Monica Velez

Reporter

Monica Velez was a reporter at Valley Public Radio. She started out as a print reporter covering health issues in Merced County at the Merced Sun-Star.

In 2018 Monica and her colleague at the Sun-Star won a first place George F. Gruner award for breaking news coverage. She was also awarded with a  first place California Newspaper Association award in 2017 for her coverage on the lack of doctors in Merced County and other health access issues.

After growing up in the Bay Area, Monica moved to Sacramento where she received a degree in journalism and creative writing from California State University, Sacramento.  As a Latina and Spanish speaker, she is passionate about telling stories that touch on issues in Hispanic communities.

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

Alfredo Gonzalez, 42, sat down in the Project Rebound office at Fresno State on a Wednesday morning. He was there to register for a two-day criminal justice class that would count for one unit toward his bachelor’s degree. 

 

“Although I’m at (Fresno) City I’ve been part of Project Rebound since before I got out of prison,” he said. The program helps formerly incarcerated people go to college and graduate. 

 

This week on Valley Edition: Frustration and hopelessness surround upcoming groundwater laws. Some growers feel so disillusioned, they’re selling their land and getting out of agriculture.

In Fresno, we speak with one retired Bulldog gang member who’s found a calling trying to reduce gun violence.

 

Plus: What happens when your home is so unsafe, it’s considered unlivable? A Tulare County woman describes being given only 72 hours to find somewhere new for herself and her four children.

 

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

Immigration lawyers in the San Joaquin Valley say they’re overwhelmed with their caseloads and it’s particularly pointed in Tulare County where the demand for services is growing. Although it’s hard to calculate the exact number of people looking for immigration attorneys, many people in the field say it’s significantly high.

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

Fifteen-year-old Sandra Hernandez can’t get this one Tuesday morning out of her head.

 

“All I was thinking at that time was ‘I wanted my dad back,’” she said. “I wanted him to get in the car and for us to go to school like any other day.”

 

Her father, Hugo Hernandez, was pulled over by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in central-east Fresno on Nov. 5. It was about 7:30 a.m. and he was taking Sandra and her 16-year-old brother Eduardo to school. Eduardo said it was just like any other day.

On this week’s Valley Edition: We talk with the Fresno Police Department about the mass shooting last Sunday that left four dead and six wounded at a party in Southeast Fresno. We also visit a Hmong mini-mall and bring you a postcard of remembrances from people who knew the victims.

And we talk to kids about a father who was apprehended by Immigrant and Customs Enforcement while driving his two teenagers to school. He was then sent to a detention facility.

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

Irma Medellin left Mexico in 1988 to find work in the San Joaquin Valley. When she first arrived in Lindsay, she says she mostly kept to herself. She picked olives and apples, she worked in restaurants and as a seamstress.

 

It wasn’t until Medellin joined The Immigrant Photography Project at a local school a decade later that she started really interacting with her community. 

 

Alex Hall/KQED

 

 

Four people were shot dead and six others wounded in a shooting Sunday night in the backyard of a Southeast Fresno home. 

"This was a gathering, a family and friend gathering in the backyard," Fresno Police Lt. Bill Dooley said at a press conference Sunday. "Everyone was watching football this evening when unknown suspects approached the residence, snuck into the backyard and opened fire.”

Shooters opened fire on 10 people in the backyard. Others inside the house were not harmed, police said. 

On this week's Valley Edition, we go up in the air for an aerial view of Kern County’s Cymric Oil Field. And on the ground in Tulare County, will a village of tiny homes help solve the homeless crisis? 

You may know McFarland for the Disney movie about an against-the-odds cross country track team winning the state championship. But now the town is in the spotlight for a different reason - two investigative reporters tell us about its “second chance” police department. 

 

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

About two dozen people rallied in downtown Fresno Tuesday in support of the nationwide #RiseForDACA and #HomeIsHere campaign. 

 

The rally was in response to the start of oral arguments the Supreme Court heard in the case brought by the Trump Administration to end DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Obama-era program gives people brought to the U.S. as children work permits and protection from deportation. 

 

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

University of California President Janet Napolitano addressed the Supreme Court’s upcoming arguments about the future of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Friday in Fresno at the Economic Summit. 

 

“The stakes are high if the Supreme Court were to accept the Trump Administration's opinion,” she told reporters. “That would mean that DACA could go away and DACA students then would be at risk and living with the fear of being subject to deportation at any time.”

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: The first African American park superintendent was instrumental in building a wagon road into Sequoia National Park back in 1903. Now for Veterans Day, a portion of Highway 198 will be renamed for this dynamic Colonel.

We also take you to Tulare County where a dynamic mother-daughter team advocates for infrastructure improvements and basic needs, like drinkable water, in unincorporated communities.

Google Earth

The former chief executive officer of a Merced-area health care clinic was sentenced Monday to five years in federal prison and fined millions of dollars for committing health care fraud and conspiracy to receive kickbacks. 

 

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced Tuesday that Sandra Haar, 59, will begin serving her sentence Jan. 15, 2020, according to a statement. Haar was fined $6,107,846 in restitution. She pleaded guilty last year to health care fraud. 

 

Faith in the Valley

Thousands of people in Fresno County are evicted from their homes every year.

Andrew Janz

Update as of Monday October 28th at 6pm:

Jerry Dyer’s campaign issued a statement condemning this fake website and stating that he looks forward to continued debate on Fresno’s critical issues. “Using false information to deceive voters is nothing short of wrong and California laws on deceptive campaign practices are clear,” the statement reads. “That is why we are supportive of a complete investigation to determine who is behind this type of negative campaigning.”

Stuart Chandler

Two videos that surfaced this week of a Fresno police officer shooting a 16-year-old boy in the back of the head have caused local and national outrage. 

 

“We have to reform our policing system to end the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ mentality that ends far too many black & brown lives,” presidential candidate Julián Castro tweeted Thursday evening. “The fact that these officers weren’t held accountable is shameful—and more evidence that the system is broken.”

 

On this week’s Valley Edition: California is trying to manage its groundwater better, but some communities, already grappling with unsafe drinking water, worry they’ll be left behind by local agencies to fend for themselves.

And a Bay Area conservation group just purchased the world’s largest privately owned giant sequoia grove: 530 acres of pristine forest.

Plus: We hear from journalists about two upcoming projects. One of them is run by young women throughout the state, the other is an effort to improve education reporting in Fresno. 

Stuart Chandler

A recently surfaced video of an unarmed 16-year-old boy who was shot in the back of the head while running away from Fresno police is the focus of a wrongful death lawsuit.

 

The federal civil rights lawsuit was filed last March against the City of Fresno, former Police Chief Jerry Dyer, and Ray Villalvazo, the officer who shot the teen. Attorney Stuart Chandler is representing the teen’s father, Anthony Golding.

 

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

Voters in Selma may end up voting on how the city will be redistricted in the March 2020 election, but for now the city is moving forward on its current plan to create districts. 

 

Monica Velez / Valley Public Radio

At about 10 a.m. Aaron Foster heads to Ivy and Lorena streets in southwest Fresno. In his pickup truck, he goes around neighborhoods in this area every day, or what he calls “hitting the loop.”

 

“This is just the hood, we call it the block,” he said. “Every neighborhood got a block. This is the southwest Fresno that no one sees. The poverty is obvious.”

 

He does this to “sustain the peace” and to prevent shootings from happening.  

 

 

 

On this week's Valley Edition: Two violent incidents shook the Sikh community in Bakersfield this year; now a women’s group is running a resource hotline in English and Punjabi.

And one father in Fresno who lost two children to gun violence has a strategy for fighting it in his own neighborhood. Is it working? We follow him to find out.

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