In recent years, communities in Connecticut, Florida and, yes, California have borne the awful toll of mass shootings. Few, if any, have touched Bakersfield.
That changed on the first day of October when scores of Kern County residents found themselves in the sights of a gunman who fired more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition from the 32nd floor of a resort hotel down onto concertgoers at a music festival in Las Vegas.
As police closed in, the gunman, Stephen Paddock, 64, turned a gun on himself. He was found dead inside the hotel room.
Also dead were 58 others, including three Kern County residents: Bailey Schweitzer, 20, Jack Beaton, 54, and Kelsey Meadows, 28, as well as Victor Link, 55, who grew up in Shafter.
Estimates suggest roughly 200 Kern County families were impacted by the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, and at least 60 local people had signed up as of mid-October for state victim compensation funding for injuries, burial costs and mental health counseling.
The incident marked the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
In addition to that grim milestone, Kern County in 2017 experienced a tabloid-ready trial featuring murder, sex and a twisted interpretation of Christianity; a ban on commercial cannabis approved by county supervisors after Proposition 64 legalized adult recreational possession and use of marijuana throughout the state; and a Center for Health Journalism Collaborative project that uncovered the fact that, despite an increase in valley fever infections throughout California, not a single state dollar is allocated toward awareness efforts focused on the fungal disease.
These, in the judgment of The Californian’s reporters and editors, are some of the top stories of the year: