San Francisco Bay Area Tuesday Morning News Roundup

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Twin Bomb Blast at Boston Marathon Monday

A Bay Area runner had just crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday and was walking off his leg cramps when two bombs exploded behind him, killing three and injuring dozens in downtown Boston.

Stan Rowland, 60, an attorney from Alamo, said he heard a sound like he'd never heard before a block or two away and turned and saw smoke rising from the marathon route.

"It was absolutely horrific," he said.

Rowland's first reaction was to anger as he concluded that the two explosions were bombs.

He said that the event's volunteers kept remarkably calm, immediately guiding people from the chaotic scene of the blasts and clearing the area before police arrived.

Within minutes emergency responders swarmed the area, including police cars, ambulances and even military personnel who had previously been along the marathon's route as a tribute to the armed services.

At least three people were killed in the blasts, which occurred shortly before 3 p.m. Boston time.

Reports Monday evening indicated that an 8-year-old child was among the dead, and that more than 140 people were injured.

Rowland was in the area of the finish line for about 90 minutes following the explosions, calling friends and family and returning messages from people wondering if he was OK.

After that, he said, police started clearing a larger perimeter and shut down several blocks.

Many were stranded away from the marathon's stragglers as the police investigated, and were left wondering if their loved ones were alright.

Rowland stopped to talk to one girl behind him, tears streaming down her face, who didn't know where her father was and couldn't call him.

Police cars were flying down the streets, he said, and firefighters were investigating other suspicious packages found in the area feared to be more bombs.

Rowland said he has run 15 or 20 marathons before, but never Boston, and had always intended to as it is an old classic of marathon running.

"If you're a marathon runner you've got to do the Boston Marathon," he said.

Boston Marathon officials posted about the incident on the event's Facebook page just before 1 p.m.

"There were two bombs that exploded near the finish line in Monday's Boston Marathon. We are working with law enforcement to understand what exactly has happened," the statement read.

Another Bay Area resident, Berkeley resident Lucretia Ausse, 54, witnessed the bombs as she was about to receive her medal for finishing the race in just over four hours.

She said she heard an explosion and saw a plume of smoke.

About 10 seconds later, she heard a second blast.

"I thought it was a water cannon," she said Monday afternoon, "I thought that was odd."

She soon realized something serious was happening.

"There was definitely fear and panic in the crowd," she said.

She was able to get her gear from a tent where her cellphone was, but she was unable to connect with her partner, who was on the subway trying to meet up with her at the finish line.

Monday is a holiday in Massachusetts -- Patriots' Day -- and the subway was packed, Ausse said.

She said a frantic 30 minutes passed before they were able to meet up safely and return to their Beacon Hill bed and breakfast, where she said everyone was hunkering down, watching the news closely and following police orders.

"It was a very terrifying and saddening experience," said Ausse, who has run five marathons.

"For this to occur at this event is enormously frightening."

She said fellow runners, who come from around the world for the storied race, are shaken up.

"It's just starting to hit me what happened," she said.

Three Juveniles Arrested in Sexual Assault and Subsequent Suicide of Saratoga Teen

Three male juveniles sexually assaulted a passed out Saratoga teen digitally and with a foreign object, wrote messages on her body and circulated a photo that led to her suicide, her family members said in lawsuit filed Monday.

Sheila and Lawrence Pott, parents of 15-year-old Audrie Pott, alleged that two of the three boys, all age 16, took photos of Audrie while she lay partly nude and intoxicated on Sept. 2, according to the suit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose.

The girl, who was unconscious during the alleged assault, woke up the next morning to find her shorts were off and that she had "writings or drawings on her body, including her intimate parts," the suit stated.

The two suspects then shared and sent at least one of the photos showing Audrie without her shorts to others by text message and discussed embarrassing details with other students at Saratoga High School, where Audrie was a sophomore, the suit alleged.

The wrongful death suit is asking for damages in excess of $25,000 from the three unnamed male juveniles and more potential defendants for defamation, invasion of privacy, false imprisonment, battery, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and conspiracy.

The case also cited Michael and Sheila Penuen, parents of a friend of Audrie's and who owned the home in Saratoga were Audrie became drunk and unconscious.

The suit alleged that the Penuens were negligent by allowing their teen daughter to host a party where Audrie and other minor guests had unfettered access to liquor "in an unlocked liquor cabinet."

The Penuens should have known that alcohol would have been available for the minors, that similar parties had occurred there before and that their daughter "would host a party at their home if left unsupervised," the suit alleged.

The parents' alleged negligence eventually led Audrie "to suffer severe mental anguish and emotional distress, compelling her to act...resulting in her death," the suit stated.

Pott family attorney Robert Allard, at a news conference Monday morning in San Jose with Larry Pott, Larry Pott's ex-wife Sheila and current wife Lisa Pott, announced the suit would be filed to find out what happened to Audrie seven months after her death.

"There is more to this story and the parents deserve answers," Allard said."Students at the school know what happened."

"This lawsuit now gives us the legal authority to subpoena cell phone and other electronic records," he said. "We are now able to interview witnesses under penalty of perjury."

The three juvenile males in the suit, two from Saratoga High School and one from Christopher High School in Gilroy, were arrested Thursday in connection with the alleged sexual assault.

They were arrested on suspicion of two counts of felony sexual battery and a misdemeanor and booked into Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall.

None of the three has been identified since they are under 18.

Man Fatally Shot While Riding Bike in Richmond

A man shot in Richmond Monday afternoon while riding a bicycle died in a hospital about an hour after the shooting, a police spokeswoman said.

Officers responded to activations of the city's ShotSpotter gunshot detection system in the 800 block of Ripley Avenue at 3:54 p.m., police Lt. Bisa French said.

They found a man suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to a hospital in "very critical" condition, she said.

The victim, a 31-year-old Richmond resident, died in the hospital at about 5 p.m., French said.

Around the same time, a second man showed up at a local hospital with at least one gunshot wound, she said.

Police are investigating whether that victim was also injured in the shooting on Ripley Avenue, or in a possible second shooting near Garrard Boulevard and West Barrett Avenue, where there was another ShotSpotter activation shortly after the first shooting, French said.

The second victim was shot in the arm and is expected to survive, she said.

French said it appears the first victim was riding a bicycle when he was shot, and that a white car was seen driving away from the scene.

No arrests have been made, she said.

San Quentin Death Row Inmate Commits Suicide

San Quentin death row inmate Justin Alan Helzer, who was convicted in 2004 of five murders in Concord and in Marin County in 2000, committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell Sunday, San Quentin State Prison Lt. Sam Robinson said Monday afternoon.

Helzer, 41, used a sheet attached to his single-cell's bars to hang himself, Robinson said.

A San Quentin corrections officer found Helzer around 10:17 p.m. during a security check, Robinson said.

Helzer tried to kill himself three years ago by jabbing pencils and pens into his eye sockets.

He had been under more intensive watch since then, but showed no recent signs to indicate he was at risk of another suicide attempt, Robinson said.

Helzer's brother, Glenn Taylor Helzer, 42, is under intensive screening on death row to make sure he also is not at risk of killing himself, Robinson said.

The Helzers were sentenced to death by a Contra Costa County Superior Court jury for killing an elderly couple, Ivan and Annette Stineman of Concord; 22-year-old Selina Bishop, the daughter of blues guitarist Elvin Bishop; Bishop's mother Jennifer Villarin, 45, of Novato; and Villarin's friend, James Gamble, 54.

The Helzers and their roommate Dawn Godman were alleged to have committed the killings as part of a murder and extortion plot to use stolen money to bring "joy, peace and love" to the world and to bring about the second coming of Christ, according to statements made in court during their trials.

Justin Helzer was sentenced to death for the murders of the Stinemans and Bishop.

He received life with the possibility of parole for the murders of Villarin and Gamble.

Glenn Helzer, who had been the Stinemans' stockbroker, was sentenced to five death sentences.

Godman pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2003 to nearly 38 years in prison.

Dive teams found the dismembered remains of the Stinemans and Bishop inside several gym bags floating in the Sacramento Delta in August 2000. Villarin and Gamble were found shot to death inside Bishop's Woodacre apartment.

San Francisco Police Set Up LGBT Safe Zones at Stations

San Francisco's police chief announced at the Mission police station Monday morning that that station along with the city's nine other precincts have been designated as safe havens for members of the LGBT community to report crimes.

At a news conference Monday morning at the station, located at 630 Valencia St., police Chief Greg Suhr assured the LGBT community that "LGBT Safe Zone" signs posted on station windows ensure a respectful, courteous and compassionate encounter with police.

The signs are part of project that came together after an assault in the Mission District in February, where a member of the transgender community was attacked after leaving a bar, Mission station police Capt. Bob Moser said.

The colorful, bold signs indicate the station as a safe space, where victims can feel comfortable and speak to a trained professional.

"We're a police department for everybody," Suhr said.

He spoke about a history of distrust of police that needs to be replaced with a mentality of a progressive, accepting police force -- which includes members of the LGBT community within its ranks.

The program, organized through the chief's LGBT Community Advisory Forum that works with Castro-based organizations Castro Community on Patrol and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, aims to dissuade the gay community that they will be re-victimized when reporting a crime.

Sister Pat N Leather, in full nun regalia that is the uniform of the gay community organization, said the LGBT community is suffering from an underreporting of crimes.

"You don't have to feel ashamed of what happened to you," the sister said. "You are a victim, we are here to make you feel safe."

Greg Carey with the Castro Patrol volunteer group said designating stations as safe havens will provide better statistics and understanding of hate crimes and other safety issues.

With the LGBT Safe Zone signs up at stations, community groups are also focusing on outreach about the program, Sister Pat N Leather said.

A roundtable meeting is scheduled with local transgender community leaders this summer to encourage the minority group to utilize police resources more, despite resistance.

Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos, whose districts include parts of the Mission, spoke out in support of increased dialogue between the police department and LGBT community.

"True public safety has to be a partnership between the police department and the community," Wiener said.

Campos said the zones should encourage victims to speak up and quell the targeting of LGBT community members.

"One attack is an attack against all of us," Campos said.

More information about the police safe zones is available at www.facebook.com/StopTheViolenceSF.

Castro Valley Woman Dies in Fatal Farm Tractor Crash

A Castro Valley woman died in a crash Saturday morning between a farm tractor and a Honda Accord on Interstate Highway 505 near Vacaville, the Solano County coroner's office said Monday.

Coroner's deputy Jackson Harris identified the woman as 59-year-old In Sue.

Sue was lying down unsecured in the back of the 2008 Honda that was traveling south on I-505 north of Vacaville around 8:50 a.m., California Highway Patrol Sgt. Jason Hekker said.

The Honda, driven at 70 mph in the right lane by Boon Wang, 52, of Castro Valley, passed several cars and then failed to brake or take evasive action before striking the back of a large 2010 Massey Ferguson farm tractor that was traveling at 15 mph in both the right shoulder and part of the right lane of the highway, Hekker said.

The Honda rolled twice and landed on its wheels.

Sue was ejected from the car, landed on the highway and was pronounced dead at the scene, Hekker said.

The tractor driver, Gabriel Gomez, 34, of Williams, and Wang suffered moderate injuries and were taken to Kaiser Permanente Vacaville Medical Center, Hekker said.

The crash blocked the highway for two-and-a-half hours, Hekker said.

Alcohol or drugs are not suspected as causes of the crash, Hekker said.

Gomez was moving the tractor to another piece of property, and the tractor's hazard lights were flashing, Hekker said.

The weather at the time of the crash between Allendale and Wolfskill roads was clear and dry.

East Oakland Shooting Leads to Closure of Head Start Facility

A shooting at a residence in East Oakland Monday morning prompted officials to close down a nearby Head Start facility for the rest of the day, police said.

Police received multiple phone calls at about 9:15 a.m. from people reporting that they heard gunshots in the area of 92nd Avenue and International Boulevard, police said.

Officers who responded to the scene found evidence indicating that multiple gunshots had been fired and noticed that unoccupied parked vehicles also had been struck by gunshots, according to police.

There haven't been any reports of injuries and no one has been arrested at this point, police said.

The shooting occurred near the Head Start Center at 9202 International Blvd. School officials immediately put the preschool on lockdown, police said.

After the threat ended, parents were notified to pick up their children and the school was closed for the day, police said.

School officials said counselors will be made available for parents and school staff, according to police.

Fatal Shooting in San Francisco Nob Hill after Apartment Complex Dispute

A man arrested for a fatal shooting in San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood over the weekend has been charged with murder and could be arraigned as soon as today, prosecutors said.

Robert Graves, 66, has been charged with murder and a personal use of a firearm allegation for the shooting at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday at an apartment complex in the 1100 block of Pacific Avenue, district attorney's office spokesman Alex Bastian said.

Officers arrived to find 24-year-old Geoffrey Greer shot to death, police said.

Witnesses told investigators that Graves and Greer were involved in a dispute before the shooting, but police Monday were not releasing any other details about a possible motive in the case.

Bastian said Graves could be arraigned as soon as this afternoon on the charges in San Francisco Superior Court.

Oakland Police Ask for Help in Molestation Near Museum of California

Oakland police are seeking the public's help in finding a middle-aged man who allegedly molested a 7-year-old girl at a residence near the Oakland Museum of California on Saturday afternoon.

Police said the man gained entry to an apartment complex in the 100 block of 10th Street, which is also in the vicinity of Lake Merritt, by contacting a woman who lived there and telling her that he wanted to check the pipes for water leaks.

At one point after the man got inside the woman's unit he was alone in a room with the 7-year-old girl and began to molest her, police said.

When the girl tried to get away, he grabbed her and prevented her from leaving the room, according to police.

But when the girl screamed, a family member came into the room and confronted the suspect and he fled the scene on foot in an unknown direction, police said.

Authorities describe the suspect as a white man in his early- to mid-50s, 6-feet tall and 160 pounds with a skinny build, light brown hair and a white beard.

They said he was wearing a gray hat, a blue, white and green horizontal striped shirt and blue jeans.

The girl and the family member said the suspect had paint in his hair and multiple-colored paint splatters on his pants, police said.

The suspect also was seen around the building the morning of the incident, according to police.

They said investigators are working with the victim and the family members to create a sketch of the suspect and will provide it to the news media as soon as it becomes available.

Oakland police said anyone with information about the incident should call their youth and family service division at (510) 238-3641 or their tip line at (510) 637-0298. Oakland police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest in this case.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Report

Sunny skies are likely in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are expected to be around 60, with northwest winds up to 30 mph in the afternoon. Clear skies are likely this evening. Lows are expected to be in the upper 40s, with northwest winds up to 30 mph. Sunny skies are expected Wednesday morning. Highs are likely to be in the lower to mid 60s, with northern winds up to 20 mph.

 

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