San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday Morning News Roundup

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Oakland: Council Votes 7-1 to Hire Bratton for Police Advice

The Oakland City Council voted 7-1 shortly after 2 a.m. today to approve a controversial measure to hire former New York and Los Angeles police chief William Bratton as a consultant to provide advice to the Oakland Police Department.

The vote came after nearly four hours of public comment on both sides of the issue and more than 45 minutes of discussion by council members as well as Mayor Jean Quan.

The council's chambers were packed as were four overflow rooms elsewhere at City Hall.

The measure expands upon an existing contract with Massachusetts-based Strategic Policy Partnership, which is headed by Robert Wasserman, the former chief of staff of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Clinton.

City Administrators entered into a $99,000 contract with the partnership last fall and today's vote increases it to $250,000 to pay for the services of Bratton and several other police experts.

After the council voted to approve expanding the contract and hiring Bratton, it then began considering three other crime-fighting measures.

One measure calls for hiring 11 Alameda County sheriff's deputies for up to 180 days at a cost of up to $265,000 to work ten-hour shifts twice a week on violence suppression efforts in East and West Oakland.

Another measure calls for funding an additional police academy to start in September that would train new officers.

The additional academy would supplement a police academy that began last fall and a second academy that will begin in March.

The third measure would hire 20 police service technicians at a cost of $1.5 million to be assigned to field duty as well as one crime lab position.

Oakland had as many as 837 police officers four years ago, but Police Chief Howard Jordan said earlier this week that it has only 613 and he would like to have 1,000 officers.

According to Mayor Quan's spokesman Sean Maher, the three additional crime-fighting measures were approved early this morning.

Many of the more than 100 speakers who addressed the council at their lengthy meeting said they oppose the appointment of Bratton because they believe he supports aggressive police measures including one commonly called "stop and frisk."

But Jordan told the council that, "There's no discussion of using stop and frisk and I don't support it."

Adam Blueford, the father of 18-year-old Alan Blueford, who was fatally shot by an Oakland police officer in a confrontation last May 6, told the council, "This stop and frisk will blow up in your face" and predicted that more young people such as his son will be killed by police.

"I'm speaking against Bill Bratton and stop and frisk," Blueford said.

But Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Baptist Church, which is located in East Oakland, said, "It's a war zone and we need a Bill Bratton and I support the chief (Jordan.)"

Jackson said the four crime-fighting measures represent "the help we desperately need in Oakland because young black and brown boys are getting killed."

He said, "Desperate times require desperate measures and we're desperate."

City Councilwoman Libby Schaaf said the four anti-crime measures "work as a comprehensive whole."

However, she admitted that, "They won't solve Oakland's crime problems overnight" and are only "a six-month fix" until the council votes on a new budget in June that could bring more help to the city's understaffed Police Department.

The lone council member to vote against expanding the contract with the Strategic Policy Partnership and hiring Bratton was Councilwoman Desley Brooks.

Regional: Prop 8 Sponsors Tell Supreme Court That Defining Marriage is a State Right

Supporters of California's ban on same-sex marriage told the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday that defining marriage is a states' rights matter and that Californians' choice of a traditional definition in 2008 should be honored.

"The definition of marriage has always been understood to be the virtually exclusive province of the states," the sponsors of Proposition 8 wrote in a brief submitted to the high court.

"And we submit that countless Californians of good will have opted in good faith to preserve the traditional definition of marriage because they believe it continues to meaningfully serve important societal interests," the sponsors said.

Proposition 8, enacted by 52 percent of voters in November 2008, amended the state Constitution to provide that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

The initiative's sponsors and their committee, Protect Marriage, are asking the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in San Francisco last year that the measure violated the federal Constitution.

The appeals court said that because same-sex marriage was legal in California for several months in 2008 before Proposition 8 was passed, it was unconstitutional for the measure to withdraw that right for no reason other than animosity toward homosexuals.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the appeal on March 26 and is due to issue a decision by the end of June.

The sponsors outlined their claims in an opening brief filed Tuesday. Two couples who challenged Proposition 8 in a civil rights lawsuit and the city of San Francisco have a Feb. 21 deadline for filing a response.

The sponsors have until March 19 to submit a reply.

The 9th Circuit ruling has been put on hold and Proposition 8 has remained in effect until the high court rules.

Nine states and the District of Columbia now allow gay and lesbian marriage while 41 others have prohibited it through laws or state constitutional amendments.

The Proposition 8 supporters' brief says the nation is currently engaged in a "great debate" and that the high court "should allow the public debate regarding marriage to continue through the democratic process, both in California and throughout the nation."

The filing contends the purpose of the initiative was not to dishonor gays and lesbians.

Instead, the sponsors say, it was reasonable for California voters to believe that restricting marriage to male-female unions will "increase the likelihood that children will be born and raised in stable and enduring family units by their own mothers and fathers."

In another section of the brief, the sponsors, answering a question posed by the Supreme Court, argue they had the legal authority to step in to defend the measure in court after Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Kamala Harris declined to do so.

Oakland: Search Ends, 5 Detained in Connection With Shooting of Plainclothes Officer

Oakland police ended their manhunt Tuesday afternoon for suspects involved in a shooting that injured a plainclothes officer on Monday evening, police said.

The shooting happened around 6:20 p.m. Monday in the 1700 block of Seminary Avenue. Police Chief Howard Jordan said at a morning news conference at police headquarters that the plainclothes officer was in the area following up on a shooting that occurred in the neighborhood early Sunday evening.

The officer was working as part of a new violence-reduction crime team created by Jordan, and was alone when he was confronted by several suspects and shot, Jordan said.

He suffered a gunshot wound to the arm and was taken to a hospital. He was treated and released Monday night. Jordan said the officer, whom he called experienced and "one of the best undercover officers" in the department, was resting at home Tuesday.

The street was closed after the shooting as police carried out a manhunt on Seminary Avenue between Harmon Avenue and East 17th Street, but no evacuations were ordered.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, the street had reopened and police had detained five suspects.

Two have been arrested on parole violations, police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said.

All are men and are believed to have gang ties, police said. It is not clear whether the suspects realized that the victim was a police officer.

The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

Pittsburgh: Teen Killed in Double Shooting Monday Identified

A 16-year-old boy who was killed in a double shooting in Pittsburg Monday night has been identified.

According to police and the Contra Costa County coroner's office, Steven Rosalez of Pittsburg died after a suspect shot him in the back around 7:45 p.m. in the 100 block of West Eighth Street.

Police said the same suspect shot Rosalez's friend, also a 16-year-old from Pittsburg, who was treated for a gunshot wound and is expected to survive.

After conducting interviews through the night, police identified the suspect -- a 23-year-old Pittsburg man on felony probation -- and arrested him with the aid of a SWAT team at his home in the 300 block of West 11th Street, police Lt. Ron Raman said.

Raman said a physical fight between the suspect and victims earlier Monday prompted the double shooting.

Police have not released the name of the surviving teen or the suspect.

The suspect, who police said has an extensive criminal history, was booked into county jail in Martinez where he is being held on $1 million bail.

Raman said the suspect and victims lived in the same area of Pittsburg, but that it is unclear how they knew one another.

Oakland: Mother Gets 15 to Life for Murdering 2-Year-Old Daughter

A 22-year-old Oakland woman was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years to life in state prison for the asphyxiation death of her 2-year-old daughter in Oakland three years ago.

Tiffany Lopez pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last October for the death of her daughter, Kamilah Russell, on March 9, 2010, from injuries she suffered at the apartment in the 2800 block of High Street in Oakland where she lived with Lopez and the girl's father, Joseph Russell Jr., who wasn't home at the time.

Prosecutor Luis Marin said Tuesday, "We didn't think it was premeditated and that would have been hard to prove at a trial but we do think it was murder and not an accident."

Marin said that Lopez must have known that covering Kamilah's nose and mouth to stop her from crying would cause great bodily injury or even death.

Marin also said it didn't help Marin's case that she "tried to cover it up" by initially lying to first responders, police, Joseph Russell and other family about what had happened.

However, Lopez ultimately "took responsibility" for what she did, Marin said.

Oakland police said they received a 911 call at 4:30 p.m. on March 9, 2010, reporting that Kamilah wasn't breathing.

Kamilah was taken to Children's Hospital in Oakland, where she was pronounced dead at 5:35 p.m. that day.

Lopez, who had moved to Oakland from San Mateo about three weeks earlier, was arrested shortly afterward.

A pathologist ruled that Kamilah died of asphyxia due to smothering, finding that there was an inadequate blood flow to her brain.

Lopez's lawyer, Lindsay Horstman, said at Lopez's preliminary hearing two years ago that she thought there was insufficient evidence to have Lopez stand trial for murder, but she didn't explain why.

Horstman couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

Horstman said at the preliminary hearing that when Lopez was interrogated by police she said nearly 60 times that Kamilah's death had been an accident.

Horstman also said that Lopez was under a lot of stress at the time because she had just turned 19 but had two children and was three months pregnant with a third child.

SJ: Jury Finds Man Guilty of Second-Degree Murder for 2008 Pedestrian Deaths

A jury convicted Armando Ochoa on two counts of second degree murder in Santa Clara County Superior Court Tuesday for using his SUV to drive into three pedestrians, killing two, at a San Jose park in 2008.

Ochoa, wearing a gray suit, slumped in his chair after the clerk read his convictions for second degree murder in the deaths of Aproniano Siruno and Rodolfo Escurial and assault with a deadly weapon for injuring Esteban Casiano, who survived the collision.

The jury deadlocked 9-3 to convict Ochoa for attempted murder of Casiano after jurors could not agree whether Ochoa acted with expressed malice or intent to injure, as the law requires, or implied malice, showing disregard for human life.

"It came down to his driving the car, was that expressed malice versus implied malice," said one juror outside the courtroom.

"I don't think we had any difficulty with the first two (murder counts)" another juror said. "That passed right off the bat."

Ochoa, 49, of San Jose, was driving with a blood alcohol level more than three times the legal limit when he steered onto a sidewalk and killed Siruno, 71, and Escurial, 67, and dealt major injuries to Casiano, 73, as the men walked at Hillview Park in San Jose on Sept. 14, 2008.

During the trial, Deputy District Attorney Dan Fehderau claimed that Ochoa, who had four drunken driving convictions, was intoxicated and upset after getting into a fight early that morning and in a rage decided to deliberately drive into the three men who did not know him.

Ochoa now faces a minimum of 15 years to life imprisonment for each murder count, one year on each count for using a deadly weapon and up to nine years on the assault conviction, or about 41 years, Fehderau said.

"I'm grateful the jury found him guilty of the most serious offenses," Fehderau said.

"I know the family of the victims are relieved it's now over." "I'm disappointed," said Ochoa's attorney Ingo Brauer.

"I thought the case was worthy of involuntary manslaughter."

Marin Co.: DA's Office Still Needs $44,000 to Pay Those With Gun Buyback Vouchers 

Even without the hope of any compensation, gun owners turned in 29 firearms in four hours Monday during the second and final Marin County gun buyback event at the Mill Valley Police Department, the district attorney said Tuesday.

Among the surrendered weapons were an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle with a high-capacity, 30-round magazine, and a device that resembles a ball-point pen but actually fires a single .22-caliber bullet that Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian said is the stuff of James Bond movies.

Gun owners also turned in more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, Berberian said.

On Jan. 15, gun owners from Marin, San Francisco, Sonoma and Contra Costa counties surrendered 827 guns and 1,500 rounds of ammunition at several collection sites throughout the county.

On that day, the county was offering $200 for each semi-automatic handgun or long gun that was turned in, and $100 for other guns.

The county had $43,000 in cash to give out, and Berberian said that within 90 minutes it was obvious the cash was running out, so he halted the cash payouts while there was still $7,000 left. Gun owners who came in after that were given a total of $68,000 in vouchers that they were told they could redeem within 30 days.

However, Berberian said Thursday that the county did not yet have the money to pay the voucher holders, and that there would be no money or vouchers offered during the second buyback event on Monday in Mill Valley.

Berberian then announced a fundraising effort to collect money to pay for the vouchers, saying any donations would be tax-deductible.

Minus the $7,000 in cash, the Marin County District Attorney's Office was short $61,000.

Two trusts in the Marin Community Foundation have contributed a total of $15,000, and the district attorney's office has received $2,000 in donations in the mail, leaving a deficit of $44,000, Berberian said.

Donations can be sent to the Marin County District Attorney's Office, Attn: Gun Buyback Program, 3501 Civic Center Drive, Room 130, San Rafael, CA 94903.

SF: Airline Passenger Pleads Guilty to Carrying Cocaine Pellets In His Body

A passenger who was arrested at San Francisco International Airport in October while carrying 100 pellets of cocaine inside his body has pleaded guilty to a federal drug charge.

Emmanuel Amankwa, 55, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in San Francisco on Thursday to one count of possessing more than 500 grams of cocaine with the intent to distribute it.

He will be sentenced by White on April 11.

In a plea agreement, prosecution and defense lawyers agreed to recommend a sentence of between five years and six years and eight months in prison, but the actual sentence will be up to White.

Amankwa had arrived at the airport on a flight from Long Beach and was attempting to board a flight to Japan when he was arrested by federal customs agents on Oct. 23. U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said an investigation revealed he was carrying 100 latex-wrapped pellets containing a total of 995 grams, or two pounds and three ounces, of cocaine in his body.

According to an affidavit filed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Alex Chan on Oct. 24, authorities became suspicious when a records check showed Amankwa was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in 1992 and later convicted of attempting to smuggle about three pounds of heroin in a false-sided suitcase.

Agents observing Amankwa in October also noticed he was walking awkwardly and clenching his stomach, Chan wrote.

When questioned, Amankwa said he was a spiritual counselor from New York on his way to Japan, but gave inconsistent statements about his travel plans, according to the affidavit.

Amankwa was then detained and taken to a hospital, where he passed 81 cocaine pellets within a few hours and admitted to investigators he had swallowed a total of 100 pellets, Chan wrote.

Under federal law, the conviction of possessing more than 500 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute it carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years.

Alameda Co.: 12 Cars Stolen From Used Dealership in Overnight Heist

A dozen cars were stolen from a used car lot in unincorporated Hayward early Monday morning, an Alameda County sheriff's spokesman said.

The 12 cars, all mostly foreign makes and older models, were taken sometime between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. on Monday from Auto World Motors at 21572 Mission Blvd., just north of the Hayward border, according to sheriff's spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson.

As many as four suspects kicked in the dealership door and found the box with the car keys and drove off with the vehicles, Nelson said.

Only one car was recovered nearby where the suspects appeared to have deserted it when it ran out of gas, Nelson said. Auto World Motors employee David Zazai said Tuesday morning that the loss is estimated at $200,000.

He said the recovered car was a Jaguar found down the street. "You don't expect something like this to happen," he said. He said the car lot is a family business that opened about three years ago.

"This is our life," he said. He said other nearby car dealerships are now scared. Damage to the business included broken doors, locks and trampled offices from what appeared to be a messy search for the key box, Zazai said.

He said the business is open but with so much of the inventory gone, it is affecting sales.

Although the business already has surveillance, an alarm system and has a gate around the car lot, he said the owners are considering beefing up security measures.

Nelson said authorities are investigating the theft. Investigators are reviewing surveillance footage from the business and know there are three or four suspects involved.

Antioch: Bar Brawl Leads to Car Chase, Shots Fired

Police are continuing to investigate a shooting in Antioch last week that they said stemmed from a bar fight.

Around 10:50 p.m. Friday, officers heard gunfire in the area of East 16th and A streets, police said.

As they drove toward the sound, dispatchers received several reports of shots fired near East 16th Street and Marie Avenue, police said.

The officers arrived at the scene and found 14 shell casings and an unoccupied car that had crashed into the front yard of a home in the 1600 block of Marie Avenue.

Investigators learned that a man had gotten into a fight with other patrons at a local bar and restaurant, then fled the business.

The other patrons chased him in their car and shot at him several times but did not hit him, police said.

No injuries were reported in the shooting, which is being investigated as an attempted murder.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to text a tip to Antioch police to 274637 (CRIMES) using keyword ANTIOCH.

Bay Area Wednesday Morning Weather Forecast

Rain is expected in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are likely to be in the upper 50s, with southern winds up to 20 mph.

Mostly cloudy skies are likely this evening, with a chance of showers. Lows are expected to be in the upper 40s, with southeast winds up to 10 mph.

Partly cloudy skies are likely Thursday. Highs are likely to be in the upper 50s, with eastern winds around 5 mph.

 

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