Although the dark clouds have moved on after a very rainy start to the year, there’s still a troubling lack of sunshine in Santa Barbara.
But more on that in a moment.
Until Jan. 19 when a completely different kind of breaking news stormed its way in.
What follows is my own take on that and the other Top 5 stories you were reading over the previous seven days.
For the record, this is not a news story and I am not a reporter. This is my opinion column, and I write it in my larger community leadership capacity as Noozhawk’s publisher.
And that was that.
SBPD released no other details other than to say that “the suspect(s) are still outstanding, and the Police Department is actively investigating this case. The incident appears to be isolated, and there is no apparent immediate threat to the general public.”
Police refused to provide further information about the incident at one of the most high-profile locales in Santa Barbara, in spite of repeated requests by Noozhawk over subsequent days and weeks.
In late December, Noozhawk learned that the shooting victim — whose identity still had not been disclosed by SBPD — had died of his wounds on Dec. 20.
Police — pointedly including new police Chief Kelly Ann Gordon — ignored Noozhawk’s new round of requests for details, even though that information is considered public under Section 6254(f) of the California Government Code.
Executive editor Tom Bolton, managing editor Giana Magnoli and I were in the process of elevating our request for transparency at SBPD headquarters when, suddenly, police pounced on Jan. 19.
In short order, police Sgt. Ethan Ragsdale announced — in a statement — that four men had been arrested in connection with the case.
He added that the victim, finally identified as 52-year-old Robert Dion “Rob” Gutierrez of Camarillo, had indeed died.
Tragically, the statement said, “It appears Mr. Gutierrez was an innocent bystander when the shooting occurred.”
Giana reported that police, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies and District Attorney’s Office investigators served search and arrest warrants all over the place, including the 1400 block of Chino Street, the 500 block of West Canon Perdido and the 3900 block of Via Lucero in Santa Barbara; the 1200 block of Coast Village Road in Montecito; and the 4800 block of Calle Real at North Turnpike Road near Goleta.
According to the SBPD statement, 22-year-old Jiram Tenorio Ramon, 21-year-old Christopher Dave Miranda and James Lee Rosborough, and 20-year-old Ricardo Tomas Jauregui Moreno Jr., all of Santa Barbara, were arrested and booked into County Jail on charges related to murder.
The statement said police also arrested a 16-year-old male for juvenile in possession of a firearm. The name of the youth, who was booked into Juvenile Hall, was not disclosed because of his age.
The break in the case is good news, and I pray that Gutierrez’s family and friends get the justice and closure they deserve.
Of course, some readers may think Noozhawk is just miffed that police weren’t providing us with any information in an open investigation. It’s a fair point, but it’s beside the point.
The law is the law, and it applies to law enforcement as much as it applies to the public.
Frankly, the public should be just as alarmed as we are over the Santa Barbara Police Department’s obstinate secrecy over basic details.
In the course of Noozhawk’s own investigation, we learned that Gutierrez and his companions were simply walking back to their hotel when he was shot in the neck in an unprovoked attack.
We believe the public deserves to know that.
Aside from “innocent bystanders” being gunned down at random, I would think the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce, which runs two tourist information centers near the murder scene, and Visit Santa Barbara, which helps inject $2 billion a year into the local economy, might have some questions about public safety.
The SBPD silence goes well beyond this murder, however.
There’s the still mysterious stabbing in the heart of downtown over the summer, and did you know there were at least three apparent bomb threats downtown on Jan. 19? As of Jan. 20, SBPD still has not confirmed for Noozhawk what many readers experienced for themselves the day before.
Gutierrez is survived by his wife, Gerallie, and their daughters, Ariana and Carisa. He worked in health care at a Camarillo assisted living center, was a longtime volunteer at his church, Padre Serra Parish, and coached his girls’ AYSO soccer teams.
A GoFundMe account established by friends to assist the family, described him as “the rock that his entire family leaned on.”
“His love for his family shone so bright, and he was one of the kindest people any of us will be privileged to know,” according to the post.
“Robert was funny, charming, and his warmth radiated whenever he was in the room.”
As of Jan. 2o, the account had raised nearly $33,000. Click here to make an online donation.
A funeral mass is set for 11 a.m. Jan. 24 at Padre Serra Parish, 5205 Upland Road in Camarillo, with burial to follow at Conejo Mountain Memorial Park, 2052 Howard Road, and a celebration of life back at the church’s Serra Center.
January’s epic rainstorms provided the first real test of the debris nets erected on creeks in the Montecito foothills after the deadly 2018 flash flooding and debris flows.
Impressively, the nets held and they worked.
As our Giana Magnoli reported, two of the nets — on Cold Spring Creek and lower San Ysidro Creek — were mostly clear.
But drone reconnaissance missions in Upper San Ysidro Canyon revealed that a 25-foot-tall net spanning the creek up there was packed with boulders and debris. The creek was flowing benignly over the top in a spectacular waterfall.
The Jan. 9 deluge, and less intense storms following it, washed out many roads and trails, making it difficult to access upper reaches of local canyons where three other nets are located.
I’m told that drone flights determined a second Cold Spring Creek net and the two on Buena Vista Creek were clear but had significant scouring underneath where the rivers ran through them.
The six nets were installed in 2019 by the nonprofit Project for Resilient Communities under emergency permits, and are scheduled to be removed at the end of the year. I’m guessing that decision will be revisited now, and should be.
Retired Santa Barbara fire Chief Pat McElroy, the project’s executive director, told Giana that a biologist and contractors are figuring out how to clear the collected debris, as part of a plan approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Expectations were that it would happen last weekend, but here we are still waiting.
As of Jan. 20, the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department reported that the 31,000-acre reservoir was at 95% capacity, up from 86.4% on Jan. 13.
Even though the latest rain was not as heavy, officials say storm runoff will continue to flow into the lake, the largest source of water for much of the county.
So, maybe next week?
To the relief of weather-weary locals, last weekend’s series of storms ended up being as light as forecast.
As our Tom Bolton reported, Santa Barbara County’s coastal and valley regions received only about an inch of rain, with a couple of inches in foothill and mountain areas.
While the rain let up, Noozhawk’s staff did not, with a full range of reporting from all over the county:
Three new Mexican restaurants have opened in downtown Santa Barbara in recent weeks, and our Josh Molina has covered all of them — without inviting me to tag along as a taste tester. The nerve!
Owners Edgar Estrada and Jesus Manuel “Chef Manny” Diaz describe their concept as “exceptional authentic Mexican cuisine and mixology with a modern contemporary twist on flavors and traditions.”
I don’t know about any of that but the pepper-crusted pure black rib-eye steak with Charro beans and gorgonzola corn rajas demi-glace sure sounds delicious. As do the Enchiladas de Marisco with Mexican shrimp and jumbo lump crab.
Azul Cocina is located in the former longtime home of the popular Arts & Letters Café, which closed in 2015 after a 20-year run. In between, a couple of forgettable restaurants were there for a minute or two.
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Here are a half-dozen other stories you should read:
» Music Legend, Santa Ynez Valley Resident David Crosby Dies at 81 — North County editor Janene Scully marks the end of a truly remarkable rock ’n’ roll run with the death of local iconoclast David Crosby.
» Goleta Council Reaches Out to Santa Barbara Council to Develop Airport Noise Action Plan — Exasperated by noise from commercial airline flights in and out of the Santa Barbara Airport, the Goleta City Council boards the fight many local residents have been waging on their own. Staff writer Serena Guentz checks in, too.
» Falcon Flies as First Launch of 2023 from Vandenberg Space Force Base — Janene weathers a few postponements of Vandenberg Space Force Base’s first rocket launch of the year.
» Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Held at Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara — Rainstorms cancel most outside activities, but staff writer Grace Kitayama is on the inside at Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theatre for the annual celebration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
» Rent-Controlled Apartment Project for Middle-Income Workers Set to Go Before Santa Barbara Commission — Staff writer Josh Molina is following the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara’s workforce housing project at Castillo and West Carrillo streets downtown.
» Santa Maria Council Approves Affordable Housing Project at Former Drive-In Theater Site — Janene screens a People’s Self-Help Housing proposal for a 49-unit development at the old Hi-Way Drive-In property.
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Last Year on Noozhawk
What was our most-read story this time last year? Tsunami Advisory Issued for West Coast, Including Santa Barbara County.
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Bill Macfadyen’s Story of the Week
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Best of Bill’s Instagram
My Instagram feed is a bit of a travelogue this past week.
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It looks like I’ll be swimming in the beaver pond for a while. HT to Best of Bill reader Carolyn Cranston for the pool report about this fastidious little furball.