Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Feb. 28. I’m Justin Ray.
Controversial Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva frequently uses social media to talk tough about crime, dismiss claims of widespread police brutality and call out his critics.
But in a recent “community conversation” in Brentwood, it was Villanueva who found himself called out. Journalist Cerise Castle, who has extensively covered his department, recorded the moment when the sister of Frederick Holder, a young unarmed Black man who was fatally shot by sheriff’s deputies last June, spoke up at the town hall event.
“You guys shot his mouth off. You shot his tongue off. My brother had a 9-month-old son that you guys took him away from. You won’t meet with us,” said a woman who identified herself as Holder’s sister. “You’re not doing your job, Sheriff Villanueva.”
Before he was elected in 2018, Villanueva worked hard to convince liberal, progressive voters that he was their candidate. Now, he’s at war with those same voters. However, Villanueva would describe it differently.
“I would not say those same voters,” Villanueva said on an episode of The Times’ daily podcast. “No, the political establishment of the Democratic Party are the ones that are doing all the talking right now. The voters themselves are very happy with all the reform efforts. I campaigned on reform, rebuild and restore. That is exactly what we did.”
Here’s more about Holder’s case, including how his family has spoken out about his killing, and what authorities say led to the fatal encounter.
A family keeps a loved one’s case in the spotlight
The Times’ attempts to reach out to Holder’s family were unsuccessful. However, the family has spoken to other outlets.
“He would do everything he could to make sure you had a smile on your face before you left his presence,” Hali Holder, his younger sister, told Knock.LA.
Holder’s sister Tamera Bishop told the Whittier Daily News that he enjoyed singing and even tried out for NBC’s “The Voice.” Although he didn’t make it on the show, Bishop said her brother’s voice was beautiful.
The family held a protest across Los Angeles County for 33 days, because deputies reportedly fired 33 shots at Holder. An Instagram account is also dedicated to raising awareness about the case.
What authorities say about the incident
On June 23, shortly before 10 a.m., a Los Angeles Police Department Air Unit told Norwalk Station deputies that a white utility box truck was “driving erratically and the driver was possibly under the influence,” the Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.
Deputies pulled over the vehicle and tried to call the driver, Holder, 28, out of his vehicle. “Holder refused to exit the vehicle and drove away,” the release stated. The vehicle was eventually forced to stop due to a red light and traffic.
“Deputies exited their patrol cars and approached Holder while he was still inside the vehicle. When deputies opened the driver’s side door, Holder pointed what they believed to be a firearm at them and a deputy-involved shooting occurred,” the release stated.
The object was actually a butane lighter. Deputies Jackie Rojas, Javier Fierros and Christopher Conger were involved in the incident. None were wearing body cameras. A dashboard camera video released by LASD fails to show the actual shooting, as a cop car obstructs the view.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
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So you want to build an ADU in California? Here’s what you need to know. Maybe you’re itching to own a rental unit for the extra monthly income. Sadly, there are plenty of hurdles to overcome. Here’s what you need to know. Fontana News Room
Column: The Lakers must trade LeBron James. It sounds crazy, but it’s the best path forward. “LeBron James is a giant. He’s not bigger than the Lakers. James will retire as the greatest player in NBA history. He’s not greater than the Lakers,” writes columnist Bill Plaschke (who is not me, so no emails). Fontana News Room
‘The One’ mega-mansion is up for auction. The gigantic property known as “The One” has become something of a Rorschach test for L.A.’s luxury real estate scene: Everyone’s focus is on the same massive Bel-Air structure, but they’re not seeing the same thing. Some think it’s the ultimate trophy home, others are convinced it’s a giant white elephant clad in marble and glass that one local broker has sarcastically dubbed “100,000 square feet of drywall.” It should be clear which vision prevails when the mansion goes up for auction this week. Fontana News Room
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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
It hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón. His own employees voted to support a recall effort against him. They joined former L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck, once a supporter of Gascón, who also favors recalling the D.A. The campaign to oust Gascón has amassed $1.8 million. But Gascón’s defenders argue that people are “bent on turning LA County’s current D.A. into a soft-on-crime stereotype, one that ignores big parts of Gascón’s biography, like his decades as a Los Angeles Police Department officer before becoming a prosecutor,” Saul Gonzalez writes. KCRW
As evidence of cap and trade problems mounts, California air regulators remain defiant. At a recent state Senate hearing, top regulators dismissed concerns about the ability of the state’s cap and trade program to help the state meet its climate goals. A recent report that found oil and gas companies have pocketed so many permits through the program — in which companies buy and trade pollution allowances — that there is hardly any incentive left for them to actually reduce their emissions. Although California accounts for only about 1% of global emissions, its policies for reducing them may set an example for nations across the globe. Capital and Main
CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING
3 arrested after ‘full-scale ghost gun factory’ found inside San Jose home. The Santa Clara County district attorney’s office said assault weapons, machine guns and ghost guns were seized from what they’re calling a “sophisticated ghost gun factory.” Weapons seized included eight assault weapons, like AK- and AR-style rifles, as well as two handguns. The D.A.’s office said that a search of the brick bungalow also uncovered 3-D printers and other tools and machinery used to manufacture ghost guns. Authorities said the suspects, two men and a woman, are all felons. All are in custody. ABC 7
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Severe drought last year caused the California agriculture industry to shrink by an estimated 8,745 jobs and shoulder $1.2 billion in direct costs, according to new research. In a report prepared for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, researchers calculated that reduced water deliveries resulted in 395,000 acres of cropland left dry and unplanted — an area larger than Los Angeles. Fontana News Room
A Tahoe bear faced euthanasia after a spate of break-ins. DNA evidence spared him. Internet celebrity, serial break-in suspect and 500-pound black bear Hank the Tank was falsely accused — at least partly. Fontana News Room
Exploring the housing crisis, via the Golden State. KQED is out with another season of its series “Sold Out.” The podcast “envisions what home should be, by telling stories from California, the epicenter of the nation’s housing crisis,” according to a description on the podcast’s site. A new episode focuses on why Black renters, particularly Black women, are more likely to be evicted than white renters. KQED
On the eve of war, Tucker Carlson defended Putin. Then, he backpedaled. The conflict in Ukraine and backpedaling were the main themes of Tucker Carlson’s show Thursday after the Fox News host was criticized for defending Russian President Vladimir Putin, and dragging President Biden, in the lead-up to Russia’s invasion of the Eastern European nation. “I don’t think anybody approves of what Putin did yesterday,” he said. That wasn’t the note the former La Jolla resident had sounded 24 hours earlier. Fontana News Room
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Los Angeles: Hot 80 San Diego: Hot 72 San Francisco: Overcast 63 San Jose: Overcast 74 Fresno: Sunny 73 Sacramento: Overcast 72
Today’s California memory is from Pamela Morrissey:
I remember San Francisco in 2000. After an accident that left my son in a coma (he is ok now), I walked the streets alone and never felt afraid. I stayed in the Castro District, rode the bus over the bridge to Marin and was never hurt or afraid. Thank you.
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)
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