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Headlines: Independent Autopsy Reveals More Clues In O.C. Public Defender’s Mysterious Death In Rosarito

11:33 AM PST on February 10, 2023

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Welcome to L.A. TACO’s daily news briefs, where we bring our loyal members, readers, and supporters the latest headlines about Los Angeles politics and culture. Stay informed and look closely.

—Rosarito: A private autopsy revealed that a public defender killed in a beach town in Baja that is a popular destination among L.A. and O.C. residents last month, sustained "about 40 fractures in the back of his skull." Mexican authorities previously said that Elliot Blair, 33, died due to a fall. He was found dead on January 14, several floors below the hotel room he and his wife shared for their wedding anniversary. During an interview with Good Morning America, Blair's widow, Kimberly Williams, said, “someone did this to him.” A cause of death has not yet been declared, and it could take more than a month to publish the final report. [LAT]

—The City of Los Angeles filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the legality of “no-vending zones.” In a statement, the group behind the lawsuit said, “Recently, the city has offered words of support for street vendors, yet in practice, it defends policies that are harmful and discriminate against our clients. The city’s response to our lawsuit ensures that sidewalk vendors – who have been wrongfully excluded from popular areas of the city for years – will have to wait even longer for an end to the city’s exclusionary treatment. Our clients are prepared to continue the fight for the rights of sidewalk vendors in Los Angeles as long as necessary.”

Los Angeles police are asking witnesses and sexual assault victims of a man suspected of raping multiple women to come forward. Benjamin Parke Belser, a 36-year-old South LA resident, was charged with a dozen felonies earlier this week and is being held on more than $6 million bail. Police allege that Belser used social media and dating apps to target victims. Police believe that the sexual assaults began in 2017 and continued until 2022 when the LAPD opened an investigation against Belser. [City News Services/NBC LA]

Gas prices rose 10 cents this week. A spokesperson for AAA told The Times that the increase is likely due to "refineries switching to summer blend fuel, which is more expensive than winter blend fuel." Gas prices are expected to continue to increase in the coming weeks, as temperatures rise and summer travel kicks off. [LAT]

Walnut Park: A four-ton statue of the late Vincente Fernández will be unveiled in Walnut Park this weekend. The two-day unveiling honoring the Grammy-winning Mexican singer goes until 3 PM today. Tomorrow a mariachi contest will be held between 1 PM and 5 PM. The top three winners will walk away with $3,000 between them. [NBC Los Angeles]

El Segundo: On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to turn the city's largest gas plant into a hydrogen project. The first-of-its-kind project was unanimously supported by the council but has divided environmentalists. Although hydrogen doesn’t produce emissions that contribute to global warming it does create nitrogen oxide pollution that can damage the lungs. “That’s especially problematic for low-income communities of color that have already suffered from years of fossil fuel pollution,” The Times reports. [LAT]

La Habra: A police pursuit ended with one person dead and another person injured, earlier this morning. Fullerton police officers were reportedly chasing a Ford Explorer when it collided with a BMW at the intersection of Imperial and Beach. The driver of the Explorer exited the vehicle after the collision and was shot by police, according to officials. [KCAL]

Aliso Village: Two freight trains derailed near the border of DTLA and Boyle Heights, late Thursday evening. [KCAL]

A driver who hit speeds in excess of 100 MPH was able to evade police during a high-speed chase last night. [KTLA]

Compton: Two giant billboards for Dre. Dre’s debut album ‘The Chronic’ was spotted in Compton, just days after the iconic west coast LP returned to streaming platforms. [Michelle Valles/NBC]

—Vernon: As many as 10,000 properties within 1.7 miles of a shuttered battery recycling plant may have been contaminated. Check your property's cleanup status on the L.A. Times interactive article. [L.A. Times]

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