THURSDAY MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP
CPUC Commissioner Recuses Himself From PG&E Hearings, San Bruno Calls For Resignation
California Public Utilities Commissioner Mike Florio announced Wednesday that he would recuse himself from proceedings involving PG&E after coming under fire for communications with PG&E staff seeking to influence the commission’s choice of judge in CPUC hearings.
Florio is the second of the five-member commission to recuse himself from such proceedings. CPUC President Michael Peevey suspended his involvement in the cases last month because of similar communications between his office and PG&E.
Faced with calls for his resignation, Peevey announced last week he would not seek reappointment to his position at the end of his year.
According to his announcement, Florio will no longer participate in proceedings investigating the 2010 San Bruno gas pipeline explosion or further hearings on PG&E gas rates.
“Questions have been raised about the integrity of the process in both of these matters,” Florio said. “In the San Bruno cases the City of San Bruno has requested such action, and I will honor that request.”
San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane praised Florio’s decision, but called for his immediate resignation from the commission.
“Only Florio’s removal from the commission will protect the public from a pattern of collusion – and possible corruption – now documented in multiple emails between the CPUC decision makers and PG&E staff,” Ruane said in a statement.
Police Seek Suspected Child Molester
San Leandro police are seeking the public’s help in identifying a man suspected of inappropriately touching two young girls in Target and Walmart stores.
Police first responded to a report at 7:45 p.m. Monday from a mother who said a man approached her two daughters in the Walmart located at 15555 Hesperian Blvd.
The man inappropriately touched the older of the two siblings while their mother was in another aisle. The girl screamed, scaring the man away, police said. The two girls told their mother, who contacted store security, who in turn told police.
Officers then responded to a second report of a similar incident 15 minutes later at the Bayfair Center Target store at 15555 E. 14th St. The man approached another young girl, whose mother was nearby, and touched her inappropriately, police said.
The girl told her mother, who attempted to confront the suspect as he was walking away, but police said he fled the store quickly. The mother reported the assault to a uniformed security officer, who called police.
Officers were able to obtain store security footage of both incidents and spoke with the mothers involved. Police said they believe it was the same suspect in both incidents and he may have driven directly from Walmart to Target. The stores are approximately 1.4 miles away from each other.
Police described the suspect as between the ages of 25 and 40 years old and approximately 6 feet to 6 feet 3 inches tall with a medium build. He is clean-shaven with brown hair and light brown eyebrows.
The man was wearing a black, long-sleeved dress shirt, red tie, black slacks and black dress shoes at the time of the incidents, police said.
Because of his style of dress, officers said it’s likely the man is employed at some type of retail environment where he has contact with customers, such as a restaurant, hotel, or sales position.
San Leandro police Lt. Robert McManus urged the public to help law enforcement solve the crimes quickly.
“Although these crimes occurred in San Leandro, this suspect could be in any Bay Area store or city,” McManus said in a statement.
Former Track Star Who Robbed Banks Gets 6 Years In Federal Prison
A former high school and college track star who couldn’t outrun the long arm of the law has been sentenced to more than six years in federal prison for committing four bank robberies in Oakland last year.
Federal prosecutors said 22-year-old Noah Blue of Oakland entered the banks wearing a face mask and gloves, passing notes to tellers announcing that he was robbing them and demanding that they give him money.
Authorities said the robberies occurred at the Bank of the West Branch at 2023 Mountain Blvd. on July 26, Aug. 1 and Aug. 26, 2013, and at the Chase Bank branch at 3310 International Blvd. on Sept. 4, 2013.
Police said that in the robbery at the Bank of the West branch on Aug. 26, 2013, Blue was armed with an 18-inch baton, jumped a counter and confronted tellers face-to-face, raising the baton at one teller and threatening to beat her if she didn’t give him money.
Blue was arrested on Sept. 4, 2013, and on July 18 he pleaded guilty to one count of armed bank robbery and three counts of unarmed bank robbery.
At a hearing last Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar sentenced Blue to 6 and one half years in federal prison and ordered him to pay full restitution to the Bank of the West branch.
The money that was stolen from the Chase Bank was seized at the time of Blue’s arrest, authorities said.
Blue was a standout hurdler at Skyline High School in Oakland, where he graduated in 2010, and also was on the track team at California State University, Northridge.
Preliminary NTSB Report Released In Air Tanker Crash
The pilot of an air tanker that crashed in Yosemite National Park while responding to a wildfire last week may have hit a tree, according to a preliminary report released Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Cal Fire identified the pilot as 62-year-old San Jose resident Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt, a 13-year veteran pilot of Dyncorp International, which is contracted by the fire service. Hunt left from Hollister on Oct. 7 and was responding to the Dog Rock Fire when officials said they lost contact with his plane.
Hunt’s plane had already made one drop of fire retardant onto the blaze when it turned around to reload at the Columbia Airport in Tuolumne County, according to the NTSB report.
On his second drop, a pilot in a controller airplane flying with Hunt’s aircraft told officials that Hunt’s plane “may have struck a tree with its wing, which separated from the airplane,” the report states.
Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott highlighted the challenges of aerial firefighting.
“Aerial firefighting is not simply flying from one airport to another,” Pimlott said in a statement. “We look forward to the final NTSB report to see if we can use the finding to help mitigate the inherent dangers of the job. We owe that to Craig, who traded his life in an effort to protect the lives of others.”
Hunt was born in Richmond, Indiana, and is survived by his wife, Sally, who he married in September 1975, according to a memorial on Cal Fire’s website. Hunt served as a pilot in the U.S. Navy from 1975 to 1984 and was in the U.S. Army Reserves for 20 years.
Hunt earned master’s degrees in business from the University of Southern California and biochemistry from the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he served as a chemistry teacher. His daughter, Sarah Hunt Lauterbach, called her father a hero.
“There was not a day that went by that I didn’t talk to my dad,” Lauterbach said on the memorial page. “He was my best friend.”
Medical Examiner Identifies Woman Killed In Murder-Suicide Friday
A woman who was shot in San Francisco last Friday by a man who then took his own life succumbed to her injuries on Monday, according to police and the medical examiner’s office.
The woman, identified by the medical examiner’s office as 35-year-old Cecilia Lam, of San Francisco, was shot around 5 a.m. Friday in the 500 block of Natoma Street, police said.
Lam was shot by Cedric Young Jr., 29, following a series of domestic disturbances at the residence the two shared together. Young then shot himself to death, police said.
Investigators said the incident was a culmination of a series of calls at the home during the previous two days. Officers responded at about 8:30 p.m., 9:15 p.m. and 10 p.m. and arrested Young on suspicion of public intoxication.
He was taken to county jail and later released. Officers responded again to the home around 4 a.m. and encountered Young, who told them he wanted to get some of his belongings from the home. Officers stayed at the scene while Young retrieved some items and left.
He apparently returned and forced his way into the apartment, where he shot Lam and himself, police said. Lam was taken to San Francisco General Hospital in critical condition and died Monday.
Police had arrested Young in 2012 on suspicion of domestic violence, but the case was later dropped.
Police are still investigating how he obtained the gun prior to Friday’s shooting.
Pleasant Hill Man Allegedly Threatens Police With Bombs During Standoff
A Pleasant Hill man was arrested outside of his home after he allegedly tried to kidnap his girlfriend in Concord and officers found his residence had been booby-trapped with improvised explosive devices, Concord police said Wednesday.
The incident began just before 10 p.m. Tuesday as a domestic disturbance call on Lee Lane off of David Avenue in Concord that allegedly involved 44-year-old Jason Neuhaus, according to police.
Neuhaus had allegedly tried to kidnap his girlfriend from a home where she was staying with family because of an earlier domestic violence incident, police said.
Her family stopped Neuhaus from taking her and he allegedly retreated to his car, rammed a parked car and their front door, then drove away before officers arrived, police said. A man and woman in the home suffered minor injuries and were taken to a hospital.
Officers then responded to Neuhaus’s home in the 1700 block of Ardith Lane in Pleasant Hill. Police suspected he had guns inside and he told police that he would blow up the house and make the officers kill him.
The surrounding area was evacuated and the Concord police SWAT team responded. Neuhaus refused to surrender and after three hours of negotiation, police forced him out by firing tear gas into the house, police said.
Neuhaus ran from the house and police fired less-lethal projectiles at him until he surrendered, police said.
While searching his home, officers found it allegedly rigged with explosives, police said. The Walnut Creek police bomb squad responded to dispose of the devices.
Neuhaus was taken to a hospital for treatment. Once released, he will be booked into jail on suspicion of felony domestic abuse, kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder of a police officer and weapons and explosives offenses, police said.
Thieves Defraud Auto Buyer Through Craigslist Ad
A South San Francisco man was scammed out of $3,000 earlier this month when he tried to buy a used car online through a Craigslist ad, police said Wednesday.
The victim attempted to purchase a 2002 Toyota Tacoma for $2,000 after locating the offer on Craigslist on Oct. 2, according to a statement by police.
After responding to an email address, the victim was instructed to make an online payment through Ebay using a Green Dot Money Pak pre-paid money card, said police.
The Green Dot pre-paid cards can be purchased at any convenience store, and once a card is activated, anyone with the card’s authorization number can obtain the money placed on the card, according to police.
The victim followed directions from the seller that led to an Ebay look-alike website, and made a payment of $2,000 using Green Dot Money Pak, police said.
The victim then received an email that appeared to be from Ebay asking for another $1,000, for shipping costs. When he paid it, he received another email asking for another $1,000 payment, this time for a security payment.
At this point, the victim became suspicious and called authorities, according to the statement.
Police said each Money Pak card warns consumers to avoid giving anyone a card’s authorization number to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.
Shootings Reported In Bayview And Potrero Hill Neighborhoods
Police are investigating two shootings that took place in San Francisco’s Bayview District and Potrero Hill neighborhood Tuesday afternoon within a few hours of each other.
At about noon on Tuesday, police responded to the scene of a collision involving two vehicles near the intersection of Ingalls Street and LaSalle Avenue in the Bayview District.
One driver and two vehicles were still at the scene when police arrived.
The driver who stayed with his vehicle told police that a vehicle was chasing another vehicle and that the pursued vehicle rear-ended his own vehicle. The pursued vehicle then crashed onto the sidewalk where it came to a stop, while the pursuing vehicle fled the scene.
The driver of the vehicle that crashed on the sidewalk got out of the car and ran from the intersection.
When officers arrived at the intersection, they found several bullet holes in the abandoned vehicle, police said.
As the officers investigated the crime scene, the driver of the vehicle on the sidewalk arrived at the San Francisco Police Department’s Bayview Station and reported the incident.
He told police that he had been driving when a newer-model black sedan pulled up alongside him and someone inside that vehicle began shooting a gun at him, police said.
He then attempted to speed up to get away from the shooter, but crashed into the vehicle in front of him before his vehicle came to a stop on the sidewalk.
The driver told officers that no gunfire had hit him, police said.
Police are investigating the incident and have not yet detained any suspects.
A second shooting occurred a couple hours later on Tuesday, at about 3:45 p.m., in the city’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, police said.
Officers responded to a report of shots fired in the vicinity of 22nd and Connecticut streets near the Connecticut Friendship Garden at the top of Potrero Hill.
Police located several bullet casings in the street but despite interviewing witnesses, they were not able to locate any victims, suspects, or damage.
Man Arrested After Police Find 17-Year-Old Passed Out Drunk At Great America Park
Santa Clara police arrested an intoxicated man at California’s Great America theme park late Saturday after he fell over while escorting five juveniles, including a 17-year-old found passed out drunk in a car, police said.
Officers assigned to work at Santa Clara theme park during its “Halloween Haunt” event Saturday were dispatched at 11:45 p.m. to a report of an intoxicated man who fell over while leaving the park, police said.
The man, who is not being identified, had been experiencing chest pains and paramedics were summoned to give aid to him, according to officers.
Upon further investigation, officers learned that the man had been responsible for taking five juveniles, two 12-year-olds and one each aged 13, 15 and 17, to the park, police said.
Officers went to the man’s car and located the 15-year-old sleeping inside and the 17-year-old passed out in the car due to alcohol intoxication.
Police then contacted the parents of the juveniles to pick them up, according to officers.
The man was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol and providing alcohol to minors, police said.
Healdsburg Arrested In Attempted Theft Of Highway Sign Board Trailer
A Healdsburg man was arrested early Wednesday after he allegedly attempted to tow away a construction sign board trailer near U.S. Highway 101, according to Petaluma police.
A patrol officer spotted a 1990 VW van attempting to tow away the Ghilloti Brothers Construction Company message/sign board trailer on Lakeville Highway near U.S. Highway 101 around 1:50 a.m., according to police.
The van pulled over when the officer initiated a traffic stop, but the driver then allegedly attempted to flee on foot.
The officer told the driver he would release his police dog, and the suspect stopped running and was taken into custody, police said.
Police arrested and booked William L. Kazakoff, 45, on suspicion of grand theft and violating his probation.
Kazakoff told officers that he was planning to sell the sign board to unknown parties, police said.
Severe Caltrain Delays Continue After Death Of Male On Tracks
Caltrain service was delayed for much of Wednesday evening after a fatal collision with a pedestrian on the tracks in Palo Alto.
Southbound train 264 reported the initial incident near Charleston Avenue at 5:40 p.m., according to Caltrain officials.
The deceased appeared to be an adult male.
The incident caused delays for much of the evening in both directions, but service was restored in time for the end of a San Francisco Giants game at AT&T Park.
This is the 7th fatality on the tracks this year, according to Caltrain officials. Caltrain averages 14 fatalities a year, and 90 percent of those are eventually ruled a suicide.
Irvington HS Students Released After Lockdown
Fremont police put a high school on lockdown Wednesday afternoon because of a report of a suspicious, possibly armed person.
Irvington High School was locked down following the report of a possible suspect at the campus at 41800 Blacow Road, police said shortly after 1 p.m.
Some students were taken to Fremont Unified School District’s offices to be released to their parents, while others were released directly from campus, police said.
No suspect was found at the school.
Police asked students not to return to campus until Thursday.
Man Gathering Recyclables At School Arrested For Failing To Register As Sex Offender
A 59-year-old man seen collecting recyclables at Palo Alto High School last week was arrested on suspicion of failing to register as a prior sex offender, according to police.
At 1:03 p.m. on Oct. 7, an officer spoke to a man later identified as Jose Pena Sanchez in the 900 block of El Camino Real after seeing him walking out of the high school’s parking lot, Palo Alto police said.
Sanchez apparently had been to the high school to pick up recyclable items and returned to a shopping cart full of bottles and cans that he left on the sidewalk on El Camino Real, police said.
A check on his name by the officer determined that he was a one-time sex offender who had not registered, as is required by law, with law enforcement since 2013, according to police.
Police arrested and booked Sanchez into the Santa Clara County Main Jail on suspicion of two misdemeanor counts of failing to register as a sex offender.
Officers do not believe that Sanchez is associated with recent indecent exposure incidents reported in Palo Alto and said he had no contact with students at the high school, police said.
Sanchez was arrested off of the school’s campus, had only entered the campus to collect recyclable materials and had been merely passing through town, according to police.
Police said Sanchez is among the 25 percent of registered sex offenders in California whose names do no appear on the state’s Megan’s Law website of offenders.
Sanchez is not on the Megan’s Law list because the criminal offense for which he was convicted excluded his name from public disclosure, but he still must register with law enforcement, police said.