Oakland Police Chief Makes Surprise Announcement That He Will Step Down
Oakland city leaders are launching a nationwide search for a new police chief following the surprise announcement by Chief Howard Jordan Wednesday that he is stepping down for medical reasons.
In a statement posted on the department's website Wednesday, Jordan said, "This morning I advised City Administrator Deanna Santana that, effective immediately, I am on medical leave and taking steps toward medical retirement."
He called the decision "difficult but necessary."
Santana confirmed at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that Jordan alerted her that he was stepping down only Wednesday.
Assistant Chief Anthony Toribio will take the helm as acting chief as city leaders launch a nationwide search to find a permanent replacement for Jordan.
"Chief Jordan's announcement was unexpected," Toribio said.
"The suddenness may cause uncertainty inside and outside the department but there will be no change in the department's mission, progress or focus."
Toribio said it would be "presumptive of me to make comment" on whether he would be a candidate for permanent chief. Jordan was appointed police chief on Feb. 1, 2012, by Mayor Jean Quan.
He had served as interim chief since October 2011 after former police Chief Anthony Batts abruptly resigned.
"I'm personally very saddened and surprised about the chief's announcement," Quan said Wednesday.
She said she first met Jordan many years ago while serving on Oakland's school board, when he was chief of Oakland Unified School District police. "He had a great career.
He came up from the ranks and served the city well," Quan said. In his statement, Jordan said, "Through my 24 years of wearing an OPD badge and uniform, I have emulated the department's core values: honesty, respect, and integrity -- values I observed in the men and women who worked with me and for me.
"I know that the members and civilian staff of the department will carry on these values to generations to come," he said.
Armed Suspect Eludes Hayward Police, Despite Shots Being Fired
An allegedly armed suspect escaped a Hayward neighborhood Wednesday afternoon despite police shooting at him, swarming the area and searching a perimeter for over three hours, police said.
Hayward police first responded to a report from BART police that a suspect with a gun was seen leaving the Downtown Hayward BART station at 2:08 p.m.
Police responded and saw four males who matched that description. An officer attempted to detain them, and three complied but one ran away.
More officers responded and found the suspect behind the DMV building at 150 Jackson St. Police said he had a gun in his hand and the officer told him to drop the gun.
The suspect turned toward the officer and pointed the gun at him instead, so the officer fired at the suspect, according to police.
The suspect ran away again, still holding the gun, police said. Police then set up a perimeter around the DMV and the surrounding neighborhood to search for the suspect.
DMV spokesman Armando Botello said he was told around 3 p.m. that the building was closed because shots had been fired in the parking lot.
A resident of Magna Avenue said at 4:45 p.m. that as many as 15 police cars were parked at a house on his street near Winton Avenue.
Officers were outside the house with shields, he said.
The resident said he had heard what sounded like fireworks then saw police running toward the home.
He said they later threw something and he saw smoke.
The resident, who declined to give his name, said it looked like police were trying to find somebody at the home.
He had not seen anyone arrested.
An employee at Crossroads World Market, located at 230 Jackson St., said at 4:15 p.m. that there were police on Magna Avenue, behind the grocery store.
He said it smelled as though tear gas had been released.
The store was evacuated because of the overwhelming odor.
He said a police helicopter overhead was blaring the message, "Come out with your hands up" and that authorities were threatening to release dogs into the area.
Police concluded the search over three hours later without locating the suspect.
Botello said that the DMV will reopen two hours late today, at 10 a.m., to brief employees on the incident.
Transportation Officials Announce Solution to New Bay Bridge Faulty Bolt Problem
Transportation officials overseeing construction of the Bay Bridge's new eastern span said Wednesday they have developed a solution to a problem involving faulty anchor bolts on the span, and that the fix could cost up to $10 million.
They also told the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Bay Area Toll Authority Wednesday that they won't know until at least the end of the month whether the new span will open on schedule on Sept. 3. MTC Executive Director Steve Heminger said the decision on whether to open the span over the Labor Day weekend will likely be made by Gov. Jerry Brown.
"It ultimately will be a decision by elected officials, as it should be," Heminger said.
He said he and other transportation officials will provide advice on the matter.
The MTC and the California Department of Transportation learned in March that about a third of the 96 bolts installed on a pier just east of Yerba Buena Island had failed.
The bolts, or anchor rods -- located near where the new span's self-anchored suspension span meets its skyway -- had popped out several inches after being tightened.
They were manufactured in Ohio in 2008.
Heminger said those bolts will be replaced but transportation officials are still trying to figure out if they need to replace another batch of 192 bolts manufactured in 2010.
He said it is a good sign that none of those 192 bolts failed during tests conducted in recent weeks, but noted that more testing remains to be done before they are considered safe.
Heminger said that if the 2010 bolts need to be replaced, it is possible that could happen gradually after the new span opens.
Caltrans spokesman Andrew Gordon said that to address the problem with the 2008 bolts -- which are holding in place seismic safety devices known as shear keys that help prevent swaying during an earthquake -- officials have decided to install large steel saddles that will essentially perform the same function.
Caltrans Executive Director Andre Boutros said during the meeting that the steel saddle will provide the equivalent clamping force as the original bolt design in holding down the shear keys.
Boutros said there is no estimated time yet for completing the fix because Caltrans is still negotiating with the contractor.
"We hope it will be before Labor Day," he said.
Police Discover Mummified Human Skull at West Oakland Recycling Center
Police discovered what appears to be mummified human skull at a West Oakland recycling center Wednesday, a police spokeswoman said.
California Waste Solutions, located at 1820 10th St., called police at 8:46 a.m. Wednesday to report that workers had discovered the remains among the recyclables.
The discovery is being investigated by Oakland police's major crimes section.
Berkeley Medical Marijuana Dispensary Vowed to Fight Federal Lawsuit
Representatives of a Berkeley medical marijuana dispensary vowed Wednesday to fight a property forfeiture lawsuit filed by federal prosecutors last week.
"We intend to vigorously defend the rights of our patients and the citizens of Berkeley to be able to obtain medical cannabis from a responsible, licensed dispensary," said Sean Luse, the chief operating officer of the Berkeley Patients Group.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, the chief federal prosecutor for Northern California, filed the lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco last Thursday.
It asks the court to order the forfeiture from the group's landlord of the group's leased storefront at 2366 San Pablo Ave., on the grounds that the property is used for illegal sales of marijuana.
The Berkeley Patients Group, founded in 1999, is the oldest continuously operating medical marijuana dispensary in the Bay Area and serves more than 10,000 patients, Luse said.
The forfeiture lawsuit is part of a crackdown announced by Haag and the other three regional U.S. attorneys in California in 2011.
The prosecutors said they planned to target dispensaries they considered to be large-scale commercial operations by filing forfeiture lawsuits against landlords.
Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based marijuana advocacy group, said the new case is one of about 20 currently active forfeiture lawsuits against California dispensaries.
But Hermes said at least several hundred other medical marijuana stores in California have closed since 2011 because of threats of such lawsuits.
Another of the pending lawsuits is one filed last year against Harborside Health Center in Oakland, the state's largest dispensary.
The state's voter-approved Compassionate Use Act of 1996, also known as Proposition 215, protects seriously ill patients who have a doctor's recommendation from being prosecuted under state law for using marijuana as medicine.
But federal laws criminalizing marijuana make no exception for state medical marijuana laws.
The new lawsuit was assigned to U.S. Magistrate Nathaniel Cousins of San Francisco and is scheduled for a status conference on July 31.
Luse said the dispensary will keep operating while the case is ongoing.
CinéArts Theater, The Dome, Was Demolished Wednesday in Pleasant Hill
The curtain has closed on the beloved CinéArts Theater at Pleasant Hill -- known to many as "The Dome" -- which demolition crews razed Wednesday morning, according to city officials.
The demolition of the theater, located in southern half of the Crossroads Shopping Center at 2314 Monument Blvd., comes after months of vocal resistance from local residents hoping to save it.
On Monday night, dozens of those residents packed the City Council chambers to voice their opposition to a development plan by SyWest, the owner of the theater property, to replace the theater with a two-story Dick's Sporting Goods store, said Martha Ross, a spokeswoman for the group Save the Pleasant Hill Dome Theater.
The public hearing lasted until 2:30 a.m., city spokesman Martin Nelis said.
Many who spoke shared memories of growing up in the area and seeing films in the nearly 50-year-old theater, with its unique space-age-like interior, and lamented the loss of the one-of-a-kind local attraction.
"It was an architectural landmark in the city of Pleasant Hill, it meant an incredible amount to people in the community," Ross said Wednesday morning soon after learning that the theater was being demolished.
Early Tuesday morning, the council voted 3-2 to uphold the planning commission's earlier decision to approve SyWest's project, which called for the theater's immediate demolition.
"They owe their allegiance to their constituents and they decided some developer has more of an important say than the citizens of Pleasant Hill," said Giorgio Sassine, a Pleasant Hill native and spokesman for Save the Pleasant Hill Dome Theater.
Vice Mayor Jack Weir, one of the council members who voted to uphold the demolition plan, said he believes it would be "patently unfair" to impose new criteria on SyWest, which has worked on the development project for nearly a decade.
Councilmen David Durant and Tim Flaherty agreed, noting that the developer has complied with all of the city's specific plan criteria.
In addition, he said, since SyWest would not have preserved the domed building as a movie theater, it would lose any historical value.
Five Women Killed in Limousine Fire on San Mateo-Hayward Bridge Last Saturday
The California Highway Patrol is asking those who want to honor the five women who were killed in a limousine fire on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge last Saturday to refrain from putting memorial items on the bridge.
The massive fire erupted in the back of the limo around 10:10 p.m. as a group of nine women were heading across the bridge to Foster City.
The CHP shared condolences with the family and friends of the women who were celebrating the recent marriage of Neriza Fojas, 31, a former Bay Area resident who worked as a nurse at the Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
Five women perished in the car, while the driver and four other passengers were able to escape.
The victims were identified as Jennifer Balon, 39, of Dublin; Anna Alcantara, 46, of San Lorenzo; Michelle Estrera, 35, of Fresno; Neriza Fojas, 31, of Monterey; and Felomina Geronga, 43, of Alameda. The surviving women are Jasmine Desguia, 34, of San Jose; Mary Guardiano, 42, of Alameda; Nelia Arellano, 36, of Oakland; and Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro.
Loyola and Desguia were taken to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose and Guardiano and Arellano to Stanford Hospital.
Wednesday morning, Loyola remained at the hospital in fair condition. Desguia has been released, Valley Medical Center officials said.
The driver was not injured in the blaze.
CHP officials said community members who want to leave something to honor the victims cannot put items at the scene of the fatal incident.
Officials said it is unsafe and risks further harm.
"In times of emotional pain such as this, we are sensitive but we must also remain diligent in our mission of safety," officials said in a statement Wednesday.
Suspect Leads Police on Multi-County Chase After Shooting Man in Antioch
A 25-year-old man was injured in a shooting in Antioch Wednesday morning that involved a suspect who led police on a multi-county chase, a police lieutenant said.
The shooting occurred around 9:45 a.m. in the 4500 block of Pampas Circle, Antioch police Lt. Tammany Brooks said.
Brooks said officers arrived at the scene to find the victim, an Antioch resident, suffering from a gunshot wound to the leg.
The man was taken to a hospital with injuries that are not considered life-threatening.
The shooter, who was still at the scene when police arrived, got into a car and tried to ram a patrol car head-on, the lieutenant said.
The suspect then accelerated away, leading police on a chase through Antioch, Brentwood, Discovery Bay and into Stockton. Antioch police called off the chase in Brentwood, Brooks said.
Brentwood police and local sheriff's deputies also aided in the pursuit. Brooks said police are still trying to locate the shooter.
The shooter and victim appear to know each other, and the victim is believed to have been the intended target, he said.
Detectives have not yet established a motive for the shooting, but Brooks said there is nothing to indicate that it was gang-related.
The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.
Today Marks Bay Area Bike to Work Day
Residents will be taking to the streets by bike today in the annual Bike to Work day, with a number of events planned throughout the Bay Area.
In San Francisco, the San Francisco Bike Coalition will have a theme of "Bikes Count," coalition spokeswoman Kristin Smith said.
The theme is a celebration of the Market Street Bike Counter, which is scheduled to be unveiled in the morning, Smith said.
The counter, which has been installed on Market Street between Ninth and Tenth streets, aims to encourage commuters and others to ride bicycles by keeping track of ridership and displaying the number of riders who pass by.
It is the first barometer of its kind in the city's history.
Mayor Ed Lee and a number of San Francisco supervisors are scheduled to be some of the first people to have their bikes roll past the counter, she said.
Smith said the coalition also has several planned community convoy bike rides throughout the city.
Each district supervisor is scheduled to lead a community group to City Hall, where a news conference will be held at about 8:30 a.m. to celebrate the day.
There will also be a commuter convoy with about 500 people that will leave around 6:30 a.m. from the 24th Street BART station and finish at Google in Mountain View, Smith said.
Energizer stations will be set up throughout the city to cheer on bikers as they ride by, Smith said.
The stations will have coalition members handing out information about biking, gear, food, coffee and more, she said.
Stations will be scheduled between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m., and 5 and 7 p.m., she said.
Elsewhere in San Francisco, riders who bike to work and commute on the San Francisco Bay Ferry will ride the ferry for free, according to ferry officials.
Meanwhile, in the South Bay, employees at the company Lockheed Martin, a global security, aerospace and information technology company, will celebrate Bike to Work Day by riding from the Santa Clara Convention Center to the Space Systems Company in Sunnyvale, company spokeswoman Dana Carroll said.
Joining them for the ride will be Sunnyvale Mayor Anthony Spitaleri, Carroll said.
In the East Bay, the East Bay Bike Coalition has a number of events scheduled, including riding with Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and elected officials, coalition officials said.
The city of Berkeley is scheduled to start updating its bicycle plan for the first time in more than a decade.
An announcement is planned at a news conference after the bike ride, coalition officials said. More information on Bay Area Bike to Work Day events can be found on the website http://www.youcanbikethere.com/.
Two Men Found Guilty of Murder for Shooting Death Involving Marijuana Grow Site
Two men were found guilty Tuesday of second-degree murder in the shooting death of a man at a marijuana grow site in Sonoma County in 2011, according to a district attorney.
A jury found Sidonio Cruz-Santos, 36, of Santa Rosa, and Agustin Zepeda-Onofre, 25, of Windsor, guilty of shooting 46-year-old Healdsburg resident Gabino Lopez-Santiago following an argument on Oct. 15, 2011, District Attorney Jill Ravitch said.
Cruz-Santos was also found guilty of intimidating the victim's brother-in-law, Ramon Lopez-Velasco, according to Ravitch.
On Oct. 15, 2011, Lopez-Santiago went to a marijuana grow site located on Chemise Road, to drink with his brother-in-law, Lopez-Velasco, and another friend.
Lopez-Velasco was hired by Cruz-Santos to help trim and guard the marijuana garden operated by the defendants.
A verbal argument began between Lopez-Santiago and the friend.
Cruz-Santos and Zepeda-Onofre, both armed, ordered the two arguing men off of the property at gunpoint.
While Lopez-Velasco went to retrieve a vehicle to remove Lopez-Santiago and the friend from the property, Lopez-Santiago was shot to death.
Lopez-Velasco was ordered to remove the body from the property.
He left the victim's body on the shoulder of a nearby road and went to the Healdsburg Police Department to report the crime, Ravitch said.
Lopez-Velasco led police to the site of the shooting and admitted that he had moved the body away from the crime scene.
He also reported that Cruz-Santos threatened to kill him if he told anyone.
The jury also found the defendants guilty of unlawful cultivation of marijuana while armed with a firearm and three separate counts of assault with a firearm.
The defendants claimed the grow operation was legal based on a medical marijuana recommendation posted on-site.
The jury rejected this defense.
A narcotic detective said the marijuana found drying would produce about 72 to 90 pounds of marijuana, much more than could be justified by the single recommendation posted on-site.
The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on May 10. Each defendant faces 25 years to life in prison.
San Francisco Golden Gate Conservatory of Flowers Announces New Butterfly Exhibit
Anyone with an affinity for butterflies now has the opportunity to get up close and personal with the insect.
The Butterflies and Blooms exhibit at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, located at 100 John F. Kennedy Drive, was unveiled Wednesday and is open to the public.
Visitors, after paying the price of admission, can walk into a roughly 1,800-square-foot cottage garden style room and be one with the butterflies' environment, conservatory spokeswoman Nina Sazevich said.
Between 12 and 20 different species of North American butterflies will be on display, fluttering around and drinking the nectar from the many flowers, Sazevich said.
The species will change throughout the seasons.
Some of the species butterfly lovers can expect include monarchs, western swallowtails, red admirals and zebra long wings, Sazevich said.
All the butterflies are free flying, she said.
In addition to having the opportunity to view several butterflies in the exhibit's intimate setting, visitors will also get to see the metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly, Sazevich said.
A butterfly bungalow is set up in the center of the room, where butterflies "will be emerging left and right," according to Sazevich.
Anyone visiting the exhibit will get a booklet that explains a butterfly's life cycle, as well as a chart identifying each species at the exhibit, she said.
Docents will also be on hand to answer any questions.
It is the third time the exhibit has been on display at the conservatory, previously on display in 2003 and 2008.
The exhibit is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Oct. 20.
Admission ranges from $2 to $7; children 4 and under are admitted for free.
Redwood City Police Department Mourns Officer Who Fell in the Line of Duty
Flags at the Redwood City Police Department flew at half-staff Wednesday in honor of a fallen officer killed 32 years ago Wednesday in the line of duty.
Redwood City police officers of all ranks Wednesday donned their "Class A" uniforms to honor the sacrifice made by Sgt. George Garrett, 39, who was killed in an attempted bank robbery in Redwood City on May 8, 1981, Lt. Sean Hart said Wednesday.
Garrett was one of four officers who were responding to a call of a possible bomb threat and two silent alarm activations at the Bank of America, then located at 110 California St., just after noon on May 8, 1981.
The bank was crowded with customers and Garrett, who was first on scene, approached the bank manager Sylvia Harris' desk, according to police.
Sitting at her desk was a man, whom when Garrett tapped on his shoulder to say hello pulled a gun from his waistband.
Police say Garrett shoved bank manager Harris out of the way while grabbing for his gun but was shot by the suspect once in between the eyes and once in the chest, according to police.
The suspect, identified as Raleigh Porsche, 36, an ex-convict released in a Mexican prisoner exchange program, was shot dead at the scene by the other responding officers.
Each year, the Police Department uses May 8 as a day of remembrance, Hart said.
At every briefing Wednesday, command staff, including chaplains and chiefs, shared the story of Garrett and highlighted the risks associated with law enforcement.
"We honor this on every death anniversary," Hart said.
"All officers wear their Class A uniforms, which is a dress uniform with their tie and a black band over their badge in his honor."
Hart added that not only is it important to honor Garrett's memory for his legacy and what he did for the department and the community but also use his story in the forethought of the minds of the city's officers.
"Our job is dangerous and this story keeps us aware of officer safety and that these things happen, even here in Redwood City," Hart said.
More than 1,400 people attended Garrett's funeral.
He was survived by his wife, who was eight months pregnant with their first child at the time of his death. Nineteen days after his murder, his daughter Nicole was born.
Paraglider Injured After Falling into Lake Berryessa
A paraglider was injured when he fell from 500 feet into Lake Berryessa Tuesday morning, a Napa County sheriff's captain said Wednesday.
William Straw, 69, a member of Eagle Paragliding, a training organization in Santa Barbara, was being towed on the lake by a boat operated by Kevin Howe, 44, of Santa Barbara around 11 a.m., sheriff's Capt. LeRoy Anderson said.
When the boat got up to speed and Straw became airborne, Straw disconnected his glider from the boat, Anderson said.
He glided for about 10 minutes before crashing into the lake from about 500 feet, Anderson said.
Howe retrieved Straw, who was unconscious for several minutes, out of the water and took him to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Visitor's Center on Knoxville Road.
A REACH helicopter then flew Straw to Queen of the Valley Medical Center, Anderson said.
The sheriff's office was notified of the incident at 11:09 a.m., Anderson said.
Straw's condition was not immediately available Wednesday.
San Francisco Bay Area Weather Report
Mostly cloudy skies and patchy fog are likely in the Bay Area this morning.
Highs are expected to be in the 50s to mid 60s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph and gusts up to 35 mph in the afternoon.
Partly cloudy skies are likely tonight. Lows are likely to be near 50, with westerly winds up to 20 mph and gusts up to 35 mph.
Partly cloudy skies are expected Friday morning becoming sunny later in the day.
Highs are likely to be in the mid 50s to upper 60s, with westerly winds up to 30 mph in the afternoon.
Check out some of our most popular blogs:
We Built a Stronger SF Economy on Smart Government Investments
The BART That Could Have Been
Run For Your Life! (For Fun)
Love Muni, Hate Muni or Somewhere in Between? Let the SFMTA Know!