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Nature, abundance celebrated long before the first American Thanksgiving – San Bernardino Sun

November 21, 2019 in San Bernandino

Gregory Elder, a Redlands resident, is a professor of history and humanities at Moreno Valley College and a Roman Catholic priest. This photo is from about 2017. (Courtesy Photo)

As this great nation prepares for the Thanksgiving holiday next week, it is both natural and right that we think of what was probably the first American Thanksgiving, in October 1621. At that time, 53 pilgrims and 90 Native Americans of the Wampanoag Nation shared turkey, bread, shellfish and many other foods. But harvest festivals had long been celebrated before then.

The first known religious celebration of the harvest was in ancient Sumeria, about 5,000 years ago. It was called Akitu, and it was celebrated at harvest time, on the fourth day in the month of Nisannu, about March to April in our present-day calendar. The name Akitu is related to the Sumerian word for barley, which was the most popular grain in ancient Iraq because it stood up to the harsh climate. This harvest festival was dedicated to Nanna, the old god of agriculture and fertility, and one of several children of the primal parents Enlil and Ninlil. Nanna was also the god of the moon and was very popular in Ur, the place the Bible names as the first home of Abraham and Sarah.

As the moon god, Nanna became the god of fertility because the 28-day cycle of the moon corresponds to some degree with the time of a woman’s menstrual cycle, and so fertility and the moon came to be closely associated. The ancients drew no scientific distinction between the different kinds of fertility, human, animal, agricultural or wild nature – they were all drawn from the same power.

As the centuries went by, the Akitu harvest festival grew. Eventually, this festival spanned 12 days and came to include great devotion to Marduk, the powerful Babylonian god of vegetation and his wife Sarpanit, goddess of fertility. The first three days were spent in the temple of the god Marduk, and public prayers of penitence were said aloud. On the fourth day these prayers continued and in addition, the priests would recite poems that told the story of creation. On the fifth day, at least in later Assyrian times, the celebration included a ceremony of the ritual abasement of the king, in which the ruler was stripped of his robes, crown and jewels before the altar of Marduk. These would then be restored to the penitent king who was thus reminded of the mercy of the god, in whose mighty name the king was appointed to rule. Over the course of the sixth through eighth days, the rest of the gods would ritually arrive in the city, carried on boats. For several days the image of Marduk and his enemies, but then an image of another god, Nabu, would arrive to set the creator god free. From days nine to 12, the images of the gods would be taken to a temple called the Hall of Destinies, where Marduk was said to marry his wife Ishtar and promise to protect his people.

The significance of these complicated rites is debated but several themes stand out. Clearly it begins in the harvest, and so there is the thanksgiving to the gods for their bounty. But the abasement and penitential sections suggest a kind of pessimism, a worry for the future that the coming days might not be as good, and so the promise of future blessings was important. This whole set of rituals then prepared the people for the equally important time of planting the new crops for the next year in a state of ritual friendship with the gods.

We know a fair amount about the agriculture of ancient Iraq because in 1949 American archeologists discovered an ancient document which modern historians have called the Sumerian Farmer’s Almanac. This is a baked clay tablet, about 3-by-4 ½ inches that dates to around 1700 B.C. It contains the wisdom of the old farmer to his young son on when to plant and harvest, but the pious father clams the instructions came from the high god Enlil. It contains very practical suggestions such as how wide the rows between crops should be, how to break up the land and how many seeds and how deep they should be planted. The father also advises his son on keeping the workers in line. Religion is not neglected, as the dutiful son is told to recite the “barley prayer” every day.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged in corruption cases – San Bernardino Sun

November 21, 2019 in San Bernandino

By JOSEF FEDERMAN and ARON HELLER | Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Israel’s attorney general on Thursday formally charged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a series of corruption cases, throwing the country’s paralyzed political system into further disarray and threatening the long-time leader’s grip on power.

Capping a three-year investigation, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit charged Netanyahu with fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three different scandals. It is the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been charged with a crime.

Mandelblit rejected accusations that his decision was politically motivated and said he had acted solely out of professional considerations.

“A day in which the attorney general decides to serve an indictment against a seated prime minister for serious crimes of corrupt governance is a heavy and sad day, for the Israeli public and for me personally,” he told reporters.

According to the indictment, Netanyahu accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars of champagne and cigars from billionaire friends, offered to trade favors with a newspaper publisher and used his influence to help a wealthy telecom magnate in exchange for favorable coverage on a popular news site.

The indictment does not require Netanyahu to resign, but it significantly weakens him at a time when Israel’s political system appears to be limping toward a third election in under a year.

The political party of Netanyahu’s chief rival, former military commander Benny Gantz, said the prime minister has “no public or moral mandate to make fateful decisions for the state of Israel.”

Netanyahu has called the allegations part of a witch hunt, lashing out against the media, police, prosecutors and the justice system. He planned a statement later Thursday.

Mandelblit criticized the often-heated pressure campaigns by Netanyahu’s supporters and foes to sway his decision, which came after months of deliberations. Both sides had staged demonstrations outside or near his home.

“This is not a matter of right or left. This is not a matter of politics,” he said. “This is an obligation placed on us, the people of law enforcement and upon me personally as the one at its head.”

The most serious charges were connected to so-called “Case 4000,” in which Netanyahu is accused of passing regulations that gave his friend, telecom magnate Shaul Elovitch, benefits worth over $250 million to his company Bezeq. In return, Bezeq’s news site, Walla, published favorable articles about Netanyahu and his family.

The relationship, it said, was “based on a mutual understanding that each of them had significant interests that the other side had the ability to advance.” It also accused Netanyahu of concealing the relationship by providing “partial and misleading information” about his connections with Elovitch.

Two close aides to Netanyahu turned state’s witness and testified against him in the case.

The indictment also said that Netanyahu’s gifts of champagne from billionaires Arnon Milchan and James Packer “turned into a sort of supply line.” It estimated the value of the gifts at nearly $200,000.

The indictment said Netanyahu assisted the Israeli Milchan, a Hollywood mogul, in extending his U.S. visa. It was not immediately clear what, if anything, Packer, who is Australian, received in return.

The decision comes at a tumultuous time for the country. After an inconclusive election in September, both Netanyahu and Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, have failed to form a majority coalition in parliament. It is the first time in the nation’s history that that has happened.

The country now enters an unprecedented 21-day period in which any member of parliament can try to rally a 61-member majority to become prime minister. If that fails, new elections would be triggered.

Netanyahu is desperate to remain in office to fight the charges. Under Israeli law, public officials are required to resign if charged with a crime. But that law does not apply to the prime minister, who can use his office as a bully pulpit against prosecutors and push parliament to grant him immunity from prosecution.

In the first sign of rebellion, Netanyahu’s top Likud rival on Thursday called for a leadership primary should the country, as expected, go to new elections.

“I think I will be able to form a government, and I think I will be able to unite the country and the nation,” Saar said at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Jerusalem. He did not address the looming criminal charges.

The only plausible way out of a third election — and the prolonged political paralysis that has gripped Israel for the past year — would be a unity government.

In September’s election, Blue and White edged Likud by one seat in the previous election. Together, the two parties could control a parliamentary majority and avoid elections.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz expressed an openness to a unity government. But during weeks of talks, they could not agree on the terms of a power-sharing agreement, including who would serve first as prime minister.

If elections are held, opinion polls are already predicting a very similar deadlock, signaling additional months of horse-trading and uncertainty.

That could now change. A poll carried out last month by the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, found that 65% of Israelis thought Netanyahu should resign as head of the Likud party if indicted, with 24% opposed. The poll had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Opposition politicians immediately called on Netanyahu to step down. “If he has but a drop of honor left, he would resign tonight,” said Stav Shaffir, a lawmaker with the liberal Democratic Union.

Netanyahu has refused to drop his alliance with smaller nationalist and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, which was a non-starter for kingmaker politician Avigdor Lieberman.

But the main sticking point has revolved around Netanyahu himself. Blue and White has said ti will not sit with Netanyahu while he faces such serious legal problems, though it is open to a partnership with Likud if he is removed from the equation.

The emergence of Saar as an heir could reshuffle the deck, but challenging Netanyahu in Likud is a risky maneuver in a party that fiercely values loyalty and has had only four leaders in its 70-plus-year history.

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Trump tweets Navy can’t remove Chief Edward ‘Eddie’ Gallagher from elite Navy SEALs – San Bernardino Sun

November 21, 2019 in San Bernandino

President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday morning, Nov. 21, that the Navy “will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin,” a day after Gallagher was informed his membership in the elite unit would be re-evaluated after he was convicted of posing with the corpse of an ISIS fighter.

On Wednesday, Gallagher was told that a Trident Review Board would convene in December to determine his fate and that he could be stripped of his pin. The Trident pin, which labels Gallagher as a member of the SEAL community, is considered a reflection of his commitment to honor and integrity on and off the battlefield.

Gallagher served eight deployments over a 20-year career in which he earned two bronze stars for bravery on the battlefield and was up for a silver star before allegations emerged from fellow SEAL team members leading to the July court-martial.

In that court-martial, Gallagher was found guilty of posing with the corpse of a teen ISIS fighter during a 2017 deployment to Mosul, Iraq. The verdict, which also found him not guilty of the premeditated murder of the teen and of shooting at two civilians, was upheld by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilda on Oct. 29. In finalizing the verdict, Gilda also upheld the demotion of Gallagher from Chief to First Class Petty Officer, reducing his lifetime pension.

“This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!” Trump tweeted Thursday.

On Nov. 15, Trump issued an order returning Gallagher to Chief Petty Officer, the rank he had before the court-martial at Naval Base San Diego. Trump’s order, however, was not a pardon of Gallagher.

Naval Special Warfare Command, Capt. Tamara Lawrence, said Tuesday, Nov. 19, that the SEALs have implemented Trump’s order to restore Gallagher’s pay grade but that he would be undergoing the board review.

In response, Gallagher and his attorneys filed a 16-page complaint with the inspector general accusing Rear Adm. Collin Green, the Naval Special Warfare commander, of insubordination for defying Trump’s actions.

The report details “every single bad actor that obstructed justice, lied, cheated, spied,” Andrea Gallagher wrote on social media. “The decision to pursue further retaliation right as Eddie is supposed to be exiting the military is not about ‘instilling discipline, suitability to be a SEAL or even ethics’ but rather about ego and vindictiveness.”

“Rear Adm. Green is focused on his job as commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command,” Lawrence said Wednesday, in reference to the allegation that Green’s action was a political ploy.

Defense department officials also confirmed that discussions to review Gallagher’s action before a review board began in July, shortly after the verdict was reached by a seven-member Marine and Navy jury with combat experience.

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Weapon used in Saugus High School shooting in Santa Clarita was a ‘ghost gun’ with no registration number – San Bernardino Sun

November 21, 2019 in San Bernandino

The weapon used in last week’s deadly mass shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita was a so-called “ghost gun,” a firearm without a registration number, officials at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Thursday.

Homicide detectives at the department said they are looking for evidence regarding who purchased and assembled the firearm components and are investigating the shooter’s purchase history on electronic devices seized from his home.

Police say Nathan Berhow came to school the morning of Nov. 14, his 16th birthday, and opened fire with the .45-caliber handgun in the Santa Clarita high school’s quad. Five students were shot, two of whom later died, before Berhow turned the weapon on himself. He later died from his injury.

“The report on the firearm indicates that the handgun used in the assault was not manufactured conventionally and may be some form of a ‘kit gun,’ one that is assembled by a consumer — rather than a manufacturer — from pieces bought separately,” wrote sheriff’s Capt. Kent Wegener in a statement. “We have no evidence to indicate who assembled it or bought the components.”

Wegener said detectives are still investigating social media leads and looking for accounts belonging to the subject. With assistance from the Secret Service, deputies are searching the contents of technology devices recovered from his home such as  tablets, computers and cell phones.

Paperwork is also being confiscated from the home for examination “to see if it contains any evidence related to the subject’s state of mind, or historical information about the weapon used,” Wegener added.

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Rain, snow as storm moves across Riverside, San Bernardino counties – San Bernardino Sun

November 21, 2019 in San Bernandino

RIVERSIDE — Scattered rain showers are expected and light snowfall is possible Thursday in Riverside County before the first rain event of the fall season comes to an end by this evening, according to the National Weather Service.

A cold, low-pressure system currently centered over San Bernardino County will weaken Thursday and continue moving east, but the system is expected to produce scattered rain showers and roughly an inch of snow in the mountains, primarily in San Bernardino County, NWS meteorologist Miguel Miller said.

A winter weather advisory will be in effect until 7 p.m. Thursday in the San Bernardino County mountains and the Riverside County mountains.

Snow levels were around 5,000 feet early Thursday morning, but the levels will rise to about 6,000 feet by Thursday afternoon, Miller said.

The NWS advised motorists traveling in those mountainous areas to be prepared for reduced visibility and use caution while driving.

As of 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 5 inches of snow had fallen at Big Bear Resort, Green Valley had 4.5 inches, Wrightwood had 4, Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear City had 3, Running Springs had 2 to 3 inches and Crestline had 1.5.

Mount San Jacinto in Riverside County had no reported snowfall as of late Wednesday night.

Scattered rain showers will continue Thursday, with most of the rainfall activity expected in the Riverside County mountains and the Riverside metropolitan area, forecasters said. Those two areas have a 50% chance of precipitation while the Coachella Valley and the San Gorgonio Pass near Banning have a 20% chance.

Less than one-tenth of an inch of rain is expected in the Coachella Valley, the Riverside metropolitan area and the San Gorgonio Pass near Banning today, while the mountains could get about one-tenth of an inch of rain, according to the NWS.

As of 3 a.m. today, Vista Grande, at 1.63 inches, had received the most rain over the past two days, while other rainfall totals included 1.33 inches in Poppet Flats, 1.3 in Angeles Hill, 1.26 in Live Oak Canyon, 1.22 in the Indio Hills, 1.14 in Pinyon Pines and Tick Ridge, 1 in Cabazon, 0.98 in Cranston, 0.9 in Beaumont, 0.87 in Temecula, 0.86 in Potrero Canyon, 0.31 in Hemet and 0.29 near the Riverside March Air Force Base.

In the Coachella Valley, top rainfall totals were 0.71 near the Kent Sea, 0.55 near Whitewater Trout Farm and in Thermal, 0.44 at Agave Hill, 0.4 at the Thermal Airport, 0.28 in Indio, 0.23 at the Wide Canyon Dam, 0.20 in Palm Desert, 0.18 in Cathedral Canyon, 0.15 in Thousand Palms, and 0.1 at the Palm Springs Airport.

Dry weather is expected by this evening and temperatures will begin warming through Sunday, forecasters said.

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Man in wheelchair dies in collision with vehicle in San Bernardino – San Bernardino Sun

November 21, 2019 in San Bernandino

A 75-year-old man crossing a San Bernardino street in a motorized wheelchair was struck and killed Tuesday, Nov. 19, the San Bernardino Police Department said.

The man, whose name was not publicly announced, was crossing Tippecanoe Avenue in a crosswalk — against a red light — just after 4 a.m. as a 37-year-old Rialto man driving a Toyota Echo was approaching the intersection with Hospitality Lane, a news release said. The driver entered the intersection on a green signal and collided with the pedestrian.

The pedestrian died at a hospital. Neither speed nor impairment are not believed to have contributed to the collision, the release said.

“Assistant Chief David Green cited this incident as a reminder of the need for pedestrians to be extra vigilant when entering the roadway. Particularly at this time of year when there are fewer hours of daylight,” the release said.

Police ask anyone with information about the collision to call Detective Dan Acosta or Sgt. Jeff Harvey and 909-384-5792.

This was the second fatal collision this week involving a person in a motorized wheelchair. On Sunday, Greg Alan Rose, 68, of Highland, died when hit by a vehicle as he crossed Victoria Avenue in Highland. The circumstances surrounding the collision have not been announced.

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Despite concerns, CSU leaders appear ready to require extra year of high school math – San Bernardino Sun

November 21, 2019 in San Bernandino


California State University leaders signaled Wednesday, Nov. 21 that they will move forward with a controversial plan to require a fourth year of high school math for freshman admissions — despite opposition from civil rights organizations, education groups and state leaders.

During a CSU trustee meeting at the system’s headquarters Wednesday in Long Beach, opponents reiterated concerns they have voiced for months: that CSU has not provided sufficient evidence showing the change is necessary to improve student achievement and that the change would make it harder for black, Latino and low-income students to attend the 23-campus CSU.

Among those who criticized the proposal Wednesday were Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and representatives from the California Faculty Association, the Los Angeles Unified School District and leading advocacy groups, such as the Campaign for College Opportunity and The Education Trust-West.

Those critics asked trustees to further delay a vote on the proposal, originally scheduled for Wednesday and now expected in January.

But outgoing CSU Chancellor Timothy White said the change is a necessary step for the nation’s largest four-year public university system, saying that the “nature of work in the future will require more quantitative reasoning.”

“We want underserved students to be competitive in the future of work,” he said. “There are numerous safety valves in this proposal to ensure it is not going to be hurtful to a single student. We need to have the courage to give the support to these young men and women to be competitive in the workplace of tomorrow.”

Under the proposal, CSU would require freshman applicants to take a fourth year of high school math or a quantitative reasoning class, such as computer science or personal finance.

CSU made minor changes to the proposal ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, including delaying the planned implementation from 2026 to 2027 and adding an automatic exemption waiver for students who attend schools that don’t offer the required courses. Previous versions of the plan would have required students to seek the exemption on their own.

Opponents on Wednesday dismissed those amendments as insufficient.

“These changes don’t address the significant concerns that we have raised. It’s kind of like trying to fix something that’s completely broken by doing a tweak here or there,” Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, told EdSource.

Siqueiros joined other critics in calling on trustees to wait to vote on the proposal until they conduct a more thorough analysis detailing the potential impact of the change.

CSU administrators have said that by requiring a fourth year of high school math students will come to college better prepared and their completion rates will improve.

Kounalakis, the lieutenant governor, said CSU’s rationale for the change does “not add up” and doesn’t “create a foundation for such a dramatic change.” She encouraged trustees to reject the proposal and pointed to CSU data showing that 93 percent of students already enter the system with four years of high school math.

“Adding a fourth year of quantitative reasoning is not going to impact significantly our graduation rates if 93 percent of the students are already coming in with a fourth year,” she said. “I would encourage the members not to support the implementation of a new requirement that is beyond what is required even in the [University of California] system that would impact largely those students who are coming from communities where they are already at a disadvantage.”

Activists have said many schools lack the teachers to offer the courses that would be required under the proposal, and that those schools overwhelmingly enroll black, Latino and low-income students. CSU officials have denied that charge, saying that more than 99 percent of California high schools offer at least one course that would satisfy the proposal.

The 74 reported Monday that fewer than 25 percent of seniors in LA Unified’s 2019 graduating class would have been eligible for CSU under the proposed requirements, compared to the 46 percent of students who were eligible under the current requirements. About three-quarters of LA Unified students are Latino, and more than 80 percent qualify for free- or reduced-price meals.

Elisha Smith Arrillaga, executive director of The Education Trust-West, said in an interview with EdSource that The 74 report is further evidence that the proposal is a “threat to equity.”

Maria Linares, a student at Cal State Fullerton, said she struggled to gain admission to Fullerton under the math requirements already in place — CSU currently requires three years of high school math — and fears that the new proposal will prevent students like her from attending CSU.

“With this quantitative reasoning proposal, you would knowingly be adding barriers for people from underrepresented communities,” Linares added.

Peter Taylor, chair of the Committee on Educational Policy, which is taking up the proposal, indicated during Wednesday’s meeting that the committee plans to move forward as scheduled in January with a vote.

“This will not linger on forever. … We are going to get to a point where I promise we will make a decision one way or another,” he said.

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Two suspects charged in fatal shooting of Anaheim man in San Bernardino parking lot – San Bernardino Sun

November 21, 2019 in San Bernandino

After several months of investigating, authorities identified and charged two San Bernardino men suspected of an August shooting in which an Anaheim man was killed in a San Bernardino parking lot, authorities said on Wednesday.

Investigators identified Christopher Jackson and Terrence Kenny as suspects in the killing, said the San Bernardino Police Department in a news release. Both Jackson and Kenny were already in custody for an unrelated case and were charged in the homicide.

Investigators identified Christopher Jackson and Terrence Kenny, seen here, on suspicion of the killing, said San Bernardino police in a news release on Nov. 20, 2019. Both Jackson and Kenny were already in custody for an unrelated case and were charged in the homicide. (Courtesy of San Bernardino Police Department)


Investigators identified Christopher Jackson, seen here, and Terrence Kenny on suspicion of the killing, said San Bernardino police in a news release on Nov. 20, 2019. Both Jackson and Kenny were already in custody for an unrelated case and were charged in the homicide. (Courtesy of San Bernardino Police Department)


On Aug. 31, Subhi Baghdadi, a 51-year-old from Anaheim, was sitting in his car when two men approached him, police said.

The suspects shot him once, then fled on foot, according to Sgt. John Echevarria, a San Bernardino Police Department spokesman.

Police said Baghdadi and the two suspects were all inside a store in the 1200 block of North Waterman Avenue, northwest of the intersection of Waterman and East Baseline Street, at around 6 p.m. on the night of the shooting.

When Baghdadi left, the two suspects followed him out. They continued following him as he walked to a parking lot of a neighboring business at 270 E. Base Line.

After Baghdadi got in his car, the suspects approached him as he was sitting in the driver’s seat. One of the men pointed a gun at him, then fired once.

Echevarria didn’t know if the suspects said anything to Baghdadi before he was shot, or if they interacted inside the store.

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Deputies kill armed suspect during barricade at a Morongo home – San Bernardino Sun

November 21, 2019 in San Bernandino

Deputies fatally shot a man armed with a gun at the end of a barricade situation at a Morongo home on Tuesday morning, authorities said Wednesday.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said the suspect had pointed a gun at deputies, prompting them to fire on the man, fatally wounding him. Authorities identified the man as Jacob Cato, 34, of Morongo.

The Nov. 19 incident began at 8:16 a.m. when a resident of the rural desert community had reported hearing shots fired from a neighbor’s home, directed at his home in the 53500 block of Cactus Flower Road, the Sheriff’s Department said in a news release. Deputies arrived to hearing shots fired in the next door neighbor’s yard.

The man suspected of firing the shots walked to the front of the home, authorities said. After deputies tried speaking to the man, he ran into the house, where he holed up for several hours.

About 1:30 p.m., Cato walked out of the house and pointed a gun a deputies, authorities said. Deputies took aim and fired on Cato, who was later pronounced dead at the home.

The Sheriff’s Department statement did not say whether a weapon was recovered at the scene.

Investigators were not immediately available for comment.

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Motorcyclist killed in collision with big rig in San Bernardino – San Bernardino Sun

November 21, 2019 in San Bernandino

A 38-year-old San Bernardino resident was killed Nov. 14 when his motorcycle crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer in that city, San Bernardino police said in a Nov. 18 news release.

The San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office identified the motorcyclist as Francisco Javier Gardea Jr.

Police said the collision happened about 10:30 p.m. The big rig was traveling west across Tippecanoe Avenue at Central Avenue, followed by Gardea on his motorcycle. As the truck continued west on Central, the motorcycle struck the truck’s rear. Gardea was pronounced dead at the scene.

“At this point in the investigation, it appears speed was a factor in this collision,” police said in a statement. “It is unknown at this time whether drugs or alcohol were factors.”

Police ask anyone with information on the collision to call Detective Dan Acosta or Sgt. Jeff Harvey at 909-384-5792.

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