Placer County exec involved in fatal car crash is fired over unrelated matter

Former Placer County CEO Todd Leopold.
(Placer County)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, June 9. I’m Justin Ray.

A Placer County executive who was involved in a car crash that killed a high school basketball player will be fired for a matter unrelated to the incident that took the teen’s life.

It all began on March 19 in Rocklin, about 20 miles northeast of Sacramento. At around 8:30 p.m., a vehicle hit a pedestrian who was “walking in the roadway” on Lonetree Boulevard near the Blue Oaks Town Center shopping area, Rocklin police said. He was pronounced dead at Sutter Roseville Medical Center. “The driver is cooperating with the investigation,” the police said at the time.

The victim was identified as high school basketball player Anthony Williams, 18. His girlfriend, Cameron Angulo, told the Sacramento Bee that Williams was a foster youth who “bounced around a lot” to different homes. But “he was always laughing, always having a good time despite what he went through,” she said.

When the news initially began circulating, many members of the public identified the driver as Placer County Chief Executive Todd Leopold.


Eventually, police announced that the driver would not face charges over the accident. “After a thorough review of all of the evidence, and witness accounts in this case, it has been determined that the driver is not at fault and no criminal charges will be requested,” the department said in a news release.

Two days later, Leopold released a statement confirming that he was the driver, according to the Bee.

“My words and emotions cannot adequately express my profound grief and sadness,” Leopold wrote. “I am heartbroken for the loss of this young man and extend my sincere condolences to Mr. Williams’ family, friends and all of those impacted by this tragic accident.”

Then the Placer County Board of Supervisors released a statement announcing that it had “received a workplace discrimination and harassment complaint from a county employee” against Leopold. It held a closed session to evaluate his conduct and review a complaint that included a denial from Leopold about the allegations via his personal attorney.

“At the conclusion of closed session, the Board made the decision to terminate Mr. Leopold for cause,” the statement said. “The County’s decision to terminate Mr. Leopold’s employment contract is effective after a notice period of 30 days.”

The board allowed public comment before the closed session, during which Williams’ family demanded accountability. “We were left in the dark,” said Erin Acosta, one of Williams’ foster mothers, according to the Bee. “The only sense we got [from Placer County] was to protect the driver. The community was misled by the silence. We will never get to see Anthony graduate or play basketball or get married or any other goals he’d set for himself. People are being kept in the dark for a reason.”


The Bee reported that six years before he struck and killed Williams, Leopold “spent a night in a Colorado jail after he was arrested for speeding through a ski town while impaired by alcohol, police and court records show.” His June 2015 drunk driving charge ended up being dropped as part of a guilty plea. The speeding ticket is one of at least four that he has received over the years.

Although the Bee has made several requests for a copy of the police report from the collision, police officials continue to turn reporters down on the grounds that only people connected to the incident are entitled to it.

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

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

The 55 best places to see live music in Southern California. I have had some wonderful concert experiences in Los Angeles, like British band the Wombats at the Wiltern, or James Blake at the Hollywood Bowl. The Times has compiled a list of dozens of other places to see live music — some of which you may not be aware. Los Angeles Times

An illustration of a theater, with a ticket booth in front, with signs reading "Alex."
The Times’ 55 venues include legacy theaters, spacious clubs, Sunset Strip mainstays, historic institutions and duct-taped dives.
(Illustration by Robbin Burnham WACSO / For The Times)

‘Every once in a while, nature serves to remind you that the desert is trying to kill you.’ After living in Yucca Valley, just north of Joshua Tree National Park, for more than a year, former Angelenos Kit Williamson and John Halbach have learned some hard lessons. The couple is part of the rising LGBTQ population in the high desert, thanks in part to surging interest in the desert during the pandemic. Los Angeles Times

Two men in jeans, cowboy boots and cowboy hats pose for a photo in front of a small travel trailer and Joshua trees.
Kit Williamson and John Halbach at their Yucca Valley home.
(David George Zimmerman)


After his son died on a USC film shoot, a father is still looking for answers. “In life, there is no greater pain than this type of bereavement,” said Hualun Wang, whose son, Peng Wang, died in an accident on a USC student film shoot. “After our son is gone, we have to endure all the hurt, all the societal pressure and the pressure to take care of ourselves when we get old.” Los Angeles Times

A man is seen from the back, holding a photo, and facing an intersection with traffic lights and palm trees.
Hualun Wang, father of Peng “Aaron” Wang, a cinematography grad student at Chapman University, pauses at an intersection near campus.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Our daily news podcast

If you’re a fan of this newsletter, you’ll love our daily podcast “The Times,” hosted every weekday by columnist Gustavo Arellano, along with reporters from across our newsroom. Go beyond the headlines. Download and listen on our App, subscribe on Apple Podcasts and follow on Spotify.


Did California voters really rebuke the left on election day? Not exactly. The issues of crime and homelessness — as well as housing affordability — have become major concerns in the state’s deep-blue cities, with voters demanding change. But the election results were far from a sweeping shift to the center. Los Angeles Times

The Supreme Court on Wednesday shielded federal Border Patrol agents from being sued over allegations of unreasonable searches and the use of excessive force. In a 6-3 decision, the court’s conservatives said that in nearly all instances federal agents may be not held liable for violating constitutional rights unless Congress has authorized such lawsuits for damages. Los Angeles Times


A California man carrying at least one weapon and burglary tools was detained Wednesday near Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s home. The man, described as being in his mid-20s, was apprehended by Maryland law enforcement at about 1:50 a.m. Los Angeles Times

Before a judge decides whether Scott Peterson’s murder conviction should be overturned due to alleged juror misconduct, each side will have a final opportunity to present its case. Both have written briefs that explain their arguments. The defense alleges that a juror’s failure to disclose on a jury questionnaire that she had been the victim of a crime while pregnant and party in a lawsuit was intentional. Meanwhile, the prosecution says there is no credible evidence that the juror was biased. Modesto Bee

Support our journalism

Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.


Foster Farms announced it was sold to Connecticut holding company Atlas Holdings. The purchase of the company ends its 83 years of family ownership. Foster Farms has long been one of the largest employers in the San Joaquin Valley, but it isn’t clear how the company’s 12,000 or so employees will be affected by the deal. Foster Farms’ hundreds of chicken and turkey products include bird parts, ground meat, deli slices and frozen, breaded products.Modesto Bee


California food is taking over Europe’s restaurant scene. And it’s not just avocado toast. California is having a moment across the Atlantic, where every month brings a new restaurant, chef or menu imported from Los Angeles or San Francisco. Foreign correspondent Jaweed Kaleem explains which restaurants featuring The Golden State’s cuisine have caught on thousands of miles away (In N Out makes a surprise appearance). Los Angeles Times

The Times spoke to cooks and restaurant owners in several European cities to ask for their takes on how California inspires the food world. Los Angeles Times

Meanwhile, California cuisine is having an unlikely moment in one of Asia’s food capitals. California’s fuss-free style of fine dining is proving to be a hit in Singapore. “There is a lot of room to grow in the understanding and appreciation of the culture,” said Indra Kantono, Rosemead’s owner. Los Angeles Times

Guests arriving to dine at Rosemead restaurant in Singapore
Guests arrive to dine at Rosemead restaurant in Singapore.
(Amrita Chandradas/For The Times)

Free online games

Get our free daily crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search and arcade games in our new game center at


Los Angeles: Sunny 84 San Diego: Sunny 73 San Francisco: Overcast 72 San Jose: Overcast 89 Fresno: Overcast 101 Sacramento: Overcast 102


Today’s California memory is from David Rudich:

As a young boy in the ’40s, my friends and I would walk or cycle from our Harper-Oakwood neighborhood just north of Beverly Boulevard to the area just west of the amusement park on the corner of La Cienega and Beverly boulevards with the roller coaster, the bumper cars and the pony ride venue, to the working oil derricks. We put pennies on the railroad tracks and were delighted when we returned to find them flattened by a train that had passed.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to