AR-15 rifle found, student arrested after threat on South L.A. school, sheriff says

Two people, including a student, have been arrested in connection with a serious threat against a South Los Angeles middle school, and an AR-15 assault rifle and a list of targeted students have been seized, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Friday.

The threat was made against Ánimo Mae Jemison Charter Middle School in Willowbrook, an independent charter school where Los Angeles School Police do not have a presence, Sheriff’s Department spokesman Rudy Perez said.

Sheriff’s officials provided few details about the investigation but said more information would be released at an 11:30 a.m. news conference.

After responding to a call reporting the threat, deputies at the Sheriff Department’s Century station served a search warrant at an undisclosed location. In addition to the weapon and target list, officials reportedly found a drawing of the school’s layout and ammunition.

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The arrest comes a week after police and witnesses said a 16-year-old boy opened fire on his classmates at Saugus High School, spreading panic throughout the Santa Clarita campus and surrounding neighborhoods. Two students died hours after the shooting in a nearby hospital. Three others were wounded. The gunman, Nathaniel Berhow, shot himself during the rampage and died the following day.

Officials said the gun used in the Saugus attack was a “ghost gun,” assembled from parts and without a registration number. Sheriff’s officials Friday said the AR-15 rifle seized in connection with the most recent threat was also a ghost gun.

The South L.A. threat is one of several school incidents reported across the state in the last few days. On Friday morning, police increased patrols around Charter Oak High School in Covina after a threat to the school.

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In Visalia, a Redwood High School student was arrested Thursday after he allegedly threatened to shoot a classmate, according to the Visalia Times-Delta. Police found the threat was not credible and classes were held Friday.

Times staff writer Sonali Kohli contributed to this report.

Hiltzik: UC contracts place religious restrictions on treatment and training at its medical schools

Religious restrictions on healthcare have been developing into a public health crisis of the first order. New disclosures show how deeply these restrictions have infiltrated an institution that should be a bulwark against them: the University of California.

Clinical and educational training contracts with Catholic hospitals chains have placed religion-based constraints on UC personnel and students at every one of UC’s six medical schools, as well as some nursing, nurse practitioner, physician assistant and pharmacy programs.

The contracts remain in force at medical and professional schools at UC San Francisco, UCLA, and UC Davis, San Diego and Riverside. At UC Irvine, a 2016 contract with Providence St. Joseph Health expired at the end of May.

The [Catholic directives] are problematic because they’re not based on science, or medical evidence, or the values and obligations of the university as a public entity.

UC Regents Chair John A. Pérez

Most of the contracts are with the Catholic hospital chain Dignity Health. The contracts typically require UC personnel and student trainees to comply with Catholic Church strictures on healthcare while practicing or doing field training at Dignity facilities. The restrictions don’t apply when UC personnel and students are working or studying at UC facilities such as its own medical centers or clinical sites not operated by Dignity.

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In some cases the restrictions could prohibit UC personnel at Dignity facilities to even counsel patients about medical options that conflict with church doctrine, such as contraception and abortion. UCSF also has training agreements with Providence St. Joseph in Oregon and Washington state.

The most restrictive church rules are specified by the Ethical and Religious Directives on Catholic Health Care, known as the ERDs, a document issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that bars almost all abortions, sterilization procedures such as tubal ligations, and provision of contraceptives. The directives are in place at many of the hospitals named in the UC contracts, even though UC is prohibited by the state Constitution from allowing religious considerations to govern its operations.

The contracts were obtained by the ACLU of Northern California via a Public Records Act request. The documents raise new questions about whether UCSF officials were candid with university regents in testimony this spring over a proposed affiliation between UCSF and Dignity Health. UCSF abandoned the plan in May in the face of a public uproar and professional rebellion at the school.

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In defending the proposal, UCSF officials suggested that UC providers would be able to circumvent many of the religious strictures by transferring patients to hospitals with less restrictive rules, and sometimes through subterfuges such as falsifying patient records.

But as the ACLU observed in a Nov. 15 letter to UCSF officials, “even at the time of these assertions, UCSF … already had entered into contracts with Dignity Health that explicitly tie the hands of UC providers and require them to comply with Dignity Health’s religious doctrine.” (Emphasis in the original.)

“They argued that there was some sort of bubble privilege around UCSF providers operating in these religiously-restrictive facilities giving them greater latitude to provide evidence-based care to their patients,” says Phyllida Burlingame, reproductive justice and gender equity director at the Northern California ACLU.

But an educational training contract reached last year and effective through August 2020 shows that the UCSF providers are “specifically tied to the Ethical and Religious Directives [at Dignity] facilities.”

UC President Janet Napolitano’s office told me by email that “there is no contract that we read as restricting our personnel’s ability to counsel, prescribe or refer according to the standard of care and their professional judgment.”

Following the furor over the UCSF proposal, Napolitano established an 18-member working group of faculty and administrators from across the system to establish guidelines for future collaborations with outside health systems whose values may not conform to UC’s.

The group is expected to make its report around the end of this year. UC refused to provide a full list of the group’s members.

The ACLU is calling for the termination of any contracts that “impose religious restrictions on care.” University officials say they’re “in the process of drafting amendments” to active contracts, but haven’t disclosed the language.

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RC hospitals.jpg

One in six U.S. hospital beds is subject to Catholic healthcare restrictions; in California, the share is more than 10%.

(ACLU)

In a campus-wide message issued Friday, UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood and UCSF Health Chief Executive Mark Laret — both of whom are members of the working group — said they expect that UCSF personnel, wherever they’re working, “will always practice medicine and make clinical decisions consistent with their professional judgment and considering the needs and wishes of each patient.”

That’s a dodge. The problem is restrictions on procedures and treatments that UC providers would prescribe for patients, but that can’t be performed for patients at Catholic facilities.

“Even if UC providers are permitted to make clinical decisions ‘consistent with their professional judgment,’” cautions Vanessa Jacoby, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at UCSF, a leading critic of its Dignity proposal and another member of the working group, “the inability to carry out these clinical decisions because treatment is prohibited by religious directives forces UC providers to adhere to the ERDs.”

Any attempt to accept religious judgments on healthcare in future contracts might well run into a buzzsaw at the UC Board of Regents. “The ERDs are problematic,” says Board Chairman John A. Pérez, a former Assembly speaker, “because they’re not based on science, or medical evidence, or the values and obligations of the university as a public entity.”

Pérez, who spoke out against the UCSF-Dignity proposal last spring, said he would “have a difficult time agreeing to any renewal of agreements if they maintain ERDs and other measures that are inconsistent with UC policies and medical standards of care.”

Dignity, for its part, claims that it and UC “have always expected any physician practicing at a Dignity Health location to discuss all treatment options, prescribe appropriate medications, and facilitate access to another provider if a Dignity Health location does not provide a desired service.”

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er prohib.jpg

“Prohibited Procedures” for UCLA physicians working in some Dignity Health hospital ERs including abortions and some treatments for victims of sexual assault.

(University of California)

That’s another dodge, since under the ERDs Dignity hospitals don’t stock contraceptives even if they’re prescribed by a physician and have to be administered in a clinical setting, and the directives further bar employees from even making referrals for abortions. Transferring a patient to another hospital may not measure up to the standard of care if the patient needs immediate treatment that the Dignity location won’t provide because of the bishops’ rules.

Most of the contracts obtained by the ACLU apply to clinical training programs conducted at the sectarian hospitals for students in medicine, nursing or pharmacy. But the pacts also include a UCLA contract for emergency services and a UCSF contract for cardiology services.

Some of the contracts covering training programs give the hospitals the right to request the ejection of faculty members or students deemed to have violated the religious rules, based on the “sole judgment” of the hospital.

No cases have yet emerged of faculty or students removed from programs for violating the church rules. But two lawsuits are pending in California state courts asserting discriminatory treatment by Dignity hospitals acting in compliance with the directives.

One was brought by a patient whose hysterectomy was abruptly canceled when hospital administrators learned he was transgender, and the other by a patient who was refused a tubal ligation that was to be performed in conjunction with a Caesarean delivery, even though performing both procedures at the same time is standard medical practice to protect the health of the patient.

It’s impossible to overstate how drastically these contracts depart from California law and public policy. The state Constitution explicitly dictates that the university “shall be entirely independent of all political or sectarian influence … in the administration of its affairs.” The Constitution warns against discrimination on the basis of “race, religion, ethnic heritage or sex.”

California also has been in the forefront of the battle against the imposition of religious limitations on healthcare. Just Tuesday, in a lawsuit brought by the state, San Francisco and Santa Clara County, federal Judge William Alsup of San Francisco blocked President Trump’s so-called conscience order, which vastly expanded the rights of doctors, nurses, even ambulance drivers and hospital receptionists to refuse to participate in procedures such as abortions by claiming moral objections. (On Nov. 6, a New York federal judge, ruling on other lawsuits, also blocked the order.)

In the California cases, the state and its fellow plaintiffs had called Trump’s rule a “coercive ‘gun to the head’” that would force hospitals, other healthcare providers and their patients to “adhere to the religious beliefs and practices of every employee.”

Catholic Church restrictions on medical practice have increasingly become an issue nationwide as Catholic hospitals expand their footprint coast-to-coast through acquisitions and affiliations, reaching the point where 1 in 6 U.S. hospital beds is subject to the church directives. Dignity is now the fifth largest hospital chain in the country and the largest not-for-profit system in California.

Officials at many of the UC campuses assert they have little choice but to forge clinical and teaching partnerships with Dignity facilities because of their own space constraints. “Even with UC’s scale, access to our care at UC facilities is limited by capacity and geography,” Jacqueline Carr, a spokeswoman for UC San Diego, told me by email. “Relationships with other healthcare organizations allow us to care for more patients … and provide training to tomorrow’s health professionals.”

Yet the contracts provide for no departure from practice limitations derived from the ERDs or the church’s Statement of Common Values, a slightly less restrictive document in force at some Dignity facilities.

A February 2019 contract through which UCLA physicians provide emergency services at Dignity’s California Hospital Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles, for example, specifies nine “prohibited procedures,” including abortions, even for medically dangerous extrauterine pregnancies; physician-assisted suicide or “aid-in-dying”; “promotion of contraceptive practices”; and treatments for victims of sexual assault that aim at the “removal, destruction or interference with implantation” of a fertilized egg.

The ERDs go further than merely prohibiting certain procedures. The directives dictate that in “any kind of collaboration, whatever comes under the control of the Catholic institution — whether by acquisition, governance, or management — must be operated in full accord with the moral teaching of the Catholic Church, including these Directives.”

They forbid administrators and employees to “manage, carry out, assist in carrying out, make its facilities available for, make referrals for, or benefit from the revenue generated by immoral procedures” such as abortions and sterilizations.

In other words, by collaborating with Dignity and other Catholic institutions, UC is making itself complicit with much broader constraints on the ability of its professionals and students to serve themselves and their patients in accordance with science- and medicine-based healthcare. Those are the values that the University of California must stand up for, uncompromisingly.

Montebello student threatened principal on Snapchat to get out of going to school, police say

A Montebello high school student was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of threatening his principal on Snapchat so that he wouldn’t have to go to school.

A concerned parent of another student at Montebello’s Vail High School notified school officials of the social media post, and it was then reported to police, the city Police Department said in a news release.

Detectives interviewed the 16-year-old student suspected of creating the post, and he admitted to doing so in the hope that classes would be canceled and he wouldn’t have to attend school, police said.

Police arrested the student on suspicion of making a criminal threat. His name wasn’t released because of his age.

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The arrest came in the wake of a shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita that left two students dead and three others injured.

Last week, police in Merced arrested an El Capitan High School student they said posted a threat on social media stating there was going to be a shooting there.

6-year-old girl killed in fiery crash in Stevenson Ranch, CHP says

A 6-year-old girl was killed Monday after a driver lost control of her vehicle, striking several traffic signals and slamming into a tree before the car burst into flames in Stevenson Ranch, authorities said.

The crash took place at the Old Road and Pico Canyon Road in the Santa Clarita Valley about 9:40 a.m., the California Highway Patrol said in a news release.

A 31-year-old Bakersfield woman was driving a 2019 Subaru north on the Old Road at what appeared to be a high speed when the vehicle veered into southbound traffic and struck a curb, a sign and a traffic signal, the CHP said. Witnesses told KTLA-TV Channel 5 the driver was speeding.

The Subaru then crossed Pico Canyon Road before striking another traffic signal, a tree and a signal box. The out-of-control car eventually came to a stop at the northwest corner of the intersection and erupted in flames, investigators said.

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Bystanders pulled the driver and two children, a 6-year-old girl and a 2-year-old girl, from the burning vehicle. All three were taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, where the older girl died, police said. The driver’s relationship to the children was not immediately clear.

The child’s name had not been released Tuesday morning because next of kin had not been notified, the Los Angeles County coroner’s office said.

Luxury car bursts into flames after slamming into Army-Navy store, killing driver

The driver of a luxury car that burst into flames after slamming into an Army-Navy surplus store in Newport Beach on Sunday night was killed in the single-car crash, authorities said.

Authorities responded about 11 p.m. to a call regarding a crash at West Coast Highway and 61st Street, according to Heather Rangel, a spokeswoman for the Newport Beach Police Department. An Infiniti G35 had crashed into the corner of the South Coast Army and Navy Surplus store.

Fire crews arriving on scene quickly extinguished the flames and found a body inside the twisted, smoking wreckage, Rangel said.

Video of the scene shows the mangled vehicle on the sidewalk outside the store, which did not appear to have been damaged.

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Rangel said no other vehicles were involved in the crash. It was not immediately clear whether speeding or alcohol may have contributed to the crash, which police are still investigating.

Boy who survived shooting that killed five family members in San Diego in critical condition

When an emergency dispatcher answered the first 911 phone call from a home in San Diego’s Paradise Hills community on Saturday morning, nobody was on the other end of the line.

But an argument was heard in the background, police said.

The second call was from a relative next door, who reported hearing what sounded like the pop-pop-pop of a nail gun.

San Diego police officers arrived, looked through a window and saw a 3-year-old boy covered in blood. They broke in, and soon all the horrible facts came together.

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A domestic dispute, a gun and five dead from the same family, three of them boys under the age of 12. Another boy was in the hospital in critical condition Saturday night. Their names have not been released.

“A senseless tragedy,” San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said.

The couple at the center of it were estranged, according to police, and the 29-year-old woman had obtained a temporary restraining order against the 31-year-old man one day earlier.

It’s not clear whether he had been served with the papers, but police said they believe he was aware of the order.

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Their conflict had brought officers to the house at least once before, two weeks ago, when the man came over to retrieve tools. Saturday morning he showed up again, and the shootings occurred about 7 a.m.

Police said they found the man, woman and their 3-year-old son dead at the scene. The other sons, ages 5, 9 and 11, were taken to the hospital. Two died.

Police initially identified the 11-year-old as the survivor, but later said they weren’t sure yet which boy was which.

Police said the man shot the others and then turned the gun on himself. It was found at the scene.

“It appears to be a tragic case of domestic violence murder-suicide,” homicide Lt. Matt Dobbs said at a news conference Saturday afternoon.

It unfolded in a working class neighborhood of single-story stucco and wood-sided homes that date to the 1940s, built to accommodate a World War II population boom.

The woman and four children lived in a granny flat adjacent to a house occupied by members of their extended family.

Neighbors said theirs is the kind of street where the kids all get together after school and on weekends, riding bikes and scooters, playing tetherball and shooting baskets at a curbside hoop.

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“It’s like ‘The Sandlot,’” Jhoana Cruz said, referring to the 1993 movie about a group of baseball-playing boys. “Everybody knows everybody.”

She agonized over whether to tell her boys about the shootings.

“But I had to,” she said. “Lots of horrible things happen in the world, and it’s better to hear it from me, I guess.”

Another neighbor, Gabriel Durazo, said he often saw the children from the granny flat riding their bicycles or playing with a dog.

“They were just living the kid’s life on the outside, but who knows what goes on behind closed doors,” he said.

Two neighbors who declined to give their names said they sometimes heard the voices of adults arguing in the granny flat.

One said the slain woman had confided to her months ago that she was being abused “but she felt like she had nowhere else to go.”

Police said they are still investigating the slain couple’s history.

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During the earlier call, on Nov. 1, officers were there to “preserve the peace” when the man went to get tools from the house, they said.

“The tragedy today in Paradise Hills is terribly sad,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said via Twitter. “All of San Diego mourns for the family and the surrounding neighborhood. This senseless act of violence goes against everything our community stands for and we will get through this together.”

Councilmember Monica Montgomery, who represents Paradise Hills, said in a statement that her office was mourning “the unfathomable tragedy” alongside all San Diegans.

“As this story makes national headlines,” she said, “we all grapple with the horror of the loss of these precious lives.”

Wilkens and Davis write for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Staff writer Pauline Repard contributed to this report.

Dangerous fire weather conditions return Sunday to Southern California

For the first time in two weeks, dangerous fire weather is forecast to return to Southern California on Sunday as dry, strong Santa Ana winds — with gusts of up to 50 mph — are expected to return from the desert.

Red flag warnings will be in place Sunday for a broad stretch of Southern California, from Ventura County through Orange County, the Inland Empire and most of San Diego County, according to the National Weather Service. The mountains of Los Angeles County and the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys are also at high fire weather risk.

The air is expected to be quite dry, with minimum relative humidity forecast to dip perhaps below 10%, forecasters said. Meanwhile, the weather is expected to be hot, and maximum temperatures for this time of the year could be broken in downtown L.A., Los Angeles International Airport and Long Beach, as highs top out in the 80s and 90s.

Red flag warnings will begin at 1 a.m. Sunday. “If fire ignition occurs, conditions may be favorable for extreme fire behavior which would threaten life and property,” the weather service warned. Vegetation remains tinder dry, with Los Angeles receiving zero inches of rain since Oct. 1; the average rainfall for this time by Nov. 15 is a little more than 1 inch of rain.

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The National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center said areas with the most critical fire weather risk are in the Santa Clarita Valley and Ventura County.

Both regions have been affected by large wildfires in recent weeks; the Tick fire in Santa Clarita burned more than 4,600 acres and destroyed 29 structures; the Easy fire in Simi Valley that chewed near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library burned more than 1,800 acres, at least two structures were destroyed. Both fires have been fully contained.

Critically dry weeds and grasses that grew after the last relatively wet rainfall season, which ended June 30, combined with dead vegetation from years of drought, are of special concern during such weather conditions.

Most of California is either abnormally dry or in moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. All of coastal Southern California is deemed to be abnormally dry, according to data released Thursday.

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Farther north, meteorologists in the San Francisco Bay Area warn that there may be elevated fire weather starting Wednesday afternoon, as dry, gusty Diablo winds from the northeast return.

In Southern California, the first rain of the season could arrive midweek, followed by a period of cloudy, cool, damp conditions by the end of the week.

Low pressure dropping south along the West Coast on Tuesday is forecast to switch the wind pattern and send cooler sea breezes across Southern California, lowering temperatures and increasing clouds from north to south later in the day.

Some locations west of the mountains could see a 30-degree drop in temperatures from Sunday to Wednesday. Downtown Los Angeles, for example, which could see temperatures in the low 90s on Sunday, will probably see a high in the low to mid-60s on Wednesday.

The best chance of moisture may arrive Wednesday and linger into Thursday.

Newsom calls special election to replace former Rep. Katie Hill

Gov. Gavin Newsom has called a March 3 special election to pick a successor to former Democratic Rep. Katie Hill, the Santa Clarita lawmaker who stepped down amid accusations that she’d had affairs with congressional and campaign staff members.

The 25th Congressional District vote will be on the same day as California’s Democratic presidential primary, which could draw an outsize turnout of the party’s voters.

The district, covering Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Palmdale and part of Lancaster, has become one of the most fiercely competitive in a state that strongly favors Democrats. Hill ousted Republican Rep. Steve Knight a year ago as suburban voters nationwide revolted against President Trump and his GOP allies in Congress.

If nobody wins a majority on March 3, a runoff between the first- and second-place finishers will take place May 12. The winner will serve the remainder of Hill’s term.

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In a fluke of the election calendar that risks confusing the district’s voters, a primary for the November 2020 general election will occur simultaneously March 3. Residents will be able to vote for the same House candidate twice on the same ballot — once to replace Hill for the rest of 2020 and once for the two-year term that starts in January 2021.

“That is the biggest challenge — communicating to voters, especially to those who are diligent about following the law — that it will be legal to vote for me twice on the same ballot,” said Assemblywoman Christy Smith of Santa Clarita, who has quickly consolidated the support of Democratic leaders for her campaign to succeed Hill.

Another Democrat in the race is Cenk Uygur, host of “The Young Turks,” a left-leaning online politics show. The former Republican is now an outspoken supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Uygur, who lives about 30 miles outside the district in West L.A., apologized in 2017 for a series of demeaning statements he made about women in the early 2000s.

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On the Republican side, at least four candidates are in the race.

Knight, a former Los Angeles police officer who served two terms in the House, is running to recapture his seat. Two of his former campaign aides were instrumental in bringing down Hill.

Knight said he knew nothing about the allegations against Hill until they were published, along with naked photos of her. “We had absolutely nothing to do with what happened on this whole thing with Congresswoman Hill,” he said.

He is seeking the support of House GOP leaders, but so far has failed to clear the field.

“That’s not the way this is shaping up,” Knight said. “Part of running in a race is there will be other people running in the race, and you just have to deal with it.”

Knight’s GOP rivals include George Papadopoulos, a 2016 Trump campaign advisor who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia scandal, and Angela Underwood Jacobs, a Lancaster City Council member.

Papadopoulos, who served 12 days in prison and now lists his address as Hollywood’s Beachwood Canyon, did not respond to an interview request. But in a fundraising email on Tuesday, he said he “bore the brunt of the Deep State’s attack on our President.”

“The political establishment did everything they could to railroad me and take out President Trump,” Papadopoulos wrote, echoing the theme of a book he was promoting this week in Florida.

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Another Republican in the contest is former Navy combat pilot Mike Garcia of Santa Clarita, now an executive at Raytheon. Like Knight, Garcia opposes abortion rights and new restrictions on guns, and he supports repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Underwood Jacobs, a bank executive, says she’ll champion fiscal restraint, border security and military strength.

Garcia has a big head start on fundraising. By the end of September, he had collected more than $483,000, and Underwood Jacobs had brought in $225,000, according to the most recent financial reports. The rest of the candidates have not yet filed financial statements.

Also contemplating entering the race is Mike Cernovich, a right-wing social media provocateur in Orange County who promotes conspiracy theories. He tweeted Wednesday about the possibility of debating Uygur. Smith — who had already taunted Papadopoulos for carpetbagging — responded: “How about all of you man spread in your own damn districts?!”

Hill picked up the thread, calling Smith “a local gal” who can keep the district in Democratic hands. “Boys, please be gentlemen and step aside,” she tweeted. “She’s got this.”

Christy Smith

Assemblywoman Christy Smith of Santa Clarita has drawn wide support among California Democratic leaders for her campaign to succeed former Rep. Katie Hill (D-Santa Clarita).

(Robert Gourley/Los Angeles Times)

Smith, who has served 11 months in the Assembly, is a former U.S. Education Department policy analyst who was on the Newhall School District board for nine years. She supports abortion rights and new gun control measures, and she has vowed to make the fight against climate change a top priority, citing frequent wildfires in the district.

Given President Trump’s unpopularity, it will be challenging for Republicans to retake the seat. The district was once solidly conservative, with many voters working in aerospace, the military or law enforcement, but voter demographics have changed.

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Relatively cheap housing has drawn a huge influx of new residents, many of them Latinos and Asian Americans who tend to favor Democrats. The district’s voters are now 38% Democratic, 32% Republican and 25% unaligned with any party, according to registration figures released last week.

Hill, a former executive of a nonprofit serving the homeless, raised $8.4 million for her campaign to oust Knight, an extraordinary sum for a House race. Knight had just $2.6 million to defend his seat.

Katie Hill

Democrat Katie Hill of Santa Clarita has given up the House seat she won last year.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Hill resigned on Nov. 1 after the two former Knight aides disclosed the allegations of her affairs on conservative websites. One of them published nude photos of Hill, along with her private text messages. Hill has denied having a sexual relationship with a male congressional aide, but acknowledged having one with a woman on her 2018 campaign staff.

In a final House speech, Hill apologized to family and friends, and to the thousands of volunteers who worked to get her elected. She said she was leaving Congress because of a ruthless political climate and “a misogynistic culture” that helped her estranged husband bring down her career.

Times staff writer Seema Mehta contributed to this report.

Campaign to recall majority of Westminster’s city council advances with submission of signatures

The campaign to recall a majority of Westminster’s city council advanced this week, with organizers claiming to have enough signatures for a ballot measure to unseat Mayor Tri Ta and colleagues Kimberly Ho and Chi Charlie Nguyen.

Opponents of the trio believe that “they are corrupt, they work for themselves and not those they represent, and that their unethical actions are crippling the city,” according to David Johnson, an organizer of Westminster United, the group initiating the recall.

He said group members submitted nearly 10,900 signatures targeting Ta to Westminster’s city clerk on Monday, along with 10,800 signatures against Ho and 10,700 against Nguyen — all of which must be verified by the Orange County Registrar of Voters.

Westminster United was required to collect a minimum of 8,736 signatures, spanning 20% of the city’s registered voters.

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“We’re ecstatic,” Johnson added. “With recalls, there’s a lot of big talk, but in the U.S. or in California, to get even 50% to show up on election day is a huge challenge. But we well exceeded our signature goal and we turned it in very early.”

Ho, Nguyen and Ta have accused organizers of fraud and, through attorney Lan Quoc Nguyen and a group called the Committee Against Recall, issued a statement denouncing the effort.

“Instead of building for a truly united Westminster, recall proponents have caused deep political division and disharmony in the city, forcing the potential expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money to deal with this recall, funds that could be used for seniors’ social programs or youth activities,” the statement read.

The statement went on to say that the trio of council members has asked the Orange County District Attorney’s office for a “thorough investigation into this entire matter,” including what recall opponents referred to as “the high number of complaints from Westminster residents of alleged deception and fraud in the signature gathering process.”

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“The residents of Westminster see this misguided recall effort as nothing but a political cabal comprised of a small group of opponents seeking power at City Hall when they have miserably failed at the polls in the November 2018 election,” the statement read.

Recall supporters began collecting signatures in early August, according to Johnson — getting a funding boost from billionaire Kieu Hoang, who lives in Los Angeles County and who pumped more than $500,000 into the campaign. Johnson said that money covered hiring a political consultant and paying signature collectors, along with printing posters and buying television ads. Westminster United spent less than $10,000 on its campaign.

The group hopes to land a spot on the ballot for California’s March 3 election.

Throughout this year, the council majority has clashed with its minority, represented by council members Sergio Contreras and Tai Do, who are also targets of recall. Community members have voiced anger and embarrassment at the verbal brawls that repeatedly have broken out at council meetings.

Do, a political newcomer, immediately demanded a city code of ethics and later attacked the trio for running a “dictatorship” like Vietnam‘s communist regime.

That prompted the trio to call an emergency meeting, resulting in a news release that offered a tongue-in-cheek reassurance to residents that Westminster would not be renamed Ho Chi Minh City.

Deputy opens fire on suspect near East L.A. high school, prompting campus lockdown

Sheriff’s deputies opened fire on a suspect near Esteban Torres High School in East Los Angeles on Wednesday morning, prompting officials to lock down the campus.

The shooting, which involved at least one Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, occurred just after 9 a.m. outside the school campus on East Hammel Street, authorities said.

It was not clear whether anyone was wounded. Sheriff’s officials could not immediately provide more information about the shooting.

Los Angeles School Police said in a tweet that all students and staff are safe and the campus is on lockdown.

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