Tactical Teams Negotiating with Burglar in Union City Lock-Down
Hours after a lock-down began on a residential Union City street, a tactical team was still trying to negotiate with someone in a home they surrounded and neighbors were still instructed to remain inside. A suspected burglar who fired shots at police, prompting an extensive search and the lengthy lock-down near Darlene Way and Jean Drive, surrendered to Union City police earlier Thursday evening, a police lieutenant said. As of 7 p.m., the tactical team had surrounded the home where the shooting occurred because they believe there may be an additional suspect inside. SWAT teams, helicopter crews and K9 units spent hours pursuing the first suspect, while police shut down several streets in the area, Union City police Lt. Ben Horner said. Police ordered residents to stay indoors during the manhunt, which ended at about 5:25 p.m. when the suspect turned himself in a few doors down from the site of the shooting, Horner said. The suspect, who surrendered earlier in the vicinity of the home where the shooting happened, did not appear to be injured, he said. Police are in the process of identifying the suspect, Horner said, and officers planned to continue going door-to-door and searching the area to make sure residents are safe. Horner did not say whether the weapon was recovered. As of 7 p.m., roads in the area were still blocked. The incident started at about 10:15 a.m., when Union City police received a report of a burglary in that neighborhood. Residents of the burglarized house were upstairs when they heard a knock at the door and then heard glass breaking, Horner said. When the residents came downstairs, they saw a male intruder. He was startled and ran away, Horner said. Neighbors called police and reported seeing a man running through backyards and jumping over fences, he said. Officers arrived and began investigating the burglary, and found a person of interest on Darlene Way. When the officers approached the man, he pulled out a handgun and fired at them and the officers fired back, Horner said. No officers were struck by the gunfire, he said. The man dodged the shots and ran away from police.
SF Police Shooting Victim Died of Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound
A man who was thought to have died from an officer-involved shooting in San Francisco last weekend appears instead to have been killed by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, investigators revealed Thursday. Kenneth Harding Jr., a 19-year-old Seattle resident, allegedly ran from officers who had attempted to detain him Saturday for fare evasion at a San Francisco Municipal Railway light-rail stop at Third Street and Palou Avenue. Police had originally said Harding had turned to his left while running and fired at the officers, who fired several shots in return and fatally struck him. However, the bullet believed to have killed Harding was removed from his head by the medical examiner, who discovered it was a .380-caliber bullet, which is not consistent with the service ammunition used by San Francisco police. The bullet had entered his body from the right side of his neck before lodging in his head, chief medical examiner Dr. Amy Hart said. Police said they also found an unused .380-caliber bullet in Harding's right jacket pocket. "We believe the fatal wound on Mr. Harding's body was self-inflicted," said police Cmdr. Mike Biel, who said it was still unclear whether the wound was accidental. Many questions still remain, however, about what happened out in the Bayview that day. No weapon was found by police at the scene, but amateur video footage taken in the aftermath of the shooting showed a passerby picking up what investigators believe was Harding's gun and taking it from the area before police could establish the crime scene. A cellphone and several bullet casings were also apparently taken from the scene, police said. A .45-caliber gun was later found at a local parolee's house that investigators initially believed was Harding's gun, but the new ballistic evidence has shown that not to be the case. Biel said police are still seeking the man who picked up the gun, as well as the firearm, and said the department is offering a $1,000 reward for anyone with information that will help to recover the gun.
Video of Charles Hill Shooting Shows He Threw Bottle, Knife at BART Police Officers
BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey said Thursday that he believes a video of a recent confrontation at the Civic Center station in San Francisco shows that a man threw a bottle and a knife at two officers before one of the officers fatally shot him. BART Interim General Manager Sherwood Wakeman said multiple investigations into the July 3 incident are continuing but San Francisco police, who are the lead investigators, said the video could be released to the news media and the public because they finished interviewing all the witnesses in the case. BART is releasing the 73-second-long video because the transit agency, Wakeman said, "wants to have as much transparency as possible." Charles Hill, 45, was killed in the incident on the platform at the Civic Center station, but he is not shown in the video, as it shows only part of the platform. While showing the video to reporters at BART's headquarters, Rainey said two officers -- one white, the other Asian -- arrived at the station at 9:45 p.m. on July 3 after BART received reports that Hill was carrying an open bottle of alcohol and was wobbling on the platform. Rainey said that when the officers first got off a train and arrived at the station they "walked very casually" in the direction where they thought Hill was. The video indicates that Hill threw a bottle at the two officers, and then shows the white officer drawing his service weapon, holding it in his left hand and bracing his outstretched left arm with his right hand. The officer apparently "felt threatened in some way," Rainey said. The officer is shown moving his mouth and Rainey said he believes the officer was commanding Hill to drop his knife. The knife is then shown coming near the officer, hitting the side of a train and ricocheting to the platform, where it came to rest. The officer then fired his gun, the video indicates. Rainey said three shell casings were recovered on the station platform and indicate that the officer fired three shots.
2 Gang Members Charged with Murder of 21-Year-Old Woman
Two suspected gang members were charged with special circumstances murder Thursday for allegedly brutally beating a 21-year-old Union City woman to death, dumping her body in an upscale Oakland neighborhood and then setting it on fire. Authorities declined to disclose the motive for the murder of Monica Rodas, who was the mother of a 2-year-old boy, but said suspects Salvador Valasco, 22, and Hector Garcia, 31, apparently were upset with her about something and wanted to send a message to the community not to mess with them. Rodas' body was found at about 4:40 a.m. on July 14 in the 5800 block of Ivanhoe Road in Oakland's Rockridge District, near a state Highway 24 off-ramp. Valasco and Garcia are both charged with committing a murder during the course of a kidnapping, desecrating human remains and evading police officers. Garcia is also charged with two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and of having six prior felony convictions, an allegation that could add to his prison sentence if he is convicted. His prior convictions include evading an officer, possession of a firearm by a felon, receiving stolen property, car theft and possession of a controlled substance. The special circumstances allegations mean that Valasco and Garcia could face the death penalty if they are convicted, but prosecutors will decide later if they want to seek the death penalty. According to a probable cause statement filed in court by Oakland police Sgt. Steve Nowak and Sgt. Sean Fleming, Garcia denied any knowledge of the crime but Valasco admitted his involvement and said he bound Rodas' hands, gagged her mouth and put a sweater over her. Valasco said Garcia threatened to burn Rodas with a blowtorch and slapped her, according to the statement. Witnesses said Garcia kicked Rodas while she was bound and gagged, the court document said. Valasco and Garcia then walked Rodas to a car, put her in the trunk and drove her to another location, where she was killed, the police investigators said. The two men next drove Rodas' body to Ivanhoe Road, where they dumped and burned it, according to the statement.
Demonstrators Cited at Hotel Workers Protest
Police said that approximately 80 demonstrators were cited at a protest Thursday night near San Francisco's Union Square, where hotel workers demanded an end to what they say are abuses they face on the job. Hundreds gathered outside the Grand Hyatt San Francisco on Stockton Street near Sutter Street for the demonstration. Hotel workers say that the hotel has eliminated jobs while increasing the workload for those who remain behind. Police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said the demonstrators were cited for failing to obey a law enforcement officer and for being pedestrians in the roadway. This was the latest installment in the ongoing contract dispute -- the Hyatt workers' labor contract expired in 2009 and negotiations for its replacement are still under way. Hyatt workers who are members of the hotel union Unite Here Local 2 say that they want to retain the right to strike in support of other Hyatt workers nationwide. In the past several months, Hyatt workers across North America have gone on strike, led demonstrations, and called for boycotts of 18 Hyatt properties. In the Bay Area, workers have led boycotts of the Hyatt Fisherman's Wharf, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency Embarcadero and the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara. Thursday's demonstrations stretched beyond San Francisco, with Hyatt workers in nine cities across the U.S. picketing. "Our bodies hurt, but Hyatt is ignoring us," housekeeper Ofelia Martinez said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. Martinez was on strike Thursday at the Park Hyatt in Chicago. "We will no longer suffer in silence."
Former Richmond Police Officers Indicted for Deceiving Authorities About Handgun Purchases
Two former Richmond police officers were indicted by a federal grand jury in Oakland Thursday on charges of conspiring to deceive authorities about one officer's alleged purchase of handguns for two underage youths. The indictment alleges that former officer Danny Harris Jr., of Pinole, bought three semiautomatic pistols from an unidentified gun dealer in San Jose in June, July and November 2009 on behalf of two minors and one other person. Harris is charged with four counts of making false statements on federal firearms transaction forms about the true buyers of the guns. In addition, he and fellow former officer Raymond Thomas Jr., of Fairfield, are each charged with one count of conspiring to prevent disclosure of the alleged crimes to federal law enforcement officers and one count of obstructing a grand jury investigation. The indictment alleges the two men's schemes to deceive authorities included hiring a private investigator in Concord to conduct a sting operation in which the two youths were to be arrested for drunk driving and illegal possession of the pistols. A second plot was to have a woman who worked for the investigator set up a date with one of the youths and ask him to bring his gun to their meeting, the indictment alleges. The document does not give the name of the private investigator. The two men are due to make an initial appearance before a federal magistrate in Oakland on Aug. 9. The charges each carry maximum sentences ranging from five to 20 years in prison, if the defendants are convicted. U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said the prosecution results from an 11-month investigation by the FBI, the Richmond Police Department and the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office.
New Gang Task Force Created to Curb Gun Violence
Representatives from the Richmond Police Department, the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office, the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office and the Richmond City Council jointly announced Thursday the creation of a new gang task force aimed at ending a recent rise in gun violence in the area. "Over the past several months, several neighborhoods in Richmond and unincorporated North Richmond have been significantly affected by a spike in gun violence," Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus said. He said much of the violence has involved retaliatory shootings between young men from rival gangs or street groups that have been targeting each other. So far this month there have been eight homicides in Richmond and nine other shootings, Magnus said. There has also been one homicide and several shootings in unincorporated North Richmond. The new gang task force, which is a collaboration between the Richmond Police Department and the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office, is being created in an effort to disrupt the cycle of retaliation, Magnus said. Richmond police officers will be riding in patrol cars with sheriff's deputies and focusing on specific problem areas in the city as well as individuals believed to be involved in committing crimes, Magnus said. Investigators from both departments will be working together to investigate the crimes and will be meeting regularly to share information, identify suspects and build criminal cases against them, Magnus said. The two departments will also be working closely with the district attorney's office to prosecute the crimes. Deputy District Attorney Tom Kensok said the district attorney's office would be aggressively prosecuting gang members and has recently doubled the size of the office's gang unit. However, he noted that law enforcement needed help from the community to be able to address the problem of violence in Richmond. "We are not going to arrest and prosecute our way out of this problem," Kensok said.
Woman Found Dead in Vallejo Parking Lot Identified as Jessica Garcia
The woman found dead in the parking lot of the Deluxe Inn in Vallejo late Tuesday night has been identified as 30-year-old Jessica Garcia, of Vallejo, police said. Police responded at about 11:25 p.m. to a report of gunshots at the hotel at 2070 Solano Ave., where they found Garcia, who had been shot. She was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. Garcia is the city's 11th homicide victim this year. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday. Anyone with information is asked to call detectives Mat Mustard or Ted Postolaki at 1-800-488-9383.
Longtime Sunnyvale City Councilmember Ron Swegles Passed Away
A longtime Sunnyvale city councilman passed away in Michigan Thursday morning. Councilman Ron Swegles, 67, was in the final year of his second term in office, and city officials said his health had been declining. He died at about 9 a.m. Michigan time. "Ron's death has struck all of us on council very deeply," Mayor Melinda Hamilton said in a statement. "He will be sorely missed by his fellow council members." Swegles was first elected to the City Council in 2003. He served as vice mayor from 2004 to 2005 and then as mayor from 2005 to 2006. He had also been on the parks and recreation commission, and had served as its chair. Additionally, Swegles had been a member of Sunnyvale's senior advisory committee, the downtown planning committee and the planning commission, and had served on the board of the Sunnyvale Chamber of Commerce. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy's Submarine Service. Swegles is survived by his wife Gail and his two children, three stepchildren, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum to Hold "Hand Holding Day"
In response to an incident where a security guard told a lesbian couple that hand holding was not allowed, the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco will hold "Hand Holding Day" this Sunday. "Hand Holding Day" will coincide with the previously scheduled event "LGBT Family Morning of Gertrude Stein," an event celebrating the life of the famous lesbian artist and LGBT families. The couple was approached by the security guard on Sunday while attending the current exhibit featured at the museum, "Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories." The guard's suggestion that handholding was not allowed at the museum sparked outrage from other museum patrons. Museum officials responded swiftly to reports of the incident, and publicly announced that the guard's actions did not reflect museum policy and that the security guard would not be employed at the museum in the future. Daryl Carr, director of marketing and communications for the museum, said this event reflects the continued commitment "I do believe the story got picked up because of the irony of it all," he said, referring to the fact that the incident happened at the Stein exhibit. "The museum director is a lesbian, I'm gay, we have a very diverse workforce," Carr said. "The commitment we have to the LGBT community with just this event is astounding." Sunday's event will be held from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. and will include performances by the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the Voices Lesbian Choral Ensemble, and the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco. "LGBT Family Morning" is the latest in a summer of LGBT-themed events at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The next will be "An Evening in Gay Paris" in conjunction with the San Francisco MOMA on Aug 4.