San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday Morning News Roundup

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Berkeley: Biker Fatally Shot Tuesday

Police are investigating the fatal shooting of a man on a bicycle in Berkeley late Tuesday night.

Berkeley police received a 911 call at 11:36 p.m. reporting a fallen bicyclist near Longfellow Middle School at 1500 Derby Street.

Upon arrival at the scene, police discovered that the male bicyclist had suffered at least one gunshot wound. He was pronounced deceased at the scene, police said.

The incident is being investigated as a homicide. Police have not released suspect information or a possible motive for the shooting.

OAK: Man Charged with Kidnapping, Raping At-Risk Teen

A man arrested Sunday in the case of a 16-year-old at-risk girl who walked away from an Oakland group home has been charged with kidnapping her, holding her in his San Francisco home and raping her repeatedly, authorities announced Tuesday.

Gary Steven Atkinson, 36, was arraigned Tuesday on charges of kidnapping, three counts of rape of an incompetent person, three counts of lewd acts upon a child, and one count of an attempted lewd act upon a child, according to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.

"This is by far one of the most sickening cases I've seen in my career -- to take advantage of someone of this stature," Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan said at a news conference Tuesday.

The girl, who is autistic, walked away from the Fred Finch Youth Center at 3800 Coolidge Ave. on the night of Nov. 27. Staff followed her until they lost sight of her near the corner of 34th Avenue and International Boulevard, near the Fruitvale BART station.

The staff then alerted police that she was missing.

Police said the girl has the mental capacity of a 9- to 12-year-old.

According to a probable cause statement filed with the district attorney's office by Oakland police Officer Alonzo Weatherly, the girl was kidnapped near the BART station and taken to a residence in San Francisco where she was held and raped multiple times over a three-day period before she managed to escape.

A San Francisco Municipal Railway train operator found her Thursday night, "disoriented and very scared," Oakland police Lt. LeRonne Armstrong said Tuesday.

But the girl was also "resilient" and managed to assist investigators in finding her attacker, Armstrong said.

Police distributed a photo of the suspect obtained from surveillance cameras at the Fruitvale BART station, and arrested Atkinson at about 9 p.m. Sunday near the corner of 34th Avenue and International Boulevard, near where the alleged kidnapping occurred.

Atkinson has previously been convicted of several felonies, including burglary, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. He is due back in court today.

Martinez: Board Votes to Delay Vote on Fire Station Closures After Hours of Discussion

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to delay a decision on whether to shutter four fire stations after the failure of a parcel tax measure meant to avoid the closures.

Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Chief Daryl Louder advised the board that the closures are necessary since the district has burned through its reserves.

The recommendation comes a month after voters rejected Measure Q, a $75 annual parcel tax designed to close the fire district's $17 million deficit.

The chief's recommendations are to shut down four of the district's 28 fire stations -- a drastic but necessary move to cut costs after Measure Q failed to attain a two-thirds voter majority, he said.

If approved, the stations located at 700 Hawthorne Drive in Walnut Creek, at 6500 Center Ave. in Clayton, at 1240 Shell Ave. in Martinez and at 4007 Los Arabis Ave. in Lafayette are set to close in January.

The chief said those stations were selected based on call volume in those areas and the amount of fire risk to the surrounding communities, among other factors.

The stations to close would create the least impact on the fire district as a whole, according to his calculations. At the start of the meeting, attended by dozens of off-duty fire personnel, firefighter Vito Impastato told the board that he and his colleagues would continue to provide the highest level of service possible, regardless of station closures.

"We take great pride in that trust that the public has given us...we're here above all, to serve," he said. "We know that station closures sting, but rest assured, we will rise to the occasion."

Ultimately, the board voted to postpone the vote on the closures until next Tuesday, asking the chief for more information about costs, benefits and possible alternatives to shutting down four fire stations before making a final decision.

Board members and the chief agreed that the closures are meant to be a temporary fix, and that the stations should reopen in five to ten years when property tax revenues are likely to increase and the district has had time to recoup its losses. Louder also stressed that shuttering the stations is a last resort.

"We're at a juncture where we don't have an awful lot of options available to us," he told the board.

SF: Blogger to be Arraigned Wednesday After Taking Photo of Supe in Bathroom

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon Tuesday chided a local blogger who is to be arraigned on disorderly conduct charges today after allegedly taking a photo of Supervisor Scott Wiener in a City Hall bathroom in October.

Gascon, speaking to reporters at an unrelated event Tuesday afternoon, said the behavior of blogger and gay rights activist Michael Petrelis was "very, very inappropriate."

Petrelis allegedly snapped the photo on Oct. 26 after encountering Wiener in a second floor bathroom at City Hall and posted it on his blog the next day.

Below the photo, Petrelis wrote that he tried to take a photo of Wiener as he stood at a urinal but the time it took for his camera to focus gave the supervisor "enough time for him to put away his wiener and zipper up."

Petrelis wrote, "The only photo I caught was of him grabbing his toothbrush from the wash basin. He sighed heavily and with exasperation having to not only have to interact with me, but in a restroom and with a camera going off."

Petrelis eventually wrote in a later post that he surrendered to sheriff's deputies on Nov. 29 after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

He is set to make his initial appearance in San Francisco Superior Court this morning to face the misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.

Gascon said that he wants "to make sure we send a message that that type of behavior is not accepted ... it completely trespasses the social boundary of decency and good sense."

He said, "It is OK for robust political engagement, it's OK to disagree ... it is not ok to invade people's privacy in a way that occurred in this particular case."

Petrelis and Wiener have had several political disagreements, including over a nudity ban authored by Wiener that just received its final approval from the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Wiener Tuesday declined to comment on the case but referred reporters to a written statement he provided to the sheriff's department in the days after the incident.

The supervisor said in the statement that Petrelis "has a history of inappropriate and harassing behavior" and "has yelled at me in public before as a result of our political disagreements."

Santa Clara: County Auditor Says Supervisor Shirakawa Must Repay $12,722 in Wrongful Credit Card Charges

Supervisor George Shirakawa must repay the county $12,772 in expenses he wrongly charged on his government credit card, the Santa Clara County Controller-Treasurer Department reported Monday.

The county's Finance Agency, after auditing 240 charges Shirakawa made his procurement card, or P-Card, from 2009 to 2012, found that he had failed to comply with county rules on using the card for personal expenses, travel, charitable donations and business meals.

In its review of $36,837 in charges the supervisor placed on the card, the agency said Shirakawa violated the county's travel policy by upgrading the class of rental vehicles without justification, overcharging for hotel rooms and not turning in expense receipts.

Shirakawa, who represents part of San Jose, also charged taxpayers $10,354 for 174 business meal transactions without providing itemized receipts as the county requires, the audit found.

"In numerous instances, the county-issued P-Card was used to pay for the cardholder's personal expenses, pay the registration fee of a political event, donate county funds to non-profit entities without (approval), or to purchase items that are either strictly prohibited or restricted under various county policies," the agency reported in its audit released Monday.

Shirakawa, however, disputes the allegations, posting on his website that he had reimbursed the city for charges made by mistake or made upgrades using personal funds.

Some receipts and copies of checks accompanied the response as evidence.

The county auditors said that Shirakawa must reimburse the county $12,772 in donations to charity and other unapproved charges on the procurement card.

The Controller-Treasurer Department said it would also perform a detailed audit of expenses charged by people working for Shirakawa in his District 2 office over the same period it reviewed the supervisor's expensing.

Orinda: Three Firefighters Injured in Crash Out of Hospital, Driver in Critical Condition

Three firefighters involved in a crash on state Highway 24 on Sunday are home from the hospital and recovering from their injuries, Moraga Orinda Fire Chief Randy Bradley said Tuesday.

Around 9:25 a.m. Sunday, firefighters responded to a non-injury report of a blue Chevrolet S-10 colliding with the concrete center divider on eastbound Highway 24 just past Wilder Road in Orinda, fire officials said.

The crash triggered a second crash between a tan Toyota Corolla and a silver Honda Civic, which ended with the Civic being pushed into the Chevrolet.

The Corolla stopped on the right shoulder of the freeway, according to CHP Sgt. Scott Siria.

Fire crews arrived on the scene and stopped in the two right lanes, and then the driver and passenger from the Corolla got into the back of an ambulance, Siria said.

A burgundy Acura Legend then spun out of control and crashed into the stopped fire truck, before stopping in the right lane, near the Corolla. Fire Capt. Michael Rattary, firefighter paramedic Kelly Morris, and veteran firefighter Stephen Rogness were off the shoulder interviewing the driver of the vehicle when a Chevrolet Tahoe lost control, struck the Corolla, pushing it into the driver, and rolled into the three firefighters, Siria said.

All four were transported to John Muir Medical Center, officials said.

Rattary and Rogness were released from the hospital on Monday, and Morris was released Tuesday, Bradley said.

Rogness is expected to undergo surgery on his foot later this week, the chief said.

The driver that was struck remains in an intensive care unit in critical condition, Bradley said.

The chief said he and his colleagues are grateful that the firefighters are recovering and appreciative of the community support it has received over the past few days.

On the heels of the near-fatal crash, Bradley said he and other district officials are focusing on enhancing their policies and procedures to "see if we can prevent this from happening again."

Redwood City: Man Accused of Causing Fatal Hit-and-Run in San Mateo Pleads Not Guilty

A man charged with causing a fatal hit-and-run collision at a San Mateo bus stop last month pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter Tuesday.

Wearing glasses and orange jail clothes, Josue Lopez, 26, appeared in San Mateo County Superior Court and entered his plea through an interpreter.

Lopez has been charged with one count of vehicular manslaughter and one count of hit-and-run in connection with the Nov. 24 collision that killed Reynaldo Aguiniga, 67, of San Mateo, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Witnesses told police they saw Lopez driving recklessly out of a Kmart parking lot on Delaware Street with his five-year-old child in the back seat, according to the district attorney's office.

Aguiniga was standing near a cement garbage can and a bus stop, according to police.

Prosecutors said that Lopez lost control of his vehicle, which jumped the curb and struck the cement container near Aguiniga.

The container was pushed off its base and crushed Aguiniga against a tree, police said. According to witness statements, Lopez got out of his car and looked at Aguiniga before fleeing the scene.

The victim was taken to a hospital where he later died.

A description of the vehicle and a partial license plate number led police to Lopez, who was arrested at his home later that same day.

There was no indication that drugs or alcohol played a role in the collision.

Lopez remains in custody on $250,000 bail and is due back in court for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 31.

Alameda County: Drone Proposal Sent to Supervisors Committee

A proposal to buy a drone for the Alameda County Sheriff's Office was sent to a committee for further study Tuesday after the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups raised objections.

Sheriff Greg Ahern has said that the drone, which he prefers to call an unmanned aerial system, would be used for search and rescue missions, tactical operations and for responding to disasters, fires and hazardous materials incidents.

But Will Matthews of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California said the ACLU has obtained documents showing that sheriff's officials also plan to use the drone for surveillance and intelligence-gathering purposes.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to vote Tuesday to accept a $31,646 grant to help pay for an unmanned aerial system but the matter was referred to their Public Protection Committee for a hearing in January so that there's more public input.

Matthews said, "To Sheriff Ahern's credit, he realized that it needs more discussion before it goes forward and asked that it be pulled from the agenda."

Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson said Ahern will draft a policy to ensure that a drone wouldn't be used for random surveillance.

However, Nelson said the sheriff's office would like to use a drone for situations in which there is a barricaded suspect and other missions for which there would be a specific purpose instead of random snooping.

The $31,646 grant is part of a larger $1.2 million Department of Homeland Security grant to Alameda County dispersed through the California Emergency Management Agency.

Matthews said, "We believe that there should be a robust conversation about safeguards" before an aerial system is approved.

He said other groups who are concerned about the aerial system are the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a new local coalition called Alameda County Against Drones.

SJ: Two Men Sentenced to One Year for Illegal Street Race that Killed Woman

After hearing a plea for leniency from the victim's family, a judge Tuesday sentenced two men to one year in county jail for engaging in an illegal street race that killed a 23-year-old San Jose woman in 2011, a deputy district attorney said.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Rene Navarro sentenced Vincent Mergonoto and Chandra Purnama to a year in county jail instead of state prison after reading a letter from the victim's family requesting a lesser punishment, Deputy District Attorney Michel Amaral said.

The judge considered the wishes of Ashley Nicole Krieger's family, who had bonded emotionally with members of Mergonoto's family during mediation of a civil case brought by Krieger's survivors, Amaral said.

Mergonoto, 20, and Chandra, 26, were sentenced after being convicted for vehicular manslaughter in the March 20, 2011, crash at the intersection of Kiely Boulevard and Butte Street in Santa Clara in which Krieger suffered fatal injuries.

After an investigation, the Santa Clara Police Department brought evidence to court showing that the two men had been racing illegally northbound on Kiely Boulevard at about 10:55 p.m., Amaral said.

Police said that Mergonoto, of San Jose, was driving a black Mercedes Benz and Purnama, of San Francisco, a yellow Chevrolet Corvette before Mergonoto slammed almost head-on into Krieger's black Honda Civic.

Amaral said that prior to the collision, Krieger had pulled out of a parking lot and made a left turn onto Kiely as the two men raced toward Butte Street.

Mergonoto apparently saw Krieger's car and had he continued forward he probably would have missed Krieger but while attempting to turn away he ran into her at a speed of between 80 mph and 88 mph, Amaral said.

Santa Clara police studied the crash and gave the prosecution "one of the best recreations I have ever seen" that made it "a dead bang case" and helped lead the defendants to plead guilty, Amaral said.

The question came over the length of the sentence and whether the men should serve time in state prison while the civil case by Krieger's family proceeded to mediation, he said.

The mediation ended with an undisclosed monetary settlement paid by Mergonoto's family, Krieger's family then asked the judge for leniency in sentencing and the judge complied by sending the men to county jail, Amaral said. 

San Francisco Bay Area Morning Weather Forecast 

Rain is likely in the Bay Area this morning, with showers in the afternoon.

Highs are expected to be in the lower 60s, with winds up to 10 mph.

Mostly cloudy skies and a chance of showers are expected tonight, with lows around 50 and winds up to 10 mph.

Partly cloudy skies are expected on Thursday. Highs are likely to be in the upper 50s, with northwest winds up to 20 mph.

 

 

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