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Dispensaries Without License Subject To Raid

February 7, 2020

Dispensaries in Bakersfield previously operating legally now face police raids as a result of local legislative action.

Previously, after California legalized medical cannabis use, shops operating with medical licenses provided patients with the drug legally across the state. However, with the passage of Prop 64 legalizing recreational use, municipalities gained a special power.

In addition to the statewide legalization of recreational use, local governments the passage of the proposal granted the ability to outlaw its sale within their jurisdiction outright. Therefore, shops previously in good legal standing faced a potential reversal after years of legal operation.

Such is the case in Kern County. There, the sale of cannabis became illegal, suddenly nullifying licenses owned by shops in Bakersfield.

Both the Bakersfield City Council and the Kern County Board of Supervisors took it upon themselves to ban the sale of cannabis within their borders.

Dispensaries Shut Down by Raids

Earlier this week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, police raided 3 separate dispensaries located within Bakersfield. Their confiscated take consisted of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of product.

Back in January, the sheriff’s office arrested 4 following raids of 6 dispensaries. Just last week, law enforcement arrested 10 following raids on 4 cannabis stores.

While officials claim the raids prioritize public safety, local residents complain about the loss of their local cannabis store.

One 75-year-old cannabis user, Cynthia Johnston, who uses the drug to treat her arthritis, expressed her dismay to reporters of Bakersfield.com. “I can hardly afford to drive to LA to buy bottom shelf bud, which is all I could afford in the first place. So a lot of patients are impacted because they could barely afford their medicine already.”

However, residents receive the chance to overturn the ban this March. Two ballot measures seek to legalize the sale of cannabis within Kern County.

Rent Hikes In Bakersfield Outpace Nation

January 17, 2020

Bakersfield rent hikes in the last three months of 2019 tripled the national average, a new report from software firm RealPage Inc revealed.

That report calculated Bakersfield rent hikes during that period amounted to 7.5 percent as compared to the national average of 2.8 percent. The Bakersfield numbers seem to result from an excess of demand. However, new legislation taking effect this year also impacts the market.

Rent control measures took effect on January 1. Those laws prohibit rent hikes greater than 5 percent per year in addition to cost of living raises. In anticipation, many rental property owners likely raised the cost of renting their units to prepare.

In conjunction with the tight apartment market in Bakersfield, the increase made by property owners surged rental costs across the city.

However, the tight market attracts builders to the area. Several large projects are slated to put hundreds of new apartments on the market. Fuller Apartment Homes plans to build a 312-unit complex southeast of Stockdale Highway and Heath Road. Additionally, Sage Equities plans to begin a 53-unit upscale townhome project before summer arrives.

Home Sales Stagnant Despite Rent Hikes

Counter to the trend in rent prices, home sales decreased. Supply and demand were both down as homeowners seem disinclined to list their houses.

While that trend normally influences prices by lifting them, they remain steady with an annualized appreciating rate of 5 percent. One factor may be the strong construction market, taking buyers away from the existing homes market.

Though, the rent hikes may also suggest many people can’t afford to buy a home right now. People moving into Bakersfield exceed those leaving, and many of them seek rented apartments. Without the funds to buy, the housing market swells with renters.

Conditions in the rental market remain tense, but rent control measures should provide relief in the long-run for California’s massive renting population.

Police Struggle to Curb Street Racers

December 24, 2019

In a pair of incidents, street racers’ reckless activities resulted in police intervention. 3 individuals had their cars impounded this past Saturday. In November, street racing led to the death of an uninvolved motorist.

The fatal crash last November began when a Mustang challenged a Dodge Ram to a race. Ronald Pierce Jr., 50, sat behind the wheel of the Mustang. Israel Maldonado, 34, stands accused of driving the Ram. The pair took off down Old River Rd. Their estimated speed reached a peak of 133 mph before the race ended in tragedy.

Pierce’s Mustang collided with a minivan at Ming Ave. As a result, the minivan slid across the median divider into oncoming traffic. That’s when a truck slammed against the side of the minivan.

Maria Blaney Navarro, 58, the driver of the minivan, died in the accident. The collision also seriously injured two of her grandchildren. A helicopter transported one of the children to the hospital, where doctors uncovered facial fractures and a bruised abdomen.

When police arrived on the scene, they found Pierce obstinate and uncooperative. They restrained him in order to withdraw his blood for a blood alcohol content test. His BAC was .24, three times the legal limit of .08.

Pierce pled not guilty to murder, gross vehicular manslaughter, reckless driving, and DUI, reports The Bakersfield Californian. Maldonado also pled not guilty to his charges of murder, vehicular manslaughter, and three misdemeanors. Pierce remains in jail on $1mil bail, while Maldonado is out on $250,000 bail.

Street Racers Subject of Police Operation

This past Saturday, police targeted street racers gathered in a parking lot on the 2300 block of White Lane. There, they cited Andrew Arista, 21, with reckless driving and impounded his vehicle.

While dealing with Arista, a second driver, Richard Demetrio, 27, attracted their attention as he drove recklessly away from the parking lot. He, too, was cited and his vehicle impounded.

Then, police tracked a crowd from the parking lot to a second location, Wible Rd. There, they observed yet another driver, Guillermo Soto, 21, driving recklessly. Once more, they cited then impounded his vehicle.

These incidents follow community outcry against the rampant street racing in Bakersfield. Chief Lyle Martin of the BPD pledged to do more to curb street racing in Bakersfield. More operations are planned in the following weeks.

2 Minors Injured in Bakersfield Mall Shooting

November 26, 2019

BAKERSFIELD, CA- The Bakersfield Police Department responded to a shooting in Valley Plaza Mall located on 2701 Ming Avenue. The two victims, both minors, were taken to the hospital for non-life threating injuries and are expected to survive, officials say.

Moreover, the Valley Plaza Mall is a popular shopping center in Bakersfield, CA. Situated in San Joaquin Valley, the mall is near Route 99 and the city’s south/north freeways.

After police arrived at the scene, they conducted a search throughout the plaza’s stores, 150 of them to be exact, and 15 food court restaurants. The tragic incident occurred near popular chain stores such as; Macy’s, Target, Forever 21, and JC Penney.

However, this was not the first time the mall has experienced shooting before. In 2005, just two days before Christmas, there was a gang-related shooting that left one man dead and many nearby shoppers fleeing in fear. The shooter got life in prison without parole.

Furthermore, police were asking witnesses to gather in the food court for questioning, they were later safely evacuated along with the mall employees.

Authorities have not confirmed a description of the shooter; however, they were able to acquire video surveillance that showed the suspected shooter fleeing the mall area.

Police were able to confirm that the mall was no longer under an active shooter situation, though the suspect remains at large. He was last seen wearing a grey sweatshirt.

In addition to this, shoppers late posted on social media thanking the employees who were working at the nearby stores when the event occurred.

One Facebook user commented, “They did a great job evacuating everyone to the back of the store safely and quickly. Scariest thing ever next to my kids.”

The case remains under investigation. Anyone with information regarding the tragic shooting is encouraged to call the Bakersfield Police Department at (661) 327-7111.

Victim of Fatal Stabbing Identified

October 23, 2019
BAKERSFIELD, CA – The man that lost his life this past Monday on a fatal stabbing in Bakersfield has been identified by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

The identity of a stabbing victim in southeast Bakersfield has finally been released through a statement made by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

The man who tragically passed away has been identified as Abrahim Mohamed Rajeh.

The 36-year-old was a Bakersfield resident, according to officials. And, his name has been revealed today after the authorities notified the victim’s family.

On Monday morning, he was found wounded in Lomita Drive, in the 1000 block. It was around 8:15 a.m. when deputies arrived at the scene to find Rajeh with severe stab wounds in his upper body.

The victim was rushed to Kern Medical, a nearby hospital, where he was declared dead shortly after, declared the sheriff’s officials.  

On Tuesday morning, David Valles, a Bakersfield native, was taken into custody as the crime’s prime suspect. The 26-year-old was located and arrested in South Union Avenue, in the block 900 of the street.

He was immediately booked into the Central Receiving Facility and is expected to appear in court this afternoon. He has been charged with murder for the alleged stabbing.

Online court records show that, at the time of the assault, Valles was out on bail. These past charges did not seem to be related to this week’s incident. Officials have confirmed that Valles is homeless.

The Kern County Coroner’s Office is conducting the autopsy, which should show Rajeh’s exact cause of death. The postmortem examination will also establish the way he died.

The investigation is still open and ongoing. The Sherriff’s Office has asked anyone with information about the incident to urgently contact them at (661) 861-3110.

They also offer a Secret Witness Hotline in case the caller wishes to protect their identity. This line can be reached at (661) 322-4040.

Two Dead in Apartment Shooting

September 23, 2019

BAKERSFIELD, CA — Bakersfield Police Department is investigating a deathly shooting that took place this a.m. inside an apartment and killed a man and a woman.

The shooting took place at the Santa Fe Apartments on Union slightly before 1 a.m. on Monday morning. When the BPD officers arrived at the scene, after being alerted by three shots detected by ShotSpotter, they found the bodies of a man and a woman in the parking lot.

The victims have been identified as Louise and Carlos Abraham, and they were brother and sister. They were 34 and 20 years old respectively. The police forces also found the deceased woman’s three children at the scene. They are 6, 8 and 10 and even though they witnessed the shooting they were not hurt.

While the authorities were at the scene, a suspicious vehicle was seen abandoning the premises. When police tried to stop the car, it fled leading to a short chase that ended when the driver crashed into another vehicle in a highway ramp.

The man driving the car was taken into custody as a prime suspect in the shooting. He has been identified as Matauto Gilmete, 39.

According to the BPD, he is the father of the three children found at the scene. But it is not clear yet the exact nature of his relationship with the victim, if they were married, separated or dating.

Gilmete had a weapon in his car when he was detained, apparently has several criminal convictions in Kern County. Among his past court records, there is a conviction for violating a court order to prevent domestic violence.

Although the investigation is still going, Gilmete has been arrested on two counts of murder and evading police.

Meanwhile, the exact cause and manner of death have not yet been released and authorities are waiting for the autopsy report.

The Kern County Coroner has asked for anyone with information regarding the shooting to call the BPD.  

Drunk Driver Causes Wreck Involving Kids

BAKERSFIELD, CA – A man who police suspect was driving under the influence when he crashed on Monday has been identified. The tragic wreck severely injured several children.

The California Highway Patrol indicates they arrested Eduardo Luis Blanco, 27, on charges from the 8:15 accident that occurred on Di Giorgio Road which is located west of Cottonwood Road.

Bakersfield Police officers allege that Blanco was driving a burgundy GMC Sierra east on Di Giorgio when the pickup wandered beyond the yellow line and crashed into the front of a westerly moving Dodge Charger.

According to officials, Blanco broke his femur while a 3-year-old in the truck suffered a fractured arm and femur and abrasions to her face. Additionally, three other passengers in the Sierra, a 9-year-old and 4-year-old endured superficial injuries.

Unfortunately, a 9-month-old also riding the Charger experienced bleeding on the brain, according to officers. Meanwhile, the driver of the vehicle suffered a broken leg an cuts on his face. A woman in the car broke her femur and got cuts on her face as well as the left flank of her body.

Both the 9-month-old and 3-year-old were immediately flown to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera. All the others who suffered injuries were sent to Kern Medical and Memorial Hospital.

Blanco pleaded no contest to a DUI charge in 2014.

Thefts Taking Toll on Business Owners

July 12, 2019

BAKERSFIELD, CA – A downtown Bakersfield business owner, Dixie Brewer, who’s been a fixture there for years, is concerned about the state of things in her location.

Just recently a man in a blue shirt came into her store consignment shop, In Your Wildest Dreams, and began laying clothes across his arm. When he was offered help by employees, the man rudely declined and continued to grab items. It was obvious to everyone in the store that this was an unusual moment. A couple of employees approach but he acts indifferent and proceeds with his shopping.

Brewer says, “He doesn’t care. He’s prepared to harm someone to get out.”

One of the employees ponders locking the doors but worries what will happen if the man feels caged. Tanner Boyd, another employee, wrote on Facebook that the man “was definitely on something.”

“I asked if he’d like a fitting room, trying to get the clothes from him, and he started for that front door where we had an employee standing right in front. This guy didn’t care, he blew right past all of us.”

Employees at the consignment shop described the man as in clean clothes and shoes who didn’t seem homeless. They, however, pointed out that he radiated a ‘you can’t touch me’ presence.

Shop owner, Dixie Brewer, is concerned with how long a business can function with this “rampant out of control behavior.”

“It’s taking the wind out of my sails,” Brewer says.

Nevertheless, she acknowledges the local police are doing all they can. “I don’t call the police anymore for this petty stuff.”

However, just three weeks past, two men and a woman showed up. The men were on bicycles and the woman on foot. The store’s security cameras captured the woman slipping into the store and then running out with merchandise. The 61-year-old Brewer raced after the woman but never caught up.

Unfortunately, this problem isn’t limited to the consignment shop. The whole downtown community is being ravaged by this kind of criminal behavior. It’s all documented on a downtown community Facebook watch page.

Local police are as frustrated as the shop owners as all feel the city is neglecting the problem. Though a recent development has city government getting infused with new money. Consequently, the Bakersfield Police Department plans to hire 100 new officers over the next three years. Business owners, like Dixie Brewer, hope the adding of new police will make a difference. Only time will tell.

Pedestrian Seriously Injured in Accident

June 10, 2019

BAKERSFIELD, CA – A car collided with a pedestrian over the weekend, sending the man to the hospital. It turns out, this happened in Southwest Bakersfield. Moreover, the incident occurred roughly around 9 p.m. on Saturday night in the 4000 Block of Wilson Road near Stine Elementary School.

Bakersfield Police say at the time of the collision the victim, a male, was attempting to cross the street. However, the police pointed out that the man was not located within the crosswalk. Consequently, it was at this time the passing car struck him.

Emergency officials immediately transported the victim to the nearest hospital with what were described as major injuries. Currently, he’s resting in the hospital and said to be in critical condition. Unfortunately, no other updates on his condition have been provided.

According to officers at the scene of the accident, the driver of the vehicle has fully cooperated with their investigation. Moreover, officers judged that he was clearly not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of accident. Furthermore, police ruled out speed as a factor in the unfortunate incident.

Police will provide more updates as they become available.

Bakersfield to Settle Lawsuit with ACLU

BAKERSFIELD, CA – The city of Bakersfield will pay $60,000 to settle a lawsuit brought forth by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundations of Southern and Northern California. The suit was issued on behalf of a man arrested in 2017 for failing to answer questions by Bakersfield Police during a traffic stop.

Bakersfield resident, Robert Mitchell, who’s African American, was the plaintiff in the lawsuit. During the incident there were three other black men in the car. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff says Bakersfield Police used the excuse that air fresheners were dangling from the rearview mirror, the tires were bald, and the car had come to rest in the turn lane with the wheels resting on the dividing line, for the traffic stop.

Judging the stop to be unreasonable, Mitchel filmed the event and initially declined to give his name to the officers. He did so on the grounds that he was not being accused of a crime. This information comes courtesy of the ACLU of Southern California.

In the video the plaintiff repeatedly refuses to answer the officer’s question. Consequently, the officers demanded Mitchell exit the car where they quickly handcuffed him and transported him to the Kern County Central Receiving Facility. He was jailed there for over 12 hours.

Mitchell commented on the ruling, “I should have never been arrested for asserting my constitutional rights. I hope that going forward no one in my community will be arrested for exercising their rights.”

The city was also happy with the outcome of the suit. As part of the settlement they did not have to admit any liability. Also, it should be noted that the ACLU had the opportunity to move this case along to court but ultimately opted not to.