Archive for December, 2020

Dredging up the past at Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

Sand and water dredged from the San Joaquin River are pumped onto Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge in October. The water will return to the river through outfall pipes, leaving the sand behind. Credit: Mark Hayes/USFWS

Sand from the Port of Stockton is restoring a unique refuge

By Brandon Honig, External Affairs Specialist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Over thousands of years, the shifting sands of time built dunes that reached 120 feet high and stretched for two miles along the San Joaquin River, about 35 miles east of San Francisco. Isolated from similar habitats, the Antioch Dunes slowly developed species found nowhere else in the world.

The gradual shifting of sand, however, was replaced by a rapid effort to turn it into bricks in 1906, after a devastating earthquake and fires demolished buildings in San Francisco. As industry depleted the sand over the next 70 years, the dunes’ unique species struggled to survive on dunes that eventually topped out at 50 feet.

Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) and Port of Stockton are trying to turn back the clock, one load of sand at a time. Since 2013, the Port has pumped nearly 92,000 cubic yards of sand — enough to fill more than 6,500 dump trucks — onto the dunes to support three endangered species: the Lange’s metalmark butterfly, Antioch Dunes evening primrose and Contra Costa wallflower.

There may be fewer than 50 Lange’s metalmark butterflies remaining today, down from an estimated 25,000 between 50 and 100 years ago. The butterfly is only found at Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

“The population of Lange’s has been trending downward for a couple of decades now,” said Mark Hayes, a biologist with the Service’s San Francisco Bay-Delta Office. “We counted about 10 butterflies in 2020, and the total population is very likely less than 50 currently. This is precariously low.”

The orange, black and white butterfly with a wingspan of 1 to 1.5 inches, whose population likely numbered 25,000 less than a century ago, was listed as endangered in 1976. The white-petaled primrose and yellow-petaled wallflower followed with listings in 1978.

The Service established Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge for the three species in 1980, making it the first national refuge for insects and plants. At the time, the 55-acre urban refuge with two non-adjacent units was also the nation’s smallest.

Wildlife resource specialist Louis Terrazas inspects sand placed on Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge through a partnership with the Port of Stockton. The landscape to the right shows refuge land that has not yet been restored with sand. Credit: Brandon Honig/USFWS

“This is a very industrial neighborhood we’re tucked into,” Louis Terrazas, a wildlife resource specialist for the refuge, said of Antioch Dunes. “There’s a shipyard on one side, a gypsum-processing plant, an old water-treatment facility over there and two strips of land owned by Pacific Gas and Electric.”

As sand disappeared in the 20th century, non-native grasses and plants took hold, crowding out the primrose, the wallflower and the Antioch Dunes buckwheat, which is the only plant where the Lange’s butterfly will lay its eggs. In the early 2000s, a series of wildfires further cut the butterfly population, leaving only about 100 alive in 2010 — all on the refuge’s 14-acre eastern unit.

With no butterflies to protect on the western unit, the Service decided to overhaul that site and try to restore the conditions that had once enabled the dunes’ endangered species to thrive. Refuge staff began looking for sources of sand in 2012 and were soon contacted by the Port of Stockton.

Beachgoers lounge on an Antioch, California, sand dune in the early 1900s, before much of the sand was mined for building materials. Credit: Contra Costa County Historical Society

The Army Corps of Engineers dredges sand from the San Joaquin River each year to clear passage for cargo ships, and the Port is responsible for finding sites to place the sand. The Port typically sent sand to nearby Sherman Island, but saw an opportunity to make a real impact at Antioch Dunes.

“Our board has been pushing us to reach out and find projects like this — ways we can go above and beyond the normal regulations to try to have a beneficial impact on the [Sacramento-San Joaquin River] Delta,” said Jeff Wingfield, the Port of Stockton’s director of environmental and public affairs. “It costs us a little extra in time and prepping the site and some other little work, but for us it’s important to beneficially reuse the material.”

Since the Port’s first delivery in 2013, the evening primrose has experienced a huge jump in numbers, Terrazas said, and the wallflower and buckwheat are also reappearing. Eventually the refuge hopes to re-establish the Lange’s butterfly on the western unit as well.

The Contra Costa Wallflower, right, and Antioch Dunes evening primrose live side by side at Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, the only national refuge established to protect plants and insects. Credit: Susan Euing/USFWS

To fully restore the refuge’s dune system, the Service could continue taking sand deposits for a couple of decades, Terrazas said, which might not be possible without the Port partnership.

“We bought some sand from another site in 2009, but it was really expensive, and the sand material had some non-native species in it,” he said. “We decided it was not the best method of restoring the site.”

The endangered Antioch Dunes evening primrose has shown a huge jump in numbers since dune-restoration began in 2013. Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

Under the current method, the Port provides and delivers clean sand, and it doesn’t cost the Service a dollar. USFW staff devotes a great deal of time to this project, but the sand itself and the labor to place it at the Antioch Dunes are donated.

“Restoring the dunes is vitally important to the refuge’s ecosystem and could be the key to long-term preservation of its endangered species,” Hayes said. “We value our partnership with the Port and hope this continues as we implement our restoration plan.”


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Antioch father shoots son multiple times during Wednesday night dispute

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

Arrested for attempted murder

By Sergeant James Stenger #3604, Antioch Police Violent Crimes Unit (Investigations Bureau)

On Wednesday, December 30, 2020, at about 7:53 pm, Antioch Police patrol officers were dispatched to 3500 block of Briarwood Court for a disturbance between a father and son. During the incident the father produced a firearm and shot his son multiple times. The son was transported to a local hospital where he is currently listed in critical but stable condition. The father was arrested and booked into the Contra Costa County Jail in Martinez for attempted murder with bail set at $750,000. This case will be presented to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office on Monday, January 4, 2021.

Additional inquiries or information can be directed to Antioch Police Detective Gerber at (925) 779-6943 or by emailing Anonymous tips or information about this – or any other incident – can be sent via text to 274637 (CRIMES) with the keyword ANTIOCH.

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New Year brings new toll collection system to Bay Area bridges

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Commission

Monthly invoices to supplement FasTrak®, replace individual notices

SAN FRANCISCO – The Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) announced Monday that the start of 2021 will also herald the launch of a new all-electronic toll collection system at the Antioch, Benicia-Martinez, Carquinez, Dumbarton, Richmond-San Rafael, San Francisco-Oakland Bay and San Mateo-Hayward bridges. While bridge customers who pay their tolls with a FasTrak® toll tag or a License Plate Account will see no difference in their statements, patrons who are not enrolled in one of these programs will receive a monthly invoice for all toll bridge crossings made after midnight on New Year’s Eve. Following the suspension of cash toll collection in March of this year, these customers have received individual toll notices for each crossing.

The all-electronic toll collection system being introduced at the Bay Area’s seven state-owned toll bridges is similar to the system used at the Golden Gate Bridge, which adopted all-electronic tolling in 2013. Automated, high-speed cameras will capture images of customers’ license plates, and the FasTrak customer service center will process the images and then mail an invoice each month to the address at which the vehicle is registered with the DMV.

FasTrak customers account for nearly three-quarters of all crossings at the Bay Area’s state-owned toll bridges. BATA encourages customers who do not already have FasTrak to open accounts online at or by phone at 1-877-229-8655 (BAY-TOLL). Customers also may obtain FasTrak tags at select Costco and Walgreens stores. A map of retail locations at which FasTrak toll tags are available may be found at FasTrak tags purchased at Costco or Walgreens must be registered online. A $20 deposit per tag will apply if the account is not funded with a credit card. Drivers who would rather replenish their FasTrak accounts with cash can do so at more than 100 Cash Payment Network locations. A map of these locations may be found at

Drivers also may open a License Plate Account, which links a license plate to a credit card and charges that card whenever the vehicle crosses a toll bridge; or make a one-time payment, which allows the customer to pay a toll online up to 30 days in advance of a bridge crossing or within 48 hours afterwards. There are no fees for either of these services. More information about License Plate Accounts and one-time payments is available at

The debut of all-electronic tolling and monthly invoicing at the seven state-owned toll bridges also will mark the return of toll payment rules that were temporarily suspended when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted BATA and Caltrans to eliminate cash toll collection on March 21.

Customers who do not have FasTrak or a License Plate Account – and who do not use the online one-time payment option – will be required to return invoices with payment within 30 days. Customers who neglect to return payment within 30 days will receive a “Notice of Toll Evasion” with a $25 penalty for each toll crossing. Customers who do not return invoices with payment after 60 days will receive a “Second Notice of Delinquent Toll Evasion” with a violation penalty of $70 per crossing. Customers who do not return payment after a second notice may have a hold put on their vehicle registration by the DMV and/or have the amount owed referred to a collection agency.

BATA administers all toll revenues from the region’s seven state-owned toll bridges.


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Feds charge Antioch nurse with possession of child pornography

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

In addition to charges filed by Contra Costa DA

Shawn Jamison Prichard. Photo: CCDA

OAKLAND –Shawn Jamison Prichard was charged in a criminal complaint with possession of child pornography announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Tatum King.

That’s in addition to the charges filed against him by the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office on December 10th. (See related article) (See related article)

According to the complaint filed December 22, 2020, and unsealed this morning, Prichard, 41, of Antioch, allegedly possessed at least one image of child pornography involving the use of a prepubescent minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.  Prichard is a licensed nurse in California.  The criminal investigation in this case began with a tip from a social media company based on defendant’s use of a messaging service to send images of child pornography. Prichard is charged with possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252.

Prichard made his initial federal court appearance in federal court this morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen.  His next appearance is a detention hearing scheduled for December 29, 2020, at 10:30 a.m., before U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler.

A criminal complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of 10 years (20 years if the images depict pre-pubescent children), and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution, if appropriate.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan U. Lee is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Jessica Rodriguez Gonzalez and Kathleen Turner.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and HSI.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Antioch Police to investigate Tuesday dirt bike riding incident with new councilwoman’s sons following profanity-laced Facebook rant

Thursday, December 31st, 2020

“I will be hiring an outside, independent investigator to conduct the investigation.” – Antioch Police Chief T Brooks

Antioch Councilwoman Tamisha Torres-Walker in a Facebook Live video she posted on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. Screenshot of video now on YouTube.

By Allen Payton

On Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020 two boys were stopped by Antioch Police for riding a quad and dirt bike on city streets. The quad was seen by this reporter pulled over in the 1900 block of A Street, facing south in the right, northbound lane. Their mother is new Councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker who represents District 1.

She posted a nine-minute, tearful, profanity-laced Live video on one of her Facebook pages, later that day, calling the Antioch Police “motherf—-rs” and “a—holes”, and complaining they chased down her sons, side swiped them, bumped the quad and pulled out their tazers, but didn’t use them. Tores-Walker said she told the police officers “you don’t know who I am” but claims she said that because she doesn’t care that she’s a council member.

“I don’t care. I don’t care. Like, when I say ‘you don’t know who I am’ you better believe that I’m saying I don’t give a f—- about being a city council member. That’s what I’m saying,” she said in the video. “So, when I say ‘you don’t know who I am’ I’m not trying to say ‘I’m a city council member.’ What I’m trying to say is I don’t give a f— about being a city council member. That’s what I’m trying to say, that you don’t know me about my kids.”

“I fixing to get off of this Live, right now,” Torres-Walker continued with a chuckle. “I’m so mad, right now. I’m not scared enough to back down from this sh–. My son is all f—ed up, right now, because he didn’t know what y’all was going to do and this is a child. So, yes, I will be filing a complaint.”

“This sh– is just out of line,” she concluded.

The video has since been removed from her Facebook page. But was able to capture and post it on YouTube. The video can be viewed, here. (Warning: video contains graphic language)

In the video, Torres-Walker mentions her two sons who were “out here having fun” including one who is 13 years old. The age of her other son was not shared. Efforts to reach her for more details and to answer questions were unsuccessful prior to publication time, including if they live on or near A Street and if she’s aware it’s illegal to ride dirt bikes and quads on city streets.

Chief Brooks Responds

In response to questions about the incident and what the Antioch Police Department had to say about it and will do, Chief T Brooks offered the following, official response: “I am aware of the video and the incident in question. I take these allegations very seriously and have initiated an investigation into the matter. In order to ensure a fair, impartial, and objective process is completed, I will be hiring an outside, independent investigator to conduct the investigation.”

In addition, an APD sergeant said he expected a press release about the incident to be issued, soon.

Councilmembers Asked About Possible Censure

Finally, immediately prior to publication, Mayor Lamar Thorpe, Mayor Pro Tem Monica Wilson and Council Members Lori Ogorchock and Mike Barbanica were asked if any of them will consider censuring Walker for her comments, as Antioch residents have been asking on social media. That’s especially in light of Wilson’s successful effort to not merely censure former Planning Commission Chair Kenny Turnage, but her, Thorpe’s and Ogorchock’s votes to remove him for his controversial comments about COVID-19 on Facebook, earlier this year.

Please check back later for updates to this report.

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Antioch’s Najee Harris in running for Heisman Trophy for performance as Alabama running back

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

Najee Harris hurdles an Ole Miss player. Photo: University of Alabama Football

Scores 5 TD’s in SEC Championship game, named MVP; showered with national honors; Heisman presentation Thursday on ESPN; will play in Rose Bowl Jan. 1

Najee Harris. Photo: UAF

By Jesus Cano

University of Alabama running back Najee Harris has taken the college football world by storm this season, but anyone who saw him play at Antioch High School knew this would happen

On Saturday night, Harris and the No. 1 ranked Crimson Tide took down No. 7 Florida in the SEC championship, where he was named the MVP. He recorded five touchdowns, three receiving and two rushing, and 245 all-purpose yards. His performances all season have put him in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy – given to the best college football player, for which he’s been training. Harris is one of the final five candidates, voting ended on Monday, Dec. 21, and the 2020 Heisman Trophy Finalists Reveal Show will be held Thursday, Dec. 24 at 4:30 pm Pacific Time on ESPN, and the winner presented on Jan. 5.

“A lot of stuff has happened this year,” Harris said. “We’re happy to be here.” (See his postgame press conference)

Overall, during his senior season, the 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound Harris rushed for 24 touchdowns and 1,262 yards, for a total of 1,578 yards including 312 receiving, after choosing to stay in school to play one more year and forego entering the NFL draft. For Harris’ four-year college career, he has 4,311 total yards, including 3,649 rushing.

Harris is Alabama’s all-time leader in career touchdowns, surpassing current NFL running backs Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram, and Seattle Seahawks legend, Shaun Alexander. Harris is also just 101 yards shy of breaking the all-time rushing yards record at Alabama.

Harris evades an Arkansas State player. Photo: UAF

Last week, he was chosen one of three finalists for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award, which is presented annually to the Division I college football player who has demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field. The award honors exemplary character and commitment to community, family and teammates.

In the description of Harris for that award, it reads, “One of the nation’s top running backs, Harris has…overcome a challenging childhood in which he faced homelessness to become a vocal leader during the Alabama team’s social justice movement and one of the main voices for his university’s push towards a more unified campus. He has also been an active member in the Tuscaloosa community, recording nearly 50 hours of community service, highlighted by his volunteer efforts with the Alberta Head Start Unity Project.”

Harris is also one of 14 student-athletes named to the 2020 SEC Football Community Service Team for his work and  it was just announced on Monday, Dec. 21st during the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA) honors presentation, he is one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award. The honor was created in 1989 to recognize the nation’s premier running back for his accomplishments on the field, achievement in the classroom and citizenship in the community. The winner will be announced during The 30th Annual Home Depot College Football Awards show on Thursday, Jan. 7, at 4 p.m. PT, on ESPN.

Harris was also a semi-finalist for The Maxwell Award which is presented annually to the college football player judged by a panel of sportscasters, sportswriters, and NCAA head coaches and the membership of the Maxwell Football Club to be the best all-around in the United States.

Now, he and the Tide shift their focus to the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) College Football Playoffs, where Alabama will play No. 4 Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl game on Jan. 1 at 1:00 p.m. Due to the State of California COVID-19 health orders, the game won’t be played in Pasadena, but at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas, instead.

Najee Harris stretches for the touchdown vs. Clemson in the 2019 BCS Championship game. Photo: UAF

Harris committed to Alabama his sophomore year of high school, very early to decide even for an athlete as rated as he was. And while there were talks of last-minute flips to Michigan or Cal, Harris remained true to the Crimson Tide.

“Words can’t express how happy and proud I am for Najee,” Antioch defensive coordinator Brett Dudley said. “It’s amazing getting to see him every Saturday on TV and it was great to see he graduated a couple weeks ago. It’s great for the city of Antioch because he will forever be the inspiration for every kid growing up in Antioch. The best example there is that if you’re a great person and you do all the right things on and off the field, you can achieve all of your dreams.”

Harris ended his high school career with 99 touchdowns for the Panthers, with 7,948 rushing yards. Antioch went undefeated in 2015, winning its first league title since 1984. The following year, Antioch made it to the NCS DI championship, but came up short, losing to Monte Vista.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Pittsburg man pleads guilty to multiple felonies in Antioch and Pittsburg including July 2020 carjacking, attempted murder

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Office of the District Attorney, Contra Costa County

On December 18, 2020, Gilberto Villegas of Pittsburg (42-years-old) pleaded no contest Attempted Murder and Carjacking related to his violent attacks on multiple victims over a two-day period in Antioch and Pittsburg during late July of 2020. Villegas also admitted to causing great bodily injury and to having a prior violent felony/ strike offense. In total, Villegas will serve 18 years in state prison for his crimes.

On the evening of July 25, 2020, Villegas approached Jane Doe 1 in a parking lot at her place of work. He pulled up his car next to the victim’s, waited until she exited the vehicle and demanded her car keys. She had attempted to leave her car and escape, Villegas brought her back to her car using physical force. The victim then threw her car keys away in an effort to end the attempted carjacking. Villegas responded by using his own car keys to stab the victim in the neck multiple times. Fortunately, a witness came upon the attack and yelled at the defendant. He then broke off his attack and fled in his own vehicle.

The next day, Villegas approached another female victim, Jane Doe 2, in a parking lot where the victim worked. The Victim was in her car during her lunch break. He proceeded to open her car door while she was inside her vehicle and strangled her to the point where she lost consciousness. After he pushed her out the vehicle, Villegas then started the victim’s car and tried to run her over. Co-workers intervened and Villegas fled the parking lot in Jane Doe 2’s car.

As part of the criminal complaint filing against Villegas, he had a prior violent felony for a 2015 conviction for a robbery with the use of a weapon.

The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Chris Sansoe of the Victims of Violent Crimes Unit. The cases involving Villegas were investigated by the Antioch and Pittsburg Police Departments.

Case information: People v. Gilberto Villegas Docket Number 04-200031-3 and 04-200067-7.

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Antioch School Board postpones discussion of superintendent evaluation process, student trustee

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

Over 260 public comments, 1,400 signers of petition to support Superintendent Anello; misperception due to “issue of language”

By Anthony Dorado

The Antioch School Board convened for a Special Meeting on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 for a closed session discussion of a settlement agreement regarding a local mediation agreement, the superintendent evaluation process taking place in June 2021 and for the first reading of Board Bylaw 9150-B: Student Board Members. After much disagreement and misperception amongst the board members, both items were postponed to a regularly scheduled meeting in January. The Board voted 5-0 to approve the settlement agreement. (Listen to the board meeting, here)

Superintendent Evaluation

Board President Ellie Householder said she didn’t call for the special meeting. It was already scheduled for the urgent closed session legal matter.  But she wanted to discuss and consider the evaluation process of Superintendent Stephanie Anello to take place mid-2021, not for the actual evaluation. Householder expressed concern over establishing metrics for the evaluation amidst a pandemic with constantly changing circumstances as it pertains to the education of children in the district. She also said she wanted to involve new Trustees Antonio Hernandez and Dr. Clyde Lewis in the process.

Due to what the Board deemed to be an “issue of language,” the special meeting garnered great controversy and public outrage. Many citizens misinterpreted the intention of the meeting, taking it to be a preemptive evaluation of the superintendent, strategically planned for when many would be away on vacation. That misunderstanding resulted in over 260 comments submitted on the matter, but only a few were read, and a petition with over 1,400 signatories in support of Anello.

In response to the influx of comments, the urging of Trustee Gary Hack and a crunch for time, since both Householder and Lewis had a “hard stop at 1:00 p.m.,” the Board decided to postpone both agenda items for the regularly scheduled meeting in January. They ensured the issue would be thoroughly discussed and that all comments would be heard at that time.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.


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