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A scene no one should have...

A scene no one should have to see

Today I was at the center of something that should not happen. I

witnessed three men shot on the ground. I did not see the shooting. I

saw it just after. It was right in front of me. I saw the gunman die.

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I saw his lifeless body.

He shot a civilian and later a policeman, but I believe that they

will both survive, although the policeman was out of it when taken

into the ambulance.

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The other man was lying on his side on the stretcher, slightly

propped up.

He had been able to run out of the store, shout “I’ve been shot,”

and get help next door. The shooter stayed inside the store for at

least five minutes when he came out and shot the policeman. That’s

when he was gunned down by five or six shots by the accompanying

cops.

The whole block of Oak and Anita was a crime scene: six police

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cars plus two vans, later ambulances and firetrucks, detectives with

bulletproof vests.

Paramedics tried to revive the shooter, they pumped his chest for

a long time, gave him oxygen. He was young, clean shaven, light blue

shirt, dark pants, maybe 30 years old. What the hell happened to him?

Why did he do this? What a fool.

A beautiful young girl was somehow smack in the middle of this

hell. She was shaking. She may have worked at the store. It’s an herb

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shop. Her life was spared today.

At first it was like TV footage of the crazy Middle East. Police

shouted “get down,” hand guns and huge thick shotguns were drawn.

After the shooter was down, the cleaning up, the restoring of order

was so swift, so organized.

We, the bystanders, were astonished, shocked, but totally

unafraid. By 2:25 p.m., the wounded were on route to the hospital.

Crime tape was rolled out around the entire block, chalk marks were

drawn around the shooter’s items, which included a large black piece

of luggage, a duffle bag. Police were asking for witnesses. I told

him about the girl who told me, and the woman who saw two of the

shootings.

I was there to shop for birthday presents at the Second Reef shop,

which is directly across from the Herb Store. The sales girl saw the

first victim come out calling for help. Then she hid. Then she saw

the police jump up onto their cars and shoot the criminal, shoot him

dead.

The woman saw the gunman shoot the cop. She had come to Laguna for

lunch.

The paramedics folded the shooters arms and placed his ashen limp

body on the stretcher, I did not see blood on his clothes or the

ground.

What a lost life, what a waste. It was now time to pick up the

children from school. I was very shook up and very relieved. My town

felt protected again as I saw first hand the excellence and

dedication of these great human beings we call police officers.

Since Wednesday, I have visited the Second Reef shop, and the

young girl was dutifully back at work. And I believe that the woman

will come back to lunch in Laguna.

GIZELLE RUSS

Laguna Beach

Chaos was just a block away

“Everybody’s cool, and it can’t happen here.”

Frank Zappa in a 1960s song

I was only a block away when the final shots rang out, trying to

locate the source of the staccato-like bursts. There was a gunfight

going on very close to my place. I wasn’t in combat as a Marine in

the ‘60s, but my training forced me to gravitate toward the action.

That is what they teach you. After growing up on the mean streets of

Wilmington and Harbor City, I was never a stranger to the violence of

gangs and their guns, anyway. Ironically, I had just picked up my old

BMW from the very lot where the suspect lay when I got there.

My police department was outstanding in its response and demeanor.

My curious and shocked fellow citizens as they gawked all uttered

the typical, “How could this happen here?”

They were wrong. It can and did happen here, as “IT” is happening

all over the U.S. and the world. As if Death’s Honesty can be held at

bay forever. As if we aren’t a country in love with and awash in

guns, guns and more guns. Even our president waves missles around,

threatening innocent civilians thousands of miles away. When is

someone going to explain that the mythology of the Wild West should

be put to rest along with these senseless deaths?

The NRA advertisement featuring Charlton Heston says, “You’ll have

to take it from my cold, dead hands.” Well, in Laguna Beach, they

did. But what about that poor store clerk? Try asking the

unbelievably brave officer, that “thin blue line” separating

law-abiding citizens from chaos and anarchy.

Men are the provocateurs for an overwhelming majority of these

wanton acts of violence.

I had a “whacko"" pull a 9-millimeter rifle on me almost 10 years

ago here in Laguna Beach. I tried to back him down with my framing

hammer, only to find out later that his rifle wasn’t loaded. Three

squad cars and a motorcycle officer responded to a 911 call by an

observer within three or four minutes. They didn’t know what to

expect, but there they were ready, willing and able to defend a total

stranger. My response, in retrospect, was not very smart. The Laguna

Beach Police Department did their duty as men of honor. The rifleman?

Turned out he had a long history of violence and continues to be a

thorn in the Laguna department’s side to this day. A year after the

incident, he tried to run me over with his car.

Ask what are you doing, as an individual or group, to assure these

cops and their families will lead a long and happy life? They put

theirs up for grabs in some neighborhoods on an hourly basis, so

don’t they deserve something other than a paycheck? Support handgun

control measures or amendments by contacting your state and federal

legislators. Notify your police department if you see guns being

inappropriately stored or brandished, especially if they are being

kept loaded around children. Call them if you know of individuals who

are threatening the use of weapons. If only one officer’s family is

spared that horrible nightmare, that call is worth it. You owe these

men and women more than money. You may, as I do, owe them your life.

ROGER von BUTOW

Laguna Beach

Thank you, Laguna police officers

I have much to say, but brevity I am sure is appropriate regarding

[Wednesday’s] attempted armed robbery here in Laguna Beach.

First, I wish the young police officer (wounded in the line of

duty) good health. I am proud of him! I am most happy this police

officer chose to wear his flak vest. I regret the innocent bystander

being wounded also -- in the process of an evil undertaking.

Although a life was taken, I prefer it was he rather than my fine

police officer plus an additional law-abiding victim!

Please give the police officer and all your department my thanks

for continuing your duty! Naturally, I wish the additional victim

improving health.

As I live between two schools (Laguna Beach High/Anneliese’s

Kindergarten), I noticed and heard the police action and advised new

routes to all parents collecting their children. Hopefully, this

assisted in less traffic congestion, and thus fewer potential victims

of combat fire.

Please be sure to always know that we block captains can quell

rumors Throughout my entire area it started as “three drive-by

murders.” Although the event is very unfortunate, using block

captains will reduce the calling to police.

JONATHAN W. BOSTON

Neighborhood Watch Block

Captain

Manzanita/Park

Avenue/Skyline area

Laguna Beach

Neighbors are more important than trees

We just received a phone call from a neighbor, an artist and old

friend who lives in our Sarah Thurston Park neighborhood in Laguna

Canyon. The World Series game was over not five minutes and our

neighbor called to talk about “the trees.”

Ah ... the trees. For those of you reading the town paper for the

past two weeks, the fate of the neighborhood’s ancient eucalyptus

trees are at hand. It has been a scene of pure mayhem in our tiny

canyon neighborhood this past week. Neighbors fighting among one

another, angry words, hostility. Trees are becoming more important

than friendships, neighbors and safety.

The trees in our neighborhood were not planted for their beauty,

but with the intention that they would be harvested by the Santa Fe

Railroad for railroad ties. Little did the railroad know that their

wood would twist and crack as it dried, rendering it a useless

endeavor. The ensuing grove created a natural canyon amphitheater,

long since gone from a major flood years back that took out quite a

few of the monsters, nearly destroying a home or two in their path as

they fell.

By and by, homes and families replaced the ancient trees. Our

small family lives on Fairywood Walk, in the shadow of the last of

the remaining eucalyptus trees. We bought our home nearly 27 years

ago. We live beneath the few surviving eucalyptus trees that inhabit

our immediate neighbors’ property. The trees were not quite so large

27 years ago when we bought our home. Some nice kids wanting to build

a home in our neighborhood have now inherited the problem and expense

of the trees.

We have a unique perspective on what has caused so much ill will

in our neighborhood as of late. We have a perspective from looking

up, in awe and with fear.

Eucalyptus trees are not native to California. Rather they were

brought over to California from Australia during the Gold Rush, their

oil used during the flotation process for the recovery of gold

particles. There are many beautiful varieties of eucalyptus trees.

Eucalyptuses, also known as Kookaburra in folklore, shed an acidic

debris which does not allow plants beneath to grow. The acidic gum

that oozes from their knots and cracks has destroyed the finish on

two of our cars over the years. Eucalyptus trees have notoriously

shallow root systems, so that they begin to drop their limbs as they

grow taller and taller to offset their mass. They are dirty and they

smell. And you know, not everyone likes the smell of eucalyptus. Our

son, for one, is allergic. Eucalyptus oil is a natural expectorant.

So if someone has asthma, serious problems could develop. We know, as

we have given our child dozens of breathing treatments in his short

life. Eucalyptuses are also known by another common name, Widow

Makers.

Now the fate of the particular trees that have been in the paper

lately belong to a property that has just been sold two lanes down

from ours. Granted these particular trees are a prettier variety than

the ones looming over our home. Yet, these eucalyptuses are enormous,

and they still can become dangerous menaces if not trimmed correctly.

The new family who are building their dream home has been put through

the ringer by our neighborhood and city Design Review Board.

We have even questioned their intent. Are they simply opportunists

looking to cash in on property values? The new neighbors designed

their house to fit amongst the trees and in order to preserve the

existing neighbors view of the hillside. Excavation damaged some

roots of the eucalypti. Therefore, the damaged trees have to go. The

tree huggers of our neighborhood have given the impression to these

folks that we care more about trees than we do our neighbors. We

don’t believe there are any eucalyptus trees on the properties of

those who want to preserve them. They are not coughing up the $5,000

every other year to top and feather them. Yet, they desperately care

about the trees. They care more about the trees than they do their

own neighbors, which we find sad.

We were some of the neighbors that went down to the city and

protested his building permit originally. We did not care much for

this design of his home. We did not feel that it fit into the

character of the neighborhood. Now we wonder what type of character

our neighborhood actually has. A neighborhood is defined by the

qualities of its neighbors, not by its trees.

We told the neighbor that we had had his property in escrow a few

years before but bowed out at the last minute because of “the tree

thing.” Our neighbors had intimidated us so much before the closing

of escrow that we feared that it would be nothing but heartache for

us. In retrospect, we should have bought that property and we should

have cut down every one of those overgrown, scary trees at the close

of escrow, not giving anyone the opportunity to complain if we had

half a brain. But we wanted to preserve the good neighborly feeing

that we felt for our neighbors and friends. What type of friends

would dictate what you should do and not do on your own property?

Yes, in retrospect, we were quite naive. We could have made a nice

chunk of money on that property seeing how property values have

recently exploded and moved to a different neighborhood, with less

dangerous trees and more thoughtful neighbors.

The reason why we are sharing our perspective is that the neighbor

who called us earlier wants us to attend an emergency meeting at the

city this week. He wants us to support the neighborhood by discussing

the plight of the few remaining eucalyptus trees with city officials.

Perhaps he should live in our home for a week, especially during a

rain and wind storm. He could clean up the debris on our roof and in

our yard from our neighbors’ trees after the storm is over. He can

comfort our son who is terrified that a limb will come crashing

through his bedroom ceiling. He could wash the gook from our brand

new car. No. We cannot attend a meeting to support the trees or to

support our neighborhood.

In closing, the above is only offered as a different perspective

to the “tree thing.” What values are truly representative of a

neighborhood, a community? What values are worth preserving?

Important questions worth exploring when considering the fate of a

neighborhood and its trees.

LISA AND JOHN GENESTA

Laguna Beach

Loss of Victory Walk trees a tragedy

The owners of the property [under construction] on Victory Walk

should be held accountable for the tragic decimation of probably the

last grove of eucalyptus tress in private ownership in Laguna.

Unfortunately, the city has been of little help in seeing to it

that the property was planned in such a way as to allow the owner to

build his homes as planned while also protecting the trees.

So, as I write, the owner has not only endangered trees by

careless, undirected bulldozing, removed others, gotten permission to

take out two more, but has also removed another without permission,

although it is possible that he will be given permission to remove

this one as well because it too has been damaged by the bulldozer.

Thus, this beautiful grove, one of the signs of early, rural

Laguna, has been raped and pillaged, taken from its natural state.

All this has occurred because of the lack of sensitivity of the

developer and the compliance of the architect who did not respond to

the conditions of the property as they found them.

This is a tragic loss not only for a neighborhood, but all of

Laguna, one more sign of the endemic greed and willful selfishness

that is plaguing California. I hope that more can be done than

mourning.

ANDY WING

Laguna Beach


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