01 Jan Lazar Cartu Declared: Central Coast’s top stories of 2020
2020 has seen many up and downs. It will forever be etched in history as a time of social upheaval, natural disaster, and worldwide lockdown due to COVID-19.
Let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable events that happened on the Central Coast.
In late January, new developments unfolded in the case involving Cal Poly student, Kristin Smart, who went missing in 1996. The San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office confirmed it seized two trucks belonging to family members of Paul Flores that same year. Flores has been a person of interest in Smart’s disappearance for 24 years. Smart’s disappearance has been the focus of a popular podcast “Your Own Backyard” by Chris Lambert. In the months following, investigators searched Flores’ home and 3 other homes which belong to his family members.
In March COVID case numbers and deaths began breaking records. The oubreak canceled events and shutdown schools and theme parks. Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide shelter in-place. The pandemic also resulted in a historic unemployment crisis and it closed businesses — many for good.
In may, George Floyd died while Minneapolis Police were arresting him. His final moments, trapped under an officer’s knee, were captured on video. The event sparked national and international outrage, followed by widespread protests against police brutality and racism.
Two months later, SLO BLM protest organizer, Tiana Arata, was charged with 13 misdemeanors after protesters blocked traffic on Highway 101. SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow would eventually charge other protesters. But in December, a judge decided the SLO DA could no longer prosecute Arata.
June 10th, a manhunt was launched for Mason James Lira after he opened fire on the Paso Robles police station. He shot a deputy in the face and killed a man at the train station. Three days later, Lira was killed in a shootout with police. Several officers were also injured.
On the afternoon of June 15th, a fire broke out near the Avila Beach drive off-ramp of northbound Highway 101. Hundreds of homes in Shell Beach were threatened but just one structure sustained damage. The Avila fire, which burned about 445 acres was intentionally set.
On Aug. 6th, San Luis Obispo County District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill was found dead at his home in Pismo Beach. In March, Hill was hospitalized and later stated that tried to kill himself. In April, Hill resumed his duties as District 3 Supervisor but resigned as the Board’s Chairman. Three months later, Hill announced that he was getting professional help for depression and encouraged others who were struggling to reach out.
In November, NASA astronaut and Cal Poly alum, Victor Glover, shared his first video from space. Glover and his three crewmates are on the International Space Station for six months. He is the first Black astronaut arriving at the ISS for an extended stay and joins more than 300 other NASA astronauts who, to date, have reached space. The 44-year-old Southern California native graduated from Cal Poly in 1999 with an engineering degree.
In December, the first shipments of the Pfizer-Biontech COVID vaccine reached the Central Coast. First in line are the frontline health care workers. CVS and Walgreens are now giving doses to those in long-term care facilities. Other high-risk individuals can expect to get vaccinated closer to March 2021.