530 Crime Watch: Benton Airpark fire traced to illegal homeless camp, fire officials say

Benton Airpark fire connected to illegal homeless camp, fire officials say

Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020

A small vegetation fire that broke out Saturday afternoon at Benton Airpark in Redding was traced to an illegal homeless camp, fire officials reported. 

The quarter-acre grass fire was reported around 3:10 p.m. near the airpark, according to a Redding Fire Department news release.

Redding Fire Department logo.

Firefighters quickly contained the fire without further growth. Crews stayed on scene for about an hour and a half to mop up.

A fire investigator at the scene found a homeless camp with multiple items of trash nearby. Officials determined the fire was human-caused "with direct relation" to the homeless camp. 

Two accused of FEMA fraud in connection with Camp Fire

Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020

Two Butte County women have been charged with Federal Emergency Management Agency benefits fraud in connection with the 2018 Camp Fire, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Friday.

A federal grand jury returned two indictments that separately charge Cynthia Seeley, 66, of Magalia, and Kristen Canapary, 53, of Butte County, for making false statements on a FEMA benefits application, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said in a news release.

“These indictments are the result of ongoing efforts to investigate and prosecute a variety of disaster-related frauds, including claims for disaster assistance,” Scott said.

Scott said court documents showed that Seeley and Canapary falsely claimed a primary residence that wasn’t their true residence at the time of November 2018 fire, which was the most destructive and deadliest wildfire in state history, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Seeley falsely claimed that she rented a residence on Eureka Road in Magalia and received $11,604 in cash benefits from FEMA, Scott said.

Canapary falsely claimed that she rented a home on Sylvan Way in Paradise and got $8,973 in cash benefits and temporary housing that was provided by FEMA, Scott said.

If convicted, Seeley and Canapary each face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and $250,000 fine, Scott said.

Authorities looking for man who robbed Cottonwood gas station

Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020

Authorities are looking for a man who robbed the Chevron gas station on 4th Street in Cottonwood at gunpoint early Tuesday morning.

The robbery was reported around 3 a.m., the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office said.

An image of the suspected robbery suspect taken from the gas station surveillance video.

“When deputies arrived, they contacted a store employee who said a white or Hispanic male entered the business and robbed it at gunpoint. The male then fled the location in a light-colored sedan in an unknown direction,” a sheriff’s news release said.

Deputies were unable to locate the suspect or the vehicle.

The man has tattoos on his right hand and face. He is of average height and average build, and believed to be in his 20s or 30s, investigators said. He was wearing a blue surgical mask, a black hooded sweatshirt, light-colored baseball cap, gray sweatpants and light-colored skate shoes.

Deputies also were told that the man might have an injury to his right arm because he was favoring it during the robbery.

An undisclosed amount of money, food and medication were taken from the gas station, investigators said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office at 245-6540.

Two injured in suspected DUI crash in Redding

Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020

A man was arrested early Thursday following a crash that injured two people in Redding, police said.

The solo-vehicle wreck was reported around 12:15 a.m. on North Bechelli Lane near Hemsted Drive. Three people were in the vehicle.

One of the passengers, Rachelle Bigger, 24, of Anderson, suffered major injuries and was taken to the hospital, police said.

Police responded to a suspected DUI crash in Redding early Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.

The other passenger, Miya Banuelos, 18, of Redding, also was injured but the extent of her injuries was not immediately known, police said. She also was taken to the hospital for treatment.

The driver, Michael White, 20, of Redding, was arrested on suspicion of DUI and booked into Shasta County Jail.

Chico man arrested after argument involving dogs

Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020

A Chico man was arrested at the Sacramento River Trail near Hilltop Drive and Palisades Avenue after he allegedly pulled a knife and swung it at a man Wednesday morning during an argument, Redding police said.

The suspect, Jon King, 30, was walking two dogs in the opposite direction down the Sacramento River Trail when he came upon 63-year-old Scott Smith, of Shasta Lake, who was walking his dog too, according to police.

Jon King

Officers said when all the dogs started barking at each other, the two men had a brief confrontation and King attempted to stab Smith.

After fleeing the scene, officers caught King just after 10:30 a.m. and arrested him, authorities said.

Redding police said King admitted to his involvement in the disturbance with Smith, but denied attempting to assault him.

King was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and brandishing a deadly weapon, authorities said, and he was booked into Shasta County Jail.

Redding neighborhood police unit makes 2,000 arrest

Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020

Established in January 2016, the Redding Police Department Neighborhood Police Unit made its 2,000 arrest earlier this month, authorities announced Wednesday.

The unit is made up of four officers and a supervisor and focuses on downtown, the Hilltop Drive-Dana Drive corridor, the Sacramento River Trail and surrounding parks.

The 2,000 arrests include nearly 750 felony arrests and 1,250 misdemeanor arrests, police said.

Since its inception, police said the neighborhood unit has seized approximately 2 pounds of cocaine, 23 pounds of methamphetamine and 14 pounds of heroin. It also has seized 118 firearms from suspected drug dealers, convicted felons and dangerous criminals.

Citizens can report suspected drug activity or problem houses on the Redding Police Department website.

Hit-and-run leaves man critically injured

Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the crash victim suffering major injuries.

A 53-year-old Redding man suffered major injuries late Tuesday when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver while he was attempting to cross the street in his wheelchair, Redding police said.

Officers said William Edward Finn was critically injured while using a motorized wheelchair at a crosswalk at the intersection of Eureka Way and California Street.

"Based on evidence at the scene, it appeared William Finn was in or near the crosswalk when he was struck by a vehicle," police said in a news release.

Redding police responded to the collision at 11:44 p.m. Finn was taken to Mercy Hospital, police said.

The crash is under investigation.

Officers said there were no witnesses so they're asking anyone with information about the collision to contact the Redding Police Department Traffic Unit at 530-225-4200.  

Two arrested on weapons, drug charges in Anderson

Monday, Oct. 19, 2020

A Washington state man tried to evade authorities Sunday afternoon before he crashed the stolen vehicle he was driving into a light pole in a restaurant parking lot, Anderson police said.

Tre Sutherland, 25, was arrested on suspicion of possession of a stolen vehicle, assault with a deadly weapon, resisting arrest and drug-related charges.

The arrest took place Sunday around 3:45 p.m. in the parking lot of Panda Express on Rhonda Road. An officer spotted the stolen vehicle and saw a man later identified as Sutherland approach it and start rearranging items inside the vehicle, police said.

Additional officers were called, and they parked behind the vehicle, surrounding Sutherland, who police said ignored verbal commands and got into the driver’s seat.

Sutherland, of Arlington, Washington, put the vehicle in reverse and accelerated, nearly striking an officer who was approaching from behind, police said.

Sutherland then backed the vehicle into a light pole before officers grabbed him and took him into custody, police said.

Also arrested was Ezekial Faulks, 25, of Everett, Colorado, who was inside the restaurant and said he was with Sutherland, police said. He was arrested on suspicion of possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of ammunition by a felon and outstanding warrants.

A search of Sutherland, Faulks and the vehicle found three loaded .45 caliber magazines, a box of .45 caliber ammunition, a stun gun, several grams of heroin, drug paraphernalia, burglary tools and several illegal incendiary devices, police said.

Shasta County man convicted in 2019 murder of roommate in Happy Valley

Friday, Oct. 16

A Shasta County jury convicted a Happy Valley man of first-degree murder on Friday after he was accused of shooting his roommate with a shotgun.

Michael Patrick O’Connell, 36, had initially been charged in February of 2019. A news release from the district attorney's office went into more detail on the case.

The release stated that on Feb. 6, O'Connell pounded on the door of his roommate, Adam Mancebo, 41, and told him he needed to leave the home immediately while he had a shotgun in his hands.

Michael Patrick O'Connell, right, appears in court in 2019.

O'Connell then went to the living room next to Mancebo's bedroom, where O'Connell's mother was on the couch. Soon after, Mancebo walked into the living room in his boxers and empty handed, according to the release.

"He made it approximately seven feet into the living room before O’Connell fired a single shell of 00 buck shot at Mancebo’s chest," read the news release. 

Mancebo dropped to the floor and O'Connell's mother, who saw the murder, ran out of the house and called 911. Deputies arrived and found Mancebo's body in the living room, according to the release.

In a February 2019 hearing early in the case, a prosecutor told the judge that they anticipated O'Connell would claim self defense. 

Michael Patrick O'Connell

The DA's office said Sarah Murphy and Anthony Miller prosecuted the case. O'Connell is scheduled to be sentenced by a judge on Nov. 30.

Past coverage on the case: 

Two people arrested in Shasta County after traffic stop

Thursday, Oct. 15

Two people were arrested Wednesday afternoon after a traffic stop in Shasta County.

Brian Kacy Threet

Brian Kacy Threet, 44, of Bella Vista, and Alicia Marie Richlin, 31, of Shasta Lake, were arrested on outstanding warrants after a sheriff’s deputy stopped the vehicle Richlin was drivingtp4:15 p.m.

Deputies had been looking for Richlin based on an outstanding felony arrest warrant for drug-related charges, authorities said.

Threet was on post release community supervision and had an misdemeanor arrest warrant, authorities said.

Alicia Marie Richlin

What's more, a search of the vehicle located a loaded .357 Magnum handgun under the passenger seat where Threet was sitting, a sheriff's office news release said.

Threet cannot own or possess firearms based on his criminal history, authorities said.

Suspect struck by vehicle after leading Redding police on foot chase

Wednesday, Oct. 14

A 35-year-old man on parole, who was found with a vehicle police said had been reported as stolen, was struck by oncoming traffic on Dana Drive while attempting to evade officers on foot.

Police identified the suspect as Brian Allen Munoz of Westwood.

Brian Allen Munoz

The incident started at 2:45 p.m. Tuesday when officers spotted him with a female passenger in a 2000 Camry at a parking lot in the 900 block of Dana Drive, according to police.

After being given commands, officials said Munoz fled on foot onto Dana Drive before a car traveling westbound hit him. 

Munoz was arrested on suspicion of possession of a stolen vehicle, methamphetamine, narcotics paraphernalia, an open container in a vehicle, and resisting arrest and a parole violation, police said.

He was taken to Mercy Medical Center to be treated for minor injuries and then taken to Shasta County Jail to be booked, police said.  

The vehicle, which had been reported as stolen on Tuesday from Susanville, was towed from the scene and the registered owner was notified, police said.

Forest Service logo

Redding man charged with serial arson in Shasta-Trinity National Forest

Wednesday, Oct. 14

Officials have charged a Redding man with lighting fires on Shasta-Trinity National Forest land in Shasta County, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced Wednesday.

The man, Eric Michael Smith, 38, is accused of setting four fires between June 23 and July 29 this year, according to a news release from Scott's office. 

Prosecutors allege Smith used a "virtually untraceable" cigarette lighter or pen torch to ignite the fires.

One of the fires started near Turntable Bay and led to officials closing lanes on Interstate 5. Two other fires started along Gilman Road, near the burn area of the 2018 Hirz Fire. The fourth fire started in the Jones Valley area. 

If convicted, Smith would face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, although the court has discretion for sentencing. 

The case was investigated by the U.S. Forest Service and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection with help from the Shasta County Sheriff's Office. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Stefanki is prosecuting the case. 

Two arrested after weekend shooting in Anderson, police say

Tuesday, Oct. 13

Two people have been arrested after a shooting Sunday afternoon in Anderson, police said.

Officers responded to reports of possible gun shots heard in the area of Pinon Avenue and Yellow Finch Way around 12:15 p.m. Officers found shell casings and other evidence of a shooting.

While police investigated, the victim called to report that she had been shot at, saying she confronted two individuals that had jumped over the security fence of her apartment complex and one of the individuals brandished a handgun, investigators said.

The two suspects then left the complex in a vehicle, which the victim followed until it reached Pinon and Yellow Finch. There the passenger in the vehicle she was following began shooting and struck her vehicle several times, investigators said.

Around 4 p.m., officers located the suspected vehicle on Highway 273 and Canyon Drive, conducted a traffic stop and detained Cierra Harris, 19, of Antioch, investigators said. It was later determined that Harris was the alleged driver at the time of the shooting.

Officers identified the suspected shooter as a 16-year-old boy from Vacaville, who they later observed leaving a residence as a passenger in a vehicle, investigators said. The teenager was taken into custody after a traffic stop.

Investigators said both Harris and the 16-year-old boy were interviewed and later arrested and confessed to the shooting.

The teenager, whose name was not released, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and assault with a firearm and was booked into Shasta County Juvenile Hall.

Harris was arrested on suspicion of accessory to attempted murder.

Anyone with more information on the case can call the Anderson Police Department at 378-6610.

Woman cited for allegedly stealing packages from front porch of Shasta Lake home

Tuesday, Oct. 13

A Sacramento woman was ticketed for suspicion of petty theft and possession of stolen property after deputies said she took packages from the front porch of a home in Shasta Lake.

Tanya Moore, 36, was located at a Redding hotel, where she admitted to deputies that she took the packages over the weekend from a house on Smith Avenue, a Shasta County Sheriff’s Office news release said.

She also still had the packages, which deputies said were valued at $180. The packages were ultimately returned to the owner.

The theft was reported Saturday. The victim is a local firefighter, who gave authorities video surveillance footage of a woman, later identified as Moore, and the vehicle she was driving, deputies said.

The vehicle was not registered to Moore. Deputies were unable to contact the registered owner. However, during the investigation, the sheriff’s office got a tip about the possible identity of the suspect.

Deputies then followed up on the tip and were able to locate the vehicle at a Redding area hotel and contacted Moore, authorities said.

The crimes Moore committed are misdemeanors, which is why she was issued citations, authorities said.

However, the case will be forwarded to the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office.

Burglary suspect caught in Redding tied to other crimes

Monday, Oct. 12

Police arrested an Oregon man Monday morning after receiving a report of a cat burglar in south Redding.

Around 5 a.m., officers responded to a report of a burglary in the 2000 block of Glengary Drive, according to the Redding Police Department.

A woman at the home reported she woke up to find her front door open and her vehicle running in the driveway. When she went to investigate, she found a man with her son’s wallet attempting to drive the vehicle away, she said.

The woman described the man as an adult Asian male wearing a pink head wrap and blue skirt and carrying a purse.

She reported to police she was able to get the keys and wallet back from the man before he took off on foot.

Officers found a person matching the suspect's description on Southgate Drive, one block north of the woman's home. Police identified him as Jadyn Edwards, 18, of Portland, Oregon.

Jadyn Edwards, 18, of Portland, Oregon.

Edwards was combative when officers confronted him, police said. They took him into custody following a brief struggle. 

The woman positively identified Edwards as the man in her driveway, police said.

Edwards was booked into the Shasta County Jail on suspicion of residential burglary, attempted vehicle theft, prowling, resisting and obstructing peace officers and possession of methamphetamine.

Police reported Edwards is a suspect in another Redding burglary last Saturday morning. A resident from the 2000 block of Roxford Court — one block north of the Glengary Drive home — reported someone entered her home, took her keys and stole her BMW from the driveway.

At 2 p.m. the same day, a Siskiyou County sheriff’s deputy found the BMW and arrested the driver, Edwards. He was booked into the Siskiyou County Jail, but was released at 7:30 p.m. the same day.

Edwards has two non-extraditable warrants out of Portland, one of which is for assaulting a peace officer, police said. He was flagged as “violent toward law enforcement” by the Portland Police Department.

Police: Sleeping man found with drugs, stolen shotgun in hotel parking lot

Sunday, Oct. 11

Anderson police said they woke up and arrested an Oregon man who had a methamphetamine pipe and loaded shotgun in the front seat of his vehicle Saturday morning.

Officers were looking for someone else when they came across 28-year-old Zachary Welch sleeping in the driver’s seat of his car in the parking lot of Baymont Inn in Anderson.

Zachary Welch

Police approached the vehicle, which didn’t have a front license plate, and saw the drug pipe on the center console and a black Remington 12-gauge shotgun on the front passenger seat.

Officers woke Welch up and put him in handcuffs. They searched the man and found two vials of anabolic steroids, a Xanax pill, a half-gram of methamphetamine, four hypodermic syringes, a switch-blade type knife and three rounds of shotgun ammunition.

In the vehicle, police said they found more ammunition of varying calibers, a second bag of meth and 10 syringes. The shotgun had been stolen during a vehicle burglary in 2015, police said.

Welch said he had eaten about a gram of heroin before he was arrested so police took him to a hospital for treatment before he was booked into Shasta County Jail.

Welch is facing charges of possessing and being under the influence of a controlled substance while armed, having a stolen firearm, possessing a controlled substance and having drug paraphernalia.

Anderson police said Welch may face additional charges by the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office.

Sheriff's office IDs Round Mountain shooting victim

Friday, Oct. 9

A man shot dead and found on the road last week near Highway 299 East and Bakus Road in Round Mountain has been identified as Noel Garcia, 34, of Hayward, the Shasta County Sheriff's Office said Friday.

Deputies from the Burney Patrol Station were in a remote area of the county around 10 p.m. on Sept. 28 when they heard gunshots.

They found Garcia dead near the roadway, with gunshot wounds to his upper body, investigators said.

Witnesses in the area told investigators that they heard a verbal altercation prior to the gunshots.

Investigators said Garcia was a Campo Ramos Locos gang member and was on parole for attempted murder out of West Sacramento.  

What’s more, Garcia recently came to eastern Shasta County to work on a marijuana operation in the Windy Point Road area, investigators said.

Garcia was required to notify his parole officer as part of his parole conditions, but his parole officer did not know Garcia had left the Sacramento area at the time of the shooting, investigators said.

The marijuana grow in the Windy Point neighborhood was eradicated.

Authorities are still investigating the deadly shooting and ask anyone with information to call the Shasta County Major Crimes Unit at 245-6135.

Shasta County Secret Witness also is offering a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of the suspect(s) in this case.  Secret witness can be contacted at 243-2319 or at


David Benda covers business, development and anything else that comes up for the USA TODAY Network in Redding. He also writes the weekly "Buzz on the Street" column. He’s part of a team of dedicated reporters that investigate wrongdoing, cover breaking news and tell other stories about your community. Reach him on Twitter @DavidBenda_RS or by phone at 1-530-225-8219. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today.