An unmanned Predator B drone was intentionally brought down off the coast of Point Loma on Jan. 27 by an air and marine flight crew with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The intentional downing happened at about 11:15 p.m. when the maritime variant of the Predator B experienced a mechanical failure. The crew determined that the aircraft would be unable to return to where it originated in Sierra Vista, Ariz., and put the aircraft down in the water, said CBP officials.
The cause of the failure is unknown.
There were no injuries as a result of the downing, but the CBP grounded its fleet of unmanned drones out of caution, pending an investigation.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified and local boaters were warned to watch out for possible floating debris in the ocean.
Judge rejects jury field trip to alleged rape scene
Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth McClutchey told San Diego Superior Court Judge Louis Hanoian this month she wanted jurors in defendant Michael Tesfa’s rape trial to see for themselves the “extremely dangerous and extremely dark area” behind a closed restaurant where he allegedly raped a woman.
Hanoian told the prosecutor that photos and a videotape of the scene could convey the area to jurors without them physically visiting the scene behind Perry’s Café on Pacific Highway near Rosecrans Street. There is an alcove of stone behind the restaurant that is like a small enclosed patio. The victim said she was dragged there and allegedly raped by Tesfa on March 18.
Tesfa — who is acting as his own attorney — also opposed the jury’s visit during pretrial motions Jan. 24. Hanoian granted Tesfa’s motion Dec. 18 to act as his own lawyer after warning him about the dangers of self-representation.
Jury selection began Jan. 27 in the trial of Tesfa, 22, who is accused of kidnapping and raping the 30-year-old La Jolla woman. The victim said she had some conversation with Tesfa before he unexpectedly punched her repeatedly with his fist and dragged her over to the remote area around 7 p.m.
The victim said she redressed herself with clothes she found at the scene after Tesfa ran off with her clothes and cell phone. She called 911 after entering a Rosecrans Street liquor store.
Tesfa has pleaded not guilty and is also charged with robbery and false imprisonment. He remains in jail without bail.
— Neal Putnam
Suspect in slow-speed chase in OB set for trial
A judge set a Feb. 21 trial date for a suspected auto thief who led police officers on a low-speed chase through Ocean Beach streets on Dec. 13, attracting plenty of attention from bystanders.
Neil Alan Blount, 33, pleaded not guilty to charges of evading officers with reckless driving, auto theft and receiving a stolen vehicle during a Jan. 2 preliminary hearing.
A detective and another officer testified about the 20-minute chase and a map of Ocean Beach was entered into evidence. The incident started when Blount allegedly stole a 1999 black Honda, according to court records.
An officer spotted the stolen car being driven on West Point Loma Boulevard and radioed it in to confirm it was stolen. The officer followed, but Blount refused to pull over near Abbott Street.
By the time the car reached Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, five patrol cars were following it, though the pursuit speeds averaged about 30 mph. Spike strips were placed in front of the Honda at the corner of Abbott Street and Saratoga Avenue, where they punctured two left tires.
Blount continued to drive, but he turned westbound in the 5100 block of Narragansett Avenue, which ends near the ocean. Officers arrested him at gunpoint. Blount has two prior convictions for burglary in 2010 and 2011, according to records. He remains in custody on $50,000 bail.
— Neal Putnam
Test to determine prison or probation for robber
A judge on Jan. 24 ordered an Ocean Beach bank robber to complete a 90-day diagnostic study in a state prison, where officials can make a recommendation to the court as to whether the man should get prison time or if he is more suited to probation.
Douglas Michael Ellens, 39, and his mother, Debra Ellens, told San Diego Superior Court Judge Leo Valentine, Jr. that he has hit “rock bottom in jail” and wants to be placed in a residential drug-treatment program.
“I want to change my life. When I’m clean, I’m fine,” said Douglas Ellens. “I do realize I have a problem.”
Ellens said he was turned down by one drug-treatment program and his attorney asked that Ellens be screened for treatment in other programs as part of his request for the diagnostic study.
Valentine re-set sentencing for May 23. He said drug addiction was the reason Ellens robbed three banks in Ocean Beach, Point Loma and Clairemont. Ellens could get seven years for his guilty pleas to those hold-ups.
Ellens was arrested Sept. 13 in a Midway-area motel room where some of the stolen money was found. A GPS tracking device was placed with the money at the third bank, leading police to the motel.
Ellens robbed the U.S. Bank branch at 4827 Newport Ave. at 3:22 p.m. and held up the Comerica Bank at 3361 Rosecrans St.
No one was injured and no weapon was shown, although the prosecutor said Ellens wrote on two demand notes that he had a gun.
— Neal Putnam
Sentencing handed down in murder of local man
Shane Brian Grattan of Pacific Beach was sentenced Jan. 17 to 25 years to life in prison for the 2012 murder of Darrin Joseph, 45, a Point Loma man who was beaten to death in Grattan’s van.
Joseph’s family members said the victim was not homeless and had been living in a sober-living facility until about a month prior to the murder. Joseph’s aunt, Belle Joseph, told Grattan, 57, that he must have offered alcohol to her nephew, which she said likely led to Joseph’s decision to leave the facility.
Joseph’s body was found Jan. 19, 2012 in some bushes at 4960 North Harbor Drive. His abandoned wheelchair was found not far away. His blood and DNA was found throughout Grattan’s van, despite Grattan’s attempts to clean it up, according to police investigators.
As he did in his trial, Grattan said nothing during the sentencing. A jury convicted him Nov. 6 of first-degree murder. He was arrested Feb. 8, 2012.
Superior Court Judge Amalia Meza ordered Grattan to pay nearly $3,700 toward the victim’s funeral expenses and fined him more than $10,200.
Grattan’s attorney argued that Joseph had stayed temporarily with Grattan, but that someone else committed the murder. Grattan has filed an appeal.
— Neal Putnam
Carjacking case reported in Loma Portal
An 18-year-old man was the apparent victim of a carjacking in the Loma Portal neighborhood on Jan. 22.
According to police investigators, the man was sitting in his parked Honda CRV in the 3000 block of Rosecrans Street around 9:15 p.m. when another man approached him, pointed a handgun at him and demanded the victim’s vehicle. The suspect was last seen driving away northbound on Rosecrans.
The carjacker was described as a Hispanic man in his twenties, 6 feet tall with a thin build and wearing a black bandana, black hoodie and blue jeans.
The San Diego Police Department’s Robbery Unit is investigating.
Police probe holdup at Old Town Inn
Investigators are sifting through clues after a man struck the Old Town Inn during an armed robbery Jan. 17.
The incident unfolded shortly after 7 p.m. when a black suspect believed to be in his 30s walked into the motel on Pacific Highway and demanded cash from the clerk before fleeing with the loot.
He is described as 6-feet-four with a thin build. He was last seen wearing black clothing and a black beenie cap.
No injuries were reported.
Old Town vandal fails to show for sentencing
A man who vandalized the McCoy House Museum on Congress Street in Old Town didn’t show up Jan. 20 for sentencing, prompting the judge to issue an arrest warrant.
Randall Paul Dutton, 43, was free on $15,000 bond, but there was no explanation why he didn’t show up before San Diego Superior Court Judge Peter Deddeh. Dutton pleaded guilty Dec. 4 to vandalizing the interpretative museum and to charges of trespassing.
The incident occurred Sept. 27, when it was discovered that a fire extinguisher was sprayed around two rooms and a manikin was knocked down and its hands severed. A burglar alarm went off at 1:10 a.m. after a back window was broken. Dutton was found inside and arrested.
Court records say Dutton faces up to three years in prison, but he could be placed on probation. The free-admission museum is a reconstruction of an 1869 residence by James McCoy, the county sheriff and state senator at the time.
— Neal Putnam
Seniors Helping Seniors expands local operations
Seniors Helping Seniors San Diego (SHS) is expanding its service network into several new communities, including Point Loma, La Jolla, Coronado, downtown San Diego, Hillcrest/Mission Hills, Scripps Ranch, Tierrasanta, El Cajon and La Mesa.
The expansion will allow seniors the ability to choose an independent lifestyle in their own homes by providing an array of services from other caring seniors in order to maintain their desired level of independence, said SHS officials.
“Our expansion into these coastal and inland communities will provide additional care options for seniors, flexible employment opportunities for seniors who still want to work and peace of mind for the adult children of seniors who often struggle to balance their parents’ needs with their own day-to-day life commitments,” said SHS co-owner Sue Erskine.
Erskine said SHS clients find working with other seniors to be more comfortable because they understand and appreciate the challenges of remaining independent.
“Our care providers know from their own experiences how best to assist seniors to manage a variety of non-medical tasks,” she said. “Additionally, our services often are more cost-effective as they are designed to address each client’s individual needs versus charging for a standard minimum amount of time.”
Services provided include companion care, light housekeeping, personal care, transportation, overnight supervision, 24-hour care, house maintenance and small repairs and yard work. In most cases, the care is provided in the senior’s own home; however, occasionally the client may reside with a relative or live in an assisted-living community or other group living setting and services can be provide there.
Each care provider undergoes a thorough background investigation by an independent company specializing in these services to help ensure the safety and welfare of each SHS client.
For more information, call (619) 346-4535, or visit www.seniorshelpingseniors.com/sandiego