SF News

Man Suspected of Bank Robberies In San Mateo, Santa Clara Counties Arrested

Authorities on Wednesday arrested a 51-year-old transient suspected of multiple bank robberies in three counties, including San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department arrested Raymond Donald Davenport at about 4 p.m. Wednesday after being contacted by detectives from the San Mateo and Santa Clara County sheriff's offices that Davenport was staying at a home there, deputies said.

While investigating the case, Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies discovered Davenport was also a suspect in a recent robbery there.

After issuing a search warrant to the home where Davenport was staying, deputies found evidence that allegedly connected him to the series of bank robberies in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, according to the sheriff's office.

Davenport is suspected of robbing the Chase Bank located at 3130 Alpine Road in Portola Valley on the morning of April 4.

He allegedly approached a bank teller, told the teller he was armed, and demanded money.

Davenport left with an undisclosed amount of cash, deputies said.

Davenport was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail and detectives are still in the area gathering information, according to the sheriff's office.

The case for the Portola Valley robbery has been referred to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office for prosecution.

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Former SFPD Criminalist Pleads Guilty To Drug Charge Thursday

A former San Francisco Police Department drug lab employee whose alleged theft of cocaine from evidence set off a scandal at the department
pleaded guilty Thursday to a drug possession charge in San Mateo County Superior Court, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said today.

Debbie Madden, 61, of San Mateo, was a civilian criminalist at the crime lab, which was ordered closed last year after she allegedly admitted to
taking small quantities of cocaine from evidence there in 2009.

Prosecutors had to dismiss hundreds of drug cases in the city as a result of the allegations.

San Francisco police served a search warrant on Madden's home on Shoreline Drive in San Mateo in March 2010 and found a small amount of

She was charged with one felony count of possession of cocaine, and pleaded not guilty when she was arraigned last April.

After that, the case was continually delayed for more than a year by Madden's defense attorney, Paul De Meester, until she finally decided to plead guilty to the charge Thursday at the county courthouse in South San Francisco, Wagstaffe said.

The court date Thursday had originally been scheduled to set the preliminary hearing date, the 12th time that item had been on the calendar over a 13-month period, he said.

"For whatever reason her attorney dragged it out for quite a while," Wagstaffe said.

De Meester was not immediately available for comment this morning.

Madden was placed on 18 months of deferred entry of judgment and was ordered to complete a drug rehabilitation program, as well as pay $300 in court fees and fines.

"If she attends all the classes and keeps her nose clean, the case gets set aside," Wagstaffe said.


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San Francisco Bay Area Friday News Roundup

Antioch Kidnappers Sentenced to 431 years in Prison

Almost two decades to the day after Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped, an El Dorado County judge handed down maximum sentences to Phillip and Nancy Garrido, telling Phillip Garrido he is "evil" for abducting, raping, and imprisoning Dugard for 18 years.

District Attorney Vern Pierson said both Dugard and the district attorney's office are relieved the case is over.

"I think it's safe to say a nightmare has come to an end," he said.

Judge Douglas Phimister said he took into account the planning and callousness of the kidnapping, which occurred June 10, 1991, when he decided to give Phillip Garrido 431 years in prison, the maximum allowed under a plea bargain in which Garrido admitted to kidnapping Dugard as well as 13 counts of sexual assault and lewd acts, plus enhancements.

Nancy Garrido, 55, received 36 years in accordance with her agreement, in which she pleaded guilty to kidnapping, one count of rape by force and several enhancements.

Phimister said he thinks Phillip Garrido has no soul.

"What you've done to this child is beyond horrible," the judge said.

He called Garrido, 60, the "poster child" of a sexual predator beyond rehabilitation, pointing to prior convictions for rape and kidnapping in Nevada.

Garrido and his wife admitted to using a stun gun to kidnap Dugard, now 31, on her way to a bus stop, and holding her in a compound in the backyard of their home near Antioch.

Phillip Garrido repeatedly raped her over the years and she bore two children by him.

The crimes were discovered in 2009 after a University of California at Berkeley police officer noticed Phillip Garrido and Jaycee's two daughters acting strangely on the college campus.

Dugard did not attend the sentencing at El Dorado Superior Court in Placerville Thursday, but wrote a statement for her mother, Terry Probyn, to read.

She said she chose not to appear because she "refused to waste another second" of her life in the Garridos' presence.

"I hated every second of every day for 18 years because of you," Probyn read on her daughter's behalf. "I hope you have as many sleepless nights as I did."


Antioch Kidnapping Victim Testifies

Fear held Jaycee Dugard captive during the 18 years that she was imprisoned in the Antioch backyard of her kidnappers, Phillip and Nancy Garrido.

In grand jury testimony released Thursday, Dugard describes how she went from being an 11-year-old girl living in South Lake Tahoe to a mother of two confined to a concealed compound on the Garridos' Antioch property.

Dugard recounts her abduction, her physical and psychological confinement, the years of sexual abuse that she endured, and her confusion over why she had been taken away from her family.

"I was very scared. I didn't know who he was. I didn't know why he was doing this. I just wanted to go home," she said in the testimony.

The 158 pages were released hours after an El Dorado County judge handed down maximum sentences to the Garridos for abducting, raping, and imprisoning Dugard for 18 years.

On the morning of June 10, 1991, Dugard was walking to the bus stop on her way to school, as she had countless mornings before, except that on this morning a car approached her from behind as she was halfway up the hill.

While she expected that the man would ask for directions, instead he shot his hand out of the car window and used a stun gun to shock Dugard, who stumbled into the bushes.

As a man, who she would later learn was Phillip Garrido, exited the car, Dugard tried to back away, but found herself paralyzed.

She said, "I feel like my whole body ... wouldn't work. It was tingly, and I can't -- nothing works."

She was stuffed into the backseat of Garrido's car, a blanket on top of her and a person holding her down during the 180-mile journey from El Dorado County to eastern Contra Costa County, where the Garridos would hold her captive until 2009.

"It seemed like forever," Dugard said of the ride, during which she heard Phillip Garrido remark to a passenger in the car that they had succeeded in pulling off the kidnapping.

According to Dugard, Garrido said, "I can't believe we got away with it," and he started laughing.


SF Firefighters Mourn Fallen Colleague

San Francisco firefighters gathered to mourn the loss of one of their own Thursday afternoon after a 21-year veteran of the department died after being injured while battling a blaze in the city's Diamond Heights neighborhood earlier Thursday.

Lt. Vincent Perez, 48, was one of three firefighters injured in the blaze, which was reported at 10:44 a.m. at a four-story home at 133 Berkeley Way.

All three were taken to San Francisco General Hospital where Perez died at about 11:50 a.m.

One of the other firefighters, identified as firefighter/paramedic Anthony Valerio, 53, remained in critical condition Thursday afternoon, Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said at a news conference held at the hospital.

The third firefighter, a woman whose name was not immediately available, was treated at the hospital for smoke inhalation and minor burns and was released.

Hayes-White said Perez was a classmate of hers when they entered the department's academy in 1990.

She said he previously served as a deputy with the Alameda County Sheriff's Office and as a U.S. Marine.

"His whole life was spent serving the community," she said.

Perez's two brothers also serve the community -- one is a San Francisco police officer and the other is an Oakland police officer.

Dozens of firefighters gathered to salute Perez as his body was taken out of the hospital to be transferred to the medical examiner's office for an autopsy.

"Our hearts are heavy and they will be for a long time," Hayes-White said. This is the first time in eight years that San Francisco has lost a firefighter in the line of duty.

In January 2003, 40-year-old firefighter Melinda Ohler died after falling from a fire engine as it responded to a call.

What caused Thursday's fire remains under investigation, fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.

Talmadge said some firefighters reported seeing a "flashover," or heat explosion, inside the home, and around that time, an emergency alarm was activated from one of the firefighters inside the home.

Dispatch received the alert and notified the incident commander, who tried, but was unable, to reach the firefighter by radio, Talmadge said.

Additional crew members were sent in, and they found two firefighters down and "pretty badly burned."


SF Police Commission Axes Patrol Officer

The San Francisco Police Commission on Wednesday revoked the appointment of a patrol special officer who is a key witness in a 2010 murder case because he is facing disciplinary charges.

Robert Burns, 66, was a patrol special officer appointed by the commission to patrol an area of the city just south of Fisherman's Wharf.

Patrol special officers are authorized under the city charter to provide supplementary police patrols and are contracted to perform private security for businesses and individuals in their appointed areas.

Burns was accused of failing to comply with Police Department requirements related to the patrol special officers' uniforms, insurance and training in 2009 and 2010.

The Police Commission, which has jurisdiction over patrol special police, sustained the allegations and voted unanimously at its meeting Wednesday night to revoke his appointment.

Burns had been contracted to provide security for Club Suede, a nightclub that was the site of a fatal shooting on Feb. 7, 2010.

The club has since been ordered permanently closed by a judge.

That night, 19-year-old Lawon Marshawn Hall was killed and three others were injured in a shooting outside the club.

Burns witnessed the shooting and shot one of the two suspects, later identified as Keandre Davis.

Davis, 21, of Richmond, was arrested at the scene after being shot and faces murder charges in the case.

A man suspected of being the second shooter was arrested in the days after the shooting, but the district attorney's office declined to file charges against him.

Burns, who was recommended for the Police Department's Medal of Valor for his role in apprehending Davis, testified in the preliminary hearing for the murder case last week.

During the hearing, Burns testified he was wearing the uniform required of a patrol special officer that night.

But according to the charges the Police Commission considered, he was noted as not complying with the proper uniform requirements at least 37 times in 2009 and 2010, including on Feb. 3, 2010, four days before the shooting.

The charging document states that on many occasions, Burns' uniform did not have the proper markings, including stripes on the trousers and shoulder epaulettes.


Oakland Community Leaders Gather to Stop Violence

A particularly violent year in Oakland has incited community leaders to come together Thursday and discuss ways to prevent any more shootings, which have killed dozens of locals in recent months.

Hundreds of faith leaders planned to meet at 6 p.m. alongside Oakland Assistant Chief of Police Howard Jordan, Alameda County Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad, and other officials at the At Thy Word Ministries church at 8915 International Blvd. to figure out ways to reduce violence.

"People need to realize that guns are not the answer," said Sherri Lyn-Miller, whose local shop makes T-shirts for the families of slain victims.

Sherri said she sees about 90 percent of families and those connected to murdered victims because of the shirts and other memorabilia her print shop makes.

"We have a generation of babies growing up without fathers, and it's not that their fathers are in prison," she said. "Their fathers are in the ground."

Her voice shook with anger as she described how the lack of gun control was destroying the Oakland community.

"These kids don't have the resources to put the guns in the community," she said. "But they can buy the guns once they're here."

A friend of Sherri's, Flossie Harrington, lost her grandson, 24-year-old Timothy Barnes when he was shot several times in the face while riding his bicycle near Harrington's home near the 2400 block of 90th Avenue on May 20, according to Sherri.

"It was just a few blocks away from us and he was going to his cousin's," Harrington said.

Barnes was unmarried and had a son and daughter, ages 4 and 6.

He was taking community college classes online and living at home with Harrington and his mother, Harrington said.

"I don't know why this happened," she said.

Sherri, who knew Barnes, had her shop make at least 40 T-shirts, buttons, obituaries, prayer cards, and a painting of Barnes for his mom at the funeral, which is scheduled for today.

Sherri said she has a five-pound bichon frise named Snow that Barnes would always play with.

She said, "He'd always come into the shop and ask, 'Where's Snow?'"


Caltrain Scrutinizes On-Time Train Performance

Caltrain's board of directors Thursday morning discussed reasons why the service has failed to meet its goals for on-time trains for the past four months.

At a regularly scheduled meeting in San Carlos, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board of Directors went through several explanations for why trains have been late more than 5 percent of the time for the months of February, March, April and May.

Fatalities are one of reasons trains fail to meet a 95 percent on-time goal for a month, spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

Other reasons include how long it takes passengers to get on and off trains, crowded trains during special events, and instances when trains move slowly through construction areas, Dunn said.

Another reason trains fail to make their schedule is because Caltrain operators will often wait for a connection with another transit service like Bay Area Rapid Transit.

Trains were on time 93 percent of the time in February and March, 89 percent of the time in April, and 90 percent of the time in May, according to Caltrain.

The board also unanimously adopted a budget for fiscal year 2012, and discussed successes experienced in a recently implemented program for passengers with bicycles.

Effective last week, crews completed a $300,000 project to make sure every train had two of its cars equipped with the parts to hold bicycles for passengers.

Caltrain's older trains are now equipped with two bike cars that have a total capacity of 80 bicycles per train.

The newer trains hold a total of 48 bikes per train, according to Caltrain. Since 2008, Caltrain has made 70 percent of its fleet able to hold 80 bikes.

A bicycle advisory committee was formed in 2010 to address the needs of cyclists on the service.

The committee includes one representative each from San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.


SFMTA Investigates Muni Operators Failure to Let Off Passengers

Officials at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency are looking into why a Muni light rail operator did not let people off a train after a passenger became ill and vomited onboard, a spokesman said.

An outbound K-T train took on an unpleasant odor when a passenger began throwing up at about 8:10 a.m. at Montgomery Station, Muni spokesman Paul Rose said.

The operator was ordered to allow passengers off at Montgomery station and then to take the train directly to West Portal station, where it would be cleaned, Rose said.

"The plan was always to take the train out of service at West Portal," he said.

Control room officials, however, noticed the train still had passengers aboard as it bypassed Powell Street and Civic Center stations, and ordered the operator to stop at Van Ness station to do so, Rose said.

When the train finally stopped at Van Ness station, the passengers were allowed to leave. It was then taken to the West Portal station, cleaned, and returned to service.

No significant delays were reported, Rose said.

Rose could not say what happened to the sick passenger.

The operator was put on non-driver status pending the investigation as to why the passengers were not offloaded at Montgomery station, Rose said.


Amtrak Train Kills Unidentified Pedestrian on Tracks

A John Doe was struck and killed by a San Jose-bound Amtrak train in Oakland Thursday afternoon, according to Amtrak and the Alameda County coroner's bureau.

Capitol Corridor Train No. 535, which was coming from Sacramento, struck the victim just south of Jack London Square station at about 12:15 p.m., Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said.

Investigators are unsure who the man was because he had no identification on him, according to the coroner's bureau.

Officers are still looking into why the man was on the tracks, but no discipline has been taken on any train crew member as a result of the crash, Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole said.

"Crew members won't be disciplined for something that's not their fault," Cole said. The train, which was carrying 39 passengers and four crew members, stopped while those on board waited for assistance, Graham said.

No passengers or crewmembers were injured.

All crewmembers requested to be relieved of duty, so the train remained at the scene until replacement staff arrived, Graham said.

Passengers were transferred to another train in Oakland at about 1:15 p.m., Cole said.

The train was originally due in San Jose at 1:15 p.m.

It was taken out of service while crews performed minimal repairs caused by the crash, Cole said.

Tracks were closed in both directions for almost two hours while officers responded to the scene.

They were reopened shortly after 2 p.m. and other trains using the tracks experienced up to two-hour delays, Cole said.


Novato Man Sentenced to 15 Years for Producing Child Pornography

A Novato man was sentenced in federal court in San Francisco Thursday to 15 years in prison for producing a child pornography video on his iPhone last year.

Jonathan Hill, 31, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in March to one count of producing child pornography.

An FBI affidavit filed in the case last year said that Marin County sheriff's deputies who arrested Hill in March 2010 determined that the video showed a 9-year-old girl exposing her chest and pulling down her pants and also depicted Hill exposing himself to the girl.

The 15-year sentence handed down by White was the mandatory minimum required by federal law for the conviction.

White also ordered Hill to pay $10,000 each to the victim in the 2010 video and to another girl pictured in a different video made by Hill in 2005.

Hill was charged in federal court last year with producing the 2005 video as well, and admitted during his guilty plea to having made it, but that charge was dismissed by prosecutors Thursday as part of the plea bargain.

Hill, a carpenter who worked with his father in a contracting business, told White, "I'm very sorry" for the effects of his acts on the victims, the community and his family.

Hill was arrested by sheriff's deputies on March 20, 2010, after a third girl, who was 10 years old, reported that he had exposed himself to her near an elementary school in Marinwood.

He has been in custody without bail since then.

Deputies who searched Hill's home found child pornography and items such as duct tape, plastic ties, latex gloves and condoms that "appear(ed) to be a kit of supplies for abduction and rape," the FBI affidavit said.

In Marin County Superior Court, Hill still faces separate state charges of annoying or molesting children or indecent exposure in three incidents in Marinwood and Kentfield between March 9 and 20, 2010.


Oakland Laptop Thief Arrested

A man who was caught with a stolen laptop computer that was tracked with security software was charged Thursday with felony possession of stolen property, according to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.

Muthanna Aldebashi, 27, a taxi driver who lives in Alameda, is scheduled to be arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court today.

Oakland police said Aldebashi was arrested on Tuesday after a laptop that was stolen from Joshua Kaufman's North Oakland apartment on March 21 was found at Aldebashi's home.

Kaufman, 35, had previously installed security software on his Apple MacBook and activated the software after his laptop was taken.

The software allowed Kaufman to track his computer's movements and take photographs of Aldebashi, according to police.

The laptop was returned to Kaufman on Wednesday.

Kaufman was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Kaufman posted a joyous message on his blog, which is entitled "This Guy Has My Macbook," after Aldebashi was arrested on Tuesday.

He wrote, "An Oakland police officer just called me to let me know that they arrested the guy in my photos! BOOYA!" Kaufman added, "Nice work OPD," referring to the Oakland Police Department.

Aldebashi is being held at the Glenn Dyer Jail in Oakland in lieu of $20,000 bail.


CA Supreme Court Rules on Pandering Conviction

The California Supreme Court ruled in San Francisco Thursday that a pimp can be convicted of pandering even if the person he tries to recruit is already a prostitute or is an undercover officer.

Pandering is defined in state law as encouraging another person "to become a prostitute" by means of promises, threats or violence.

The court issued its ruling in the case of Jomo Zambia, a janitor who was convicted of pandering by trying to recruit an undercover officer to join his prostitution business in Los Angeles County in 2007.

Zambia encountered Officer Erika Cruz, who was posing as a prostitute, on Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys on June 8, 2007.

He ordered her to get in his truck, said he was a pimp and said he would give her housing and clothing if she worked for him and gave him her money, according to the court ruling.

Cruz then alerted her backup unit and Zambia was arrested and was later convicted of pandering and sentenced to four years in prison.

In his appeal, Zambia argued that the pandering law's use of the word "become" meant that the law didn't apply when the target was already a prostitute or was an undercover officer.

But the state high court by a 5-2 vote said that the law referred to encouraging a person to engage in future acts of prostitution, even if the person is already a prostitute.

Justice Carol Corrigan wrote that the court's interpretation "carries out the Legislature's intent to combat the social evils inherent in recruitment for acts of prostitution."

Pandering is a separate crime from the offense of pimping, which is defined as making money from another person's prostitution and is punishable by similar prison terms.


PG&E Concludes Odor Search at Courthouse

PG&E crews completed their search Thursday afternoon for the source of an odor at the Walnut Creek courthouse that was thought to be natural gas, but found no gas leak anywhere in the area, PG&E spokesman Joe Molica said.

The odor was reported at about 8:20 a.m. at the courthouse at 640 Ygnacio Valley Road and officials evacuated the building, Contra Costa County sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee said.

Molica said PG&E was notified shortly before 9 a.m. and crews were at the courthouse by about 9:30.

They conducted a thorough search of the building, but didn't pick up any readings indicating that there was natural gas leaking anywhere inside, Molica said.

He said employees said they had smelled the odor on and off in a hallway in the courthouse for the past 18 months, but reported it Thursday because it seemed stronger than usual, Molica said. "

They did the right thing to report it," Molica said.

During their initial investigation, PG&E crews checked all the appliances in the building and checked the roof for possible leaks, but didn't find anything amiss.

The sheriff's office lifted the evacuation order at about 10:35 a.m. after the building was found to be safe, Lee said.

PG&E crews continued to search the area around the courthouse Thursday afternoon and tested the line that supplies gas to the building, but didn't find any problems, Molica said.

He said that occasionally, other types of odors are mistaken for natural gas, but PG&E encourages people to still report possible gas leaks because the company has highly sensitive equipment that can confirm whether gas is present.


Weather Forecast

The Bay Area is forecast to be mostly cloudy today, with a chance of rain in the afternoon and highs in the mid to upper 50s.

Rain is expected tonight, with lows near 50 and southwest winds of 10 to 20 mph.

Rain is expected in the morning on Saturday, with widespread showers in the afternoon. Highs are expected to be in the upper 50s to mid 60s.


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Weather Forecast For The San Francisco Bay Area

The Bay Area is forecast to be mostly cloudy today, with a chance of rain in the afternoon and highs in the mid to upper 50s.

Rain is expected tonight, with lows near 50 and southwest winds of 10 to 20 mph.

Rain is expected in the morning on Saturday, with widespread showers in the afternoon. Highs are expected to be in the upper 50s to mid 60s.


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Children's Art Project Director Charged With Possessing Child Pornography

The FBI announced Thursday that the director of a nonprofit children's art organization in San Francisco has been charged with possession of child pornography.

Anthony Josef Norris, 46, of San Francisco, the founder and director of Kid Serve, surrendered to FBI agents Thursday morning, according to Julianne Sohn, spokeswoman for the FBI's regional office.

Norris was charged with child pornography possession in a criminal complaint filed in federal court in San Francisco on May 26.

He made an initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate Thursday morning and was released on a $200,000 bond, Sohn said.

Kid Serve works with Bay Area school children to create outdoor murals. The group began in San Francisco and has expanded to work with children in Oakland, Berkeley, Marin County and Contra Costa County, according to the organization's website.

FBI agent Lydia Durben said in an affidavit filed with the complaint that the investigation began after child pornography videos posted on the Internet were traced to Norris's home address. 

Durben alleged in the affidavit that a search of Norris's computer showed at least 600 images of sexual exploitation of pre-pubescent children.

The charge carries a possible maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if Norris is convicted.

CONTACT: FBI spokeswoman Julianne Sohn (415) 553-7450 or (415) 558-2511


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Reservoir Reopening Today After Seismic Upgrade

A reservoir basin is reopening in San Francisco's Portola neighborhood today after being emptied for two years while it was seismically upgraded.

The University Mound Reservoir North Basin, which supplies about 25 percent of the city's tap water, is the site of the last major seismic upgrade of the local San Francisco water system, part of the $4.6 billion Hetch Hetchy system improvement program.

The basin, located near the intersection of University and Bacon streets, will now be a reliable source of water for drinking and emergency firefighting after a major earthquake, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington and San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos were scheduled to hold a ceremony this morning to celebrate the reopening. At the 10:30 a.m. ceremony, city officials planned to turn a bronze wheel to begin refilling the empty reservoir.


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Update: One Of Three Firefighters Hurt In Diamond Heights Blaze Dies

San Francisco Fire Department responds to fire in Diamond HeightsA San Francisco firefighter has died after being injured while battling a blaze in the city's Diamond Heights neighborhood this morning.

Three firefighters were hurt while fighting the fire, which was reported 10:44 a.m. at a four-story home on a hill in the 100 block of Berkeley Way, fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.

All three were taken to San Francisco General Hospital.

Hospital spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said one, a male firefighter, has since passed away. A second male firefighter is in critical condition, and the third firefighter, a female, is in fair condition.

The blaze started on the first floor of the home and spread to at least the second story, Talmadge said.

Talmadge said firefighters saw a flash while inside the home. Around that time, a firefighter in the home activated an emergency alarm. Dispatch got the alert and notified the incident commander, who tried to reach the firefighter by radio but was unable to, Talmadge said.

Additional crew members were sent in, and they found two firefighters down and "pretty badly burned," Talmadge said.

The third injured firefighter was able to exit the home without help, she said.

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and other members of the command staff have headed to the hospital to check on the firefighters.

Early this afternoon, crews remained at the scene of the fire putting out hot spots. American Red Cross personnel were speaking with the home's occupants and police were at the scene.

Patty Stanton, who lives two doors down from the home that burned, said she came out to walk her dog this morning and saw white smoke in her neighbor's garage, then saw three females run out of the home. 

She said the smoke started to turn black and firefighters arrived. 

After the injuries occurred, she saw paramedics working on the injured firefighters. "I just hope they'll be OK," Stanton said.


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Update: Three Firefighters Injured Battling Diamond Heights Blaze

San Francisco Fire Department responds to fire in Diamond HeightsThree firefighters were injured while battling a fire in San Francisco's Diamond Heights neighborhood this morning, a fire department spokeswoman said.

A dispatcher said two of the firefighters are in "very critical" condition.

The fire was reported at 10:44 a.m. at a four-story home on a slope in the 100 block of Berkeley Way, fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.

The blaze started on the first floor of the home and spread to at least the second story, Talmadge said. 

Talmadge said firefighters saw a flash while inside the home. 

Around that time, a heat alarm on one of the firefighters' uniforms was activated, she said. 

When commanders on the outside tried to reach the firefighter by radio, there was no response. Additional crew members were sent in, and they found two firefighters down and "pretty badly burned," Talmadge said.

The third injured firefighter was able to exit the home without help, she said.

All three were being taken to San Francisco General Hospital. Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and other members of the command staff were headed to the hospital to check on the firefighters' conditions.

As of about 12:15 p.m., crews remained at the scene of the fire putting out hot spots.

CONTACT: San Francisco fire (415) 558-3403, (415) 558-3268


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Update: Two Firefighters Injured While Battling Blaze At Diamond Heights Home

Two firefighters have been injured while battling a fire in San Francisco's Diamond Heights neighborhood this morning, a fire dispatcher said.

The fire was reported at 10:44 a.m. at a three-story home in the 100 block of Berkeley Way, fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said. 

The blaze started on the first floor of the home and spread to at least the second story, Talmadge said. 

While battling the blaze, two firefighters were injured, the dispatcher said. The extent of the injuries were not yet known, but one of the firefighters was being taken to San Francisco General Hospital as of 11:20 a.m., he said.

The fire had not been extinguished as of 11:20 a.m.   

CONTACT: San Francisco fire (415) 558-3403, (415) 558-3268    

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Firefighters Battling Blaze At Diamond Heights Home

Firefighters are battling a fire at a home in San Francisco's Diamond Heights neighborhood this morning, a fire department spokeswoman said.

The one-alarm fire was reported at 10:44 a.m. at a three-story home in the 100 block of Berkeley Way, fire spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.

The blaze started on the first floor of the home and spread to at least the second story, Talmadge said. She said it had not yet been extinguished as of 11:05 a.m.

No injuries have been reported to any residents or firefighters.

CONTACT: San Francisco fire (415) 558-3403

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Update: Suspicious Package Deemed Harmless, Area Reopened

A suspicious package that prompted the closure of a street in San Francisco's Financial District for nearly two hours this morning has been deemed harmless and the area has been reopened, a police spokesman said.

The package was reported at 8:46 a.m. on a skyway bridge that connects the Two Embarcadero Center and Three Embarcadero Center buildings, police Officer Albie Esparza said.

Davis Street, which runs below the bridge, was shut down while the Police Department's bomb squad responded to investigate the package.

Authorities determined the package was a backpack with miscellaneous items and debris inside, none of which was a threat, and the all-clear was given at about 10:40 a.m., Esparza said. 

The bomb squad has had a busy couple of days in San Francisco. It also responded to two incidents on Wednesday, both of which ended safely.

CONTACT: San Francisco police (415) 553-1651

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San Francisco Firefighters, Paramedics Stress Life-Saving Techniques During National CPR/AED Week

San Francisco firefighters, paramedics and city officials stressed learning basic life-saving techniques at a press conference this morning kicking off National CPR/AED Awareness Week.

Methods like the American Heart Association's "Hands-Only CPR" saved Ken Byk's life after he crossed the finish line of last year's Bay to Breakers race.

Byk, who suffered a heart attack immediately after completing the race, said numerous bystanders and fellow participants assisted him.

One of the good Samaritans attending to Byk was Ruth Rodgers, an anesthesiologist who had just crossed the finish line when her husband noticed Byk collapse, he said.

Rodgers gave Byk CPR for more than 20 minutes before his pulse was restored.

Byk was taken to the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, where he suffered a second heart attack and it took five minutes to revive him.

Three days later, the 52-year-old received a quadruple bypass to relieve his three main arteries, which were more than 90 percent blocked, Byk said.

Performing CPR dramatically increased the chances of Byk's survival, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said today, but Byk had a long road to recovery and said he was grateful to be alive.

"Thank you for saving my life," Byk told Rodgers when he met her for the first time "while conscious" earlier this year.

Although there are more than 40 advanced life support ambulances available from the San Francisco Fire Department, it is not enough, Deputy Chief Pat Gardner said.

The minutes after someone collapses can prove to be the most valuable, Gardner said.

"We need you, each and every citizen of San Francisco ... to stop and help out," said Anne Kronenberg, the executive director of the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.

Chest compression is the most important part of CPR, and instructions can be given over the phone from a trained 911 dispatcher, she said.

Now 53, Byk crossed the finish line of the 100th annual Bay to Breakers race last month, marking an important milestone.

"I would not be standing here today were it not for CPR," Byk said.

Those who wish to learn "Hands-Only CPR," can visit www.handsonlycpr.org to watch an instructional video or download a guided smartphone application.

For full CPR instruction, visit www.heart.org/cpr and enter a zip code to find the closest class.

CPR volunteers can download an iPhone application at www.sffireapp.org to receive notifications of nearby cardiac arrest victims who need assistance.
CONTACT: Julie Kaufmann, American Heart Association (415) 228-8418, Arthur Hsieh, San Francisco Paramedic Association (415) 543-1161, Mindy Talmadge, San Francisco Fire Department (415) 558-3403

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San Francisco Bay Area Weather Forecast Thursday, June 2

There is a slight chance of showers in the forecast for the Bay Area today, with highs in the mid 50s to upper 60s.

It is expected to be partly cloudy this evening, becoming mostly cloudy, with lows around 50. West winds of 10 to 20 mph, becoming 5 to 10 mph after midnight, are also expected.

Friday is expected to be mostly cloudy with a slight chance of showers in the afternoon. Highs are expected to be in the mid 50s to upper 60s.

CONTACT: National Weather Service (831) 656-1724

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Palace Of Fine Arts Welcomes Baby Swan To Lagoon

Two proud parents welcomed the newest addition to grace the Palace of Fine Arts lagoon Monday.    

Martha was hatched on Memorial Day to the excitement of her parents Blue Boy and Blanche, said Gayle Hagerty, who has been caring for swans at the Palace of Fine Arts for 18 years.    

Though days old, the baby swan is not afraid to get her feathers ruffled, Hagerty said. Martha is already very active and spends her days  swimming in the lagoon.    

But like most new parents, Blue Boy and Blanche keep a watchful eye over their cygnet.    

"Blue boy is incredibly protective. If you go near the nest or Martha, he'll just come right up after you," she said. "He looks scary." The nest has three eggs, and if they are not infertile, they will hatch within the next couple days, Hagerty said.    

The nest is sectioned off with a small fence to prevent anyone from tampering with the eggs, San Francisco Recreation and Park spokeswoman Connie Chan said.    

If the eggs do not hatch, the family of three will be the only swans in the lagoon.    Bella, a 2-year-old swan who fractured her webbed foot last month, is still recovering at her birth home in Point Reyes.    

"She's on vacation," Chan said.    

Jack Long, the exotic bird breeder who is caring for Bella, said she is "perfectly well" and he anticipates her return to the Palace of Fine  Arts lagoon in the next few days.    

Letters "written" by Bella address her desire to head home, Long said.    

"Hey, I want to go. Jack treats me real nice, but I want to see my buddies," Bella writes, proving that her foot has healed.    

Before Bella returns, some of the rocks in the lagoon, which Long suspects she caught herself between, might be removed.    

Hagerty said she hopes Bella's return will bring balance to the swans at the Palace of Fine Arts with the coupling of the two pairs.      

CONTACT: Gayle Hagerty (415) 244-5969

SF Recreation and Park spokeswoman Connie Chan (415)831-2796 Jack Long (415) 663-1650

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Mechanical Problems Cause Minor Caltrain Delays

Mechanical problems have caused Caltrain delays this morning. 

Northbound train No. 217 is about 20 minutes behind schedule, Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn said.

    CONTACT: Christine Dunn (650) 508-6238

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Authors To Be Honored At 80th Annual California Book Awards Tonight

Nearly a dozen authors will be honored in San Francisco this evening at the 80th Annual California Book Awards ceremony.

The award ceremony is open to the public and begins at 6 p.m. at the Commonwealth Club of California.

The gold- and silver-medal winning authors and publishers were chosen by a jury that considered hundreds of submissions, organizers said.

To be eligible, contending books had to have been written while the author was a California resident. 

"It truly was challenging to pick the best of the best this year," said Wendy Wanderman, literary director of the Commonwealth Club of California in a statement.

"We are so lucky to have such a diverse writing pool in the Golden State."

Jack Boulware, author and co-founder of the literary festival Litquake, will be the master of ceremonies for tonight's event.

Gold-medal winners were selected for eight categories.

Alexandra Teague won for poetry, Yunte Huang for nonfiction, Zachary Mason for first fiction, Karen Tei Yamashita for fiction, Cecil Castellucci for the juvenile category, Dana Reinhardt for young adult, Laura Cunningham for Californiana, and the University of California Press for contribution to publishing.

Silver medals will be awarded to Don Lattin for nonfiction, Eric Puchner for fiction, and Camille T. Dungy for poetry.

Tonight's event will be preceded by a wine and hors d'oeuvres reception at 5 p.m. and followed by a book signing and dessert reception, organizers said.

    CONTACT: Riki Rafner (415) 597-6712

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Chief Justice Names SF Judge And South Bay Court Executive To State Judicial Council

A San Francisco Superior Court judge and a Santa Clara County Superior Court executive have been appointed to the California Judicial Council, the governing body of the state court system. 

The San Francisco-based council is the governing body of the California court system, the nation's largest court system. It has 20 voting members and 11 nonvoting advisory members.

The appointments of San Francisco Superior Court Judge Teri Jackson and Santa Clara County Superior Court Executive Officer David Yamasaki were announced Wednesday by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. 

Jackson, who previously served as an advisory member, was given a three-year term as a voting member of the group. 

Jackson has been on the Superior Court bench since 2002 and before that worked in private practice and as a prosecutor in the San Francisco district attorney's office.

Yamasaki was given a three-year term as a nonvoting advisory member.

The 20 voting members on the council include 14 judges appointed by the state's chief justice; four lawyers appointed by the State Bar; and one member of each house of the state Legislature.

CONTACT: Judicial Council public information officer Lynn Holton
(415) 865-7726

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San Francisco Bay Area Thursday News Roundup

Salina Nurse Finds Abandoned Baby in Stolen Car

A Salinas emergency room nurse who stumbled upon a stolen car with a 1-month-old girl in the back seat on Tuesday afternoon said Wednesday she
was prepared to block the car from leaving once she found out it was the subject of an Amber Alert.

Peggy Clancy, a nurse at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, had just returned from a two-hour hike at Toro Park when she heard infant Mariana Corona Vidal crying in the back seat of a white Infiniti Q45 at about 5:30 p.m.

The car had been stolen from the parking lot of Saint Catherine's Church in Morgan Hill, located at 17400 Peak Ave., at about 2 p.m. The baby had briefly been left alone in the car with the keys in the ignition, Morgan Hill police said.

About an hour later, the California Highway Patrol issued an Amber Alert, which Clancy didn't know about at first because she had been hiking.

She said she heard the baby crying and looked over to say hi to whoever was in the car, but to her surprise the baby was alone.

She waited for about five minutes, thinking the mother had gone to talk someone or use the bathroom, and realized the keys were in the car. She then called 911, believing the mother might be in danger or might have abandoned the baby.

"The dispatch asked if the baby had a flowered outfit on, which she did, and I'm thinking, 'OK they're looking for this kid,'" explained Clancy, who has been a nurse for 34 years. 

The dispatcher asked if Clancy could wait until police arrived, so she sat in her car and kept an eye on the Infiniti.

"When I found out it was an Amber Alert, I was ready to park my car behind it in case (the driver) tried to leave," she said. 

The driver never showed up, though, and law enforcement officers came and took the baby to reunite her with her parents, Maribel Corona and Miguel Vidal.


Grandmother Kidnapper Arraigned in Superior Court

A Southern California woman accused of kidnapping her 4-month-old granddaughter last month and then claiming the child was hers was arraigned in Contra Costa County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon, but did not enter a plea.

Ericka Gallego, a 58-year-old El Monte resident, has been charged with kidnapping and residential burglary

Investigators allege that she took a bus and a taxi from El Monte in Los Angeles County to Knightsen in eastern Contra Costa County, where her son lives with his wife and four young children. Then, either late on May 21 or early the morning of May 22, authorities suspect that Ericka Gallego snuck into the family's house and abducted Ramy Gallego from her bassinet while everybody was asleep.

Ericka Gallego then allegedly took a taxi back to Southern California with the baby, investigators said.

Ramy's parents discovered that she was missing at about 6 a.m. on May 22 and the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office launched a major search.

Ericka Gallego was arrested that evening and Ramy was safely returned to her mother, Kristin Gallego, the next morning.

Kristin Gallego said outside the courtroom Wednesday afternoon that she has gotten the sense from people who have spoken with her mother-in-law that Ericka Gallego thinks she will not be prosecuted and that the kidnapping was not a big deal.

Kristin Gallego's aunt Karla Storrer said it is reassuring to see that Ericka Gallego is in custody and will have to face her alleged crimes.

Kristin, meanwhile, said things at home are slowly getting back to normal, although her older children are still afraid to go into their rooms by themselves and are worried about other people trying to take Ramy, too.

During the arraignment Wednesday, Judge John Allen kept Ericka Gallego's bail at $5 million and referred her to the public defender's office for representation.

She is scheduled to return to court in Pittsburg on June 9 to be assigned an attorney and enter a plea.


SF Mayor Lee Presents Proposed Budget to Supervisors

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee Wednesday released his proposed budget that he said closes a $306 million deficit for the next fiscal year and will help keep the city "safe, solvent and successful."

Lee presented the $6.83 billion budget Wednesday to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and many other city officials who gathered at City Hall for the announcement.

The board will have to give final approval to the budget by the end of July and can also propose changes to it.

Lee said his proposed budget "reflects a very solid collaboration" between city officials and residents and will "create a foundation for years to come."

His budget includes more than $106 million in reductions to city departments, including $31.7 million from the Department of Public Health and $25.8 million from the Police Department.

Much of the savings to the police budget come from the mayor's request that a wage increase set to go into effect on July 1 be avoided.

Lee said his proposed budget includes no layoffs to police officers or firefighters.

A large part of the budget deficit was also bridged by higher tax revenue than expected, partly due to a drop in unemployment in the city from 10 percent in January to 8.5 percent this month.

"The city is on the rebound already," Lee said.

The mayor's proposal came after 10 budget town hall forums around the city and many meetings with city officials, as well as labor, business and neighborhood leaders that resulted in about $28 million in changes to the plan before it was submitted to the board.

Supervisor Carmen Chu, who worked closely with Lee on the proposal, said the collaborative budget process this year was a change from previous years with former Mayor Gavin Newsom, who was elected last November as the state's lieutenant governor, and should lead to less acrimony when the board debates the proposal.

"The key difference is a very concerted effort to work together ahead of time," Chu said.


San Quentin Inmate Hospitalized After Brutal Attack

A San Quentin State Prison inmate returned to the facility Wednesday after he was transported to an outside hospital Wednesday morning for treatment of injuries sustained during what a correctional lieutenant said was a "concerted, orchestrated attack."

The man and his attackers, who were all Hispanic inmates that belonged to the West Block, were in the exercise yard at about 8:50 a.m. when the group of at least five men began attacking the lone victim, Lt. Sam Robinson said.

His attackers used slashing and puncture type weapons, what Robinson characterized as "inmate-made weapons," on the man before staff who observed the fight-in-progress used pepper spray and "less lethal rounds" to "quell" the men, he said.

Inmates sometimes construct the improvised weapons, according to Robinson, by altering prison-issued shaving blades or cutting scrap metal from otherwise harmless objects.

"There are a slew of ways that inmates acquire weapons," he said. 

The victim was transported to an outside hospital for treatment of injuries that were not life-threatening, and Robinson said Wednesday night that the inmate had returned to the prison.

The inmates were assigned to the West Block, which is sometimes referred to as the prison's revolving door because it is the reception facility that processes and reassigns new commitments. 

Robinson said that inmates typically stay there for fewer than 90 days until they can be assigned to an institution suitable for their housing, ranging from low-level to maximum-level security facilities. 

Since Wednesday morning's attack, the housing unit had been placed on a modified program pending an investigation, Robinson said, meaning that its 814 men are only allowed to leave their cells for medical appointments.

The reception center intakes inmates from 19 counties surrounding and including those in the Bay Area.

Robinson said he did not yet have information on when the victim was initially admitted to the prison, but said he was "fairly new."

"It's safe to say that it was probably a gang-related disturbance, although it is early in the investigation," he said. Investigators still have to interview all the housing unit's inmates as well as the victim and the suspects.


Contractor WIthdraws From Rebuilding San Bruno Homes

The idea of moving back into a home has become a pipe dream for five San Bruno families, whose contractor recently made a mysterious withdrawal from rebuilding houses that were ravaged when a transmission line ruptured in September.

Castro Valley-based Vanderbuilt Construction has apparently pulled out of rebuilding five homes of families who were forced to evacuate when a
gas pipeline exploded under the Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood on Sept. 9, destroying 38 homes and killing eight people.

The company sent an email to the customers on Friday saying its operations were stopping until Monday, according to the Contractors State License Board.

A spokeswoman for PG&E -- which introduced Vanderbuilt Construction to the families -- said it was her understanding that the contractor is going out of business.

"We are deeply troubled by this development, and we will continue to do everything we can to help everyone affected by this terrible tragedy," PG&E spokeswoman Brittany Chord said.

Chord said PG&E did not recommend Vanderbuilt Construction to the families, but had the contractor on-hand to pay them out for items like a broken window or damaged door directly following the blast.

She could not comment whether PG&E would be arranging an alternate contractor.

Vanderbuilt Construction representatives were not available by phone Wednesday morning. Calls were routed to an answering service.

"I guess they're taking extended vacation," said Cody, an employee at the answering service who declined to give his last name.

A customer complaint against the contractor was filed with the state license board on Tuesday, but officials have yet to investigate the credibility of the grievance, spokeswoman Venus Stromberg said.

"The complaint was from Concord, not San Bruno," she said.

She said the board did not know if the company was closing.

"Whether they go out of business doesn't necessarily affect their contractor license," she said. "But they're on our radar now."


Woman Accused of Attempted Murder of Ex-Husband and Murdering His Gradmother Testifies

A woman accused of attempting to murder her ex-husband in a custody battle over their daughter and murdering his 91-year-old grandmother said Wednesday that she and her ex-husband had a "very complicated" relationship.

Taking the witness stand in her own defense, Rosa Hill, 36, said she realized shortly after she began dating Eric Hill in 2003 that he had psychiatric problems, so she soon tried to end their relationship.

But Rosa Hill, testifying in a voice so quiet that the judge in her case ordered her to speak up, said she continued dating Eric Hill, eventually married him in 2005, and had a child with him in 2006 because, "He told me he couldn't live without me and if I left him he would die."

Prosecutor Casey Bates told jurors in his opening statement last month that Rosa Hill and her mother, 57-year-old Mei Li of Antioch, murdered 91-year-old Selma Hill at her home in the 770 block of Peppertree Road in Dublin on Jan. 7, 2009, in a "cold-blooded and premeditated" fashion.

Bates said Rosa Hill and Li wanted to kill Eric Hill, 39, and Selma Hill because he had sole legal custody and 85 percent physical custody of the couple's daughter, who was two years old at the time. He and the daughter were living with Selma Hill.

Bates said Rosa Hill and Li planned the attack at Selma Hill's home for months, buying a gun, stun guns, a hammer, a sword, a crossbow, an axe, a hacksaw, handcuffs, pepper spray and other weapons. 

He said they also did extensive research on the Internet on how to get away with murder and use deadly substances such as arsenic, nerve gas, mustard gas and ammonia.

But Rosa Hill's lawyer, Bonnie Narby, told jurors that she does not think the alleged attack was a murder because Hill never intended to kill Eric Hill or his grandmother.

Instead, Narby said she thinks Rosa Hill acted in the heat of passion because she was overwhelmed by the custody battle over the couple's daughter and their divorce proceedings.


State Appellate Court: Owner of Shot Cat May Sue Alleged Perpetrator

A state appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that a Brentwood man whose cat was partly paralyzed by a shot from a pellet gun can try to sue the alleged perpetrator for $36,000 in surgery and care costs.

The Court of Appeal, in a ruling issued Tuesday, said that even though the costs exceed the market value of Kevin Kimes' cat, California law allows him to seek the reasonable costs of repair of his property.

Pets are considered property under California law. 

Kimes's cat, a long-haired orange tabby named Pumkin, was shot with a pellet gun on Oct. 28, 2005, as he sat on a fence between Kimes' and his neighbors' backyards.

Kimes, 46, a semiconductor engineer, claims in a Contra Costa County lawsuit that the neighbors -- either Charles Grosser, who was then an 18-year-old student at Los Medanos College, or his father, Joseph Grosser -- shot Pumkin.

The Grossers deny they had anything to do with the shooting and maintain they did not own a pellet gun, according to their lawyer, Kevin Cholakian.

"This is not the Kennedy assassination," Cholakian said.  "This is a poor cat someone shot with a pellet gun. It's really terrible, but it wasn't our kid," the attorney said, referring to Charles Grosser.

The appeals court ruling did not address whether the Grossers are liable for the shooting, but merely allows Kimes to claim at a future trial that they were responsible and to seek reimbursement for $6,000 in veterinary surgery costs and $30,000 for additional care expenses.

A trial jury will decide whether the Grossers were responsible and if so, whether the $36,000 costs were reasonable. 

Kimes said of the ruling, "I'm ecstatic about it. Win, lose or draw, I want to be heard in court. I want Pumkin to get his justice.


Caltrain Hits Man on Tracks - Seventh Fatality This Year

A southbound Caltrain struck and killed a man Wednesday night on the tracks south of the San Antonio station in Mountain View, according to a Caltrain spokeswoman.

The man was struck at about 6:50 p.m., spokeswoman Christine Dunn said. The incident remains under investigation and officials had not yet determined whether this was an intentional act, she said. 

The 400 passengers about train No. 382, which operates on Caltrain's Baby Bullet express service and makes select stops, were transferred another train that will continue south to the San Jose Diridon station.

Dunn said a bus was provided for passengers on the following Baby Bullet train, No. 386, which was scheduled to reach the Sunnyvale station at 7:21 p.m.

Both tracks in the area of the incident were closed as of 8:30 p.m.

This is the seventh fatality on the Caltrain tracks this year, of which three were determined to be suicides and three remain under investigation. Last year there were 11 fatalities.


Victim of Sunday Shooting in Oakland Identified

A San Leandro man who was killed in a shooting Sunday night in Oakland has been identified by the Alameda County coroner's bureau. 

Eric Bush, 29, was shot along with two other victims near the East Bay Dragons Motorcycle Club on 8731 International Blvd. at about 9:20 p.m., according to police and the coroner's bureau. The three victims were found with gunshot wounds near the East Bay Dragons' clubhouse, police spokeswoman Holly Joshi said.

Bush and Latoya Jameika Kenny, 28, of Union City, were pronounced dead at the scene, according to police. 

Another woman, a 28-year-old San Leandro resident, was transported to Highland Hospital with life-threatening injuries, police said.

The woman was still being treated for her injuries as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to the coroner's bureau.

No arrests have been reported.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Police Department's Homicide Section at (510) 238-3821.


Pedestrian Hit By Car in San Jose, Dies of Injuries

A man who was struck by a car in San Jose last week has died from his injuries, police said Wednesday.

The accident happened at about 7:55 a.m. on May 25 on southbound Monterey Road at Southside Drive, according to police.

The victim was taken to Regional Medical Center of San Jose, where he died two days later. He has been identified as Jaime Barajas, 41, of Oakland.

Police said Barajas was walking across the southbound lanes of Monterey Road when a 2006 Ford Focus driven by a 41-year-old San Jose woman struck him.

The driver of the Ford was questioned by investigators and released.

Alcohol does not appear to have been a factor in the collision, police said.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Detective Michael O'Brien at (408) 277-4654. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call the Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers at (408) 947-STOP (7867) or visit http://svcrimestoppers.org/.


Suspicious Package in SF Courthouse Deemed Harmless

A suspicious package that prompted the partial evacuation of the federal courthouse at Seventh and Mission streets in San Francisco late Wednesday morning was deemed harmless Wednesday afternoon, police said.

The package was reported at about 11:30 a.m. in a basement mailroom where incoming packages are X-rayed, police Officer Albie Esparza said.

One package was deemed suspicious, and the Federal Protective Service, which provides security at the courthouse, asked the Police Department's bomb squad to respond, Esparza said.

The basement and first floor of the building were evacuated, and people on the other floors were told to shelter in place, he said. 

Stevenson Street, an alley that runs behind the building, was closed between Sixth and Seventh streets.

Investigators eventually learned that the object was an electronic device that was being delivered to someone in the building, police Lt. Troy Dangerfield said.

Many who work in the courthouse decided to go home before the device was deemed harmless at about 3:40 p.m., according to police.

Bomb-sniffing dogs went through the building after the commotion to check for any additional suspicious items.


Baby Swan Hatched at Palace of Fine Arts

Two proud parents welcomed the newest addition to grace the Palace of Fine Arts lagoon Monday. 

Martha was hatched on Memorial Day to the excitement of her parents Blue Boy and Blanche, said Gayle Hagerty, who has been caring for swans at the Palace of Fine Arts for 18 years.

Though days old, the baby swan is not afraid to get her feathers ruffled, Hagerty said. Martha is already very active and spends her days swimming in the lagoon.

But like most new parents, Blue Boy and Blanche keep a watchful eye over their cygnet.

"Blue boy is incredibly protective. If you go near the nest or Martha, he'll just come right up after you," she said. "He looks scary."

The nest has three eggs, and if they are not infertile, they will hatch within the next couple days, Hagerty said.

The nest is sectioned off with a small fence to prevent anyone from tampering with the eggs, San Francisco Recreation and Park spokeswoman Connie Chan said. 

If the eggs do not hatch, the family of three will be the only swans in the lagoon. 

Bella, a 2-year-old swan who fractured her webbed foot last month, is still recovering at her birth home in Point Reyes.

"She's on vacation," Chan said.

Jack Long, the exotic bird breeder who is caring for Bella, said  she is "perfectly well" and he anticipates her return to the Palace of Fine
Arts lagoon in the next few days.

Letters "written" by Bella address her desire to head home, Long said.

"Hey, I want to go. Jack treats me real nice, but I want to see my buddies," Bella writes, proving that her foot has healed. 

Before Bella returns, some of the rocks in the lagoon, which Long suspects she caught herself between, might be removed.

Hagerty said she hopes Bella's return will bring balance to the swans at the Palace of Fine Arts with the coupling of the two pairs.

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Three Bay Area Youths Competing in National Spelling Bee Prelims Today

Three Bay Area students are hoping to showcase their knowledge of adjectives, verbs, nouns and even some medical terminology in the 2011 Scripps National Spelling Bee preliminary competition today.

The students hail from San Jose, Walnut Creek and Salinas, and are among 275 spellers who advanced to the national competition in National Harbor, Md., according to competition organizers.

The students took a 25-word written test on Tuesday and must spell two words on stage today.

The 50 students with the highest cumulative scores at the end of today will move on to Thursday's semifinals and then, they hope, advance to the Thursday night championship round.

The Bay Area's competitors range in age from 10 to 14 and have interests as diverse as the words they spelled Wednesday, which included benediction, electromagnetic and pinealectomy, or removal of the pineal gland.

Varsha Senthil, 10, is a fifth-grader at the Challenger School, Harwood in San Jose. She speaks Tamil fluently and plays piano, and in her free time she likes to play soccer, read and draw. She hopes to become a veterinarian someday.

Varsha correctly spelled the word "assurgent," meaning curving upward or ascendant, during the second round of the competition today. 

Kate Anoufrieva, 14, a native Russian speaker who is in the eighth grade at Walnut Creek Intermediate School, loves to play piano and take Irish and Spanish dance, according to competition organizers.

She correctly spelled "aerobicize," meaning to improve physical condition by increasing the heart rate, during round two.

Dylan Bird, 12, is in the seventh grade at the Monterey County Home Charter School in Salinas. He loves art and design and hopes to be a video game designer when he grows up. He also enjoys taking tennis and karate lessons, and studying Latin and Japanese.

He correctly spelled "heresimach," meaning someone engaged in fighting heresy and heretics, on stage today.

The semifinalists will be announced at about 2:30 p.m. PST today at www.spellingbee.com.

The semifinals will be broadcast live on ESPN starting at 7 a.m. PST.
CONTACT: Eva Hollenberg, Bee spokeswoman (513) 977-3040

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Bluetooth Bandit Strikes San Francisco

San Francisco police are seeking a thief they are calling the "Bluetooth Bandit" because he often wears the earpiece while robbing his victims of their purses or wallets.

The man is wanted in connection with at least eight thefts around San Francisco in which he looks for female victims who have draped their purses on chairs or set them on the floor beside them in restaurants, bars and coffee shops, police said.

He uses his own jacket as a distraction while he steals the victims' property and has worked with accomplices, mostly female, to distribute credit and debit cards stolen from the victims that were then usedto make fraudulent purchases, according to police.

The thief is described as a black man in his 40s or 50s who is between 5 feet 8 and 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs between 160 and 175 pounds. He has short hair, is usually well-dressed, and generally wears a Bluetooth earpiece and walks with a distinct "pigeon-toed" gait, police said.

He is wanted for at least eight thefts and is suspected in at least six others, mostly in the northern part of the city. His accomplices are also suspected in crimes being investigated in Sacramento County and Mountain View, and by the U.S. Postal Police.

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

CONTACT: San Francisco police (415) 553-1651
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