes a dozen local highlights, including a taco and tequila fest, tailgate barbecues, all-day happy hours and more.

Fireside by The Patio Announces New Head Chef
The Patio Group has chosen accomplished chef Antonio Friscia (Rustic Root, Don Chido) to head up its new concept for Liberty Station, which is slated to open this spring. The indoor/outdoor Fireside by The Patio will have a globally-inspired menu based on wood-fire cookery that includes yakitori.

Mexican Cantina Moving Onto 30th Street in South Park
The owners of Kensington Cafe and The Haven Pizzeria will launch their first project in South Park with Provecho, a classic Mexican cantina scheduled to debut by late this month. The family-friendly spot will feature a '”Mexican/Chicano soul food” menu and variations on a beloved old classic: the margarita.

Barbecue, Beer & More Headed for Carlsbad
A multi-concept food and drink project is in the works for downtown Carlsbad. Sharing an 8,000-square-foot lot will be Park 101, which spans a counter service-style barbecue-centric eatery and a street-level and rooftop beer garden, plus El Corral Deli & Dough, which plans to serve grab-and-go food ranging from coffee and sandwiches to doughnuts and ice cream.

Photo Credit: Rendering Courtesy of BASILE Studio
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<![CDATA[Dental Assistant in Court for Touching Patient]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 18:36:25 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Luis+Ramos.jpg

A dental assistant facing felony charges for inappropriately touching an under aged girl while she was sedation for a dental procedure pleaded not guilty in court Friday afternoon.

Luis Ramos, 36, of El Cajon was arrested Wednesday on two counts of sexual battery on a medically incapacitated person and two counts of oral copulation by anesthetic.

He now faces seven counts of sexual battery on an unconscious person and up to ten years in prison.

The incident was allegedly caught on security video - recording seven minutes of his crime.

Police said the 17-year-old reported being inappropriately touched on January 21 while undergoing a procedure at the Park Boulevard Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Office at 4067 Park Boulevard.

She reportedly woke up from the anesthesia and realized he was touching her.

She felt some touching she felt was inappropriate. When we served a search warrant we recovered a video of the acts occurring," Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle said.

Ramos no longer works at the clinic according to an office manager and they are working with police.

Ramos, whose dental assistant license was issued two years ago, was being held on $2 million bail. His bail has now been reduced to $100,000.

Police are urging any other possible victims to come forward if they believe they were similarly violated.

<![CDATA[Mom Recalls Teen's Rescue from Storm-Swollen Creek]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 11:09:01 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/creek-rescue-north-county-020516.jpg

Three San Diego County teenagers drove into a raging creek this weekend for fun and forced a massive rescue effort.

Becky Ripley couldn’t get a hold of her 17-year-old son, Ben, this past weekend. When she didn't get a response to her texts, she sent a text to one of her son's friends. That’s when she found out there was something very wrong.

The teen’s truck was in a creek and rescue teams were working tirelessly to save the kids.

“It wasn’t until a little later found out that they were sitting on a truck in the middle of a river. Freaked us out. We couldn’t imagine what was going on,” she said.

Thirty firefighters and swift water rescue team members were working. The cost of the rescue ran thousands of dollars.

It was a heart wrenching situation for Riley. She didn’t have any control and the process took hours.

Ben was with two friends who thought it would be fun to drive through a raging creek in Rancho Santa Fe. They never made it to the other side. The water took hold of the truck they were in and flipped it.

“They were fortunate enough to get pinned up against that tree and have enough time to get out of the window and climb out,” said Encinitas Lifeguards Capt. Larry Giles.

The teens managed to sit on top of the truck. It took two hours for rescuers to chainsaw through trees, get lines out and put all the measures in place for a safe rescue. All this time minutes felt like hours for Ripley.

“It was the most horrific feeling as a parent to know you have no control over the situation and I didn’t get all of the details until they were actually saved. Which was probably a good thing, found out how dangerous the situation was,” she said.

Now days later, Ripley is appreciative of the swift water teams and firefighters who rescued her son and his friends. She also hopes their story serves as a warning to anyone, not just teens.

The warning: don't drive through water, whether it’s in a creek or on a street, because it can be extremely dangerous.

<![CDATA[Mardi Gras Starts Early in San Diego]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:16:48 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/1453252090-haunted_house_of_mardi_gras.jpg

This weekend Mardi Gras 2016 will get in to full party mode. The biggest celebration is, of course, in New Orleans. But since most of us in San Diego can’t make our way to Bourbon Street one Gaslamp establishment is bringing a bit of the Bayou to the California coast.

On Friday night The House of Blues will transform in to The Haunted House of Mardi Gras.

“We wanted to provide something else for the citizens of San Diego,” says Nicole Slater, the House of Blues Marketing and Promotions Manager. “We wanted to go with a Voodoo theme, something inspired by New Orleans. As you know it’s a very haunted place.”

One of the most haunted places on earth, and certainly the most haunted in the United States. The House of Blues is trying to get a jump-start on the traditional parties that come on Saturday by really putting people in the Mardi Gras mood.

“It’s going to be quite the visual event,” says Slater. “We’re going to have a Voodoo Priestess walking around giving out Tarot cards (but with no live snakes!). There’s going to be a scavenger hunt. Everyone’s been to a Mardi Gras event. It’s a lot of fun but this is offering something different.”

Add to that a 1960’s tribute band, as well as a jazz band on the Voodoo Stage, and performers from Lola Demure's Burlesque & Variety Troupe and you have the makings for a New Orleans-inspired party.

The restaurant at House of Blues is even putting together a Creole-inspired menu for the week, complete with Crawfish Étouffée, Jambalaya and of course those signature Hurricanes (with a complimentary cup).

The event begins on Friday night at 7:00 at House of Blues San Diego … and you might be able to get in for free. A few comp tickets are still available via email at RSVPHOBSD@livenation.com.

If those go before you can get in, admission is $13 at the door.

<![CDATA[Sea Lion Found in Booth at San Diego Restaurant]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 11:10:51 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Seal-Pup-Marine-Room-8-Guillas.jpg

Tiny sea lion, party of one. A 20-pound sea lion pup was found sleeping in a booth at a popular seaside restaurant in San Diego, likely searching for a cozy nook and, fittingly, a bite to eat.

SeaWorld San Diego’s Rescue Team was called to The Marine Room restaurant on Spindrift Drive in La Jolla Thursday after staffers found the young sea lion curled up in a booth in the dining room, sleeping.

Somehow, the pup got into the dining hotspot and made his way into a booth with a scenic view of the beach below. Management wasn’t sure how the sea lion snuck in, but it appears he spent the night inside the restaurant.

The Marine Room's executive chef, Bernard Guillas, shared some photos of the whiskered patron on his Facebook page. In one of the images, also seen in the gallery below, the sea lion looks as if she's longingly staring at the sea below the restaurant.

As of Friday morning, Guillas' post had been shared more than 1,600 times on Facebook and had nearly 3,700 "likes."

SeaWorld rescuers were able to safely corral the 8-month-old California sea lion and take her to their Animal Rescue Center. There, caregivers determined the pup was extremely malnourished and dehydrated.

Jody Westberg, a SeaWorld Rescue Team member, said her team considers the sea lion a “micropup” due to her small size and low weight.

“She weighs 20 pounds, but should be about 40 to 50 pounds out in the wild,” Westberg explained.

She said SeaWorld San Diego has been handling many unusual sea lion rescues lately in part due to recent El Niño weather conditions.

“Southern California, and specifically San Diego County, has been having very high tides and very low tides, and also a lot of stormy weather. These pups are looking for high ground and warm areas for the night,” she said.

Westberg said the El Niño event also appears to be impacting food sources for some sea lions in California.

“Not only are they looking for high ground – they’re also searching for food,” she added.

She said an ongoing “unusual mortality event” is also heavily affecting the California sea lion population throughout the state. Because sea lions are having a hard time finding food sources, many wind up emaciated. The fish they typically eat in the wild keep the animals hydrated but without fish to eat, dehydration is common.

At SeaWorld San Diego’s Animal Rescue Center, the tiny pup was given fluids to rehydrate.
Animal experts were also keeping a close watch on the pup’s left eye, which remained shut and had some drainage coming out of it.

With proper care and nutrition, Westberg said the rescue team is “cautiously optimistic” the pup will be nursed back to health and eventually returned to the wild.

Over the past 52 years, SeaWorld San Diego has rescued more than 16,000 sea lions. So far in 2016, SeaWorld San Diego has rescued 47 marine mammals, including 40 sea lions, six harbor seals and one Guadalupe fur seal. In 2015, SeaWorld rescued a total of 990 California sea lions.

If you spot a sea lion or other animal that appears to be ill, injured or abandoned, you can call SeaWorld’s Rescue Hotline at (800) 541-SEAL.

On Jan. 21, another sea lion was rescued in La Jolla. That pup had climbed 145 steps to get inside The Cave Store, a shop that acts as the entrance to a manmade tunnel which delves down the cliffside and into the Sunny Jim Sea Cave.

Photo Credit: Bernard Guillas/Facebook
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<![CDATA[Vista Pop Warner: $90K Theft 'Crippled' League]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 17:48:52 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/football-generic-nbc7.jpg

Vista Pop Warner is asking for donations to survive what it described as a “huge misappropriation of funds at the hands of a former board member.”

A statement from the youth football league claims there is an investigation underway into the theft of between $90,000 to $100,000.

"The loss of funds has crippled the organization," the statement reads.

"In October of last year some vendors who are owed money by Vista Pop Warner contacted members other than the ones usually responsible for the money saying we hadn't been paid," Kenneth Elliott, attorney representing the board members told NBC 7. "An investigation began late September early October. It was pretty clear pretty early on that a former board member had appropriated funds to themselves rather than paying the vendors. By the time we had all the paperwork that we needed we calculated about $93,000 loss."

The league believes the theft began in March 2014 and continued through late Fall 2015.

"I'm disgusted," head cheer coach and parent Amber Arredondo said. "I'm so disappointed. I just I can't believe that somebody would do that to these kids and be involved in their lives. It's just, it's disgusting."

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is investigating according to the league’s statement. SDSO spokesperson Jan Caldwell told NBC 7, "This is an ongoing matter and right now, there is nothing we can say."

In order to continue operations, VPW said it needs donations to pay back creditors owed.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

<![CDATA[Woman: Masseur Violated Me at El Cajon Spa]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 08:40:38 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/foot-massage-parlor-el-cajon.jpg

El Cajon police confirm they responded to a sexual assault call at Foot Spa on Arnele Avenue and Johnson Avenue Thursday.

Susan Estell spoke exclusively to NBC 7 describing the incident. She said she had been to the business several times before and never had an incident like this latest one.

Estell said the masseur started massaging her back and told her to take off her underwear.

“By the time I could say no he had his hands slipped in and my panties were down to my legs,” she recalled. “I kept questioning myself, ‘Is this really happening?’ And I had total fear over me. I was in shock.”

Estell said it didn’t stop there.

She said the man in his 40s told her to turn over, then massaged up her thigh and touched her private parts more than once.

“I just jumped up and was like ‘This is not right, touching me! You violated me!” she said.

Estell said the man ran out of the room. She called the managers who, she said, tried to quiet her. They offered her a refund.

“She wanted to give me my money back…and I said no I’m calling the police right now,” Estell said.

El Cajon police confirm officers were dispatched to the sexual assault call. They took a crime report. Not much more information was released Thursday evening to NBC 7.

Estell said the masseur left the business in a car just as the police car pulled up.

“I feel violated. I feel almost like I was raped,” Estell said emotionally. “I’m very emotional. I’m hurt! I’m angry. Like, he hurt me! You don’t do this to somebody. I thought he was a professional.”

NBC 7 visited the business and spoke to the managers there. They refused to comment. One left the building while the other walked into a back room.

The decision to come forward wasn’t an easy one, according to Estell. She feared people would jump to conclusions. However, she decided to speak out because she doesn’t want anyone else going through what she went through.

Estell said she plans to press charges.

<![CDATA[Local Company's Carts are Super Bowl-Bound]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 08:28:29 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Cart-Mart-0205.jpg

If any players wind up injured at this weekend’s Super Bowl, it may be a local distributor’s golf carts whisking them off the field.

San Marcos-based Cart Mart said Thursday it had supplied more than 350 vehicles for Super Bowl 50, having won an NFL contract for golf carts, transportation and utility vehicles. It’s the company’s sixth Super Bowl deal.

The vehicles, which were delivered starting Jan. 4, have been used to create temporary offices, staging and other pre-game infrastructure, and will be used to move VIPs during the game as well.

Brian Rott is president and CEO.

Photo Credit: Cart Mart, Inc./Facebook
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<![CDATA[Chase Suspect Tries to Hide in Stranger's Home]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 08:51:47 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/University-Heights-Pursuit-0205.jpg

A passenger involved in a police pursuit through Barrio Logan and University Heights Thursday night tried to hide from officers by running into an unknown couple’s home.

At around 10 p.m., officers with the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) tried to pull over a Honda sedan for an equipment violation in the 1600 block of Mission Cliff Drive near Barrio Logan. The car was occupied by a 27-year-old man, who was behind the wheel, and his 23-year-old female passenger.

The driver failed to stop for police and a pursuit ensued.

Over the course of about 15 minutes, the driver zipped through several neighborhoods, entering and exiting four different freeways.

The driver finally exited State Route 163 and the chase ended when he crashed into a parked pickup truck in a University Heights neighborhood.

Police said both the driver and passenger then jumped out of the car and tried to flee on foot. The driver was quickly caught.

Scrambling, the woman ran through an unsuspecting couple’s backyard. She then tried to run into that couple’s home through an open back door.

The residents – who were getting ready for bed – reacted quickly and were able to push the woman out of their house as officers rushed their home.

Police arrested the woman without further incident.

The residents said they were relieved the woman wasn’t carrying a weapon, and that she was taken into custody quickly.

No one was harmed.

Police said the car the suspects were driving was reported stolen. They had changed the plates to avoid detection. Inside, investigators found a replica gun.

Both suspects are facing several charges, including car theft and trespassing. They both had outstanding warrants, police said.

<![CDATA[City: Broken Pipe Was on List of Repairs]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:13:31 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/balboa-avenue-leak-water-main.jpg

A water main break closed westbound Balboa Avenue where it intersects with Interstate 5 for hours on Friday.

The break occurred during the morning commute on Friday and westbound traffic was diverted to Morena Boulevard. From there, drivers could access I-5 at Clairemont, water officials said.

Crews worked to stop the leak and reopened the intersection just after 3 p.m.

The pipe was scheduled to be replaced Monday as a part of a city-wide water main replacement project.

Crews decided not to repair the pipe Friday but just fixed the road.

The larger project will be tackled in sections so residents in the area should expect some lanes closed to traffic. The repairs are expected to take weeks to complete.

No customers were out of water service.

<![CDATA[Photos: Sea Lion Sneaks Into Restaurant Booth]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 09:51:55 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Seal-Pup-Marine-Room-1.jpg A malnourished and dehydrated sea lion pup made her way into The Marine Room restaurant in La Jolla on Feb. 4. She made herself comfortable, sleeping in a booth in the dining room. She was later rescued by a team from SeaWorld San Diego.

Photo Credit: SeaWorld San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Images: Persons of Interest Sought in RB Home Invasion]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:09:18 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Burglary-Surveillance-020516_3.jpg SDPD released surveillance video of several people spotted near a similar crime on Jan. 31 in Sorrento Valley.

Photo Credit: SDPD]]>
<![CDATA[Shoelaces Used in RB Home Invasion]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 21:17:55 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Rancho-Bernardo-020516.jpg

Three men broke into a Rancho Bernardo home and held a couple at gunpoint early Friday, and San Diego Police are looking into whether this crime is related to an earlier incident in Scripps Ranch.

The break-in occurred just before 4 a.m. on Aliento Court, a cul-de-sac located west of West Bernardo Drive and north of Bernardo Center Drive.

“It’s pretty scary,” neighbor Rick Ellis said. “We haven’t been back to sleep since that happened.”

The suspects entered the home through a side garage with their faces covered and lights on their heads, according to SDPD Lt. Kevin Mayer. At least one suspect was carrying a gun, police said.

“It doesn’t look to me like they were picked out for any reason except that their gate was unlocked," Ellis added.

Two adults in the home at the time were tied up with shoestrings. Once the couple was able to break free they ran to a neighbor's home and called police.

“Shaken up, as anybody would be, somebody enters your home while you’re sleeping,” Mayer said.

“I hate to think what’s going through their minds, and how long it’s going to take them to get over that," Ellis said. "But I suspect quite a long time – if ever."

No one was injured.

A similar incident happened several weeks ago with the same number of suspects. Mayer said investigators would be looking into any similarities between the two crimes.

San Diego Police say the crime may be connected to another residential robbery that occurred Sunday, Jan. 31 on Passerine Way in Sorrento Valley.

The victim in that incident told NBC 7 said the men came up the stairs and woke up his wife. Armed with a handgun, they demanded she show them where they kept jewelry, cash and electronics.

The entire ordeal, he said, lasted a half hour with his young children nearby.

"We probably won't sleep for a while, but everyone will be vigilant and pull together here," the victim said.

Each robbery involved three suspects who initiated a theft by entering a side door, police said.

“If you have video surveillance and you live in those areas, please check it for us. You never know what your video may have captured,” said Robbery Lt. Todd Griffin.

Anyone with information can call the San Diego Police Department Robbery Unit at (619) 531-2299 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

<![CDATA[Slain Man Found in North County Homeless Encampment ]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 21:35:03 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/san-diego-sheriff-generic-patrol-car.jpg

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department is searching for the suspect who killed a man found with wounds to his upper body near San Clemente Thursday.

Just before 1 p.m., deputies arrived at the intersection of Cristianitos Road and S. El Camino Real after receiving a report of a body found at a homeless encampment.

The deputies searched the encampment, located in the field near the intersection, and found a 60-year-old man who had died.

The sheriff's department said he had obvious signs of trauma, but they did not say what created the wounds.

Homicide detectives are now investigating, and the medical examiner's office will determine the man's cause of death.

If you know anything about the incident, call the homicide detail at 858-974-2321 or Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.

<![CDATA[International Parental Kidnap: Father Searches for Missing Sons]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 17:54:53 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Francina+Fernandez.PNG

“It's about three little boys, who were daddy's boys, who loved me as much as any children can love a parent,” John Smith said.

Smith, a Carlsbad resident, last heard his sons call him "dad" 11 years ago.

Keoni was 3 years old. The twins, Lance and Mason, were 2 years old.

In November 2004, Smith and the boys' mother, Francina Fernandez, were in the middle of a heated custody battle, both fighting for more one-on-one time with their boys.

Smith said there were signs Fernandez wanted to leave the country. He shared this with a judge, who ordered Fernandez to surrender the boys' passports within 24 hours.

That same day, Smith said, she flew to the Philippines with his sons.

“It just seemed like such a daunting task of looking at the globe, looking at the atlas, how are we going to find my sons?” he asked. “You're looking at 6,000 islands. I've traveled to the Philippines five times. I've spent 477 days in the country. I've had meetings with the U.S. Embassy many, too many times to count.”

The FBI issued an international arrest warrant for Fernandez.

“At this time she is facing federal charges,” FBI Special Agent Darrell Foxworth said. “If she was brought back here or she was found in a country which would extradite her back here, she could be subjected to criminal prosecution here in the United States.”

Foxworth said the FBI knows where in the Philippines the boys are, but there isn't anything they can do. He said Fernandez can't be forced back to the U.S. because kidnapping your own child is not considered a crime in the Philippines.

“We don't have investigative authority to go over there to that country and assert U.S. law in those situations and demand the Philippines return those children to the United States,” he said.

According to the FBI, any American that willingly helped Fernandez flee the U.S. could face charges.

Smith said Fernandez’s parents have traveled to the Philippines, presumably to visit their fugitive daughter. According to the FBI, there is not enough evidence to charge them for a crime.

NBC 7 Investigates has called and emailed her parents multiple times, but could not reach them.

Smith, who never married or had other kids, said he hopes he'll see his three sons again.

“I wish I could tell them, ‘I love you guys so much,’” he told NBC 7 Investigates.

There are hundreds of kids and adults missing from San Diego County right now. Some have been abducted; some are runaways.

"Searching for San Diegans," an NBC 7 Investigates project, profiles people reported missing in the County with the hope it can help bring loved ones home.

You can search our database of the missing people here.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 ]]>
<![CDATA[Padres Trade Despaigne to Orioles]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:12:50 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/GettyImages-488079210.jpg

The Padres traded right handed-pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne to the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday for 19-year old pitcher Jean Cosme. San Diego also officially signed reliever Fernando Rodney to a 1-year deal.

Cosme, 19, went 3-5 with a 4.74 ERA (30 ER, 57.0 IP) and 53 strikeouts against 18 walks over 12 starts for Single-A Aberdeen in 2015. The right-hander signed with the Orioles as a 17th-round selection in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Puerto Rico and made his professional debut with the Rookie-Level Gulf Coast League Orioles that year. Over his two professional seasons (2014-15) he has gone 5-5 with a 4.73 ERA (38 ER, 72.1 IP) and 70 strikeouts against 26 walks over 21 games, 13 starts.

Despaigne, 28, went 5-9 with a 5.80 ERA (81 ER, 125.2 IP) and 69 strikeouts against 32 walks over 34 games, 18 starts, for San Diego in 2015. The right-hander signed with the Padres in May 2014 as a minor league free agent and made his Major League debut later that year for San Diego. A native of Havana, Cuba, he has gone 9-16 with a 4.74 ERA (117 ER, 222.0 IP) and 134 strikeouts against 64 walks in 50 games, 34 starts, over parts of two Major League seasons (2014-15) for the Padres.

With today’s transactions the Padres currently have a full 40-man roster. But don’t be surprised if general manager AJ Preller keeps tinkering this month with spring training on the horizon.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Trustee Wanted District to Pay for Son's College: Warrant]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 07:59:24 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/marne+foster1.JPG

Newly released court documents allege former San Diego Unified School Board Trustee Marne Foster wanted the district to pay for her son’s college education and tried to pressure the district’s superintendent to make that happen.

A 231-page search warrant released Thursday gives insight into the San Diego County District Attorney’s office investigation into Foster, who resigned from her position Tuesday after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count of accepting gifts in excess of the legal limit.

One of the issues taken up by the DA’s office was Foster’s problem with administrators at her son’s school, the School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA). Foster became angry when she obtained a copy of her son’s college evaluation, prepared by counselor Kim Abagat, and discovered the review was negative.

Foster called SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten to complain about the evaluation. In an interview with a DA investigator, Marten recounted a telephone conversation she had with Foster.

Foster, who at the time was the president of the SDUSD board, said the “inaccurate” evaluation had prevented her son from being accepted into a number of colleges. When Marten asked Foster how she knew what the evaluation contained, as reviews are typically confidential, Foster declined to tell her how she obtained it, the warrant states.

“Marten surmised that someone had leaked the information,” the court document says. “Foster was ranting that Abagat should not have completed the form as he was not [her son’s] counselor.”

Marten said she interrupted Foster, asking if she was calling as a parent or a board trustee. When Foster said she was calling as a parent, Marten told her she needed to talk to the district’s chief student services officer.

Claim Filed Against the SDUSD

During a later phone conversation between the two women, Foster told Marten that she believed her son had suffered damages and that the school district was liable, the warrant says. According to Marten, Foster threatened to file a claim against the school district because her son deserved compensation. Marten said she felt Foster was trying to convince her to approve the claim.

“Foster told Marten ‘to do the right thing, you can make this happen,’” the court document states. “Marten said the way Foster spoke she thought Marten had the authority or was involved in the decision making regarding the approval or denial of the claim. Foster wanted the school district to pay for her son’s college education.”

Marten said she did not give the trustee any advice on how to file a claim.

Later in the year, a $250,000 claim was filed against the SDUSD on behalf of Foster’s son, but it was not signed by his mother. Instead, the claim bore the name of John Marsh, the teen’s father who had been living with Foster and her children.

However, Marsh told the DA investigator that he did not write up the claim. According to the warrant, he remembered Foster coming up to him and demanding that he sign a blank complaint form.

He said he did not know what he was signing, but recalled Foster mentioning something about wanting to sue the school district.

“Marsh said at the time he needed a place to stay and Marne Foster was very forceful. She made it clear by the way she said it that if he didn’t sign it she would put him out on the street,” the warrant states. “He was at her mercy and he didn’t want to be kicked out or arrested.”

The $250,000 complaint was later denied by the school district. Foster has told other media outlets that she had nothing to do with the claim.

Problematic Fundraiser Held

Community activity Sally Smith brought another potential issue to the attention of the DA's office: a fundraiser Foster threw to raise money for both of her sons' tuition.

Smith told the DA’s office that a link on Foster’s official school district website directed users to Foster’s personal Facebook page, on which she posted a flier for “A Benefit Concert/Fundraiser to send two brothers back to College.”

The event was held last July at the Neighborhood House Association (NHA). Foster had previously voted on a head start agreement between the NHA and the SDUSD.

Smith attended the fundraiser, paid a $25 entrance fee and was told the event would be tax deductible. When she asked for a receipt, she was told one would be emailed to her. At the fundraiser were guests who conducted business with the school district and employees who may seek favors in return.

Because of the potential conflicts of interest, Foster later admitted that the fundraiser was a mistake and vowed to return the donations.

A Guilty Plea

Ultimately, Foster’s guilty plea stemmed from a donation her son received. In 2014, the teen was given a scholarship and roundtrip airfare to “Bayfest,” a theater camp in Seattle, according to the warrant. The donation was provided by Jan and Dick Hunter, who are Bayfest board members.

Dick is also a board member for the Jackie Robinson YMCA, an organization linked to Foster. She had voted to approve a contract between the SDUSD and YMCA for the use of the YMCA branch’s pool.

Emails revealed the Hunters had also paid for roundtrip tickets so Foster’s son could travel from San Diego to New York, where he is attending college. The couple also covered a night of lodging for Foster.

In total, the family received more than $3,000 in donations from the Hunters. However, Foster did not claim the gifts on her statement of economic interests, filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission.

The form is filed under penalty of perjury, the DA’s office said, and on Dec. 2, Foster filed an amendment to her 2014 form. It showed the gifts exceeded the legal allowable limits.

<![CDATA[Dishing Up Facts on Supermarket Prepared Foods]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:50:42 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/prepared+food+grocery+store+.jpg

People trying to save time making dinner have turned supermarket prepared foods into a $29 billion per year business. But Consumer Reports says to be wary.

Those foods aren’t required to have nutrition labels, and you might be consuming more fat, calories and sodium than you think.

Consumer Reports’ secret shoppers purchased dozens of popular prepared foods from six major supermarkets and had them analyzed for sodium, calories, fat and saturated fat.

One thing they found lots of is sodium. A mini turkey meatloaf packed an average of 891 milligrams in a 6-ounce serving. And one cup of a healthy-looking orzo salad averaged 938 milligrams.

Without a nutrition label, you’d never know that a 6-ounce serving of parmesan-encrusted tilapia fish at one store had 19 grams of fat.

Another surprising ingredient: Sugar added to a chicken parmesan meal. And mashed potatoes made with a preservative called sodium benzoate and disodium pyrophosphate to maintain color.

It turns out that many supermarkets don’t actually make all of their prepared foods. According to the clerks who were quizzed by Consumer Reports’ secret shoppers, only about half of what was tested was actually made on-site.

And you pay a price for convenience. Some of the foods Consumer Reports checked out cost twice the price of making them at home.

Consumer Reports did find one great deal: rotisserie chicken. It’s often far cheaper to buy it at the supermarket than to cook one yourself.

Among the markets the Consumer Reports’ survey found were the favorite with shoppers include Costco and Whole Foods.

Photo Credit: Consumer Bob]]>
<![CDATA[East Village Buildout Plans Spark Conflict]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 20:23:10 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Ballpark-Village-Buildout-0204.jpg

What began with Petco Park is starting to come full circle in East Village.

The last frontier of downtown San Diego is fast evolving into a "destination" community -- one that's feeling urban growing pains, and continuing political and economic conflicts over future development.

If you "follow the money," it's reaching skyward in the form of highrise condo towers, and pointing toward projects like a sports and convention facility, plus a major hotel.

But a leading developer vows to keep things "scalable," by way of smart growth that's people-friendly.

"We've made a huge investment downtown," says Steve Peace, senior advisor for JMI Inc., the outfit behind Petco Park and current developer of Ballpark Village, a $250 million "mixed-use" complex across the street that'll encompass several hundred apartments.

"We're building more apartment and condo capacity over the next few years than probably anybody else in East Village,” Peace told NBC 7 in an interview Thursday. “So the last thing we want to do is diminish the quality of life."

Just to the south of Ballpark Village, a project that’s been under way since last April, is a vacant parcel that also could be turned over to residential construction -- or a 1,600 room convention hotel that would align with a "campus-style” expansion space for the San Diego Convention Center.

Whether or not that might include a new stadium for the Chargers next door would depend on a tricky series of political schemes and calculations.

Some downtown civic activists says those would be steps in the wrong direction.

"If you put a convention center and stadium over there, first of all they're not on the public tax rolls,” says Wayne Raffesberger, an attorney steeped in redevelopment and urban growth issues.

“They're not generating anything for the region -- unlike a higher and better use of an educational complex, a satellite campus of, say, UCSD or San Diego State or them combined,” Raffesberger explained.

“Or a high-tech office park. Those are the kind of creative new uses that'll generate jobs for the region."

Next week the City Council is expected to approve measures that would preserve options for developing a convention hotel or a mixed use residential complex near Ballpark Village.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[San Diego Company Testing Possible Diabetes Cure]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:27:27 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Diabetes+cure+web+img-PIC_0.jpg

A San Diego biotech company believes it has found a possible cure for Type 1 diabetes.

The La Jolla-based company, ViaCyte, in conjunction with Johnson & Johnson, is testing a stem cell treatment to cure those with the life-impacting hormonal disorder.

ViaCyte is aiming to eliminate rigorous insulin treatment and glucose testing by engineering a type of stem cell that produces insulin and other hormones that regulate sugar levels.

“These cells are human cells, but they’re not the patient’s cells, so the patient’s immune system would want to remove those cells – attack those cells,” said ViaCyte CEO Paul Laikind.

A team of 60 employees, led by Laikind, first tested the stem cell implantation on animals, which saw success.

Then, testing turned to humans. On Thursday, the company announced a breakthrough: after months inside a human, they extracted the implantation to find the cells not only survived, but they did exactly what they were intended to do.

“We’re on the right track. I think there is a cure in sight,” Laikind said.

Developers could not pinpoint an exact timeline for the product, but said it was in the years, not decades.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Amazon Offers Booze Delivery in San Diego]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:27:34 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/wine_bottles_generic.jpg

In the mood for a beer? If you live in San Diego, you can now get booze delivered to your door in one hour through Amazon’s Prime Now service.

On Thursday, Amazon announced its Prime Now service had launched beer, wine and spirits delivery in San Diego, with orders being fulfilled through local retailer, Keg N Bottle. As seen on Keg N Bottle's website, the retailer sells a wide array of alcohol, from domestic beer and locally-produced craft brews to wine, champagne and moonshine.

San Diego joins Seattle and Manhattan on the short list of Prime Now cities offering alcohol delivery.

Amazon’s Prime Now service launched in San Diego in November, offering speedy delivery for Prime members on items such as groceries, prepared meals and baked goods, as well as daily staples like paper towels. Customers in San Diego can get their groceries delivered through Prime Now from places like Sprouts Farmers Market, Bristol Farms, Northgate Market and Sprinkles Cupcakes.

In San Diego, Prime Now is available seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Two-hour delivery is free, while one-hour delivery is available for a fee of $7.99.

The service is accessible through the Prime Now app. When service is available in your zip code, the app sends you a notification.

San Diego is among 25 cities in the U.S. where the Prime Now service operates.

Photo Credit: clipart.com]]>
<![CDATA[City of San Diego’s El Nino Response ]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 20:18:11 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/san+diego+channel+clearing+el+nino.PNG

As city crews race the El Nino clock, clearing the storm channels is an even bigger challenge now that the ground is saturated from prior rains.

In the Smythe Channel, a machine got stuck briefly in the mud Thursday.

As far as the storm channel clearing goes, residents told NBC 7 it’s about time.

“Finally,” said San Ysidro resident Dawn Rodriguez. “After more than 10 years. It looks a lot better.”

Rodriguez said her parents and other neighbors have been asking the city to clear it out for a decade.

“It’s all for the betterment of the neighborhood and avoiding floods,” said Jorge Negrete, a San Ysidro homeowner.

The Smythe Channel near the U.S. Mexico border is one of 13 channels the city identified as high-priority in November.

It took emergency permits to allow crews to work here.

In late November, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a warning to the State Water Resources Control Board, which is involved in the lengthy and complicated permit process.

The letter said: “Failure to prepare immediately, in light of improved predictions and damage caused by the prior strong El Nino’s, would be unacceptable.”

The city’s Transportation and Storm Water Department has a $130 million annual budget, with approximately $45 million of that allocated to the storm water division.

According to a January city memo, the department estimates it will be about $8.4 million over budget because of the necessary El Nino response.

When asked why the work isn’t done on a more routine basis, a spokesman explained a single permit during a non-emergency can take up to 18 months for permission to clear one storm channel.

Homeowners say the growth in the canal is a nuisance.

“There were stoves and refrigerators and stuff in there. When it rains, it’s got a terrible smell,” Rodriguez said.

After being woken up by the sound of chainsaws earlier in the week, Negrete said he wishes the city had issued some type of notification to residents that the work would begin.

“Overall, it’s good that they’re clearing it out. I think it’s going to be better now,” he said.

<![CDATA[SDSO: $1M Seized in Illegal Lakeside Pot Shop]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:16:01 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Lakeside-marijuana-bust-020416.jpg

San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputies shut down a marijuana storefront in Lakeside, arresting one man and seizing $1 million in marijuana and other products including honey oil wax and edibles.

Deputies say Jessy Tooma, 30, ignored several cease and desist orders and continued to operate a marijuana storefront without a permit for a medical marijuana collective.

Members of a Narcotic Task Force served a search warrant at Lakeside Trees on Woodside Avenue and Winter Gardens Boulevard, according to deputies.

Tooma faces charges of marijuana sales, deputies said.

<![CDATA[Beauty Schools Close After Losing Federal Funds]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 14:36:46 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/marinello+school+of+beauty+miramar.PNG

After federal funds were yanked from a chain of beauty schools, about 4,300 students are now left without classes and 800 employees are left without jobs.

Marinello Schools of Beauty announced Thursday they have closed all their campuses in Nevada, Utah and California, including one in Miramar. More campuses in Kansas and Connecticut will shutter Friday.

The Department of Education cut off federal funding to 23 of the Marinello schools, saying administrators falsified financial aid records by allegedly offering funding to some students with invalid high school diplomas.

The school is also accused of cheating students out of money by either charging too much or withholding financial aid.

Marinello administrators deny all the allegations. In a statement released Thursday, the school said:

“When the Department began to withhold funds from our deserving students two months ago, we pleaded with the Department to provide even basic information about its concerns, yet it refused to do so. We are confident we would have been able to address them given Marinello’s long history of compliance with regulatory requirements. The Department waited until we were past the point of no return financially to allow us any opportunity to respond to its unfounded allegations."

Marinello is now working with state educational agencies, the accrediting commission and other schools to help students transfer and complete their education, administrators said.

Students will receive transcripts, transfer options and other materials during campus meetings listed on the school’s website.

Student Antonio De La Rosa, a San Diego veteran who spoke with NBC 7 Wednesday, said he believes the school’s disorganization and unprofessional conduct has led them to waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

As he sought his barber license at Marinello, De La Rose said he was “flabbergasted” at some of the school’s practices. He saw students get their high school diplomas in one day, and courses were priced much higher than classes at other schools, he told NBC 7.

“I deserve my education and they’re not giving it to me,” he said before news broke that the school was closing.

The school’s statement said administrators are saddened by the loss of jobs and a century-old institution.

“To our students and coworkers, we want you to know that we did everything in our power to avoid this unfortunate conclusion and keep your school open,” the statement reads.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Students Want CSUSM Diversity Chair Reinstated]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 14:36:06 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Diversity-CSU-San-Marcos-0204.jpg

Cal State San Marcos students rallied Thursday to demand justice after the chair of the school's diversity program was fired.

“We want to let them know we’re not going to let them just fire anyone that advocates for students of color,” CSUSM Junior Selena Arellano.

Arellano is a member of M.E.Ch.A. (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan), one of the student groups that worked closely with Arturo Ocampo, the Associate Vice President of Diversity.

On Wednesday, students were notified by email that Ocampo was no longer an employee of the university. School administrators told NBC 7 they can't go into details on why Ocampo was fired.

Protestors told NBC 7 they feel they’ve lost one of their greatest advocates on campus.

“There is no one that could top him. We want him back immediately,” said junior Daniesha Thornton.

Not only did Ocampo serve as an advisor but the student leaders say he also challenged the administration. Something several students said may have cost him his job. 

CSU San Marcos administrators want to send a message to students that diversity has always been and will always be a priority.

“We have reorganized so that we are able to provide greater resources by moving this department into our community engagement,” said Cathy Baur, Associate Vice President for Communication.

The university is currently doing a national search but it could be several months before the position is filled.

Students say this will have a big impact on their planned events and future conferences.

<![CDATA[Traveling Simulator Mimics 9.5-Magnitude Quake]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 14:32:57 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Quake-Cottage.jpg

A roving earthquake simulator gave San Diegans in the biotech and medical fields a chance to experience the feeling of a 9.5-magnitude quake – and think about how to prepare for a potential “big one.”

The Quake Cottage – a mobile quake simulator – is the brainchild of San Diego resident Michael Essrig. On Thursday, Essrig launched the 10th version of the Quake Cottage – the largest of its kind – which fits eight people at once and is set up to mimic a biotech lap-type workspace.

The simulator is equipped with Essrig’s patented Safe T-Proof earthquake fastening system, straps and fasteners designed to keep large, heavy items secure and save lives in buildings and homes during quakes.

When “riders” step inside the Quake Cottage and the ground begins to rattle, items inside the simulator – including computers, televisions, microscopes and lab beakers – also shake, but the fasteners keep the items from unhinging or shattering.

“They’ve never felt anything like it – guaranteed,” Essrig said, describing riders’ reactions to the fake quake. “They’re surprised at how hard it shakes and how vulnerable they really are by not preparing.”

Essrig held demonstrations Thursday for workers in San Diego’s biotech and hospital communities in an effort to show them how survivable a high-intensity earthquake can be in their workplace, if they properly fasten items.

Essrig said quake preparedness is crucial for everyone, but researchers in the biotech field can really benefit from securing their workspace.

“Scientists work for months and even years on special research projects, and it costs a fortune. Can you imagine if an earthquake hits and everything is thrown to the ground and destroyed? All that work for nothing,” said Essrig.

He said the Quake Cottage often serves as a wake-up call for those who try it. Many times, people leave ready to go home and fasten their furniture and other big items such as refrigerators and televisions.

The mobile quake simulator was first created in 1994. Since then, it has been used by several states, municipalities and government agencies to increase earthquake safety awareness and educate the public on proactive disaster preparation. Part of the simulator houses an earthquake "learning center" filled with useful information. The Quake Cottage often travels to schools as well as corporate and public events.

Two versions of the Quake Cottage are also currently being used at U.S. Naval bases in Japan. To learn more about the traveling simulator, visit this website.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Man Accused of Arranging Sex With Babies Held in Custody]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 14:10:37 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Joel-Wright-arrest-012916.jpg

A Vermont man accused of traveling to San Diego to have sex with infant girls appeared in court Monday to face to two felony counts.

Joel A. Wright, 23, was a seminary student in Columbus, Ohio when he flew to San Diego International Airport on Jan. 29.

Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) met Wright outside of baggage claim and took him into custody.

According to officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Wright had plans to travel to Mexico to have sex with at least three babies.

On Monday, Wright did not enter a plea to two felony counts: traveling with the intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor and attempting to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country within the southern district of California.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard G. Skomal assigned Wright federal defenders.

At a hearing Thursday, Wright agreed to be held without bail as his case continues. His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 25. 

Wright was expelled from his seminary school Friday morning because he left school without permission, school officials told the Columbus Dispatch.

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<![CDATA[ Mardi Gras Heads to Gaslamp Quarter]]> Fri, 05 Feb 2016 11:33:38 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/mardi+gras+2-12-13-73.jpg

Live music, a colorful parade, street performers and a massive block party will light up the Gaslamp Quarter as San Diego celebrates Mardi Gras.

The Gaslamp Mardi Gras Block Party – a 21+ event that spans 5th Avenue, from E to Market streets – takes place Saturday from 5 p.m. to midnight. The highlight – the Big Easy Parade – goes down at 9 p.m. at 5th Avenue and E Street.

The Fat Tuesday street shindig includes a lively lineup of entertainment across five outdoor stages. On those stages: live music, DJs, street performers and more. There will also be an area for a “silent disco,” where revelers, equipped with their own personal set of headphones, dance to the beat of the music. Organizers say the event will also include a Brazilian carnival art show.

General admission tickets can be purchased in advance starting at $55. On the day of the event, general admission will be $60 per person. VIP tickets start at $90, and include three hosted cocktails.

A special Club Pass upgrade is available for an additional $40, which gets you no cover at participating nightclubs and entry into four exclusive parties, including a kickoff party at The Commons Bar and the grand finale party at Parq. The Club Pass also includes 16 hosted “welcome shots” at participating VIP venues. Club VIP locations include Analog, Coyote Ugly, Double Duece and McFadden’s, to name a few.

As for parking and transportation into the Mardi Gras bash, there are some options. Event parking will be set up on 4th Avenue and G Street. A parking pass for that location can be purchased in advance online for a discounted rate of $10. Mardi Gras attendees can also use the code “ClubVIPSD” for a $30 credit on your first UBER ride to the event.

The Metropolitan Transit System’s (MTS) trolley is also an efficient mode of transportation into and out of downtown San Diego. MTS says it has scheduled extra trolley service this weekend to accommodate more than 70,000 people expected to attend both Mardi Gras and Monster Jam (happening at 2 p.m. Saturday at Petco Park).

Saturday’s trolley service frequency will vary between 7.5 minutes and 30 minutes, depending on the time of day. MTS says service will be the highest immediately before and after the downtown events.

The last trains to leave downtown for the night from key locations are: Green Line at 1:08 a.m. from Gaslamp Quarter Station; UC San Diego Blue Line to San Ysidro at 12:36 a.m. from Fifth Avenue Station; Orange Line to El Cajon at 12:25 a.m. from Fifth Avenue Station.

By trolley, the best way to get to the Gaslamp Mardi Gras party is via the Blue and Orange lines to the Fifth Avenue Station. From there, it’s a short walk down Fourth Avenue to E Street. Green Line riders can transfer to the Orange Line at Santa Fe Depot or walk to the event from the Gaslamp Quarter Station, too.

As always, there’s plenty of free parking at MTS trolley stations throughout San Diego, including 5,000 spots at Qualcomm Stadium and 412 spots at the Old Town Transit Center. Riders can park their cars in the lots and board the trolley from there. Before you head out, check the Metropolitan Transit System's website for trolley schedules.

Organizers encourage revelers to dress in their most festive Mardi Gras gear, including purple, gold and green garments. That also means breaking out the fun masks, beads, feather boas, bustiers and doubloons – Big Easy style. Also, don’t forget those dancing shoes.

On Tuesday, downtown San Diego will keep the Mardi Gras festivities rolling with the 10th annual San Diego Fat Tuesday Party Gras. That event runs from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. across multiple participating venues, and kicks off at Coyote Ugly Saloon on 5th Avenue. Tickets to that start at $30.

Photo Credit: Vito di Stefano]]>
<![CDATA[Car Crashes Into Escondido Bridge Club]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 18:06:33 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Bridge+club+pic.jpg

A 75-year-old driver crashed her car into a building that hosts bridge club in Escondido on Thursday afternoon.

The man was taking his 81-year-old wife to bridge and were riding in the car in the 2300 block of South Escondido Boulevard just after noon when their car accidentally smashed into the building.

The driver had mistakenly hit the gas pedal instead of the brake, slamming through a door of the bridge club.

It was initially reported that the car went into a sex shop called “Romantix,” which is down the road from the bridge club.

The couple nor anyone inside the building were hurt.

One of the members of the bridge club who was inside at the time of the crash told NBC 7: "Good thing I was wearing my Depends."

Photo Credit: Erica Simpson/NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Local Dental Assistant Accused of Sex Act on Minor ]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 22:00:19 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Luis+Ramos.jpg

San Diego Police announced Thursday a dental assistant was in custody, accused of sexually touching a juvenile while the patient was under sedation for a dental procedure.

Police say a female reported she had been inappropriately touched on Jan. 21 while undergoing a procedure at the Park Boulevard Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Office at 4067 Park Boulevard.

"The victim is doing the very best that she can," said SDPD Cpt. Brian Ahern. "She is certainly brave and courageous, but I think she is traumatized."

SDPD launched an investigation and on Wednesday, Luis Ramos, 36, of El Cajon, was arrested and booked on two counts of sexual battery on a medically incapacitated person and two counts of oral copulation by means of anesthetic.

Ramos worked as a dental assistant at the office where he was arrested. He was being held on $2 million bail, according to his booking information. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.

Officers said there was one juvenile victim but did not release the victim's age or identity. Investigators are not sure if there are other victims, Lt. Scott Wahl told NBC 7. Anyone with information can call the SDPD Sex Crimes unit at (619) 531-2210.

Wahl said the dental business was cooperative in the investigation.

Patient Maricla Juarez told NBC 7 she has visited the office twice in the last five years. During her second visit, Ramos was in the room with her when she had an anesthetic.

"The doctor is wonderful. I had no idea about the assistant," she said. "But that makes me wonder if something happened to me while I was put under. You never know."

One of Ramos' neighbors, who would only identify himself as "Rosely," described the suspect as a very nice guy.

"He's a cool man," he said. "Whenever I don't have food, he gives me food. Every time I go to hang out there, he asks me, 'You want water?'"

Ramos' dental assistant license was issued two years ago and indicates he is in good standing with the state board.

Photo Credit: Park Blvd. Oral Surgery ]]>
<![CDATA[Home Depot to Fill 900 Jobs in San Diego]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 11:14:46 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Home+Depot+Generic.jpg

The Home Depot is looking to hire 900 employees across San Diego County locations in advance of spring, the home improvement retailer’s busiest selling season.

The company announced it plans to hire 80,000 associates nationwide – from sales and cashiers to operations and online fulfillment positions.

Job opportunities – including the nearly 1,000 Home Depot positions in San Diego – include both permanent part-time and seasonal positions in stores and distribution centers. Available positions vary by store.

Home Depot says college students, retirees and U.S. veterans are encouraged to apply.

To start the process, all candidates must apply online here and follow the instructions.

The Home Depot currently operates nearly 2,300 stores across the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, 10 Canadian provinces and Mexico. The company employs more than 370,000 associates.

In San Diego, there are nearly two dozen Home Depot locations, including Sports Arena, Chula Vista, Otay Mesa, Lemon Grove, Santee and El Cajon, to name a few.

<![CDATA[Lilac Hills Project May Be on Voters' Ballot]]> Thu, 04 Feb 2016 10:47:22 -0800 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/lilac+ranch+hills+rendering.JPG

North County supporters have filed paperwork with the county for an initiative petition drive, with the aim of placing the proposed 1,700-home Lilac Hills Ranch development on the November 2016 ballot.

Lilac Hills Ranch developer Randy Goodson, CEO of San Diego-based Accretive Investments Inc., said by phone that his company plans to support the campaign financially if it qualifies for the ballot, but he is not among the five North County residents, led by John Frandell, filing to begin collecting signatures.

Goodson said the supporters, who reside in Bonsall, Fallbrook and Valley Center, will seek to collect approximately 70,000 county voter signatures by around mid-May, for submission to the county Registrar of Voters. Paperwork for the petition campaign was expected to be formally filed by late afternoon on Feb. 3.

The developer said the approach is similar to that taken by supporters of a lagoon-adjacent retail project in Carlsbad, proposed by Los Angeles-based Caruso Affiliated, who last year conducted a successful initiative campaign to place that project directly before Carlsbad City Council for approval. A subsequent referendum drive by opponents, seeking to overturn council’s approval, forced a public vote set for Feb. 23 in that city.

The initiative move in Carlsbad was based on current California laws that allow projects introduced through public initiatives to be approved without having to go through certain environmental impact review procedures.

Goodson said his own project’s environmental impact studies have been approved by county planning agencies, but a recent California Supreme Court ruling – calling for more stringent reporting of projects’ statewide impacts on greenhouse gas emissions – poses complications for his and other large projects throughout California unless it is revised by the court.

Goodson recently decided to temporarily postpone further processing of his company’s project by county supervisors, while his company reviews the implications of the Supreme Court ruling.

Photo Credit: LilacHillsRanch.com
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