Thursday Morning News Roundup
Family Members Sue Police Officers For Shooting
Family members of a Sunnyvale man shot and killed last week by six police officers have hired Oakland civil rights lawyer John Burris who Wednesday described the shooting as "excessive" and "inexcusable."
"The family has a right to be outraged by this," Burris said.
The six law enforcement officers fired about 30 shots at Juan Ruelas, 34, who was hit multiple times in the chest, side and back while unarmed, Burris said.
A volley of about 15 shots was fired at Ruelas while he was in his truck and another 15 after he had exited the vehicle, Burris said.
"The unleashing of 30 shots is excessive," Burris said. "It's like the old John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde kind of shootings...It is inexcusable."
Burris said he has an investigator working on the case and a civil suit may result, potentially on the basis that police violated Ruelas' Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Ruelas died last Wednesday after an undercover drug operation by police in the parking lot of the Hobee's restaurant in Sunnyvale at 800 W. Ahwanee Ave., Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Capt. Dave Pitts said.
Shortly after 2 p.m., members of the Santa Clara Police Department and the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office looked on as an undercover officer bought a pound of methamphetamine from Ruelas by the man's pickup truck, Pitts said.
Ruelas threatened the officer, said he had a gun and made a movement the officer interpreted as reaching for a gun and the six officers then opened fire, Pitts said.
The wounded man died later at a hospital, Pitts said. Police did not find a gun on Ruelas or in his truck, he said.
Five Santa Clara police detectives and one sheriff's detective were among those using their firearms, Pitts said.
BART Workers Continue Negotiations For New Contract
As BART workers and management continue their stalemate in negotiations for a new contract, one of the agency's unions Wednesday reiterated their concerns over the safety of its employees.
Officials with Service Employees International Union Local 1021 held a news conference in San Francisco Wednesday to call attention to what they said was BART's refusal to address safety concerns raised by workers as the two sides remain in a 60-day cooling off period.
"We have deep and very potent concerns for the safety of the workers and also the riders," said Josie Mooney, a lead negotiator for SEIU Local 1021, which represents about 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers at the agency.
Saul Almanza, a safety instructor at BART who has been with the agency for 17 years, said vegetation growing from underneath raised train tracks causes fire dangers, while diseased trees beside tracks pose risks of falling on trains or causing derailments.
Almanza said some underground tunnels have inadequate lighting that is also dangerous for workers and potentially riders who could have to be evacuated off of a train.
He said those two issues have led to worker deaths in 2001 and 2008 and that the union is calling for a small crew to go out along the tracks at night to remove the debris after service has ended for the day.
"We would like to see the district take these demands seriously," he said.
BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said the agency has responded to union concerns over safety and is including $4.5 million in its budget for fiscal year 2014 as part of a three-year program to replace all tunnel lighting.
Trost said during frequent first responder drills that sometimes occur in BART tunnels, "never has anyone raised a concern over the lighting conditions."
She also said the request for a six-person graveyard shift crew to remove vegetation was unlikely to be granted.
"Why would you remove brush in the middle of the night when it's hard to see?" Trost said.
The proposals by the unions "are really just a way to add staffing," she said. "We've always said they're a deflection from what the real issues at the table are -- their lack of willingness to compromise on wages, benefits and medical expenses."
Almanza said, "It's unfortunate when statements from the district come out saying (concern over safety) is a smokescreen."
John Arantes, BART chapter president for SEIU Local 1021, said the district prefers to pay fines for safety violations or pricey legal fees to fight state safety regulators rather than fund safety upgrades.
"We refuse to drop it until we get it addressed," Arantes said.
"We take it seriously because we have lost lives," he said. "It is very important to us."
SEIU Local 1021 is set to meet with BART officials today to discuss supplemental issues related to the negotiations, while full-scale talks with SEIU and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555 will resume next week, Trost said.
Murder Suspects To Be Arraigned
Two men held in murders committed in San Jose last week were arraigned on homicide charges Wednesday and another murder suspect is set to be arraigned today, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.
Andrew Zumini, 27, was arraigned Wednesday afternoon in Superior Court in San Jose on charges of homicide and using a firearm in the killing of his father, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Brian Welch said.
The defendant's father, Anthony Zumini, 46, was gunned down at about 9:40 p.m. Friday in the 900 block of Gilchrist Drive in East San Jose, police spokeswoman Heather Randol said.
Mario Chavez, 40, was charged with murder and using a deadly weapon at his arraignment Wednesday afternoon in the fatal stabbing of Martha Casillas, 39, of San Jose, Welch said.
Casillas, Chavez's domestic partner who had children with him, was found dead Saturday in the 900 block of Dakota Drive in San Jose after police were called to the scene at 10:40 p.m., Randol said.
Zumini faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life and Chavez a maximum prison term of 26 years to life, Welch said.
The statements of facts in both cases have been sealed, Welch said.
Prosecutors plan to file charges today against Craig Yuhara, 62, in Sunday's homicide of Daniel Winslow, 47, of San Jose, Welch said.
The district attorney's office Wednesday was still finalizing the charging documents for its case against Yuhara, who will likely be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. today in Department 23 at the Hall of Justice in San Jose, Welch said.
Winslow's corpse was lying in a vehicle near San Jose State University's tennis courts in the area of East Humboldt and South 11th streets after university police responded to a call at 9:40 a.m. Sunday, SJSU police Sgt. John Laws said.
Yuhara was arrested Monday on suspicion of homicide and using a firearm in the commission of a felony, Laws said.
Man Dressed As Woman Robs Bank
A man dressed as a woman robbed a Westamerica Bank branch in Benicia Wednesday morning, a police lieutenant said.
Police responded to an alarm activation at the bank, located at 20 Solano Square, at 11:40 a.m., Benicia police Lt. Frank Hartig said. The suspect gave a teller a note informing her of the robbery but did not show a weapon, Hartig said.
The suspect then fled with an undisclosed amount of cash and was last seen running up a hill behind the Chevron gas station at 10 Solano Square, Hartig said.
Police searched the area, and a nearby school was locked down until police determined that the neighborhood was safe, Hartig said.
The suspect is described as a black man about 40 years old, 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. He was wearing a woman's wig, a red-and-white muumuu with white socks and black combat boots, Hartig said.
Ex-Wife Of Serial Killer Testifies Against Former Husband
The ex-wife of convicted serial killer Joseph Naso testified Wednesday morning she believes she was sexually assaulted by two men in a hotel room after Naso put a "knockout drug" in her drink at a San Francisco nightclub in the summer of 1976.
"I totally blacked out and found myself in a different place. I believe I was drugged," 75-year-old Judith Naso said.
She said she was depressed at the time of the assault and had two drinks at the nightclub. The next thing she knew, two men who were wearing clothing were lying on top of her in a bed in a hotel, she said.
She said she saw her husband "watching very intensely" on the side. The two men ran away, she said.
"I was totally fuzzy and confused. I believe they were having sex with me," she said.
Judith Naso said she confronted Naso about it when they got home.
"He said he thought it would cheer me up but it didn't. I felt terrible," she said.
She also said she had a hysterectomy around the time of the assault, and Naso told her he thought having sex with two men would make her feel more attractive.
"I don't think that was the reason. I think he enjoyed it," she said.
The disturbing testimony came during the death penalty phase of the 79-year-old former commercial photographer's trial in Marin County Superior Court.
Naso, who is representing himself with help from advisory counsel Pedro Oliveros, was convicted Aug. 20 of the first-degree strangulation murders of four prostitutes between 1977 and 1994 in Marin, Yuba and Contra Costa counties.
Prosecutors Rosemary Slote and Dori Ahana have also presented testimony about an attempted sexual assault in the late 1970s by Naso of an Oakland woman, Carolyn Kasprik, who was his neighbor, and the murder of a San Francisco woman, Sharieea Patton, 56, in January 1981.
The testimony is intended to inform the jury of aggravating factors that could convince them to recommend the death penalty.
Naso told Judge Andrew Sweet he intends to call two women to testify as mitigation witnesses. One of them, Helen French, has already testified during the main trial about an alleged assault by Naso during a photography session.
"She didn't tell the truth. The photo session was consensual. There was no assault as she claims," Naso said Wednesday morning.
Naso said he will produce photographs from the photo session to show it was consensual and to discredit French as a credible prosecution witness.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday, but Naso said his two witnesses were subpoenaed to appear in court Tuesday.
He filed a motion Wednesday to continue the trial beyond Tuesday to accommodate his witnesses. Sweet has not ruled on the motion, but he has told Naso to have his witnesses ready on Friday when the prosecution is expected to rest its case.
Judith Naso testified against Naso during the main trial, but the judge excluded as prejudicial any testimony about the alleged sexual assault in the San Francisco hotel room.
After Naso was convicted, Sweet granted the prosecution's motion to have her testify about it during the penalty phase.
Traffic On Eastern Span Of Bay Bridge Said To Be Faster In The Long Run
Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger said Wednesday that traffic on the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge continues to be slow but he expects it to be faster in the long run.
In response to a question by San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener at Wednesday's Bay Area Toll Authority meeting, Heminger said he thinks the congestion on the new eastern span, which opened on the night of Sept. 2, is only a temporary phenomenon.
Noting that the new span has parallel side-by-side decks that have a more open feeling and provide eastbound drivers with great views of the East Bay hills and the Port of Oakland, Heminger said he thinks people are driving slower because "they gawk."
He said, "Now it's a little too good looking and it's slowing traffic down."
But Heminger said he believes that "over the long run there will be a dramatic improvement in traffic" on the Bay Bridge because the new span has two shoulders in each direction, which means that stalls and accidents won't clog the bridge as often as they did in the past.
In response to a question by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan on another topic, Heminger said the current schedule calls for it to take four years to demolish the old eastern span but he thinks that's "way too long" and he'd like to accelerate the process.
When Quan expressed concern that the long demolition process will delay plans to have the bicycle and pedestrian path on the new eastern span extend all the way to Treasure Island, Heminger said the section of the old span near the island will be demolished in less than two years and the path should be able to connect to the island by March 2015.
The path, which opened on Sept. 3, currently stops about two-thirds of the way across the new eastern span.
Cause Of America's Cup Fire Still Unknown
San Francisco fire investigators have not able to determine the cause of a small blaze that damaged a broadcast booth and bleachers at the America's Cup Village in the city's Marina District early Tuesday, a fire spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The fire was reported at about 3 a.m. Tuesday at the America's Cup site near Marina Boulevard and Fillmore Street, according to fire officials.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze by 3:11 a.m., but not until it caused about $15,000 in damage to the booth and some bleacher seating in front of it, fire department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said.
Talmadge said the cause of the fire is undetermined because while there was a lot of electrical equipment in the broadcast booth that may have sparked the flames, arson could not be ruled out because a witness also reported seeing someone in the area at the time of the fire.
The fire did not affect racing in the America's Cup Finals, which continued later Tuesday with Emirates Team New Zealand defeating defending champion Oracle Team USA.
Oracle then used its "postponement card" to delay the second race of the day. The New Zealand team has to win five more races to clinch the America's Cup, while the U.S. team must win 10 more.
Racing will resume this afternoon.
Gun Bill Aproved In State Assembly
A bill authored by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, that would ban kits that convert guns into assault-type weapons was approved in a state Assembly concurrence vote Wednesday and has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Assembly Bill 48, which passed by a vote of 43-30, also would make it illegal to buy large-capacity magazines that allow people to fire multiple bullets quickly without reloading.
Skinner said assault weapons are banned under California law but people can get around that by buying a conversion kit that allows them to take a gun cartridge out and put in a high-capacity magazine that turns a gun into an assault-style weapon.
She said those type of weapons were used in mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., and Tucson, Ariz., in recent years.
Skinner said in a statement, "Large capacity magazines have no place on our streets. We have some of the toughest gun control laws in the nation but California's laws are easily undermined by these blatant loopholes."
AB 48 is the third gun control measure authored or co-authored by Skinner to be sent to Brown for his signature. He has until Oct. 13 to sign all three measures.
On Tuesday, an Assembly concurrence vote approved AB 1131, which would extend the time period a person who makes a credible threat of violence is prohibited from owning firearms from six months to five years.
Skinner said at a news conference in Oakland on Monday that she thinks such a ban would prevent tragedies such as a shooting at Oikos University in Oakland in April 2011 in which suspect One Goh is charged with seven counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder for allegedly killing seven people and wounding three others.
A judge suspended legal proceedings against Goh in January and said he's not competent to stand trial after two psychiatrists said he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.
Last Friday, legislators approved AB 180, which was co-authored by Skinner and Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, which would pre-empt state law and provide Oakland with additional tools to more strictly regulate the registration and licensing of firearms.
Skinner's spokeswoman, Tracy Morales, said Wednesday that Brown, who formerly served as Oakland's mayor, hasn't indicated whether he will sign the gun control bills.
"It's wait and see," Morales said.
A spokesperson for Brown wasn't immediately available for comment Wednesday.
Cloudy skies and patchy fog are expected in the Bay Area this morning, becoming partly cloudy later in the day. Highs are likely to reach the 60s to lower 70s, with winds up to 20 mph.
Partly cloudy skies are expected this evening, with patchy fog after midnight. Lows are likely to be in the upper 50s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph.
Cloudy skies and patchy fog are likely Friday morning. Highs are expected to be in the 60s to lower 70s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph.
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