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Navy arson trial underway

 September 16, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Friday, September 16th.

The arson trial surrounding the destruction of the U-S-S Bonhomme Richard is now underway.

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


San Diego federal prosecutors dismissed charges this week against one of the five officers tried in the Navy bribery case.

Jurors were unable to reach a verdict against Former Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless.

He was one of five officers tried for allegedly accepting bribes from foreign defense contractor “Fat Leonard'' Francis.

The other four officers were convicted and will be sentenced later this year.

Francis fled from his San Diego home earlier this month while under house arrest.

He remains on the run.


Vista High School canceled after-school events and football games this week … as tensions continue over an attack involving some of the school’s football players.

The San Diego County Sheriff’’s department has said the attack did not involve a sexual assault and the 14-year-old victim was not hurt.

But the department is still investigating the incident… and so is the Vista Unified School District, along with a third party investigator.


It’s been over a week since Queen Elizabeth the second passed away.

This weekend there will be a memorial service held in her honor before her funeral on Monday.

The House of England and The San Diego Corgi Club will be hosting a memorial at the House of Pacific Relations in Balboa Park Sunday at noon.

If you’d like to watch the funeral, Shakespeare Pub and Grille will be opening at 2-30 A-M on Monday to live stream coverage of the funeral in London.

You can also watch on K-P-B-S-T-V, starting at 1 A-M on Monday.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.


A Navy arson trial is about to get underway, more than two years after fire destroyed the U-S-S Bonhomme Richard.

KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says the trial comes as the Navy continues to unravel why the fire became one of the worst peace-time disasters in Navy history.

Beginning on July 12, 2020, the USS Bonhomme Richard burned for nearly five days in San Diego Bay.  Senior Chief Michael Robert Penny remembers it well: Portland one “It was horrifying. It was the biggest fire I've ever seen in my life. A lot of sailors did a lot of hard work to try and save that ship. And unfortunately, it was just too big. The fire was too large.” Penny was off that Sunday morning. By the time he arrived at Naval Base San Diego the ship was in flames. Penny became one of the Navy investigators on the origins of the fire - he hasn’t spoken publicly about the disaster until now. The Bonhomme RIchard was being renovated when the fire broke out. In addition, Penny says they were short handed that morning.(graphic) Portland one “Lack of experience, lack of training. That coupled with the lack of electrical power on board.” When an explosion sent debris hurdling onto the nearby USS Fitzgerald, commanders ordered power cut to the pier so other ships could make an emergency exit - cutting power to the firefighters. Darren Hall is with Miramar Fire Academy and a captain with the Coronado Fire Department with 25 years experience. He says nothing compares with the Bonhomme Richard fire. Darren Hall/ Miramar Fire AcademyCoronado “Not in my career. This has probably been the largest one I've been familiar with on the bay. And recent memory.” He says local firefighters are invited to train with the Navy. Though, Navy reports also say mutual aid agreements with local departments were decades old. Fires on board ships are so different that they aren’t even part of the curriculum for beginning firefighters. Coronado “The first part is it's all metal. So your heat that's going to be conducting through where you're walking on different floors of the ship, when you're looking for where the seat of the fire is it could be deep inside of the ship.”  There are still key questions about how the Bonhomme Richard fire started.  Ship fires are actually fairly common. Nonetheless, Seaman Apprentice Ryan Sawyer Mays is charged with arson, and set to face a court martial later this month. His attorneys want to introduce evidence of another small fire that broke out on the nearby USS Essex the same morning.  Gary Barthel was part of Mays’ legal team. He says arson can be hard to prove - especially when there’s extensive damage.Gary Barthel/attorney “Mays has maintained his innocence throughout. And whether it can be proven that it was an arson or not, I think that's one area that needs to be processed.” In military court, the admiral in charge has the final word.  But one reason the case has taken so long to come to trial is a hearing officer actually ruled the Navy didn’t have enough evidence to convict Mays. “She did not believe, based on this evidence, that the government would be able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and recommended that the case would not go to a general court martial.” Penny - who investigated the fire - is now head of damage control for the USS Portland - a ship very similar to the USS Bonhomme Richard. Penny pushes the crew  of his new ship. “....I have changed the way that we do training on here. Every single sailor from the captain down to the newest sailor on board, is required to dawn a firefighting ensemble…and actively use a fire hose all by themselves.” Penny still worries it could happen again. Portland one “Every day is filled with some type of anxiety. After seeing the Bhr, I would be lying if I didn't say that I am worried every moment.” At least 20 officers and sailors were disciplined after the fire on the Bonhomme Richard. Meanwhile, the Navy waits for the jury to decide what caused the fire that destroyed the billion dollar warship.Steve Walsh KPBS News


A San Diego researcher says the U-S government’s tense relationship with China could be bad for addressing climate change.

KPBS Environmental reporter Erik Anderson has details.

A UCSD researcher says the long running political spat between two of the planet’s most powerful countries could make it harder to slow the pace of global warming. Michael Davidson, assistant professor UCSD “We’re definitely very worried that the increasing geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China is going to make it more difficult to cooperate.” Michael Davidson examined five key areas.  They include mature green tech like solar, wind and battery power.  As well as two emerging technologies, carbon capture and green steel.  He says U-S China collaboration has lowered the cost of green technology and Davidson says that should not be impacted by political friction and national security risks. “So that we can manage those while not necessarily putting up barriers that prevent us from achieving our broader goals.” The findings are published in the current edition of the journal Science. Erik Anderson KPBS News


Californians with serious mental health disorders and substance abuse problems may soon be ordered by a judge to get treatment..

KPBS Health reporter Matt Hoffman says CARE Court has to be up and running in San Diego by next October.

My son has spent more time in prison than he ever has in a hospital Anita Fisher is no stranger when it comes to mental health services.. She worked for the San Diego Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and has a personal connection. Fisher says her son Pharoh, a former medic in the U-S Army, is diagnosed with schizophrenia and has been in and out of treatment for years-- California’s CARE Court codifies a process for court-ordered treatment for those suffering from severe mental illness. And I know there is definitely opposition to it because of rights but my son has no rights in jail or prison either. So I would rather that he be temporarily involuntarily treated in some manner so that he can again be able to lead his own life the way he wants, but during this time he cannot MH KPBS News


San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria had some time in the national spotlight yesterday.

The Mayor participated in a White House conference aimed at countering hate-fueled violence and extremism in the U-S.

Here’s KPBS reporter John Carroll.

Gloria joined one other Democrat and two Republican mayors at a panel discussion… part of the United We Stand summit.  At one point, Gloria was asked how we can work together to make our communities better.  He had a somewhat unexpected answer. “Get off social media.  It’s a flippant answer, but we’re so much better than who we present ourselves to be in the digital world. //CUT TO: 17:53//  These hate-filled voices, these people that take their hatred and their vitriol and turn it into violence, they are not the majority.” Gloria also pointed out that he appointed the city’s first ever Race and Equity Officer… he called that decision a case of leading by example.  JC, KPBS News.


Coming up.... We have some weekend arts events worth checking out. We’ll have that and more, just after the break.




Nat sound spray can With the shake of a can and push of a button, Paul Jimenez creates magic …in life-like murals. He’s half of the team that makes up Ground Floor Murals. Their work can be seen throughout San Diego and features the city’s sports legends … it all started with Tony Gwynn Everyone  was really pretty upset and down and there was a lot of tension in the air in San Diego due to the pandemic…  and  I put out there hey I want to paint Tony Gwynn somewhere  if anybody has a wall I’ll just do it for the cost of supplies He says it’s important for everyone to find themselves reflected in the art they see around them and he feels blessed he found inspiration in his diverse community. The influence of chicano park was huge for me that was the first time that I ever really felt very proud to be this skin color  very proud to be Mexican,very proud to be from San Diego, knowing this whole park is dedicated to my people  Jimenez says  wants little kids who look like him to dream big Anything is possible I truly truly truly believe it if you believe it, it truly is Kitty Alvarado KPBS News.


And before you go, we have a preview of weekend arts events for you.

Here’s KPBS Arts producerJulia Dixon Evans speaking with Jade Hindmon about her recommendations for the weekend.

That was KPBS Arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans, speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host, Jade Hindmon.


That’s it for the podcast today. This podcast is produced by KPBS Senior Producer Brooke Ruth and Producer Emilyn Mohebbi. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great weekend.

A Navy arson trial is about to get underway, more than two years after fire destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard. In other news, a San Diego researcher says the U.S. government’s tense relationship with China could be bad for addressing climate change. Plus, we have some weekend arts events worth checking out.