Fallen Marine Dylan Merola honored with procession through Rancho Cucamonga

When he was a student at Los Osos High School, Dylan Merola wore black and red during school theater productions.


Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, was killed in the Kabul airport bombing on Aug. 26, 2021. (Courtesy photo)

On Tuesday evening, Sept. 21, Merola’s casket was set to pass by his Rancho Cucamonga alma mater, draped in red, white and blue.

A procession honoring Marine Lance Cpl. Merola was its way to the city and set to pass his high school, enroute from Ontario International Airport to Forest Lawn cemetery in Covina.

Merola, 20, was one of the 13 U.S. service members killed in the attack on Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 26. Two other Marines from the Inland Empire, Lance Cpl. Kareem Mae’Lee Grant Nikoui, of Norco, and Cpl. Hunter Lopez, of Indio, were also killed in the suicide bombing. Eight more Marines, an Army soldier and a Navy Corpsman were also killed in the attack, along with 169 Afghan civilians. At least 150 more people were injured in the bombing.

Many in the crowd of approximately 400 outside Los Osos High brought American flags, along with some Marine Corps flags and one or two pro-Donald Trump flags. Most were quiet and serious as they waited for the procession.

When the hearse drives by, a member of the Los Osos marching band plans to play taps.

At a Sept. 2 Central Park memorial vigil, Merola’s mother, Cheryl Rex said her son always wore military attire as a child.

“He wanted nothing more than to become a Marine,” Rex recalled. “He joined the Marine Corps and proudly served his country to the highest degree.”


Residents wait for a funeral procession Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, for Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola in Rancho Cucamonga. (Photo by Beau Yarbrough, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

According to Rex, Merola had been stationed in Kabul for less than two weeks and was planning to go to college and study engineering.

“When he joined the military I knew that he was going away, but I didn’t imagine that he wasn’t going to come back,” Dakota Mancuso, who said Morela was his best friend, said at the Sept. 2 vigil. “I know you were going out for a purpose, I could never have imagined what purpose found you in Afghanistan. I’m so proud, humbled and inspired by you. You saved so many people and I’m so proud of you for that.”

Merola, a 2019 graduate of Los Osos, worked as a theater technician at the school. At the vigil, Randy Shorts, a teacher at Los Osos, described Merola as a “shy, always smiling” student in his theater class, always dressed in a black shirt and red tie while leading tech for school performances.

“Dylan wanted to join the Marines because he wanted to learn discipline, and to make a difference,” Shorts said.

Merola’s funeral is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 26, at 2:30 p.m. at Forest Lawn mausoleum, 21300 Via Verde St., Covina. The funeral is open to the public, but Merola will be buried afterward in a private service.

Merola is the third of the three California service members killed in the Kabul airport attack to be laid to rest. On Saturday, Sept. 18, Nikou and Lopez were buried in Riverside, after funerals and memorial services in Riverside and Palm Springs, respectively. All three Marines will receive posthumous Purple Heart medals, along with 27 other service members killed or injured at the airport, the Pentagon announced Sept. 14.

Rancho Cucamonga will honor Merola at a future City Council meeting with an Armed Forces banner display, embellished with a gold star, according to Rancho Cucamonga Mayor L. Dennis Michael.

Hundreds are lining up for the funeral procession for Marine Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola in Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday, September 21, 2021. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG) pic.twitter.com/xSgN2D9Sba

— TERRY PIERSON (@Fotogodterry) September 22, 2021

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UCLA reshuffles offensive line depth upon Sam Marrazzo’s return

Center Sam Marrazzo’s return has led to some reshuffling along UCLA’s offensive line.

While the moves were not part of last Monday’s two-deep depth chart ahead of the Fresno State game, the changes were put in place on the field Saturday night. Those moves were all confirmed on Monday’s depth chart as the 24th-ranked Bruins (2-1) prepare for this week’s Pac-12 opener at Stanford (2-1 overall, 1-0 Pac-12).

Marrazzo made his first start of the season against Fresno, after missing nonconference games against Hawai’i and LSU to start the season. He participated during pregame warmups, which indicated he could be available but he wasn’t announced during the pre-recorded starting lineup segment on the video board.

“I think Sam gives us a lot of stability,” Coach Chip Kelly said. “He’s such a smart player and really one of the leaders of that group up front.”

Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson took snaps from Jon Gaines II during Marrazzo’s absence.

“Sam brings all the knowledge and all the technique and stuff to the offensive line room,” Thompson-Robinson said. “It’s definitely great having him out there. We have that chemistry and that connection already from the years before so it’s definitely great having Sam back out there for sure.”

Marrazzo started all seven games for UCLA in 2020 but left with an injury against Stanford in the season finale.

“I think everyone was so happy for Sam,” Kelly said. “They’ve seen him work so hard on his rehab and what he had to do. He didn’t participate in spring practice.”

Marrazzo started to work his way back slowly by participating in fall camp but “wasn’t ready to play” until after the bye week.

Jon Gaines II moved over to start at right guard, a position he started four games at last year.

Atonio Mafi started the first two games at right guard but shifted into the backup role with Gaines’ return. Duke Clemens was the backup right guard but is now listed as the backup center.

Baraka Beckett is a new name to appear on the depth chart this week after being listed as the backup behind left guard Paul Grattan Jr.

Siale Taupaki was listed as the backup for the first three games but was sidelined for Monday’s practice with an undisclosed injury.

QUESTIONABLE COVERAGE

UCLA’s secondary was a topic of conversation in the fallout of the loss to Fresno.

The secondary allowed quarterback Jake Haener to throw for 455 and two touchdowns in the 40-37 loss. Haener led the Bulldogs on a nine-play, 75-yard game-winning drive during the final minute.

He completed five of six pass attempts, including four of 10 or more yards.

“We were off a little bit,” Kelly said. “We were trying to keep the ball in front of us and rally up to make tackles. It’s something we need to tighten up this week.”

UCLA safety Stephan Blaylock and the defensive backs watched film of the final drive and saw they were “too loose” with their coverage.

“We need to limit those yards and have a better look for ourselves,” Blaylock said. “They were finding holes and we weren’t running to the ball and not keeping them inbounds when they had one timeout left.”

Blaylock and defensive back Obi Eboh admitted the loose coverage was not part of the game plan.

“I would attribute that to more us than the game plan,” Eboh said. “It wasn’t something we went into the game saying we were going to do. Certain situations just dictate what technique we’re going to use.”

The secondary also had to play a portion of the game without safety Quentin Lake, who suffered an undisclosed injury in the first half and did not return.

“He’s the leader and everybody looks up to him,” Blaylock said. “Everyone loves having him out there but guys step up like Kenny (Churchwell III). He came in and made a play.”

Churchwell III had an interception and a return of 33 yards with 1:05 left in the second quarter.

“Kenny came in and he held his own,” defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight said. “He made great plays.”

Lake’s official status for Saturday against Stanford has not been determined even after being listed as the starter on the depth chart. Lake was a limited participant at practice early this week.

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FBI: Remains found in Wyoming are Gabby Petito’s, autopsy confirms

By Dan Whitcomb | Reuters

A body found in a U.S. national park in Wyoming has been identified as Gabby Petito, the young woman who went missing during a road trip with her fiance and that her death was a homicide, the FBI said Tuesday.

The confirmation is the latest turn in a story that has gripped Americans since Petito’s family reported the 22-year-old missing Sept. 11 — 10 days after her fiance, Brian Laundrie, returned home from the cross-country trip without her.

“Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed the remains are those of Gabrielle Venora Petito, date of birth March 19, 1999. Coroner Blue’s initial determination for the manner of death is homicide,” the FBI’s Denver office said on Twitter. “The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results.”

Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed the remains are those of Gabrielle Venora Petito, date of birth March 19, 1999. Coroner Blue’s initial determination for the manner of death is homicide. The cause of death remains pending final autopsy results. pic.twitter.com/JoHenMZ9UU

— FBI Denver (@FBIDenver) September 21, 2021

Investigators have called Laundrie, 23, a “person of interest” in the case. Laundrie has not been seen since leaving his family’s home in North Port, Florida, last Tuesday. Before disappearing, Laundrie refused to speak with investigators and retained a lawyer.

Police and FBI agents on Sunday said they found a body that was “consistent” with the 5-foot-5, 110-pound Petito in a remote area of Bridger-Teton National Forest, less than 1,000 feet from where a pair of travel bloggers filmed the couple’s white van parked along a dirt road near Spread Creek on the evening of Aug. 27.

Petito’s father, Joseph, posted a photograph of his daughter on Twitter on Sunday. The photo, which shows her standing between two painted wings, was captioned with a broken heart and the words: “She touched the world.”

💔#GABBYPETITO she touched the world. pic.twitter.com/DukH7UCTPo

— joseph petito (@josephpetito) September 19, 2021

Laundrie’s parents told FBI agents they last saw him a week ago, when he told them he was planning to hike alone in the nearby 24,000-acre Carlton Reserve wilderness area. North Port police said they learned from Laundrie’s family only on Friday that he had been missing for three days.

North Port police said Tuesday that they had resumed their search of the swampy reserve. The police previously called off the search after “exhausting all avenues” to find Laundrie. Laundrie’s family said they believed he entered the area last week, according to police.

Search warrant executed

On Monday, FBI agents searched the home of Laundrie’s parents, executing a search warrant at the residence, taking away cardboard boxes and towing away a silver Ford Mustang.


Law enforcement officials on Monday investigate a home in North Port, Florida, in the disappearance of Gabby Petito. Brian Laundrie, who was Petito’s fiancee, is wanted for questioning in her disappearance.

The Laundrie family’s attorney, Steven Bertolino, has canceled a news conference scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, multiple media outlets reported.

Petito and Laundrie left her home state of New York in late June or early July, heading west in the van with plans to visit national parks along the way and documenting their “van life” trip on social media.

Petito was last seen leaving a Salt Lake City hotel on Aug. 24 and posted her last photo to social media the following day. Her family believes she was headed to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming when they last heard from her.

In seeking search warrants, investigators have cited an Aug. 27 text purportedly sent by Petito to her mother, Nicole Schmidt, which describes getting repeated calls and voice messages from “Stan,” Petito’s grandfather.

Schmidt told investigators that message was odd because the young woman would not usually refer to her grandfather by his first name. Petito’s family has said a second text message also seemed suspicious.

Last week, police in Moab, Utah, released body camera footage of an Aug. 12 encounter two of their officers had with the couple during a traffic stop.

In the video, Petito is sobbing as she describes a quarrel with Laundrie that she says became physical at times. The officers did not detain the couple but insisted they spend that night separately, Petito in the van and Laundrie at a hotel.

Reuters writer Rich McKay contributed to this report.

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Laguna Beach legacy home in Irvine Cove seeks $20 million

  • The home’s entrance. (Photo by Modern Take for Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty)

  • The living room. (Photo by Modern Take for Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty)

  • The view from the dining room. (Photo by Modern Take for Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty)

  • The large lounge and wet bar sit under oversized skylights. (Photo by Modern Take for Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty)

  • Beyond the outdoor bar is the barbecue kitchen. (Photo by Modern Take for Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty)

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A Laguna Beach home owned by the same family for 47 years is for sale at nearly $20 million.

Tucked in guard-gated Irvine Cove, the 4,524-square-foot legacy estate has four bedrooms, five bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

While other properties separate it from the bluff side, the home boasts ocean views from the elevated, oversized corner lot where it has stood since 1965.

That view abounds from the step-down formal living room with its mirrored fireplace, as well as from the dining room and the primary suite.

Of the home’s four spacious bedrooms, two open to a spa patio.

Other highlights include an atrium-like lounge with a wet bar that connects to the kitchen.

Outside, there’s a dining bar and barbecue kitchen.

John Cain of Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty has the listing.

A property records search puts June and Ross Wankier at this address on Monaco Drive as far back as 1974. In 1959, the couple founded the neighborhood directory, Ross Publications, Inc.

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Will Disneyland pay-to-ride option make Rise of the Resistance virtual queue harder to access?

Star Wars fans who have watched the Rise of the Resistance virtual queue fill up quickly each day often within seconds have one burning question on their minds: What happens if Disneyland starts selling front-of-line access for the wildly popular attraction?

The new Disney Genie service debuting this fall at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will replace the free FastPass system with a paid Lightning Lane option and begin charging for premium front-of-the-line access.

The upcharge Lightning Lane Select Experiences will allow visitors to pay for FastPass-like access to one or two individual rides per day and schedule a return time for each individual attraction.

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SEE ALSO: Will Disney Genie+ make Disneyland wait times shorter or longer?

DCA’s Radiator Springs Racers will be among the Lightning Lane Select attractions — with additional attractions to be announced at a later date. Disney Parks Chairman Josh D’Amaro told the D23 fan club the Rise of the Resistance attraction in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland may offer a pay-to-ride option.

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will continue to offer attraction access by standby or virtual queue, according to Disneyland officials. Attraction inventory will be set aside for Disney Genie+ access, à la carte individual attraction access, standby queues and virtual queues, according to Disneyland officials.

Disney has not announced the cost for Lightning Lane Select, but Disneyland Paris is charging $9.50 to $17.50 per ride for a similar service called Disney Premier Access.


Erin Herendeen, left, and her family, Harrison Herendeen-Hill, Adam Hill, and Calvin Herendeen-Hill, right, celebrate on Main Street U.S.A as they get a boarding pass for Rise of the Resistance with the Disneyland app in Anaheim, CA, on Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Rise of the Resistance debuted at Disneyland in January 2020 with a virtual queue that filled up quickly each day — typically in minutes and often in seconds. Since reopening, Disneyland distributes virtual queue boarding group return times for the wildly popular Rise of the Resistance at 7 a.m. and noon each day.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida will stop using a virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance on Thursday, Sept. 23 — keeping the system in place for future use from time to time if necessary. Disneyland plans no changes to the Rise of the Resistance virtual queue at this time.

SEE ALSO: Will Disney Genie fill every Disneyland ride and restaurant to capacity?

It remains to be seen how Rise of the Resistance virtual queue access will be affected if Disneyland offers a pay-to-ride option for what is arguably the single best theme park attraction on the planet, according to Martin Lewison, a theme park expert at Farmingdale State College in New York.

“That’s the trillion dollar question,” Lewison said via email. “You have enormous demand for a ride that can only serve something like 1,750 guests an hour on its best day. That’s extraordinarily good capacity in the world of amusement rides, but still insufficient relative to the demand.”

Offering à la carte paid Genie+ access for Rise of the Resistance would likely make it harder to get into a free virtual queue, according to Leisure Business Advisors managing director John Gerner.

“The overall goal is to offer more convenience and access to visitors that are willing to pay for these added benefits,” Gerner said via email.

Premium pricing for popular rides could make it easier to get into virtual queues for attractions like Rise of the Resistance and Web Slingers, according to former Disney executive Duncan Dickson.

“A lot of people aren’t going to be willing to pay the premium,” the retired University of Central Florida assistant professor of theme park and attraction management said by phone.

SEE ALSO: Where Disney World’s 50th anniversary attractions could fit at Disneyland

Motley Fool writer and analyst Rick Munarriz expects Disneyland to place a high-end price point on the premium pay-to-ride option with limitations on the number of Lightning Lane passes sold each day.

“Lightning Lane is Disney’s first opportunity to observe a live experiment of how much certain guests are willing to pay per ride,” Munarriz wrote on Motley Fool. “There is an obvious temptation to maximize revenue, but Disney will have to navigate a fine line between the revenue opportunity and the need for overall guest satisfaction.”

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Garden Grove High marks 100 years

  • Rosemary Carrasco Yoak, Class of 1983, and Jim “Ace” Parnell, Class of 1961, compete together in the dance contest during the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

  • Garden Grove High School graduate class of 75 sits in the same red Mustang he bought in the 9th grade at the Argonaut classic car show during the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

  • Priscilla Campos, Class of 2005, won the pie eating contest at the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

  • Alumni purchased red Garden Grove High Argos tee shirts in support of the Alumni Association during the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

  • Alumni could purchase a hot dog lunch in support of the Alumni Association during the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

  • LaVeta Daniel Sandefur, Class of 1958, left, with her friend Claudia Schiller Turner, Class of 1958, takes a photo of her High School boyfriend Bob Ballew, Class of 1957, in Heritage Hall during the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

  • Members of the Class of 1972 together for a group photo during the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

  • The One Hundred Years of Argo Pride Garden Grove High School 2021 Yearbook on sale during the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

  • Dang Nguyen, a senior and Ron Wyatt, class of 1975, go through the Garden Grove High School yearbook 2021 during the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

  • Jerry Brewer, Class of 1964, gazes the memorial to his fellow classmates in Heritage Hall, he traveled from the state of Washington to attend the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

  • Linda Williams Pearce, Class of 1972, adds her name to the wall of alumni during the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

  • Contestants Elena Lopez, Class of 2018, left, and Sophia Ownby, Class of 2024, compete together in the dance contest during the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

  • There was a large turnout of alumni as well as family and friends at the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

  • Kevin Griffin, who has been a teacher for 32 years, placed pictures of students he has taught over the years on top of desks. Griffin said, “These are the kids that made me what I am” at the Garden Grove High School Alumni Association’s centennial celebration on Saturday, September 18, 2021. (Photo by Frank D’Amato, Contributing Photographer)

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The Garden Grove High community – alumni, staff past and present, current Argonauts – celebrated the school’s 100th anniversary this weekend.

A festival was held on campus featuring memorabilia, dance contests and lots of catching up.

The school opened Sept. 15, 1921 with 63 students, moving to its current location the following year. Today, some 2,300 students call themselves Argonauts.

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Niles: Why SeaWorld’s new park will use Oscar the Grouch to attract happy customers

Southern California is getting a new theme park next year — and it’s based on one of the nation’s most enduring entertainment franchises. But will that be enough to make it a success?

The Sesame Street-themed Sesame Place San Diego will open in March on the site of the former Aquatica water park in Chula Vista. It will be the second Sesame Place theme park in the United States, following the original in suburban Philadelphia.

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Sesame Street has been teaching and entertaining children on television for more than 50 years. It helped launch what is now Disney’s Muppets franchise, and its characters remain beloved icons for generations of Americans. After growing up with this franchise, who wouldn’t want the chance to visit Sesame Street in real life?

Owner SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is betting that opportunity will draw families to Chula Vista starting next spring. This new Sesame Place will retain Aquatica’s water slides and attractions, overlaying them with Sesame Street themes. The park also is installing new dry rides, including a family roller coaster, but its highlight will be a recreation of Sesame Street itself — including Hooper’s Store and the 123 Sesame Street front steps.

SeaWorld Orlando installed a similar Sesame Street land in 2019, and that park’s award-winning Sesame Street Party Parade will be coming to the new park in California as well. Like the TV show that inspired it, SeaWorld’s Sesame Street attractions across the country remain sharply focused on young children.

That makes sense, but some fans who grew up with Sesame Street are not only old enough to have children of their own now, some even have grandchildren. This is a franchise that appeals across generations. While SeaWorld owns the theme parks rights to Sesame Street in the United States, other theme park companies that license Sesame Street elsewhere have developed attractions aimed at a broader audience.

Universal Studios built a dark ride called Sesame Street Spaghetti Space Chase at its theme park in Singapore. In Spain, PortAventura in 2019 opened Sesame Street: Street Mission — an interactive dark ride where visitors use remote control-like clickers to retrieve stolen cookies while Detective Grover tries to find out who has been swiping the treats. (If you know the Sesame Street characters, this is not the world’s hardest mystery to crack.)

Plenty of adults love these rides, which give them the opportunity to step back into the world of Sesame Street that they fell in love with as toddlers. But little kids often respond best to rides built especially for them instead of big “family” attractions. That’s why many parents prefer taking their young children to a place like Legoland California instead of Disneyland — or SeaWorld.

With Sesame Place, SeaWorld will have a new gate designed especially for families with small children, allowing it to go harder after Legoland’s market. Still, as a grown-up Sesame Street fan, I would love to see SeaWorld give us a PortAventura-style Sesame Street family dark ride somewhere, some day.

 

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US officials defend expulsion of Haitians from Texas town

By JUAN A. LOZANO, ERIC GAY, ELLIOT SPAGAT and MARIA VERZA

DEL RIO, Texas (AP) — More than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants have been removed from an encampment at a Texas border town, U.S. officials said Monday as they defended a strong response that included immediately expelling migrants to their impoverished Caribbean country and using horse patrols to stop them from entering the town.

Calling it a “challenging and heartbreaking situation,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a stark warning: “If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life.”

Isaac Isner, 30, and his wife Mirdege, took wet clothing off their 3-year-old daughter Isadora after crossing the Rio Grande to Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, Monday afternoon. They had been in Del Rio, Texas, for seven days but decided to return to Mexico after a friend showed cellphone video of the U.S. expelling migrants.

“They were putting people on a bus and sent them to Haiti just like that without signing anything,” Isner said.

His family has an appointment this month with Mexico’s asylum agency in the southern city of Tapachula, and they think they could be safe in Mexico.

Most migrants, however, still haven’t made up their minds.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do,” said a second Haitian man, who declined to give his name but said he crossed into Mexico Monday for food, leaving his wife and child in Del Rio. “The U.S. is deporting and now Mexico won’t just sit back and do nothing. We don’t know where to go.”

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign minister, said about 15% of the Haitian migrants in Mexico have accepted refuge there. So far this year, about 19,000 Haitian migrants have requested asylum in Mexico.

“Mexico does not have any problem with them being in our country as long as they respect Mexico’s laws,” he said.

Mexico was busing Haitian migrants from Ciudad Acuña Sunday evening, according to Luis Angel Urraza, president of the local chamber of commerce. Mexico’s immigration agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But a federal official told The Associated Press on Sunday that the plan was to take the migrants to Monterrey, in northern Mexico, and Tapachula, in the south, with flights to Haiti from those cities to begin in coming days.

Mayorkas and U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said they would look into agents on horseback using what appeared to be whips and their horses to push back migrants at the river between Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio, a city of about 35,000 people roughly 145 miles (230 kilometers) west of San Antonio where thousands of migrants remain camped around a bridge.

Both officials said during an afternoon news conference they saw nothing apparently wrong based on the widely seen photos and video. Mayorkas said agents use long reins, not whips, to control their horses. Ortiz, the former chief of the Del Rio sector, said it can be confusing to distinguish between migrants and smugglers as people move back and forth near the river. The chief said he would investigate to make sure there was no “unacceptable” actions by the agents.

“I don’t think anyone seeing that footage would think it acceptable or appropriate,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said when asked about the images at a nearly simultaneous briefing. She deemed the footage “horrific” and said the matter would be investigated.

Later Monday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement calling the footage “extremely troubling” and promising a full investigation that would “define the appropriate disciplinary actions to be taken.”

Mayorkas said 600 Homeland Security employees, including from the Coast Guard, have been brought to Del Rio. He said he has asked the Defense Department for help in what may be one of the swiftest, large-scale expulsions of migrants and refugees from the United States in decades.

He also said the U.S. would increase the pace and capacity of flights to Haiti and other countries in the hemisphere. The number of migrants at the bridge peaked at 14,872 on Saturday, said Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a labor union that represents agents.

“When it was reported that were flights going back to Haiti, it got around almost immediately,” he said. “There has been talk that some of them are going to go back (to Mexico) but we have not seen very much movement.”

The rapid expulsions were made possible by a pandemic-related authority adopted by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 that allows for migrants to be immediately removed from the country without an opportunity to seek asylum. President Joe Biden exempted unaccompanied children from the order but let the rest stand.

Any Haitians not expelled are subject to immigration laws, which include rights to seek asylum and other forms of humanitarian protection. Families are quickly released in the U.S. because the government cannot generally hold children.

More than 320 migrants arrived in Port-au-Prince on three flights Sunday, and Haiti said six flights were expected Tuesday. The U.S. plans to begin seven expulsion flights daily on Wednesday, four to Port-au-Prince and three to Cap-Haitien, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Flights will continue to depart from San Antonio but authorities may add El Paso, the official said.

The only obvious parallel for such an expulsion without an opportunity to seek asylum was in 1992 when the Coast Guard intercepted Haitian refugees at sea, said Yael Schacher, senior U.S. advocate at Refugees International whose doctoral studies focused on the history of U.S. asylum law.

Similarly large numbers of Mexicans have been sent home during peak years of immigration but over land and not so suddenly.

Central Americans have also crossed the border in comparable numbers without being subject to mass expulsion, although Mexico has agreed to accept them from the U.S. under pandemic-related authority in effect since March 2020. Mexico does not accept expelled Haitians or people of other nationalities outside of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

In Mexico, local authorities of border municipalities have asked for help from state and federal authorities. Claudio Bres, the mayor in Piedras Negras, about 62 miles (100 kilometers) southeast of Ciudad Acuña, told local media that the official agreement is to turn back all the buses with migrants to prevent them from reaching the border. He said that last weekend around 70 buses passed through his town.

Haitians have been migrating to the U.S. in large numbers from South America for several years, many having left their Caribbean nation after a devastating 2010 earthquake. After jobs dried up from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, many made the dangerous trek by foot, bus and car to the U.S. border, including through the infamous Darien Gap, a Panamanian jungle.

Some of the migrants at the Del Rio camp said the recent devastating earthquake in Haiti and the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse make them afraid to return to a country that seems more unstable than when they left.

“In Haiti, there is no security,” said Fabricio Jean, a 38-year-old Haitian who arrived in Texas with his wife and two daughters. “The country is in a political crisis.”

But Mayorkas defended his recent decision to grant Haitians temporary legal status due to political and civil strife in their homeland if they were in the United States on July 29, but not to those being sent back now.

“We made an assessment based on the country conditions … that Haiti could in fact receive individuals safely,” he said.

Six flights were scheduled to Haiti on Tuesday — three to Port-au-Prince and three to the northern city of Cap-Haitien, said Jean Négot Bonheur Delva, Haiti’s migration director.

Some migrants said they were planning to leave Haiti again as soon as possible. Valeria Ternission, 29, said she and her husband want to travel with their 4-year-old son back to Chile, where she worked as a bakery’s cashier.

“I am truly worried, especially for the child,” she said. “I can’t do anything here.”

___

Lozano and Verza reported from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, and Spagat from San Diego. Associated Press writers Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Evens Sanon from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Tammy Webber in Fenton, Michigan, also contributed to this report.

___

Follow AP’s coverage of migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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Coronavirus: Orange County reported 1,031 new cases over the weekend

The OC Health Care Agency reported 1,031 new cases of the coronavirus over the weekend, increasing the cumulative total since tracking began in the county to 293,875, as of Monday, Sept. 20.

There have been 5,274 new infections reported in the last 14 days.

There were 309 people with confirmed cases of the coronavirus reported in Orange County hospitals on Monday, 100 of whom needed to be in an intensive care unit.

There were eight more deaths reported as of Monday, increasing the count of those who have died from the virus in Orange County to 5,352.

The data on deaths in the county is compiled from death certificates or gathered through the course of case investigations and can take weeks to process. The most recent death recorded was on Sept. 11.

Of the 5,352 deaths reported from the virus, 1,152 were skilled nursing facility residents, 617 were in assisted living facilities, two were O.C. jail inmates and 15 were listed as homeless.

The county update said 4,937,810 tests have been given for the coronavirus since testing began locally, with at least 38,742 new tests administered since the previous report Friday.

It is estimated 277,933 people have recovered from the virus as of Monday. The count of people who have recovered is based on the prior 28-day cumulative case count.

Data posted each day is preliminary and subject to change, officials emphasize. More information may become available as individual case investigations are completed.

You can find the Orange County Health Care Agency dashboard here.

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UCLA football returns to practice with several injured players

LOS ANGELES — The No. 23 UCLA football team (2-1) appears to have lost more than just the Fresno State game over the weekend.

The Bruins had several notable names from the defense sidelined for Monday’s practices. Defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia and safety Quentin Lake were held off to the sideline doing light stretches during the media viewing period at practice.

“We will see where they are this week and how much they can do over the course of the week,” Coach Chip Kelly said. “We will listen to our trainers and see where they are.

Kelly wouldn’t rule anyone out for Saturday’s game and the program has not provided detailed information about their players’ health.

Both seniors were seen walking back to the locker room during the Fresno State game for further evaluation and did not return to the game.

Ogbonnia went down on the field and talked with athletic trainers on the field before getting up and limping toward the sideline with assistance in the first half. When the team returned from the locker room at halftime, Ogbonnia tried to test his movement to see if he was able to return to the game.

He eventually took his helmet off and sat on the bench for the remainder of the game.

Kelly was pleased with what he saw from the defensive line, including Tyler Manoa, who filled in for Ogbonnia after he left the game.

Manoa started five games in 2019 and played as a reserve in six of seven games last season.

“Those guys did a good job,” Kelly said. “I think the effort we got out of those guys was pretty good.

“We got some work to do on one-on-ones individual battles and pass rush things. Those are things we will continue to work on and drill as a coaching staff.”

Lake also jogged off the field with a slight limp and joined Ogbonnia in the injury tent on the sideline Saturday before going back to the locker room.

Tight end Mike Martinez was also hobbled off the field Saturday and returned from the locker room on crutches. He was in a walking boot Monday and using a scooter to move around. Defensive end Quintin Somerville remains in a walking boot and also moving around on a scooter.

Offensive lineman Siale Taupaki was spotted in a walking boot and defensive lineman Martin Andrus was sidelined. Andrus was practicing last week but has a knee injury that continues to plague him.

Defensive lineman Sitiveni Havili-Kaufusi and receiver Logan Loya were spotted on stationary bikes during football practice.

GAME TIME

The Pac-12 announced that UCLA’s conference game against Arizona State will begin at 7:30 pm on FS1 at the Rose Bowl.

The Bruins needed a late second half drive on the road to defeat the Sun Devils 25-18 in Arizona last year. The victory put the Bruins above .500 for the first time under Kelly in three seasons.

PRO WATCH

UCLA and Temecula Great Oak High alumnus Demetric Felton turned a quick pass from quarterback Baker Mayfield into a 33-yard touchdown in the Cleveland Browns’ 31-21 victory over the Houston Texans.

“It was a great experience,” Felton said during the postgame press conference. “Everyone did their job and blocked for me and I was able to get in the end zone.”

Felton caught the ball on 2nd and 19 with the game tied at 14 with eight minutes remaining in the third quarter. He evaded three defenders and performed a spin move to get past one of them on the way to the end zone for his first regular season touchdown on his first career catch.

“I just saw the (defender) coming from the corner of my eye and saw where his momentum was pulling him so I just spun the other way,” Felton said.

Felton also handles the kick return duties for the Browns, running the opening kickoff back for a 25-yard return.

“It does a lot for my confidence,” Felton said about the kick return. “I think it’s a big confidence boost for the team as well. I feel like we had a lot of energy coming in after that and I was really happy to be a part of that.”

Felton was drafted in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, after five years as a Bruin.

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