San Francisco Bay Area Friday Midday News Roundup

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Large Asteroid To Pass Close To Earth Late This Morning

A large asteroid passed close to Earth late this morning, making its way near the Bay Area, a local astronomer said.

According to Oakland-based Chabot Space and Science Center astronomer Ben Burress, the asteroid would miss Earth by 17,230 miles. 

"The asteroid is definitely not going to hit us," Burress said. 

However, it could be close enough to possibly hit satellite equipment, he said.

The asteroid was scheduled to be closest to Earth around 11:25 a.m. PST and was visible through a telescope.

NASA was streaming video of the approximately 200-foot wide asteroid starting at 11 a.m. The stream is available at www.ustream.tv/nasajpl2.

The asteroid is officially named 2012 DA14.

Throughout the day, telescope viewing will be available at Chabot Space and Science Center, followed by a 7 p.m. asteroid viewing party at the center at 10000 Skyline Blvd. in Oakland.

In a similar cosmic event, a meteor exploded Thursday night over Central Russia in the Chelyabinsk region, causing damage and injuries in the aftermath of the blast. The blast was a sonic boom from the meteor entering Earth's atmosphere, Burress said.

The meteor explosion was unrelated to the asteroid passing by Earth late this morning, he said.

"That object came from a different direction," Burress said.

The object was also much smaller than the large asteroid.

The asteroid fly-by path has been tracked for the past year, Burress said, while the Russian meteor was an unexpected event.

14-Year-Old Antioch Girl Fatally Struck By Vehicle

A teenage girl who died after she was struck by a vehicle while crossing an Antioch street Thursday night has been identified as Hasanati White, according to the Contra Costa County coroner's office.

Hasanati, 14, of Antioch, was struck while she was attempting to cross the street at the intersection of Hillcrest Avenue and Hidden Glen Drive around 6:40 p.m., police said.

She was airlifted to a hospital where she succumbed to her injuries, police said.

The driver of the vehicle, as well as witnesses, remained at the scene of the accident and spoke with investigators, police said.

The investigation into the incident is ongoing, but police said preliminary reports indicate that neither alcohol nor speed were factors.

21-Year-Old Identified As Driver Killed In Hayward SUV Crash

A 21-year-old man has been identified as the victim in a fatal crash in Hayward late Thursday night, according to the Alameda County coroner's bureau.

Jose Gomez-Jacobo, whose city of residence was not immediately available, was killed in a crash reported around 11:30 p.m. near 30640 San Clemente St., police said.

A Ford SUV was found with Gomez-Jacobo in the driver's seat, police said.

Police believe the vehicle was traveling north on San Clemente Street as it approached San Antonio Street when it went off the roadway.

The SUV crashed into a fire hydrant and then a tree, causing major damage to the driver's side of the car.

Gomez-Jacobo was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. 

Based on the extent of damage done to the vehicle, police said it is possible that speed may have been a factor in the crash.

Police have not determined whether drug or alcohol use were contributing factors in the accident.

49-Year-Old Man Identified As Pedestrian Fatally Struck In Hayward Wednesday

A man who was struck and killed by a vehicle in Hayward on Wednesday evening has been identified as Reginald Wood, according to the Alameda County coroner's bureau.

Wood, 49, was struck near Industrial Boulevard and Baumberg Avenue
around 7 p.m. Wednesday.

He was found in the middle of southbound Industrial Boulevard and pronounced dead at the scene, Hayward police said.

The coroner's bureau did not have a residence listed for Wood.

The driver in the vehicle that struck Wood stopped at the scene and cooperated with authorities.

Based on a preliminary investigation, police said the vehicle was traveling south on Industrial Boulevard when Wood crossed into the roadway and was fatally struck.

Wood was allegedly not in a crosswalk when he attempted to cross the road, police said.

Alcohol and drugs are not believed to be a factor in the fatal accident, police said.

Woman Pleads Not Guilty To Accessory Charge In Monte Sereno Murder

A woman charged with being an accessory to the suffocation death of a Monte Sereno man pleaded not guilty in San Jose on Thursday and a judge agreed to join her case with three men charged with murdering the man.

Raven Dixon, 22, entered the plea in Santa Clara County Superior Court before Judge Kenneth Shapero, who made her a co-defendant with Javier Garcia, 21, Lukis Anderson, 26, and Deangelo Austin, 21, in the murder of Raveesh Kumra, Deputy District Attorney Kevin Smith said.

Shapero also ruled in favor of the prosecutor's motion to add gang enhancement allegations to the murder charges against Garcia and Austin, Smith said.

Kumra, 66, a wealthy former owner of a Saratoga winery, was found dead in his Monte Sereno home from asphyxiation on Nov. 30 after a late night home invasion and robbery of cash and valuables, prosecutors said.

The three men forced their way into Kumra's home and bound, blindfolded and gagged him with duct tape, which led to his death. They also beat and tied up his wife Harinder Kumra, who survived, prosecutors said.

The accessory charge against Dixon includes a gang enhancement allegation because prosecutors claim she is acquainted with Austin, a member  of an Oakland street gang called "The Money Team."

The Money Team has been associated with home invasion robberies targeting Asian and East Indian families, who are tied up while the attackers ransack their homes, prosecutors said.

Dixon was one of three alleged prostitutes to have visited Kumra's home when his wife was away or met him at hotels in Los Gatos and homes of his friends in the last couple of years, Smith said.

Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police detectives, who examined Kumra's laptop computer, found a backup copy of the contents of Dixon's cellphone on the computer because Kumra set it to transfer data from phones using it to recharge.

The backup copy of Dixon's phone from last April, which Dixon had done inadvertently, included photos of Kumra's house, grounds, gates and other entry points.

Prosecutors said the photos are evidence of her complicity in planning the home invasion with gang members that resulted in Kumra's murder. 

The data from Kumra's phone on the laptop revealed that he had several phone numbers and email addresses for Dixon and her home address, prosecutors said.

The other two prostitutes identified in Kumra's laptop were Dixon Katrina Fritz, who is Austin's sister, and Ashley Davis, a childhood friend of Dixon and the sister of Roland Davis, who is a member of The Money Team gang along with Austin, prosecutors said.

Dixon's alleged pimp, who was not named in a police report in the case unsealed last week, is a member of an Oakland street gang known as Ghost Town, Smith said.

Kumra's Google Voice account revealed that Dixon attempted to contact him nearly every month from June to November last year, with the last contact on Nov. 14, prosecutors said.

DNA analysis from the Santa Clara County Crime Lab in San Jose found a match with Austin's DNA on duct tape found beside Kumra's body, prosecutors said.

DA Will Seek Death Penalty For Accused Killer Of Vallejo Officer

The Solano County District Attorney's Office is seeking the death penalty for the Fairfield man charged with killing Vallejo police Officer James Capoot in November 2011.

Deputy District Attorney Karen Jensen made the announcement this morning in Solano County Superior Court, where Henry Albert Smith Jr., 39, re-entered a not guilty plea to Capoot's murder on Nov. 17, 2011, and denied several special circumstances that subject him to capital punishment.

Smith was held to answer to the murder and special circumstances after a preliminary hearing last November.

The special circumstances allege that Smith killed Capoot during the performance of the officer's duties, he knew or should have known Capoot was a police officer, killed Capoot by lying in wait, while fleeing police after committing a robbery, and to avoid arrest.

Smith's trial date will be set on May 10, Jensen said this morning.

Smith is charged with fatally shooting Capoot, a 19-year veteran of the Vallejo Police Department who chased him in the 100 block of Janice Street after a robbery at a nearby Bank of America.

Capoot and Smith were about 10 to 12 feet apart when Smith allegedly fired two or three shots, police said. Capoot was wearing body armor but suffered a mortal wound in the back, Sgt. Jeff Bassett said.

Smith was arrested as he tried to break into a nearby home, police said.

Capoot, 45, a Vacaville resident, succumbed to his injuries at a hospital. An estimated 4,000 people attended his memorial service at Vallejo High School's Corbus Field.

59-Year-Old Woman Flown To Hospital After Being Struck By Car In Hercules

A 59-year-old woman was struck and injured by a vehicle this morning in Hercules, a Rodeo-Hercules Fire District spokesman said.

The Hercules resident was hit around 8:15 a.m. while walking near Refugio Valley Road and Sycamore Avenue, spokesman Bryan Craig said.

She was transported by helicopter to John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek for an injury to her left hip, Craig said.

The woman is expected to survive her injuries, he said.

The driver of the vehicle stopped after the collision and is cooperating with authorities investigating what led up to the crash.

Man Walking On BART Tracks Causes 15-20 Minute Delays

A man walking on the BART train tracks in Oakland is causing systemwide delays this morning, a BART employee said.

The man was reported walking on the tracks between the MacArthur and 19th Street stations shortly after 10 a.m.

Police were able to detain the man around 10:30 a.m.

However, trains traveling in all directions from downtown Oakland will be running 15 to 20 minutes late until after 11 a.m., the employee said.

Two South San Francisco Executives Plead Guilty To Conspiring To Steal Employee Pension Funds

The two top executives of a South San Francisco geotechnical company have pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco to conspiring to embezzle more than $1.7 million from two employee pension plans.

Geo Grout Inc. president Kenneth Tholin and vice president Enrique Quiles entered their pleas before U.S. District Judge Edward Chen on Wednesday.

They will be sentenced by Chen on July 31 and face possible prison terms of up to five years as well as a possible order for restitution plus a fine of up to twice the loss caused.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said the two men admitted during the plea to taking $1,772,500 from the pension funds between 2009 and 2011 for unauthorized purposes.

Haag said the executives have thus far returned $901,481 to the accounts.

The company performs specialized geotechnical work in shoring up soil around and underneath tunnels, dams, mines and large structures such as airports, highways and commercial buildings.

The prosecution stems from an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor, which has the responsibility of receiving and monitoring annual reports filed by pension administrators.

San Francisco Police Arrest Trio In Series Of Robberies Since January

San Francisco police this week arrested three men suspected of a series of robberies in the past month.

Arthur Gonzalez, 34, Gary Green, 20, and Socorro Santiago, 18, were arrested Monday after allegedly trying to rob a jewelry store near 23rd and Mission streets that day, police said.

A loaded firearm and ski masks were found in the suspects' possession when they were arrested, according to police.

Investigators were then able to link the suspects to two other recent robberies, a Jan. 26 robbery in the 300 block of West Portal Avenue and a Feb. 8 gas station robbery at Cesar Chavez and Hampshire streets, police said.

In the Jan. 26 robbery, the suspects used a vehicle reportedly taken in a carjacking earlier that month and held the jewelry store owners at gunpoint. The suspects broke glass display cases with hammers and stole more than $80,000 in jewelry, police said.

The suspects were arrested on suspicion of multiple counts of robbery, attempted robbery and conspiracy, while Green was also arrested for alleged firearm violations, according to police.

Police are still seeking three other suspects who allegedly participated in the Jan. 26 robbery and have also reached out to other local law enforcement agencies to see if the suspects may be responsible for robberies in other jurisdictions.

Anyone with information about the suspects is asked to call Inspector Maguire of the Police Department's criminal investigations unit at (415) 553-1753.

People wishing to remain anonymous can call a tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411 with "SFPD" in the message.

Two Men Injured In Hatchet Attack During Noe Valley Home Invasion

Two men were injured when they were attacked with a hatchet during a home invasion robbery in San Francisco's Noe Valley neighborhood on Thursday night, police said today.

The robbery was reported at about 11:15 p.m. in the 300 block of 27th Street.

A 58-year-old man came home to find the other victim, a 69-year-old man, tied up and suffering from a cut wound. The 58-year-old man was then attacked with a hatchet by three male suspects in the home, according to police.

Both victims suffered deep lacerations and were taken to a hospital to be treated for their injuries, which are not considered life-threatening, police said.

The suspects fled and had not been found as of this morning. 

Anyone with information about the robbery is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or to send a tip by text message to TIP411.

Marin County Gun Buyback Vouchers Being Redeemed For Cash Today 

Today is payday for people who were given vouchers when they turned in their guns and ammunition at five different locations last month during the Marin County District Attorney's Office's gun buyback event.

The vouchers will be redeemed for $200 for semi-automatic and long guns and $100 for all other guns between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. at the Showcase Theater complex at 10 Avenue of the Flags in the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael.

The county collected 827 guns and 1,500 rounds of ammunition on Jan. 15, but $36,000 of the $43,000 that was allocated for the buyback was gone in about 90 minutes, Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian said.

The district attorney's office then set the remaining $7,000 aside, Berberian said.

The district attorney's office then issued $68,000 in vouchers and solicited tax-deductible donations from the public.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors allocated $40,000, $30,000 of it from a "safety net" fund, and trusts administrated by the Marin Community Foundation contributed $35,000.

Contributions from the public, law enforcement agencies and public agencies totaled another $30,000.

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137