Wednesday Morning News Roundup

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San Jose Approves Funding For More Police Officers

The San Jose City Council Tuesday approved a funding strategy that backers claim would add 141 new police officer positions and restore other city services but would require tens of millions in revenue the city does not yet have.

The council voted 10 to 1, with Councilman Ash Kalra opposed, a proposal by Mayor Chuck Reed and Councilman Sam Liccardo that they said would raise the number of San Jose police officers from 1,109 in the current budget to 1,250 in four years.

The proposal seeks to investigate options to return city services to January 2011 levels, including restoring 10 percent pay cuts given to city employees, with police staffing the highest priority.

Reed and Liccardo also proposed to restore funding levels for fire, library, and community center services.

The city is now $20 million short of the money it would cost to restore the 10 percent salary cuts to city workers and would need $35 million to restore police, fire, libraries and community centers to what they received in January 2011, Reed said.

Reed and Liccardo, in a joint memo to the council, reported that the money may be raised in a variety of ways, such as reducing police overtime pay, eliminating sick leave pay to officers at retirement and using $15 million the city set aside during labor negotiations with the Police Department.

Reed said at the meeting that the city should also consider asking city voters to pass a new tax measure, preferably on the ballot in November 2014, to raise additional funds.

San Jose also needs to find $70 million to $80 million in funding for needed repairs to city streets, Reed said.

"So we are a lot of money short from where we'd like to be, both to restore pay and to restore services," Reed said.

"Today, we are talking really about prioritizing the work as we go forward in anticipation of being able to both restore services and to restore pay," he said.

Hiring the 141 new police officers, at a cost of $153,000 in compensation plus $13,000 in equipment and other costs for each one, would alone require $23.4 million the city does not have, according to Reed.

The Reed-Liccardo plan would pay San Jose police officers an incentive bonus equal to 4 percent of their salaries to convince them to stay with the force.

Reed described the proposed strategy as a balance between reviving city services and pay and "making the Police Department the highest priority for restoring services and the highest priority for restoring pay."

Acting police Chief Larry Esquivel, who attended the meeting, commended the council for proposing the 4 percent retention incentive for current officers.

The inducement would help "to keep our people here, from fleeing" to better-paying jobs in other cities, Esquivel said.

So far this year, the department has lost 75 officers, two-thirds of whom left after resigning their positions, Esquivel said.

As of last week, the San Jose police had 996 sworn officers with about 43 police cadets nearing graduation from the police academy, police said.

Suspect Shot By Union City Police

A suspect shot by Union City police Saturday while allegedly threatening officers has been identified as 46-year-old Vergel Ricafrente Worrell of Union City, police said.

Police responded to reports of a man with a gun randomly firing 10-15 times in the 32600 block of Kenita Way at about 2:30 p.m.

The reports said that the man was screaming profanities and acting incoherent.

Officers confronted the man with a hostage negotiator and an officer trained to deal with people with mental illness, but the man eventually pointed his gun at the officers, who shot and killed him, police said.

Police identified him as Worrell Tuesday.

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office is investigating the officer-involved shooting while Union City police investigators are trying to determine why Worrell suddenly became violent.

Anyone with information about the case has been asked to call Union City police at (510) 675-5207.

Two Killed In Hit-And-Run

Two women killed early Monday in a hit-and-run collision near Mineta San Jose International Airport have been identified.

The Santa Clara County medical examiner's office identified the victims as Carmen Zavala, 63, and Cristina De Leon Castro, 62, both of San Jose.

Zavala and Castro died when the driver of a silver 2004 Mercedes-Benz smashed into their 2012 Toyota Yaris early Monday morning, according to San Jose police.

The crash happened at about 3:15 a.m. after California Highway Patrol officers spotted the Mercedes speeding on northbound U.S. Highway 101 and followed the vehicle for a traffic stop, CHP spokesman Chris Falkowski said.

The officers followed the Mercedes as it exited on the First Street off-ramp and activated their emergency lights, he said.

The Mercedes turned left on Brokaw Road and pulled over to the right shoulder appearing to yield to officers but instead accelerated southbound on North First Street, running a red light, Falkowski said.

The CHP officers stopped pursuing the Mercedes and deactivated their emergency lights for safety reasons at Matrix Boulevard. They noticed hazard lights on Skyport Drive and North First Street and found the damaged Toyota Yaris, he said.

The Mercedes had broadsided the Toyota, and the impact was strong enough to kill the women even though the car's air bags deployed, police spokeswoman Sgt. Heather Randol said.

The Toyota was so badly damaged that police at first could not verify its make and model, Randol said.

Police have obtained registration information from the Mercedes but are still trying to locate the driver, Randol said Tuesday.

That driver could be charged with felony hit-and-run for leaving the accident scene, Randol said.

Zavala and Castro were employees at San Jose International Airport eateries managed under HSMHost Corporation.

HSMHost spokeswoman Sarah Cody said in a statement, "We are deeply saddened by the loss of Cristina De Leon Castro and Carmen Maria Zavala. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this extremely difficult time. Cristina and Carmen will be truly missed by their HMSHost family."

Federal Jury Finds Former Sheriff's Deputy Guilty Of Conspiracy

A federal jury Tuesday afternoon found a former Contra Costa County sheriff's deputy guilty of conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion for aiding a former private investigator in arranging so-called "dirty DUI" arrests in Danville.

Stephen Tanabe, 50, of Alamo, was found guilty in federal court in San Francisco of one count of conspiracy, three counts of wire fraud and two counts of extortion.

He was acquitted of one charge of extortion.

The jury was comprised of four women and eight men.

The charges stem from his role in helping former private investigator Christopher Butler, 52, of Concord, set up the arrests of three men in stings in Danville between November 2010 and January 2011.

The men, who were husbands of Butler's female clients in divorce and child custody cases, were allegedly enticed by employees associated with Butler to become intoxicated at Danville bars and then arrested after Butler alerted Tanabe that the drunken men were driving away.

Tanabe stood trial for three such arrests.

The jury found Tanabe guilty of extortion for receiving a Glock gun worth roughly $600 from Butler in exchange for making arrests.

Defense attorney Tim Pori said the jury acquitted him of the second extortion charge, which stemmed from allegations that Butler also gave him $200 worth of cocaine as payment for the "dirty DUIs."

The wire fraud charges stem from text messages he and Butler exchanged the evenings of the setups.

Butler and former Contra Costa County narcotics squad commander Norman Wielsch were the ringleaders of a larger corruption scheme that included stealing drugs seized as evidence and extorting protection payments from workers at a massage business they set up.

Last year, Butler was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to seven charges including illegal wiretapping and conspiring to sell methamphetamine and marijuana Wielsch had stolen from evidence lockers. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to testify against Tanabe.

Wielsch pleaded guilty in 2012 to five charges, including conspiracy to distribute marijuana and methamphetamine, and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Tanabe is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 11. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

He is out on bail, Pori said.

San Burno, Still Rebuilding After PG&E Pipeline Explosion

Nearly three years after a PG&E gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno, the city's mayor said Tuesday that residents are still rebuilding their devastated neighborhood, and city leaders continue to advocate for stricter oversight of the state's natural gas infrastructure.

The explosion in San Bruno's Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood on Sept. 9, 2010, destroyed 38 homes, killed 8 people, injured more than 60 others and "left a massive hole in our community," Mayor Jim Ruane said at a news conference.

"Since tragedy struck our city three years ago this month, nearly half of the destroyed homes in the Crestmoor neighborhood have been rebuilt," Ruane said.

Of the 38 homes that were destroyed, 16 have been rebuilt and are once again occupied, he said. Out of 17 homes that were burned and badly damaged, 15 have been fully repaired.

The city has so far spent more than $13 million to replace water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure in the immediate area of the explosion, a figure that is expected to grow as infrastructure repairs continue beyond the blast zone, Ruane said.

"A similar project to replace underground infrastructure is now under way in the rest of the neighborhood," he said.

"We anticipate that the final reconstruction of the sidewalks, streets, streetlight system and expansion and rebuild of the neighborhood park will begin in coming months," Ruane said.

City Manager Connie Jackson said that the city continues to be an interested party in proceedings at the California Public Utilities Commission, where a panel of administrative law judges is in the process of considering how much to penalize PG&E for the explosion.

"There continues to be a great deal of important activity going on at CPUC," Jackson said.

San Bruno leaders have pledged to honor the lives of the eight who died in the explosion by ensuring that PG&E pays for its negligent safety standards, and that CPUC is held responsible for its lack of oversight.

"We are calling on stronger and improved oversight by state regulators at the CPUC to understand why this happened and to make sure it never happens again," Ruane said.

A decision on how much the state will fine PG&E is expected to be handed down this fall. San Bruno officials and consumer advocates have called for a maximum penalty of more than $2 billion.

Crestmoor residents and city officials plan to hold a private remembrance of the explosion's three-year anniversary on Monday at around 6 p.m., Jackson said.

Families who have moved back to the neighborhood since last year's remembrance ceremony will receive a proclamation from the city, she said.

Body From Richmond BART Shooting Identified

A man who was shot and killed near the Richmond BART station on Monday night has been identified by the Contra Costa County coroner's bureau as 30-year-old Faheim Smith.

The shooting was reported at about 10:10 p.m., when a BART police officer notified Richmond police that he heard gunfire and that someone told him a man had been shot, Richmond police Sgt. Nicole Abetkov said.

Police responded and found Smith, a Richmond resident, down with a gunshot wound to his torso near 19th Street and Nevin Avenue, just east of the BART station, Abetkov said.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Abetkov said the shooter may have fled on a bicycle. Investigators will review BART surveillance footage to see if the shooting was captured on video, she said.

"Rim Fire" is 75 Percent Contained

The massive "Rim Fire" in and around Yosemite National Park was 75 percent contained as of Tuesday morning, however the U.S. Forest Service is estimating the fire will continue burning until later this month.

The fire, which started on Aug. 17 in the Stanislaus National Forest and spread into Yosemite National Park, has charred 235,841 acres and destroyed 11 homes and 100 other buildings, according to the forest service.

There have been five injuries reported in connection with the fire.

Cal Fire officials said the blaze is the fourth largest wildfire in California history.

As of Tuesday afternoon, all evacuations prompted by the quick-spreading blaze were lifted as firefighters gained the upper hand on it.

However a portion of state Highway 120 remains closed near Yosemite and other road closures should be expected throughout the region.

A lingering concern is smoky conditions and poor air quality as the fire continues to burn, officials said.

Full containment is not expected until Sept. 20, according to the forest service.

The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir that provides water to 2.6 million San Francisco area residents remains unaffected despite ash falling on the water, with turbidity, or cloudiness, levels below state-mandated levels, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Two of three hydroelectric powerhouses, the Kirkwood and Holm turbines, were taken offline on Aug. 19, but Tuesday the Kirkwood facility has resumed providing power after repairs were made over the weekend, according to PUC officials.

Both facilities were affected by the fire with Kirkwood minimally damaged, while the Holm Powerhouse sustained a burned roof and the structure partially collapsed.

Holm is the city's largest powerhouse and crews are working to get it back online, however power supplies have not been disrupted since the fire with Moccasin Powerhouse generating power throughout the blaze, according to the commission.

Since the shutdowns, the city has spent about $860,000 on alternative energy sources, according to PUC officials.

San Jose Police Investigate Body Found Near School

San Jose police are investigating the discovery of a body near San Antonio Elementary School Tuesday afternoon, a police sergeant said.

Officers responded to a 911 call from someone reporting a body in a vehicle at South King Road and San Antonio Street at 12:41 p.m., Sgt. Heather Randol said.

The person was found unresponsive and was pronounced dead at the scene at 12:45 p.m., she said.

The death has not been classified as a murder, but the Police Department's homicide unit is investigating the case as a matter of protocol, Randol said.

Police said all of the children at the elementary school are safe and that there is no public safety issue.

Oakland Man Convicted Of First- Degree Murder

An Oakland man was convicted of first-degree murder Tuesday for fatally shooting another man during a discussion about the existence of God while they were both under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine.

Douglas Yim, 33, looked straight ahead and showed no emotion when jurors, who deliberated for only a day and a half, announced their verdict against him for the death 25-year-old Dzuy Dunh Phan of Alameda at Yim's home in the 3100 block of Herriott Avenue in Oakland in the early morning hours of April 2, 2011.

Yim faces more than 100 years in state prison when he's sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Thomas Reardon on Nov. 8 because he also was convicted of assault with a firearm and mayhem for shooting another man, Paul Park, in the incident and has a prior felony conviction.

Prosecutor Allyson Donovan said Yim and Phan were friends but a conversation about the existence of God eventually sparked the shooting, which she described as "extremely senseless."

Donovan said Yim got upset when Phan said he didn't believe in God and asked Yim where God was when Yim lost a video game and when Yim's father collapsed and died of a stroke several years earlier.

She said Yim threw his video game controller through a television screen at his home but Phan tried to calm him down.

Yim didn't respond, so Phan told Yim that if he was upset he should just go get his gun, Donovan said.

Yim waited five minutes, walked into his bedroom, grabbed and loaded his semi-automatic rifle and shot Phan six times, according to the prosecutor.

Yim testified that he fired in self-defense because Phan had a black object in his hand that he thought was a gun.

But Donovan said Phan was only holding a cellphone, never had a gun and never threatened Yim. "This clearly was a murder that was carried out in execution style," Donovan said.

She said all six shots that Yim fired at Phan hit his body between his waist and his head and the final shot was fired less than a foot from Phan's head as Phan lay on the ground while bleeding from the impact of the initial shots.

Yim testified during the trial that, "I was really drunk that night" and said he remembered the first shot and the last shot but not the shots in between.

His attorney, Mario Andrews, said after the verdict Tuesday that he thinks Yim should only have been convicted of manslaughter under the theory of imperfect self-defense because he thinks Yim didn't intend to kill Phan and shot at him with the mistaken belief that Phan had a gun.

Andrews also said he doesn't think Yim fully knew what he was doing because he was under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Donovan said Yim was mildly impaired but "knew what he was doing" because he was able to talk away from the scene, get rid of the murder weapon, drive out of town and buy new clothes.

"He was able to make the decision to kill and the jury got it completely right," Donovan said.

Missing Man From San Mateo Found, But Dies In Hospital

An at-risk man who went missing from the Coyote Point area of San Mateo on Monday was found in South San Francisco early Tuesday morning but died at a hospital a short time later, police said.

Runfa Wang, 50, had last been seen in the Coyote Point area early Monday morning. Police said Wang's speech resembled that of a small child, but that a medical condition left him unlikely to speak at all, police said.

Wang was discovered in South San Francisco shortly after midnight Tuesday morning and was taken to a hospital because of his medical condition, police said. He died at a hospital shortly afterward.

Police said his death is not considered suspicious. 

Request For Hearing About SFPD's Handling Of Accidents Involving Cyclists

Issues over how police investigated the death of a bicyclist in San Francisco last month has prompted a city supervisor Tuesday to request a hearing on how the Police Department conducts investigations into accidents involving cyclists.

Supervisor Jane Kim requested the hearing following the Aug. 14 death of 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, who was killed when a truck made a right turn and struck her at Sixth and Folsom streets in the city's South of Market neighborhood, which Kim represents.

Police initially did not cite the truck driver, but have since found him at fault after a member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition uncovered surveillance video of the crash.

The bicycle coalition has criticized the department for not finding the video, and also for the actions of a police sergeant who they say stopped at an event they held a week after Le Moullac's death and said the cyclist was to blame for the collision.

Police Chief Greg Suhr last week apologized for the sergeant's actions and said the incident will be reviewed by the city's Office of Citizen Complaints, which handles complaints against police.

Kim, the supervisor, said the hearing at a board committee would not include "finger-pointing" regarding the case.

"We merely want to have a discussion about how we do investigations," she said.

Kim said she wants to make sure there's a process in place that is "comprehensive" and takes into account the needs of the family of the victim.

Although police found the driver at fault in the crash, district attorney's office spokeswoman Stephanie Ong Stillman said Tuesday that the case has not yet been formally presented to prosecutors.

SF Court Declines To Block Closure Of Oyster Farm

A federal appeals court in San Francisco Tuesday declined to block the closure of a popular oyster farm in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2-1 decision Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling in February denying a preliminary injunction that would have allowed the farm to stay in business until a full trial was held on a lawsuit filed by the company.

The suit was filed last December, just days after U.S. Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar announced that he had decided not to renew the oyster farm's permit to operate in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

In its ruling, the panel stated that the oyster company had "failed to raise a serious question about the Secretary's decision," and that the owners of the company had entered into the lease knowing that it was not likely to be renewed.

The owners, Kevin Lunny and his wife Nancy, bought the business from Johnson Oyster Co. in 2004, taking over the remaining years of a unique 40-year permit that allowed the farm to operate in a national seashore.

"Drakes Bay purchased the oyster farm with full disclosure, knowing that the reservation of use and occupancy was set to expire in 2012," Tuesday's ruling reads.

The Lunnys issued a statement Tuesday condemning the court's decision, and vowed to keep fighting to stay in operation.

"The 9th Circuit's decision to deny this injunction is a step backwards, not only for Drakes Bay but also for Marin County, proponents of sustainable agriculture and farmers around the country," owner Kevin Lunny said.

"Our attorneys are now reviewing all of our options before we announce our plans for moving forward," he said.

Salazar's Nov. 29 decision to let the permit expire paved the way for the 1,000-acre swath of submerged estuary where Drakes Bay Oyster Company operates to return to wilderness.

Allowing the lease to expire "would result in long-term beneficial impacts to the estero's natural environment," Salazar wrote in his decision.

A spokesperson for the Interior Department was not immediately available to comment Tuesday, but some environmentalists hailed the ruling.

"The court ruling affirms that our national parks will be safe from privatization schemes, and that special places like Drakes Estero will rise above attempts to hijack Americans' wilderness," said Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin.

Bay Area Weather Update

 Sunny skies are expected in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are likely to be in the 60s to lower 70s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph.

Clear 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. Gusts up to 35 mph are likely in the evening.

Mostly cloudy skies and patchy fog are likely Thursday morning, becoming sunny later in the day. Highs are expected to be in the 60s to lower 70s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph.


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