News in Brief

Posted May 18, 2016 by The Argonaut in News
President Obama congratulates Medal of Valor recipients Capt. Ray Bottenfield (left) and officers Robert Sparks and Jason Salas Photo by Doug Mills (The New York Times) courtesy of SMPD

President Obama congratulates Medal of Valor recipients Capt. Ray Bottenfield (left) and officers Robert Sparks and Jason Salas
Photo by Doug Mills (The New York Times) courtesy of SMPD

Three who Stopped SMC Shooter Get Medals of Valor

A Santa Monica College police captain and two city police officers stood among 13 Medal of Valor recipients honored by President Obama at the White House on

SMC Police Capt. Raymond Bottenfield and SMPD officers Jason Salas and Robert Sparks each received a Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor — the highest national award for valor presented to public safety officers — for putting themselves in harm’s way to end the deadly June 2013 shooting rampage at SMC.

Bottenfield was off duty when he evacuated students from a counseling center en route to exchanging gunfire with mass shooter John Zawahri at the college library. Sparks and Salas also exchanged fire with Zawahri to end the shooting rampage that killed five people.

“Officers Sparks and Salas displayed great bravery and courage during a violent encounter. Their actions were instrumental in bringing an end to a fierce confrontation,” Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline A. Seabrooks said.

“All of us who witnessed it felt such a deep sense of pride to see President Barack Obama recognize our SMC hero Capt. Raymond Bottenfield for his selfless act of valor,” said SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery. “Our Santa Monica College community holds a debt of gratitude to Capt. Bottenfield, as well as officers Salas and Sparks.”

Each of the three men “displayed courage and composure in ending a deadly rampage” and “placed themselves in mortal danger to save the lives of students and staff,” reads a White House statement.

— Gary Walker


81 New Homes Debut in Playa Vista

As high demand and low inventory continue to define the pricy Westside real estate market, 81 new luxury homes going up for sale is no small occasion.

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Playa Vista developers Brookfield Residential are hosting a neighborhood-size open house to debut Mason and Cleo, two collections of single-level residences designed by KTGY Architecture & Planning.

From 1,816 to 2,658 square feet, with three to four bedrooms and two to three-and-a-half baths, the beachy brownstone flats of Mason are priced from the mid $1-millions. Mason is adjacent to a new public park, and each unit has a private two-car garage.

The coastal contemporary flats of Cleo vary from 2,052 to 2,674 square feet with three to four bedrooms, two-and-a-half to three-and-a half baths, and triple-bay two-car garages. Cleo units are priced in the high $1-millions.

Model homes on display Saturday are at 5837 Village Drive (Mason) and 5830 McConnell Ave. (Cleo).

For more information, visit

— Joe Piasecki

New Eagle Scouts Soar in Westchester


Westchester Boy Scout Troop 927 is holding its annual court of honor on Saturday, May 21, to celebrate seven members attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.

Gabriel Andres Biren, Alexander Ricardo Koenig, Richard John Maire III, Zachary William Marks, Noah Haruka Mayeda, Adam Hidetaka Mayeda and Preston H. Simpson become official Eagle Scouts at 2 p.m. at Westchester Lutheran Church and School, 7831 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Westchester.

The boys’ Eagle Scout service projects included building new benches, planters and bookshelves for Westchester Lutheran as well as native plant restoration in the LAX sand dunes, designing athletic equipment for the Junior Blind of America, and upgrading the library at St. Bernard High School in Playa del Rey.

Visit for more information.

— Joe Piasecki


City Finally Wins One in Battle Over Santa Monica Airport

The city of Santa Monica has won its first major ruling against the Federal Aviation Administration in the ongoing battle for control over Santa Monica Airport.

On Monday the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a February 2014 lower court ruling to dismiss the city’s case based on a statute of limitations argument by the federal government.

The initial 2013 suit sought to establish the city’s right to control future use of airport land, which is owned by the city though the FAA controls airport operations.

Santa Monica argued before the appellate court that its lawsuit was “inextricably intertwined” with the statute of limitations argument.

“This good news brings us one step closer to regaining control of city land now occupied by the Santa Monica Airport and to keeping our community healthy and safe,” Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez said. “Now that the FAA’s statute of limitations argument has been thrown out, the case will finally go to trial on the merits of our claims. This is what we’ve pushed for all along, and we remain totally committed to establishing control of this land and using it in service to the whole community.”

The FAA is reviewing the appellate decision, agency spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Jonathan Stein, an attorney who lives in Santa Monica and has represented activists seeking to shut down the airport, was somewhat ambivalent about the appellate ruling.

“This is good for the city, but not a decision on the merits. It is a handy tool to have in the box. We are deciding whether to intervene, given what
a lousy job outside counsel has done,” said Stein, who has previously criticized the city’s handling of airport litigation.

Santa Monica has been embroiled in several lawsuits with the FAA for nearly a decade, beginning when it sought to limit the types of aircraft that could land or takeoff from the airport.

Prior to Monday’s ruling, the city had been unsuccessful in almost all of its airport-related lawsuits against the federal government.

— Gary Walker

Sea Shepherd Drops Anchor in Marina del Rey


After wrapping up a three-month patrol for illegal gill nets in the Gulf of California, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Farley Mowat — a former Coast Guard Cutter that stretches 110 feet — dropped anchor in Marina del Rey last weekend to raise public awareness of its mission.

Sea Shepherd began patrolling the gulf last year to fight the looming extinction of the endangered vaquita porpoise.

The Farley Mowat was continuing similar efforts to protect the critically endangered totoaba fish. In the process, crew members removed
42 illegal gillnets and 16 long lines, saving seven totoaba, 55 rays, dozens of sharks and a humpback whale.

— Joe Piasecki

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