SF News

Teens Yell Homophobic Slurs While Beating Man with Bat in Duboce Triangle

 

A man was struck with a baseball bat in San Francisco's Duboce Triangle neighborhood on Saturday night by three suspects who yelled homophobic slurs at him, police said today.

The attack was reported at about 9 p.m. Saturday near the intersection of Market and Sanchez streets. The victim, a 52-year-old Santa Barbara man, was approached by the three suspects, who struck him with the baseball bat once or twice while yelling the slur "faggot," police Capt. Denis O'Leary said.

One of the three suspects also took the victim's keys during the beating, but the motive for the attack appears to be hate rather than robbery, O'Leary said. The suspects, described as white males in their mid-teens who were wearing dark clothing, fled and had not been found as of today, according to O'Leary.

The victim waited until Sunday afternoon to report the attack, and officers who responded to the call noted bruising on the side of the man's body, O'Leary said. The case has been referred to the department's special investigations division, which handles hate crimes, he said.

Anyone with information about the attack is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.

 

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Community Youth Center Opens New Branch in Bayview This Morning

Residents of San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood today celebrated the opening of a new youth center that hopes to improve and unite the community through teen leadership.

The Community Youth Center of San Francisco opened a new branch at 4438 Third St., between Kirkwood and LaSalle avenues, at 11 a.m., and more than 150 neighbors welcomed the nonprofit to the block. "It was a beautiful day," project manager Eddy Zheng said. "A lot of people came. The community came through."

The center plans to hire 12 local teens, between 14 and 18 years old, of varying cultural backgrounds to be youth advocates for the community. Organizers will teach the advocates leadership and public speaking skills, and participants will learn about each other's cultural backgrounds, Zheng said.

The advocates will then take what they have learned and create a presentation on "the challenges and the beauty of Bayview," he said. The participants will take this message to area schools, community organizations, and to the state legislative body in Sacramento, Zheng said.

Zheng said organizers hope the participants will help to create solutions to stop violence and create job opportunities for young people. The advocates will be paid $10 an hour for six hours a week and their job includes participating in local efforts to clean up the streets and assisting other organizations with charitable events.

Zheng said organizers are in the process of reviewing applications and interviewing prospective advocates. The center has a main office at 1038 Post St. and another branch location in the Richmond District at 319 Sixth Ave. 9.

 

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San Francisco Bay Area Tuesday News Roundup

Vallejo Woman And Son Arrested In Connection With Assault Of Children

A Vallejo woman and her son have been arrested in connection with the assault of two young children at their Tuolumne Street residence, Vallejo police said Monday.

The 5-year-old boy and the 4-year-old girl allegedly had rope burns on their arms from being tied to objects in the home, were under-nourished and were injured from physical abuse, Lt. Ken Weaver said.

The alleged abuse had been going on since the end of May, Weaver said.

Edward Allen Kemp II, 24, was arrested July 22 on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and was released after posting $30,000 bail, Weaver said.

Kemp's mother, 45-year-old Klella Jo Farris, was arrested Aug. 3 on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and corporal injury to a child causing injury, Weaver said.

The children's mother and Farris were in a romantic relationship for more than a year, and she, Farris and Kemp all lived with the children in the residence in the 2700 block of Tuolumne Street, Weaver said.

Police began investigating the child cruelty allegations on June 28 after receiving information from Solano County Child Protective Services which took custody of both children, Weaver said.

The Solano County District Attorney's Office also investigated the case, police said.

IRS Warns Of Scams Targetting The Elderly And Disabled

The Internal Revenue Service is warning Northern California residents of a scam that targets the elderly and disabled.

IRS authorities have received reports of incidents in Fresno, Sacramento, Stockton, and places within the San Francisco Bay Area, including San Jose, but do not know the extent of the scam.

"These things are spreading," IRS spokesman Jesse Weller said. "We want to stop this before it spreads any further."

Elderly, low-income and disabled members of the Asian community in particular seem to be targeted in a refund scheme in which the con artist convinces the victim that he or she is eligible for a refund through the "Making Work Pay" tax credit.

This credit was issued in 2009 and 2010 to eligible working individuals based on wages, and taxpayers could receive up to $400 per person over the course of a year, Weller said.

The credit the scammers are touting is real but the victims in these cons were not employed and therefore not eligible for a refund. "If there's a grain of truth in something, it makes it seem more legitimate," he said.

The suspects then charge the victims hundreds of dollars in fees to prepare the bogus paperwork.

IRS authorities do not know if the suspects are the same in these scamming incidents or if other criminals are copying the con, Weller said. 

A similar national scheme has also been seen in Northern California. This scam also preys on the elderly and claims to give refunds based on Social Security benefits.

Weller said there is no truth to these claims. 

Suspects involved in the national scam tend to market their services in churches and by using handmade flyers, Weller said.

The IRS is advising the public to be cautious and to verify claims at www.IRS.gov or by calling (800) 829-1040.

Man Waiting For Bus Stabbed In Chest

A man waiting for a bus on Santa Rosa Avenue was stabbed in the chest late Monday morning, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said.

A gold pickup truck pulled up to the bus stop in the 3100 block of Santa Rosa Avenue around 11:50 a.m., Sgt. Carlos Basurto said.

A white male passenger got out of the truck and began arguing with the man at the bus stop, then stabbed him in the chest, Basurto said. The suspect ran back to the truck, which sped north on Santa Rosa Avenue.

The stabbing victim was taken to a hospital and had surgery Monday afternoon, Basurto said.

The stabbing suspect is a white male, 20 to 25 years old with short hair, and the pickup driver is a white or Hispanic male, Basurto said.

The pickup is a 2003 to 2006 gold Chevrolet Silverado with chrome rims, has a bug shield on the front hood and has "Z71" affixed to the rear side, Basurto said.

Anyone with information about the suspect or truck is asked to call the sheriff's office at (707) 565-2185.

Vacaville Police Arrest Four In Connection With July Bank Robberies

Vacaville police arrested four suspects Monday in connection with two bank robberies in the city in late July.

The arrests came after San Francisco police passed on a tip regarding the suspects' location, Vacaville police Sgt. Jeff King said.

Vacaville police said the suspects might be responsible for as many as 10 bank robberies in Northern California, and several local and federal law enforcement agencies have been investigating the robberies and trying to locate the suspects.

The Vacaville bank robberies include the Wells Fargo bank at 3061 Alamo Drive on July 25 and the Chase Bank on July 19. Both banks are in the same shopping center and the two robberies are related, King said.

Police identified the suspects last week based on forensic evidence collected at the robbery scenes, King said. Police said they believe the evidence will connect all four suspects to the Vacaville robberies.

Police then obtained arrest warrants but could not locate the suspects until they received a tip from the San Francisco Police Department, King said.

Jordan Michael Moore, 19, and Danielle Jolene Casab, 20, both of Vacaville, were arrested at 6:30 a.m. Monday in front of their apartment in the 6800 block of Leisure Town Road, police said.

Sylvester Moore, 37, of Vacaville, was also arrested at the scene for a parole violation, police said. Moore lived with the other two suspects in the apartment the trio moved into last week, police said.

Michael Conniff, 21, of Vacaville, a suspect in a bank robbery in another jurisdiction, also was arrested at the apartment, police said.

Redwood City Police Arrest Man Who Allegedly Stabbed A Man

    Redwood City police arrested a man Sunday after he allegedly stabbed another man during a personal dispute, police said.

Officers located the victim, a 29-year-old Redwood City resident, with a stab wound in his upper torso in an alley off the 3700 block of Rolison Road at 3:45 p.m. He was transported to a local hospital and is expected to recover after undergoing surgery.

Dantis Sims, 58, was arrested in connection with the stabbing. Sims is a resident of that neighborhood who said the victim allegedly broke the front window of his apartment, according to police.

The two men are neighbors in the same apartment complex but it is unclear why the victim would have broken Sims's window, Sgt. Sean Hart said. 

Police have not yet been able to interview the victim as he has been hospitalized since the incident, but police do not believe that the two men had any prior relationship, Hart said.

He said the two men argued about the window until Sims left his apartment to confront the victim and allegedly stabbed him once. Police were already en route to respond to the broken window when the call was escalated to a stabbing, Hart said.

Sims was booked into San Mateo County Jail and was arraigned Monday for attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon.

Pacific Heights Fire Was Accidental

Investigators for the San Francisco Fire Department have determined that a house fire in the city's Pacific Heights neighborhood lateSunday night was accidental and caused up to $25,000 in damage.

Two women, a woman in her 80s and another woman in her 60s, were rescued from the two-story home but were severely burned and remain hospitalized Monday, said San Francisco fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge.

She said the resident of the house was an elderly woman and the other woman rescued was her caregiver, who was staying in the house with her. She said that because of the elderly woman's age, her injuries were considered life-threatening.

Talmadge said investigators are still trying to determine the exact cause of the fire, but they believe it may be related to cigarettes.

San Francisco firefighters responded to the one-alarm fire at 1980 Jackson St. around 11:30 p.m., Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Burke said.

The blaze was under control just before midnight, Burke said. The home sustained significant damage to the bedroom and the roof. Talmadge said the damage estimate provided by investigators included $15,000 to $20,000 of structural damage, and about $5,000 of damage to the home's contents.

East Oakland Drive-By Shooting Kills Three

A 3-year-old boy was killed and two men were injured in a drive-by shooting in East Oakland Monday afternoon, a police sergeant said.

Police responded to reports of shots fired in the area of 65th Avenue and International Boulevard at 1:12 p.m., police spokeswoman Holly Joshi said.

Two men were found injured in front of a Little Ceasars pizza restaurant at 6447 International Blvd. and were taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.

The boy, who was with his family when the shooting occurred, was taken to Children's Hospital of Oakland where he was pronounced dead.

Police believe that the two men were the intended targets and that the boy had no connection to the men, Joshi said.

The suspect or suspects shot the victims from a passing car, but no vehicle description was immediately available.

Police closed International Boulevard between 64th and 66th avenues for the investigation. The roadway was still closed as of 4 p.m.

Investigators are asking anyone with information to contact police at (510) 238-3821.

San Mateo County Homeowners Could Be Eligible For Energy Efficient Home Construction Rebates

San Mateo County homeowners interested in making their homes more energy efficient could be eligible to receive up to $8,000 in construction rebates, county officials said Monday.

Representatives from PG&E, San Mateo County and San Mateo-based Solarcity gathered outside a recently upgraded house in Redwood City to outline the benefits of enrolling in Energy Upgrade California, a plan set up by the state that gives homeowners money to pay for improvements that result in lower energy use.

Besides the cash incentives from PG&E and San Mateo County, benefits of the plan include lower utility bills, lower carbon emissions, and a safer more comfortable home, San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine said. 

"We're all concerned about reducing our carbon footprint," Pine said. "Homes and businesses produce about 40 percent of the emissions we generate."

PG&E and San Mateo County are offering homeowners up to $8,000 toward remodeling projects that reduce household energy use, such as replacing water heaters, resealing air ducts and insulating water pipes and attic walls.

The City of San Bruno is offering its residents an additional $4,000 toward efficiency upgrades, public works management analyst Jim Shannon said. The city will also cover the cost of any permits needed to complete the upgrade projects.

Gary, a Redwood City homeowner who did not want his last name used, said he enrolled in the program and had his home assessed by a team from Solarcity. The team created an energy upgrade plan that included removing an old water heater and filling leaks in heating ducts.

"The way houses were built back in the day, they were very drafty from bottom to top," Gary said.

The county will hold the first of four open houses to discuss enrolling in the program in San Bruno on Aug. 23 at the San Bruno Senior Center at 7 p.m.

More information can be found online at www.energyupgradeca.org or by calling the San Mateo County Energy Upgrade Program at (650) 762-5440.

San Francisco's Bayview Neighborhood Celebrates New Youth Center

Residents of San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood Monday celebrated the opening of a new youth center that hopes to improve and unite the community through teen leadership.

The Community Youth Center of San Francisco opened a new branch at 4438 Third St., between Kirkwood and LaSalle avenues, at 11 a.m., and more than 150 neighbors welcomed the nonprofit to the block.

"It was a beautiful day," project manager Eddy Zheng said. "A lot of people came. The community came through."

The center plans to hire 12 local teens, between 14 and 18 years old, of varying cultural backgrounds to be youth advocates for the community. 

Organizers will teach the advocates leadership and public speaking skills, and participants will learn about each other's cultural backgrounds, Zheng said.

The advocates will then take what they have learned and create a presentation on "the challenges and the beauty of Bayview," he said.

The participants will take this message to area schools, community organizations, and to the state legislative body in Sacramento, Zheng said.

Zheng said organizers hope the participants will help to create solutions to stop violence and create job opportunities for young people. 

The advocates will be paid $10 an hour for six hours a week and their job includes participating in local efforts to clean up the streets and assisting other organizations with charitable events.

Zheng said organizers are in the process of reviewing applications and interviewing prospective advocates.

The center has a main office at 1038 Post St. and another branch location in the Richmond District at 319 Sixth Ave.

SamTrans Seeks Public Input On Day Pass And Other Changes

SamTrans is seeking public input at four community meetings this week on whether it should create a day pass and make a number of other changes.

The agency is considering creating a day pass that would allow SamTrans customers to ride all day.

The pass, which would cost three times the price of a one-way fare, would offer an option to customers who ride more than one bus daily, representatives said.  SamTrans does not offer transfers.

The agency is also considering other changes to its codified tariff -- which outlines SamTrans fares and rules -- including revising language to reflect the implementation of the Clipper card. 

The proposed language revisions include eliminating monthly paper passes and clarifying interagency transfer agreements, SamTrans officials said.

The first meeting was held at 4 p.m. Monday at Cunha Intermediate School at 600 Church St. in Half Moon Bay.

Another meeting will be held at the same time today in East Palo Alto City Council chambers at 2415 University Ave.

On Wednesday, SamTrans will host a 6 p.m. meeting at its headquarters at 1250 San Carlos Ave. in San Carlos, and the fourth meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in South San Francisco City Council chambers at 400 Grand Ave.

A complete list of proposed changes is available at www.samtrans.com/codifiedtariff.

Computer Glitch Causes A Pause In BART Service Monday Night

BART trains stopped running for several hours Monday night because of a non-emergency computer issue, agency representatives said.

The computer glitch started at about 7:35 p.m., spokesman Linton Johnson said, and involved the computers inside BART's operations control center.

The problem prevented the control center from monitoring the location of the system's trains. "It's not a safety issue, per se, because the computers on the trackside are able to move the trains," Johnson said.

However, if a train were to have a mechanical issue, the operations center would normally reroute trains but could not do so without knowing trains' locations.

As a result, earlier Monday evening the agency essentially stopped service, getting each train to the nearest station so that passengers would be allowed to exit while crews worked to resolve the problem.

"We can't 'see' the trains, and so we're asking most of the trains to stop," Johnson said.

The trackside computers that control the trains were not affected by the problem, Johnson said.

Passengers were advised to take alternate transportation, and other transit agencies honored BART tickets, spokesman Jim Allison said. 

Allison said at about 9:55 p.m. that "service restoration is in progress" and that computer engineers were getting the computers "fired up again."

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Forecast

Mostly cloudy weather and patchy fog is expected in the Bay Area this morning. Highs in the upper 50s to mid 60s are anticipated.    

Tonight is expected to be mostly cloudy with patches of fog after midnight. Lows in the lower 50s are expected.

Forecasters predict mostly cloudy skies Wednesday with patchy fog in the morning. Highs in the upper 50s to mid 60s are anticipated.

 

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Pacific Heights Fire Hospitalizes 2 Women, Causes Up To $25,000 In Damage

Investigators for the San Francisco Fire Department have determined that a house fire in the city's Pacific Heights neighborhood late Sunday night was accidental and caused up to $25,000 in damage.

Two women, a woman in her 80s and another woman in her 60s, were rescued from the two-story home but were severely burned and remain hospitalized today, said San Francisco fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge.

She said the resident of the house was an elderly woman and the other woman rescued was her caregiver, who was staying in the house with her. She said that because of the elderly woman's age, her injuries were considered life-threatening.

Talmadge said investigators are still trying to determine the exact cause of the fire, but they believe it may be related to cigarettes.

San Francisco firefighters responded to the one-alarm fire at 1980 Jackson St. around 11:30 p.m., Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Burke said.

The blaze was under control just before midnight, Burke said. The home sustained significant damage to the bedroom and the roof. Talmadge said the damage estimate provided by investigators included $15,000 to $20,000 of structural damage, and about $5,000 of damage to the home's contents.

 

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Accused Ballot Thief Still In Custody, Refuses To Talk To Mental Competency Doctors

A man accused of stealing ballots from a San Francisco polling station will remain in jail indefinitely after refusing to talk to doctors who were appointed to determine his mental competency, a judge ruled today.

Karl Bradfield Nicholas, 51, could likely have been out of jail more than a month ago, but a series of bizarre court appearances have kept him in custody beyond the sentence he had agreed to as part of a plea deal.

Nicholas is accused of taking about 75 ballots, a voter roster, and a memory box and access key to a ballot-counting machine on Knott Court in the city's Crocker Amazon neighborhood where he was working as a voting station inspector on Nov. 2, 2010.

Nicholas was arrested the next day, and the ballots were later found in the lagoon at the Palace of Fine Arts. He has been in custody ever since. The memory box and access key have yet to be found.

He could likely have been set free last month since he pleaded guilty in December to felony counts of tampering with voting machines and ballots in exchange for a year in jail and other penalties, although he later tried to withdraw the plea, a motion denied by Judge James Collins.

With credit for time served, the one-year mark came on July 5, but after a series of odd hearings that began that day and included another one today, Nicholas will be in custody for at least 10 more days.

At the July 5 hearing, at which his defense attorney Stuart Blumstein had filed a motion to have him released from jail on his own recognizance, Nicholas was tackled by sheriff's deputies after yelling at Collins and Blumstein.

Following the outburst, Collins denied the motion to have him released and had the case continued until his sentencing, which was to take place the following week.

During the scheduled sentencing, Nicholas then refused to talk to or acknowledge the questions of Judge Anne Boulianne, who was presiding over the hearing.

Instead of sentencing him, Boulianne ordered him held for two additional days for a mental health examination, and when Nicholas returned to court again, he again declined to speak to the judge or his attorney, so she called for the suspension of criminal proceedings.

Judge Garrett Wong, who handles mental competency issues in San Francisco Superior Court, agreed with Boulianne, suspending the proceedings and holding Nicholas in custody while two doctors conducted a more in-depth examination of his mental state.

Nicholas returned to Wong's court today to discuss the results of the reports, where the judge revealed that Nicholas also refused to speak to either doctor.

Blumstein argued that since a refusal to talk does not necessarily imply mental incompetence, the case should be sent back to Boulianne, since she was the judge who initially declared doubts about his competence.

Boulianne is a retired judge who occasionally fills in on the bench and will not be back in court until next week. 

Wong agreed with the defense attorney, ordering the case to be sent back to Boulianne on Aug. 18.

He told Blumstein and the prosecutors, "You folks make up your mind" about whether to make that hearing about his competency or to finally sentence and release him.

Blumstein said outside of court that he thinks his client's refusal to talk to the doctors or judge was "a political statement" from someone who "is principled, to a fault."

He said the incident with the ballots in November was another political act by Nicholas, who felt the city's Department of Elections was cutting corners in its administration of the election.

However, Blumstein acknowledged that he could not know for sure what his client is thinking since Nicholas is still refusing to talk to him, too.

 

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Prosecutor Tells Jury MS-13 Gang's Aim Is To Attack, Kill Rivals

A prosecutor told a federal jury in San Francisco today that the most important rule of the MS-13 street gang is to "attack and kill rival gang members."

"They waged war against rival gang members ... and they ended up spilling a lot of blood on the streets of San Francisco," prosecutor Wilson Leung told the jury in the court of U.S. District Judge William Alsup

"This was what MS-13 was all about: violence and bloodletting," the prosecutor said.

Leung spoke at the start of closing arguments in the four-month racketeering and murder conspiracy trial of seven members of the MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, gang.

The seven men, most of whom are in their early 20s, belonged to a branch of MS-13 centered at 20th and Mission streets in San Francisco.

All are accused of conspiring to racketeer, or engage in organized crime, and conspiring to commit murders. Three are also charged with carrying out four shooting murders on San Francisco streets in 2008.

Closing arguments by prosecution and defense are scheduled to take all week, and the jury is expected to begin deliberating early next week.  

The MS-13 gang has roots in El Salvador and now has thousands of members in 20 states and Central America, according to prosecutors. MS-13 members identify with gangs known as "Surenos," whose gang color is blue, and
their principal rivals are "Nortenos," who use the color red.

Leung, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the jury that the racketeering included murder, attempted murder, assaults, gun use, drug dealing and extortion.

After saying that 11 guns allegedly owned by gang members had been seized, Leung read off the evidence numbers of the weapons as an agent showed one shotgun and 10 handguns to the jury one by one.

The four murder victims included a member of a rival gang, a seller of fake identification documents who refused to pay an extortion "tax" to the 20th Street group, and two men who were wearing red but were not gang members, according to prosecutors.

Defense attorneys during the trial have sought to question the credibility of former gang members who testified for the prosecution in exchange for plea deals. 

 

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Popular Glen Park Farmers' Market Extends Its Season

Fans of San Francisco's Glen Park farmers' market are in luck -- organizers have extended the neighborhood market's season through November.

The farmers' market, which debuted in the Glen Park BART parking lot on May 15, was scheduled to end its season on Oct. 16 but will now stay open through Nov. 20 because of its popularity, manager Nate Jordan said.

The market is open every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. near the intersection of Diamond and Bosworth streets, and sees about 1,200 customers a week, Jordan said.

Nearly 20 farmers from no more than 150 miles away sell certified organic produce and other items, while a handful of other vendors sell prepared foods.

The market came about after more than three years of work by the Glen Park Merchants Association, who partnered with the Pacific Coast Farmers' Market Association and BART to make the market a reality.

 

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Man Beaten, Tied Up While Suspects Ransack Office

A man was beaten and tied up by three people who ransacked an office near San Francisco's Union Square on Sunday night, police said.

The attack happened at about 10:45 p.m. at an office in the 500 block of Sutter Street.

Three suspects -- a woman and two men in their early to mid 30s -- approached the 29-year-old victim and beat and bound him, according to police.

The suspects then took three computers from his office and fled. They had not been found as of this morning, police said.

The victim was taken to San Francisco General Hospital to be treated for his injuries, which are not considered life-threatening.

Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.

 

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Woman Stabbed By Teen Girls At Party In Dolores Park

A woman was beaten and stabbed repeatedly at a party in San Francisco's Dolores Park on Saturday night, police said.

The stabbing was reported at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday at the park, bounded by 18th and 20th streets and Dolores and Church streets.

The 20-year-old victim was approached by four teenage girls who beat and stabbed her until she blacked out, according to police.

Officers responded and found the victim lying on the ground semi-conscious. She was taken to San Francisco General Hospital to be treated for her injuries, which included stab wounds, a bloody nose and bruising to the face. The injuries are not considered life-threatening, police said.

The suspects fled and had not been found as of this morning. Anyone with information about the attack is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.

 

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San Francisco Bay Area Monday News Roundup

Roosevelt Park Stabbing

A fatal stabbing near Roosevelt Park is under investigation by San Jose police Sunday morning, a police sergeant said.

Officers responded to South 19th and East Santa Clara streets after receiving a call for help around 2:15 a.m., San Jose police Sgt. Jason Dwyer said.

After arriving, police did not find anyone at the scene. When officers canvassed the area, they found a male victim suffering from stab wounds near Roosevelt Park, Dwyer said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

No suspects have been identified in the stabbing and the motive is unclear, he said. The victim has not been identified by police.

The fatal stabbing is the 28th homicide in San Jose this year, Dwyer said.

Car Crash On Highway 880 Leaves One Dead And One Hospitalized

One person was killed and another hospitalized in a head-on collision on Interstate Highway 880 in San Jose Sunday morning, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Highway patrol officers responded to the crash at 5:51 a.m. after a gray 2009 Chevy Malibu collided with a 2008 White Honda Civic on southbound Interstate Highway 880, just south of Coleman Avenue near the Mineta San Jose International Airport.

An off-duty firefighter at the scene said that one of the vehicles was on fire, according to the CHP.

One of the vehicles did not have its headlights on and appeared to have been traveling in the wrong direction, CHP officers said.

Santa Clara County firefighters also responded to the accident. One person was pronounced dead at the scene and another was transported to a nearby hospital. The vehicle fire was extinguished by 6:17 a.m. 

The crash resulted in the closure of the southbound Highway 880 for about two hours before it reopened at 8:11 a.m. Traffic was diverted onto Coleman Avenue and was allowed to reenter the freeway after several exits.

One of the drivers in the collision will be charged with vehicular manslaughter, CHP officers said.

High-Speed Chase Leads To Two Arrests

Two men were taken into custody early Sunday morning after leading Alameda County deputies on a high-speed chase through the streets of San Leandro and Oakland, according to officials from the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff's deputies attempted to stop a 1972 Cadillac that was traveling at highway speeds through a residential neighborhood near the corner of 159th Avenue and Mateo Street in San Leandro, Sgt. J.D. Nelson said.

The car fled, leading police on a high-speed chase through San Leandro, onto Interstate Highway 580, and into Oakland where the suspects crashed into a parked car near the corner of 50th Avenue and Ygnacio Avenue.

Three men exited the car and attempted to flee on foot, but police captured two of them. They were briefly taken to Highland General Hospital and later booked into Santa Rita Jail.

Nelson said the two men will be charged with reckless driving, resisting arrest, and potentially other charges.

Two Arrested For Vehicle Theft And Drug Charges

Two Sonoma residents are in custody for stolen vehicle and drug charges after being pulled over by police in Petaluma Sunday morning, police said.

Police attempted to pull over Jason Knight, 33, driving a stolen vehicle southbound on U.S. Highway 101 near the Lakeville Highway offramp at 12:37 a.m., according to Petaluma police officers.

Knight's girlfriend, Megan Galut, 20, was driving separately and attempted to block officers from Knight's vehicle.  Police were eventually able to pull both cars over.

Knight was arrested for possessing a stolen vehicle. Galut's car was searched with the assistance of police dog Kilo and police found over a half-ounce of methamphetamine and evidence of drug sales. Galut was determined to be under the influence of methamphetamine.

Galut was also arrested and her bail has been set at $40,000. Knight's bail was set at $10,000.

19-Year-Old Petaluma Man Killed In Highway 101 Crash

A 19-year-old Petaluma man was killed in a solo-vehicle crash Sunday evening when his car drifted off freeway and struck a tree, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The man was driving south on U.S. Highway 101 just south of Redwood Landfill around 5:35 p.m. when the accident occurred, CHP Officer Chris Rardin said. The vehicle, a 2005 Dodge Magnum, was traveling around 60-70 mph when for an unknown reason it began to drift to the right and went off the road, into a tree.

The driver died of his injuries at the scene. 

The cause of the accident remains under investigation. There were no tire-friction marks leaving the roadway and the debris from the car was scattered for approximately 300 feet from the site of the collision.

The crash closed the right lane of southbound Highway 101 for around 45 minutes.

The driver's identity has not yet been released pending notification of next of kin.

Two-Alarm Fire At San Jose Auto Detailing Business

A two-alarm fire at a San Jose auto detailing business destroyed a customer's car early Sunday morning, a fire captain said.

A neighbor reported seeing smoke coming from Diamond Auto Detailing at 74 S. Autumn St. at about 12:40 a.m., San Jose fire Capt. Anthony Melendrez said.

Firefighters forced their way into the empty building, where they found a vehicle engulfed in flames, Melendrez said. The blaze was controlled at about 1:20 a.m. and it was primarily contained to the car.

The customer's vehicle was destroyed, but the building sustained only minor damage, he said. No other cars appeared to be damaged in the blaze.

There were no reported injuries, and the fire's cause is under investigation, Melendrez said.

16-Year-Old Shot Near Heron and Eighth In SOMA

A 16-year-old San Francisco boy was shot Saturday in the city's South of Market neighborhood, police said.

The shooting was reported near Heron and Eighth streets at about 10 p.m., San Francisco police Sgt. Mike Andraychak said.

The teenager suffered one gunshot wound and was taken to hospital to be treated, Andraychak. The injury was not expected to be life threatening.

A 20-year-old man was taken into custody in connection with the shooting.

It has not been determined if the shooting was gang related.

Police Search For Suspect In Connection With Oakland Shooting

Police are searching for a suspect who shot a man and woman in Oakland on Saturday night, a police officer said.

Officers responded to 88th Avenue and A Street and found two victims suffering from gunshot wounds at about 10 p.m., Oakland police Officer J. Moore said.

The woman was taken to a hospital, but the man refused medical assistance, Moore said. Both were in stable condition, he said.

The victims were able to identify the shooter, who is still at-large and believed to be armed, Moore said. The suspect's name was not released.

South Bay Power Outage Caused By Car Crash

More than 4,000 PG&E customers in the South Bay went without power for about two hours Sunday morning, a spokeswoman said.

The outage began at about 9 a.m. and affected around 4,630 customers in San Jose and Campbell, PG&E spokeswoman Jana Morris said.

Power was fully restored at about 11 a.m., Morris said.

The outage appeared to have been caused by a vehicle that crashed into a utility pole, Morris said.

Thousands Celebrate Grateful Dead Guitarist Jerry Garcia's 69th Birthday

The music never stopped for thousands of fans of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia as they celebrated his 69th birthday in San Francisco's Excelsior district Sunday.

The ninth annual Jerry Day celebrated Garcia's life and music at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in McLaren Park near his childhood home on Harrington Street.

Garcia, who died in 1995, is considered one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time and is best known as a founding member of the Grateful Dead. The jam band infused elements of rock, folk, country, jazz, bluegrass, and other styles into its songs while adding long periods of musical improvisation.

Deadheads, hippies, fellow musicians and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee celebrated the rock legend at Sunday's festivities, event organizers said.

"Jerry Day, one of the premier civic and cultural events of San Francisco, celebrates one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time and famous San Francisco native son - Jerry Garcia," Lee said.

San Mateo Homeowners Eligible For Energy Upgrade California Rebates

Homeowners in San Mateo County who make their homes more energy efficient will soon be eligible for up to $8,000 in rebates.

San Mateo County officials plan to announce this morning that they will match the $4,000 in incentives provided by PG&E.

The double rebates will continue through March.

The money is being made available through a statewide program called Energy Upgrade California, which is aimed at helping homeowners save money and energy.

The program is being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Protection of Parent-Child Relationships Act Signed By Jerry Brown

A bill that would strengthen the legal rights of non-biological parents in California was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday.

The Protection of Parent-Child Relationships Act, AB 1349, was written by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo. Sponsored by Equality California and the Association of California Adoption Lawyers, the bill would allow courts leeway in cases where there is both a non-biological parent who has an established relationship with a child and a man who has signed a voluntary declaration of paternity.

It was written in response to a ruling that said the courts could not recognize a non-biological parent who has raised a child if another man has signed a voluntary paternity declaration, even though the biological father had no relationship with the child and or any intention of raising him.

"Parenting is more than just biology," Hill said. "It's about nurturing and a sacred bond between and a child and a guardian that should not be severed by external forces."

The law would also apply to situations where a same-sex couple has split up and the non-biological parent is seeking legal recognition. Currently, if a sperm donor has signed a declaration of paternity, the courts could not recognize the non-biological parent.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Forecast

Mostly cloudy weather and patchy fog is expected in the Bay Area this morning. Highs in the upper 50s are anticipated. Southwest winds around 10 mph are expected, increasing to 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon.

Tonight is expected to be mostly cloudy with patches of fog and drizzle after midnight. Lows in the lower 50s are expected. Southwest winds around 20 mph are anticipated, becoming 10 to 15 mph after midnight.

Forecasters predict mostly cloudy skies with patches of fog and light rain on Tuesday. Highs near 60 degrees are anticipated, with west winds 5 to 15 mph.

 

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San Francisco Bay Area Weather Forecast

Mostly cloudy weather and patchy fog is expected in the Bay Area this morning. Highs in the upper 50s are anticipated. Southwest winds around 10 mph are expected, increasing to 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon.

Tonight is expected to be mostly cloudy with patches of fog and drizzle after midnight. Lows in the lower 50s are expected. Southwest winds around 20 mph are anticipated, becoming 10 to 15 mph after midnight.

Forecasters predict mostly cloudy skies with patches of fog and light rain on Tuesday. Highs near 60 degrees are anticipated, with west winds 5 to 15 mph.

 

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Update: Elderly Woman, Caregiver Suffer Severe Burns In Fire

An elderly woman and her caregiver suffered severe burns before they were rescued from a fire at a San Francisco home late Sunday night, an assistant fire chief said.

San Francisco firefighters responded to one-alarm fire at 1980 Jackson St. around 11:30 p.m., Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Burke said.

Firefighters found two women inside the single-family home who were both unconscious, Burke said. The victims, a woman in her 80s and another woman in her 60s, were taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and serious burns, he said.

The blaze was under control just before midnight, Burke said.

The home sustained significant damage to the bedroom and the roof, but Burke said he did not know the estimated cost of damage.

Fire investigators are on the scene to determine the cause of the fire, which appears to have sparked in the bedroom, he said. Preliminary investigation reveals the fire might be linked to lit cigarettes, Burke said. 

 

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Firefighters Control Blaze Near Octavia And Jackson Streets

Firefighters controlled a blaze near Octavia and Jackson streets just before midnight, a San Francisco fire captain said.

The fire was reported around 11:30 p.m., a fire dispatcher said.

No further information was immediately available.

 

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Firefighters Battling Fire Near Octavia And Jackson Streets

San Francisco firefighters are battling a fire near the intersection of Octavia and Jackson streets.

The fire was reported at about 11:30 p.m., a fire dispatcher said.

 

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Teenage Boy Wounded In SOMA Shooting

A 16-year-old San Francisco boy was shot Saturday in the city's South of Market neighborhood, police said.

The shooting was reported near Heron and Eighth streets at about 10 p.m., San Francisco police Sgt. Mike Andraychak said.

The teenager suffered one gunshot wound and was taken to hospital to be treated, Andraychak. The injury was not expected to be life threatening.

A 20-year-old man was taken into custody in connection with the shooting.

It has not been determined if the shooting was gang related.

 

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San Francisco Bay Area Sunday News Roundup

Three Stabbed on Saturday Morning in San Jose

Three male victims were stabbed early Saturday morning in San Jose, a police sergeant said.

Officers reported to the area of South Ninth and Reed streets at about 2:45 a.m. after receiving a report of a fight involving multiple males, Sgt. Jason Dwyer said.

The three victims were transported to a hospital with injuries that were not considered to be life threatening.

At about 3:55 a.m., a fourth male victim connected to the fight walked into a hospital with a small laceration, Dwyer said.

No arrests were made. 

It is unknown whether the brawl was gang related.

MS-13 Gang Members On Trial For Racketeering And Murder, Among Others

After four months of testimony, a massive racketeering and murder conspiracy trial of seven MS-13 gang members in federal court in San Francisco is due to begin winding up Monday with closing arguments. U.S. District Judge William Alsup set the closing for Monday after prosecutors rested their rebuttal case Friday morning and defense attorneys said they too had no more witnesses.

The closing arguments by federal prosecutors and seven defense lawyers are expected to last all week. Alsup told attorneys he expects the jurors to start deliberating Aug. 15 after he completes giving their instructions.

The defendants, most of whom are in their early 20s, were members of a branch of the MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, gang centered on the neighborhood of 20th and Mission streets in San Francisco.

All seven are accused of conspiring to racketeer, or participate in organized crime, and conspiring to commit murder in aid of racketeering. 

Three are also charged with carrying out a total of four gunshot murders on San Francisco streets in 2008.

The racketeering conspiracy charge carries a sentence of up to life in prison if the defendants are convicted and the murder charges carry a mandatory life sentence. The U.S. Department of Justice decided not to seek the death penalty for the murders.

Prosecutions allege the racketeering acts included murder, attempted murder, assault, robbery, extortion and drug dealing.

They contend the gang thrived on a culture of violence, in which members maintained and increased their gang stature by hunting, attacking and killing members or perceived members of rival gangs.

The seven men on trial are among 34 gang members and associates who were charged in four successive versions of an indictment in 2008 and 2009.

Eighteen others have pleaded guilty to various charges and been sentenced, and one was acquitted of charges of participating in a stolen car ring. The others are awaiting trial or sentencing.

Saturday Morning Shooting In Concord

A 19-year-old man was shot Saturday morning in Concord, according to police.

Officers went to the 1900 block of San Vincente Drive at about 1:30 a.m. after getting a report of a party with possible gunshots or fireworks heard in the area.

When they arrived, officers found the shooting victim. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.

A woman shot to death early Saturday morning in Oakland has been identified as Antioch resident Lashawna Candies, police said.

Candies, 25, was in a car with another woman traveling west near the 8700 block of B street around 1:30 a.m. when at least two suspects standing near the street opened fire, police said.

Both women were hit. They managed to drive another block before their car crashed.

Paramedics were unable to revive Candies and she was declared dead at the scene. The other woman was taken to a local hospital, where she is listed in stable condition.

Man Arrested For Hitting Sister In The Mission

A man who allegedly struck his sister and brandished a gun at her was arrested Saturday afternoon in the Mission District, police said.

Police were called to a home on the 1300 block of Treat Street around noon after the siblings fought, Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.

The sister was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, and the suspect fled to another home on the 2900 block of Folsom Street.

Witnesses told police that they saw the suspect entering the home with something in his hand, but police could not make contact with the suspect, Andraychak said. Police negotiators and tactical team members attempted to contact the suspect for some time before forcing an entry around 4 p.m.

The suspect was not inside the house, but was spotted hiding in the back yard of a neighboring home on the 2900 block of Treat Street and taken into custody.

The suspect is believed to have also punched his sister Friday night at the home on the 1300 block of Treat Street. Police have since recovered a replica BB gun at that location which is thought to be the weapon he brandished at his suspect, Andraychak said.

9-Year-Old Injured In Hit-And-Run Is Improving

A 9-year-old boy who was injured during a hit-and-run in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood Thursday remained in critical condition Saturday, according to a San Francisco General Hospital spokeswoman.

Ryan White's condition is improving. No further details were released Saturday.

Hayward resident Andrew Vargas, 21, was arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and driving under the influence in connection with the incident, police Lt. Troy Dangerfield said.

Ryan was walking ahead of a family member while crossing Mission Street around 10:30 p.m. when he was struck by a white pickup truck turning left onto Mission Street. The truck had been driving north on New Montgomery Street, which is a one-way southbound street, police said.

Vargas allegedly didn't stop after hitting Ryan, and continued west on Mission Street before hitting numerous other cars. He then drove onto a nearby highway, police said.

Vargas was stopped in Hayward around 11:30 p.m. after his pickup was spotted by local police.

Witnesses identified him and his truck as those involved in the hit-and-run, and a preliminary screening indicated his blood alcohol level was above the legal limit, Dangerfield said.

Antioch Police Detain 35 Minors During Curfew Sweep

Officers in Antioch detained 35 minors during a curfew sweep Friday night and early Saturday morning.

The Antioch Police Department and REACH Project Inc., an addiction treatment center that also runs a youth intervention program, collaborated in the sweep, which began at 11 p.m. Friday and ended Saturday at 3 a.m. 

The minors were brought into the Police Department's processing center and turned over to REACH Project staff who counseled them before releasing them to their parents or guardians.

Police Crack Down On Pedestrian Safety Violations In SOMA

Police are cracking down on pedestrian safety violations in the South of Market area in the coming week. 

Members of the Southern Station Community Police Advisory Board handed out fliers to raise pedestrian awareness at Fifth and Market streets Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.

Police will conduct enforcement operations at that intersection starting Monday, using officers on cars, on motorcycles and on foot.

The safety campaign will be expanded to other southern parts of the city in future weeks.

Three Men Involved In South San Francisco Robbery And Assault

Three suspects broke into a South San Francisco home and assaulted a man inside Thursday morning, police said.

Three men forced their way into the garage of a home in the 400 block of Lux Avenue around 10:15 a.m. During the robbery, one suspect pistol-whipped the 21-year-old victim on his head and ordered him to the ground while the other two suspects searched the garage and a bedroom, police said.

The victim's small cut isn't life threatening, according to police.

The suspects are believed to have been seen leaving the area in an older model dark brown or maroon Buick. The last three digits of the license plate are 198, police said.

The investigation is ongoing as police search for the suspects.

The first suspect is described as a Hispanic man with a medium complexion, 5 feet 9 inches tall with an average build. He was wearing dark jeans, a black hooded sweatshirt and a dark bandana covering his face.

A second suspect is described as a black man with a dark complexion, 5 feet 9 inches tall with a slender build, wearing dark jeans, a white T-shirt under a black hooded sweatshirt and a dark bandana over his face.

Police described a third suspect as a 6-foot-tall man with a light complexion, a heavyset build and wearing dark jeans, a black hooded sweatshirt and a dark bandana covering his face.

Police said the preliminary investigation indicates that the victim's residence was targeted and not chosen at random for the robbery.

75-Year-Old Santa Cruz Man Arrested On Suspicion Of Possession And Use Of Narcotics

A 75-year-old man was arrested Wednesday night on suspicion of having narcotics for sale and being under the influence of a narcotic after he was pulled over for vehicle code violations in Santa Cruz, according to Santa Cruz County Sheriff's officials.

A deputy initially stopped a blue Jeep pickup truck for vehicle code violations at Pryce and Ocean streets, but then arrested the driver, later identified as Felton resident Jack Smith, for allegedly being under the influence of a controlled substance, sheriff's officials said.

A K9 officer's dog, Ari, sniffed for any narcotics in the truck and found 9 grams of cocaine, 4 grams of methamphetamine, a digital scale, more than $300 in cash, packaging materials and other items used to sell cocaine and meth, the sheriff's office said.

Smith was arrested on suspicion of possessing narcotics for sale and being under the influence of a controlled substance, according to officials.

Gilroy Police Arrest Man Suspected Of Illegally Growing Marijuana

Gilroy police arrested a man and identified a suspect in two separate cases this week on suspicion of illegally cultivating marijuana indoors.

Around 5 p.m. on Thursday, officers served a search warrant at a home in the 600 block of Johnson Way after receiving tips the home was being used to cultivate marijuana, according to police.

Officers were not able to find any marijuana plants and believe that the suspect may have processed the marijuana.

Detectives did, however, spot signs of marijuana cultivation. PG&E determined that someone had tampered with the home's electrical power to facilitate the cultivation, and officers came across a "large amount" of marijuana cultivation equipment and material, according to police.

No one was at the home when the search warrant was served. Police are continuing to investigate leads and have identified a suspect in the case, but are withholding the suspect's name pending further investigation.

At about 9 p.m. on Wednesday, firefighters responded to a blaze at a home in the 6400 block of Church Street, police said.

As part of their investigation into the cause of the fire, investigators conducted a safety inspection and found that the home's electrical power had not been tampered with.

They found, however, multiple marijuana plants and determined that a man set the fire intentionally in the garage, police said.

During a search of the home, police officers found and seized nearly 120 starter marijuana plants, worth an estimated $120,000, as well as marijuana cultivation equipment and material.

Officers arrested Khang Hoang, a 34-year-old San Jose resident, on suspicion of cultivation of marijuana, sales of marijuana, and possession of narcotic paraphernalia.

Police believe the two cases are not related.

101 Freeway Closure Between Belmont And San Mateo

U.S. Highway 101 will be closed between Belmont and San Mateo in the coming week to allow for the painting of the Ralston Avenue bicycle and pedestrian overpass in Belmont.

Northbound Highway 101 will be closed for four consecutive nights between the Ralston Avenue/Marine Parkway exit and Hillsdale Boulevard for 3 and a half hours from 12:30 a.m. to 4 a.m. from Monday, Aug. 8 through Thursday, Aug. 11. Traffic will be detoured via Ralston Avenue, El Camino Real and Hillsdale Boulevard.

Southbound 101 will be closed from 1 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. from Monday, Aug. 15 through Thursday, Aug. 18. Traffic will be detoured via Hillsdale Boulevard, El Camino Real and Ralston.

The bike overcrossing is a City of Belmont project.

Only One Way Of Traffic Open On Highway 1 In West Marin County

Starting Monday, only one way of traffic on a stretch of state Highway 1 in west Marin County will be open to allow crews to repave the highway, Caltrans officials said.

During only weekday hours, crews will repave the highway with a fresh coat of asphalt concrete.

The area affected by repaving is six miles north of Panoramic Highway to four miles south of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Olema, Caltrans officials said.

The repaving project is expected to be complete by mid-September, officials said.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Forecast

The Bay Area is expected to be mostly cloudy today, with patches of fog and drizzle in the morning. Highs near 60 degrees and west winds 10 to 20 mph are anticipated.

This evening is expected to be partly cloudy before becoming mostly cloudy tonight. Patchy fog and light rain are expected after midnight. 

West winds 15 to 20 mph and lows in lower 50s are also expected.

Monday is likely to be mostly cloudy in the morning before becoming sunny. Forecasters predict highs in the upper 50s to mid 60s, with west winds 10 to 15 mph.

 

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San Francisco Bay Area Weather

The Bay Area is expected to be mostly cloudy today, with patches of fog and drizzle in the morning. Highs near 60 degrees and west winds 10 to 20 mph are anticipated.

This evening is expected to be partly cloudy before becoming mostly cloudy tonight. Patchy fog and light rain are expected after midnight. 

West winds 15 to 20 mph and lows in lower 50s are also expected.

Monday is likely to be mostly cloudy in the morning before becoming sunny. Forecasters predict highs in the upper 50s to mid 60s, with west winds 10 to 15 mph.

 

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Thousands Keep Truckin' In Memory Of Grateful Dead Guitarist At Jerry Day

The music never stopped for thousands of fans of Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia as they celebrate his 69th birthday in San Francisco's Excelsior district today.

The ninth annual Jerry Day will celebrate Garcia's life and music at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in McLaren Park near his childhood home on Harrington Street.

Garcia, who died in 1995, is considered one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time and is best known as a founding member of the Grateful Dead. The jam band infused elements of rock, folk, country, jazz, bluegrass, and other styles into its songs while adding long periods of musical improvisation.

Deadheads, hippies, fellow musicians and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee will celebrate the rock legend at today's festivities, event organizers said.

"Jerry Day, one of the premier civic and cultural events of San Francisco, celebrates one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time and famous San Francisco native son - Jerry Garcia," Lee said.

The celebration features a performance by Bayview district resident Melvin Seals, event organizers said. Seals, who played with Garcia for 15 years, will join other members of the Jerry Garcia Band to remember the music icon.

Poor Man's Whiskey, Front Street, and The Fall Risk will also perform at Jerry Day.

Doors will open for Jerry Day at 11 a.m. at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in McLaren Park. The event is free and open to the public. 

 

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Boy Injured In Hit-And-Run Remains In Critical Condition

A 9-year-old boy who was injured during a hit-and-run in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood Thursday remains in critical condition today, according to a San Francisco General Hospital spokeswoman. 

Ryan White's condition is improving. No further details were released today.

Hayward resident Andrew Vargas, 21, was arrested and booked into jail on suspicion of felony hit-and-run and driving under the influence in connection with the incident, police Lt. Troy Dangerfield said.

Ryan was walking ahead of a family member while crossing Mission Street around 10:30 p.m. when he was struck by a white pickup truck turning left onto Mission Street. The truck had been driving north on New Montgomery Street, which is a one-way southbound street, police said.

Vargas allegedly didn't stop after hitting Ryan, and continued west on Mission Street before hitting numerous other cars. He then drove onto a nearby highway, police said.

Vargas was stopped in Hayward around 11:30 p.m. after his pickup was spotted by local police.

Witnesses identified him and his truck as those involved in the hit-and-run, and a preliminary screening indicated his blood alcohol level was above the legal limit, Dangerfield said.

 

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MS-13 Trial Closing Begins Monday After Four Months Of Testimony

After four months of testimony, a massive racketeering and murder conspiracy trial of seven MS-13 gang members in federal court in San Francisco is due to begin winding up Monday with closing arguments.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup set the closing for Monday after prosecutors rested their rebuttal case Friday morning and defense attorneys said they too had no more witnesses.

"We've definitely reached a milestone, haven't we." Alsup told the 12 jurors and five alternates. "The evidence is now complete after many months," he said.

The closing arguments by federal prosecutors and seven defense lawyers are expected to last all week. Alsup told attorneys he expects the jurors to start deliberating Aug. 15 after he completes giving their instructions. 

The defendants, most of whom are in their early 20s, were members of a branch of the MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, gang centered on the neighborhood of 20th and Mission streets in San Francisco.

All seven are accused of conspiring to racketeer, or participate in organized crime, and conspiring to commit murder in aid of racketeering.

Three are also charged with carrying out a total of four gunshot murders on San Francisco streets in 2008.

The racketeering conspiracy charge carries a sentence of up to life in prison if the defendants are convicted and the murder charges carry a mandatory life sentence. The U.S. Department of Justice decided not to seek the death penalty for the murders.

Prosecutions allege the racketeering acts included murderattempted murder, assault, robbery, extortion and drug dealing.

They contend the gang thrived on a culture of violence, in which members maintained and increased their gang stature by hunting, attacking and killing members or perceived members of rival gangs.

"It is undisputed on the record that MS-13 was a violent gang and the main rule or the gang was the commission of violence against rivals," prosecutors wrote in a court filing last month.

"It is hard to imagine people more predisposed to violence than members of this particular gang," the prosecutors said.

The defendants lost a key defense argument when Alsup ruled last week that they couldn't argue they were entrapped into committing crimes by two government informants, Honduran-born Roberta Acosta and Salvadoran-born Jaime Martinez, who posed as gang members and helped to lead the 20th Street group beginning in 2005.

Five of the seven defendants had sought to make that argument.

But Alsup said they hadn't met the strict federal court standard for an entrapment defense, which requires proof both that a government agent induced a defendant to commit a particular crime and that the defendant was not otherwise likely to have committed the crime. 

"In the court's judgment," Alsup wrote, "there is not sufficient trial evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that any of the defendants were induced to commit the offenses charged....and/or that said defendant was not predisposed before contact with any federal agents."

The defendants can still use a second defense of attacking the credibility of the informants and of several fellow gang members who were indicted and became prosecution witnesses in plea bargains.

Both Acosta, who became an informant in 2005, and Martinez, who became an informant in early 2006, were themselves indicted in the course of the case.

Prosecutors withdrew Acosta, whom they had hoped would be their star witness, from testifying after learning he had lied to his handlers by failing to disclose he had taken part in eight gang-related murders in Honduras.

Acosta, whose gang name was "Little Bad Boy," was indicted six days before the trial began April 4 on a charge of lying to federal authorities and was convicted of that charge in a brief separate trial in July.

Although he did not testify at the MS-13 trial, some recordings of gang meetings that he secretly made were admitted as evidence after being validated by other witnesses who were present at the meetings. 

Martinez was indicted in July 2008 on a charge of racketeering conspiracy after being accused of car theft and pleaded guilty to that charge in a plea deal. He continued as a witness in the trial.

The seven men on trial are among 34 gang members and associates who were charged in four successive versions of an indictment in 2008 and 2009.

Eighteen others have pleaded guilty to various charges and been sentenced, and one was acquitted of charges of participating in a stolen car ring. The others are awaiting trial or sentencing.

The Mara Salvatrucha gang, whose name is a combination of the words for "gang," "Salvadoran" and "fear us," originated in El Salvador and Southern California. It is one of the largest street gangs in the U.S. and now has more than 10,000 members in 20 states and Central America, according to the indictments.

MS-13 members identify with gangs known as "Surenos," whose gang color is blue, and their principal rivals are "Nortenos," whose color is red. Members have gang nicknames and sometimes know each other only by those names, prosecutors have said.

In the murder charges, Erick Lopez, known as "Spooky," is accused of gunning down Ernad Joldic, 21, and Phillip Ng, 24, in San Francisco's Excelsior District on March 29, 2008, allegedly in revenge for the shooting of an MS-13 gang member the previous day.

Prosecutor Theryn Gibbons told jurors at the opening of the trial that the victims, who were wearing red, were not gang members, but "just two guys in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Jonathan Cruz-Ramirez, known as "Soldado," 21, and Guillermo Herrera, nicknamed "Shorty," 22, are accused of murdering Armando Estrada, a seller of fake documents who refused to pay the gang an extortion "tax," on July 11, 2008. Estrada was gunned down at 20th and Mission streets.

Herrera is also accused of murdering Juan Rodriguez, perceived as a rival gang member, on May 31, 2008.

All seven defendants are also charged conspiring to commit assaults with dangerous weapons. Angel Guevara, known as "Peloncito," is additionally accused of three assaults and attempted murders in 2007.

 

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