Catching up for the week of Dec. 15-22

The Fresno BeeDecember 21, 2013 


Stephen Willis

STEPHEN WILLIS — Stephen Willis

A federal jury says a former Fresno police officer used excessive force in a fatal shooting, a gun rights group wins a round in its lawsuit over California's 10-day waits for gun buys, and two men are arrested after a Simi Valley teen's body is found in an icy Sierra creek.

Here are the top stories of the past week, along with selected comments posted by readers at

Fatal shooting was excessive force

What happened: A federal jury found Tuesday that a former Fresno police officer used excessive force in the 2009 shooting death of 23-year-old Stephen Willis. But jurors also said Willis contributed to his own death and limited the amount paid to his family to $300,000.

What it means: Because the jury found Willis' civil rights were violated, the city must pay his attorneys hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. But City Manager Bruce Rudd said he felt confident that the city won't have to pay the fees.

What readers said:

"people are threatened by police without committing any criminal conduct at all. Innocent people are sometimes killed by police... including elderly people and children in their own homes. You trivialize a tragedy. It isn't reasonable to blame the victim for his own death, on the strength of nothing more than the word of those who killed him, when the physical evidence is inconsistent with their claims. The police CLAIM the deceased fired one round (the evidence is conflicted on this point... it appears he may not have fired at all)... but THEY blazed away, reloaded, blazed away again, reloaded again, and kept on shooting. 41 rounds. Anyone who doesn't see a problem with that is just not paying attention."


— Michael Lust

"Neither I, nor the jury have trivialized anything. That they found the deceased responsible for 80% of his demise is telling. Perhaps you can explain how a person who supposedly was shooting at a gun range earlier in the day, manages to bring his weapon back with a full cylinder less one round fired? That does not happen. When you are on the range, you do not fire just one shot from a full cylinder, you fire all rounds. Nor do you transport a fully loaded weapon. Nor do you remove a loaded weapon while under the influence with a BA of 0.29. His cognitive ability, as well as his motor skills were severly impaired."


— Alan Roberts

Gun wait challenged

What happened: A California gun-rights organization has won a round in its federal lawsuit that says the state's 10-day waiting period for buying firearms shouldn't apply to those who previously have purchased weapons and cleared background checks.

What it means: No matter how the case ends in Fresno's federal court, plaintiff Brandon Combs of Madera expects an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and, quite possibly, to the U.S. Supreme Court. If they are ultimately successful, Combs said, he would like to challenge the state's entire waiting-period law.

What readers said: "Why do people have to renew their drivers licenses every five years and often times are required to take a driving test? To ensure they are still fit to be on the road. Same should go for gun owners. The 2nd Amendment giving you the right to bear arms doesn't mean to bear arms without superceeding background checks if required. I am absolutely NOT a liberal but I do believe in strick gun control."


— Robert Graham

"How about a background check to buy fertilizer, racing fuel, box cutters? would you want that? Reason I ask, I recall a guy who Killed 168 people Injured 680 people 19 children under the age of 6 ...using just those 3 items. Instead of going after law abiding citizens right to protect themselves, by trying to take the guns our of their hands, why don you take guns out of the hands of criminals instead."


— Kiel Gillis

Cruel ending

What happened: Two men are in custody on child cruelty charges in Madera County after a search and rescue effort in the Sierra led to the body of a 17-year-old girl. The girl's death occurred after a methamphetamine binge by the men, Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Erica Stuart said.

What it means: The body of Tara Shannon Maguire of Simi Valley was discovered about 10:30 p.m. Monday submerged in a stream near Rock Creek Campground in Sierra National Forest.

What readers said:

"I don't think the use of the drug is the main problem, it was the fact the guys left her there, even tho they claim she "vanished". Never trust a meth head, all they care about is themselves and how they can get more of the drug they want."


— Sam Sifuentes

"This is insane...she was a nice girl too."


— Austin Norman


Catching Up is compiled by Bee editors. Go to to comment or learn more about these stories.

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