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Will Karen Bass’s Past Tank Her Shot at Becoming Biden’s VP?

James Clyburn, the influential South Carolina congressman and Joe Biden confidant, is palpably annoyed. “It bugs me that people want to pit these two Black women against the other,” Clyburn complained to the Washington Post over the weekend, referencing the emerging narrative of a potential vice presidential slugfest between his colleague and good friend Representative Karen Bass and Senator Kamala Harris. “It is messier than it should be.”

Clyburn, the Majority Whip and a singular voice within Biden’s inner circle, is hardly the only Democrat ticked off by the seemingly endless pageant that has a select group of dynamo women battling to become Biden’s pick.

Bass and Harris may be two of the most powerful African-American women in U.S. politics, but their similarities pretty much begin and end with the state they represent. Unlike Harris, who rose to prominence as San Francisco District Attorney and later California Attorney General, Bass began as a grassroots activist and founder of the Community Coalition, with a mission to tackle drug addiction and poverty in South L.A. She quietly served in the state legislature from 2004 to 2010, rising to Speaker in the last two years, and was easily elected to Congress in November 2010. Despite representing the 37th House District—a massive swath of Los Angeles that spans from the 110 Freeway to the Westside—Bass has kept a much lower profile than her Bay Area compatriot. Though she’s popular with House leadership, until a few weeks ago when she made Biden’s short list for VP, Bass was neither famous nor on the national radar.

Harris’s trajectory, on the other hand, has been a clean space launch from DA to AG to Senator to presidential candidate. She is now, arguably, the front-runner in the race to be Biden’s VP. But that race is officially a marathon slog—and with no winner expected to snare the trophy before August 15, anything can happen.

How did Bass leapfrog onto the VP finalist list?

Turns out being a congenial team player who happens to head up the Congressional Black Caucus at a moment when race is dominating the national conversation is a game changer. About two weeks ago, Bass, 66, suddenly sprinted to the front of the pack with boosts from congressional colleagues—including Nancy Pelosi—and other Democratic kingmakers like former California Democratic Party chairman John Burton.

Then the big shoe dropped: Cuba—the Third Rail of U.S. politics and presidential elections.

First reported were her ill-chosen words upon the death of Fidel Castro in 2016, she opined, that “the passing of the Comandante en Jefe is a great loss to the people of Cuba.” Ouch! But politically survivable.

Far more damaging was news that that Bass first visited the island while, in college, at age 19, in 1973 with the Venceremos Brigade, a group popular with leftwing student radicals and social progressives that organized and ferried Americans to Cuba to cut sugar cane and build homes—in defiance of the U.S. Embargo and policy. She would take eight trips with the Brigade during the 1970s alone; her fascination with and ties to the island have been steadfast ever since. In recent years, Bass has backed visas for Cuban doctors working in L.A.’s underserved neighborhoods, ending the US Embargo, and normalizing relations with Cuba.

Indeed, as chronicled in the L.A. Times, the Los Angeles Police Department under Daryl Gates famously infiltrated the Brigade (identifying Bass as a “leader” in 1973). One of the twelve LAPD undercover officers encouraged and trained some in the group, including Bass, to use firearms, previously unheard among the group. Bass was one of a hundred-plus plaintiffs who joined a ACLU lawsuit against the department, that eventually prevailed.

As a reporter covering Cuba-Miami since 1991, I can’t figure why Bass’s Venceremos Brigade history is such a bombshell. Her frequent-flyer status to the island has hardly been a secret. Bass has been well known in the American expat scene in Havana for decades and counts dozens of friends, including some Party officials, on the island. When she accompanied President Barack Obama to Cuba for his historic 2016 trip restoring relations with Cuba, she even tweeted a pic of herself in a red bandana from her Venceremos days.

That said, there is really no way to soft pedal the fact the Brigade was cofounded by the Castro government and Students for a Democratic Society, and was born of the marriage of the student Left and the Cuban Communist Party, then much under the influence of the Soviets. At the moment, another cozy relationship with a communist is getting ink. On Tuesday, Politico dredged up a eulogy Bass penned to honor the passing of Communist Party organizer Oneil Marion Cannon in 2017.

While having had a radical past isn’t a big deal in California politics, it has long been a disqualifier in any presidential race.

One word, as veteran journalist Tim Russert oft intoned: Florida, Florida, Florida.

On Saturday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the Trump administration’s go-to Cuban-American surrogate, blasted Bass: “She will be the highest-ranking Castro sympathizer in the history of the United States government.” The tone and vitriol was more incendiary on popular Cuban exile radio stations in Miami and blogs like Babalu. 

Important Democratic power players in Miami like state senator Anette Taddeo, a Colombian, urgently warn that Bass would be “a game changer” that could cost Biden Florida; Cuban-American pollster Fernand Amandi, who knows how to crunch the numbers of every Cuban-American vote, agrees.

Certainly, the Dems could respond to such red-baiting by pointing out that Republicans have been struck mute by Trump’s slavish devotion to Vladimir Putin. But in any case, Bass’s supporters believe that Biden is now popular enough in the state to survive an onslaught by the anti-Castro opposition. A new generation of Cuban-Americans is much less likely to share the anti-Castro obsessions of their parents or grandparents.

Bass has no illusions about her Cuba baggage and talked candidly with me on the subject, just hours after she left the John Lewis memorial in the Capitol, where she spoke with Biden there.

Regardless of her Cuba issues, I told her I am skeptical that the Dems can carry the state. Bass agreed that the state is a thorny challenge and noted that “the new wave of Venezuelans”—all fiercely anti-communist—“are also now a factor.” She added that Biden’s camp had told her of an internal Florida poll showing him up 15 points over Trump. I said I found that hard to believe and she offered a warm laugh and an ambiguous “whatever!”

My two cents is that a Biden-Bass ticket would have to bank on a national landslide sufficient to lose Florida. But, by all accounts, Biden’s campaign is prepared to wage an all-out battle for the Sunshine State and its game-changing 29 electoral votes.

Despite Trump’s declining fortunes in Florida, winning the state will be a tall order, and not because there are a lack of sufficient Democratic votes to prevail in a clear, clean election. Consider the fact, that it is more partisan now than when I covered the infamous Bush vs. Gore fiasco of 2000. While Democrat voters outnumber Republican ones in the state, it is governed by an intensely partisan GOP, including Trump-acolyte governor Ron DeSantis; its two senators, Rubio and former governor Rick Scott; and a Secretary of State, Laurel M. Lee—a worthy rival to Katharine Harris—who ultimately decides which ballots are counted.

While the Scientology flap isn’t a deal breaker, being a former Brigadista likely is. The possibility of leaked photos of a young, naïve Bass posing for pictures with Cuban officials (and they do love taking photos of visiting Americans) could tank the Biden ship.

But Castro isn’t the only controversial tyrant getting in Bass’s way. The congresswoman has also been criticized for ill-advised comments about Scientology guru L. Ron Hubbard at the 2010 inauguration of the Ideal Org building in Hollywood. In a video surfaced by right-wing website the Daily Caller, Bass says, “….That is why the words are exciting of your Founder L. Ron Hubbard, in the creed of the Church of Scientology: That all people of whatever race, color or creed are created with equal rights.”

Bass was the speaker of the California State Assembly at the time, but Scientology whistleblower Tony Ortega says the building wouldn’t have been in her district, as Bass has claimed. The congresswoman has defended her attendance with the requisite political politesse, saying she was just seeking some commonality with a church not her own.

While the Scientology flap isn’t a deal breaker, being a former Brigadista likely is. The possibility of leaked photos of a young, naïve Bass posing for pictures with Cuban officials (and they do love taking photos of visiting Americans) would tank the Biden ship.

For now, while Bass is enjoying the support of a host of powerful Democratic insiders, Harris is still the one to beat. But the 55-year-old Senator is facing her own headwinds stemming from her record as SF’s district attorney. During the primaries, progressive activists pointed to her law enforcement record as proof that she was too conservative for the party. Ironically, in a general election, her GOP critics will undoubtedly argue the opposite. In an incident that is now largely forgotten, Harris provoked a firestorm in California in 2008, when she passed on the death penalty for MC-13 Salvadoran gang member Edwin Ramos for the murders of a father and two sons in a drive-by shooting that Ramos said was a case of mistaken identity.

Four years prior, she’d raised right-wing hackles when she announced she wouldn’t seek the death penalty for gang member David Harris for the assault-rifle murder of popular San Francisco police officer Isaac Espinoza.

Still, it may prove to be a helpful counter-narrative to the “Kamala is a cop” tag that has scored traction among some Black activists.

While the showdown between Harris and Bass has rubber-necked political junkies it’s aggravated Democratic power players—and both women.

Last week at John Lewis’s memorial in Selma, Alabama, Bass and Harris went off on their own for a private schmooze. “It was all good,” Bass later told an interviewer. “[Harris] said ‘We ain’t doing that.’ It was fine.” Bass added: “I’m not the anti-Kamala.”

No matter who snags the VP slot, Bass is looking at a huge career upgrade. If Kamala gets the nod, her Senate seat opens up if the Dems prevail on November 3. Or come 2024, a 94-year-old Dianne Feinstein will almost certainly not run again.

Senator Bass? Sounds about right to me.

Ann Louise Bardach, a PEN Award-winning reporter, is the author of Without Fidel and Cuba Confidential.


RELATED: Two Californians Are on Joe Biden’s VP Shortlist. What Are Their Chances?


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Katy Perry Roars to the Defense of Ellen DeGeneres

As allegations about the behind-the-scenes world of Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show continue to mount, some in Hollywood have made public statements about their own uncomfortable dealings with DeGeneres, and many others appear to be laying low about the matter–but not Katy Perry. The pop star came strongly to Degeneres’s defense in a pair of tweets posted around midnight.

Perry has been a frequent guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, dropping by 13 times since since 2008. Many on Twitter quickly responded to Perry’s messages by pointing out that it is possible that the experience of a high-profile celebrity guest of a talk show might be different than that of the staff that produces that show.

DeGeneres doesn’t have many outspoken supporters at this point, but Perry isn’t totally alone. Diane Keaton and comedian Kevin Hart have also made statements on behalf of the controversial host.


RELATED: Upward of 300,000 L.A. Households Could Be at Risk if the State’s Eviction Ban Expires Next Month


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DAILY TRACKER: Updates on L.A. County’s COVID-19 Cases

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Coronavirus Cases Los Angeles, Update 8/4/2020:

Below is the current breakdown of coronavirus cases as of 8 p.m. on August 4. Data is incomplete due to a delay in the state’s electronic lab reporting system.

There are now 195,614 total confirmed cases (+1901 from prior day). There have been 4,758 deaths (+57 from prior day). The regions with the highest rate of infections per capita are Saugus, Castaic, and City of Industry. The most deaths have been recorded in Glendale (142), Westlake (124), and El Monte (96).

Novel Coronavirus Cases in Los Angeles County, by Neighborhood
Acton 45
Adams-Normandie 176
Agoura Hills 120
Agua Dulce 20
Alhambra 947
Alsace 274
Altadena 480
Anaverde 8
Angeles National Forest 6
Angelino Heights 51
Arcadia 340
Arcadia 74
Arleta 1018
Artesia 237
Athens Village 168
Athens-Westmont 1138
Atwater Village 168
Avalon 5
Avocado Heights 201
Azusa 1454
Baldwin Hills 461
Baldwin Park 2064
Bassett 483
Bel Air 60
Bell 1177
Bell Gardens 1422
Bellflower 1731
Beverly Crest 87
Beverly Hills 545
Beverlywood 118
Bouquet Canyon 2
Boyle Heights 3354
Bradbury 17
Brentwood 215
Brookside 2
Burbank 1028
Cadillac-Corning 93
Calabasas 206
Canoga Park 1349
Canyon Country 84
Carson 1315
Carthay 174
Castaic 1862
Central 1667
Century City 94
Century Palms/Cove 1170
Cerritos 431
Chatsworth 503
Cheviot Hills 48
Chinatown 85
Claremont 257
Cloverdale/Cochran 233
Commerce 418
Compton 2954
Country Club Park 229
Covina 1299
Covina (Charter Oak) 232
Crenshaw District 237
Crestview 148
Cudahy 842
Culver City 326
Del Aire 50
Del Rey 263
Del Sur 7
Desert View Highlands 26
Diamond Bar 394
Downey 3071
Downtown 560
Duarte 463
Eagle Rock 488
East Covina 4
East Hollywood 502
East La Mirada 76
East Los Angeles 4731
East Pasadena 53
East Rancho Dominguez 489
East Whittier 53
Echo Park 168
El Camino Village 112
El Monte 3231
El Segundo 97
El Sereno 882
Elizabeth Lake 5
Elysian Park 78
Elysian Valley 190
Encino 399
Exposition 61
Exposition Park 970
Faircrest Heights 26
Figueroa Park Square 245
Florence-Firestone 4367
Gardena 891
Glassell Park 517
Glendale 2437
Glendora 975
Gramercy Place 185
Granada Hills 858
Green Meadows 720
Hacienda Heights 750
Hancock Park 174
Harbor City 368
Harbor Gateway 694
Harbor Pines 14
Harvard Heights 439
Harvard Park 1232
Hawaiian Gardens 382
Hawthorne 1485
Hermosa Beach 152
Hi Vista 5
Hidden Hills 6
Highland Park 828
Historic Filipinotown 338
Hollywood 889
Hollywood Hills 229
Huntington Park 2141
Hyde Park 591
Industry 26
Inglewood 2068
Irwindale 54
Jefferson Park 202
Kagel/Lopez Canyons 25
Koreatown 873
La Canada Flintridge 129
La Crescenta-Montrose 120
La Habra Heights 30
La Mirada 636
La Puente 1099
La Rambla 72
La Verne 350
Ladera Heights 64
Lafayette Square 64
Lake Balboa 714
Lake Hughes 1
Lake Los Angeles 143
Lake Manor 14
Lakeview Terrace 427
Lakewood 923
Lancaster 2182
Lawndale 483
Leimert Park 236
Lennox 499
Leona Valley 15
Lincoln Heights 849
Little Armenia 330
Little Bangladesh 381
Little Tokyo 54
Littlerock 56
Littlerock/Juniper Hills 7
Littlerock/Pearblossom 56
Llano 3
Lomita 174
Longwood 94
Los Feliz 150
Lynwood 2489
Malibu 80
Manchester Square 132
Mandeville Canyon 18
Manhattan Beach 271
Mar Vista 248
Marina del Rey 61
Marina Peninsula 27
Maywood 1046
Melrose 1467
Mid-city 237
Miracle Mile 128
Mission Hills 549
Monrovia 609
Montebello 1679
Monterey Park 657
Mt. Washington 409
Newhall 6
North Hills 1302
North Hollywood 2488
North Lancaster 18
North Whittier 143
Northeast San Gabriel 258
Northridge 1028
Norwalk 2416
Pacific Palisades 99
Pacoima 2440
Padua Hills 2
Palisades Highlands 18
Palmdale 2714
Palms 437
Palos Verdes Estates 75
Palos Verdes Peninsula 3
Panorama City 2004
Paramount 1778
Park La Brea 85
Pearblossom/Llano 17
Pellissier Village 19
Pico Rivera 1775
Pico-Union 1442
Playa Del Rey 20
Playa Vista 104
Pomona 3844
Porter Ranch 244
Quartz Hill 122
Rancho Dominguez 60
Rancho Palos Verdes 229
Rancho Park 61
Redondo Beach 409
Regent Square 21
Reseda 1642
Reseda Ranch 84
Reynier Village 28
Rolling Hills 5
Rolling Hills Estates 31
Roosevelt 5
Rosemead 619
Rosewood 16
Rosewood/East Gardena 14
Rosewood/West Rancho Dominguez 68
Rowland Heights 488
San Dimas 373
San Fernando 633
San Gabriel 424
San Jose Hills 524
San Marino 56
San Pasqual 9
San Pedro 1578
Sand Canyon 5
Santa Catalina Island 7
Santa Clarita 2253
Santa Fe Springs 379
Santa Monica 655
Santa Monica Mountains 90
Saugus 15
Saugus/Canyon Country 1
Shadow Hills 39
Sherman Oaks 748
Sierra Madre 57
Signal Hill 190
Silver Lake 486
South Antelope Valley 1
South Carthay 86
South El Monte 650
South Gate 3418
South Park 1570
South Pasadena 223
South San Gabriel 133
South Whittier 1238
Southeast Antelope Valley 11
St Elmo Village 108
Stevenson Ranch 121
Studio City 193
Sun Valley 1075
Sun Village 100
Sunland 344
Sunrise Village 38
Sycamore Square 4
Sylmar 2365
Tarzana 503
Temple City 414
Temple-Beaudry 946
Thai Town 112
Toluca Lake 83
Toluca Terrace 17
Toluca Woods 14
Torrance 1060
Tujunga 281
Twin Lakes/Oat Mountain 10
University Hills 45
University Park 587
Val Verde 45
Valencia 35
Valinda 555
Valley Glen 414
Valley Village 402
Van Nuys 2031
Venice 210
Vermont Knolls 561
Vermont Square 261
Vermont Vista 1425
Vernon 8
Vernon Central 2308
Victoria Park 155
View Heights 34
View Park/Windsor Hills 107
Walnut 210
Walnut Park 536
Watts 1402
Wellington Square 89
West Adams 689
West Antelope Valley 3
West Carson 297
West Covina 2172
West Hills 391
West Hollywood 435
West LA 36
West Los Angeles 389
West Puente Valley 280
West Rancho Dominguez 18
West Vernon 1721
West Whittier/Los Nietos 707
Westchester 300
Westfield/Academy Hills 4
Westhills 8
Westlake 1976
Westlake Village 22
Westwood 258
White Fence Farms 35
Whittier 1653
Wholesale District 1935
Willowbrook 1107
Wilmington 1222
Wilshire Center 863
Winnetka 919
Wiseburn 100
Woodland Hills 651
Under Investigation: 4281


RELATED: Gavin Newsom Explains What It Will Take to End Stay-at-Home


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Afternoon Update: Gov. Newsom’s Good News About COVID Cases May Have Resulted from Bad Data

» The good news Governor Gavin Newsom reported regarding the state’s seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate may have been the result of flawed stats. California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Tuesday that the state’s data system is marred with technical issues. [The Los Angeles Times]

» Electric car salesman and chaotic Twitter personality Elon Musk won’t say for sure whether Tesla will remain in California. Still irked that state health officials wouldn’t allow him to open the company’s Fremont plant as immediately as the billionaire would have liked, he told Automotive News, “There’s no question that our headquarters will remain in California for the short term…Long term, we’ll have to wait and see.” [Yahoo News]

» Newport Beach-based fast-casual burrito spot Chipotle is launching a line of sustainable clothes. All the pieces will be dyed using the 300 million avocado pits the company typically throws away each year. [CNN]

» Compton Mayor Aja Brown says her city’s residents are being unfairly targeted and harassed by deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Brown herself has been pulled over and asked if her car could be searched for drugs. She’s calling on California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to intervene. [LAist]

» Disney has given up on its live-action remake of Mulan making it to cinemas. The summer tentpole will hit Disney+ for a cool $29.99 beginning September 4. [The Hollywood Reporter]

» Neil Young—a national treasure even though he’s Canadian—is suing the Trump campaign for using two of his songs without a license at the president’s recent bummer of a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “This complaint is not intended to disrespect the rights and opinions of American citizens, who are free to support the candidate of their choosing,” reads the copyright infringement complaint filed in New York federal court. “However, Plaintiff in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.” [The Guardian]

» One of California’s most beloved national parks has a new name—sort of. At a White House press conference, Donald Trump referred to Yosemite National Park as “Yo-sem-MIGHT” and subsequently “Yo-sem-min-NIGHT.” [USA Today]


RELATED: Joan Collins Opens Up About Her Sexual Assault and Hollywood’s Grim Realities 


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Investigations Continue into a Party Sources Have Linked to the L.A. Sheriff’s Department

On July 31, as most Angelenos were settling in for another Friday night of quarantine at home, an estimated 100 to 150 people, were getting together at Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood for a night of drinking and dancing. One source who spoke to the Los Angeles Times on the condition of anonymity said it was booked as a private party involving the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department. Likewise, several arriving guests were captured on video saying “yes” when asked if they were there for the “LASD party.”

Indoor service at restaurants and on-premises service at bars was shut down most recently on June 28 amid L.A.’s surge in COVID-19 infections; large social gatherings have remained banned since March. Photos and videos of the event appear to show most attendees neither distancing nor wearing masks.

Now, the Los Angeles Times reports, Dr. Barbara Ferrer has announced that the Department of Public Health is investigating the incident, along with the Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control and the Los Angeles Police Department.

“We are investigating reports of a private indoor party and remind all businesses that have been ordered to close indoor operations that there are no exceptions,” a representative for the health department told CNN. “This is exactly the situation that puts our entire community at risk.”

Word of the party first began to spread in social media posts from Knock.LA, a project of the community activist organization Ground Game L.A.

Knock.LA states that they first observed guests arriving at Sassafras Saloon around 8 p.m., initially being ushered into the venue through a side door. Upon peering inside, they claim to have seen “a packed indoor club, loud music, drinking, dancing, and not a mask visible.”

Cerise Castle, a journalist with public radio station KCRW, also investigated the event. While there, she documented individuals who identified themselves by names she says match those of current law enforcement officers drinking outside of the venue and leaving trash on the street.

With COVID-19 outbreaks documented to be spreading rapidly inside correctional facilities, correctional officers would be among those most likely to be exposed to the virus. As of mid-June, 2,585 inmates and 335 LASD staff were known to have tested positive.

On the night of the party, a CNN reporter went to the bar and spoke to a guest who claimed that the attendees were not worried about potential exposure.

Sassafras Saloon LASD Sheriff's Department
Sassafras Saloon photographed in 2017

Photo: Aaron Green

“Everybody is either family or works at the same place so that’s why we don’t have COVID concerns. They micro-group or whatever with each other and everyone’s been tested and everything. That’s why we all know that everyone in there is cool,” the guest claimed.

When pressed on the matter, the individual asked the reporter, “If you’re so concerned, why don’t you call the police?”

That guest was later identified to CNN as a current officer in the LAPD Southwest Division.

A spokesperson for 1933 Group, which owns Sassafras Saloon, asserts that the LASD dud not organize the party, and that management was told it would be an event to “celebrate first responders.” Because the venue has a full kitchen, it qualifies to be open for patio dining service, and, they say, management was under the impression that it would be a small group enjoying their drinks and food outdoors.

“We did everything possible to provide our staff and guests with ample outdoor spaces that completely adhered to current safety precautions and social distancing expectations,” the spokesperson told the Times. “Unfortunately, there were a number of guests that did not comply. We unequivocally do not condone this behavior and have no intention of agreeing to additional private events, charitable or otherwise, until the state allows.”

The LASD denies any official connection to the event, and has stated that any identification of individuals at the event as linked to the department are “categorically false” and part of a “hoax perpetrated by social activists.”


RELATED: The Coroner Has Released Andres Guardado’s Autopsy, Defying Sheriff’s Hold Order


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Multiple People Were Shot at a Mulholland Drive Mansion Party

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Gunfire erupted during a massive party at a short-term rental mansion in Beverly Crest early Tuesday, leaving one woman dead and two others wounded just hours after police responded to calls from neighbors alarmed by the size of the crowd.

According to the Los Angeles Fire Department, the shooting occurred at around 1:15 a.m. at a home in the 13200 block of West Mulholland Drive. CBS Los Angeles reports that in an Instagram video posted by one partygoer, about 20 shots can be heard, fired in two volleys, followed by a chaotic scene as guests tried to run to safety.

LAPD Lieutenant Chris Ramirez said at a press conference Tuesday morning that police arrived at the scene to find two women and one man with gunshot wounds. The three victims were rushed to local hospitals, where one of the women, who is believed to be approximately 35-years-old, was pronounced dead. The two injured guests are in stable condition.

A third woman was sent to a local hospital with a wrist injury she reportedly suffered in her rush to escape the shooting, while a second man who was at the party checked himself into a hospital but then checked out. No names have been released.

As of Tuesday morning, police had no suspects and no motive for the shootings, though it is being investigated as gang-related.

Kennie D. Leggett, who identified himself as the party’s head of security, told CBS L.A. the celebration was in honor of a football player who was recently drafted to an NFL team, but did not name the player or the team.

“We have money,” Leggett said. “We are people. This, COVID I mean, is just pushing us out everywhere, and we have nothing, so the only thing we do have is Airbnbs to rent, swimming pools for our kids, to do big things and things of that nature.”

At about 7 p.m. Monday, police had responded to numerous calls from neighbors about the size of the crowd at the mansion, where buses had been seen dropping off dozens of people. Officers found about 200 people at the home and cited some cars for blocking the roadway, but found noise levels coming from the party to be in compliance so they left without taking further action.

The company that manages the rental property told CBS L.A. that it first heard of the party on Monday, and that it had warned the renters that they were violating the rental agreement. The company added that it had asked the party hosts to vacate the home.

While large parties are currently not allowed in L.A. County, and guests could be plainly seen violating COVID-19 health rules, the LAPD says its officers cannot enter private property without a warrant.


RELATED: Disneyland Employees Want Daily COVID Testing, but the Company Shot Down the Idea


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DA Jackie Lacey’s Husband Is Being Charged for Pulling a Gun on BLM Protesters

On Monday, August 3, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed misdemeanor charges in Los Angeles Superior Court against David Lacey, husband of Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey, for pointing a gun at several Black Lives Matter protesters.

The complaint includes three counts of assault with a firearm, one each for three protesters he encountered: Justin Andrew Marks, Dahlia Ferlito, and Black Lives Matter cofounder Melina Abdullah.

The incident took place on March 2, a day before incumbent DA Lacey squared off against a pair of progressive challengers in the hotly contested March 3 primary election. A group of around 30 protesters had gathered outside the Laceys’ Granada Hills home. When the three individuals named in the complaint approached the home and rang the doorbell, video from the scene appears to show David Lacey opening the door with a gun in hand, pointing it at the activists, and shouting, “I will shoot you. Get off my porch.”

 

At the time of the incident March, Lacey staged a press conference, saying that while her husband was “profoundly sorry,” she didn’t think her home was an appropriate place for a protest.

“I do not believe it is fair or right for protestors to show up at the homes of people who dedicate their lives to public service,” Lacey stated. “It was just him and I in that house and we really didn’t know what was about to happen.”

DA Lacey’s tough-on-crime-but-not-on-cops reputation has long raised the hackles of activists. In the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, Lacey has become the focus of near-constant protests, both downtown and outside the home she and husband David share. On July 3, around 80 protesters gathered outside their San Fernando Valley home without incident.

The March incident didn’t stop Lacey from performing exceedingly well in the March primary, but she wasn’t able to avoid a November runoff against opponent George Gascón.


RELATED: Madonna Joins L.A. Protests to Oust District Attorney Jackie Lacey


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In June, Robert Fuller Was Found Hanging From a Tree in Palmdale. That’s When the Rumors Began

In early June, as protests against racial injustice flared across the country, 24-year-old Robert Fuller’s body was found hanging from a tree in Poncitlán Square in Palmdale, a death the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department quickly determined was a suicide. What followed were daily protests and calls from across the nation for a more thorough investigation into his death, which many had feared was a racially motivated lynching. Even Kim Kardashian West tweeted her support. A week later, Fuller’s half-brother Terron Boone died in a shootout with sheriff’s deputies in Rosamond.

On July 9, LASD finally confirmed the results of its initial investigation and announced its determination that Fuller had committed suicide after a lifetime of suffering from mental illness, including an incident in which he had tried to light himself on fire. It seemed like a simple answer to the questions swirling around the tragic loss of a young life, but the road to the truth wasn’t quite so simple.

Mere days after Boone’s death, troubling allegations about Fuller began to spread on social media, including mention of child molestation and criminal conspiracy. Friends who attended Fuller’s funeral hadn’t heard such rumors and were shocked to see the tweet from which they’d originated.

“There’s no way he would do anything like that,” his friend Victor Adeyokunnu shouted. “He would never do anything to harm another person.”

A screenshot of a text message from an anonymous source was posted to Twitter on June 19 by radio personality Bryan Suits of local AM radio station KFI. The text message claimed that Fuller had been facing charges of child molestation and that the mother of the supposed child victim had left Fuller to stay with Boone.

“Robert Fuller was facing 288 charges,” the tweet claimed, referencing Penal Code 288 PC, which is the California statute that defines the crime as “lewd and lascivious acts with a minor child.” The tweet went on to detail several claims, such as there being video of Fuller purchasing a rope, that a suicide note had been located, and, most damningly, that Fuller had committed child abuse against an unnamed girlfriend’s daughter, who allegedly went to stay with Boone afterward. When Fuller died, the message alleged, Boone kidnapped the woman and threatened her with a firearm. This was “just scratching the surface,” Suits claimed.

This tweet appeared to be the only source for a post that quickly went viral in local Facebook community groups, erroneously claiming that KFI, as a news organization, had broken the story.

However, Lieutenant Brandon Dean of LASD’s Homicide Bureau, who was in charge of the investigation into Fuller’s death, denied in an interview that Fuller was facing any allegations of child molestation, stating that Fuller “is not and never was facing 288 charges.” Asked about the accuracy of the rest of the claims, Dean said the text message was a fabrication.

“I don’t know where Mr. Suits is getting his information,” Dean said. “But it is inaccurate.”

◍◍◍◍

Robert Fuller was born on January 26, 1996, the youngest of five siblings. He spent most of his life traveling between the Antelope Valley, Nevada (where his father lives), and Arizona (where his sisters live), and was described by friends and family as a calm, level-headed man who loved anime and usually kept to himself.

“I met Robert in the sixth grade,” says Chad Bellows, a childhood friend of Fuller’s. “I remember he wasn’t talking, I kept harassing him to talk, and he just wouldn’t do it. But then on the third day, I just looked up like ‘what’s up,’ and he was just like, ‘Wassaaaaap!’”

Fuller’s death came as a shock not only to his friends and family but the entire community, as it occurred in the midst of national Black Lives Matter protests, one of which Fuller had attended days before. On social media and at protests, the common refrain was that “Black men don’t hang themselves from trees,” as Fuller was one of many Black men and women alleged to have committed suicide by hanging from a tree in the recent past. Titi Gulley was found hanging in Portland on May 27, 2019; Malcolm Harsch was discovered hanging from a tree in Victorville on May 31 of this year; and Dominique Alexander was found in Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan on June 9. The day after Alexander’s death, Fuller’s body was discovered in Palmdale.

A photo from Robert Fuller’s funeral program

Jed Bookout

The nature of Fuller’s death led some in the community to wonder it weren’t somehow tied to the area’s legacy of crime linked to white supremacists. According to a 2010 U.S. Department of Justice report, the Antelope Valley had the most incidents of hate crimes reported anywhere in L.A. County. In 1995, three men, later discovered to be part of the white supremacist gang the Peckerwoods, were arrested for firing six rounds into a car at four Black people for “no other reason than the occupants’ race,” according to police. In 2014, three men in Littlerock were arrested following the discovery of an underground bunker in Littlerock containing countless guns, Nazi flags, and pictures of at least one of the men posing in Nazi attire. Even as recently as last year, four first-grade teachers were placed on administrative leave after a photo surfaced of them with a noose.

Local activist Ayinde Love says that the history of racism in Palmdale and Lancaster is deep, but concerns among communities of color are often ignored, in a way he describes as a collective form of gaslighting. He was immediately skeptical of the allegations Suits posted and isn’t surprised they didn’t hold up to scrutiny.

“Every single time that a black person gets killed, there’s always a search or a digging…to try to smear the name, smear the image,” he says. “If the name is damaged enough, that makes it easy for the public to accept the death of the person, no matter how gruesome that death is.”

Fuller family attorney Jamon Hicks’s independent investigation into the allegations in Suits’s Tweet found no evidence of child molestation charges filed or accusations made against Fuller, something he began investigating shortly after KFI and other news outlets started reaching out to him for a statement.

“What was concerning to me was that KFI said they had credible information from the sheriff’s department or that the sheriffs could corroborate the information,” Hicks tells Los Angeles. At a July 10 press conference, he said that what made the tweet more troubling was the hyperspecific language, citing the use of Penal Code 288 as something “only lawyers and law enforcement types would say.”

On social media, posts disseminating Suits’s tweet frequently included captions that questioned Fuller’s arrest record. On April 2, Fuller was cited for a crime listed as a misdemeanor with $70,000 bail. Los Angeles was unable to find out the exact nature of this crime, but many posts claimed was evidence of Fuller’s misconduct, despite the lack of any relevant information. However, the official record does indicate that Fuller was released with a citation, something Suits told us in a Twitter DM is the real controversy.

“The real story that [Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva] wants to go away is that [Fuller] never should have been OUT after his Apr2 arrest,” Suits wrote. ”$70K bail, COVID’d to 0$. He should NOT have been out.”

“If it was something so serious, he’s not getting cited out,” Hicks argues. “Especially on a child molestation charge. Any charge that would be considered remotely serious, he wouldn’t have been cited out. He would have to have been taken into custody and somebody would have had to bail him out.”

The exact origin of the rumors is unknown, but Ayinde Love says he suspects he knows the source. “The police,” he says. “I think that these cases are serving a role as a shovel and digging up all of the skeletons that we’ve been burying and hiding, still in our soil.”

At the sheriff’s department’s July 9 press conference regarding Fuller’s death, further social media rumors were denied by LASD. There was no video of Fuller buying rope like the text message in the tweet alleged; instead, it was found that he had purchased a rope on May 14 at a local Dollar Tree through his EBT transaction history. The text message embedded in the tweet also alleged that a suicide note was located, something the department also denied. Most notably, the department denied allegations that Boone had kidnapped an ex-girlfriend of Fuller’s.

“We have spoken with those individuals listed in the rumor, and they also have no knowledge of it,” Lt. Dean said at the press conference.

Hicks further elaborated that his investigation had found that there is “no validity to the rumor that Fuller was dating her. That is false.”

By all accounts, none of this information went public until it was passed along on Suits’s Twitter page. In the days leading up to his tweet, he posted cryptically, expressing frustration about information he had been given. “I hate knowing stuff that I can’t say on the air in 2020,” he wrote on June 17, the day Terron Boone died. “Truth is in quarantine. Knowledge is still wearing a mask.” Not even 24 hours before tweeting the allegations against Fuller, he followed up by stating, “Today will be seven days since a made up controversy smeared residents of the Antelope Valley. If @LACoSheriff doesn’t fix this, I will. I know what you know, buddy.”

Contacted for comment, Suits shied away from some of the info he shared on social media, explaining that he subsequently tweeted that his source had backed away from the child molestation claims; Los Angeles could not locate that tweet.

“It was always a distraction anyway,” he wrote. “I always preface these things as, ‘Here’s what they’re saying, not for nothing, just putting this out.’”

On June 20, he went live on his show Dark Secret Place—a talk radio show on which he discusses politics, current events, and the military—to discuss the news surrounding Malcolm Harsch, the Black man found hanging from a tree in Victorville less than two weeks before Fuller. After video was located from a nearby store, Harsch’s was officially deemed a suicide by San Bernardino County Sheriffs. Suits used this news as a transition into discussing the Fuller investigation, stating, “All I can say is…the sheriff knows something, isn’t saying it, and the people that are paying the price are the rank and file, when a protest from out of town comes up to Lancaster,” Suits said.

To assure his audience that his information is accurate, he explained that higher-ups at KFI are always telling him to verify information before discussing it. “Don’t get anything on the air that you can’t get somebody to confirm on the record,” he stated. “You don’t do, ‘Some say,’ ‘it’s been said,’ you don’t do that. Not on KFI.”

◍◍◍◍

On June 29, outside of the church in Littlerock where a public viewing for Robert Fuller’s body was taking place were Fuller’s childhood friends Adeyokunnu, Bellows, and Aaron Goins. The men laughed and shared memories of someone they described as a “man of action, in a positive way,” who “was full of life. His smile lit up the whole room.”

“We all grew up together,” Goins said, motioning to his friends and the church where Fuller’s body laid. “They used to always come over to my house when we were working on music, just plotting on whatever we were gonna do for the rest of the day.”

Over the course of our interview, the men shared countless stories about their friend, ranging from the mundane to the more personal. They described a fun but listless experience of skateboarding and trying to make music, like many teenagers do. Like many teenage friendships, the men eventually went their separate ways to live adult lives, but never dropped out of contact. Adeyokunnu recently went to see Fuller in Las Vegas back in January, and talked to him as often as he could.

A memorial for Robert Fuller in Palmdale in July

Jed Bookout

“He inspired me to be more confident,” Adeyokunnu stated. “Whenever I was in a bad situation with him, he was always the positive one. He always had a positive mindset and when I’m like, ‘Fuck this, it’s fucked,’ he’d always be like, ‘Nah, just keep pushing.’”

With all of the social media rumors dispelled, all that remains of a life cut tragically short are the memories his friends and family have of Fuller. With his death no longer being politicized, his friends are glad to receive a platform to keep the memory of “the man of action, in a positive way” alive, just as they remembered him.

“I’m glad we’re here to defend him,” Bellows stated. “He can’t defend himself.”


RELATED: L.A. Sheriff’s Department Rules Robert Fuller’s Death a Suicide


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Wildfire Season Is Projected to Be Bad This Year. Here’s How to Prepare

Fire has always been part of Southern California’s ecosystem, but today’s wildfires are more intense, more frequent, and more dangerous than ever. While many experts say “fire season” is now almost year-round, it’s clear that incidents spike during the dry, hot months of summer and fall. This year’s projections look particularly bad, with a La Niña system in the forecast, and a wildland fire potential outlook of “above average” starting in October. The memories of massive blazes like the Woolsey, Camp, and Thomas Fires still fresh, leaving many of us wondering how to prepare for a wildfire.

how to prepare for a wildfire fire season california

Preparing for a wildfire means first doing everything you can to prevent one from ever starting, though choosing the right plants for your area and maintaining your property with a mind for fire safety. The second prong is developing a plan and being ready in the event you need to evacuate. Here are some basic tips on where to start.

Mitigate and Prevent

Many fire events are wind-driven, with small sparks flying through the air. Where that ember lands can make all the difference. Will it land on something dry and quick-to burn, or a more fire-resilient surface? When it comes to building or remodeling your home, go for fire-smart materials like concrete and brick rather than wood. In the garden, opt for native, drought-tolerant plants are naturally adapted to the environment–and whatever you plant, keep it moist and hydrated, and consider hardening a zone of several feet around any structures.

Make Your House Fire-Safe

The National Fire Protection Association recommends having at least one fire extinguisher on each floor of your house, ideally located near doors and exits of rooms so it can be grabbed quickly, plus one in the garage. If you only have one, put it in the kitchen–but keep it far from the stove or oven. Once they’re in place, be sure to keep an eye on expiration dates; most last five to 15 years. It’s also wise to make sure everyone in your household knows where the electric, gas, and water shutoffs are in your home and how to cut them off in the event of an emergency.

Pack an Emergency Kit

As a sensible California-dweller, you likely already have a go-pack ready in the event of an earthquake. If you don’t, this step will help prepare for a wildfire or other emergency at the same time. Be sure it has plenty of nonperishable food and water; experts estimate it’s best to start with about three gallons of water for every person in your household. In addition to the basics like first aid supplies and important personal documents, you’ll also want to consider adding analog items like a whistle, a hand-crank radio, and paper maps, in the event that mobile signals are interrupted. If you can get ahold of them, filtration masks can also be good to have.

Plan for an Evacuation 

If an evacuation order is issued, you’ll want to be ready to grab your kit and go. Make sure everyone in your family is on the same page about how you’ll leave and what route you’ll take out of your area (have multiple options planned, if possible). Have a destination where you’ll take shelter arranged in advance if you can. And don’t forget to plan for how you’ll move any pets or animals.


RELATED: These Maps Track Every Wildfire Burning Around L.A.


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Morning Brief: Confirmed COVID Cases Are Down Week Over Week for the First Time Since May

» An analysis of COVID-19 numbers shows that California had its first week-over-week reduction in confirmed cases in 12 weeks. For the seven-day period that ended Sunday, California reported 59,697 new coronavirus cases, which an L.A. Times analysis indicates is a drop of 9 percent from the previous week of 65,634 cases. Granted, that number was a record. [Los Angeles Times]

» A Norwegian film journalist is accusing the Hollywood Foreign Press Association of monopoly activity. In the federal antitrust lawsuit, Kjersti Flaa says the HFPA excludes qualified journalists and works to help members get better access to stars than non-members. [The Hollywood Reporter]

» Donald Trump says he’s prepared to green-light Microsoft’s purchase of TikTok–if Microsoft puts a little something in the deal for the Treasury Department. He stated that the U.S. government “should be paid a substantial amount of money” to help facilitate the deal. [CNBC]

» The Masonic lodge building formerly occupied by the Marciano Art Foundation will show art to the public again. Celebrity gallery owner Larry Gagosian has announced an “exclusive occupancy arrangement” to program shows beginning in January 2021. [Larchmont Buzz]

» Five L.A. residents have filed a lawsuit against the LAPD, claiming cops wrongfully labeled them as gang members. Attorneys for the plaintiffs say they suspect “thousands” of people were inappropriately added to the database. [Los Angeles Times]

» Jose Huizar has entered a plea of not guilty. He has been indicted on 34 charges. A trial-setting conference is scheduled for later this week. [Los Angeles Times]

» Authorities are now investigating an event over the weekend that appeared to be a party at a bar for Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department staff. Video from the event showed many people at the gathering socializing in close quarters and not wearing masks; bars are currently closed for indoor service. [Los Angeles Times]


TOP STORIES FROM L.A. MAG

» Some California Lawmakers Say a Millionaire Tax Could Help Pay for Pandemic Relief  Two L.A. assemblymembers are among those calling for a modest increase to the tax rate for high earners

» Disneyland Employees Want Daily COVID Testing, but the Company Shot Down the Idea According to union reps, at least one Downtown Disney employee has tested positive since the district reopened last month

» These Products Promise to Keep You Safe from Unseen Threats—Are They Worthwhile? As the pandemic and social unrest inspire people to invest in everything from biohazard suits to countersurveillance wands, we asked the experts what’s practical and what’s paranoia


ONE MORE THING

A Veteran Gossip Columnist Owns Up to Being a ‘Cog in the Machine’ That Gave Us Both Paris Hilton and President Trump

In Gatecrasher: How I Helped the Rich Become Famous and Ruin the World, longtime gossip columnist Ben Widdicombe looks back on this two decades reporting on the rich, famous, and infamous.The social calendar may be temporarily paused, but Widdicombe has more than enough stories about the Trumps, Murdochs, Hiltons, and yes, even the Lohans, to keep us entertained—and insights on what our fixation on celebrity has wrought for American culture.

 [FULL STORY]


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