San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday Morning News Roundup

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Santa Cruz: Two Officers Shot, Killed During Investigation, Suspect Killed in Later Shootout

Two veteran officers were shot and killed in Santa Cruz Tuesday, sparking a series of events that led to a fatal afternoon shootout with the suspect in what the police chief called "the darkest day in the history of the Santa Cruz Police Department."

Sgt. Loran "Butch" Baker and Detective Elizabeth Butler were both shot and killed after going to the home of 35-year-old Jeremy Goulet in the 800 block of North Branciforte Avenue at about 3:30 p.m. as part of an investigation, law enforcement officials said.

Baker and Butler were dressed in plain clothes during the follow-up investigation at Goulet's home, and shortly after they arrived there was an altercation with a suspect believed to be Goulet, and eventually both officers were shot and the suspect fled, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak said.

Neighbors quickly reported hearing the shots, prompting more police and sheriff's deputies to respond and find the two fallen officers.

They set up a perimeter to search for the suspect and attempted life-saving efforts on Baker and Butler, Wowak said.

While searching the neighborhood, officers located Goulet who opened fire on them, leading to a shootout that left Goulet dead at the scene, Wowak said.

Residents in the area said that the shootout was in the 100 block of Doyle Drive near the Whole Foods Market, and that residents and businesses in the area were warned not to go outside.

An employee of a local business said that 20 officers were hiding outside with guns drawn and a short time later she heard gunfire down the street. Sheriff's deputies then conducted a door-to-door search of the neighborhood to ensure that there was not a second suspect hiding somewhere in the neighborhood.

Wowak said that search was just concluding at about 9:30 p.m. during a news conference to release details about the two shooting incidents.

No additional suspects were being sought Tuesday night, sheriff's spokeswoman April Skalland said.

Several schools in the area were locked down after the first shooting, and students had to stay in the school until they were able to board a school bus around 7 p.m. heading to the county building at 701 Ocean St. to be reunited with their families, Skalland said.

Parents of students at the schools said that some of the elementary school children had been outside playing and waiting for their parents to pick them up at the time of the first shooting, and were quickly called back inside as the police action progressed.

The police action involved multiple agencies, including police from Scotts Valley and Capitola, the Monterey County Sheriff's Office and the FBI.

The two fallen officers both leave behind families. Baker, a 28-year veteran of the force, leaves behind his wife, two daughters and a son who now works with Santa Cruz police as a community service officer, police Chief Kevin Vogel said.

Vogel called Baker a longtime friend, and a "mentor."

Butler was a 10-year veteran assigned to investigations and leaves behind her husband Peter and two young sons, Vogel said.

"I want to express my heartfelt thank you to every member of our community that's reached out over this tragic situation," Vogel said, noting that the department had never had an officer killed in the line of duty in its history.

SF: Homes Flooded, Cars Damaged After Water Ruptures

Fire crews are responding to a water main break that caused major flooding in San Francisco's Inner Parkside neighborhood this morning, fire officials said.

The water main break, at the intersection of 15th Avenue and Wawona Street, was reported to fire crews at 2:36 a.m.

According to fire officials, the intersection is completely flooded and residents have also reported flooding of their cars and homes, fire officials said.

Salinas: Man Accused of Murdering Girlfriend's Infant Daughter Pleads Not Guilty

A man accused of killing a 10-month-old Castroville girl who was in his care pleaded not guilty in Monterey County Superior Court Tuesday afternoon.

In a brief appearance in a Salinas courtroom, 47-year-old Jesus Vargas Espinoza pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, child endangerment and child endangerment causing death.

Dressed in orange-and-white striped jail clothing with his hands cuffed in front of him, Espinoza, who is balding with a gray beard, entered his pleas through his public defender.

Espinoza was arrested in Los Angeles County on Feb. 18 on suspicion of murdering Angelle Jenisis Negron, his girlfriend's infant daughter.

He is being held in Monterey County Jail without bail and will return to court on March 27 for a preliminary hearing.

Outside of court Tuesday afternoon, the girl's mother, Susan Morales, told reporters she wants justice to be served.

"I have questions and no answers, and he has them all," she said of Espinoza.

Angelle, who was born last April 16 in Santa Cruz, was found dead in a field off of Market Street just outside Salinas city limits on Feb. 19.

Her family had reported her missing several days earlier.

Angelle's grandmother, Pompey Morales, said the family had left her in Espinoza's care on Feb. 2 but that he did not return the baby as promised.

Morales said Espinoza and his daughter repeatedly made excuses for why they did not return the infant, including that they were taking her to Disneyland.

The baby's mother had been dating Espinoza for about six months, the grandmother said.

SF: City Celebrates Completion of First Phase of Cruise Ship Terminal

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other city officials Tuesday celebrated the completion of the first phase of construction on the new cruise ship terminal that will also serve as the headquarters of the upcoming America's Cup sailing race.

Lee said the new James R. Herman Cruise Terminal at Pier 27 serves as part of the "reawakening of our whole waterfront."

America's Cup organizers will be the first tenants in the two-story building, which will serve as the headquarters of the races that will run for several weeks between July and September.

Following the regatta, construction will recommence to make the terminal operational for cruise ships by 2014.

The site will also include a 2.5-acre public park called the Northeast Wharf Plaza, according to the mayor's office.

"These are great gifts that I think will last for many generations to come," Lee said.

The terminal at The Embarcadero and Lombard Street will be able to handle vessels carrying up to 2,600 passengers, who will get off their ship to expansive views of Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill and the city's skyline.

"From the moment of arrival, visitors will be beckoned out to the experience that is San Francisco," Port of San Francisco executive director Monique Moyer said.

During the roughly three-quarters of the year that cruise ships will not be in port, the facility will also be able for use for weddings and other private events, Moyer said.

The terminal is named after Herman, the former Port Commission president who "was adamant that San Francisco not leave behind its maritime roots," Moyer said.

She said, "Our city will always be a world-class waterfront city."

Cruise ships bring an estimated 200,000 passengers to San Francisco each year and more than $30 million to its economy, according to port officials.

Oakland: Crews Fix Residential Gas Leak Near High School

Fire crews have fixed a propane gas leak at a residence that prompted the evacuation of Castlemont High School and surrounding East Oakland residences Tuesday evening, fire and PG&E officials said.

The leak was reported in the rear of the high school, located at 8601 MacArthur Boulevard, at 6:52 p.m., a fire dispatcher said.

The school and a number of surrounding residences were evacuated as the Oakland Fire Department and PG&E crews investigated the leak.

The source of the leak was discovered to be a propane tank behind a home in the 2300 block of 85th Avenue.

The resident there called PG&E to report the leak, PG&E spokeswoman Jana Morris said. PG&E crews determined that the leak was not from PG&E equipment and was coming from the propane tank.

PG&E shut down gas service for 10 customers in the area as a precaution, Morris said.

The Oakland Fire Department had the gas leak under control by 10:45 p.m. and are no longer on scene, according to fire officials.

Richmond: Vallejo Woman Found Guilty of Murdering Son's Father

A jury found a Vallejo woman guilty of murder Tuesday for the killing of her son's father in the parking lot of his Pittsburg apartment complex three years ago.

The verdict, read Tuesday afternoon in a Richmond courtroom, came at the end of a second murder trial for Jennell Wright, 37, who prosecutors said gunned down 31-year-old Andrew Le'Mar Green on Feb. 23, 2010.

The first trial ended more than a year ago with a hung jury.

Tuesday, however, the jury convicted Wright on a first-degree murder charge and also found true special circumstances allegations that she committed the murder by lying in wait and with the intentional use of a firearm.

The special circumstances conviction means she will serve a minimum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, and that she is also eligible for the death penalty.

Dressed in a black business suit, Wright did not show any emotion as a bailiff handcuffed her and led her out of the courtroom Tuesday.

Green's mother, Lucinda Jackson, wiped away tears as the verdict was read.

"It's been a long journey, I'm glad it's over," she said outside of the courtroom.

Jackson recalled the increasingly troubled relationship between her son and Wright, who she said became obsessed with Green leading up to his murder.

The two were no longer romantically involved and shared custody of their toddler-aged son, Savion, at the time of the killing.

But Jackson said Wright did not want Green to be a part of the boy's life and that her son feared his ex would do anything to prevent that from happening.

On the day of his murder, he called his mother to tell her he wanted to hire a lawyer because he worried Wright might hurt their son, said Jackson, who now has full custody of him.

"It's sad because it didn't have to come to this," she said.

"Every day there are parents separated or divorced that work together to raise their child."

Instead, Wright formed a plan to kill Green. Deputy District Attorney Lynn Uilkema said Wright set the plan into action on the night of Feb. 22, 2010, when she checked into a hotel near her ex-boyfriend's Pittsburg apartment complex.

Hours later, armed with a gun and bullet speed-loader, she drove to the complex and waited in a darkened corner of the parking lot for him to return home from work.

After Green pulled into the lot in the early hours of Feb. 23, 2010, Wright carried out her plan, shooting him three times, according to Uilkema.

During the trial, Wright claimed she never meant to kill Green and instead had planned to kill herself.

Pinole: Police Seek Publilc's Help in Finding Attempted Child Kidnapping Suspect

Pinole police are seeking the public's help in finding a suspect who allegedly tried to lure a 12-year-old boy into his car as the boy walked home from school on Friday.

At about 1:50 p.m. on Friday the boy was walking home in the area of Nob Hill Avenue and Patrick Drive when he noticed a woman driving in a red car with a male suspect in the passenger seat, police said.

The woman stopped the car near the intersection and the male suspect got out and walked to an older model white four-door sedan, according to police.

The man got into the white car and pulled out a large, gray bag, and approached the student, police said.

According to police, the man said to the student: "Kidnap. Get in my car. Everything will be fine."

The boy then ran away and hid in some bushes, staying there until he saw the man drive by in the white car, police said.

Police described the suspect as a white man about 35 years old, standing 6 feet tall, with a large build, a black beard and wearing white framed prescription glasses.

SF: Supes Approve Tax Relief for City Employees with Same-Sex Partners

San Francisco city employees will soon receive tax relief for health benefits they receive for their same-sex partners in legislation given unanimous initial approval Tuesday by the city's Board of Supervisors.

Health benefits in same-sex partnerships are currently taxed by the federal government as income while heterosexual couples' benefits are not.

Legislation introduced by Supervisor Mark Farrell will reimburse nearly 400 city employees who receive that tax, which can total more than $1,750 annually.

"This is ultimately an issue of equality," Farrell said.

"We can't and should not stand still in San Francisco while this discrimination continues."

The legislation, which was passed 11-0 and will return in front of the board next week for final approval, will cost about $616,000 per year to the city's general fund while same-sex partnerships are not recognized by the federal government.

The U.S. Supreme Court next month is considering cases challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex partnerships, as well as California's Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriages in the state.

State Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, has also introduced legislation that will address a secondary tax levied by the state on the federal reimbursements.

California companies like Facebook and Google already offer the reimbursements for same-sex couples, which are then taxed by the state to the tune of an average of $540 per year.

Ting's legislation, Assembly Bill 362, would exempt those reimbursements from state taxation.

SF: "Reentry Pod" Opens for Jail Inmates About to be Released From Custody

San Francisco's sheriff's and adult probation departments announced Tuesday a new wing in one of the county jails that will focus specifically on inmates about to be released from custody.

The "reentry pod" will open on Thursday and target inmates released to the supervision of probation officials under the state's realignment policy that went into effect in 2011.

That policy shifted the burden for low-level offenders from state prisons to county authorities.

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi and Chief Adult Probation Officer Wendy Still Tuesday unveiled the pod, located at County Jail 2 at 425 Seventh St. near Bryant Street.

The circular-shaped facility will house up to 56 inmates in custody for low-level, non-violent crimes and "sets a new template" for how jails can help people re-enter their communities after being in custody, Mirkarimi said.

The inmates housed for 60 days in the pod prior to their release can receive cognitive behavioral programs, substance abuse treatment, classes on parenting or for educational credit, among other individualized and group services.

The goal is to reduce the number of inmates who re-offend once out of custody and find themselves back in jail, Still said.

"We give those who are being released a chance at being successful, as opposed to being released with a sure plan for failure," she said.

Upon release, the people in the program will continue to be offered resources by the probation department and partnering nonprofits.

The sheriff's department is spending $44 more per day for each inmate in the program, but expects to make up that cost in less inmates who return to custody after release, Mirkarimi said.

The program will start with 11 inmates moving in on Thursday, with more expected in the coming months.

Mirkarimi said he hopes to expand the program in future years if it proves successful with the inmates.

Regional: Two State Laws Would Toughen Penalties for Refieneries, Other Major Polluters

Two East Bay Area lawmakers introduced air pollution bills this week inspired by the massive fire at Chevron's Richmond refinery last August.

State Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Oakland, and state Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, each announced bills Monday aimed at holding oil refineries and other major polluters accountable for air quality violations.

Representatives from both legislators' offices say the bills are a "direct response" to the Chevron refinery fire on Aug. 6 that spewed toxic smoke into the air and sent 15,000 people to hospitals to be treated for breathing problems and other illnesses linked to the blaze.

Hancock introduced Senate Bill 691 to raise the civil penalties air polluters must pay for air quality regulation violations.

Under the proposed law, refineries and other major polluters would have to pay $100,000 for one-day violations of air quality regulations, according to the senator's office.

The maximum penalty for such violations is $25,000 under current law.

"I am introducing this bill because current penalties are far too low for polluters who cause thousands of people to suffer," Hancock said in a statement.

The legislation was sponsored by Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Breathe California, an advocacy group that works to reduce the impact of lung disease.

State Assembly Bill 1165 was crafted to ensure that unsafe conditions at refineries are corrected as soon as possible, even if the company cited for an air quality violation undergoes an appeals process, according to Skinner's office.

"Under current rules an appeals process can leave unsafe conditions in place for months and even years," the assemblywoman said.

"AB 1165 improves worker and public safety by requiring hazardous conditions to get fixed even when a violation is appealed."

The California Department of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, hit Chevron last month with 25 workplace violations linked to last year's Richmond refinery fire.

Under current law, if Chevron chooses to appeal the department's decision, the company would not have to address any of the violations until the appeals process was resolved.

Skinner said if the bill were in effect Tuesday "we would all have peace of mind knowing that hazardous conditions don't linger."

SJ: Driver Sought in Fatal Hit-And-Run Collision

Police are trying to locate the driver of a car that struck and killed a woman in her late 40s in a hit-and-run collision in San Jose early Tuesday morning, police said.

The incident was reported shortly after 1 a.m. at the intersection of Monterey Road and Bellevue Avenue.

Officers determined that a vehicle had struck the woman while she was crossing Monterey Road.

The driver fled before police arrived. She was found in a southbound lane on Monterey Road, San Jose police Officer Albert Morales said.

The victim was transported to a hospital with life-threatening injuries.

She succumbed to her injuries at 1:50 a.m., police said.

A preliminary investigation indicated that the woman was walking east when a dark-colored Honda sedan similar to a 1996- to 2000-model Honda Civic struck her, police said.

The car did not stop and continued south on Monterey Road.

Police said the vehicle is believed to have a detached driver's side mirror and that the front driver's side headlight is likely broken and the front windshield damaged.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, neither the driver nor the car had been located, according to Morales.

The victim's identity is being withheld until her family is notified of her death, according to the Santa Clara County medical examiner's office.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call San Jose police at (408) 277-4654 or anonymously at (408) 947-7867, or online at tipsubmit.com, and may be eligible for an award.

Sonoma Co: Supes Vote to Spend $100K For Engineering Report on Adding Fluoride to Water

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Tuesday evening voted unanimously to spend $103,000 on an engineering and design report for fluoridation of the Sonoma County Water Agency's drinking water supply.

The proposal to fluoridate the water is one of five approaches to improve the dental health of the county's residents, especially low-income children and seniors.

The other preventative measures include providing dental sealants for school-age children, varnishes in childhood, expanding access to dental care and education about brushing, flossing and eating a healthy diet.

A 2009 oral health assessment in the county found a crisis in untreated tooth decay and dental disease.

The fluoridated water would be received by 350,000 residents in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Windsor, Sonoma, Petaluma, Cotati, Forestville, the Valley of the Moon and 50,000 Novato area residents in the Novato area.

A final vote on fluoridation is not expected until 2014.

The cost of upgrading the county's water system to provide fluoridated water is estimated at $8.5 million, and the annual maintenance is estimated at $1 million.

The vote came after a four-hour hearing during which 63 people spoke in favor and against fluoridation.

Opponents of fluoridation objected to what they called "forced, mass medication."

They cited studies that claimed fluoride in water caused osteoporosis, cancer, thyroid disease, lower levels of intelligence in children, hip fractures in the elderly, stained and pitted teeth, and endocrine disruption.

They said sugars, processed foods, poor nutrition and soda are rotting children's teeth, and children will not benefit from fluoridated water because they drink either soda or bottled water.

"This is like using a sledge hammer to do surgery," one critic said.

Critics said the money would be better spent on education and providing dental care and dental clinics.

Weather Forecast for the San Francisco Bay Area

Sunny skies are likely in the Bay Area this morning.

Highs are likely to be in the upper 50s, with westerly winds up to 10 mph.

Partly cloudy skies are expected this evening.

Lows are likely to be in the upper 40s, with westerly winds up to 10 mph.

Partly cloudy skies are likely Thursday morning, becoming sunny later in the day.

Highs are expected to be in the lower 60s, with light winds in the afternoon.

 

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