San Francisco Bay Area Friday Morning News Roundup

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Driver Of Stolen Car Flees SF Police, Crashes On Mission Street

A police officer fired shots at a stolen vehicle as the suspect behind the wheel attempted to flee in San Francisco's Tenderloin district late Thursday night, according to police.

At approximately 9:15 p.m. a black town car was reported stolen in San Francisco. The car's description and license plate was broadcasted on the police department's radio channels.

Shortly thereafter, a plainclothes police officer located the stolen vehicle near the intersection of Market and Eighth streets.

The unmarked police officer notified dispatch and followed the vehicle in an unmarked police vehicle to the 300 block of Eddy Street, where additional marked police officers had arrived to assist.

The town car fled eastbound on Eddy Street as marked units arrived in the area.

Spike strips were laid down on Eddy Street to disable the suspect vehicle. To avoid the spike strips, the suspect steered the car onto the sidewalk, police said.

An officer standing on the sidewalk, fearing for his life and the life of other pedestrians in the area, discharged his firearm at the car, according to police.

The car continued on Eddy Street to Fifth Street. The suspect vehicle collided with a taxicab at Fifth and Mission streets in the South of Market neighborhood. Two vehicles in the vicinity were also hit during the collision, police said.

Officers arrived at the intersection of Fifth and Mission streets and located the suspect behind the wheel of the town car, according to police.

The suspect and four other people sustained injuries not considered to have been life threatening, police said.

The suspect, whose name has not been released, was then arrested without further incident, police said.

East San Jose Couple Shot To Death In Apparent Murder-Suicide

A man and a woman were found shot to death in an East San Jose home Thursday afternoon from an apparent murder-suicide, according to police.

The shooting was reported around 4:30 p.m. in the 1800 block of Bermuda Way, police said.

The two are believed to have been romantically involved, and the man shot the woman and then himself, police Sgt. Jason Dwyer said.

A third person was the house with the two when the shooting happened who called police after going upstairs and finding the two dead, Dwyer said.

Police have not yet identified the two killed, but said both were in their 20s.

The house is in a suburban neighborhood across the street from William C. Overfelt High School.

Even as Bermuda Way was blocked off Thursday afternoon while police investigated, softball games continued on the high school grounds and children walked through the neighborhood carrying Valentine's Day balloons.

Two Men Injured In East San Jose Drive-By Shooting

Police are investigating a drive-by shooting that injured two men in East San Jose Thursday night.

Officers received a report of a shooting in the 100 block of Gramercy Place at about 10:32 p.m.

According to police, a person in an SUV drove through the neighborhood and fired multiple shots.

Two men standing outside a residence were struck by the gunfire, police said.

The suspect vehicle fled the scene and police have not identified any suspects.

Both victims were transported to a local hospital with injuries not considered to be life threatening, police said.

Police said the shooting is possibly gang-related and remains under investigation.

14-Year-Old Girl Fatally Struck By Vehicle In Antioch

A vehicle fatally struck a 14-year-old girl in Antioch Thursday evening, police said.

Officers received a report of an auto versus pedestrian collision at the intersection of Hillcrest Avenue and Hidden Glen Drive at about 6:42 p.m.

Upon arrival, officers discovered that a vehicle had struck a 14-year-old girl, while she was attempting to cross the street.

The girl was airlifted to a local hospital, where she later died from her injuries, police said.

The driver of the vehicle, as well as several witnesses, remained at the scene of the collision and provided accounts of the incident to investigators, police said.

The investigation into the incident is ongoing, but police said preliminary indications are that neither alcohol nor speed contributed in the collision.

The name of the victim has not been released, pending notification of family members, police said.

Alameda County Sheriff's Office Proposal For Drone Program To Be Reworked

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office brought a proposal to the county Board of Supervisors Public Protection Committee Thursday to purchase a small unmanned aircraft system, but amid privacy concerns from civil rights groups the committee made no decision on whether the program would move forward.

The unmanned aircraft, commonly called a drone, would have a number of proposed missions to improve public safety in Alameda County, sheriff's Capt. Tom Madigan said.

Some of the missions include crime scene preservation and documentation, support in explosive ordinance disposal, hazardous materials spills, search and rescue missions and public safety and life preservation, Madigan said.

In addition, fire authorities would be able to request response to use the drones to find hot spots, Madigan said.

Sheriff Gregory Ahern insists that the device is not a drone, which gives the impression of a weapon-baring military drone, but a system to assist in an on-mission circumstance only.

"There is no intention to add weapons to the system," Ahern said.

The system has been in the works for more than two and a half years, Ahern said Thursday at the hearing.

The sheriff's office has been in direct communication with the program's opposition, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, to hash out any concerns, he said.

ACLU spokesman Will Matthews expressed privacy as the organization's top concern.

"Before a drone is deployed, we need to put into place strict privacy safeguards to ensure drones won't be used for warrantless mass surveillance," Matthews said.

Madigan said the drone, which weighs 4.4 pounds, will not invade anyone's privacy and would only be deployed by approval from a command-level officer with the rank of captain or higher.

It can only stay airborne for 12 to 25 minutes, "so it won't be patrolling Alameda County," he said.

Matthews said that the ACLU believes the sheriff's office is committed to take consideration of the privacy concerns, but the benefits of the drone still need to be assessed.

There are loopholes in the guidelines proposed by the sheriff's office that will allow alterations to the program without further Board of Supervisors approval, Matthews said.

Matthews said that with improving technology, the program could go from one that will include a lightweight drone that is in the air for a short period of time to a heavy-duty device that can stay airborne for several hours.

Large Anti-Domestic Violence Rally Held Outside San Francisco City Hall

Many San Francisco city officials -- even Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi -- joined about a thousand community members outside City Hall Thursday for a Valentine's Day rally as part of an international campaign against domestic violence.

Mayor Ed Lee and District Attorney George Gascon led the rally for One Billion Rising, a campaign meant to call attention to the statistic that one in three women and girls worldwide will be beaten or raped in their lifetimes, according to organizers.

Authorities shut down Polk Street in front of City Hall while people danced and held signs denouncing domestic abuse and other violent crimes.

"We all stand united to take a pledge to end violence against women and children for good," Lee said.

Gascon said, "We here in San Francisco are going to show no tolerance" for violent crime.

Kathy Black, executive director of La Casa de las Madres, a San Francisco-based domestic violence victim shelter, was among a group of victim advocates who also attended the rally.

"After a year of domestic violence being in the news, people were hungering for an event like this," Black said, referring to Mirkarimi's misdemeanor conviction for an incident in which he grabbed his wife's arm during an argument, causing a bruise.

He was sentenced to three years' probation and was suspended without pay by the mayor, but returned to his post in October after a prolonged administrative hearing that ended when the city's Board of Supervisors did not garner enough votes to remove him from office.

Mirkarimi, who organized a flash mob dance in the county jail Thursday to highlight the One Billion Rising campaign, also attended the rally outside City Hall but stood with his wife and young son on the steps away from the other city officials.

Mirkarimi said he was not invited to take part in the official rally.

"Did they send me a Valentine? No, they did not," he said. "That's not going to deter me. I'm not going to shy away from my advocacy and desire to see us do everything we can to eradicate violence and domestic violence," Mirkarimi said.

He said he has repeatedly reached out to the mayor's office to try to reconcile in the months after returning to his office as sheriff but has been met with silence.

"Crickets are chirping," he said.

Black said she thought it was "too bad" that Mirkarimi came to the City Hall rally, saying it was potentially distracting to its message.

Hundreds Duke It Out At Valentine's Day Pillow Fight

A Valentine's Day battle had feathers flying at the eighth annual "Great San Francisco Pillow Fight" Thursday evening.

Hundreds of participants armed with pillows filled Justin Herman Plaza at the foot of Market Street waiting for the Ferry Building clock to strike 6 p.m. to begin the fight.

One couple celebrating nine months since their wedding was waiting at the outskirts of the crowd to join in on the fight. They had purchased goggles to protect themselves from the clumps of feathers floating through the air and whacks to the head.

Oakland resident David Hamill, 39, surprised his wife, Faith, 34, with Valentine's plans to battle it out with pillows.

"I was looking for something fun to do for Valentine's Day," he said.

Organizers reminded participants to only hit those with pillows themselves, a rule attendees appeared to be following.

Angel Gonzalez, up from San Diego to celebrate his 25th birthday, joined the fight on a whim. His hair was covered in feathers.

"It's exhausting," he said, emerging from the center of the fight.

He noted his strategy was to do the "helicopter," which he demonstrated as swinging his pillow above his head and taking out everyone around him.

He said the best part of the fight was "bashing each other," but that "it's all out of love."

A mother-daughter team from Sebastopol came prepared with strategy.

"We thought of it as the 'Hunger Games'," 18-year-old Grace Woods said, as her mother, Amy, 47, caught her breath.

She explained that the pair waited on the outside of the fight until the weak gave up and then went in for their attack.

"It's a great way to release stress," Grace Woods said.

Her mother agreed. "It was aggressive out there," she said.

For 9-year-old Lily Wertheim, her favorite part was "whacking my mom."

Her mother, Karin Wertheim, came to San Francisco with her daughter on BART from Berkeley after friends recommended the fight as a Valentine's Day event.

Lily said she wanted to participate again next year, but next time she would "bring more padding and pillows."

Same-Sex Couples Hold Annual Marriage License Protest At Clerk's Office

Same-sex couples tried to get marriage licenses Thursday at the county clerk's office at San Francisco City Hall as part of a symbolic Valentine's Day protest against California's ban on gay marriage.

The annual action, organized by Marriage Equality USA, was preceded by a news conference at which organizers said they simply want the same rights as heterosexual couples.

"Just treat us equally in the eyes of the law," said Billy Bradford, an activist with the group. "We're not asking for much."

The U.S. Supreme Court on March 26 will hear oral arguments on whether to uphold or overturn Proposition 8, which voters passed in 2008 to amend the state's constitution to provide that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

The court is expected to issue a decision in the case by the end of June.

Some city officials joined Thursday's news conference, including Supervisor Scott Wiener.

Wiener noted that during the annual event at City Hall, there are always weddings going on in the rotunda of the building.

"I know very soon everyone will be able to get married in that rotunda," he said.

While gay marriage remains not valid in California, same-sex couples are limited to registering with the state as domestic partners, a procedure Jeff Tabaco said, "had all the beauty and celebration of a business transaction."

Tabaco and Thom Watson are one of the couples waiting for gay marriage to be legalized in California and who went to the clerk's office to ask for a marriage license.

"We know we won't be able to get legally married today," Watson said. "We're asking for that same recognition until it's simply the way things are."

The group walked to the clerk's office while singing the song "What the World Needs Now Is Love" and chanting for marriage equality.

BART Announces Second Test of Expanded Bike Access

BART board members weighing a plan to increase both fares and parking rates at a meeting in Oakland Thursday said the proposal appeared to be unfair to those who park and ride.

The fare program currently before the board would continue a program of inflation-based increases through 2020, BART officials said Thursday. Riders could expect to see an approximately 5.2 percent increase in 2014, and estimated increases of around 3.9 percent in 2016, 2018 and 2020. The regular fare increases would generate estimated additional revenue of $325 million between 2014 and 2021, officials said.

BART officials are also considering an increase in parking rates at busy lots. Daily parking rates could increase by 50 cents every six months, with a possible cap of $2 or $3, under the current proposal.

BART's parking rates, particularly its long-term and airport parking, remain well below those of other comparable agencies, according to staff. Several BART directors noted Thursday, however, that the proposed parking rate increase penalizes those who drive to the station.

"If we go with the combination of CPI increases and parking charges, the average rider will have an increase of 5.2 percent, and if you drive you get an increase of almost 10 percent," Board member Joel Keller said.

"I don't think what's proposed today is fair to all our riders," Keller added.

A random BART survey indicated around 35 percent of riders drive to stations, staff said Thursday.

Board members said more options, such as shuttles or improved transit access, were needed for those who otherwise had little choice but to drive to stations.

At least one public comment, however, suggested that some drivers would accept an increase in parking rates if it made it easier to find a spot.

"We would be in favor of moving toward a more demand-based and simplified parking system," said Jessica Zink, with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

"The number one reason that people in the South Bay cite to me for not taking BART is uncertainty about finding parking," Zink said. "For the majority of people who drive and park, income is not really an issue, the issue is access."

Solano Pilots Association Pays Tribute To Pilot Killed In Crash

Solano County pilots are paying tribute Thursday to fellow aviator Jeffrey Sharman who died Wednesday afternoon when his single-engine, fixed-wing experimental plane crashed near Interstate Highway 505 near Winters.

The Solano Pilots Association website said Sharman, 68, of Vacaville, was a well-known and respected friend who was responsible for building many experimental aircraft, and he died doing what he loved, flying.

"Affectionately referred to as 'The Gnome' by his friends, Jeff was eager to help anyone with a repair, to give his view in national and world politics, or even to point you in the right direction if he didn't have the equipment to help," according to the website.

Vacaville dentist David Aronson said Sharman was flying an Avions Fairey Tipsy Nipper T-66 Wednesday.

A witness told the California Highway Patrol the wing came off and the plane spiraled to the ground shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday. The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

"He had a great sense of humor and was an outstanding fellow," Aronson said. "We'll miss him terribly."

Sharman, owner of Sharman Enterprises, was instrumental in restoring, building, dismantling and shipping certified aircraft, Aronson said.

A native of South Africa, Sharman leaves his wife Sheila and son Billy. Aronson said he hasn't discussed plans with Sheila for a memorial.

The Sacramento RVators also paid tribute to Sharman on its website. Its 96 members are interested in Van's RV series of aircraft and Harmon/F1 Rockets.

"The entire aviation community will miss him," the group said on its website.

BART Board Weighs Increases To Fares, Parking Rates

BART will conduct a weeklong test program allowing bicycles on all trains at all hours next month, officials announced Thursday.

Currently, bikes are banned from all trains during commute hours, a policy that has been the subject of protest from bicycle commuters for years.

The pilot program, which will run from March 18 through 22, will prohibit bikes from the front three cars of all trains during commute hours, 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Bikes are prohibited from the first car at all times for safety reasons, officials said.

The pilot program is the second test expansion of bicycle access to BART this year. In August, bicycles were allowed on all trains at all stations every Friday.

"Some people feared disastrous consequences if bikes were allowed during commute hours, but the August pilot showed that just doesn't happen," said Shirley Jackson, a member of BART's bicycle advisory task force. "Everything went really well."

Bicycle advocates greeted the news of the second pilot program with enthusiasm.

"We heard from countless bike riders on both sides of the Bay that the August pilot opened up regional commuting by bike for both experienced bike riders and those wanting to give it a try for the first time," said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, in a statement.

If the second pilot is deemed a success, BART staff will return to the board with a proposal for permanent changes to bike policy.

BART is also working to reconfigure cars to allow more space for bikes, strollers, luggage and wheelchairs, officials said Thursday.

Reconfigurations should be complete by June this year. Efforts are also underway to expand bike parking and lockers.

Man Who Shot Pittsburg Officer Was On Probation For Drug, Weapons Crimes

Police have identified a man who shot and wounded a police officer in an exchange of gunfire in Pittsburg Tuesday night.

Troy Aben Makanski, 30, of Oakley, was arrested after allegedly shooting at two police officers during a pursuit Tuesday night, according to Lt. Ron Raman.

The suspect was on probation and had three active felony warrants for his arrest in connection with weapons, drugs and probation violation at the time of the shooting, Raman said.

Police said two officers attempted to contact Makanski near the intersection of Maple and East 12th streets around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, but he fled on foot as they approached.

The suspect then grabbed a gun and shot at the officers, hitting one of them at close range in the back, according to Raman.

The officers returned fire, hitting the suspect, who is in stable condition at a hospital.

The officer who was hit was wearing protective gear that prevented the bullet from penetrating his body. He was treated for his wounds at a hospital and released.

Both officers involved in the shooting are police veterans with more than five years of experience. The two have been placed on three days of administrative leave, following police protocol after an officer-involved shooting, Raman said.

"Our officers come to work with the unfortunate reality that these types of incidents can occur at any time," the lieutenant said. "This incident unfolded quickly and our officers reverted to their training and reacted to the threat on their life. Their actions were heroic and we are glad that they are okay."

Makanski will be transported to county jail upon his release from the hospital.

Sam Man Suspected Of Robbing Two Sonoma County Banks Today And Another In February

Police believe the same man robbed the US Bank in two Safeway stores in Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa within 17 minutes Thursday morning. He also is suspected of robbing the Chase Bank in the Raley's store in Santa Rosa on Feb. 1, Santa Rosa police Sgt. Dave Linscomb said.

A suspect entered the US Bank in the Safeway Store at 6340 Commerce Blvd. in Rohnert Park around 10:27 a.m., Rohnert Park police said.

He demanded cash from a teller and left. No weapon was seen. That suspect was described as a Hispanic man between 5 feet 4 inches and 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 200-250 pounds. He had bleached hair and a black goatee, Rohnert Park police said.

The suspect who robbed the US Bank in the Safeway store on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa around 11:14 a.m. also gave the teller a note demanding money, Linscomb said.

The suspect implied he was armed, but did not show a gun, and fled east with the cash, Linscomb said.

That suspect was described as approximately 5 feet 5 inches tall with a stocky build and a goatee, Linscomb said. He was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and a black baseball hat, Linscomb said.

The suspect in the Chase Bank robbery in the Raley's store at 1407 Fulton Road at 10:10 a.m. on Feb. 1 was described as a Hispanic man in his late 20s, 5 feet 6 inches tall and between 160-170 pounds. He was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and black jeans.

Linscomb said based on the common descriptions of the suspects, one man he is believed to be responsible for all three heists.

US Bank is offering a reward up to $25,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the suspect in any US Bank robberies.

Anyone with information is asked to call Rohnert Park police at (707) 584-2600 or Santa Rosa police at (707) 543-3590.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Report

Sunny skies are likely in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are likely to be in the mid 60s, with northern winds up to 10 mph.

Mostly clear skies are likely this evening. Lows are expected to be around 50, with northeast winds up to 10 mph.

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

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