All news has to be taken seriously, but isn't necessarily serious...
Sometimes doing the news makes reporters shake their heads in wonder, saying “What were they thinking?” Alongside serious stories, like murders and securities fraud, they provide the comic relief we need to make it through the day.
Some stories give us career-making opportunities, like the chance to write “when all five passengers were in the car, Mama gunned the Kia and headed home to...” about a family who shoplifted as a bonding activity.
Most of them are crime stories, but some feature civic blunders and examples of issues not thought all the way through before being launched.
Here – in no particular order - are several of our favorite “What Were They Thinking?” stories from 2008:
- While it sounded dramatic on the scanner, a pursuit that started when someone said they saw someone get stabbed and being chased by a gardening truck turned out to be warring landscapers who stole a couple of weed whackers. From each other.
- Deputies arrested a Saugus man after he stole a frozen lemonade machine from behind a well-known frozen lemonade business in the industrial center. Think the machine was marked?
- A wanted felon led the cops on a lively pursuit near Mervyn’s and Panera Bread, closing down intersections and putting an apartment complex on lockdown. A building manager found the offender hiding in a closet and turned him over to authorities.
- The CHP, being a caring bunch, checked on the welfare of a sleeping motorist in the Via Princessa area and found enough drugs that would give any arrestee sleepless nights. He changed accomodations, quickly becoming a guest of the county.
- In April, word got out that Burrtec (see, I said it wasn’t all crime) was going to build a materials recycling facility (yes, a trash-sorting location) really close to Friendly Valley on Sierra Highway. Homeowners – and their vocal friends – who weren’t happy that they were left out of the decision process stormed the City Council chambers and began a series of filibusters that changed the way the council now handles Public Comment. Those hours that no one will ever get back had a payoff, though. There’s no MRF planned for Sierra Highway anymore.
- People got mad at each other for the craziest reasons. Two Newhall men got into an altercation that sent one to the hospital with stab wounds – the unfortunate victim had the TV remote and made a bad selection. A few months later, another Newhall brother picked up a kitchen knife and went to town on his sibling because he was making too much noise. Both men recovered from their injuries.
- Two Newhall residents went to jail because they tried to steal the tip jar from Cold Stone Creamery in Valencia. The price of screwing up their futures? $14.68.
- I guess this crook figured he’d work on getting money out of parking meters where he had a little privacy, but the guy who cut off several Santa Monica city meters didn’t count on the deputy noticing that his trunk was flashing, which led to his arrest.
- Our neighbors to the north made the national news when they had to rip up a portion of road because Honda had paid the City of Lancaster to install grooves that played “The William Tell Overture” when driven over. They didn’t count on nearby residents being bothered by the sounds, which brought the curious from miles around to try and tune up. We hear the grooves have been reinstalled in a section of the city with fewer neighbors.
- In October, the Saugus Union School District celebrated its centennial of service to the community with a head-scratching request of the City Council. Seems they wanted a certain party favor – the solid bronze (read: heavy) school bell that the District donated to the SCV Historical Society 30 years earlier. Over the years, the Society took care of the bell and 10 years ago, put the bell on permanent loan to the City, which spent $100,000 to build a special tower at the Jan Heidt Metrolink Station in Newhall so all could see and hear the bell. Despite the district taking up not one but two City Council meetings with their unusual request, the city still doesn’t own the bell and it’s out of their hands.
- This one stopped traffic in the newsroom cold, when the scanner squawked about a man wearing fatigues and carrying a gun who was spotted approaching the 14 freeway near Sand Canyon. Thoughts of terrorists sprung to mind and nearly the whole sheriff’s station emptied out headed for Canyon Country. In true “Git ‘er Done” spirit, there turned out to be not one, but three men wearing hunting clothes and carrying rifles as they dragged a deer the short mile from forest property where they had killed the unfortunate animal. They figured bringing the deer to a pickup truck on the highway would be much easier than trying to get the truck to the deer. Fish and Game officials had the last laugh, though. While the shooter had a permit for bagging the deer, he failed to put the tag on the carcass, resulting in a very expensive fine – but a great story for us to share.
- William S. Hart is a local hero – kind of. In November, the LAPD arrested William Spencer Hart at his Santa Clarita apartment on 27 felony counts of grand and identity theft involving his fraudulent credit card operation that bilked several stores out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise over the last two years. The irony? The arrest was made a day before the birthday of our local silent movie cowboy.
- And in true Christmas spirit, a Palmdale mother who had a few previous run-ins with the law decided to take her brood shopping for some trinkets at the local Best Buy. With Mama idling the engine at the curb, four kids and a supervising (?) adult went into the store and tried to liberate some merchandise, scuffling with security before piling, clown car fashion, into Mama’s waiting Kia for a trip home. Alert officers caught them on the highway and they spent the holidays with some friendly inmates.
Any wonder why reporters love their jobs? Here’s to an equally thought-provoking 2009.