SBUSD employee on leave in flagpole destruction
SANTA BARBARA — A Santa Barbara Unified School District employee has been placed on administrative leave in connection with the flagpole removal last week at Santa Barbara Junior High School.
The incident was reported around 7:40 p.m. Sunday. Police responded to a report of a person attempting to saw down the historical wooden flagpole in front of the school, said Anthony Wagner, spokesman for the Santa Barbara Police Department.
Upon arrival, officers located Steven Kyle Vonbrandt, 34, attempting to conceal himself behind the pole. An officer observed a wood saw protruding from the pole, Mr. Wagner said.
Officers ordered him to the ground, however he took off running with the saw in hand. He “slowed due to exhaustion” in the area of Nopal Street and Bond Avenue and discarded the saw nearby.
“The freshly painted white flagpole was approximately 65-80 ft tall, and completely made of wood.” Mr. Wagner said. “Saw marks, nearly fully cut, (were) observed approximately 5 feet from the base. Due to the severe damage, an assessment was made to permanently fell the pole so it would not injure passersby.”
Mr. Vonbrandt was arrested on suspicion of felony-related charges. An investigation is ongoing and additional charges may be added pending review by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.
SB Unified officials confirmed Friday that Mr. Vonbrandt is a district employee who has been placed on administrative leave.
In a message sent to district families and staff, Superintendent Hilda Maldonado said Mr. Vonbrandt is a member of the district’s Maintenance & Operations crew.
“We take these matters seriously, and wanted to inform our community that we will take steps to replace the wooden flagpole, which may be original to the historic, state-landmarked 1932 campus,” she said in the message.
— Mitchell White
Man arrested following pursuit
SANTA BARBARA — A Santa Maria man was arrested at gunpoint on Friday morning following a pursuit that ended on Santa Barbara’s Westside, police said.
Around 10:45 a.m. Friday, a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s deputy got a lojack ping in their squad car on State Route 154, which led them to a late model Cadillac. A traffic stop was attempted, but the driver refused to yield and a chase ensued.
A Sheriff’s Air Support unit picked up the chase and coordinated with Santa Barbara Police officers, who were able to track and coral the suspect on San Pascual Street in Santa Barbara, said Anthony Wagner, police spokesman.
Rupert Michael Gil, 18, was arrested on suspicion of multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, including possession of a stolen vehicle, felony evading, possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, resisting arrest, destruction of evidence and possession of burglary tools.
— Mitchell White
Catalytic converter thefts on the rise
GOLETA — The city of Goleta issued a warning to residents on Friday following an increase in catalytic converter thefts from vehicle exhaust systems over the past several weeks.
The theft of catalytic converters is popular because they can be easily removed, they do not have identifying marks like serial numbers, and the components are made up of precious metals that can be resold to recyclers.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, which is contracted by the city of Goleta for policing services, issued the following tips to prevent thefts: park in well-lit areas when possible, or inside a garage with the door closed; use video surveillance around your garage or driveway; install motion detection devices near parking areas; install a catalytic converter protection device; have the converter welded in place to make it more difficult to remove; calibrate your car security system to ensure it activates if a thief tries to saw off the converter; and engrave your VIN number onto your catalytic converter to make it easier to identify if it is stolen.
If you see suspicious subjects in your neighborhood, please call Sheriff’s dispatch. For emergencies, call 9-1-1, and for non-emergencies, call 805-683-2724.
— Mitchell White