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Teen tries to recruit students for mass shooting, bombing at Berkeley High, police say

2019 file photo of a student walking into Berkeley High School in Berkeley.
In this April 11, 2019, file photo, a student walks into Berkeley High School in Berkeley.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, June 6. I’m Justin Ray.

A teen was arrested after it was discovered he was “recruiting other high school students to participate in a mass shooting and/or bombing,” police said. However, questions remain about the time between police receiving a tip about the teen and his eventual arrest.

The Berkeley Police Department said it received a tip May 21 that a 16-year-old boy was plotting an attack on Berkeley High School. A search warrant was executed at the boy’s residence, where patrol officers “discovered parts to explosives and assault rifles, several knives, and electronic items that could be used to create additional weapons.”

Investigators from the Youth Services Unit eventually took over the investigation and interviewed witnesses and obtained a warrant for the teen’s arrest. The Berkeley Police Department also “worked with Berkeley High School staff and communicated with Berkeley Unified School District officials to keep them apprised of any safety-critical information.”

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On May 30, the teen turned himself in to Berkeley police after what the department called an “arrangement” his attorney had made with police, according to Berkeleyside. He was arrested on “suspicion of possessing destructive device materials and threatening to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury,” police said.

A Berkeley School Board meeting led to more information about the plot. The teen was planning his attack for “sometime next year,” and he obtained all his weapons legally and did not have all the parts to operate rifles and explosives, according to Berkeleyside. “Nothing was assembled,” said Officer Jessica Perry. “It was just pieces.” Perry also said the teen tried to buy a gun at school and had been browsing the dark web, an area of the internet that cannot be accessed through traditional search engines.

Police also addressed questions about the teen’s arrest. “If we don’t have probable cause to make an arrest, the person is going to get released,” said Officer Byron White, Berkeley Police Department spokesperson, according to KTVU-TV. “It takes time and space to actually put together the investigation.” Neither the police department nor the Berkeley Unified School District has explained where the student was between the time of the tip and his arrest.

“It was, I think, extra shocking to know that we had been going to school for 10 days since the threat, without any of us being informed about it,” Berkeley High student Bahia Rozan told KTVU-TV.

“Throughout the investigation period, we were assured that this individual did not pose an immediate threat,” the school district said in a statement. “We are committed to conducting our own separate investigation, within the parameters of our authority as a school district, and as the evidence warrants, pursuing all possible steps, including discipline, that will support student and community safety.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Masks are returning to California. Coronavirus cases have entered the danger zone in many parts of the state, prompting officials to implement new indoor mask rules. So far, the biggest concerns have been in Northern California, but it is possible that other areas will recommend mask wearing later this month. Los Angeles Times

Palisades Charter High School students ride an Metro E line train on April 21.
Palisades Charter High School students ride an Metro E line train on April 21.
(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

L.A. STORIES

Column: I drove all over L.A. talking to voters. They’re irritated, fatigued, deeply cynical. “On the eve of critically important local elections, Los Angeles is in a bad mood,” columnist Steve Lopez writes. “They’ve lost faith that anyone will fix L.A.’s major problems, including the high cost of living in a city with a low-wage economy.” Los Angeles Times

A homeless woman stands in the middle of an encampment on a sidewalk.
A homeless woman stands in the middle of an encampment on the sidewalk along Sunset Boulevard a few days before the California primary election in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Rick Caruso was a Republican three years ago. Will voters care? Caruso’s political evolution from Republican to Democrat still remains opaque to many voters in the overwhelmingly liberal city he hopes to lead. However, it is known that Caruso, who was a Republican for much of his life, switched his party registration to “decline to state” in 2011 while mulling over a run in the city’s 2013 mayoral election. Caruso also changed his party affiliation to Democratin late January of this year, less than a month before filing to run in the 2022 mayoral election. Days before the city’s first open mayoral primary in nearly a decade, Rep. Karen Bass and Caruso appear headed toward a November runoff. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

San Francisco’s bitter D.A. recall vote could set back national justice reform movement. During Chesa Boudin’s 2½-year tenure as San Francisco’s top prosecutor, he has weathered attacks from across the city’s political spectrum: both the historically conservative police union and more moderate politicians such as Mayor London Breed have often criticized the would-be reformer. On Tuesday, San Francisco’s 500,000 registered voters will decide whether Boudin should keep his job. Boudin’s background has made him an easy target for opponents who paint him as a fringe leader disconnected from his city. Los Angeles Times

Chesa Boudin stands on some stairs.
San Francisco Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin at his campaign headquarters in San Francisco.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

Column: A rural county in the heart of red California votes more like San Francisco. Here’s why. Alpine County is as rural as rural California gets. There is no hospital, no supermarket, fast-food restaurant or shopping mall anywhere in its 743 square miles. Yet if all goes as expected in Tuesday’s primary election, Alpine County will vote along the same lines as Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and other urbanized blue bastions. Rural usually means Republican. Why has the county gone in another direction? Here’s what columnist Mark Z. Barabak found. Los Angeles Times

CRIME, COURTS AND POLICING

L.A. has a corruption problem. Can the next city controller fix that? Voters in Tuesday’s election are set to choose a new city controller, a position that is itself something of a watchdog. The field of candidates has been confronting the question: Can the controller’s office, which performs audits and keeps an eye on the city’s books, also serve as a check on wrongdoing? Here’s a guide to the race. Los Angeles Times

Ominous clouds serve as a backdrop for City Hall at night.
Ominous clouds serve as a backdrop for City Hall on Dec. 30, 2021.
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

A photojournalist spent three decades capturing the experiences of laborers, their treatment and where they came from. David Bacon has documented the experiences of farmworkers and migrant communities, many based in California and along the U.S.-Mexico border. “I’m trying to get people to see that the border region is more than a wall,” Bacon says. “We have to look beyond the wall to see the people, their communities and their history.” Capital and Main

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

A law firm is helping a cheerleading team combat rumors that the high schoolers posed with a black mannequin head. The Dhillon Law Group claims that a frustrated mother of an athlete who failed to make the team made a false post that has since been shared widely online. “First, the team is not ‘all white’,” the firm said in a release. “Second, the mannequin head the squad has used as their mascot head for the last five years is not black.” Superintendent John Malloy said in a statement: “Creating safe schools that are welcoming and inclusive for all our students requires us to examine our practices of how we may — even unintentionally — have a harmful impact on others.” Patch

Tesla paid a PR firm to monitor employees in a Facebook group, according to documents reviewed by CNBC. The electric vehicle company paid consultancy MWW PR to watch employees as they sought to form a union at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif. A spokesperson for MWW PR told CNBC: “It is a common practice to review media coverage and public social conversation about a company to gain insights into issues and perceptions of stakeholders about the brand.” Tesla provided no comment. CNBC

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Overcast 78 San Diego: Overcast 71 San Francisco: Overcast 67 San Jose: Overcast 77 Fresno: Sunny 91 Sacramento: Overcast 87

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from Russ Russell:

On the day after graduating from the University of Kentucky in 1969, I had decided to quickly travel to California - to visit Disneyland, the beaches and ocean that the Beach Boys had sung about, and the streets patrolled by Ponch & Baker. Jobs were plentiful, and HR people were pleasant and encouraging. Los Angeles restaurants had fantastic food, and donut shops had a variety to which I had never been exposed. I returned East, but several months later made my move to California - for the next 40 years. A tremendous education and life in the promised land.

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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