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News Brief: Week of Oct. 6-12


Wildfires rage in Southern California, three confirmed deaths

Firefighters are working to stop multiple wildfires spreading in Southern California amidst strong offshore winds and widespread evacuations. Three deaths have been confirmed, with many more left injured. 

The fires began on Thursday, Oct. 10 in the Saddleridge area of Los Angeles. However, seven additional fire arose from the initial blaze in areas around Los Angeles. 

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the fire is 33% contained as of Saturday, Oct. 12. The fire has destroyed 31 structures and burned over 7500 acres. Over 1000 firefighters are currently containing the fire and over 100,000 citizens were forced to evacuate their homes.

One individual died in the Saddleridge fire, while two more have died in the Sandalwood fire in the Calimesa area. No identities have yet been released.

In an effort to prevent the spread of wildfires, several California utility companies temporarily shut down power to hundreds of thousands of customers. Approximately 738,000 customers were without power during the blackout’s peak, but most customers now have had their power restored.

Hard Rock Casino collapse in New Orleans

One person was killed and two people were left trapped after a New Orleans Hard Rock Hotel under construction partially collapsed on Saturday, Oct. 12.

The collapse also left over 20 people injured, and nearby buildings were evacuated. A 270-foot construction crane by the hotel is also dangerously unstable, Fire Chief Tim McConnell said.

“There is a very strong possibility of further collapse of this crane right now,” McConnell said.

One individual is still trapped in the building as of Sunday, Oct. 13.

The exact cause of the collapse is currently unknown.


Ripley School District superintendent, teacher named in prostitution sting

A prostitution sting operation led to the arrests of eight individuals on Friday, Oct. 12, including Ripley School District’s superintendent and a former middle school teacher.

Superintendent Kenneth Beams was arrested on a complaint of soliciting prostitution, while former teacher Kacey Williamson was arrested in connection to Beams on counts of racketeering, pandering, using computers to violate state law, having proceeds from violating state law and conspiracy.

The individuals were arrested in connection with a Tulsa-based operation of illicit massage parlors which were fronts for prostitution, in addition to illegal online transactions.

Arrests were made following Operation Velvet Fury, a Tulsa-based prostitution investigation. The investigation is a collaboration between Tulsa and Broken Arrow police, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations.

Officials emphasized the ringleaders will be punished while victims of sex work will receive help.

“None of the women who were operating as prostitutes were arrested,” Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Elmore said. “Organizations were contacted… to ensure those women would be provided services and help if they so need it.”


White supremacist stickers on campus

Campus police and the FBI are investigating after several stickers advertising a white supremacist group were illegally placed around the Oklahoma Christian University campus.

As previously reported in the Talon, stickers advertising for the white supremacist group Patriot Front were first reported on Monday, Sept. 30, and were found on cars, academic buildings and residence halls. The latest sticker reported was found at Dobson Field on Monday, Oct. 7.

Patriot Front stickers were also found on campus at the University of Central Oklahoma. 

President John deSteiguer sent an announcement about the stickers to the Oklahoma Christian campus on Wednesday, Oct. 9. 

“This group and any other group or individual sharing a white supremacist or racist ideology is never welcome on our campus,” deSteiguer said. “OC is home for all students, and we will not tolerate any form of hate.”

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