California Sun

Good morning. It's Monday, Sept. 14.

Shooting of two L.A. County deputies prompts all-out manhunt.
Trump prepares to visit California for wildfire briefing.
And some of the world's dirtiest air shrouds the West Coast.

California wildfires


People watched a wildfire burn in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains on Sunday.

Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The death toll from California's uncontrolled wildfires rose over the weekend to at least 24, with an additional 11 deaths across the Pacific Northwest. In all, nearly 100 wildfires were raging across the West on Sunday and the forecast called for strong winds on Monday. The weather, warned the National Weather Service, “will likely contribute to a significant spread of new and existing fires.” A.P. | The Guardian | S.F. Chronicle

If you read one thing in this newsletter, make it this gut-wrenching account of a father's fight to save his family in Oregon. 👉 Salem Statesman Journal


“California has become a warming, burning, epidemic-challenged and expensive state, with many who live in sophisticated cities, idyllic oceanfront towns and windblown mountain communities thinking hard about the viability of a place they have called home.”

That assessment by the Washington Post on Saturday drew some eye-rolling tweets from veteran California journalists. "Sigh," wrote one columnist. "Here we go with the California is dying stories." @sleavenworth | @MarcosBreton


Wildfire smoke turned the sky orange at a park in Concord last week.

Brittany Hosea-Small/AFP via Getty Images

The L.A. Times published a front-page story elucidating the link between a warming planet and the extremes that Californians are now living through. "In a matter of weeks," it wrote, "California has experienced six of the 20 largest wildfires in modern history and toppled all-time temperature records from the desert to the coast."


On the N.Y. Times front page: a summary on President Trump's history of climate change denial as he prepares to visit California on Monday. When the president is briefed on the state's scorched towns and ash-filled skies, the Times wrote, he will come face to face with the predictable result of policies he has embraced.

Trump repeated his assessment of California's problem on Sunday: “Again, forest management. I keep telling them: forest management. And to manage your forests.” Independent


Air pollution conditions on Sunday. Red = bad.

On Sunday, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle were among the 10 most polluted places on the planet. A Silicon Valley reporter offered some advice: "If you are in a green zone right now, go outside. Take a deep breath. Savor it. Fight for it. And never take it for granted." L.A. Times | A.P.

A data visualization specialist created an interesting chart with air quality readings for California cities across 2020. 👉 Observable


Mike Gilbert

☝️ When a firefight accidentally resembles Renaissance art.

The Los Angeles-based photographer Mike Gilbert shared this incredible shot he captured of a helicopter dropping water on a fire in the Santa Clarita Valley last month. Instagram




“They survived the worst,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said of the wounded deputies.

Jason Armond/L.A. Times via Getty Images

Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were expected to survive after being shot in what authorities described as ambush attack Saturday night in Compton. An all-out manhunt was underway for the suspect, who was captured on video firing inside a patrol car, striking both deputies — a man, 24, and a woman, 31, — in the head at close range. L.A. Times | L.A. Daily News | A.P.

Surveillance video of the shooting. 👉 @LASDHQ


Both Joe Biden and Trump condemned the attack. Biden called it "unconscionable" and demanded that the perpetrator be brought to justice. Trump tweeted a video of the attack with the comment, "Animals that must be hit hard!" Later, he added: "If they die, fast trial death penalty for the killer. Only way to stop this!” Washington Post


A KPCC reporter covering protests on Saturday outside the hospital treating the wounded deputies was taken into custody. In a statement, the sheriff's department said the reporter, Josie Huang, ignored commands to stay back and interfered with an arrest. She denied that. "I was filming an arrest when suddenly deputies shout ‘back up.’ Within seconds, I was getting shoved around." Numerous journalism leaders expressed outrage over the arrest. LAist | L.A. Times

A couple videos of the incident. 👉 @TheChalkOutline | OnScene.TV


For more than a month, a megachurch in the San Fernando Valley defied health orders to halt indoor services. Then they went to court over the matter, where a judge ordered them to stop last Friday. Two days later, the pews were packed once again. From the pulpit, Pastor John MacArthur denounced the coronavirus rules as unconstitutional. "But more importantly," he added, "it goes against the will of the Lord of the church, who calls us together.” City News Service


Shyamala Gopalan and Donald Harris.

via Biden for President

Donald Harris, 24, was a Berkeley Ph.D. student from Jamaica with edgy ideas. Shyamala Gopalan was a scientist in a sari and sandals who was born the same year as Harris in another British colony. Here's a fascinating account of how the relationship of Kamala Harris's parents was forged in a Black study group during the roiling 1960s. 👉 N.Y. Times


California archive


☝️ Here’s a young Frederick Roberts, a major figure in California history whom few people have heard of.

Born to a prominent businessman on this day in 1879, Roberts became the first Black graduate of Los Angeles High School. He attended USC and later worked as a school principal, mortician, and news editor.

Then in 1918, at a time of entrenched racism in California, he made a stunning announcement: He was launching a bid for office in the state Legislature. “People thought he was crazy,” his wife later recalled. But Roberts won, defeating a rival who handed out campaign literature that read simply, “My opponent is a nigger.”

The improbable victory made Roberts the first Black person elected to state office on the West coast. He served 16 years in the California Assembly, where he sponsored bills bolstering the causes of civil rights and public education. Colleagues across party lines took to calling him "the dean of the Assembly."

Roberts at the state Capitol in 1925.

In his calls for racial equality, Roberts sometimes made reference to the ideals of America's founding fathers, with whom he had a complicated relationship. Although the topic was neither discussed in public nor much at home, Roberts was the great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson.

The primary author of the Declaration of Independence is believed to have had a sexual relationship with an enslaved woman at his Monticello plantation, a reality that historians long dismissed as rumor. Today, most accept it as true, with some arguing that the relationship could only be characterized as coercive.

Little is known about the woman, Sally Hemings, but evidence suggests she raised four children conceived with Jefferson, negotiating for their emancipation upon reaching adulthood. Over the generations, the Jefferson-Hemings family tree grew to include hundreds of descendants.

One of its branches reached into California in the life of Roberts, who played no small part in advancing the ideals of liberty that Jefferson, in words if not deeds, so eloquently championed.


Help make the Sun strong

If you enjoy the newsletter, please consider sharing it with someone in your life who might also.

Thanks for reading!

The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.

The Sun is built by Marquee on Proof.

Consider becoming a member.

Please tell us how we can make the newsletter better. Email

California Sun masthead
The California Sun, PO Box 6868, Los Osos, CA 93412
Wake up to must-read news from around the Golden State delivered to your inbox each morning.