The West Stanislaus Journal
Publisher - Elias Funez
Hello, and thanks for stopping by The West Stanislaus Journal, your source for news, info, and entertainment in and around the Westside communities of Patterson, Crows Landing, Westley, Grayson, and beyond.
 
This publication was formed as an alternate source for news on the Westside that is fair, responsible, informative, and helpful to you.
 
If you'd like to be a part of the West Stanislaus Journal, drop us a line, we're always looking for artist submissions, local columnists, and publication ideas.
News tips or ideas?
Please don't hesitate to contact us.
ptownelias@yahoo.com
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as
The West Stanislaus Journal
for more up to date info and breaking news

Cannabis workshop draws invariable community support

Attendees at Patterson's cannabis community workshop place their stickers next to answers on 10 different cannabis related questions Tuesday evening at the Hammon Senior Center.-- photos by Elias Funez/WestStanislausJournal
 ~Elias Funez/The West Stanislaus Journal ~
 
Patterson’s first official workshop dedicated solely to local cannabis regulation, drew a large cross section of residents that invariably showed their support in allowing for some sort of cannabis businesses and cultivation, whether it be medicinal or recreational, or commercial or personal in nature.

The meeting was moderated by Churchwell White Legislative Advocate Josiah M. Young, who began the workshop by providing background information regarding the passage of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) otherwise known as Prop 64, as well as Patterson’s specific laws currently in place that outlaw cannabis dispensaries, as well as the outdoor growing of cannabis.

Following the presentation, attendees were allowed to respond to ten separate questions by placing a green or yellow dot next to either “yes”, or “no”, and “medical” or “recreational” questions presented on sheets of poster board placed around the room. Attendees to the meeting that did not reside within the city were asked to use orange dots, though the majority of dots were either green or yellow depicting that those mostly involved lived in the city.

The questions and the community’s response included:
1) Should Patterson allow commercial cultivation?
-Invariably yes, for both medical and recreational use.

2) If commercial cultivation is allowed, should it be indoor or outdoor?
-The strongest support was shown for indoor medical and recreational cultivation, with strong support shown for outdoor medical or recreational cultivation.

3) How many plants should Patterson allow for indoor cultivation of personal use medical marijuana? None, 6, 9, 12, or 13+?
-No stickers indicated none, with more emphasis placed on 9 through 13+.

4) how many plants should Patterson allow for outdoor cultivation of medical marijuana? None, 6, 9, 12, 13+?
-Some stickers indicated none, while the majority responded to allow some number of outdoor growing to be permitted.

5) Should Patterson regulate indoor cultivation of personal use recreational marijuana ?
-Yes.

6) Should Patterson ban outdoor cultivation of personal use recreational marijuana?
-Unquestionably, no.

7) Should Patterson license the following marijuana businesses? Manufacturing, testing, transportation, distribution, none of these?
-Unquestionably yes to all of the above for both medicinal and recreational. No stickers were placed on none of these.

8) Should Patterson enact a local marijuana business tax by ballot initiative?
-Yes

9) How many dispensaries should Patterson allow? None, 2, or 3+?
-Most stickers were placed on 3 or more dispensaries to be allowed in Patterson.

10) Should dispensaries be allowed to deliver?
-Also yes.

Following the community input portion of the meeting, workshop attendees were asked to provide any public comment on the matter.

No one from the public spoke in opposition to allowing recreational or medicinal cannabis uses within the city, though Vivian Ratliffe wanted to hear what our local Stanislaus County Sheriff’s selection for Chief of Police, Jeff Dirkse had to say.

Dirkse stated that the black market on cannabis will be alive and well regardless of Patterson’s decision on cannabis laws and was quick to compare cannabis use with alcohol use.

“There are a lot of people who can’t function without alcohol, they’re called alcoholics,” Dirkse said. “So the idea that there are people that can’t function without marijuana, I don’t buy that here.”

Dirkse attempted to have the last word during the meeting, though workshop attendee Barbara Langstaff offered up a rebuttal to Dirkse’s comment.

“I think it is very disingenuous of you to say that you don’t believe that some people can’t live without cannabis, because there are people like that,” Langstaff said to Dirkse. “Medically speaking, and I would encourage you to educate yourself about the medical side and the medical uses of cannabis, the tide is turning on cannabis and understanding what it could do. There have been no instances that I have found, of anyone dying from using marijuana.”

“What I would say to this is that the American Medical Association (AMA) does not endorse marijuana as a legitimate medicine,” Dirkse replied to Langstaff. “And they are doctors who have way more knowledge about that subject than I do and so until they change their endorsement, i’m not going to.”

“My son’s kidney doctor recommended it for him, and he works for Stanford,” Langstaff replied to Dirkse before being cut off by him. “The AMA is one issue…”

“Then have that doctor petition the AMA,” Dirkse interjected.

Other attendees to the workshop weren’t buying Chief Dirkse’s rhetoric either.

“It’s here, it’s been here,” William Hoffknecht said. “Sure it’s regulated federally, but we all know that is a bunch of bull. Second of all, our current attorney general has gone on record of being against it, but he has a long history of being on the wrong side of history. Personally I did pot twice when I was a kid, but I know a lot of people that cannot function in the world without it. It has medical uses no matter what the federal government says.”

Kiana Weinzheimer, who said she has started a Stanislaus County chapter of NORML, an organization that stands for safe access of cannabis, inquired about future meetings and workshops.

“We are working on planning a future workshop on a weekend day,” City Manager Ken Irwin said.

“We’ll evaluate the data then craft more roles and regulations,” Irwin continued. “There will probably be more workshops based on those directions. We have a long ways to go."

Attendees were generally pleased with the results of the poster board questions following the workshop.

"It looks like everyone's on the same page," Penny Langstaff said.

​"I'm really excited to see this many people come out and get engaged," Justin Danner said.

This meeting took place at 6 p.m. Tuesday March 28 at the Hammon Senior Center.

A future cannabis workshop date has yet to be decided upon, though city staff has indicated that the next workshop date will likely be on a weekend day to allow for any weekday commuters to be able to attend.


Patterson's other choice for Mayor

Long time Patterson resident Troy McComak discusses some of the issues that he feels strongly about while his wife Kristina and two month old son Luke, are seated at left .-- photo by Elias Funez/WestStanislausJournal
 ~Elias Funez/The West Stanislaus Journal ~
  
2016 Patterson Mayoral candidate Troy McComak has done a lot of growing up since he first ran for congress and mayor back in 2010.
The 31 year old husband and father of two children- Shiloh, and Luke –and man of faith, now has a young family and admits that he’s done a lot more listening and learning since his first attempts at politics.

“I’m in the light, I’m heavily involved in church activities, we see great things and we do what’s best for the community, but I used to be in the dark and I’ve seen the underbelly. That’s really what’s driving me is my faith and that’s what keeps me strong I just want to see this town succeed and do better,” McComak said from his home in Walker Ranch Friday evening.

After sitting down with McComak for three hours, it’s clear that his reasons for running for Mayor of Patterson, are for all of the right reasons, though many of those reasons came directly from negative reactions in dealing with the city.

McComak’s priorities lie with making the city more accommodating to small business, the need for the city’s own police department, and fixing the declining state of the city’s water quality.

McComak received a degree in Biological Sciences from Stanislaus State University in 2007 and the self proclaimed scientist has been vocal about wanting to fix Patterson’s problem with hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6, despite some backlash that he’s received from locals about even trying to bring awareness of the issue up.

At a recent chamber of commerce meeting which McComak and other local political candidates were invited to speak at, where he brought the hexavalent chromium issue up, he was accosted by members of the chamber for seemingly not knowing what he was talking about.

“I used to do that for a living, was to help test and clean up contaminated sites,” McComak said. “The problem is that Patterson is testing its own water, there needs to be third party testing because there are ways to make the test results show differently.”

McComak says that there are steps the city can take to clean up the water and he feels that his experience can help make that happen.

“That’s my goal, to not have it cost Patterson a lot of money, and clean the water.”

McComak admits that the first step in fixing  the problem, is getting landowners to admit that there is one.

“Even the large scale surrounding landowners have contaminated water, and I want them to come forward with out any repercussions so that we can fix their water and make it safer for everyone,” McComak said.

In 2015 West Side cities such as Patterson, Newman, and Los Banos were hit with warnings from the government that they were high above the state allowed 10 parts per billion of chromium 6. Well sites throughout Patterson tested above the allowed level and had at least one well test for 36 parts per billion of hexavalent chromium 6.

Since then, McComak has overheard city of Patterson officials say that that number is actually higher and closer to 50 parts per billion.

“I don’t want my kids to grow up and get cancer, or kidney damage,” McComak said of the health issues associated with chromium 6.

Another serious issue facing the City of Patterson for McComak is the lack of the city’s own police force.

“I think about that a lot, every time I see a cop I think is that a good cop? Or is that a bad cop? Is he going to talk to me? Am I going to jail today? I am not breaking any laws. I am a legal beagle boy scout and I fear these sheriffs because I don’t know who these guys are in my community,” McComak said of Stanislaus County Sheriff’s policy to typically not allow deputies to serve in their own communities.

“We have a contract with these people and we pay 4 million a year and we get two (deputies)? I could get private security cheaper, we could get way more cops for a lot cheaper, I know that. We could open up our own police department and open up our own post academy institution.”

“I’d love to get our own police department here, I think it would be great. There is so much good that it would do for our community. And they could live here or they could not. I’d like it if they lived here I’d like it if they lived in town and policed the town from within. If it were able to be self sufficient in that sense. Economically, it’s cheaper to live here and makes sense. It would be great having our own cops from town, that know the town, that have a good rapport with people, that know who all the criminals are and those that associate with them.  Who know who the good people are, that know which people are looking out for everybody, and know which people that walk in between that have to walk that line if I became Mayor, I would have to walk that line.”

McComak had learned of the Patterson Police Chief Jeff Dirkse’s decision to get involved with trying to control the local media by spreading lies and rumors about former Patterson Irrigator Editor Elias Funez, even before he was officially sworn in on the job.

“You deal with that on a daily basis, that’s your job, for him to do that shows that he has bad judgment and bad character on his part,” McComak said of Dirkse after reading the letter that he wrote to Tank Town Media publisher Will Fleet dated April 21, 2015, nearly two weeks before actually being sworn into a position that no one from the City of Patterson had any hand in selecting.

“Dirkse was a Captain in the Army,” McComak continued to explain. “He sees us and anyone who jeopardizes the Sheriff’s department as insurgents, his very job is at stake, he has to attack anyone who is against him.”

McComak himself claims that he was unjustly treated by the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s department when 12 criminal charges were brought up against him by a former girlfriend with a vendetta, in which all charges against him were eventually dropped.

This type of tense control over the public prompted McComak to pull papers to run for the top Sheriff position in the past as well, however a stipulation requiring the top sheriff’s spot to be filled by someone who was once a police officer forced him to step down from those aspirations.

Still, McComak knows that there are good deputies within the local law enforcement, including his best friend in Patterson growing up Gustavo Dardon, who is currently a deputy with the Sheriff’s department.

“It’s people like that that would be good police officers for Patterson,” McComak said of Dardon. “They won’t allow him in Patterson though, because he knows you. That sheriff’s department, you better watch your ass, because if you don’t play ball with them, they will take you down.”

McComak’s answer to ending police corruption from within local departments is to initiate an independent internal affairs commission.

McComak’s resistance from the City of Patterson in trying to launch his small business  was another reason that he decided to get involved and run for Mayor.

After getting clearance from the city to work on developing a paintball field at the T.W. Patterson Sports Complex, and making the proper investments, his efforts were thwarted from a city that he says was not willing to work with him.

McComak says he made major improvements to the site at the sports complex by using a bobcat, shovels, a grader and a laser leveler before bringing in 9,000 square feet of high grade astro-turf to the site to be installed.  

“They invented this $6,000 paintball inspection fee,” McComak said, claiming that the city cited the same fee structure that Amazon was going through had to be applied to his paintball field.

“There is nothing going on here that requires a $6,000 inspection fee,” McComak told city officials, which were then demanding payment for occupying the site with his astro-turf, which he says the cost was split with his partner at the time but had spent his life savings investing into his dream of opening a paintball field here in Patterson.

“You guys took all of my money, took my turf, taken my life savings.”

McComak felt he was slapped in the face when he found out that his opponent in the race for Mayor, Councilwoman Deborah Novelli, took his turf from the sports park and gave it to the new indoor soccer facility on 1st Street.

“Now Deborah Novelli takes my turf, gives it to the indoor soccer facility and she says that she did it? That it was all her? That I supported that?” McComak said after he saw it in a mailer that Novelli recently sent to the city residents referring to her supporting Patterson Indoor Soccer.

“I didn’t go after the city though because it’s not like I don’t support indoor soccer and I didn’t want that guy to get attacked or make it seem like I don’t support the kids. So I’m glad it’s being used and not being devoured by squirrels, but I can’t believe she took credit for all that,” McComak said.

The situation still didn’t sit well though with McComak who said he had a buyer from Southern California ready to come buy his astro-turf for close to $10,000.

“I actually donated that turf for the indoor soccer facility that Deborah Novelli took credit for.”

Other issues that McComak feels strongly about is his desire to bring a hospital back to the West Side of Stanislaus County and raised his concerns about the potential of becoming isolated from Modesto or Turlock in the case of a natural disaster and said he would lobby state politicians to bring money to this part of rural Stanislaus County in order to rectify that issue.

McComak also liked the ideas of preserving Del Puerto Canyon for hiking, biking, and equestrian trails and liked the idea of an outdoor amphitheater proposed by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to be placed just west of the historic Del Puerto Canyon gateway on the city’s western border.

Overall McComak is happy in the direction that the city is going.

“I had the Bay Area upbringing, which was kind of crazy,” McComak admits before his family moved to Patterson in 1996.

“Patterson for us was a huge opportunity to grow up and do better, all three of us kids went to college,” McComak said of his siblings, Trevor, who went on to fly C-130’s for the Air Force, and sister Tarah, who is currently a teacher at Patterson High School. McComak’s older brother Trevor once flew President Obama around the Middle East in 2008 and showed the President a family photo, which included McComak.

“He said ‘that’s a good looking family’,” McComak said of the POTUS. “That was my claim to fame for a while.”

But fun and jokes aside, McComak, who has been labeled as not taking his political aspirations seriously in the past, has clearly shown that he has matured since first running for Congress in 2010, and still has a lot of positives to look forward to in Patterson. He has been endorsed by almost everyone he’s talked to including the Central Valley Democratic Committee.

 “it’s a great town and I love this town, I really do, I’d like to see it prosper, I like how it’s growing, but I’d like to see it’s agricultural roots preserved as well.”
  

Backyard Boogie to bring talent to Patterson

NorCal Street team promoter Tony Garcia sits on the edge of the new stage that will feature performers gathering in Patterson tonight Friday September 23, for his Backyard Boogie event to be held at 326 Sperry Avenue.-- photo by Elias Funez/WestStanislausJournal
 ~Elias Funez/The West Stanislaus Journal ~

With a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude, a small group of dedicated hard workers have been busy for the past three weeks in Patterson doing just that, building a venue where they can bring world class musicians and artists home to the Apricot Capital.

The two men behind that vision, NorCal Street Team promoter Tony Garcia and local restaurant owner Carlos Roque will get that chance tonight Friday September 23, when musicians from all over the state of California will perform on a brand new stage in a custom built venue for Garcia’s envisioned Backyard Boogie.

~Ital Vibes, an 8 piece reggae roots band from Los Angeles South Bay area who has toured with bands like Fortunate Youth and The Expanders, will headline the event.

~Bachaco, based out of the Miami Florida area will bring their unique mixture of modern reggae rock with Latin influences and brassy sound to the stage as well.

~Prime Livity, also touring with the Ital Vibes crew, rounds out the Southern California Los Angeles based performers that will make it to Patterson today.

There will be no shortcomings when it comes to local talent either.  The event, hosted by Patterson’s own DJ Trey of Technical Two productions, will be on the mic all night and will close the event with his popular musical selections after the final band performs.

Patterson’s E-Jah Selectah, also known as EJ Rodriguez, will begin the evening on the 1’s and 2’s.

~Newly formed local band The Rivits, with Patterson members Daniel Barrientos on the Bass, Robert Mariscal on the drums and Ray on the guitar, who are no newcomers to the music scene, will perform their second performance as a band.

~Up and coming Modesto/Stockton based reggae band Natural Revolutions will kick off the music on stage around 7:00 p.m.

If that wasn’t enough talent in one place, Garcia has planned for dance exhibition by a man named Menace, and at least one live artist will produce a mural painting during the evening.

The event, which has only been in the planning stages for the past three weeks, was the brainchild of Garcia and the result of him working with various musicians from throughout the area in his line of work.

“I was booking Ital in L.A. and booking Bachaco in San Francisco so I couldn’t really pass up on the situation to bring them to my hometown,” Garcia said earlier this week.

Garcia, who has traveled to over 50 music and arts festivals this year while working with his music promotion company NorCal Street Team, has been wanting to bring the local talent that he is used to traveling hours to see, here to Patterson for years. He was part of the team that brought Fortunate Youth to Patterson back in the heydays of Patterson’s KeepItLit band, and his efforts in the reggae music industry have only begun to pay off.

“I wanted to show Patterson what we see out there in the world,” Garcia said of the event.

The venue, owned and operated by Roque, is also in its infancy, and sits in between land zoned industrial on the south side of Patterson at 326 Sperry Avenue.  It can be easily missed, but nestled in the back of the long property is where the large stage sets with a peaceful backdrop of some old growth pine trees and plenty of space for onsite parking, and potential for a future of festivals to be had.

On Thursday, just one day before the show, hammers could be heard pounding, and the sounds of saw blades cutting as the finishing touches were being placed on the bar, which will have a variety of beers on tap as well as some hard alcohol.

Sound engineers from Modesto's Jill Ferris productions, who recently purchased the Fat Cat Music House and Lounge's sound system after they closed, are slated to set up their sound system early Friday to ensure that the musicians are received properly.

The event is open to 18 and over and alcohol will only be served to those 21 and over. Private security will be on site during the event. Gates open at 6:00 p.m., bands start at 7:00 p.m. The price is $13 at the gate, you can also RSVP on the Facebook event page created for it for a $10 guest list price or text  (209) 535-0700. Ladies are free all night, no ins and outs. A $50 VIP pass is also being offered and includes parking behind the stage and access to the VIP section, comes with a meal ticket and one drink as well.
 
Above, E-Jah prepares for his time on the sound system while other voluneers for the event gather at a home on Washburn Ave. in preparation for Friday's event. Below, Carlos Roque and Tony Garcia discuss plans while a construction crew puts together some last minute things at the site of the venue at 326 Sperry Avenue.-- photo by Elias Funez/WestStanislausJournal
Above, the popular local disc jockey, DJ Trey of Technical Two (center) laughs with friends and family while prepping for Friday's event earlier in the week. Below, the new stage sits in front of a backdrop of old pine trees at the site of the venue at 326 Sperry Avenue.-- photo by Elias Funez/WestStanislausJournal

Two new fires ignited on San Joaquin River, deemed suspicious in nature

Firefighters set back burns along the San Joaquin River near the Houk Ranch during fire that started there July 4. Fire crews are back in the same area fighting a new pair of fires deemed suspicious in nature.-- photo by Elias Funez/WestStanislausJournal
~Elias Funez/The West Stanislaus Journal ~

It didn't take long after local fire crews got control of the fire that started last Sunday near Grayson, for them to get called back to the thick San Joaquin River to work on a new pair of conflagrations that are being deemed suspicious in nature.

These fires flared up this time near where a fire started July 4 behind the Houk Ranch three miles south of Grayson.

"We were out last night controlling the fire, doing back burns, protecting water pumps," Patterson and West Stanislaus Interim Fire Chief Jeff Gregory said Friday morning.

Gregory said that these fires were reported Wednesday evening and that they were too far away from the site of the Grayson fire to have started from traveling spot fires.

There is no immediate threat to homes or property at the time. There are some large water pumps out there, but they have been protected from the fire by the fire crews.

Access for controlling this fire is much easier though for firefighters since there are already established dirt roads that cut through the property, however, the danger of working in that area is similar due to the thick vegetation and danger of snags and widowmakers.

"We're enforcing that people need to stay out of that area," Gregory said.

While the Grayson fire is almost completely out, these new fires behind the Houk Ranch are now estimated at 80% containment.



Grayson River fire forces evacuations, 200+ acres burned

A pair of  firefighters put water on a spot fire that quickly grew with Monday afternoon's 13 mph winds in Grayson, Ca. -- photos by Elias Funez/WestStanislausJournal
~Elias Funez/The West Stanislaus Journal ~

With soot on his face and smoke in his eyes, Patterson and West Stanislaus Fire Chief Jeff Gregory reported that an estimated 200 acres had already burned along the borders of the town of Grayson and along Grayson Rd.

"It's been burning like this for two days," Gregory said, with visible nicks and cuts on his arms from trudging through the thick riprarian brush that makes fighting these types of river fires so difficult.

The fire, which began on the afternoon of Sunday August 14 near the eastern end of Minnie St. where a homeless encampment had been erected in the weeds and bushes of the San Joaquin River banks, was deemed suspicious in origin.

"We have our suspicions," Gregory said of the origin of the conflagration.

Homes along Stakes and Charles Street were evacuated for a couple of hours Sunday while firefighters battled the blaze, but were eventually allowed to return after the fire moved on.

While no homes were damaged, the fire did burn some back yards of homes bordering the river in Grayson, and at least one resident had to evacuate his goats and other backyard animals.

Grayson resident Yesenia Tinoco was coming home from Tracy when she saw the smoke from the fire and began to worry.

"Flames were visible in the trees above the houses," Tinoco said from her home Monday afternoon.

West Grayson Rd. between Shiloh and Cox Rd. were closed Sunday afternoon and are still closed until further notice to allow fire crews access to the burning mess.

After fire crews got the blaze under control Sunday evening, the fire reignited with vigor once again early Monday morning.

While on the scene Monday afternoon it seemed as if the firefighters had gotten control of the blaze as they quickly took a lunch break before getting back out on the scene putting out spot fires.

Spot fires grow quickly from hot embers or traveling flames that are carried by mounting winds and begin new fires in different areas. Spot fires can travel feet, yards, sometimes miles and the reported 13 mile per hour winds are not helping.

Fire Chief Jeff Gregory, could be seen directing the firefighting operations as well as running from spot fire to spot fire in an attempt to quell them before they could spread and get out of hand.

Unfortunately, with mounting afternoon winds, some of the spot fires did exactly that and have enlarged the footprint of the fire tremendously.


Mounting winds quickly fan a spot fire in the thick, dry, riprarian brush land bordering the banks of the San Joaquin River just south of the town of Grayson, Ca. -- photos by Elias Funez/WestStanislausJournal
Above, a trio of Newman Fire firefighters quickly use hand tools to create a fire break in the dry dirt of a levee bank. The same firefighters later use chainsaws and other implements to make a path through thick brush and find access to a growing spot fire. A Modesto Fire firefighter walks through a scorched portion of the San Joaquin River south of Grayson Monday afternoon.  -- photos by Elias Funez/WestStanislausJournal
Above, area fire engines and water tankers utilize the closure of West Grayson Road to make fighting the river bottom fire easier. Below, Chief Gregory quickly spots a spot fire and chases it down with hopes of putting it out with a hand tool, unfortunately, this one was fanned by the flames and grew quite quickly as seen in the succession of photos.   -- photos by Elias Funez/WestStanislausJournal
Above, a homeless encampment in the brush of the San Joaquin River at the eastern end of Minnie St. is near where the fire was believed to have started Sunday afternoon. Below, a smokey sunset fills the skies above the West Side with an orange glow.   -- photos by Elias Funez/WestStanislausJournal

Del Puerto Hospital suffers complete loss

Patterson's unused Del Puerto Hospital burns through the morning at E Street and 9th, Tuesday July 5.--Courtesy photos at top by Journal reader Jose Robles, all other photos by Elias Funez/WestStanislausJournal

Councilmember and former doctor weighs in, as well as representative of transient community

~Elias Funez/The West Stanislaus Journal ~

Patterson's defunct Del Puerto Hospital went up in flames at the property on the corner of E and 9th Street early Tuesday morning July 5.

Fire crews from Patterson Fire as well as Ceres Fire were on scene with engines and ladder trucks and manpower to keep the flames under control.

The small 40 bed hospital, built in 1941, closed its doors to the public in 1988. Plans to refurbish the site to be utilized as a long term care facility were stalled when the presence of cancer causing asbestos was discovered throughout the facility.

With the costs of removing the asbestos being an unexpected hindrance to the developer, the project was eventually forgotten and the building boarded up. 

In the years that followed, local law enforcement  agencies would be called to the scene to deal with transients and homeless that had found ways into the abandoned facility where, by this time, had been removing any copper wiring or piping to be sold as recycling.

Repeated efforts to keep the vagrants from the property seem to have failed as it is suspected that the fire is the result of this vandalism following one of the most impressive displays of illegal fireworks that the city of Patterson has ever seen to date.

Newly appointed Patterson City Council member Dr. Peter LaTorre, who delivered hundreds of Patterson babies between 1972 to when the hospital closed in 1988, was sad to see it go, but recognized that it's usefullness as a hospital was long gone.

"It was an old building that was beyond its usefulness, it's a shame that it burned down. It needed to come down some day, but it is unfortunate," LaTorre said after learning of the news Tuesday morning.

"I certainly missed the hospital when it closed in '88, with all of the things they tried to do it was hampered with the asbestos, and there was nothing in it for modern technology and the piping and wiring needed to be replaced," LaTorre recalled.

Acting Patterson Fire Chief Jeff Gregory reported that the Patterson homeless population had cut holes in the floor of the hospital essentially creating "booby traps" making it difficult to assess the situation.

According to local authorities, some names of local transients have  been supplied and they are further investigating the matter.

While it seems that some members of the local homeless community are already being targeted for starting the suspicious fire, at least one local member of the community, gave a different take on the matter.

According to him, the local Stanislaus County Sheriffs allowed the local transient community to take up residence in the former hospital and recommended they take shelter there from the cold.

The local man, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he was, "stopped several times two years ago and was asked why didn't he stay there (the hospital) if he was homeless?"

He said that former Patterson Deputy Hudson as well as other deputies at the time told he and other homeless at the time to take shelter during the winter months in the old hospital and other vacated buildings in the area.

The man also said that many of these homeless will be afraid to speak up about this fact since they feel that the deputies will continue to harass them more for saying that the deputies said for them to go there.

More information will be posted as it becomes available.

Volunteer firefighter memorialized with city bench

Joe Hernandez (center) father of the late Dallas Hernandez, tells some of the backstory behind what went into bringing the Dallas Hernandez memorial bench. Standing next to him is Kayleigh Haas, Dallas' girlfriend at the time, and who was also involved in the accident that took Dallas' life..~photo by Elias Funez/The West Stanislaus Journal.
~Elias Funez/The West Stanislaus Journal ~
 
The rain stopped long enough Saturday afternoon to allow for a peaceful gathering of about 50 firefighters, city employees, friends, family, and community members who memorialized a city bench in honor of the late Dallas Hernandez, a Patterson Volunteer Firefighter who passed away tragically less than a year ago.

Hernandez, who was 21 when he died in a vehicle accident in Merced County last September, had been a volunteer with the Patterson Volunteer Fire Department since he was 17 and was known to be one of the first, first responders on scene during many of the day to day calls in and around Patterson and was known to have a smile on his face and a helpful attitude.

His death came as a huge shock to the fire department and the community so the members of the Patterson Volunteer Fire Department, along with the help of Interim Fire Chief Jeff Gregory, came together to get a new city bench memorialized in his honor in downtown Patterson’s City Park, next to the Fire Station No. 1 on Las Palmas Ave.

When Chief Gregory informed the public works director of his idea to have an old bench next to the fire station with a new one in honor of Hernandez, he was told that the sidewalk in front of that section of Las Palmas Avenue was slated to replaced anyways and was told that they could have the work done before the annual Apricot Fiesta.

 “Everybody benefitted, the sidewalk was replaced, which was planned, we got rid of a bench that was falling apart and wasn’t ADA compliant, and we got a nice strong sturdy bench with a plaque in it where people know that he was here,” Interim Fire Chief Jeff Gregory said Saturday.

Dallas’ father Joe Hernandez, as well as Dallas’ girlfriend Kaleigh Haas, who was also involved in the accident that took Dallas’ life, were on hand to pay their respects and offer some knowledge of the Dallas Hernandez Memorial Fund which went in to place to help pay for funeral expenses as well as to possibly pay for a scholarship that could cover the expenses of an up and coming volunteer firefighter.

For Joe though, the bench was not only a kind gesture towards his family, but also as a reminder for the rest of the local firefighter community.

“We know that the bench is away from the firehouse, they need to have a place where they can go away to have a break from what they see day to day,” Hernandez, who now lives in Hollister, said.

CJ Sierra, a city employee who is also a volunteer firefighter that worked alongside and was good friends with Dallas Hernandez, was glad to have been able to be on the crew that worked on the memorial bench. 

“I was really honored to be a part of it because I did the job from start to finish, actually blueprinted it, did the excavation,” Sierra said.
The project spanned the course of a couple of weeks after city crews needed to use an axe and pick to get through some mature roots in the ground and utilized 7 cubic yards of concrete to finish the job.

But for Sierra and the other crew members that knew Dallas Hernandez, working on his bench meant being able to add their own personal touch to the project as they laid some small personal effects of Dallas’ down beneath the concrete, including some homebrew bottle caps and labels from some of the beer he brewed as well as some shotgun shells that he would use when duck hunting.  Others wrote their names on the road base beneath the concrete.

West Coast Turf donated the sod surrounding the bench, and Silicon Casework donated the engraving for the plaque to fit in the bench, and eventually the city plans to replace the rest of the sidewalk along the front of Fire Station No. 1.

Below, Dallas' father Joe Hernandez stands with Kaleigh Haas and other friends and family of his son's during the memorial ceremony Saturday afternoon in downtown Patterson's City Park. .~photos by Elias Funez/The West Stanislaus Journal.

Explorers take to Del Puerto Canyon for first of annual "hikes for health"

Hikers follow one of the many trails through the Minnear Day Use Area for the "easy" hike of the City of Patterson's annual Hikes for Health Saturday February 6, 12 miles up Del Puerto Canyon Road. The next hike, rated as a "moderately strenuous" hike is scheduled for March 5 and are free to all.~photo by Elias Funez/The West Stanislaus Journal.
~ West Stanislaus Journal reports ~
 
Going on its 6th year as a City of Patterson Parks and Recreation program, the Hikes for Health through the Minnear Day Use Area of Del Puerto Canyon seems to be growing in popularity as program coordinators continue to introduce local nature lovers to the flora and fauna available for all to enjoy in the lands of the hills bordering Patterson's western borders.
 
Originally designed in partnership with the Westside Health Care Task Force to get people out of the house and active in the outdoors, the free program has quickly become an opportunity for locals to learn about the natural history, geology, and biology of the lands directly to our west.
 
The first of the scheduled annual hikes, rated as an "easy" hike, took place Saturday February 6 and was designed with seniors and youth of all ages to be able to appreciate.  A total of 13 hikers and one canine companion particpated, half of which had never been up Del Puerto Canyon before and had no idea of the beautiful natural resource  made available to them.
 
Wildflowers were beginning to bloom and the green grass was glowing in the bright sun as the flowing water of Del Puerto Creek could be heard babbling through the branches of the oaks and cottonwood trees along the trail.
 
Folks who missed Saturday's hike need not worry for long though, as the second installation of the Hikes for Health program will take place on Saturday March 5.
 
Rated as a "moderately strenuous" hike, the trail will lead hikers 2.5 miles from the western portion of the day use area, downstream along Del Puerto Creek to its confluence with the North Fork of Del Puerto Creek.
 
Hikers who choose this trail will be shown an ancient Native American Yokuts indian oven, once used by the native peoples to bake bread and cook wild game and salmon that once spawned in the creek as well as be able to take in the scenery and native wildlife.
 
The "strenuous" and hardest hike of the program is planned for Saturday April 2, and will take participants on a roughly 4.2 mile hike and over 1,000 feet in elevation difference that will showcase some of the most scenic locations of Del Puerto Canyon. Portions of the trail are very rocky and could require some time to traverse, so this hike is recommended for those in good physical shape.
 
Hike coordinators recommend sturdy shoes for the hikes, as well as to bring along plenty of drinking water. A hiking stick is recommended for added stability, but one will be provided if need be.
 
Participating hikers are asked to meet at the Hammon Senior Center on the morning of the hike and are slated to leave from the community complex by 8:30 a.m. where folks can carpool to the trailhead. Questions or inquiries can be made with the city Parks and Recreation department at 209-895-8080.

 
 
 
The City of Patterson's Johnny Nguyen (right), who also heads the Teen Outdoor Survival Skills (TOSS) program readies to accompany the group of hikers through a portion of the Minnear Day Use Area west of Patterson Saturday morning February 6 .~photo by Elias Funez/The West Stanislaus Journal.

Local students place at Academic Decathlon

The 2015-2016 Patterson High School Academic Decathlon team is, top row, from left to right, Serena Cabrera, Mariska Gutierrez, Kenny Ong, Ian Do, Tristan Marr, and Ricardo Garcia. Bottom row from left to right is, Roberto Camberos, Salvador Tello, Antonio Gomez, Tiffany Do, Anna Xu, AcaDeca coaches Lucie Field and Mike DeZego. Not pictured, Giselle Arroyo. ~ courtesy photo
~ West Stanislaus Journal reports ~
 
Patterson High School's Academic Decathlon team made quite an impression this last Saturday February 6 at Davis High School in Modesto.
 
Taking second place in the Social Sciences Alternates Category was Tiffany Do, who also walked away from the competition with third place in the Language and Literature Alternates Category.
 
Giselle Arroyo won fifth place in the Economics Alternates Category as well as fifth place in the Social Sciences Alternates Category.
 
Ian Do received the fifth place designation in the Music Alternates Category, and Salvador Tello was the team high point winner.

 
 
 

Community seeks answers from Council regarding recent shootings, Parks and Recreation members chosen, meeting change discussed and tabled

Molina announces he will not seek mayoral re-election with City of Patterson

Concerned Patterson resident Daniel Cruthis says he will be moving away if the criminal element is not addressed. ~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
~By Elias Funez/The West Stanislaus Journal~
 
A handful of concerned Patterson residents approached the dais during the public comment period of the regularly scheduled meeting of the Patterson City Council on Tuesday February 2.,to ask for an update regarding the recent rash of Patterson shootings.
 
“By way of update, there have been two shootings in the city since Sunday night,” Chief Jeff Dirkse explained to the council chambers. “The one on Sunday night was a homicide. One person is dead and another person was wounded in that. The person who was wounded is stable undergoing medical treatment at this time. The shooting last night, another person was wounded in that shooting. At this point it is not a public safety threat, I can tell you that much. We are investigating it, and doing our job with that, and we can probably provide some more updates in the future, but at this point I’m not going to say anything about where the investigation is heading. 
 
“There was one shooting where someone was shot, and another shooting where a vehicle or something was hit, not a person,” Dirkse said in reference to a Zinnia Ct. shooting that left two vehicles and a residence struck, but no reported injuries.
 
“Are we going to get a police station or not?” Daniel Cruthis from Moray Way in Patterson bluntly asked the council during the public comment period.
 
“We have law enforcement,” Mayor Molina replied.
 
“We have law enforcement, but we do not have anybody here,” Cruthis quickly responded.  “ You can literally commit a crime and be out of town before the cops are here.  You can shake your head no, but I moved over here from the Bay Area to get away from the crime. And I understand that where ever I go there is going to be crime, break- ins are going to happen, shootings are going to happen, whether it’s natural selection or it is what it is, it’s going to happen. I understand the change in the prison system, the problem is that they (criminals) know they’re not going to do hard time right away for a repeat offense,” Cruthis said.
 
“At this rate if it’s going to keep up, I’ll be moving out of Patterson, this is unacceptable.”
 
Councilman Farinha interjected with a point of clarification regarding the comments about a city police department.
 
“Most of the time crime statistically doesn’t happen during the day… and it would be nice to see a cop drive by my house at 11:30 at night.  If we could have a little more presence in the evening and early morning hours it would deter a lot of [criminals].  The problem is that crime is like water, it seeps to the lowest point when it is soft. So my question is, do we want to be the lowest point and soft, or would we rather deter them (criminals) from coming here in general,” Cruthis said to the council.
 
Chief Dirkse, “So I’m not going to answer specific questions about the ongoing investigation as I eluded to. But let me tell you these are not random acts of violence. Let’s just leave it at that, regarding the current incidents. Homicides are not a predictable event, they happen, and at some level there is nothing we can do about them.”
 
We are proactively engaging the criminal element in this city. Crime in this city is at its lowest rate statistically in the last five years. Council has been provided with those statistics, we can share them with you if you’d like and that is a fact. There has been a downward trend in the last five years.
Regardless of who polices this city, there will still be crime here whether it is the Sheriff’s department as your police force or a Patterson Police department, there will be crime in this city. This is not a staffing issue, as your chief I will tell you that I have adequate staffing. It is a crime issue and there are criminals who are intent on committing crimes against each other. So with that being said, as we specifically look at some of the gang problems, and these are gang related incidents, gang crime is not a law enforcement problem, and it is a community problem. It is something that we all have to solve. What I would ask, with the audience here is that if you have opinions or thoughts on how we can fix this gang problem, because Patterson has a gang problem.
 
Farinha chimed in saying that the Sheriff’s department is enforcing the same penal code that a city run police department would enforce.
 
Councilwoman Deborah Novelli also chimed in saying that she feels confident with her chief right now, and urged folks to write their legislators regarding repealing AB 109 which has provided significant challenges to law enforcement since it was passed.
 
Another community member approached the dais regarding the recent violence.” I was planning on going face to face with some of the people involved, most of those guys are not going to talk to the cops, my plan was to talk to the people on the streets and trying to work with them that way. The cops can only do so much, so it’s really up to us and our community to talk to them. “
 
Bill Oxenrider from Orkney Dr. approached the dais to reflect on what some of the citizens had to say about the past two night’s violence. “You know that social media is far ahead of us. There were people going to bed last night already complaining that the police department hadn’t solved the crime that happened just last night, ‘cause that’s how fast things work now a days and the city council and police department need to be sensitive to that. We should have gotten a response or it would have helped to have gotten a response from the Chief sooner, maybe a public announcement. ‘Yes we are aware of what happened, we have things under control and we are working on it, rather than ‘police aren’t releasing information at this time’ people here are used to a quiet town, we don’t take these things lightly.” Oxenrider went on to ask Chief Dirkse since he stated that there was already enough staffing, and that staffing wasn’t an issue, would the Chief not be seeking additional personnel or resources.
 
“I will never turn down staff or toys,” Chief Dirkse responded, which evoked laughter amongst the council and staff.
 
“Just so everyone understands, we do take these things seriously, and if we could get faster feedback when things like this happen it would be appreciated,” Oxenrider said before heading back to his seat.
 
“I will tell you up front that I know a lot more about both of these incidents that I am willing to tell you. But because it is an ongoing investigation… there is only so much that we can release. I do understand what you are saying about the social media thing, as far as getting updates out quicker. I will acknowledge the fact that most of our social media folks do work during the day, that is changing. My sergeants are all going to social media training so that they know how and when and the type of appropriate message to put out, so that we can at midnight at two in the morning or what not, and we are not there yet, and I acknowledge that.
 
Patterson’s Amanda Hillsdale approached the dais saying that she sat down and talked with Chief Dirkse for 45 minutes on Tuesday Feb 2 where Dirkse told her that the city is too small to support its own police department, but she told the council that in the future the city should move to a hybrid city and county law enforcement system.
 
“We need to be better witnesses and better neighbors, our objective should be getting to know the people, developing some kind of relationship with people so that we know if something is out of place,” Mayor Molina said. “If you see something out of sorts, say something, report something, we need to stop being afraid in this community as a whole. So if we want the element out, if we want to do something as a community, that is where we need to start.”
 
Lustgarten restraining order discussion
 
While the council was working on approving the consent calendar items on the agenda, Councilmember Lustgarten brought up concerns in regards to the December 1st meeting. She stated that the council reported out of closed session that the city council confirmed reopening the restraining order against herself and sought to remove Lustgarten from office during the closed session of that evening. The paper work was filed for that court document with a time stamp from the courts placed on the document at 3:09 p.m. three hours prior to when the council members were to have supposedly discussed the item, alluding to the fact that the city attorney’s had already proceeded with the action against her without actually seeking consent from the council during the closed session.
 
“Closed session starts at 6, usually ends by 7 pm, and I would just like to make a special note that the paperwork for that was filed that afternoon at 3:09 pm on December 1st.  Just wondering how you all made a vote in closed session from 6 to 7 o’clock but the paperwork for it was already filed earlier that afternoon. How did that happen?”
 
City Attorney Tom Hallinan replied, “If I would have gotten that ahead of time I could look at it, but as we are sitting here I can’t.”
“I just found it very interesting that you reported out a vote that happened that night at 6 and 7, but the action had already taken place that afternoon at 3 pm. That’s one question that is pretty big in my mind,” Lustgarten said.
 
Sunshine ordinance discussion
 
Councilwoman Lustgarten brought up the desire of having a sunshine ordinance originally looked at by the council about a year ago, to be brought back to the council in time for Sunshine Week in the month of March.
 
“I think I’d like to see us have a workshop, there is a lot of that ordinance that needed to be reworked, not at a council meeting but at a workshop where we won’t spend three hours here hashing it out,” Councilman Dennis McCord said.
 
Lustgarten replied that Mr. McCord as well as the rest of the council had one month to suggest any changes in the previously proposed sunshine ordinance, but no one from the council nor the community had submitted any issues or changes to the ordinance and that the ordinance she proposed contained aspects that have been approved in other California cities with similar demographics.
 
New City Employees
 
City Manager Ken Irwin announced new city staff including the new finance director for the city, Saadiah Ryan and firefighters Daniel Rodriguez and Steven Kuchac, whose titles are firefighter paramedics.
 
Retiring city employee honored
 
Mayor Luis Molina read a proclamation for Javier Gonzalez’s retirement after 28 years of service to the city, since 1987. Gonzalez worked with the seniors, parks and recreation, and public works over the years and continued to work for the city after having to have part of his foot amputated after sustaining a spider bite from a brown recluse. Gonzalez was glad that then Parks and Recreation Director Adrienne Chaney offered him a new detail with the Parks and Recreation department in order to keep him employed, which fulfilled his desire to keep working despite his disability. His family, who was also in attendance, said that his disability hasn’t slowed him down, and that it is hard for them to keep up with him at times. Gonzalez received a standing ovation from everyone in attendance at Tuesday ‘s council meeting and will remain as a liaison and part time worker for the city in the future.
 
2015-2023 Housing and Community Development Draft City of Patterson Housing Element
 
Council was presented with the 2015-2023 Patterson Housing Element of the General Plan. State law requires cities to renew their housing elements every eight years and must address the following.
  • An analysis of population and employment trends
  • An analysis of the city’s fair share of the regional housing needs
  • An analysis of household characteristics
  • A parcel by parcel inventory of land suitable for residential development at all densities
  • An analysis of the governmental and non-governmental constraints on the improvement, maintenance, and development of housing
  • An analysis of local requirements for special needs housing
  • An analysis of opportunities for energy conservation
  • An analysis of publicly assisted housing developments that may convert to non-assisted housing developments
 
A PowerPoint presentation put together by city staff regarding the housing element did not play, and the city agenda packet showed for 11 potential rezone sites around the city, however these maps were left out of the packet.
 
Despite the holes in the presentation given by Ted Holzem of Sacramento based Mintier Harnish planning consultants, and a couple of comments about NIMBY-ism (Not In My Back Yard) by Councilmember Farinha, council members were pleased with the presentation and the work put in to the State required housing element and passed the item 5-0.
 
Mistletoe season
 
Robert Andrade with the city’s Public Works department gave a presentation regarding the seasonal need for the abatement of nuisance mistletoe from trees throughout the city of Patterson. A total of 32 addresses with nuisance mistletoe was presented. The item passed 5-0.
 
Proposal to change meeting dates tabled
 
A staff report from the City Attorney’s office was presented to the council with the suggestion of changing the current meeting dates of the first and third Tuesday’s of the month to either the first and third Wednesday’s or second and fourth Wednesday’s of the month in order to “streamline rules and regulations regarding the City of Patterson’s city council meetings.”
 
A provision in the amended Ordinance 789 states that the City wishes to establish a new and more defined approach to city council meetings to avoid conflicts with scheduling and encourage citizens to attend regular meetings.
 
Despite the desire to avoid scheduling conflicts, the proposed changes in the ordinance seemed to have created more scheduling conflicts amongst council members.
 
“I really can’t attend the second and fourth Wednesday’s of the month, I have a prior requirements which I will keep, so that doesn’t work for me. I am flexible to do the first and third Wednesday’s of the month.” Councilman McCord said when the item was brought up.
 
Councilman Farinha, who was the most outspoken proponent of changing the meeting dates, said that this item had been brought up before, however, the other councilors could not recall a previous discussion on the topic.
 
Councilwoman Novelli was ok with a change to the first and third Wednesday with the caveat that the agenda would still be made available on the Thursday prior to the meeting.
 
Mayor Luis Molina brought up that the third Wednesday of the month at 6:00 pm is when the Stanislaus Council of Governments (StanCOG) meets in Modesto. Molina stated that he is the council’s representative to sit on the StanCOG meetings and would not want to see a vacancy on either the City Council or StanCOG created due to this scheduling conflict that would be created if the council’s meetings were changed to Wednesdays.
 
While City Attorney Tom Hallinan stated that changing the day to Wednesday would give staff an extra day to answer questions of the council members, Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten suggested that staff just work to get the agendas out earlier so as not have to change the meeting dates.
 
“I don’t like the idea of not having a representative at the StanCOG meeting,” Lustgarten said. “Those meetings are important.”
 
“Let me ask this, Mr. Hallinan,” Molina said. “Based on discussion that didn’t happen at a council meeting, was it yourself, Mr. White, your team bringing this forward? Requested by anybody? Because I want to find out why?”
 
“ I don’t know the last thing to precipitate brining it forward,” City Attorney Tom Hallinan responded. “My colleague prepared the report and I was not privy as to why.”
 
Mayor Molina was concerned that there wasn’t enough discussion from the public on this item and that this was a serious change being proposed.
Following the public comment period on the item, Councilwoman Lustgarten suggested bringing the item back for further analysis and Councilwoman Novelli seconded that motion. However during the discussion regarding that motion, councilman Farinha interjected again, “I think the staff report is pretty clear, there are a lot of other matters that require more deliberation, but I think this one does not require more time. I would advocate that we experiment with this for awhile.” At that time Councilman Farinha made a motion to change the meeting dates to the first and third Wednesdays which Mayor Molina briefly entertained.
 
After a minute passed without a councilmember seconding Farinha’s motion, Councilman McCord brought up the fact that Councilwoman Lustgarten originally had a motion on the table to bring the item back for further analysis.
 
“What extra information were you hoping to get?” Farinha asked Councilwoman Novelli.
 
“Just want to look at various options, and see what other options there are with StanCOG,” said Novelli.
 
“I don’t think there are,” Farinha replied seriously.
 
“Well Dennis can’t make it because of Lions, let’s go talk to the Lions Club,” Novelli said half jokingly to ease the seriousness of the matter.
 
“I would really like to know, I can’t believe that it was just a conversation that this became an agenda item,” Mayor Molina said. “Regardless, we’ve had just two (public) comments tonight.” Molina went on to speak of the importance of showing up to the StanCOG meetings regarding the allocation of funds in relation to a county wide ½ cent sales tax.
 
The City Manager Ken Irwin did not say anything in regards to this item during the meeting.
 
The item was tabled on a 4-1 vote with Councilman Farinha dissenting, and will return before the council during the February 16 meeting of the city council.
 
Parks and Recreation/Beautification Committee appointments
 
The city announced their selections of Chichi Jack, Vivian Ratlife, and Calvin Love to the newly formed Parks and Recreation/Beautification Committee, and announced that the Patterson Joint Unified School District chose Rob Cozart and Elias Funez as their selections to fill the five member board. Alternates for the board were initially suggested, however, no names were brought forth by Mayor Molina. Mayor Molina, and Councilman McCord of the City Council as well as James Leonard and Carlos Fieros from the school district, sat on the interviewing panel. 11 candidates were interviewed for the position. Meetings will be the third Wednesdays of the month, the first meeting of which is slated for February 17, to be held at 5:00 p.m. at Council Chambers.
 
Mayor pro-tem selected
 
Councilwoman Lustgarten suggested that the next person in the rotation to receive the Mayor pro-tem designation would be Councilwoman Novelli. The council reached a quick consensus on the matter and Councilwoman Novelli will take the Mayor pro-tem designation from Councilman Farinha. Mayor pro-tem sits as the acting mayor of the city in the absence of the mayor during council meetings.
 
Mayor’s final state of the city address announced
 
Mayor Molina announced that he will not be seeking re-election to the city council as Mayor, stating that he will be giving his final state of the city address on Monday February 29th at either City Hall or the Hammon Senior Center. The location of that meeting will be announced at the February 16th meeting of the City Council.
 
Closed session report
 
Mayor Molina reported after an hour and a half special closed session meeting of the council on items regarding a) anticipated litigation, b) City Manager performance evaluation, and c) Conference with legal counsel regarding the existing case of the City of Patterson vs. Sheree Lustgarten.  Mayor Molina reported that they gave direction to staff regarding the items. Councilwoman Lustgarten was excused from the closed session meeting for item c).
 
Need for funeral procession reform cited
 
Community volunteers with area churches approached the dais during the public comment period at the beginning of the regularly scheduled meeting to address the need for the city to address the funeral processions in the city.  Mark Kuhn of Hillview Funeral Chapel, Pastor Tim Bennefeld of Golden Valley Baptist Church, and representatives of the Knights of Columbus expressed the need for assistance with funeral processions. It was stressed that out of town folks attending a funeral in Patterson, are not used to the streets, and fear not being able to find the cemetery if the funeral procession gets separated. Others feared for the safety of those in the funeral procession and stated that this could become a liability issue for the city.
 
City Manager Ken Irwin stated that this item will be on the City Council’s agenda on the first meeting in March.
Mayor Luis Molina and Councilwoman Deborah Novelli discuss an item during the 02-02-16 meeting of the Patterson City Council ~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten sits alone at the dais while the other councilmembers, city attorney and city manager discuss the closed session item in private in regards to removing Lustgarten from the council. ~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
Councilwoman Deborah Novelli seeks advice from the City Attorney Tom Hallinan and City Manager Ken Irwin (left) after the group exited the closed session meeting. ~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
Saadiyah Ryan was introduced as the City of Patterson's new finance director, replacing Minnie Moreno. ~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
Firefighters Daniel Rodriguez (right) and Steven Kuchac also were introduced as new city employees and will join Patterson Fire as firefighter/paramedics. ~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
Sacramento based planning consultant Ted Holzem presented the Housing Element. ~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
Mayor Molina listens as Councilmember Farinha continues to advocate for changing council meeting dates to Wednesdays. ~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
Mayor pro-tem Dominic Farinha seemed to sit alone on the debate of changing the meeting dates of the Patterson City Council. ~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
Councilwoman Lustgarten's court paperwork shows that the City's issue with trying to remove her from her seat on the council, was filed at 3:09 p.m. , nearly three hours before the council had even met on the issue to decide if they would move forward with the matter. ~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal

Agadoni Ct. shooting victim sustains multiple gunsot wounds

Cold and unsure, relatives of the shooting victim await access to their home and an update as to the condition of their loved one.~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
Journal Staff
 
A Monday evening rash of shootings around Patterson left at least one person, with multiple gunshot wounds, airlifted out of Patterson to a nearby hospital on February 1. The condition of the man was unknown as of press time.
 
A shooting on the 500 block of Agadoni Ct. after 10:00 p.m. sent one man to the ER by medi-flight after being shot multiple times according to a Sergeant at the scene.  The victims’ daughter and family who drove to the scene as soon as they heard of the incident were also waiting for an update as to the condition of the shooting victim. 
 
Sheriffs deputies that had been called in from the department’s main office helped out on the scene and cased the area for clues as they waited for the crime scene photographers to arrive.
 
Witnesses in the area heard between 10 and 15 shots fired in relation to the Agadoni Ct. shooting. There have been other reports of a shooting at a dwelling in the Patterson Gardens area minutes prior to the Agadoni Ct. incident.
 
A witness at the scene close to the victim and his family mentioned that the shooting may have been a set up.
 
More information will be updated to this article as it becomes available.
 
Authorities are still looking for the assailant(s) involved in the Agadoni Ct. shooting and any information regarding any of the recent shooting cases can be submitted anonymously to the Crime Stoppers tipline, 209- 521-4636.
 
 
At right and above, sergeants and deputies with the Stanislaus County Sheriffs department search for clues around Agadoni Ct. after a male victim sustained multiple gunshot wounds.~photos by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
Sheriffs and firefighters work on the scene at Agadoni Ct. following a shooting that sent one man to the ER by medi filght .~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal

Weekend homicides leave two dead, one injured on the West Side

Journal Staff
 
A series of shooting homicides left two dead and one in stable condition Sunday during a pair of separate incidents in Westley and in Patterson.
 
The first occurred around 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning in Westley at La Caverna bar off of Highway 33. When deputies arrived, they found a gunshot wound to the upper body of 45 year old Salinas man Jorge Santana, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Deputies initially reported that they had no leads on the suspect(s), however a   County Sheriff’s nixle report released Monday afternoon stated that 23 year old Antonio Cruz of Grayson was arrested on the 8800 block of Wilson Road in Grayson, on Sunday evening around 5:00 p.m. in relation to the early Sunday morning homicide.
 
Meanwhile in Patterson, at around 4:20 p.m on Sunday January 31, a white four door pickup truck collided with a grey sedan on First Street just north of the intersection with Las Palmas Avenue. After immobilizing the sedan the assailant(s) from the white pickup truck fired shots at two hispanic males, whose identities and ages have not yet been released. Both men were transported to Doctors Medical Center where one man died and the other was listed in stable condition.      
 
Reports of Doctors Medical Center being placed on lockdown following a shooting in the vicinity of the hospital following the arrival of the two victims, has not been substantiated and inquiries to the DMC staff have not been returned as of press time.
 
The stretch of North First Street in Patterson where Sunday evening’s shooting homicide occurred, sometimes referred to as “candyland” or “Buehner’s camps”  is an area of the city that has historically been plagued with gang and other criminal activity. While the local authorities haven’t confirmed that the Patterson incident is indeed gang related or not, comments on local online forums and neighborhood watch groups from neighbors in the area believe that this was a gang related incident.
 
This is the city of Patterson's first confirmed homcide for the 2016 year.
 
Authorities are still on the look out for the white pickup truck and assailaint(s) involved in the Patterson shooting and any information regarding either of the homicide cases can be submitted anonymously to the Crime Stoppers tipline, 209- 521-4636.
Tattered police tape sits in a muddy pool of water outside of La Caverna bar off of Hwy 33 in Westley where 45 year old Jorge Santana of Salinas was gunned down. 23 year old Antonio Cruz of Grayson was arrested Sunday evening in connection with the Westley homicide.~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
A grey sedan sits surrounded by police tape on North First Street in Patterson while local authorities investigate on the scene nearby.~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
Stanislaus County Sheriff's detective Hickman speaks with a concerned person at the scene of Sunday evening's shooting homicide on North First Street in Patterson. .~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
At left, Antonio Cruz of Grayson was arrested Sunday evening in connection with early Sunday morning's homicide in Westley. At right, Sheriff's personnel work the scene of the First Street incident Sunday night.~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
At left, the grey sedan involved in the Patterson homicide sits behind police tape with the hood to the vehicle smashed in. The headlights of the vehicle illuminate broken glass from Sunday's incident on First Street. Below, a crime scene investigator approaches the crime scene.~photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal

The Junction Bar and Grill to close doors

By Elias Funez /The West Stanislaus Journal
 
Fans of remote eastern Santa Clara county’s The Junction Bar and Grill, and those who have yet to discover its charm, have only a few days left to enjoy the rare and tasty eats with the likes of ostrich, elk, buffalo, wild boar, and of course beef on the menu , before the most recent ownership of The Junction closes its doors.
 
This Sunday January 31st will mark the final day that owner Mashelle Bullington and her crew will open their doors for business,  just one month after celebrating their 2nd anniversary at the helm of the famous food and drink stop that sits in the middle of the Diablo Range, more than 30 miles away from the nearest locales of San Jose, Livermore, or Patterson.
 
Properly named The Junction, since it is located in the San Antone Valley at the junction of the three long and winding roads that lead into the Diablo Range from the three aforementioned cities, the area is steeped in history and a rich culture that The Junction’s original owners helped to preserve by decorating the restaurant’s interior with ancient Native American artifacts, historical photos of the mining operations that took place near there in the early 1900’s, as well as many hundreds of images that locals and travelers have posted to The Junction’s poster board inside the restaurant.
 
Of real interest to those who admire the local knowledge of the Native American Yokuts tibes that inhabited the hills to our west, is a collection of framed arrowheads and primitive tools with the label “local” on them. These precious finds are displayed next to another arrowhead collection marked “NE California” where the arrowheads consist almost entirely of obsidian rather to the local collection with rocks and quartz as the main source of the native’s tools.
 
Folks don’t have to worry though, the images, artifacts, the extensive National Geographic Magazine collection, as well as the lending library, will stay with the building as they are owned by the property owners themselves and will remain if and when a new owner decides to step up to run The Junction.
 
“We gave it a good shot,” employee Dan Grahm said sadly from behind the counter Friday afternoon at The Junction. “We tried hard, we wanted it to be a destination.”
 
Bullington and Grahm explained how it had been an uphill battle over the past few years since they’ve run The Junction, with a series of road work projects that have compromised the safety of The Junction’s biggest customers, motorcyclists. Three years ago a Santa Clara County road crew worked large stretches of Alum Rock Road coming up from San Jose leaving loose gravel, a very dangerous hazard to cyclists, along the way according to Grahm. Two years ago, Alameda County repaved a large portion of Mines Road coming up from Livermore and just this last summer Santa Clara was at it again working on the roadway through the San Antone Valley, each time creating the same problem to cyclists. The roadwork also posed a problem to sports car enthusiasts, another big draw for The Junction, since the drivers didn’t tend to like tar and gravel tarnishing the paint jobs on their expensive vehicles.
 
If that didn’t top it off, California’s severe drought lowered the water table in the San Antone Valley over the Summer of 2015, which ran the well that provides water to The Junction dry. This forced the owners of the business to shut down their restrooms to conserve water as a result. Thankfully by late October the water table had risen and water had been restored at full capacity to the site, allowing for full usage of the restrooms and facilities, which is a really good thing for business when you’re 30 miles away from the nearest clean restroom.
 
The picturesque background that The Junction is situated in, the historic San Antone Valley, was once utilized by legendary Mexican Patriot Joaquin Murrieta when he and his men would drive 300 head of wild mustangs collected from all parts of Northern California, all the way to Sonora Mexico during the early 1850’s. Now the gentle and meandering San Antone Valley is the home to one of California’s remaining wild Tule Elk populations, and can many times be seen grazing in the wildflower studded meadows of the San Antone.
 
But aside from being one of the only places to get an ice cold beer, and eat a fat juicy burger, in a beautiful and historic setting, with the access of a clean restroom, Bullington and crew did a lot to mix things up a bit from the previous ownership. The aforementioned Elk, Buffalo, and Wildboar burgers were a nice touch considering the meats are much leaner than beef and oh so tasty. The locally grown ostrich meat used for the ostrich burger is an even newer addition that is said to be the best item on the menu. A wonderful selection of Altamont Beer Works was on tap (of which only a brown ale is still available). As well as a Karaoke night held Friday’s from 6-9 that was popular with the Locals. A collection of random items that might be needed by a potential customer such as a road bike tube, patch kit, tool set, motrin, or ear plugs also were made available. However, of greatest note by this author as to the positive change brought forth by the current ownership, was their acceptance of the “flatlanders”, during the weekday crowds, with less of the “locals only” feel I had felt with the previous owners.
 
So if you’re up for the drive this weekend and are in search of an adventure rich in the natural beauty and history of our own backyard, take the drive 30 miles up Del Puerto Canyon Road to where the road ends at The Junction, just make sure you have plenty of gas and your vehicle is in good shape, as there are no servi ces at The Junction besides a great home cooked meal and an icy cold beverage, at least until this Sunday January 31.
 
 
 

Local charities shine at Christmas time

Thousands of gifts provided to needy families

By Elias Funez ~ West Stanislaus Journal
 
The gifts have been opened, the wrapping paper thrown away, and the little ones have been off and running enjoying their new toy or gadget provided to them this holiday season.
 
For many families, the holidays signify togetherness, community spirit, and gift giving. For many others, the holidays signify hardships, as struggling families strive to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, let alone gifts under the tree.
 
Fortunately for area residents of the Westside, the area offers many local charity organizations that step up year after year to help those less fortunate during the holidays.
 
One of those organizations, The St. Vincent De Paul Society, has been providing gifts for the area's needy for 19 years now.
 
The original concept for the St. Vincent De Paul giving tree started in 1996 by Sacred Heart Church’s Sister Ann Marie and 75 families were helped that year.  This year around 500 families will be helped by the society of volunteers, though in the past, up to 800 families have been served.
 
For St. Vincent De Paul society members, Ernie and Norma Munoz, who have spearheaded the project for the past 16 years, 2015 marks the final year that they will be in charge. Every year the couple gives up the living space in their home to allow for the sorting of the thousands of wrapped gifts that they will give away, from the days after Thanksgiving, to December 12, when the gifts were distributed, there is little walking space in their home.
 
But just because the Munoz' are stepping down, doesn't mean the event will fall to the wayside. The Patterson Promotores, a relatively new local service organization, is ready to take over, as they were seen helping a lot during this year's event.
 
Another up and coming charity organization is the Fire Department's Operation Santa Claus, which has been steadily builiding support for the past three years since firefighter Brandon Cousins has been at the helm. 
 
"Once again this community has been really good," Cousins said. "Next year we want to publicize it more."
 
Cousins reported that the local businesses that donate do really well, and that they also receive monetary donations to help fulfill whatever else is needed.
 
St. Vincent De Paul Society member Claudia Smith, who visited the Operation Santa giveaway on Friday December 18, noted how a random volunteer asked what they needed. She said she wasn't able to find any gloves and the next day $200 worth of brand new gloves were on her doorstep. Another person had donated about 30 crocheted hats, and didn't leave a name.
 
"People care about those who are homeless," Smith said.
 
 
 
St. Vincent De Paul Society member Gus Gonzalez stands amidst a sea of gifts that have been organized in the living space of Patterson's Munoz family. ~ photos by Elias Funez/The West Stanislaus Journal

Councilwoman's husband found dead

Jeff Lustgarten, pictured with his wife, Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten. ~courtesy photo
~Elias Funez/ The West Stanislaus Journal~
 
Jeff Lustgarten, a prominent member of the community and a regular attendee of Patterson city council meetings, was found dead at his home Wednesday December 23, by an apparent suicide.
 
Mr. Lustgarten’s body was discovered by his wife, Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten, when she went outside in the morning and saw her husband in his vehicle unresponsive, with the windows rolled up. 
 
In the vehicle with him was a metal bowl filled with charcoal signaling that he died by asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning, though an official autopsy report is still in the works. 
 
The couple had been busy recently packing boxes with their belongings in preparation of having to move from their home by the end of this month due to Jeff losing his job and not being able to afford to pay rent to live in their Patterson home any longer.
 
Jeff Lustgarten lost his job recently in 2015, working as a public affairs director for Metrolink rail in Southern California, after his employers were contacted about misinterpreted and false information regarding his involvement speaking up at city council meetings.
 
“They asked him to resign,” Sheree Lustgarten said in a phone interview last week.
 
According to Jeff, the 1-800 numbers to his former work place were called and information was provided to ask him to resign.
 
“They called saying, ‘he was so rude to me,” Lustgarten said. Eventually a copy of Fox News’ segment on the Senior Center investigation and subsequent report, landed in the hands of Jeff Lustgarten’s employers. Since Jeff was vocal throughout the investigation and spoke regularly at council meetings, his name appears in the investigation’s documents. That involvement was used against him, even though a judge basically threw out the findings of the lopsided report.
 
“They redacted everyone’s names except mine and Jeff’s,” Sheree said of the documents sent to Jeff’s employers.
 
“This is the culmination of everything that’s been happening to us,” Sheree said last week. “They’re trying to break us financially so that I can’t fight back. But I’m not backing down. I’m doing what’s right for this city.”
 
Sheree believes that she and Jeff have been targeted by the local political slate for their involvement in bringing to light many of the financial discrepancies that are occurring within the City of Patterson’s management, including the purchase of the City Hall annex building, losing out on tax dollars from Patterson’s distribution centers, gifting of public funds, as well as over 3 million dollars worth of attorney fees that have been accrued by the city attorneys in recent years. Numbers she says should have passed in front of the council, but never did.
 
Sheree noted today, that the sentiment about involvement with the city is, “fall into place, or you go away.”
 
Despite the Lustgarten’s hardships, Jeff’s demeanor and tone seemed hopeful when members of the Journal spoke with the Lustgartens less than a week ago, and Jeff was looking forward to a promising job prospect that he was currently interviewing for in Oakland.
 
“We’re crossing our fingers,” the Lustgartens had said prior to Wednesday morning’s tragedy.
 
Despite any glimmer of hope, the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the Lustgarten’s lives seemed to have gotten the better of him in the end.
 
“He felt like he couldn’t take it anymore,” Sheree said of her husband on Christmas Eve.
 
“I told him, ‘If you’re so fed up about this, you need to talk to a counselor’,” Sheree said.
 
Last night, after the coroner left the house, Sheree spent most of the day calling her relatives and friends. “I’m sitting here thinking what to do next?” Sheree said audibly distraught on the phone.
 
Councilwoman Lustgarten contacted The West Stanislaus Journal, to help dispel any rumors and remarks that have already begun to circulate, including one remark posted that claimed, “If she just would have stepped down, she would still have her husband.”
 
For those that knew Jeff, he was remembered as a person who was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in. At council meetings, he spoke respectfully and factually.
 
“I think we lost a good spokesperson,” Reyes Cuellar, the widow of the late Councilman Eusebio “Sam” Cuellar, said of Mr. Lustgarten Thursday.
 
“I’ve always been able to communicate with Jeff,” Cuellar recalled. “When Sam passed away, Jeff and Sheree really came and took care of me. The few months after, they called me and always made sure I was alright. He was always willing to talk. I never had any bad experiences with them, and I liked him. I’m very sad to hear that this happened.”
 
“As far as I’m concerned, they were both really good people. I know he wanted me to be involved, but I told him I’m not that kind of a person,” Cuellar said.
 
Others close to the Lustgartens believe that the community’s lack of involvement in the serious matters that they brought up at council meetings, eventually led to his depression that ended up claiming his life.
 
“Nobody stepped up,” Patterson resident and former postmaster Sandra McDowell said. “Everyone knew, but nobody wanted to get involved.”
 
Jeff Lustgarten is survived by his five step children, his brother Mark, farther Larry, and mother Parry.
 
A go fund me account has been set up for the Lustgarten family to help them through this difficult time.
 
https://www.gofundme.com/jefflustgarten
 
Please check back for an update on this developing story.

Shooting victim in good spirits after Thursday incident by Apricot Valley Elementary School

Above, twenty year old Pattersonite Justin Bell smiles as he holds his left leg up while using crutches to support himself after he was shot while walking near Apricot Valley Elementary School Thursday afternoon, pictured below. ~ photos by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
~ Journal staff reports ~
 
Recent Patterson shooting victim Justin Bell was seen doing well and in good spirits Friday evening after sustaining a gunshot wound to the leg on the afternoon of Thursday December 18, while walking from a home in Walker Ranch to a local chineese food restaurant to get lunch.
 
"I called in for pizza delivery but they said they didn't deliver until 3:00, so I started walking," Bell said
 
When Bell got to the intersection of Shearwater and Henley Avenue in front of Apricot Valley Elementary School he was shot by unknown assailants in a vehicle that drove off immediately thereafter. No descriptions of the assailant(s) or the vehicle was recalled by Bell however.
 
"I just fell" Bell described while utilizing the help of crutches Friday evening in the home of a friend in Heartland Ranch. "I just got shot, I was thinking. What am I going to do? Die?" Bell said.
 
Witnesses were quick to assist on the scene and luckily for Bell, the bullet went in the back of his leg, and out the front without hitting any major arteries.
 
Apricot Valley Elementary School was placed under a precautionary soft lockdown, while emergency first responders tended to Bell near the round a bout at the Shearwater and Henley intersection. The soft lockdown was lifted by 1:45 p.m.
 
This is the second time that the twenty year old has been shot in the leg.
 
"A lot of people hate on me," Bell said when asked who he thought the assailant(s) might be.
 
The young man was in good spirits when members of the Journal met up with him Friday evening.
 
"Right after I got shot I'm chillin', I'm like... I wanna be hoopin'," Bell described of his will and desire to want to play basketball.
 
 
 

First responders delivery baby in downtown Patterson

Busy day doesn't keep them from volunteering time

Patterson Fire Captain Mike Ambrosino (left) and Firefighter Josh Scott both helped to deliver a baby behind the fire station early Thursday morning Dec. 17. The two could be seen smiling all day even as they volunteered their time late into the evening, helping to sort toys for Operation Santa. - Photo by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal 
By Elias Funez ~ West Stanislaus Journal
 
The morning of Thursday December 17, 2015 started out unlike any other, at least for one newborn boy who was delivered on Ossie Street behind Fire Station No. 1, and for Sheriff’s Deputy Kyle Briggs, who was the first to help young Isaias in to downtown Patterson.
 
Patterson Fire Captain Mike Ambrosino, who was also one of the first on the scene, described the situation when his parents Hermenegilda and Maximo Nava arrived behind the police station.
 
“During the night she must have went to the hospital, they said she’s not ready so they came back home. Labor and contractions started and on the way back to the hospital they decided they weren’t going to make it,” Ambrosino said.
 
Ambrosino was first alerted by Chief Gregory that she was already going into labor, grabbed his medical bag, and noticed that Deputy Briggs was first with the expectant mother.
 
“She told them, ‘hey it’s coming’ and she kind of pulled her sweat pants down. Deputy Kyle Briggs double takes, says, ‘It’s coming. The baby!’” 
Quickly the newborn baby boy was delivered in the front seat of the Nava’s car and in Deputy Briggs’ hands, before being handed off to Ambrosino who began to administer first aid to the newborn.
 
“He was a little blue so I kept him on his side and kept rubbing him. He was crying a little, but I said, come on, come on, cry a whole lot more.”
Soon thereafter the color came back, oxygen was administered, and the baby gave a full healthy cry.
 
“We were trying to figure out what was going on since there was a little communication barrier with the Spanish speaking parents, when officer Briggs noticed the head was coming out,” Patterson Firefighter Josh Scott, who was also on scene to assist, said. “The rest of the body was coming out and [Briggs] was looking with a surprised look on his face.”
 
“They get some training on it,” Ambrosino said of the Sheriff’s department. “Not like us. Luckily that lady delivered so fast.”
 
Besides Ambrosino’s training on delivering babies, he said that he used to deliver 20 to 25 lambs every winter. “It’s similar,” Ambrosino said chuckling.
 
He also delivered his youngest son, but they prepared way ahead of time for that. “Not in a parking lot where it’s 38 degrees.”
 
Patterson Firefighter and Patterson District Ambulance medic Marty Greunke, who was on a shift with the ambulance Thursday morning was also quick to arrive on scene and helped cut the umbilical cord. “I put mom on the gurney, gave baby to mom, and they were off,” Gruenke described.
Hermenegilda and Isaias were then transported to Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock for additional care where it was reported that both were recuperating Thursday evening.
 
For the first responders like Briggs, Ambrosino, Scott, and Greunke, they didn’t let their early morning work keep them from volunteering their time as they had originally planned to do that evening by helping to sort gifts along side the rest of their Patterson Fire extended family. The gifts, being sorted for distribution to youngsters of all age ranges, are being given away as part of Patterson Fire’s annual Operation Santa.
 
While no one was sure who the last baby born in Patterson was, since the closing of Del Puerto Hospital’s birthing ward in the 1980’s, firefighters Ambrosino and Scott did recall responding to a call in Patterson about a month ago where a woman was going into labor, however she delivered the child in the back of the ambulance on the way to the hospital and not in Patterson.

Dogs bite three in Patterson park

~ Journal staff reports ~
 
Members of the local ambulance and Sheriff's department were on the scene to assist three victims who were bit by three different dogs Wednesday at Sorensen Park near the intersection of American Eagle and Ward Avenues.
 
A woman, and two men both sustained minor non-life threatening injuries after being bit in the hip, thigh, and wrist respectively. They were looked at by members of the Patterson District Ambulance and were informed to have their wounds treated at an urgent care or nearby hospital.
 
Newman's Alfredo Casanova, one of the bite victims, was walking down the sidewalk along American Eagle Avenue across the street from the park when he noticed that a woman was struggling to control three dogs under her posession, one of which had clearly broken its leash.
 
"She was on the floor trying to hold the dog, rolling around on her knees. They (dogs) were fighting " Casanova said.
 
Casanova, along with neighbors of Sorensen Park Vanessa and Jesse Saldivar, who also tried to assist in breaking up the fighting dogs were all bit.
 
Casanova used a breaker bar borrowed from another neighbor from Wanzia Lane to fight off the dogs which were attacking him the front and the back at times.
 
"I was worried cause [the dog] was foaming and going from person to person trying to attack," Casanova said.
 
Wanzia Lane's Jesse and Vanessa Saldivar were on their way to the hospital soon after the injuries while local authorities waited in the nearby park awaiting the arrival of the animal control vehicle.
 
"They took a good two pieces out," Vanessa Saldivar said.
 
According to the bite victims, the dogs will have to be tested for diseases such as rabies, and that report presented to them at a later date.
 
A white pit bull mix, a dark german shepard mix, and a lighter brown mastiff mix, were all involved in the fracas.
 
At one point, the white pit bull mix turned and charged towards a Sheriff's officer when they arrived on the scene. The officer subdued the dog with pepper spray, according to witnesses at the scene.
 
 
 
At top, the victims of the dog bites are looked at by members of the Sheriffs department and Patterson District Ambulance. Above, the dogs are controlled by their handlers, Above right, a bite mark is left on Jesse Salidvars thigh after the incident. Below, Sheriff's deputies keep their distance from one of the dogs involved while they await the arrival of Animal Control Services. - photos by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal
Above, Alfredo Casanova's hand is wrapped in a bandage after Wednesday's incident. At right, Sheriff's deputies await the arrival of Animal Control while one of the dogs involved is consoled by its owner. - photos by Elias Funez/West Stanislaus Journal