Two Survivors Describe Moments Leading Up To Deadly Limo Fire In Redwood City
Two of four women who survived a deadly limousine fire in May described in statements released Monday the final tense moments before five women perished after the vehicle came to a halt on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge.
Amalia Loyola, 48, of San Leandro, told investigators the bridal shower group had just opened a bottle of Champagne when she felt the vehicle hit a bump, then saw black smoke coming from beneath her feet Loyola, seated in the rear of the passenger compartment, told everyone about the smoke and moved up past the bride-to-be's presents to the front of the limo to join three other passengers.
She then immediately saw flames burst out in the rear next where the other five women sat.
"Nobody followed me after," Loyola said of the five women. "They were just sitting there. I don't know if they passed out or what. But the thing is nobody followed me. I was the only one that moved. They were just sitting there."
Mary Guardiano, 42, of Alameda, had saved herself after squeezing through the burning limo's narrow privacy partition when she ran over and opened both rear doors to free the others trapped inside.
But "flames shot out of the doorway and she was unable to go inside to grab anyone," reported a California Highway Patrol officer who took her statement. "She said she stepped back and the doors shut automatically. She said the (limo) driver just stood with his cellphone."
The women's statements were released Monday with the announcement by authorities that the limousine fire was caused by a mechanical problem and that no criminal charges would be filed in connection with the tragedy.
The announcement was made by the CHP, the San Mateo County coroner's and district attorney's offices and other agencies at a news conference Monday afternoon at the CHP's Redwood City office.
The limousine, driven by Orville Brown, 46, had a failure of its rear air suspension system, causing the vehicle's driveshaft to shift and make contact with the floorboard.
The metal-to-metal friction generated heat that sparked the fire, according to a report released by the CHP.
"The overall nature of this tragedy was not something that was foreseeable," CHP Cmdr. Mike Maskarich said.
Investigators determined that Brown was not on his cellphone when the fire started, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
Wagstaffe said his office looked into manslaughter, criminal negligence or other possible charges before determining that no charges would be filed against the driver or TownCar SF, the company that owned and operated the limo.
"Some tragedies are crimes and some are not. This tragedy was not," Wagstaffe said.
Investigators also learned that the limo, a Ford Lincoln produced in 1998 that had more than 200,000 miles on it at the time of the fire, had been reported stolen on Sept. 9, 2004, and found days later stripped of parts.
The vehicle was repaired in Southern California for about $14,000 by a now-closed business but it was not clear how much of it had been refurbished compared to its original state, the CHP reported.
Oakland Police Identify Suspect In Telegraph Avenue Shooting Saturday
Oakland police have identified a suspect Monday who allegedly shot at several witnesses to a car burglary downtown on Saturday afternoon.
Police arrested 20-year-old Demetrius Lashun Ward Monday morning, according to court records.
Police said that Ward allegedly broke into a car in the 1700 block of Telegraph Avenue at about 4 p.m., stole items and ran away.
Several witnesses chased after him and recovered the stolen property.
But Ward allegedly came back on a bicycle minutes later and opened fire, wounding two women and two men before he fled again.
All four victims suffered gunshot wounds that are not considered life-threatening, according to police.
Police said Ward is facing charges of attempted murder, three counts of assault with a semi-automatic firearm, a count of second degree auto burglary and violation of probation.
Ward is being held without bail and scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday afternoon, according to court records.
Oakland Blues Singer Seeks $5M In Damages For Attack At Music Festival
The city of Hayward and the Bay Area Blues Society are partially responsible for a woman's attack on blues singer Lester Chambers after he dedicated a song to Trayvon Martin at blues festival last month, Chambers' attorney alleged Monday.
Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, who represents Chambers, a 73-year-old Petaluma man, said the blues society should have done a better job of providing security at the Hayward Russell City Blues Festival on July 13 and the city should have done a better job of supervising the event.
Dinalynn Potter, a 43-year-old woman from Barstow, has been charged with felony assault and felony elder abuse for allegedly attacking Chambers after he announced he would sing Curtis Mayfield's song "People Get Ready" in honor of Martin, a 17-year-old black youth who was fatally shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Florida last year.
Chambers dedicated the song several hours before jurors in Zimmerman's trial acquitted him of all charges.
Burris said he's filing a $5 million claim on Chambers' behalf against the city of Hayward and a lawsuit against Potter and the blues society seeking an identical amount.
The lawsuit alleges that Potter rushed the stage after Chambers said he would sing the song, throwing herself on him, punching him repeatedly with her fists, calling him names and "making derogatory slurs implicating his race."
Chambers is black and Potter is white.
The suit also alleges that security personnel whose services were retained for the concert were on a smoking break when the attack occurred.
Speaking at a news conference in his office, Burris said security personnel should have been paying more attention because "it was a highly volatile time" because of the jury's deliberations in Zimmerman's case and many police agencies were on high alert.
Chambers said Potter's attack was "totally unexpected" and left him "in total shock" because he had dedicated the song as a goodwill gesture of "peace, love, joy and a desire to make a change" and he didn't condone any violence.
Chambers said he suffered bruises, cuts and other injuries to his ribs, hands and face and has been forced to postpone a tour he was planning to promote a CD he's in the process of completing.
He said, "It's still a nightmare and I'm shaking all the time" and he's had difficulty sleeping.
Hayward City Attorney Michael Lawson said he has no comment on the claim because the city just received it.
He said the city has 45 days to process the claim.
Bay Area Blues Society officials couldn't be reached for comment.
Burris said, "There's no doubt this was a hate crime" and he believes the Alameda County District Attorney's Office should have charged Potter with a hate crime in addition to assault and elder abuse.
District attorney's office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick didn't comment directly on the decision not to charge Potter with a hate crime, saying only that, "We charged that which we felt appropriate to charge based upon all of the evidence reviewed."
Antioch Police Arrest Suspect In Fatal Stabbing At Gas Station
Police have arrested a suspect in a fatal stabbing at a gas station in Antioch on Saturday night.
A 34-year-old man from Antioch was arrested for allegedly stabbing another man at a Chevron gas station at 3201 Delta Fair Blvd., Sgt. Tony Morefield said Monday.
At about 7:40 p.m. Saturday, the victim was found by police suffering from several stab wounds.
He was taken to a hospital where he died, according to police.
The victim has been identified by the Contra Costa County coroner's office as 49-year-old Antioch resident Kann Cendejaf.
The suspect was found at the scene, taken to the Police Department for questioning and was arrested the same night, Morefield said.
Police are not yet releasing the name of the suspect, pending a review of the case by the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office.
Anyone with information about the stabbing is asked to call Antioch police at (925) 779-6894.
Trial Begins For Former Sheriff's Deputy Accused In Dirty DUI Case
A prosecutor told a federal jury in San Francisco Monday that a former Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy metaphorically "sold his badge" when he allegedly arranged so-called "dirty DUI" arrests for a private investigator.
Monday was the first day of trial for Stephen Tanabe, 50, of Alamo, on seven federal charges related to his role in the drunken driving arrests of three husbands of clients of former investigator Christopher Butler in Danville in late 2010 and early 2011.
Tanabe allegedly received cocaine and an expensive Glock gun from Butler in exchange for the arrests, which were intended to strengthen the wives' positions in divorce and custody cases and which came after employees of Butler enticed the men to get drunk.
"To put it more bluntly, he sold his badge," Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Kearney told the jury during his opening statement in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer.
"In selling his badge, he let loose intoxicated drivers on the street of Danville, a town he was sworn to protect," Kearney said. "He violated his duty to provide honest services," the prosecutor charged.
Butler's driving-under-the-influence operations were part of a wide-ranging Contra Costa County police corruption scandal centered on Butler and former drug squad commander Norman Wielsch.
Both Butler, who is slated to be a key prosecution witness against Tanabe, and Wielsch have pleaded guilty to an array of charges including drug offenses, conspiracy and civil rights violations.
Butler was sentenced to eight years in prison and Wielsch, the former commander of the now-disbanded Central Contra Costa County Narcotics Enforcement Team, was sentenced to 14 years.
Among other crimes, Butler admitted to staging drunken driving arrests and extorting protection money from employees of an illegal massage parlor that he and Wielsch founded.
Both men admitted to selling marijuana and methamphetamine that Wielsch stole from CNET evidence lockers; conducting phony stings in which they stole property and cash from prostitutes who were rivals of the massage parlor employees; and staging a phony arrest of a teenager whose mother wanted him to stop selling drugs.
Tanabe's trial is expected to last about two weeks.
Defense attorney Tim Pori told the jury during his opening statement that he plans to attack the credibility of Butler and other prosecution witnesses, including Carl Marino, a top Butler aide.
"The evidence will show this case is based on lies, lies, and more lies," Pori said.
"These are people who built their careers on lies, deception and destroying people," the defense attorney said.
"Chris Butler is a masterful manipulator and one of his favorite things to do was to frame people," said Pori, who charged that Butler will be seeking to aid prosecutors when on the stand in a bid to have his prison term reduced.
Pori said he didn't dispute that Tanabe participated in the three arrests, but said officers in the low-crime town had performance objectives that included making DUI arrests, and said it was normal for them to wait outside bars to watch for intoxicated drivers.
He said the alleged cocaine payment was never found and that while a Glock gun was found in Tanabe's home, there was no proof he received it in exchange for the arrests.
Pori said Butler admitted to staging a total of 12 dirty DUI arrests in various Bay Area locations, and contended Butler didn't need to pay Tanabe because he didn't pay the officers in the other cities.
Jury Begins Deliberations At Joseph Naso Trial
Jurors began deliberations Monday afternoon after hearing evidence for two months in Marin County Superior Court at former commercial photographer Joseph Naso's trial for allegedly killing four prostitutes.
The prosecution presented 70 witnesses and Naso called seven witnesses to the stand.
He is charged with strangling the women whose bodies were found off the side of rural roads in Marin, Contra Costa and Yuba counties between 1977 and 1994.
Deputy District Attorney Rosemary Slote told the jury in her closing argument Naso picked up the women in his car, took them home, strangled them and dumped their bodies.
The prosecution presented DNA evidence it claims links Naso to the murders of Roxene Roggasch, 18, of Oakland and Carmen Colon, 22, an East Bay resident.
Roggasch's body was found on Jan. 11, 1977, near Fairfax in Marin County and Colon's body was discovered off Carquinez Scenic Drive near Port Costa in Contra Costa County.
The other victims are Yuba County residents Pamela Parsons, 38, of Linda, and Tracy Tafoya, 31.
Parsons's body was found on Sept. 19, 1993, in Yuba County and Tafoya's body was found in Yuba County on Aug. 14, 1994.
Naso, 79, of Reno, has been representing himself.
During his five-hour closing argument on Friday and Monday, Naso asked the jury to ignore the prosecution's attempt to "mislead" them with illegal circumstantial evidence and "inflame" them with photographs of the women's bodies.
Naso told the jury if they disregard the prosecution's "tattletales" about his alleged past sexual offenses, they will be convinced he is not guilty of all four murders.
Naso said he had no motive to kill anyone because he had a good family life and was involved in community service.
He admitted he picked up Parsons hitchhiking and photographed her but said he didn't kill her.
Regarding the prosecution's contention that his DNA was found in some semen in the pantyhose Roggasch was wearing inside out when her body was found, Naso said that would only prove he might have had sex with her.
"But I don't remember," he said.
Naso's wife Judith's DNA also was found in a pair of pantyhose that was wrapped around Roggash's neck, according to the prosecution.
The prosecution also introduced diaries Naso kept that purportedly give accounts of women he raped in several cities between 1950 and 1970, and a handwritten list the prosecution believes refers to at least seven women, including the four murder victims, and where he dumped their bodies.
Naso said his "date diaries," and the list do not contain the names of the alleged victims or time and place of any murders or alleged sexual assaults.
"I'm not on trial for sexual assault," he told the jury several times during his closing statement.
"This case is about murder not about events and activities that have never been charged as crimes," Naso said.
Rather than refuting what Slote said the prosecution proved, Naso told the jury what was not proved.
"The prosecution can't prove I am capable of lifting over 30 pounds due to a bad back and torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder and a fracture in my left elbow," Naso told the jury.
"The prosecution can't prove I'm capable of killing four people and transporting them long distances and dumping their bodies," he said.
Oakland Death Of Father, Daughter Ruled Murder-Suicide
The death of a father and daughter at an Oakland home early Monday morning has been ruled a murder-suicide by investigators, a police spokeswoman said.
The father was identified as 88-year-old William Roberts, who fatally shot his 57-year-old daughter Marian and then killed himself, Oakland police Officer Johnna Watson said.
They were found by officers who responded at 4:32 a.m. to the home in the 4100 block of Fruitvale Avenue, Watson said.
No other information about the case was immediately available Monday afternoon from police.
Oakland Protesting Truckers Block Port Terminals
A protest by as many as 120 truckers forced some terminals at the Port of Oakland to close temporarily Monday but Oakland police are working to try to keep all the terminals operational, a port spokeswoman said.
All but one of the five terminals at the port were able to conduct at least some type of operation Monday morning but the situation was "fluid" and sometimes terminals were closed and sometimes they were open, according to port spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur.
At one point all the terminals were blocked by protesting truckers who blocked their gates, but Oakland police later came to the scene to make sure that trucks can get in and out of all the terminals, Sandifur said.
She described the protesters as "a group of truckers" but said she didn't know the reason for the protest.
Sandifur said there wasn't any protest activity during the lunch hour.
Sandifur estimated that about 100 to 120 truckers participated at the peak of the protest.
She said that's a small percentage of the total of 6,800 registered truckers who do business at the port.
Man, Woman Shot In Visitacion Valley
A man and a woman were shot Monday afternoon in San Francisco's Visitacion Valley neighborhood, according to police.
Officers responded to the corner of Sunnydale Avenue and Bayshore Boulevard at 4:58 p.m.
They found a man in his 40s and a woman suffering gunshot wounds and both were taken to San Francisco General Hospital.
The man's injuries are considered life-threatening and the woman's are not, police said.
Police are looking for a suspect, a man between 20 and 25 years old who fled in a burgundy sedan, according to police.
Weather Forecast For The San Francisco Bay Area
Mostly cloudy skies and patchy fog are expected in the Bay Area this morning, with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms.
Highs are likely to be in the 50s to upper 60s, with southwest winds up to 20 mph.
Mostly cloudy skies are expected this evening with patchy fog and a slight chance of thunderstorms after midnight.
Lows are likely to be in the mid 50s, with southwest winds up to 20 mph.
Cloudy skies and patchy fog are likely Wednesday morning, with a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms.
Highs are expected to be in the 50s to upper 60s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph.
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