Thursday Morning News Roundup
Bay Bridge Closure Begins
An era of transbay commuting came to an end Friday night with the closure of the Bay Bridge to transition traffic onto the long-awaited new eastern span.
The closure began at 8 p.m. and started with California Highway Patrol officers running traffic breaks on the bridge to stop vehicles from crossing, CHP Officer Sam Morgan said.
Final work is underway on the new span, which is scheduled to open by 5 a.m. Tuesday, or possibly earlier if the work is done ahead of schedule, Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman John Goodwin said.
During the closure, BART is running longer trains today and Friday and providing 24-hour service at more than a dozen stations.
BART officials say they expect a surge in ridership, noting that during previous Bay Bridge closures, trains have carried 30 percent more passengers than usual.
The CHP expects traffic to increase on other Bay Area bridges and advised drivers to expect delays.
"Allowing yourself additional time to get to your destination would be a wise thing to do," Morgan said.
Golden Gate Ferry service is being boosted this Labor Day weekend from Larkspur and Sausalito into San Francisco, and San Francisco Bay Ferry is adding ferries between the East Bay and San Francisco.
Alameda-Contra Costa Transit buses that normally take riders across the bridge will instead go to the MacArthur, Oakland Coliseum, West Oakland and North Berkeley BART stations, agency officials said.
A low-key ceremony celebrating the opening of the new eastern span is tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. Monday.
A large-scale, public celebration had initially been in the works, but the plan was scrapped after problems with anchor bolts on the new span left the bridge's opening date in limbo.
A temporary fix was since devised to cover the broken rods with an exterior saddle and cable system encased in concrete.
The old eastern span, a cantilever bridge that opened in 1936, has been slated for replacement since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which caused a section of the span's upper deck to collapse.
Social media users are expressing nostalgia about the impending bridge closure, with many posting pictures and video on Twitter of their final drives across the old span.
One Twitter user wrote, "Last trip over the ol' bay bridge miss u bb."
Bay Area residents and visitors are advised to call 511 or visit alert.511.org to learn about all of the options for getting around during the closure.
50 Year Anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" Speech
In the fifty years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington, several Bay Area civil rights advocates believe there has been some progress of racial equality, but the battle is far from done.
On this day in 1964, King was one of a series of speakers at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., where hundreds of thousands rallied to demand equal rights, job opportunities and other racial issues.
The speech, which included the legendary line, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," still influences leaders Wednesday, Oakland-based civil rights attorney John Burris said.
"The impact on me has been profound," the lawyer said. "He has contributed to the life that I've lived."
He said he keeps pictures of King at his home and office to remind him to be as empathetic as the civil rights leaders.
"He judged based upon on who people were," Burris said. "I've used that as a guidepost." Burris represented the family of Oscar Grant III, a black 22-year-old Hayward man who was shot in the back while unarmed on a BART platform by a white transit police officer on New Year's Eve 2009.
He said the Grant shooting and killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 2012 were societal setbacks.
Burris called Wednesday a milestone with King's words continuing as a "guiding light" for the next generation championing for equality.
"Race is still a significant issue in this country and unresolved," he said.
He noted there is ongoing racial disparity in the justice system, which includes racial profiling, higher African-American and other minority incarceration rates, higher death penalty sentences and instances of implementing three-strikes laws.
"Those disparities have powerful consequences on families," Burris said. "It keeps people from being able to participate in the marketplace for jobs."
Looking to the next fifty years, Burris said voting rights for minorities have to be protected, otherwise "real progress cannot be made."
Oren Sellstrom, legal director at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, echoed those sentiments about voting rights.
He said that although "no doubt progress has been made" there's "no doubt we've got a lot more work in this country."
A key area he said is restoring voting rights to protect all citizens and their ability to go to the polls.
"The recent (U.S. Supreme Court) decision essentially gutted one of the crown jewels of the civil rights movement," he said.
In June the high court dismantled a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
"The words that (King) spoke 50 years ago ring true today," he said.
He said the national dialogue has continued to revolve around racial issues including voting rights, affirmative action and most recently the Trayvon Martin shooting and trial.
"We've got a long way to go until we've got full equality in this country," he said.
San Leandro Man Struck and Killed by Car
A man crossing a San Leandro street on his bicycle was struck by a car and killed Wednesday morning, police said.
The 66-year-old San Leandro resident was crossing Marina Boulevard shortly before 11 a.m. when he was hit by a car, according to San Leandro police Lt. Jeff Tudor.
The bicyclist was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The driver stopped at the scene and is cooperating with the investigation, Tudor said.
Study Shows Black Youths in Oakland are Arrested at Disproportionate Rates
A study released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups says that black youths in Oakland are being arrested at disproportionate rates by Oakland and school district police.
Christopher Bridges, a racial justice fellow at the ACLU of Northern California, said, "It's my belief that there's some targeting of black youths."
Laura Faer of Public Counsel, a Los Angeles civil rights law firm that helped conduct the study, said, "The data show an extraordinary disproportion in the percentage of arrests" of black youths compared to youths in other ethnic groups.
The report by the Black Organizing Project, an Oakland nonprofit organization, and the two legal groups looked at arrest date over seven years from the Oakland Police Department and two years from Oakland Unified School District police.
The study said between 2006 and 2012 black youths made up 73.5 percent of all juvenile arrests in Oakland even though they comprise just 29.3 percent of the city's youth population.
Similarly, black youths accounted for 73 percent of arrests by school district police over the past two years even though they comprise only 30.5 percent of the school's population, the report said.
Bridges said much smaller percentages of Hispanic and white youths were arrested by Oakland and school district police.
Of the black youths who were arrested, 56.6 percent were not sustained by juvenile probation officials who review cases for prosecution, according to the report.
Faer said the report's authors and community members will come to the Oakland school board's meeting tonight to make several recommendations, including making a greater investment in counselors and mentors and implementing positive behavior intervention and support practices in schools.
Faer said other recommendations are relying on restorative justice models as the first line of intervention for mediating student behavior and developing an agreement between Oakland police and the school district that clearly defines and limits the role of Oakland police in the city's schools.
Faer said black youths who have contact with police are more likely to be arrested in the future and face lifelong difficulties resulting from their time in jail, such as psychological trauma and difficulty in finding work.
Oakland schools spokesman Troy Flint said, "We all acknowledge that the rate of arrest of black males is way too high and we must reduce it" but he doesn't believe the study's statistics support the conclusion that "there's a systematic targeting of black males."
Flint said racism may be an element in the high arrest rate for young black males but he said it's a complex societal problem that also caused by a combination of social, economic, historic and cultural factors.
Flint also said "there's not a tidal wave of law enforcement" at Oakland's schools and "it's not the police state they make it out to be."
In fact, he said there only are 24 Oakland police officers patrolling in and around six of the district's schools under a federal grant program and city and school police only arrested 25 students last year even though there are a total of 35,000 students in the city's public schools.
"That's a really small number," Flint said.
He said the school district already has implemented several programs to help black students.
Flint said an example is that staff in the Office of African American Male Achievement analyze data, track individual students, arrange internships and mentors, promote black male achievements and lead workshops for students and parents.
Flint also said the district has embarked on a program to reduce the number of out-of-school suspensions for African American students by using programs that have alternative punishments for rule breakers.
He added that the fact the issue is being discussed by the school board tonight "shows that the district is taking this seriously."
Bomb Squad Called to Monterey Public Library
The Monterey police, fire and city manager's offices and some businesses were evacuated for more than three hours Wednesday after a suspicious package was found that turned out to contain only household batteries, police said.
At about 11:25 p.m., city staff at the Monterey Public Library reported seeing a suspicious package left in front of the building at 625 Pacific St., Monterey police Lt. Leslie Sonne said.
A man was seen dropping the package off outside the library, which was not open at the time, and then driving away in a vehicle, Sonne said.
City staffers at the police, fire and city manager's office and employees of some private businesses in the area were ordered evacuated as a precaution, Sonne said.
Police closed down Pacific from El Dorado Street to Jefferson Street while a command post was set up involving the Monterey Airport Fire Department, Sonne said.
At 2:54 p.m., the Monterey County Sheriff's Office's bomb squad used an x-ray device to determine that the package contained household batteries, Sonne said.
The library is a designated battery recycling location, Sonne said.
City staff and the employees of the affected businesses were then permitted to return to work and the streets were reopened to traffic, Sonne said.
People who would like to deposit used batteries for recycling at the library should do so during business hours, Sonne said.
Law Enforcement Cracks Down On Richmond's Most Violent Gangs
More than 20 alleged members of one of Richmond's most violent street gangs are now behind bars after a joint law enforcement crackdown that combined community policing techniques and a court-authorized wiretap operation, police and prosecutors said Wednesday.
Richmond police officials, Contra Costa County district attorneys, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration representatives and members of the city's community crime-fighting Ceasefire program gathered at a news conference at the Richmond police station Wednesday to address the operation.
After Richmond saw a spike in violence this spring – including eight murders and 21 shootings in April and May -- police partnered with the district attorney's office and the DEA to launch a wiretap operation in June targeting members of Central Richmond's Deep-C Gang, police said.
During the roughly two-and-a-half-month operation, police monitored suspected gang members' cellphones around the clock to intercept their plans to commit crimes.
Richmond police Chief Chris Magnus said the wiretap allowed law enforcement to listen in on "some incredible and chilling conversations."
In some cases, officers intercepted the suspects as they were en route to carry out plans overheard on the wire to commit murder, Magnus said.
"Lives were saved as a result," the chief said.
Most of the planned shootings were rival Richmond gang members in retaliation for attacks ranging from recent killings of fellow gang members to a perceived insult on Facebook, Magnus said.
"It doesn't take a lot for these kinds of rivalries to heat up," he said.
The operation netted 23 arrests on a variety of charges, including 12 for alleged conspiracy to commit murder.
Officers involved in the operation served 16 search warrants and seized 17 guns, more than $11,000 in cash and 934 grams of promethazine with codeine, according to police.
Police said the wiretap operation built upon the city's Ceasefire program, which focuses on partnerships between community members and police and offers known gang members alternatives to a life of crime.
"It's our job to step in and say, 'Hey, there's another way,'" said Andre Aikins, a Ceasefire coordinator who said that his own life of crime growing up in Oakland helps him understand the mindset of the young offenders he works with in Richmond.
The program, launched in Richmond in 2011, has helped police identify some of the city's most violent offenders.
One component of the program is "call-in" sessions in which Ceasefire representatives meet with known criminals or potential offenders in the community and offer education, work programs and other crime alternatives.
"We realize that change can be difficult, but we're here to work with those individuals," Aikins said.
Police said Ceasefire representatives met with each of the 23 men arrested in connection with Operation Exodus in an attempt to dissuade them from pursuing violent crimes.
When the suspects decided to stay in a gang, police developed "a laser-like focus on their criminal acts" and later arrested them, Magnus said.
The chief stressed that the Ceasefire program has been difficult to carry out, and at times even appeared on the brink of collapse, but has so far proven effective in Richmond.
"It has not been an easy road for us or for the community -- by no means are we claiming, 'Mission Accomplished' here," he said.
As for wiretapping, police and prosecutors Wednesday said Operation Exodus is not the first time Richmond police have used court-approved wiretaps and likely won't be the last, especially as younger generations of gang members come up to fill the power vacuum left by older members in prison.
Death of San Mateo Man in Paddleboarding Accident
A San Mateo man died in a paddleboarding accident on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe last week, a Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman said Wednesday.
Kenneth Campo, 42, was part of a group that had rented paddleboards and went out on the water Friday around 3:45 p.m. at Sand Harbor State Park near Incline Village, Nev., department spokesman Ed Lyngar said.
He was about 250 yards offshore when he slipped off the board and began to struggle in the water, Lyngar said.
He was already submerged by the time the people around him got to where he had been, Lyngar said.
An employee of one of the paddleboard rental companies based onshore dived down 20 feet and retrieved Campo and brought him to shore.
Paramedics were waiting there and brought him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, Lyngar said.
He had a life vest and a foot leash on the boat that were both not in use during the accident, Lyngar said.
"Life jacket use on these devices is far too low," Lyngar said. Often tourists and recreational boaters "don't realize the inherent dangers."
An investigation is ongoing, but Lyngar said it appears that this was a "tragic accident."
Santa Cruz Surf Instructor Jailed on Child Sex Abuse Charges
Investigators discovered that a one-time surfing teacher currently jailed on child sex abuse charges took inappropriate photos of young girls at Santa Cruz High School, police said Wednesday.
Santa Cruz police alleged that Dylan Greiner, 38, took pictures of girls while a special guest for "Pool Jr. Guard" programs run by the Seahorse Swim School in Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz police Deputy Chief Steve Clark said.
The Seahorse Swim School had been running the programs out of the swimming pool at the campus of Santa Cruz High School, where it rented the pool for swim classes, Clark said.
Santa Cruz City Schools, which oversees the public high school, was not affiliated with the swim school and was not responsible for its employees or volunteers, Clark said.
Greiner, 38, who taught children how to surf at two other Santa Cruz schools, was charged last Wednesday with 28 criminal charges including four felony charges of lewd and lascivious behavior on a minor and felony child pornography allegations.
The operators of the Seahorse Swim School have been cooperating completely with the police investigation, Clark said.
Greiner also allegedly took inappropriate photos of young girls while he taught surfing at the Santa Cruz Surf School, which he owned, and the Boys and Girls Club in Santa Cruz, Clark said.
Police have identified more than a dozen female victims whose photos were taken at the three schools during a review of photographs and videos stored on computers owned by Greiner, Clark said.
Detectives uncovered a cache of more than 500,000 digital photos and videos allegedly taken by Greiner, Clark said.
Police believe that Greiner used a video camera and a still camera with a zoom lens to take inappropriate images of young girls, including their crotch areas, Clark said.
Last Wednesday at Greiner's arraignment on the 28 charges, a judge set bail for the former teacher, held at the Santa Cruz County Jail, at $1 million, according to the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office.
The four counts of lewd and lascivious behavior stem from Greiner's actions involving one girl while she was 14 and after she turned 15, prosecutors said.
Greiner is also charged with five felony counts of possessing child pornography, 11 felony counts of using a minor to create child pornography, one felony count of distributing lewd material to a minor and two felony counts of duplicating child pornography, according to prosecutors.
He further faces five counts of misdemeanor invasion of privacy for allegedly secretly taking images of children while they undressed in a changing, fitting or other room, prosecutors said.
After he appeared in Superior Court in Santa Cruz last week, a judge continued Greiner's arraignment hearing to Sept. 10, prosecutors said.
Police have fielded more than 100 inquiries from parents about their children and there may be hundreds of victims in the case, Clark said.
Mostly cloudy skies and patchy fog are expected in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are likely to be in the 60s to lower 70s, with southwest winds up to 10 mph.
Partly cloudy skies are expected this evening, becoming cloudy with patchy fog after midnight. Lows are likely to be in the upper 50s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph.
Cloudy skies and patchy fog are likely Friday morning. Highs are expected to be in the 60s to lower 70s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph.
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