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Soledad prison inmate slips handcuffs, stabs prison guard in the head

A state prison guard in Soledad was stabbed in the back of the head Friday by an inmate who allegedly slipped out of his handcuffs and went at him with a handmade shank, a spokesman said.

The attack happened just before 1 p.m. as two guards took 48-year-old David Gomez out of a disciplinary isolation cell for an interview at Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad, southeast of Monterey, Salinas Valley State Prison Lt. Darren Chamberlain said. 

The guard was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, but his current condition is unknown, Chamberlain said.

Gomez, who has a history of mental illness, was transferred from Sacramento to Monterey County for pretrial proceedings in the 2004 murder of his cellmate at Salinas Valley State Prison.

Gomez is serving a life sentence in a 1998 Los Angeles County case for rape, oral copulation on a minor under age 14 and burglary.

Chamberlain said the proceedings concern Gomez's attempts to fire his defense attorney.

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Suspect in hit-and-run death of 4-year-old in Florence surrenders

A man suspected in the hit-and-run death of a 4-year-old boy in Florence late Thursday surrendered to Bell Gardens police Friday afternoon, KTLA-TV Channel 5 reported

Police turned the unidentified man over to the California Highway Patrol, which is investigating the incident, CHP Officer Patrick Kimball said Friday evening. 

Evan Butterfield was riding in a wagon when the driver of a red Toyota SUV struck him and the woman pushing him in the crosswalk near the intersection of Firestone Boulevard and Holmes Avenue, police said. She remains hospitalized with major injuries.

Witnesses said the Toyota ran a red light and hit the pedestrians, turned the corner and stopped. A man and a woman got out and ran away. The woman was chased and held by bystanders until authorities arrived, but the driver escaped.

 

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California's drought triggers state park bathroom, shower closures

California's drought is drying up water supplies at some of the state parks system's most popular sites, forcing closure of showers and bathrooms.

Restrooms with flush toilets at D.L. Bliss State Park at Lake Tahoe, the Hearst Castle visitor's center and Hearst San Simeon State Park have been closed and replaced with portable toilets and hand sanitizers, park system spokeswoman Vicky Waters said Friday.

Water shortages also shut down showers at D.L. Bliss, San Simeon and Portola Redwoods State Park, Waters said. 

The sanitation facilities are being sacrificed to preserve potable water for drinking at campgrounds and for firefighting, District Supt. Marilyn Linkem said. 

These parks, and others in the state system, get their water from creeks and springs. The spring at D.L. Bliss, which sees more than 12,000 campers a year, dropped just before the Fourth of July weekend. Campers were notified before they arrived of the closures and were understanding, Linkem said.

"It's pretty cold, but...

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UCLA to pay $500,000 settlement in judge's police brutality claim

UCLA has agreed to pay $500,000, including $350,000 in scholarships, to settle a claim by a prominent African American judge over alleged mistreatment and racial profiling by campus police during a traffic stop last year, officials announced Friday.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David S. Cunningham, who is a former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, and his attorney will receive $150,000 and an additional $350,000 will establish a scholarship fund named after Cunningham and administered by the UCLA Black Alumni Association for undergraduate or law students, according to a statement from both sides in the dispute.

In addition, UCLA pledged to improve training for police on diversity and to hold a one-day community forum about relations between police and the public, including racial profiling.

The judge in January filed a $10-million claim against UCLA for excessive force and racial profiling, alleging that he was “shaken, battered and bruised” in the Nov. 23,...

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Death of actor who played werewolf in 'Harry Potter' is investigated

Authorities said they are trying to determine how "Harry Potter" film actor David Legeno died after a hiker found him Sunday in Death Valley.

Although a cause of death has yet to be determined, sheriff's officials said it appears his death was not the result of foul play. The body was probably exposed to the extreme desert heat. 

A California Highway Patrol helicopter flew out from Apple Valley to the area to transport Legeno's body, the Inyo County Sheriff's Department said. Coroner's officials told the Associated Press that  Legeno's body was partially decomposed.

Legeno, 50, appeared to have died of heat-related issues, the Sheriff's Department said.

Sheriff's officials did not say why Legeno had been in the area.

Two people hiking about 7 a.m. near a remote wash below Manly Beacon, just west of Zabriskie Point, found his body and notified authorities.

Legeno played Fenrir Greyback in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts I and...

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East Los Angeles set to get its first Olympic-sized swimming pool

Kids from East Los Angeles who dream of becoming the next Michael Phelps or Missy Franklin will now be able to train in their own community.

Los Angeles County officials are set to celebrate the grand opening Saturday of a new aquatic center at East L.A.'s Belvedere Park with diving and synchronized swimming demonstrations by youth enrolled in county park programs.

The $14.8-million center features the only Olympic-sized pool open to the public on Los Angeles County's Eastside. 

County Supervisor Gloria Molina, whose district includes East L.A. and who provided county money for the project, said in a statement she hopes the investment "will help level the playing field so Eastside kids can have a fair shot at Olympic gold.”

The old pool at the site, built in 1950, was demolished last year to make way for the new facility.

As well as the 12,750-square-foot Olympic pool, the center will hold a 2,550-square-foot pool for lessons and swimming laps, a children’s splash pool and a 1,100-...

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'Supermoon' 2014 returns; high tides at beaches expected

Summer just got brighter as the so-called  "supermoon" is expected to light up the Earth early Saturday.

With it, the National Weather Service issued a warning to coastal areas of Southern California.

"High astronomical tides will occur this evening and Saturday evening. High tides around 7 feet could bring minor tidal overflows and beach erosion to area beaches, especially south of Point Conception, and smaller rock jetties will be more susceptible to wave over-topping," the warning says. "Due to the complex bathymetry along the California Coast, rip currents are always possible. Always swim near a lifeguard."

The scientic phenomenom known as "perigee moon" will appear not only once, but three times this summer on July 12,  Aug. 10 and Sept. 9, all on days that full moons are expected, according to NASA.

Last year's "supermoon" was 14% larger and 30% brighter than a typical full moon, prompting many Southern California residents to pick up a camera and observe the spectacle.

On...

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911 callers describe woman on 10 Feeway before CHP officer struck her

At least eight people called 911 on the evening of July 1, saying a woman was walking along the shoulder of the 10 Freeway and acting erratically.

"She has no shoes on," one caller said.

"She's just standing there with her arms in the air," another said.

A California Highway Patrol officer was called to the La Brea Avenue exit, the agency said, to help the woman -- identified by her attorneys as Marlene Pinnock, a 51-year-old grandmother. That officer was later videotaped punching Pinnock as she lay on the ground.

The video, which was posted on YouTube and aired repeatedly on television, has prompted outrage, calls for criminal charges against the officer and an investigation by the CHP.

On Friday, the CHP released to The Times nine minutes of 911 calls the agency received related to the incident. The first call mentions a woman near the Fairfax Avenue exit; the seven others put her near the La Brea Avenue exit.

"There's a woman walking on the freeway, going into the freeway, just...

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West Hollywood blood drive protests FDA exclusion of gays as donors

As the group outside the Red Cross blood donation bus on Santa Monica Boulevard huddled together for a photo, the man holding the camera yelled: "Everybody, say blood!"

Then: "Everybody, say, 'I wish they accepted my blood!'"

At the blood drive in West Hollywood on Friday, most of the volunteers could not donate. Gay and bisexual men — and any man who has had sex, even one time, with another man since 1977 — are banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from giving blood for life.

The West Hollywood blood drive was one of dozens of National Gay Blood Drive events Friday in which gay and bisexual men brought heterosexual friends to donate in their place.

The straight people donating in West Hollywood wore name tags bearing the name of the gay person whose place they took. The gay and bisexual men who could not donate were given pieces of paper to write messages to the FDA.

Ryan James Yezak, who organized the National Gay Blood Drive, said Friday's blood donations will be counted...

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Police tracked woman long before arrest in Google executive's death

Santa Cruz police say they tracked an escort accused of administering a fatal dose of heroin to a Google executive for months before arresting her when they feared she might leave the state.

Alix Tichelman, 26, was arrested July 4 after suddenly announcing on Facebook that she might be leaving California or the United States.

She is charged with manslaughter, drug-related felonies, destroying evidence and prostitution in connection with the November 2013 death of Silicon Valley executive Forrest Hayes, 51.

Hayes died on his yacht, Escape, and police say video captured by on-board security cameras show Tichelman giving heroin to Hayes, then cleaning up the room as he lay unconscious on the floor.

She checked his body several times and saw he was unresponsive before leaving, never calling 911, said Deputy Chief Steve Clark of the Santa Cruz Police Department.

But identifying the woman on the tape giving Hayes the heroin took months, police said. Authorities did not receive the video...

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Man sentenced in crash that killed two construction workers

A Wilmington man was sentenced Friday to 34 years to life in prison for a DUI crash on the 405 Freeway in 2012 that killed two construction workers, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said.  

Yocio Jonathan Gomez, 25, was driving a Ford Explorer at 90 mph through a construction zone on the 405 Freeway in Torrance on July 22, 2012, when he rear-ended a Lexus SUV, which spun out of control.

The SUV struck and killed Ramon Lopez and Ricardo Zamora, according to court testimony. A third worker was injured. 

The men, who were employed by Caltrans contractors, were doing asphalt work in the northbound freeway's far right lane near Artesia Boulevard when they were hit by the Lexus, a California Highway Patrol officer told The Times shortly after the crash.

Gomez was convicted April 25 of two counts each of second-degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one count each of DUI causing injury and DUI with a blood-alcohol level above .08%,  with two or more...

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Decorated Placer County deputy accused of sex with teen volunteer

A Northern California sheriff's deputy, who once received the governor's Medal of Valor, has been charged with having sex with a teen police volunteer, authorities said.

Kenneth Skogen, a Placer County sheriff's deputy, faces four charges of engaging in unlawful sex acts with the 17-year-old girl, according to a Placer County District Attorney statement.

He was arrested Thursday following an investigation initiated by a tip from a fellow deputy, prosecutors said. He posted bail soon after his arrest and was released.

The deputy told authorities Skogen was allegedly involved in "an inappropriate relationship" with the girl.

Prosecutors investigated the incident instead of police because the girl, the deputy and Skogen were all working at the sheriff's office.

Details about the relationship were not released because prosecutors were still investigating the case.

In 2009, Skogen received the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor from then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for saving an elderly...

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