Thursday Morning News Roundup
49ers Linebacker And Former Teammate Are Sued
San Francisco 49ers All-Pro linebacker Aldon Smith and former teammate Delanie Walker are being sued by a man who says he was shot twice in the leg at a party Smith hosted at his home near San Jose last year.
The suit by Alameda County resident Ronndale Esporlas, which was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Tuesday, accuses Smith of premises liability and negligence for the injuries he suffered at the party, which began the night of June 29, 2012, and continued into the next morning.
Esporlas, who is represented by Oakland attorney David Kleczek, alleges in his suit that Smith and Walker, who played for the 49ers but signed with the Tennessee Titans in March, "consumed significant quantities of alcohol and were legally intoxicated."
The suit states that they started firing handguns from Smith's balcony "in an apparent effort to attend the party."
According to the suit, Walker then made his way to the driveway and began firing a gun in the air and toward others who were attending the party.
A group of people near the street then allegedly began firing gunshots back toward Smith's house, and Esporlas and his friend were caught in the crossfire between the two groups, the lawsuit alleges.
Esporlas was shot twice in his leg and suffered "serious, catastrophic and permanent injuries," the suit states. The suit alleges that Smith and Walker had a duty to provide a secure environment for people who came to the party because it was "a for profit operation," as they charged people $10 each to get in, and $5 per drink.
Smith and Walker also provided entertainment, including a D.J. and a dance area, according to the suit.
The lawsuit alleges that Smith and Walker illegally possessed handguns and that the guns "had been repeatedly and illegally fired on numerous occasions" by the football players prior to the party.
San Francisco 49ers officials and Smith couldn't immediately be reached for comment. The 49ers said last year that Smith also suffered minor injuries at the party.
Smith's home is located in the 4000 block of Higuera Highland Lane in the hills east of San Jose.
Santa Clara County sheriff's deputies were dispatched to the home at 2:14 a.m. on June 30, 2012, after receiving reports of shots fired.
They located two gunshot victims and a stabbing victim, and all three were taken to area hospitals. The sheriff's office would not confirm reports that Smith was the person who was stabbed.
The sheriff's office reported that deputies encountered a "chaotic" scene when they arrived at the home, and that there were at least 100 people at the party.
Man Wounded During Undercover Police Drug Investigation Dies
A man who was wounded in an officer-involved shooting Wednesday outside a restaurant in Sunnyvale during an undercover drug investigation has died of his injuries, a police captain said.
The Santa Clara Police Department and the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office were working the covert drug probe when the shooting took place around 3 p.m., according to Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Capt. Dave Pitts.
The sheriff's office reported on Twitter Wednesday afternoon that one of its deputies was involved in the shooting and that Sunnyvale police are handling the investigation.
The man, whose name was not immediately available, was transported to a hospital and was later pronounced dead, Pitts said.
The shots were directed at the suspect inside the parking lot of Hobee's restaurant at 800 W. Ahwanee Ave., near Mathilda Avenue and U.S. Highway 101, Pitts said. Sunnyvale police officers knew about the operation in advance and were in the area to provide assistance, Pitts said.
No one else was injured in the shooting and the investigation into it is in the early stages, Pitts said.
A clerk at a Motel 6 at 806 W. Ahwanee Ave. said he heard about 15 gunshots and then a saw a wounded person being transported from a pickup truck.
The clerk, John Carroll, 69, said he heard shots ring out at about 2:30 p.m. outside the Hobee's restaurant. He said he then saw police cordon off the scene.
"They pretty much shut down the area pretty quickly," Carroll said.
The pickup had bullet holes in the windshield and on both the driver's and passenger's sides, Carroll said.
"As many shots that were fired, it's hard to believe" that the suspect survived, Carroll said.
Two lanes of North Mathilda Avenue were blocked during the preliminary investigation, according to police.
A New Zealand Sailing Team Wins 1st Red Bull Youth America's Cup
A New Zealand sailing team Wednesday won the first-ever Red Bull Youth America's Cup in San Francisco.
The New Zealand Sailing Team with Emirates Team New Zealand clinched the title after racing finished up Wednesday afternoon on the Bay.
The Red Bull Youth America's Cup was a competition involving teams of men ages 19 to 24 and served as a prelude to the America's Cup Finals starting Saturday between Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand.
Full Metal Jacket Racing, a team also from New Zealand, finished second in the youth competition while ROFF/Cascais Sailing Team from Portugal finished third.
American Youth Sailing Force, the team associated with the defending America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA, finished fifth.
A total of 10 teams competed in the youth races, which began Sunday and ended Wednesday with a seventh race that was won by a team from Switzerland.
An eighth race that would have been worth double points in the competition had to be canceled Wednesday afternoon because of high winds, according to race officials.
When the America's Cup Finals begin Saturday, the Oracle team will be starting from a disadvantage after the regatta's International Jury docked them two points for making illegal modifications to their boats during exhibition races in 2012 and earlier this year.
As a result, Oracle will have to win 11 races to clinch the America's Cup, while Emirates Team New Zealand only has to win nine.
Young Boy Killed In Tragic Accident
A young boy was killed in what appears to be a "tragic accident" Wednesday afternoon in Oakland, a police spokeswoman said.
Officers responded to a report of an accident in a parking lot at 845 Embarcadero at about 4:15 p.m., Officer Johnna Watson said.
A young boy, believed to be about 3 years old, was playing in a parking lot near his mother, who was selling fruit out of her car, when the boy was run over, Watson said. "At this time, it appears this is a tragic accident," Watson said.
The driver, only described as a man, remained at the scene and is cooperating with police, she said.
As of 6:20 p.m., police were still investigating the crash. Embarcadero, between Fifth and 10th avenues, remains closed, Watson said.
San Jose Doctor Accused Of Embezzling $46,000
A San Jose doctor is accused of embezzling $46,000 meant for cancer research and using it to pay his phone and credit card bills and his parents' mortgage, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.
Dr. Tri Minh Do, 45, allegedly set up a bank account in which he deposited grant checks made out to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, and then used the money for himself, Deputy District Attorney Judy Lee said.
Do, who is charged with one count of felony misappropriation of public funds, will be arraigned in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose on Sept. 13, Lee said.
He surrendered to authorities late last week and was booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail on $25,000 bail, but was later released, Lee said.
Do, formerly employed as a radiologist at the medical center, allegedly cashed $46,000 in reimbursement checks intended to cover the medical center's costs related to certain cancer research, Lee said.
The checks were from the American College of Radiology, which had awarded the medical center a grant to pay for up to $66,750 in expenses for a Radiation Therapy Oncology Group study, including research on prostate cancer, Lee said.
The college addressed the checks to the medical center and put them to Do's attention, Lee said.
"He opened up a separate account with a 'doing business as' Santa Clara County Valley Medical Center, and so he was able to cash all the checks in that separate account," Lee said.
The alleged embezzlement was uncovered late last year, after Do stopped working at the medical center and reimbursement checks kept coming to the hospital from the American College of Radiology, Lee said.
The medical center contacted the college, which confirmed it had been sending checks there for a year, Lee said.
The district attorney's office learned that Do, who had been in charge of running the cancer study, allegedly used grant funds to pay his Verizon phone bill, Visa and Chase credit cards and make partial payments on his parents' home mortgage, Lee said.
Do's parents had no idea where about the scheme and are not facing criminal charges, Lee said.
Point Reyes Oyster Farm Requests Rehearing
A popular oyster farm in the Point Reyes National Seashore announced Wednesday that it is requesting a rehearing in front of a full 11-judge federal appeals court panel on a ruling that could cause the farm to shut down.
Drakes Bay Oyster Company issued a statement saying it remains open and will file the request within 45 days asking for the full panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the case regarding the fate of the business.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar last November announced that he had decided not to renew the permit for the oyster company to operate in the national seashore.
The company filed a lawsuit challenging Salazar's actions, but a judge in February declined to issue a preliminary injunction that sought to block the farm's closure until a full trial was held on the lawsuit.
The appeals court later issued a temporary injunction allowing the farm to stay open until the company's appeal was resolved, but a three-judge panel from the court on Tuesday, in a 2-1 decision, upheld the lower court's ruling denying the preliminary injunction.
Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay, said in a statement that the dissenting opinion by the appeals court gives the company hope that it will be allowed to stay open.
Judge Paul Watford wrote in the dissent that by enacting the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act, Congress "viewed the oyster farm as a beneficial, pre-existing use whose continuation was fully compatible with wilderness status" in the national seashore.
Watford wrote that the majority's decision contained "nothing of substance" and that the company was "likely to prevail on the merits."
Lunny said, "After reading the Court's decision -- and especially the dissent from Judge Watford -- we are more convinced than ever that we will prevail."
Lunny and his wife Nancy bought the business in 2004 from Johnson Oyster Co., taking over the remaining years of a 40-year permit to operate in the national seashore.
Salazar, who has since stepped down as Secretary of the Interior, wrote in his Nov. 29 decision that allowing the lease to expire "would result in long-term beneficial impacts" to the natural environment of Point Reyes by allowing the 1,000-acre swath of submerged estuary to return to wilderness.
The appeals court in its majority ruling Tuesday wrote that the oyster farm was purchased by the Lunnys "with full disclosure, knowing that the reservation of use and occupancy was set to expire in 2012."
The Environmental Action Committee of West Marin hailed the court's ruling Tuesday, but Lunny said that other environmentalists and local leaders support the company.
"With the support of thousands of environmentalists, community members and elected leaders around the nation, we will continue to fight for what's right and remain committed to succeeding in our fight to remain open and serve our community," he said.
Oakland Man Convicted Of Second Degree Murder
An Oakland man was convicted of second-degree murder Wednesday for fatally shooting another man after a brief argument over a woman three years ago.
Jurors deliberated for less than two full days before delivering their verdict against 61-year-old Christopher Miles for the death of 59-year-old Danny Jackson.
The shooting occurred in a yard where Miles was living in the 1400 block of 79th Avenue in East Oakland at about 10:40 a.m. on April 12, 2010.
Prosecutor Greg Dolge said Miles shot Jackson twice with a high-powered rifle even though Jackson was unarmed.
Miles is scheduled to be sentenced by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson on Oct. 2.
This was Miles' second trial; his first trial last year ended with a hung jury.
Celebrating the Start Of Rosh Hashana
At sundown Wednesday the Jewish community in the Bay Area celebrated the start of the New Year, or Rosh Hashana.
According to the Jewish lunar calendar the holiday is celebrating the beginning of the year 5774.
Following tradition, the holiday is filled with apples and honey to start off a sweet and healthy new year.
Other customs include eating a round challah, or a braided loaf of egg bread, and other sweet foods such as honey cake. Some observers include a fish head in the festivities.
These items and more represent new beginnings and cycles as well as prosperity and fertility, according to Jewish Community Center of San Francisco senior educator Rabbi Batshir Torchio.
The blowing of the shofar, or ram's horn, also occurs during the holiday period.
Rosh Hashana marks the start of the High Holidays, which is followed by a 10-day period that concludes with Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, when observant Jews fast for a day.
According to Rabbi Andrew Berlin with the Union for Reform Judaism western district, the high holidays are about introspection and reflection and plenty of soul searching.
"You want to rise to your highest self," she said.
Torchio said this is the time of year for Jews to learn, engage and refocus.
"This holiday is about taking the opportunity for transformation," she said.
At the end of new year services there is a chance for "cleansing and purity and being our better selves," she said.
This year the High Holidays and other holidays fall earlier on the Gregorian calendar, something that will not occur again for many centuries.
"Judaism is so much about the marking of time and space," Torchio said.
The first day of Channukah will coincide with Thanksgiving on Nov. 28 this year, when usually the eight-day festival of lights is associated with the Christmas holiday.
Although disconcerting that the Jewish holiday season is starting before summer ends, Torchio said it gives an opportunity to celebrate new beginnings before the rest of the American community does in January.
Today, The Jewish Community Federation is hosting a "tashlich" service at Ocean Beach between Fulton Street and Lincoln Way.
The New Year ritual starting at 5 p.m. involves tossing bread into the ocean or a body of water to symbolically discard all sins from the past year.
This year's event, dubbed "Tashlique," aims to be a modern spin on the new year's tradition with shofar blowing, bag pipers, and members of the SF Jazz Mafia and Ministers of Sound of the Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church and jazz musician Ralph Carney performing.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee tweeted Wednesday afternoon about the start of the holidays.
"Warm wishes to Jewish families in SF & around the world celebrating Rosh Hashanah. I wish you a healthy and happy year. Shana Tova,"he said.
"Shana tova" is a common holiday greeting that means "good year" in Hebrew.
President Barack Obama also wished the Jewish community a happy new year in a video message Wednesday.
In the video, he said the New Year is the time to reflect on who we are and how we treat others.
"Where we fall short, the New Year is a new opportunity to get things right," Obama said. "And where we still have work to do, the New Year is a chance to reaffirm our commitments."
Oakland Police Seek Help In Finding Suspect In Shooting Death
Oakland police are seeking the public's help in finding the man they believe is responsible for the shooting death of 48-year-old Corey Prentice in East Oakland on Saturday night.
Police said when officers responded to reports of a shooting in the 4800 block of Daisy Street, near Mills College, at about 10:52 p.m. on Saturday they found Prentice suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.
Prentice was transported to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
Police described suspect Gary Shea as a 50-year-old white man, 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 160 pounds with brown eyes, medium dark curly hair and possible facial hair.
Police said their investigation into the shooting is ongoing and anyone with information about it should call investigator Leo Sanchez at (510) 238-3821, a tip line at (510) 777-2805 or Crime Stoppers of Oakland at (510) 777-8672.
Police didn't say why they consider Shea to be a suspect.
Animal Place Saves 1,150 Hens
Thousands of hens rescued from a deadly fate at an egg farm are flying the coop.
Vacaville-based non-profit Animal Place is sending 1,150 white leghorn hens on a chartered plane at the Hayward Executive Airport Wednesday night to new homes at animal sanctuaries on the East Coast, according to the organization's education director, Marji Beach.
The plane was scheduled to depart at 6:45 p.m., she said.
"This is the first time adult birds have ever been flown across the country," Animal Place Executive Director Kim Sturla said.
When a donor offered to cover the cost of the cross-country flight, Animal Place "jumped at the opportunity," she said.
The birds were part of a group of 3,000 hens the organization rescued from a California egg farm last month that would otherwise have been gassed, Beach said.
She said that as hens age and are able to lay fewer eggs, many commercial egg farms gas the birds and dump their carcasses in landfills, which is cheaper than sending them to slaughterhouses.
During their time at the commercial farm, which Beach declined to name, the now-rescued hens were kept in 12-by-16-inch cages that left no room for them to stretch their wings, according to Animal Place.
The birds will be welcomed in New York this morning by representatives from nine animal sanctuaries that will either permanently adopt them or find them new homes, Beach said.
Meanwhile, Animal Place is still looking for homes for the remaining 1,800 hens rescued last month.
Those interested in adopting the birds or donating to their care may visit www.animalplace.org.
Suspect Arrested For The Muder Of A San Jose Woman
A suspect was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of murder in the death of a San Jose woman whose body was found in a car Tuesday near San Antonio Elementary School in East San Jose, a police spokesman said.
The suspect, who is not being identified, was taken into custody and booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail, according to police Officer Albert Morales.
Officers have identified the murder victim as Reina Figueroa, 49, of San Jose, Morales said.
The suspect's name will not be released until the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office reviews the case, Morales said.
Police on Tuesday responded to a 911 call about a body in a vehicle near the school in the 1700 block of San Antonio Street at 12:44 p.m., Morales said. The victim was found unresponsive and pronounced dead at the scene, Morales said.
The suspect and the victim knew one another, Morales said. The murder was the 34th so far in San Jose in 2013, he said.
Daily City Police Crackdown On Motorcycle Drivers
Motorcycle drivers be on alert: the Daly City Police Department through the end of the day is cracking down on careless motorcyclists who speed, make illegal turns and attempt any other dangerous roadway violations.
Daly City Sgt. Mike O'Rourke said Wednesday that extra patrols will scour the areas most frequented by motorcyclists to lower deaths and injuries. He said extra patrols for a portion of the two-day police safety operation will float around the 280-Skyline-Highway 1 area.
"We're picking our busier streets where motorcyclists like to travel," O'Rourke said.
Last year, he noted, there were eight motorcycle injury collisions in the city, but none since October.
Daly City receives a large quantity of motorcyclists due to its proximity to the coast, O'Rourke said.
"Where our transition is with Interstate Highway 280 and the coast, it's a great place for motorcyclists to converge," he said. "We are a nexus for those to take the coast and hit Pacifica."
California collision data reveals that primary causes of motorcycle-involved crashes include speeding, unsafe turning and impairment due to alcohol and other drugs.
Daly City police hope to get out the message to all drivers and motorcyclists to share in the responsibility and share the road. It also encourages motorcyclists to get training through the California Motorcyclist Safety Program. Information and training locations are available at www.CA-msp.org or by calling (877) RIDE 411.
Distraction Burglary In The Bay Area
Whether it's a search for snakes in Burlingame or a roof in need of repair in San Carlos, regional law enforcement agencies are encouraging residents to be aware of a new crime trend they're dubbing as "distraction burglary."
San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Wednesday sent out an alert to residents about an incident on Tuesday where a man posing as a roofing contractor approached a resident at his Elm Street home and told him that he may be in need of roof repairs.
The alleged roofer told the man that he had just completed a roofing job nearby and had some leftover materials that he could use to repair the roof.
While the resident joined the alleged roofer on the roof to inspect the damage, two additional unknown suspects, a woman and a man, entered the home through the front door and rummaged through the home, according to the sheriff's office. Drawers in the bedroom and a desk in the living room had been opened and rummaged through, the victim reported to the sheriff's office.
The suspects in this case are described as a Hispanic man in his 40s; a heavy set Hispanic woman and a younger Hispanic man, all of whom were seen sitting in a newer model green crew cab pick-up truck that was parked on the street.
The burglary scam is a new trend in which a two- or three-suspect team uses a distraction technique to gain access to the home by one suspect or suspects while the other suspect occupies the victim.
Sheriff's Deputy Treated For Exposure To Toxic Chemicals
A sheriff's deputy is being treated for lung exposure to a toxic chemical mixture made by a man threatening suicide Wednesday morning, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office.
Around 5:45 a.m., the sheriff's office got a call from a man saying he was going to cook up a fatal chemical mixture to kill himself, sheriff's officials said.
The man wouldn't tell dispatchers where he was, but deputies were able to identify him as 47-year-old Jeffery Vandedrink, of Santa Rosa, according to the sheriff's office.
Sheriff's officials said the California Highway Patrol received a call about 30 minutes later from a man saying he was on Faught Road in Santa Rosa and was going to commit suicide.
Around 7:10 a.m., a deputy found Vandedrink in his car on Faught Road near East Shiloh Road in Windsor.
Two deputies approached the car and found Vandedrink sitting in the driver's seat with the driver's side window partially down, according to the sheriff's office.
Not smelling any chemical odors, the deputies approached the car and awoke Vandedrink, then removed him from the vehicle and handcuffed him, sheriff's officials said.
As the deputies took him to a patrol car, they were exposed to a colorless, toxic vapor cloud that was the product of the mixture of various chemicals, according to the sheriff's office.
One of the deputies suffered serious lung exposure to the mixture and was taken to a hospital. His recovery is expected to take several weeks, sheriff's officials said.
The second deputy and Vandedrink were only minimally exposed to the chemicals.
Vandedrink, who was also hospitalized, is expected to be arrested on suspicion of placing an injurious, nauseous or offensive substance in public causing injury, according to the sheriff's office.
Mostly cloudy skies are expected in the Bay Area this morning becoming sunny later in the day. Highs are likely to be in the 60s to lower 70s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph. Gusts of wind up to 35 mph are likely in the afternoon.
Clear skies are expected this evening, becoming partly cloudy later in the night. Lows are likely to be in the upper 50s, with westerly winds up to 30 mph.
Sunny skies are likely Friday morning. Highs are expected to be in the 60s to upper 70s, with winds up to 15 mph.
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