San Francisco Bay Area Friday Midday News Roundup

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SF: City Leaders Trek Alongside Residents At Walk To Work Day

Many steps were taken during the morning commute today for San Francisco's first Walk to Work Day.

City leaders, including police Chief Greg Suhr, Mayor Ed Lee, many supervisors and the director of the city's Municipal Transportation Agency, joined participants in walking to workplaces throughout the city as part of the event organized by the nonprofit Walk SF.

This morning, Supervisors Katy Tang and London Breed dropped by a hub at Octavia and Hayes streets, where residents stopped on their walks to pick up complimentary coffee, stickers, $2 Clipper cards, and other freebies.

Breed shared her excitement to make Walk to Work Day an annual event similar to the well-known Bike to Work Day, while Tang highlighted walking for health.

"It's easy to forget to walk," Tang said. "We have to make a conscious reminder to ourselves."

Buena Vista Heights resident Mike Baehr was walking this morning from his home to Levi's Plaza where he works on Battery Street. He stopped at the Walk to Work Day booth in Hayes Valley.

"I love walking in San Francisco," he said. "There's always something new to check out."

Former city supervisor Sophie Maxwell, who volunteers with Walk SF, was at Octavia and Hayes streets before heading over to City Hall where a news conference was held this morning.

She touted the health benefits of walking and emphasized that pedestrians are able to take in more of the city, noticing local shops and sights.

Mayor Lee walked along Market Street starting from the Powell BART station before arriving at City Hall.

Lee said using his feet to get around made him feel more connected to the city.

"Walking can be glorious, fun and you learn a lot," he said.

He noted his walk gave him an opportunity to observe revitalization efforts along Market Street and see local businesses serving the community.

"You don't get to see that unless you are walking our streets," he said.

The mayor also announced steps to reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities as part of the city's pedestrian strategy.

There have been seven pedestrian fatalities in San Francisco so far this year; last year there were 20 pedestrian deaths in the city.

The citywide strategy aims to reduce serious or fatal pedestrian injury incidents by 25 percent by 2016 and by 50 percent by 2021.

Lee laid out plans that include fixing 44 miles of streets, extending crosswalk times for pedestrians, upgrading 13,000 curb ramps in the next 10 years and working with police to enforce laws, such as slower speed limits and not driving under the influence.

"Behaviors won't change unless we enforce laws," Lee said. "We can do things to prevent accidents."

Chief Suhr said pedestrians should feel safe walking through the city, and that motorists need to contribute to safety efforts.

He advised walkers to pay attention and put down cellphones while on the move and reminded motorists to stay focused on the road and be mindful of pedestrians.

"Get out and enjoy (today) on your ones and twos," he said.

SFMTA director of transportation Ed Reiskin noted that walking is a free method to get around and is a zero-emission activity.

Plus, "you don't have to look for parking," Reiskin said.

"Walking is an extremely important part of making San Francisco the great city it is," he said.

Walk to Work Day participants have opportunities throughout the day to win prizes by posting about their walking experience online.

The day will end with a happy hour celebration for walkers at Show Dogs restaurant at 1020 Market St. starting at 5:30 p.m.

At the restaurant, prize winners will be announced, including the title of "Longest Walking Commute," with the office of Supervisor John Avalos up for contention with their 5-mile trek from Mama Art Cafe in the Excelsior District to City Hall this morning.

Alameda Co.: Boy Killed On Train Tracks Identified As Hayward Resident

A boy who was fatally struck by an Amtrak train in San Lorenzo on Thursday evening has been identified as 15-year-old Austin Price of Hayward, according to the Alameda County coroner's bureau.

Price was struck on the tracks north of the Hayward Amtrak station at about 6:40 p.m., Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.

The victim was hit by Train 544 traveling from San Jose to Sacramento, Magliari said.

The 133 passengers and five crewmembers aboard the train were not injured. The collision caused delays of about two hours for Capitol Corridor Amtrak trains.

The tracks in the area are owned by Union Pacific Railroad.

Newark: Lumber Company Employee Taken To Hospital After Chemical Spill

An employee at a lumber company in Newark was taken to the hospital this morning after a drum of an unknown chemical was punctured by a forklift, an Alameda County fire spokeswoman said today.

The fire department was called to Hulbert Lumber Co. at 37500 Cedar Blvd. shortly after 9 a.m. on a report of an employee feeling unwell, department spokeswoman Aisha Knowles said.

The hazardous materials team was called in around 9:25 a.m. after firefighters learned the employee, a 27-year-old man, might have been exposed to a chemical on the site.

The chemical was spilled after a forklift driver accidentally punctured a drum, Knowles said.

The employee was taken to a hospital, but his injuries are not considered life-threatening, Knowles said.

About a dozen employees at the business were evacuated from the site while the hazardous materials team responded.

Late this morning, the team was conducting tests to determine what the chemical is, Knowles said.

No other businesses or homes in the area were evacuated or affected by the incident.

Newark police are also on the scene providing traffic control and backup. 

Scotts Valley: School Closed Today After Message Posted On Facebook

Scotts Valley police are investigating an online threat from someone who wrote that they would be "shooting up" Scotts Valley High School, prompting the school to cancel classes today.

A student called police at 10 p.m. Thursday to report reading a post on a Facebook page titled "Scotts Valley High School" that mentioned "shooting up the school," police Lt. John Wilson said.

"If you go to school tomorrow, you will die," the post read, according to police.

Officers contacted school officials, who canceled today's classes at the high school located at 555 Glenwood Drive, Wilson said.

The Facebook page in the school's name is not an official school website and was created by a student who is not considered responsible for the threatening post, Wilson said.

The person who wrote the post used an alias on Facebook and police are tying to trace the location of the message, he said.

Scotts Valley police stationed an officer at the closed high school and also sent officers to an elementary school and a middle school in Scotts Valley that remain open, Wilson said.

Another elementary school in the Scotts Valley area is under the jurisdiction of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department, which was made aware of the threat, Wilson said.

This is the first time in memory that Scotts Valley High has been closed because of a threat, Wilson said.

"We've dealt with cyber bullies before," he said. "It's getting to be more common that we'd like it to be."

A message posted on the school's website by Scotts Valley Unified School District Superintendent Penny Weaver said police are working with school officials in investigating the threat.

Weaver said updates will be sent via email to all parents and staff in the district's database and will be posted on its website at www.scottsvalleyusd.org.

Scotts Valley police have asked those with any information about the threat to call the department at (831) 440-5670.

Fremont: Two-Alarm Fire Destroys House; Dog Unaccounted For

A two-alarm fire destroyed a home in Fremont this morning, a fire captain said.

The blaze was reported at 7:04 a.m. at a single-family home at 43106 Continental Drive.

Firefighters arrived to find the house in flames that were also spreading to adjacent residences, fire Capt. Don Linneman said.

The two adults and five children living at the home made it out safe, as did three of the family's dogs.

However, a fourth dog is unaccounted for, Linneman said.

The fire has since been extinguished but "the home is pretty much a total loss," Linneman said.

He said the homes on the left and right of 43106 Continental Drive were also damaged, as was a fence and shed to the rear of the home.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Linneman said.

SF: One Injured In Multi-Vehicle Accident Involving F-Line Streetcar

A San Francisco Municipal Railway streetcar rear-ended a car that was involved in a multi-vehicle accident on Market Street this morning, according to an agency spokesman.

The collision, which involved four cars and the Muni F-Market & Wharves streetcar, occurred around 10:20 a.m. on Market Street near Sanchez Street, Muni spokesman Paul Rose said.

The lead vehicle in a line of cars stopped quickly, forcing the three cars behind it to also brake abruptly, Rose said.

The streetcar was unable to stop in time and struck the rear car from behind, he said.

Rose had initially said it was the streetcar that had been rear-ended by another vehicle.

One driver was taken to the hospital, but Rose did not know his condition, nor which car he was in.

No one on the streetcar was injured.

Inbound streetcars and buses on Market Street were being blocked by the incident and streetcar passengers were being rerouted by bus as of late this morning, Rose said.

Affected bus lines are also detouring. Outbound routes are not affected. F-Market passengers are asked to board at Church and Market streets or 17th and Noe streets.

Cloverdale: Ukiah Man Identified As Sawmill Worker Who Died Wednesday

The Sonoma County coroner's office has identified the Cloverdale sawmill worker who died Wednesday when he became entangled in machinery as 43-year-old Raul Samano Lule of Ukiah.

The Cloverdale Fire Protection District responded to the fatal incident at the Redwood Empire Sawmill on McCray Road around 1 p.m. Wednesday, Battalion Chief Rick Blackmon said.

Lule was pronounced dead at the scene.

He was found near a conveyor belt in the main sawmill of the facility, Blackmon said.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating the workplace death.

Lule's autopsy was scheduled for this morning.

Martinez: Man To Spend Life In Prison For Kidnapping, Raping Neighbor Boy

A Richmond man who kidnapped and raped a 13-year-old neighbor boy in 2011 will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge said today.

Jeremiah Jones, 26, received the tentative sentence in a Martinez courtroom this morning and is set to be formally sentenced next month on nine felony counts including kidnapping, sodomy and forced oral copulation.

Prosecutors said that on Feb. 4, 2011, Jones saw the victim skateboarding outside of his father's Richmond home, then grabbed and dragged him to a nearby alleyway where he sexually assaulted him.

Realizing his son was missing, the boy's father went looking for him and found the victim in the middle of the sexual assault, according to Deputy District Attorney Mary Blumberg.

The father brought Jones to the ground and held him there while his son called 911.

A jury convicted Jones in February on all nine counts against him.

Today, he apologized to the victim's family members and to his wife, who were sitting in court.

"There's not much I can say to repair the damage I've done, but I do want to say sorry for my actions," Jones said.

The court also heard from the victim's parents and grandmother, who described the heavy toll the attack has taken on the boy.

"On February 4, 2011, Jeremiah Jones viciously took away my grandson's safe and secure childhood," the victim's grandmother said through a court victim's advocate today.

Since that time, the victim, then an eighth grader, had to move away from his father's home, near where the attack occurred.

He has had trouble sleeping, keeping up his grades and even leaving the house, relatives said.

"As a mother, in my worst nightmares I would've never believed something like this would have happened to my son," the victim's mother told the court.

Judge Charles Burch noted that the nature of the crime, as well as Jones's prior criminal history, which includes a felony conviction, determined the sentence.

The judge is set to formally sentence Jones on May 3.

Santa Rosa: 15-Year Prison Term For Hate Crime Gang Assault

A white supremacist gang member charged with a hate crime in Santa Rosa last August was sentenced to 15 years in prison Thursday in Sonoma County Superior Court.

Aaron Joseph Welch, 26, of Clearlake, pleaded guilty in January to two assault charges and admitted causing great bodily injury to one of the two victims, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said.

Welch also admitted hate crime and gang allegations, Ravitch said.

His 15-year sentence was part of a plea agreement.

Welch and co-defendant Salvatore Bordessa, 32, of Windsor, were charged with assaulting two black men on Aug. 26 near the McDonald's restaurant on Santa Rosa Avenue in south Santa Rosa.

Welch stabbed one of the two victims, who are brothers, in the arm and leg with a knife while yelling racial slurs and "BBH", the initials of the "Barbarian Brotherhood," a white supremacist group, Ravitch said.

Bordessa, 33, of Windsor, also an alleged Barbarian Brotherhood gang member, and Vanessa Michaels, 25, of Novato, were held to answer on assault and gang membership charges after a preliminary hearing this month.

A witness tried to call 911 but Michaels allegedly took away her phone, Ravitch said.

During the preliminary hearing, Welch's attorney Rebecca Linkous said her client is not a member of the white supremacist group and did not make any threats to the girlfriend of one of the victims when she tried to call police.

Michaels dated Welch but broke up with him before the assault, Linkous said.

Bordessa faces 16 years to life in prison if he is convicted of the nine felony counts and hate crime and gang allegations against him.

Bordessa's attorney Joseph Passalacqua told preliminary hearing judge Gary Medvigy the confrontation began because one of the victims challenged Bordessa and Welch about statements they made to a pregnant woman.

San Mateo Co.: Congresswomen Hosts Gun Buyback Event This Saturday

After U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, held a successful gun buyback program in San Mateo County earlier this year, another is planned for this weekend.

San Mateo County residents can drop off weapons between 9 a.m. and noon Saturday at the buyback event in South San Francisco at the San Mateo County Superior Court's Northern Branch courthouse, located at 1050 Mission Road.

Participants will receive $100 cash for handguns, shotguns or rifles and up to $200 for assault weapons.

Guns will be accepted with no questions asked, but the weapons must be unloaded, organizers said.

In January, a buyback event at the San Mateo County Event Center in San Mateo netted more than 680 firearms, including 24 assault weapons, 338 handguns and 371 rifles.

About $63,500 was paid out to participants.

Speier will stop by Saturday's event as part of her political efforts to curb gun violence in Bay Area communities.

Following the deadly massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last December, Speier joined the congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force.

The Democratic group put together policy recommendations for comprehensive gun control in February, including stricter background checks, limits to ammunition and magazine purchases, and bans on assault weapons.

A modified package of gun reform laws is making its way through Congress this week.

The congresswoman will be accompanied on Saturday by police chiefs from several San Mateo County cities.

Those seeking more information about the buyback program are asked to call (650) 829-3700.

Watsonville: Three Teen Boys Arrested During In Progress Burglary

Three teen boys were arrested in connection with a residential burglary in Watsonville on Wednesday, police said.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Watsonville police received a report of an in progress residential burglary in the 200 block of Brennan Street, near Callaghan Park.

One male suspect was reportedly acting as a lookout, while two other male suspects entered the backyard of the residence, police said.

Watsonville police officers arrived at the residence and promptly set up a perimeter around the residence.

The officers made contact with the lookout and detained him.

The other two suspects fled out the back window of the residence, but were quickly captured and detained by officers.

During the investigation into the burglary, police discovered that the suspects entered the residence through an unlocked kitchen window and were in the process of ransacking the residence when police arrived.

The boys fled the home without any belongings.

The three juvenile males, ages 14, 14 and 15 were arrested for burglary and conspiracy to commit a crime, according to police.

The 15-year-old suspect was already on probation for burglary, was additionally charged with a probation violation, police said.

Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact police at (831) 768-3350 or anonymously at (831) 768-3350.

 

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