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MARINE ROBBED AT GUNPOINT, KIDNAPPED IN TWENTYNINE PALMS

A Twentynine Palms Marine says he was kidnapped and robbed at gunpoint Tuesday night. According to a Sheriff’s report, the man called at 9:13 p.m. to report that about a half hour earlier, he was sprayed with pepper spray and tasered by one suspect, while another man hit him over the head and robbed him of his wallet at gunpoint in Twentynine Palms. The victim told deputies he was then put in a vehicle and dropped off near the intersection of Sun Valley Drive and Adobe Road, at which time he called for help. The Sheriff’s Department is investigating. Anyone with information should call 760-366-4175.


LAKE FIRE COULD INCREASE THREATS OF FLASH FLOODING

The Lake Fire, which has burned more than 31,000 acres in the beautiful stands of timber in the San Bernardino National Forest, could wreak more havoc on the high desert neighborhoods of Burns Canyon, Rimrock, and Pioneertown. Managing editor Tami Roleff explains…

“This was a devastating fire. It burned away a lot of the fuels in the canyons that are upstream to Pioneertown, and Rimrock, and Burns Canyon.” U.S. Forest Service Public Information Officer Chon Bribiescas says after a fire, the charred ground can’t easily absorb rainwater, which increases the chances of flash floods. “People have to have a heightened awareness of flash floods. The things that normally would help slow down a flash flood or help mitigate a flash flood, all of that is not there any longer.” Bribiescas said that residents should be aware of the possibility even though the rain may be falling up in the mountains and not in the desert. “So even though they may be watching a storm which is nine miles away up in the mountain, it’ll eventually get here, if enough rain falls.” He warns that these flash floods could be very dangerous. “There’s the possibility of larger debris flows, a faster flow of the water, and it gets to places that people don’t normally see it, and people have to be aware of that.” Finally, Bribiescas says turn around, don’t drown. “If you see water across the roads, please don’t try to cross it. It only takes a foot of water to float an automobile.”


MAN CAUGHT IMPERSONATING A FIREFIGHTER AT LAKE FIRE COMMAND POST

A man accused of impersonating a firefighter at the Lake Fire near Barton Flats was arrested at the Fire Incident Command Post on multiple criminal charges. David Battle, 44, of San Bernardino, was booked into the Big Bear Jail on felony charges of possession of a stolen vehicle, being a felon in possession of a firearm and carrying a stolen loaded firearm. Sheriff’s deputies assigned to the Lake Fire saw a white Crown Victoria driving into areas closed by road blocks. Battle, who was wearing a fire department uniform, represented himself as a firefighter and claimed he was trying to locate a fire crew. Minutes later the car was seen at the Lake Fire Incident Command Post at Big Bear High School. Deputies questioned Battle, who couldn’t provide proper identification. A check showed the California exempt license plates on the car had been reported stolen. Deputies also learned the car was reported stolen two weeks earlier. Inside the car, deputies found a stolen handgun and fire equipment, including uniforms from various fire agencies and a fire radio stolen from the Lake Fire incident. Battle is scheduled to be arraigned today, He’s being held in lieu of $50,000 bail at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

David Battle

David Battle

Stolen car driven by Battle

Stolen car driven by Battle

Stolen car driven by Battle

Stolen car driven by Battle

This is not the first run-in with the law for Battle. In October 2013 an unmarked San Bernardino police car parked at city hall was stolen. After Detectives found the stolen police car parked at an apartment complex Battle was arrested and pleaded guilty to three counts of taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent. In October 1998, he was sentenced to seven years in state prison for impersonating a peace officer, petty theft, stealing a police car, burglary and receiving stolen property, according to court records.


SCHOOL BOARD RAISES MEAL COSTS, REVIEWS NEW PROGRAMS AND RULES

Business-wise, the June 30 meeting of the Morongo Unified School District Board of Education was a mop-up exercise. Reporter Dan Stork says that the focus of the meeting was a far-ranging and eye-opening presentation by a district staffer. Also, actions at the state level that will have local repercussions were passed along…

Director of Curriculum Amy Woods told the Morongo Unified School District Board of Education about current and planned programs to expand the options of students. She started by describing a field trip made by 72 high school students to Copper Mountain College for a full day of introductions to medical career paths. Next, she surveyed college acceptances for this year’s Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms graduates: 72 students were accepted at four-year institutions, 159 to Copper Mountain College; seven graduates have enlisted in the military. Then she listed programs in career and technical education that she hopes to expand or implement, including the areas of medical care (such as nursing assistance and sports medicine), health office technology, pharmacy assistance, computer technicians and programming, fire, law enforcement, water, elementary education, hospitality, and business—with cooperation by Copper Mountain College expected in several areas. She finished by describing services and advice on testing and applications that will be offered, starting during the summer, to 2016 graduates who plan to attend college.

The single agenda item that raised much discussion was a proposal to raise meal costs by 15 cents per meal. Assistant Superintendent Sharon Flores explained that the federal government requires that students who pay for their meals must pay at least what the government reimburses the District for students who get free lunches; otherwise the federal support might be in jeopardy. That passed 4-1, with Board President Karalee Hargrove dissenting. Hargrove also cast the only other dissent of the evening, on the employment contract for Assistant Superintendent Douglas Weller.

Legislative liaison Ed Will previewed education legislation in progress in two areas: A tightening-up of Brown Act adherence for charter schools; and the formalization of closer connections between high school and community college programs

Superintendent Tom Baumgarten cited two things that have already come down from Sacramento. The governor signed legislation making it harder for parents to opt out of vaccination for children, and the California High School Exit Exam program has been suspended, perhaps for up to three years.


ACCUSED MURDERER OF ERIN CORWIN IN COURT BRIEFLY YESTERDAY

In an appearance that was over almost as soon as it began Tuesday morning, Christopher Lee’s next court appearance was continued until July 27. In April, Lee’s lawyer filed a peremptory challenge against Judge Rodney Cortez, asking that the case be heard by Judge Bert Swift. Lee’s case was temporarily suspended by Cortez in May, pending the Appeals Court decision. The Appeals Court has not yet announced its decision, and Cortez had no choice but to continue the case for another month. Lee is accused of killing his former neighbor and lover, Erin Corwin, 19, one year ago, June 28, 2014, and then dumping her body down a mine shaft east of Twentynine Palms.


SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING

California gets to keep its four-year-old election reforms that introduced an independent re-districting commission—replacing the old system in which politicians often re-drew legislative districts to favor incumbents. That’s because on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a similar system in Arizona. Reporter Rebecca Havely says had the decision gone the other way, California’s election system would have been thrown into disarray…

Stephen Spaulding of the grassroots advocacy group Common Cause says the decision is a victory for voters. “This was a sweeping affirmation of the California model, which allows citizens to draw the lines rather than legislators picking and choosing their voters.”

Kathay Feng of Common Cause L.A. says the new open, public redistricting process spelled an end to back-room deals meant to create safe seats. “There were more than a dozen incumbents who either decided not to run, or who were defeated in elections because they didn’t have the guaranteed re-election that they used to, when district lines were drawn by the Legislature.”

The next redistricting will take place in 2021, the year after the next census.


YUCCA VALLEY SUMMER CONCERT LINE-UP ANNOUNCED

The Town of Yucca Valley has announced the schedule for its summer concerts in the park. The music festival begins July 11 with the Silverados, a country western band, followed by another country western band, Nitro Express, July 18. The Wise Guys Big Band Machine will play July 25. House Party, a dance cover band will perform August 1. A U-2 tribute band, L.A.-Vation will rock the park August 8. And closing out the six-week music festival is Blue Breeze Band, a Motown band, on August 15. Gates open for all concerts at 6:30, and the concerts begin at 7 p.m. The concerts are free, and are held on the softball field of the Yucca Valley Community Center.


HI-DESERT WATER LOOKS AT STANDBY AND AVAILABILITY CHARGES TONIGHT

The Hi-Desert Water District Board meets in regular session tonight. Stand-by and availability fees and a proposed intertie are on the agenda. Managing Editor Tami Roleff checks it out…..

Among the items on the agenda for tonight’s meeting of the Hi-Desert Water District Board of Directors are the establishment of rates and procedures for collecting water standby and availability charges; the consideration of nominees for the Special District Risk Management Authority; and support for an application by Bighorn-Desert View water agency to implement two emergency water supply interconnections with the Hi-Desert Water District. The meeting takes place at 6:00 in the board room of the water district on the corner of Inca Trail and Highway 62.


JOSHUA BASIN WATER MEETING CANCELLED

Tonight’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Joshua Basin Water District Board of Directors has been cancelled. The board next meets July 15.


LOCAL CHAMBERS PLAN ADA COMPLIANCE FORUM

Local small businesses have been hit with suits claiming non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Reporter Dan Stork says there will be an opportunity to talk about how to deal with such actions…

Local chambers of commerce are putting together a forum to discuss the Americans with Disabilities Act. The topic will be small businesses in relation to ADA, and strategies for dealing with it. The meeting will be on Friday, July 10, from 7 to 9 p.m., at a yet-to-be-determined location. Small business owners  and the general public are invited from the Twentynine Palms, Joshua Tree, and Yucca Valley areas. Please RSVP by July 1 to  info@joshuatreechamber.org


FOOD DISTRIBUTION IN YUCCA VALLEY TODAY

There will be a distribution of surplus food this afternoon, Wednesday, July 1, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Pacific Clinics, 56020 Santa Fe Trail, Suite M, in Yucca Valley.


RUMMAGE SALE WILL BENEFIT NO-KILL ANIMAL SHELTER

The Morongo Basin’s only no-kill animal shelter will hold a yard sale Friday and Saturday, July 3 and 4, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The sale will include furniture, knick knacks, house wares, Christmas items, and more. The sale will be held at 61875 Anaconda in Joshua Tree. All proceeds will benefit the animal shelter. For more information, call 760-221-5840.


COPPER MOUNTAIN CLOSED FOR THE NEXT TWO DAYS

Copper Mountain College will be closed Thursday and Friday. Thursday, July 2, in celebration of Independence Day and Friday, July 3, for its summer schedule. During this closure the Bell Gym will also be closed.


CHRISTOPHER LEE COURT CASE CONTINUED AGAIN

In an appearance that was over almost as soon as it began Tuesday morning, Christopher Lee’s next court appearance was continued until July 27. In April, Lee’s lawyer had filed a peremptory challenge against Judge Rodney Cortez, asking that the case be heard by Judge Bert Swift. Lee’s case was temporarily suspended by Cortez in May, pending the Appeals Court decision. The Appeals Court has not yet announced its decision, and Cortez had no choice but to continue the case until July 27. Lee is accused of killing his former neighbor and lover, Erin Corwin, 19, one year ago, June 28, 2014, and then dumping her body down a mine shaft east of Twentynine Palms.


LAKE FIRE DOWN, BUT NOT OUT; WE SPEAK WITH THE FOREST SERVICE

The Lake Fire, which started June 17, spread rapidly the first eight or nine days of the fire as it burned in timber that hadn’t burned for 100 years or more. But then the fire started bumping up against the burn scar area from the Sawtooth Fire from 2006. With little fuel to burn, the spread of the fire slowed, and firefighters were able to make good progress in containing it. The fire is now at 31,726 acres and is 60 percent contained. But as managing editor Tami Roleff explains, “containment” doesn’t mean “out”…

The Public Information Officers have answered questions about the Lake Fire in Pioneertown for the past two weeks. They are, from left, Don Carpenter, with Manti-LaSal National Forest in Utah; Chon Bribiescas, U.S. Forest Service; Capt. Chris Kemp, CalFire-Riverside; and Norm Rooker, Ouray County, Colorado.

The Public Information Officers have answered questions about the Lake Fire in Pioneertown for the past two weeks. They are, from left, Don Carpenter, with Manti-LaSal National Forest in Utah; Chon Bribiescas, U.S. Forest Service; Capt. Chris Kemp, CalFire-Riverside; and Norm Rooker, Ouray County, Colorado.

No smoke was visible from the Lake Fire in Pioneertown Monday morning.

No smoke was visible from the Lake Fire in Pioneertown Monday morning.

U.S. Forest Service Public Information Officer Chon Bribiescas said Monday that the percentage of containment of the Lake Fire will start to slow now, since the areas not yet contained are very rocky, very steep, and very difficult to get in and out of. “We just can’t put our firefighters or even any hot shot crews in there without exposing them unnecessarily to hazards and dangers. The strategy is to use bucket drops to try to help slowly contain that part of the fire.” Bribescas explained that while the fire may be contained, the trees inside the perimeter will still continue to burn. “This was an unusual fire, it was a timber fire that took place in June. This type of fire is one that we would normally see toward the end of the season, right around August, September, maybe October. It emphasizes the point that we are in record drought, because of the low humidity and the stress to trees, it makes the trees a lot more receptive to ignition. Right now, this particular fire, is going to hold a lot of heat; there are pockets of unburned fuel in there. As conditions favor it, it won’t be unusual to see smoke start popping out and unburned fuel burning within the perimeter of the fire. While residents shouldn’t be overly concerned about the smoke, they shouldn’t ignore it either. “Folks should pay attention to that. We’re not telling people not to call it in. Don’t make that assumption that it’s within that perimeter. Let us tell you that. If you see smoke, dial 911.”


SMOKE ADVISORY LIFTED

The Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District has cancelled the smoke advisory issued on June 27 for Yucca Valley, Morongo Valley and nearby communities. Please be aware that conditions may change due to shifting wind patterns or fire conditions. For a link to the latest air quality information, visit www.mdaqmd.ca.gov for the latest air quality information.


SCHOOL BOARD MOPPING UP THE FISCAL YEAR TONIGHT

The Morongo Unified School District Board of Education has a long list of mop-up items on the agenda for its next meeting. Reporter Dan Stork gives the rundown…

Following an open work/study session at 5:30 to review the single plans for student achievement at four schools, and a 6:30 closed session on student and personnel issues, the Morongo Unified School District board will work through a long list of action items at the 7 p.m. open session. That list includes:

  • The budget , local control accountability plan, and local education agency goal for the coming year;
  • The achievement plans for four schools studied earlier;
  • Piggyback contracts for supplies and oil;
  • An increase in meal fees of 15 cents per lunch;
  • Contract updates for the three assistant superintendants.

The board meets at Joshua Tree Elementary School.


SON ARRESTED AFTER SEVERE NEGLECT OF HIS ELDERLY MOTHER

An elderly woman was brought to Hi-Desert Medical Center Saturday afternoon with what was described as one of the worst cases of elder abuse ever seen by the emergency room doctor. According to a Sheriff’s report, about 1:15, the woman was brought in non-responsive and with numerous ant bites on her abdomen and back, with the ants still attached to open wounds. The doctor told the responding deputy that the woman was just hours from dying. After investigation, the woman’s caregiver, her son Edwin Hill, 57, was arrested for investigation of felony elder abuse, booked at the Morongo Basin Jail, with his bail set at $50,000.


JOSEPH PHIPPS MURDER TRIAL GETS UNDERWAY

Jury selection will begin today (Tuesday) in the murder trail of Joseph Phipps of Joshua Tree. Phipps, 41, is accused of shooting his estranged wife, Christy Utley Phipps, in the head in their home in the 61600 block of Alta Vista in Joshua Tree in January 2013. Phipps has been out of custody since September after he posted $1 million bail.


YUCCA VALLEY MAN CELEBRATES 18TH BIRTHDAY IN JAIL

A Yucca Valley man who decided to celebrate his 18th birthday with a couple of friends by stealing some ice tea to go with his donuts celebrated becoming an adult in jail yesterday. According to a Sheriff’s report, about 4:30 Monday afternoon, Albert Dupree, 18, and two friends who are still juveniles, went to a gas station market in the 56200 block of 29 Palms Highway with their donuts in a pink box, and stole some ice tea, and then fled toward Apache Trail. A deputy found them hiding inside the locked fence of the Yucca Valley Elks Lodge on Yucca Trail. One juvenile was arrested on a juvenile warrant for his arrest, as well as for investigation of petty theft and resisting arrest. The other juvenile was on juvenile probation, and was arrested on suspicion of petty theft and resisting arrest. Albert Dupree, who had a no-bail juvenile warrant, was arrested for investigation of giving a false name to a police officer, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, petty theft, and resisting arrest. Dupree was booked at the Morongo Basin Jail and is being held without bail.


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