Weekly News Roundup for Friday, December 2nd, 2022

A view of Lake Tahoe from a snow-covered road
The Lake Tahoe region experienced heavy snowfall this week, with more on the way

A roundup of the biggest news stories in California this week…

Riverside Family Killed by Catfishing Cop

Riverside Police Department outlined a series of disturbing events starting with the online catfishing of a 15-year-old girl and leading to last Friday’s triple homicide of her mother and grandparents. The alleged killer has been identified as Austin Lee Edwards, a 28-year-old police officer from Virginia. Edwards died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, ending a chase with San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies. 

Police said on Wednesday that Edwards posed online as a 17-year-old in order to “groom” the 15-year-old Riverside girl. On Friday he drove to the girl’s home and killed the her mother and grandparents: 69-year-old Mark Winek, 65-year-old Sharie Winek and 38-year-old Brooke Winek, a single mother to two teenage girls. Their cause of death has not been released. The catfished teen’s sister was not home at the time of the killings. Edwards set a fire inside the house after the murders, and drove away with the 15-year-old girl in his car. 

Police officers soon after responded to a report of a girl appearing distressed while getting into a car with a man. The officers were led on a car chase that ended when Edwards lost control of his vehicle. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said Edwards pointed a gun at a sheriff’s helicopter, and deputies fired shots. Edwards was declared dead at the scene, with the cause later determined by the county coroner to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The 15-year-old girl was unharmed, and police believe she was not involved in the murders. 

Mychelle Blandin, sister and daughter of the three victims, spoke at a news conference on Wednesday, and urged, “Parents: Please, please know your child’s online activity. Ask questions about what they are doing and whom they are talking to. Anybody can say they’re someone else. And you could be in this situation.”

(Source: ABC News)

Los Angeles to Phase Out Oil and Gas Extraction

Today, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to ban all new oil and gas wells in the city and phase out oil drilling and gas extraction within 20 years. There are currently 26 oil and gas fields and over 5,000 oil and gas wells in the city of Los Angeles. The move was spearheaded by the group Stand Together Against Neighborhood Drilling (STAND), a coalition of community groups calling for environmental justice for low-income and minority communities living near oil wells. The ordinance faces opposition from the California Independent Petroleum Association. Oil and gas industry groups expressed concern to the council about LA becoming more dependent on imported oil. 

(Source: Los Angeles Times)

Governor Newsom Calls Special Session to Penalize Oil Industry for Price Gouging

On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom convened a special session of the California Legislature on Dec. 5 to pass a price gouging penalty on oil companies that will keep money in Californians’ pockets.

The Governor’s action comes on the heels of a state hearing this week – which five major oil refiners declined to attend – to investigate this fall’s unprecedented spike in gasoline prices. This spike in gasoline prices resulted in record refiner profits of $63 billion in just 90 days, disproportionately affecting low- and middle-income families.

“Big oil is ripping Californians off, and the deafening silence from the industry yesterday is the latest proof that a price gouging penalty is needed to hold them accountable for profiteering at the expense of California families,” said Governor Newsom. “I’m calling a special session of the Legislature to do just that, and to increase transparency on pricing and protect Californians from outrageous price spikes in the future.”

During the special session, the Legislature will also consider efforts to empower state agencies to more closely review gas costs, profits and pricing as well provide the state with greater regulatory oversight of the refining, distribution and retailing segments of the gasoline market in California.

Attorney General Bonta Files Motion to Block Albertsons’ $4 Billion Payout

California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Wednesday, along with the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Illinois, filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to block Albertsons’ planned $4 billion payment of a “special dividend” to shareholders. 

Earlier this month, the attorneys general filed a lawsuit against Albertsons amid concerns that the payment would dramatically hamper the company’s ability to compete with Kroger while regulatory review of the proposed merger between the companies is ongoing. Albertsons and Kroger collectively own nearly 800 stores in California, serving households in every corner of the state and providing jobs to nearly 48,000 California workers. 

“Whether you’re buying a concert ticket or going to the grocery store, when one company is allowed to monopolize a market, it’s hard working Californians who pay the price,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Right now, Albertsons seems more concerned with prematurely putting cash back into the hands of its shareholders than protecting consumers’ access to fresh and affordable food, and frankly, I find that more than a little alarming. We’re going back to court to stop this $4 billion handout, and we’re not going to stop fighting to make sure that the proposed merger doesn’t harm California families, workers, and farmers.” 

In this week’s motion, the attorneys general ask the court to prohibit Albertsons from moving forward with the special dividend while regulatory review of the proposed merger is ongoing, arguing that state and federal antitrust law forbids parties from entering into agreements that substantially lessen competition or unreasonably restrain trade.

Winter Storms Bring Snow to the Sierras and Heavy Rain to SoCal

The first winter storm of December dumped more than a foot of snow across the central Sierra Nevada on Thursday. The storm caused major road delays, with Caltrans discouraging travel across the region. Three school districts in the Lake Tahoe region closed schools on Thursday due to the weather. Between Thursday and Friday morning, 24-hour snowfall totals ranged from 9 to 20 inches in the Lake Tahoe area, 15 to 22 inches in the southern Sierra, and 1-4 inches in the Northern Sierra/Lassen area. The National Weather Service predicts a second powerful storm will bring more snow this weekend. Be aware of potential travel impacts including chain controls and possible closures of mountain roads. 

Southern California experienced steady rain on Friday morning, with more and heavier rainfall predicted for the region on Saturday and Sunday. The wettest weather will be in the foothills, with 2 to 4 inches of rain expected for Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

(Sources: Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times)

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