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No Rush to Judgement

credit: Voice of OC

credit: Voice of OC

If you attended the city council meeting on Tuesday, you might have decided to leave before the real business went down. That’s because an angry mob descended on the council hall demanding justice for a young man shot by Tustin Police last week. If you watch the video, as I normally do, you won’t see much of the crowd. That’s because the city, in its infinite wisdom, decided  to black out that portion of the video when the crowd got aroused and nearly stormed the dais. I’m sure that someone thought that was a good idea. What it really does is help inculcate a sense of a coverup.

Even though the city’s video cameras went dark during the protest, “someone” thought to notify the media who arrived with at least one camera crew to catch the action the city hoped they could squelch. So, if you want to see the missing 4 minutes, you can watch the entire sordid affair below.

In just over 4 minutes, the crowd of at least fifty people armed with protest signs, face masks and other assorted protesting paraphernalia,  interrupted, yelled, screamed and wailed laments toward the dais and the few “regular” folks who looked around for an easy escape. Many of the protesters were obviously locals or friends and family of Villa. However, there were quite a few protesters who were just as obviously from out of town. Notably, at least one Guy Fawks mask was seen and it’s a good bet that an organized protest like this would bring out the professional rabblerousers.

To bring you up to speed, on February 9th Tustin Police responded to a domestic violence call in apartments near Redhill and Nisson Rd. When they arrived on scene, according to the TPD press release, they were confronted by 23 year old Robert Villa armed with a knife. What occurred next is unclear but “more than one” officer shot the suspect who was later pronounced dead after being transported to Western Medical Center.

As is often the case, so-called “witnesses” came out of the woodwork to refute the claim of a knife. The OC Weekly, which takes every opportunity to slam police regardless of locale or reputation, was quick to interview family members who weren’t there and accept at face value their opinions on whether deadly force was necessary.  The family retained a lawyer (fancy that) who quickly disputed the police claim of a knife. They also indicated what a swell guy Villa was by saying he was reported to be working a regular job and attending college. He also had a family.

The lawyer, by the way, is Humberto Guizar who also represents the families of two men shot by police in Anaheim in 2012. Apparently, he makes a living on other peoples tragedies.

What no one bothered to say about the 23 year old Villa that you can pick up in the OC Register story (if you have a subscription) is that a man by the same name and birthdate had, “several previous run-ins with the law, including pleading guilty to felony burglary, felony inflicting corporal injury and misdemeanor violating a protective order in 2012, and pleading guilty to misdemeanor inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or significant other in 2011.”

At this point, there is not much to go on. Contrary to popular belief, the Tustin Police are not trying to hide evidence. There is no grand conspiracy to “get the cops off”. The truth is, like any investigation whether it involves cops or not, the facts must remain in relative confidence until it the situation can be sorted out.

But, the rabblerousers who hate authority and the police in particular, have been fueled by the Thomas Kelly murder, riots in Anaheim and recent officer involved shootings in Santa Ana. What they fail to understand is that Tustin Police Department, besides the OC Weekly’s meager attempts at slur, is an exemplary, accredited department. The former chief, with the help of our new Chief Charles Celano, had taken extraordinary steps to insure a high degree of professionalism and training of our department. I’ve had the opportunity to see that training in action more than once as they deal with mental health issues in our community. In fact, it was Chief Celano that initiated a short course in dealing with the emotionally charged, and often, mentally ill offender. The purpose of this training is, of course, to mitigate situations like the one that caused the death of Robert Villa.

For what it is worth, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, of which at least one investigator hails from Tustin Police Department, is investigating the officer involved shooting. So, no matter what the result of the investigation, in the eyes of Villa’s friends and family, it is already tainted and no outcome short of lynching the officers, whom they have already tried in the court of (their) public opinion, will satisfy their lust for vengeance.

As a former police officer and current peace officer with the second largest law enforcement agency in the county, as a 20 year resident of this community, I have a vested interest in this case. I don’t know any of the parties to the incident. What I do know is that we cannot take this case at face value. It is incumbent upon the community to await the outcome of the DA investigation and the city’s response.  While I would like to think the officers conducted themselves in appropriate fashion and used the appropriate amount of force, I am willing to see what the investigation reveals.

In the meantime, if the family really wants justice, they should not buy into the kind of antics and rhetoric displayed by outsiders and “Occupiers” at Tuesday’s council meeting. Mob rule is no rule. Wait to see what the investigation reveals. If there was impropriety by the police, those responsible should be called to account for their actions. To do any less is to bring less than honor to the memory of their lost one.

On The Planning Commissin Agenda – January 28, 2014

Let's see, is that i before e?

Let’s see, is that i before e?

The Tustin City Planning Commission has a busy night with two meetings ahead of them on Tuesday, January 28th. Prior to meeting as the planning commission, they will come together next door to their usual meeting place of the city council chambers, in the Clifton C. Miller Community Center. This will be to act as the Building Board of Appeals for one item. That meeting begins at 6 pm with a Closed Session preceding at 4:30 pm.

That item is the Irvine Company’s appeal from the school fee calculation for property they are developing on the MCAS property. At issue is whether the city may collect fees using what the city calls the Building Division’s standard practice in determining accessible space. The Irvine Company alleges the method the city uses is in direct conflict with state law and that state law supersedes the city’s standard practice.

I would like to say they will be able to work out their differences. However, prior to the meeting is a Closed Session listed only as “Exposure to Litigation – One Case”. I am betting the exposure will be a direct result of the expected determination of the Board of Appeals. Hopefully, they can work out their differences without spending another million dollars on fantasy law. We would suggest the commissioners get their advice from someone other than the City Attorney, who has previously shown his ineptness at advising the city council on legal matters.

The Agenda allows for a one hour meeting prior to the start of the regular Planning Commission meeting, which will take place in the city council chambers as usual.

The regular Planning Commission meeting will host three public hearings as well as two items of regular business, all of which may generate considerable discussion.

Items 2 & 4, Appeal of Denial of Massage Establishment Application – Tustin Day Spa and Le Petite Spa are both related issues. According to the staff reports, the applicants for the permits were the targets of undercover operations at the same addresses that resulted in several “masseuses” being arrested for prostitution. The establishments they were operating in were shut down as a result of the investigations.

It didn’t take much detective work by observant city employees and the police department to determine the applicants were directly involced with the owners of the previously shuttered businesses, attempting to re-open in the same locations with, basically, the same operation.

The Community Development Department is recommending the Planning Commission uphold the denial. We’re no fans of these types of establishments for the obvious reason they take advantage of the women that work there as well as patrons, leaving this less than a victimless crime – allegedly, of course.

We can’t argue with Item Number 2, Conditional Use Permit & Design Review for a wireless cellphone tower masquerading as a eucalyptus tree. The 55 foot Verizon Wireless tower will be located in a business-industrial complex off Jamboree Road and should not present problems for businesses in the area.

Under Regular Business, there may be some discussion regarding Item 5, Design Review – AT&T Utility Cabinets.

The design review is for 25 above-ground utility cabinets located mostly on public rights-of-way throughout Tustin to house and operate equipment for their U-Verse service. The city owns most of the proposed locations.

City staff are proposing three options for the Planning Commission. The first is to adopt a resolution authorizing the installation of the 25 cabinets as a combination of above and underground cabinets.

The second option would allow the 25 cabinets, but all of them would have to be underground. The third option would deny the application altogether. It’s doubtful this option would be taken by the commissioners as AT&T has invested heavily in their infrastructure in the city and would probably not be averse to litigation. Likewise, the city council, to which this would be appealed next, has demonstrated that they are not interested in defending any concerns of Tustin residents when it comes to dealing with the utility companies, regardless of the legitimacy of their reasoning.That leaves the two remaining options or another one determined by the Planning Commission. The only saving grace is that city staff are also not in favor of the project as proposed by AT&T.

According to the staff report, AT&T originally submitted a master plan for upgrading existing and installation of new utility cabinets back in 2007. That design review was denied. AT&T did not move forward with the project again until late last year when another design review was submitted. Commission concerns included AT&T’s opposition to co-locating equipment (sound familiar?) and so-called art/screening of the utility cabinets.

There is no doubt the equipment is or soon will become necessary to effect AT&T internet service in Tustin. I spoke with a representative today and confirmed that, eventually, DSL service will be terminated as newer, state-of-the-art, technology takes its place. And, AT&T’s U-verse entertainment service appears to have all the best parts of cable and satellite TV without the exposed cables we in Old Town Tustin have come to know and hate.The city’s genuine concern over ADA, safety and aesthetic issues, however, may take a back seat to AT&Ts possible threat of litigation. That being the case, it would be a good idea to come up with a workable compromise.

That’s it for the meeting(s) this week. We will keep you informed of anything worth reporting. Now that we ordered our upgrade to U-verse service (hey, we were on the phone with them anyway), it should make it easier to download those lengthy videos.