<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - San Diego News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Sat, 23 Aug 2014 08:32:18 -0700 Sat, 23 Aug 2014 08:32:18 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Padres Burned In The Desert]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 23:02:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/175*120/453988684.jpg

The Padres opened a 3-game series in Arizona against a Diamondbacks team that had lost six straight games and is transitioning to give young prospects a chance to play because it's so far out of playoff contention.

So, advantage San Diego right?

Not exactly. The Padres could play the Bad News Bears and, if the game was held at Chase Field, probably lose.

Since the stadium opened in 1998, the Padres are 50-93 at the Downtown Phoenix facility. That includes Friday night's 5-1 loss to that D-Backs team that was on a 6-game losing skid.

Starting pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne gave up four runs in the first two innings, continuing a trend of early struggles, to take the loss. Arizona starter Josh Collmenter struck out eight in 8.1 innings for his 9th win of the year.

On Saturday, Andrew Cashner comes off the disabled list to get the start for the Padres.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Bill Allows Dogs at Restaurants]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 20:34:56 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Dog+at+restaurant.JPG Under a new California bill, all restaurants must allow dogs in their outdoor dining areas. NBC 7's Vanessa Herrera reports. ]]> <![CDATA[SD Fact Check: City Pensions]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 20:08:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Demaio-Peters-Congressional.jpg In this week's San Diego Fact Check, The Voice of San Diego's Lisa Halverstadt and Scott Lewis take a look at the continuing fight over city pensions between Congressional candidates Scott Peters and Carl Demaio.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 ]]>
<![CDATA["Disturbing" Video Shows Security Officers Beating Man]]> Sat, 23 Aug 2014 07:09:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/MTS+officers+beat+man.JPG

Two California transit security officers have been suspended as La Mesa Police investigate a “disturbing” video that shows them tackling, grabbing and punching a shirtless man on board a moving trolley.

The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) handed the footage from its public camera over the police to determine if the hired Transit Systems Security (TSS) officers used excessive force in the Aug. 18 incident. TSS is under contract to provide armed security officers for MTS.

The altercation started when the shirtless man – whose identity has not been released— boarded the MTS trolley at the Grossmont Trolley Station. In the ten-minute MTS video, the TSS officers are seen verbally confronting the man, though it is unclear what they were saying.

Suddenly, both officers lunge at him. They wrestle with him, standing on seats for better access and throwing the victim to the other side of the trolley as it moves through La Mesa.

The video then shows the officers pulling out their batons and striking the man over and over.

Six minutes later, when the trolley has pulled up to the 70th Street Trolley Station, the two men leave the victim sitting on a seat to order everyone else off the trolley car.

They talk with the man for another minute or so and wrestle with him again. Finally, a third officer comes on board to help escort the man out.

The victim was later taken to the hospital for minor injuries.

“The video depicting the incident is disturbing and not reflective of TSS culture,” said TSS Chief Executive Officer Steve Jones in a news release. “Our top priority is to ensure that MTS passengers enjoy a safe and secure public transportation experience. We are investigating this incident thoroughly and if any violation of TSS policy and procedures are found to have occurred, swift and appropriate personnel action will be taken.”

MTS officials say after an initial review, they referred the issue to the La Mesa Police Department, which will work with the District Attorney’s Office to determine if criminal charges will be filed.

Both MTS and TSS launched internal investigations to be completed next week. At that point, they will decide if disciplinary action – which could include termination – will be taken.

“It appears at this time that the actions taken by the security officers were unacceptable,” said Paul Jablonski, chief executive officer of MTS, in a statement. “MTS and TSS do not tolerate the inappropriate use of force by its employees or those of its contractors.”

The officers, whose names have not been released, will be suspended until the end of the police investigation.

La Mesa Police are asking anyone who saw the fight, recorded video of it or took pictures to call Lt. Matt Nicholass at 619-667-7512.

Photo Credit: MTS]]>
<![CDATA[Carl Vinson Strike Group Ships Out for Deployment]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 22:29:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/uss+carl+vinson+deployment+0822.JPG

Petty Officer First Class William Maupin has been here before, saying goodbye to his wife as he set off for deployment aboard USS Sterett on Friday.

But two new, adorable factors are making it harder to leave.

“It’s my first deployment leaving kids behind, so that’s a new experience,” said Maupin.

His two young daughters clung tightly to their dad as he prepared to take his place on the ship. He said his biggest concern is missing major events in his family.

His wife Allyssa told NBC 7 she is more nervous for the girls than herself, but “he’s doing what he loves to do and I support that,” she said.

Maupin is one of about 6,200 sailors aboard five ships setting off for a ten month deployment with the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group.

As crews climbed into their stations at Naval Air Station North Island, family and friends looked on from a distance, hoping to get one final glimpse of their sailor.

“We knew it’s been coming for a while, but it just, it came so fast,” said Ashley Verral, who is being separated from her husband for the first time.

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is headed to the western Pacific with guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and guided-missile destroyers USS Gridley, USS Sterett and USS Dewey. They’re joined by aviation squadrons from Carrier Air Wing 17 and Destroyer Squadron 1.

The team of ships will focus on security in the region, but NBC 7 asked Adm. Chris Grady, commander of the Carl Vinson, if his crews will be called to support American operations in Iraq.

“Should we be asked by regional to support our allies and partners in that area, we will be prepared for that,” said Grady.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

<![CDATA[Locals Create Panda-Themed San Diego Flag]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 17:22:45 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/SD-Republic-Panda-Flag.jpg

When people think of San Diego a few things instantly come to mind: sun, surf and, of course, pandas.

After all, the San Diego Zoo is famous for the furry bears that consistently make headlines with their cuteness.

Now, the black and white bears have inspired two locals to create a new San Diego flag reminiscent of the California state flag, only more “panda-like,” if you will.

Constance Carroll, chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, and Martha Barnette, journalist and public radio host, joined forces this year to create San Diego Republic, a company that sells T-shirts featuring a flag of a panda bear.

The design looks similar to the California flag, with a panda instead of a grizzly bear. The iconic star and colored stripe on the design is blue rather than red, too, and below the stripe are the words “San Diego Republic.”

According to the company website, Carroll is the artist behind the flag that honors America’s Finest City. The T-shirts featuring the panda design cost $19.95 a pop and are sold online or at the Simply Local Store in Seaport Village.

The longtime San Diegans are also working on more panda-inspired products slated to be available soon on their website.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Firefighter Responded to Help Accuser: Attorney ]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:48:57 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Vadid+Cisneros++Andrew+Brennan+and+Greg+Econie.JPG

 One of three firefighters headed to trial on robbery charges responded to the scene where his main accuser died, according to his defense attorney.

On Friday, a judge decided to send San Diego firefighters Capt. Vadid Cisneros, Andrew Brennan and Greg Econie to trial on Dec. 6, facing robbery charges brought against them by alleged victim Louis Martinez.

Martinez told a judge two years ago that he was jumped and knocked unconscious outside a Normal Heights bar in February 2012 by the off-duty firefighters.

The prosecution claimed the fight escalated to include Louis’ brother Willy and ended when the suspects took the victims’ cell phones and wallets.

But the case against Cisneros, Brennan and Econie recently hit a problem when Martinez, their main accuser, died from unrelated circumstances.

In a strange twist, Brennan was part of the crew sent to help Martinez, though the man was already dead when paramedics arrived, Brennan’s defense attorney Gretchen von Helms said.

The attorney alleges Martinez’s death was due to his reported methamphetamine addiction

Without the main accuser, the prosecution and defense were unable to agree to a plea for the firefighters, so a judge decided to send the suspects to trial.

“That changes the complexities of the trial going forward, especially for the district attorney’s office,” said von Helms.

The judge will have to decide whether Martinez’s testimony from the preliminary hearing will be usable during the trial.

Von Helms is vying for a quick resolution for her client, saying this entire, two-year process has been stressful for the firefighters who have maintained their innocence.

“This is very difficult,” von Helms told NBC 7. “These young men are honorable young men. They have served their city well.”

<![CDATA[Crash Kills 3 Palomar College Students]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:40:33 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Oceanside-Triple-Fatal-822.jpg Three Japanese foreign exchange students who attended Palomar Community College were killed in a horrific crash on SR-78 on Aug. 21, 2014. NBC 7's Steven Luke has more on the victims, as well as a response from school officials on the deadly accident.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[VA Clinic Opens in Sorrento Valley]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:09:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/VAClinicPic-PIC_0.jpg

A new VA clinic has opened in Sorrento Valley to respond to the influx of veterans in San Diego County.

Officials opened the clinic Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house.

The 9,950-square-foot space will provide four primary care teams and 15 exams rooms in addition to team rooms and will be able to treat 17,000 patients a year.

The new clinic was crucial to meet the needs of the burgeoning vet population, said Dr. Robert Smith, chief of staff for the VA health care system in San Diego.

“It’s important because we continue to have a growing population in San Diego,” he said. “In order of us for us to provide timely service, we need to keep providing clinics.”

The Sorrento Valley clinic will offer primary care and mental health services, he said.

Smith said the opening of this clinic is just one step in a plan to expand VA services to multiple locations. A plan to bring a VA clinic to south San Diego, in Chula Vista, is in the works, though firm plans are far in the future.

Among those who spoke at Friday’s ribbon-cutting was Congressman Scott Peters, D-San Diego, who lauded the services provided for vets already in San Diego.

“You guys are the cornerstone of providing service for our vet,” he said. “San Diego’s a model of how to take care of veterans.”

<![CDATA[Woman Dives Off Sunset Cliffs, Hits Rocks Below]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 18:45:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/woman_injured_on_cliffs_pic_1200x675_321204291622.jpg

A woman was badly injured after diving onto a rock below Sunset Cliffs, San Diego Fire-Rescue officials say.

The woman in her 50s jumped off the area known as Osprey Point, near the 1100 block of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, around 3:40 p.m.

However, she miscalulated on her dive and struck a rock instead of the water, suffering major trauma, according to rescuers.

A helicopter airlifted the woman to a nearby hospital. Her condition is not known at this time.

Cliff jumping at Sunset Cliffs has become a problem for lifeguards and police, said Marine Safety Lt. Nick Lerma with the San Diego Lifeguards.

"This underscores the danger involved in jumping, particularly diving," said Lerma. "This isn't the first time."

In the last couple of months, lifeguards cited 15 people for leaping from the rocks -- 10 of those were at Osprey Point.

They've also given out hundreds of warnings and have had to rescue too many people, Lerma said.

<![CDATA[Marijuana Use Among Juvenile Hall Youth at High: Study]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:09:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/marijuana-pot-smoke-inhale.jpg

Marijuana use among youth booked into Juvenile Hall in San Diego County is at the highest rate seen in the past 14 years, according to a newly-released report from SANDAG.

The study, which included interviewing 136 youth at Juvenile Hall within 48 hours of their arrest and obtaining urine samples, found that more than half of the minors booked into the facility tested positive for pot – 53 percent, to be precise.

That figure is up 11 percent from 42 percent in 2000, SANDAG said.

According to the study, 90 percent of youth reported that they had tried marijuana. The average age of their first use of the drug was at 12 years old.

Two-thirds, or 62 percent, of those surveyed said pot was the first drug they had tried, up from 35 percent in 2009.

SANDAG said 88 percent of youth said it was “very easy” or “easy” to obtain marijuana. Meanwhile, only 16 percent of juvenile pot users said the use of the drug was “very bad” or “bad” for them, compared to 34 percent for alcohol and 58 percent for tobacco.

Of the youth who tested positive for marijuana, 58 percent said they had ridden in a car driven by someone under the influence, while 42 percent admitted they had gone to school drunk or high. The study said 41 percent said they had gotten into a physical fight while drunk or high.

SANDAG Criminal Justice Research Director Dr. Cynthia Burke said the results of the study indicate a rise in the popularity of marijuana among youth in the San Diego region.

"At the same time, there is a growing perception among young people that the drug does not pose significant risks," Burke added.

Last month, SANDAG released related research on the use of methamphetamine among youth booked in Juvenile Hall in San Diego County. That report found that 10 percent of youth booked into the local facility tested positive for meth in 2013. This was a significant increase after record lows of 4 percent in 2011 and 2012, though still far below the record high of 21 percent reported in 2005.

Photo Credit: David Sutherland]]>
<![CDATA[Guilty Plea May Keep Ex-Cop Out of Prison: Atty.]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 22:29:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Christopher-Hays-0423-Preli.jpg

Former San Diego police officer Christopher Hays will never admit he ever did anything wrong, according to his attorney. But on Friday, he agreed to a plea deal that will most likely keep him out of prison.

At a readiness hearing, Hays, 30, pleaded guilty to felony false imprisonment and two misdemeanor counts of assault and battery under the color of authority by a peace officer. The deal had been in the works for several months.

Still, it doesn’t mean Hays is admitting guilt.

“Mr. Hays today did not actually admit to doing anything wrong,” said his attorney, Kerry Armstrong.

“I’m not saying he’s innocent, I wasn’t there these nights he contacted these four women. I’m saying that the deal that I got him says that he’s not necessarily guilty, but he pleaded guilty because it’s in his own best interest,” Armstrong added.

Armstrong said the deal was based on legal precedent (North Carolina v. Alford) that allows a person to plead guilty “not because you did it, but because it’s in your best interest.”

Hays faces up to five years in prison, but Armstrong said a judge made it clear he will not be sending the former officer to prison.

In a quick phone conversation with NBC 7, Hays and his wife Erica said the plea was in the best interest of the family and they plan to move to Arkansas. They said they would make no further comment until after Hays’ scheduled Sept. 26 sentencing date.

“He pleaded guilty. There’s no doubt about that. He pleaded guilty. He will suffer the consequences. He will pay restitution to these women if they ask for counseling, but he’s not today, and he’s not ever going to admit that he touched them inappropriately, that he assaulted them or anything like that,” said Armstrong.

The decision to agree to a plea deal was made after the ex-officer’s preliminary hearing in April, where the attorney admitted there was a strong case made by the victims. But despite agreeing to the deal, the attorney sounded somewhat defiant, claiming two of the four victims have warrants out for their arrest.

“I felt that each woman by themselves is a weak case, but obviously all four put together was something that made me nervous as a defense attorney,“ said Armstrong.

Meanwhile, the attorney for one of the victims known as Jane Doe One said the officer’s plea is a clear admission of guilt.

“My client feels very vindicated that officer Hays admitted that the story she told was, in fact, true, that she wasn’t lying, that he did, in fact, violate each of those women,” said attorney Brian Watkins. “She also feels relieved that she can start to put this behind her.”

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

<![CDATA[Navy Master Chief Relieved of His Duties]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 22:29:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Grgetich.jpg

A Navy master chief petty officer has been relieved of his duties after the Navy says they’ve lost confidence that he can fulfill his role as a command master chief.

Joe Grgetich was let go Thursday by the commodore of Destroyer Squadron 1. Grgetich served as the command master chief of the USS Dewey based in San Diego.

According to his LinkedIn page, Grgetich had served as master chief for three years and five months.

Senior Chief Petty Officer Katy Willdigg, a sailor stationed aboard the ship, will take his place in the interim until a new master chief can report to the ship.

Further details on the reason for his departure were not disclosed by the Navy.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

Photo Credit: Navy]]>
<![CDATA[USS Carl Vinson Strike Group Deploys]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:20:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/MattMid0822_1200x675_321077827697.jpg The USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group, which includes several different ships and more than 6,000 sailors, deployed Friday from San Diego and will be gone for nearly 10 months. NBC 7’s Matt Rascon reports.]]> <![CDATA[Man Accused of Firing Gun at Children]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:47:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/police-lights-shutterstock_328107375.jpg

A San Diego father has been charged with attempted murder after allegedly pointing a gun at his two children and firing off six shots in Ramona, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department confirmed.

Brandon Quiroz, 26, is accused of opening fire at a home in the 200 block of 3rd Street just after 9 p.m. on Thursday. According to deputies, a victim reported that Quiroz had allegedly pointed a handgun at himself and his two kids and then fired six shots as they fled for cover.

Officials said evidence at the scene supported that a shooting had occurred.

After firing, Quiroz fled the home on foot. Deputies searched the surrounding area and at around 3:20 a.m., spotted the suspect walking near Pile and Pamo roads.

A deputy stopped Quiroz and arrested him. Officials said a loaded .357 revolver, ammunition and spent shell casing were found on Quiroz.

Quiroz was booked into San Diego Central Jail on charges of attempted murder and assault with a firearm. He’s scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

The shooting remains under investigation. Anyone with information should contact the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department at (858) 565-5200 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Critically Hurt Cyclist to Undergo Spinal Surgery]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 22:29:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/juan-vinolo-cyclist-crash.jpg

A cyclist who was critically hurt on Fiesta Island when a wrong-way driver plowed into a group of cyclists will undergo spinal surgery on Friday.

Juan Carlos Vinolo’s brother sent an email to NBC 7 with an update on his brother’s condition. Vinolo was paralyzed from the chest down after pushing another cyclist out of the path of the oncoming vehicle in the Aug. 12 collision.

Since then, he’s been in critical condition.

“He’s still in critical condition, so please keep him in your thoughts and prayers,” his brother wrote in the email.

“I don't have enough words to thank you all for the comforting words, wishes and good vibes you have had towards my brother,” he also wrote.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

Photo Credit: Juan Vinolo Family]]>
<![CDATA[Skydiver Misses Target, Needs Rescue]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:07:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/160*120/12.18-skydiving.jpg

Emergency crews were called to Jamul to help rescue a skydiver who missed his target, landing 200 yards off the ground on a nearby ridge.

Chula Vista firefighters and San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputies were called to 13500 Otay Lakes Road around 12:40 p.m. for a report of a skydiver down.

Firefighters said they found the skydiver suffering from minor injuries.

He landed approximately one mile north of the glider port.

Officials canceled a medical helicopter and planned to walk the patient out to a ground ambulance.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[CSUSM Investigates Alleged Frat Sex Assaults]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 22:29:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CSUSM-Generic-Google-Maps.jpg

A series of alleged sexual assaults and date rape cases believed to be linked to a college fraternity are being investigated at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), officials revealed Friday.

According to university officials, the campus police department has received several reports of sexual assaults allegedly involving the Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity and its members over the past few months.

The first alleged rape was reported back on May 4 at an off-campus party hosted by the TKE. Officials said the assault may have involved date rape drugs and the assailant may have been a member of TKE.

Since that incident, CSUSM has received additional reports of alleged sex assaults involving the frat. Officials said those cases happened on or near the college campus or at off-campus residences where TKE members live.

For now, the only suspect description available from investigators is as follows: a 19-year-old man, approximately 5-foot-9 and 130 pounds with blonde or brown hair and blue eyes. Additional suspects have not yet been identified.

In addition to these sex crimes, the TKE frat has also recently been accused of pervasive hazing, witness intimidation, harassment, vandalism, illegal drug use and providing drugs and alcohol to minors, CSUSM officials said.

According to the university, TKE – also known as “The Kollege Experience” – is not a recognized student organization at CSUSM. Still, most of its members are current CSUSM students.

University officials said TKE lost its recognition as a student organization in 2005 due to underage alcohol use and “failure of the organization to maintain academic standing required of recognized fraternities and sororities.”

On the fraternity’s website, the TKE claims it holds its “members to a higher standard, based on personal worth and character, rather than wealth, rank, or honor.”

“Although no longer officially recognized by our university, we set the bar for academics and involvement, as our chapter holds one of the highest average GPA’s at Cal State,” the TKE website states. “We still believe in a ‘well-balanced diet’ which includes a healthy amount of college social interaction. Dubbed ‘The Kollege Experience’ our chapter continues to host some of the most reputable nightlife experiences San Marcos and the surrounding community has seen.”

Due to the number and severity of the reported sex assaults currently under investigation, CSUSM officials said the crimes “represent a potentially serious and continuing threat to students and others in the university community.”

The university warns students to take precautions, especially if attending TKE-related events or parties. Officials said students should protect themselves from falling prey to date rape drugs by keeping a vigilant eye on their drinks at parties and pouring their own drinks.

Any additional victims of sexual assault or witness intimidation or retaliation should report their case to the CSUSM SAFE Line at (760) 750-SAFE or call University Police at (760) 750-4567. Sexual assault victims can also seek support at CSUSM’s Student Health and Counseling Center at (760) 750-4915.

The Oceanside Police Department is helping the campus police department with the May 4 rape case. The Oceanside Police Department can be reached at (760) 435-4900 with any additional witness details on the incident. Victims can also call San Diego Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC 7 San Diego

Photo Credit: Google Maps]]>
<![CDATA[New Sex Harassment Lawsuit Filed Against City, Filner]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 09:54:54 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Bob-Filner-1209.jpg

In a lawsuit filed this week, an ex-employee of former mayor Bob Filner claims she was kissed, touched, put in a headlock and asked multiple times to have sex on a conference room table while working in the mayor's office.

Benelia Santos-Hunter has filed claims with the city and the state as well as with the courts over the  “pattern of severe and pervasive sexual harassment” she says she experienced while a city employee.

Filner resigned in August 2013 after multiple women accused him of unwelcome sexual advances and inappropriate behavior.

Four months later, Filner was sentenced to 90 days house arrest after entering a guilty plea to felony false imprisonment and two misdemeanor charges of battery involving victims of sexual harassment.

In February, former communications director Irene McCormick Jackson reached a $250,000 settlement with the City of San Diego in her

Now, in a new lawsuit filed August 15, a second former employee claims she was asked for kisses and sex repeatedly by the former mayor over a span of four months.

While working for the former mayor, Santos-Hunter claims she was subjected to “inappropriate sexually based comments and advances, including physical touching, confinement, hostility, outrageous demands and threats, screaming” that resulted in hospitalization.

The city’s Director of Scheduling Barbara Hensen along with former spokesperson Lena Lewis, Lee Burdick and Vince Hall are listed as witnesses to the alleged behavior.

The hugs, kisses, unwelcome compliments and physical touching allegedly began a month after she joined the staff at the mayor’s scheduling staff. The first interaction was in February 2013 with a kiss on the forehead, according to court documents.

The lawsuit lists repeated advances and claims that in March 2013, Filner asked Santos-Hunter to “go in the back and make love right now.”

In April, Santos-Hunter claims Filner asked her to travel with him to Mexico, offering to share a hotel room with her.

Then, on May 6, Santos-Hunter claims the former mayor locked her in his office kitchen. She states that the following week he placed her in a headlock in the city’s conference room.

Seven months into her employment, the plaintiff claims Filner demanded she book a China trip for him. If not, she claims, he threatened to fire her.

Santos-Hunter said she informed the city’s Assistant Chief Operating Officer Scott Chadwick. In court documents, the woman claims Chadwick told her “’It’s not illegal to be an a--hole. Is there anything else?’ or words to that effect.”

Santos-Hunter filed a claim with the City of San Diego Claim on November 15 requesting $1.5 million in damages.

Through her attorneys she filed a complaint with California Department of Fair Employment and Housing on February 6.

<![CDATA[Experts Show Police Departments How to Diversify Ranks]]> Fri, 15 Aug 2014 14:35:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ferguson+courthouse+rogers.jpg

With the killing of an unarmed, black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, putting police departments under scrutiny, an expert on racial profiling says that the race of police officers tends not to make a difference on whether they use force.

“Blue is the most powerful color in terms of determining behavior," says Phillip Atiba Goff, a co-founder of the Center of Policing Equity at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an assistant professor of social psychology at the school.

Where race matters most is in the hierarchy of the force, among the officers who are in positions to make decisions, and to the community being policed, he said. Residents want to see themselves represented in the officers who make up their department.

The violence that erupted in Ferguson after the shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer has drawn attention to the racial make-up of police departments versus the communities they serve and ways to change the imbalance. The police force of Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, is more than 90 percent white in a community that is 67 percent black.

Goff’s group was brought in to look at racial profiling and other issues in the St. Louis County police department in the spring — one of about 20 law enforcement agencies it has worked with. Among the others are some that have had well publicized troubles, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, whose deputies have twice accidentally killed innocent men in the last four months, and the Oakland Police Department, which has been under a federal court order to make reforms.

Richard Rosenfeld, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said Ferguson did not fit the profile of a community where tensions, particularly between young black men and the police, would boil over into violence. It has pockets of economic disadvantage but also middle- and upper-income residents, and in fact has benefited from recent growth in the northern part of St. Louis County, he said.

There are "hundreds and hundreds" of communities like Ferguson across the country, Rosenfeld said.

His recommendation for those communities: get to work diversifying the police force immediately.

“That’s not a cure-all but is certainly a necessary first step to ease some of those tensions,” he said.

Growing Poverty in Suburbs

Recent economic progress aside, Ferguson’s unemployment rate rose from less than 5 percent in 2000 to more than 13 percent by 2012. Its poor population doubled, with about one in four living below the federal poverty line, according to Elizabeth Kneebone of the Brookings Institution. More poor residents now live in suburbs like Ferguson than in big cities or rural areas, a significant shift compared to 2000 when urban poor still outnumbered suburban poor, Kneebone noted in a research brief published in July.

“Suburbs often haven't developed the same infrastructure or safety net supports that cities have built up over decades for dealing with these issues,” she said. That fragmentation means many suburbs lack the staff and resources necessary to tackle the problem.

Goff's group tells police departments they have to devote resources to creating a more representative force, a step that can be difficult in a time of shrinking budgets.

"This is not something that’s going to happen overnight and it’s not something that’s just going to happen because you want it to," he said. "You’re going to have to devote money."  

Plus, he said, it is hard for police departments to attract candidates from communities with which police have had poor relations. Even after officers have been hired, retention can be difficult and burnout rates are higher.

“If you and your community feel there’s an organization that is set up to oppress you and your community, it’s very difficult for you then to decide, 'I’m going to feel good about going to work for them,'” he said.

Departments also have to consider how they are policing communities, he said. People tend to comply with the law when they see law enforcement officers behaving fairly and when they feel safe. If a community feels that it has been occupied, not policed, its resistance intensifies, he said.

A 1999 report, "Use of Force by Police," by the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics noted that the use of force appears to be unrelated to any officer's personal characteristics, such as age, gender and ethnicity. But the report cautioned that additional research was needed.

“If you’re involved in a use-of-force incident with an officer, it doesn’t make you feel any better if the person who is hitting you with a night stick is the same color as you,” Goff said.

A Problem of Trust

Victor Torres, a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer in San Diego, said he regularly gets calls from people who accuse police officers of misbehavior, from lying to physical assault.

“I think the problem is trust and when the police officers treat everyone like they’re at war with them, there’s not much trust,” said Torres, a director of the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association. “You have to actually speak to the people when there’s not some crisis going on. You actually have to ask people questions instead of accusing them.”

To address racial profiling, San Diego's police chief is appearing in a public service announcement to ask possible victims to report problems. Torres applauded the video, but said that many people in the community believe they are discouraged from making complaints.

“It’s great that she’s making an effort but she needs to be accountable and let us know what happens to the reports,” he said.

Goff's group has worked with police departments to determine whether they are engaging in racial profiling, improve training, help commanders identify implicit bias and address issues of race and gender.

It is also creating the first national database of police behavior, including pedestrian stops, vehicle stops and use of force.

“What we’re trying to do is create a broader, big data approach so that there’s evidence-based approaches to social justice,” he said.

Photo Credit: Phil Rogers/NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[Ex-SDPD Officer Pleads Guilty to Misconduct on Duty]]> Thu, 20 Feb 2014 15:04:52 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Chris-Hays-Officer-SDPD2.jpg

A former San Diego police officer accused of misconduct on the job – including groping and illegally detaining several women – pleaded guilty to several charges Friday.

Prosecutor Annette Irving confirmed that Christopher Hays, 30, pleaded guilty to felony false imprisonment as well as misdemeanor counts of assault and battery under the color of authority by a peace officer.

With this plea, Irving said Hays faces a maximum of five years behind bars but may wind up being sentenced to about one year. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 26.

An attorney for Hays said the guilty plea was the best deal for him. After this is all said and done, the attorney said Hays plans to move out of San Diego and back to his home state of Arkansas.

At least four women have claimed Hays inappropriately touched and groped them during pat downs while he was on duty.

Back in May, NBC 7 spoke with Hays’ wife, Erika Hays, who defended his innocence and said she would continue to stand by him.

At his preliminary hearing in April, three alleged victims identified only as Jane Doe One, Two and Three described their interactions with the officer in uniform.

Jane Doe Two said Hays allegedly gave her a pat down that included lingering over every part of her body. Jane Doe Three accused Hays of dropping his hand towards his groin and asking her to touch his body.

Hays – a four-year veteran of the San Diego Police Department – was charged with the misconduct crimes in February. Hours after his arraignment, he resigned from the department and said he was not guilty and felt betrayed by the department.

Hays’ case has put the SDPD under fire this year, further marring the department’s image.

When news broke of the alleged sexual misconduct crimes, then-Chief William Lansdowne ordered an outside audit of the police department from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Lansdowne’s successor, Chief Shelley Zimmerman, supported the audit.

“We are not going to tolerate this misconduct and betrayal of our badge and our profession,” Zimmerman said in March.

In addition to Hays, SDPD Officer Donald Moncrief was accused earlier this year of touching a woman inappropriately during an arrest in the South Bay and allegedly exposing himself to the woman.

Moncrief was never formally charged and left his job with the SDPD. In late April, he filed a claim against the city and the SDPD seeking damages for defamation, among other things.

Meanwhile, former San Diego police officer Anthony Arevalos is currently serving prison time for sexual battery and false imprisonment charges he committed while in uniform as a police officer patrolling the Gaslamp from 2009 to 2011.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Driver Slams Into Bank, Gets Stuck]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:20:27 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/car-stuck-bank.jpg

A motorist going too fast behind the wheel slammed into bank in Mira Mesa Friday morning and wound up getting stuck, officials said.

The accident happened around 9:15 a.m. at a U.S. Bank in the 4900 block of Mira Mesa Boulevard.

San Diego police said the driver was allegedly speeding and lost control, plowing into the bank building. Her vehicle then got wedged between the building and a tree.

Aerial video of the scene showed the driver’s front bumper snugly against the building and the back bumper up against the trunk of the tree.

One of the structure’s pillars sustained a large crack but police said damage to the building was minor.

The driver complained of pain, but her injuries are unknown. No other injuries were immediately reported.

<![CDATA[Locals on Inc. Mag's Fastest Growing List]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:36:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/san+diego+skyline+722+x+406.jpg

A total of 113 companies based in San Diego County made the 2014 Inc. Magazine’s 5000 Fastest Growing Companies list.

The annual ranking is based on a firm’s three years growth rate.

In terms of the fastest growing, Multifamily Utility, a San Diego billing company, was the best among the local businesses, with a three-year growth rate of 5,196 percent ranking it at No. 57.

The next fastest growing businesses in the county were PhotoBin at No. 60; Paradigm Mechanical at No. 168; and Pathway Genomics at No. 173.

The largest local company on the list by annual revenue was San Diego-based American Specialty Health, a health care insurance provider that did $239 million in sales in 2013 for a three-year growth rate of 54 percent. That ranked it No. 3,015 on the list.

California had the largest number of companies on the Inc. 5000 list with nearly 700, including No. 1, Fuhu, a maker of tablets geared to children based in El Segundo, which grew by more than 42,000 percent.

The Business Journal is the premier business publication in San Diego. Every day online and each Monday in print, the Business Journal reports on how local business operate and why businesses leaders make the decisions they do. Every story is a dose of insight into how to run a better, more efficient, more profitable business.

<![CDATA[Military Sexual Assault Bill Becomes Law]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:44:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/185*120/CA_Guard_Leader_Denies_Accusations_by_Members___NBC_Bay_Area.png

California has just made a major change in the way sexual assault allegations are investigated in the state military department. On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that requires sexual assault cases to be investigated by outside civilian law enforcement, not by military commanders.

It provides for no statute of limitations in cases involving sexual assault in California’s military department, which includes 24,000 people. The legislation also requires the department to report sexual assault statistics to the governor and lawmakers each year.

“I thank Governor Brown for signing this important legislation,” said Sen. Alex Padilla, who authored the bill. “Sexual assault is a serious problem throughout our military. While Washington debates how to address this crisis, California leads by example. Victims of sexual assault deserve our support and a respectful and effective justice system.”

This development comes after the Investigative Unit exposed problems with the handling of rape and retaliation in the California National Guard. We spoke with dozens of guard members who describe a breakdown in rape investigations and retaliation for speaking up about being sexually assaulted.

A representative from the California National Guard said state military leaders support the new law and that the guard believes more victims will see the successful prosecution and punishment of perpetrators.

The law goes into effect next year.

If you have a tip for the Investigative Unit call 888-996-TIPS or email theunit@nbcbayarea.com.

<![CDATA[Wanted Child Molest Suspect Seized on Sailboat]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 09:34:08 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Faudree-Boat-2.jpg US Marshals learned Timothy Faudree was living on a sail boat and traveling throughout San Diego County waterways undetected that is until Wednesday. NBC 7's Candice Nguyen reports.

Photo Credit: Facebook]]>
<![CDATA[Bolts Ready for 49ers Despite Turf Problems]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 21:15:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/0821-2014-LevisTurf.jpg

Ground crews at Levi's Stadium are working feverishly to replace the damaged field in time for the 49ers preseason game against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

The turf at the new stadium was in bad enough shape on Wednesday for 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh to cut practice short for safety reasons because players were falling while trying to run their routes.

San Diego Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy said he expects a normal pregame routine Sunday.

“It’s no different than any other game we’re playing,” McCoy said Thursday.

Defensive coordinator John Pagano said there's been no discussion about the field conditions.

“Any type of new surface you’re going to want to bring enough amount of cleats to check the surface. We’ll do that before the game,” Pagano said.

Several fans noticed an issue with the field on Sunday when the 49ers hosted the Denver Broncos.

Season ticket holder Carol Rossi said she could see grass and divets flying from players' heels during the game.

"The grass would actually come up and they had people from the stadium going in there and putting their foot down, grass back in place," Rossi said.

In April, 49ers head groundskeeper Matt Greiner said he had high hopes for the bandera grass during an interview with NBC Bay Area.

"What we found is that the bandera can recover a little quicker," Greiner said at the time. "It keeps its color a little longer into the season and its lateral growth so the rise that make the network, the cleat plants in really holds up nicely through wear and traffic."

The grass was supposed to withstand the wear and tear of the entire season, but after just a couple of games the 2.5-acres of grass has become an issue.

Crews spent Thursday ripping out the field. Fans are worried and skeptical that the grass will be ready in time for Sunday's game.

"I think they should move the game to another field," Rossi said. "Hopefully no one gets injured."

The 49ers on Thursday declined to comment on the turf, but said in a statement they are looking forward to hosting the Chargers on Sunday, and that appropriate steps are being taken.

Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Residents: Campo Not a "Dumping Ground" for Predators]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 07:28:42 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/allen-fields-campo-predator.jpg NBC 7's Omari Fleming spoke with several residents of Campo who are concerned about plans to place convicted sexually violent predator Allen Fields in their community.]]> <![CDATA[San Diegans March for Ferguson Shooting Victim]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 07:15:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ferguson-san-diego-march-08.jpg Here in San Diego, protesters also took to the streets, calling for justice for Michael Brown and speaking out against the militarization of police. NBC 7's Danya Bacchus reports.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Wrong-Way Driver Killed in Head-On Crash]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 07:37:40 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Fatal-Headon-Crash-163-0822.jpg

A man was killed in a head-on collision along State Route 163 near State Route 52 early Friday.

Witnesses say the driver of a silver 2004 Nissan Xterra was traveling north in the southbound lanes.

A semi driver told California Highway Patrol officers he tried to avoid the SUV. The maneuver caused his truck to overturn, officials said.

The man behind the wheel of the SUV, described as 21 years old by officials, died at the scene.

The truck driver was taken to a nearby hospital. Officials did not release information on the injuries he suffered.

CHP investigators will work with the medical examiner’s office to try and determine if alcohol was a factor in the crash.


Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[3 Dead, 5 Injured in SR-78 Crash ]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 08:42:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Oceanside-Triple-Fatal-0822.jpg

Three Japanese exchange students died and five others were injured after a teenager drove down an embankment and crashed into a power pole Thursday night in Oceanside.

California Highway Patrol officers say before the incident, the students were at a beach in Oceanside for a student-organized event. Many had gotten there by Sprinter train, but since the service stopped at 10 p.m., some had no way to get back to Palomar Community College.

One 19-year-old student, who had a five-seater Honda Prelude, offered to give those left behind a ride, which they accepted.

They loaded into the small car -- two in the front and six in the back.

The eight people, ages 18 to 22, then traveled eastbound on SR-78 east of El Camino Real at an unknown speed when the driver veered off the road for an unknown reason just before 11 p.m., according to official reports.

He crashed into a power pole, splitting it in half. The driver of the car and two others, a male and female, were killed, while two women and three men suffered non-life threatening injuries.

Four were taken to local hospitals via ground ambulance and one was flown to Palomar Hospital. CHP officials said four of the five have moderate injuries. One had serious injuries.

All of the people in the car were first-year, incoming exchange students from Japan attending Palomar Community College, school officials said.

The CHP said there was a language and cultural barrier between officers and the students, so it was difficult to determine exactly why the driver crashed. One person said man behind the wheel went to change lanes and then suddenly made a sharp turn off the road.

Students on campus were just beginning to learn about the crash when school officials confirmed the connection to NBC 7.

Palomar College President Robert Deegan said this is the first time the campus has suffered a tragedy involving so many students in his time at the campus.

"We want to express our heartfelt condolensces to the families and friends of these students," said Deegan. "We've lost three members of the Palomar family and we are truly reeling from the loss."

The crash remains under investigation, and it is not known if alcohol or drugs played a factor in the incident. Officials say they also don’t know if the occupants were wearing seatbelts.

A Sig Alert was issued as San Diego Gas & Electric crews work to replace the pole. All but one lane was open.

Eight customers in the area lost power due to the crash, which SDG&E expects to restore by 8:30 a.m.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Ross Outdueled by Kershaw as Dodgers Take Series]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 22:45:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/padres+dodgers+ross+kershaw.jpg

For seven innings, Tyson Ross matched Dodgers ace an Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw pitch for pitch on Thursday night.

He allowed just two hits, striking out six while shutting out the Los Angeles lineup.

That all disappeared with just two swings of the bat. A Carl Crawford leadoff single in the eighth was followed by a Justin Turner homer to left field and suddenly the host Dodgers had a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.

Ross finished with eight Ks against just two walks, but it wasn’t enough to top Kershaw’s eight innings of three-hit ball, punctuated by 10 strikeouts of his own. Kershaw didn’t allow a hit until the sixth inning – coincidentally off the bat of Ross.

The lone Padres run came on a Rene Rivera single in the seventh that scored Abraham Almonte.

The loss is a bitter pill as the Padres drop the series despite pounding out 25 hits in the previous two games. It drops them 11 ½ games behind the first-place Dodgers and eight games out of the wild card race.

They head to Arizona for a three-game series with the Diamondbacks this weekend.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Will Another Violent Predator Move to East County?]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 12:35:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/allen-fields-campo-predator.jpg

A 1,200-square-foot house in Campo could become home to a violent child predator, and East County residents say they’re worried for their safety.

Friday morning, a judge is scheduled to rule on the Department of State Hospitals’ proposal to move convicted predator Allen Fields, 58, into the three-bedroom, one-bathroom home on Custer Road.

Neighbors are furious, concerned the state is trying to turn Campo into a dumping ground for violent predators.

“If he moves in, I’ll be watching,” said neighbor Cindy Bieschewski, holding up two fingers to her eyes.

Fields spent 25 years in prison and more than ten years undergoing sex offender treatment for molesting four boys in the 1980s.

Even Fields’ voluntary surgical castration does not relieve neighbor’s concern.

“It doesn’t take away aggressiveness in animals,” said potential neighbor Jock Ogle. “It just keeps him from reproducing.”

A playground sits about a mile from where Fields could call home. Campo Elementary School is just 2.2 miles away.

“I feel for all the people with kids saying, ‘Please! Not here! Not here! Not here,” said Tagan Freeland.

With Fields possibly becoming Campo's newest resident and the state suggesting violent sex predator Douglass Badger move into the area, County Supervisor Dianne Jacob issued this statement:

"Here we go again. The state is trying to unload yet another monster on a peaceful, family-oriented community. Although this convicted pedophile may have been castrated, residents lose serious quality of life each time one of these predators is dumped in our communities."

If the judge approves the transfer, there is no word on how soon Fields could move in.

<![CDATA[Dozens March for Michael Brown in San Diego]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:58:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/san+diego+protesters+rally+for+michael+brown+0821.JPG

Shouting chants for justice, dozens of San Diegans took to the streets Thursday evening in a solidarity rally for Michael Brown, the unarmed black teen who was killed by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri.

The small crowd, made up of several activist groups, gathered in Balboa Park as the starting point for their walk to downtown. Many held signs that echoed the plea of thousands across the country since Brown's death: “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”

Through their march, they aimed to take a stand and demand officers be held accountable.

Local protesters say there have been countless unarmed men like Brown who have been shot and killed by police.

"It hasn't happened in San Diego yet, but if we let it go on in Ferguson, it could happen in San Diego. It could happen in D.C. It could happen in these places," said Marcelis Muriel. "So we're gonna protest it now so that it doesn't happen."

Protesters marched from the park onto Broadway, escorted by San Diego Police officers in bikes.

Their ultimate destination was the Hall of Justice. There, they chanted "Power to the people," "Hands up, don't shoot" and "Who's streets? Our streets." The crowd then fell silent as the names and ages of victims were read aloud.

One activist said he was there to protest the way militarized police have handled protesters in Missouri.

"There's no reason we should be having military equipment rolling through the streets of America. Violence breeds violence,” said Chris McKay.

But this peaceful demonstration proved to be a drastic difference from the tense, at times violent, protests that have rocked the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson for nearly two weeks.

Police and protesters have clashed since the unarmed Brown was fatally shot police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. What started as peaceful protests dissolved into violent lootings, arrests and more shootings.

On Monday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called in the National Guard when crowd control tactics and curfews failed to stop the unrest. He withdrew the guardsmen Thursday.

<![CDATA[Balboa Park Sex Assault Case Declared Mistrial]]> Thu, 16 Jan 2014 13:58:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Balboa-Park-Bridle-Trail.jpg

A judge has declared a mistrial in the case of a man accused of trying to sexually assault a woman on a Balboa Park trail.

A jury could not unanimously decide if Ameen Ali Bryant, 21, is guilty of assault with intent to commit rape. Jurors became deadlocked 8-4 Thursday as they deliberated the case, leading to the mistrial.

Bryant faced the charges for an attack on Jan. 14, when he grabbed a woman walking along Bridle Trail, put his hands on her skin and forced her to the ground in broad daylight, the victim told the jury.

She believes Bryant intended to rape her.

"I was thinking to myself that I need to turn around or else it's going to be all over," she said describing how she began fighting the attacker who at that time was sitting on her hips.

However, Bryant told the court he attacked her not to sexually assault her, but to steal her cell phone.

He said he only grabbed the victim because she tried to fight back. “Other than that, it would’ve never happened,” Bryant said.

His defense attorney told the court when the woman screamed rape, his client “freaked out” and tried to stuff dirt in her face to distract her while he ran away.

When two passersby walked up the trail, Bryant took off. Police believe the witnesses scared him off.

Under cross-examination, the victim testified that the defendant did not say he wanted to rape her and did not touch private areas of her body.

The prosecutor said Bryant is a documented gang member with a prior strike for robbery in 2012. He’s currently on parole for that offense.

<![CDATA[Eating Healthy Seafood Has Its Limits]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:30:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/tuna+can.jpg

We've all been advised to eat more seafood.  By most accounts, fish is a great choice.  It's a low-fat source of protein with promises of improving your heart and health. 

However, while some say seafood can help a baby's brain development in the womb, pregnant mothers need to be cautious.

According to Consumer Reports and other researchers, some seafood contains high levels of a form of mercury called methylmercury.

"Mercury can damage the brain and it can damage the nervous system, especially when that exposure occurs in the womb," said Dr. Michael Crupain with Consumer Reports.

New government guidelines encourage women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to become pregnant to eat between 8 and 12 ounces of fish per week.  They even suggest a minimum quota for young children. 

But Consumer Reports says pregnant women and children should avoid fish like tuna that are high in mercury.  Consumer Reports' food-safety experts say tuna accounts for 40 percent of our mercury exposure, most of that from canned tuna.

"To be safe, Consumer Reports recommends that pregnant women not eat any tuna at all," Crupain said. "Children and anyone who eats a lot of fish should really limit the amount of tuna they eat."

Other fish with high mercury levels are swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico.

So what are alternatives for people who want more fish in their diet?  Consumer Reports recommends fish like wild Alaskan salmon, shrimp, sardines, tilapia, scallops, oysters and squid.

Photo Credit: Bob Hansen]]>
<![CDATA[City Seals Underground Tunnels, Kids Still Explore]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 15:01:21 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sd+underground+tunnels.jpg

San Diego city workers sealed off the entrances to several underground tunnels and caves Thursday morning along Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach.

“I think it goes completely under this parking lot” said Jose DeSantiago of La Mesa, who explored the tunnels before they were closed.

“You kind of go into this really crowded cramped hole. There are rocks surrounding you,” DeSantiago described. “It’s really hard to get into it at first. But after the first five feet, it kind of tunnels out and it just gets bigger and bigger and wider and wider until eventually you can stand”.

Jose’s curiosity is exactly what the city is up against as they try to keep the tunnels off limits because of safety concerns.

Ocean Beach locals say teens and young adults are the main people who enter the caves.

“It’s just a well-known fact that young kids who are underage will go down here and drink. Their parents might not know they’re down there. What if somebody falls? Gets hurt?” said Donna Napolitan, a 35-year resident of Ocean Beach.

The tunnel sealed off by San Diego’s Park and Recreation department Thursday isn’t the only one in the area.

“I’ve heard an urban legend about there being one that was used during prohibition where boats would pull up and unload and carry the alcohol in underneath one of the homes upon the cliffs” Napolitan said.

A woman who answered the door of the home referenced by Napolitan said there is a sealed off entrance in her basement which she believes once led to the tunnels.

While some people consider the underground pathways a “hidden gem” worth exploring, the city says they are too dangerous to be left open and accessible.

Photo Credit: NBC 7]]>
<![CDATA[Strange Blue Creatures Wash Up on San Diego Beaches ]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 07:00:12 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/velella+velella.JPG

Thousands of mysterious, bright blue sea creatures washing up along California beaches have made their way to San Diego.

The sapphire-hued Velella velella, which look like tiny jellyfish, are floating ashore in Del Mar around 15th Street, just south of Power House Park.

Measuring about three inches, the invertebrates are known as “by-the-wind sailors” because part of their body resembles a sail sticking above the water.

Wind and ocean currents are bringing the Velella velella to our coast, Jenn Moffat with Birch Aquarium told NBC 7.

While they are related to jellyfish, their sting typically cannot be felt, so they’re harmless to humans.

Still, Moffat has a word of advice.

“Don't touch them unless you know for sure this is what you're dealing with,” She said. “They look very similar to Portuguese man-o'-war, and those have a pretty powerful punch as far as sting goes. So it's just really better to stay away from them and just look at them and let them be.”

Moffat said once the Velella velella make it to shore, they are dead or dying.

Nevertheless, their eye-catching color has raised the curiosity of beachgoers.

“I had no idea what it was,” said Tom McKissick. “I understand it's from the jellyfish family or something but it doesn't sting. So, it's a friendly jelly fish.”

Northern California was the first to see the sea creatures rolling in by the hundreds last month. Researchers say they feed on zooplankton and fish, and their natural predators are snails.

Photo Credit: Artie Ojeda]]>
<![CDATA[Man Pleads Not Guilty in Church Parking Lot Stabbing]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:49:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Gonzalezarraignment0821.JPG

A man accused of stabbing his wife in Vista and taking two of their four children pleaded not guilty Thursday to two felony charges of domestic battery.

Juan Gonzalez, 38, appeared in court in connection to the alleged stabbing on Sunday evening at First Lutheran Church on the 1400 block of Foothill Drive.

A judge ordered $120,000 bail – the highest amount allowed under law for those charges – despite the defense’s request for $50,000 bail.

The incident followed an argument that began at a friend’s nearby apartment, where he’s accused of punching her repeatedly.

Prosecutors said he then took his two children, ages 1 and 3, and sat outside in a pickup truck.

“She decided she wanted to go out there and bring her children back in the house,” said Deputy District Attorney Ryan Saunders.

That’s when another argument took place and Gonzalez allegedly stabbed her once in the abdomen, Saunders said.

Saunders said Gonzalez left with his kids and was later found staying at his parents’ house in Riverside.

If convicted of the charges against him, Gonzalez could face up to 11 years in prison.

<![CDATA[What Are Those Blue Sea Creatures Coming to SD?]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 20:22:45 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/velella+velella.JPG NBC 7 viewers shared their pictures of the strange little creatures washing ashore on San Diego beaches. It turns out, they're called Velella velella.

Photo Credit: Artie Ojeda]]>
<![CDATA[Immigrant Families Released to Slum Shelter]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 06:48:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/House-of-Home-Santee+copy.jpg

As federal officials grapple with a crisis-level influx of Central Americans who are showing up at U.S. borders, NBC 7 Investigates found at least three immigrant families released to a Santee shelter kept in deplorable conditions.

According to a contract provided to residents of the “House of Hope,” the home is an outreach ministry of the Faith Family Christian Center, run by Pastor David Barrett.
Conditions inside the “House of Hope”

A resident led us through the shelter on Prospect Avenue, navigating our news crew through piles of bedding visibly covered in flies, fleas and maggots. At least eight, bedraggled children scurried into an already-crowded back bedroom upon our arrival.

NBC 7 Investigates found 16 infants, children and adults living in a three-bedroom, 2,100-square foot home with no water or food.

“It’s just appalling. They had a bed bug infestation here. They had locks on the refrigerators and the cabinets. There were 42 people living in this house,” said a woman who identified herself as Vanessa Christian. She displayed pictures from her phone of the locks on the refrigerator and cabinets.

Inside the “House of Hope,” there’s very little of it.
Children can’t remember the last time they went to school. They take spit baths in the back yard where they pour bottled water over each other’s heads to ease itching. That’s when they can afford bottled water.

Using the restroom involves holding down the toilet handle while pouring costly bottled water down it to flush. A barefoot baby toddles dangerously close to a discarded needle on the floor.

Barrett said he closed down the shelter for undocumented immigrants, homeless and disabled people at the beginning of July when he received code compliance notices from the City of Santee.

“The people who are currently at the Santee house are choosing to stay there, under those conditions that they’re in,” Barrett said. “And there’s nothing I can do about that.”

The residents who remained in the home said they refused to relocate to another of Barrett’s shelters because they didn’t feel they were being treated fairly. They said Barrett collects their welfare benefits, which leaves them financially bound to him. Barrett said he does sometimes collect resident’s social security benefits from a designated payee in order to provide them shelter and food, but he does not currently collect anything from those still living in the “House of Hope."

“They call me because they know I’ll take them”

Barrett says care at the sober living home began to deteriorate when some started drinking and using drugs again.

“The household was just a place to help people get off the streets and get a better way of life,” Barrett said. “And you can’t help everybody. I’ve been doing this about nine years and you get in a situation where you have people who want to come and live and don’t want to be responsible.”

Barrett said until recently the home was clean, orderly with plenty of food and room. According to Barrett, only 25 people lived in the house at one time. He said he began relocating responsible people from the “House of Hope” to other shelters he runs throughout the county in early July, when the City of Santee called to inspect the house.

But, when he got a call from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, he decided he could take one more family from Guatemala into his care at the Santee shelter.

“They call me all the time when they can’t place somebody. They call me because they know I’ll take them,” Barrett said.

An ICE spokeswoman said her records indicate three immigrant families have been taken to the Santee shelter. Lauren Mack, a spokeswoman for the federal agency, stressed that families are not “placed” with Barrett but rather “referred.” The process, she said, is they are released by ICE and then referred to Barrett. Sometimes ICE agents drive the families to the shelter, she said.

Residents said that leads to confusion among the non-English speaking immigrants who believe they are being placed into Barrett’s custody by the federal government.

Mack said that since late July, when

NBC 7 first reported

on the shelter, the agency has not referred any more families to the “House of Hope.”

No system for site or background checks
As NBC 7 reported last month, a 23-year-old woman from the Guatemala family claims she was sexually assaulted on her first night in the shelter, an incident that is the subject of an ongoing Sheriff’s Department investigation.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department officials have responded to 22 incidents at the home since September 2013, when Barrett began leasing the property.

Those incidents range from assaults to burglaries to petty thefts.

NBC 7 Investigates filed a request for information under federal law for details about what other non-governmental agencies ICE has referred immigrants to, but that request has not yet been acknowledged or answered.

Mack said Immigrations and Customs Enforcement doesn’t do any background checks or site checks on the facilities.

In fact, no one does.

Shelters are overseen at a local level where regulations vary greatly from city to city, and typically amount to code enforcement violations. In the City of San Diego, for example, a person has to have a business license to sublet rooms from a leased property to multiple people; and placing more than two people to a bedroom in a shelter environment is prohibited. No such rules exist in Santee, according their Development Services Department.

A Department of Social Services spokesman said it is not uncommon for a shelter to collect and pool social security benefits in order to provide room and board for the residents. But, it is not legal for a provider to confiscate CalFresh benefits to provide food to an entire shelter, he said.

“The intent of that food is to feed a specific family, not everybody in a congregate care environment,” said Michael Weston, a spokesman for the Department of Social Services.

Barrett said he does not utilize anyone’s CalFresh benefits and only takes the taxpayer-funded benefits a person can afford on a case-by-case basis, and only to provide that person or family with shelter and food.

“You know, I’m only one person. If everybody in the City of San Diego would go out and try to extend themselves and help, you would have less problems and less issues, if they were doing what I’m doing,” Barrett said. “I’m not making no money. I spend everything that I have to help other people live and I don’t really have to do that.”

Keisha Mimms, who relocated from the Santee home to Barrett’s personal home in Chula Vista, said the Santee location was crowded and uncomfortable, but she’s grateful to the pastor for everything he’s done for her family.

“He helped me,” Mimms said. “I was fixing to go into the streets.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Storm Brings Flooding, Fire to East County]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:43:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/borrego+springs+lightning+fire.jpg

Lightning strikes sparked four fires in Borrego Springs Thursday, as a slow-moving storm passed through East County.

Two of the fires were tree fires, and the other two were brush fires. The brush fires scorched a total of six acres and damaged a house off Henderson Canyon Road, according to Borrego Springs fire officials.

The California Highway Patrol closed Borrego Valley Road between Palm Canyon and Henderson Canyon because of the fire.

A flash flood warning for the area, including Pine Valley and Mount Laguna, was in effect until 4:15 p.m. PT. Flooding was reported along State Route 94 and Shockey Road in Campo, according to the National Weather Service (NWS.)

NWS estimated nearly 2 inches of rain fell in Mount Laguna, where quarter-sized hail was also reported. Winds were expected to reach 60 mph.

A separate flash flood warning for El Centro is scheduled through 6:15 p.m. PT.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 viewer Sam Webb]]>
<![CDATA[Death Penalty for Ex-Marine in Brutal Slayings]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 08:42:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Pietrzaks.jpg

Jurors have ruled a former Marine in Southern California who went by the nickname “Psycho,” should get the death penalty for the execution-style murders of a fellow service member and his wife.

A Riverside County Superior Court jury deliberated for about half a day before handing down the decision Thursday against Fallbrook resident Kesaun Sykes, 27.

It was the same jury to find him guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of newlyweds Marine Sgt. Jan Pietrzak, 24, and his wife, Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak, 26, who were found brutally killed in their home near Murrieta in October 2008.

Former Lance Cpl. Sykes was also found guilty of special circumstances of murder during the commission of a robbery, burglary and rape by an instrument.

His sentence is scheduled to be certified by a judge on Nov. 7.

Three other former Marines – Kevin Cox, Emrys John and Tyrone Miller – were convicted last June on the same counts in the Pietrzak slayings.

Juries ruled John and Miller should also be put to death and that Cox should get life in prison without the chance of parole.

Sgt. Pietrzak, a helicopter airframe mechanic at MCAS Miramar, once worked with Cox, John and Miller while they were stationed at Camp Pendleton.

Before the killings, the four convicted Marines went to the victims’ home to rob them, forcing their way inside, the DA says.

Pietrzak was later found bloodied and beaten to death inside his home, while his wife’s body was discovered naked. Investigators say she had been sexually assaulted before her murder.

Both victims were bound and shot in the head.

Jewelry, including the couple’s wedding rings, as well as Pietrzak's dress uniform were found at the suspects' homes, authorities said.

Sgt. Pietrzak, who was born in Poland and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., joined the Marines in 2003 and served in Iraq from July 2005 to February 2006. Relatives of the victims said Quiana was from San Bernardino and was a 2005 graduate of San Diego State University.

The couple met in San Diego through a mutual friend who also attended SDSU. Quiana was studying to become a doctor.

<![CDATA[Quarry Blast Leaves Hole in Tierrasanta Home]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:31:03 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Tierransanta-Blast.jpg

A Tierrasanta resident got a big scare Thursday after a blast from a nearby quarry left a couple of gaping holes on the side of her home.

Bianca Bushnell was at her house on Madera Rosa Way when she suddenly heard a loud noise followed by her entire home trembling.

“I came outside and saw there was a hole, basically, blown in the house,” she explained.

Bushnell called police to report the incident and a few minutes later, a worker from a nearby quarry came to her door. He explained that workers had hit a seam, sending materials flying.

The worker told her he was surveying any damage from the accidental blast and promised he’d pay to repair the holes in her home. In addition to the holes, the blast also cracked her recycling bin, which was sitting against the side of the house that received the impact.

Bushnell called the incident “unsettling,” but said she was grateful nobody else was home and that no one was injured.

“It’s almost comical, like ‘Are you serious?’ It’s ridiculous,” she told NBC 7. “Our house has a big hole in it – it’s not okay.”

Bushnell said she immediately texted photos of the damage to her roommates after the incident and assured them she had nothing to do with it.

“One of our tenants is on vacation, so they’re going to have a nice little surprise when they come home,” she added.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Men Stuff Meth Into Gas Tank, Panels]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 16:00:36 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/8-21-14-Border+Patrol+Arrests+Two+Men+on+I-5+with+780K+of+Narcotics_photo+1.jpg Images of smuggling attempts at their finest.

Photo Credit: U.S. Border Patrol ]]>
<![CDATA[Missing Man Died From Outside Exposure, Not Meth: ME]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 08:42:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Salayer-1-knsd.jpg

A missing Ramona man who was found dead near his home died from exposure to outdoor elements, not methamphetamine intoxication as medical examiners first believed.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office released an amended the autopsy for Carl Salayer, 67, on Thursday.

It says his primary cause of death was probable environmental exposure, with Parkinson’s disease and Brugada syndrome listed as contributing factors.

When the medical examiner initially released Salayer’s autopsy findings in early August, they said he was killed by acute methamphetamine intoxication.

However, they discovered the meth detected in his liver was a metabolite from his prescribed medication selegiline – a drug used to treat Parkinson’s.

According to the revised autopsy, selegiline can yield false-positive results, making it appear as though the patient took meth.

"Despite the presence of the methamphetamine, the small amount of it detected in the liver is not felt to have contributed in a significant way to the death," the autopsy says.

Salayer was reported missing on June 17 by his wife. After four days of searching and no results, deputies called off the hunt.

On June 25, a couple living on Chablis Road reported a bad odor lingering near their home, and deputies discovered Salayer’s decomposing corpse in a heavily vegetated field.

His death is still considered an accident, the medical examiner’s office says.

<![CDATA[Chargers Preseason Tickets Selling for $7]]> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:30:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/180*120/459485331.jpg

Chargers fans looking for a resale ticket to the last preseason game can buy one for less than the cost of a fast food meal, according to a published report.

The UT San Diego found tickets to the Aug. 28 game against the Arizona Cardinals going for 85 percent of face value on the secondary market.

NBC 7 found fans selling tickets to the game on StubHub for as low as $7. In comparison, tickets in the same section for the Bolts home opener against the Seattle Seahawks are going for about $135 on StubHub.

So why the rock bottom ticket prices?

“Starters will not take the field,” said NBC 7 sports anchor Derek Togerson. With the regular season about two weeks away, the team will likely bench star players like Philip Rivers and Ryan Mathews so they don’t risk injury, he said.

Speaking of the regular season, the Chargers will play the Cardinals in Monday Night Football Sept. 8, just 11 days after their preseason match-up. It seems some fans are choosing to just wait for the real thing.

The UT cites bundling – season ticket holders being forced to buy preseason tickets, too – as another reason for the influx of cheap seats.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>