UPDATE 1: The death of a man who left a long trail of blood outside the Malibu restaurant where he worked is now under investigation by county health officials as a matter of public safety. Officials refuse to discuss the case. Has anybody seen the movie “Contagion”?
UPDATE 2: Mayor Villaraigosa who imposed drastic cuts on the Fire Department with City Council support now is asking the Council to restore some LAFD services and hire the LAPD’s former high-tech statistics analyst to review the numbers at the troubled Fire Department. Has anybody verified LAPD’s Compstat numbers are legitimate?
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Fire Department wants to keep you in the dark but you can find out how often the LAFD responds to emergency calls within the five-minutes that is the standard for saving lives. Mayoral candidate Austin Beutner’s campaign has produced this map that lets you check how often LAFD hits the mark in your neighborhood.
View LAFD Response Times Map in a larger map
“At a time when the Los Angeles Fire Department needs more transparency — not less — I am directing you to immediately resume releasing information that provides LAFD incident specifics without violating federal law,” Villaraigosa wrote in a letter to Cummings a day after the chief’s order sparked public outrage.
Cummings based his action — taken amid scandal over of how the LAFD fudged its response times to justify sharp cuts in deployment of staff and equipment on what he said was the advice of City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s office that federal health privacy laws prevent disclosure of most basic information.
“In the absence of a written legal opinion giving the department guidance, I believe it is our duty to provide information to the media and the public,” the mayor said, putting the issue back in the City Attorney’s office.
Trutanich’s top deputy, Bill Carter, indicated that isn’t likely to occur, saying his office’s advice has been “consistent” in recent years but he couldn’t talk about it because of attorney-client privilege beyond saying the federal law ”is not a blanket prohibition against the release of all public information.”
That begs the question of whether we really are to believe that the mayor and his staff were not doing their jobs and knew nothing about what Cummings was up to in making such a radical decision in the face of intense criticism from mayoral candidate Austin Beutner, Controller candidate Cary Brazeman and even a few city elected leaders.
Also in question is what LAFD actually will provide the public going forward. It took six months and a lawyer to force the department to comply with Fix the City activists Mike Eveloff and Jim O’Sullivan’s public records act request that led to exposing how response times had been falsified.
As luck would have it, a perfect example of what goes wrong occurred this week in Malibu when a worker at Guido’s restaurant was found dead in a pool of blood in front of the establishment, leading sheriff’s deputies to announce he had been beaten to death..
But in a statement Wednesday afternoon, sheriff’s officials blamed natural causes but they were not sure. “It appears there was no criminal conduct related to his death,” officials said in the statement.
No further explanation was forthcoming a security hold was put into place at 10:16 a.m. Wednesday — leaving Malibu residents confused and worried about whether a killer was on the loose, a deadly contagion was on the loose or officials merely had a screw loose.
Here’s the city of Malibu’s formal explanation on Thursday:
Statement Regarding Death at Local Restaurant
City seeks to diffuse conflicting stories reported since the event
Malibu, California – The City of Malibu issued the following statement today regarding the death of a worker at a local restaurant that occurred on Sunday, March 18, 2012:
Over the last few days, the City has been in constant communication with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department regarding the tragic death of an employee at a local restaurant. In order to provide clear information and to help alleviate several conflicting reports surrounding the cause of death, the Sheriff’s Department issued a statement that the death appears to be respiratory in nature, but no other specifics have been given.
In the interest of public safety, as well as the need to provide the community with information and the pressure to release information, the Sheriff’s Department provided preliminary assessments based upon witness accounts and the appearance of the scene. Initial assessments by medical, fire and law enforcement personnel led to the belief that a violent crime may have taken place. As in many investigations, until all of the evidence has been verified, the cause of death may be modified. As always, the first concern was for public safety in the actual event this was determined to be a homicide.
The City is disappointed by the confusing and contradictory messages given to the media and public about this tragedy. The City’s goal is to get the most accurate and up to date information before disseminating it to the community. Public safety and public health are the City’s most important issues and the City is working hard to get the correct facts regarding this incident to allay any fears that may have arisen. The Sheriff’s Department and County Coroner are working diligently to determine the exact cause of death. The City will continue to collaborate closely with the Sheriff’s Department on communication to the public until the final medical report is issued that will separate the facts from fiction in this very confusing, yet tragic, case.
Malibu Mayor Laura Rosenthal added, “The City extends our heartfelt condolences to Mr. Rodas’ family and friends during this very difficult time. A young man has died, no matter the circumstances, and we wish to respect the pain and suffering of his loved ones at this time. I will be working to get as much information as possible about this tragedy and make sure that our residents and community are safe.”