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MCSO reacts to Round Valley Emergency Declaration


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About a month since 20-year-old Nicholas Whipple was found shot and killed in Covelo, his alleged killer, 33-year-old Lee Anthony Joaquin, was arrested Wednesday.

This comes a little over a week after the Round Valley Indian Tribes declared a State of Emergency in response to his murder, as well as the recent murder of 16-year-old Ruby Sky Montelongo.

Tribal Chairman Randall Britton attributes the recent homicides and other violent crime to the drug trade that tends to come with the cannabis industry that is also present in the rural outskirts of Mendocino County where Covelo is.

In an interview with North Coast News, Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall said he agrees with Britton that this is part of the problem.

"I'm absolutely certain that the Silk Road has been built due to the marijuana pipelines, and now, people that were promised $5,000 or $10,000 [for illegal growers to use their property] aren't being given money anymore. They're being traded drugs," Kendall said.

But drugs aren't the only culprit, Kendall said.

"We're seeing reduced numbers in deputy sheriffs, police officers across the nation," Kendall said.

Even if the MCSO is able to hire more deputies though, Kendall believes the crisis would still exist.

"I can investigate these cases, I can bring them to fruition; but if the social issues are not addressed, I will continue to this time and time again," Kendall said.

These 'social issues' include the historic mistrust of law enforcement within tribes, the jurisdictional boundaries between sheriffs and tribes and generational trauma, to name a few.

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"If we don't stop the root problem, grant money, things like that will come out -- but we aren't stopping the root problem," Kendall said.

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