Homeless evictions continue in southeast Chico Chico police block media from watching; upset citizens decry policy

photo by Karen Laslo
An officer tells a homeless woman at Humboldt and Forest to be out by evening on Feb. 16 as she stares into a small mirror.

by Leslie Layton

Chico Police Department today blocked the media from Boucher Street as officers informed homeless people camping there and at Forest and Humboldt streets that they had to move.

Unhoused people at both sites had been given 72-hour eviction notices that had expired. And as the rain ceased and the sun broke through today, police moved in on the encampments.

At Boucher and Wisconsin streets, community members offered to help campers load tents and possessions into trucks and move them if they had someplace to go. A few people chose to move to beneath the Highway 99 overpass in lower Bidwell Park. But with no shelter space available in the city, many didn’t know what to do. read more

Police expert: Excessive shots by Chico officer Vest, when down, shot twice in back, and in back of neck

photo from “The Daily Show”
Former police officer and use-of-force expert Seth Stoughton interviewed by television host Trevor Noah.

by Dave Waddell

An ex-cop who researches police use-of-force issues says an excessive number of shots were fired by Chico police officer Tyler Johnson in his October killing of Stephen Vest.

At a Jan. 14 media briefing, Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey ruled that Johnson, who fired nine shots, and police Sgt. Nick Bauer, who shot twice, were justified in killing Vest and would face no criminal charges. Vest, 30, was in a meth-fueled mental crisis and holding a knife when shot.

Vest was hit by a total of eight police bullets, including six rounds from Johnson’s 9mm Glock. Johnson shot Vest twice in the chest, once in the shoulder, twice in the back, and once in the back of the neck. Video from Johnson’s body-worn camera indicates the neck shot came when Vest was on his knees, head bowed, falling forward. The barrage of bullets ended with two final rounds into Vest’s back as his midsection touched the asphalt. read more

Heavy equipment used to remove belongings in Bidwell Park As campers are pressed to move, protesters ask where they'll go

photo by Karen Laslo
Loading up belongings for removal.

A bulldozer arrived early today in lower Bidwell Park when city employees, accompanied by Chico Police Department Target Team members, began clearing what Councilor Scott Huber said was “abandoned personal property” at the horseshoe pits encampment.

The action follows a vote by the new conservative majority on the Council to enforce a ban on camping in the park. Huber stood with about 60 protesters who, with signs, banners and conversation, pointed out that the homeless living in the park have nowhere to go. read more

An election ends Gridley’s “political slumber” Chico Democrats look to the small farming town for lessons

photo courtesy of Catalina Sanchez
Sanchez will be the first Latina to serve on the Gridley City Council.

by Leslie Layton

There are many things to say about the Nov. 3 General Election, including this: in southern Butte County, the small town of Gridley has awoken from decades of political slumber.

Three incumbent city councilmembers were ousted in Gridley, and two of the candidates who won their seats are apparently the first Mexican-Americans elected to the Gridley City Council. This fact in itself is surprising, because about half of Gridley’s residents are identified as Hispanic or Latino, with the vast majority of that population coming from families that immigrated from Mexico. read more

Conflict of interest in Stephen Vest killing probe? Shooting sergeant member of Ramsey investigative team

from Butte County District Attorney website
Chico police Sgt. Nick Bauer, a member of the DA’s OIS investigation team, worked on the report about the killing of Mark Jensen.

by Dave Waddell

The Chico Police Department sergeant who shot Stephen Vest last month is a member of a designated team of officers that investigates officer-involved shootings in Butte County.

Sgt. Nick Bauer has been part of District Attorney Mike Ramsey’s Officer Involved Shooting/Critical Incident Protocol Team, which Ramsey has described as made up of “seasoned” law enforcement officers from agencies throughout the county.

In killing Vest on Oct. 14, Bauer fired his revolver twice, while officer Tyler Johnson shot eight or nine times in two seconds, Ramsey said. Vest was armed with a folding knife with a roughly 4-inch blade. Other than Vest, no one was hurt in the incident. read more

Reformers want outside probe into police killing Stephen Vest slipped through the cracks, observers say

photo courtesy of Lisa Currier
Stephen Vest as a youngster in Paradise.

by Dave Waddell and Leslie Layton

Chico police reform advocates are questioning the independence of the investigation underway into the killing of Stephen Vest, who was shot Oct. 14 by an officer and his sergeant after Vest’s behavior frightened motorists and passersby.

Reform advocates want a state investigation into the killing outside the local Petco store. Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey insists his system for investigating police shootings ensures impartiality and falls within the purview of his position. read more