Riverside City Councilwoman Dad DUI Conviction Dismissed Just Before Latest Arrest

When Riverside City Councilwoman Clarissa Perez Cervantes was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol on July 1, she was only 42 days removed from having a 2015 DUI conviction dismissed after she told a judge, “Each day I carry remorse and promise to never repeat those actions.”

That statement was contained in a petition for dismissal Cervantes, 32, filed on May 9 in Superior Court. Judge Timothy J. Hollenhorst granted the request 10 days later.

In that case, she was arrested by the California Highway Patrol at 2:20 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, on the eastbound 60 Freeway at the Frederick Street off-ramp in Moreno Valley, about a mile from the apartment she listed on the citation as her address.

Cervantes pleaded guilty to DUI with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or greater and admitted to a sentencing enhancement that states she had a BAC level of 0.15 or greater — almost twice the legal limit — according to the plea agreement. She was sentenced to three years probation and 10 days of electronic monitoring, ordered to attend a three-month first-time DUI offender’s class and was fined $2,541.

Cervantes wrote that she was going through a difficult time when she was arrested in 2014 after a night spent attending a concert with friends.

“I regrettably made the worst decision of my life when I was in my early 20’s, which was to drive after drinking one evening. At the time, I was coming out of a domestic abusive relationship that had severely impacted my mental and physical health,” Cervantes said in the petition.

“An expungement will help me in regards to access to employment opportunities, housing and higher education programs, ensuring that I have an equal opportunity of being considered in any pursuit and pathway that can have a significant impact on my life, my daughter’s my family and the greater community,” Cervantes wrote. “… (I) would like to explore federal and state positions in transportation planning and government.”

The status of the expungement was unclear this week. Although an expungement would allow Cervantes to tell a prospective employer that she does not have any criminal convictions, the documents attached to the case remained publicly available Monday.

An expungement is not bulletproof. The District Attorney’s Office still can use the conviction against Cervantes while prosecuting her or seek a longer sentence if she’s convicted, said John Hall, a DA’s spokesman. Two DUI convictions within 10 years could bring a sentence of 90 days to one year and a two-year suspension of a driver’s license, according to the Vehicle Code.

Cervantes, in a statement provided Sunday to the Southern California News Group, said she regretted her actions on Saturday. She was arrested at about 1:23 a.m. on the southbound 10 Freeway at 8th Street in Banning. She is due in court on Aug. 30.

“Last night, I made an irresponsible decision that I deeply regret. I take full responsibility, and I want to apologize to my family, my community, and the residents of the district that I represent,” Cervantes said. She did not mention her previous arrest in her statement.

Cervantes represents Ward 2, which encompasses the areas of Sycamore Canyon, Canyon Crest, UC Riverside and Eastside. She is running for the 58th District state Assembly seat to replace her sister, Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes.

Councilmember Ronaldo Fierro, who is running against Cervantes, declined to comment on the arrest. Cervantes could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday, and Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson and the other five Riverside city councilmembers did not respond to requests for comment.

City spokesman Phil Pitchford said the city is not commenting on Cervantes’ arrest other than to say it “appears to have occurred on her own time.”

But unlike members of the city’s boards and commissions, the city’s ethics code applies to the mayor and councilmembers “at all times during their term of office as public officials of the City of Riverside,” the document states.

Any person who lives, works or attends school in Riverside can bring an ethics complaint about something that happens outside the city. But Cervantes’ position representing Ward 2 on the City Council, which she ascended to in 2021, does not appear to be in jeopardy. Automatic expulsion comes only with a felony conviction. None of the punishments for violating the city’s ethics code includes removal.

Click here to read the full article in the Press Enterprise

California Police: Virginia Man Killed Family, Took Teenager

The suspect in a Southern California triple homicide who died in a shootout with police was a Virginia law enforcement officer who investigators believe drove across the country to meet a teenage girl before killing three members of her family.

Austin Lee Edwards, 28, also likely set fire to the family’s home in Riverside, California, on the day of the shooting Friday before leaving with the girl, according to the Riverside Police Department.

Deputies exchanged gunfire with and fatally shot Edwards after locating him with the teenager later that day, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and Riverside Police said in news releases.

Until last month, Edwards was a Virginia State Police trooper and was recently hired as a sheriff’s deputy in that state, spokespersons said.

Edwards, a resident of North Chesterfield, Virginia, met the girl online and obtained her personal information by deceiving her with a false identity, known as “catfishing,” Riverside Police said.

The bodies found in the home were identified as the girl’s grandparents and mother: Mark Winek, 69, his wife, Sharie Winek, 65, and their 38-year-old daughter, Brooke Winek. Police said the exact causes of their deaths remain under investigation.

The teenager was unharmed and taken into protective custody by the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services, Riverside Police said.

Police in Riverside, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of downtown Los Angeles, received a call for a welfare check Friday morning concerning a man and woman involved in a disturbance near a car. Investigators later determined the two people were Edwards and the teenager, whose age was not released.

Authorities believe Edwards parked his vehicle in a neighbor’s driveway, walked to the home and killed the family members before leaving with the girl.

Dispatchers were alerted to smoke and a possible structure fire a few houses away from the disturbance. The Riverside Fire Department discovered three adults lying in the front entryway.

The cause of the fire was under investigation but appeared to have been intentionally set, police said.

Riverside authorities distributed a description of Edwards’ vehicle to law enforcement agencies and several hours later, police located the car with Edwards and the teenager in Kelso, an unincorporated area of San Bernardino County. Edwards fired gunshots and was killed by deputies returning fire, police said.

Edwards was hired by the Virginia State Police and entered the police academy on July 6, 2021, Virginia State Police Public Relations Manager Corinne Geller told The Associated Press in an email. He graduated as a trooper on Jan. 21, 2022, and was assigned to Henrico County within the agency’s Richmond Division until his resignation on Oct. 28.

Edwards was hired as a deputy in Washington County, Virginia, on Nov. 16 and had begun orientation to be assigned to the patrol division, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. During the hiring process, “no employers disclosed any troubles, reprimands, or internal investigations pertaining to Edwards,” the statement said.

“It is shocking and sad to the entire law enforcement community that such an evil and wicked person could infiltrate law enforcement while concealing his true identity as a computer predator and murderer. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Winek family, their friends, officers, and all of those affected by this heinous crime,” Washington County Sheriff Blake Andis said.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office was assisting California agencies in the investigation.

Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez called the case “yet another horrific reminder of the predators existing online who prey on our children.”

“If you’ve already had a conversation with your kids on how to be safe online and on social media, have it again. If not, start it now to better protect them,” Gonzalez said.

An online fundraising campaign was launched Monday to help cover funeral expenses and support the victims’ families.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Homeowner Shot During Apparent Break-In At Riverside Residence

A Riverside homeowner was shot but is expected to survive after confronting three possible burglars inside his house early Sunday morning, police said.

The apparent break-in occurred sometime around 4:40 a.m. in the 18000 block of Moss Road, Officer Ryan Railsback, a spokesman for Riverside police, said.

“They did break into the home and then they were confronted by the homeowner,” Railsback said. “That’s when they shot him.”

It wasn’t clear how the trio got into the home. And police did not say how many times they shot the homeowner.

The suspects fled before police arrived. When officers got to the residence, they found the homeowner alive and took him to a hospital, where he was recovering Sunday.

Railsback said he didn’t know if the trio took anything from the home. And he said detectives are trying to determine if Sunday’s break-in was connected to other similar crimes in the same area over the last month.

There have been at least two other home burglaries in the sprawling neighborhoods just to the west of Mission Grove since April.

“It’s obvious that these are all near each other,” Railsback said. “Right now our detectives have been investigating … to determine if these are related or not. But right now at this point we can’t say if they are.”

Click here to read the full article at the Press-Enterprise

Riverside County Sheriff Sued Over Concealed Weapon Policies

Gun Open CarrySheriff Stan Sniff’s policy on who gets to carry concealed weapons in Riverside County is unconstitutional because it excludes legal U.S. residents, according to a lawsuit filed Oct. 19 in federal court. Sniff denounced the lawsuit, filed by a county resident and five gun rights groups, as politically motivated and designed to help his opponent in the Nov. 6 election.

In his lawsuit, Arie van Nieuwenhuyzen, a legal U.S. resident who was born in The Netherlands, argues his rights were violated last year when the Sheriff’s Department told him he could not apply for a permit because he is not a U.S. citizen. The Riverside resident and business owner said he bought a handgun for self-defense purposes, a need that extends beyond his home.

“Courts across the country have long held that legal United States residents are entitled to the same constitutional protections as everyone else,” the plaintiffs’ attorney, George M. Lee, said in a statement. “Sheriff Sniff’s discriminatory and unconstitutional policies and practices are denying people access to the right to keep and bear arms and violating the Fourteenth Amendment’s command that all people shall enjoy equal protection of our laws.” The other plaintiffs are the Calguns Foundation, the Second Amendment Foundation, the Firearms Policy Coalition, the Firearms Policy Foundation, and the Madison Society Foundation. …

Click here to read the full article from the Riverside Press-Telegram

How Riverside plans to use interns to help the homeless

sanfranciscohomelessPeople without a place to live or on the brink of homelessness often sleep blocks from churches and government agencies trying to lift people out of homelessness.

Meanwhile, local universities have students training to address homelessness, who sometimes travel to other counties or continents to help. The social work internship program approved by the Riverside City Council on Aug. 14 aims to connect those needs with those seeking to help.

La Sierra, California Baptist University and Loma Linda University will send 13 interns to six faith-based nonprofit organizations in Riverside starting this year. The interns will also be tasked with finding grant money to continue the program in future years and with compiling data on the program’s effectiveness.

“We have congregations with very loving people who simply need some structure for how to serve the community, and this is a way to provide that structure,” said Daphne Thomas, an associate professor of social work at La Sierra University and field director of the Riverside school’s internship program. “We’re simply putting it together.”

After a one-year pilot, the program is expected to expand to other sites, including religions other than Christianity and interns from professions other than social work, said Luke Villalobos of Mayor Rusty Bailey’s office, which is supervising the program along with Path of Life Ministries. …

Click here to read the full article from the Riverside Press-Enterprise 

Riverside to consider declaring it’s ‘not a sanctuary city’

ImmigrationRiverside is joining the ranks of Inland cities debating California’s sanctuary state law.

Councilman Chuck Conder asked at the Tuesday, April 24, City Council meeting that a discussion of the sanctuary state law be put on the council’s May 8 agenda.

“I request that, in the soonest possible timeframe, an item be agendized to discuss and adopt a resolution of the City Council declaring Riverside, being a city of laws, publicly affirm that we are not a sanctuary city,” Conder said.

The discussion will most likely be held at the regular June 12 City Council meeting, City Clerk Colleen Nicol said Wednesday after consulting with Interim City Manager Lee McDougal. The city’s sunshine resolution requires a resolution and report be prepared at least 12 days before the meeting. …

Click here to read the full article from the Press-Enterprise

San Bernardino Shooting: Neighbors Too Politically Correct?

San BernardinoSan Bernardino used to be called “The Friendly City.” That was a long time ago, well before the municipal bankruptcy and the recession and the housing market collapse and the blight. The city still had Norton Air Force Base and the economic prosperity that came with it. The nickname — which was really more of a Chamber of Commerce gimmick, much like neighboring Bloomington’s short-lived effort to brand itself “Southern California’s Undiscovered Shangri-La” (not even close) — fit, despite the racial segregation and the sizable presence of Hells Angels. San Bernardino was a working class town that aspired to middle-class respectability, and until 20 years ago, the city managed to pull it off. It had distinctive neighborhoods. People knew their neighbors.

Since then, it’s been calamity after calamity for the city of 213,000 people. The mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center last Wednesday, which left 14 people dead and 21 injured, is one more distinction the dysfunctional city could do without. Former mayor Pat Morris lamented that the massacre would “unfairly tarnish” San Bernardino, which has struggled mightily since 2012 to work its way out of insolvency. “It deeply, deeply troubles me that this happened in our city — in any city,” Morris told the Los Angeles Times. “But it’s a real double-whammy for this to happen during our recovery.”

Morris’s parochialism is understandable. But the truth is, Wednesday’s attacks were another example of how disjointed and unserious the state, local and federal officials’ efforts have been at preempting domestic terrorism — not for lack of resources, but for lack of a clear understanding of the enemies we face. It’s a credit to San Bernardino’s police force, which has seen which drastic reductions in personnel as a result of the city’s insolvency, that the crisis was brought to an end so quickly with the help of the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Authorities had Syed Farook’s name and description shortly after noon on Wednesday. A witness from the holiday party that was the target of the attack said one of the shooters had a similar height and build as Farook, who had left the event abruptly several minutes before the shooting began. Police tracked a black SUV seen fleeing the Center’s parking lot to a townhouse in nearby Redlands, which initial reports said was owned by Farook’s family. It wasn’t until after police chased down the vehicle and shot its two occupants that they learned the other shooter was Farook’s wife, Tashfeen Malik, and that the couple had amassed enough ammunition and explosives in the Redlands residence to carry off several more attacks had they so chosen.

As the news of the murderers’ identities spread, reporters began talking with the neighbors and tracking down relatives. A former neighbor in Riverside, where Farook graduated from La Sierra High School in 2003, described him as “quiet but always polite.” “Maybe two years ago he became more religious,” Maria Gutierrez told the New York Daily News. “He grew a beard and started to wear religious clothing. The long shirt that’s like a dress and the cap on his head.” Farook’s father, also named Syed, told the Daily News that his son was “very religious. He would go to work, come back, go to pray, come back. He’s Muslim.” Farook’s co-workers said he was respected and well-liked. He had traveled to Saudi Arabia and returned with a new wife he met through an online religious dating site. On his profile page, Farook described himself as an “Allah fearing, calm thought full (sic) and simple man.” Patrick Baccari, who shared a cubicle with Farook, said the couple recently had a baby and appeared to be “living the American dream.”

At this point, after dozens of attacks or foiled plots by quiet, polite guys who suddenly become religious and later start shooting people, we should know that appearances can be deceiving. What might look a little odd at the time takes on a sinister cast in retrospect. But nearly 15 years after 9/11, people seemed to have received mixed messages. The Homeland Security mantra of “if you see something, say something” conflicts with admonitions from elected officials and other doyens of the political class that “not all Muslims are terrorists” (obviously) and “religious and racial profiling is wrong” (not so obvious).

Faced with the choice of either “saying something” to the authorities about suspicious behavior that may or may not be a bona fide threat and remaining mum for fear of being tarred as a bigot people increasingly opt for the latter. Nobody wants that kind of hassle, and very few people think saying nothing will have the sort of deadly consequences that we saw on Wednesday. Yet that’s exactly what happened. CBS News reported that a man who worked down the street from the Redlands residence said he noticed “a half-dozen Middle Eastern men” coming and going from the place, but “decided not to report anything since he did not wish to racially profile those people.” Yet the man—whom the story did not identify, no doubt out of concern for his wellbeing—had enough common sense to recognize that something wasn’t right. “We sat around lunch thinking, ‘What were they doing around the neighborhood?’” he said. “We’d see them leave where they’re raiding the apartment.”

Three days after the massacre, law enforcement still has plenty of questions to answer as to why exactly Farook and Malik carried out the deadliest mass shooting since Sandy Hook. Clearly, it wasn’t just another case of “workplace violence.” But one conclusion couldn’t be clearer: a misplaced sense of political correctness very likely prevented law enforcement from learning of the threat before it could be realized. In a friendlier city, perhaps, a watchful neighbor would have said something.

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