San Francisco Bay Area Thursday Morning News Roundup

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Sheriff Mirkarimi Returns to Work After Supervisor's Vote

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi returned to work Wednesday, a day after the city's Board of Supervisors fell short of the nine votes needed to remove him from office on official misconduct charges.

Mirkarimi said he was looking forward to the transition back to work after being suspended in March by Mayor Ed Lee following his guilty plea to misdemeanor false imprisonment in connection with a Dec. 31 incident in which he grabbed his wife's arm during an argument, causing a bruise.

"It's a new day," Mirkarimi said.

"I want to be as accommodating as I can be," he said, adding that he was heading to a meeting Wednesday afternoon with top brass in the Sheriff's Department, including interim sheriff Vicki Hennessy, who the mayor had appointed after suspending Mirkarimi.

"I asked for a clean, effective transition," he said. The board voted 7-4 in favor of upholding the official misconduct charges against Mirkarimi, two shy of the number of votes required by the city charter for the removal to go into effect.

Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim and Christina Olague were the four who declined to vote with the majority.

Avalos said he thought the city's case was "convoluted from a legal point of view" while Kim issued a statement Wednesday saying that it was not adequately proven that Mirkarimi "used the powers of his office to commit wrongdoing, in this case, physical abuse against his wife."

However, Kim said she would support a recall effort against the sheriff and that her "faith in him as a person and sheriff has greatly diminished."

Earlier Wednesday afternoon, Lee spoke briefly to reporters and reiterated his disappointment in the board's vote.

"We have a very deep difference of opinion," he said, adding that the four dissenting supervisors "sought out an excuse for an inexcusable act."

Lee said he would be "fulfilling our legal obligation to work together" even though it is a "strongly emotional situation."

Couple Arrested in Connection with Hercules Woman's Murder and Alleged Multi-State Crime Spree

Two people suspected of going on a month-long crime spree were arrested in King County, Wash. Wednesday morning after authorities spotted them in a car reported stolen from a Hercules home where a woman was found murdered Friday, a police officer said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said one of the suspects, Darnell Washington, 24, allegedly escaped from the San Bernardino County Jail on Aug. 28 with the help of his wife, Tania Washington, 25.

Authorities believe the pair went on a crime spree after Washington's escape that included the shooting of a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy on Sept. 2 after the deputy spotted Darnell Washington and attempted to detain him. The pair fled the area after carjacking a vehicle, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials.

The couple dumped that stolen vehicle in the city of South Gate and allegedly carjacked another car.

Considered armed and dangerous, the couple remained at large until around 9 a.m. Wednesday, when a police officer in SeaTac, Wash. spotted the sky blue 2011 Subaru Outback reported stolen from 55-year-old murder victim Susie Ko's Hercules home on Oct. 5 and attempted to stop the vehicle, police said. Darnell and Tania Washington were identified as the car's occupants.

Instead of yielding to the officer, Darnell Washington sped away, slamming into the officer's vehicle in the process, according to the King County Sheriff's Department.

Police followed the Subaru, which only stopped after police boxed the car in. Tania Washington then jumped into the car's backseat and her husband repeatedly rammed into the police cars in an attempt to flee the area, sheriff's officials said.

When the Subaru wouldn't budge, police ordered the couple out of the vehicle at gunpoint.

The pair was arrested on suspicion of possession of a stolen vehicle and for other alleged crimes committed in King County, where they are being held, Hercules police Detective Connie Van Putten said.

Hercules detectives are heading to Washington to interview the pair in connection with the murder of Susie Ko, Van Putten said. Detectives from Los Angeles County and King County will join Hercules investigators to determine the extent of the crimes the couple committed since Darnell Washington's escape from jail.

Their arrest Wednesday morning and the recovery of the stolen Subaru comes less than a week after police found the car's owner, Hercules resident Ko, unconscious and suffering from stab wounds in her home on Ash Court. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officers arrived at the home after Ko's husband called neighbors when she didn't arrive to pick him up at the airport Friday night as planned. Ko's vehicle went missing from the home the night of her murder, prompting a widespread search for the car in the hopes that it would lead to her killers.

Defendant in Michelle Le Murder Trial Says She Saw Victim Day of Disappearance

Less than 30 hours after nursing student Michelle Le went missing from a Hayward parking lot last year, murder defendant Giselle Esteban told police she didn't know what happened to Le, according to a taped statement played in court Wednesday.

Esteban, a 28-year-old Union City woman who attended high school with Le in San Diego and had been a close friend, also tearfully told Hayward police Inspector Fraser Ritchie, the lead investigator in the case, to "just find her," referring to Le.

Le, a 26-year-old San Mateo woman who was attending Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, disappeared from Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Hayward around 7 p.m. on May 27, 2011. A highly-publicized search ensued for nearly four months until her decomposed body was found in a remote area between Pleasanton and Sunol on Sept. 17, 2011.

Ritchie testified Wednesday that he and other officers went to Esteban's apartment just before midnight on May 28, 2011.

Ritchie told Esteban in the taped interview played in court that he wanted to talk to her because other witnesses in the investigation had told police that she and Le had a tumultuous relationship.

Esteban admitted to Ritchie that she had gone to the Kaiser facility in Hayward in the evening of May 27 and had seen Le on a walkway between the hospital and the parking lot but said she then went home and rested the remainder of the evening because she was tired.

Ritchie testified Wednesday that he found Esteban's statement about being able to see Le on the walkway "troubling" because he knew from experience that someone on the street wouldn't be able to see the walkway well enough to identify a person on the walkway or even to determine the person's gender.

When Ritchie asked Esteban if she could help police find Le, Esteban said, "No, I don't know where she is. I don't know how to help you find her."

Esteban was under suspicion for many months in connection with Le's disappearance but wasn't charged with Le's murder until Sept. 8, 2011, -- nine days before Le's body was found -- based on DNA evidence and cellphone records.

One Dead and Two Injured in East Oakland Shooting

 One man was fatally shot and two men sustained gunshot wounds in East Oakland Wednesday night, according to Oakland police.

Police received a report of the shooting at the intersection of 47th Avenue and E. 12th Street at 9:35 p.m.

One man was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Two men with multiple gunshot wounds were transported by ambulance to local hospitals and are in stable condition, police said. No suspect information has been released.

Suspect Arrested for Alleged Abduction of Nine-Year-Old Girl Pleads Not Guilty

A San Francisco man who allegedly trespassed on multiple San Mateo school campuses last month and briefly abducted a nine-year-old girl pleaded not guilty to all charges against him in San Mateo County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon.

Bradley Mrozek, 25, is accused of walking onto three campuses on Sept. 21 including Parkside Elementary School, where he entered a girl's bathroom and grabbed a student, covered her mouth with his hand, and carried her off campus, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

New DNA evidence has prompted the district attorney's office to change one of the charges against Mrozek from committing a lewd act on a child to committing a sexual act with a child under the age of 10, Wagstaffe said.

The girl was able to fight off her abductor by kicking him and throwing rocks, and she ran back to the school campus and immediately reported the incident.

Police responded and identified Mrozek as a possible suspect in two other incidents that occurred at separate schools earlier the same day, Wagstaffe said.

At Bayside STEM Academy -- a middle school in San Mateo -- Mrozek allegedly trespassed on campus and made contact with as many as four students, making lewd comments to two girls and offering alcohol to two boys, according to prosecutors.

The suspect is also believed to have trespassed at Horrall Elementary School, where an administrator escorted him off campus.

After Mrozek was arrested on Sept. 22, investigators connected him to a fourth incident that took place in March at George Washington Elementary School in Daly City, Wagstaffe said.

A man went into a girl's bathroom on campus and tried to take pictures of girls using the facilities from a stall, prosecutors said.

The girls heard clicking noises and immediately reported it to a teacher.

When the teacher entered the bathroom and ordered the person to come out, a male suspect ran out of the facility, Wagstaffe said.

Prosecutors believe Mrozek was the intruder, he said.

Mrozek now faces a total of 18 separate charges, including child molestation, kidnapping, child annoyance, attempting to possess child pornography and offering alcohol to a minor, Wagstaffe said.

He remains in custody without bail.

20 Protesters Arrested After Taking Over Vacant Building in Castro

Police arrested about 20 protesters who entered and occupied a vacant building in San Francisco's Castro District tonight.

The protest, organized by the group Homes Not Jails for World Homeless Day, started at about 5 p.m. Wednesday evening in Dolores Park.

Protesters marched down 18th Street and entered the residential building in the 500 block of Castro Street at 5:53 p.m., police Officer Gordon Shyy said.

Once inside, the protesters hung banners from windows and were drilling on the roof, apparently attempting to hang signs and banners there as well.

Police entered the building a short time later and arrested about 20 people, Shyy said.

Shortly after 8 p.m. tonight police were in the process of taking the arrested protesters out of the building and load them into vehicles to transport them to jail.

One woman attempted to run from police and tripped and fell, hurting her ankle. She was taken by ambulance to a hospital and will be booked after she is released, Shyy said.  

Seventh Annual Festiv'ALL Attracts Crowds, Local Entrepreneurs

Members of the local business community, community leaders and members of the public gathered at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Wednesday evening for the seventh annual Festiv'ALL.

"We're just trying to get people together," Anita Garcia, the event's manager said.

For seven years, Garcia said, the free event organized by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Silicon Valley has provided a place for a diverse cross section of community businesspeople to network and connect with each other and local consumers.

Held in a large convention space at the fairgrounds, the event included 100 exhibitors, 30 of whom provided free food and drink samples.

Anita Flores, Vice President and Branch Manager for Union Bank in San Jose has been coming to Festiv'All for years.

"The reason we do it is because of the diversity," Flores said.

"The networking is phenomenal, everybody is willing to share their business with each other," said Flores' colleague Ann Height, Senior Priority Relationship Manager at the Union Bank.

According to Garcia, she and other organizers expected at least 1,000 people to attend the evening's event, because about that many people registered online, though that may have been a conservative estimate.

Historically, Garcia said, about 2,000 people attended each year.

At one of the event's most popular booths, Moon Chien passed out miniature "bubble tea" drinks courtesy of Bar Code Café in San Jose, which he manages. Chien said that his café planned to give away about $500 to $800 worth of free drinks in an effort to reach new customers.

At another booth, Rick Gerhartdt, Membership Development Member at the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce said that he has come to Festiv'ALL before, and typically walks away with about 100 new contacts, many of them with small business owners.

On a stage on the far end of the space, Chinese dancers and musicians, Hula dancers, and a jazz group performed.

People of all ages and races wandered the floor, sampling the food and talking with one another.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Report

Mostly cloudy skies are expected in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are likely to be in the upper 50s, with western winds up to 15 mph in the afternoon.

Partly cloudy skies are likely this evening, becoming mostly cloudy later in the night. Lows are expected to be in the lower 50s, with western winds up to 15 mph.

Mostly cloudy skies are expected Friday morning. Highs are likely to be in the lower 60s, with southwest winds up to 5 mph.


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