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Today’s Headlines: Inside a harrowing ocean rescue

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Three people were killed and more than two dozen others were hospitalized Sunday after a boat crashed into a reef and broke apart in rough water just off the San Diego coast during a suspected human smuggling operation, authorities said.

When a boat loaded with people from Mexico sank off the San Diego coast, Navy men dived into the sea to save them.

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Inside a Harrowing Ocean Rescue

In the waters off San Diego, the smuggling boats often cloak their cargoes of migrants under cover of darkness. Only the hum of the panga boat engines signals their approach to slumbering coastal neighborhoods.

But on Sunday morning it was clear and bright when Cale Foy, a naval aircrewman on a hike with his family, spotted a horrible sight unfolding at the base of the craggy cliffs of Point Loma. A 40-foot trawler-style boat had crashed into the rocks, spilling men and women and a teenager into the pounding waves and a rip current so strong that it was dragging some farther from shore.

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Foy didn’t hesitate to dive into the choppy surf.

Out of the 32 people on the boat, 29 survived. Seven were rescued from the water, six of them from floating debris where Foy and another man, who was in training to be a Navy SEAL, had left them. Another was hoisted up a cliff. Three people died, a man and two women. All but two of the people onboard were Mexican nationals, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The deadly incident comes at a time of escalating maritime smuggling attempts into Southern California and a recently announced effort by federal authorities to disrupt the trafficking. Smugglers have been taking to the sea to avoid beefed-up enforcement on land as well as Title 42, officials have told The Times.

Items from a boat on the rocky shore
Items from a boat sit on the shoreline at Cabrillo National Monument near where it capsized just off the San Diego coast on Sunday.
(Denis Poroy / Associated Press)

A Startling Rise in Bloodshed

As COVID-19 began hospitalizing and killing more people in L.A. last year, so did shootings in the street. Surrounding areas of L.A. County saw similar increases in gun violence.

Now, four months into 2021, life is returning to normal in many quarters of the city when it comes to the coronavirus. The gun violence, however, is not receding.

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According to Los Angeles Police Department data, the city as of Saturday had seen 465 shootings since Jan. 1, an almost 67% increase over the same period last year. Homicides, at 115 as of Sunday, were up more than 26%. Preliminary data from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department show that homicides in surrounding areas increased by more than 113% in the first three months of this year, with 64 killings, compared with 30 during the same period in 2020.

“It’s frankly too many guns in too many hands,” said LAPD Chief Michel Moore. Here’s a closer look at the underlying causes.

Reason for Optimism in California

Even as Oregon and Washington face new COVID-19 surges, there is growing optimism that California remains in recovery mode as coronavirus cases continued to fall dramatically along with related deaths.

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California has continued to do better than any state, with the lowest per capita coronavirus case rate — 33 cases per 100,000 residents — in the nation over the last week. Texas has double California’s rate; New York, quadruple; and Florida has nearly five times California’s case rate.

Although 2,000 new cases a day still shows the coronavirus “has not gone away,” UC San Francisco epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford said California has staged “a remarkable accomplishment given the depth of the epidemic here and the complexity of the state.”

By contrast, Oregon on Friday ordered the shutdown of indoor restaurant dining in 15 of its 36 counties, including much of the Portland area. Due to its surge, King County, which is home to Seattle, may soon be forced to shrink allowed indoor capacity at restaurants and gyms from 50% to 25%.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

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— The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for youths 12 and older by next week, according to a federal official and a person familiar with the process, setting up the prospect of shots for many before the beginning of the next school year.

— Scientists are scrambling to understand why vaccinated people can still get COVID-19 in rare cases.

— Is needle fear holding you back from getting vaccinated? Here’s what to do about it.

A New Editor for The Times

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The Los Angeles Times has named veteran journalist Kevin Merida as its top editor and tasked him with transforming the 139-year-old newspaper into a digital powerhouse that thrives for decades to come.

Merida — who spent three decades in traditional newsrooms and most recently has been editor in chief of the Undefeated, the award-winning ESPN division that plumbs the intersection of race, culture and sports — will take the helm in June.

“I see nothing but opportunity. I think this can be the most innovative media company in the country,” Merida said. “The journalism is already tremendous. So, we’ll just build on that. And, I think, we’ll shock the world.”

Merida, who is Black, becomes the 19th editor and the third person of color in the position since The Times began in December 1881. For more about why he is joining the paper and what his favorite pastimes are, read on.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Today is May 4, but fans of a galaxy far, far away know it as Star Wars Day. The franchise has nine core films plus spin-offs, cruises, books, television shows and more. But in 1977, there was only one.

“Star Wars” — later renamed “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” — was released on May 25, 1977, to praise from The Times’ then-film critic Charles Champlin. It’s “the year’s most razzle-dazzling family movie, an exuberant and technically astonishing space adventure,” he wrote. The movie would go on to be a box office hit, becoming the highest-grossing release of the year before unfolding into a franchise. Read Champlin’s full review here.

a man reaches for R2D2
R2D2 and members of the resistance interact with visitors during a preview of new Star Wars attractions at Disneyland on Jan. 16, 2020.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— Although California’s most dangerous tsunamis come from thousands of miles away, scientists say they’ve pinpointed a wave trigger that’s much closer to home.

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— Elected officials distanced themselves from billionaire casino mogul Steve Wynn when he was accused of sexual misconduct. California Republicans are back to taking his money, and Wynn is back to being a top GOP donor.

— Everything U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla does these days comes with great urgency: Just three months after his appointment, California’s first Latino senator has only 18 months to convince voters that he should keep his seat.

— What are the chances of being plucked from one of UC’s massive waitlists? Last year is hardly a guide, and uncertainties rule the season.

— In a federal lawsuit, a group of veterinarians and pet owners in California is asking the state to permit more telemedicine for animals even after the pandemic ends.

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NATION-WORLD

— The Biden administration said that four families separated at the Mexico border under the Trump administration will be reunited in the U.S. this week in what Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calls “just the beginning” of a broader effort.

— The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to phase down production and use of hydrofluorocarbons, highly potent greenhouse gases commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners.

— Mourners gathered for the funeral of Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man shot and killed by deputies in North Carolina, with attorneys for the family calling for justice.

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— An overpass in Mexico City’s metro collapsed, sending a train plunging downward, trapping cars under rubble and killing at least 23 people, authorities said.

Northern Ireland was created 100 years ago Monday, but the day passed with little fanfare.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s leadership is calling on the organization to make substantive changes, including that board members resign if the group does not approve and implement proposed reforms.

— At least six sculptures and potentially as many as 19 stolen during an 1897 massacre by British colonists in Africa have been sitting quietly in two Los Angeles art museum collections for the last half-century, writes art critic Christopher Knight.

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— Sunday’s Vax Live concert, with 20,000 healthcare and other essential workers in attendance, was the first in-person stadium concert at Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium since COVID-19 closures. Here are the best moments in pictures.

Marvel Studios announced release dates for its next 10 movies, laying out a menu geared at satisfying superhero fans’ pent-up demand well into 2023.

BUSINESS

— Verizon will sell Verizon Media, which consists of pioneering tech platforms AOL and Yahoo, to private equity firm Apollo Global Management in a $5-billion deal.

Apple and Epic Games, the maker of “Fortnite,” are headed to court in one of the most serious legal challenges Apple has faced to its iron control over its app store.

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Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they are divorcing. Here’s what it could mean for their philanthropic foundation.

SPORTS

— The Dodgers have lost starting pitcher Dustin May for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, Angels right-hander Shohei Ohtani was scratched from Monday night’s scheduled start against the Tampa Bay Rays because of a sore right elbow after being hit by a pitch.

— The Lakers were forced to dig deep without LeBron James and Dennis Schroder in their win over the Nuggets.

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OPINION

— California’s population mix is being reshuffled. But forget the political spin — it’s not the wealthy who are leaving but those who can’t afford the rising cost of housing, writes columnist George Skelton.

— Are cash handouts a better antidote to poverty? Governments around the world have been flirting with guaranteed income programs for years and it’s time to find out, The Times’ editorial board writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— A federal investigation into Rudolph Giuliani’s foreign dealings has placed a spotlight on a 2019 phone call between Giuliani and a Ukrainian official. Here is the transcript. (BuzzFeed News)

— How the Pentagon started taking UFOs seriously. (The New Yorker)

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ONLY IN L.A.

When the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opens Sept. 30, visitors will find exhibitions dedicated to the history of film. And when they’re finished, what’s more Hollywood than a Wolfgang Puck meal? Puck’s catering operation has served the Oscars for a quarter of a century, and now Chief Executive Carl Schuster and restaurateur Bill Chait will partner to develop the museum’s restaurant.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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