San Francisco Bay Area Friday Morning News Roundup

Reset News Feed's picture

"Fruitvale Station" Screening

Hundreds of people have gathered at the Grand Lake Theater near Oakland's Lake Merritt Thursday evening for a private screening of the film "Fruitvale Station" which depicts the last 24 hours in the life of Oscar Grant III.

Grant, 22, was fatally shot in the back on the platform of the Fruitvale BART station on Jan. 1, 2009, by former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle. Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a 2010 trial.

He was sentenced to two years in prison with credit for time served, and was released in early 2011.

During the trial, Mehserle testified that he meant to use his Taser but accidentally fired his service weapon instead.

The killing prompted widespread outrage in the Bay Area, including several destructive protests in Oakland.

The film, directed by Bay Area native Ryan Coogler and featuring actors Octavia Spencer and Michael B. Jordan, opens nationwide in on July 12 after earning top honors at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Grant's uncle, Cephus Johnson, was attending tonight's screening and said, "I wish the entire community could share this experience but we know there are not enough seats."

He said that the support that Grant's family received following his death "means everything to us.

If had it not been for community, none of us would know who Oscar is." He said he hopes the film will help to "undemonize black and brown men."

"It's bigger than Oscar," Johnson said. "This film will help bring to reality that these men are not demons."

Grant's cousin, Akeem Aziz, 18, said that the film means Grant's life was "worth enough to make a movie out of it."

He said about two dozen members of Grant's family were on hand to attend the screening, and the family has been healing in the years since Grant's very public death but that it's a "slow process."

Also at the screening were the parents of Alan Blueford, an 18-year-old student at Skyline High School who was shot and killed by Oakland police Officer Miguel Masso on May 6, 2012, in a chase near 92nd Avenue and Birch Street in East Oakland.

Blueford's mother, Jeralynn Blueford, said she sees the death of Grant and the death of her son as two "very parallel" incidents.

"The Grant family reached out to us the day after our son died," she said. "Our son was yelling 'why did you shoot me?'" after he was shot, and she said Grant's family told her that he yelled the same thing after he was shot.

The film was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m. there was still a crowd of people outside waiting to get in, many dressed in suits and dresses.

Several lead actors from the film, the director and other filmmakers -- including actor, producer and director Forest Whitaker -- were in attendance for the special screening.

An after-party for the actors, filmmakers and invited guests is scheduled at Oakland barbecue joint Everett and Jones.

Authorities Searching for Scammer

Federal authorities Thursday asked for the public's help in finding a man who scammed a San Francisco educational software company and is wanted for mail fraud charges.

Bruce Lee Marshall, 38, who also goes by the aliases Francois Marshall and Francois Delacroix, is wanted on mail fraud charges for a scam spanning from July 2010 to August 2011, according to an indictment filed against him in federal court last month.

Marshall, a San Francisco resident, worked as an operations engineer at the software company and was tasked with selecting a contractor for computer servers and other services, according to the indictment.

However, instead of picking a legitimate company, he allegedly set up a fake one and convinced his employer to hire its services, FBI officials said.

Marshall's fake company provided only a fraction of the services agreed upon in the contract and collected more than $100,000 in cash while causing additional monetary losses to his employer, according to the FBI.

Marshall has previously been arrested and pleaded guilty to one count of falsely altering a U.S. passport.

After he was indicted on May 16 for the mail fraud charges, he failed to appear in U.S. District Court the next day and is considered a fugitive, FBI officials said.

Marshall is described as a black man who is about 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighs about 165 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes.

He is known to wear dark-rimmed glasses and has ties to San Diego as well as the state of Georgia.

Muni Bus Crashes With Car

A Muni bus hit a car near the Panhandle in San Francisco Thursday, sending the bus driver to the hospital, a Muni spokesman said.

Muni spokesman Paul Rose said the 43-Masonic bus hit a car making an illegal U-turn near the intersection of Fell Street and Masonic Avenue at about 6:20 p.m.

Pictures posted to social media showed the bus well inside the park with the car crumpled in front of it.

The bus driver was transported to San Francisco General Hospital and the car's driver refused medical aid, Rose said. No one else was injured.

Federal Court Orders Reduction in Prison Population

A federal court Thursday reaffirmed its order for a reduction of nearly 10,000 in the state's prison population by Dec. 31, saying that Gov. Brown and other officials "have no excuse for failing to meet" the requirement.

A three-judge panel, in a ruling issued in San Francisco, suggested several ways the state could decrease the number of inmates, including by expanding sentencing credit for good behavior in prison.

But the panel said that if the Brown administration can't or won't accept the suggestions, it must then release prisoners from a list of those considered at low risk for reoffending.

The mandated decrease of 9,636 inmates from the current 132,888 would bring the population of the state's 33 overcrowded adult prisons to 137.5 percent of design capacity.

In previous decisions that were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011, the panel concluded that percentage represented the minimum reduction needed to provide adequate prison health care.

"No matter what implementation challenges defendants face, no matter what unexpected misfortunes arise, defendants shall reduce the prison population to 137.5 percent by Dec. 31, 2013, even if that is achieved solely through the release of prisoners from the low-risk list," the panel said Thursday.

The panel is made up of U.S. district judges Thelton Henderson of San Francisco and Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento and 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt of Los Angeles.

Henderson and Karlton are presiding over two long-running inmate civil rights lawsuits concerning medical and mental health care in the prisons.

Brown said he will challenge the order.

"The state will seek an immediate stay of this unprecedented order to release almost 10,000 inmates by the end of this year," the governor said.

The state has already filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of an April ruling in which the panel declined to modify or set aside the 137.5 percent target.

Brown contends that conditions have improved and that further reductions are unneeded and would endanger public safety.

The state has previously decreased prisoner numbers from a peak of 162,500 in 2006, most recently through a realignment policy that shifts low-level offenders to county jails.

After the panel rejected Brown's argument in April, state officials in May reluctantly submitted a plan to achieve part of the remaining reduction through measures including increased use of fire camps, a program that has employed over 1,500 inmates as firefighters.

But the panel said Thursday that Brown's plan fell short by 4,170 inmates.

The court used its federal judicial power to order a waiver of any state laws that would prevent the Brown administration from expanding good-time credits or leasing county jail space for use as prison cells.

It said increasing good-time credits "is fully consistent with public safety" and noted that the Supreme Court had upheld its conclusions on that issue.

The panel ordered Brown and Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard to submit reports every two weeks on progress toward meeting the goal, and said they could be found in contempt of court if they fail to take needed steps or to submit the reports.

San Jose Teen Dies of Gunshot Wound

A teen boy found shot in San Jose Wednesday evening died at a hospital Thursday, police said.

Manuel Urzoua, 16, of San Jose was found suffering from at least one gunshot wound in the 1600 block of Virginia Avenue shortly after 6 p.m.

He was taken to a hospital but succumbed to his injuries Thursday, according to police.

Police believe the shooting was gang-related but have not identified any suspects or made any arrests in the case.

Anyone with information about the case has been asked to contact Detective Sgt. Davies or Detective Spears at (408) 277-5283.

Convicted Man Witness in Rape Trial

A man who was convicted in connection with the brutal gang rape of a 16-year-old girl outside of a Richmond High School homecoming dance took the witness stand Thursday in the trial against two of his alleged co-conspirators.

Ari Morales, 19, of San Pablo, testified in a Martinez courtroom Thursday about the events of the night of Oct. 24, 2009, when he and several others took part in the gang rape and beating.

The testimony is part of the trial against 20-year-old Marcelles Peter and 22-year-old Jose Montano, who are both charged with rape, rape with a foreign object and forced oral copulation.

Richmond man Manuel Ortega, 22, who has been described as the ringleader of the attack, is now serving a 32-year prison sentence while Morales has begun a 27-year sentence.

Both men received the sentences in exchange for plea deals with the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office.

As part of the bargains, both agreed to testify in the current trial.

Dressed in a yellow jail jumpsuit, Morales sometimes contradicted himself on the stand and often said he couldn't remember details of the night when questioned by both Deputy District Attorney John Cope and defense attorneys for Montano and Peter.

At one point, Morales testified that Montano was "trying to" have sex with the victim, while at other times he said he saw the rape occur. 

Despite his sometimes inconsistent testimony, Morales was clear in his depiction of Montano as an aggressor in the attack against the highly intoxicated victim, referred to in court as Jane Doe, in a darkened courtyard on the Richmond High School campus.

He testified that Montano pulled a condom out of his pocket, climbed on top of Doe as she lay on the ground unconscious and appeared to have intercourse with her.

At the same time, Ortega attempted to force the girl into oral copulation, Morales testified.

When those attempts were unsuccessful, Morales recalled, "Ortega starts to torture this girl," punching her in the face repeatedly. Meanwhile, Morales and about 20 other young men stood in a circle, watching the assault.

After apparently having sex with the girl, Montano "got up and threw the condom away," Morales testified.

Morales testified that after Ortega and Montano, he also took a turn in the assault, inserting the antenna of a walkie-talkie radio into the victim's vagina and stealing a ring off of her finger while she was unconscious.

However, while on the stand Thursday, he did not implicate Peter, a former friend and neighbor. He testified that he only remembered seeing Peter standing and watching the assaults but did not see or hear him participate.

The trial against Montano and Peter is set to continue on Monday afternoon.

Two other defendants, Elvis Torrentes and John Crane Jr., are still awaiting trial.

Oakland Police Introduce New Neighborhood Policing Plan

Oakland Interim Police Chief Sean Whent said Thursday that his department's new neighborhood policing plan is aimed at being more efficient in reducing the city's high crime rate.

"We want to better identify crime hotspots and react to them," Whent said at a news conference at the police Eastmont substation, where he introduced the commanders of the five new police districts.

The Police Department had been divided into two large geographic districts in recent years but in March it started switching to five smaller districts, each with its own captain and about 66 officers.

Police officials say the new units will be able to focus on smaller beats and consequently improve response times and allow for more proactive policing.

Whent said the department also wants to "improve our relationship with the community" so that community members feel more comfortable talking with police officers and helping them solve crimes. "As trust builds, cooperation increases," he said.

Whent said he believes "there will be a significant crime reduction" by using the new system.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said, "I'm really excited" about the new system and said the city is "building a new Police Department" in which police work hard to develop better relationships with citizens. "We want officers to slow down and smile," Quan said.

Quan said "crime is beginning to level off a bit" since the new system began to roll out in March but admitted "we still have a long way to go."

District 1 consists of Jack London Square as well as the adjacent downtown, Chinatown and Uptown districts.

Capt. Eric Lewis, who oversees the area, said, "We have a very serious robbery issue," particularly in the Seventh Street corridor and around 14th Street and Broadway in the heart of downtown.

"It's unacceptable, the things that are occurring in the middle of the city," Lewis said.

He said he's assigned officers to work in the areas most affected by robberies 24 hours a day and also pledged to do more bicycle patrols.

District 2 includes the Oakland hills and the Montclair, Temescal and Rockridge neighborhoods. Lt. Chris Bolton, who assists Capt.

Anthony Toribio in commanding the area, said he feels "a sense of personal accountability to our citizens" and he believes the new system will lead to "a better, safer Oakland.

District 3 consists of the city's Lakeshore, East Lake, Dimond and Laurel neighborhoods.

Capt. Ricardo Orozco, who commands the area, said he and his team will focus on reducing robberies and fighting human trafficking.

"We will target specific areas where crimes are occurring," Orozco said.

Capt. Steven Tull said human trafficking also is an important issue in District 4, which runs east from Fruitvale Avenue to 62nd Avenue in part of East Oakland.

"I walked my district and people told me their primary issue is human trafficking," Tull said.

He said he's also focusing on reducing robberies and burglaries. "There's still a lot to be done but we're moving in the right direction," Tull said. Capt.

Kirk Coleman, who heads District 5, which goes from 62nd Avenue southward to Oakland's border with San Leandro in a section of East Oakland adjacent to District 4, said he's been working to identify and crackdown on his area's most violent groups.

"We want to eliminate violent crime, including robberies," Coleman said.

He said he is increasing bicycle and foot patrols by officers because "we want to get up and personal" with criminals.

"Flame of Hope" Passes Through Bay Area

The "Flame of Hope" passed through parts of the Bay Area Thursday afternoon and will continue to make its way through the region ahead of the Special Olympics Northern California Summer Games next week.

Thousands of members from local law enforcement agencies are passing off the torch throughout Northern California.

Many law enforcement agencies are major year-round fundraisers for the sporting event for disabled athletes.

Law personnel are handing off the torch that will eventually make its way to the opening ceremony on June 28 at the University of California at Davis Aggie Stadium.

The Special Olympics games include athletes who have qualified to compete in aquatics, bocce, tennis and track and field.

Thursday various runs of the torch went through San Jose, Menlo Park and Milpitas. The torch running continues today with routes going through Livermore, parts of Marin County, into Fremont and San Mateo County.

On Monday, the torch will arrive in San Ramon, Alameda and San Francisco.

The flame will continue to be passed Tuesday into parts of Contra Costa County before coming to Napa and Solano counties on Wednesday. Thursday the torch will be passed off to law enforcement in Dixon in the penultimate leg before arriving in Davis.

More information about the games is available at summergamesso.com.

Medical Emergency Kills Unidentified Male Bicyclist

A male bicyclist apparently suffered a medical emergency while riding on Warm Springs Road in Glen Ellen Thursday afternoon and died at Sonoma Valley Hospital, the California Highway Patrol said.

"Passers-by said he was riding fine then keeled over," CHP Officer Kim Lemons said.

The man was not carrying identification, Lemons said. The medical emergency at 4601 Warm Springs Road near Flicker Hill Road was reported at 12:09 p.m., a Sonoma County fire and medical center dispatcher said.

Lemons said the Sonoma County coroner's office, not the CHP, will investigate the incident because the death appears to be medically related and a vehicle was not involved.

SCYEC Employs At-Risk Youth

More than 200 at-risk youth from lower-income families between 14 and 24 years old began their summer job Thursday restoring ecosystems in Sonoma County.

For the next eight weeks, the members of the Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps will restore wetlands and open spaces, plant native shrubs and trees and build trails throughout Sonoma County.

The entry-level youth will earn $8 an hour, and older youth who use power tools will be paid $10 an hour.

In addition to restoring ecosystems, they will receive job-readiness training and environmental education about the cycles of ecosystems and watersheds, plant maintenance and resource conservation.

The Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps was created in 2009.

This year, in partnership with the Parks Alliance of Sonoma County, three additional youth crews will work in national, state, regional and local parks in Sonoma County.

This year, 42 percent of last year's workforce returned for another summer, said SCYEC spokeswoman Ann DuBay who is a program specialist with the Sonoma County Water Agency. In 2012, 29 percent of 2010's youth workforce returned.

The Water Agency is among 16 entities that are providing $2 million in funding for this summer's program.

The workforce over the past five years has been between 180 and 200 youth evenly divided between males and females, DuBay said.

Kathy Halloran, a program development manager with the county's Human Services Department, said the youth come from six regions of the county.

The youth work 6- to 8-hour days Monday through Thursday, and the program is "wildly successful," Halloran said. Halloran said at the end of the summer, she conducts mock job interviews with the summer workers, during which "they know how to look you in the eye and talk like an adult."

Social Advocates for Youth is one of the partners with the Youth Ecology Corp.

"These jobs are often a kid's first job, and they change the course of these young people's lives, setting them up for success," Social Advocates for Youth executive director Matt Martin said. Training for the 200 young workers began Monday.

Local elected officials addressed the workers at the kickoff program Thursday afternoon at Howarth Park in Santa Rosa.

Bay Area Friday Morning Weather Forecast

Sunny skies are likely in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are expected to be in the upper 50s to lower 70s, with westerly winds up to 30 mph in the afternoon. 

Mostly clear skies are likely this evening becoming partly cloudy. Patchy fog is expected after midnight. 

Lows are likely to be in the upper 40s to mid 50s with westerly winds up to 30 mph. Mostly cloudy skies are expected Saturday morning becoming sunny later in the day. 

Highs are expected to be in the upper 50s to lower 70s.

Westerly winds are likely to reach up to 20 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph in the afternoon.

 

Sign up for our weekly newsletter and join the conversation on Facebook.

Check out some of our most popular blogs:

     We Built a Stronger SF Economy on Smart Government Investments

     The BART That Could Have Been

     Run For Your Life! (For Fun)

     Love Muni, Hate Muni or Somewhere in Between? Let the SFMTA Know!

 

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