SCHOOL VANDALS CUT DOWN 70-FOOT TREE: SANTA CLARITA (AP) — Authorities say it may have been intended as a prank but it wasn't funny when vandals chopped down a 70-foot pine tree at a northern Los Angeles County high school.
The Santa Clarita Signal says surveillance video recorded three people in hoodies and caps using chainsaws to attack the tree on the Canyon High School campus before dawn last Friday.
The vandals spent three hours cutting down the tree, which was planted at the Canyon Country school 40 years ago.
No arrests have been made and the Sheriff's Department is seeking public help.
Authorities suspect that the attackers were teenagers involved in a senior prank but the tree narrowly missed a classroom. Damage was put at $15,000 but could reach $30,000 if the tree is replaced.
JUDGE: CALIF OWES BACK PAY FOR EXCESSIVE FURLOUGHS: OAKLAND (AP) — A judge has ruled that California owes state engineers and scientists back wages, saying the state was excessive in its use of furloughs last year.
The Sacramento Bee reported that the ruling Thursday in Alameda County Superior Court could result in some 13,000 workers getting more than $10 million in back pay.
The time period covered under the ruling covers furloughs ordered under the administrations of both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown.
The judgment awarded back pay to members of the Professional Engineers in California Government and California Association of Professional Scientists, which argued that their members were illegally furloughed for two days in March 2011.
The scientists' group applauded the ruling, saying it proved the furlough plan was illegal and did not save the state money.
SO. CAL MAN KILLED AFTER ALLEGED SWORD ATTACK: APPLE VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — San Bernardino County authorities say a sheriff's deputy has shot and killed a man who attacked him with a Samurai sword.
The San Bernardino County Sun says deputies answering a domestic disturbance report Monday night confronted Frank Hudnall of Apple Valley in his living room.
The Sheriff's Department says the 42-year-old man argued with a deputy, then ran into a bedroom and emerged with a Samurai sword raised over his head.
Authorities say Hudnall charged a deputy and was shot. He died at the scene
FRESNO POLICE SHOOT SUSPECT ON SCHOOL CAMPUS: FRESNO (AP) — Fresno police say an officer fatally shot a 29-year-old suspect on an elementary school campus after he ran and refused to stop.
The Fresno Bee reports (http://bit.ly/LneYuB) that Jaime Reyes died at Community Regional Medical Center about an hour after he was shot on Wednesday afternoon at Aynesworth Elementary School.
Reyes was suspected of being a felon in possession of a firearm. When officers confronted him, police say he reached for the waistband of his pants and ran across the campus's grass field with an unloaded handgun, refusing to stop.
An officer then fired four rounds.
No students or school staff were hurt. Fresno school officials say they locked down the campus and made students in an after-school program gather in the cafeteria.
ARMY VET ACCUSED OF FALSELY CLAIMING WAR WOUNDS: RIVERSIDE (AP) — A military veteran in Southern California is accused of falsely claiming he was wounded in Vietnam in order to get nearly $60,000 in benefits.
The U.S. attorney's office says Army Command Sgt. Maj. William Roy was indicted Tuesday on charges of stealing government property, making false statements and submitting false documents to the government. Roy is an active-duty soldier.
A call Thursday seeking comment from the 57-year-old Winchester man wasn't immediately returned.
Authorities say he falsely claimed to have won two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star in Vietnam when he actually was stationed in Germany. He's also accused of requesting a Purple Heart in 2008 after falsely claiming injuries in Afghanistan.
He faces up to 55 years in prison if convicted.
FRESNO COUNTY AND OCCUPY PROTESTERS REACH DEAL: FRESNO (AP) — Fresno County officials and Occupy Wall Street protesters have reached a settlement they say will end their battle over public protests.
The Fresno Bee reports that as part of the agreement, the county will allow Occupy Fresno to protest overnight for three days during the year, beginning next month.
In exchange, the protesters will drop a lawsuit claiming that the county is violating their rights to free speech.
The county will also pay $37,500 to cover the protesters' attorney fees. An attorney for the group said the money will cover its legal bills through December.
The proposed agreement still needs court approval.
Last year, a federal judge ruled that the county's ban on distributing literature and a permit policy on protests were unconstitutional.
ALAMEDA COUNTY VOTERS ASKED TO HIKE TRANSPORT TAX: OAKLAND (AP) — Taxpayers in Alameda County will be asked to double their transportation sales tax to raise billions of dollars.
The Contra Costa Times says county supervisors voted Tuesday to place the tax hike on the November ballot.
It would increase the transportation sales tax from a half-cent to 1 cent.
If approved by two-thirds of voters, the measure would raise $7.8 billion over 30 years. The money would be used to extend the BART system to Livermore, fix potholes, restore public transit service hit by cuts and expand hiking and riding trails.
'AMERICAN IDOL' WINNER PHILLIPS UNDERGOES SURGERY: LOS ANGELES (AP) — "American Idol" winner Phillip Phillips, who was plagued by serious kidney problems during the singing contest, is recovering from surgery.
A spokeswoman for series producer 19 Entertainment said Thursday that the operation went well for the 21-year-old Phillips. Leslie Fradkin says the singer from Leesburg, Ga., will be ready for the July 6 start of the "American Idol" national concert tour.
The guitar-playing Phillips defeated 16-year-old Jessica Sanchez to become the Fox talent competition's 11th season victor last month.
4 AIRSPACE VIOLATIONS DURING OBAMA'S CALIF. VISIT: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A total of four private planes entered restricted airspace during President Barack Obama's visit to the Los Angeles area.
North American Aerospace Defense Command Lt. Cmdr. Bill Lewis says three of the planes that entered the restricted airspace Wednesday and Thursday were buzzed by F-16s and forced to leave the area and one pilot responded to radio commands to turn back.
Thursday morning, two small single-engine airplanes were escorted from restricted airspace by F-16s at 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. PDT.
On Wednesday, an F-16 fighter jet intercepted a Cessna 117 northwest of Los Angeles. That plane was forced to land at Camarillo.
A fourth plane responded to radio calls to turn around at 6:04 a.m. Thursday.