Color Shasta County Red: Arresting Situations Arise as Covid Cases Climb

Richard Gallardo breaks the news to supervisors and county council: “You’re under arrest.” Photo by Doni Chamberlain

Yesterday was my first time to observe an in-person citizen’s arrest, something I’d always associated with bold, courageous actions following a crime; a special-situation tool implemented only in case of an emergency, when authentic law enforcement officers were needed, but unavailable. Scenarios could include a good Samaritan apprehending a drunk driver in a hit-and-run situation, or a brave citizen intervening during an assault, or during a purse-snatching, or an attempted kidnapping. Things like that.

But no, the citizen’s arrest I’m talking about did not remotely resemble any of those scenarios. Rather, it happened in the middle of the public comment period at a Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Tuesday, the trouble started when Richard Gallardo – no stranger to showing up and expressing his anger during BOS meetings — announced during his public comment that he was placing the entire board, as well as County Counsel Rubin Cruse, under citizen’s arrest that very moment for alleged multiple Brown Act violations.

Supervisor Steve Morgan missed out on the surprise as he was absent due to illness, a condition that at least three of the supervisors and one lawyer may have momentarily envied.

“We will catch up with him later,” Gallardo said of Morgan.

It was surreal. Gallardo, a former representative of the Shasta County Gun Owners (a Chapter of California Rifle and Pistol Association), stood behind the lectern and loudly declared that the supervisors and county council were all under arrest. I don’t know what he expected; if he thought the supervisors and county council, after hearing his words, would obediently leap from the dais and put their hands behind their backs, ready for handcuffs, or what.

Gallardo demanded the clock be stopped so he could proceed. The clock did not stop. Ding! His time was up, and when he refused to budge, a pair of Shasta County bailiffs appeared at his side to escort him from the chambers.

Two bailiffs escort Richard Gallardo from the Board of Supervisors chambers. Photo source: Les Baugh Facebook page.

But first, Gallardo said a few words into his walkie-talkie, perhaps to keep in touch with previous public speaker Jesse Lane, who also sported a matching walkie-talkie in a hip holster. Or maybe Gallardo was speaking to someone else.

“I’m being escorted out, I’m being escorted out.”

Over radio static, someone on the other end responded, something about “direction”.

To add insult to injury during what felt like a three-ring circus act, Supervisor Les Baugh – the Eddie Haskell of board members – chose that precise moment to ask County Counsel Cruse to clarify when exactly it would be the right time for a citizen’s arrest, and how exactly might one go about it. Golly gee whiz. Just asking for a friend.

“May I inject a question, Mr. Cruse?” asked Baugh. “Mr. Cruse, I think this is a serious matter, and I would like to hear it. What do you say about what is transpiring here …”

Baugh was interrupted by Gallardo who shouted, “I haven’t finished processing and detailing my charges here!”

To that, Baugh replied, “I’m trying to allow that, if you would just hold on a sec. … Mr. Cruse?”

All eyes, including Gallardo’s and the pair of bailiffs’ – all of whom paused in the aisle – turned expectantly to Cruse. Baugh looked delighted, and no wonder, since he’s been on the side of some of the most egregious, obnoxious public-comment offenders since Day 1. The only thing Baugh was missing Tuesday was a black top hat, jodhpurs, a whip and dancing dogs.

Cruse responded and explained that each speaker is allowed three minutes to speak, and Gallardo’s time was up. He said the sheriff could give Gallardo a form to fill out, and from there, the citizen’s arrest would be reviewed by the sheriff and the Shasta County District Attorney, to see if there were any merits to Gallardo’s accusations.

That was that.

But what a head-spinner. Why in the world would Baugh want to assist Gallardo in placing himself and fellow supervisors under citizen’s arrest? It defies logic.

Later, I reached out to all the supervisors for comment about the citizen’s arrest. More about that in a few minutes.

Meanwhile, About those Shasta County COVID cases

During the meeting, while all this drama played out, and while the meeting marched on and on, a much more dramatic and distressing situation unfolded. Tuesday, at the stroke of noon, Shasta County had the dubious distinction of being demoted to the state’s dreaded red-tier level, up from the more lenient orange tier.

This happened because of Shasta County’s abundance of new cases, most of which occurred in two places: Windsor Redding Care Center, and Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.

What exactly happens when Shasta County is in the red tier?

A screengrab of the Oct. 6 COVID-19 chart on Food for Thought/A News Cafe. Look to the right sidebar for the live chart with active links.

One look at yesterday’s chart here on Food for Thought/A News Cafe, and you can see how the numbers jumped over the last few weeks. Over the weekend Shasta County reported 167 new cases. Monday alone saw a record-breaking 84 new cases.

Click here for full Oct. 6 information from Shasta County Health and Human Services’ website.

Some noteworthy facts

First, if you think the red tier is bad, the supremely sad fact is that Shasta County’s rates are so atrocious – 6.5 to 12.8 daily cases per 100,000 residents/and a positivity rate increased from 4 to 6.9 percent – that technically, we should actually be in the even-more highly restrictive purple – not red – tier.

But because, according to California’s tier system, counties cannot jump more than one tier at a time, and because counties must be in a tier for two weeks before being demoted to a more restrictive tier, we have a grace period of sorts to remain in the red tier, at least until Oct. 20.

Who thought there would ever be a time during this pandemic when red actually looked like something worth shooting for? Now’s that time.

Second, although we officially moved into the red tier Tuesday at noon, the good news is businesses have three days to comply with the new red-tier restrictions, which means Friday is our red-letter day. (Click here to learn more about the restrictions.)

According to SCHHSA, some of the more notable required changes include:
• Restaurants, places of worship and movie theaters can be open at 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer
• Retail and shopping centers can be open at 50 percent capacity
• Gyms and fitness center can be open at 10 percent capacity
• Wineries can be open outdoors only
• Bars, breweries and distilleries that don’t serve food must close
• Schools are not affected by the change in tiers
Learn more at ShastaReady.org – click on “Roadmap to Recovery

Blame Bethel?

At 2:39 p.m. on on Oct. 1 Bethel Church emailed media a press release with the headline, “Update from Bethel Church & BSSM Prioritizing Community Health”. It included a request to hold the statement until after 4 p.m.

I chose not to publish it, because the message struck me as fishy, and set off my media-manipulation alarm, especially with regard to this sentence: A portion of the new cases in Shasta County have been amongst our students and staff, so we are taking swift action under the guidance of Public Health to minimize additional spread.

The press release left more questions than answers.

Update from Bethel Church & BSSM Prioritizing Community Health

As the number of positive COVID-19 cases have increased in Shasta County, we recognize that the local community is at risk of additional restrictions. Bethel has been in near-daily communication with Shasta County Public Health, and together, we share a common goal of slowing the spread of positive COVID-19 cases in our county. “It’s our honor to do our part to serve and protect the city of Redding in this time, and always” says Kris Vallotton, Bethel Senior Associate Leader.

Like the Redding community, we have intentionally taken steps to ensure the safety and health of the local Redding community since March 2020 by implementing measures in accordance with Public Health guidelines. Since the start of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) this year, all students and staff have been required to wear face coverings at all times, socially distance on campus, self-monitor for symptoms, and undergo daily temperature checks taken at the door. A portion of the new cases in Shasta County have been amongst our students and staff, so we are taking swift action under the guidance of Public Health to minimize additional spread. We have asked anyone who has had close contact with a person with COVID-19, or shows signs of illness, to quarantine at home according to CDC guidelines. This has led to a large number of people staying home as a precaution. To support the objective of facilitating health and minimizing positive cases, we are also doing the following:

1. We are cancelling our “Church on the Ball Field” outdoor service for the weeks of Sunday, October 4 and Sunday, October 11.

2. Starting Monday, October 5, we have asked employees who are able to work remotely from home to do so, and those who are unable to work remotely will be permitted on campus with adherence to social distancing and face covering guidelines as outlined by Shasta County Public Health.

3. As outlined in BSSM’s COVID-19 safety plan, we will move into an adjusted expression of our ministry school that will take place entirely online, beginning on Monday, October 5. We are working on implementing a second round of testing for our students and staff, and will resume on-campus as we continue conversations with Public Health. Because BSSM already includes an online component to school this year, the temporary switch to online will allow school to continue without interruption.

A few hours later another email arrived from Bethel:

We have added some additional language to our press release to bring clarity and help answer questions being asked within the community.

The added paragraph is here for your awareness:

A portion of the new cases in Shasta County have been amongst our students and staff, so we are taking swift action under the guidance of Public Health to minimize additional spread.?? We have asked anyone who has had close contact with a person with COVID-19, or shows signs of illness, to quarantine at home according to CDC guidelines. This has led to a large number of people staying home as a precaution.

I replied to that email with this question: What’s the number of infected students, and the number of infected staff, please?

No response.

Of course, what we now know is that Bethel had far more than a “portion of cases”. We now know that at least 123 positive Shasta County COVID-19 cases had ties to Bethel Church.

And while Shasta County Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom said that Bethel is assuring public health professionals that they are asking new Bethel students (yes, the new ones keep on coming) to quarantine for 14 days after they arrive in Redding, the truth is BSSM is an ideal virus breeding ground as many students bunk up in homes with eight, 10, 12 or more students per house, sharing bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and living spaces, along with rent, food and utilities.

Generally speaking, many BSSM students are anti-mask, Evangelical Christians who believe the coronavirus is a hoax, and who are confident that if they do catch the ‘rona, then Jesus will heal them. That’s awesome, and I hope it’s true. But what about the non-believers who encounter these virus-shedders at places that employ Bethel folks? Will Jesus heal them, too?

The non-compliant anti-mask mindset is shared with pride by Beni Johnson, a Bethel leader, elder and church founder, married to the church’s superstar pastor, Bill Johnson. Beni Johnson is someone who mocks masks on her Facebook page, unless, of course, masks are worn to protect herself from wildfire smoke inhalation.

So much for loving your neighbor as thyself.

Likewise, that mindset is also shared by the Redding mega church’s most famous plague rat, Sean Feucht, who’s been scampering around the country holding concerts attended by thousands of people, usually in defiance of local public health codes.

Source: Sean Feucht’s website.

No masks. No social distancing. As some say, no mask, know Jesus.

So forgive me for feeling cynical as I read a quote from No. 2 in command at Bethel in its press release, words designed no doubt to leave the impression that suddenly, Bethel gives a shit about the coronavirus, and believes it’s real:

Bethel Chuch senior associate leader Chris Valloton on one Palm Sunday. Bethel TV screen-grab.

“It’s our honor to do our part to serve and protect the city of Redding in this time, and always” says Kris Vallotton, Bethel Senior Associate Leader.

With 123 cases and rising, that message feels too little, much too late.

When skilled nursing facility is an oxymoron

Regarding the skilled nursing facility in question, a place that had something like 60 positive cases out of 80 residents, I don’t feel the same level of animosity about that place as I do Bethel Church, a place I believe was a super-spreader through sheer arrogance and blatant disregard for the community at large.

Back to the skilled nursing facility, a place where, according to Ramstrom, public health contact tracers identified staff as probably the biggest unintentional spreaders, most likely because they come to work and then leave and resume their lives, and when they return to work, they may bring the virus along with them. Some of the employees may believe they can’t afford not to work. Some, on the lowest payroll rung, may believe they must push through and work sick. Some are new employees in an occupation with a high turnover rate.

To me, while those infections are alarming, my sense isn’t that they involve willful disregard of public health practices.

Supervisors weigh in on citizen’s arrest

As I mentioned earlier, I reached out to the supervisors for comment after the meeting for their reactions to the citizen’s arrest. Supervisors Les Baugh, Steve Morgan, Leonard Moty and chair Mary Rickert responded. Supervisor Joe Chimenti did not.

Supervisor Morgan’s response was the most brief. He explained that because he was ill, he hadn’t watched the meeting online, so he had nothing to add to the conversation.

Les Baugh: ‘Mr. Gallardo did a great job’

It’s no secret that there’s no love lost between myself and Supervisor Les Baugh, since I’ve been openly critical of him since his barbershop stunt in the middle of state shutdowns.

But to his credit, Baugh did respond to my request for comment about the citizen’s arrest, directing me to his Facebook page for his take on the matter. Sure enough, not only did Baugh’s Facebook post reflect unfazed musings about the so-called arrest earlier in the day, but he seemed energized by the incident. In fact, he went so far as to praise Gallardo for doing such a great job with the citizen’s arrest, while also lamenting the fact that Gallardo’s attempted arrest was cut short by the time limit.

Wow. I didn’t see that coming, even from Baugh.

First time for everything…
BOS ‘Citizen’s Arrest.’ That’s right, Mr. Richard Gallardo conducted a legal citizen’s arrest on the entire Board of Supervisors at today’s meeting, including me, alleging illegal meetings among other items. Of course, I would not knowingly participate in an illegal meeting, but that’s up to the Sheriff and the DA to determine the validity of the charges. I think Mr. Gallardo did a great job. Would like to have heard the rest of it. His presentation was cut short. I guess there’s a first time for everything… well, unless you count my last arrest as part of a fundraising stunt for APD. All in a days work. I’m sure there will be more to this. Stay tuned. Will keep you updated. – Source: Les Baugh’s Oct. 6 Facebook post.

Chair Mary Rickert: ‘Look at the big picture’

During a Tuesday evening phone call, when asked about the citizen’s arrest earlier in the day, Shasta County Supervisor Chair Mary Rickert said she was trying to take what happened in stride. Even so, she said the experience was certainly a “first” for her; not something that hadn’t been on her bucket list.
Taking a more serious note, Rickert said she understood where speakers were coming from.

“People need to be heard,” she said. “They’re frustrated and angry.”

Rickert gets it, because for her, she’s frustrated, too, because the pandemic has become personal.

“Often speakers say I know nothing about how this pandemic affects people,” she said.

“In our Prather Ranch operation we’ve had employees quarantined, and one tested positive and was hospitalized. We had to scramble to find people to take over for them, plus the worry for all of their health outcomes. Covid has slowed down certain parts of our business, and we have been impacted financially. I have personal experience as a business owner how difficult this has been. The healthier everyone stays translates into a healthier business climate. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to do their part to stay healthy.”

Though she understands people’s desires to open the county, she points to cautionary tales in other California areas, such as Atwater in Merced County, where the county did just that, ignored state mandates, and opened in June. By August, Atwater, the city of just 30,000 residents, had 800 positive covid cases.

She implores people to focus on the big picture.

“Remember that under the clouds are blue skies,” she said.

Supervisor Leonard Moty: ‘

Some time back, while speaking with Supervisor Leonard Moty, he wished that the people who complain about the county would actually remain after the public comment period long enough to learn more about how the supervisors conduct county business, and see for themselves how hard they’re working for the people they represent.

Tuesday’s BOS meeting was a good example, as later, after most of the speakers had taken their walkie talkies – and in one woman’s case, handcuffs – and left, he discussed his work with the California State Association of Counties’ (CSAC) new “Kitchen Cabinet” – made up of supervisors, CEOs, and a health officer; approximately 11 members from small, medium, and large-size counties from different California regions.

On Tuesday evening, Moty explained more about the “Kitchen Cabinet”, and how it just might provide help with regard to Shasta County and its current state-mandated restrictions and tiers.

Moty said the group’s purpose is to deal directly with Secretary Mantosantos (Governor Newsom’s chief of staff) and Dr. Ghaly (head of the California Department of Public Health). There was some good news as recently as a few days ago.

“During our phone call on Monday we raised the question regarding Covid outbreaks at particular sites such as universities, care facilities, or jails where it can be contained,” Moty said.

“Other counties have experienced the same type of situation which is occurring in Shasta County. Our argument is that we can isolate and contain the outbreak to the facility or campus. So, even though our numbers are going up, we can keep it from spreading to other areas of our community. Therefore, we aren’t penalizing the business sectors that are doing their best to slow the spread of Covid.”

Moty said that although state representatives weren’t ready Monday to accept the group’s proposal, Moty’s hopeful that there will be positive developments soon. Moty’s optimism is because of some recent state changes with regard to small-population counties, unduly affected by the state’s percentages set for tiers.

He said those small-population counties were tremendously impacted by just a few cases, which caused them to land in more restrictive tiers.

“Adjustments were made for counties with a population less than 105,000 citizens,” Moty said. “That’s why Siskiyou, Trinity and Humboldt counties moved to the yellow tier. So, they are listening and making some changes. We need to be persistent and continue to advocate for flexibility depending on the circumstances while keeping our community safe.”

What now?

So, here we are, formerly in the relatively flexible orange tier, now moved to the more restrictive red tier. Come Friday, we will take one giant step backward. When we do, this do-over provides an opportunity for a do-over, too. We know more now than we knew during the first shutdown. We now know that even people who claimed to be impervious to the virus, people who mocked the virus and mocked those who took public health precautions seriously, we’re seeing those people fall ill around us. Politicians, believers and non-believers like.

With any luck, those newly infected people will survive, and when they do, they will be newly enlightened people, too. Perhaps then we can stand together – six feet apart, wearing masks – to join forces so we can work our way back to the orange tier, and then yellow. And then blue skies and happy days are here again.

For the good of us all.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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