Good evening, SoCal. We're wrapping up the day for you with the most important stories you need to know and your weather outlook.
Your Weather Planner
After two days of warm to hot temperatures around Southern California, a major cooling trend gets underway Tuesday through Thursday. There will be a decent chance of at least some rain midweek, but a better chance early next week.
Onshore winds come back furiously Tuesday, ushering patchy low clouds to the coast and dropping high temperatures as much as 15 degrees.
Today's Big Stories
Law enforcement agencies across the Southland will be in a state of readiness this week as the Minnesota murder trial of a former police officer charged in the death of George Floyd nears an end, raising concerns about a repeat of mass protests and unrest that occurred last summer.
City officials noted that some businesses may choose to limit their operations, and the city could take other "preventative measures" to protect city facilities and property.
"I strongly support the First Amendment and the people's right to protest, but if these actions become violent or shift into lawlessness, then swift and decisive action will be taken to protect life, protect property and maintain civil order," Sherif fVillanueva tweeted over the weekend. "This will be accomplished in a fair, firm and impartial manner, in accordance with the law and 21st century policing concepts."
The murder case against former Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd went to the jury Monday in a city on edge against round of unrest like the one that erupted last year over the video of the Black man pinned to the pavement with Chauvin’s knee on his neck.
The jury of six white members and six Black or multiracial ones was sent off to begin deliberating after nearly a full day of closing arguments in which prosecutors argued that Chauvin squeezed the life out Floyd last May in a way that even a child knew was wrong.
The defense contended that the now-fired white officer acted reasonably and that the 46-year-old Black man died of an underlying heart condition and illegal drug use.
“Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher said, referring to the excruciating bystander video of Floyd pinned down with Chauvin’s knee on or close to his neck for up to 9 minutes, 29 seconds, as bystanders yelled at the white officer to get off.
Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson countered by arguing that Chauvin did what any “reasonable” police officer would have done after finding himself in a “dynamic” and “fluid” situation involving a large man struggling with three officers. As Nelson began speaking, the now-fired Chauvin removed his COVID-19 mask in front of the jury for one of the very few times during the trial.
Children continued their return to Los Angeles Unified campuses Monday, with all remaining elementary and early education centers set to open this week, with middle and high schools following next week.
In the LAUSD, 61 elementary schools and 11 early education centers began welcoming students back to the classroom last week for the first time in about 14 months.
Most of California's 6.1 million students in 1,037 public school districts have been learning from home since last March because of the pandemic. Now that they're being welcomed back to the classroom, coronavirus countermeasures at schools include free testing for students and staff on site each week. The district also is operating school-based vaccination centers to serve the families of LAUSD students.
Still, many parents have opted to keep their kids learning from home due to safety or other concerns.
A survey of LAUSD families showed that 49% of elementary school parents wanted their kids to return to the classroom. At the high school level, only 25% of families who participated in the survey said they'll return their students to campuses; and 35% of middle school families said they'll come back to the classroom.
Schools reopening across Los Angeles County are showing excellent compliance with COVID-19 protocols, with the county's public health director proclaiming Monday that campuses are safe for kids, but youth sports are more of a challenge, and stricter rules for participants could be implemented.
Barbara Ferrer said of the five current COVID-19 outbreaks involving schools — three in Santa Clarita and one each in Redondo Beach and Agoura Hills — "all are associated with participation in youth sports, not with attending instruction at school."
Attending school itself, however, is proving to be a safe move, she said. She said of the school campuses visited by health inspectors, more than half had perfect rates of compliance with COVID-19 protocols, while 35% had 90% or higher compliance, and 10% had 80-89% compliance.
"Students are pretty safe at schools as long as the safety protocols are followed," she said.
A former California college student charged with murder in the 1996 disappearance of classmate Kristin Smart pleaded not guilty Monday and his father denied helping to hide the young woman’s body.
Paul Flores, 44, was charged with first-degree murder in the killing that authorities said happened as he tried to rape Smart in his dorm room at California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo after an off-campus party. Witnesses said Smart was intoxicated and Flores had said he would walk her home.
Ruben Flores, 80, pleaded not guilty to a charge that he was an accessory after murder.
The arrests last week followed significant developments in the case in recent years as new witnesses came forward, investigators monitored Paul Flores’ cellphone and text messages, and searches were conducted at separate homes where Flores, his father, mother and sister live.
Your Notes for Tomorrow
- Closing arguments in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the death of George Floyd continues
- President Biden meets Congressional Hispanic Caucus leaders and virtually tours an electric battery facility
- Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and others to testify to the Senate Appropriations Committee on the American Jobs Plan
- Interior Secretary Deb Haaland testifies to the House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the budget
- Apple holds a virtual media event from its Cupertino HQ to launch new products
In Case You Missed It
Pete Benavidez is one of roughly 87,000 people in the Inland Empire who is visually impaired.
Benavidez is the head of the private nonprofit organization Blindness Support Services in Riverside, which has been around for more than 20 years and promotes the independence of people who are blind or visually impaired.
Benavidez explained how access to the vaccine has been especially challenging for his community.
"You know, we have [a clinic] in Coachella and so and so place. We can’t get there. Well, there’s a drive-thru one at the medical clinic. Well, blind guys don’t drive," Benavidez said.
So he approached Riverside County back in January about bringing a vaccine clinic to the center for his students and their families.
"They know how to get here. We’ve taught them how to get here independently, so we were able to convince the county," he said.