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Local News

Bill Macfadyen: Fatal Shooting of Dos Pueblos High Student Is a Tragic, Split-Second Accident

NoozWeek’s Top 5 includes a deadly altercation at the Chumash Casino Resort, a $4.6 million dog house, an exercise in poor judgment and the ongoing Montecito recovery, but don’t miss your chance to attend Noozhawk’s first Public Newsroom

Kaiden Vague, 2002-2018. R.I.P. Click to view larger
Kaiden Vague, 2002-2018. R.I.P. (Vague family photo)

As I announced last week, Noozhawk is hosting its first Public Newsroom on March 1 at our new nest at Impact HUB in downtown Santa Barbara. I’m really excited about this new monthly forum because I’m increasingly convinced that such engagement is mutually beneficial for both our readers and our journalists.

The Public Newsrooms are a chance for our Hawks Club members to talk face to face with our team, and our inaugural event will be a discussion of the two most challenging news stories in our 10-year-old organization’s history: the Thomas Fire and the deadly Montecito flash flooding and mudflows.

We’ll be sending the Evite to our membership list at 5 p.m. Feb. 24 so it’s not too late to join the club. Space is limited so reservations are required and will be first come, first serve. Click here to become a Hawks Club member.

Noozhawk gets most of its operating funding from advertising and sponsorships, but we believe that financial support from our readers is vital. We’re not interested in hiding our local news content behind a pay wall, but we know our original professional news reporting is a valuable service in our community. A dollar a week is hardly an imposition, and even $10 a month is a bargain. Click here for more information.

On Feb. 24, I’m privileged to be moderating a panel discussion as part of “How We Heal: Listening for the Good,” a free, community post-disaster forum hosted by Cottage Health and the Santa Barbara Mission.

My group tackles the community aspect of the recovery and includes Dr. Paul Erickson, medical director of Cottage Health Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine; Eder Gaona-Macedo, executive director of Future Leaders of America; state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara; and Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Cmdr. Kelly Moore.

That session is followed by one focused on faith. Moderated by the Rev. Pam Washburn, director of spiritual care services at Cottage Health, that panel includes Father Lawrence Seyer, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Montecito; Keli Vaughan of the Mahakankala Buddhist Center in Santa Barbara; Afaf Turjoman of the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara; and the Rev. Katherine Wiebe, executive director of the Institute for Congregational Trauma and Growth.

The event is 9 a.m. to noon at the mission’s Junipero Serra Hall, 2200 Garden St. The forum is free but seating is limited. Click here to register.

How I heal, meanwhile, is with baseball. Last season was no disaster for Los Angeles Dodgers fans, but I’m still sore over how it ended. Spring training starts today, however, so I can start putting that bad memory behind me.

There’s nothing better than the thrill of the grass at this time of year, which is a good reminder that there are very few baseball books better than The Thrill of the Grass. Re-reading the W.P. Kinsella classic is a spring training tradition for me, and I highly recommend it to you.

Of course, I also highly recommend Noozhawk, but, according to our Google Analytics, 120,225 readers were already way ahead of me this past week.

What follows is my take on your Top Five stories during the last seven days. Please note that this Best of Bill is my opinion column and not a news article, and I’m Noozhawk’s publisher and not a reporter.

1. Santa Barbara Teen Dies of Injuries Suffered in Accidental Shooting

A Santa Barbara teenager wounded in a Feb. 15 accidental shooting at a local gun range died of his injuries the next day, his 16th birthday.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said Kaiden Vague was shot while practicing target shooting with his dad and a brother at the Glass Factory shooting area along East Camino Cielo in the mountains above Santa Barbara.

Emergency personnel responded to the Los Padres National Forest site around 1 p.m., and Kaiden was quickly airlifted by a Calstar medical helicopter to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The Dos Pueblos High School sophomore died a day later.

“The Coroner’s Office conducted a death investigation, and has determined the 16-year-old died as result of a traumatic accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Hoover said.

The family donated Kaiden’s organs so that his death might mean life for someone else.

In a heartfelt post on Facebook, his mom, Tiffany Vague, expressed both her grief and her gratitude.

“I’m in total shock over this,” she wrote. “My heart is filling with happiness actually and tears rolling down my face to know how much my son, Kaiden, was loved.”

Kaiden is survived by his parents, Tiffany and Shaun Vague; brothers John and Shaun Jr.; sister Vivy; and his maternal grandparents, Cathy and David Bacon.

A celebration of his life is being planned for mid-March, and a GoFundMe page has been established to help the family with medical and funeral expenses. Click here to make an online donation.

This death is personal for Team Noozhawk. Kaiden’s grandfather, Capt. David Bacon, has been writing a popular weekly outdoors column, Captain’s Log, for us since we launched in 2007. Click here to read the toughest words he’s ever had to write.

Our condolences to the family, and, Kaiden, may you rest in God’s peace while we raise a glass of “Dr Pepper, no ice” to you.

2. Man Shot Dead by Security Officer at Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez

Waiting for answers at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez. Click to view larger
Waiting for answers at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez. (Kelly Hoover / Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department photo)

A Santa Barbara man was shot and killed during a confrontation with armed security officers at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez in the middle of the night Feb. 20.

According to sheriff’s spokeswoman Kelly Hoover, casino officials called sheriff’s dispatchers around 2:15 a.m. to report that two casino security officers were in an altercation and needed assistance.

“Shortly after, there was a report of shots fired,” she said. “When deputies arrived ... they determined the male subject had been fatally injured during an encounter with a Chumash security investigator behind the building near a parking structure.”

The man — later identified as 37-year-old Jose Guido — was declared dead at the scene.

Sheriff’s investigators are working the case at the casino, at 3400 E. Highway 246. Details were pretty vague, and Hoover said nothing further would be released until the investigation is complete. It was not known if there is security video footage of the incident.

Anyone with information about what happened is asked to call the sheriff’s Criminal Investigations Division at 805.681.4150. Click here to leave an anonymous tip, or call 805.681.4171.

(Mike McGee / Noozhawk video)

3. Santa Barbara’s Famed Dog Statue for Sale, Along with Historic Home That Goes With It

The Dolphin family statue at the foot of Stearns Wharf may be Santa Barbara’s most iconic animal tribute, but locals’ hearts belong to Rover. The bronze Labrador retriever has been standing alert on an Upper Eastside corner for nearly 115 years.

Want to buy him? You may have to pony up $4.6 million but Rover brings a lot more to the party than just a closet full of colorful and creative seasonal costumes he dons throughout the year. A nearby sign reads “Looking for new owner ... house included.”

Good dog. Fetch a bidder. Click to view larger
Good dog. Fetch a bidder. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

My friend, Colleen Beall of Compass, has the listing for the nearly 5,000-square-foot, four-bedroom home at 2010 Garden St., a half-acre lot on the corner of East Mission Street.

The house is part of the historic Crocker Row, one of five adjacent Mission Revival-style houses built in the late 1800s by railroad magnate William H. Crocker. In addition to Rover, the architectural landmarks are notable because each is set back farther from the street than the next one so that all five have ocean views.

According to Beall, the Warren Willet family bought the house from Crocker and brought the 340-pound, 4-foot-tall, four-pawed statue with them from Michigan. It had been cast in memory of a favorite family pet.

“People love to go out of their way to see what the dog is wearing,” Beall told our Brooke Holland. “He has become a community icon. There are boxes of labeled costumes for every holiday and every special event, like Fiesta and Summer Solstice.”

Rover also keeps up with current events. In December, he was seen wearing a N-95 mask to protect himself against the thick ash and heavy smoke from the Thomas Fire.

4. Santa Barbara Physical Therapist Headed to Jail for Bilking Elderly Couple

A Santa Barbara physical therapist is in a world of hurt after pleading guilty to bilking an elderly couple over in-home Pilates classes.

Yvonne Alish Castillo, 34, is facing six months in Santa Barbara County Jail and must pay $104,000 in restitution to the couple in the felony case, the District Attorney’s Office reported.

A licensed physical therapist, Castillo began providing in-home Pilates classes for the couple in February 2013. The couple was only identified in court as Jane and John Doe.

“In June of 2016, an employee of the victims became suspicious of the amounts that Castillo was charging them,” the DA’s Office said in a statement. “An attorney for the victims reviewed bank records and discovered that Castillo had charged them almost $200,000 for Pilates classes in a little over three years.

“The investigation revealed that Castillo never provided any invoices and always made sure that no one was present in the room when she received her checks from Mr. Doe, who was 87 years old at the time.”

According to the statement, Castillo was paid $62,100 by the couple in 2014 alone, and was collecting a cool $7,500 per month. No doubt that was without even working up a sweat. Literally, no sweat; her victims were in their 80s.

“When interviewed by law enforcement, Castillo admitted to ‘taking advantage’ of the victims,” the statement said.

The DA’s Office said the Does told the county Probation Department that Castillo “masqueraded as one person and behaved like a criminal. The only difference was her costume. She wore expensive Pilates pants instead of a ski mask.”

Sentencing in Superior Court is set for April 20, when she presumably will be getting a new daily uniform, this one not made of Spandex.

5. For Hard-Hit Montecito Residents, Recovery Focus Is Both a Short- and Long-Term Challenge

Volunteers from Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County usually build houses. These days in Montecito, they’re helping to excavate them. Click to view larger
Volunteers from Habitat for Humanity of Southern Santa Barbara County usually build houses. These days in Montecito, they’re helping to excavate them. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

The deadly flash flooding and mud flows that wiped out so much of Montecito are staggering enough, but the road to recovery from the Jan. 9 disaster is a long and uncertain one. Many shell-shocked residents have only just begun to grasp the difficulties ahead of them.

We sent our Brooke Holland out to talk to a few about their experiences and expectations, and the results are all over the map, just like the destruction.

The immediate focus is to salvage as much personal property as possible. For those of you who’ve been lucky enough to escape being flooded out, speed is of the essence. Standing water and wet mud can do enormous lasting damage to a structure and its contents in a matter of hours, if not days.

Since it took nearly three weeks until the Sheriff’s Department allowed most residents to even begin their actual recovery process ... good luck with that. At this point, mud has turned to concrete and mold has taken hold.

Thanks to legions of volunteers — some highly organized, others less so, and still others just pitching in where they can — there has been no shortage of muscle to help overwhelmed residents dig out.

That assistance has been supplemented by the generosity of county public works and Montecito special district crews, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, utility personnel, private contractors and ever-present local firefighters who have been happy to lend a hand — or a skip loader — when and where needed. In the quarter-century I’ve lived in Montecito, I’ve never seen a deeper community spirit.

Phillip Kyle and his family have been the beneficiaries of that outreach. Their yard on Santa Isabel Lane was buried in mud when Montecito Creek exploded through the Montecito Oaks neighborhood above North Jameson Lane east of Olive Mill Road.

Riven Rock mud room. Click to view larger
Riven Rock mud room. (Frank McGinity photo)

Their house was structurally OK, but they’re grateful to have the volunteer power to help clear their property.

“We should be back in three to six months,” he told Brooke.

Not far away, Noelle Strogoff’s home is relatively unscathed, all things considered. She and her late husband bought their property after the 1995 flood that destroyed the house next door — which, at the time, was my house.

Strogoff’s house is elevated two feet above base flood elevation, which was required so it would qualify for federal flood insurance. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, base flood elevation is the FEMA projection of how high water would rise in a flood that has a 1 percent chance of occurring each year.

The resulting design is intended to permit the creek to slosh underneath the two-story house and out the other side.

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t just water,” she said. “It was mud, but it worked.”

Strogoff is renting a temporary house while her property is restored, but she doesn’t plan to move back until the fall for the safety and well being of her children, a 9 year old and 6-year-old twins.

“I could go home now,” she said. “The decision is more of a safety and emotional thing.”

Meanwhile, my friend, Frank McGinity, shared his powerful first-person account of the devastation at his historic home in the Riven Rock neighborhood along Hot Springs Creek. His story reached No. 6 on this past week’s hit list.

McGinity is a CPA who specializes in real estate investment management. While determined to restore his house to its rightful glory, he’s also mindful of the risks, difficulties and disillusionment in this next phase of recovery.

It’s going to be a very long road for all of the flood survivors. Best wishes on the journey.

                                                                 •        •        •

Last Year on Noozhawk

What was our most-read story this time last year? Lake Cachuma Rising Fast After Potent Winter Storm Moves On.

                                                                 •        •        •

Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week

That’s a lot of nails: Tokyo to Build 70-Story Plyscraper Made of Wood.

                                                                 •        •        •

Best of Bill’s Instagram

@riley_the_wonder_malamute and I venture down the Hot Springs Trail, and run into my tracks from two days after Montecito’s deadly flash flooding more than six weeks ago. Click here for my Instagram feed.

                                                                 •        •        •

Watch It

Chick this out, but beware: You won’t be able to tear yourself away from the Big Bear Lake Bald Eagle Cam until you catch a glimpse of at least one of the two week-old hatchlings. Also, it’s freezing up there.

(P&D Sharpe video)

                                                                 •        •        •

How You Can Help Noozhawk

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at [email protected], follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk and Instagram: @bill.macfadyen, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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