Pollock Pines man blows up house | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Pollock Pines man blows up house

A Pollock Pines man called 911 threatening to blow up his house Saturday afternoon. Responding sheriff's deputies heard an explosion as they approached the home on the 600 block of Pony Express Trail and arrived to find it engulfed in flames. The man associated with the house was detained and transported to University of California, Davis Medical Center for treatment, according to the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office. His identity had not been released by authorities as of Monday morning. Fire personnel were called out to the fight the structure fire and parts of Pony Express Trail were closed because of the incident, which occurred at about 3 p.m. The incident remains under investigation by arson investigators and the sheriff's office Crime Scene Investigation unit.

El Dorado County Sheriff’s office responds to Tahoe bear shooting incident

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — On Friday, Dec. 4, the El Dorado County Sheriff's department addressed their deputies' use of lethal force during a bear incident that occurred Monday in a South Lake Tahoe neighborhood — near Pioneer Trail. Three sheriff's deputies were called to the scene, Dec. 1, after the department received numerous calls regarding a 700-800 pound male bear that had created concerns in the area for several weeks. The department said that the bear attempted to break into a number of residences and burrow under a deck. According to Lieutenant Bryan Golmitz, deputies used non-lethal measures, including beanbag rounds, for an extended period of time in an attempt to frighten the bear away from the area. During their efforts, the bear reportedly turned toward the deputies causing them to fire on the animal. "For them to use lethal force, they have to have exited their comfort zone," Golmitz said during a meeting he called with the Tahoe-area BEAR League — a regional wildlife advocacy group. "The deputies perceived it as a threat to their safety," Golmitz said of the large bear's movement toward the department officials. "I truly with my heart believe they did the best they could." Golmitz described all three deputies as "very experienced" both in law enforcement and handling bears incidents. He also said that one of his deputies called him to say that he was "truly upset" over the incident. Following the meeting with the lieutenant, BEAR League president Ann Bryant called the incident "perfectly understandable." "It was probably an unfortunate misreading of what the bears intent was," she said, believing the bear was likely looking for an escape route. "It just happened to be right in the path of where one of the officers was standing." Fellow BEAR League member Toogee Sielsch agreed. "This shooting was … I don't want to use the term justified, but understandable," he said. During the meeting Golmitz expressed interest in potentially working with the BEAR League in the future to further train deputies in response strategies for future incidents. The sheriff's office has responded to 177 bear-related incidents so far this year. Monday was the first to involve lethal measures. RESIDENT CHARGED IN JULY BEAR SHOOTING BACK IN COURT The man accused of illegally shooting a juvenile black bear in a South Lake Tahoe neighborhood last July was in El Dorado County Court Friday, Dec. 4, for a rescheduled pretrial conference. Gilbert Wetenkamp, of South Lake Tahoe, is alleged to have shot a bear without a permit in or near the garage of his home on July 9. The bear was subsequently found at the base of a tree near Minniconjou Drive and Pioneer Trail, some distance from his home. After meeting with Wetenkamp's public defender and a representative from the district attorney's office, Judge Suzanne Kingsbury scheduled the 75-year-old man to reappear in court Jan. 8, at which time it will be determined if the case will go to trial and a trial date will be set. Wetencamp and his attorney declined to comment following the proceeding. California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted the initial assessment of the incident before presenting it to the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office. Wetenkamp was arraigned on Sept. 25, charged with a misdemeanor for illegal taking of wildlife under the state's fish and wildlife laws. He pleaded not guilty. Self-defense was cited in a previous news story when he was charged in August. If convicted, he faces up to $1,000 fine and one year in jail.

Editorial: Ski resorts should implement tougher safety policies after accidental death

The tragic, accidental death last week of a snowboarder at Heavenly Mountain Resort raises serious safety concerns. Stateline resident Ryan Donald Moore, 19, died after falling 30 feet from the resort’s Dipper Express chairlift. Moore fell at about 11:30 a.m. after leaning forward to care for a leg cramp, a Heavenly news release stated. The chairlift’s restraining bar was not engaged. Moore was accompanied on the chairlift by a friend, according to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. “By all appearances, this was an accident,” said Sheriff’s Office Lt. Les Lovell. Moore was not wearing a helmet at the time he fell and landed on terrain not covered with snow, said Heavenly spokesman Russ Pecoraro. According to the Tahoe Douglas Fire Department medical unit, which responded to the scene, Moore suffered major trauma from the fall and was airlifted to Barton Memorial Hospital, where additional lifesaving measures were unsuccessful. Heavenly opened for the ski season Nov. 24 using entirely manmade snow on its runs. That left patches of bare ground and rocks beneath the Dipper Express at points along the route. Could a natural snowpack have cushioned Moore’s fall enough for him to have survived? If the answer is yes, should ski resorts consider abandoning their drive to open before nature’s ready? Perhaps. As for other safety measures: Heavenly encourages riders to use restraining bars on its lifts, though it’s not practical to require every rider to use them, Pecoraro said. Using the restraints is encouraged in the skier code of responsibility, posted on lift towers. “We always encourage people to put the bar down,” he explained. “That’s one of those things that’s hard to police.” Pecoraro said the resort would evaluate possible changes to its safety policies after the incident’s investigation is complete. Heavenly has some hard decisions to make. By all accounts, Moore was an experienced snowboarder who presumably knew the proper way to ride a chairlift. Yet, from what we know, he fell not by behaving recklessly, but after leaning forward to massage a cramp. Would the restraining bar have prevented his fall? Nobody can say for sure, but that’s what they’re designed to do. As Heavenly and other Lake Tahoe resorts review their safety policies in the wake of Moore’s death, they should consider the following: — Require, not encourage, chairlift riders to secure restraining bars. — If that’s impractical, install automatically locking restraining bars that remain locked until chairlifts reach their destinations. — Require skiers and snowboarders to wear safety helmets. The issue is perhaps best summed up by South Shore resident Sara DeFrancesco. The 26-year-old snowboarder was riding the Dipper Express when she looked down and saw Moore surrounded by rescue personnel. “It was absolutely terrifying to see him helpless there,” she said. “There was no question he was in serious trouble.” DeFrancesco admitted not always using chairlift restraining bars but pledged to after witnessing the incident. “We don’t need to be cool,” she said. “We need to be safe.”

Reward offered in Douglas County school arson cases

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information regarding four separate arson incidents that occurred recently at two elementary schools. Secret Witness is offering a $500 reward for information. The incidents were discovered at Minden and Gardnerville elementary schools the mornings of Aug. 18 and Aug. 19 by school custodians. “Evidence consisted of blackened scorch marks on backboards of handball courts at both schools, as well as an exterior wall of the main office building at Minden Elementary School,” said sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Jim Halsey. Deputies found broken glass bottles and wicks made from ripped cloth material. No flammable liquid was evident, but Halsey said Monday investigators believe the suspects filled glass containers with flammable liquid, set the cloth wicks afire, and threw the liquid-filled glass bottles at the walls, similar to a Molotov cocktail. “We believe it’s kids messing around, not realizing the danger of what they’re doing,” Halsey said. “We just want kids to realize these things aren’t toys. Maybe in this case it hit a block wall. What happens if it hits the asphalt and starts a fire, or the thing falls back on you and you get burned or cut?” He said the incidents are under investigation by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and East Fork Fire and Paramedic Districts. Secret Witness is offering a $500 reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of the suspect. The caller may remain anonymous. Anyone with information is asked to call sheriff’s Investigator Ed Garren at 775-782-9908, East Fork Arson Inspector Capt. Terry Taylor at 775-782-9861, or Secret Witness at 775-782-7463.

Incline Village bear shooting at Lake Tahoe remains under investigation

Community members gathered at the Village Green this past Mother’s Day to celebrate the recent loss of one of Incline Village’s most well-known moms: Jasper the bear. The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office is continuing to investigate an incident in which a deputy fired a live round rather than a rubber bullet at the bear on May 6, ultimately killing the animal. “Our review of that incident is still underway, so we have not finalized our report of the incident,” said Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Bob Harmon. The female deputy was responding to a call about a group of bears on Driver Way and Village Boulevard when she reportedly fired a live round instead of a rubber one by mistake. “She inserted 3 shells, and then a lethal shell and they were inserted in wrong order,” Harmon said. The bear was transferred to the Nevada Department of Wildlife for care but did not survive. In a May 7 statement, Sheriff Chuck Allen said, “The Sheriff’s Office will thoroughly review the incident and take whatever measures are deemed appropriate.” Although details can’t be released until the investigation is complete, Harmon said the department has already taken several steps to prevent future accidents with wildlife from occurring. “One of the things we’ve done is we’ve gone ahead and ordered about 15, less-lethal weapons,” he said. “Less-lethal” weapons, also called non-lethal weapons, fire a round that is intended to cause pain but not puncture the skin. In some areas with bears, law enforcement personnel carry one weapon for non-lethal bullets, in addition to their regular gun. The idea is that by keeping the non-lethal bullets separated from the lethal ones, fewer accidents will occur. “We will issue those to deputies so they will have those at all times,” Harmon said. “Primarily those that work in areas where they have wilderness … we’d be looking at the deputies in those areas where they’re likely to come across bears and other wildlife.” Some deputies already carry two different guns, but the deputy involved in the May 6 incident had been assigned to work in South Reno that day when she received the bear report in Incline Village. She was not equipped with a non-lethal weapon at the time. “We had a less-lethal version of the shotgun. It’s still a shotgun, and it looks exactly like a shotgun with orange on it,” Harmon said. “Some deputies had those, but we didn’t have enough for all of them.” Sheriff’s deputies have also recently engaged in training sessions with the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) to learn techniques for managing bears. “We had a training session last week with NDOW … we also videoed the training so deputies can watch the video,” he said. “It is my understanding that all deputies will going though that training and go through it again once a year.” Harmon said the sheriff’s department has also been meeting and working with the Bear League to determine how they can safely manage bears going forward. The Bear League is a North Lake Tahoe-based volunteer organization that educates local communities on how to live with bears. Amanda Rhoades is a news, environment and business reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at arhoades@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @akrhoades.

South Tahoe Middle School conducts lockdown drill

Members of several law enforcement and fire protection agencies swept through South Tahoe Middle School on Tuesday to perform a scheduled safety drill one day after a school shooting in Sparks, Nev. The team moved classroom-to-classroom, making sure doors were locked and lights were off, shortly after the drill began about 10:45 a.m. The district had considered canceling the drill, despite the fact that it was scheduled before the Sparks Middle School shooting, said Al Frangione, safety and technology consultant for the Lake Tahoe Unified School District. However, officials decided it was ultimately in South Tahoe Middle School's best interest to carry out the exercise. "We'll do it just because we have to remain diligent," he said of the decision. Several agencies were represented at the "Duck and Cover" drill Tuesday, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, El Dorado Sheriff's Department, South Lake Tahoe Police Department, California Highway Patrol and Lake Valley Fire Department. The exercise occurred one day after an unidentified student at Sparks Middle School near Reno fired on campus. During the rampage, a teacher was killed trying to protect children and two 12-year-old boys were wounded before the shooter killed himself. Karin Holmes, assistant principal of South Tahoe Middle School, said the incident worried Tahoe's students. "Kids are concerned," she said. "It's near Reno. There's a lot to think about." A number of law enforcement units were sent to South Tahoe schools shortly after the Sparks shooting Monday "to show some presence" and "try to have a calming effect," said Glenn Norling, special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Additionally, South Tahoe Middle School and South Tahoe High School were on heightened alert after the incident, said Angie Keil, executive assistant to the superintendent, in an email. Exterior doors were locked and staff was "extra" vigilant. Keil sent the email to families and staff later that day, expressing officials' condolences. "It is with heavy hearts and deepest sympathy that we express our condolences to the families and the community affected by the tragic shooting at Sparks Middle School this morning," Keil stated in an email Monday. "Once again, it pains us to hear that school violence has claimed the lives of a teacher and a student." "Our thoughts are with the staff, students and families of Sparks Middle School," she continued, "particularly those of the deceased and injured." Norling, who has children in the district, said the situation has made him think about what he can do better to protect his kids, and how to help his kids better protect themselves. "It's a lot of angst and concern, and a lot of empathy to the parents out there who had to experience something horrible," he said Tuesday. "It was a sleepless night."

Incline Village bear shooting remains under investigation

Community members gathered at the Village Green this past Mother's Day to celebrate the recent loss of one of Incline Village's most well-known moms: Jasper the bear. The Washoe County Sheriff's Office is continuing to investigate an incident in which a deputy fired a live round rather than a rubber bullet at the bear on May 6, ultimately killing the animal. "Our review of that incident is still underway, so we have not finalized our report of the incident," said Washoe County Sheriff's Office Spokesman Bob Harmon. The female deputy was responding to a call about a group of bears on Driver Way and Village Boulevard when she reportedly fired a live round instead of a rubber one by mistake. The bear was transferred to the Nevada Department of Wildlife for care but did not survive. In a May 7 statement, Sheriff Chuck Allen said, "The Sheriff's Office will thoroughly review the incident and take whatever measures are deemed appropriate." Although details can't be released until the investigation is complete, Harmon said the department has already taken several steps to prevent future accidents with wildlife from occurring. "One of the things we've done is we've gone ahead and ordered about 15, less-lethal weapons," he said. "Less-lethal" weapons, also called non-lethal weapons, fire a round that is intended to cause pain but not puncture the skin. In some areas with bears, law enforcement personnel carry one weapon for non-lethal bullets, in addition to their regular gun. The idea is that by keeping the non-lethal bullets separated from the lethal ones, fewer accidents will occur. "We will issue those to deputies so they will have those at all times," Harmon said. "Primarily those that work in areas where they have wilderness … we'd be looking at the deputies in those areas where they're likely to come across bears and other wildlife." Some deputies already carry two different guns, but the deputy involved in the May 6 incident had been assigned to work in South Reno that day when she received the bear report in Incline Village. She was not equipped with a non-lethal weapon at the time. "We had a less-lethal version of the shotgun. It's still a shotgun, and it looks exactly like a shotgun with orange on it," Harmon said. "Some deputies had those, but we didn't have enough for all of them." Sheriff's deputies have also recently engaged in training sessions with the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) to learn techniques for managing bears. "We had a training session last week with NDOW … we also videoed the training so deputies can watch the video," he said. "It is my understanding that all deputies will going though that training and go through it again once a year." Harmon said the sheriff's department has also been meeting and working with the Bear League to determine how they can safely manage bears going forward.

Man dies in mishap at Heavenly

A 51-year-old man from Glendora, Calif., died after falling from a chairlift at Heavenly Mountain Resort on Monday afternoon, and his newlywed wife was injured in the incident, authorities said. Mark Alan Dickson fell about 50 feet from the Tamarack Express chairlift about 1:50 p.m., according to reports from Heavenly and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. The incident remains under investigation, but an apparent malfunction of the Heavenly Flyer ZipRider caused a retrieval rope from the zip line to become entangled with the chairlift, said El Dorado County Sheriff’s Lt. Les Lovell. The rope – used to bring the ZipRider’s harnesses back to the top of the ride -apparently caught the chair’s safety bar, pulled the bar open and caused the chair to swing, Lovell said. The swinging chair pitched Dickson onto the dirt and rocks below, Lovell said. An autopsy is expected later this week, although initial indications suggest Dickson died from massive trauma to his upper body, Lovell said. Preliminary reports that the woman also fell from the chair were inaccurate, Lovell said. The woman, 47-year-old Rebecca Gonzaga, suffered a leg injury and was taken to Barton Memorial Hospital for treatment. Her injuries were not considered life-threatening. The couple, who were on their honeymoon, planned to make South Lake Tahoe their home, Lovell said. Heavenly Mountain Resort spokesman Russ Pecoraro said ski patrol personnel were in the area at the time of the incident and responded immediately to provide medical aid. The man was transported to Heavenly’s California lodge first aid station, where he was pronounced dead about 3:15 p.m. Pecoraro said the Heavenly Flyer was operating within its allowable wind conditions on Monday afternoon. Four other guests on the lift at the time were evacuated. “At this point all indicators lead us to that this was accidental; it was a very freak accident,” Lovell said. The Heavenly Flyer ZipRider was closed immediately following the incident and will remain closed while the sheriff’s office investigates the incident, Pecoraro said. An investigation into the incident is likely to wrap up next week, Lovell said. — Tahoe Daily Tribune reporter Adam Jensen contributed to this story.

Update 1:20 p.m.: Autopsy shows skier died from head injury

Preliminary results released today from an autopsy of a Stateline man who died after falling from a chairlift at Heavenly Mountain Resort show that he died from blunt-force impact to his skull. Ryan Donald Moore died Wednesday after falling about 30 feet from the Dipper Express chairlift at Heavenly. Moore hit his head during the fall and his head hit hard enough to cause massive trauma, said Lt. Les Lovell of the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. There was no indication of foul play and it does appear to simply be an accident caused by a loss of balance, Lovell said. “It’s just apparent that it was a massive trauma to the head,” Lovell said. Toxicology reports will come back in 4 to 6 weeks. The sheriff’s office is not sure if alcohol or drugs were a factor in the fall. Moore was accompanied on the chairlift by another rider, according to the sheriff’s office. One engine company and a medical unit from the Tahoe Douglas Fire Department responded to the scene. Moore suffered major trauma from the fall and was airlifted by CALSTAR to Barton Memorial Hospital, the sheriff’s office said. Additional lifesaving measures were unsuccessful. Moore was pronounced dead around 12:46 p.m. Wednesday. Moore was not wearing a helmet at the time of the fall and landed on terrain that was not covered with snow, said Heavenly Mountain Resort spokesman Russ Pecoraro. Heavenly encourages riders to use the restraining bar on its lifts, although it’s not practical to require every rider to do so, Pecoraro said. Using the restraint is part of the skier code of responsibility, which is posted on lift towers. “We always encourage people to put the bar down,” Pecoraro said. “That’s one of those things that’s hard to police.” Pecoraro said the resort would evaluate possible changes to its safety policies after the investigation into the incident is complete. He said Heavenly would remain open for skiing today. Moore was originally from Santa Ynez and was living in Stateline with roommates, Lovell said. He graduated in 2006 from Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, according to the school’s principal, Norm Clevenger. “I remembered him after I saw a picture. He was a pretty nice kid; lived in Santa Ynez and was a member of the golf team. This is a small community, and there will be a lot of kids affected by this,” Clevenger said in a phone interview Wednesday night. South Lake Tahoe resident Sara DeFrancesco was on the Dipper Express lift when she looked down and saw someone surrounded by rescue personnel. The man was in a rocky area that he couldn’t possibly have skied into, DeFrancesco said, and she quickly realized that he must have fallen from the lift. “It was absolutely terrifying to see him helpless there,” DeFrancesco said. “There was no question he was in serious trouble.” DeFrancesco, a 26-year-old snowboarder, said she hasn’t always used the restraining bar while on the chairlifts, but she will now. “We don’t need to be cool,” she said. “We need to be safe.” – Tribune editor Paul Dunn and Web editor Jeff Munson contributed to this report.

Regional wildland fire exercise a success

MINDEN, Nev. – Douglas County Emergency Management and Sierra Front Wildland Fire Cooperators recently hosted a regional wildland fire unified command exercise at East Fork Fire Station 12 in Sunridge. The event, held April 20, is designed to exercise inter-agency involvement during a large scale man-made or natural disaster using the federally mandated National Incident Management System. It was a two-pronged exercise to test local, state and federal agencies in incident management and how to work with multiple jurisdictions as well as initiating the activation of the Douglas County Emergency Management Team and the Emergency Operations Center. Eleven agencies and 77 attendees participated in the drill, including personnel from East Fork Fire and Paramedic District, Tahoe Douglas Fire District, Carson City Fire Department, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Nevada Division of Forestry, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, numerous public utility companies as well as county officials and agencies. The scenario simulated a small brush fire that started alongside Highway 50, approximately halfway up the grade to Spooner Summit. Throughout the evolution of the exercise, the fire “jumped” across Highway 50, further expanding complexity of the event by simulating requirement for closure of Highway 50 and evacuation of residences in the area that were in danger. All agencies involved from local, state and federal levels were able to participate and role play what their necessary actions would be and in doing so had a unique opportunity to familiarize themselves with the faces and names of their cooperators. As the incident grew in complexity, there was another opportunity for participants to practice appropriate transitioning from one level of incident management to the next. “Any time we can put together a training opportunity where we can interact with our agency cooperators, it just makes us that much more efficient during the real deal. All in all, the exercise went very well” said Tod Carlini, Chief of East Fork Fire and Paramedic District and Director of Douglas County Emergency Management.