In what could be described as a year of big ups and downs for Santa Monica, here is The Mirror’s run-down of the top headlines from the year.
Please note that some of the following stories took place up to a week before or after the publication date, depending on whether it was a recap or preview piece.
• At their June 4 meeting the Santa Monica City Council tried to answer the question of what to do with the Civic Auditorium. The auditorium was slated to go dark June 30.
• Kelly Soo Park, the woman accused of strangling an aspiring model to death in Santa Monica in 2008, was found not guilty of both first- and second-degree murder after a week of jury deliberations. The jury acquitted the 47-year-old woman June 4 on both charges in the Superior Court in downtown Los Angeles.
• Four Santa Monica teens were awarded the highest rank one can earn in the Boy Scouts on June 9. Jake Alfred Erlandson, Bret K. Hart, Matthew Lawrence Hawkins, and Peter Myung-Won Pak were honored with the rank of Eagle Scout at the Troop 2 Eagle Court of Honor at Camp Josepho.
• On June 5 in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Westchester resident Cara Cameron pleaded not guilty to murder charges after allegedly striking and killing an Australian tourist in Santa Monica while she was allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol in 2012. Cameron pleaded not guilty to both counts of murder and manslaughter.
• Santa Monica continued to mourn following the June 7 Santa Monica College shootings. The shooting rampage began at 11:52 am at the corner of Kansas and Yorkshire where John Zawahri shot and killed his father Samir Zawahri, 55, and his brother Christopher, 25. He then proceeded to SMC where he shot and killed Carlos Navarro Franco, 68, his daughter Marcela Dia Franco, 26, and Magarita Gomez, 68. Zawahri was killed by police officers at 12:05 pm when he exchanged gunfire with them at the Santa Monica College library.
• Three suspects were arrested following the fatal shooting of 29-year-old Santa Monica man Gil Verastegui in the 1500 block of Michigan Avenue June 11. Santa Monica police responded to reports of shots fired on the quiet residential street at 8:15 am. The suspects were arrested just hours later: Christopher Osumi, Meliton Lopez, and Noah Farris.
• Santa Monica police requested the public’s assistance in locating 24-year-old Levy Ernesto Rodriguez, who was suspected of shooting a bicyclist three times in the 2900 block of Exposition Boulevard in Santa Monica June 9.
• The Pico Youth & Family Center held a rally called the Santa Monica Vigil for Peace and Healing June 16 in response to gun violence in the Pico neighborhood during the past week.
• A private donation of $50,000 helped start a Youth & Family Violence Prevention Fund in Santa Monica in response to the City’s three shootings in five days, officials from the City, school district, and SMC announced June 19. The funds went to Santa Monica’s Cradle to Career group, which will take the lead through an inter-agency collaboration to address youth and family violence.
• The Fairmont Miramar and Huntley Hotels, two venues located directly across the street from one another, were engaged in a verbal standoff, with one venue accusing the other of engaging in shenanigans of the racial type. Though the controversy became public on June 10, the inciting incident occurred one day earlier. A flyer was distributed to various locations across Santa Monica. On the flyer was an image of the Huntley Hotel’s owner, Sohrab Sassounian. Above the image read: “Who is Sohrab Sassounian and why is he spending millions to smear the Miramar?”
• Santa Monica College celebrated Independence Day early on June 29 with fireworks and entertainment as part of an evening themed “Celebrate America.”
• Santa Monica High School’s star-pitcher Conner Greene signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays after being drafted in the 7th round, 205th overall, in the MLB First Year-Player Draft. Greene signed his contract in Florida June 19.
• The Santa Monica Post Office at 1248 5th Street closed at noon June 29. It was relocated to a location less than a mile away at 1653 7th Street. The Santa Monica Conservancy held a rally to show their support for preservation of the city’s downtown post office.
• The Santa Monica City Council approved June 25 a Biennial Budget allocating $525.7 million in spending for the 2013-14 fiscal year and another $529.4 million the next year. Despite the high price tag, City officials were cautious of what possibly lurks when the next Biennial Budget comes in front of the council in June 2015: budget cuts and an operating deficit.
• Santa Monica detectives investigated an armed robbery that occurred at the Lincoln-Pico Sporting Goods store in Santa Monica just before 4 pm June 26. Two suspects entered the store and robbed the owner at knifepoint. The loss was several high-end fishing rods and reels.
• The Santa Monica City Council on June 25 approved a development agreement to expand Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences to include a new three-story, 12-classroom science-learning center at 1731 20th Street in the Light Manufacturing Studio District.