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Video may capture loggers'
anger

"Everyone on edge' after Humboldt
protest death

Sep. 22, 1998

By MIKE GENIELLA
Press Democrat Staff Writer

Humboldt County authorities Monday expanded

their probe into last week's death of a
young
Earth First! protester after activists
released a
videotape disclosing a heated exchange
between
victim David Chain and loggers a few hours
before he was killed by a falling tree.

At the same time, Arcata police announced
they
are conducting an arson investigation into
weekend fires that destroyed a Redwood
Coast
Co. logging truck and threatened several
other
parked rigs at two locations.

Police said physical evidence at both
scenes lead
them to believe the fires were deliberately
set by
the same person. Police declined Monday to
speculate on a motive, but timber interests
said
they feared the incidents might have been
in
retaliation for Chain's death.

"Everyone is on edge. We're all taking
extra
security precautions,'' said a logging
company
owner who did not want to be identified.

Sheriff's investigators today plan to fly
over a
rugged and remote Pacific Lumber Co.
logging
site 17 miles east of Highway 101 at
Fortuna to
see if a pattern of falling trees exists to
support
contentions by environmentalists that a
logger last
Thursday knowingly cut redwoods in the
direction of Chain and other protesters,
causing
the first fatality in a decade of
anti-logging
protests on the North Coast.

The logging operation has been shut down
since
Thursday's incident, and the site sealed
off
pending the sheriff's investigation.

"We're going to get as much factual
information
as possible, and then we're going to turn
over the
results to the district attorney's office
for review,''
said Lt. Steve Cobine.

Activists on Monday demanded that sheriff's

detectives conduct a "manslaughter
investigation''
in light of the video's contents.

But Cobine said while the department is
pledged
to conduct "an unbiased review'' of
circumstances that led to Chain's death,
investigators plan to leave it up to
Humboldt
County District Attorney Terry Farmer to
decide
what, if any, culpability exists.

"As investigators, we're not here to decide
who
was right or wrong. The facts as we gather
them
will determine that,'' said Cobine. He
declined to
speculate on how long it might take before
the
case is turned over to prosecutors for
review.

The expanded sheriff's investigation was
prompted by a video tape apparently filmed
on
scene by a trespassing activist within a
few hours
of Chain's death.

The tape, if proved authentic, contradicts
initial
reports by Pacific Lumber representatives
that its
logging crew was unaware Chain and others
were in the area when the fatal accident
happened. The company initially said
loggers had
worked undisturbed from 7 a.m. to about
noon,
when Chain is believed to have been crushed
to
death by a falling redwood.

A video tape turned over to authorities
reveals
an angry logger shouting obscenity-laced
warnings at Chain and other intruders.
While
difficult at times to hear every spoken
word, the
logger at one point seems to threaten to
send a
tree falling in the direction of protesters
if they
don't leave.

Pacific Lumber spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel
conceded Monday that initial company
statements indicating the logging crew was
unaware Thursday that activists were even
on the
site were incorrect. She said those
statements
stemmed from sketchy information first
obtained
from company workers at the scene.

"Things were happening very fast. We got
the
best information we could at the time,''
said
Bullwinkel.

Bullwinkel said even with the tape's
disclosure,
it's clear there had been no confrontation
for at
least an hour before the accident.

"There is no way a logger could have
knowingly
targeted Mr. Chain by falling a tree in his

direction,'' said Bullwinkel.

Pacific Lumber President John Campbell said

Monday he viewed the tape and found it
inconclusive.

"We could not identify the person speaking
because the sun was shining behind his
head, and
he could not be clearly seen. Nor could any
of
the intruders, because their backs were
turned to
the camera,'' said Campbell.

Campbell said while it's clear the logger
was
angry, "I don't think what he was saying
was
threatening.''

Campbell admitted the obscenity-laced
diatribe
captured on tape "doesn't present a pretty
picture.''

"But given the circumstances, I think the
logger's
frustration is understandable,'' said
Campbell.



















1998 The Press Democrat






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