San Francisco Bay Area Friday Morning News Roundup

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Fired Santa Clara Tech Employee Killed Three Managers In 2008 Out Of Revenge

A prosecutor in the trial of a man accused of killing three managers at a Santa Clara semiconductor company in 2008 said Thursday the defendant was resentful about being fired from his $125,000-a-year job and returned a day later to shoot the victims to death.

Jing Hua Wu, a former testing engineer for the firm SiPort, Inc., "begged for his job" back during a follow-up meeting with the three victims the afternoon of Nov. 14, 2008, and when they refused, he shot them, Deputy District Attorney Tim McInerny said.

"Revenge. That's what this case comes down to," McInerny said in his opening statement in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose Thursday morning.

McInerny said the killings were "planned, purposeful and premeditated."

Wu, 51, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder with special circumstances for the deaths of SiPort CEO Sid Agrawal, 56; its vice president of operations Brian Pugh, 47; and human resources manager Marilyn Lewis, 67.

SiPort, which made high definition radio chips, was bought by Intel in 2011.

The special-circumstance allegations could make Wu eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted.

Thursday in court, McInerny showed jurors graphic autopsy photos of the three victims and their bullet wounds.

He said Wu had purchased a small 9mm handgun at a gun store in Santa Clara, used it to practice at a gun range in Milpitas and bought 100 rounds of ammunition on the day of the shooting -- six of which he used to shoot the victims at close range.

In his opening statement, Wu's defense lawyer, San Francisco civil rights attorney Tony Serra, described his client as "a law-abiding man, family man prior to this horrible, horrible episode," which he said resulted from Wu's family struggles in China and mental illness.

Serra said Wu grew up in Communist China. He lived through the Great Famine period of 1958 to 1961 when many people starved, and was there for the Cultural Revolution beginning in the mid-1960s when Wu's family was denounced for its previous ties to the Nationalist China movement.

Wu was repeatedly beaten for being associated with the nationalist group and once was held underwater and nearly drowned by political opponents, causing him to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, Serra said.

Mother Admits To San Jose Police She Made Up Attempted Kidnapping Of 3-Year-Old Daughter

A mother who reported that her toddler had almost been snatched from her arms outside her East San Jose home Tuesday morning told police Thursday she fabricated the story, San Jose police said.

Police were told that the mother was in front of her home in the 2000 block of Dayo Court while her 3-year-old daughter played in the yard when a stranger approached and commented about the little girl.

According to the mother, the man made her uncomfortable so she picked up her daughter, which was when the man grabbed both of the girl's legs and tried to pull her away, police said.

The mother said she kept a hold on her daughter and ran inside and the man fled on foot and was seen walking south on Pavan Drive, police said.

The mother reported the incident at 5:37 p.m. that day and arriving officers were unable to find the man in the area, police said.

Thursday the mother was re-interviewed by two detectives, which was when she admitted to fabricating the attempted kidnapping.

Pending review from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, the mother may be charged with false reporting of a criminal offense, police said.

The mother had given police a detailed description of the man, and the department had released a sketch in an effort to track him down.

She had described him as a 25- to 30-year-old Hispanic man, standing 5 feet 6 inches tall, wearing a red baseball cap, jeans and a white or light shirt. She said that he smelled of motor oil, police said.

Two Men Ordered To Stand Trial For Berkeley Murder In 2010

A judge Thursday ordered two men to stand trail on murder and attempted murder charges for a fatal shooting near a Berkeley barbershop in broad daylight in October 2010 that left one man dead and another seriously wounded.

At the end of a lengthy preliminary hearing that began in mid-December and met intermittently since then, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Larry Goodman ruled that prosecutors showed that there's probable cause to show that Brandon Wallace, 23, of Bay Point, and Coleon Lee Carroll, 23, of Berkeley, are responsible for a shooting in the 2900 block of Sacramento Street in Berkeley at 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 26, 2010, that left Gary Ferguson Jr., a 35-year-old Oakland man, dead and a second man seriously injured.

Berkeley police said at least a few dozen shots were fired in the incident.

Prosecutor Steve Dal Porto, who declined to disclose a motive for the shooting, said he believes that the shooting was carried out by Wallace and another man who is still at large and Carroll was the driver in the incident.

He said that in an unusual twist in the case, the suspect who remains at large accidentally shot Wallace in the back of his leg as Wallace was backing away from the shooting scene.

Dal Porto said Wallace then sought medical treatment at a local hospital but used a false name and claimed that he had been shot outside the Richmond BART station.

Much of the evidence in the case was circumstantial but Dal Porto said a witness identified Wallace as one of the suspects who ran away from the shooting scene and Carroll's ex-girlfriend connected him to the crime.

He said phone records and a GPS-tracking device also connected Wallace and Carroll to the shooting.

Goodman also ordered Carroll to stand trial on robbery and assault with a deadly weapon charges for allegedly robbing and shooting at a man outside a store in Berkeley in June 2010.

In addition, Dal Porto said he plans to file pimping and pandering charges against Carroll for allegedly ordering his ex-girlfriend to perform acts of prostitution and to give her proceeds to Carroll and his mother.

Carroll's ex-girlfriend testified on Dec. 27 that she made between $50,000 and $65,000 doing prostitution while she was with him and she gave most of it to Carroll and his mother.

Hearing Held In Federal Court On San Francisco's Nudity Ban

Nudists in San Francisco have only two weeks left to cover up or face consequences unless a federal judge, who heard arguments Thursday in a lawsuit against the city's public nudity ban, decides to block implementation of the law.

The ordinance, which prohibits public nudity in the city except for children under five years old and at certain permitted events, was the subject of an hour-long hearing Thursday afternoon in front of U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen.

Four nudist activists who filed a lawsuit against the ban sought to block the Feb. 1 implementation of the ordinance with a preliminary injunction, while the city attorney's office sought to have the lawsuit dismissed.

Chen declined to rule on either motion Thursday, saying he would issue a written ruling by the end of the month.

The nudists, represented by attorney Christina DiEdoardo, argued that being nude in public is protected on constitutional grounds as expressive speech.

"Protected speech often makes people mad, that's its intent," DiEdoardo said outside the federal courthouse Thursday before the hearing at a rally where several people stripped down to protest the proposed ban.

Inside the courtroom, DiEdoardo said the city was "trying to squelch the message of the nudists" and that the ordinance also violated the equal protection clause by exempting events like Folsom Street Fair and the Pride Parade.

Deputy City Attorney Tara Steeley argued that the U.S. Supreme Court "has made clear that nudity by itself is not expressive" and that the nudists were causing harm to the city, primarily in the Castro District where they frequently gather.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who authored the legislation and represents the Castro, has said the ordinance was prompted by numerous complaints from residents and business owners in the neighborhood. The Board of Supervisors narrowly passed the proposal by a 6-5 vote last year.

First Reported Flu-Related Death In Santa Clara County Was 98-Year-Old Woman

The first Bay Area flu-related death of the season was reported in Santa Clara County, a county health officer said Thursday.

A 98-year-old area woman died earlier this month from the flu and pneumonia, Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Martin Fenstersheib said.

"It's not unusual to see someone of that age die from the flu," he said.

Statewide there have been four flu-related deaths of people under the age of 65 recorded since flu season started at the end of 2012, Fenstersheib said.

State health officials said one death occurred in the Central Valley, two in the greater Los Angeles area, and one in the Sacramento area. 

Fenstersheib said the state keeps track of more unusual situations, such as younger residents impacted by the influenza virus.

This year's flu season has arrived particularly early with one strain of the virus, H3N2, hitting people harder than past years.

In California the peak of flu season is typically in February, according to health officials.

The flu vaccine is recommended to ward off the respiratory viral infection, especially for young children, the elderly and infirm.

Some Bay Area retail pharmacies are offering free vaccines for children ages 4 through 18 until Jan. 31. Information about locations can be found at shootheflu.org.

Oakland Mayor Quan Travels To Washington, D.C., To Seek Federal Aid

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said Thursday that she's trying to get more federal help in fighting her city's crime problem while she's in Washington, D.C., to attend a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting and the inauguration of President Obama.

In a phone interview, Quan said she will be meeting with officials from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to try to bring more law enforcement resources to Oakland, which had 131 homicides in 2012.

Quan said an ATF task force helped Oakland police in a four-month undercover operation in West Oakland last year that resulted in the arrest of 60 suspects and the seizure of 92 guns and large quantities of illegal drugs and she hopes there can be a similar effort this year.

The mayor said she also hopes the Department of Justice will permit Federal Bureau of Investigation crime lab analysts to help Oakland police investigate crimes.

She said the FBI's crime lab "can move quickly in helping local law enforcement leaders" fight crime.

In addition, Quan said she and other mayors have conferred with the Obama Administration in developing tougher gun control laws and are "very pleased" with the recommendations that the president has put forward.

Quan said she's happy that Gov. Jerry Brown has arranged for a small group of California Highway Patrol officers to work 10-hour shifts twice a week on violence-suppression efforts in East and West Oakland but she's hoping that arrangement can be extended for a longer period of time.

And she said she's "thankful" that the City Council's Finance Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to hire 11 Alameda County sheriff's deputies for up to 180 days at a cost of up to $265,000.

The full City Council will vote on that proposal and three other crime-fighting measures at their meeting next Tuesday night.

California High-Speed Rail, Amtrak Partner To Research Joint Train Purchases

California High-Speed Rail has teamed up with Amtrak to research buying similar high-speed trains for their respective rail systems on the East and West coasts.

At a joint news conference held Thursday morning in Washington, D.C., Amtrak President Joe Boardman joined California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard to announce that both agencies will partner to research ordering and purchasing trains of similar specifications, potentially creating a standard for high-speed trains in the U.S.

"High-speed rail is right for America, and Amtrak working with California to advance both our programs makes a lot of sense," Boardman said in a statement.

The two agencies could order as many as 60 trains over the next 10 years, officials said Thursday.

Amtrak currently operates trains that reach speeds up to 150 mph throughout its Northeast Corridor, which serves cities including Boston, New York City, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

California High-Speed Rail plans to operate trains running up to 220 mph between Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento.

CHSR is expected to break ground in the Central Valley this summer and could be completed by 2029, according to official estimates.

East and West Coast high-speed rail agencies hope to "create efficiencies" by coordinating efforts to request information on trains and potentially make joint purchases in the future.

CHSRA CEO Jeff Morales said in a statement that the partnership between the two agencies "makes a lot of sense" and that California and the Northeast Corridor were "bookends for America's high-speed rail."

"We are pleased to join with Amtrak and look forward to continued collaboration in the future," Morales said.

Elderly Couple Drives Car Through Vallejo Grocery Outlet Front Doors

An elderly couple accidentally drove their car through the front doors of a Vallejo grocery store Thursday afternoon, a Vallejo fire spokesman said.

The car went through the doors of the Grocery Outlet at 66 Admiral Callaghan Lane around 2:45 p.m., Vallejo fire spokesman Mark Libby said.

The driver accidentally hit the gas instead of the brakes, and drove the car entirely into the store.

Some customers inside suffered minor injuries from shattered glass and other debris that got sprayed in the impact, Libby said.

The couple in the car was unharmed.

The car was towed out of the building and the store was closed after the accident for cleanup and repair, Libby said.

Libby said fire officials determined the building had not sustained any structural damage.

An employee who picked up the phone at the store Thursday afternoon declined to comment on the accident or when the store would reopen.

Guns Recovered After East Oakland Car Chase With Sheriff's Detectives

Sheriff's detectives recovered two guns and arrested the driver of a car who fled a traffic stop in East Oakland Thursday afternoon, a sheriff's spokesman said.

The detectives were in the area of 73rd Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard, near the Eastmont Mall, late Thursday afternoon conducting an unrelated investigation, Alameda County sheriff's Sgt. J.D. Nelson said.

They noticed a car driving recklessly and when they went to pull it over, the driver fled onto westbound Interstate Highway 580.

The detectives pursued the car but lost sight of it and pulled off at the Coolidge Avenue offramp.

But after exiting the freeway, they found the car had crashed underneath a highway overpass there.

The car's three occupants ran away, but detectives found the driver and arrested him.

They found a 9mm handgun and an AK-47 inside the car, Nelson said.

The two other suspects in the car remain at large.

Vallejo City Attorney's Iffuce Kicks Off Neighborhood Program

The city attorney's office in Vallejo kicked off a pilot program Thursday meant to make streets safer and improve residents' quality of life.

The project, known as the Neighborhood Law Program, will put attorneys in neighborhoods to tackle nuisance issues that affect Vallejo residents, Neighborhood Law attorney Eli Flushman said.

Attorneys will meet with residents and community leaders, as well as Vallejo police and representatives from the city's code enforcement division, to develop strategic approaches to combat chronic problems including drug activity and squatting, Flushman said.

The daily activity in the program will include sending letters to perpetrators of crimes to try to engage them in dialogue about stopping the criminal activity. If a resolution isn't reached, Flushman said the attorneys will not be afraid to take the perpetrators to court.

The attorneys will focus only on issues in which there is a law that allows the city to take action if needed, Flushman said.

Flushman said the attorneys will be in constant communication with code enforcement officers and hold monthly meetings with various departments.

Because the pilot program is only for two years, Flushman said the lawyers may avoid taking on any cases that could stretch out for several years.

"We're going to do our best to use our time and resources to get the best results possible," Flushman said.

When the project approaches its end, having more successful cases as data will help the program get renewed, he said.

"The goal is to find out from the community what they are facing, and to create a better atmosphere for the city," Flushman said.

The program is funded by Measure B, a 1 percent sales tax approved by voters in November 2011.

The city attorney's office planned to hold a potluck at the JFK Library on Santa Clara Street to kick off the new program.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Report

Sunny skies are expected in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are likely to be in the upper 50s, with northeast winds up to 15 mph.

Mostly clear skies are likely this evening. Lows are expected to be in the mid 40s, with northeast winds around 10 mph.

Sunny skies are expected Saturday. Highs are likely to be in the lower 60s, with northeast winds up to 15 mph.

Bay Area beaches have issued warnings for unsafe conditions that will be in effect from this afternoon through Saturday morning.

A high surf advisory is in effect in the Bay Area from 10 a.m. Saturday through 4 p.m. Sunday.

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