SANTA CRUZ

Spill cleaned near harbor mouth

Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor dredge operators cleaned up several gallons of hydraulic fluid that spilled into the water Thursday morning.

The fluid seeped from a broken hydraulic line, Port Director Lisa Ekers said. Operators immediately placed an absorbent boom around the spill, removing all traces within about 90 minutes.

The Port District has long-range plans to replace the aging dredge, which keeps the harbor mouth deep enough for boats to pass. However, it is likely to remain in operation for several more years.

WATSONVILLE

Three arrested in gun case

Three men were arrested Wednesday night in a car with a loaded, concealed handgun, police said.

A Watsonville police officer on patrol stopped a car driving in the area of Riverside Drive and Blackburn Street for a vehicle code violation around 9 p.m., according to Sgt. Eric Taylor.

As the car was stopping, one of the occupants was seen ducking out of view. He was later identified as 18-year-old Carlos Robles. The officer approached the car and contacted the three men inside. All three were known to police as members or associates of a local gang. A search of the car turned up a loaded gun.

Robles, 18-year-old Jason Cortez and 20-year-old Isaias Barron were arrested on suspicion of participation in a criminal street gang. Robles also was arrested on suspicion of possession of a loaded, concealed handgun. The three Watsonville residents were booked into Santa Cruz County Jail.

SANTA CRUZ

No settlement in Brookdale Inn suit

Attorneys were unable to reach a settlement this week in a case involving alleged labor violations at the Brookdale Inn and Spa, and the matter is now headed for trial in March, court records showed.

Oswaldo Cabello Martinez worked for the Brookdale Inn's owners, Sanjiv and Neelam Kakkar, from September 2007 to August 2009, performing maintenance, repairs and other duties. In April 2010, he sued the Kakkars for wrongful termination and a litany of other alleged labor law violations.

Martinez's suit also accuses the Kakkars of underpaying him, failing to provide him with the proper tools for the work required of him, and failing to give him the legally required meal and rest breaks, among other complaints.

Attorneys on both sides met with the Kakkars and Martinez in Santa Cruz County Judge John Gallagher's courtroom Monday and Tuesday to discuss a possible settlement, but negotiations stalled. A new trial date is set for March.

The Kakkars also have a pending criminal case for alleged workers' compensation fraud, which is slated for trial on April 8.

SANTA CRUZ

Judge dismisses suit against Sentinel

A Santa Cruz County Court judge this week dismissed a Boulder Creek man's lawsuit against the Sentinel.

Robert Brunette was convicted of mistreating more than 50 dogs and puppies in 2010. He was sentenced to a year in County Jail.

Brunette filed a civil suit against county officials, the Sentinel and other entities last year, alleging the newspapers defamed him and caused personal injury. He also alleged there was an invasion of his privacy.

Judge Timothy Volkmann dismissed Brunette's case against the Sentinel, the San Jose Mercury News and parent company MediaNews Wednesday without leave to amend. That means Brunette may not restate his case in an amended complaint.

Volkmann previously dismissed Brunette's complaints against the county and Todd Stosuy, field services manager for the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter.

SANTA CRUZ

Bike theft suspects arrested

Two suspected bike thieves were caught in the act in Santa Cruz in separate incidents this week, Santa Cruz police said.

Wednesday evening, witnesses told police they saw Zachary Bernal, 19, cutting a lock from a bicycle that was secured to a bike rack in front of the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium on Church Street, Deputy Chief Steve Clark said. Bernal was assisted by an accomplice who stood guard while he cut the lock. Witnesses confronted Bernal as he was riding off on the bike, but Bernal sped up and rode away.

Responding police officers recognized Bernal's description from an earlier incident that day in which he'd been arrested for a domestic violence incident. Officers found Bernal several blocks away with the stolen bike, a Trek women's mountain bicycle. He also had a red boy's BMX-style bike that his accomplice had possession of earlier, which was determined to be stolen. The bikes were seized and Bernal was arrested and booked into Santa Cruz County Jail.

Early Thursday morning, police arrested another man after he was caught trying to cut a lock off a bike. Security officers at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk interrupted a 31-year-old man trying to take the bike around 1 a.m. Police arrested Jeremy Ochoa on suspicion of theft and probation violation. Ochoa was on probation for drug-related charges, Clark said.