Wednesday Morning News Roundup

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Four Hospitalized in Collision Near Alamo Square Park

A collision between two cars near San Francisco's Alamo Square Park Tuesday afternoon sent four people to the hospital and one driver may be facing charges, police said.

The collision was reported at 3:40 p.m. at Hayes and Steiner streets, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.

Four injured victims were found at the scene, all with moderate to severe injuries, but none considered life-threatening, Esparza said.

They were all taken to a hospital. Police said that an investigation indicates that one of the four victims had already been involved in a hit-and-run with a parked car at Hayes and Divisadero streets just before the crash. 

She then continued driving on Hayes Street, where she ran a stop sign and collided with the other vehicle carrying the other three victims, Esparza said.

That driver may be facing charges of reckless driving, speeding and misdemeanor hit-and-run.

All four victims remain hospitalized tonight, Esparza said.

Millbrae High School AP Exams Invalidated After Testing Agency Finds 'Seating Irregularities'

A group of over 200 Mills High School students will have to retake a series of Advanced Placement exams after the College Board invalidated results from tests taken in May due to "seating irregularities."

A spokesman for the Educational Testing Service, which administers AP and other exams for the College Board, said Tuesday that several aspects of seating protocol were violated when the tests were given at Millbrae's Mills High School two months ago.

"There is a very specific set of protocols that have to be followed to maintain the integrity of test scores," ETS spokesman Jason Baran said.

Regulations require that students be seated at least five feet apart and face the same direction while taking exams, and that they never sit at circular tables, Baran said.

Acting on a tip from a student, ETS staff investigated the alleged breach of seating protocol at Mills High and found that the school had violated the testing guidelines.

"We found evidence of a lot of violations," Baran said. Among them, investigators found that some students had faced each other and sat at round tables during exams, he said.

As a result, the scores of over 600 AP exams covering 11 subjects were invalidated, he said.

San Mateo Union High School District Deputy Superintendent Liz McManus said the students are being unjustly punished for a situation over which they had little control.

"It's heartbreaking," McManus said. "The students have been honest, they studied, they prepared themselves."

McManus admitted that because of the configuration of some classrooms where the tests were administered, a handful of students did sit at circular tables. However, the school had four adults per classroom supervising the test-takers and ensured that no one cheated, while most rooms did adhere to the seating ETS requirements, she said.

"ETS knows that these students did not cheat," McManus said. "We have students going off to four-year colleges who are expecting to get credit for these courses."

ETS and school district administrators are coordinating a re-take of the exams in August, but some students say that will be too late to get their credits accepted.

"I risk the possibility of having my admission to my college cancelled without further notice if I do not submit my AP scores by a certain (already extended) upcoming date," Jennifer Kao wrote on www.whyweneedourscoresback.com, a website set up for the student body to deal with the controversy.

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition at www.change.org asking Superintendent Scott Laurence to take action.

State High Court Rejects Second Bid for Stay of Gay Marriages

For the second time in eight days, the California Supreme Court refused Tuesday to halt same-sex marriages in the state.

In a one-line order issued in San Francisco, the court turned down a request by San Diego County Clerk Ernest Dronenburg for an immediate stay of an order by state

Registrar Tony Agurto requiring the state's 58 county clerks to license gay marriages.

Agurto, acting on the instructions of Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris, issued the order on June 28. Hundreds of same-sex weddings have been performed statewide since then.

The state high court on July 15 denied a similar request by the sponsors of Proposition 8, the state's 2008 voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

Both the sponsors and Dronenburg claim in petitions filed with the court that Proposition 8 should still be in effect in most of the state, despite a June 26 U.S. Supreme Court decision that dismissed an appeal by the sponsors.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling left in place a 2010 decision in which U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco said Proposition 8 was unconstitutional and issued an injunction barring its enforcement.

The initiative sponsors and Dronenburg claim the injunction applies only to two couples who challenged Proposition 8 in a lawsuit, while Brown, Harris and other officials say it extends statewide.

Twenty-four other county clerks, including eight from the Bay Area, told the court in papers filed Monday that they agree with Harris that the injunction and Agurto's order apply to local clerks.

The Bay Area clerks supporting that position were from Alameda, Contra Costa, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties.

The Proposition 8 sponsors' and Dronenburg's requests for a full review of their claims are still pending before the state high court, which has set a briefing schedule that ends Aug. 8.

If the court's seven justices do grant review, the process of receiving further briefs, hearing arguments and preparing a decision would take at least several months.

In the meantime, there is no obstacle to continued same-sex marriages.

The sponsors of Proposition 8 lost a separate bid to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy for a stay on June 30.

Man Shot by Fairfield Police Friday Identified

The Solano County Sheriff's Office has identified the man who was shot by Fairfield police officers Friday night as 47-year-old Leigh Weeden of Suisun City.

Weeden has an extensive criminal history involving weapons and robberies in multiple states, sheriff's Deputy Daryl Snedeker said.

He served a 10-year-prison term for armed bank robbery and was on federal probation at the time of the shooting.

The two officers shot Weeden after a vehicle pursuit that ended in a field near Bella Vista Drive and Walters Road in unincorporated Solano County outside Suisun City.

The officers are assigned to the Special Operations Team comprised of detectives who address specific crime issues in Fairfield, Snedeker said.

They were working to reduce street crime in the East Tabor Avenue area when they tried to stop Weeden's black Hummer for a traffic violation around 9 p.m., Snedeker said.

Weeden drove away from the officers who pursued him into Suisun City and to the field where the Hummer became stuck in an embankment, Snedeker said.

As the officers approached the Hummer, Weeden stepped out of the car but quickly ducked back inside and grabbed a gun, the sheriff's office said.

Weeden fired several shots at the officers who fired back, striking Weeden several times.

Weeden was pronounced dead at a local hospital, the sheriff's office said.

It was the third officer involved fatal shooting in Solano County since June 28.

Vacaville police fatally shot 24-year-old Kendall Walker, of Fairfield three times around 7:30 p.m.

Thursday on Ulatis Drive in Vacaville after he walked toward officers in "an aggressive and threatening manner" with a knife and another object believed to be a hammer or crowbar, according to Vacaville police.

On June 28, Vacaville police shot Lonnie Taylor, 21, of Sacramento, after he allegedly tried to run officers over on Interstate Highway 80 in Vacaville. Police said Taylor was suspected of stealing televisions from a Walmart.

Hercules Man Reflects on Sudden 'Hero' Status After Saving Victim from Burning Building

The past few days have been a whirlwind for Joseph Trapani.

He's not used to the kind of attention he has received since saving an elderly man from a burning home over the weekend.

"It's a little overwhelming but it's heartwarming to see strangers think so highly of me," Trapani said.

The 29-year-old Hercules resident was riding in a car with his brother and two friends on their way to play golf at the Franklin Canyon Golf Course about 1:30 p.m. Saturday when he saw a home on fire in the 2200 block of Lupine Road.

Adrenaline compelled Trapani to jump out of the car, kick the front door open and look to see if anyone was inside.

He checked a series of rooms in the single-story home, and behind the last door Trapani found an elderly man whom fire officials identified as Khang Do.

"We were really surprised to see each other," he said.

Trapani picked up him up and escaped as the fire continued to burn.

When he brought Do to safety, he realized the elderly man didn't speak any English.

Trapani said Do simply gave him a handshake and a nod.

Neither was injured in the blaze, fire officials said.

Trapani then went back inside the house a second time to check for other occupants, even though his brother and friends were screaming at him.

"I didn't want to leave anyone behind," he said. When he didn't find anyone, he sat on a curb as firefighters arrived to put out the fire.

He and his group later continued on to the golf course.

"It was a heck of a day," he said.

The Rodeo-Hercules Fire Protection District, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District and Pinole Fire Department responded to the fire.

Do and another resident are receiving temporary housing assistance from the American Red Cross, Pinole Fire Department Battalion Chief Brian Lowry said.

Damage to the home is estimated at about $200,000, Rodeo-Hercules Fire Chief Charles Hanley said.

Fire investigators believe the fire started in the garage in the engine compartment of a 1999 Honda sedan car and spread to the attic and living area, Lowry said.

Over the past few days, the gravity of the situation has sunk in for Trapani, who now recognizes how dangerous it was to walk into the burning home.

"I don't know if it was very dumb or very brave," he said.

Trapani said his experience as an emergency medical technician in Alameda County several years ago helped him get through Saturday's rescue.

"It helps to think rationally when there's an emergency. It helps you keep calm and do what you need to do," he said.

When reflecting on the rescue, Trapani said the experience has helped him believe in himself and value his self-worth.

"I try to tell everyone that we're all in this world together and we need to be mindful one another," he said.

Alameda Robbery Suspect Slain by Off-Duty Deputy Identified

An armed robbery suspect who was fatally shot by an off-duty Alameda County sheriff's deputy at an Alameda convenience store on Thursday night has been identified as 42-year-old Laroy Brown of Oakland, police said Tuesday.

According to Alameda police, Brown and a second suspect, both wearing masks and carrying guns, entered the Bonfare Market at 1505 High St. at about 10:30 p.m.

Thursday but were confronted by the deputy, who happened to be at the store reading a magazine.

Police said the deputy feared for his safety and the safety of the store's employees so he shot both suspects.

Brown was killed but the second suspect escaped, police said.

Alameda police Lt. Ted Horlbeck declined to say Tuesday if the second suspect has been arrested.

But he said a person of interest in the incident is being held in custody on an unrelated charge.

San Jose Prosecutors Still Sorting Through Evidence in Sierra Lamar Murder-Kidnap Case

The Sierra LaMar murder and kidnap case was delayed in a San Jose courtroom Tuesday to next month as prosecutors sift through evidence still coming in from law enforcement agencies, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Santa Clara County Judge Sharon Chatman set a new hearing for Aug. 22 to review the status of evidence sent by the district attorney's office to lawyers for murder defendant Antolin Garcia Torres.

Garcia Torres, 21, was charged back on May 31, 2012, with murder and kidnapping with special circumstances after the 15-year-old Sierra vanished outside her home near Morgan Hill on March 16, 2012.

Deputy District Attorney Brian Walsh told Chatman that evidence and information gathered by investigators is being delivered to Garcia Torres' defense attorneys, Traci Owens and Alfonso Lopez.

"We continue to turn over discovery," Walsh said. "We have not yet completed the process."

Garcia Torres, dressed in a light brown suit and occasionally peering at the courtroom audience, listened as his attorneys, who seemed to anticipate the postponement, agreed on the hearing date.

Outside of court, Walsh said the prosecution is still receiving information about the case from the district attorney's crime laboratory, the FBI and the sheriff's office.

Garcia Torres has yet to enter a plea in the murder-kidnap case more than a year after being charged.

Prosecutors have combined the charges with other allegations, filed in November, that Garcia Torres assaulted three women on March 19 and March 26, 2012, in Safeway parking lots in Morgan Hill, Walsh said.

"It's a complicated case and there is just a voluminous amount of discovery that is generated in a case of this nature," Walsh said.

The sheriff's office is also following up on leads and searches for clues about the missing teen, he said.

"The case is top priority with our office," Walsh said.

Sheriff's deputies arrested Garcia Torres on May 21 of last year after detectives reported finding DNA believed to be Sierra's inside his red Volkswagen Jetta.

Volunteers have organized searches on Saturday for Sierra in the Morgan Hill area, some repelling down the sides of mountains and at least one donning diving gear to look in local reservoirs and creeks, lead volunteer Doug Tollis said.

Tollis was among 10 supporters of Sierra who attended Tuesday's hearing, some expressing frustration with the months of delays in the case related to pretrial discovery issues.

So far, volunteers have participated in about 360 searches for Sierra, with some people traveling from Malibu and Hollywood in Southern California to join them, Tollis said.

Marin Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team Helps Rescue Fallen Hiker in Yosemite National Park

The Marin County Search and Rescue Team was conducting its annual training in the right place at the right time Saturday afternoon when a 19-year-old man fell from a rock into Emerald Pool in Yosemite National Park.

The rock climber from Camarillo in Ventura County fell 15 to 20 feet and struck the right side of his head on a rock in the Merced River above Emerald Pool, but managed to cling to the rock and avoid being swept into the pool near Vernal Fall, said Marin County sheriff's Lt.

Doug Pittman, commander of the search and rescue team.

Four or five of the search and rescue team's mountain rescue-certified members were hiking up the Mist Trail that leads to Emerald Pool when tourists informed them of the climber's plight, Pittman said.

The team members were untrained in swift water rescue so they reported the incident to National Park Service rangers then found the man clinging to the rock as he went in and out of consciousness, Pittman said.

Two team members set up anchors on each side of river for use by the park rangers while other team members conversed with the man to keep him alert, Pittman said.

At one point the man lost his grip on the rock but fortunately was carried by the water that pushed him up onto another rock, Pittman said.

National Park Service ranger and spokeswoman Kari Cobb said the man was in an area of the river known as the Silver Apron that contains crevices.

Park rangers arrived about 40 minutes later and had to sink new anchors because the man traveled further downstream, Cobb said.

They then rigged ropes and pulleys to the anchors and physically grabbed the man and lifted him out of the pool to safety, Cobb said.

The injured climber was taken in a gurney down the John Muir Trail.

He suffered hypothermia in addition to the injury to his eye socket and head injury, Pittman said.

The man was taken to a local hospital, Cobb said.

Oakland Judge Rules That Loud Music Doesn't Justify Killing Someone

An Oakland judge ruled Tuesday that playing music too loud isn't sufficient reason for someone to be killed.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon made that finding after defense attorney David Kelvin argued that 22-year-old Blair Robertson provoked his client, 21-year-old Van Surrell, by playing music too loud in an incident in the 700 block of East 11th Street in Oakland on Feb. 16.

At the end of a preliminary hearing for Surrell, Reardon expressed surprise at Kelvin's argument, asking, "That's legal provocation?"

Robertson was stabbed to death in the incident.

Oakland police officer Eric Milina said in a probable cause statement that Surrell and Robertson got into a fight but Robertson was walking away from it when Surrell grabbed a knife, pushed a witness out of the way and fatally stabbed him.

Kelvin argued that Van Surrell acted in self-defense, but Reardon disagreed.

"You can't say I started a fight and now I'm provoked so I killed him in self-defense," Reardon said.

Reardon ruled that prosecutors produced sufficient evidence to have Surrell face a trial on a murder charge and an enhancement clause that he used a knife to kill Robertson.

Surrell, who is being held without bail, is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 6 to have a trial date set.

Santa Cruz Police Seek Help in Identifying Yogurt Shop Burglar

Santa Cruz police are seeking the public's help in solving a yogurt shop burglary that occurred early Friday morning.

The break-in happened at Top A Lot Yogurt at 738 Water St. sometime in the early morning hours, police said.

The suspect entered the business by smashing two large rocks against the front door.

He then took a bank bag containing cash and fled, Deputy Chief Steve Clark said.

Surveillance footage from the store shows that the suspect appears to be a white male with short, dark hair.

He was wearing a light-colored hoodie with a front zipper and logo on the back, and dark pants.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to contact the Santa Cruz Police Department Investigations Section at (831) 420-5820 or call the tip line at (831) 420-5995.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Forecast

Mostly cloudy skies and patchy fog are expected in the Bay Area this morning.

Highs are likely to be in the 50s to upper 60s, with winds up to 30 mph in the afternoon.

Partly cloudy skies are expected this evening, with patchy fog after midnight.

Lows are likely to be in the mid 50s, with winds up to 30 mph.

Cloudy skies and patchy fog are likely Thursday morning.

Highs are expected to be in the 50s to upper 60s, with southwest winds up to 20 mph.

 

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