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California

Ugly Special Election battle between LGBT candidates

Luis Lopez and ally Wendy Carrillo face-off

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Luis Lopez (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Tuesday voters in Assembly District 51 will determine who will replace recently elected Congress member Jimmy Gomez as their representative in the California Legislature—Luiz Lopez or Wendy Carrillo. For LGBT voters in the Eagle Rock, Echo Park, Silver Lake area, the choice might seem logical—the gay guy with lots of political experience and strong LGBT organizational backing. But this is politics and Carrillo has very strong LGBT backing, too. Unfortunately, in the waning days of the race, it’s gotten ugly with Lopez’s backers accusing Carrillo’s campaign of homophobic attacks and Carrillo’s supporters shooting back against “baseless attacks.”

The Democrats are the top two vote-getters out of 13 candidates in a low-turnout election last October.

Carrillo won 22.16% of the vote and Lopez pulled 18.59% in an election where just 10% of the roughly 223,000 registered voters in the district— which also includes Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, City Terrace and unincorporated East LA—cast ballots, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Both candidates are smart, progressive and have union backing, though they differ in experience.

López, 44, the director of government affairs for City of Hope Medical Center since 2015 and a neighborhood activist, has a master’s degree in public policy, housing and urban development from Harvard and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Pomona College. But for the most part, Lopez’s career has been in the public health sector. From 2003 to 2015, Lopez worked in various capacities at AltaMed Health Services, including spearheading the formation of the Latino Coalition Against AIDS. He’s served on the board of Planned Parenthood/Los Angeles since 2010 and has received their endorsement. In 2005, he co-founded the statewide Latina/o LGBT political action committee Honor PAC and served as founding president for five years and during the fight against Prop 8, he helped open the campaign’s East L.A. office.

He lives in the Eagle Rock with longtime progressive activist, Hans Johnson, his partner of 13 years.
Lopez has been endorsed endorsements by slew of LGBT elected officials, including out LA County Assessor Jeff Prang, LA City Controller Ron Galperin, LA Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, former Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg, Rep. Mark Takano, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, as well as the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, Equality California, Honor PAC, the Victory Fund, Stonewall Democrats, and others, including LaOpinion newspaper.

“I have served meaningfully in my district,” Lopez told The Times. “My opponent has not.”

Wendy Carrillo and now Rep. Jimmy Gomez. (Photo courtesy Carrillo campaign)

But Lopez does not have a corner on LGBT endorsements. Carrillo is backed by much of the Democratic political establishment, endorsements including the man she hopes to replace, Jimmy Gomez, as well as out State Sen. Ricardo Lara, former rival Alex De Ocampo, as well as the California Democratic Party, chaired by out Eric Bauman, and the LA County Democratic Party, chaired by out Mark Gonzalez.

Carrillo graduated with a BA from East Los Angeles College and Cal State LA, and she has a Master’s Degree from USC. She has an award-winning journalistic career in community radio and on social media as a host and producer. Prior to that, she worked as served as a communications manager for SEIU ULTCW dealing with an array of labor issues.

Both have compelling personal stories. Lopez about was born in East LA and raised in El Monte without his mother after she died of kidney disease when he was 8 years old. Nonetheless, his public school education got him to Harvard. Carrillo came to the US as an undocumented child from El Salvador, becoming a US citizen in her early 20s.

“I think my story speaks to the story of this district,” Carrillo told The Times. “It is a time in which women and immigrants and the undocumented community are being attacked on a federal level. It is a perfect opportunity for this district to be a voice of progress.”

The explosion of sexual harassment allegations in the state capitol may give a boost to Carrillo’s campaign. But news that she “benefited from over $500,000 in outside spending from independent expenditure committees largely funded by labor unions,” including “support to the tune of $38,000 from a committee funded by charter school proponents,” as The Times reported, may hurt her with advocates for public schools—Lopez is endorsed by UTLA, the United Teachers of Los Angeles.

But it’s a last minute attack, believed to be spearheaded by Carrillo’s SEIU backers, that may have serious repercussions beyond Tuesday’s election. Just before Thanksgiving, the union-backer sent out roughly $9,583 worth of mailers that claim Lopez—who works as a government lobbyist for the City of Hope—can’t be trusted because he is in the pocket of big oil and Big Pharma because his supporters at one time took donations from these big companies. The link on the mailer has been taken down on Sunday—but for weeks it linked to filings by Equality California during last year’s San Francisco Assembly race between gay Scott Wiener and ally Jane Kim. EQCA backed Wiener while SEIU backed Kim.

EQCA, HONOR PAC and out Assemblymember Evan Low, chair of the LGBT Legislative Caucus took the attacks as misleading and homophobic.

“We are disgusted to see yet another homophobic smear campaign rear its ugly head, this time launched by supporters of Wendy Carrillo against openly gay candidate Luis Lopez in the race for California Assembly District 51. In campaign mailers and digital communications, supporters of Wendy Carrillo attacked the integrity not only of Luis Lopez, but also of Equality California and members of California’s LGBT Legislative Caucus, conveying false information to voters about the funding of his campaign,” HONOR PAC President Mario Ceballos and Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a joint statement.

“Let us be clear,” they continue. “The message that a gay man cannot be trusted, containing false and misleading hits on LGBTQ organizations and LGBTQ elected officials that support him, is intended both to intimidate LGBTQ people from participating in the electoral process and to achieve electoral advantage due to anti-LGBTQ bias and homophobia. Attacks like this are also intended to undermine LGBTQ leadership organizations, and thus the LGBTQ community, because these are the organizations that protect and advance our community’s needs and interests.”

“SEIU’s dirty attack towards the LGBT community is sickening,” said Low. “The California LGBT Legislative Caucus is one of the most progressive organizations in the state working with EQCA on our collective mission to fight for our progressive agenda. That agenda includes electing more openly LGBT candidates and people of color to office. It is shameful that SEIU would smear the LGBT community and I call on them to stop and apologize for undermining our progressive agenda.”

“It’s completely unacceptable to attack an LGBT candidate simply for accepting support from Equality California – one of the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organizations – and from the LGBT Legislative Caucus,” said out Assemblymember Wiener. “EQCA and the LGBT Legislative Caucus fight day in and day out to pass legislation protecting and advancing the rights of LGBT people, including our transgender brothers and sisters as they are under attack nationally. These organizations support LGBT candidates and allies who will fight for our community, which is why they are supporting Luis Lopez, a gay man with a long track record fighting for the LGBT community. Our community is under attack in this country from the Trump Administration, and we need champions. What we don’t need are cheap-shot campaign attacks that cynically try to undermine the credibility of our LGBT leadership. I call on SEIU to stop attacking EQCA and the LGBT Legislative Caucus for going to bat for an LGBT candidate.”

In response, out LA County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez called the charges of homophobia “Baseless Straw-Man Claims” and urged support for Carrillo.

“I read the resumes of those running in this race. I’ve researched their positions and who they align themselves with. Let me say that it’s clear there’s only one person who will be a champion for all her constituents. Whether people are rich or poor, working nine-to-five or five-to-nine, my friend Wendy is the obvious choice to represent them in the 51st. This is why she is the ONLY candidate in this race endorsed by the Democratic Party,” said Gonzalez.

“Wendy has worked to improve the lives of every single individual in Los Angeles. She knows the issues effecting everyone living in this district, from housing affordability, to minimum wage, to healthcare access, to making sure that everyone has an equal shot at the American Dream. We all work every day to make Los Angeles and California an ever more progressive beacon, and with Wendy Carrillo in Sacramento, our work will be that much more effective,” he continued.

“This is why baseless attacks from supporters of Wendy’s opponent arbitrarily calling her and her supporters ‘homophobic’ just for questioning Luis Lopez’s supporters’ use of oil contributions is despicable. Lopez’s camp pulled the same low-brow tactic when he ran against Jimmy Gomez for this exact seat in 2012. The voters saw through it then, and they will see through it on election day.

“Then LACDP Chair and openly gay Eric C. Bauman stood by Jimmy Gomez as Lopez’s supporters erroneously labeled him as a homophobe, and I, current LACDP Chair and an also openly gay man who is a lifelong resident of Assembly District 51, stand beside Wendy Carrillo today,” Gonzalez said.

“These baseless attacks against this impressive woman are just that. They are tactics outside of what is reasonable or acceptable, and to those of us who have been in politics a while, it reeks of a campaign in desperation,” he said. “We implore all those in Assembly District 51 and in Los Angeles to heed our call: Wendy Carrillo will be the Assembly Member District 51 needs, who will be there for all her constituents.”
The key will be turnout—will the Democratic establishment and SEIU get out the vote for Carrillo or will the neighborhood grassroots activists turn out for Lopez.

López, 44, the director of government affairs for City of Hope Medical Center since 2015 and a neighborhood activist, has a master’s degree in public policy, housing and urban development from Harvard and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Pomona College.  But for the most part, Lopez’s career has been in the public health sector. From 2003 to 2015, Lopez worked in various capacities at AltaMed Health Services, including spearheading the formation of the Latino Coalition Against AIDS. He’s served on the board of Planned Parenthood/Los Angeles since 2010 and has received their endorsement. In 2005, he co-founded the statewide Latina/o LGBT political action committee Honor PAC and served as founding president for five years and during the fight against Prop 8, he helped open the campaign’s East L.A. office. He lives in the Eagle Rock with longtime progressive activist, Hans Johnson, his partner of 13 years.

Lopez has been endorsed by slew of LGBT elected officials, including out LA County Assessor Jeff Prang, LA City Controller Ron Galperin, LA Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, former Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg, Rep. Mark Takano, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, as well as the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, Equality California, Honor PAC, the Victory Fund, Stonewall Democrats, and others, including LaOpinion newspaper.

Check out LAVote.net for polling place and other Special Election information.

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Los Angeles

24-year-old trans Latina Angeleno & makeup artist shot to death

“This incident has prompted renewed calls for legislative action to address gun control and protect marginalized groups from violence”

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Meraxes Medina/Instagram

LOS ANGELES – In a tragic incident that has shaken the community and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, Meraxes Medina, a 24-year-old transgender Latina and makeup artist, was fatally shot in Los Angeles on March 21.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, Medina was found dead on the road in South Los Angeles. The LAPD said she was shot in the head and that there was evidence she was also struck by a vehicle. Friends and family have confirmed Medina’s identity, celebrating her life and mourning her untimely death, which marks another violent act against transgender individuals.

Medina, known for her work at Universal Studios and her vibrant presence on social media, had begun hormone therapy and was navigating life as an undocumented person who had faced homelessness. Despite these challenges, those close to her remembered her for her potential and the positive impact she had on those around her. Friends have expressed their grief and shock, emphasizing Medina’s kindness, talent, and the bright future they believed she deserved.

The circumstances surrounding Medina’s death reflect a larger pattern of violence targeting the transgender community, particularly transgender women of color. Advocacy groups have highlighted the disproportionate impact of gun violence on transgender individuals, noting that a significant percentage of homicides within this community involve firearms.

The incident has prompted renewed calls for legislative action to address gun control and protect marginalized groups from violence.

California chapters of groups with Everytown for Gun Safety released a statement underscoring Medina was at least the third transgender person killed by gun violence in the U.S.

“We cannot ignore the disproportionate impact of gun violence on our transgender and gender-expansive neighbors, especially its impact on Black trans women and trans Latinas. We must honor Meraxes’ legacy by continuing to fight to protect our transgender and gender-expansive communities not only in California, but across the country,” said Ashley Castillo, a student leader with Students Demand Action and National Organizing Board Member.

As the investigation continues, Medina’s death serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for a societal shift to ensure the safety and dignity of all individuals, regardless of gender identity. “The loss of Meraxes Medina is not only a tragedy for those who knew her but also a call to action to combat hate and violence against the transgender community,” said one activist.

“Meraxes was a young woman who deserved to live out a long and fulfilling life. At just 24-years-old, she had so much more to give. Yet again, we find ourselves honoring the life and mourning the loss of someone from our transgender community killed by gun violence, and that alarming reality should emphasize our collective need to fight against lax gun laws. We need to come together and remind everyone, especially lawmakers and politicians, that our lives are worth saving and worth living,” said Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.

Bamby Salcedo, President/CEO of The TransLatin@ Coalition, issed the following statement:  “It’s unfortunate that our sister Meraxes Medina had to perish to the ignorance and violence that we continue to experience as a community, and these are just another examples of what our lives are, and we want to ensure that we hold elected officials accountable for bettering our lives and our future.”

KABC 7 reported between 2017 and 2023, there were 263 reported homicides of transgender people in the U.S., according to the organization. A gun was used in 193 of them.

In California, there were 14 homicides of transgender people reported between 2018 and 2024 so far, and 37% were in Los Angeles.

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Los Angeles County

City of Malibu backing two bills aimed at making PCH safer

Between March 11 & 17, the Malibu CPH Task Force issued 109 citations (88 for speeding & two for distracted driving)

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CHP patrol cruiser on Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) near Malibu during a traffic stop. (Photo Credit: California Highway Patrol Media Affairs)

MALIBU, Calif. – The City of Malibu is supporting efforts by officials in Sacramento to increase and ensure efforts aimed at making the Pacific Coast Highway safer for drivers and pedestrians.

In a statement a spokesperson said that as part of the City’s commitment to addressing PCH safety and ensuring public safety in the community, the City sent a delegation of officials to Sacramento to support two State traffic safety bills, SB 1297 and SB 1509. Both bills were approved by the key State Senate Transportation Committee April 9 and will continue through the legislative process.

SB 1297, introduced by Senator Allen (co-authored by Assemblymember Irwin and Senators Stern and Friedman), would expand the State’s automated speed safety pilot program to allow the City of Malibu to participate. The City has advocated for the installation of the speed camera systems on PCH that can automatically issue citations to speeding motorists as one of the steps to help improve safety on PCH.

AB 1509, the NOT in California Act, was introduced by Senator Stern (co-authored by Senators Allen, Niello, Seyarto and Umberg), and would amend the CA Vehicle Code to make convictions of driving 26 MPH or greater over the posted speed limit, a two-point violation against a person’s driver’s license.

Malibu Mayor Pro Tem Doug Stewart, City Manager Steve McClary, Deputy City Manager Alexis Brown gave testimony and advocated for the Bills.

They were joined by Barry Stewart, whose daughter Peyton was one of the four Pepperdine students who were tragically killed by a speeding motorist while walking on PCH in October 2023, and Michel Shane, whose 13-year-old daughter Emily was tragically killed by a motorist while walking on PCH in 2010. Shane produced the powerful, moving film “21 Miles” about the dangers of PCH in Malibu. Both gave impassioned testimony about the dangers of PCH and the urgent need to improve safety conditions on the highway.

According to the California Highway Patrol, between March 11 and 17, the Malibu CPH Task Force issued 109 citations (88 for speeding; two for distracted driving; one for a seatbelt violation; and 18 for equipment violations). Four verbal warning were issued. One driver was stopped for speeding, and was arrested for DUI. Year-to-date, the CHP Malibu Taskforce has issued 721 citations. 

The City Council on March 25 approved sending a letter urging Governor Gavin Newsom, State Senator Ben Allen, Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, LA County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath, LA County Sheriff Robert Luna, California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin, and Caltrans Director Tony Tavares to work collaboratively to make changes to the State Vehicle Code to help address PCH safety. The changes include: 

  • Anybody who exceeds 100 MPH shall lose their driver’s license for three months, and anybody who exceeds 100 MPH more than once in a 12-month period shall lose their driver’s license for six months.
  • Anybody who exceeds twice the posted speed limit shall lose their driver’s license for one month, and anybody who exceeds twice the posted speed limit more than once in a 12-month period shall lose their driver’s license for two months. 
  • The loss of license in these instances shall be mandatory not discretionary.

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Southern California

Triple A: Gas prices continue upward by double digits

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.41, which is 21 cents higher than a week ago

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Triple A Auto Club/Los Angeles Blade

LOS ANGELES – Southern California gas prices increased by about two cents a day in the last week, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch. The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.41, which is 21 cents higher than a week ago. The average national price is $3.63, which is six cents higher than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $5.36 per gallon, which is 13 cents more than last week, 42 cents higher than last month, and 42 cents higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $5.34, which is 13 cents higher than last week, 42 cents higher than last month, and 41 cents higher than this time last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $5.31, which is 12 cents higher than last week, 40 cents higher than last month, and 42 cents higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $5.27, which is 14 cents higher than last week, 46 cents higher than last month and 44 cents higher than a year ago. In Bakersfield, the $5.24 average price is 17 cents more than last week, 43 cents more than last month, and 37 cents higher than a year ago today.

“Some additional refinery outages have further reduced fuel production and increased pump prices, and Oil Price Information Service reports that imported gasoline has been ordered and should arrive later this month or in early May,” said Auto Club Spokesperson Doug Shupe.

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on April 11, averages are:

socal blue gas chart 4-10-24
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Los Angeles

LAPD monitoring threats against TransLatin@ Coalition

“These acts of violence underscore the urgent need for comprehensive measures to protect and uplift the most vulnerable among us”

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Los Angeles Police Department vehicles responding to a call for service. (Los Angeles Blade/LAPD file photo)

LOS ANGELES – In a concerning escalation of threats against LGBTQIA+ organizations throughout the country, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) confirmed that a bomb threat was called in to the department on March 28, aimed at the TransLatin@ Coalition (TLC), a vanguard organization for Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, and Intersex (TGI) Latinx communities.

The threat, specifying April 15 as the target date, has prompted an immediate and ongoing response from local authorities to ensure the safety of those at the coalition’s facilities. The LAPD has since been closely monitoring the site. 

This recent threat comes at a time when the TLC, alongside other organizations within the LGBTQIA+ community, faces increasing hostility, underscored by a series of bomb threats and hate mail aimed at destabilizing the work and well-being of TGI Latinx individuals.

In response to the threat, Bamby Salcedo, the President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition has amplified security measures at TLC and reinforced the importance of emergency preparedness among the staff, emphasizing the coalition’s dedication to fostering a secure and supportive environment despite the daunting challenges posed by such threats.

The bomb threats have been accompanied by hate mail, filled with vitriolic anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and attacks on the Democratic Party, aimed at undermining the coalition’s mission and intimidating its leadership, including Salcedo and Vice President/COO Maria Roman Taylorson.

Despite these attempts to sow fear, the TransLatin@ Coalition stands firm in its mission. “We refuse to be silenced or intimidated,” Salcedo said.

The organization continues to call for unity and action, urging the public to stand in solidarity with TGI communities, report threats or violence, and advocate for greater acceptance and understanding of TGI identities.

The coalition’s commitment to the rights, empowerment, and well-being of TGI Latinx individuals in the United States remains unwavering. Through advocacy, education, and community organizing, the TLC addresses the unique challenges and systemic injustices faced by this community, emphasizing the intersectionality of race and economic status.

As the TLC navigates through these trying times, they have also taken to social media to call for support and positivity, highlighting the unexpected financial strain of heightened security measures. 

This recent threat against the TLC occurs amidst a broader climate of heightened animosity towards the LGBTQIA+ community, as reported by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The HRC’s documentation of fatal violence against transgender and gender-expansive individuals in 2024 alone paints a grim picture of the dangers faced by the community.

“These acts of violence and discrimination underscore the urgent need for comprehensive measures to protect and uplift the most vulnerable among us,” HRC noted.

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Los Angeles County

New on the LA County Channel

You can watch on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

New on the County Channel

Culinary classes, big screen movies, games and other delights for the entire family await those ready to venture out after the sun goes down for the beloved “Parks after Dark” Spring season at participating County parks.

You can watch more stories like this on Channel 92 or 94 on most cable systems, or anytime here. Catch up on LA County Close-Up here.

In Case You Missed It

Second Chance Month Expungement Events

Every person deserves the chance to rewrite their story. As we celebrate “Second Chance Month” in LA County, the Public Defender’s Office will be hosting a series of expungement clinics across the county. 

Join the Public Defender’s Homeless Mobile Unit for Community Outreach Court at the Skid Row Community ReFresh Spot on Thursday, April 18th from 9am-12pm. This collaborative effort aims to assist individuals experiencing homelessness in resolving various legal matters, including record expungement, that can remove obstacles hindering access to housing, employment and social services.

For more information about the Community Outreach Court, visit pubdef.lacounty.gov/COC. For a full list of upcoming expungement events, click here.

At Your Service

Resilience is Taking Root in LA County

The Chief Sustainability Office has just released the discussion draft of Room to Grow, the first-ever Community Forest Management Plan in LA County. The Community Forest Management Plan is an actionable, long-term strategy to manage trees in our communities for today and for future generations to come.

To learn more about the plan and provide your input, visit lacountycfmp.org.

Out and About

Kids Beach Cleanup

In celebration of Earth Day, LA County Beaches and Harbors is partnering with Heal the Bay to host Kids Beach Cleanup event at Dockweiler Beach on Saturday, April 13, 9 AM – 12 PM.

Click here to learn more and/or register for the event.

Photo Finish

LA Dodgers mural in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.
(Photo: Los Angeles County/Mayra Beltran Vasquez)

Click here to access more photos of LA County in action.

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Orange County

Hate crime trial in murder of gay student starts in Orange County

Samuel Lincoln Woodward of Newport Beach is charged with murder, with enhancements for use of a deadly weapon and for hate crime

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Samuel Lincoln Woodward of Newport Beach, charged in the stabbing death of a gay & Jewish university student, 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein, is shown here in a March, 2024 hearing wearing a white shirt & shackled. (Screenshot/YouTube KABC 7)

SANTA ANA, Calif. – Nearly seven years after 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student Blaze Bernstein was found stabbed to death at Borrego Park in Lake Forest, California, a former schoolmate charged with his murder was to stand trial today in Orange County Superior Court after years of delays.

Samuel Lincoln Woodward of Newport Beach is charged with murder, with enhancements for use of a deadly weapon and for hate crime, which could put him in prison for life without parole.

Bernstein, who was home on the Christmas holiday break, had disappeared on Jan. 2. In court filings, Orange County Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker said that he went out without his parents knowing and after he did not respond to text messages or calls regarding a missed dental appointment they returned home discovering that Bernstein’s wallet, glasses, credit cards and cash were in his bedroom with his car still in the driveway.

University of Pennsylvania student Blaze Bernstein with his parents Jeanne Pepper and Gideon Bernstein in this undated family photo.

A massive search was launched to find him and after developing information from social media accounts that led investigators to Woodward who had admitted meeting up with Bernstein and later allegedly “dropping” the young man off at Borrego Park, Bernstein’s body with 19 stab wounds was found on Jan. 9, 2018, in a shallow grave during a search of that park.

When Orange County investigators first went to meet with him, Woodward was apparently cooperative, telling them and Blaze’s parents “that he and Blaze went to Borrego Park to hang out. According to Woodward, after awhile Blaze walked down a path alone and disappeared into the brush.” 

According to a search warrant affidavit, which the Orange County Register obtained before it was sealed, Woodward claimed that Bernstein tried to kiss him on the lips and he pushed Bernstein away. Detectives noted that Woodward clenched his jaw and fists when recounting the incident, telling them he wanted to call Bernstein a “faggot” and tell him to get off him.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas subsequently added a hate crime charge to the one count of felony murder with sentencing enhancement for “personal use of a knife.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that on Woodward’s phone, investigators found “a trove of anti-gay, anti-Jewish material linked to the Atomwaffen Division, a white supremacist hate group.” In addition to the physical evidence — investigators say Bernstein’s blood was found in Woodward’s car and on a knife at Woodward’s Newport Beach home — the alleged motivation elevates a murder to a possible hate crime, the Times also noted.

Sam Woodward was … absolutely, definitely … a member of Atomwaffen Division,” British journalist and CBS News consultant Jake Hanrahan told “48 Hours.” “They made T-shirts using Sam Woodward’s mug shot.”

Woodward’s Atomwaffen friends “call him the gay, the one-man gay, Jew wrecking ball. You know, like kind of reveling in this idea that he’s killed this gay, Jewish kid,” Hanrahan said.

Media outlets covering the trial reported Tuesday that Woodward’s trial is expected to take a few months. Jury selection took weeks and had to re-start after a disturbance in the courtroom involving Woodward and the judge last month. The attorneys had 1,100 people fill out juror questionnaires as they worked to narrow down the large pool of prospective panelists.

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Los Angeles

Suspects break into home of Real Friends of WeHo’s Joey Zauzig

Reports indicate that a resident in the area contacted the LAPD while the burglary was in progress at a residence on Marmont Lane

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Joey-Zauzig (Screenshot/YouTube Instagram)

By Paulo Murillo | WEST HOLLYWOOD – An attempted robbery unfolded in the Hollywood Hills early Monday morning at the residence of television personality and influencer Joey Zauzig, known for his role in “The Real Friends of WeHo.”

“Last night at around 12am, 3 men, armed with face masks broke into our house while we were sleeping,” Zauzig posted in an Instagram story. “I woke up to it and triggered the alarm as they shattered one of the glass doors. We are ok and the dogs are safe… thank god they were at training camp.”

Zauzig added that it was truly one of the scariest things that has ever happened to him. “Seeing the footage on our cameras and waking up to it,” he said. “I’m still very much in shock. Please be careful always set your alarms”

He later posted video footage of the three suspects creeping into their home and a screen grab of the vehicle believed to be the getaway car.

Joey Zauzig Instagram screen grab

“I thank you guys so much for all the messages and the love,” he posted in an update. “I’m just wondering when I’m gonna feel back to normal because I definitely don’t and a lot of messages are unfortunately from people that have gone through the same thing.”

He said that he’s getting a lot of recommendations for therapy, but all he hopes to do is to get back to normal. “Last night got zero sleep,” he said. “I had the worst nightmares…this is so f*cked up, but now I’m like at a point where I’m just like angrJoey Zauzigy and now I really want to share this to like, catch these people and it’s the worst feeling ever.”

Earlier posts on Instagram show Zauzig enjoying the sun in a Cabo trip, and indication that he was out of town.

Reports indicate that a resident in the area contacted the police while the burglary was in progress at a residence on Marmont Lane in Hollywood Hills just after midnight on April 8, 2024.

The Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson informed KTLA 5 that the burglary occurred shortly after midnight on Marmont Lane. The suspects, described as three individuals—one wearing a black shirt, one in a blue hoodie, and the third in all black—had fled the scene before law enforcement arrived, LAPD stated.

The Real Friends of WeHo reality series premiered on MTV, on January 20, 2023. The show follows the lives of six LGBTQ+ celebrities, personalities, and entrepreneurs living in West Hollywood, feature Brad Goreski, a celebrity stylist; Todrick Hall, a choreographer and singer; Curtis Hamilton, an actor; Dorión Renaud, CEO of Buttah Skincare; Jaymes Vaughan, a TV host and business owner; and Joey Zauzig, who was described at the time as a digital entrepreneur. The show was not picked up for a second season.

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Paulo Murillo is Editor in Chief and Publisher of WEHO TIMES. He brings over 20 years of experience as a columnist, reporter, and photo journalist.

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The preceding article was previously published by WeHo Times and is republished with permission.

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Southern California

Heal the Bay seeking Earth Month in-person volunteers

Heal the Bay celebrates Earth Month with all things reusable! Residents to protect what they love, from marshland tours to beach cleanups

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764 Volunteers joined Heal the Bay by the Santa Monica Pier last Spring to remove over 266 pounds of trash from the beach for another Nothin' But Sand Cleanup. (Photo Credit: Heal the Bay/Facebook)

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Environmental group Heal the Bay today announced its Earth Month events calendar for April, offering hands-on opportunities to participate in grassroots advocacy, education and community action. 

The Santa Monica-based nonprofit has created a special series of virtual and in-person volunteer events for individuals, families and households, schools, businesses and community organizations. Participants will gain knowledge and skills that will help them support the health of our ocean, beaches, inland waterways and neighborhoods year-round.

No special training or experience is required. All are welcome.

Become a Beach Captain

Heal the Bay’s famous beach cleanups rely on volunteers to help mobilize and educate participants. Volunteers will learn best practices for conducting cleanups safely and gain valuable public-speaking skills. Join us April 20 10 a.m.-noon (Santa Monica Beach)

Become a Community Scientist

Our Safe Clean Water Program returns with an Earth Month BioBlitz. Participants will engage in community science by helping identify marshland plants and animals. Heal the Bay staff will host two events with the 2024 LA City Nature Challenge, sponsored by the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Academy of Sciences. Join us April 27 at Bixby Marshland in Carson or Fern Dell in Griffith Park.

Become an Effective Advocate

Policy chiefs at Heal the Bay and partner nonprofit 5 Gyres are co-hosting a free virtual advocacy training about how to best combat plastic pollution throughout our region. Experts will provide an update on pending plastics legislation locally and nationally. Participants will learn insider tips on how to influence policy makers, make impactful calls to representatives and submit compelling written comments on proposed public policy. The Zoom session takes place April 16 from 6-7 p.m.

Become an Aquarist

Heal the Bay’s award-winning aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier relies on volunteers to educate visitors about all the marine animals that call the Bay home. Program leaders will be on hand at the aquarium’s Earth Month Celebration to discuss public engagement and training opportunities. Attendees are encouraged to bring kids along for face-painting, crafts and a scavenger hunt. Join us April 20 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Beyond these volunteer-training sessions, Heal the Bay is hosting dozens of other public events during April Month. Ocean lovers can join us for one of our biggest Nothin’ but Sand beach cleanups of the year at Santa Monica Beach on April 20 from 10 a.m. to noon. Register here.

To register or learn more about any of these events, please visit Heal the Bay’s Earth Month microsite.

If residents are not able to participate in these events, they can also support Heal the Bay’s advocacy and education through an Earth Month donation.

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Los Angeles

LA’s chief financial officer says the city has big financial problems

Projected deficits for years to come will force wrenching choices that threaten the vital services Angelenos rely on

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LA City Controller Kenneth Mejia. (Screenshot/YouTube)

LOS ANGELES – The City is under going an audit of finances and spending on Mayor Karen Bass and the city’s Inside Safe program after the LA Alliance for Human Rights and a federal judge expressed frustration over the management of funds to tackle homelessness through that and other services programs.

LA City Controller Kenneth Mejia however, is raising alarms over what he says is a serious budget deficit that is creating greater financial issues for the City. “It’s fair to say that the city of L.A. should be worried about our financial health. It’s not looking good and the people of Los Angeles will suffer based on decisions that City Hall makes,” Mejia told KABC 7.

According to Mejia, Los Angeles has a projected budget deficit of $476 million dollars, which is made up of $289 million in overspending and $187 million in less than expected revenues. The overspending occurred in three departments: police and fire – mainly because of staffing issues and overtime – and in liability claims.

“We’re not in a recession. This is not COVID. This is a budget deficit that we made here in City Hall,” said Mejia.

The City Controller in a statement when his office released the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR) in January said: “It is my responsibility to report the bad news: this year the City is spending well beyond our actual revenues. Projected deficits for years to come will force wrenching choices that threaten the vital services Angelenos rely on. This is not the result of a sudden economic downturn, but the culmination of years of short-term budget balancing at the cost of long-term fiscal sustainability.”

Mejia also pointed out that “despite widespread staff vacancies, General Fund departmental spending actually exceeded last year’s adopted budget by nearly $200 million. Had the vacancy rate been closer to normal, the budget would have been in the red.

As our Office has consistently pointed out, citywide deferred maintenance of vital infrastructure requires urgent attention. Last year’s underspending of $316 million in budgeted capital expenditures underscores that the City continues to fall behind – which means even higher costs in the long run.

Again, as we have warned, current staff shortages and long-term underinvestment in the training, technology, equipment and facilities for our workforce hobbles productivity and shortchanges our residents. The homelessness crisis and the reality of a changing climate put even further strain on City resources.”

Mejia told KABC 7 he’s against eliminating 2,000 vacant positions to save money.

“It’s not like these positions have been vacant for many years. They haven’t. All these departments have been trying to fill these positions. A few months ago, we were talking about ‘We need to fill these vacant positions. Come on, join the city.’ And now, we’re like ‘Oh wait. We need to hold back because we’re overspending on police, liability claims, on fire.’ Now, we have to cut other positions in other departments in order to cover that overspending,” said Mejia.

He also warned that without a long-term approach to “putting our fiscal house in order, short-term decisions will doom Los Angeles to an inexorable decline in public services, undermining our quality of life and the economic prospects of our residents.”

In a statement provided to KABC 7 and the Blade, the mayor’s office said they remain “focused on the work that has resulted in thousands more Angelenos coming inside last year than the previous year, a record number of LAPD applications, and finalizing a budget in partnership with our city department heads that will be balanced and protect services for Angelenos.”

The deadline for Mayor Bass to release her budget for next year is April 22.

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Los Angeles County

Anti-LGBTQ+ LA event features Christopher Rufo & Chaya Raichik

The events are held by far-right extremists like Raichik & Rufo protesting “secret gender transitions of minors & porno books in schools”

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DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Torrance - South Bay/Facebook

TORRANCE, Calif. – Two of the more prominent far-right anti-LGBTQ+ extremists are hosting an event Sunday, April 7 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Torrance – South Bay property which has stirred a reaction from LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and activists.

Billed as a “War on Children” event, it features far right-wing extremist Chaya Raichik, the creator of the anti-LGBTQ+ social media accounts Libs of TikTok, and Christopher Rufo, who spreads transphobic and homophobic online content along with conspiracy theories.

A spokesperson for Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. provided a statement to the Blade that read in part: “Hilton properties serve as places of public accommodation and do not adopt, share, or endorse the views of any individuals or groups to which we provide accommodations and services. The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Torrance – South Bay is independently owned and operated and therefore we are unable to speak on their behalf.”

Calls to the The DoubleTree by the Blade for comment were not responded to by the hotel.

Alejandra Caraballo, a trans clinical instructor at the Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic, who teaches Gender & Technology based courses posted on X (formerly Twitter): “Stand up to hate.”

Rufo responded also on X posting: “The trans brigade is organizing a campaign to call the Hilton Hotel and demand that it shut down an event featuring me and @libsoftiktok. But the Hotel is telling them it is “proud to not discriminate” and then hanging up on them.”

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The “Stop the War on Children” events are held to protest what far-right and extremists like Raichik and Rufo allege are “the sexualization of children, secret gender transitions of minors and pornographic books at schools.”

Last October, “Stop the War on Children” rallies were held by anti-LGBTQ+ extremists in Temecula and 31 other U.S. cities and about 40 in Canada, all protesting LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum, books, and transgender youth in school settings on sports teams and using bathrooms that match their gender identity.

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