Local News

Tuesday, Dec 24 2013 08:00 PM

TOP STORIES OF 2013: The best of the rest

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    By Alex Horvath / The Californian

    Students, parents and teachers started the school day with prayer at Taft Union High School when in January 2013 school reopened for the first time since the shooting that left one student critically injured. Some students wore T-shirts in support of injured teen Bowe Cleveland during this prayer time.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    In this file photo, Taft Union High School shooting suspect Bryan Oliver arrives in Kern County Superior Court for his arraignment on attempted murder charges.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Chris Silva speaks about his brother David Silva, 33, who died while being arrested by Kern County sheriff's deputies early May 8. The incident happened across from Kern Medical Center at the corner of Flower Street and Palm Drive. Family members are questioning how David Silva died.

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    By Courtesy Silva family

    David Sal Silva and his three of his four children, daughters Makayla, 10, Katelyn, 4, and Chelsey, 8. Silva, 33, died in May after deputies say he fought with them and CHP officers who'd responded to a report of a possibly intoxicated man outside Kern Medical Center.

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    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian reads from a written statement at a press conference held on campus to announce sanctions against the football team.

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    By Felix Adamo / The Californian

    Held by animal care worker Mandi Weatherly, this male dog, #957337, waits to be put in a kennel at the new shelter for Kern County Animal Control at 3951 Fruitvale Ave. This photo was taken Sept. 29.

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By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

A Bakersfield man's struggle to regain the use of his legs after he was struck by shrapnel during PG&E's demolition of its northwest power plant was arguably the top local story of 2013.

But there were other top contenders, especially the terrifying school shooting at Taft Union High School that left one teenager badly injured and another facing attempted murder charges.

Related Info

About this series

Today: We look back at the top five stories of the year across all types of news -- breaking, sports, government, business. This being Bakersfield, there were many more headline-makers, and we'll recount them in coming days.

Barring more big breaking news -- again, this is Bakersfield, so you never know -- here's what to expect:

Thursday: The top stories in government and in health.

Friday: The top breaking news stories.

Saturday: The top stories in business, and the best quotes of the year.

Sunday: Those we lost in 2013.

Monday: The top stories in sports.

New Year's Eve: People to watch in 2014.

New Year's Day: Can you guess 2014's big headlines?

 

2. TAFT HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTING

Kern County is typically the site of dozens of shootings in any given year. Last January, however, marked a horrific first -- a shooting inside a school.

Bryan Oliver entered a classroom at Taft Union High School Jan. 10 and opened fire with a shotgun, according to authorities. He shot and seriously injured student Bowe Cleveland and fired at but missed another student, Jacob Nichols. Shotgun pellets grazed teacher Ryan Heber.

Authorities said Heber and campus supervisor Kim Fields convinced Oliver to put the gun down as students fled the classroom and a campus-wide lockdown ensued.

Taft police, Kern County sheriff's deputies, California Highway Patrol officers, FBI agents and officers from other agencies responded to the chaotic scene, in which panicked parents demanded to see their children as school officials did their best to reassure them they were doing everything they could to keep everyone safe.

Oliver, 16 at the time of the shooting, is charged as an adult with two counts of attempted murder and three counts of assault with a gun on a person. He's being held without bail.

Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman, Oliver's attorney, has said the teen was bullied every day at school. Oliver told a school official he "snapped" as a result of the constant bullying, according to testimony from his preliminary hearing.

Cleveland, also 16 at the time of the shooting, suffered injuries to his abdomen and chest and has undergone several surgeries.

Attorney Daniel Rodriguez has filed a lawsuit against the Taft Union High School District alleging the district failed to take adequate precautions in connection with the dangers Oliver posed. Rodriguez has said district officials knew, or reasonably should have known, that Oliver was dangerous, threatening and likely to commit a violent act.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 8, in which it's likely the Jan. 21 trial date will be postponed.

-- Jason Kotowski

 

3. DEATH OF DAVID SAL SILVA

It was five minutes before midnight May 7 when a Kern County sheriff's deputy approached a man who was sleeping near a residential street corner in east Bakersfield.

Forty-nine minutes later, the sleeping man was dead.

The incident, which quickly grew to include eight more law enforcement officers and a police dog -- and hours later led to the confiscation of witnesses' cell phone video -- sparked a wildfire of news coverage and public reaction that spread across the nation and even to points around the globe.

The name of the man at the center of the story was David Sal Silva. He was 33 years old, the father of four children.

Eyewitness accounts were highly critical of deputies' actions, while official accounts defended officers' use of batons, the police dog, and a controversial hogtie restraint authorities refered to as "hobbling."

The 44-page autopsy and toxicology report, prepared by the Kern County Coroner's Office, concluded the manner of Silva's death was accidental. The cause: hypertensive heart disease.

Other significant conditions listed in the report included acute intoxication, chronic alcoholism, obesity, chronic hypertension and acute pulmonary cardiovascular strain. And evidence of drug use was found in Silva's tox-screen.

Nowhere in the report did the pathologist assert that the painful dog bites, multiple strikes from deputies' batons, the fact that Silva's wrists and ankles were apparently tied together behind his back, or the struggle itself were contributing factors in Silva's death.

In the intervening months, the incident has spawned two wrongful-death lawsuits filed by Silva's family and a third lawsuit brought by witnesses whose cell phones were confiscated by authorities in the aftermath of Silva's death.

A judge may eventually combine all Silva-related lawsuits into one case.

Will the case ultimately be settled or will more information be revealed through the public forum of a jury trial? No one knows for sure.

While the wildfire has slowed, it's clear that it has not yet been extinguished.

-- Steven Mayer

 

4. BC STRIPPED OF TITLE

One of the brightest Kern County sports moments in 2012 was Bakersfield College's football team winning the state community college championship before more than 16,000 fans in Memorial Stadium.

But on May 14, 2013, that championship was stripped and BC's wins from the 2011 and 2012 seasons were declared forfeit losses by the Southern California Football Association and the California Community College Athletic Association.

Those bodies ruled that BC had violated CCCAA and SCFA rules dealing with special privileges and inducements for football players that were not made available to the entire BC student body.

BC officials were informed in January that the football program had been accused of several CCCAA rules violations and BC hired the Brown Armstrong accounting firm to review the charges.

BC subsequently self-reported the infractions to the SCFA on May 8 and received the sanctions six days later.

On June 12, BC filed the first of three appeals, which were all rejected.

According to CCCAA bylaws, the fourth and final appeal is binding arbitration, but BC officials instead filed legal action in Sacramento County Superior Court on Sept. 13 over the CCCAA sanctions levied against the BC football program.

BC President Sonya Christian acknowledged that CCCAA rules were violated but appealed because the Kern Community College Board of Trustees felt the sanctions were too severe.

"Submitting to binding arbitration that (the) CCCAA has dictated, which we firmly believe does not promote due process, was not an option," Christian said in a statement. "We felt our only option was to seek legal redress."

BC has retained the services of C. Christine Maloney of Foster Employment Law in Oakland to lead the legal action against the CCCAA.

BC Athletic Director Ryan Beckwith was forced to resign as fallout from the BC football situation.

-- Jeff Evans

 

5. ANIMAL CONTROL AGENCIES DIVORCE

Kern County's Animal Control leader was fired and the county and city of Bakersfield split their joint animal shelter operations, setting back spay-neuter efforts and making life more difficult for residents.

The year started with promise.

Bakersfield and Kern County, after years of squabbling over how much the city owed the county for sheltering its stray pets, agreed to operate side-by-side shelters at the current location on South Mount Vernon Avenue.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors, stocked with three new faces, showed an aggressive interest in developing a spay-neuter program that could reduce the county's staggering population of unwanted pets.

But talks about the side-by-side shelter plan dragged on with no resolution and finally, in late August, the city ordered the county to vacate the city-owned Mount Vernon shelter at the end of September.

Just weeks later, supervisors rejected a spay-neuter plan proposed by controversial Animal Control Director Jen Woodard.

Then they fired her.

Woodard, in less than a year in office, had alienated local animal welfare advocates and rescue groups with a confrontational leadership style, unclear stances on policies and a series of Facebook tirades against critics and the media.

Spay and neuter efforts -- which a Californian investigation identified as critical to reducing the number of animals in the shelter and the resulting euthanization of those pets -- fell off the radar.

Instead, both the city and county scrambled to rehab properties and open shelters on opposite sides of town.

Kern County picked a site on Fruitvale Avenue and, because it was chosen on a tight timeline, was surprised by a number of costly issues to handle.

Work on the new shelter was not finished by the end of 2013 and a $2.5 million estimated cost had climbed to nearly $3 million. The city, which remodelled the county's old shelter, also experienced delays and was looking at costs that threatened to exceed its budget -- $599,000 -- as well.

-- James Burger

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