wednesday morning news roundup

Protesters Block Both Directions Of Hwy 24 Near Macarthur Bart

Hundreds of people made their way into Oakland after walking through city streets in downtown Berkeley Tuesday night to protest decisions to not indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.

The protests started around 6:20 p.m. when police said about 100 people were marching through the University of California at Berkeley’s South Campus area.

About an hour later, the group grew to a larger crowd at Center Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, near Civic Center Park, in Berkeley, police said.

They gathered at the front of City Hall where they heard remarks by City Councilmen Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin.

The Berkeley City Council had a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday but it was canceled Tuesday afternoon due to protesters who had planned to disrupt the meeting.

“We have postponed tonight’s City Council meeting because the Council chambers, which hold about 125 people, could not accommodate the large turnout expected to attend. One estimate placed the number as high as 1,500 people,” Mayor Tom Bates said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly before 8 p.m., the protesters left City Hall and were marching south on Martin Luther King Jr. Way from Allston Way, police said. They then went south on Telegraph Avenue to Oakland.

The Downtown Berkeley BART station was closed at about 7:10 p.m. due to the protests but reopened about an hour later, according to a BART dispatcher.

Trains were only be running through the station located at 2160 Shattuck Ave. during the closure, BART officials said.

Shortly after 9 p.m., the MacArthur BART station at 555 40th St. was closed due to the protests but reopened as of 10:20 p.m., the dispatcher said.

California Highway Patrol officers in riot gear were seen blocking state Highway 24 ramps at Telegraph Avenue in Oakland around 8:45 p.m.

At about 9:15 p.m., protesters were seen on Highway 24 near the MacArthur BART station blocking traffic in both directions, CHP officials said.

CHP officers were able to clear people from the freeway and lanes were reopened to traffic about 30 minutes later and have reopened the ramps.

The transition from Highway 24 to Interstate Highway 980 was closed but reopened around 10:45 p.m., while officers continue to guard ramps from Highway 980 to downtown Oakland, CHP officials said.

The protesters made their way into downtown Oakland where they were gathered outside Oakland City Hall around 10:30 p.m.

Amtrak train service has been suspended on the Capitol Corridor line between the Oakland Coliseum stop and Richmond due to the protests, transit officials said.

Trains serving the San Joaquin and Coast Starlight routes will also experience delays, Amtrak officials said.

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit buses have been detoured from their regular routes due to the protests in Berkeley and may reroute other lines in the area if needed, AC Transit officials said.

King City Man Sentenced To 100 Years To Life In Double Gang Murder

A King City man was sentenced Tuesday to 100 years to life in connection with a 2012 double homicide, according to Monterey County prosecutors.

Juan Salazar Jr., 21, was sentenced Tuesday after being convicted on Sept. 17 of two counts of first-degree murder with gun and gang enhancements for the July 28, 2012 murders of Hector Reyes, 22, and Daniel Fraga, 25. He was also convicted in connection with the beating of a girl.

Salazar will be eligible for his first parole hearing in August of 2112. The two murder sentences will run consecutively to sentences for gun enhancements, maximizing the sentence, prosecutors said.

His co-defendant in the case, Enrique Lopez, 25, was convicted of second-degree murder with gang enhancements in the same trial, and also for the beating of the same teenage girl. However, Lopez fired his attorney Tuesday, delaying his sentencing by some weeks, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said that the victims and both defendants were all members of the same Sureno street gang.

In July of 2012, Lopez, a gang leader, ordered Fraga’s killing and also ordered the beating of a female juvenile gang member, Reyes’ cousin and a friend of Fraga. The beating broke the girl’s nose.

When Fraga and Reyes learned of the beating, they arrived to confront Salazar and Lopez. After a fight, Salazar ordered the two into a bathroom at gunpoint, shot them both multiple times and then fled to Mexico with his 16-year-old girlfriend.

The girl’s disappearance prompted an Amber Alert and a search. She and Salazar turned themselves in to authorities at the Mexican border on Aug. 4, 2012.

Lopez faces a sentence of 15 years to life plus an additional 10 years, when he is sentenced, according to prosecutors.

Judge Hears Closing Arguments In City College Case, Will Rule In January

A San Francisco Superior Court judge said Tuesday he will rule in January on whether to overturn a regional agency’s termination of accreditation for City College of San Francisco.

Judge Curtis Karnow spoke at the start of closing arguments in the trial of a lawsuit filed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera against the western regional branch of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

The lawsuit claims the Novato-based commission violated the state’s Unfair Competition Law by using illegal and unfair procedures when it decided last year to revoke City College’s accreditation.

Karnow heard five days of testimony in the non-jury trial in October and took the case under submission after presiding over three hours of closing arguments Tuesday.

Karnow asked questions of both sides, but did not indicate how he plans to rule. He said he will issue his decision next month as a proposed ruling, after which both sides will have 15 days to respond and suggest changes.

Karnow will issue a final decision sometime after that, and that ruling can be appealed to the state Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

Herrera filed the lawsuit on behalf of the people of California. City College itself is not a party in the case.

Among other claims, the lawsuit contends the commission had a conflict of interest because ACCJC President Barbara Beno’s husband served on an evaluation committee; that the committee had too few academic members; and that the commission failed to give the college adequate notice and opportunity to respond to the alleged deficiencies.

“The evidence has shown that City College did not get a fair evaluation,” Deputy City Attorney Sara Eisenberg told Karnow on Tuesday.

Herrera has contended loss of accreditation would be a “death sentence” because City College would lose state and federal funding.

Beno’s husband, Peter Crabtree, is the dean of career and technical education at Laney College in Oakland.

Eisenberg argued that his membership on a 2012 evaluation committee created an actual conflict of interest because if City College closed, some students would be likely to transfer to Laney, the only other Bay Area community college accessible by BART.

Crabtree’s marriage to Beno created an additional appearance of conflict of interest, she contended.

Commission attorney Kenneth Keller argued there was no evidence of unfairness or bias in the evaluation and that the 19 commissioners were carrying out their duty.

Man Arrested On Suspicion Of Fatal Downtown Shooting In October

A 26-year-old man was arrested last week on suspicion of fatally shooting another man in downtown San Jose in October, a police spokesman said Tuesday.

Jaime Lockett, of Stockton, was arrested on Dec. 2. by the U.S. Marshals Service on an arrest warrant from San Jose police, Officer Albert Morales said.

He is suspected of shooting 24-year-old Hayward resident Tyrone Fryman in the area of Santa Clara and Second streets on Oct. 30, Morales said.

Fryman suffered from at least one gunshot wound and was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the spokesman said.

Lockett was transported to San Jose and booked into Santa Clara County Jail, according to Morales.

Investigators determined an altercation occurred before the shooting, though they are still looking into the motive and circumstances surrounding the incident, Morales said.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call San Jose police Detective Sgt. Ray Avalos or Detective Brian McDonald of the Police Department’s homicide unit at (510) 277-5283. Anonymous tips can be made by calling Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers tip line at (408) 947-STOP (7867).

Community Members, Police Officials Take Part In Protest Against Police Violence

Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus and other police department brass stood shoulder to shoulder with other community members during a peaceful protest against police brutality in the East Bay city Tuesday.

The last-minute demonstration organized by the RYSE Youth Center drew more than 100 people, including city council members and police officials, along MacDonald Avenue near 41st Street on Tuesday protesting deadly police force against unarmed “black and brown men,” said RYSE Executive Director Kimberly Aceves.

While other Bay Area cities have erupted into sometimes violent or disruptive protests following the recent grand jury decisions not to indict the police officers who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and 43-year-old Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, Tuesday’s demonstration was the first in Richmond and was free of any damage, traffic disruption or arrests, according to police and organizers.

Aceves said her organization decided to hold the protest to give community members a “space to grieve and have a conversation” about the recent events.

The protest was also notable for the direct, non-confrontational involvement of police officers, including the city’s police chief, who stood for several hours alongside protesters holding signs and chanting, according to Aceves.

Richmond police Capt. Mark Gagan said police wanted to attend the demonstration not only to keep the peace, but also to show solidarity with the demonstrators.

“People have a real need to have their voices heard, and when that is stifled, it magnifies the problems,” said Gagan, who was among the officers who took part in Tuesday’s demonstration.

Aceves said seeing some of the department’s top brass participating in Tuesday’s protest came as a surprise but that she believes their sentiments were genuine.

The police even ordered pizza for some protesters, including many who stood for nearly five hours to symbolize the length of time Michael Brown’s body lay on the sidewalk following his fatal shooting, Aceves said.

While she credited Magnus’s progressive approach to policing and his commitment to building a positive relationship between the city’s youth and police, she cautioned that there is still work to be done.

She said the RYSE Center plans to hold future actions regarding police brutality against people of color.

East Bay Parks District Ending Lawsuit Against City Over Federal Land

The East Bay Regional Park District moved Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit against the city of Alameda.

The lawsuit was part of the Park District’s quest to develop a vacant federal parcel near Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach as open space. While any obstacles from the city have been cleared, the district is still negotiating to acquire the land.

Meanwhile, the federal government is suing to control development on key parts of the area.

The Park District “would like to see this federal property developed and preserved as open space and parkland and we would like to work with the federal government to accomplish that goal,” Park District counsel Carol Victor said Tuesday.

The debate over the land began in 2011 when the federal government put the nearly 4-acre parcel up for auction. The Park District put up a bid of $1.5 million, but a private developer, Tim Lewis Communities, offered more than $3 million to build housing, according to court records.

The Park District then sued the city, arguing that it allowed the land to be zoned for residential construction without properly examining the environmental impact, Park District officials said.

This year, the Alameda citizens group Friends of Crown Beach gathered more than 6,000 signatures to change the zoning. Instead of placing the initiative on the ballot, the City Council approved it outright.

With the land rezoned to disallow private development, Tim Lewis Communities withdrew its bid to develop the land.

However, the federal government filed its own suit against the state and the Park District to control key areas of the development. Part of the land still houses government offices, but much of it remains vacant.

The Park District remains in negotiations to acquire the property, but exactly what it would take remains unclear.

“We have come a long way in terms of preserving this property but the obstacle is getting the United States to agree to sell it to the Park District for a reasonable price,” Victor said.

The federal government will “hopefully work with us to accomplish a great public purpose, which is parks and open space,” Victor said. “They have the authority to transfer land at low or no cost to public agencies for park land.”

Consumer Protection Complaint Filed Against Uber, Settlement Reached With Lyft

On Tuesday, the San Francisco and Los Angeles County district attorneys filed a settlement with the transportation network company Lyft over a civil consumer protection action and filed a civil lawsuit against transportation network company Uber after failing to reach a settlement.

The transportation network companies, in which travelers are connected through a smartphone app with drivers using personal vehicles, are both allegedly operating in violation of consumer protection laws.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said Tuesday that an investigation into Lyft and Uber’s “misleading” statements, representations and business practices started about a year ago and while Lyft has worked with law enforcement since then to come under compliance, Uber has not shown that same willingness.

Gascon announced the settlement Tuesday of a civil consumer protection action brought against Lyft, Inc. stemming from allegations by the San Francisco and Los Angeles County district attorney’s offices regarding false or misleading representations about background checks performed on its drivers.

Additionally, Lyft used an application to calculate fares for rides but has not submitted it for approval by the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Measurement Standards, as is protocol for a business providing services using measuring technology.

Lyft also allegedly conducted commercial operations at airports without obtaining authorization from the airport authorities.

In a joint statement released Tuesday by Gascon and Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, the pair said they “commend Lyft for its willingness to work with law enforcement to ensure compliance with the laws that protect California consumers.”

As a result of the settlement, Lyft has agreed to revise how it portrays its background checks to customers, submit the application used for calculating fares to the state agency for evaluation and obtain authorization from each airport in California prior to providing rides on their premises.

Lyft has agreed to pay $250,000 in civil penalties within 30 days of the settlement.

Uber on the hand, according to Gascon, has not been as agreeable as Lyft and a complaint against the company was filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court.

Supes Pass County’s First-Ever Living Wage Plan To Begin In July

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved its first-ever resolution to require companies and nonprofits with county contracts to pay a living wage as of July 1.

The supervisors voted for the combined ordinance and policy direction to create an hourly wage of $19.06 for employers with county contracts who provide no worker health and retirement benefits and $17.06 for those who do, according to its co-sponsor Supervisor Ken Yeager.

Supervisor Dave Cortese, also a co-sponsor, said at Tuesday’s meeting that the county’s plan would mirror San Jose’s living wage policy, with hourly rates reviewed each year and annual cost of living adjustments.

The living wage is needed to help working families meet the high cost of living in the county, where many low-wage earners have to seek county services to meet their basic needs, Yeager and Cortese stated in a joint memo to the board.

Both hourly and salaried employees working for contracted commercial firms and nonprofit groups would receive at least one hour of sick leave per 20 hours worked to a maximum of 12 days earned per year to cover employee sick days or caring for an ill family member.

The living wage would apply to county contracts worth at least $100,000, contractors employing 20 workers or more and individual employees who work at least five hours a week in the contract.

The new rules would take effect on July 1 and during the interim, county staff is directed to study and report on the costs of the higher wages to contractors, specifically how it would impact smaller-budget nonprofit groups that provide county services, according to Yeager.

Cortese said the board has the right to get rid of parts or all of the ordinance should it turn out its costs are too high.

The discussion among board members before the vote was contentious at times, as city officials could not provide an estimate on how much the living wage would actually cost versus the current state minimum wage of $9 per hour.

Supervisor Joe Simitian said he supported a living wage as a concept but that it did not make sense for the board to approve one without first knowing how much it would cost.

The county should at least set a cap to limit future costs should there be unintended consequences for the county down the road, Simitian said

The vote for the living wage plan was close, with supervisors Yeager, Cortese and Cindy Chavez for, Supervisor Mike Wasserman against and Simitian abstaining.

Supes Approve Buying Body-Worn Cameras For Sheriff’s Office

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved three five-year contracts totaling $1.1 million to equip 241 sworn county sheriff’s officers with body-worn cameras.

The contracts with Taser International, Inc. include software management, cloud storage services and the cameras. The sheriff’s office will pay $250,000 of the first year’s upfront costs, state and federal funding will provide $104,414 and the county will pay the balance out of the general fund over the following four years, sheriff’s Capt. Clint Shubel said.

The most significant use of the cameras is to provide insights into critical incidents, such as dismissing erroneous eyewitness accounts and validating the sequence of events, according to sheriff’s officials.

Equipping law enforcement officers with body-worn cameras was among the recommendations made following the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by sheriff’s Deputy Erick Gelhaus on Oct. 22, 2013.

The sheriff’s office prepared a proposal in June 2013 to test the cameras, and conducted a pilot program with them between February and May.

The sheriff’s office made two presentations to the Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force that was formed after the Lopez killing. Task force members said they were concerned how the program would be implemented, how the data would be secured and what the policies would be regarding the use of the cameras.

The decision was made to purchase the Taser Axon body camera as the most reliable, cost-effective and most functional body-worn camera for the sheriff’s office, Shubel said.

The sheriff’s office prepared a draft policy for the use of the cameras, and the policy is expected to be finalized after full implementation of the camera program.

The final policy will be developed after evaluating input from the task force, Deputy Sheriff’s Association, citizen groups and other county representatives.

Jim Duffy of Rohnert Park was the lone public speaker regarding the camera program Tuesday. Duffy asked the board of supervisors to delay approving the $1.1 million contracts until a proper policy is in place.

Duffy said law enforcement officers could turn off the cameras at their discretion or when they believe they are no longer needed, and the cameras can be misused by plainclothes officers to spy on the public.

Duffy said the public cannot get access to the video without a court order or approval of the sheriff’s office.

At-Risk Woman Missing Since This Afternoon, Last Seen At Serramonte Center

Daly City police are seeking the public’s help in locating an at-risk woman missing since Tuesday afternoon.

Linh Tran, 40, walked away from her caregiver at Serramonte Center around 1:30 p.m., police said.

She is described as standing about 5 feet 5 inches tall and roughly 180 pounds with brown eyes and black hair, according to police.

Tran was last seen wearing a gray jacket and black-and-white striped dress, police said.

Tran has cognitive disabilities and is taking medicine for her illnesses, according to police.

She enjoys smoking cigarettes and may be in areas where cigarettes are sold, police said.

Tran lives in a care home in Daly City, according to police.

Anyone with information on Tran’s whereabouts is asked to call Daly City police at (650) 991-8119.

4 Suspects Caught For Spree Of 9 Armed Robberies Monday Afternoon

Police captured four suspects in a string of nine armed robberies committed within two hours across a large area of Oakland Monday afternoon, a police captain said Tuesday.

The suspects were caught after leading officers on a brief pursuit in a stolen car, police Capt. Steven Tull said.

The armed robberies were all reported between 12:48 p.m. and 2:46 p.m., Tull said.

They were at 3465 Brookdale Ave., 4200 Boston Ave., 4058 Lyon Ave., Laguna Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard, 3026 57th Ave., 3300 E. 16th St., 506 E. 19th St., Bayview Avenue and Elliot Street and at 2914 56th Ave., according to Tull.

Officers were able to track the victim’s cellphone in the first robbery, eventually leading them to the stolen car. The suspects briefly fled from officers but were swiftly captured, Tull said.

Police Announce Two Arrests In Fatal Stabbing In Mission Sunday

San Francisco police announced Tuesday that they have arrested two men on suspicion of a fatal stabbing in the city’s Mission District on Sunday.

Andres Novelo, 26, and Josue Chan-Perez, 31, were arrested in connection with the killing of 25-year-old Casey Bissell, who was found suffering from at least one stab wound near 18th and Valencia streets around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, police said.

Bissell was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Both Novelo and Chan-Perez were arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and aggravated assault, police said.

No other information about the case, including a possible motive, have been released. Anyone with information about the homicide is encouraged to call San Francisco police at (415) 575-4444 or to send a tip by text message to TIP411 with “SFPD” in the message.

Bissell’s death was the second to occur within a few blocks of each other in the Mission District early Sunday.

At about 2 a.m., 26-year-old Camilo Senchyna Beltran was fatally shot near 20th and Mission streets. No information about possible suspects in the shooting were available Tuesday.

San Quentin Death Row Inmate Dies In Hospital

San Quentin State Prison death row inmate Michael Lee Elliot died Monday at a hospital, a prison spokesman said Tuesday.

Elliot, 55, was convicted of the murder of bartender Sherri Gandy at the Black Stallion bar in Orangevale in Sacramento County in the early morning hours of June 1, 1994. He was sentenced to death on Oct. 31, 1996, and had been on death row since Nov. 6, 1996.

Elliot was housed in a single cell. He was pronounced dead at 3:46 p.m. Monday and the cause of his death is pending an autopsy, San Quentin Lt. Sam Robinson said.

Since 1978 when California reinstated the death penalty, 66 condemned inmates have died of natural causes, 23 have committed suicide, 13 have been executed in California and one was executed in Missouri. Six inmates died from other causes and one is pending a cause of death.

There are 749 people on death row.

Bart, AC Transit Launch New Transbay Late-Night Buses

Transbay commuters in the late night and early morning hours will be able to more swiftly get to and from the East Bay and San Francisco on the weekends with a new pilot program launched Tuesday by BART and Alameda-Contra Costa Transit.

The program not only introduces an additional all-nighter bus line that expands into East Contra Costa County cities, but also increases the frequency of overnight bus lines already in service.

AC Transit board president Greg Harper said Tuesday that the Bay Area is experiencing “tremendous growth in young people and clubbing.”

The result of an increase in nightlife has led to residents asking for more frequent, safe and convenient transportation options across the Bay, leading BART and AC Transit to team up and create a new line.

The new bus route, AC Transit line 822, will take passengers from the 24th St. Mission BART station to Pittsburg/Bay Point, stopping at all San Francisco BART stations and the Transbay Terminal before heading across the Bay Bridge.

In the East Bay, the 822 bus line will stop at 14th Street/Broadway and Rockridge BART in Oakland, then the BART stations in Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill and Pittsburg/Bay Point, according to BART access coordinator Mariana Parreiras.

The new route will run every 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 1 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., Parreiras said.

The existing AC Transit line 800, which serves late-night riders traveling between San Francisco and Richmond BART, and AC Transit line 801, which serves late-night travelers between Oakland and the Bay Fair BART station, will also have increased frequency between 12:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m., with buses running every 20 minutes instead of every 30 minutes, Parreiras said.

Those two lines will continue to run nightly from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Parreiras said for now, buses are the only late-night option since power to the BART trains has to be turned off for maintenance.

BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the pilot program cost almost $800,000, with almost $500,000 in funding coming from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Lifeline Transportation Program, which provides for transit services for low-income and disadvantaged residents.

BART contributed $200,000 from its operating budget and about $100,000 is expected to come directly from fares from the new service.

BART board director Rebecca Saltzman said the pilot program will help evaluate the demand for late-night transportation service and may be extended with permanent funding if warranted.

Man Found Shot, Killed In Hills Sunday Identified

A man found shot and killed in the Oakland hills Sunday night was identified as a 69-year-old Oakland man, police said Monday.

Fulton David Harris was found suffering from a gunshot wound in the 7900 block of Sterling Drive at 10:49 p.m., police said.

Paramedics tried to resuscitate him but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police were unable to provide information about any suspects or a possible motive in the crime as of Tuesday afternoon.

Anyone with information about the case has been asked to call the Oakland police Homicide Section at (510) 238-3821.

Uber Driver Charged With Vehicular Manslaughter For Girls Death

An Uber driver accused of striking and killing a 6-year-old girl while driving in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, a district attorney’s office spokesman said.

Syed Muzzafar, 57, of Union City, was booked into jail on the charge but has since been released on $50,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned at the Hall of Justice this morning, district attorney’s office spokesman Alex Bastian said.

Muzzafar allegedly fatally struck Sofia Liu as she walked with her mother and brother in a crosswalk at Polk and Ellis streets at about 8 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2013, police said. Sofia’s family members were injured in the collision but survived.

The case prompted criticism of Uber and other transportation network companies operating in the city and led to a wrongful death lawsuit filed in January by Sofia’s family.

The suit filed by attorney Christopher Dolan seeks damages from both Uber and Muzzafar and alleges he was viewing or interacting with his smartphone app for the company when the collision occurred.

Dolan said that is a common practice for the business despite the state’s law banning cellphone use while driving without a hands-free device.

Uber issued a statement following Sofia’s death saying that Muzzafar, who has since had his account deactivated with the company, was not responding to a fare at the time of the collision and did not have a passenger in the car.

Muzzafar’s attorney Graham Archer said following the filing of the wrongful death lawsuit that his client had picked up a fare for Uber earlier that day and was “distraught about the accident.”

Weather Forecast For The San Francisco Bay Area

Mostly cloudy skies are expected in the Bay Area today. There is a slight chance of rain expected throughout the day. Highs are expected to be in the lower 60s, with southeasterly winds of 5 to 10 mph becoming southerly winds of up to 20 mph in the afternoon.

Mostly cloudy skies are likely this evening, with showers likely. Lows are expected to be in the upper 50s, with southerly winds up to 30 mph expected. Gusts of up to 45 mph can be expected after midnight.

Mostly cloudy skies are likely Thursday, with a chance of rain and thunderstorms. Highs are expected to be in the lower 60s, with southerly winds up to 30 mph.